Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
January 26, 2021
The Good News
- Officials hail ‘encouraging’ number of north Atlantic right whale births (Guardian)
- Super Bowl: Budweiser sits out NFL’s big game to fund Covid vaccine ads (CNBC)
“When you can get others to admire your ideals and to want what you want, you do not have to spend as much on sticks and carrots to move them in your direction. Seduction is always more effective than coercion…” — Joseph S. Nye Jr.
“Imperialism was born when the ruling class in capitalist production came up against national limitations to its economic expansion.” — Hannah Arendt
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Hello Chinese Silk Road
(Richard Baker via Getty Images)
The US economy has struggled since the Covid-19 outbreak last year. China’s economy, however, has picked up speed — it has now replaced America as the world’s top destination for new foreign direct investment. According to data released Sunday by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, direct foreign investment into Chinese firms climbed 4% in 2020 to $163 billion, while the US saw a 50% drop in investments from overseas companies, attracting only $134 billion.
Foreign investment in the US peaked in 2016 at $472 billion vs. $134 billion for China. But foreign investment has continued to rise in China while falling in the US each year since 2017. What’s driving investor interest in Chinese firms? Chalk it up to the “Trump Slump.”
In his effort to Make America Great Again, President Trump spent four years extricating the US from its leadership place on the global stage: withdrawing from multinational treaties, betraying alliances, and starting trade wars. The administration encouraged US companies to leave and re-establish operations in the US, while warning Chinese companies and investors they would face new scrutiny when investing in America. Perhaps disrupting world trade and turning America inward was not the pathway to assuring foreign investor confidence.
China, on the other hand, envisions a “new age of globalization.” In 2013, President Xi Jinping announced he would resurrect the Silk Road, the ancient trade route running between China and the West during the Roman Empire. China’s New Silk Road would be a double trade corridor — encompassing both land and maritime routes — that would reopen channels between China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and improve trade relationships in the region primarily through infrastructure investments. To rekindle this spirit of globalization and grow its influence on the world economic stage, China committed to investing billions, eventually lending some $8 trillion for infrastructure projects in 68 countries.
President Biden inherits a visibly deteriorated relationship between Washington and Beijing and must now deal with monumentally challenging issues, like trade tariffs, technology wars, human rights abuses, territorial aggression, and of course, blame for the pandemic. And while some might think a slew of last-minute actions by the previous administration taken to shore up its China policy might make it more difficult for the Biden administration, others think the opposite is true. They argue the more policies the last administration piled on, the greater the leverage and range of options it leaves for the Biden team. Stay tuned. (BBC, WEF, CFR)
The Disastrous Dutch Disturbance
- The Netherlands government imposed new coronavirus restrictions hoping to slow the spread of COVID-19 variants in the country. But the new measures — particularly implementing an 8:30 PM curfew and limiting visitors to one per household per day — spurred angry protests from residents in several Dutch cities.
- Large crowds of people, many not wearing masks, used bicycles to build barricades along city streets and hurled rocks at officers and passing police vans. Shops were broken into and looted.
- As of last Saturday, officers had written more than 3,600 tickets for violations of the new curfew. The government also banned travel abroad until March 31, and limited flights from the UK and several South American countries. Travel from outside the European Union has been blocked since March 2020. (NPR)
International Trafficking Targets Vulnerable Population
- Dozens of women from the Philippines, recruited to work in the United Arab Emirates, were instead locked in a dirty dormitory in Dubai by the recruitment agency. There, the women learned they would be sent to war-ravaged Syria, to be sold to employers who would force them to work as maids without pay.
- Some of the women were held as prisoners and physically and sexually attacked by their employers. The few who managed to escape are among about 35 women now seeking shelter in the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, unable to return home.
- Tens of millions of international migrants live in Persian Gulf countries like the UAE, many working jobs in construction, hospitality, or as domestic workers. Their cheap labor sustains the economies of the Arab region, and often their pay is vital to supporting families back home.
- Syria is not a desirable destination for migrant workers, but affluent Syrian families are prepared to pay thousands of dollars to obtain a maid, which has fueled demand for trafficked female migrants. (WaPo, $)
Additional World News
- Earnings of wealthiest 10 men during pandemic ‘could buy vaccines for all’ (BBC)
- India, China troops in ‘minor face-off’ at disputed Sikkim border (Al Jazeera)
- Why the pandemic has driven global shipping costs to record highs (WaPo, $)
- Nearly 500,000 killed by extreme weather disasters in 20 years (Al Jazeera)
- How Space Became the Next ‘Great Power’ Contest Between the U.S. and China (NYT, $). Steve Carrell stands by to head up America’s Space Force.
