The World Today for August 13, 2018

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Trading in Emotions

Analysts wonder whether new US economic sanctions will topple or reinforce the Iranian government, Foreign Policy wrote.

Leaders in Moscow are preparing a “crushing response” to proposed US sanctions against Russia to punish their alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to the state-owned Tass news agency. (Russia has sold its US Treasury holdings and now aims to further reduce its holdings of US securities, though it has no plans to shut down US firms operating in Russia, Reuters cited Finance Minister Anton Siluanov as saying on state TV on Sunday).

China is ready for a “protracted war” over trade, Fortune reported.

India also recently announced retaliatory tariffs in protest against President Donald Trump’s tariffs on aluminum and steel, said CNN.

Meanwhile, Trump said Friday the US is doubling its tariffs on aluminum and steel from Turkey due to the diplomatic row over jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson and other issues, CNBC noted.

It seems like the US is in a trade war with everyone. But the US is not the only one fighting.

Canada and Saudi Arabia are quarreling after the desert kingdom kicked out the Canadian ambassador, who had criticized the arrests of civil-rights activists. Saudi officials froze new trade and investment with Canada too, NBC reported.

British leaders are now wrangling with their European counterparts over the terms of Brexit – when the United Kingdom is slated to quit the European Union next year. A farmers’ union official recently told the Guardian that the UK could run out of food without a deal with the EU.

It might seem as if the global economy is at risk of breaking apart. But that would likely be an overstatement.

Mexico and Japan are moving closer, in fits and starts, to finalizing new trade deals with Trump, and a truce with the EU continues to hold, the Washington Post reported. Apparently, the president’s demands were not so exorbitant that a meeting of the minds was impossible with those folks.

Still, a history lesson is in order.

In a Bloomberg opinion piece, A. Gary Shilling noted that, historically, barriers to trade fall only when a single power rules over an economic system, like the British Empire in the 19th century or the period of American dominance after World War II. Otherwise, those barriers exist because countries have different labor costs, civic institutions, currencies and other qualities. Politicians need to take steps to make sure others can’t prey on their weaknesses.

That’s arguably what Trump is doing.

But Americans need to understand trade from the perspective of others, too, say observers.

The New York Times reported on how the Chinese still remember the so-called “concessions” – when European and American officials forced the Chinese to give up control of swaths of territory to them following the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century.

For Chinese observers today, “the American tariffs look like an unprovoked act of aggression against their innocent homeland – yet another Western attempt to contain China and prevent its rise as a superpower,” the newspaper wrote.

Trade wars might be healthy and necessary. The boiling emotions under them are the real threats.



Mass Incarceration

A United Nations panel slammed China for incarcerating more than 1 million members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority in what it described as a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

As many as 2 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities may have been forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region, according to “credible reports” cited by Gay McDougall, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Earlier, monitoring groups had pegged the numbers in the thousands.

China argues that Islamist militants and separatists plot terrorist attacks and work to sow strife between the Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang – the northwest Chinese province that borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, among several other countries.

The 50-member Chinese delegation to the Geneva session where McDougall made her remarks didn’t respond to the allegations. But on Monday, English and Chinese editorials in the state-run Global Times said the “high intensity of regulations” in Xinjiang has helped prevent “great tragedy,” Reuters reported.


Share and Share Alike

Amid worldwide strife over tariffs and territory, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed a deal for dividing up the resources of the Caspian Sea on Sunday that has been more than two decades in the making.

The deal gives the body of water “special legal status” to avoid defining it as a lake or a sea, the BBC reported. That means it won’t be governed by the United Nations Law of the Sea – which would have granted any nation the right to tap its natural resources. And it won’t be divided equally among the five littoral countries with a piece of shoreline.

Instead, it grants all littoral states free access to the surface water. And it establishes that the seabed, which experts reckon holds 50 billion barrels of oil and nearly 300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, will be divided up – though the terms of that division haven’t been ironed out. Some see Tehran as the big loser in the deal since it has the smallest coastline.


Jailed for Life

An Egyptian court sentenced the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood to life in prison Sunday on charges of incitement to murder and violence during protests five years ago.

The court sentenced Mohammed Badie to a life term along with Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Essam al-Erian and senior member Mohammed El-Beltagy, according to Reuters. The verdict comes amid several trials and re-trials related to the protests that culminated with the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

The life sentences relate to violence that occurred July 15, 2013, in which five demonstrators were killed and 100 wounded during protests in an area in Giza known as al-Bahr al-Azim. The court had sentenced 15 people to life over the incident in 2014, but an appeals hearing had struck down that ruling and ordered a re-trial, the agency said.

Grand Mufti Shawki Allam is also deliberating over whether Badie and other Brotherhood leaders should be sentenced to death in a separate case related to a 2013 sit-in that resulted in hundreds of deaths when police tried to break it up.


The Bat Team

Bats get a bad rap, and being associated with Dracula has not helped.

But these shy, nocturnal creatures have lent a hand to humans in many ways over the years – eating mosquitos, for one.

Now, bats in the US mid-Atlantic region – specifically the northern long-eared species – are being killed off by a mysterious illness, according to the Washington Post. This has many worried.

“I have literally seen this species decline before my very eyes,” said Mark Ford, a Virginia Tech professor affiliated with the US Geological Survey.

Over the past decade, these bats have been hit by a fungus that causes the white-nose syndrome: It has wiped out more than 90 percent of the population.

Ford and a team want to stop this bat apocalypse by closely monitoring and tracking the remaining survivors to determine how they pulled through and then helping other bats to do the same.

The team hopes they can save the bats.

Sam Freeze, a doctoral student at Virginia Tech who’s on the bat team, told the paper that humans can help, too, by erecting bat houses where the animals can sleep, and not killing them when they are found in attics.

He hopes people even fall in love with bats the way he did.

“The first time I had a little squirming furry monster in my hand, I was hooked,” he said.

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