CLAIRE BERLINSKI, PARIS
The battle for Severodonetsk, a leaked top-secret PLA meeting, headless bodies, France’s most beautiful village, sleeping elephants, and more.
🛎️ In the magazine today: The US must send Ukraine long range weapons, by Robert Zubrin:
Biden has called Putin a war criminal and said that he must go. The president was right on both counts. He needs to act as if he meant it. There can be no continuation of the discredited policy of hanging back on delivering the types of weapons Ukraine needs for victory. The stakes are much too high to choose to lose.
✍🏼 More by the Cosmopolitan Globalists
🖊️ We’re at a critical juncture in the Ukraine war, writes Monique Camarra at the EuroFile. This is no time for the West to go wobbly.
🎧 This week’s guest on the Kremlin File is former Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer. He and Monique Camarra discuss the prospect of Russia’s war widening throughout the region.
🎧 On Foreign Office with Michael Weiss, Peter Pomeranzev and Vladislav Davidzon discuss the information war preceding the now all-too-real one in Ukraine.
🖊️ “We have been invaded by fascists.” Viktor Marunyak, the “sheriff” of Stara Zburievka in southern Ukraine—who survived abduction and torture at the hands of Russian occupiers—speaks to Olga Tokariuk:
Marunyak reflects on his conversations with Russians who held him. “Russians and Ukrainians are from different planets. They are surprised that streets in our villages are lit, that there are WCs and showers in our houses. They are surprised that we have a decentralized system of governance, that mayors and village heads are elected, not appointed, that there is no top-down hierarchy when everyone follows orders from above.”
🖊️ Let’s be careful not to divide Europe—and the alliance, writes Nicolas Tenzer:
After three months of Russian war against Ukraine and tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians murdered by Russian forces, a return to some form of European disunity could only work in favor of Putin’s regime. It would also discredit the EU and the Alliance. To nip these centrifugal tendencies on Ukraine in the bud, the time has come to adopt a straight and clear line, implicit rather than circumvented. This should be based on five pillars and accompanied by immediate action. …
🖊️ Macron has appointed Pap Ndiaye as Minister of Education. “Macron’s appointing Ndiaye to succeed Blanquer is, as political scientist Frédéric Sawicki tweeted, akin to him hypothetically replacing Bruno Le Maire at Bercy with Thomas Piketty,” writes Arun Kapil.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is inflicting unspeakable suffering on Ukrainians and demanding horrible sacrifices of his own people in an effort to seize a city that does not merit the cost, even for him.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine that aimed to seize and occupy the entire country has become a desperate and bloody offensive to capture a single city in the east while defending important but limited gains in the south and east. Ukraine has twice forced Putin to define down his military objectives. Ukraine defeated Russia in the Battle of Kyiv, forcing Putin to reduce his subsequent military objectives to seizing Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine stopped him from achieving that aim as well, forcing him to focus on completing the seizure of Luhansk Oblast alone. Putin is now hurling men and munitions at the last remaining major population center in that oblast, Severodonetsk, as if taking it would win the war for the Kremlin. He is wrong. When the Battle of Severodonetsk ends, regardless of which side holds the city, the Russian offensive at the operational and strategic levels will likely have culminated, giving Ukraine the chance to restart its operational-level counteroffensives to push Russian forces back.
They also note:
- Russian progress around Severdonetsk results largely from the fact that Moscow has concentrated forces, equipment, and materiel drawn from all other axes on this one objective.
- Russian forces in Kharkiv continue to focus efforts on preventing a Ukrainian counteroffensive from reaching the international border between Kharkiv and Belgorod.
- Ukrainian forces began a counteroffensive near the Kherson-Mykolaiv oblast border approximately 70 km to the northeast of Kherson City that may have crossed the Inhulets River.
- Russia’s use of stored T-62 tanks in the southern axis indicates Russia’s continued materiel and force generation problems.
- Ukrainian partisan activity continues to impose costs on Russian occupation forces in Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts.
- Evidence of eroding military professionalism in the Russian officer corps is mounting. This could present Ukrainian forces with opportunities.
Russian forces appear to be closing in on their goal of seizing the entire Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine as a battle continues for control of Severodonetsk, the last big city in the region not under Russian occupation:
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian troops are holding on in an “indescribably difficult” situation. Local officials said Russian bombardment had destroyed city’s water, gas and electricity infrastructure and Russian troops were contained at a hotel on the eastern outskirts.
