With Friends Like These …
June 28, 2019
“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” – Mark Twain
“Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family. – Don Corleone” – Mario Puzo
America is Turning Friends Into Enemies
President Trump arrived in Osaka, Japan Thursday for the annual Group of 20 summit taking place Friday and Saturday. The yearly meeting brings world leaders together for the purpose of fostering global economic cooperation, in an atmosphere conducive to formal and informal diplomatic activity. This year’s official agenda includes trade, artificial intelligence, women’s empowerment and climate change. If a consensus can be reached on the various subjects a joint declaration will be presented at the end of the summit.
On Trump’s last foreign trip, made to Great Britain earlier in June, he made sure to insult the Queen’s grand-daughter-in-law, calling her “nasty,” and London’s mayor, calling him a “stone cold loser.” Trump approached the G20 trip the same way. Before sitting down to talk through differences on issues like security and trade, the president lashed out at America’s allies, including his hosts.
Trump lambasted Japan, Germany and India. He complained that under existing treaty provisions, if the US were attacked, Japan would only “watch it on a Sony television.” He called Germany a security freeloader, and chastised India for raising tariffs on American goods. The choice of targets seemed directly tied to the president’s schedule of Friday meetings — first with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, then with Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and finally with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In contrast, Trump had nothing negative to say about Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the fourth leader on his diplomatic schedule Friday, or Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the president’s breakfast date Saturday morning.
- Trump Takes On China and Persia at Once. What’s to Worry About?: He’s imposed pain. Now, if he only had defined plans and goals. (NYT, $)
- The Global Economy Runs on Parties You’re Not Invited To: The robots may take over, but high-end schmoozing will never die. (NYT, $)
- Bolsonaro’s G-20 Trip Hits Snag: Brazilian Crewman Arrested With 86 Pounds Of Cocaine (NPR)
Children Dead Due To Unknown Disease
- A mysterious disease is killing children living in the area around the eastern Indian city of Muzaffarpur. The disease mostly affects poor children under the age of 10; it causes high fever, brain swelling and seizures in apparently healthy children, one-third of whom die within 24-36 hours.
- At first it was thought the prized lychee fruit was causing hypoglycemia when consumed on an empty stomach. But then children who hadn’t eaten any lychee began dying. The mystery continues, but perplexingly the primary treatment is still a quick infusion of dextrose and electrolytes. (NYT)
Give Them The Boot To The Boot
- Many asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya arrive in Italy. But soon that number may be dwarfed by the number of asylum seekers leaving Italy for other EU countries, who are now being returned by those countries to Italy.
- Under a controversial EU regulation called the Dublin regulation, member nations can send people back to their country of arrival in the EU — usually Italy or Greece.
- In the last five years the number of people being returned pursuant to the Dublin regulation has tripled, and concern is growing over the treatment they’re receiving in Italy and Germany. (Guardian)
- ‘I feel lucky’: millions have fled war-torn Yemen – the US has accepted 50: The war in Middle Eastern country is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis but Trump has all but ended Yemeni immigration, leaving a community torn (Guardian)
Cyber Attacks 2.0: This Time It’s Personal
- Following an increase in the prevalence of meddling, the EU plans to conduct war games to prepare for Russian and Chinese cyber attacks. Finland’s foreign minister believes Russia was responsible for blocking GPS signals last October when Finnish forces took part in NATO military exercises in Norway.
- Hackers working for China’s ministry of state security were accused this week of breaking into the networks of eight of the world’s biggest technology service providers in order to steal intellectual property.
