September 02, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

Not Over

If US Democratic nominee Joe Biden becomes president in January, he probably will have priorities that supersede the trade wars President Donald Trump initiated while in office, reported Politico. Since the European Union and China have launched responses in those conflicts, the trade wars will therefore likely continue. If President Trump wins reelection, the trade wars will almost certainly continue.

The bottom line is, be prepared for more trade wars.

“An international trade war now seems inevitable, as governments worldwide undertake massive Covid-19 rescue efforts while facing a large shortfall in tax collections,” wrote the Harvard Business Review.

Together with the coronavirus pandemic, the trade wars are threatening to alter forever the global economy that has developed in recent decades, explained Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Edward Alden in World Politics Review. The uncertainty that such a transition creates, however, can be bad for business.

Booze is a nice example of the shift. Americans are importing less liquor because the pandemic has shut down bars and American bourbon and other products have gained in popularity, Quartz wrote. But they’re also buying less Irish whiskey and Scotch because of American tariffs on those spirits.

Meanwhile, it’s not clear if the trade wars, like many hot wars, have accomplished anything.

American companies have not brought many if any jobs they had moved overseas back to the US in the past three years, according to NBC News. On the contrary, many have expanded their footprint in China because they want to gain a foothold in the world’s most populous country before any new rules bar them or their access to that market in the future.

China might have also used the tensions that arose from the trade war as an excuse to extend its power to other parts of the world, whether economically with its infrastructure funding in its massive new trade route from East Asia to Western Europe, militarily in the South China Sea or politically with its tougher stances on detaining Uighur Muslims in internal camps and isolating Taiwan and Hong Kong, argued the Brookings Institution in a report.

At the same time, Europe and the US are sizing each other up for a war over who wields the authority to regulate enormous American tech companies like Google, Facebook and others. In Europe, privacy and data protection are bigger issues among the public than in the US.

European leaders want to figure out how they can uphold their digital values when they lack strong competitors to companies that don’t share them, wrote Marietje Schaake, international policy director at Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center, in the Financial Times.

Everyone needs each other. The problem is, everyone wants more from others than they want to give.

WANT TO KNOW

CHINA

The Politics of Language

Thousands of ethnic Mongolians protested across northern China Tuesday over the central government’s plan to replace the Mongolian language with Mandarin Chinese in some school subjects, the Guardian reported.

The plan, first unveiled in June, aims to gradually transition the teaching language in Inner Mongolian schools over the next three years.

Chinese officials say the change is to ensure that the curriculum and textbooks meet high standards but parents and rights groups see it as an attempt by the government to assimilate ethnic minorities into Chinese Han culture.

Activist Enghebatu Togochog said that the region has been targeted for decades with policies that amounted to cultural genocide. He dismissed the government’s reassurances and added that the changes were an attempt to test the community’s resistance before a complete rollout of the policy.

The changes are similar to ones imposed on the region of Xinjiang in 2017 and on Tibet in 2018: The use of the Tibetan and Uighur languages in education has faced increasing restrictions since the early 2000s, while efforts to assimilate those groups have increased under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

ZIMBABWE

One Hand Taketh…

Zimbabwe will allow foreign white farmers settled in the country to reclaim land seized by former President Robert Mugabe, a move aimed at resolving one of the most divisive policies of the late leader, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Officials said these farmers can apply to get their land back, arguing that in some instances, the government would “revoke the offer letters of resettled (Black) farmers currently occupying those pieces of land and offer them alternative land elsewhere.”

It added that in cases where restoring land to the former owners was not possible or impractical, the farmers would be offered land elsewhere.

Last month, the government agreed to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to local white farmers whose lands were confiscated by Mugabe to resettle Black families.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that Mugabe’s land reform could not be reversed but compensation would improve relations with the West.

Supporters of Mugabe’s reform say that it has empowered Black people but opponents claim that it was a partisan process that left the country impoverished while scaring away badly needed foreign investment.

VENEZUELA

Trojan Horse

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pardoned more than 100 political opponents earlier this week, an attempt to gain an advantage in advance of December’s legislative elections, the Washington Post reported.

The pardoned individuals included political figures and lawmakers that were not yet formally charged, and sought sanctuary in foreign embassies in the capital or lived in exile.

The government called the pardons “a message to the world and to Venezuela” even as the pardoned lawmakers dismissed the move as an attempt by the authoritarian government to boost the credibility of the upcoming legislative elections.

Opposition leader and National Assembly leader Juan Guaido has vowed to boycott the elections: Guaido and other opposition lawmakers believe the elections are Maduro’s attempt to seize control of the assembly, seen as Venezuela’s last democratic institution.

Analysts say the pardons are aimed at further fracturing the opposition over whether they should participate in the elections.

Last year, Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s interim president citing the constitution and managed to unite the divided opposition to focus on ousting Maduro.

Despite support from Western nations, Guaido’s popularity has been dwindling and infighting has resumed within the opposition.

DISCOVERIES

Punching Above One’s Weight

The peacock mantis shrimp is an impressive creature.

It’s only four inches long but has eyes that can spot cancer, and club-like claws that can throw the fastest punch in the ocean.

The mantis shrimp – which is neither a mantis nor a shrimp – can punch about 23 meters per second, creating 1,500 Newtons of force per punch. Its “smashers” allow it to break through the hard shells of snails and crabs with ease.

“Think about punching a wall a couple of thousand times at those speeds and not breaking your fist,” said co-author David Kisailus.

In fact, the crustacean’s unstoppable punches are possibly due to impact-resistant nanoparticle coating, according to Science Alert.

In a new study, Kisailus and his team closely analyzed the animal’s smashers and noted that the coating is made of a mineral called hydroxyapatite formed into a nanocrystal structure. They explained that when the claws hit a surface, the hydroxyapatite itself rotates but the nanocrystal structure fractures and then slowly reforms.

The mechanism is so effective that it “outperforms most metals and technical ceramics,” which could lead to the development of new and more resistant materials.

“We can imagine ways to engineer similar particles to add enhanced protective surfaces for use in automobiles, aircraft, football helmets, and body armor,” said Kisailus.

Click here to see the crustacean’s fists of fury.

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 6,075,652 (+0.74%)
  2. Brazil: 3,950,931 (+1.09%)
  3. India: 3,769,523 (+2.12%)
  4. Russia: 997,072 (+0.47%)
  5. Peru: 657,129 (+1.54%)
  6. South Africa: 628,259 (+0.19%)
  7. Colombia: 624,026 (+1.45%)
  8. Mexico: 606,036 (+1.08%)
  9. Spain: 470,973 (+1.75%)
  10. Argentina: 428,239 (+2.51%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours