Complicated Current Events: Comey, China, and Cohen.


Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s inaugural Week in Review quiz. We have contacted the winner. Here are the questions and answers to last week’s Daily Pnut Week in Review.


The Meet and Greet Between the Titans (China & Japan) of the East: On Sunday, the foreign ministers from Japan and China met in Tokyo to improve relations between the two countries and to reaffirm a commitment to UN resolutions aimed at forcing North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program. Wang Yi is the first Chinese foreign minister to visit Japan in a bilateral context in nine years. Last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to repair the sometimes tense relationship between Asia’s two largest economies. The two countries have close economic ties, especially with regard to corporate investment, but are at odds over China’s increasing presence in the South China Sea and over ownership of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The meeting comes ahead of a summit between the two Koreas that will take place later on this month.

Farewell Political Decency as Trump and Comey Verbally Spar: On Sunday night, before the upcoming release of his book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, former FBI Director James Comey appeared on ABC’s 20/20In his first major interview since being fired last May by President Trump, Comey said: “I don’t buy this stuff about [Trump] being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.” Trump responded to the new book by calling it “badly reviewed” and tweeted that Comey was an “untruthful slime ball,” while the Republican National Committee released a statement saying Comey’s publicity tour for the book demonstrated that “his true higher loyalty is to himself.

Comey is a controversial figure. The Atlantic says: “James Comey Is No Hero: The former FBI director has a low opinion of the president who fired him, but his disregard for Justice Department rules helped put Trump in the White House to begin with.” Vox must not have read The Atlantic’s piece because it writes: “The media is treating Comey like a hero. He’s not one.”  


– Move over Hong Kong, Taiwan is the new “it” place for dissidents, as it has cultivated an environment where freedom of expression can flourish. As Taiwan emerges as one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies and the center for free speech in the Chinese-speaking world, the question is: Will China actually take military action against Taiwan any time soon? (NYT)

– Kim Jong-un appears to have learned the art of friendship over the span of a few months as he personally welcomed and gave the royal treatment to Song Tao, a senior envoy visiting from Beijing. This is a significant turnabout as Tao’s visit in November ended up not only with Kim’s refusal to meet him, but with the launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile several days later. China seems to be mending fences with Japan and North Korea. So can a potential trade war with the US also be averted? Or perhaps China is positioning itself regionally to be better prepared for a prolonged trade war? (NYT)

– Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media sites, is receiving backlash for its efforts to censor gay-themed images, videos, and cartoons. Sina Weibo claims it was just complying with stricter cybersecurity laws enacted by President Xi that are aimed at limiting sexually suggestive and violent content. Despite the censorship, the hashtag that translates to #Iamgaynotapervert was viewed more than 1.35 million times. Power to the peeps. (NYT)

– After Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a third term in office, thousands of Hungarians protested against the government. Orban’s re-election has also alarmed the European Union as Orban’s party has control of two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, giving him the ability to change the constitution. (NYT)


World Powers to Decide How Similar Syria Will Be to Sarajevo 1914: Early Saturday morning, warplanes and ships from the United States, United Kingdom, and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs. The strikes constituted the second time in just over a year that the US has struck targets in Syria. “A perfectly executed strike last night,” US President Trump wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!” The final two words of his tweet reminded the world of the same phrase used by George W. Bush in 2003, when he declared success in Iraq.

The UN Security Council’s 15 members will meet on Monday to demonstrate that Western military intervention is part of a “wider political and diplomatic strategy” to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria once and for all. The US, UK, and France will introduce a draft UN resolution that calls for an independent investigation into the chemical attacks in order to identify the perpetrators. The draft resolution also calls for medical evacuations, safe passage for humanitarian conveys to all areas of Syria, the enforcement of a ceasefire resolution that was adopted in February but never materialized, and for the Assad regime to engage in peace talks “‘in good faith, constructively and without pre-conditions.’”

Additional read: Nikki Haley says “Not one of the many [Syrian refugees] that I talked to ever said we want to go to America.” Well, good luck if they did, as “America resettled 15,479 Syrian refugees in 2016. Under Trump, only 3,024 were allowed in during 2017 and only 11 so far in 2018.” (The Guardian)

Additional watch: Syriana is a 2005 film that weaves spies, oil barons, DC bureaucrats, Middle Eastern princes and paupers, and Middle America. It’s an ambitious movie that is extremely pessimistic about America and the Middle East. And it was in some ways prophetic for our current standing in that region. So yes, we recommend the movie.

Additional watch (2x): Another George Clooney movie we recommend that mixes corruption and current events is Michael Clayton. Michael Clayton is a hybrid lawyer and fixer much like Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, is in real life. Clooney’s Clayton is a complicated character who develops a conscience at the end. In the coming days to weeks it seems the whole world will know if and to what degree Cohen has a conscience.


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– “Homelessness is not a choice made by the individual, it is a reality forced by government policy.” In Finland, the solution to homelessness “is painfully simple and blindingly obvious: give homes to homeless people.” (The Guardian)

– “Public high schools in more affluent neighborhoods receive more [college] visits than those in less affluent areas.” (NYT)

– “Did Drinking Give Me Breast Cancer? The science on the link is clear, but the alcohol industry has worked hard to downplay it.” (Mother Jones)

– An “extra glass of wine a day ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes’: Drinking is as harmful as smoking, and more than five drinks a week lowers life expectancy, say researchers.” (The Guardian)

– We take many things in the West for granted: potable water, internet, and literacy. This American man was a teacher for 17 years, but couldn’t read or write. In this recounting, he shares his tortuous path to literacy. (BBC)


“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” – Malcolm X

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