- Finland will take over the EU’s rotating presidency on the first of July and will ask EU interior and finance ministers to manage fictional scenarios during meetings in Helsinki in July and September. (Guardian)
Thursday was night two of the Democratic presidential primary debates. Present on the stage in Miami were Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Eric Swalwell. Takeaways from Round Two: No one shied away from taking on President Trump, and Kamala Harris ran circles around — front runner ? Joe Biden — when she challenged him for invoking his work with segregationists at a recent fundraiser and for his record on school busing in the 1970s. It was a spell-binding moment that changed the dynamics of the evening and showed her skills as a tough debater, which supporters believe will be devastating against Trump. Biden tried valiantly to defend his record, but it was clear Harris had struck a nerve. Sanders unapologetically advocated his “Medicare-for-All” plan, acknowledging that taxes for the middle class would go up under his plans while arguing their health care costs would go down. Hickenlooper warned that the specter of socialism would give Republicans an opening to “come at us every way they can.” Bennet agreed we must address income inequality, but said he proposed a slower approach toward universal health care. Jabs were thrown at Biden’s and Sanders’ ages. Swalwell talked about being six years old when Biden came to California, and said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation who would be the ones to end gun violence and the climate crisis. Several candidates said they would prioritize reversing Trump’s border policies and tax cuts on day one in office. Gillibrand said her fight was for women’s reproductive rights and keeping the country out of war. Buttigieg as usual was calm, cool, intelligent and articulate, but faltered somewhat when challenged by Swalwell over his handling of a recent police shooting of a black man in South Bend. (CNN)
Build The (Voting District) Wall
- The last day of the current Supreme Court term was Thursday, and some closely watched decisions were finally handed down. In a 5-4 ruling SCOTUS said partisan redistricting is a political question not reviewable by federal courts.
- The conservative justices on the court banded together to duck the question of whether extreme gerrymandering violates the Constitution, choosing instead to leave the burden of policing redistricting efforts to the legislative branch and individual states. One election law professor predicted: “We are in Mad Max territory now; there are no rules…”
- In another decision SCOTUS held against the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, saying the reason the administration gave for wanting the question added wasn’t sufficient. The case now goes back to the lower courts to see if the administration can come up with a better reason, but because of the time crunch, Trump asked the Commerce Department to delay the process. (CNN, NPR)
- What Is Gerrymandering? And Why Did the Supreme Court Rule on It? Here’s what you need to know about the legal battle over the rigging of district maps to entrench a governing party’s political power. (NYT $)
- Our favorite article on Gerrymandering: Drawing the Line: How redistricting turned America from blue to red. (New Yorker, $)
Additional USA News
- Turmoil At The NRA: TV Channel Ends, Lobbyist Resigns, A New Hill Probe Begins (NPR)
- What Happened to America’s Political Center of Gravity? (NYT $)
- Reddit Has ‘Quarantined’ Popular Pro-Trump Forum Over Violent Threats (NPR)
- There Are Really Two Distinct White Working Classes: One is solidly Republican and will stay that way; the other leans Democratic. And then there are the in-betweeners. (NYT $)
- Who Is the Republican Heir to Trump? Some ambitious politicians are setting themselves up to run in the 2024 election — or perhaps earlier. (NYT $)
- Using Food Stamps For Online Grocery Shopping Is Getting Easier (NPR)
- ‘Children are being poisoned’: California moms lead the way to pesticide ban (Guardian)
- Photo of Drowned Migrants Captures Pathos of Those Who Risk It All (NYT $)
We Can Rebuild Him. We Have The Stool.
- Scientists already knew that a certain strain of bacteria in the microbiome of athletes flourished after a workout. But they wanted to see if this strain could enhance athletic performance in regular people.
- “If we could identify microbes that do contribute to the health and performance of super healthy people, then maybe we could develop a probiotic to help everyday people perform better,” said Jonathan Scheiman, currently the co-founder and CEO of FitBiomics. Scheiman led such a study while he was a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School.
- To conduct the research he needed a good data set of the gut microbes of athletes. So he drove around Boston for two weeks collecting stool samples from elite runners. Researchers were able to isolate the bacterial strain from the runners; they then put it into the colons of lab mice, and discovered these human-derived bacteria boosted the mouse’s performance on a treadmill exertion test by 13 percent. The study was just published in the journal Nature Medicine. (NPR)
- Beautiful in the Distance: The tick doesn’t know that it is strong enough to kill a full-grown human. It only knows that it is hungry. (Guernica Mag)
- The Geometry of Thought (Edge)
- Tired of Google following you? It is now easier to clear location data: New functionality automatically deletes history of places users have visited (Guardian)
- Why Facebook Won’t Kick Off A Warlord (NPR)
- To Get to Bed Earlier, Take More Breaks During the Day (Lifehacker)
- ‘Endgame’ Nears All-Time Record, And The Age Of Disney Mega-Blockbusters Is Upon Us (NPR)
- The big problem with short queues: From theme parks to banks, priority queues are spreading for those with enough money or status. This could be a sign of greater efficiency – or just another way of splitting society. (BBC)
“A friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemy overestimate your faults” – Mario Puzo