The Ukrainian Candidate
September 26, 2019
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
“The more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal.”
– John le Carré
Something is Rotten in the States
- A declassified transcript of a phone conversation between United States President Donald Trump and president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky showed clear indication that President Trump attempted to sway the Ukranian politician to support his personal political agenda. The five-page memorandum was revealed by an unknown whistleblower, who has accused President Trump of a quid pro quo in which Zelensky would receive foreign assistance if he helped the Trump Administration gather dirt on a political rival and work closely to debunk an F.B.I. probe.
- During the call, President Trump supposedly asked Mr. Zelensky to keep in contact with Attorney General William P. Barr to open an investigation on a company closely linked to the F.B.I. inquiry of Russia’s 2016 election interference. In addition, he wished for a corruption investigation to be opened on former Vice President Joe Biden.
- President Trump was quick to respond to any allegations, stating that the evidence provided by transcript offered no clear intention that he was trying to persuade or pressure Zelensky.
- Moving forward, the anonymous whistleblower has tentatively agreed to meet with Congressional lawmakers, though there is no set schedule for them to appear before Congress. Some lawmakers have discussed the issue publicly, stating that the whistleblower had witnesses and other documents to support his claims, with over two-hundred Democratic lawmakers calling for the start of an impeachment inquiry. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the complaints.
- Pentagon Letter Undercuts Trump Assertion On Delaying Aid To Ukraine Over Corruption (NPR)
- For Ukraine’s leader, Trump memo on their call is a diplomatic car crash and Ukraine president thought only U.S. side of Trump call would be published (Reuters)
- Whistleblower timeline: Team Trump contacts and Ukraine (CNN)
Yes, It Is Hot In Here
- A new report released by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a worrying picture for the future of the oceans. Since 1970, ocean surface temperatures have been rising slowly, but this rise has doubled in the last 25 years despite increased global consciousness of climate change.
- The oceans have also experienced an increased number of marine heat waves, which can damage marine ecosystems by causing algal blooms. These heat waves also harm coastal fishing communities, who can lose out on entire fishing seasons due to a domino effect from the algal blooms.
- Higher water surface temperatures can cause stronger tropical storms, further harming coastal communities.
- We have already caused decades of change in the oceans due to greenhouse gas emissions, but we have the power to limit these changes with quick action to dramatically lower the emission of greenhouse gases. (NPR)
- New U.N. Climate Report: Monumental Change Already Here For World’s Oceans and Frozen Regions (WaPo $)
The Sound of Screaming in Xinjiang
- Despite his promotion of Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country of Turkey, leader Recep Tayyip Erodgan was largely silent when China incarcerated over a million Turkic Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang.
- Not only Erodgan, but the entire world fell silent despite the incident in Xinjiang, where China has built a network of detention camps which has slowly converted Uighurs into loyal, secular supporters of the Communist Party over the past two years. Even when diplomats have witnessed the problems firsthand and privately condemned them, they have been reluctant to go public.
- China has been extraordinarily successful in silencing all opposition and criticism of their actions, with many officials having convinced countries to support Beijing publicly on the issue. An aggressive campaign has been waged to prevent nearly all discussion of Xinjiang at the United Nations as well.
- China has been hiding under the pretense that the detention camps are necessary to fight against Islamist extremists. Many governments and officials have tiptoed around the issue, not wishing to provoke the superpower nation, which has been carefully crafting its own image and using its influence and reputation to its advantage. (NYT $)
- China says has no intent to play ‘Game of Thrones’ but warns on sovereignty (Reuters)
Additional World News
- Trump says US and Japan have reached an initial trade agreement (CNBC)
- How Europe Has Become The Epicenter For Syrian War Crimes Cases (NPR)
- ‘I Vow to Tread Lightly’ Tourism “pledges” to promote respect for local customs and natural resources have proliferated in recent years. But whether these largely voluntary vows have changed behaviors is hard to track. (NYT $)
- Britain’s brilliant method of picking Supreme Court justices, explained: The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom’s unanimous smackdown of Prime Minister Boris Johnson was brought to you by their superior method of picking justices. (Vox)
- Canada says officials did not act improperly when Huawei CFO was arrested (Reuters)
- The Growing Threat to Journalism Around the World: In many countries, journalists are being targeted because of the role they play in ensuring a free and informed society. (NYT, $)
Blowing Cover All Year Round
- According to author Allison Stanger, whistleblowing has been a key part of US democracy since the inception of the nation. When a US Navy commodore was found torturing prisoners of war, whistleblowers reported his crimes, which led to them to be jailed. Congress then intervened, passing a whistleblower protection law in 1787, the first of its kind in the world.
- There are different whistleblowing procedures in different branches of government, and national security departments have more complex rules than other departments.
- This is reflected in the Trump-Ukraine whistleblowing case, where Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has not yet submitted the concerns to Congress.
- Maguire’s failure to support the whistleblower makes an already-risky move to expose possible wrongdoings in the government even harder to make. (NPR)
- Our favorite recent read (and one we highly recommend) on whistle-blowing: The Personal Toll of Whistle-Blowing: Why one physician took the risk of becoming an F.B.I. informant to expose alleged Medicare fraud. (New Yorker, $)
- Additional song: (one of our favorite whistle blowing songs): Peter Bjorn and John – Young Folks (Official Video)
Alexa, What’s My Diagnosis?
- Artificial intelligence is becoming equivalent to medical experts when making medical diagnoses based on imagery, a study suggests.
- Individuals who support the usage of AI have said that it will reduce the tension on resources, increase human-doctor connection, and help in the production of personalized treatments. Despite the positive attributes, experts warn that these findings are based on a small number of studies.
- Dr. Xiaoxuan Liu, the lead author of a study on AI opposed to human learning, states, “There are a lot of headlines about AI outperforming humans, but our message is that it can at best be equivalent.”
- There is a general consensus that AI will be important in the future, but that more real-world testing is required in order to understand why these systems sometimes make the wrong calculation. (Guardian)
- Perhaps we are finally seeing the backlash to the all powerful tech and startup founder. Consider that Mark Zuckerberg lords over a population three times the size of the USA and is completely unchecked.
- Behind WeWork Leader’s Rise and Fall: A Wall St. Bank Playing Many Angles JPMorgan Chase, an ardent backer of the start-up and Adam Neumann, was as well placed as any investor to see his conflicts of interest. (NYT $)
- Juul CEO steps down amid sudden spike in vaping-related illnesses: Kevin Burns exits as hundreds of illnesses have been reported in the US and nine deaths have been linked to the lung ailments (Guardian)
- Curse of the Cult of the Founder: Brilliant, brash founders such as WeWork’s Adam Neumann may waste investors’ money, flout regulations, and put workers at risk. (Atlantic, $)
- But don’t criticize a startup founder in Silicon Valley! Want to Do Business in Silicon Valley? Better Act Nice: What happened when a venture capitalist told the truth about a Mark Zuckerberg-backed start-up. (NYT, $)
- The Dark Side of Techno-Utopianism: Big technological shifts have always empowered reformers. They have also empowered bigots, hucksters, and propagandists. (The New Yorker, $)
“Our power knows no limits, yet we cannot find food for a starving child, or a home for a refugee. Our knowledge is without measure and we build the weapons that will destroy us. We live on the edge of ourselves, terrified of the darkness within. We have harmed, corrupted and ruined, we have made mistakes and deceived.” – John le Carré
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU