Curiouser and Curiouser


Kenya Awaits Results of Presidential Election: Preliminary results by Kenya’s electoral commission show incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta leading Raila Odinga 54 percent to 45 percent, with more than 98 percent of polling stations reporting. The final results from Tuesday’s election should be announced sometime today, but Odinga has said that he will not accept the final numbers after they are released. His party maintains that the electoral commission’s servers were hacked, and the election rigged in favor of Kenyatta. On Thursday, chairman of the electoral commission Wafula Chebukati said that while there was an attempt to tamper with the electronic voting system, the hackers were not successful.

Odinga’s allegations prompted European Union election observers to urge the losing side to “concede gracefully” after the results are final. Observers from the the African Union also encouraged Kenyans to remain calm as they await the results. Odinga’s accusations of election fraud have led to much concern that violence will erupt in East Africa’s largest economy, as it did a decade ago in December 2007, when Odinga (this is his fourth run for the presidency) claimed the vote was rigged after he was defeated. Clashes and violence took place for months following the 2007 vote, leaving more than 1,000 people dead.

Odinga’s party called for calm as the final results are being compiled. Odinga told CNN on Thursday: “We do not want to see any violence in Kenya. We know the consequences of what happened in 2008 and we don’t want to see a repeat of that anymore. I don’t control anybody. What is happening is that people just want to see justice. We also hope that the security forces are not going to use excessive force.”


Just Another Day On The South China Sea: On Thursday, the USS John S. McCain conducted a “freedom of navigation operation,” sailing closer than 12 miles to an artificial island in the South China Sea. A freedom of navigation operation is nothing more than an international law compliant voyage whose route takes a warship through disputed territory. The artificial island’s purpose is to extend the economic exclusion zone of whatever nation claims it as their own. In this case, the US destroyer traveled close to the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, an area claimed by five nations other than China.

The effectiveness of such a trip is the press coverage afterwards. Here, the US Navy is helping the Trump administration say to China: “Although I want your help reining in your little buddy up in North Korea, I don’t think that is connected to my support of the world’s view that you don’t own the South China Sea.” The message to the rest of the world is “I’m not really sure what I’m doing here, but I think it’s time to stir things up again in the South China Sea.” This is the third such operation conducted since Trump took office, and we can surely expect more in the future.

Trump World Is Getting Curiouser and Curiouser: President Trump had nothing to say when Russian President Vladimir Putin, responding to tough new congressional sanctions over the 2016 election meddling, ordered the United States on July 30 to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by nearly two thirds (755 people). When he finally broke his silence on Thursday while on vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump said of Putin: “I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.” He also said:  “There’s no real reason for them to go back,” and “we’re going to save a lot of money.” The State Department was stunned. Congress was stunned. Have we all just fallen down a rabbit hole into Wonderland?

His remarks were immediately denounced by current and former US officials who have served both Republican and Democratic administrations. “If he was joking, he should know better,” said Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s third-ranking official under President George W. Bush. “If he wasn’t, it’s unprecedented. A president has never defended the expulsion of our diplomats.” But what if there’s a third explanation? Like The Cat said, “We’re all mad here.” Or like Alice said, “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”


Canadian Diplomat in Cuba Also Suffered Hearing Loss: At least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba suffered the same strange hearing loss that afflicted several US diplomats (two of them severely) while on assignment in Havana. Canada helped to broker talks between Cuba and the United States that led to restored diplomatic relations in 2015. US officials investigating the matter believe the attack was caused by an advanced sonic device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside the diplomats’ residences. It is not known whether or not the Cuban government was involved or if it was a third country, perhaps even Russia, operating without the knowledge of Cuba’s formal chain of command. Relations between the US and Cuba have been cooling quite a bit since President Obama sent former Secretary of State John Kerry to Havana to formally re-open the US embassy there. It was the first trip to Cuba by an American secretary of state since 1945.


The NFL’s Future: American football over the past twenty years has supplanted baseball as the sport with the largest crowds, the most devoted fan bases, and the most dollars spent on television rights and advertising. The NFL preseason has started, and there’s a lot of anticipation surrounding how effective the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick duo will be again, whether or not Colin Kaepernick will get signed by a team, and how bout dem Cowboys?

But last year was an epically bad year for the NFL. Viewership was down “9 percent during the regular season and 6 percent during the playoffs.” The old saying is that success has many fathers and failure is an orphan, but over the past year there have been many rationales circulated to explain the drop in viewership. Perhaps Colin Kaepernick not standing for the national anthem contributed to it, or perhaps games are too long now, or perhaps modern viewers have so many other media outlets: Snapchat, Facebook, etc. We (humbly) think the primary reason is that collectively Americans and NFL players are realizing the sport is an incredibly dangerous profession. It’s essentially high-speed sanctioned violence that results in degenerative diseases of the brain.

Billion Dollar Baby: But our hypothesis could be completely wrong, and the rise of Mixed Martial Arts and the brutality of the sport seems to point to the fact that Americans want more blood and violence in sport, not less. MMA is bigger than ever ($4 billion large), as evidenced by this month’s Mayweather-McGregor fight. Mayweather yesterday called it an event, not a fight. Mayweather is right: It truly is a spectacle. And the two fighters know better than any of the rest of us just how much their career$ are based on creating spectacle and hype. Thereby generating eyeballs, attention, and dollar$.

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