*Millions of Slaves | Michael Cohen or Michael Clayton? | Syria’s “Peace for our time.”


“We can experience nothing but the present moment, live in no other second of time, and to understand this is as close as we can get to eternal life.” – P.D. James,

“Man is diminished if he lives without knowledge of his past; without hope of a future he becomes a beast.” – Ibid.


Millions of Slaves in 2018: As negotiations focusing on denuclearization and militarism continue between Pyongyang and Washington, a new report estimates that North Korea has 2.6 million “modern slaves”. The 2018 Global Slavery Indexdefinition of modern-day slavery includes human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage, and the sale and exploitation of children. These days US talks with the reclusive communist, run by generations of the Kim family, disregard human rights issues like slavery. The Slavery Index estimates that 1 out of every 10 citizens is considered a victim, elevating North Korea to the world’s most exploitative country.

For years North Korean overseas workers have subsidized the Kim regime and its nuclear program. A UN commission report in 2014 concluded that the scale of the country’s human rights violations made it unparalleled in the modern world. In December 2017, as part of its maximum pressure campaign, the US guided new sanctions through the UN that specifically targeted North Korean workers, requiring most of them to return home by 2019.

This spring the US stepped up its pressure campaign, instructing dozens of American diplomats worldwide to uncover North Korean sources of income and cut them off. Myanmar’s ambassador, Scot Marciel, worked with local officials to shut down a North Korean restaurant in Yangon, one of many across southeast Asia where young waitresses sing, dance, serve moderately priced dishes and offer souvenir Kim Jong Un lapel pins in the gift shop. The servers must give up more than 80 % of their salaries to send back to Pyongyang. The Yangon restaurant closure and its workers’ expulsion is one success story in an ongoing and uphill US campaign to end the overseas work of hundreds of thousands of North Korean laborers and derail the estimated $500 million a year they provide the regime.


A Real Twitter War?: The Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups. President Trump has also threatened to increase sanctions and to “stop Iran’s oil exports.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is ticked off. Speaking to a group of diplomats Sunday, Rouhani had warnings for Trump: “You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran’s security and interests,” and “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Trump quickly fired back on Twitter that Iran would face “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED.” And Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State Mike “Pompeo accused Iran’s leadership of widespread corruption.” (Reuters & NYT)


– A middle-aged Irish nun, with a motorbike and a black belt in Karate, travels across Tanzania on a mission to free the mostly Christian country of HIV/AIDS. She is at the forefront of an HIV campaign, run jointly by a pharmaceutical company and the Vatican, which promotes mass checks and offers treatment to anyone who tests positive. The World Health Organization believes this approach, along with other prevention methods, could save 21 million lives globally. (Guardian)

– It appears the end of Syria’s seven-year civil war is close at hand. President Bashar al-Assad’s government, aided by the firepower of the Russian air force and Iranian-funded militias, now controls major opposition strongholds and key cities. Half a million people have been killed, half the country’s population has been displaced, and cities lie in ruins. Thousands remain detained in dungeons, and in various parts of the country, people are starving. But some calm has returned, and those Syrians who managed to live through chemical attacks, airstrikes, gunfire and starvation, could drive fearlessly all the way from the Jordanian border in the south to the central province of Hama, if they wanted. (Guardian)

– If you want to crack open a cold one with the boys, make sure not to do it in public when in the Philippines. The newly elected president, Rodrigo Duterte has cracked down on the drug war in the Philippines, turning it from a war on drugs to a war on drunks, as some would call it. National police now have the authority to arrest people for infractions such as drinking in public, public urination, and even being outside without a shirt. (NYT)


Nicaragua’s Animal Farm: July 19 was the 39th anniversary of the Sandinistas’ overthrow of Nicaragua’s brutal, US-backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza. Now, the country’s 72-year-old president Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrillas who helped topple that tyrant, is resembling his old foe. A veteran journalist explains: “After returning to power in 2007, [Ortega] sidestepped the constitution to get himself re-elected in 2011. He then completed his palace coup by assuming full control of all branches of the government, state institutions, the military, and police. He banned opposition parties, rewrote the constitution, and turned Nicaragua into his personal fiefdom, which he rules from inside the walls of his stolen compound, a concrete fortress he rarely leaves.” Ortega is stepping up attacks against an ever-increasing civilian population that opposes his authoritarianism, and the death toll rises. Nicaragua, like Venezuela before it, has a regime that is violently clinging to power in the face of vehement popular unrest.


Who’s the Better Fixer-Recorder: Michael Cohen or Michael Clayton? Just revealed: one of the items of evidence seized in the FBI raid of attorney Michael Cohen’s office earlier this year. It’s a secret recording of a conversation involving then-candidate Trump which took place two months before the November 2016 election. On the two-minute tape Cohen and Trump are discussing payments to a former Playboy model who said she had a year-long affair with Trump. The recording could undercut the Trump campaign’s denial of any knowledge of payments to the model and highlight the potential legal and political trouble Cohen could cause Trump if he winds up cooperating with prosecutors. Michael Cohen is starting to resemble Michael Clayton in not just being a fixer but a recorder of damning information. (NYT)


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– Would you pay $250 to run faster? Would it be fair to wear shoes that made you run faster at a race? Many questions have arisen surrounding Nike’s Vaporflys, which have been tested and shown to boost performance by two to four percent.With such a large improvement to performance, would it be fair to break out these bad boys during the next marathon? Similar products have been banned in swimming competitions, and though races and marathons have requirements for shoes, officials from the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) have stated that there is not enough evidence which would lead to the banning or inspection of Vaporflys. (NYT)

– A new study shows that around four in ten millennials feel that they may have jumped the gun when choosing whether or not to purchase a home. By pushing too much money into a large down payment and underestimating ongoing costs, millennials often face the wrath of bank loans and the looming presence of mortgage payments. Many often state that their choices were not so finely tailored and are now stuck paying off a house which is just not right for them. (NBC)



“Learn to write by doing it. Read widely and wisely. Increase your word power. Find your own individual voice though practicing constantly. Go through the world with your eyes and ears open and learn to express that experience in words.” – P.D. James


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