Russian and Ukrainian troops are in close-quarter combat in Sievierodonetsk:
Moscow’s soldiers, supported by intense shelling, attempted to gain strategic footholds in the region while facing fierce Ukrainian resistance. Ukrainian regional officials reported that Russian forces were “storming” the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, where the fighting has knocked out power and cellphone services and terrorized civilians who haven’t fled.
Sievierodonetsk, a manufacturing center, has emerged as an epicenter of Russia’s quest to conquer Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region. Russia also stepped up its efforts to take nearby Lysychansk, where Ukrainian officials reported constant shelling.
The Luhansk regional governor, Serhiy Haidai, said, “The enemy is not succeeding [in Sievierodonetsk].” He said Russian forces remain stuck in the Hotel Myr on the eastern outskirts of the city. “The racists remain in the Mir Hotel, they cannot advance deep into the city.” (In Ukrainian.)
Zelensky said that it’s not feasible for Ukraine to regain all the territory it’s lost to Russia since 2014 by force. He said he was confident that Ukraine would win the war against Russia, but “We want to fight to the last gasp, but not to the last man.” (In Dutch.)
[Zelensky’s] surging defiance is running into a wall of hard facts on the ground in the fierce fighting that has engulfed the eastern provinces of Donbas. As of yesterday, some 40 settlements were under attack in the region, where Russian forces have over the last week been accelerating their momentum.
While Ukraine’s army continues to hold a battered frontline, it is now facing extreme peril. Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said combat in Donbass is underway at “maximum intensity.”
🧵 Looking at the Donbas, seems either the Russians are running short of vehicles or the Ukrainian Army is running out of the ability to destroy them.
My guess the former—which explains a weird development in what the Russians are trying to do and what they can’t do. We are seeing a significant decrease in combat intensity, and much of that is in the Donbas. Its worth noting that between 55-65 percent of all claimed Russian losses are in this theater (thats from comparing Ukrainian communiques). This is a major theater drop.
Russian advances seem mostly artillery based (which limits their potential). They can at times blast holes in the Ukrainian lines, like they did in Popasna, but they dont have the vehicles to exploit, and those that they try to press ahead get chewed up by defensive firepower. I think this also points to a real problem in war reporting in the Donbas. There is lots of talk about overwhelming Russian artillery in the Donbas—but in and of itself, that only tells a small part of the story.
France and Germany are urging Putin to hold “direct [and] serious negotiations” with Zelensky.
🧵 On common misperceptions about Russia’s minority language status in Ukraine:
I’ve only recently realized that many non-Ukrainians mistakenly see Russian-speaking Ukrainians as some sort of marginalized social group which has never learned Ukrainian and, not being able to speak or understand it, is left without access to services provided in Ukrainian. That’s really far off from what is actually happening. Like, light years away.
In reality, most people in Ukraine are bilingual—some prefer to use Ukrainian in their daily lives, while others tend to speak Russian more often. I won’t get into the details of why this came to be, but let’s just say it has a lot to do with Ukraine being an ex-colony of the Russian Empire (which tried really, really hard to wipe out our language and culture) and, essentially, an ex-colony of the Soviet Union. …
An independent legal analysis conducted by the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights concludes that the Russia’s war in Ukraine is genocidal. More than thirty of the world’s leading legal scholars of genocide signed the report:
This report is an independent inquiry into the Russian Federation’s breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,1 regarding its invasion of Ukraine, produced in urgent response to the ongoing atrocities. The Genocide Convention imposes legal obligations on all State Parties, including Russia, to take action to prevent genocide as soon as a serious risk arises or halt it as it unfolds. The duty to prevent is a stand-alone legal obligation and, as is evident in the Convention’s name, is triggered before a genocide occurs. The report reasonably concludes that Russia is responsible for direct and public incitement to commit genocide and a pattern of atrocities from which an intent to destroy the Ukrainian national group in part can be inferred. The report further definitively concludes that there exists a serious risk of genocide, triggering the duty to prevent.
☣️ The mayor of Mariupol warned of the risk of an infectious disease outbreaks:
According to the mayor, 22,000 people were killed in Mariupol because of the actions of Russians, which led to mass graves. More than 100,000 residents remain in captivity, unreleased by the occupiers. “To this is added by a broken sewerage system, lack of garbage collection and deterioration of weather conditions, because we are on the verge of summer, that is, the temperature will rise. Therefore, our doctors report on the danger that may arise this summer—outbreaks of infectious diseases—dysentery, plague and others. These diseases could carry away thousands of Mariupol residents.” (In Ukrainian.)
