Duty, Honor, Country, Truth, and You’re Fired
February 14, 2020
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” – Jane Austen
Speak Loudly And Carry A Stick Made In China
The US and China continue competing for global influence, but the Trump administration’s belligerent approach is exacting a high cost. The administration considers five former Soviet republics in Central Asia — Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — critical battlegrounds in its contest with China. But President Trump’s foreign policy performances — withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal, starting trade conflicts with friendly governments, and berating members of NATO — is making those nations nervous about listening to Washington’s entreaties on Beijing.
Concern over the ever-increasing Chinese presence in these remote outposts linking Asia and Europe has the administration stepping up its own visibility. Last week, at a news conference in Uzbekistan’s capital, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was solicitous: “Whenever we speak to countries around the world, we want to make sure that we’re doing what the people of those countries want.” But Central Asia’s officials, like many counterparts around the world, appear to be hedging their bets when it comes to aligning with either Washington or Beijing.
Trump’s foreign policy track record isn’t stellar. And according to a recent report on China by the Center for a New American Security: “critical areas of U.S. policy remain inconsistent, uncoordinated, under resourced and — to be blunt — uncompetitive and counterproductive to advancing U.S. values and interests.”
The Tide Is High But I’m Holding On
- Scientific projections have climate change causing the oceans to rise one to four feet by the end of the century. Additionally, more ferocious storms and higher tides will threaten entire communities, and the lives of an estimated 600 million people who live on the world’s coastlines. Two sprawling metropolitan areas — one rich, one poor — are facing those risks right now.
- Offering a glimpse, or warning of what’s to come are the San Francisco Bay area (population 7 million) and metropolitan Manila (almost 14 million). In both places climate change has magnified years of short-sighted decisions. Manila allowed groundwater to be pumped out so fast that the land sagged, turning into a bowl just as the sea was rising. The Bay Area allowed construction right at the water’s edge, putting homes, highways, even airports at risk of catastrophic flooding.
- How people face the rising sea depends on the accident of their birth: whether they’re born rich or poor, in a wealthy country or a struggling one, have insurance or don’t, have property worth millions or little more than a tin roof. The decisions these cities make moving forward could offer lessons, good or bad, for coastal cities everywhere. (NYT)
- Additional videos and photos from Daily Pnut’s Tim while on a morning run of some flooding near the San Francisco roads and pier (near the San Francisco Ferry Building) this past Sunday (2/9/2020).
- Having fewer kids will not save us from climate change (Vox)
Coronavirus Has Its Ups And Downs
- Earlier in the week it appeared from stories and tweets that the number of cases of the new coronavirus disease, Covid-19, might be on a downward slide. But on Thursday morning news broke that both the number of cases and the death toll had surged — to 60,363 and 1,370 respectively.
- At a news conference, the director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program sought to allay fears. “We have seen a significant spike in the number of reported cases in China but not a significant change in the trajectory of the Covid-19 outbreak. This increase is in large part down to a change in how cases are diagnosed and reported. We need to be very careful when interpreting any extremes.”
- Early in an epidemic of a new disease, health officials may shift the definition of what they consider an official case as they learn more about the disease, or grapple with the resources they have to find and diagnose cases. In a single day officials can report a big increase or drop in cases based on the new definition, but that doesn’t mean more or fewer people were sick. And that’s what happened here. In fact, the director explained, the 14,000 ‘new cases’ weren’t even new. Many were older cases that had simply been reclassified based on the new definition. (Vox)
- Cruise ship rejected by five ports docks at last (BBC)
- An American in a Locked Down Chinese Town: ‘Everyone Here Is So Bored’ (NYT, $)
- Hong Kong banks compare pandemic stress test with epidemic reality (Reuters)
- Would The U.S. Health System Be Ready For A Surge In Coronavirus Cases? (NPR)
- Coronavirus Cases Seemed to Be Leveling Off. Not Anymore. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Huawei fires back, points to US’ history of spying on phone networks (Ars Technica)
- ‘Ghost’ DNA In West Africans Complicates Story Of Human Origins (NPR)
- Amsterdam looks to bar foreign visitors from buying cannabis (Guardian)
- Nun on the run: Italian woman evades justice by living in convents (Guardian)
- Shelterless Syrians burn refuse for warmth in bitter Idlib winter (Reuters)
Mess With The Bull, You Get The Tweets
- Retired Marine Corps general and former White House chief of staff John Kelly made comments during a question and answer session after a speech at Drew University Wednesday night that infuriated President Trump. Kelly said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, did the right thing in reporting his concerns about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president.
- Vindman “did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.” Kelly also remarked that Vindman was right to flag the call because it marked a huge change in US policy toward Ukraine and suggested the content of that call was akin to hearing “an illegal order.”
