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Geopolitics

Gaza Strikes, Sarkozy Summoned, Waffle Boycott

A bit of spring cleaning for the the Xiaolangdi Dam on the Yellow River in Jiyuan.
A bit of spring cleaning for the the Xiaolangdi Dam on the Yellow River in Jiyuan.
Worldcrunch

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ISRAEL STRIKES GAZA AFTER RECOVERY OF SLAIN TEENS
The recovery late Monday of the bodies of three missing Israeli teenagers sparked widespread reaction across the country, including angry words from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed by swift military action.

The Israeli army launched a major air strike operation in Gaza, hitting 34 targets which the IDF said were associated with “Hamas and Islamic Jihad”, as rockets were fired into southern parts of the country, according toThe Times Of Israel.

AFP also reported that the army had demolished the homes of two main suspects in the kidnapping and killing of the three students, while Ma’an news agency said a Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes early today as the Israeli military raided a refugee camp. A spokeswoman for the military however said the 16 year-old was a “Hamas operative” about to throw a bomb at the soldiers.

Israel’s daily Haaretzwrites that in Jerusalem, “tensions have been rising between Jews and Arabs,” since the three bodies were discovered yesterday. The latest events suggest the situation is escalating, despite warnings from Western leaders, including Barack Obama who yesterday urged “all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.”

IRAQ, EVER MORE DEADLY AND DIVIDED
The recently elected Iraqi Parliament gathered today for the opening of its first session, with talks focusing on a potential successor to current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose party won the biggest share of the vote in the latest poll. But, AP explains, the session ended early, as members failed to agree, while incumbent PM Nouri al-Maliki, who has been accused of discriminating the country’s Sunni minority, “has shown little willingness to step aside”. Meanwhile, the president of the autonomous region of Kurdistan told the BBC that he will “hold a referendum and it's a matter of months,” adding that the country was in effect already partitioned. Last month was the deadliest in Iraq since mid-2007, with at least 2,417 Iraqis killed, most of them civilians, and 2,287 injured, according to statistics published by the United Nations.

SNAPSHOT
Check out today’s Snapshot of the World, featuring the Xiaolangdi Dam on the Yellow River in Jiyuan, central China's Henan Province.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
Benjamin Barthe of Le Monde reports from Damascus on the dark economic web that is key to the Assad regime’s hold on power. “In terms of scheming, the master is still Rami Makhlouf. A cousin of Bashar al-Assad's, he controls large sections of the Syrian economy, including the country's main mobile network Syriatel.”
Read the full article, The Shady Syrian Oligarchs Who Keep The Regime Afloat.

UKRAINE CEASEFIRE ENDS, VIOLENCE RESUMES
Kiev has resumed “the active phase of the antiterrorist operation” in Eastern Ukraine, Parliament speaker and former interim president Oleksandr Turchynov announced this morning. This comes after President Petro Poroshenko put an end yesterday to a 10-day unilateral truce that was only partly respected, vowing to “attack and liberate our land.” According to Russian network RT, shelling in eastern cities has resumed with reports of casualties in Kramatorsk as a bus was fired upon, while separatists are said to have shot down a Ukrainian bomber.

JAPAN MOVES AWAY FROM PACIFISM
The Japanese Cabinet approved a reinterpretation of the country’s post-War pacifist Constitution, ending a self-imposed ban on exercising “collective self-defence,” Kyodo news agency reports. According to Reuters, the decision is likely to “rile an increasingly assertive China, whose ties with Japan have frayed due to a maritime row, mistrust and the legacy of Japan’s past military aggression.”
For more on Japan’s reinforced military policy, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece, Japan's Quiet Return To Global Weapons Market.

BY THE NUMBERS
The number of overseas tourists visiting China's capital fell by 10% last year compared to 2012, with air pollution blamed for the decline.

SARKOZY SUMMONED
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was brought in this morning for questioning over allegations that he tried to pervert the course of justice in an ongoing corruption probe, Le Monde reports. This is the first time a former head of state has been summoned for questioning in France. Investigators suspect the 59 year-old of having obtained inside information on an inquiry into the funding of his 2007 presidential campaign, to which former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as well as L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt are alleged to have participated illegally. The recent developments could be a fatal blow to Sarkozy’s declared hopes of a comeback, in time for the country’s presidential election in 2017.

SNOWDEN ASYLUM EXTENDED?
Former NSA consultant and whistleblower Edward Snowden has reportedly applied for his asylum in Russia, which will expire next month, to be extended for another year, The Moscow Times writes.

FAREWELL
The German pastor Christian Fuehrer, one of the leading figures of the peaceful demonstrations to end the dictatorship in East Germany, has died from respiratory problems at the age of 71.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


WAFFLE BOYCOTT
Ahead of tonight’s World Cup clash between Belgium and the U.S.A., Waffle House, America's best-known purveyor of the griddled breakfast goodie, is urging a boycott of Belgian waffles. (What if they just renamed them Freedom Waffles? Did you know French Fries were invented in Belgium? Are you hungry yet?)

— Crunched by Marc Alves.

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Society

Star Trek And The Journey From Science Fiction To Pseudoscience

Fans of Star Trek live in a Golden Age where old and new series are readily available. As one hardcore Trekkie points out, the franchise is a reminder of the similarities and differences between pseudoscience and science fiction.

Image of holographic bodies standing next to each other in an office

Holographic figures of the same person standing beside each other.

Carlos Orsi

-Essay-

For my Trekkie part, I'm still a fan of the old ones: I still remember the disappointment when a Brazilian TV channel stopped airing the original series, and then there was a wait (sometimes years) until someone else decided to show it.

Living deep in São Paulo, Brazil in the 1990s, it was also torturous for me when “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” premiered on a station whose signal was very bad in my city.

I don't remember when I saw the original cast for the first time, but I remember that when Star Trek made the transition to the cinema in 1979, in Robert Wise's film, the protagonists James Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) and the Starship Enterprise were already old acquaintances.

And I was only eight years old. Nowadays, given the scarcity of time and attention that are the hallmarks of the contemporary world, I limit myself to following spinoffs Picard and Strange New Worlds and reviewing films made for cinema, from time to time.

So, when a cinema close to my house decided to show the 40th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan (originally released in 1982), I rushed to secure a ticket. And there in the middle of the film, I had a small epiphany: the Star Trek Universe is pseudoscientific!

This realization does not necessarily represent a problem: contrary to what many imagine, science fiction exists to make you think and have fun, not to prepare for a national test).

Yet in a franchise that has always made a lot of effort to maintain an aura of scientific bona fides (Isaac Asimov was a consultant on the first film, and the book The Physics of Star Trek has a preface by Stephen Hawking!), the finding was a bit of a shock.

And what made me jump out of the chair?

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