Spillin’ Like A Villain
September 7, 2021
The Good News
- Mexico City to swap Columbus statue for one of indigenous woman (BBC)
- Chadwick Boseman Honored by Howard University, Officially Renames Its College Of Fine Arts For Him (Deadline)
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.” — William Faulkner
Opposition Figure Jailed
Maria Kolesnikova led opposition efforts in August of last year, after a rigged presidential election in Belarus kept Alexander Lukashenko in office. Lukashenko has been in power for nearly 30 years, and after protests broke out against his continued reign, Lukashenko had hundreds jailed — one rights group estimates 652 people are political prisoners.
Kolesnikova was abducted in the middle of the street by masked security agents in September. She was driven to the Ukraine border, and told that she could either leave the country or stand trial. She tore up her passport to avoid being deported, and refused to depart, so she was arrested and tried.
The trial was closed, but the verdict was opened up to the public, and supporters showed up in droves outside the courtroom on Monday. Kolesnikova was found guilty of conspiracy to overthrow the government and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Her colleague, a lawyer named Maxim Znak, also stood trial and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The two were also convicted of inciting action aimed at harming national security and the creation of an extremist group.
Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, condemned the verdict, and called for an end to the political repression in the country. The European Union and the U.K. both condemned the verdict as well, and called for the release of Kolesnikova and Znak, and all other political prisoners as well. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was attempting to oust Lukashenko in the election, and while official tallies gave Lukashenko over 80% of the vote, Tikhanovskaya’s supporters claimed she had gotten over 60% of the vote. Western governments joined the opposition in rejecting the “official” results. (WaPo, $)
On A Parole
- Former South African president Jacob Zuma has been granted medical parole for an unknown illness. Zuma has been in hospital for the past month, where he has undergone surgery and will reportedly remain there until he has been discharged. The 79-year-old is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court at Estcourt Correctional Centre.
- Zuma turned himself in to the authorities in July after being sentenced for failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency. The unprecedented jailing resulted in violent protests and looting by his loyal body of supporters. He also faces a separate corruption trial, which is due to resume on 9 September.
- Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said that Zuma’s parole could only be rescinded if he does not comply with placement conditions. “We want to reiterate that placement on medical parole is an option available to all sentenced offenders provided they meet all the requirements. We appeal to all South Africans to afford Zuma dignity as he continues to receive medical treatment.” The Democratic Alliance party criticized the parole, saying it’s “entirely unlawful and makes a mockery” of prison regulations. (BBC)
The Last Afghani-stand
- Panjshir province, which lies north of Kabul, was the last anti-Taliban holdout in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s blitz across the country last month. However, on Monday, the Taliban announced that they had taken control, with witnesses saying that thousands of Taliban fighters overran eight districts of Panjshir overnight. The anti-Taliban forces had been led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and also the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud.
- The whereabouts of both men are unknown following the takeover of Panjshir province. However, Fahim Dashti, the spokesman for the anti-Taliban group, was killed in battle on Sunday, according to the group’s Twitter account. Dashti was the voice of the group and a prominent media personality during previous governments.
- Meanwhile, in the northern Balkh province, four planes have been unable to evacuate several hundred people, with conflicting reports about why. An Afghan official said that the passengers were Afghans, many of whom did not have passports or visas, and thus were unable to leave the country. However, the top Republican on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee said that the group included Americans and they were sitting on the planes, but the Taliban were not letting them take off, effectively ‘holding them hostage.’ (NPR)
Additional World News
- Guinea coup: Who is Col Mamady Doumbouya? (BBC)
- Palestinian prisoners escape from Israeli prison, apparently through a tunnel (CNN)
- Families of MH17 airline crash address deep trauma in court (ABC)
- ‘A moment of weeping and laughter’: Twins conjoined at the head separated in Israel (USA Today)
- 3-year-old boy found after 3 days’ lost in Australian woods (ABC)
- Authorities race to contain deadly Nipah virus outbreak in India (CBS)
- UAE announces plans to boost economy, attract workers (Al Jazeera)
Benefit There, Done That
- Congress is ending the expansion of the nation’s unemployment system made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic after almost 18 months. The program, which added federal income supplements on top of the usual state unemployment benefits, began last April and was renewed in December, providing $600 a week from April to July and $300 a week from December until now. The program was set to end after Labor Day, with states reserving the ability to use federal funds to continue it, but none have opted to use it.
