International

A Moment in re a Moment

Sometimes it’s a quick rethinking:World Health Organization [WHO]

The World Health Organization rescinded Zimbabwe’s controversial longtime President Robert Mugabe’s status as a goodwill ambassador on Sunday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a statement announcing the removal of Mugabe’s goodwill ambassador status after he conferred with international health groups.

“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa,” Tedros said. “As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment.”

(Uria)

(more…)

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A Moment from the World Today

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2017.  (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe/File)

The headline from Associated Press is itself something of a wonder to behold: “WHO chief now ‘rethinking’ Mugabe ‘goodwill ambassador’ post”. The detail, then, is about what we might expect.

After widespread shock and condemnation, the head of the World Health Organization said Saturday he is “rethinking” his appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador.”

In a new tweet, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said that “I’m listening. I hear your concerns. Rethinking the approach in light of WHO values. I will issue a statement as soon as possible.”

As condemnation poured in from around the world, well, yes, it would seem the decision needed rethinking. Still, we should remember that there is in fact something of an international custom of reaching out to pariah states by giving them seemingly absurd chairs on important panels and committees in the international discourse. Perhaps the time for this, as with many other nod and wink accommodations of bad behavior, has come to an end. If so, call it progress.

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Image note: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2017. (Themba Hadebe/AP Photo)

Associated Press. “WHO chief now ‘rethinking’ Mugabe ‘goodwill ambassador’ post”. 21 October 2017.

Sixty Million Dollars, and Probably Still Counting

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Paul Manafort appears on Meet the Press, 10 April 2016; the Donald Trump campaign aide would eventually become campaign manager. (Detail of image from NBC News)

The headline from NBC News, that “Manafort Had $60 Million Relationship With a Russian Oligarch”, might actually be understated:

An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.

The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.

(Petropoulos and Engel)

The important point, then, might well be the sum of known dealings. In other words, the headline could soon need updating to a larger number. Then again, that would be kind of like the problem with trying to follow the sad, epic ballad of Paul Manafort, which, in turn, is much like trying to keep up with the spectacular disaster that is the Donald Trump Experience; things go downhill so quickly that if you stop to make the point it is already obsolete.

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Image note: Paul Manafort appears on Meet the Press, 10 April 2016. (Detail of image from NBC News)

Petropoulos, Aggelos and Richard Engel. “Manafort Had $60 Million Relationship With a Russian Oligarch”. NBC News. 13 October 2017.

Enterprising Stupidity (American Way Mix)

Detail of frame from 'Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor' episode 8, "Twinkling Sun on a Summer Day …"

This is not a joke:

Hewlett Packard Enterprise allowed a Russian defense agency to review the inner workings of cyber defense software used by the Pentagon to guard its computer networks, according to Russian regulatory records and interviews with people with direct knowledge of the issue.

The HPE system, called ArcSight, serves as a cybersecurity nerve center for much of the U.S. military, alerting analysts when it detects that computer systems may have come under attack. ArcSight is also widely used in the private sector.

The Russian review of ArcSight’s source code, the closely guarded internal instructions of the software, was part of HPE’s effort to win the certification required to sell the product to Russia’s public sector, according to the regulatory records seen by Reuters and confirmed by a company spokeswoman.

(Schectman, Volz, and Stubbs)

At some point, words will fail to fail.

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Image note: Detail of frame from ‘Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor’ episode 8, “Twinkling Sun on a Summer Day …”.

Schectman, Joel, Dustin Volz, and Jack Stubbs. “Special Report: HP Enterprise let Russia scrutinize cyberdefense system used by Pentagon”. Reuters. 2 October 2017.

Unhinged (Failure)

#failure | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reacts to a speech by President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York, 19 September 2017. (Photos via Associated Press)

“Today, our president made his first speech before the UN General Assembly; he called Kim Jong Un, ‘Rocket Man’. He threatened to, quote, ‘totally destroy’, North Korea, and he said big portions of the world are, in his words, ‘going to hell’. He also bragged about his election victory, and the stock market. The president’s chief of staff did not appear to enjoy it, and just in case you thought that was just one bad picture, here’s another one.”

