How to Help Your Enemy
October 8, 2019
“What I fear is not the enemy’s strategy, but our own mistakes.”
“Peace is an armistice in a war that is continuously going on.”
America to Allies: The Worst Friend That Aids Your Greatest Enemy
President Trump made a stunningly obtuse decision Monday that even his staunchest supporters find reprehensible. After a phone call Sunday with Turkey’s autocratic leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump announced he would withdraw US troops from northern Syria, where they have been partnered with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are guarding captured ISIS fighters. Once the US “buffer zone” is removed Turkish forces will move in, raising new fears of fresh fighting between the Kurds and Turks.
Trump’s decision to abandon Washington’s longtime military partner and greenlight Turkey’s advance shocked military experts and lawmakers on both sides of the isle. But it’s just the latest in a series of erratic moves by the president, apparently taken without consultation with, or knowledge of, US diplomats dealing with Syria, or the UK and France, the US’s main international partners in the country. Trump defended his decision, saying the US had paid the Kurds “massive amounts of money and equipment” to fight ISIS, and other nations needed to step up.
Trump loyalist Sen. Lindsey Graham contradicted the president’s claim that ISIS has been totally defeated. “Isis is not defeated. This is the biggest lie being told by this administration.” Graham said a withdrawal of US troops represented “a big win for Iran and Assad [and] a big win for Isis.
Even Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell criticized approving Turkey to take control of military operations in northern Syria. “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”
Not Made In China
- China lifted itself out of poverty by building a manufacturing sector linked to global value chains, raising productivity levels and creating jobs across the whole economy. Now rising costs and the trade war are accelerating a trend already in the making, as Chinese manufacturers decide whether to invest in automation technologies or to relocate.
- Some companies have shifted production to Vietnam. African countries are making manufacturing a top priority and benefiting as well. Ethiopia alone has opened almost a dozen industrial parks in recent years and set up a world-class government agency to attract foreign investment.
- The World Bank has recognized sub-Saharan Africa as the region with the highest number of reforms each year since 2012. Unfortunately countries like Bangladesh — that fail to enact reforms to attract manufacturing investment — are falling farther and farther behind. (Bloomberg)
Make Like The Trees In The Amazon, And Leave
- Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro appears determined to wipe out the country’s last uncontacted tribes. He has focused on overturning existing policies to protect indigenous people, and just last week abruptly dismissed one of the country’s leading experts on isolated and recently contacted indigenous tribes from Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, with no reason given.
- In an open letter to Bolsonaro, a group of leading experts warned that continuing to strip away protections for isolated tribes — and failing to stop the invasion of armed poachers, loggers, wildcat miners and drug traffickers onto indigenous lands — amounts to genocide. (Guardian)
The EU Wants Sharper Tools In The Shed
- The European Union is an economic and political grouping of 28 states, the world’s largest experiment in democratic federalism. Commissioner candidates sent from member states haven’t always been among the best and the brightest.
- Some are political castoffs from governing parties in the different member states. Some are being rewarded for past service or for being an ally; some have questionable pasts. They are unelected and not accountable to ordinary citizens, yet wield much power during their five-year stint.
- But this year the most democratic part of the system is pushing back. The European Parliament, the only union-wide institution directly elected by the people, is trying to discard its reputation as the weakest branch of the European system, by putting commissioner candidates through an unusually tough vetting process. (NYT, $)
Death Will Not Be Proud
- Zarifa Ghafari was 26 years old when she became one of Afghanistan’s first female mayors in March of this year. The staunch supporter of women’s rights is not the first female to assume a traditionally male job in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society, but as an advocate for women’s power she is quite aware she is on the front lines of the struggle, and she fully expects to be assassinated. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Daryl Morey’s Hong Kong Tweet Has Put His Relationship With the Rockets in Limbo: The Houston general manager came out in support of the protest movement in Hong Kong, and the backlash from Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, the Chinese government, and Chinese business interests have rocked the franchise and the NBA (The Ringer)
- In Guatemala, A Bad Year For Corn — And For U.S. Aid (NPR)
- Scientists Solve a Puzzle: What’s Really in a Fatberg: The grisly results of an autopsy in the U.K. were made public on Friday, and they were not pretty. But they did hold a few surprises. (NYT, $)
Another Taxing Return To The Tax Returns
- On Monday a US district court judge rejected the argument by justice department lawyers that a sitting president cannot be investigated while in office. The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed by President Trump against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. and Trump’s accounting firm after Vance subpoenaed eight years of the president’s personal and business tax returns.
- “This court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process,” the judge wrote. Justice Department lawyers immediately appealed, and a judge from the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the ruling temporarily “because of the unique issues raised by this appeal.”
- Several cases involving Trump’s tax returns are making their way through federal courts, and so far the president has managed to block their release. (WSJ, $)
Trickle Down Nonsense
- Nearly a decade ago Warren Buffet claimed he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions available to the wealthy. That claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system, and ultimately the expert opinion that wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than ordinary citizens.
- But now, for the first time on record, newly released data shows that the 400 wealthiest Americans paid a lower tax rate in 2018 — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group.
- Turns out President Trump’s 2017 tax cut really was a handout to the rich. (NYT, $)
- Now the Rich Want Your Pity, Too: If the wealthy are so stressed out, whose fault is that? (NYT, $)
Land Of The Cleansing Sun
- In Japan, cleanliness rules. Japanese culture is about people who clean up after themselves — toddler to senior, cradle to grave.
- In Japanese schools, cleaning is part of each student’s everyday routine. Some examples of extreme Japanese cleanliness have gone viral, like the seven-minute Shinkansen train-cleaning ritual that has become a tourist attraction in its own right.
- “We Japanese are very sensitive about our reputation in others’ eyes,” one individual said. “We don’t want others to think we are bad people who don’t have enough education or upbringing to clean things up.” (BBC)
From Over-The-Counter To Six Feet Under
- A study published in May’s Pediatrics Journal shows some alarming data — in the last decade, there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of teens trying to commit suicide by poisoning themselves, mostly with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. The trend is largely driven by girls and young women.
- In 2018, it is estimated close to 60,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 18 tried to poison themselves, twice as many as in 2008. And according to a new study from the same researchers, published in Clinical Toxicology, the most common poisons were non-prescription drugs, like Tylenol or Advil (or generic versions of these drugs).
- Out of 1,677,435 cases of self-poisonings of people ages 10 to 25 from 2000 to 2018, 27.5 percent involved OTC pain medications. Bottom line: OTC medicines, when taken inappropriately, can be more dangerous than many might think. (Vox)
- It takes 21 litres of water to produce a small chocolate bar. How water-wise is your diet?: There is a big focus on food that produces the most emissions, but the water-scarcity footprint also has a huge environmental impact (Guardian)
- Lane Moore: How to speak in front of crowds: Stand-up comics face some of the toughest audiences ever. What can they teach us about talking to a room full of strangers? (BBC)
- China’s Breeding Giant Pigs That Are as Heavy as Polar Bears (Bloomberg, $)
- 10 Tips to Avoid Leaving Tracks Around the Internet (NYT, $)
- The Cheating Scandal Rocking the Poker World: How a Twitch-streamed no-limit hold’em player found himself at the heart of one of the most fascinating gambling controversies in years (The Ringer)
- What Really Happens When You Become an Overnight Millionaire?: Peter Rahal started RxBar out of his mom’s kitchen — then sold it for $600 million. Here’s life on the other side of the entrepreneurial fantasy. (Marker)
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