The World Today for December 08, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

JERUSALEM

Rising Up and Shrugging

Palestinians rose up against President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, fearing it was the death knell for their long-held dream of the holy city serving as the capital of their independent state in the future.

“Donald Trump said Jerusalem is for Israel,” a 43-year-old Palestinian woman who covered her face told the Washington Post at a demonstration in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “I tell him, ‘No way, go to hell.’ Jerusalem is for Palestine, forever.”

In Gaza – the other Palestinian territory that’s divided from the West Bank – Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for a new intifada, or uprising, against the move. “It is a declaration of war against our Palestinian people in their holiest of holy places of the Christians and Muslims,” he said.

European leaders, Pope Francis and Middle Eastern leaders expressed dismay at the American president’s declaration. Trump was undermining ongoing peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians and destabilizing an already unstable region, they said.

“This is a new adventure of the ‘global arrogance’ in the region,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, according to the respected news and analysis website Al-Monitor.

Right-wing Israeli politicians hailed the move. Left-wing Israeli leaders predicted chaos, the Jerusalem Post wrote.

But a current of calm also ran beneath the fiery reactions.

Some Arab commentators didn’t see why anyone should become too exercised. Though symbolic, the move changed little to nothing on the ground, they argued.

“‘Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine’ joins ‘Palestinian refugees are going back home one day’ in the let’s-hope-it-will-happen-but-it-never-will department,” wrote Mustapha Hamoui, a Lebanese blogger, for the New York Times.

The Jewish Telegraph Agency described similar feelings among many on the Israeli side. “At Jerusalem market, shrugs greet Trump’s recognition of Israeli capital,” read the headline of one of the wire service’s stories.

Israelis have considered Jerusalem their capital for years, after all. Many appreciated Trump’s acknowledgement of their wishes. But they didn’t think Trump’s declaration and “new approach” – he left the status of East Jerusalem open – would reconcile the two sides anytime soon.

“It wasn’t going to happen before Trump recognized Jerusalem as our capital, and it’s not going to happen afterward,” Uzi Sharabi, an Israeli settler who lives in the West Bank, told the JTA.

In the city that the US formerly called Israel’s capital, Tel Aviv, residents similarly waived off the brouhaha. “Jerusalem is three thousand years of disputes – I am sorry to say,” Israeli artist and Tel Aviv resident Ido Barel told the Washington Times.

The mix of reactions was arguably a sign of the intractability of the problem. In the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, even apathy has become a political stance.

WANT TO KNOW

GERMANY

More than Words

A single phrase in a speech by the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats overshadowed his urgent plea for the party to restart coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc.

“Why don’t we work to make a United States of Europe a reality by 2025 at the latest?” SPD leader Martin Schulz told delegates in Berlin at the party’s federal convention on Thursday, according to Bloomberg.

At issue: An SPD idea for a federal Europe dating to the prewar Weimar Republic in 1925 – which critics on both the left and right dismissed as naïve and divisive.

Alexander Dobrindt, who leads the parliamentary caucus of Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, called Schulz a “Europe radical” and accused him of “dividing Europe.” Sahra Wagenknecht of the anti-capitalist Left party called the idea “otherworldly.” And former UK Independence Party head Nigel Farage remarked via Twitter that the pie-in-the-sky scheme would result in “a very small European Union.”

Still hoping for coalition talks, Merkel was more circumspect, saying that strengthening the EU economy and defense is more important than such lofty goals.

ZIMBABWE

A New Leaf

Zimbabwe Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa pledged to re-engage with international lenders, curb spending and attract investors to revive its battered economy on Thursday, as he introduced the first budget since a new government replaced ousted President Robert Mugabe.

Chinamasa also announced that the government would amend Mugabe’s controversial indigenization laws, limiting the requirement of 51 percent indigenous ownership to the platinum and diamond sectors, Reuters reported. Designed to increase black Zimbabweans’ share of the economy, the laws had been misused by corrupt leaders, undermining investor confidence.

The government will also further defer a 15 percent export tax on raw platinum to 2019, retire all civil servants aged over 65 and close some overseas diplomatic missions to reduce the budget deficit.

Under Mugabe, who relied on patronage to maintain power until a de facto coup replaced him with President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month, the deficit rose to around 10 percent of GDP – with more than 90 percent of government spending devoted to civil servant salaries. The country’s economy collapsed following the seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms.

ARGENTINA

Dredging Up the Past

A crusading Argentinian judge issued an arrest warrant for former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in connection with allegations that she covered up Iranian involvement in the country’s worst-ever terrorist attack in 1994.

Judge Claudio Bonadio issued an arrest warrant for Kirchner on charges of “treason against the fatherland” on Thursday and asked for Congress to remove the immunity from prosecution she has as a senator, the Telegraph reported.

To date, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted for the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish cultural center, AMIA, which killed 85 people. However, the Argentinian prosecutor leading the investigation in 2015 filed a criminal claim accusing Kirchner and others of secretly negotiating a deal with Tehran to offer immunity for Iranian suspects in the bombing in exchange for Iranian oil – the prosecutor was found dead in his apartment with a gunshot wound to the head the day before he was to present his findings before Congress.

Kirchner called the charges part of an international conspiracy to undermine her presidency, and her supporters say it’s part of an ongoing campaign against opposition politicians.

DISCOVERIES

Unmasked

Dedicated hunters of the legendary yeti should stop while they’re ahead: The large, ape-like creature of myth native to the Himalayas might just be a bear.

A team of scientists recently took to investigating previously collected samples believed to belong to the mythical creature, such as hairs, a tooth and scat.

Their research resulted in a lackluster conclusion: The samples were mostly from polar bears that mated with native brown bears that roam the mountain range, Science Magazine reported.

In fact, their analysis of mitochondrial DNA showed that eight of the nine “yeti” samples belonged to local bear species – and one belonged to a dog.

Earlier, a similar analysis of supposed Sasquatch samples found they actually belonged to horses, bears and even humans.

This latest debunking had some actual scientific use as well: It provided a breakthrough for scientists studying native bear species of the Himalayas and revealed how genetically diverse subspecies can be.

This debunking might be a loss for mystery writers, but at least it’s a win for science.

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