A Parallel Universe
February 2, 2021
The Good News
- More Americans Have Received at Least 1 Covid Vaccine Dose Than Tested Positive (Bloomberg)
- India sends over 2 million free doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Bangladesh; Dhaka praises ‘gift of goodwill’ (First Post)
“Most of wars or military coups or invasions are done in the name of democracy against democracy.” — Eduardo Galeano
“There should be no romanticism that international public opinion or even international diplomatic and economic pressure can defeat a coup without determined and strong defense by the attacked society itself” — Gene Sharp
A Parallel Universe: When Election Fraud Challenges Go The Other Way
(Myat Thu Kyaw via Getty Images)
A Democracy — even one over two centuries years old — can be fragile. It might be born in bloody violence, but once attained, like any relationship, it needs nurturing and peaceful adherence. Sometimes, though, it takes a deadly assault on democracy to appreciate the importance of preserving it. And sometimes it cannot be preserved, as happened in Myanmar with Monday’s military coup.
Myanmar’s quasi-democracy began in 2011 when the military, in power since 1962, implemented parliamentary elections and other reforms. In 2016, the nation formerly known as Burma held its first fully democratic election in decades. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, became State Councilor, the country’s top civilian official.
In late 2016, Myanmar’s armed forces and police started a major crackdown on the Rohingya population, a Muslim ethnic minority in Rakhine State. The UN found searing evidence of wide-scale human rights violations amounting to genocide, which the government dismissed as “exaggerations.” Aung San Suu Kyi — awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights — drew global criticism for her inaction, and her defense of the military’s actions. She was also criticized for prosecuting journalists.
Regardless, Myanmar voters casting ballots on November 8, 2020, in an election widely seen as a referendum on Aung San Suu Kyi’s popularity, not only returned her to power, but awarded her party 83% of parliament’s available seats. The military refused to accept the election results, claiming the vote was fraudulent.
When a number of legal challenges didn’t work, the army staged Monday’s coup to overthrow the fragile, democratically-elected government and take back power. Soldiers arrested civilian leaders of the governing NID party and Myanmar’s government, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, along with cabinet ministers, the chief ministers of several regions, opposition politicians, writers and activists. Telephones and the internet were shut off, the stock market and banks closed, and air travel interrupted. A one-year state of emergency was declared, and authority handed over to army chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Now that the military is again in control, it’s worth noting that the general was supposed to age out of service this summer. But his retirement might well have undermined his patronage network, which centers on lucrative family businesses — especially if he couldn’t secure a ‘clean’ exit. (NYT, $)
Whale, Whale, Whale, Look Who’s Threatening Endangered Species
(Arterra via Getty Images)
- The endangered blue whale, the largest mammal ever to live on earth, is facing more extreme threats from potential collisions with boats and shipping vessels overrunning a main feeding ground in Chilean Patagonia.
- Research published in the scientific journal Nature reveals that the whales must contend with up to 1,000 boats moving daily through this important feeding area in the eastern South Pacific. Scientists found that 83% of daily operating vessels belonged to the area’s extensive salmon farming industry. The study’s co-author said blue whales invest a large amount of energy finding and consuming their main food source, krill. The whales focus on this activity and not on fishing vessels, making them more vulnerable to being hit, particularly at night.
- A number of fatal collisions have occurred, as well as deaths from entanglement in salmon farms. Scientists are calling on the fishing industry to cooperate with putting in protective measures to avoid future fatalities involving these spectacular animals, which were brought to the brink of extinction by industrial whaling in the last century. (Guardian)
China’s Jerry Maguire Says Show Me The (Blood) Money
- Pinduoduo, one of China’s biggest e-commerce platforms, is facing an investigation and a boycott over its working conditions. The scrutiny follows the deaths of two young employees, one a suicide, and the firing of another who criticized the company’s work culture.
- A delivery driver for another technology firm set himself on fire demanding unpaid wages. In a video widely shared on Chinese social media, the man exclaimed he wanted his “blood and sweat money.”
- The string of deaths and protests has reignited a national debate over the power of China’s biggest technology companies, and the grueling demands they impose on their employees. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Russia’s Economic Slump Erodes Consensus That Shielded Putin (NYT, $) & Navalny Protests in Russia Face Heavy Policing (NYT, $)
- Blinken criticizes Russia’s ‘violent crackdown’ on protesters and weighs North Korea sanctions (Guardian). Foreign relations moves pretty fast, Blinken you might miss it.
- Thailand Targets Pro-Democracy Protesters in Sweeping Legal Dragnet (NYT, $)
- Inevitable Planetary Doom Has Been Exaggerated (Atlantic). Phew.
- Qatar pledges $360 million in aid to Hamas-ruled Gaza (WaPo, $)
- Israel says coordinated passage of 1st COVID-19 vaccines shipment to Palestinians (Reuters)
- Taiwan is a civilization (Noah Smith)
- Not Yet Desperate, Japan and South Korea Plod Toward Vaccinations (NYT, $)
- India’s more relaxed rules on investment in insurers set to attract U.S., European players (Reuters)
- Three takeaways from India’s ‘pandemic budget’ (BBC). No, they didn’t spend it all on sourdough bread ingredients.
- Twitter blocks dozens of accounts on India’s request amid farm protests (Reuters)
- India protests: Internet cut to hunger-striking farmers in Delhi (BBC)
Coup in Myanmar
- Myanmar’s coup: Why now – and what’s next? (BBC)
- Myanmar’s Coup in Pictures (NYT, $)
- Who is Aung San Suu Kyi? (Al Jazeera)
- EU condemns military’s seizure of power in Myanmar (Reuters)
- Hundreds gather in Tokyo to protest Myanmar military coup (Reuters)
Crossing The Border To Inhumane
- A US appeals court in Washington DC ruled on Friday that the current administration could resume expelling immigrant children who cross the southern border unaccompanied by a parent.
