World update: June 19 2018

We’re a little early today because in addition to being Juneteenth we also have a family birthday to celebrate. I’ll catch you all up tomorrow.



Taliban fighters killed at least four people in a Tuesday morning attack on police and military checkpoints in Kunduz province. In case you weren’t sure if the ceasefire is over.

Nevertheless, analysts believe there may now be room, after the ceasefire and President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of unconditional talks with the Taliban and relevant international actors, for the US to open backchannel negotiations with the insurgent group. The US insists that talks must be between the Taliban and Kabul, which the Taliban reject, but Ghani has injected some latitude into the situation that could allow the US to bend a bit. And hey, the Taliban and the Afghan government apparently have a standing invitation to hold talks in Uzbekistan, so that’s something.


Add Pakistan to the growing list of countries in the midst of a serious water crisis:

Pakistan is running out of fresh water at an alarming rate, and authorities anticipate that it is likely to suffer a shortage of 31 million acre-feet (MAF) of water by 2025. The shortfall will be devastating for a country with an agriculture-based economy. Nearly 70 percent of the Pakistan’s population is directly or indirectly associated with agriculture, which accounts for 26 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Farmers are likely to feel the pinch in the form of in-season water shortages, which in turn, will affect their crop growth and delay harvesting, resulting in reduced production.

In Pakistan, the majority of agricultural land is irrigated, after accounting for ground and rainwater, with fresh water from the IBIS. The IBIS is fed through two major dams including Tarbela and Mangla, which since construction, have lost storage capacity due to enormous silt deposition. Both reservoirs are already hitting a dead level and are unlikely to carry forward the required flow for the summer crops.

It’s the apocalypse of the future, today!


Kashmir’s provincial government has collapsed, with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party pulling out of its coalition with Kashmir’s largest party, the Peoples Democratic Party. The coalition was an odd one to begin with, a Hindu nationalist party coexisting with a predominantly Muslim one, but the upsurge in tensions in Kashmir has apparently made it untenable for the BJP. This means more power will accrue to the regional governor, Narinder Nath Vohra, which is likely to increase instability.


Not that we really care about such things, but Donald Trump’s new Chinese tariff threat is really goosing the markets. Trump does care about such things, a lot, which makes this all even weirder than it otherwise would be.


Kim Jong-un visited China on Tuesday, perhaps to debrief Chinese President Xi Jinping after his June 12 summit with Trump. Xi gushed with praise for Kim over his handling of the summit. The next step here on North Korea’s part seems to be building on the summit to portray Kim as a world leader akin to any other rather than the leader of what had hitherto largely been treated as a pariah state.



People in the central Malian village of Nantaka are accusing Malian soldiers of summarily executing 25 Fulani men they took from the village last week. The Malian military is coming under increasing scrutiny for its crimes against Fulani civilians, as it attempts to control al-Qaeda and ISIS-affiliates operating in Mali that include a number of Fulani fighters and often recruit on general Fulani grievances.


South Sudanese President Salva Kiir will meet with rebel leader Riek Machar in Ethiopia on Wednesday in an effort to get peace talks back on track. Machar had already agreed to meet Kiir in Addis Ababa, but Kiir’s participation was up in the air until Tuesday.


The threat posed by Islamist “al-Shabab” gangs in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province has prompted a US energy firm to put its facilities there on lockdown:

U.S. petroleum company Anadarko has placed staff working on a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in northern Mozambique under “lock-down” due to the threat from suspected Islamist militants in the area, a regional security consultant said on Tuesday.

Anadarko, which is looking to raise a record $14-$15 billion for the plant, said last week it was monitoring the situation after a spate of beheadings and kidnappings but declined to comment on specific security issues.

The consultant, who is familiar with the security situation, said the firm had prevented its workers from going beyond the perimeter of the planned plant on the coast of Cabo Delgado province, abutting the border with Tanzania.

“They can’t leave the site,” the consultant said.


The European Union is reportedly considering a plan to park its migrant processing facilities in Africa rather than in Europe:

The European council of EU leaders “supports the development of the concept of regional disembarkation platforms”, according to the draft conclusions of an EU summit due to take place next week.

The EU wants to look at the feasibility of setting up such centres in north Africa, where most migrant journeys to Europe begin. “Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys,” says the document seen by the Guardian.

Although the plan is winning influential support, it faces political and practical hurdles, with one expert saying it is not clear how the EU would get foreign countries to agree to be “vassal states”.

Yeah, that last part does seem like kind of a hurdle.


The Russian government says it is not making any plans for a Trump-Vladimir Putin summit in Vienna next month, contradicting recent whispers of just such an event.


The International Monetary Fund says that Ukraine’s proposed anti-corruption court still isn’t adequate to unlock billions of dollars in additional aid for Kiev. IMF boss Christine Lagarde wants the legislation creating the court to include stronger guarantees of the court’s independence and its ability to take on all cases under its jurisdiction.


Angela Merkel’s coalition may be falling apart in Berlin over immigration, but she’s still working on tighter European integration anyway. On Tuesday, she and French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a proposal to create a common Eurozone budget by 2021, though they’ve left most of the details deliberately vague. A common budget is a no-brainer for a bloc that asks its members to forfeit the right to print their own currency–the common currency can’t possibly meet all its members needs without one–but it’s been a tough sell in Europe.


Matteo Salvini is a little unhappy that everybody thinks his call to count all of Italy’s Roma is, like, racist or something:

He has compared the European Union to the Titanic, accused the left of supporting immigration to supply slave labor, and insulted migrants using any number of disparaging epithets. But Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, went too far even for his allies this week when he announced that he would conduct a census of Roma people in Italy, a prelude to expelling those without valid residence permits.

“And Italian Roma? Unfortunately, we have to keep them,” Mr. Salvini said on Monday during an interview on a regional television station.

On Tuesday, he dug in his heels. “ ‘Census’ of Roma and control of public funds. If the left proposes it, it’s fine, if I propose it, it’s RACISM,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I’m not backing down, and am going forward. Italians first and their security.”

Most of the Roma in Italy who don’t have papers are believed to be stateless, which means that, under international human rights law, Italy can’t deport them anyway. Not that Matteo Salvini gives a shit about international law or human rights, of course.

Salvini’s coalition partner, Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio, has already said a targeted census is unconstitutional, and Salvini’s (nominal) boss, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, was reportedly “infuriated” by his interior minister’s Roma comments. But, you know, this is who Salvini is, and Di Maio still chose to partner with him.



The Trump administration has officially pulled the US out of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Oh well. Having one less bad actor on the council can’t be that terrible.

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