📦 Washington readies the big guns: The Biden administration plans to send more advanced, longer-range rocket systems to Ukraine. The White House has reportedly delayed this decision due to concerns raised within the National Security Council that Ukraine “could use the systems to carry out offensive attacks inside Russia.” (“It’s a step in the right direction. But Ukraine needs more than MLRS armed with M31 medium range rockets. They need ATACMs and F-16s.”—Robert Zubrin.)
The military of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic said rebel forces, supported by Russian troops, “have liberated and taken full control of 220 settlements,” including an important battlefield town in the Donetsk region:
Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine on Friday claimed to have taken full control of the important battlefield town of Lyman, a town in the Donetsk region, and Ukraine appeared to concede it, as Moscow presses its biggest advance in weeks.
A withdrawal could bring Russian President Vladimir Putin closer to his goal of capturing eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions in full. His troops have gained ground in the two areas collectively known as the Donbas while blasting some towns to wastelands.
I am wondering in the case of a Russian push towards Odessa whether NATO, yes NATO, shouldn’t warn Russia that it would directly intervene if the city was attacked. Odessa should be a our “red line” because what would be at stake would the survival of Ukraine as a viable state.
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) May 28, 2022
👺 Christy Quirk writes: “More data from Kyiv International Institute of Sociology on Ukrainians’ attitudes toward Russia. Spoiler alert: 92 percent now have a bad attitude, whereas prewar (2014) most were positive. Even in the east, 85 percent are now negative. Good work everyone.” (In Ukrainian.)
“We’ll grind them down in the end.” The Kremlin is considering another assault on Kyiv and planning victory in Ukraine by the fall:
Despite failing to capture Kyiv at the outset of the war, the Kremlin is reportedly considering a second assault on Ukraine’s capital, as Russian troops appear to be on the verge of seizing the entire Donbas region. Sources tell Meduza that advances in the east and expectations that Moscow can win a war of attrition against Kyiv and its Western allies have revived hopes in the Putin administration that a full-scale victory is possible in Ukraine before the end of the year.
Putin is going to lose his war. The world should prepare for instability in Russia:
The conventional wisdom is that Putin’s Praetorian Guard, the Presidential Protection Service, is so strong, well paid, and loyal to Putin that it will protect him against any coup attempt. However, the cost of Putin’s continued leadership to Russian society is so great that it would be surprising if no group would mobilize against him. Sudden ample leaks from the otherwise secretive intelligence community suggest an elevated degree of interagency rivalry. …
Russia’s domestic environment looks explosive at every level. Plausible rumors are spreading about arrests and sacking of top security officials; at least seven top Russian businessmen have reportedly committed suicide after first having killed their families, making these appear like executions. Social unrest has not been widespread in recent years, but it does occur, and the level of anticipated decline in output and living standards has not been recorded since the early 1990s. A natural popular reaction would be widespread social unrest, which would aggravate the tensions among the security services.
A group of lawmakers in Russia’s Far East read out an appeal to Putin to stop the war, only to be called “traitors” by the governor:
When he finished reading, there was lonely applause in the hall—apparently from Gennady Shulga. Oleg Kozhemyako’s reaction was not long in coming—the governor demanded to take the offender out of the hall and deprive him of his voice, and at the same time apply the same measures to Shulga.
“Yes, bring Shulga out of the hall for those actions that defame the Russian army and our defenders who are now in the fight against Nazism. And deprive him of his voice. Both one and the other. What are you talking about here?” Kozhemyako was indignant. (In Russian.)
Harder, crueler, longer. Russian lawmakers draft new penalties for assisting Russia’s “enemies” on and off the battlefield:
Lawmakers from Russia’s ruling political party, United Russia, have submitted draft legislation to the State Duma that would create two new felony statutes and add stricter penalties to another five crimicnal offenses already on the books. Clearly but unofficially connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the legislative initiative concerns cooperation with foreign organizations and participation in armed hostilities.
Christy Quirk remarks: Two articles suggest that despite Putin’s best efforts to rip Russian civil society out by the roots, it may be developing organically as a result of his war against Ukraine:
- Drones. Crutches. Potatoes. Russians Crowdfund Their Army.
