2020’s Political Heavyweight Match
February 20, 2020
The Nevada Democratic debate in less than 4 minutes (A Washington Post YouTube Video)
We don’t support Mike Bloomberg for many reasons (too out of touch with the average American, stop & frisk, and he chooses political parties out of convenience).
We are not impressed by Pete Buttigieg: lack of experience and he’s way too chummy with the techopolies. We think that his only appeal is that he’s a fresh face and is so much younger than the other candidates.
It’ll be fascinating to see who ends up running against President Trump. Trump currently has tremendous advantages (being an incumbent, fundraising, the economy, the lack of social media regulations, and the electoral college structure) going into 2020. As a result the 2020 Presidential election is a political heavyweight fight that is his to lose. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Trump and his presidency it is that nothing is predictable.
“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.”
“Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.”
― E.O. Wilson
A Syria-ous Threat to Idlib
The human tragedy taking place on the Turkish-Syrian border is almost indescribable. Syria’s government, with Russian backing, accelerated its offensive to take back Idlib, the last opposition-held province. In recent weeks relentless bombing has forced nearly a million Syrians to flee their homes. It’s the largest exodus yet in the country’s nine-year civil war.
Most desperate people headed north to Turkey. But that country, already host to more than three million Syrians, closed its border to general traffic in 2015; the displaced of Idlib are trapped behind the hills of the Turkish border crossing at Reyhanli, a small agricultural town surrounded by orchards and cotton fields.
There’s no more room in the crowded tent camps. Many people sleep in the open, in surrounding hillsides, and olive groves, without protection from the cold. At least 12 children have died of exposure.
Last weekend some Turkish trucks carrying donated clothes, blankets and food waited patiently at the gates for access into Syria. A few medical personnel and traders with business on both sides have permission to cross on foot. One trader described the situation as “very bad,” with families sleeping on cardboard in the streets and under trees. There is no food or work.
Russian and Syrian forces are advancing rapidly, to within 15 miles of Turkey’s border, in an apparent effort to cut off supply lines to opposition forces still in Idlib. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that Syrian government troops withdraw to previously agreed upon positions by the end of February, or be forced back by Turkish forces.
Defector or Protector
- A former North Korean diplomat, who defected to the South, announced his intention Wednesday to run for South Korea’s parliament. Thae Yong-ho was the No. 2 diplomat in the North Korean Embassy in London when he fled to South Korea in 2016 with his wife and two sons. He said he was motivated to seek office by Seoul’s forced repatriation of two North Korean fishermen who wanted to defect to the South.
- The men had been picked up in the waters off South Korea, but were sent back to North Korea in November against their wills after admitting they had murdered their captain and 15 other crew members. South Korean authorities treated them as “heinous criminals” instead of political refugees. Thae had a different perspective: “This is so wrong, even if they were criminals.” (NYT)
You Need to be this Skilled to Enter
- The British government’s plan to close the country’s borders to unskilled and non-English speaking workers is being called an assault on the economy by industry leaders, and will cause “disastrous” consequences complete with factory closures and job losses in warehouses, hotels and restaurants.
- The Tory-majority government unveiled its Australian-style point system on Wednesday, saying it provides a unique opportunity to take “full control” of British borders “for the first time in decades,” and eliminate the “distortion” caused by EU freedom of movement.
- Most people wanting to come to the UK to work must have a job offer with a salary of at least $33,000; there’s no route for entry by self-employed people like Polish plumbers or Romanian builders to arrive without a job. Border control will no longer accept ID cards from countries such as France and Italy, an effort to stop non-EU workers with forged or stolen ID cards from coming in.
