$4.8 trillion, 910 deaths, and "Parasite"

Third Cultured vol. 49

Last week was the best moment of Donald Trump’s presidency so far.

He was acquitted on both Articles of Impeachment, the Democrats historically fumbled Iowa (and impeachment), he got to brag at the State of the Union, his campaign has more than $200 million in cash, and Gallup showed his approval rating at its highest ever (49%).

But, you wouldn’t know it from how the president is acting.

We’ve always known he wasn’t presidential but, after last week, the Democratic establishment is freaking out that he’ll actually be re-elected. I don’t know what world these “experts” live in but that has been the likely outcome since November 2016.

Seems Democrats are miscalculating from the jump (again).

It’s a long one, so be sure to open in your browser. Thanks for reading.


PS – Some must-reads:

Three Things to Know

  1. One American Thing

    White House proposed a $4.8 trillion budget for 2021, which includes a $705.4 billion budget request for the Pentagon. It calls for increasing AI R&D funding from $973 million to nearly $2 billion by 2022 and quantum information sciences spending to $860 million within two years. The National Science Foundation will also see its budget for AI-related grants and interdisciplinary research institutes rise to more than $850 million.

    Massive cuts to food stamp benefits, Medicaid, and other safety-net programs account for half of the plan’s goal to cut $4.4 trillion from the deficit by 2030.

  2. One International Thing

    2019-nCoV (The Wuhan Coronavirus)

  3. One Cultural Thing

    South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho won Best Director, Best Picture, Best International Film, and Best Original Screenplay for his movie, “Parasite.” It was the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. (Side note: His translator is amazing!)

    Truth be told, the South Korea/US relationship badly needed this soft power boost and it’d be hard to convince me that didn’t play a role in the historic night.

“The whole country has responded…starting a people’s war for epidemic prevention and control.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping on coronavirus

American Empire

36 percent of US troops have seen evidence of white supremacist ideologies in the military, according to a 2019 poll. Only 22 percent said the same in the 2018 poll.

2020 Election

At least 138 people deported from the US to El Salvador were murdered.

Attorney General William Barr proposed an American takeover of Nokia and/or Ericsson to help close the 5G gap between Beijing and Washington.

DHS suspended Global Entry for New York residents in retaliation for sanctuary law.

Homelessness rose in the US for the third year in a row, driven by CA and rural areas.

Justice Department announced that it indicted four members of China's military for their role in 2017’s Equifax data breach that affected more than 147 million Americans.

NATO allies are reconsidering a presence in Afghanistan amid US drawdown. Plus, this weekend, two US troops were killed and six were wounded in an insider attack.

Returning to the moon by 2024 is a pipe dream, so says a former ISS commander.

The Navy awarded $178 million to Booz Allen Hamilton to modernize GPS.

The US arranged a trilateral meeting with Israel and the UAE on Iran. The White House is pushing for nonaggression pacts between Israel, UAE, and other Gulf states.

Turkish-US drone program halted indefinitely after Turkey’s 2019 Syrian incursion.

Virginia is making Election Day a state holiday by eliminating a state holiday honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

China, Europe, Russia, and Everyone Else

28 – Number of years since Australia had a recession but bushfires may slow economy.

29 – Number of people killed in a mass shooting at a mall and military base in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Thailand.

AKK – Angela Merkel’s chosen successor – resigned amid electoral defeat.

Belarus announced it will buy Russian oil, without subsidies, at global market prices.

Canada filed a $1.5 billion lawsuit against Iran for killing 57 Canadians last month.

Cyprus is at a crossroads: re-unification or de facto Turkish rule forever.

Egypt is about to lose control of the Nile for the first time in thousands of years. It and Ethiopia may go to war over a $4.5b dam if the White House can’t mediate a deal.

Estonia knows how to pushback against Russian interference better than anyone else.

France approved of the EU’s proposed ascension amendments, which would make it easier for the Balkan nations to join the union after Paris blocked them in 2019.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a $428 billion budget for 2020-21 but few are optimistic it will turn the weakening economy around.

Irish politics got more interesting on Sunday as the left-wing nationalist Sinn Fein party won 25 percent of the vote, with the two centrist parties finishing with just 22 percent each. However, the center-right Fine Gael party refused to coalition with Sinn Fein even before ballots were cast due to its association with the Irish Republican Army. Fine Gael and its centrist rival party Fianna Fail have ruled Ireland since its independence a century ago but the results broke that two-party stranglehold.

Lebanon approved a financial rescue plan, including interest rate cuts.

Netanyahu’s Likud party leaked Israel’s entire voter registry because of an app…

Nigeria, once a favorite, has fallen out of favor with DC over disorganization. For example, the election body de-registered 75 political parties, leaving only 18.

Turkey announced $36 million in military aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

UN Security Council meeting called to discuss the crisis in Syria’s Idlib region. The regime’s assault reclaimed 600 square kilometers of the province on Sunday alone. Turkey’s President Ergodan demanded Damascus cease its assault in Idlib – Turkey already hosts 3.6 million refugees and cannot handle more – or face “Turkish action.”

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Cities, Climate, Culture & Corporations

113 – Amount of Chinese cities with more than 1 million people.

A time-lapse of global urban sprawl.

Big Tech is starting to pay for the negative effects it has on the cities around them.

Bill and Melinda Gates published their annual letter, which announced the foundation spent $53.8 billion over the past 20 years.

Boeing posted its first annual loss in more than two decades. 737 MAX lost $19B. To make matters worse, another Boeing plane broke in Istanbul, killing three.

California pardoned civil rights icon, Bayard Rustin, for his 1953 gay sex conviction.

In Syria, Russia is also focused on restoring Palmyra.

Law enforcement (DHS, ICE, etc.) buys phone location data from Big Tech.

Swiss voters – 63.1 percent – expanded anti-discrimination laws to include LGB folks.

Tesla is now the world’s second most valuable automaker, worth twice as much as Ford and GM combined even though it produces 3 percent of the cars.

The Sierra Club hates affordable housing. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true!

What would Thomas Jefferson say while watching a performance of Hamilton?

Yes, Apple slows down our iPhones.