I Regret To Inform You Of Your Regret
January 24, 2020
“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”
“Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through. Face it.”
― Joseph Conrad
The Limits of American Power: Hearts of Darkness
The US military has been expanding its presence and operations in Africa over the past decade, with little transparency. Not much was known about the objectives of its operations, how those operations were carried out, the facilities it used, and how it partnered with governments in the region. It wasn’t until four US special operations forces were ambushed and wounded, one killed, in Niger in October 2017 that the media began asking more questions about various military efforts to combat jihadi groups in West Africa, and the public began paying some attention.
Al-Shabab, the Al Qaeda-affiliated extremist group based in Somalia, claimed responsibility. President Trump loosened Obama-era constraints on military activities in Somalia and declared that country an “area of active hostilities” subject to war-zone rules. Since then he’s continued to escalate battle against the Shabab, even as he has sought to scale back operations against similar Islamist insurgencies elsewhere in the world. But Al Shabab proved resilient against American airstrikes, continuing to carry out bombings in East Africa.
Because most of America was focused on the January 3 Trump-ordered assassination of Iran’s top general, little attention was paid to a brazen assault January 5 at Manda Bay, Kenya, a sleepy seaside military base near the Somali border. Shabab fighters easily accessed the airstrip, bombed a plane with two military contractors inside, killed an Army specialist, destroyed a fuel storage area and a significant portion of the American aircraft fleet, rendering the airfield useless and costing the Pentagon millions of dollars. Fortunately this “serious security lapse” has claimed the attention of Congress and Pentagon officials, and is under investigation.
The Battle To Remember World War II
- On Thursday world leaders, joined by elderly survivors, gathered in Jerusalem to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau — the most notorious of Nazi Germany’s death camps — to pay tribute to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
- Then on Monday, leaders and survivors will gather to pay tribute at the Auschwitz site in southern Poland.
- That there are two competing ceremonies underlines how politically charged World War II remains as nationalist governments in Russia and Poland seek to use their own interpretation of the past for contemporary political gain.
- In the fall of 1939 Poland was invaded by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, pursuant to their secret pact to divide Eastern Europe into two spheres of influence. The Nazis began building concentration camps in southern Poland in 1940. In June 1941, despite the nonaggression agreement between them, Germany began invading the Soviet Union, turning that power to the side of the Allies. Auschwitz and other infamous camps in Poland were operated by the Nazis between 1940 and 1945.
- On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz. After the Soviet Union crumbled and Vladimir Putin rose to power in Russia, he was angered when historical memory in the West started focusing more on the Soviet role in triggering the war and less on its role in defeating Germany.
- Putin began shifting blame for the war to Poland. That outraged the Polish government, which itself has come under fire for allegedly minimizing the role its own people played in helping Nazi occupiers kill Jews. (NBCNews)
- World Leaders, Gathering to Mark Holocaust, Are Urged to Fight ‘Deadly Cancer’ (NYT, $)
- My Grandmother Kept Telling Us About the Nazis. Now I Know Why. (NYT, $)
- Auschwitz: How death camp became centre of Nazi Holocaust (BBC)
Myanmar’s Nobel War Prize Winner
- In a momentous and unanimous decision, the UN’s highest court — the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague — ordered Myanmar to prevent genocidal violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority and to preserve any evidence of past crimes.
- The court found prima facie evidence of breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention. and warned that the estimated 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar were “extremely vulnerable” to attacks by the military. The court imposed emergency “provisional measures” on the country and instructed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to respect the requirements of the convention.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, who had previously been awarded a Nobel peace prize, spent last month’s three day trial defending Myanmar’s military against accusations of systematic human rights abuses and war crimes. The ruling was an outright rejection of her defense.
- The genocide convention was enacted after the Holocaust. The chief counsel for Gambia, the country that brought the case alleging Myanmar had breached the convention, said: “On the cusp of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the court’s clear and forceful [binding] order is a significant day for international law, the rights of individuals and groups, and the meaningful obligation of every state and person to desist from any act that could plausibly be characterised as genocide.” (Guardian)
Northern Ireland was without a regional government for three years. The governments of Britain and the Republic of Ireland have now brokered an agreement by the two main political parties to share power and form a new legislature, aka Stormont. The dual leadership structure consists of the Sinn Fein Party, which supports unification with the Republic of Ireland, and the Democratic Unionist Party, which wants Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
The three-year period of political paralysis and dysfunction might be over, but Stormont’s newly appointed ministers must now try to save the territory’s neglected public and political institutions.