- UK’s largest union said the new plans “spell absolute disaster for the [health] care sector.” The chief executive of UK Hospitality said “ruling out a temporary, low-skilled route for migration in just 10 months time would be disastrous for the hospitality sector and the British people” and deter investment in high street. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Country on the Brink: A Search for the Source of Italy’s Malaise (Spiegel)
- To Make a Diplomatic Point, Ukraine Rebels Open Fire (NYT, $)
- Here’s how long coronaviruses may linger on contaminated surfaces, according to science (CNN)
- U.S. Designates China’s Official Media as Operatives of the Communist State (NYT, $)
- Nine dead after gun attacks on Germany shisha bars (BBC)
Leon Neal via Getty Images
Pardon Me, Just Leaking Some Info
- Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are alleging that, during a visit to London in 2017, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher told Assange that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange… said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.” The claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before next week’s opening of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents.
- Rohrabacher has denied the allegation, saying he made the proposal on his own initiative and Trump never endorsed the idea. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told reporters: “The president barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than he’s an ex-congressman. He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject. It is … a total lie.” However, by now most people understand that if President Trump says he doesn’t know somebody, he definitely knows them. Trump invited Rohrabacher to the White House in April 2017 after seeing the congressman on Fox TV extolling the president’s virtues.
- Rohrabacher was voted out in 2018, but during his congressional tenure he constantly defended Russia, claiming to have been so close to Vladimir Putin that they had once engaged in a drunken arm-wrestling contest in the 1990s. In 2012 the FBI warned Rohrabacker that Russian spies were trying to recruit him as an “agent of influence.” (Guardian)
- The 11 Criminals Granted Clemency by Trump Had One Thing in Common: Connections (NYT, $)
- Bloomberg roundly attacked by rivals in fiercest Democratic debate so far (Guardian)
- Nevada Democratic debate: Elizabeth Warren’s Bloomberg attack should scare Trump (Vox)
- Fox Has Been “More Fair”: Why Bernie’s Team Has Had It With MSNBC (Vanity Fair)
- When Bloomberg News’s Reporting on China Was Challenged, Bloomberg Tried to Ruin Me for Speaking Out (Intercept)
- Does Sanders Have A Ceiling? Maybe. Can He Win Anyway? Yes. (Five Thirty Eight)
- How Milwaukee Could Decide the Next President (New Yorker)
- The Trumpian Liberalism of Michael Bloomberg (NYT, $)
- Dems Beware: Don’t Be Like Mitt in 2012 (Politico)
- Eitan Hersh’s Politics Is for Power explains why liberals keep losing (Vox)
Splat Goes the Insect
- Two scientific studies in Europe demonstrate the huge decline in the insect population over the last two decades, adding even more evidence to what some scientists are calling an “insect apocalypse.” In rural Denmark, data was collected every summer from 1997 to 2017 on the number of insects hitting car windows.
- A survey of the data found an 80 percent decline in abundance of insects, as well as a parallel decline in the number of swallows and martins, birds that live on insects. The second survey, done in the UK county of Kent in 2019, involved examining splats in a grid placed over car registration plates. The “splatometer” revealed 50 percent fewer impacts than in 2004, 15 years earlier.
- “This difference we found is critically important, because it mirrors the patterns of decline which are being reported widely elsewhere, and insects are absolutely fundamental to food webs and the existence of life on Earth,” said Paul Tinsley-Marshall from Kent Wildlife Trust. “It’s pretty horrendous.” A third study shows plummeting numbers of aquatic insects in streams. (Wired)
- American journalism is dying. Its survival requires public funds (Guardian)
- The Biggest Prize in E-Sports: Talent (NYT, $)
- First baby is born through new egg-freezing technique (Guardian)
- Jazz is perhaps America’s greatest invention and the older we get the more we love it: Want to Get Into Jazz? Listen to These 10 Albums First (Art of Manliness)
- Ring and Nest helped normalize American surveillance and turned us into a nation of voyeurs (WaPo, $) & All This Dystopia, and for What? (NYT, $)
- PBS takes on the ‘Amazon Empire ? The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos’ in a ‘Frontline’ investigation (WaPo, $) & The Epic Battle Between Trump and Bezos Is On (NYT, $)
- Researchers find a western-style diet can impair brain function (Guardian)
“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” – E.O. Wilson
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