In December 2016, smog in big Chinese cities became so thick that thousands fled into the countryside, trying to reach a place where one could still see blue sky—this “airpocalypse” affected half a billion people. For those who remained, moving around began to resemble life in a post-apocalyptic movie: people walking around with large gas masks in a smog where even nearby trees were invisible. The class dimension played a crucial role: Before the authorities had to close airports because of the bad air, those who could afford an expensive flight abandoned the affected cities. And, to add insult to injury, Beijing’s lawmakers considered listing smog as a meteorological disaster, an act of nature, not an effect of industrial pollution, to prevent blaming the authorities for the catastrophe. A new category was thus added to the long list of refugees from wars, droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes, economic crises, etc.—smog refugees.
When Slate was founded in 1996, people all over the world spent much of their day speaking into telephones. In 2016, as Slate celebrates its 20th birthday, the phone call is a thing of the past.
For years a graffiti message has appeared throughout San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, as an urgent demand: Dragado ya! (meaning “dredging now!”).
Even passersby who have never set foot in the eight barrios making up the Caño Martín Peña community – a large informal settlement along 3.75 miles of canal in the central city – know the message points to the dire need to dredge the waterway, which has become so clogged with refuse that those driving by with the windows down can immediately smell the stagnant waters.
This previously neglected area was originally established on mangrove wetlands and lacks adequate water drainage systems, so even mild rain storms led to flooding that backed up sewage and polluted waters, causing health and environmental problems for its 26,000 residents.
Desperate to alleviate these issues, the local community started organising themselves to demand the dredging of the canal, but feared the rising land values and displacement of families that such neighbourhood improvement tends to bring.
The CIA is facing a potentially crippling loss of human intelligence from foreign militant groups because some of its best spies in the field are unwilling to work for US President Donald Trump’s administration, Middle East Eye has learned.Contracted agents, some of whom run networks of sources within al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group have either quit or threatened to quit amid frustration in the intelligence services since Trump took office last month.These operatives are known as “terrorist hunters” and are both American and other nationalities. They are mostly Muslim and some are allowed to develop their own assets and run their own big budgets.
Fresh efforts will be made in the next few days to end the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).A delegation of former and present members of the European parliament and the Council of Europe, as well as academics and journalists who met Ocalan’s lawyers in Istanbul last weekend, is to send a team to Strasbourg to ask the Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to intervene.Ocalan has now been held in isolation for 18 years at Imrali prison. For the first 10 years he was the only prisoner at the facility, located on an island off Turkey’s western coast.The CPT, which was set up by the Council of Europe, has regularly visited the Kurdish leader. Its last visit was in April 2016: Ocalan’s lawyers are now concerned that his conditions of detention may have worsened since the failed coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July last year, which sparked a clampdown on Kurdish MPs and hundreds of activists accused of links with the PKK.
Marine Le Pen has arrived in Lebanon to find out that the Christians she thought were her allies aren’t on her side at all
Marine Le Pen has been doing a little Trumping in Beirut. Yes, all the way from Paris she came to ride her French presidential election campaign through the sectarian thickets of Lebanon by refusing to wear a veil to meet the Sunni Muslim Grand Mufti. Given the nonsense she spoke to the (Christian) president of Lebanon and the schoolgirl interview she granted to the country’s (Christian) French-language newspaper, many Lebanese – and a few Christians, too – concluded that this wretched lady embarked on her visit with the sole aim of insulting the country’s Muslims.
Of course, it was a publicity stunt. Marine Le Pen doesn’t care about the votes of Lebanese Christians who hold French passports – her Front National (FN) anyway wants to get such dual nationals to choose their country of citizenship, so the poor old Christians of Lebanon whom Le Pen supposedly loves may have to abandon their country of origin if they want France to “protect” them from the Muslim hordes. No, her refusal to wear a veil – a mere headscarf to show respect to the Sunni Mufti, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian – was intended for her domestic audience in France. Muslims want to subjugate women. It was the old message. To hell with Lebanon. Which is surely why she was accompanied on this pantomime by more French than Lebanese journalists.
In May, Rodrigo Duterte, the provincial mayor who had just been elected President of the Philippines after promising to rid the country of crime and drugs by killing thousands of criminals, vowed to stop swearing. He told reporters, “Don’t fuck with me.” He called political figures “gay.” When a reporter asked about his health, he replied, “How is your wife’s vagina? Is it smelly? Or not smelly? Give me a report.” In an overwhelmingly Catholic country, he swore at the Pope. At first, he defended his language as a gesture of radical populism. “I am testing the élite in this country,” he said. “Because we are fundamentally a feudal country.” But, the day after the election, he appeared with a popular televangelist and said, “I need to control my mouth.” He compared his forthcoming transformation to that of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. “If you are the President of the country, you need to be prim and proper,” he said. His inaugural speech, in June, was obscenity-free.
The resolution didn’t last. Duterte’s war on drugs has resulted in the deaths of more than three thousand people, drawing condemnation from human-rights groups and Western governments. In early September, before the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in Laos, a journalist asked Duterte what he would say if President Barack Obama raised the issue of human rights. “You know, the Philippines is not a vassal state,” he replied. “We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States.” Alternating between English and Tagalog, and pounding on the lectern, Duterte, it was widely reported, said of Obama, “Son of a whore, I’ll curse you at that forum.”
The New York Times is correct to call Julius Evola, the thinker that Steven Bannon quoted in a speech he gave at the Vatican in 2014, taboo.
In the speech, a Q&A part of an event on global poverty, Bannon mentions Evola for his influence on Aleksandr Dugin, Vladimir Putin’s philosopher of choice, known for his fascist tendencies. While criticizing Putin’s kleptocracy, and Dugin’s role in forming the thinking that led to the Russian leader’s policies, Bannon appears to acknowledge merit in adopting the traditionalist mindset promoted by Evola (which, he said, “eventually metastasized in fascism”), with particular reference to his belief that the Judeo-Christian world order is to be defended from the attacks of contemporary society.
Her voice crackling through the microphone, but with an expression of defiance clearly visible on the prison video, Caglar Demirel spoke from a distance of 1,000km to a panel of three judges in a heavily-guarded court room here. “I’ve not been shown any evidence. I reject the accusations. This case is the result of political decisions,” she declared.Demirel is in Kandira prison near Istanbul, a long way from her constituency in Diyarbakir, a largely Kurdish city in the southeast of the country. A Kurd, she is one of 29 MPs who were arrested last November in what government opponents say is an apparent bid by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to silence opposition before a national referendum on 16 April. The result will decide whether Turkey changes to a vastly more authoritarian system with the abolition of the prime minister’s job and a president who will control the budget, nominate ministers as well as senior judges and dissolve Parliament whenever he likes. If passed, it will allow Erdogan to stay in power until 2029.
Donald Trump has at last got a national security adviser after his first one was forced to resign and two others approached for the job ruled themselves out.
But the President and his cronies would be mistaken if they think that Lt Gen HR McMaster would simply back whatever policy comes out of the White House.
Indeed, General Herbert Raymond McMaster made his considerable reputation as someone who is not afraid to challenge the hierarchy, and indeed had first made his mark by condemning senior officers for not standing up to the flawed policies of US presidents in the Vietnam War.