Thursday, October 17th, 2019


You Can’t Polish a Kurd

Americans may be tired of something. But it's definitely not the winning. Moments after Vice President Pence announced that he had reached a deal with Turkey for a ceasefire, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was not a ceasefire. Meanwhile, Trump (following up on a surreal letter that was reportedly tossed in the garbage by Erdogan) explained what a great deal he made to clean up the disaster he created. "It's a great day for the United States, it's a great day for Turkey ... it's a great day for the Kurds. It's really a great day for civilization. ... I just want to thank and congratulate President Erdogan. He's a friend of mine and I'm glad we didn't have a problem because frankly he is a hell of a leader and a tough man, a strong man." Yeah, it's an awesome day for the Kurds, who after being betrayed by the American president, watched him celebrate them giving up their land, witnessing hundreds of their fellow fighters get killed and thousands displaced, and watching as "at least 1,000 ISIS prisoners and supporters have escaped prison camps." Long story short, Trump thinks he won (much like he thought his instantly iconic meltdown photo made Nancy Pelosi look bad). But he basically surrendered and then congratulated his friend who he doesn't realize is his foe.

+ Richard Engel: "The Kurds lost their homeland in Syria which they fought for with US forces in the battle agaist ISIS, losing 11 thousand of their men and women. Tonight they were sold out by Trump who says he saved millions of lives. It will be remembered by the Kurds as the greatest betrayal."

+ "The blow to America's standing in the Middle East was sudden and unexpectedly swift. Within the space of a few hours, advances by Turkish troops in Syria this week had compelled the U.S. military's Syrian Kurdish allies to switch sides, unraveled years of U.S. Syria policy and recalibrated the balance of power in the Middle East." Liz Sly in WaPo with an excellent overview of how the world changed this week: The hasty US pullback from Syria is a searing moment in America's withdrawal from the Middle East.

+ "This is what Turkey wanted and what POTUS green lighted. I do think one reason Turkey agreed to it is because of the Kurds have put up more of a resistance and they could not advance south any further as a result. If we don't impose sanctions then Turkey wins big time." Here's the latest from CNN.


Quid Pro Quo Amateur Hour

"I think Mr. Mulvaney's acknowledgment means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse." So said Adam Schiff after Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney basically confirmed the quid pro quo at the heart of the impeachment investigation. Here's the latest on that scandal.

+ Emolumental Breakdown: Meanwhile, Mulvaney also announced that the 2020 G7 summit will be held at Trump National in Doral, Florida. For the record, Doral could use the dough. (In the grand scheme of all his schemes, hosting the G-7 at the Trump Doral is a minor nuisance. But there's something bigger going on. The administration believes it can get away with anything. And, so far, they have reason to believe that.)


What the UK?

"European Union leaders unanimously backed a new Brexit deal with Britain on Thursday, leaving Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing a battle to secure the UK parliament's backing for the agreement if he is to take Britain out of Europe on Oct. 31." Reuters: UK's Johnson agrees Brexit deal, but must now win over parliament.

+ Boris Johnson's Brexit deal: what's in it and how is it different to Theresa May's version?


Hot Pocket Protector

"It was 116 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade outside the new Al Janoub soccer stadium, and the air felt to air-conditioning expert Saud Ghani as if God had pointed 'a giant hair dryer' at Qatar. Yet inside the open-air stadium, a cool breeze was blowing." WaPo: Facing unbearable heat, Qatar has begun to air-condition the outdoors. (I don't think this solution will scale...)


Baltimore Son

"Very soon you and I will be dancing with the angels. The thing that you and I need to do is figure out what we can do — what present can we bring to generations unborn?" Baltimore Sun: Rep. Elijah Cummings, Baltimore civil rights advocate and leader in Trump impeachment inquiry, dies.


Poor Shape

"The surge in developing-country obesity has not been met by a corresponding improvement in rates of undernourishment. Because processed foods are often high in sugar and low in essential nutrients, many poor families may face undernourishment and obesity simultaneously, the report found." NPR: Childhood Obesity Is Rising 'Shockingly Fast' — Even In Poor Countries.


China Shop Til You Drop

"The scale of the problem was enough to overwhelm entire agencies, much less one investigator like Buemi. Yet his contact with Li Li offered a starting point. Looking through the catalog of drugs on offer, Buemi saw Molly — but he also saw pills containing a mix of oxycodone and something called acetyl fentanyl, dyed and pressed to look like legitimate prescription pain pills. Buemi had a hunch that the same drug ring responsible for moving Molly into South Florida might also be importing the acetyl fentanyl pills. He placed an order for both." NYT Mag: The China Connection: How One D.E.A. Agent Cracked a Global Fentanyl Ring.


Engaging Bull

NPR: Most US Dairy Cows Are Descended From Just 2 Bulls. That's Not Good. "Dairy farmers can go to this online catalog, pick a bull, and the company will ship doses of semen to impregnate their cows. 'There's one bull, we figure he has well over a quarter-million daughters.'" (That he knows of...)


What About Blob?

Reuters on the latest exhibit at a Paris zoo. "The blob also has almost 720 sexes, can move without legs or wings and heals itself in two minutes if cut in half ... It surprises us because it has no brain but is able to learn ... and if you merge two blobs, the one that has learned will transmit its knowledge to the other." (It's basically the internet, but gooey.)


Bottom of the News

"The hand began to move, gingerly spinning the tiles with its thumb and four long fingers. Each movement was small, slow and unsteady. But soon, the colors started to align. Four minutes later, with one more twist, it unscrambled the last few tiles, and a cheer went up from a long line of researchers watching nearby." NYT: If a Robotic Hand Solves a Rubik's Cube, Does It Prove Something? (Relax, I'm not asking you. I'm asking the robot.)

+ Spirited Away and other Studio Ghibli films are finally going to stream ... on HBO Max (not to be confused with HBO, HBO Go, or HBO Now).