America's Blue Dot Network, a public inquiry, and the US went to the polls

Third Cultured vol. 31

It’s only a matter of time, now that Giuliani’s friends are cracking.

Since it’s later in the day – Hump Day got away from me! – I don’t have a lot of comments today.

Until Friday,


One fun thing: Space launches are coming back stateside!

Three Things to Know

  1. An American led, “Blue Dot Network”, a certification scheme that will set international standards for infrastructure projects, was announced on Monday in response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The network will “vet and certify projects to promote market-driven, transparent, and financially sustainable infrastructure development in Asia and around the world.” The project will be led by the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), in co-operation with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Although we’ve been waiting for Washington’s response to BRI for 5 years now, this initiative still doesn’t go far enough to provide a meaningful alternative. Beijing is putting up BIG BUCKS all over the world and the US’ hope is that the Blue Dot Network will “spur private investment” but doesn’t provide any grants or loans itself. Without financial resources, this is nothing but a PR campaign.

  2. House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced his committee will hold its first public impeachment hearings next week. The move from closed-door to public hearings is a big step in the impeachment inquiry, signifying how fast the investigation is moving within Congress. Democrats got a huge win when Gordon Sondland, the former US ambassador to the EU, reversed his previous testimony this week, confirming that he articulated a quid pro quo to a top Ukrainian official.

  3. The US went to the polls yesterday with a mixed bag of results for both parties. The GOP took every statewide race in Kentucky, except for Governor, including the election of the first Black attorney general in state history, and knocked out the sitting Democratic governor of Mississippi.

    The Democrats had big wins in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race and Virginia. In the latter, they achieved a trifecta – winning majorities in both state houses and the governor’s mansion – that set the Commonwealth up to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Several states have ratified the ERA in recent years, including Nevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018, despite an expired decades-old deadline. If Virginia follows through as expected, the ERA would have the needed 38 states to become an amendment to the Constitution. However, it is unclear how the deadline (which has been extended several times) will factor, especially since five states would like to un-ratify (if that’s even possible). With the ERA now de facto in play for 2020, it is that much more important for Democrats to take both chambers of Congress and the White House. The GOP has blocked the ERA at every opportunity for almost a century, the suffragist Alice Paul wrote the amendment in 1923, and it’s past time to add women to the US Constitution.

    Here in San Francisco, we’re holding our breaths to find out who will win between the police/real estate-friendly Moderate/Neoliberal candidates vs the DSA/Progressive candidates in our District Attorney and D5 Supervisor races. We like to fight little party proxy wars here in the City for some reason. TBD!

    Bonus? No state elections were compromised by a foreign power!

“I believe that calls into question America’s role in the world. It also makes allies question whether we will turn on them at the drop of a hat if we think it’s advantageous for us to do so, and I think that’s very dangerous.”

Guy Snodgrass, General Mattis’ former speechwriter

American Empire

0 – the number of refugees resettled in the US in October. The lowest ever.

2020 Election:

Erdogan of Turkey confirmed his state visit to Washington in spite of the U.S. House resolution instituting sanctions on Ankara and recognizing the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottomans. In addition to Kurdish/Syrian related tensions, Turkey is not pleased the US has been so active in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey disagrees with how the Eastern Med has been carved up and ignores EU sanctions to continue illegal drilling in Cypriot waters, with minimal pushback from the US. However, the US goes wherever the money for its companies flows such as the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum that includes Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians.

India violated trade rules by giving out $7 billion in annual export subsidies to Indian companies, and the WTO said that New Delhi must cease such payments within six months or face U.S. tariffs.

Iran launched advanced centrifuges to accelerate uranium enrichment, furthering itself from compliance with the JCPOA (the Iran Deal). The updated technology can enrich uranium 10x faster than it previously could, shortening Tehran’s “breakout time” – the time needed to develop a nuclear bomb – from a year to four months. In response, the US sanctioned nine people with ties to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including his chief of staff, one of his sons and the head of Iran’s judiciary, saying they helped Khamenei “implement his destabilizing policies.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has risen higher and faster than anyone else near Donald Trump. Through a combination of brown-nosing and a lack of a spine, Pompeo positioned himself as indispensable. Now, in the thick of the impeachment inquiry, Pompeo is finding loyalty to a mad man comes with a price that he can’t account for just yet, while his State Department goes into full revolt.

