Congress got busy, Turkey wants $26B, and there's a new Jubilee

Third Cultured vol 42

I hope y’all are enjoying a wonderful holiday.

My partner is off from work until next Thursday, so we’re enjoying a relaxing staycation. This is the first time we haven’t been home for the holidays, which may explain why I got bit by the Christmas decorating bug.

Next week, expect a 2019 roundup/2020 forecast on Monday and the first 2020 edition of Third Cultured on Friday. I’ll be taking Wednesday and Thursday to nurse my wounds from a friend’s New Year’s Eve party. It’s, suitably, Gatsby themed.

Send me strength. I don’t recover like I used to.

Have a great weekend!


Three Things to Know

  1. One American Thing

    Even with impeachment, Congress was busy as the year came to a close!

  2. One International Thing

    Turkey moves to cleanse its border of the Kurds with a $26 billion resettlement.

    The document resembles a real estate prospectus for a large residential development project, promising new residents access to schools, hospitals, mosques, and sporting arenas, with some getting an acre of agricultural land.

    “I’m not sure in recent history I have ever seen a plan of the ambition of the one that the president of Turkey has put on the table,” said Hardin Lang, a former U.N. peacekeeping official who serves as vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International, and who has been briefed on the plan. “They seem to be engaged in an attempt to ethnically reengineer this sliver of territory along the border in northeast Syria.”

    Turkey is hoping to secure financial and political support for its settlement project from the United Nations and key European governments. Erdogan has warned European powers that he will “open the doors” for refugees seeking to cross Turkey’s borders and enter Europe.

  3. One Cultural Thing

    A socialist church is taking a radical approach to faith, grace, and debt.

    They were essentially in beta testing for the church to come. They figured out the hierarchy of the leadership: There would be none. The three co-pastors would rotate preaching, and if they disagreed about something, it would be referred to the advisory council, made up of a mix of longtime and new members. Working with LGBTQ and nonbinary members, they put together a statement proclaiming the church’s identity as open and affirming, and placed it in the entryway — in a spot where, if someone was peering in the window, it would be the first thing they’d see.

    And they decided on the name, Jubilee — for the year in the biblical tradition when, as the pastors put it on their new website, “God commands freedom for captives, citizenship for immigrants, the return of stolen land, and the cancellation of all debt.” Society was restructured and reformed, and true justice was done. “Today, when a lot of us find ourselves in the lonely wilderness of debt, exclusion, and subjection to power that grind our lives down, we think God calls the church to love as if a world like the Jubilee is possible.”

To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve.

Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency.

Christianity Today, a leading Evangelical magazine founded by Billy Graham,  called for President Trump to be removed from office.

American Empire

20 – Number of US service members killed in Afghanistan this year.

The soldier’s death is a grim reminder that more Americans have died fighting the Taliban and other insurgent groups in 2019 than in any other year since 2014, when the Pentagon euphemistically announced the “end of combat operations” in the country. Thirteen troops were killed in 2018, and 11 in 2017.

3,221 – The S&P 500’s peak last week, the highest it’s ever been in 90 years.

Alabama sheriffs are forcing inmates into medical debt while behind bars.

Boeing (finally) axed its CEO but saw some progress with its space program.

Cyber Command said it will retaliate with “information warfare” against Russia if it performs election interference or attempts to sow discord.

Election 2020

  • Bloomberg’s campaign used prison labor to make campaign calls in California.

  • Centrist bias – yes, it’s a thing – is hurting progressives like Sanders and Warren.

    Centrist bias, as I see it, confuses the idea of centrism (which is very much an ideology) with objectivity and fairness. It’s an understandable confusion, because American politics is dominated by the two major parties, one on the left and one on the right. And the overwhelming majority of journalists at so-called mainstream outlets — national magazines, newspapers, public radio, the non-Fox television networks — really are doing their best to treat both parties fairly.

    In doing so, however, they often make an honest mistake: They equate balance with the midpoint between the two parties’ ideologies. Over the years, many press critics have pointed out one weakness of this approach: false equivalence, the refusal to consider the possibility that one side of an argument is simply (or mostly) right.

    But that’s not the only problem. There’s also the possibility that both political parties have been wrong about something and that the solution, rather than being roughly halfway between their answers, is different from what either has been proposing.

