*The (Autocratic) Empires Strike Back


“Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t let our people have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?” –  Joseph Stalin

“History has shown there are no invincible armies.” – Ibid.


Czar Putin and President Trump to Meet: Many thoughts come to mind when learning that President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed on a time and place to hold their first, official, one-on-one summit (details to be announced Thursday). According to US national security adviser, John Bolton, who met with Putin on Wednesday, both presidents “think now is the time for them to get together. Direct communications between Trump and Putin is in the best interests of the United States.”

That is debatable. Trump has consistently and repeatedly shown favoritism toward the Kremlin’s leader while simultaneously discounting harmful evidence gathered by intelligence agencies and ignoring experts’ warnings that Putin is not to be trusted. All of this despite reports that US-Russia relations have been at their worst since the Cold War, with disagreements over issues like Russian interference in the 2016 US election, conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, cybersecurity, NATO policy, and nuclear weapons.

Trump intends to meet with Putin come hell or high water. And whatever issues the two men discuss, whatever information is exchanged, whatever bargains are struck, whatever concessions or promises are made, they’ll be pretty much anybody’s guess. It’s on like donkey kong, and we can hear lyrics from Hamilton the musical: “No one else was in; The room where it happened; No one really knows how the game is played; The art of the trade; How the sausage gets made; We just assume that it happens.”


– A Syrian government attack aimed at rebel territories is endangering the fragile peace process and could pose a horrific humanitarian crisis. These attacks are pushing toward a de-escalation zone, and though the US stated that they would provide no more support, Russia is attempting negotiations with the Syrian government. (Guardian)

– Single-use plastics are now banned throughout the city of Mumbai. The largest city in India to hammer down such a ban, Mumbai has announced fines ranging from five thousand rupees to twenty-five thousand plus a three-month jail sentence. (Guardian)

– President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar have signed a peace deal, putting an end to South Sudan’s civil war. Residents still fear of a flare-up in violence as many peace deals have fallen apart in the past. The agreement made has many elements which seek to work toward unity, including a single national army in addition to the unilateral ceasefire. (NYT)

– And the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award goes to major ammonia factories in Europe. The carbon dioxide that makes beer and soda fizzy is a byproduct of ammonia produced for use in fertilizer. CO2 is also used in soda and meat production, as well as food packaging, cooling, and storage. Currently, all but one of the major ammonia producing industrial plants have closed for maintenance, a move that has led to a shortage of CO2, resulting in the rationing of beer in the UK. What better time to have a beer shortage than amidst a heatwave during the World Cup? (CNNMoney)

– Thirsty, sweaty soccer fans have nothing on irate vegans. French butchers have asked the interior ministry for police protection from animal rights activists who, the butchers say, are trying to impose their meat-free lifestyle on the nation. The butchers complain that their safety is threatened. (The Guardian)

– “Denuclearization? I thought you said upgraded nuclearization.” Satellite images of North Korea’s only known nuclear reactor shows constant upgrades despite negotiations with the US and a pledge to denuclearise.


Myanmar’s Military Strike Against MuslimsAn investigation by Reuters provides a detailed report on the actions taken by Myanmar’s 33rd and 99th light divisions in pushing hundreds of thousands of Muslims out of the country. The military in Myanmar is highly secretive to the press, but many members often leaked their actions onto Facebook – findings include pre-mission posts reveling in excitement about the upcoming tasks. The 33rd and 99th light divisions had elite, brutal task forces referred to as Myanmar’s “tip of the spear,” who spearheaded operations, including the raids in Rakhine State. Open accusations of villages being burnt down and slaughtered were rampant through communities, but there was much more that the two divisions did to drive out the Muslim population.

Police posts and army bases were ambushed and citizens of the area, known as Rohingya, (or derogatorily as “kalars”) were herded toward Bangladesh. The Muslims had always been ostracized by the government, which denied them citizenship even though they were native to the land. Following the raids, the United Nations was appalled and both the United States and Canada laid sanctions on top military officers.


– To quote Senator John McCain misquoting Chairman Mao Tse-tung: It’s always darkest before it’s totally black. At least, something like that must have gone through the minds of moderates and liberals alike when they heard Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announce his retirement, effective July 31. Kennedy could be counted on to be the tie-breaking swing vote when he would join with the four more liberal justices on social issues. So even though in this last term Kennedy was on the 5-4 conservative side of decisions 15 out of 20 times, the mere idea, of a President Trump far-right nominee being hastily confirmed by the Republican majority Senate, sent many moderates and liberals to a very dark place. (NPR)


– Many readers often write that they are worried about the state of the world. So are we. But there’s also good news, in fact, there are a few pieces of good news: “Since 1960, child deaths have plummeted from 20 million a year to 6 million a year.” And “137,000 people escaped extreme poverty every day between 1990 and 2015.” (Gates Notes)

– Back to bad news and a highly recommended read about how people in power over the past few decades have failed us: “How America Became a Divided Nation of the Protected and the Unprotected.” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

– Most millennials aren’t worried about what is happening in space. “Money is more stressful than politics for Millennials.” (CNN)

– Men just like women care about their self/body image: “Why is it that we condemn women’s magazines for including weight-loss tips, but men’s magazines escape our censure? Both say: you are not OK as you are. You should change. Both perpetuate body ideals that, despite what they may claim, are not practicably achievable by everyone.” (Guardian)

– A fascinating and highly recommended essay on how: “Longtails drive everything. They dominate business, investing, sports, politics, products, careers, everything. Rule of thumb: Anything that is huge, profitable, famous, or influential is the result of a tail event. Another rule of thumb: Most of our attention goes to things that are huge, profitable, famous, or influential. And when most of what you pay attention to is the result of a tail, you underestimate how rare and powerful they really are.” (Collaborative Fund)

– European astronauts are learning Chinese as “The US and Russia are not the only major space nations now.” (BBC)

– Space might be the final frontier but it is the next frontier in regards to the new arms race: “A secretive, pitched arms race has opened up between the US, China, Russia, and, to a lesser extent, North Korea. The object of the race: to devise more and better ways to quickly cripple your adversary’s satellites. After decades of uncontested US supremacy, multinational cooperation, and a diplomatic consensus on reserving space for peaceful uses, military officials have begun referring to Earth’s orbit as a new ‘warfighting domain.’” (Wired)



“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” – Carl Sagan 

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” – Ibid.

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” – Ibid.


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Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: