Why Things Went South In South America
October 29, 2020
The Daily Pnut strongly encourages all of our readers to practice their civic duty in the upcoming week by voting in the general election. Whether it be through the mail, early, or in-person on Election Day — have a plan in place to ensure that your voice is heard. Regardless of your politics, everyone can agree 2020 will go down as the most important election of our lifetime — so make sure you make your mark on history.
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“We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American Eagle in order to feather their own nests.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
“No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power.” — Jacob Bronowski
The Anti-Cuban Link
(Jim Watson via Getty Images)
The novel coronavirus was quickly ramping up its deadly global impact in early March. At the same time, President Trump was hosting his wannabe counterpart, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, for dinner at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s “Southern White House” in Florida. Bolsonaro had canceled trips to Italy, Poland, and Hungary that week, but couldn’t resist an invitation from his role model in America, despite warnings from his country’s own health minister.
Neither leader was concerned about the emerging pandemic. Trump showed Bolsonaro around the private club, shaking hands with other guests while Bolsonaro’s aides posed for pictures wearing green “Make Brazil Great Again” caps.
After returning home, 22 people in Bolsonaro’s delegation tested positive for the virus. The president wasn’t concerned; Trump had given him a cure: a box of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, the unproven treatment which Trump was then promoting as a remedy for COVID-19. When his health minister opposed relying on the drug as a ‘treatment,’ Bolsonaro fired him.
“[Bolsonaro] said the trip was wonderful, that they had a great time, that life was normal at Mar-a-Lago, everything was cured, and that hydroxychloroquine was the medicine that was supposed to be used,” the health minister recalled. “From that time on, it was very hard to get him to take the science seriously.”
Even before the infamous Mar-a-Lago dinner cemented a partnership between the two presidents — rooted in their shared disregard for the virus — they had already waged an ideological campaign that would undermine Latin America’s ability to respond to the looming health crisis. To show their opposition to Cuba’s leftists, Trump and Bolsonaro targeted Cuba’s great pride: the doctors it sends around the world. Together they drove 10,000 Cuban doctors and nurses out of impoverished areas of Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and El Salvador months before the pandemic hit. Then, citing its involvement with the Cuban medical program, the two leaders attacked the international agency most capable of fighting the virus: the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). With Bolsonaro’s help, Trump nearly bankrupted the agency by withholding promised funding at the height of the outbreak.
Now Latin America, with a third of the world’s deaths, has suffered more acutely than any other region. Together, Trump and Bolsonaro made a bad situation worse. By driving out doctors, blocking assistance and pushing false cures, they virtually dismantled what defenses had been available.
The former head of strategic planning for the PAHO notes: “In their zeal to get rid of the Cuban doctors, the Trump administration has punished every country in the hemisphere, and without question that has meant more COVIDcases, and more COVID deaths. It is outrageous.”
- Joe Biden’s Reset Would Start in Latin America (Atlantic, $)
- Biden’s Plans for Latin America: End ‘Bully Dictating Policy’ (NYT, $)
- US makes fresh pitch to Latin America in bid to counter China’s influence (Guardian)
The Russians Really Get On CIA’s Nerves
- A veteran CIA officer has been forced into early retirement after contracting mysterious and debilitating headaches, vertigo, nausea, and tinnitus beginning in December 2017, while on assignment in Moscow. After many years in the Middle East, Marc Polymeropoulos was just settling into a new senior position as the agency’s No. 2 official for clandestine operations in Europe, including Russia.
- In his 26 years with the agency, Polymeropoulos had never suffered any harm before his trip to Moscow. After returning home the crippling migraines continued, and plague him to this day. “I started … an incredible journey of seeing multiple doctors, multiple MRIs and CT scans and X-rays,” Polymeropoulos said. “Ultimately a neurologist diagnosed me with occipital neuralgia.” The nerve inflammation in the back of the head would explain Polymeropoulos’ headaches, but not what caused them.