- Ukrainians forced into enemy hands are fleeing—and Russians are helping them. (Paywalled.)
💣 Russia’s ambassador to the UK says Russia won’t use nuclear weapons in Ukraine:
Andrei Kelin said that according to Russian military rules, such weapons are not used in conflicts like this. He also described allegations of war crimes in the town of Bucha as “a fabrication.” And he called UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss “very belligerent” and inexperienced.
On the use of nuclear weapons, Mr Kelin said Russia has very strict rules for their use, mainly when the state’s existence is threatened. “It has nothing to do with the current operation.”
Giggling Russian propagandists claim monkeypox is affecting primarily homosexuals and (‘such a coincidence, maybe it’s not a coincidence’) countries sending weapons to Ukraine. When you think they hit a new low, think twice: pic.twitter.com/LKDsahslft https://t.co/pL998LcK69
— Jaroslava Barbieri (@jarabarbieri) May 27, 2022
🚀 Russia said it successfully tested hypersonic missiles in the Arctic. The defense ministry said the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile traveled 1,000 kilometers and “successfully hit” a target.
In Syria, Wagner fighters were filmed gleefully beating a Syrian army deserter with a sledgehammer before cutting off his head. In the Central African Republic, United Nations investigators received reports that the mercenaries raped, tortured and murdered civilians. In Libya, Wagner allegedly booby-trapped civilian homes with explosives attached to toilet seats and teddy bears. Last month, German intelligence officials linked Wagner mercenaries to indiscriminate killings in Ukraine.
The US was slow to respond to the danger, and it now finds itself struggling to restrain the use of the mercenaries across the globe, according to interviews with more than 15 current and former diplomatic, military and intelligence officials. Unilateral sanctions have done little to deter the group. Diplomacy has stumbled.
🇷🇺🚫 Defederating Russia:
What happened to the Russian Empire? It disintegrated at the end of an imperialist war. What happened to the Soviet Union? It disintegrated at the end of the Cold War. What will happen to the Russian Federation?
The answer is obvious, even if it saddens many. Russian patriotism is such that even those who do not support the Kremlin regime are not ready to recognize the imperial nature of the present Russian state. Even those who consider the present Russian government unjust, incompetent or simply dangerous believe in the survival of the Russian Federation with its present borders. Even people like me, who wish Ukraine a military victory and the Russian rulers an international trial, are not ready to admit that this will consequently lead to the end of the country itself.
🇫🇷 French diplomats will be demonstrating French values around the world next week by going on strike. (In French.)
🇧🇾 Belarusian dystopia. With troops at the border, the broadened use of the death penalty, and attacks on books and culture, Belarus devolves into abject misery:
Recently, in an unspoken raid against Belarusian language and culture, the regime had suspended the activities of several Belarusian independent publishing houses: Limarius, Book Collection, Goliaths, and Madison. The searches in the publishing house and the new store coincided with an alleged ban on the sale of George Orwell’s 1984. The novel by Orwell has been among the bestsellers in the country. According to local media, state-owned bookstores were ordered to take the book off their shelves.
Marko Mihkelson, Head of the Estonian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, has called Scholz and Macron “braindead” for making constant phone calls to Vladimir Putin.
“It is incredible how France & Germany are inadvertently paving the way for new acts of violence by Russia.” pic.twitter.com/acIkVSm5M3
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) May 29, 2022
🇹🇷🇫🇮🇸🇪 Erdogan said Turkey’s talks last week with Finnish and Swedish delegations were not at the “expected level” and Ankara cannot say yes to “terrorism-supporting” countries entering NATO.
Yes, Putin’s war raises many questions. What are your loyalties? What does the EU stand for today? Anything? Or is it dead? Why is Scholz slowing down aid while the news from Ukraine gets worse and Russia is again talking about taking the entire country? https://t.co/bsAPR1DCd0
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) May 27, 2022
Hundreds of Lithuanians clubbed together to buy an advanced military drone for Ukraine … “Before this war started, none of us thought that we would be buying guns. But it’s a normal thing now. Something must be done for the world to get better,’“ said Agne Belickaite, 32, who sent 100 euros as soon as the fundraising launched on Wednesday. “I’ve been donating to buy guns for Ukraine for a while now. And will do so until the victory.”
