SUNSTAR Press Digest August 19th, 2016 No 2

Thank you to all of you who kindly took the time to write to me following the first Press Digest with your comments and suggestions.  Following your comments I will endeavour to be more editorial and to concentrate on key themes.
August is generally a slow news month, however, this is not aways so, and some big events have the habit of breaking through. Terrorism, the war in Syria, and global insecurity are still there, but this year and for now, they are being overshadowed  by the Rio Olympics and individual stories of sport heroism and outstanding success. A good excuse for national celebrations and a good excuse to forget national and international troubles.
In this week’s digest
1   Japan’s Emperor’s abdication announcement
2    Continuing tension in South China Seas
3    Italian banking and political crisis
4    US Elections and BREXIT
5    Diabetes numbers soar in the UK
6    Chinese Universities in top 100 for its time
7    Greenland shark is 400 year old
1    Emperor Akihito’s Abdication Announcement
Emperor Akihito’s most dignigfied announcement that at the age of 82, suffering from ill health, he would like the law changed so that he can retire received much positive international coverage. Kana Inagaki, the Financial Times Tokyo correspondent, has posted a good video explaining the background to the abdication. VIEW VIDEO.

There are also two other interesting articles worth reading. Ian Buruma, Dutch expert on Japan, argues that the Emperor’s wish opens a debate between modernisers and traditionalists. This may cause difficulties for  Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s wish to amend the constitution.  Read more: Modernisers pitted against Traditionalists.   This article is to be found behind the Financial Times pay-wall. Should you not have access please google “Ian Buruma, Akihito Abdication”, which should lead you to the article.

There is also an article in the NY Times giving some good background on the the post-war constitution imposed by the US on Japan. 
Read More in the New York Times: 

2  Japan-China Tensions
Japan has warned China that ties are “deteriorating markedly” over the disputed Senkaku Islands, in the East China Sea.  China’s envoy in Tokyo reiterated Beijing’s stance that these islands were its territory and called for talks to resolve the row.

Tensions between Asia’s two largest economies have risen since Japan has seen an increasing number of Chinese coastguard and other government ships sailing near the disputed islets. 
Read More: Senkaku Islands Dispute
Read More: Recent Developments.

3      Italian Crisis in the offing? 
Italy’s oldest bank the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, weighed down by bad debt had to be bailed out in the last ten days, but the Italian banking crisis, in spite of assurances from PM Matteo Renzi, is far from over.   Renzi launched a stimulus package to try to re-float Italy’s economy now suffering a triple-dip recession. Critics are sceptical, but the stakes are high:  the beleaguered Italian PM has to publish a budget in mid-October and then has to win a Constitutional Referendum in November. With the economy in the doldrums the signs are not good. Should he loose, he will have to resign and Italy will have yet another caretaker government. The Italian crisis could become the EU’s biggest headache overshadowing the BRexit problems. 

Read More: Downfall of a Tuscan Paradise (Der Spiegel)
Read More; Renzi’s Stimulus Package   This article is to be found behind the Financial Times pay-wall. Should you not have access please google “Matteo Renzi hard push for stimulus” which should lead you to the article.

4   US Elections and BREXIT:
(If a week is a long time in politics…)
The two other big stories rumbling away are of course the US Elections and the ongoing BREXIT discussion in the UK and EU. Both stories are well covered in the media and both still have some time to run. Hillary Clinton seems to be having a better time than Donald Trump for now, but as Harold Wilson, the former UK PM, once said “a week is a long time in politics”,  and this election still has almost three months to go.

China to create political fissures with the West? 
Gideon Rachman, an excellent commentator, normally writing in the Financial Times, argues that Trump and Brexit share a similar political breeding ground,  in that in both Europe and the US, manufacturing workers and the less educated, have had their living standards hit by competition from Asia, and from China in particular. This is an important article which draws attention to the differing foreign policy implications of a win by either Trump or Clinton on relations with China, Japan and   the Pacific region.  Read More: China will create new political fissures in the West.

As for BREXIT, what is clear for now is that nothing is clear. The “Brexiters” did not know what they wanted, their voters had little idea  of what they were voting for and for now PM Theresa May is happy to take her time. We could be talking late 2017, after the French and German elections, before any substantial negotiations begin. If a week is a long time in politics, then over a year is an eternity and anything can happen.

BREXIT is also bringing about a re-appraisaL of Britain’s place in the world. Worth reading is the Guardian editorial which argues that the UK outside the EU has less influence and power vis-a -vis Russia or China.
Read More: The Guardian on Britain’s
Position in the World.

John Harris in the UK Guardian sees the United Kingdom, the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Norther Ireland is at risk because of BREXIT.
Read More: Fly the Flag for Team GB.

5    Diabetes numbers soar in the UK.
The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has increased by 60% in the last ten years from around 2 million people to over 3 million. The cost of to the National Health Service for diabetes prescriptions is now over £950 million ($1,250 million) and 10% of all publicly prescribed medicines.
Read More; Diabetes UK Report. 
Read More: Cost of Prescriptions Soar

6   Chinese Universities in top 100
Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU): Starting from 2003, ARWU has been presenting the world Top 500 universities  based on a set of objective indicators.
Harvard University remains the number one for the 14th year.  Oxford goes from the 10th place to the 7th. ETH Zurich (19th) takes first place in Continental Europe.  In Asia, the University of Tokyo is back in the top 20 but Kyoto University drops from 26th to 32nd.
Tsinghua University, Peking University, and the National University of Singapore make their first appearance in the Top 100.
Read More: Article
Read More: Full List

7  Greenland Shark is 400 years old
Greenland sharks are now the longest-living vertebrates known on Earth. Researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of 28 of the animals, and estimated that one female was about 400 years old.The team found that the sharks grow at just 1cm a year, and reach sexual maturity at about the age of 150 and are very slow swimmers. However a clam named Ming, am invertebrate mollusc, can claim the prize for the oldest living organism,  having reached the ripe old age of 507 years.
Read more: Greenland Shark is 400 years!