The World Today for July 12, 2018

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Hot Air

The 20-foot-long, orange inflated baby is now famous.

Sporting President Donald Trump’s signature blonde coif, clutching a smartphone and wearing a diaper, the helium-filled balloon resembling those in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has been given permission to fly above the Houses of Parliament on Friday during the president’s anticipated visit to Britain, the Evening Standard reported.

“The only real way you can get through to bullies is to humiliate them,” said Max Wakefield, one of the organizers of the balloon protest and other demonstrations in the “Carnival of Resistance,” which reportedly could include 200,000 people during Trump’s visit, in an interview with MSNBC.

But critics might persuasively say folks like Wakefield should be expending more energy on British politics rather than mocking Trump.

“At its crudest, the anti-Trump demo might be thought of as punishment — an attempt to make a dent in the Trumpian ego,” wrote the Spectator, a conservative British magazine, adding that security during the protests would cost millions. “But if Britain’s Stop Trumpers really believe they can send Trump a message, they are mistaken.”

Trump is fresh off nominating a new justice to the US Supreme Court, fulfilling campaign promises like confronting China on trade and presiding over a humming economy, while Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is on the brink of collapse due to Brexit controversies, the HuffPost described.

On Monday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned in protest against May’s so-called “soft exit,” a deal that would see Britain retain various EU regulations after it leaves the European Union next year in exchange for greater access to the country’s most important trading partners. Johnson and his allies want a “hard exit” where Britain walks away with fewer concessions.

In this climate, the Brits need international friends like the US, argued Robin Niblett, director of the London think tank Chatham House. “Britain needs to avoid antagonizing America unnecessarily,” he said in an analysis.

After all, as the BBC reported, Trump is coming for a working visit, with trade and other vital bilateral issues on the agenda at a perilous time for the United Kingdom. Photo opportunities, like ex-President Barack Obama grilling hamburgers at 10 Downing Street, are not on the agenda.

But Guardian columnist Simon Tisdall feared that the American president was willing to abandon the collective security and economic stability afforded to Britain and Europe via NATO.

Britons’ enmity toward Trump is as much about their dislike of the president as it is about their disagreements over their country’s future. They might want to be careful not to imperil the latter by indulging the former.



The Usual Suspects

After a five-year trial, a German court on Wednesday sentenced neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe to life in prison for her role in a 10 racially motivated murders that might have gone unsolved longer than necessary due to investigators’ own biases.

Her two main allies in the group, called the National Socialist Underground (NSU), died at the time of the terror cell’s discovery in an apparent suicide pact, while four other defendants were also given jail terms for their role in helping the NSU gang, the BBC reported.

The case included 10 murders, two bomb attacks in Cologne that left more than 20 people injured, and 15 bank robberies. In part, solving the crime was delayed by Germany’s fractured policing system.

But critics say institutional racism also played a role. As the murder victims were mainly ethnic Turks, the police and intelligence services initially focused their investigation on suspects from within that community. That focus was reflected in the nicknames for the crimes used in the press, the “Bosphorus murders” and the “doner murders” – a reference to the Turkish kebabs popular in Germany.


Setting the Terms

As President Donald Trump prepares to meet Vladimir Putin in Helsinki next week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spelled out Israel’s terms for accepting the continued rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Israel is prepared to accept Assad, Netanyahu told Putin in his own meeting with the Russian president on Wednesday, but only if Moscow encourages Tehran to pull Iranian forces out of Syria, Reuters reported. The assurance came just hours after Israel shot down what it described as a Syrian drone that had penetrated its airspace.

“They (Russia) have an active interest in seeing a stable Assad regime and we in getting the Iranians out. These can clash or it can align,” the agency quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying.

Separately, Reuters quoted experts as saying they don’t expect any big breakthroughs from Trump’s meeting with Putin, but Moscow already views it as a win because it acknowledges Russia’s status as a great power whose cooperation is essential not just in Europe but also the Middle East.


Great Barrier Rift

Australia convinced Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to sign onto a joint undersea internet cable project, circumventing a similar effort by China’s Huawei Technologies.

Inked on Wednesday, the deal comes as China pushes to expand its influence in the region, which Australia views as part of its direct sphere of influence, Reuters said. Australia will pay two-thirds of the project cost of around $100 million.

“We spend billions of dollars a year on foreign aid and this is a very practical way of investing in the future economic growth of our neighbors in the Pacific,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters.

The cable will link the two nations to Australia, as well as connect the Solomons capital Honiara with the archipelago’s outer islands.

While Turnbull last year accused Beijing of meddling in Australia’s affairs, intelligence agencies everywhere from Washington to New Delhi have for years expressed fears that Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government raise the risk its equipment could be used for espionage.


Treetop Toddlers

Climbing trees is a rite of passage for most kids today but the children of humans’ early ancestors were much more apt at the activity than even today’s best tree-climbers.

According to a study published last week in the journal Science Advances, ancient toddlers of the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis as young as three years old displayed an ape-like physicality that suggests they spent much of their time climbing, USA Today reported.

Researchers had been studying the fossilized remains of a female toddler uncovered in Ethiopia in 2002 when closer analysis of her hands and feet revealed curved fingers and toes – traits most often found in apes and not in adult specimens of the species, an extinct relation to Homo sapiens.

The find displays how, some 3.3 million years ago, the bodies of human ancestors’ children changed and provides a window into the environment in which they grew up, USA Today reported.

The toe bone curvature, for example, suggests that children spent more time climbing through the trees or hanging from their mothers than walking upright, since the bone structure isn’t found in adult specimens.

“If you were living in Africa three million years ago without fire, without structures, and without any means of defense, you’d better be able to get up in a tree when the sun goes down,” said Jeremy DeSilva, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College.

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