The Truth Comes Trout
August 16, 2021
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The Good News
- Canada to accept 20,000 vulnerable Afghans such as women leaders, human rights workers (Reuters)
- 44.01 secures $5M to turn billions of tons of carbon dioxide to stone (TechCrunch)
“The most important question anyone can ask is: What myth am I living?” — Carl Jung
Kabul-ing Together A Defense
It didn’t take 90 days, or 30, or even 14. Kabul fell in 48 hours. And somewhere, Alexander the Great is saying something future foreign powers should have paid more attention to: even if they temporarily win a battle in Afghanistan, they will eventually lose the war. It’s simply not possible to control the disparate religious and tribal forces that make up that country. The British tried and failed three times between 1838 and 1919. The Soviets sent in 115,000 troops in 1979, but were forced to leave by 1989.
After September 11, 2001, America and NATO allies invaded Afghanistan. Seven years later, 53-year-old Ruslan Aushev, a highly decorated combat veteran who served two tours with the Soviet army in Afghanistan, recalled: “We knew by 1985 that we could not win. We could take any village, any town and drive the mujahedeen out. But when we handed ground over to the Afghan army or police they would lose it in a week.” The Soviets had deployed roughly two times the number of troops the Western alliance had in Afghanistan in 2008 — they also trained an Afghan army three times the size of Kabul’s security forces at the time. It was never enough. The Soviets knew the longer foreign armies remained in Afghanistan, the more support grew for the insurgents. Aushev warned thirteen years ago there could be no military solution in Afghanistan. “The Taliban may not be able to win militarily but they can’t be defeated …. There will have to be an accord with the Taliban, because at least 50 percent of the Afghan population supports them.”
That “accord with the Taliban” was tried by the Trump administration in early 2020, when U.S. officials and Taliban leaders, without input from the government in Kabul, signed an “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan. The U.S. promised to draw down its forces from 12,000 to 8,600 within 135 days; to release some 5,000 Taliban fighters in exchange for the release of about 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners; and to lift its sanctions against the Taliban and urge NATO to do the same. The Taliban guaranteed it would “cut ties with al-Qaida,” the territory it controlled wouldn’t be used for international terrorism against the U.S. and its allies, and it wouldn’t attack the country’s provincial capitals. If the Taliban upheld its end of the bargain, all U.S. and allied troops would be gone in 14 months.
The Taliban couldn’t be trusted, and neither could some in the Afghan government. After the agreement was signed, illicit deals were brokered in rural villages between the insurgents and some low-ranking government officials. The latter often described the deals as “cease-fires,” but actually, the Taliban was offering money in exchange for government forces to hand over their weapons. According to interviews with Afghan officers, police, and special operations troops, the meetings advanced to the district level, then rapidly on to provincial capitals, culminating in a breathtaking series of negotiated surrenders by government forces. In slightly over a week, Taliban fighters captured over a dozen provincial capitals and entered Kabul on Sunday with no resistance, triggering the departure of Afghanistan’s president and the collapse of his government. Security forces in and around Kabul simply melted away. By nightfall, police checkpoints were left abandoned and the militants roamed the streets freely.
It’s a black eye for President Biden and his administration. They seemingly underestimated the desire of Afghan troops to fight the Taliban, and appeared taken by surprise when the militants took control of the country at lightning speed — so fast, in fact, that the U.S. is struggling to evacuate its citizens, much less tens of thousands of Afghans who assisted Americans during the war and now likely face execution. Administration officials are trying their best to distinguish the fall of Kabul in 2021 from the fall of Saigon in 1975. But the scenes look hauntingly the same: the horrific chaos at Kabul’s airport, and videos of arm-waving Americans in Saigon atop the embassy roof, awaiting evacuation by U.S helicopters as thousands of desperate Vietnamese scale the embassy walls. (Globe and Mail, BBC, WaPo, NPR)
Taking Another Blow
- As of Sunday evening, Tropical Storm Fred was strengthening over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico as it tracked toward the Florida Panhandle. The storm had sustained winds of 45 mph and was 205 miles west-southwest of Tampa. Fred is expected to bring rain and gusty winds to other areas of the Southeast including Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas into the early part of this week.
- At the same time, the downgraded tropical depression, Grace, was tracking through the Caribbean toward Haiti, potentially affecting recovery efforts following a major 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the island on Saturday. So far, the quake has killed over 700 people, injured thousands, and caused widespread destruction to Haiti’s infrastructure. (CNN)
So Hot, It’s Siciling
- Last week, the small Sicilian town of Floridia hit 124 degrees Fahrenheit. It is believed to be the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. The blistering heat could be offering Italy and the entire Mediterranean a preview of a sweltering and potentially uninhabitable future, brought on by the planet’s changing climate.
- The unforgiving temperatures have caused the village’s famed snails to burn in their shells, and the flesh inside its verdello green lemons to stew. People trying to escape the heat stayed in their houses and cranked up their air-conditioning, causing electrical blackouts.