    This seemingly radical possibility turns out to be quite common, as the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. — author of the classic book, “The Vital Center,” no less — pointed out. The abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, labor rights, the New Deal, civil rights for black Americans, Reagan’s laissez-faire revolution and same-sex marriage all started outside the boundaries of what either party favored. “The most consequential history,” Harris wrote, “is usually not driven by the center.”

  • Senator Warren is torn between whether or not to vote for USMCA.

  • The women running for president asked for forgiveness while the men pitched their own books. Granted, the question was stupid but I question the men’s strategic thinking when choosing to give a gift. In that situation, always go for humility. It’s a trick question and they all fell for it.

Healthcare: Trump moves to allow imports of Canadian drugs for the first time. Notably, the rule change won’t cover the most expensive drugs, such as Insulin.

If the draft rule is adopted, it likely will be years before states can actually implement importation plans. HHS and FDA will accept initial public comment on the proposals for 75 days and a final rule could be years away. States then will have to draft their own plans to comply with the federal rule. Imported drugs will need to bear new FDA-approved labels and undergo safety testing. The requirements could prove prohibitive for potential importers.

“This is not easy stuff,” DeSantis told reporters Wednesday. “This is one step in a long process,” and not “a silver bullet” for lowering drug costs.

Holiday sales figures show a healthy US economy, but not the “biggest number ever.”

Navy SEALs speak out against Trump’s pardon of “a serial killer.”

Obamacare’s Individual Mandate was ruled unconstitutional, but the legality of the whole law was punted back to a lower court to decide.

US Ambassador to Zambia has been recalled after speaking out for LGBTQ+ rights.

USDA tariff tracker removed Wakanda from a list of free trade partners.

US troops leaving Afghanistan likely to pivot into the Indo-Pacific to counter China.

Your phone is tracking you. We all knew, but the true extent will shock you.

“Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.”

Baba Ram Dass, proponent of LSD turned New Age guru, died at 88

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China, Europe, Russia, and Everyone Else

Beijing will lower tariffs on 859 products on January 1 to boost domestic consumers.

Cuba appointed its first Prime Minister since 1976, Manuel Marrero Cruz.

Delhi inflamed the protests over India’s anti-Muslim citizenship law by turning off the internet, its preferred tactic for dealing with unrest of any kind.

Iran’s Supreme Leader ordered the nation’s unrest quelled, “Do whatever it takes.”

Japan to deploy ships to protect oil shipments from the Persian Gulf.

Macron waived his presidential pension in an attempt to quell protests.

Netanyahu cruises to an easy win in Likud party primary.

Pakistan accused India of placing missiles in Kashmir with the intent of attacking in order to divert the world’s attention away from its anti-Muslim actions.

Putin hinted at holding power past 2024 and mocked Democrats for impeachment.

Scotland demands a post-Brexit independence referendum from London. The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative party have said several times that they would not entertain the notion (and they have the votes to block it). However, Scotland’s government secured its own mandate and won’t take no for an answer.

Spain is reducing its reliance on Huawei while it builds out its 5G network.

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Cities, Climate, Culture & Corporations

Allee Willish, writer of the “Friends” song and “September,” passed away.

Black Girls Code started as a basement project and is now a global movement.

Check out how Taylor Swift writes a love song.

Chinese restaurants are closing all over the country, and it’s a dream come true.

Disney changed (and now owns) cinema…now what?

Do you remember the Folgers’ incest ad? Here’s how it happened.

Los Angeles County is eight percent Black, but 42 percent of its homeless population.

report on black homelessness published a year ago by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found racism to be the root cause, saying that black Angelenos continue to face discrimination in many areas. Over the past 50 years, for example, black homeownership in L.A. County has declined to 36 percent from 44 percent.

Mr. Lynn, the homelessness agency director, pointed to the criminal justice system, saying, “There is probably no more single significant factor than incarceration in terms of elevating somebody’s prospects of homelessness.”

The black overrepresentation in homelessness roughly tracks the same dynamic in California’s prisons: Black people make up about 6 percent of the state's population but about 30 percent of those in prison.

Queer rights saw early momentum in corporate America.

The next trillion-dollar industry? Outer space.

The long tradition of African-American quilting.

As a historical textile art form, quilting is indelibly linked to the past. Under slavery, Black quiltmakers were obliged to encrypt messages in their quilts. They communicated with one another using signs and symbols both ordinary and supernatural. Now, Black quilters have the freedom to use their art to be boldly political. The 2019 Atlanta Quilt Festival featured quilts inspired by the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and video footage of Black victims shot by police.

Uber banned in Germany.