Deep in Desert, Iran Quietly Works on Missiles
When an explosion nearly razed Iran’s long-range missile research facility in 2011, many Western intelligence analysts viewed it as devastating to Tehran’s technological ambitions. This spring, a team of California-based weapons researchers reviewed new Iranian state TV programs and stumbled on a series of clues that led them to a startling conclusion: A secret facility in the remote Iranian desert. They found that work on the site appears to focus on advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel, and is often conducted under cover of night. If Iran is found to be conducting long-range missile work, that would increase tensions between Tehran and the United States.
First Cuba, Now China? An American Falls Ill After ‘Abnormal’ Sounds
A U.S. government employee posted in southern China has signs of possible brain injury after reporting disturbing sounds and sensations, the State Department said Wednesday, in events that seemed to draw parallels with mysterious ailments that struck U.S. diplomats in Cuba. The State Department warning, issued through the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, a city in southern China, advised U.S. citizens in China to seek medical help if they felt similar symptoms. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that medical teams were heading to Guangzhou to address the issue.
Oxford Lifts the Veil on Race, Wealth and Privilege
The University of Oxford has long been roiled by questions of race, inequality and privilege swirling through British society. Some of the conundrums about who gets to be an Oxford undergraduate surfaced anew Wednesday when, for the first time, the 850-year-old university published data intended to challenge assertions that it endured as a place of white, wealth-driven privilege. For some, the figures showed only halting progress: About 3 percent of the British population is black, according to the most recent census, but only 1.9 percent of the roughly 3,200 students admitted to Oxford in 2017 identified as black Britons.
Italy’s Populists Get Green Light to Govern in New Threat to EU
The populist parties that won Italy’s elections two months ago by demonizing the political establishment, the European Union and illegal migrants were granted the go-ahead Wednesday to form a government. The rapid ascent of populists in Italy — the birthplace of fascism, a founding member of the European Union, and the bloc’s fourth-largest economy — shattered the nation’s decades-old party system. It also gave fresh energy to the nationalist impulses tugging at the Continent and moved the greatest threat to the EU’s cohesion from newer member states on the periphery, such as Hungary and Poland, to its very core.
Turkey’s Currency Plunges, Potentially Threatening Erdogan’s Re-Election Bid
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey called elections for June 24, a year earlier than scheduled, in part to get ahead of tremors in the economy. But on Wednesday they caught up with him as the country’s currency, the lira, took a steep dive, presenting a potential danger to his re-election campaign. The lira fell close to five to the dollar Wednesday, a 20 percent drop this year, according to Reuters, before the Central Bank stepped in to buck it up with a sharp increase in one of its primary lending rates, to 16 percent from 13.5 percent.
As el-Sissi Silences Critics, Hopes Fade that Egypt’s Crackdown Will Ease
Egyptians who hoped that President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s thumping victory in the March presidential election — when he won 97 percent of votes in a deeply flawed poll — would encourage the authoritarian government to soften its crackdown on dissent have been disappointed. In fact, el-Sissi has gone in the opposite direction, arresting Wael Abbas, a fierce critic of Egypt’s authoritarian leaders, and others activists in the past month, in what appears to be an effort to silence even the small number of critics still inside Egypt, including some who had already started to self-censor out of fear of arrest.
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