To mark its opening, the Fabrique des Lumières will be exploring a century of Viennese painting and offering a one-of-a-kind look at the work of Gustav Klimt and his successors through a plethora of portraits, landscapes, nudes, colours and golds. Klimt was the driving force behind the Vienna Secession, a movement that sought to shake up European art, paving the way for contemporary painting. The golden hues and decorative motifs symbolise this artistic revolution. Visitors will be invited to cast their eyes over large-format masterpieces, such as Klimt’s iconic work The Kiss, and will be immersed in the Imperial Vienna of the late nineteenth century. Created by Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi, with music by Luca Longobardi.
🌍 Middle East
🇮🇷🚢 The Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek oil tankers in the Persian Gulf in retaliation for the seizure, in Greek waters, of crude from an Iranian-flagged tanker:
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said it made a strong démarche to the Iranian ambassador in Athens over the “violent taking over of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Persian Gulf. “These acts effectively amount to acts of piracy.”
Already the Russians have reportedly been transferring some of their bases to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, meaning that the further expansion and consolidation of Iranian influence in Syria can be expected as an outcome of Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
“The tempo of high-level visits between Tehran and Damascus appears to be on the rise. On the ground, Iranian backed forces have already started to exploit Russia’s diminished position in northeast Syria and could well seek to exploit security gaps in the southwest.”
🇹🇳 A Tunisian court has banned 34 people, including the head of the Islamist Ennahdha party, from travel:
Ennahdha party chief Rachid Ghannouchi and 33 others have been targeted in an investigation into the alleged service, dubbed the “secret apparatus,” which has been blamed by some for the still-unsolved murders of two leftist militants in 2013.
Iraqi farmers say they are paying the price for a government decision to cut irrigation for agricultural areas by 50 percent. The government took the step in the face of severe water shortages arising from high temperatures and drought—believed to be fueled by climate change—and ongoing water extraction by neighboring countries from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. All those factors have heavily strained wheat production.
🇱🇾 A UN report says Libya faces a serious threat from foreign fighters and private military companies, especially Russia’s Wagner Group:
The experts also accused seven Libyan armed groups of systematically using unlawful detention to punish perceived opponents, ignoring international and domestic civil rights laws, including laws prohibiting torture. In particular, “migrants have been extremely vulnerable to human rights abuses and regularly subjected to acts of slavery, rape and torture,” the panel said.
The translation from Turkish—“derin devlet”—is literal and direct. A state that exists below and within. The Turkish term, however, doesn’t imply any outside-the-mainstream milieu of ideas, nor does it serve the same role as the American term “conspiracy theory” in describing a way of seeing the political world. “Deep State” in Turkish is not a flight of fancy or an alternative belief; rather, it describes a very specific set of historical actors in a specific time and place. Who is included within the bounds of the term is of course up for debate, because the Deep State is secretive by definition, but the term describes unauthorized and unknown networks of power operating independently of official political leadership. The Turkish Deep State has imprecise boundaries and includes state-aligned mafia figures as well as industrialists and conservative economic elites, but it is not a catchall term for status quo power structures or hegemonic institutions. The Deep State is a shadowy parallel system of power, not the power structure that you can openly see.
🇾🇪 Despite three days of talks in Jordan, Yemen’s warring parties were unable to reach an agreement to lift the Houthi’s blockage of Taiz. The failure ends any hope of lifting the blockade as agreed in a truce brokered by the UN.
[D]ebates took a different direction when a few in the Muslim world discovered that Shireen, who had for decades given a voice to the Palestinian people, was in fact not a Muslim but a Christian. After many had called her a martyr and thousands joined prayers outside the hospital she was treated in, there was some awkward backpedaling as her coffin was carried toward the church. …
In international media, the story was limited to the killing of a Palestinian journalist and the suffering of Palestinians. In the region, the martyrdom question was so widespread that it triggered headlines and discussions in Arabic media for the past week. The debate unearthed even some fatwas. In a YouTube video, a Libyan Islamic scholar said that, because she was not a Muslim, it was not permissible to pray for her or ask for “rahma” (God’s mercy).
🇸🇾 “When Amjad Youssef met “Anna,” a young Alawite Syrian who was studying abroad, the military man was skeptical at first. But as the weeks unfolded, he began to open up to his fellow pro-regime partisan over Facebook. What he didn’t know was that Anna had been created by genocide researchers Annsar Shahhoud and Uğur Ümit Üngör.”
