Why Things Take Forever
November 6, 2019
“Pessimism never won any battle.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
With or Without You (America), I Can’t Live: Abandoning America’s Allies
What happened in Syria is replicating itself in Libya. Once long-time Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was overthrown in 2011, the vastly oil-rich nation collapsed into feuding city-states. Khalifa Hifter, a top general in Qaddafi’s army before defecting to the US in the 1980s, returned to Libya to fight rival militias for control of Tripoli and Benghazi. In 2014 Hifter announced a military coup, vowing to rule Libya as a new military strongman. Egypt and the UAE backed him as a bulwark against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other militant groups moving into eastern Libya.
In 2015 the UN set up a government in Tripoli, officially supported by the US and other Western powers. Russia, ever anxious to extend its influence in the Middle East and Africa, supported Hifter from a base it set up in Egypt. Civil war raged on.
In October 2019 President Trump withdrew US peacekeeping troops from northern Syria, abandoning America’s Kurdish allies and green-lighting Turkey and Russia to divide up what had been Kurdish homeland. Since then the Kremlin has stepped up military support for Hifter, sending in hundreds of skilled snipers and other mercenaries, providing advanced warplanes, and coordinating drone-launched missile strikes. Russia’s escalation has transformed the war.
“There is a huge discrepancy between the Libyan fighting on the ground and the advanced technology in the air from the meddling foreign powers,” said a Libyan scholar. The US is disengaged. President Trump appears to endorse Hifter, calling to applaud him after his latest assault on Tripoli. And just as in Syria, former American allies — local partners who teamed up with the US to fight the Islamic State — now complain of abandonment and betrayal.
Hugs VS Drugs
- Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador is defending his decision to turn away from the punitive policies of his two predecessors when it comes to dealing with drug cartels. Amlo is under sustained pressure to rethink his non-confrontational security strategy of alleviating poverty with social programs — and offering “hugs instead of bullets” — amid lingering questions over the botched arrest of a son of Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzmán.
- Ovidio Guzmán was caught and briefly held last month when hundreds of gunmen launched a wave of attacks on security forces and freed him. Even hardened observers of organized crime in Mexico were shocked by the show of strength, and experts say nothing in Amlo’s strategy directly addresses the terrifying power of the country’s criminal underworld. (Guardian)
- Cowed and outgunned: why Mexico’s police ‘don’t stand a chance’ against drug cartels
- Nine American Citizens Killed in Highway Attack in Mexico
Or: How We Learned To Start Worrying About This
- Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Twitter that Iran would start enriching uranium gas at Fordow on Wednesday. The site, a particular focus of concern for both Europe and the US, is buried deep within a mountain and is considered impregnable to most conventional weapons.
- This is Iran’s most significant step away from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, which had as one of its key elements a 15-year ban on any enrichment of uranium at the Fordow nuclear plant.
- President Hassan Rouhani called the development the “fourth step,” saying: “The fourth step is reversible like the other three steps. Anytime, they [the U.S. and Europe] fully return to their commitments, we will return to our full commitment too.”
- President Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran in May 2018. New sanctions on Iranian officials viewed as close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were imposed on Monday. (WSJ)
Eat Your Heart Out Shamu
- Despite international outrage, Japan continued its traditional annual dolphin hunt on September 2, when eight fishing boats trapped and slaughtered a pod of dolphins in a narrow cove off Taiji. 11 Risso’s dolphins were cut up for meat worth about $500.
- Over the next two days, 13 bottlenose dolphins were captured. A live bottlenose, the easiest species to train, is worth between $8,000 and $10,000, and more than $40,000 after training.
- Most live dolphins are sent to China, where the marine park industry is booming, and largely outside the international rulemaking that has turned its back on Taiji’s catch.
- In 2009 the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” condemned Taiji’s dolphin hunt to global infamy. (WaPo)
China – USA News
- U.S., China Consider Rolling Back Tariffs as Part of Initial Trade Deal
- China to ‘perfect’ HK system as water cannon breaks up Guy Fawkes protest
- Conquistadors tumble as indigenous Chileans tear down statues
- China, U.S. Plan Opioid Bust That May Help Trump Sell Trade Deal
- China’s Xi Praises Free Trade. Striking Deals Is Another Matter.
- Xi Jinping Endorses Carrie Lam, Embattled Hong Kong Leader
The Whistle Blows On
- On Monday the public got to see the first transcripts of witness depositions taken in private sessions by House members conducting the impeachment investigation. Hundreds of pages of testimony given by ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and former top diplomat Michael McKinley, were released.
- Among the transcripts’ revelations are crucial details that support claims initially made by a whistleblower that President Trump used military aid to try extracting a personal favor from a foreign government.
- On Tuesday transcripts of the depositions of Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the EU, and Kurt Volker, former US special envoy to Ukraine were released. Sondland had originally denied knowing about the White House attempt to leverage nearly $400 million in security assistance for investigations that could benefit the president politically.
- But Sondland revised his October 17 testimony and acknowledged telling one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisers that resumption of US aid was tied to an “anti-corruption pledge” sought by President Trump. (NYT, WaPo)
- Roger Stone, Trump Friend And Alleged Tie To WikiLeaks, Faces Trial In Washington
Burn Baby Burn, Moral Inferno!
- President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency continues to weaken Obama-era regulations on coal-fired plants. The latest roll back involves the release of coal ash containing heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury into water supplies. The new rules will relax requirements that had strengthened inspection and monitoring at coal plants, lowered acceptable levels of toxic effluent and required plants to install new technology to protect water supplies from contamination.
- New rules will also exempt a significant number of power plants from any requirements. The move is part of a series of deregulatory efforts by the Trump administration aimed at extending the lives of old, coal-fired power plants that have been shutting down in the face of competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy generators. (NYT)
- U.S. Formally Begins To Leave The Paris Climate Agreement
A Moment On The Lips, A Lifetime In A Landfill Somewhere
- Plastic as we know it is having a seriously detrimental impact on the planet. Of the 6.3 billion tons of plastic we’ve thrown away since it started being mass-produced in the 1950s, just 600 million tons have been recycled; 4.9 billion tons have been sent to landfills or left in the natural environment.
- Single-use plastics bans are going into effect around the world — 2020 in the UK and 2021 in Canada, for example. Fortunately, growing consumer awareness of the necessity to come up with green alternatives is driving innovation — like biodegradable and compostable bioplastics made from plants instead of fossil fuels. But it’s only a beginning, not the whole solution. (BBC)
Why Things Take Forever
- Whether managing a complex project at work or renovating your home, sticking to the schedule can be challenging. The late British author Douglas Adams once famously quipped: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
- Most people have trouble keeping exactly on schedule, and psychologists want us to know the reason isn’t always just laziness or procrastination. Rather, they think the blame lies with a cognitive quirk called the planning fallacy, which leads us to consistently underestimate how long it will take to complete a project.
- Starting with an underestimation of how much time is actually required means our original deadlines are flawed from the get-go. It turns out this planning fallacy is astonishingly common. Informal estimates suggest that up to 90 percent of professional writers are late delivering their manuscripts. And surveys suggest that fewer than one third of IT projects meet their original deadline. (BBC)
- Additional quote: “The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” = Alan Dean Foster
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln