The World Today for August 25, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

INDIA

Cinderella’s Slipper

When India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014, observers wondered whether the seasoned politician would be the economic reformer India has waited for, or the fiery Hindu nationalist many dreaded.

Three years later, there’s a clear answer to that question, and it’s not a pretty one: Modi has managed to squander a golden era of economic opportunity in India, the Economist wrote.

During his tenure, India became the fastest growing big economy in the world. The nation of 1.3 billion people posted almost 8 percent GDP growth in 2015.

But those gains are largely due to natural forces. India, one of the world’s largest oil importers, greatly benefited from years of low oil prices. Meanwhile, its young workforce provides huge potential for growth as many Western nations deal with aging populations.

But critics say India should be growing even more – and that Modi should be doing more to facilitate that, Bloomberg columnist Mihir Sharma says.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), controls 18 out of 29 Indian states, accounting for two-thirds of the nation’s GDP. After many years of weak coalition governments, the party also enjoys an outright majority in the lower house of parliament. There’s no excuse not to take risks.

And risks are needed in a country where 20 to 30 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line and are illiterate, wrote Newsweek.

The economic reforms Modi’s administration has implemented have flopped. India’s states are rejecting Modi’s attempt to harmonize the nation’s complex sales-tax scheme because it’s still a bureaucratic nightmare. And this year’s effort to stifle the black market by canceling large banknotes did more harm than good.

The Times of India notes that Modi may be shying away from large economic reforms in the run-up to 2019 parliamentary elections. In a country where the economy rarely influences popular support, Modi, still in his first term, is hoping to consolidate power by appealing instead to Hindu nationalists.

But fomenting Hindu nationalism in a country with such troubled religious history is dangerous, wrote essayist Pankaj Mishra in the New York Times.

Nationalist policies such as banning the slaughter of cows have increasingly marginalized the nation’s Muslim communities and prompted an onslaught of sectarian violence.

Modi has drummed up support of sympathetic media and business executives, as well as generals and Bollywood stars. In contrast, news organizations critical of his tactics have been dealt a heavy hand, Newsweek reported.

Meanwhile, he’s squandering the talent and energy of the Muslim population, too.

Now it’s anyone’s guess if Modi continues to distract the nation with fights it doesn’t need, or buckles down and gets to work capitalizing on the country’s potential.

[siteshare]Cinderella’s Slipper[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

THAILAND

No Show

A drawn-out court case against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra threatens to reboot on-again, off-again political violence in Thailand.

A Thai court issued an arrest warrant for Yingluck Friday after she failed to show up for a court date where a verdict was expected in a negligence case where she faces as much as a decade in jail, Bloomberg reported. The verdict has now been postponed until Sept. 27.

The sister of former populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who continues to pull strings from exile after being ousted in a military coup in 2006, Yingluck faces up to a decade in jail if convicted of failing to curb losses from her government’s $26 billion rice-purchasing program for poor farmers. She has denied the charges and says the case is politically motivated.

In 2015, she was banned from politics for five years and fined $1 billion in connection with the program.

On Thursday, Yingluck urged her supporters not to throng the court, as unrest could slow the military government’s movement toward fresh democratic elections in 2018.

[siteshare]No Show[/siteshare]

QATAR

The Enemy of My Enemy

Qatar restored full diplomatic relations with Iran on Thursday in the latest diplomatic salvo in its three-month spat with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations.

Qatar’s foreign ministry announced it was sending its ambassador back to Tehran, ending a 20-month break precipitated by attacks on two Saudi diplomatic facilities in Iran, the New York Times reported.

While it did not provide any explanation for the resumption in diplomatic ties, the timing suggests the move is intended as a message to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, all of which cut air and sea routes to Qatar and closed the country’s only land border in June. Along with accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism, the bloc also accused it of cozying up to Iran.

Despite the efforts of the US, Kuwait and Germany, which worry that the partial blockade threatens regional stability, the spat has drifted into a stalemate after Qatar rejected the Saudi bloc’s initial 13 demands – which included severing all ties with Iran and shuttering the Doha-based Al Jazeera news network.

[siteshare]The Enemy of My Enemy[/siteshare]

CHINA

Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now

Beijing dismissed the objections of Japan and Taiwan and insisted nothing will prevent China from conducting long-range air force drills like the ones that have recently unnerved its two regional rivals.

Japan’s government said six Chinese bombers flying from the East China Sea on Thursday passed close to its islands en route to the Pacific Ocean, marking the first such flyover, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s military said earlier this month it was on a high state of alert following three straight days of drills by the Chinese air force near it.

“No matter what obstructions are encountered, the Chinese air force will carry on as before; no matter who flies with us, the Chinese air force will fly a lot and as normal!” the Chinese defense ministry said.

The show of force comes as China is taking an ever more aggressive stance in its territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas, and amid Chinese concerns about a pro-independence government in Taiwan.

There have been several near misses involving Chinese and US planes over the disputed waters in recent months.

[siteshare]Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Guessing Game

It happens to the best of us.

You open the fridge to take a cool drink of milk straight from the bottle – only to realize it’s gone bad.

To prevent that shock to your taste buds, scientists have developed a smart label that tells users if old food at the back of your fridge is still safe to eat.

The new sensor contains nanostructures that change color to indicate spoilage when in direct contact with contaminating bacteria, Science reports.

Researchers had previously relied on liquid solutions to determine spoilage. But this new technology has incorporated all the necessary components to test food on a paper label the size of a postage stamp.

The convenience of the sensor means that it could be placed directly onto an iffy food item to determine whether it’s still edible.

And the benefits don’t stop there. Researchers believe the sensor could even be used to identify new plants in the Amazon that could be used for medicinal purposes.

Say goodbye to the guessing game with old food – and hello to some potentially lifesaving medicines.

[siteshare]Guessing Game[/siteshare]

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