America Falls Behind, Boris Backs Down, & A Cat Endures
October 24, 2022
State-Run Businesses or a Business-Run State
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” While the U.S. might still have the world’s largest economy and military, the country might be speaking a little too softly these days. Compared to China, the U.S. is falling behind in its diplomatic efforts, with the CCP spending more on diplomacy yearly as the U.S. diplomacy budget remains flat.
A Chinese-built convention center now overlooks the Panama Canal, a key worldwide waterway, and a new bridge is set to be built by a Chinese consortium, relieving traffic congestion on other bridges between the country’s east and west sides. U.S. diplomats wanted U.S. companies to bid on the bridge’s construction to strengthen ties with the country, but despite the best efforts from the then-U.S. ambassador to Panama, no businesses committed. He recalled, “I rang every bell in Washington that I could to try to drum up U.S. private sector interest. I asked for a commercial delegation to come down, and I got nothing.”
Similar events have played out across the world in recent years. “Once upon a time, it was a given that the American embassy in a given country, in most countries, was the biggest embassy, the most visible embassy, the most influential embassy,” said Eric Rubin, former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria. “That is not the case now in many parts of the world. In much of the developing world, it’s China.”
While China spends on diplomacy, the U.S. has focused its efforts on keeping up with Beijing on military and technology fronts. Diplomatic spending bills are frequently slashed due to partisan politics. This gap in diplomatic spending is made even worse when Chinese businesses can be compelled to spend on foreign projects, while U.S. companies must be courted by politicians to make more risky overseas investments. (Politico)
Some Good News
- Diwali will be a holiday for NYC public schools starting next year (NBC)
- Iran protests trigger solidarity rallies in US, Europe (AP)
Boris Bows Out
- Following the resignation of U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss last Friday, Conservative politicians began scrambling to organize their bids to become party leader over the weekend. While former Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially looked to be joining the race, he bowed out late Sunday.
- Johnson had rushed home mid-Caribbean vacation to gather the necessary 100 votes over the weekend before the contest to become Truss’ successor, which is scheduled for Monday. Candidates need the backing of 100 lawmakers to participate in the contest. Johnson said Sunday that he’d received vouches from 102 lawmakers, but could not come to a compromise with competitors Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt to work together “in the national interest.”
- Johnson was publicly confirmed to have 60 votes Sunday, less than half of Sunak’s almost 150 votes. The third candidate, Penny Mordaunt, had just 26 public vouches on Sunday. If only one candidate goes into Monday with 100 supporters, they automatically become P.M. If multiple have 100 votes, ballots will be sent off to party membership, with a winner decided by Friday. (Reuters)
A Leaky Reactor
- Iran announced Sunday that a subsidiary of its atomic energy program had one of its email servers hacked. Black Reward, an Iranian hacker group, claimed responsibility for the attack over Twitter, stating it released information on Iranian nuclear activities in an act of solidarity with ongoing nationwide protests.
- The group’s statement ended with “In the name of Mahsa Amini and for women, life, freedom,” reflecting its support for protests sparked by Amini’s death in the custody of Iranian morality police. The group had threatened to release hacked information on Friday if Iranian authorities did not release jailed political prisoners and protestors within 24 hours.
- The leaked information includes “management and operational schedules of different parts of Bushehr power plant,” passports and visas of specialists working at the plant, and “atomic development contracts and agreements with domestic and foreign partners.” (Reuters)
Additional World News
- Russia builds defensive lines to stem Ukraine’s advance (AP)
- Italy’s first female leader and her very male cabinet (Politico)
- Palestinian shot dead by Israeli soldiers in West Bank (Guardian)
- Russia’s Shoigu warns of ‘uncontrolled escalation’ in Ukraine conflict (Reuters)
- Illegal border crossings to US from Mexico hit annual high (AP)
- Iran slams call for UN probe into alleged use of its drones (Al Jazeera)
- Hurricane Roslyn makes landfall in Mexico with ‘life-threatening storm surge’ (CNN)
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” – James Herriot
Laking Rumors To Rest
- Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has made a name for herself thanks to her MAGA ideology, and many wondered if there was a chance she’d jump on Trump’s ticket as VP in 2024. Lake put that speculation to rest on Sunday, after ABC’s “This Week” host Jon Karl asked if she’d commit to serving all four years as Arizona’s governor if elected.
- “I’m going to serve eight years as governor of Arizona,” Lake answered plainly. Karl pushed her, saying, “is that a commitment?” and Lake reiterated, “Yeah. I’m going to serve eight years.” Given the tension between former President Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence, many are curious to see who Trump will share the ticket with when — excuse me, I mean if — he announces his 2024 candidacy. (Politico)
Sacking State-Sponsored Slavery
- One loophole in the 13th Amendment has long been exploited for cheaper goods — “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Next month, voters in Alabama, Louisiana, Vermont, Oregon, and Tennessee will have the opportunity to remove the punishment from state constitutions in midterm elections.
- The penalty still exists in over a dozen states, and even though it hasn’t been enforced since the 19th century, people are understandably wary of it existing regardless. Advocates are hoping that the votes might lead to the removal of the language from the amendment entirely, and possibly someday even removing rules that allow for forced labor from inmates for little to no pay. The five upcoming votes do not address prison labor. (CNN)
Additional USA News
- Trump on 2024 run: ‘I will probably have to do it again’ (The Hill)
- Alex Jones seeks new trial after $1 billion Sandy Hook verdict (CBS)
- Steve Bannon predicts Merrick Garland, Christopher Wray will be impeached in 2023 (Axios)
- Appeals court temporarily pauses student loan forgiveness plan (CBS)
- Biden political group releases ‘Dark Brandon’ student debt relief ad (The Hill)
- The Status of the Pandemic, in Three Charts (NYT, $)
- Bob Woodward on Donald Trump: “He is a threat to democracy” (CBS)
Long Live The Prime Meownister
- In the words of Eminem and Drake, “Women, they come, they go.” Well, so do Prime Ministers – and nobody knows this better than Larry the Cat, a 15-year-old tabby who serves the United Kingdom as Chief Mouser of No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Britain’s Prime Ministers.
- In his 15 years in office, Larry has outlasted 4 separate Prime Ministers: David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and now, Liz Truss. “The King has asked me to become Prime Minister because this nonsense has gone on long enough,” said a Larry the Cat unofficial Twitter account. The Monday before Truss’ resignation last Friday, Larry tweeted, “Lots of people asking whether it’s Liz Truss or Jeremy Hunt who’s in charge. It’s neither. I am. I’ll be here long after they’re both gone.” Looks like he was right.
- Larry gained office during David Cameron’s tenure on Feb. 15, 2011, after cameras pointed at the Prime Minister’s residence noticed a rat outside the house. In searching for some pest protection, the U.K. Cabinet rescued Larry from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home before appointing him Chief Mouser. Now he is poised to meet his fifth boss in six years. (NPR)
- Kilimanjaro: Firefighters containing blaze on Tanzania mountain (BBC)
- Lab Manipulations of Covid Virus Fall Under Murky Government Rules (NYT, $)
- Convertible reported stolen in ’92 found buried in yard of $15 million California mansion (NBC)
- Scientists reveal what Neanderthal life may have looked like (BBC)
- India rocket puts 36 internet satellites into orbit (Al Jazeera)