Bernie won, the Troops are not alright, and updates on COVID-19

Third Cultured vol. 50

New Hampshire showed the world why primaries are better than caucuses.

It’s the next day, and we have the results. We even had them last night! It was an efficient demonstration of democracy with a record-breaking turnout but the DNC’s donor base and power players, along with the media, are beside themselves to talk about anything other than the true story of the night:

Bernie Sanders won – again – and he is the national frontrunner. (Graphic: NYT)

However, the only consistent thing about American democracy is when you win the most votes — you come in second. (Graphic: NPR)

In the spirit of feigning objectivity for five minutes, let’s also acknowledge the other stories at play after last night:

I’m going to ignore billionaires squabbling over who’s more racist and pre-last night election news because, well, they’re already irrelevant. 2020 is a trip.

Thanks for reading.


Three Things to Know

  1. One American Thing

    “The US military is not prepared for a Constitutional crisis.”

    – Ken Harbaugh, former U.S. Navy pilot

    This is an understatement. I am terrified of what the military will do if Trump chose to not transfer power. A third of current US troops say they’ve personally witnessed white nationalism/supremacy while in the service. Americans will regret the day they allowed a segment of the country to make up a majority of the armed forces.

  2. One International Thing

    Updates on the Coronavirus: SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

  3. One Cultural Thing

    Watch this video.

"Use the local to surround the center." (以地方包围中央)

A Chinese Communist Party phrase describing tactics that build up support for China at the local and state levels in a foreign country to influence national politics

American Empire

109 cases of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) have been reported among US troops as a result of Iran’s January 8 missile strike on an Iraqi airbase. 76 have returned to duty.

$14 trillion – The amount of US household debt today, a record.

According to US officials, Huawei has been using backdoors in networks it helped build to access information only meant to be accessible to law enforcement. Given the Trump administration’s vendetta against Huawei (however justified), it’s worth taking the severeness of these reports with a grain of salt for now. Unfortunately for DC, Germany chose to not ban Huawei from its 5G network and Canada is still deciding.

Amazon is seeking to depose President Trump and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to determine if they intervened in the Pentagon awarding Microsoft the $10B JEDI cloud-computing contract.

Axios released a special report on the status of America’s relationships with its allies. According to the issue, the “Special Relationship” with the UK of the 20th Century has likely transferred to India, Turkey remains bad, Israel loves us like never before, and Saudi Arabia is petrified of a Democratic win in November.

Crypto AG, a Swiss code-making firm that was secretly owned by the CIA, sold rigged encryption devices for decades built to allow the CIA to easily break the codes countries used to send confidential messages. Its clients included Iran, military juntas in Latin America, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, US allies, and even the Vatican.

Four career federal prosecutors quit Roger Stone’s case over AG William Barr and other top DOJ officials’ continued interference in politically sensitive investigations.

NASA got a 12 percent funding boost in Trump’s FY2021 budget proposal and $15.4 billion for the Space Force.

NATO met this week to discuss a greater effort in the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf, as the US looks to its allies to help more against ISIS.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced President Trump’s Middle East plan at the UN as a one-sided proposal that rewards Israel’s occupation. In response, Trump blocked UNSC resolution and threatened to withhold foreign aid.

Spheres of Influence are back, and there’s nothing the US can do about it.

The U.S. alliance system should be subjected to a zero-based analysis: every current ally and partner, from Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand to Latvia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, should be considered in terms of what it is doing to enhance U.S. security and well-being, and with what risks and costs.

The FBI created a special task force for monitoring China’s efforts to influence politics at the state and local level in the US.

The FTC is stepping up its anti-trust efforts against the Big Five – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft – by ordering them to disclose information about all of their acquisitions.

The Philippines formally announced it’s ending the US’ Visiting Forces Agreement, which allowed the US to rotate its forces through Philippine military bases and facilitated about 300 joint exercises annually between US and Philippine troops.

US Navy requested $19.9 billion for shipbuilding in FY2021, down from $24 billion last year, alongside a 21 percent reduction in foreign aid. The budget pays for eight new ships, down from 12 in FY2020. All this goes along with Trump’s contradictory leadership style as his goal is to have 355 ships by 2030. Also, in response to China’s navy buildup, the US began stockpiling “ship-killing missiles.”

China, Europe, Russia, and Everyone Else

130,000 – Hectares of coca fields Colombia aims to destroy in 2020.

100 million – Egypt’s new population total, the highest in the Arab world. The country is currently adding one million people every six months.

Armed police in El Salvador stormed parliament to force the body to pass legislation that would better equip them.

China is detaining Hui Muslims alongside Uighurs in its Xinjiang camps.

Hezbollah immediately filled the power vacuum left by Soleimani’s assassination.

Indian PM Narendra Modi’s party lost an election in Delhi’s Legislative Assembly.

Iran again failed to launch a domestic satellite into orbit.

Russia’s National Wealth Fund will buy its central bank’s $39 billion stake in Sberbank, the nation’s top lender, in order to finance Putin’s “National Projects” social spending program.

Sudan agreed to hand over to the International Criminal Court former president Omar al-Bashir and others charged with war crimes in Darfur.

Taiwan’s air force intercepted Chinese warplanes in the island’s airspace for the second time in two days.

Turkish-backed rebels killed 51 Syrian soldiers in the Idlib province after negotiations between Russia and Turkey broke down in Ankara, discussing several Syrian assaults in the past week that have killed 13 Turkish soldiers. This is the most serious confrontation between Syria and Turkey since the civil war started in 2012.

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Cities, Climate, Culture & Corporations

20 percent of the Amazon rainforest emits more CO2 than it absorbs. 

An Airbnb scam is ravaging London.

Football clubs are just like us: the rich are getting richer and the rest can’t keep up.

Juul targeted kids with ads on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

Prague plans to poke the bear by renaming a square in front of the Russian embassy after Putin-critic Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered by the Kremlin.

Sprint and T-Mobile’s $26 billion merger was approved by federal courts.

The Golden Age of Television is overwhelming viewers with too many choices.