A Nag Order
April 27, 2022
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“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” – Albert Camus
Justice Is Not Served
Turkey has territory in Europe, but most of its land is part of Asia. In 1987, Turkey applied to join the European Union’s predecessor, the European Economic Community. Turkey signed a Customs Union agreement with the E.U. in 1995, and four years later, it became a candidate for full E.U. membership. Turkey partners with the E.U. on issues like migration, security, counter-terrorism, and the economy, but because it’s been backsliding in terms of democracy, rule of law, and fundamental rights, it’s no longer on a path to E.U. membership.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan became Istanbul’s mayor in 1994 and the country’s prime minister in 2003. Before becoming president in 2014, Erdogan’s tenure as PM was marked by protests across several cities in May 2013. A peaceful protest to save Istanbul’s Gezi Park from being demolished by shopping center developers backed by the government snowballed into a national display of anti-government anger at Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism. Istanbul’s busy city center became a battleground when riot police deployed tear gas and water cannons against thousands of demonstrators.
In 2017, Turkish businessman, philanthropist, and activist Osman Kavala was arrested over the Gezi Park protests and held for more than two years in pre-trial detention. The case went to trial in early 2020 and was closely watched by rights groups who accused Erdogan of using the judicial system to silence dissenting voices. Kavala and eight other defendants were acquitted by the court and released. But hours later, Kavala was rearrested on new charges involving an attempted coup in 2016 that left at least 250 dead. Over 110,000 people, including civil servants, teachers, activists, and journalists, were subsequently detained.
In February, Europe’s top human rights body launched infringement procedures against Turkey for refusing to abide by the European Court of Human Rights ruling that Kavala’s rights had been violated. On Monday, an Istanbul court sentenced Kavala, now 64, to life in prison for “attempting to overthrow the government.” Amnesty International called the ruling a “devastating blow” for human rights, and the chair of the E.U.-Turkey Parliamentary Delegation said there was no place in the E.U. for the current Turkey “which is sliding away from international consensus on a rule-based order while disrespecting its own international commitments.” (ec.europa.edu, Guardian, hrw.org, BBC, CNN)
A Weapon Of Gas Destruction
- Moscow is cutting off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to pay in rubles, a move that dramatically escalates tensions with the West. Poland’s state-run gas firm PGNiG said that, starting Wednesday morning, Russia’s energy giant Gazprom will “entirely suspend” gas supplies along the Yamal pipeline.
- The news sent U.S. natural gas futures up about 3% Tuesday. Gazprom did not confirm that the supply of Russian gas to Poland had been stopped, but company spokesperson Sergey Kupriyanov did say Poland was told it must pay for Russian gas in rubles, a demand Warsaw has refused. Gazprom also told Bulgaria’s state-owned gas company, Bulgargaz, that gas supplies will be shut off starting Wednesday.
- The Bulgarian energy ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that paying in rubles was unacceptable and posed “significant risks” to Bulgaria. Bulgarian government agencies have taken steps to make alternative arrangements for the supply of natural gas and currently “no restrictive measures have been imposed on gas consumption in Bulgaria.” (CNN)
Violence In Darfur
- While all eyes are on the murder of civilians in Ukraine, the death toll from weekend tribal clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s western Darfur region has surpassed 200 people, with another 103 people wounded. Provincial Governor Khamis Abdalla Abkar said Arab militias known as janjaweed overwhelmed a joint security force in the town, which then withdrew.
- The town of Kreinik was destroyed, including government institutions; homes were burned, and even the animals were killed. “This is a crime, a crime against humanity,” Abkar said.
- The fighting grew out of the killing of two Arab herdsmen on Thursday in a location about 50 miles east of Genena, the provincial capital of West Darfur. The janjaweed stormed Kreinik early Sunday morning in retaliation. The clashes raise questions about whether military leaders are capable of bringing security to Darfur, which has been wracked by years of civil war. (AP)
Additional World News
- Moldova holds urgent security meeting after Transnistria blasts (Al Jazeera)
- How Americans Can Sponsor Ukrainian Refugees (NYT, $)
- Alina Kabaeva, Putin’s alleged mistress, is possible US sanctions target (WaPo, $)
- Greenpeace activists tried to block a Russian oil tanker heading to Norway (CNN)
- Beijing tests 20 million residents amid ‘fast and furious’ Omicron outbreak (CNN)
- Germany to supply Ukraine with heavy weaponry for first time (Reuters)
- Australian opposition party vows to train Pacific armies (NPR)
A Bitter Drill To Swallow
- After peaking at more than 2 million barrels of daily crude production in 1988, Alaska’s oil output has been slowly dropping off, as investments decreased and better opportunities presented themselves in the shale fields in other states. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the state produced just 437,000 barrels of oil a day in 2021, a 45-year low.
