The World Today for March 28, 2019

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Tick Tock

The United Kingdom was supposed to quit the European Union tomorrow.

But nobody could agree on how. So British and European leaders postponed it. “The cliff-edge date will be delayed,” said European Council President Donald Tusk.

At issue is whether Britain leaves without a deal that outlines economic relations between the two sides – the pernicious, so-called “hard exit.”

A hard exit would cut ties between the country and its biggest trade partners. Only 40 percent of British businesses are prepared to comply with a new tariff and customs regime between Britain and Europe, reported Global Trade magazine.

A hard exit could also lead to guard posts on the Irish border, which might reignite tensions between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Conversely, London is the financial center of Europe. The Germans and French don’t feel like precipitating a financial crisis.

Now things get complicated.

As the New York Times explained, British Prime Minister Theresa May now faces two deadlines. If she can convince lawmakers to support her Brexit plan, the EU will allow Britain to stay in the union until May 22. If she can’t, then the Europeans kick out the Brits on April 12.

Problem is, lawmakers have already rejected May’s plan twice because they believe it would grant the EU too much control over the country’s economy. And the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow – who has become a celebrity of sorts as he has managed the chamber’s raucous debates over Brexit – has already said he will not allow a third vote on the plan unless it undergoes substantial changes.

On Wednesday, British legislators attempted to come up with alternatives to May’s plan after seizing control of the parliamentary timetable, but they were unable to pull together a majority for anything, CNN reported. Meanwhile, May stole their thunder by offering to resign if members of her Conservative party that hate her deal help push it through in a vote Friday.

Tusk has offered Britain a much longer grace period and British citizens might rethink whether they really want to leave the EU. Many Brits and others want a second referendum that might reverse the 2016 plebiscite that triggered Brexit. But Parliament has given that idea thumbs down too, wrote Vox.

The Brits are split. Polls show that many are sure of what they do not want out of Brexit, but few have definitive opinions about what Brexit should achieve, the Financial Times wrote.

Ironically, the New Statesman opined, Europeans now have more power over Britain than ever before.

But that was calculated, according to Politico, which says that the UK lost the Brexit battle even before the 2016 referendum: “The story that emerges is of a process in which the EU moved inexorably forward as Westminster collapsed into political infighting, indecision and instability,” it wrote.

French President Emmanuel Macron disagrees. “The EU does not have all the cards in its hands,” he told Bloomberg. “The EU has to face a British political crisis. It’s a complete political and democratic crisis, and it’s a British crisis.”

Macron is half-right. It’s his crisis, too.



Space Race

India shot down one of its own low-orbit satellites in a successful test of an anti-satellite missile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Wednesday.

The “historic feat” shows India has become a “global space power,” the prime minister said in a national address that was tailor-made for election season, CNN reported. Parliamentary elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19.

The US, Russia and China are the only other countries to have demonstrated similar capabilities, so the test is likely to be viewed as provocative by Beijing and Islamabad despite India’s foreign ministry’s statement that New Delhi has “no intention of entering into an arms race in outer space.”

Capable of blinding or disrupting the communications of enemies by destroying their satellites, such weapons will likely be of increasing importance in the future, and also provide a technology base for intercepting ballistic missiles, Reuters noted.


Stone Cold

A new law comes into effect next week in Brunei that will make death by stoning the punishment for adultery and homosexual sex.

First announced in 2014, when the Southeast Asian kingdom chose to adopt the archaic Islamic legal system of sharia, Brunei’s harsh new laws have been rolled out slowly, CNN reported. The brutal penalties mandated in the latest phase were quietly announced on the web page of the country’s attorney general in December.

Human rights groups immediately called for a reversal of the policy.

“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei Researcher at Amnesty International.

With a population of a little more than 450,000, the kingdom of Brunei is located on the island of Borneo near Indonesia and Malaysia. But while those countries have grown more liberal, Brunei has become more conservative in recent years.


Refugee Pirates

More than 100 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe hijacked a merchant vessel that rescued them off the coast of Libya and demanded to be taken to Malta.

The migrants took over the ship after being told they would be returned to Libya, the BBC reported. But Malta’s military said it would not allow the ship to enter its waters and Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini declared that the hijacking turned the would-be refugees into “pirates.”

The present location of the cargo ship is unknown and details about the rescue operation are scanty, the BBC said. Salvini identified the ship as the Turkish oil tanker El Hiblu 1, according to the Associated Press.

The incident comes as the European Union is preparing to end its naval patrols of the Mediterranean, which have saved tens of thousands of people but have drawn criticism from Salvini – who claims the operation has continued to bring migrants to Italian shores.


A Reputation, Through the Ages

Greek historian Herodotus is remembered for his “Histories,” in which he studied in detail the Greco-Persian wars and described the ancient world of the fifth century BC. He has been called the “Father of History.”

Modern academics, though, have poked holes in the veracity of some his accounts – he’s also been dubbed the “Father of Lies.”

A recent archaeological find, however, reinforced that he got some things right, Fox News reported.

Archaeologists in Egypt discovered the wreck of a rare vessel that sailed the Nile around 2,500 years ago, a boat that Herodotus described but for which no archaeological evidence survived.

Known as a “baris,” the barge-type ship was found in the sunken ancient port-city of Thonis-Heracleion in the Nile Delta, also known as the world’s largest “graveyard of ancient ships,” according to the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology.

Originally measuring between 87 and 92 feet long, it’s one of the first large-scale ancient Egyptian trading boats ever to have been discovered. Archaeologists believe it was used to carry goods and troops along the Nile.

The ship is one of many new discoveries that highlight Egypt’s rich history – another is the recent discovery of a ram-headed sphinx.

The new ship will help boost the country’s tourism. It will also help to vindicate an ancient historian’s reputation.

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