November 25, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

The Uninvited

President Donald Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement negotiated under President Barack Obama that was designed to counter Chinese economic hegemony in the region.

Recently, China and 14 other Asia-Pacific nations, many of the countries that had been in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, joined a new deal: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. It covers around 30 percent of the world’s population and economic output.

After four years of a trade war that resulted in higher tariffs between China and the US, the new accord cuts tariffs on Japanese auto parts, Malaysian palm oil and other goods. China currently slaps tariffs on more than 90 percent of Japanese goods. Under the deal, only 14 percent of the same goods will face tariffs, reported the Japan Times.

It will be the largest trading bloc in the world, surpassing the European Union. Leaders called it “historic.” The BBC provided more details in this explainer piece.

Observers at the Peterson Institute for International Economics argued that the deal represented a diminution of American influence. The bloc was a sign of East Asia “decoupling” from the US.

Others agreed. “The US vacated the rulemaking and leadership role it previously aspired to, and the region has gone on to writing the rules in the absence of the US,” said Stephen Kirchner of the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Center, in an interview with the Washington Post.

American business executives complained they were going to be left out from markets in the fastest-growing part of the world.

Writing in the South China Morning Post, HSBC banker Stuart Tait described the deal as Asia taking its rightful place in the world economic order. He noted that competitors China, Japan and South Korea joined together to conclude the agreement. They overcame their differences without anyone else’s involvement, he said.

It’s hard not to see why the deal would benefit China enormously, added many others. “The trade pact more closely ties the economic fortunes of the signatory countries to that of China and will over time pull these countries deeper into the economic and political orbit of China,” Cornell University Economist Eswar Prasad told Time magazine.

The deal might just be yet another example of the so-called Thucydides’ Trap, a political theory referencing the Peloponnesian War in ancient Greece where a rising power threatens a reigning one, most often used for the relationship between China and the US.

The world might be ok, however, if we keep talking about buying and selling rather than bombs and bullets.

WANT TO KNOW

FRANCE

Intent, Malicious and Otherwise

Footage of French police violently dismantling a migrant camp in Paris has sparked a fierce debate over a controversial bill that would ban the sharing of images of police officers with the “manifest intention of harming their physical or psychic integrity,” Politico reported Tuesday.

On Monday, French-based Utopia 56, a non-governmental organization, which advocates for migrants’ rights, set up hundreds of tents in the capital’s Place de la République. Soon after, videos from the scene show officers dragging tents with their occupants still inside, and using tear gas and sting-ball grenades during clashes with migrants, activists and journalists. One image shows a policeman tripping a man as he tried to flee the scene.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on Tuesday passed the bill in its first reading in the lower house of parliament.

Opponents of the bill say the notion of “malicious intent” is vague and hard to prove. Even so, they add that it could be misinterpreted by police and used to curb the freedom of speech of reporters and citizens.

Prime Minister Jean Castex says the bill would not violate press freedom, adding that he would ask the Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of the legislation, the Local reported.

The bill is expected to be debated in the Senate in January and passed soon after.

SOLOMON ISLANDS

Opting Out

Solomon Island officials are planning to ban Facebook on the grounds of preserving “national unity” in the South Pacific nation, Voice of America reported Tuesday.

The government believes Facebook is being “grossly abused” and is especially concerned about defamation and cyberbullying via the platform. Officials are currently in talks with internet providers, discussing ways to block Facebook.

Minister of Communications Peter Shanel Agovaka said that tougher regulations are required but it’s unclear how a ban on the platform would work.

Critics, however, raised alarms that the ban would be used to curb dissent in the country: Opposition politicians called the proposals “pathetic” and Amnesty International said that any such ban would be a “brazen attack on human rights.”

If a ban is imposed, the Solomon Islands would join four other countries that have outlawed Facebook: China, Iran, North Korea and Syria.

BRAZIL

Deaf, Dumb and Blind

The United Nations urged Brazil’s government to investigate the deadly beating of a black man by white security guards in the southern city of Porto Alegre, which sparked days of protests last week, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.

The Brazilian city was gripped by unrest after video footage showed 40-year-old welder Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas being punched in the face and head by a supermarket security guard while another guard held him.

UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamsadani noted that the incident was “an extreme but sadly all too common example of the violence suffered by Black people in Brazil.”

She said that President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration should conduct an independent investigation and reform the country’s laws, institutions and policies to address “deeply engrained racial stereotypes.”

Bolsonaro has downplayed the role of structural racism in Brazil while Vice President Hamilton Mourao declared Friday that “there is no racism” in Brazil.

More than 50 percent of Brazil’s 212 million people identify as Black or mixed-race with Shamsadani pointing out that the number of Afro-Brazilian homicide victims is “disproportionately higher than other groups.”

DISCOVERIES

A New Diet

The consequences of climate change go beyond melting glaciers and weird weather: It’s also changing the feeding habits of ticks.

New research found that brown dog ticks – which feed mainly on dogs – are starting to prefer humans as their main dish thanks to warming temperatures, according to Live Science.

Brown dog ticks are known to carry the deadly bacterial disease Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) and have been responsible for some outbreaks in US states in recent years.

Scientists have long speculated that climate has been a factor in this dietary shift but only recently they were able to find a connection.

In a series of experiments, researchers set up two large wooden boxes, one containing a dog, the other, a human, connected by a clear plastic tube – including a mesh barrier to prevent bites.

They used two different types of brown dog ticks – tropical and temperate ones – to record their behavior.

They then released 20 ticks in the middle of the tube to see where the pests would go, while also changing the temperature to range between 74 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Their findings showed that tropical ticks were more likely to go after humans at warmer temperatures. This was also slightly observed in temperate ticks but the team determined the increase was not “statistically meaningful.”

Scientists aren’t clear why the ticks develop this thirst for human blood but note that the results show how climate change can influence the behavior of ticks and the spread of diseases they cause.

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: 12,597,330 (+1.42%)
  2. India: 9,222,216 (+0.48%)
  3. Brazil: 6,118,708 (+0.51%)
  4. France: 2,206,126 (+0.46%)
  5. Russia: 2,144,229 (+1.10%)
  6. Spain: 1,594,844 (+0.77%)
  7. UK: 1,542,611 (+0.74%)
  8. Italy: 1,455,022 (+1.62%)
  9. Argentina: 1,381,795 (+0.52%)
  10. Colombia: 1,262,494 (+0.60%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours