Duty, Honor, Country, Impeachment
October 30, 2019
“Age wrinkles the body; quitting wrinkles the soul.” – Douglas MacArthur
Ukraine, You Saw, You Testified
The first witness to have direct knowledge of the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky testified Tuesday before a House impeachment committee. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Army officer and the top Ukraine expert assigned to the National Security Council, offered new details and corroborated other witnesses’ accounts of Trump’s alleged attempt at a quid pro quo when he tried to get Zelensky to investigate his political rivals in exchange for military aid and a meeting at the White House.
Vindman was in the Situation Room listening in on the call, along with other NSC officials and members of Vice President Pence’s staff. He heard the president say he wanted a “favor” after Zelensky brought up the topic of American military aid.
In prepared remarks released late Monday, Vindman said he was so “concerned by the call” he reported it to the NSC’s lead counsel. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen…I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play” which could lose Ukraine its bipartisan support.
Vindman is in a unique position because he emigrated from Ukraine with his family as a child and is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian. Ukrainian officials sought advice from him about how to deal with Rudy Giuliani, who was leading the clandestine pressure campaign on Trump’s behalf. “I am a patriot,” the colonel said, “and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country irrespective of party or politics.”
- Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium producer, and its poppy cultivation increases year after year. More opium is being converted locally into heroin. With that comes ever-mounting addiction, most noticeably among women and children.
- As the UN has reported: “Many children become dependent on drugs, mainly opiates, at an alarmingly young age while in the care of drug-dependent parents or family members.” Poverty, grinding conflict and a lack of hope make Afghans deeply vulnerable, and the increased availability of drugs fuels the growing rates of addiction.
- Several rehabilitation centers for women and children have been opened, including one of the largest in Kabul. Sadly, the relapse rate for former addicts is about 60 percent. (NPR)
Will Putin Trick The Brains Down In Africa
- When it comes to Africa, Moscow acknowledges it cannot match Beijing’s financial heft on the continent. So President Putin’s been playing for power in recent years by sending arms, offering mercenaries, and closing mining deals.
- Russia’s television channel RT and the Sputnik news agency are deploying familiar-sounding propaganda to Africans: ‘Western Europe and the US may be continuing their age-old tradition of exploiting you, but Russia is ready to engage on mutually beneficial terms.’ Putin’s busily lining up African politicians and activists who will spread this message. (NYT)
They’re Not Gonna Take It LebaNo More
- Years of barely suppressed rage exploded into enormous anti-government protests in Lebanon after officials announced on October 17 that a tax would be imposed on calls made over popular, free internet-based messaging services like WhatsApp.
- On Tuesday Prime Minister Saad Hariri bowed to protesters’ demands, saying he and his cabinet would resign. Lebanon is situated in a particularly combustible part of the Middle East: the Mediterranean country borders Syria to the east and Israel to the south.
- An economic crisis is swamping it in debt, and basic services are intermittent. Plus, 49-year-old Hariri’s reputation was shot by recent revelations that years ago, before becoming PM, he gave a South African bikini model half his age more than $16 million after she said she’d had a romantic relationship with him. While that had nothing to do with Lebanon’s problems, it just emphasized the PM’s vast wealth vis-a-vis the contents of ordinary wallets. (NYT)
Additional World News
- A Cybersecurity Firm’s Sharp Rise and Stunning Collapse: Tiversa dominated an emerging online market—before it was accused of fraud, extortion, and manipulating the federal government. (New Yorker, $)
- As Kurds Tracked ISIS Leader, U.S. Withdrawal Threw Raid Into Turmoil (NYT, $) and What Survivors of ISIS Carnage Say About al-Baghdadi’s Death (NYT, $)
Strawberry Creek Not Forever
- The network of clear streams comprising California’s Strawberry Creek run down the side of a steep, rocky mountain in a national forest two hours east of Los Angeles. Under a permit from the US Forest Service, Swiss corporate giant Nestlé had been extracting millions of gallons of pristine spring water from the streams, bottling it in plastic bottles, and selling it around the world under the Arrowhead Water label.
- Nestlé Waters’ 2018 worldwide sales exceeded $7.8 billion, yet the company paid the US Forest Service and California next to nothing.
- In 2017 California began investigating whether Nestlé was illegally drawing from Strawberry Creek, and advised it to “immediately cease any unauthorized diversions.” The US Forest Service determined Nestlé’s activities had left Strawberry Creek “impaired” while “the current water extraction is drying up surface water resources.”
- Regardless, in 2018 the Forest Service approved a new five-year permit allowing Nestle to continue extracting millions of gallons of water to sell for profit. Conservationists say some creek beds in the area are now bone dry and once-gushing springs have been reduced to mere trickles.
- Strawberry Creek is emblematic of the intense, complex water fights playing out around the US between Nestlé, grassroots opposition, and government officials. (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- What Andrew Yang Means (WaPo, $)
- 23 Senators Demand Investigation Into Mismanagement Of Student Loan Program (NPR)
- President Trump Came to Chicago With Insults. For Chicagoans, the Feeling Was Mutual. (NYT, $)
- Elon Musk to go to trial in December over ‘pedo guy’ tweet (Guardian)
- What Jim Mattis Really Thought of Donald Trump (NYT, $)
8 Hours A Day Keeps The Doctor Away
- Optimal sleep for most people ranges between seven and nine hours a night. Less than optimal sleep puts people at increased risk for a number of severe physical and mental health problems, including obesity, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as anxiety, unstable moods and even thoughts of suicide.
- The number of working Americans who get inadequate sleep, defined as seven hours or less, is on the rise, and hardest hit are the ones we depend on most for our health and safety.
- Recently researchers at Ball State University analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey on sleep duration, wherein 150,000 adults working in different occupations self-reported their sleep. The researchers found the prevalence of inadequate sleep increased from 30.9 percent in 2010 to 35.6 percent in 2018.
- For police officers and health care workers the results were worse; for many the norm was only five or six hours. (NPR)
- The Postal Service – Sleeping In
Maybe Just Be A Vampire This Year
- Halloween — the time of year for donning an outfit that looks like some fairytale figure, Hollywood monster, or maybe a cultural stereotype. Most costume stores still stock the “Arab Sheikh” outfit, complete with the sinister mustache; there are “Mexican” costumes: wide sombreros, ponchos, handlebar mustaches. We’d like to think that by 2019, consciences have been raised to appreciate how offensive some costumes have been over time.
- For some ethnic and racial groups, Halloween has long been haunted by costumes that perpetuate stereotypes and instances of cultural appropriation. There will still be people who darken their skin to pose as a black or brown person, but many more people now understand the degrading and dehumanizing history of blackface.
- And while some costumes may now be deemed too offensive to wear, there’s one that still appears regularly: the generic “Native American” costume of the woman or man wearing fringe, fake suede, feathers and braids. And Native Americans want you to know that this style is based on clothes worn during a violent time in the 19th century — when white settlers moved west, and drove Indigenous people from their land. (NPR)
- It’s Halloween. Beware Urban Legends (and Cars). (NYT, $)
- Is Crispr the Next Antibiotic? In nature, the gene-editing tool Crispr protects bacteria against viruses. Now it’s being harnessed in the fight against superbugs and the flu. (NYT, $)
- Why millennials are skipping church and not going back (WaPo, $)
- Yes we run advertisements on Daily Pnut, but we are linking to this article because let’s be honest, who doesn’t feel this way: The Advertising Industry Has a Problem: People Hate Ads (NYT, $)
- “The World Is, of Course, Insane”: A Conversation with Errol Morris: The director discusses Steve Bannon, Elizabeth Holmes, filmmaking, and the truth. (New Yorker, $)
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