- Since 2016, more than 40 US diplomats who worked at the US Embassy in Havana and more than a dozen at US consulates in China have complained of a range of symptoms including balance issues, ringing in their ears, and memory loss. More than a dozen Canadian diplomats who served in Cuba in 2017 reported similar symptoms. Polymeropoulos is the first to link his illness to Russia. A CIA colleague who traveled with him to Moscow in 2017 suffers similar ailments. Several other CIA officers working on Russia issues elsewhere in the world have also been afflicted. (NPR)
- In a foreboding sign that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere just yet, two major European countries announced plans to re-enter a state of lockdown in order to contain a recent surge in cases. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela broke the news to their constituents on Wednesday, outlining restrictions that will limit non-essential trips outside of the home.
- In France, people will only be allowed to leave home to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or 1 hour of exercise. Schools are scheduled to remain open, and employers are given the choice to keep workers at the workplace. All trips outside the home will require French citizens to carry a document justifying their activity, which is subject to be inspected by police. “The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated,” Macron said in an address to the nation. “Like all our neighbours, we are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus. I have decided that we need to return to the lockdown which stopped the virus.”
- German measures are slightly less strict, but still call for the closure of bars, restaurants, and theaters — while schools and shops remain open with limited capacity. As cases spike in neighboring nations, Merkel sees immediate action as the best way to prevent excess deaths. “We need to take action now,” Merkel said. “Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks.”
- Europe’s duel lockdowns are currently set to expire in December, as many health experts view November as the “month of truth” when it comes to squashing a second wave. Meanwhile, Donald Trump assures Americans that the corner has been turned on COVID-19, while cases continue to rise in the United States. (Reuters)
- Doctors Are Dreading the Third Coronavirus Wave (NYT)
- How to prepare for the COVID-19 surge (CNN)
- Immunity to COVID-19 wanes, British study finds (CNN)
- Statistical illiteracy isn’t a niche problem. During a pandemic, it can be fatal (Guardian)
Additional World News
- China Runs Illegal Intimidation Scheme Inside The U.S., DoJ Charges (NPR)
- The resurrected beast from the east: China Rise to Global Superpower Is a Restoration, Not an Ascent (Bloomberg)
- India tries to shake off pro-Trump image in run-up to US election (Guardian)
- Facebook’s foreign woes: Ankhi Das Leaves Facebook India After Hate Speech Dispute (Time)
- 30 female engineers from India ask Silicon Valley to do better on caste discrimination (WaPo, $)
- US tries to block Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as first African WTO head (BBC)
- How Syria’s disinformation wars destroyed the co-founder of the White Helmets (Guardian)
- Why is Turkey suddenly fighting with everyone? (Slate). Erdogan gone wild.
- Protests in Poland Over Abortion Law Continue for Sixth Day (NYT, $)
- What Comes After the International Space Station? (Wired). What will take its place in space?
- Everyone needs that one piece of cookware that you’ll want to cook every meal with, that’s beautiful enough to be left on the stovetop like home decor, and can replace most other cookware in your kitchen.
- The only thing you need in your kitchen this year is the award-winning 8-in-1 Always Pan. It’s the perfect size and does it all: sautés veggies, boils pasta, steams dumplings, and makes a pot of chili for 4. It comes with a built-in spatula, rest, and a custom steamer basket. It’s non-toxic and non-stick, which makes clean-up quick and easy.
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This Leaked Group Chat Sends A Message
(Zach D Roberts via Getty Images)
- The Patriot Front is a three-year-old white supremacist organization that has grown into one of the most active hate groups in the US. Its members are mostly young men who believe America is a nation that belongs only to white people. They wear uniforms made up of bomber jackets, face coverings, and beige khakis, and regularly practice hand-to-hand combat.
- Some openly call themselves “supremacist” and revere Hitler and Mussolini. Members exchange ideas and discuss their goals on Rocket.Chat, an encrypted group messaging app. A closer look at those messages reveals a sophisticated network of extremists who are training for violence. BuzzFeed News received a cache of hundreds of messages exchanged by Patriot Front members on Rocket.Chat.