- The program’s end comes at a terrible time in terms of the economy’s post-COVID-19 rebound. The economy gained just 235,000 jobs in August, the lowest since January, and the Delta variant is on the rise. While some Republican states ended their expanded benefits early, experts say that ending the benefits did not lead to increased hiring as some predicted.
- Surveys show that health and childcare concerns are holding many back: according to the latest Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, 5.5 million adults are not returning to work because they are carrying for children not in school or daycare. On top of this, 3.2 million adults said they were not returning to work out of fear of catching or showing COVID-19. The end of federal unemployment benefits leaves those in heavily COVID-19-impacted states in danger of going under. (CNN)
Spillin’ Like A Villain
- On Sunday, armed with sonar equipment, divers hired by Houston-based Talos Energy retrieved an oil pipeline a foot in diameter, which they found broken off and displaced from its original position. The broken pipeline was apparently the source of an ongoing oil spill that caused a miles-long oil slick in relatively shallow water. On Sunday, Talos reported that “no impacts to shoreline or wildlife have been observed,” and stated that the pipeline did not belong to them, though the leak occurred on an oil block that Talos leased from 2017-2019.
- The spill was initially detected by neither the government nor Talos. Instead, Clean Gulf Associates, a non-profit oil spill cooperative, found and reported the spill to Talos. Talos then hired Clean Gulf Associates to clean the spill, with the U.S. Coast Guard assisting in monitoring its spread. Talos is now working with state and federal agencies to determine the owner of the pipeline.
- This mysterious spill, with nobody to hold responsible for it, was one of many spills which were caused by a Category 4 hurricane in the Gulf last week. The Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery south of New Orleans also created a large spill in the face of 150-mph winds and floods which overtook the facility’s levees. The oil and gas industry, in some act of climate karma, has many of their U.S. facilities located in a dangerous spot as climate change continues to heighten the danger of increasingly powerful hurricanes damaging oil infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico. (NPR, NYT, CNN)
Additional USA News
- Moderna Covid-19 booster may come later than Pfizer, Fauci says (CNN)
- Labor unions are showing signs of life on Labor Day (Axios)
- Republicans in crosshairs of 6 January panel begin campaign of intimidation (Guardian)
- Another Texas school district defies governor by requiring masks as Covid surges (NBC)
- Biden under pressure as NGO says flights from Afghanistan blocked (Guardian)
- South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh quits law firm, will enter rehab after shootings (NBC)
- 6-year-old girl dies on ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park (USA Today)
This Is Bananas
- Hungry monkeys on the resort island Bali have begun venturing out of Sangeh Monkey Forest into the neighboring village to pillage food from locals. Deprived of bananas and peanuts offered by tourists during pre-pandemic times, the monkeys have taken things into their own paws and are raiding villagers’ homes for food. Worried of an all-out assault, villagers have begun taking fruits, nuts, and other food to the Sangeh Monkey Forest to satiate the needs of the gray long-tailed macaques.
- Bali saw a great drop in tourism following the start of the pandemic, with the jungle area’s 6,000 monthly visitors dropping to a measly 500 and then to 0 following Indonesia’s ban on all foreign travelers in July. Not only has that meant nobody bringing in extra food for the monkeys, the sanctuary has also lost out on admission fees and is running low on money to purchase food, said operations manager Made Mohon.
- Villager Saskara Gustu Alit theorizes that not only are the monkeys hungry, but that they are bored. Normally, the monkeys spend all day interacting with visitors — stealing sunglasses and water bottles, pulling at clothes, and jumping on shoulders, but with no visitors, their way of life has been disrupted heavily. “That’s why I have urged villagers here to come to the forest to play with the monkeys and offer them food,” Gustu Alit said. “I think they need to interact with humans as often as possible so that they do not go wild.” (AP)
- Suspected thief of winning scratchcard stopped at Rome airport (Guardian)
- Scientists reveal the secrets behind ant teeth super strength (CNET)
- Investor overconfidence linked to selective memory (Ars Technica)
- Al Capone’s former South Florida home slated for demolition (AP)
- Jackass cast’s collective medical bills exceed $24 million, study finds (CNET)
- NASA’s Perseverance Rover Recovers ‘Perfect’ Rock Sample (Forbes)
- As Tahoe residents fled the Caldor Fire, the bears moved in – and pigged out (SF Chronicle)
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