Trump charges Korea $4.7B, Graham still spineless, and US chickens run free

Third Cultured vol 35

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch ‘s testimony was much more engaging – in large part thanks to Trump’s live-tweeting witness intimidation – than the ones earlier this week. Democrats made some adjustments to their tactics to make the event more media-friendly after the talking heads complained about 48-hours straight of how dull it played. To be fair, they weren’t wrong, but these procedures are inherently boring – this is why we elect representatives.

One of the more telling signs our Republic is fraying is how engaged every citizen must be on every decision. Why be a representative democracy at all if each citizen must weigh in on every question?

Adding to Trump’s bad day, his ally Roger Stone was found guilty on all counts of lying to Congress to protect Trump and his campaign.

In other 2020 campaign news:

Have a great weekend,


PS – If you like podcasts, listen to Foreign Policy’s new “I Spy.” Each episode interviews a different former spy and the first did not disappoint! They interview Jonna Mendez, the former CIA Chief of Disguise.

And, a great read: The President and the Blob (Boston Review)

Three Things to Know

  1. 400% – Trump hiked the price tag for US forces in Korea, demanding Seoul pay 400 percent – or $4.7 billion – more in 2020 than what they’re currently paying.

  2. Senator Lindsey Graham continued his track record of spinelessness by blocking a resolution that would have formally recognized the Ottoman’s role in the Armenian Genocide where 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered. The resolution passed the House in a bipartisan 405-11 vote, but Graham blocked it the resolution mere hours after meeting with Turkish President Erdogan.

  3. China and the US are struggling to complete a “phase one” deal to halt their trade war because of disagreements over – go figure – intellectual property provisions, agricultural purchases, and tariff rollbacks. Plus side, China lifted its four-year-old chicken ban and America’s poultry industry should see a $2 billion infusion.

"I actually think that where I've served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better, for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I've served in."

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch responds to Trump's tweet intimidating her during her testimony in the public impeachment inquiry

American Empire

Airstrikes in Libya continue in order to quell ISIS's growth in the country.

Amazon is challenging the Pentagon in federal court over its decision to grant Microsoft the $10 billion JEDI contract, citing “political influence.”

Asylum officers refuse to enact Trump’s policies calling them “immoral” and “illegal".”

Chilean protesters are demanding a “100% democratic” constitution replace the one in effect now that was passed during the time of military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

F-35’s supply chain has been entirely rerouted out of Turkey, following Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. Erdogan said if the F-35s are withheld then Turkey will purchase Russia’s Su-35s instead.

The Indo-Pacific is the “number one regional priority” of the US military.

U.S. Central Command is much in the news today for its fight violent extremist organization terrorist organizations and its dealing to deter Iran — a regional malign actor. But with more than 300,000 service members and Defense Department civilians, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command dwarfs Centcom, the chairman said. The U.S. Pacific Air Forces alone is the second largest air force in the world. By itself, the U.S. Pacific Fleet would be the largest Navy in the world. The Army has a division in Hawaii and another in South Korea, as well as a significant presence in Alaska, the general said.

In the Pacific, the bilateral treaty allies — Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand — are the bedrock for U.S. diplomatic, economic, political and military efforts, he added. 

"The Organization of American States took a political decision, not a technical or legal one. The OAS is in the service of the North American empire."

— Former Bolivian President Evo Morales told a news conference in Mexico City, where he arrived to take asylum on Tuesday.

China, Europe, Russia, and Everyone Else

1,567 – Hong Kong police fired 1,567 tear gas canisters, 1,312 rubber bullets, and 380 beanbag rounds when dealing with protests on a single day, and arresting 224 people.

200 – Roughly 200 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group are in Libya, taking Moscow’s backroom support for Haftar onto the battlefield, and tipping the war.

Bolivia’s coup is mostly over Morales’ attempt to nationalize its lithium deposits. Lithium is a primary material in electric cars. When the West’s corporations didn’t like what Evo was doing, he turned to Chinese corporations, and our Cold War-style coup was born.

Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Gaza’s Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel. 34 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting. It is yet determined if a stronger deal will come out of Egypt’s efforts as Israel and Islamic Jihad agree on little.

Germany barely avoids a recession…with 0.1% growth. You know things are bad when stagnation is met with a sigh of relief.

Hong Kong’s foreign university students are being encouraged to go home, as their campuses become the sites of increasingly violent skirmishes between the police and protesters. The city remains shut down this week amidst the escalating protests.

North Korea says, “No new talks, you’re mean” to the United States’ offer.

Threats of US sanctions throw a wrench in Russia-EU Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

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Cities, Climate, Corporations, & Culture

Bubonic Plague is back. There are two confirmed cases in China and Mongolia.

Sesame Street turned 50 this week! Did you know it was originally made for inner-city Black children, and designed specifically to appeal to them?

The tree of knowledge is not an apple or an oak, but a banyan.

Knowledge should indeed be thought of as a tree – just not this kind of tree. Rather than the European fruiter with its single trunk, knowledge should be pictured as a banyan tree, in which a multiplicity of aerial roots sustains a centreless organic system. The tree of knowledge has a plurality of roots, and structures of knowledge are multiply grounded in the earth: the body of knowledge is a single organic whole, no part of which is more or less dispensable than any other. ‘Stands an undying banyan tree,’ says Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gītā, ‘with roots above and boughs beneath. Its leaves are the Vedic hymns: one who knows this tree knows the Vedas. Below, above, its well nourished branches straggle out; sense objects are the twigs. Below its roots proliferate inseparably linked with works in the world of men.’

Urban Dictionary is used by linguists every day. IBM even had Watson using it until it started swearing at them.