14,000 more troops, Kamala's out, and Trump left NATO early

Third Cultured vol. 39

Three Things to Know

  1. The US considering deploying an additional 14,000 troops to the Middle East to counter Iran, including dozens of ships and other hardware (ex: missiles).

  2. Senator Kamala Harris (D–CA) suspended her presidential campaign on Tuesday. As a California resident – not to mention one that lives in San Francisco – I am not surprised by Harris’ withdrawal. Kamala served as SF’s District Attorney and there are next to no signs for her campaign anywhere to be found. Her team was confused from the start and they had to pull out before she got demolished in her home state.

    Perhaps one of the greatest fallacies about California politics is the assumption that its Democratic leaders are by definition die-hard liberals. By necessity, Democrats who win statewide have actually been moderates. That remains true even in an era when no Republican has won statewide since 2006. Last year, for example, Senator Dianne Feinstein trounced her liberal opponent, despite his endorsement by the state Democratic Party.

    At her January kickoff in Oakland, a huge crowd of all ages and races waved flags, pumped fists, teared up. They cheered her passion, her toughness and her rhetoric. But above all they were cheering for a woman who would take on the man whose name she never mentioned.

    This, too, was not quite what it seemed. It was easy to conflate antipathy to Mr. Trump with support for Ms. Harris. By the time she appeared in Oakland eight months later at a low-key event to open her campaign office, the questions were about polls that showed her running a distant fourth in her home state, fourth even in the Bay Area, where they knew her best.

  3. NATO tensions ran high on Tuesday as Macron and Trump sparred during a press conference over ISIS, EU-US tariffs, and the alliance as a whole. Macron even tries to mimic Trump’s body language with how aggressively he’s spreading his legs. A group of heads of state – Trudeau, Macron, Boris Johnson – were caught on tape mocking President Trump which prompted him to head home to DC earlier than planned.


"Here Mr. Collins I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearings ... I'm insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don't care about those facts."

– Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan responding to Ranking Member Doug Collins during her testimony before the US Judiciary Committee in Wednesday’s impeachment hearings


American Empire

102Military bases at risk of water shortages.

$105 million – Amount of military aid Trump unfroze for Lebanon this week.

Alabama’s story is America’s story. On December 14, Alabama turns 200 years old. In that time, very few states have had as profound an impact on our country and none swung more above their weight. On Sunday, Montgomery unveiled a new statue of Rosa Parks to commemorate her role in the city’s, and the nation’s, history.

If Philadelphia is the birthplace of America, Alabama is where the nation was reborn.

One square mile in Montgomery tells the story of Alabama, and America itself. Built on the banks of the Alabama River, the capital city was shaped by slavery and later remade through the Civil Rights Movement. The First White House of the Confederacy is steps away from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. From Rosa Parks’ bus stop you can see the Capitol dome, where George Wallace defiantly raised a Confederate flag in the face of Federal pressure to desegregate.

Impeachment proceedings accelerated this week as the Intel committee released its more than 300-page report that concludes “the president abused the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations beneficial to his re-election campaign — and that he obstructed Congress' authority by ordering witnesses to defy subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.” The document will serve as the foundation for any articles of impeachment drafted by Congress.

Today is the start of the House Judiciary Committee’s hearings. They’ll hear from four legal scholars today as it considers whether to approve articles of impeachment against President Trump. The witnesses are Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School.

Read the key parts of the House Intel report below:

  1. Preface

  2. Executive Summary

  3. Key Findings of Fact

  4. Report

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, the development arm of US foreign policy, will use part of its $60 billion fund plans to help developing countries and businesses purchase IT equipment from companies not named Huawei, most notably European giants Ericsson and Nokia. It was revealed this week that the US considered blacklisting Huawei from the US banking system which would have been a “nuclear option” in sanctions against the company.

Trump is waging war on American diplomacy hoping to leave it in a sorry enough state that a liberal successor will have too many pieces to pick up to be effective.

US high schoolers are falling farther and farther behind their global peers.

There is no consensus on why the performance of struggling students is declining. Education experts argue vociferously about a range of potential causes, including school segregation, limited school choice, funding inequities, family poverty, too much focus on test prep and a dearth of instruction in basic skills like phonics.

About a fifth of American 15-year-olds scored so low on the PISA test that it appeared they had not mastered reading skills expected of a 10-year-old, according to Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers the exam.

We’re living through another nuclear arms race. It includes China this time.


China, Europe, Russia, and Everyone Else

126 – The number of African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans granted Ghanian citizenship as part of “The Year of Return.”

“We recognize our unique position as the location for 75% of the slave dungeons built on the west coast of Africa through which the slaves were transported. That is why we had a responsibility to extend the hand of welcome, back home to Africans in the diaspora,” Ghana’s president added in a speech.

China’s Xinjiang dystopia is also collecting a massive database of Uighur DNA. There are using their extensive operation in the region to harness new technology that can generate a person’s face from their DNA alone. The US is also working on this tech.

El Salvador signed billions of dollars worth of infrastructure deals with Beijing.

Iran’s state TV admitted to killing “rioters” for the first time.

Russia and China want us to use their internet: the Authoritarian web.

The Green Deal is the EU’s answer to climate change. It seeks to bring the continent to carbon neutrality by 2050.


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Cities, Climate, Corporations, & Culture

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down as Alphabet’s president and CEO, respectively, and Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai will assume their positions. Pichai will now run Alphabet, as well as Google.