A Brief History of Yesterday


Harvey Is Not Letting Up Anytime Soon: Tropical Storm Harvey struck Texas last week, but the storm’s lashing is not even close to being over, as it is expected to dump 15 more inches of rain this week on portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana, including the Houston area. The storm is moving east, and the continuing rainfall is expected to worsen the “catastrophic and life-threatening” floods in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. Federal officials predict the storm will drive 30,000 people into shelters and require 450,000 victims to seek some sort of disaster assistance. President Trump arrives in Texas today to survey relief efforts. “To the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are 100% with you,” Trump said on Monday.

African and European Leaders Meet to Address Migration and Human Trafficking on the Mediterranean: Yesterday in Paris, leaders from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, Niger, and Libya met to address the issue of migrants fleeing war, poverty, and political upheaval in the Middle East and Africa. French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the seven leaders agreed to a “short-term plan of action” that would urgently address the human trafficking crisis he said had turned the Mediterranean Sea into a “cemetery.” Macron has requested that the EU provide an extra 60 million euros to help African countries deal with asylum seekers who have returned from Europe and to prevent further migration flows. The number of people reaching Italy from Libya by sea dropped by nearly 70 percent in July and August compared with the same period last year, but the numbers will likely increase again without further measures. In addition, the decline in migrants reaching Europe may lead to thousands languishing in camps in North Africa. Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno said “poverty and a lack of education” were the main drivers of migration to Europe. “These have to be taken into account by all the European Union and African Union countries,” he stated.


Trump Organization Turns Emails Over To House Intelligence Committee: President Trump has repeatedly denied having anything to do with Russia–no business dealings, no real estate holdings, no contacts, no loans, no ties, no nothing. Perhaps. But not for lack of trying. On Monday, the Trump Organization turned over emails to the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and whether anyone in Trump’s campaign was involved. The emails were written in 2015 to the president’s attorney, Michael Cohen, by Felix Sater, a Russian-born, Brooklyn-raised real estate developer and associate of Trump’s. Sater claimed he could engineer a real estate deal with the aid of Vladimir Putin that would help Trump win the presidency. Sater proposed the construction of a Trump Tower Moscow that would be the tallest building in Europe and could even put Trump in the Oval Office by highlighting his savvy negotiating skills. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email dated November 3, 2015. “I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process,” adding he would arrange for Putin to praise Trump’s business acumen.

None of the emails obtained by The New York Times included any responses from Cohen, who said in a statement Monday, “I ultimately determined that the proposal was not feasible and never agreed to make a trip to Russia.” However, the emails do show that Trump’s business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president. Furthermore, from the earliest months of the campaign some of Trump’s associates believed close ties with Moscow could be a political advantage. Now, of course, those ties are under investigation by the Justice Department and several congressional committees.

ISIS Is Losing: The Syrian-Lebanon border is now devoid of all ISIS remnants. Roughly 300 ISIS soldiers evacuated the area after being surrounded by Lebanese forces, Syrian forces, and Hezbollah. The bad news about good news in the Middle East is that alliances are fickle, and yesterday’s allies can quickly become tomorrow’s enemy. It’s said that if you want peace, prepare for war. But in the Middle East it feels like if you want peace then you have to constantly be at war. Currently ISIS has everyone on its heels and could also be eliminated from Raqqa in two months. Leading this charge is an all women’s Kurdish military unit that, along with other forces, have roughly 650 ISIS militants surrounded. Peace after ISIS is defeated will also be tricky given the confluence of multiple groups with divergent interests: Kurds, the Turkish government, and Syria.


Lawsuits Filed Challenging Ban Against Military Service for Transgender Persons: Two new lawsuits were filed Monday in US federal courts in Seattle and Baltimore by civil rights groups alleging that President Trump’s ban disallowing transgender people from military service violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the US constitution. The lawsuits followed Trump’s order last Friday giving Defense Secretary James Mattis six months to submit a plan for implementing this new policy. The ban was first announced by presidential tweets on July 26, and if enacted, would constitute a complete reversal of policies put in place by former President Obama.

The efforts to eliminate barriers to military service based on sexual orientation or gender identity have been based on years of study, evidence-gathering, and documentation, including testimony from military officials regarding potential effects on unit cohesion, readiness, and  ability to fight. According to a DC lawyer who represents service members, transgender people make up a small fraction of the military, and there have been few reports that they have caused any disruptions. The Baltimore lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union claims Trump replaced those evidence-based policies “with discredited myths and stereotypes, uninformed speculation, and animus against people who are transgender.”


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Book Review: School is starting back everywhere, and while we are no longer at school we know that in “life you never lose, you either win, or you learn.” And we think the most important aspect of receiving an education is continuing to learn outside the classroom. (As a quick aside, we believe that unfortunately America’s two best kept secrets are public libraries and community colleges. Both are low cost, local, and generally accessible to underserved populations.)

We recently finished reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and we didn’t initially pick up the book despite (and because of) the buzz about it being on everyone’s favorite book list (Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and now of course, the Daily Pnut’s). And apologies to all you bibliophiles who have already read the book, but to those of you who haven’t, we join the intellectual herd in heavily recommending the book. Here’s why, and yes we are “plot spoilers,” but our brief descriptions really don’t give it complete justice so we still recommend you read the book rather than our quick vignettes:

  • The book explains why and how homo sapiens dominate the earth, and how Neanderthals, homo erectus, and several other human species shared the earth for quite some time–from 2 million years ago until 10,000 years ago. And yes, we are pretty vain to call ourselves homo sapiens (Wise Man).
  • When we jumped to the top of the food chain, we essentially started and have wiped out vast parts of the food chain. And this continues today, for example, the devastation to our oceans and the large animals that inhabit them. We are killing machines.
  • Fire and cooking both really helped us further control mother nature and sped up our evolutionary hegemony by allowing us to quickly consume calories, “eat more types of food, devote less time to eating, and to make do with smaller teeth and shorter intestines…[we learned that] long intestines and large brains are both massive energy consumers, it’s hard to have both.”
  • Languages have helped to ensure homo sapiens became less constrained by the laws of nature that befell other human species. Language not only helped us to communicate an event but, more importantly, language was probably fostered so we could do what we do best, and that is gossip about others. Because, we really aren’t too different from our ancestors of 5,000 years ago. Now we just gossip around the watercooler instead of the waterhole about who is cheating on who, and who can’t be trusted….
  • We are really good at believing in socially constructed fictions, common myths, or ‘imagined realities’: corporations, money, complex laws, nation-states, etc.
  • Did we domesticate chickens, cows, sheep, wheat, corn, dogs, or did they domesticate us?
  • How the trifecta of money, empires, and religion unified humanity.
  • Alright, our editor said I had to stop here. While much of the action in the book takes place in the first quarter, the whole book is very entertaining, accessible, and is a helpful reminder of who we are, where we came from, and how we arrived at where we are today.

So check the book out at the library (see what we did there?), but if your library is like the San Francisco Public Library, then there are 175 holds on first copy returned of 54 copies. If you can’t wait, then buy the book here, and learn about our history. If you’ve already read the book or will read it, then please share your thoughts with us at editor@dailypnut.com. Alternatively, please recommend to us and your fellow readers what books we should be reading this school year! ?

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Your Daily Pnut Team: CEO–Tim Hsia. Editor in Chief–Vanessa Wu. Political Junkie at Large–Penelope Lary. Occasional Contributors: Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and rambunctious interns.

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