Rachel Maddow

Also of note is a particular question of implications, if the Trump administration is “failing to create diplomatic capacity, or is this them destroying American diplomatic capacity, on purpose, for some other reason”. And while Andrea Mitchell responds by reaffirming the mystery of the question, neither is a reporter of her station supposed to come right out and say it: “I don’t know the reason,” she replied, “other than Rex Tillerson did come in with a mandate to cut fat, and there is fat and bloat anywhere, but this is a rounding error”. The translation, of course, being that this is not how one trims fat or cures bloat. Meanwhile, for news consumers, the point might well have something to do with unfortunate tacitry giving way to the seemingly obvious, such that the question finds explicit voice among the talking hosts and heads we consume.

This is just one of those things that would seem significant of something, somewhere, in some context that really ought to be relevant to us. The hardest question to figure in virtually any context, though, is why the Trump administration would deliberately assail American prestige. And while the #trumpswindle will as the #trumpswindle does, it should seem absurd to wonder if this is really #WhatTheyVotedFor.

Then again, it should have seemed absurd to wonder about the white nationalism, too, and look what that got us.

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Image note:White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reacts to a speech by President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York, 19 September 2017. (Photos via Associated Press)

Maddow, Rachel. “Trump joins history’s list of unhinged speakers at UN”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 19 September 2017.

Inward Focus (Split Canyon Distraction Mix)

[#resist]

Protesters demonstrate on 16 September 2017 in Tunis against parliament passing an amnesty law for officials accused of corruption under toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. (Photo: Agence France-Presse)

There is nearly a joke waiting here—

Hundreds of Tunisians protested on Saturday in the streets of the capital against a widely contested new law that grants officials from the former regime involved in corruption amnesty from prosecution.

Tunisia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a law protecting officials accused of graft during the rule of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, triggering angry protests by the opposition and activists.

Waving flags and banners saying “No to forgiveness”, “Resisting against mafia rule”, around 1,500 people marched through the capital’s central Avenue Habib Bourguiba in the company of opposition leaders.

After months of protests, the law was amended from an original draft which would have also granted amnesty to corrupt businessmen. Now they will be liable to prosecution for crimes committed during Ben Ali’s 24-year rule.

(Reuters)

—because it should not be quite so easy for Americans to empathize so proximally.    (more…)

Full Color Horror: Abdul Masood Begum (d. 14 September 2017)

[#Rohingya]

A Rohingya Muslim woman Hanida Begum, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, kisses her infant son Abdul Masood who died when the boat they were traveling in capsized just before reaching the shore of the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Nearly three weeks into a mass exodus of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar, thousands were still flooding across the border Thursday in search of help and safety in teeming refugee settlements in Bangladesh. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

This is what you are looking at:

The wooden boat packed with Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar was a few meters (yards) away from shore in Bangladesh on Thursday when it capsized.

AP photographer Dar Yasin says what happened next will haunt him: a young mother’s horrified discovery that her infant son, Abdul Masood, had drowned in the waist-high waters.

Hanida Begum’s wails filled the air as she mourned her dead boy.

She had given birth to twin boys just 40 days ago. Now one was gone.

“She kept on kissing him. She held him and kept kissing his body,” Yasin said.

(Associated Press, “Photo”)

And this is why we see it:

Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims have been called the world’s most persecuted minority, a people without a country.

In the last two weeks, in numbers estimated to be nearing 300,000, Rohingya have been fleeing for their lives into already-crowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

It is the third such mass exodus in four decades.

An estimated 1 million to 1.2 million people in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine self-identify as Rohingya. The government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, refuses to recognize them as one of the country’s 135 lawful ethnic minorities, instead calling them Bengalis, with the implication that their native land is in Bangladesh and they are illegally settled in Myanmar. They are similarly unwelcome in Bangladesh. What has made the situation particularly dire for the Rohingya was the passage in 1982 of a citizenship law that had the practical effect of making most of them stateless and depriving them of most of their civil rights along with economic opportunities. They are legally restricted in their right to travel, to marry and in the number of children they can have. In practical terms, access to decent education and health care, as well as employment, is also limited.

