Russia Won the War After the Cold War | China’s Colonialism | Cultural Commercial Critiques


“If a fight is inevitable, go and fight first.” – Vladimir Putin

“The leaders of the free world keep lowering their standards and authoritarians keep taking more territory. Eventually people wake up and ask why Putin murders in the UK or hacks in the US. Why wouldn’t he? You didn’t stop him before.” – Garry Kasparov


Breaking Brexit: Sure enough, Britain’s prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal has gone down in flames. The 230 majority voting against her EU withdrawal agreement is the largest parliamentary defeat of any British prime minister in the democratic era. The PM had embarked on a last-ditch charm offensive Tuesday, holding meetings with members of parliament, urging them to support her and warning them not to break their promise to the British people to deliver Brexit. “This is the most significant vote that any of us will ever be part of in our political careers,” May said, adding “Together we can show the people we serve that their voices have been heard, that their trust was not misplaced.”

But on Wednesday many in May’s own party stood up one after the other to slam her painstakingly negotiated withdrawal agreement. Before the vote Labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn said “the prime minister has treated Brexit as a matter for the Conservative party, rather than the good of the whole country”; he called the government’s efforts to steer Brexit through parliament “one of the most chaotic and extraordinary parliamentary processes” he had experienced in 35 years as an MP. May now comes under intense pressure to step aside and let parliament control the next steps in the Brexit process.

Additional Reads:

– “Brexit: What could happen next?” (BBC)

– “Russian bid to influence Brexit vote detailed in new US Senate report: UK political system vulnerable to anti-democratic meddling via social media and ‘possibly illicit’ campaign funding, report says.” (Guardian)

– Why isn’t there greater outrage about Russia’s involvement in Brexit?: This scandal should cause uproar but the BBC and Labour just change the subject” (Guardian)


#NotMyNATO: Senior officials in the Trump administration told reporters that during 2018, the president said privately several times that he wanted to withdraw the US from the North American Treaty Alliance. NATO has been in place since 1949 and is generally considered the most powerful and advantageous alliance in history. Former under secretary of defense Michele Flournoy said a move to withdraw from the alliance “would be one of the most damaging things that any president could do to US interests,” She added: “And it would be the wildest success that Vladimir Putin could dream of.” (NYT)

Additional read: “Mueller: Manafort worked with alleged Russian agent even after criminal charges: Former Trump campaign chief started communicating with Konstantin Kilimnik on plan for future of Ukraine in 2016” (Guardian)

Risking It All For Freedom: Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN’s refugee agency, said he too would do “anything” to escape, even risk death, if he was stuck in a squalid refugee camp. Grandi called on wealthy nations to properly fund developing nations that host people trying to escape conflict. Speaking to reporters after meeting with Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Grandi said he would campaign for Cairo to receive more bilateral development aid to support its efforts. Egypt currently hosts more than 242,000 registered refugees of 58 different nationalities, 55% of whom are fleeing the war in Syria. (Guardian)

Additional read: “Displaced Syrian infants dying from lack of healthcare, UN says. Poor shelter and cold weather have also contributed to at least 15 deaths.”

Move Over Coachella: The Ganges and Yamuna Rivers are sacred to Hindus. Over the next few weeks more than 120 million Hindu devotees and tourists will visit the Indian city of Prayagraj for the Kumbh Mela, a vast and lavish spiritual festival held where the two rivers converge. Prayagraj is thought to be one of four sites where drops of the essence of immortality were spilled from an urn fought over by gods and demons. Pilgrims travel from across the country and wait days for their opportunity to bathe, albeit briefly, in the waters. Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads up India’s Hindu nationalist government, and with an election looming, his administration has heavily funded and promoted this Kumbh, in the media and on billboards, and always alongside an image of Modi’s face. (Guardian)

Chaos By The Gallon: The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is over 80 percent, and the country’s economy is the worst it’s been in decades. Current president Emmerson Mnangagwa won the election just five months ago, deposing Robert Mugabe who had ruled almost 40 years. Mnangagwa campaigned on a platform of putting the country back in business and easing its economic plight, but on Sunday, just prior to jetting off on an official trip to Russia, he announced a 140 percent rise in fuel prices, raising the cost to $12.53 a gallon and making Zimbabwe the most expensive place to gas up in the world. For many Zimbabweans it was the last straw. They took to the streets in protest. 5 people have died so far in the chaos. (WaPo)

