The World Today for October 02, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

NORTH KOREA

You Wanna Start Something?

The foreign minister of North Korea, Ri Yong Ho, recently told the United Nations General Assembly that a nuclear attack against the United States was “inevitable” if the insults between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, continued to escalate.

Soon after, Reuters said Pyongyang claimed to have the right to shoot down American aircraft in international air space.

Trump has been calling Kim “Rocket Man” owing to the Hermit Kingdom’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests, including those that might have caused a recent earthquake on the Korean peninsula, the Washington Post reported.

In response, Kim called Trump a “dotard,” an insult that suggested someone in the supreme leader’s entourage had been granted access to a Korean-to-English dictionary. The word translates into a common derogatory term in Korean, “neukdari,” which means “lazy, useless and demented,” the New York Times explained.

The Times’ story featured a photo of North Koreans watching Kim deliver his message via a towering, Big Brother-like television screen in a public square – a reminder of the climate inside the isolated country.

In New York, the North Korean diplomat had his supporters, especially among representatives of autocratic regimes, CNN reported.

“Some of us were embarrassed, if not frightened, by what appeared to be the return of the biblical giant gold Goliath,” Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, no friend of the US, told UN delegates. “Are we having a return of the Goliath to our midst who threatens the extinction of other countries?”

In defiance, Trump said Rocket Man, Ri and their cohorts “won’t be around much longer” if they continue saber rattling, wrote ABC.

On the same day, American bombers flew extraordinarily close to North Korea’s east coast, the BBC reported. “This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” said a Pentagon statement on the flights.

Triggering Armageddon over Twitter seems rash.

But the president has been working the back channels, too. China recently limited trade with North Korea over its nuclear tests, a potentially key move in pressuring Pyongyang to give up its weapons of mass destruction.

But NPR noted that North Korea has evaded such trade sanctions before.

The situation is precarious. Comedy might be the best response.

In this war of words, there is one subject that neither man has dared broach, even though it’s an obvious target for both of them: their hair.

The two might just share some common ground, after all.

[siteshare]You Wanna Start Something?[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

SPAIN

Uncivil Disobedience

Catalonia’s independence referendum — which the Spanish government declared illegal and pulled out all the stops to prevent – descended into chaos on Sunday, resulting in clashes between would-be voters and the police that caused hundreds of injuries.

The conflict represents one of the “gravest tests of Spain’s democracy since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s,” the New York Times opined.

National police officers in riot gear used rubber bullets and truncheons to shut down polling stations and seize ballot boxes across Catalonia. However, voting went ahead in many towns and cities, and by the day’s end, both sides were claiming victory.

The Catalan government said that the referendum had been approved by 90 percent of some 2.3 million voters, while Madrid said that the referendum had been disrupted. Far from deciding the issue, the vote appears to have entrenched and further polarized the two sides.

It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will be able to de-escalate the conflict with concessions that boost Catalonia’s autonomy but stop short of full independence.

[siteshare]Uncivil Disobedience[/siteshare]

CANADA

Emerging Force

Voters selected practicing Sikh Jagmeet Singh as the leader of Canada’s left-leaning New Democrats, making him the first non-white politician to head a major Canadian political party.

Singh favors colorful turbans and tailor-made three-piece suits, a striking image that’s helped make him a social media star, Reuters reported. His election comes as Sikhs continue to struggle with violence directed against them because of the beards and turbans they wear. Both are required by their faith, but are often misconstrued as outward expressions of Islamic beliefs.

That type of misconception showed itself at a recent campaign rally, in which Singh reacted to an Islamophobic protester “with love.” A video of the confrontation was circulated widely on Facebook and Twitter.

As Singh continues to captivate the nation, he could become a thorn in the side of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: His NDP is targeting the same center-left voters who helped propel Trudeau’s Liberals to a decisive victory in 2015.

Singh’s ability to connect both with young people and ethnic minorities would make him a “force to reckon with” in 2019, said University of Toronto political scientist Christopher Cochrane.

[siteshare]Emerging Force[/siteshare]

EGYPT

One-way Street

While not illegal, being gay in Egypt still bears its consequences, as evidenced by the trial that began Sunday of 17 men charged with promoting homosexuality and inciting debauchery.

Prosecutors said the 17 men were arrested while engaging in homosexual acts inside an apartment.

The trial is part of an ongoing crackdown against homosexuality in Egypt, a nation already at odds with its western allies over its alleged arms purchases from North Korea, Deutsche Welle reported. Gay Egyptians are often arrested and charged with debauchery, immorality or blasphemy.

Tracking down attendees from pictures on social media, security forces rounded up at least eleven people after a concert by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila in Cairo last week, where some young concertgoers waved rainbow flags, for instance.

Amnesty International has said that those arrested would likely be subjected to invasive examinations by the Forensic Medical Authority to determine whether they had had homosexual sex. The human rights advocate says such exams violate international laws against torture.

[siteshare]One-way Street[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Bring Me to Life

Resurrecting the dead may be something out of Frankenstein, but modern-day scientists are giving it their best shot with one of evolution’s most recognizable reptiles.

The mammoth Floreana tortoise of the Galapagos Islands died out not too long after the visit by Charles Darwin that resulted in the modern theory of evolution. Subsequent generations have bred different species of these giants for the same eye-popping effect, but the original species is long gone, Wired reports.

But now, thanks to some clever genealogy, scientists think they can reboot the population of this extinct species.

Theorizing that they were marooned on a volcanic island long ago by buccaneers, scientists tracked down giant tortoises with enough Floreana genes to eventually renew the species: Nine males and 14 females.

Now that they’ve been airlifted back to the Galapagos, it’s just a matter of time before mating and evolution in the tortoises’ natural habitat results in a resurrection of the species.

Bringing a species back to life, however, is a long game: These tortoises, some of which are likely over 100 years old already, take 25 years to mature and mate, meaning it could be generations before we can see what Darwin did with our own eyes.

[siteshare]Bring Me to Life[/siteshare]

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