- Former President Trump had initiated the practice early in the pandemic under a public health policy aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. The three judge appeals panel, all of whom were appointed by Trump, had issued a stay requested by the administration shortly after a federal judge barred the expulsion practice in November. At least 8,800 unaccompanied children, some as young as 9, were known to have been expelled prior to the federal court order.
- Border agents conducted more than 180,000 expulsions — of adults, and parents and children together — in just the last three months of 2020. Most border crossers continue to be expelled, as the Biden administration hasn’t released its immigration policies yet. (WaPo, $)
Some Republicans Refuse To Drink The Kool-Aid
- Following the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol Building, many registered Republicans started leaving the party. In Colorado, some 4,600 Republicans changed their party affiliation. News outlets tracked the phenomenon elsewhere across the country, documenting 6,000 defections in North Carolina, 10,000 in Pennsylvania, and 5,000 in Arizona.
- Kristopher Purcell, who worked in the Bush White House’s communications office for six years, said judging from conversations he’s been having, roughly 60 to 70 former Bush officials have decided to leave the party or are cutting ties with it. “The number is growing every day,” he said.
- These officials, some who served in the highest echelons of the Bush administration, said they had hoped a Trump defeat would cause party leaders to move on from the former President and denounce his baseless claims that the November election was stolen. But with most Republican lawmakers sticking to Trump, they say they no longer recognize the party they served.
- “The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists. I’d call it the cult of Trump,” said Jimmy Gurulé, who was Bush’s Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Many see these defections from the GOP, especially after a lifetime of service, as another clear sign of how the internal conflict over Trump and his legacy is fracturing the party. (NPR, Reuters)
Additional USA News
- Senate Republicans unveil $600B Covid proposal (Politico)
- Essential workers get lost in the vaccine scrum as states prioritize the elderly (WaPo, $)
- $500 Billion in Aid to Small Businesses: How Much Did It Help? (NYT, $)
- Rochester police handcuffed and pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old girl, body-cam footage shows (WaPo, $)
- Which Covid Vaccine Should You Get? Experts Cite the Effect Against Severe Disease (NYT, $)
- The Three Biggest Lessons of the Coronavirus Economy (New Yorker)
- Reddit WallStreetBets Founder Calls GameStop Stock Frenzy A ‘Symbolic Movement’ (NPR)
- Analysis: GameStop saga may provide early test of Biden administration ethics pledges (Reuters)
- Democrat Mauree Turner on historic win and ‘the Oklahoma I want to create’ (Guardian)
- ‘That hurricane is coming’: expert warns US to brace for virulent Covid strain (Guardian)
- 77 Days: Trump’s Campaign to Subvert the Election (NYT, $)
- After Record Turnout, Republicans Are Trying to Make It Harder to Vote (NYT, $)
- Dodger Stadium vaccination site shut down amid protest (LA Times)
- All the Lies They Told Us About the Filibuster (Intelligencer)
Forgot Your Password? For BitCoin, That Bites.
- We’ve all been there. Well, maybe not THERE there, exactly.
- People who have traditional bank accounts and online wallets, who lose or forget passwords to their accounts, can get a bank like Wells Fargo, or a financial company like PayPal, to provide the passwords or help reset them. But what if you’re a Bitcoin owner (who should be extremely wealthy now because the value of the cryptocurrency has soared to over $36,000 each) — only you lost your password and can’t get into your account?
- Bitcoin can’t help you, because it has no company to store passwords, and can’t provide you with yours. Seriously.
- The virtual currency’s creator set out to allow anyone in the world to open a digital bank account and hold the money in a way no government could prevent or regulate it. An owner needs a password to unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet. If the password is lost or forgotten, IronKey gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever.
- Of the existing 18.5 million Bitcoin, some 20% appear to be in lost or otherwise stranded wallets. At Bitcoin’s current value, that 20% is worth over $140 billion … with a “b.”
- One locked-out millionaire-wannabe is Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, who years ago lost the paper with the password to his IronKey on it. So far, Thomas has made eight guesses at what his password could be. He has two guesses left. If he can’t figure out that password, he’s lost his 7,002 Bitcoin, which today are worth $255 million. (NYT, $)
- The tyranny of passwords – is it time for a rethink? (Guardian)
- How We Celebrate Black Heroes Can Obscure How Change Happens (NYT, $)
- ‘I feel so good I may never drink again!’ Readers on their success – or failure – during dry January (Guardian)
- Grubs up! Mealworms are on the menu – but are we ready for them? (Guardian)
- Could these foods reverse climate change? (BBC
- GameStop is so last week. Silver is the hot day trader target now (Al Jazeera)
- Survey Says: Never Tweet (NYT, $)
- What Can Covid-19 Teach Us About the Mysteries of Smell? (NYT, $)
- Does ‘authentic’ Mexican food exist? (BBC
- ‘As a body hers is perfection’: Alison Bechdel on the love letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West (Guardian)
- The Seductive Appeal of Urban Catastrophe (Atlantic)
- The Fiery Song That Freed Tina Turner (Atlantic)
- The Benchmarks Countries Must Hit to Reach Net-Zero Emissions (Bloomberg)
- Professor Avi Loeb: ‘It would be arrogant to think we’re alone in the universe’ (Guardian)
- Section of Highway 1 in California Collapses After Heavy Rains (NYT, $)
- What did I learn from a time management guru? (Guardian)
- Couple Forced to Adopt Their Own Children After a Surrogate Pregnancy (NYT, $)
- So you’re being held accountable? That’s not ‘cancel culture.’ (WaPo, $)
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