🇸🇩 Sudanese security forces killed two people in a crackdown against protesters who took to the streets of the capital to denounce last October’s military coup:
Saturday’s protests were part of relentless demonstrations in the past seven months calling for the military to hand over power to civilians. At least 98 people have been killed and over 4,300 wounded in the government crackdown on anti-coup protests since October … The protesters demand the removal of the military from power. The generals, however, have said they will only hand over power to an elected administration. They say elections will take place in July 2023 as planned in a constitutional document governing the transition period.
💉 We had a Covid vaccine in a year. Why did it take 35 years to get a malaria vaccine?
The people who are affected by malaria, “they’re not Europeans, they’re not Australians, they are poor African children,” said Ashley Birkett, director of the malaria vaccine initiative at PATH, a non-profit global health organization. “Unfortunately, I think we have to accept that that is part of the reason for the lack of urgency in the community.”
🇨🇩 Fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo over the past week between the army and M23 rebel group has forced more than 72,000 people from their homes:
The M23, a rebellion claiming to represent the interests of ethnic Tutsis in eastern Congo, is staging its largest offensive since a 2012-2013 insurrection that captured vast swathes of the countryside. Of the 72,000 who have fled, about 7,000 reportedly crossed into neighboring Uganda … Others have headed to Goma or taken shelter in sites built to house people fleeing a volcanic eruption last year.
Eastern Congo has experienced near constant conflict since 1996, when Rwanda and other neighbouring states invaded in pursuit of Hutu militiamen who had participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Congo has 5.6 million internally displaced persons, the most in Africa.
🇨🇩 A dozen or more civilians were killed by rebel fighters in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the country’s army and civil society groups. A spokesman for the DRC army said “more than a dozen” people were killed in Saturday’s attack, while the Red Cross put the death toll at 24.
Soldiers patrolling eastern Democratic Republic of Congo discovered 17 decapitated bodies, believed to be victims of a notorious rebel group, local sources said on Friday. The troops came across the corpses on Thursday by the Ituri river, in the Irumu territory of Ituri province, according to Red Cross representative David Beiza. A Red Cross team later visited the area with soldiers and found the bodies, said Beiza, adding he suspected rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces were responsible for the beheadings.
Described by the so-called Islamic State as its local affiliate, the ADF has been accused of killing thousands of civilians in DRC’s troubled east. Experts suggested the militia was responsible for a May 11 attack in Irumu territory that left at least 20 civilians dead.
🇨🇩 The Kivu Security Tracker maps incidents in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here’s the past 30 days:
🇨🇩🇷🇼 DR Congo, accusing the Rwandan government of supporting the resurgent M23 rebel group near their shared eastern border, grounded RwandAir flights to three DRC cities:
Relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda seemed to deteriorate Saturday after DRC barred RwandAir from its airspace.
Patrick Muyaya, spokesman for the Congolese government, announced that DRC has “immediately” suspended the flights, adding that a “stern warning is given to the Government of Rwanda” over its alleged involvement in the conflict in North Kivu, eastern DRC.
🇨🇩🇷🇼 The government in Kinshasa also summoned Rwanda’s ambassador to express its disapproval of its neighbor’s “recidivist attitude.”
The Congolese government has said it found military equipment that was allegedly supplied by Rwanda, along with testimonies from local residents and soldiers suggesting a link between M23 and its neighbor.
“A warning was made to the Rwandans, whose attitude is likely to disrupt the peace process … where all the armed groups, except for the M23, are committed to the path to peace,” Communications Minister Patrick Muyaya said.
Kinshasa also accuses Kigali of scuppering the peace process being mediated by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who holds the rotating presidency of the East African Community group.
Rwanda denies supporting the rebels and relations between the two countries have nosedived over the past month. Rwanda on Saturday accused DRC of backing another rebel group that captured two of its soldiers along the shared border this week.
🇸🇳 Senegal President Macky Sall, who chairs the Africa Union, called for dialogue between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
🇨🇩 For two decades, the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been the center of the deadliest conflict since World War II.
Part of a vast country straddling the heart of Central Africa, the eastern Congo continues to defy efforts at pacification. As the conflict has morphed from a regional war to a series of tenacious local insurgencies, the civilians caught in the middle have paid the steepest price.
Fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is intensifying, with Ugandan and Burundian soldiers in pursuit of rebels and Congolese insurgents on the rebound. With help from its allies, Kinshasa should step up diplomacy lest the country become a regional battleground once more.