- Vindman was subpoenaed and testified in the House impeachment inquiry. After Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, Vindman and his twin brother were both removed from their jobs at the White House. When Trump found out about Kelly’s comments he blasted him the next day on Twitter, complaining about Kelly’s performance as chief of staff and warning he has “a military and legal obligation” to “keep his mouth shut.” (NBCNews)
Tasos Katopodis via Getty Images
Those Who Live In White Houses Shouldn’t Help Stones
- Jessie Liu is the US attorney who headed the US Attorney’s office in Washington that handled the prosecution of Roger Stone, long-time confident of President Trump and now, a convicted felon. Liu had gone to the Treasury Department to fill a top Senate-confirmed position the president had nominated her for. But this week Liu became just another victim of Trump’s scorched earth retaliation campaign against anyone who had anything to do with the Mueller report, criminal prosecutions of Trump allies, or his impeachment. Liu resigned from the Treasury Department Wednesday after Trump pulled her nomination.
- Her resignation came on the heels of Tuesday’s resignations by four career prosecutors after Trump manipulated the sentencing recommendation process in the Justice Department.
- On Wednesday Trump went after the presiding US district judge in the Stone trial, Amy Berman Jackson, who is scheduled to sentence Stone on February 20; he also publicly thanked Attorney General Bill Barr for “taking charge” of the case.
- On Thursday Trump turned his wrath on the jury that convicted Stone last November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering, accusing some of political bias. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), denounced Trump’s assault on the rule of law, reiterated his demand for an Inspector General investigation, and called on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to intervene, noting that Roberts had previously defended a judge attacked by Trump. (CNN, Guardian)
- William Barr says Trump’s tweets ‘make it impossible to do my job’ (Guardian)
- Trump is taking a sledgehammer to judicial independence | Austin Sarat (Guardian)
- Trump’s War Against ‘the Deep State’ Enters a New Stage (NYT, $)
- Trump engaged in witness retaliation. That’s a crime (CNN)
- The Electoral College, the Senate, & other ways our democracy is rigged (Vox)
- As a Post-Impeachment Trump Pushes the Limits, Republicans Say Little (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- How America’s shrinking cities can ‘rightsize’ | US news (Guardian)
- Tech underestimated Bernie Sanders. Now it has to deal with him. (Vox)
- May the Best Meme Win the Election: Michael Bloomberg’s Campaign Suddenly Drops Memes Everywhere (NYT, $)
- Gifts From China, Elsewhere Lead To Probe Of Harvard, Yale (NPR)
- Residents of Cancer Town urge tougher measures to monitor toxins (Guardian)
- McClatchy: newspaper publisher files for bankruptcy as ‘local media suffers’ (Guardian)
- The American Journalism Project’s $1 billion plan to save local news (Vox)
Training To Be Fired
- “Outskilling” is a new trend hitting workers across the country, but experts are not sure if this is the solution to the “automation takeover.” Programs are being developed and implemented to help workers prepare for potential layoffs by providing them skills and training to further their careers in an automated world, but no one is sure how successful this system will be.
- Executives and upper-level white collar workers have long enjoyed the services of similar programs for decades, but it is a new exit strategy for blue collar workers and the “Everyday Joe.” Reports and studies have noted that less than half the country’s workforce is fully equipped to handle middle-skill jobs, despite those same workers taking up a majority of the labor market.
- Outskilling could help those in low-wage positions commonly viewed as temporary CV-builders, such as jobs in kitchens or restaurants, which bodes will for large chain franchises such as McDonald’s, but there is a lot of doubt circulating on the cost-effectiveness of these training sessions and programs. Until further studies investigate deeper into the new phenomenon, it is hard to say whether it’s just another trend of the decade or it will be the solution to the age of automation. (BBC)
- Was Jeanne Calment the Oldest Person Who Ever Lived—or a Fraud? (New Yorker)
- A Nassim Taleb Protégé on How to Prepare for the Coming Market Crash (Vanity Fair)
- 23andMe, Ancestry, and the decline of consumer DNA tests (Vox)
- Antarctica broke two temperature records in a week (Vox)
- If the Nuclear Family Has Failed, What Comes Next? (Atlantic, $)
- Amazon’s first employee says company breakup “could potentially make sense” (Vox)
- YouTube is the frontrunner in the mobile streaming wars, and it’s not even close (The Verge)
Have a Lovely Weekend
- Why ‘care’ and the ‘scare’ are inseparable when you love someone (Aeon)
- Six things we learned from asking couples how they stay together (Guardian)
- Is love just a fleeting chemical high in the brain? (BBC)
“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
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