Europe/Americas update: October 31-November 1 2017


The truck used in Tuesday’s attack (Wikimedia | Gh9449)
Obviously the story that dominated the news over the past couple of days is Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan. Sayfullo Saipov, a 29 year old Uzbek immigrant who came to the US in 2010, drove a rented truck down a bicycle path Tuesday afternoon, killing eight people and injuring another 12, before crashing the truck, exiting the vehicle brandishing a mock firearm, and getting shot by police and taken into custody. On Wednesday, police detained a second Uzbek man, 32 year old Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, for questioning, but at this point it’s not clear whether or how he’s connected to Tuesday’s attack.

As blanks in Saipov’s story started to be filled in on Wednesday, what emerged seemed like a quintessential case study in radicalization. Saipov left a repressive, impoverished dictatorship in Uzbekistan at the age of 22 in search of a better life in America. He didn’t find it, spending seven years scrambling from place to place and job to job to provide for himself and his family, all the while getting angrier and more drawn to the violent messages being proffered by al-Qaeda and ISIS online. In the end, he followed ISIS’s call to carry out individual attacks in the West to the letter, even using their recommended weapon: a vehicle. He planned his attack carefully for as much as a year, choosing Halloween as the date to attack because more people would be on the street and vulnerable. On a piece of paper in the truck he had written words of praise for ISIS. He reportedly wanted to hang ISIS flags outside the truck but figured it would attract too much attention.

Saipov has been charged with terrorism, and if Donald Trump has his way (most likely he won’t) he’ll be tried in military court at Guantanamo. Trump did quickly avail himself of the opportunity to politicize this attack–you know, the thing we’re not supposed to do when the attacker is a middle-aged white American with a bunch of semi-automatic rifles–to demand an end to the diversity visa program under which Saipov entered the country in 2010–before, let’s be clear, he’d been radicalized. Attention will fall on Uzbekistan, as it did on Chechnya after the Boston Marathon bombing–also perpetrated by attackers who were radicalized after they came to America–and on the Uzbek migrant community, which has been a focal point for ISIS recruiting efforts around the world, and which was already on the FBI’s radar before this attack.



Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev hinted on Wednesday that Russia and China could link the financial payment systems they’re both developing, in an effort to counter Western/American dominance of the global financial network.


Germany’s Free Democrats say they won’t participate in a governing coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Greens unless the Greens agree to compromise on immigration. The two parties are particularly opposed on the question of family reunification–i.e., whether to allow the family members of already admitted refugees into the country. The Free Democrats oppose reunification, while the Greens say blocking family members from entering the country would make it harder for refugees to integrate into German society. The parties are also far apart on issues related to European integration.


Carles Puigdemont (wisely, I suspect) says he won’t return to Spain to face charges over Catalonia’s independence referendum. The ousted ex-Catalan president will remain in Belgium, which means he won’t be able to run in regional elections in December, but he wasn’t going to be able to do that from jail anyway. At least this way he probably avoids the jail part. Puigdemont denounced the charges against him as politically motivated.


London finally looks like it might be pulling the plug on talks to restore Northern Ireland’s devolved government, but only partially. It’s preparing to impose a budget on the province, which is a step toward assuming direct rule but is certainly not all the way there, so there’s still time for the parties to reach an accord.



Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno has been ousted as leader of his Alianza Party. Moreno’s predecessor and ex-boss, former President Rafael Correa, has had a major falling out with Moreno (his former VP) that could explain the inter-party strife.


This isn’t really Mexican news, but it is a tweet by the former Mexican ambassador to the US:

If you’re like me and your study of the Spanish language ended in your junior year of high school, the upshot is that Donald Trump’s State Department is urging foreign diplomats to stay at Trump hotels when they make official visits to the US. I’m no expert on ethics, but this seems like a fairly corrupt thing for them to do? But, you know, who am I to judge?


The United States voted against a UN resolution condemning its embargo against Cuba. Which isn’t that bit a deal–the US votes against this same resolution every year, and it’s always joined by Israel as the two “no” votes. But it is in marked contrast to the Obama administration’s decision to abstain in 2016 rather than vote “no.”


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis spent Monday evening arguing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Congress should either leave in place the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force that has been used to justify everything that’s happened since then or to replace it with a new AUMF that could, you know, be used to justify everything the Pentagon wants to do. It’s gratifying to see that after 16 years, with no end in sight, our military still insists that it needs the power to go anywhere and blow up anything at any time with no oversight. It’s almost like they’ve managed the War on Terror precisely to ensure that they never have to give up all the sweet power they were granted when it started.

Finally, did you know Paul Manafort had three different US passports? Why the fuck does a political consultant need three passports? Anyway, I think Splinter’s Libby Watson makes a compelling case that the kind of work Manafort did, the kind of work Tony Podesta did, the kind of work Lanny Davis does–lobbying for horrifying foreign governments–shouldn’t be a thing that people do. Or, at least, that doing it should come with a cost attached:

I don’t mean “what if the government banned lobbyists in the U.S. from representing foreign governments,” though really I don’t see why that shouldn’t be the case. That’s what diplomats are for, right? Why is it valuable to American democracy to allow foreign governments–particularly those that, you know, aren’t elected–to buy representatives in Washington? (It would actually be great if lobbying as an industry went away entirely; it’s deeply fucked that you can buy the attention of our government in proportion to the amount of cash you have.)


But let’s accept for a second that lobbying is here to stay, as an industry and a practice. What if we made it socially unacceptable to represent dictators for money? What if people in DC, when meeting a person at a party who says they work for The Podesta Group, or represents Saudi Arabia for money, smiled politely and walked away instead of pretending that’s normal and asking whether they’d been to Nobu yet? What sickness sits upon a city or a nation when everyone is supposed to pretend that this is an OK thing to do because, what, everyone needs a job, I guess?

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