Tshisekedi’s decision to invite in foreign troops could roil the already unstable east by triggering proxy warfare or energising Congolese rebels. For years, rivalries among the DRC’s neighbours have spawned myriad insurgencies that they could use against one another. Uganda’s military campaign has particularly irked Rwanda.
What should be done? Tshisekedi should set rules for foreign intervention on Congolese soil, while intensifying efforts to dissuade Rwanda from deploying forces across the border. Drawing on Kenya for support, he should organize fresh talks with neighboring countries to rethink further military action and develop a comprehensive plan for negotiations with armed groups.
🇳🇬 Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has been picked by the main opposition party to stand in elections to succeed incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari:
Abubakar, 75, lost to Buhari during the last election in 2019, which he claimed was rigged. But Buhari will not be on the ballot next year when the second of his two four-year terms comes to an end.
In his acceptance speech, Abubakar reiterated his campaign promise to end insecurity in the country and revive its fragile economy, among other pledges, and promised to work with his opponents. “I therefore pledge that I will restore unity. I also committed that I was going to deal decisively with the security situation in this country,” said Abubakar.
Moscow has become deeply involved in Mali, with its notoriously brutal Wagner Group showing little signs of restraint. The country is collapsing and the people live in fear. Meanwhile, Germany’s military may soon follow the French out of the country.
🇬🇶 African leaders gathered for a summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to address Africa’s growing humanitarian needs.
🇳🇬 A stampede at a church charity event in southern Nigeria left 31 dead and seven injured.
🇻🇪🛢 The Biden administration renewed a license that partly exempts Chevron from sanctions on Venezuela so that it can make up for shortfalls from Russia.
A bloc of leftist countries condemned the exclusion countries from next month’s Summit of the Americas. The United States said it only wanted leaders of governments that respect democracy to attend.
The 10 countries known as the ALBA bloc—including Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua—issued a statement from Havana saying they “reject the exclusions and discriminatory treatment at the so-called Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.”
Despite the Biden administration’s efforts to outline a new vision for engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean, old fault lines are likely to come into play at the upcoming Summit of the Americas:
Both US domestic politics and governments in the hemisphere with a more skeptical view of Washington and its intentions contribute to these tensions. A new US perspective is required—one that takes into greater account the region’s diversity, priorities and political complexity. Without such a shift, the perception and reality of declining U.S. influence are only likely to deepen. …
In general, Americans rarely take the trouble to understand the profound differences between countries as disparate as Mexico, the Caribbean nations, Colombia and Brazil. If they did, they would be less likely to paint political developments in binary colors and accept the complexities of the region’s democracies. The United States should recognize that it can work with left-of and right-of-center governments, and centrist ones too. Washington can more pro-actively engage with sub-regional initiatives, like the Pacific Alliance of Colombia, Chile, Peru and Mexico; or the similar efforts of the Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica. And the United States should commit resources and embrace working with governments in Colombia, Ecuador and Chile invested in fighting climate change.
Gustavo Petro, a leftist former mayor of Bogota and member of the M-19 guerrilla group and current senator, is consistently leading opinion polls with around 40 percent support, ten points below what he would need to secure the presidency without a June second round.
☠️ Two-thirds of world’s most dangerous cities are in Latin America, with Medellín, Bogotá, Rio, Mexico City, and San Salvador leading the poll:
“The region’s role in the transnational trafficking of narcotics and the continued strength of sophisticated drug-trafficking organisations and gangs is the key factor underpinning Latin America’s risk profile,” the research, released on Thursday, found.
The study, which used data on crime (such as homicides, theft and property damage), terrorism, civil unrest and conflict, found that eight of the 12 cities that receive the worst possible score for crime are in Latin America. Kabul in Afghanistan and Mogadishu in Somalia are ranked as the world’s most dangerous places when all four security risks were taken into account.
🌾 The Latin American and Caribbean region will suffer one of the most acute crises in its history because of food insecurity as a result of the war in Ukraine, according to the World Food Program:
There are 9.3 million people under food insecurity in the Latin American countries … a figure that could increase to 13.3 million or more in the coming months if the conflict in Ukraine continues.
🚗🇨🇷 Costa Rican criminals, alarmed by rising fuel prices, have switched to stealing more fuel-efficient vehicles:
A class of cars that seems to be a favorite among thieves are in the group with the Toyota Yaris, “one of the most stolen vehicles in recent months throughout the country,” stated the prosecutor.