- The choking heatwave has been sweeping across Italy and the region for weeks; wildfires and unpredictable winds have torched woodlands in the southern region of Calabria, claimed pastures across Sicily, and burned down forests in Sardinia. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Malaysian leader set to resign after plea for support fails (WaPo, $)
- How Beijing Has Buried Hong Kong’s Last Vestige of Democracy (NYT, $)
- Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Guaido-led opposition open Mexico City talks (WaPo, $)
- At least 20 people killed after fuel tank explodes in Lebanon (CNN)
- Torrential rain lashes Japan submerging buildings, at least 3 feared dead (NBC)
- Celebrations as Zambian opposition candidate leads in count (AP)
- Russian plane fighting wildfires crashes in Turkey, killing all 8 crew members on board (CNN)
Back Abbott Again
- Last week, local leaders in Dallas and San Antonio defied Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates by ordering all public school students, faculty, and staff to wear masks on campus to help curtail the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus. Abbott immediately sued.
- Lower courts issued temporary stays against Abbott’s ban, but on Sunday, Texas all-Republican Supreme Court reversed the stays. Texas’ Tea Party Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) issued a victory tweet that said: “Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all ISDs and Local Officials that the Governor’s order stands. Local mask mandates are illegal.”
- But Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins (D) tweeted Sunday evening: “The Tex Supreme Court did not strike down my face mask order. Rather they removed the stay on the GA 38. Unless I receive a ruling requiring otherwise, I will amend my order to remove the possibility of fines on non-compliant businesses but otherwise leave the order in effect.” Schools start today. Meanwhile, Delta variant cases continue to surge, and there have been no pediatric ICU beds available in all of North Texas for days. (KXAN Austin, NBC News)
Trump-Era Immigration Policy Returns
- On President Biden’s first day in office, he suspended the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), requiring asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases await trial in the U.S. The policy was formally ended in June, and Texas and Missouri sued.
- On Friday, a Trump-appointed federal judge in North Texas ruled the Biden White House had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in ending the program. The judge said Texas and Missouri were being harmed by Biden’s decision as migrants released into the U.S. would use the country’s health care system, apply for driver’s licenses, and send their children to U.S. schools. He ordered that the MPP program be reinstated. (The Hill)
Additional USA News
- 57 Hospitalized After Tour Bus Crashes On NY Thruway (NPR)
- Utah wildfire forces thousands of homes to evacuate as the nation’s largest fire in California rages (CNN)
- ‘An epidemic in itself’: Why billions of federal aid isn’t making it to renters, landlords during pandemic (USA Today)
- Children hospitalized with COVID-19 in U.S. hits record number (Reuters)
- Governor Newsom recall election in California: Who are the candidates, how does it work – and all your other questions answered (CBS)
- Lake Conroe party boat accident leaves at least 1 person dead in Texas (CNN)
- As Pentagon prepares to make Covid-19 vaccine mandatory, some lawyers see a surge in calls (CNN)
The Truth Comes Trout
In 1958, the U.S. passed a federal law — the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act — requiring that pigs, cows, and other commercially-slaughtered mammals be spared needless suffering. State animal cruelty laws differ; some are explicit about what animals are covered under criminal statutes, others leave the laws open to interpretation.
Fish have traditionally been treated differently. The long-held scientific view has been that fish, unlike mammals, are not sentient and don’t feel pain. Experts say that view is changing and that fish do, in fact, feel pain. If true, it would have major implications for U.S. fisheries. It would also raise polarizing questions, like should people be criminally charged for abusing fish? And if so, what should the legal standard be?
The animal rights group, Animal Equality, has conducted hundreds of undercover investigations around the world. For five weeks last summer, one of their undercover investigators worked on the “kill floor” of a catfish slaughterhouse in central Mississippi. Using a hidden camera, the undercover worker documented fish being dumped onto a conveyor belt, and left to writhe and suffocate when workers took breaks. The investigator also shot video of turtles and unwanted fish abandoned in buckets without water for long stretches of time, before being chopped up alive in an industrial machine.
Animal Equality’s international director of investigations said: “If one pig were killed in this manner, the slaughterhouse would be shut down.” Legal experts say Mississippi’s animal cruelty laws don’t exclude fish. So Animal Equality laid out its findings in an email to the prosecutor in Yazoo County and called for a criminal investigation into the catfish farm. After a long silence, the county prosecutor finally emailed back, saying “I’m not interested in any of this.”
An animal cruelty laws expert at Michigan State University wasn’t surprised the rights group would have trouble convincing a prosecutor to bring charges for cruelty to catfish. “But if they wanted to try it,” he added after reviewing the Mississippi laws, “they’d definitely have the legal basis.”
While fish are not protected under the federal law, in rare circumstances, state prosecutors have brought criminal charges for allegations of fish abuse. In March 2020, the Szuch Fishery was charged by Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division with illegally removing and abusing fish — a native species called gar and a trophy-size muskellunge — from Lake Erie. The fishery pleaded not guilty to one count of causing intentional injury to a noncommercial fish species, among other charges. The case is ongoing. (NBC News)
- A South Carolina man won the lottery, then did it again 11 days later (CNN)
- Plastic waste in ocean is getting hermit crabs ‘excited’ (CNET)
- Animals Can Count and Use Zero. How Far Does Their Number Sense Go? (Wired)
- Lava streams from Indonesia’s Mount Merapi in new eruption (AP)
- 49 million-year-old beetle looks like it was squashed yesterday (LiveScience)
- Photos: NASA’s 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Where People Will Spend a Year (Yahoo)
- Asteroid Bennu has 1 in 1,750 chance of smashing into Earth, NASA says (CNET)
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