Leaks from China and Iran, and post-9/11 conflicts cost $5.4T

Third Culture vol 36

No commentary today. I was in the final round of a SIX-ROUND interview process and was informed Sunday morning that I was not selected for the position, so I’m a bit bummed out.

Luckily, I have some other interviews lined up this week. Here’s hoping!

Until Wednesday,


Three Things to Know

  1. About 400 pages of leaked Chinese government documents detail Beijing’s policy’s on its Uyghurs population in Xinjiang, including quarantines for Uygur students returning from the Middle East to prevent the spread of radical Islamic ideas and a scoring system used by Chinese officials to determine whether an Uyghur can be released from a reeducation camp or not. Leaked conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping quoted him endorsing “absolutely no mercy” in unleashing the tools of dictatorship on Xinjiang following 2014 terror attacks by Uyghur extremists.

  2. The Intercept and the New York Times released “The Iran Cables,” a trove of 700+ pages of leaked Iranian intelligence reports that detail the extensive operations Tehran undertook to cement influence within Iraq. For instance, Iran’s Quds Force and the Muslim Brotherhood considered an alliance to act against Saudi Arabia and to help stabilize sectarian divisions in Iraq.

  3. Iowa’s caucuses will likely come down to a brawl between Bernie and Mayor Pete, but Biden still with a substantial lead in superdelegates (aka the DNC’s perpetual thumb on the scale).

    Fun news? Trump can’t even win in Louisiana. As always, the path to success for Democrats is not appealing to conservative – it’s driving turnout of their base.

    When Democrats vote, Republicans can’t compete. That’s why they’re anxious.

“Nearly 600 million new jobs will have to be created over the next decade to meet the needs of a growing labor force.”

– Center for Strategic and International Studies

American Empire

ASEAN nations are unlikely to join “Blue Dot Network” without financial backing.

As of this quarter, the U.S. is now a confirmed net exporter of crude oil and liquid petroleum products (gasoline, diesel and more) combined. In an ideal world, this newfound energy independence would help us to fund a pivot to sustainable resources. Production growth is slowing however and I fear America may have overestimated its medium-to-long-term energy production capacity.

Brown University estimates that the federal government has spent $5.4 trillion on post-9/11 conflicts, and at least another $1 trillion in obligations will come due over the next several decades for veteran care.

Japan and Korea rebuff the US attempts to re-engage intelligence sharing between the two democratic nations after historical tensions flared this year. However, the private sectors of both countries just made their biggest cooperative move in decades. Softbank plans to merge internet subsidiary Yahoo Japan with Korea’s messaging app operator Line Corp to create a $30 billion tech group.

President Maduro of Venezuela praised dollarization even with his hesitations about Washington, calling it an “escape valve” for the ailing (sanctioned) economy.

Tokyo was also pressed by Trump to pay more for the US military’s presence, increasing yearly payments by 300 percent, from $2 billion to $8 billion. A reminder that last week, the US asked Seoul for a 400 percent increase, from $1 billion to $5 billion. US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said, “South Korea is a wealthy country and could and should pay more to help offset the cost of defense.”

  • While Trump puts pressure on our allies, the administration is showing “gestures of goodwill” to North Korea by postponing the military exercises the Hermit Kingdom launched missiles to protest. Japan is worried about the US’ attempts to reign in an irrational actor like North Korea. With the increasing nuclear threat and an untrustworthy Washington, the tension won’t simmer from northeast Asia for some time.

Trump blames Pompeo for hiring the State officials testifying against him. The president doesn’t believe the Secretary of State applied enough pressure to successfully block their public testimonies in the House impeachment inquiry. Pompeo, who so recently saw himself as the president’s favorite, now finds himself between leading 75,000 people who despise him and a boss who thinks he’s worthless.

  • West Point’s Class of 1986 is one of its most influential ever with Secretary of Stae Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, senior state department officials Ulrich Brechbuhl and Brian Bulatao, and US Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, all among the graduating class that year. The only class that surpasses them in influence is the famed class of 1915 which graduated a US president and the commanders of World War II. The puppetmaster putting them all into place? That would be their other 1986 classmate, David Urban, a noted lobbyist, and Trump confidante. (Yeah, the bald guy from CNN.)

    The group refers to themselves as “The West Point Mafia.”

Unions are starting to make their endorsements for the 2020 election:

"I confess that when I hear some speeches by someone responsible for public order or a government, I am reminded of Hitler's speeches in 1934 and 1936. They are typical actions of Nazism which with its persecutions of Jews, gypsies, people of homosexual orientation, represent a negative model 'par excellence' of a throwaway culture and a culture of hate.”

— Pope Francis warning members of the International Association of Penal Law that government leaders targeting LGBTQ people remind him of the Nazis.

China, Europe, Russia, and Everyone Else

Hong Kong’s protests reached a fever pitch as riot police breached barricades around Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s campus. This past weekend saw a multi-day standoff with the police firing tear gas and water cannons into the campus while sealing exits and arresting any students that tried to escape. Non-student protesters surrounded the campus demanding the police “end the siege.”

Budding partners in other areas, China and Russia struggle over Central Asia. The region historically is Russia’s sphere of influence but, as Beijing spreads its economic tentacles across Eurasia, Central Asia’s natural resources are key to long-term success.

Chileans will vote on a new constitution in April 2020.

Gaza violated the ceasefire on Saturday, so tit-for-tat missile exchanges are back.

  • The US announced on Monday that it would no longer consider Israeli developments in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as "inconsistent with international law.”

Iran is the latest country to be rocked by nationwide protests after the government instituted a 50 percent hike in fuel prices to offset the ailing (sanctioned) economy. At least 12 people are dead from confrontations with police and Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said that law enforcement will soon have “no choice” but to take direct action if the uprising does not subside. Tehran cut nationwide internet access on Sunday night after the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed the government’s plans and referred to the demonstrators as “thugs.”

Modi is funneling corporate money into Indian politics and, in addition to obvious corruption, the method risks destabilizing the nation’s currency.

With Chinese investment, Greece’s Piraeus harbor – Athens famed port and the seventh-largest in Europe – hopes to become the EU’s largest sooner rather than later.

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Cities, Climate, Corporations, & Culture

An Alabama printshop refused to print an LGBTQ+ inclusive magazine because of the company’s Christian beliefs. However, “Due South” had been printed there since 2012 until this most recent edition.

Newsday published a three-year investigation into on-going racist treatment by Long Island real estate agents. 5,763 listings were analyzed, 240 hours secretly recorded, 93 real estate agents tested, and the results showed discrimination 19% of the time against Asians, 39% against Latinos, and 49% against Black people.