August 14, 2019

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NEED TO KNOW

UNITED KINGDOM

Reason and Faith

Pizzamaker Domino’s has been stockpiling tomato sauce, frozen chicken, pineapple and tuna in the UK in the run-up to Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union on Oct. 31.

The chain is afraid of running out of its most popular pizza toppings.

McDonald’s, sandwich chain Pret a Manger and supermarkets have also been preparing for Brexit, CNN reported. The businesses worry that their supply lines could run dry if British politicians fail to reach a deal to govern trade with the bloc’s remaining 27 countries, which together make up the UK’s largest trading partner.

Problems more serious than fast-food shortages are on the horizon, however, with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an architect of the pro-Brexit vote in 2016, and European leaders at an impasse over new negotiations.

The EU provides Britain with as much as 75 percent of its medicines. British automakers need access to European parts. Financial firms, which comprise one of Britain’s few internationally competitive industries, have been moving staff from London to Dublin and other EU cities in anticipation of market disruptions.

Such moves led Britain’s economy recently to shrink for the first time in seven years. The slide began in March, when Brexit was originally slated to occur before the deadline was pushed back. Ex-Prime Minister Theresa May lost her job because she couldn’t persuade Parliament to ratify the deal she negotiated. Now Johnson is saying Brexit will occur on Halloween “come what may,” wrote the Associated Press.

Economic uncertainty begets political chaos. Labour Party boss Jeremy Corbyn leans toward supporting Brexit. He’s a socialist who views the EU as a corporate-backed scheme. But Corbyn is also suspicious of the nationalist rhetoric that Johnson and other Brexiters used during the 2016 referendum campaign. They said leaving the bloc would be easy.

Now Corbyn is worried that Johnson might lose a no-confidence vote in Parliament in the coming weeks, the BBC reported, paving the way for Brexit amid an election campaign when lawmakers are not in session – hardly the climate for a stable transition. The Financial Times noted that Corbyn might have been angling to replace Johnson without an election, but Parliament’s third-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, have squelched that idea.

Solutions to thorny issues, particularly the future of the British-Irish border and a potential upswing in violence in Northern Ireland, continue to elude Johnson in the same manner they stumped his predecessor, wrote Foreign Policy magazine. A proposed British-American free trade agreement might help, but nobody’s holding their breath.

The Brexit drama is a battle between reason and faith, Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan argued. Everyone knows it could be really bad. But many want to assert their independence anyway.

The world will soon know the consequences, regardless.

WANT TO KNOW

RUSSIA

Trying Times

The Russian army ordered villagers near the site where a missile exploded and sent radiation levels skyrocketing last week to evacuate on Tuesday, then immediately rescinded the order, leaving everybody in doubt about their safety.

The military first told the 500-odd residents of Nyonoksa in northern Russia to vacate their homes temporarily, then canceled the order a few hours later, according to a regional official, the Associated Press reported. Local media in nearby Severodvinsk said similar orders are usually issued before tests at the nearby weapons range.

It’s not the first time that Russia seems unable to make up its mind about the incident. After a rocket engine exploded at the navy range on Thursday, the Defense Ministry first said it had killed two people and injured six others. But the state-controlled Rosatom nuclear corporation said two days later that the blast also killed five of its nuclear engineers and injured three others. So the death toll remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, in its first statement about the explosion, the Kremlin said that such “accidents, unfortunately, happen,” but refused to confirm that it involved a nuclear-powered cruise missile known as the Burevestnik or Skyfall, CNN said.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Wanted: A Miracle

Two experimental treatments for Ebola have performed so well in a nearly nine-month clinical trial that health workers will begin administering them to every patient in Congo – where the latest outbreak of the deadly disease has been declared an emergency by the World Health Organization.

“It’s the first example that a therapeutic intervention can have a dramatic effect on decreasing the mortality of the Ebola virus disease,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to the Washington Post.

Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, a Congolese doctor and researcher who oversaw the trial on the ground, was more ebullient in a conference call with the paper. “From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable,” he said.

Preliminary data from the trial indicate the treatments saved about 90 percent of patients with low levels of infection and around 70 percent of patients at all levels of infection.

PORTUGAL

Running Out of Gas

About a third of Portugal’s gas stations have run or were running out of fuel as a truckers’ strike dragged on for a second day on Tuesday, despite a government order mandating the drivers maintain half their fuel deliveries to gas stations and 100 percent to airports.

The strike began at midnight on Monday to protest against low wages, with the drivers’ unions demanding a hike in basic pay to 900 euros ($1,007) a month by 2022 from the present 630 euros, Bloomberg reported.

There was a similar strike over the same issue in April. That one ended after four days, but negotiations over the pay increases subsequently broke down, prompting the present labor action. The drivers may have a little more leverage this time, too, as Portugal’s next general election is scheduled for Oct. 6.

Presently, the governing Socialist party enjoys a 15.2 percentage-point lead over the center-right Social Democrats, the main opposition party, according to a recent poll.

DISCOVERIES

Shame on You

Receiving a compliment, feeling embarrassed, or meeting someone attractive – these are all acts that can turn the average person’s cheeks bright red.

Charles Darwin called blushing “the most peculiar and the most human of all expressions,” and he may have been right, since the involuntary act cannot be faked.

“Blushing is a really honest signal,” clinical psychologist Corine Dijk told the BBC. “You cannot fake a blush.”

Situations that may prompt blushing include moments when people become very self-conscious about a public gaffe, or suddenly become aware of what someone else is thinking of them.

So if a person spills coffee on someone by accident, their blushing shows they are aware of their mishap and are apologizing, said Dijk.

The facial reddening happens when the brain triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response, which then increases the heart rate and dilates the blood vessels in the cheeks.

Although it’s more noticeable on people with fairer skin, everybody is prone to blushing, regardless of their skin tone.

Dijk added that unlike smiles and frowns, which can be faked to mask emotions, blushing is not something people have control over.

“You cannot pretend to be ashamed by faking a blush,” she concluded.

 

Correction: In Tuesday’s NEED TO KNOW section, we said in our “Bombs and Potholes” item that the pursuit of happiness is one of the “unalienable rights” in the US Constitution. It is in fact enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. We apologize for the error.