The World Today for December 05, 2018

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Holding Up the Sky

Andrés Manuel López Obrador became president of Mexico on Dec. 1.

He is a nationalist and populist, not unlike US President Donald Trump.

But whereas Trump is right-leaning, AMLO, as the new Mexican president is known, is an unrepentant leftist.

One might say the two men are like mirror images of each other: the same but reversed.

“The US-Mexico Relationship Is About to Get Weirder,” was the headline in the Atlantic magazine.

On the campaign trail, for example, AMLO, like Trump, pledged to put Mexico first, arguing that the United States has abused his country for far too long.

Trump vowed to shrink government and started by cutting the cost of a new Air Force One.

López Obrador similarly pledged to slash government salaries to crack down on corruption and to impose fiscal discipline on the government, the Hill reported. He is even selling the presidential plane, a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, for example, saying he can rely on commercial flights.

“It’s not just an efficient, modern plane – it’s a comfy plane, with a bedroom, a restaurant, with lots of space,” he told the Guardian.

How AMLO and Trump will get along and, by extension, how US-Mexican relations will fare in the coming years is a big question, however.

So far, so good, the Economist argued.

López Obrador supported his predecessor’s deal with Trump on a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He might have done that only to get it off the table so he doesn’t have to deal with the issue, but his attitude elicited praise from Trump.

It’s not clear if Mexico and the US agree on a deal over Central American immigrants traveling north. See this MSNBC piece about Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” plan. But AMLO doesn’t necessarily want the migrants and asylum seekers to be stuck in Tijuana and other border towns for months without an arrangement for dealing with them, so the two countries might make common cause in dealing with the issue.

Other cooperation is possible.

Writing in the Houston Chronicle, University of Texas engineering professor Carlos Torres-Verdin envisioned closer cooperation on green energy between the US and Mexico as AMLO reforms his oil-producing country’s energy policies.

Furthermore, while some investors have been bearish on Mexico, Bloomberg suggested that AMLO is inheriting a relatively strong economy. That’s a buying opportunity for those who think any fears that he will create a socialist dystopia like Venezuela are overblown.

The world, Mexicans and Americans especially, will wait and see on AMLO. So far they have little reason to think the sky will fall.



It’s All You

In a rare show of unity with the Trump administration, NATO on Tuesday backed the US claim that it remains in full compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and blamed Russia for violating the agreement.

“We strongly support the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty,” the NATO foreign ministers said in a joint statement, reported Foreign Policy. “We call on Russia to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance. It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty.”

The joint statement followed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 60-day ultimatum demanding that Moscow return to compliance with the Cold War-era deal — which prohibits the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

It’s unclear what effect that ultimatum might have, as the only threat Washington is holding up is that the US will suspend its own obligation to the agreement if Moscow doesn’t cave, and President Donald Trump has already suggested the US might pull out of the deal altogether.


Influencing People

President Donald Trump may not exactly be winning friends in Pakistan, but Washington is apparently succeeding in influencing people there – convincing Islamabad to commit to backing a negotiated settlement with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan.

In a meeting with US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad in the Pakistani capital on Tuesday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi “assured the US side of Pakistan’s steadfast support for a negotiated settlement,” according to a foreign office statement, Reuters reported.

A day earlier, Pakistani officials confirmed that Trump had written to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking assistance in moving peace talks forward, the agency said.

Prior to that olive branch, Trump and Khan had exchanged harsh words via Twitter. The abrupt reversal will add to speculation within the region that Washington is keen to exit Afghanistan altogether. Islamabad is seen as essential to making that happen, as many senior Taliban leaders are believed to be based in Pakistan and to enjoy the support of the Pakistani government.

In the latest development, Taliban leaders said a three-day meeting with Khalilzad in Qatar failed to yield an agreement on launching peace talks with the Afghan government.


In Contempt

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government became Britain’s first to be held in contempt of parliament on Tuesday over her refusal to disclose the full text of the legal advice she received on her widely criticized Brexit deal.

After the House of Commons voted 311 votes to 293 to demand full disclosure of that legal counsel, the government will publish it in full on Wednesday, following the abridged form it had issued Monday, Al Jazeera reported.

Formal punishment is unlikely. But Dominic Walsh of the policy think tank Open Europe said the vote “reinforces how fragile the government is,” saying May’s Conservative party’s alliance with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is “all but dead.” Nine out of 10 DUP members of parliament voted in favor of the contempt motion.

May’s next test comes Dec. 11 when the House of Commons is set to vote on the deal. Majority support would free her to introduce a formal bill to withdraw from the EU, while majority opposition would force her to put forward a new plan within 21 days.


Momma’s Boys

Breastfeeding – also known as lactation – is commonly associated with mammals.

Scientists, however, have discovered that other animals are able to produce “milk” to nurture their offspring, including cockroaches, flamingos and male emperor penguins.

Researchers in China even came across a jumping spider species that feeds its young through a milky fluid, the New York Times reported.

The researchers reported in their study that females of the Toxeus magnus species produced a nourishing substance from their underside that’s four times richer in protein than cow’s milk.

The mother fed its newborns even when they left the nest after 20 days. The suckling would end after 40 days, but offspring still returned to the nest at night for another 20 days.

The team argued that the extended nursing might be an evolutionary response to the spider’s tiny frame and vulnerability. It resembles and behaves like an ant.

They suspect that the “milk” actually comprises trophic eggs – unviable eggs that are used for feeding – because the fluid flows from the area where eggs are produced.

They concluded that the new study further disproved the assumption that lactation is unique to mammals.

“Our findings suggest that ‘lactation’ may arise in non-mammals when it provides a significant advantage in offspring survival,” said co-author Richard Corlett.

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