Asia/Africa update: July 10 2017


I never know where to slot environmental stories because they really affect everybody. But this update is a little short tonight, so we’ll put it here. It’s definitely good news, so don’t worry or anything:

A “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is already well underway and is more severe than previously feared, according to new research.

Scientists analysed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of human civilisation, although there remains a short window of time in which to act.

The new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, eschews the normally sober tone of scientific papers and calls the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” that represents a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation”.

On the plus side, another new report found that a mere 100 companies have been responsible for 71 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, so when human civilization does collapse it should be relatively easy for the ensuing mob to figure out who to thank for it.



This should work out well:

President Trump’s advisers recruited two businessmen who profited from military contracting to devise alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reflecting the Trump administration’s struggle to define its strategy for dealing with a war now 16 years old.

Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have developed proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops in Afghanistan at the behest of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations.

Prince’s idea for Afghanistan is that the US should appoint a “viceroy” (no, really) to run the country and hire him a private army (I wonder if he has any thoughts on which merc company should get the contract for that). Feinberg is slightly more reasonable; he just wants the Trump administration to pay his company to train and equip the Afghan military. Seems like a fair deal to me.


A suicide bomber in the town of Chaman killed three people on Monday, including a police chief who was likely the target of the attack. Chaman has seen Pakistani Taliban activity in the past so it seems reasonable to conclude they were behind this attack unless somebody else claims it.

The corruption investigation into Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family has concluded and its findings don’t look great for the PM:

An official investigation into corruption allegations against Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family has found a “significant disparity” between their declared wealth and known sources of income.

Sharif, who has previously denied allegations of abusing his authority to enrich himself, has been under pressure since documents leaked in 2016 from a Panama-based law firm disclosed that his family had offshore accounts.

Sharif and members of his family have appeared before a team appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate their offshore companies. Sharif has faced corruption allegations since coming to power in parliamentary elections in 2013.

“There exists a significant disparity between the wealth declared by the respondents and the means through which the respondents had generated income from known or declared sources,” the report said, according to a partial copy released to reporters.

Well then. It’s now up to the country’s Supreme Court whether the case will move forward.


Suspected Kashmiri militants in the town of Anantnag killed at least seven Hindus returning from a pilgrimage on Monday. The gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying about 50 people back from a retreat in the Himalayas. Several Kashmiri separatist leaders condemned the attack.

NORTH KOREA has a new technical summary of the Hwasong-14, the intercontinental ballistic missile that Pyongyang tested on July 4. The device appears to be an amalgam of parts of several previously tested missiles, which helps analysts estimate what its capabilities might be if it were used in a confrontation. At its maximum range, with a payload in the 500 kg neighborhood, the missile might be capable of hitting the US west coast, but the missile seems designed to house multiple warheads (plus decoys) and North Korean nuclear technology just hasn’t progressed that far yet.

The Washington Post published an interesting look at Pyongyang’s foreign relations across Africa, which while not as important as its ties with China have nonetheless been an economic lifeline for North Korea as sanctions have isolated it from most of the rest of the world:

Near the southern tip of Africa, 8,000 miles from Pyongyang, this capital city is an unlikely testament to North Korean industry.

There’s the futuristic national history museum, the sleek presidential palace, the sprawling defense headquarters and the shadowy munitions factory. They were built — or are still being constructed — by North Korea, for a profit.

For years, North Korea has used African nations like this one as financial lifelines, building infrastructure and selling weapons and other military equipment as sanctions mounted against its authoritarian regime. Although China is by far North Korea’s largest trading partner, the smaller African revenue streams have helped support the impoverished Hermit Kingdom, even as its leaders develop an ambitious nuclear weapons program in defiance of the international community.



Fighting east of Tripoli between forces allied with the Government of National Accord and the so-called Government of National Salvation continued for a second day on Monday. People living in suburbs of the capital have been affected and displaced by the battle.


Ten Malian soldiers are missing after their army convoy was ambushed in the northern part of the country on Monday. Northern Mali is prime al-Qaeda territory despite ongoing government efforts to restore control there. It’s also frequently impacted by fighting between the country’s various Tuareg groups, some of whom back the government while others remain opposed.


The Norwegian Refugee Council says that 100 people have been killed and 40,000 more people displaced by new fighting in eastern CAR since April. Over 100,000 people have been displaced from eastern CAR in total, part of the country’s overall 500,000 displaced persons.


PICTURED: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe after cheating death for another week
Robert Mugabe’s frequent medical trips have effectively turned Singapore into Zimbabwe’s new capital. He’s been there three times already this year for…well, he’s 93, so take your pick I guess. But here’s the most amazing part of this story:

Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, spent more than $50m (£39m) on foreign travel last year, more than double the amount allocated to upgrading the country’s hospitals and health centres, according to data from the Zimbabwean treasury. In the same year, $30m was allocated to parliament and $32m to the ministry of foreign affairs.

Maybe Mugabe wouldn’t need to travel abroad for medical care so much if he invested some of that money into fixing up his own country’s hospitals. Jesus Christ.

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