Taliban 7-day truce begins, Turkey and Syria trade blows, and COVID-19 deaths reach 2,250
Third Cultured vol 52
|Kyle Borland||Feb 22|
No commentary today because I’m getting ready for some friends and family visiting this weekend. I hope y’all have a relaxing weekend after this hectic week.
Thanks for reading!
PS – Some weekend reads for y’all.
Reading Colonialism in "Parasite" (Tropics of Meta)
Romosexuality – embracing queer sex and love in Ancient times (The Conversation)
The messy, secretive reality behind OpenAI’s bid to save the world (MIT Tech Review)
Three Things to Know
One American Thing
Today starts the seven-day “reduction of violence” agreed to by the US and the Taliban. On February 29, if the agreement is held, both parties with formally sign the agreement which will initiate the intra-Afghanistan peace talks. It is unknown how any of this will go but the Taliban previously refused to meet with Afghani President Ashraf Ghani, who was declared the winner of the presidential election after five months of confusion. To make matters worse, his opponent is forming his own government.
One International Thing
Syria continues to see the fallout from Trump’s partial withdrawal of US troops, as Ankara and Damascus (with an assist from Russian airpower) escalate the fighting after talks between Erdogan and Putin fell through earlier this week. Ironically, Turkey is now calling on its Western allies to assist with “concrete support” in Idlib, including a specific request for a US Patriot missile system battery. More than 300 people have been killed, most of them civilians, since the start of 2020 and one million have been displaced, fleeing to Turkey (which already hosts more than three million refugees). France and Germany called Moscow to offer to mediate a political solution between Turkey and Russia/Syria.
One Cultural Thing
Coronavirus COVID-19 Updates (Graphic: Axios)
The total death toll is now 2,250 with 76,798 confirmed cases worldwide.
Chinese public health officials again changed the criteria for counting COVID-19 cases, the second time in 24 hours and the third in eight days.
South Korea’s cases soared and the nation had its second death.
The quarantine around the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, the largest outbreak site outside China, has lifted for all those who have tested negative. However, passengers have flown home to their home countries only to test positive, with 28 infected cruise passengers in the US alone.
Apple to miss Q1 revenue projections because of the outbreak.
Only 1 in 4 voters are firm on their choice going into Super Tuesday.
Biden voiced caution in military affairs as Obama’s VP, including advising Obama not to raid Osama bin Laden, opposing the Libyan war, and recommending the president not voice a “red line” in Syria’s chemical weapons.
Bloomberg’s campaign is sucking up all the campaign talent, leaving local and state-level Democratic candidates to fend for themselves.
Buttigieg sees himself as America’s Macron. (I wouldn’t brag about that…)
Brace yourself for Nevada’s caucuses to be a repeat of Iowa. #BanCaucuses
Warren eviscerated Mayor Bloomberg on national TV. Then, she followed up by drafting a form for the Mayor to sign that would release those held by his NDAs. In response, Bloomberg has agreed to release three women from their NDAs.
$715 million in arms earmarked for Syrian forces fighting ISIS are unaccounted for.
Homeland Security waived procurement regulation laws to expedite the border wall.
John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, resigned at Trump’s request for his role in warning against the withholding of military aid.
NASA may have to push the US to return to the moon to 2028 if current plans stand.
Richard Grenell, the current US ambassador to Germany, was installed as Acting Director of National Intelligence by the president. The DNI oversees all 17 of the US intelligence agencies and, as a staunch Trumpian, Grenell will work to make sure the cogs in the machine can’t work against the president. Worth noting, he will be the first openly gay cabinet secretary (though he won’t be confirmed by the Senate since he’s only the “acting” DNI and not the president’s official appointment). The timing couldn’t be better (or worse) for the president as lawmakers were warned by the intelligence community that Russia has already begun to intervene in the 2020 election in order to re-elect Donald Trump.
Roger Stone, President Trump’s former advisor, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. For his handling of the Stone case, more than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials have called for AG William Barr to resign.
“Racism is poison, hatred is poison and this poison exists in society and it is to blame for too many crimes.”
— German Chancellor Angela Merkel after right-wing shooting in Hanau
China, Europe, Russia, and Everyone Else
10 people were killed in Hanau, Germany by a right-wing extremist. The attack began at a shisha bar, before moving to a second bar and a kiosk in another area of the city. Several leading German politicians have called for the far-right party Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) to be put under surveillance for fueling racist acts and rhetoric.
200-year old Ethiopian crown returned after 21 years in a Dutch home.
9,000 – Number of people disqualified in the Iranian elections, the most ever.
Bolivia has the largest lithium deposits in the world, but it’s undetermined if they’ll be able to develop the infrastructure necessary to profit from the resource at the center of the Green Revolution.
Russia’s Rosneft was sanctioned by the US for assisting Venezuela in exporting oil.
Ukraine is likely to block a Chinese acquisition of Motor Sich, an advanced military aircraft engine manufacturer, at Trump’s behest, so a US company can buy instead.
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Cities, Climate, Culture & Corporations
Boy Scouts filed bankruptcy after it was revealed the organization had lied about a century’s worth of documentation regarding more than 12,000 victims of sexual abuse.
California to formally apologize for Japanese internments in WWII.
George Soros called on Facebook to remove Mark Zuckerburg and Sheryl Sandberg from their positions as CEO and COO, respectively.
It’s time to tell the truth about Julius Caesar.
Jeff Bezos opened a $10 billion green bank masquerading at climate philanthropy.