(Associated Press, “Explains”)

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Image note: A Rohingya Muslim woman, Hanida Begum, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, kisses her infant son Abdul Masood who died when the boat they were traveling in capsized just before reaching the shore of the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, Thursday, 14 September 2017. Nearly three weeks into a mass exodus of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar, thousands were still flooding across the border Thursday in search of help and safety in teeming refugee settlements in Bangladesh. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Associated Press. “AP Explains: What’s behind Rohingya exodus from Myanmar”. 10 September 2017.

—————. “AP Photos: A young Rohingya mother’s horrified discovery”. 15 September 2017.

Not Exactly Clairvoyance (Monday Mission Mix)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

This is a superstition:

U.S.-backed militias in Syria said they came under attack on Saturday from Russian jets and Syrian government forces in Deir al-Zor province, a flashpoint in an increasingly complex battlefield.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting with the U.S.-led coalition, said six of its fighters were wounded in the strike.

The Pentagon said Russia bombed a position east of the Euphrates river where it knew SDF fighters and coalition advisers were stationed. The jets did not injure coalition forces, it said.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow or Damascus.

(Francis)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)Okay, so, the way it works is that in recent times the press really has called out the White House over weekend events, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders might well be an entertaining spectacle trying to dodge questions about whether or not President Trump is capable of criticizing the Russian government or strongman Vladimir Putin. And the superstition is that, having mentioned it, this will turn out to be an occasion when the Press Corps will take a pass.

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Image notes: Top ― Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image. Right ― Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Francis, Ellen. “Jets strike U.S.-backed forces in eastern Syria”. Reuters. 16 September 2017.

A Deplorable Nexus

#deplorable | #WhatTheyVotedFor

"Shame on The Daily Beast for stealing this joke headline from our draft folder, we [puts finger to ear] ah, I see" [@pointclickbait, via Twitter, 29 August 2017]

The tweet is not a joke. Or, as Brian Patrick Byrne really does explain for the Daily Beast:

On Friday, Persson, who sold Minecraft to Microsoft for $2.5 billion in 2014, tweeted “(pizzagate is real),” to his almost 3.9 million followers. The tweet immediately caught the attention of a vocal crowd of supporters that continues to believe a debunked conspiracy theory that Democrats led a pedophile ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

When The Daily Beast asked Persson to clarify his beliefs on Friday, the 38-year-old responded: “I feel more like people are picking one of two sides emotionally in this incredibly insanely huge binary split, much like politics.”

However, shortly afterward, Persson embarked on a verbose defense of Pizzagate. The man who publicly called Zoe Quinn, the initial victim of Gamergate, a “cunt” in June, rallied up even more support among ardent believers, writing: “People are saying there’s a lot of suspect codewords including the word ‘pizza’. That place has very disturbing art and social media.”

Persson was referring to Comet Ping Pong, the name of the pizzeria from where conspiracy theorists falsely believe Clinton, and her former campaign chairman John Podesta, operated a child sex trafficking ring in its basement, despite the shop having no basement. The theory was born out of what believers say are coded messages in Podesta’s emails, like “pizza” for “little boy,” made public by Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential election.

And, you know, while it is easy enough to appeal to any excuse to recall Elton John, but sometimes the answer is simply no. We already know this story and its sickness, and while it is easy enough to say this is all about supremacism and lulz, at some point these facts are supposed to mean something. We might suggest this is an astonishing nexus of deplorability, but would be overstating the circumstance. Predictable is hardly astonishing, and a steaming heap of blended whatnot does not a nexus make.

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@pointclickbait. “Shame on The Daily Beast for stealing this joke headline from our draft folder, we [puts finger to ear] ah, I see”. Twitter. 29 August 2017.

Byrne, Brian Patrick. “Minecraft Creator Alleges Global Conspiracy Involving Pizzagate, a ‘Manufactured Race War,’ a Missing Tabloid Toddler, and Holistic Medicine”. The Daily Beast. 29 August 2017.

(h/t to Barry Deutsch.)

Your Quote of the Day (Pence’s Progress)

#Pence2020 | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“I’m skeptical Pence can emerge from the White House’s crisis unscathed … but the fact that the vice president is even trying suggests we’re approaching the every-person-for-themselves phase.”

Steve Benen

(more…)