- Plans for drilling in Arctic Alaska proposed by former President Trump in 2020 would have opened about 80% of the 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve to oil development. It would have allowed leasing in areas vital to the ecosystem, including the Teshekpuk Lake, the North Slope’s largest lake that is home to wildlife protected since the Reagan administration.
- Two lawsuits were filed against the plan, and no lease sales were ever held under it. On Monday, the Biden administration overturned the policy, and the Bureau of Land Management instead reinstated an Obama-era policy. This allows oil leasing on only half of the land, and also includes improved protections for areas that are prized by both wildlife and indigenous residents. (Reuters)
The Laws Of Life
- On Tuesday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a first-of-its-kind bill that prohibits the use of nonbinary gender markers on birth certificates in response to the Oklahoma State Department of Health deciding last year that a nonbinary option was acceptable. The issue came about after an Oklahoma-born resident in Oregon sued.
- Stitt was quick to issue an executive order prohibiting changes to a person’s gender on their birth certificate, despite the settlement agreement, as conservative groups expressed their outrage at the gender options. Most states allow only male or female options on birth certificates already, but Oklahoma is the first state in the country to explicitly prohibit nonbinary options. (AP)
Additional USA News
- Family of Missouri boy who fell off ride sues Florida amusement park in his death (NBC)
- Melissa Lucio’s execution delayed by appeals court in Texas (CBS)
- Biden adviser Cedric Richmond set to leave the White House (CNN)
- Supreme Court declines to block elite high school’s new admissions policy (NBC)
- Reports of anti-Semitism in the US hit the highest number on record in 2021, ADL says (CNN)
- US military landlord put families at risk even after fraud plea, Senate probe says (Reuters)
- Ron DeSantis signs bill to create Florida voter-fraud police force (Guardian)
A Nag Order
- The Japanese have a cure for writer’s block – and other debilitating conditions contributing to procrastination. Authors facing deadlines can head over to Tokyo’s “Manuscript Writing Cafe,” but here’s where it gets just a little like “Hotel California.” They can check-in, but they can never leave – at least not until their project is finished. The clean, well-lit cafe in western Tokyo has 10 seats reserved for writers, editors, manga artists, and anybody else grappling with the written word and deadlines.
- Coffee and tea are unlimited and self-serve, and high-speed Wi-Fi and docking ports are installed at every seat. Customers enter, write down their names, writing goals, and the time they plan to finish. They can also ask for progress checks as they work. There are three levels of progress checks, depending on the severity of procrastination. There’s the Mild level, meaning someone just asks if the writer has finished as they are paying. Next comes the Normal level – that’s a check-in every hour. Then there’s the Hard level, which is a little creepy. Cafe staff will stand behind the writer and give them the ‘silent pressure’ treatment.
- Takuya Kawai, 52, is the owner and a writer himself. He said he hoped the strict rules would help people focus. “The cafe went viral on social media and people are saying the rules are scary or that it feels like being watched from behind,” the genial Kawai said, displaying a board with the names of customers who completed their tasks and left. “But actually instead of monitoring, I’m here to support them … As a result, what they thought would take a day actually was completed in three hours, or tasks that usually take three hours were done in one.” The cafe charges 130 yen ($1.01) for the first 30 minutes and 300 yen ($2.34) every successive hour. That’s not counting the cost of therapy for people choosing the Hard level. (CNN)
- Russia’s war heats up cooking oil prices in global squeeze (AP)
- Get Ready For the New, Improved Second (NYT, $)
- To Find Alien Life, Scientists Are Unlocking Mysteries of Saturn Moon Titan (CNET)
- China announces plans for a new asteroid-deflecting mission (The Verge)
- Elon Musk: Twitter employees raise questions about takeover in all-hands meeting (CNN)
- We Finally Know How The Nightmarish Bloodworm Grows Fangs Made of Metal (ScienceAlert)
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