- In logs of the chats, all from this year, around 280 members of the group discuss grandiose goals — creating a white ethnostate from the existing United States. The group wants to expel immigrants, people of color, and Jews, remaking the fabric of America. But the members are not all talk. Patriot Front is among the most prolific spreaders of “white power” propaganda in the US, having put up flyers in over 1,000 places around the country in 2020 alone.
- They’re also responsible for a number of incidents of vandalism and raw intimidation. They’re not particularly fond of President Trump, but they do see him as useful to their movement, introducing some of their ideas and carrying out some of the policies they favor. They plan to be around long after Trump’s gone. (Buzzfeed News)
Trump Logs A Contentious Victory
- On January 12, 2001, after nearly three years of analysis, the US Forest Service adopted the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, designed to protect almost 60 million acres of pristine, undeveloped National Forests and Grasslands from most road construction, logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling. The Tongass in southeastern Alaska is America’s largest national forest, with nearly 17 million acres.
- Protecting these remaining wild areas from development has overwhelming public support. George W. Bush tried to repeal the law during his administration in the first decade of the 21st century, but it managed to survive. The Tongass is also the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. Environmental groups say that now, more than ever, conservation of the forest is critical to mitigating the effects of climate change, because its old-growth woodlands absorb and store carbon.
- A big part of President Trump’s agenda has been to roll back environmental regulations that he says are roadblocks to industry. Wednesday marked another big move toward that end, when the administration opened up vast portions of the Tongass to logging. It was also a victory for Alaska state officials, who maintained that banning logging, roads, and mining in undeveloped forests has cost Alaskans jobs. But as one conservationist says: “Logging the Tongass is an unconscionable leap in the wrong direction.” (Reuters)
Additional USA News
- Anonymous revealed: Former DHS official Miles Taylor reveals himself as Anonymous, who wrote critically of Trump (Politico)
- FBI Sits on Report Detailing White-Supremacist Terror Threat (Daily Beast)
- Philadelphia Police Fatally Shoot a Black Man Who They Say Had a Knife (WaPo, $).
- Not much brotherly love… Philadelphia Issues Curfew Amid Protests Over Police Shooting (NPR)
- Are Asian Americans the Last Undecided Voters? (New Yorker, $)
- Is Joe Biden Toast If He Loses Pennsylvania? (FiveThirtyEight)
- It’s up to John Roberts to save his court (WaPo, $). It’s on you, chief.
- Section 230 hearings: Twitter, Facebook and Google CEOs testify before Congress – as it happened (Guardian)
Spur Of Moment
- Cockfighting is legal in the Philippines. Large sums of money are wagered on what is inevitably a fight to the death between two roosters. It’s such a huge industry that matches are broadcast on television and breeding farms can be found everywhere. But this year, because the Philippines has the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, authorities tried to do the right thing and ban cockfights.
- The provincial government of Northern Samar was just trying to enforce the community quarantine regulations and flatten the curve when several policemen were sent out to raid a banned cockfight in progress. Lieutenant Christian Bolok was picking up one of the roosters as evidence during the October 26 operation when he was accidentally cut by the blade or spur attached to the bird’s leg. His femoral artery was slashed, causing massive blood loss.
- Bolok died on the way to the hospital. “I have a heavy heart as we have lost a brother who sacrificed his own life in the name of service,” said the provincial police chief. It was the first time in more than twenty years that one of his men had been lost in a cockfight raid. Three people were arrested that fateful night, and seven fighting cocks and wads of cash used to place bets were confiscated. (Vice)
- Assembly lyin’:Exclusive: GM, Ford knew about climate change 50 years ago (E&E)
- Pagan complacency and the birth of the Christian Roman empire (Aeon)
- Surveillance company harassed female employees using its own facial recognition technology (The Verge)
- AirBYOB? Airbnb Fights Its ‘Party House Problem’ (NYT, $)
- This Addiction Treatment Works. Why Is It So Underused? (NYT, $)
- The strange ingredients found in vaccines (BBC)
- The Best Instant Pot Recipes, According to Eater Editors (Eater)
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