That the breakthrough has come in time for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU on January 31 means the region will at least have representation to set out its priorities in the process. But the question remains whether and how the new regional government will be able to overhaul public services and save hospitals and schools that are on the brink of collapse.
It’s already hit a roadblock over how to pay for pledges made in the new agreement. The British government said it would inject $2.6 billion into Stormont’s budget to support the new deal. But the region’s finance minister described the offer as an “act of bad faith,” since it was at least a billion short of what was needed. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Protesters who demanded Huawei CFO’s release revealed to be paid actors (Guardian)
- How do you quarantine a city – and does it work? (BBC)
- The Saudi Connection: Inside the 9/11 Case That Divided the F.B.I. (NYT, $)
- Trump Administration Targets ‘Birth Tourism’ With New Visa Rule (NPR)
Trump’s “Wall” Is An Absolute “Win”
- President Trump’s highest-profile immigration policy tool is his border wall, which he continues building along the southern border. On Friday immigration officials, including acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, gathered in Yuma, AZ to celebrate the 100th mile of border barrier — 30-foot steel bollards placed a few inches apart — erected by the Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of a million dollars a mile. Affixed to the fencing is a metal plaque with the presidential seal and Trump’s name on it.
- Due to extensive pushback and legal hurdles, the administration has limited construction primarily to public land, placing the newer wall structures in remote areas with relatively few border crossers. It has also put up almost no new barriers in places where ones didn’t already exist.
- The new tall wall doesn’t actually keep people out — migrants can still scale it using a rope ladder and sliding down the other side. Anyway, the majority of migrants are asylum seekers, who simply surrender themselves to the first border agent they spot. (WSJ)
- CBP Says Enforcement Actions At U.S.-Mexico Border Down For 7th Straight Month (NPR)
Additional USA News
- Adam Schiff lays out a damning case in impeachment trial opening remarks (Vox)
- Democrats, Pressing Abuse of Power Case, Delve Into Biden (NYT, $)
- Tech companies are “too big,” says House Antitrust chairman David Cicilline (The Verge)
- Mark Zuckerberg Is Throwing Wads of Cash At Washington (Vanity Fair)
- Trump Administration Rolling Back Federal Water Protections (NPR)
I Regret To Inform You Of Your Regret
- The path to recovery from injuries and disease can often be a long and strenuous task, but more and more doctors are turning to new methods utilizing psychological approaches.
- Mental well-being and physical well-being go hand in hand, and one aspect of mental recovery that has been glossed over has been the issue of regret.
- New studies and reports have shown that people who hold deep regrets about incidents leading up to a major accident or injury have a much longer recovery period, and often regain less function in injured areas of their body. “It can be the difference between being in a wheelchair and walking independently,” said Dr. Mackenzie Lerario, medical director of the NewYork-Presbyterian Mobile Stroke Unit.
- Even with advances in medical technology, we will never be able to fully eradicate regret. However, there are high- and low-tech steps both patients, practitioners, and caretakers can take to ease the sting, and possibly lead to quicker, more effective recoveries. (NYT, $)
- New Order – Regret (Official Music Video)
I’m Not Sure How I Feel About Titling This One
- Procrastination isn’t about time management… it’s about emotion management. As more and more research in behavioral psychology is being done, more and more psychologists are opening up to the idea that procrastination is highly linked to emotions and moods. People put off tasks that put them in a bad mood, whether it be due to boredom or anger, and look toward outlets which bring positive moods, such as watching videos or listening to music.
- Procrastination is more commonly being seen as an emotional regulation strategy, meaning that it’s less a problem of not knowing how to manage time, it’s more a problem of not knowing how to manage emotions. If you feel very bored about a work assignment or find the idea of sifting through spreadsheets tedious, don’t step away from the table.
- Research has found that once people start on a project, they are more often than not emotionally connected and driven to finish, so if you ever feel like procrastinating, just start up that work assignment or project, and let the productivity flow. (BBC)
- People Are Calling SWAT Teams to Tech Executives’ Homes (NYT, $)
- FICO Changes Could Lower Your Credit Score (WSJ, $)
- Formulations of glyphosate-based weedkillers are toxic, tests show (Guardian)
- He Wanted a Unicorn. He Got … a Sustainable Business (Wired, $)
- The thirty-something life crisis (Vox)
- Smart car sensors can predict danger (CNN)
- Survey: 3 Out Of 5 Americans Are Lonely : Shots – Health News (NPR)
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