– “El Chapo ‘paid $100m bribe to former Mexican president Peña Nieto’” (BBC)

– “EU glyphosate approval was based on plagiarised Monsanto text, report finds: Study for European parliament ‘explains why EU assessors brushed off warnings of pesticide’s dangers’, says MEP” (Guardian)

– “Giant leaf for mankind? China germinates first seed on moon: A small cotton shoot is growing onboard Chang’e 4 lunar lander, scientists confirm” (Guardian)


Africa’s Debts Are Made In China: China’s investments in African infrastructure are a main part of President Xi Jinping’s signature trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese companies have won contracts to build dams, roads, stadiums, airports and railways. Beijing readily loans money to country after country, making it possible for their governments to finance ambitious projects. But that also means that countries have become heavily indebted to Xi’s government to pay for their modernization goals, such as the Karuma hydroelectric power station in northern Uganda, a first in Africa. Construction of the Isimba power station in eastern Uganda is well under way with work being done by Chinese and Ugandans. A Chinese company was awarded the contract to upgrade Uganda’s colonial-era rail system. Chinese companies have developed strong allies on the continent through both legitimate and illegal means, including bribing African officials and family members. Bottom line, American businesses have been largely absent in Africa, while the Chinese have been busily putting down roots.


A Jersey Tale: Chris Christie, the former US Attorney and New Jersey governor who was ousted as chairman of Donald Trump’s transition team, has written a blistering attack on the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. In his soon to be published book, Let Me Finish, Christie accuses Kushner of carrying out a political “hit job” on him as an act of revenge for prosecuting Kushner’s father, Charles, in 2005. Christie was sacked shortly after Trump’s election victory in November 2016 by campaign chief Steve Bannon. As he was being fired, Christie forced Bannon to tell him who was really behind the ignominious dismissal by threatening to go to the media and point the finger at Bannon instead. (Guardian)

– “Judge Orders Trump Administration To Remove 2020 Census Citizenship Question” (NPR)

– “Pentagon extends mission on southern border through September” (WaPo)

– “1,500 GoFundMe pages have been set up by furloughed government employees looking for help” (CNN)

– “Canada’s Air Controllers, Purveyors of Pizza Goodwill” (NYT)

– “A Wave of Daytime Killings Has Puerto Rico on Edge” (NYT)


Is a Japan financier the most powerful person in technology? The most powerful person in Silicon Valley: Billionaire Masayoshi Son–not Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg–has the most audacious vision for an AI-powered utopia where machines control how we live. And he’s spending hundreds of billions of dollars to realize it. Are you ready to live in Masa World?” (Fast Company)

-”Why do we keep praising Silicon Valley for reinventing the wheel?: A student loan scheme is the latest example of how bubble economy marketing seems oblivious to the outside world” (Guardian)

Maximizing Minimalism, and is a Japanese woman one of the most influential lifestyle personalities?: Everyone’s Tidying Up Thanks To Marie Kondo: “Marie Kondo and the fantasy of a tidy life, explained: Marie Kondo isn’t just selling tidying tips. She’s selling the fantasy of perfect control.” (Vox) and “How to Sell, Donate or Recycle Your Stuff: If you are starting the new year by saying goodbye to some of your less-than-favorite possessions you might be wondering: Now what? Here’s how to get rid of it for good.” (NYT) Here’s our advice on minimalism: don’t downsize by not oversizing. Buy less, smile more.

Redefining Masculinity: “This filmmaker spent months interviewing neo-Nazis and jihadists. Here’s what she learned.: Deeyah Khan, a Muslim woman, met her enemies — and came away more hopeful than ever.” (Vox) “How ‘traditional masculinity’ hurts the men who believe in it most” (WaPo). Additional song: “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure. The Cure is probably one of the best 80s bands.

Commercials are the new Cultural moments: First it was Nike’s Kaepernick Ad and now it’s Gillette’s advertisement. “Gillette #MeToo ad on ‘toxic masculinity’ gets praise – and abuse: Backlash includes call for boycott of P&G, complaining commercial ‘emasculates men’”. (Guardian) We are fans of both ads. And both ads feel a bit more like public service announcements than the typical ad.

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