The Paris Agreement is the second global climate pact that the U.S. joined under a Democrat and abandoned under a Republican: George W. Bush withdrew the country from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Why should anyone trust the word of any American administration? Is this "leadership”?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is mediating a discussion about Ethiopia’s giant hydropower dam project on the Nile River between the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, as well as the president of the World Bank Group, David Malpass. Egypt has sought outside mediation (aka help from the US, China or Russia) for years while Ethiopia believes the issue should be handled between the three nations. However, all three nations accepted the US’ invitation to DC for talks.

China’s Belt and Road

Beijing is demanding more tariffs be rolled back for a “phase one” deal can be signed. The deal is already expected to include the scrapping of the $156 billion tariffs set to go into effect on December 15, but Chinese negotiators want DC to abandon its 15 percent tariffs on $125 billion of goods from September 1 and even its 25 percent tariffs on semiconductors to furniture from earlier than that.

Want to know what they’re willing to give to the US? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Luckily or not, it looks like Trump and Xi aren’t able to close a deal.

China wants to establish an Earth-moon space economic zone by 2050 that will generate $10 trillion/year. Ignoring that this would be a doubling of the country’s current GDP, the timeline promises to achieve the necessary technological breakthroughs by 2030, to develop the transportation system by 2040, and to begin operation of the Earth-moon space zone by 2050.

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European Erraticism

France to begin setting migrant quotas to fill hiring gaps in key industries, departing from the EU standard which requires companies to justify why a French citizen cannot be hired in a complex administrative process.

Germany proposed a new law banning conversion therapy in response to a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ violence.

The Spanish Royal Family saw massive protests at an event they attended in Barcelona with demonstrators chanting, “Catalonia has no king!” The protests ignited in mid-October when the Spanish Supreme Court’s sentenced nine separatist leaders to prison terms of up to 13 years for their role in 2017’s independence bid. Protesters view the royal visit as a provocation, “We have political prisoners in jail. We cannot accept it. We have become republican because Madrid treats us like a colony.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of covering up Russia’s role in election interference after No 10 refused to publish a damning report.

“But tolerance, sometimes, doesn't mean that we have to accept or introduce what we wouldn't like to our national pattern."

Piotr Naimski, a Polish Energy Minister and senior Law and Justice Party official

(Lol, sure, Poland…go with that.)

Russian Revisionism

Moscow is bringing its special cocktail of interventionism to Libya.

Putin really wants the US to leave the Open Skies Treaty. It would kneecap Ukraine.

Russia wants to create a “more reliable” Russian-version of Wikipedia. (Aka lies.)

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Rising Regions

Bolivia’s president is resisting calls to step down, even as the national uprising grows from his lack of response.

Guatemala declared it would end diplomatic relations with Maduro’s Venezuela, following a similar move by El Salvador earlier this week.

Following the Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, demonstrators took to the streets in Mexico City to call for an end to violence against women. The protest was called, “Dia de Muertas" or "Day of the Dead Women.”

  • Nine US citizens were killed in Mexico between Bavispe in Sonora state and the neighboring state of Chihuahua. The Americans were members of a breakaway Mormon community known as Colonia LeBaron, which separated from the main branch of LDS as it moved away from polygamy. Members of the group are known for confronting local drug gangs and are vocal about the high levels of cartel violence in northern Mexico.

For the first time, Israel’s Arab minority may see formal power in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. After Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party is now in talks with the Joint Arab List – an alliance of four Arab parties – to solidify a coalition government. 76 percent of Arab citizens are in favor of joining a Blue and White government. It is unclear if Gantz is genuine in his outreach or if it’s political theatre to force more conservative parties into a negotiating position. For the future of all Israelis, let’s hope the Joint List wins out.

Pakistan’s protests have reached the capital with tens of thousands of people shutting down activity in Islamabad. Demonstrators threaten to spread unrest throughout the whole country if the prime minister does not step down, which is unlikely to happen unless the military decides to stop backing PM Imran Khan.

Pirates are alive and well. (A Chinese or Russian led world would be a boon to pirates.)

Senegal is receiving US aid to help secure its borders as sectarian extremists.

UAE-backed South Yemeni separatists signed an agreement with the Saudi-backed government to end a power struggle that fractured the anti-Houthi coalition in the four-year-old war.

Non-State Factors | Cities, Climate, Corps & Culture

11,000 scientists warned of ‘untold suffering’ if we don’t take more drastic measures to address the climate crisis.

Berlin is banning street performers from posing as US soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie, the famous border post during the Cold War.

“Cali Sober” is the trend of forgoing alcohol for cannabis. I highly recommend it.

Cities are the answer to rising populism.

Nigeria’s, “Lionheart” was disqualified from the Oscars’ International Film category because too much of the dialogue is in English, even though one of Nigeria’s official languages is…English.

Tech Megacorps made some moves earlier this week: