A Momentous Week Ahead
March 2, 2020
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” – Lenin
“Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world.” – George Washington
Take A Load Off Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused European leaders of failing to keep their promises to help his country bear the load of hosting 3.6 million Syrian refugees. He has also demanded support from NATO for his military operation against a Russian and Syrian offensive in northern Syria that has displaced at least another million Syrians, many of whom headed to the Turkish border.
After the Turkish army suffered significant casualties last week in an airstrike in northwest Syria, Erdogan said in a televised speech on Saturday: “We will not keep our borders closed because the EU isn’t keeping its promises.” Not only would Turkey open its border with Greece for migrants to enter Europe, but local authorities were buying bus tickets for several thousand refugees and driving them to the border.
On Sunday Greece’s government responded by taking several tough measures in defiance of EU law and international protocols. It deployed major military forces to its border with Turkey and sent a warning not to cross through mass text messages to all international phone numbers in the area. Then it announced it would suspend asylum applications for a month and immediately deport anyone entering illegally. The government said it had thwarted nearly 10,000 crossing attempts in 24 hours, but dozens of people in small groups made it through anyway. At least 150 were arrested over the weekend.
The president of the European Council said he would travel to the Greek-Turkish border Tuesday with the Greek prime minister, and the EU announced an urgent foreign ministers’ meeting sometime this week.
- Turkey strikes Syrian planes and airports, escalating Idlib fight (Reuters)
- Syria says 2 warplanes downed by Turkey as tensions soar (Politico)
- Turkey’s Killer Drone Swarm Poses Syria Air Challenge to Putin (Bloomberg)
- Turkey Declares Major Offensive Against Syrian Government (NYT, $)
Hey Kids, Say Hi To Mickoly Mousolov. Hey Parents, Say Hi to a Mousolov Cocktail!
- Russia’s 60-year-old dream of having its own theme park in the Disneyland mold is finally coming true. Developers say the $1.5 billion Dream Island, which opened Saturday, will be inhabited by dozens of fairy-tale characters, like the Snow Queen, and the Russian version of The Jungle Book, populated with talking dinosaurs. Everything is domestically produced.
- Estimates are that five million Moscow residents and two and a half million tourists, mostly from elsewhere in Russia, will visit the park’s animated dinosaurs and haunted houses each year. Weekend tickets will cost about $163 for a family of four.
- Amiran Mutsoev, the park’s owner and director, is banking on attracting Moscow’s rising middle class, and betting its purchasing power will hold up despite Western sanctions and low oil prices, a major Russian export. What he didn’t wager on was opening his long-awaited park just as panic was spreading over the coronavirus outbreak. (NYT)
Just Do It, Don’t Ask Questions
- China sends hundreds of ethnic Muslim Uighurs, almost all women in their 20s or younger, to work at the Taekwang Shoes Company in Laixi, north of Qingdao. The factory has been a Nike supplier for more than 30 years; it’s one of the American brand’s largest, turning out some 8 million pairs of Nikes each year.
- The women are from the western Xinjiang region, sent by local authorities in groups of 50 to work in this far-from-home place.
- It’s part of Beijing’s “Xinjiang Aid” initiative. It helps the party meet its poverty-alleviation goals; it’s also evidence that Chinese authorities are moving Uighurs into government-directed labor around the country, in order to further control the Muslim minority population by breaking familial bonds. Locals say Uighur workers are either afraid or unable to interact with anyone beyond the most superficial of transactions.
- According to a forthcoming report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Taekwang factory is one of many where Uighurs are working “under conditions that strongly suggest forced labor” to make goods for more than 80 established global brands. The study’s lead author says: “The Chinese government is now exporting the punitive culture and ethos of Xinjiang’s ‘reeducation camps’ to factories across China.” (WaPo)
- The Dark Secrets Lurking Inside Your Outdoor Gear (Outside Online)
Now You See It, Now You Unfortunately Still See It
- South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is now facing massive backlash for his mishandling of the coronavirus crisis in the country. President Moon had predicted that the outbreak would “disappear before long” shortly after twenty-eight cases were confirmed on February 28th. This past Thursday, there were 505 new infections reported, stemming from a large, secretive church in Daegu.
- South Korea now faces 2,022 cases, with 13 deaths. Mr. Moon’s government has been reluctant to close the doors on visitors from mainland China even as 40 countries did, banning only travellers from the Hubei province. Many have criticized the decision, claiming that it was solely benefitting Moon’s government and threatening all citizens living in South Korea.
- South Koreans’ anger spiked this week when they learned that some Chinese cities had begun quarantining South Korean visitors upon landing at their airports, while South Korea had not imposed such restrictions on Chinese arrivals. Multiple online petitions have sprung up, demanding a ban on Chinese visitors and a dismantling of the Shincheonji church, through which the infection spread rapidly. (NYT, $)
- Epidemics expert Jonathan Quick: ‘The worst-case scenario for coronavirus is likely’: The former chair of the Global Health Council talks about the mentality that left the world vulnerable to the Covid-19 epidemic and what can be done to minimise its effects (Guardian)
- The Week in Tech: Coronavirus Disrupts the Industry (NYT, $)
- To Take On the Coronavirus, Go Medieval on It (NYT, $)
- What to Do If You Think You Have COVID-19 (Lifehacker)
- How to prepare for coronavirus: 5 steps you can take (Vox)
- How this coronavirus kills its victims (LA Times)
- Containing Coronavirus In Hong Kong Comes At A Significant Cost : Goats and Soda (NPR)
Additional World News
- Netanyahu is fighting for power like his freedom depends on it — and it might (CNN)
- U.S. Signs Peace Deal With Taliban After Nearly 2 Decades Of War In Afghanistan (NPR) & Why Afghanistan Became an Invisible War (NYT, $) & Afghan President Rejects Timeline For Prisoner Swap Proposed In US-Taliban Peace Deal (NPR)
Win McNamee via Getty Images
Sessions Gets A Case of Stockholm
- When Jeff Sessions was Donald Trump’s Attorney General, the president openly criticized, ridiculed, demeaned, and finally fired him in 2018. Now Sessions wants his old Alabama Senate seat back.
- Trump has a 60 percent approval rating among voters in ‘Bama, so Sessions is competing with other Republican primary candidates to see who can be the Trumpiest.
- In one ad Sessions says: “Others talk big about Trump, hoping to get your vote. But talk is cheap. I’ve been with him from the start.” Whoever comes out ahead in the March 3 primary election will face Senator Doug Jones, considered the most vulnerable Democrat up for reelection. One of Sessions’ primary opponents is Roy Moo
- ‘Roy Moore Interview’ Ep. 3 Official Clip | Who Is America? | SHOWTIME (YouTube) Our favorite Sasha Baron Cohen video clip where he denounces social media, Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg.
When The Virus Goes Viral
- The White House’s chaotic attempts to gain control of its rudderless response to the coronavirus outbreak have been defined by bureaucratic infighting, confusion, misinformation and a president seemingly more concerned with having calm markets than optimal preparedness. Yet even with all the missteps, untruths, and room for improvement, administration officials kept to their previous schedules over the weekend.
- Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney spoke at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, where he assured the crowd, “We know how to handle this,” and accused the news media of overhyping the virus to “bring down the president.”
- Vice President Mike Pence attended a closed-door, high-dollar fundraiser in Sarasota, Florida Friday night. And President Trump held a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, where he accused Democrats of “politicizing” the coronavirus and crowed to his supporters “this is their new hoax.”
- Meanwhile as of Sunday evening there were 84 cases of Covid-19 in the US, including two deaths. (WaPo,NYT)
- WHO raises global coronavirus alert as US faceplants (Ars Technica)
- Increased US Testing Will Reveal More Coronavirus Cases (NPR)
- Coronavirus: Pence defends Trump Jr claim Democrats want ‘millions’ to die (Guardian)
- ‘Thank you, God’: Trump revels in reign as absolute king of CPAC (Guardian)
Additional US News
- Tomorrow is a day of reckoning for presidential hopefuls
- Biden’s South Carolina victory positions him to win the South on Super Tuesday (Vox)
- Biden’s surprise ray of hope in California (Politico)
- Pete Buttigieg drops out of White House race (BBC)
- Super Tuesday Was Started To Nominate Moderates. It Backfired (NPR)
- Democratic presidential candidates on big tech issues (CNBC)
- Like Warren, I Had My Own Sexist Run-In with Chris Matthews (GQ)
- Biden says he’ll contest the Democratic nomination if no one gets a majority of delegates (Vox)
- The reckonings of one of the South’s white suburban women, whose loyalty is key to whether Trump is reelected (WaPo, $)
- Battle for Control of Senate Takes Shape as Both Parties Seek Firewall (NYT, $)
- New Intelligence Chief Asks Election Czar to Remain in Post (NYT, $)
Working Hard Or Hardly Able To Work
- Satellite images from NASA show a striking decline in pollution levels over China during the first two months of this year, compared to the same period in 2019. 2020’s falling levels of nitrogen dioxide come amid record declines in China’s factory activity as manufacturers stop work in an attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19.
- The reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide — a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles and industrial facilities — was first apparent near the source of the outbreak in Wuhan, but then expanded across the country.
- The decline in air pollution levels coincided with restrictions imposed on transportation and business activities, and as millions of people went into quarantine. China has recorded nearly 80,000 cases of the virus since the outbreak began late last year. (BBC)
- What really happens to your body if you eat lots of takeaways? (BBC)
- How each generation gets the drugs it deserves (Aeon)
- Bob Iger got Disney into the streaming wars, so what happens once he’s gone? (The Verge)
- Unsealing of Vatican archives will finally reveal truth about ‘Hitler’s pope’ (Guardian)
- Protecting whales from the noise people make in the ocean (BBC)
- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s Job In Peril As Activist Investor Takes Stake (NPR)
- You (and Almost Everyone You Know) Owe Your Life to This Man. (National Geographic)
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