World update: September 26 2017

A relatively quick one tonight, it’s been a long day.



Two bombings in western Afghanistan killed five Afghan police officers on Tuesday. Two were killed in Herat province and another three in Farah province. No one has claimed responsibility but these are likely Taliban joints given where they took place. Another police officer was killed in Takhar province overnight in a battle with Taliban fighters.


Rice University’s Craig Considine writes that the Rohingya are beginning to take on a position in the Islamic world akin to the Palestinians:

The systematic persecution of Palestinians has long occupied a place in the consciousness of the ummah, the global community of Muslims. Muslims worldwide have watched for decades as Palestinians have been repeatedly displaced, subjected to disproportionate collective punishment, and denied statehood.

While the Israeli occupation continues to stir up feelings of anger and powerlessness, another ethnic group — the Rohingya — is now emerging as the symbol of global injustice for Muslims. As Rashmee Roshan Lall notes in The Arab Weekly, the Rohingya are acquiring a status so far only given to the Palestinians. And the ummah is not sitting idly by.

The parallels, especially in the way Myanmar Buddhist extremists talk about the Rohingya and Israeli far-right politicians talk about the Palestinians, are striking. Not for nothing, but serving as a periodic cause célèbre for the Islamic world has done jack shit for the Palestinian cause and unfortunately that’s likely to be the Rohingya’s experience as well. The sad fact of life in 2017 is that the greater outpouring you see from Muslims about the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, the less interested Western nations are going to be in pressuring Myanmar to put an end to it. The Rohingya are sympathetic to Western audiences as victims of ethnic cleansing, but they’re less sympathetic to Western audiences as Muslim victims of ethnic cleansing.


On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that North Korean suggestions that the United States, via Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, had already declared war against Pyongyang were “absurd.” North Korea frequently refers to things it doesn’t like as “declarations of war” and, you know, people who want attention tend to say a lot of ridiculous shit. But also on Tuesday, Donald Trump himself said this:

“We are totally prepared for the second option, not a preferred option,” Trump said at a White House news conference, referring to military force. “But if we take that option, it will be devastating, I can tell you that, devastating for North Korea. That’s called the military option. If we have to take it, we will.”

I have only a passing understanding of international relations, but it seems to me that if you want a country to stop saying that you’ve declared war against it, you might want to stop talking about declaring war against it. Maybe I’m off base.



The United Nations started new talks in Tunis on Tuesday aimed at jump-starting Libya’s peace process and implementing a new one year UN plan for holding new elections. The new initiative builds on an agreement reached back in late 2015, starting with negotiations with the rival governments in Tripoli and Tobruk over amendments to that 2015 deal. Several European countries seem to be working hard to convince eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar in particular to support the new process.


Uganda’s parliament on Tuesday debated a measure to amend the constitution and lift age limits that would bar President Yoweri Museveni from running for his 94th term in office (I’m estimating–archeological records are spotty) in 2021. Here’s a little taste of how that went:

The fighting reportedly broke out when it was alleged that a member of parliament had brought a gun with him to the floor (there’s no evidence that he actually did).


New Angolan President João Lourenço–the first new Angolan president since 1979–was sworn in on Tuesday, promising in his inaugural address to deal with inequality, improve civil and women’s rights, and tackle corruption. It’s not clear how much power he’ll actually have to do any of that stuff, though–now-former President José Eduardo dos Santos is keeping his other gig as the leader of Lourenço’s party, and he’s expected to retain considerable authority in that role.



Emmanuel Macron wants a joint European Union defense force. He’s unlikely to get it, though, now that German voters just elected 90 or so fascists to parliament and forced Angela Merkel into a coalition with the very euroskeptical Free Democratic Party. And maybe that’s OK. A new EU “defense” force would most likely miraculously turn into a foreign intervention force about a half-hour after it was formed. Nobody needs that.


