Europe/Americas update: July 6 2017

As I said on Sunday, this week was going to be a little abbreviated around here, and in that vein today’s updates will be our last until Sunday evening. Thanks for reading!



Reunification talks do not seem to be progressing toward a deal and in fact may be sliding backwards:

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sought Thursday to steer the rival sides in the Cyprus peace talks to agreement on a broad range of issues holding back a deal to reunify the ethnically divided Mediterranean island nation.

But with negotiations dragging late into the day, there were few signs of an impending breakthrough.

“I think we have done all we can in this negotiation,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told reporters after an evening round of talks. “We’ve saved this process from collapse three times, but these negotiations have to be based on the rights of individuals, states, peoples and international law.”

These tense moments are commonplace right before major deals are struck…but of course they’re also commonplace right before negotiations completely break down.

UPDATE: …aaannnnnd the talks have failed. No word on whether the parties might come back at some point for another bite at the apple, but seeing as how they appear to have made absolutely no progress resolving Turkey’s guarantor status, why bother?


The Russia LGBT Network is reporting that the Chechen government has resumed brutalizing the province’s LGBT population. Roughly 100 LGBT people were detained in a crackdown in April, but the detentions stopped when they drew unwanted attention. But since Ramadan ended late last month allegations of new detentions have surfaced.


During an international conference on Ukraine held in London on Thursday, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson expressed “concern” that anti-corruption reforms in the Eastern European nation are beginning to peter out:

“There are worrying signs that reform is faltering and we’re seeing some concern about selection of new members of the Supreme Court, a lack of progress in creating special anti-corruption courts,” Johnson said.

“Corruption has got to be rooted out, I think we all agree, across the board.”

Ukraine’s central bank said on Thursday that the government’s delays in passing reforms mean Ukraine will probably receive $3 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund this year instead of the $4.5 billion originally envisaged.


Donald Trump’s big speech in Poland on Thursday is being hailed as a sign of his new commitment to the NATO alliance even though mostly it reads like something that could have been a front page article on Stormfront:

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he said. “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

“We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory, their funding, their networks and any form of ideological support,” Mr. Trump said. “While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism.”

Added Trump: “We must secure the existence of our people and-” oh, wait, sorry, I got confused for a second.

During his Polish visit, Trump managed to become the first US president since George Bush I instituted the practice in 1989 (the first time such a thing was possible) to choose not to visit the Warsaw Ghetto during his first trip to Poland. But after reading his speech I figure maybe it was for the best.

Trump also threw his support behind the “Three Seas Initiative,” a Poland-Croatia project to import liquified natural gas via the Baltic and Adriatic Seas (the third sea is the Black Sea, which seems mostly to be a cryptic reference to Ukraine potentially joining the project at some point) in order to break eastern and central European dependence on Russia for its energy needs. This seems like a laudable enough goal, but there are concerns that TSI is also a covert Polish effort to aggrandize itself in that central-eastern European region, which probably isn’t so laudable. To that end, Russia’s response to the initiative has been somewhat disjointed–on the one hand it doesn’t like the competition for its energy exports, but on the other hand it appreciates that the project could cause trouble within the EU.


Aside from bringing 20 of the world’s biggest assholes together to figure out how they can screw the rest of the planet over a little more collaboratively, the one thing the G20 summit reliably involves is protests. Usually violent protests. And police cracking down on those protests. This year’s summit in Hamburg is no exception:

Police fired water cannon and pepper spray at masked protesters, who hurled bottles, stones and flares.

Organisers cancelled the march where the first clashes took place, but protesters remained on the streets and police said violence spread to other areas of the city.

Protesters built makeshift barricades, set vehicles alight, damaged businesses and repeatedly shone a laser at a police helicopter to dazzle its pilot, police said.

Medics were seen treating several people. At least one person appeared to have been seriously hurt and was carried away covered by a foil blanket.

Buzzfeed has photos.



On Wednesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that his government may be close to signing a deal with an investor to salvage the shipwreck of the Spanish treasure ship San José, which was discovered back in 2015. The San José was sunk in 1708, during a naval engagement in the War of the Spanish Succession, and its wreckage is believed to contain coins and other valuables that could be worth anywhere from $1 billion to as much as $17 billion. The wreck’s discovery set off a bit of a dispute, as Spain and a US company that says it had a contract to search for the wreckage with the Colombian government both lodged claims over the find. The American company doesn’t seem to have much of a legal claim, but it’s not clear how Spain is going to react.


When people say that a hereditary aristocracy is a bad thing, stuff like this is part of the reason why:

Eric Trump thinks his father’s presidency is already paying dividends for everyday Americans. Want evidence? Just look at the lines at Home Depot.

During a Thursday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, Eric urged viewers to ignore media coverage of the web of investigations surrounding his fatherand Republicans’ deeply unpopular push to strip millions of Americans of health insurance, and instead focus on “a simple test” that illustrates how “we’re thriving as a nation.”

“I mean, go into Home Depot. Just a simple test. Look at the lines in Home Depot, right? I mean, we’re thriving as a nation,” Eric Trump said. “Everybody wants to get focused on nonsense, on garbage, on distractions.”

Go into Home Depot! People are buying, uh, toilet plungers and light fixtures or whatever it is you peasants like to get! Yes, actual data suggests that the supposedly pro-growth Trump administration hasn’t had any impact on US economic growth, but so what! I hear lots of you people are buying those fidgety spinning things and slushies, and other such things! It’s the roaring 20s all over again!

If you gave Eric Trump a penny for his thoughts, you’d expect to get change back. We grow collectively dumber as a nation every time he opens his mouth. But he was born into money and his dad blundered his way into the White House, so now his opinions must be considered Serious and Important. That’s just one of the many problems with aristocracy, but it’s an important one.

Say, here’s some exciting news:

Since May, hackers have been penetrating the computer networks of companies that operate nuclear power stations and other energy facilities, as well as manufacturing plants in the United States and other countries.

Among the companies targeted was the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, which runs a nuclear power plant near Burlington, Kan., according to security consultants and an urgent joint report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week.

The joint report was obtained by The New York Times and confirmed by security specialists who have been responding to the attacks. It carried an urgent amber warning, the second-highest rating for the sensitivity of the threat.

The report did not indicate whether the cyberattacks were an attempt at espionage — such as stealing industrial secrets — or part of a plan to cause destruction. There is no indication that hackers were able to jump from their victims’ computers into the control systems of the facilities, nor is it clear how many facilities were breached.

Don’t worry though, folks. The US intelligence community is working diligently to protect us from these online threats. Why even as we speak, the professionals at the National Security Agency are, uh…

Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said in an interview last week that while the security of United States’ critical infrastructure systems had improved in recent years, they were still vulnerable to advanced hacking attacks, particularly those that use tools stolen from the National Security Agency.

“We never anticipated that our critical infrastructure control systems would be facing advanced levels of malware,” Mr. Wellinghoff said.

Oh, they’re actually supplying the attackers with the means by which to attack us. Cool, excellent. I’m sure it’s all part of an elaborate multi-dimensional strategy to lure the attackers into our most sensitive computer systems and then Do Something to stop them. And so far it seems to be working to perfection.

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