Europe/Americas update: October 6 2017



Moscow has started warning that it could retaliate for any harsh treatment its media outlets receive in the US by doing likewise to US outlets in Russia. RT is apparently being asked by the Trump administration to register as a foreign agent and disclose information on its employees, so you might expect to see similar measures taken against CNN and the major networks in Russia.


A heavier than normal influx of migrants coming into Greece in September has taxed the country’s island refugee camps well past their limits. With winter approaching the United Nations says that Greece has to speed up efforts to reduce overcrowding and improve shelter at those camps, lest it wind up with a humanitarian disaster on its hands.


Things are going great in Austria, where the country’s two largest political parties are preparing to sue one another with an election a mere nine days away:

“The limit has been reached. We’re suing,” OVP general secretary Elisabeth Koestinger told a news conference.

She said her party was preparing a libel suit against an employee of SPO campaign consultant Tal Silberstein, whom the SPO fired in August, to force him to retract comments that the OVP had offered him 100,000 euros ($116,980) to switch sides.

“We are also preparing to sue the SPO in relation to incitement,” she said, adding the lawsuit could be broadened.

SPO chairman Christoph Matznetter said the SPO was preparing a lawsuit against Kurz’s spokesman seeking to clarify whether he did or did not offer money to Silberstein’s employee. He said such an act could amount to bribery and “industrial espionage”.

Good, normal democratic politics.


This year’s Nobel Peace Prize goes to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons:

The dreamers won. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is still so green that, when the call came from the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the group initially thought it was a prank. But, in the middle of two brewing crises over nuclear weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to a global coalition of young activists who defied the United States and the eight other nuclear powers this summer to win support at the United Nations for the first treaty to ban the world’s deadliest weapon.

With dogged determination, ICAN, which was formed just a decade ago, generated support from more than a hundred and twenty countries for the landmark accord. Fifty-three nations have signed it since the formal process began, on September 20th.

There was some talk that the award could go to Mohammad Javad Zarif and Federica Mogherini for their work negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, but as that likely would have enraged Donald Trump and doomed the deal even more than it already is, I can see why the committee would have opted to go a different direction.


French President Emmanuel Mammon Macron is starting to get upset that people keep calling him “president of the rich” just because he’s a charismaless technocrat automaton whose ideas all seem to revolve around policies that would be very good for, well, the rich, and not so hot for anybody else. Life can be so unfair, you know?

Please, whatever you do, don’t go online and call this man “president of the rich” over and over again


The Catalan parliament on Friday declared the results of Sunday’s referendum official, triggering the next step toward a declaration of independence from Spain. A parliament session scheduled for Monday to make that declaration has been suspended by Spanish courts, so Catalan President Carles Puigdemont postponed the session until Tuesday.

If/when the declaration comes, Madrid will undoubtedly involve emergency powers–the first time that’s ever been done–to take direct control over the Catalan government, which will include putting national police on the streets in place of Catalan officers. If Sunday’s brutality is any indication, that could very quickly start to look an awful lot like a military occupation, optics that I’m sure Madrid would rather avoid. Interestingly, while Madrid has maintained that nothing untoward happened on Sunday, on Friday Enric Millo, its representative in Barcelona, apologized for the injuries that Spanish police caused–though he maintained that the fault primarily lay with the Catalan government for holding the referendum. There are growing calls for national unity rallies to be held in Madrid and Barcelona over the weekend.

One thing about this mess seems certain: no help will be forthcoming from the European Union.


Theresa May is apparently facing a backbench mutiny within the Conservative party, where some 30 members of parliament are already reportedly behind a push to force a leadership vote. May responded to questions about the plot by saying that what Britain needs now is “calm leadership,” but that she plans to stay on as prime minister nonetheless. Actually she asserted that she’s providing that calm leadership, which genuinely makes me wonder if that cough drop Philip Hammond gave her on Wednesday was laced with a hallucinogen.



Margarita Zavala, a former Mexican first lady, announced Friday that she’s quitting the National Action Party to run as an independent in next year’s presidential election. Incumbent Enrique Peña Nieto’s poll numbers are pretty weak, which puts his Institutional Revolutionary Party in a bad spot, but if Zavala really does go into the election as an independent she could significantly complicate the race. In addition to the PRI nominee, former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador will run on his National Regeneration Movement ticket. The PAN has formed an alliance with the Party of Democratic Revolution and the Citizen’s Movement, and right now a hypothetical candidate from that alliance looks like he or she might have a slight edge over the other candidates in the polls (though to be fair, it’s hard to accurately poll on generic candidates and there are a lot of voters still undecided). An independent Zavala would, presumably, pull votes away from whoever that winds up being.


Adding to the bizarre sonic “attack” story that continues to dog US-Cuba relations, now there are apparently some private US citizens who say that, after visiting Cuba, they experienced some of the same symptoms that have affected US spies and diplomatic personnel on the island. Which might argue against it being a targeted attack, I guess? I honestly have no idea what to make of this thing, in case I haven’t already made that abundantly clear. It’s a really strange story.


Axios reported earlier today that, contrary to my firm belief that Nikki Haley is next in line to replace Rex Tillerson if/when (it’s really when, though Trump may hold off for now to create the appearance that his administration isn’t a complete dumpster fire) he leaves the Trump administration, the White House has actually been talking to CIA Director Mike Pompeo about the job. In my defense, Pompeo would likely be nearly as bad as Haley. Trump apparently really likes Pompeo’s daily intelligence briefings, so that gives him a leg up on the competition.

The White House is banning personal mobile devices from the West Wing, after–oh, cool–chief of staff John Kelly’s cell phone got hacked. It’s unclear how badly it was compromised, but worst case scenario is that whoever hacked it had complete access to its microphone and camera and was able to record all sorts of interesting things.

Finally, while the rest of the administration may be in constant chaos, it’s comforting to know that the FBI has identified the real threat to America’s national security: Black Lives Matter. No, seriously:

“The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” reads the report, marked for official use only and obtained by Foreign Policy.

The August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was the catalyst for widespread anger and violence, the FBI report says, concluding that continued “alleged” police abuses have fueled more violence.

“The FBI assesses it is very likely incidents of alleged police abuse against African Americans since then have continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement,” the report states.

BLACK IDENTITY EXTREMISTS. It will undoubtedly surprise absolutely nobody to learn that this is a term that basically doesn’t exist outside of the FBI, and that its definition, which former FBI agent Michael German sums up as “black people who scare them,” is so overly broad as to be meaningless.

Only in America can cops murdering black people be used as evidence that the black community is becoming dangerously unhinged, and only in the Federal Bureau of Investigation can a handful of cases involving black citizens attacking police officers be treated as a serious national security threat while vastly more commonplace white extremist violence is treated as less serious. This shit is written across the FBI’s history and, under the Trump administration, it’s apparently coming back to the forefront.

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