- ‘Tribal justice’ in Palestine outflanks official legal system (Al Jazeera)
- Moderna vaccine protects against British and South African variants, company says (WaPo, $)
- Israel’s ultra-Orthodox riot over Covid enforcement (WaPo, $)
- ‘Utterly deplorable’: Egypt’s ‘abusive’ prisons denounced (Al Jazeera)
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A Good Change For Those Making The Change
(Alex Wong via Getty Images)
- President Biden has overturned his predecessor’s ban on transgender Americans joining the US military. A statement issued by the White House said: “Transgender service members will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity.”
- President Trump tweeted in 2017 that the country would no longer “accept or allow” transgender Americans to serve in the military, citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” The ban took effect in April 2019. Trans personnel who were already serving were allowed to continue, but new recruits were locked out.
- An analysis of Department of Defense data showed there were 8,980 active duty transgender troops in 2019. Biden’s new defense secretary, retired army general Lloyd Austin, said in a statement: “The Department will immediately take appropriate policy action to ensure individuals who identify as transgender are eligible to enter and serve in their self-identified gender.” (BBC)
Everyone Knows Police Can’t Compete In Street Races
- On Saturday night in Tacoma, Washington, a policeman responded to a reported street race. The officer’s car was surrounded by pedestrians who began hitting the body of the cruiser. Fearful, the officer drove forward through the crowd, injuring two people who were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
- Video of the incident was widely shared online and appeared to show at least one person being run over. In response, a crowd of angry demonstrators gathered in a park on Sunday, then marched through the downtown area where they set a large fire, shattered windows, and spray-painted multiple buildings.
- The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- Biden Aims To Close Loopholes In Federal ‘Buy American’ Provisions (NPR)
- Capitol Riot Puts Spotlight on ‘Apocalyptically Minded’ Global Far Right (NYT, $)
- How West Virginia Became a U.S. Leader in Vaccine Rollout (NYT, $)
- Biden To Implement Travel Restrictions To Combat New Coronavirus Variants (NPR)
- Tough Decisions Ahead For Biden’s Incoming Solicitor General (NPR
- Dominion Voting Systems sues Giuliani for $1.3bn over baseless election claims (Guardian)
- In Rural Montana, a Hope That Biden Will Reopen the Rails (NYT, $)
- In Fatal Shootings Of Unarmed Black People, Many Police Are Repeat Offenders (NPR)
- The pandemic could devastate mass transit in the U.S. — and not for the reason you think (Politico)
Years After Release, Drexicyan Tales Continue To Rock The Boat
- James Stinson and Gerald Donald were two African-American musicians from Detroit, known as the electronic duo Drexciya. In 1992, they released their album entitled Deep Sea Dweller, an artistic project that created the myth of a rich Afrocentric aquatic world inhabited by Drexciyans, who traced their lineage back to pregnant African women thrown from slave ships into the sea to drown. But baby Drexciyans swam from their mothers’ wombs; never needing to breathe air, they gave rise to a subaqueous empire.
- Over the next decade, until Stinson’s death in 2002, the duo expanded their mythology through an acoustic techno-soundscape of bubbly arpeggios and watery synths, with track names and artwork drip-feeding clues to fans about who the Drexciyans were and where they came from.
- The legend of Drexciya has since been adopted by other artists in novels and songs, but what all the Drexciyan tales have in common is an attempt to deal with the trauma of slavery by imagining an alternative narrative. And while this Afrofuturist water race is fictional, Drexciya has helped inspire a new movement that is real — namely, proposals to create an ocean memorial to the victims of slavery.
- Spearheading the memorial proposition is a group of academics inspired by the Drexciyan mythos and other creative interpretations of the infamous Middle Passage of the Atlantic, the final resting place for at least 1.8 million people from Africa who died on slave ships and were thrown overboard.
- “In the context of the transatlantic slave trade, poetry, music, art, and literature describe the Atlantic seabed as a space with cultural significance,” one professsor notes. “Finding ways to recognize this intangible cultural heritage is as important as establishing procedures to respect and preserve human remains, shipwrecks, and artifacts.” (Red Bull Music Academy, Guardian)
- Manifesting, for the Rest of Us (NYT, $)
- New Algorithms Could Reduce Racial Disparities in Health Care (Wired)
- Rare Violin Tests Germany’s Commitment to Atone for Its Nazi Past (NYT, $)
- Learning To Love Bird Photography, Thanks To A ‘Competitive Collaboration’ (NPR)
- Lebanon’s Coronavirus lockdown: ‘We can’t leave our homes day or night’ (BBC)
- In the Bronx, a Face Lost in Time (NYT, $)
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