Spanish police have been ordered to take over polling places in Catalonia on Sunday in order to prevent the Catalan independence referendum from coming to a vote. I’m not sure what the Vegas odds would be on the possibility of some major violence breaking out somewhere in eastern Spain this weekend, but I’m sure they wouldn’t be that low.


European council president Donald Tusk says that he believes Britain has dropped “the philosophy of having cake and eating it” with regards to Brexit. And that’s good news for the negotiations. Except, well, here’s Prime Minister Theresa May telling Tusk on Tuesday that Brexit can work for both the UK and the EU as long as both parties are “creative.” When May talks about being “creative,” it’s just her new way of talking about her Brexit cake. What being “creative” means, for May, is that the EU should create a super special just-for-Britain-because-Britain-is-oh-so-special-and-important category of EU relationship, one that’s much closer than a regular free trade deal but doesn’t force Britain to abide by a bunch of EU rules the way members of the European Economic Area do. That’s “having cake and eating it.” It may be more subtly phrased but it’s the same idea.



At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda write about the havoc the “War on (some kinds of) Drugs” is wreaking on Brazil:

In the face of drug-related violence, there is a temptation to embrace the seemingly simplest solution: an even-greater war on drugs, more drug dealers and addicts in prison, more police, more prohibition.

Those who peddle this approach want people to believe a simple-minded string of reasoning: the cause of drug-related problems, such as violence from drug gangs, is drugs. Therefore, we must eliminate drugs. Therefore, the more problems we have from drugs, the more aggressively we rid society of drugs and those who sell and use them.

But this mentality is based on an obvious, tragic fallacy: namely, that the war on drugs, and drug criminalization, will eliminate drugs or at least reduce its availability. Decades of failure prove this will not happen; rather, the opposite will occur. Like the U.S., Brazil has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of citizens for drug-related crimes — mostly poor and nonwhite — and the problem has only worsened. Any person with minimal rationality would be forced to admit this string of logic is false.

Supporting a failed policy by hoping that, one day, it will magically succeed, is the definition of irrationality. In the case of drug laws — which spawn misery and suffering — it is not only irrational but cruel.


Here’s the good news: Donald Trump is apparently aware that people are criticizing him over not doing enough to get immediate relief aid to Puerto Rico (and for tweeting about Puerto Rico’s debt situation while Puerto Ricans are trying to figure out how to get clean water), and he’s going to do something about it. Now the bad news: “something” doesn’t mean speeding up desperately needed and criminally overdue humanitarian assistance or disaster relief aid. No, it means that next week he’s going to go visit the island, which has very little infrastructure left and really has more important things to do than to accommodate a presidential photo-op/disaster tour. It also means he’s saying things like this:

“Puerto Rico is very important to me, and Puerto Rico — the people are fantastic people,” Trump said before meeting with lawmakers in the Roosevelt Room on Tuesday. “I grew up in New York, so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. And these are great people, and we have to help them. The island is devastated.”

And this:

Later, at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, he denied that he had been preoccupied with the NFL issue, insisting that the government has had “tremendous reviews” for its response, which now includes the military. “We understand it’s a disaster, it’s a disaster that just happened,” he told reporters. “The grid was in bad shape before the storm and Puerto Rico didn’t get hit by one hurricane; it got hit by two hurricanes; and they were among the biggest we’ve ever seen.

“We are unloading on an hourly basis massive loads of water and food and supplies for Puerto Rico. And this isn’t like Florida where we can go right up the spine or Texas where we go right down the middle and distribute; this is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean, this is tough stuff. The governor has been so incredible in his statements about the job we’re doing: we’re doing a great job.”

Trump added for emphasis: “Everybody has said it’s amazing the job we’ve done in Puerto Rico. We’re very proud of it and I’m going there on Tuesday.”

And this:

“We’ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and in Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico,” Trump said. “But the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. It’s a big ocean, it’s a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job.”

We really do live in the dumbest fucking time in American history. No, really, we do.

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