Gone are the days of rigid controls. Up until very recently, Venezuelans hid their dollars because it was a crime to possess them beyond the watchful eye of the state. People had to queue for hours to buy rationed food at regulated prices and bolívars, the local currency, were few and far between. The panorama now is completely different. The use of the dollar as everyday currency, the lifting of price controls and tariff-free imports have changed the reality under which Venezuelans previously attempted to subsist. …
The sui generis capitalism being practiced in Venezuela has created a bubble of expenditure and redistribution in which four million people are living, particularly in Caracas. It is an island of consumerism in the middle of a precarious economy. Traffic in the capital has been restored to the diabolical levels of any major Latin American city whereas previously, due to a lack of gas, the roads were practically empty. Entrepreneurs are opening nightclubs, restaurants, supermarkets, stores and pharmacies. Internationally famous singers are returning to perform. One of the trendiest spots, Bar Caracas, has a price list identical to clubs in New York. That doesn’t stop it from being jam-packed from Wednesday to Sunday. Bar Caracas is a terrace in a five-star hotel, the Tamanaco, where businesspeople from around the world stay, with local news on Google alert to try and understand what is happening in Venezuela. They have the feeling that if they get in quickly, before house and business prices start to recover, there is money to be made.
🏃🏽 More than 24,000 irregular migrants entered Honduras between January and April 2022, mostly from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The Danlí and Trojes municipalities are seeing a daily average of more than 500 people seeking shelter.
Investors who once felt invincible are now seeing losses and red numbers. In the first three months of the year, funding for new businesses dropped 60 percent from its peak in 2021, when it reached US$7.3 billion in the second quarter … Meanwhile, in the first quarter of this year, the number of new unicorns reached its lowest level globally in five quarters. On top of this, not a single Latin American company had an initial public offering on the international market.
🇲🇽 Mexico has militarized its immigration policy. Since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office, Mexico’s armed forces have permeated the country’s immigration system and shaped its policies in militarized effort to keep migrants away from the US border, according to a report by the human rights group Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho:
Military bodies have been assigned functions in migratory matters, contrary to Mexican regulations, international human rights law and international refugee law. Tens of thousands of these elements have been deployed on the northern and southern borders of Mexico, constituting military walls or the so-called vertical border, also contributing to the process of outsourcing border control promoted by the United States of America.
Gradualmilitary and ex-military personnel have also been incorporated as part of the structures of the National Migration Institute, which indicates the strengthening of the national security perspective in migration policy, as well as the favoring of the criminalization of immigrants. groups of migrants, thus accentuating their situation of vulnerability. (In Spanish.)
Archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of an ancient Mayan city filled with palaces, pyramids and plazas on a construction site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Palaces and houses are among the 12 structures that have been restored in the restoration of an ancient Mayan city rediscovered near Mérida, Yucatán, in 2015. Archaeologists with the National Institute of Anthropology and History have been working at the Xiol archaeological site in the municipality of Kanasín for the past eight months.
The city, whose name means “Spirit of Man” in Mayan, is believed to have been built between A.D. 600 and 900. It was rediscovered during construction work at an industrial site. Palaces, modest dwellings and workshops have now been uncovered and restored. In addition to the buildings, some of which were found in relatively good condition despite their age, the site also has a large public square, which would have been used for ceremonial purposes.
🎧❗️A recording of a top-secret meeting of China’s People’s Liberation Army leadership has purportedly been leaked to Lude Media. Lude Media is an anti-CCP lobbying group founded by Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire in the US. Senior military and CCP officials may be heard discussing detailed plans to “smash” Taiwan’s military. The 57-minute meeting was allegedly recorded during a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Provincial Party Committee of Guangdong on May 14. The recording is unverified; it is being examined by security agencies:
Participants were told that all government levels in the province must change their priority from economic development to “ensuring strategic victory.” The commanders vowed, “We won’t hesitate to start a war, crush Taiwan’s independence and strong enemies’ plots, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and they said it is Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping’s (習近平) “strategic decision to coordinate the big picture of international and domestic affairs.” …
The commanders believe that based on the Russo-Ukrainian war, China must boost its strength in the political arena because the US and the West will “try everything to slander us, smear us, in an attempt to confuse right and wrong — to shake our will to win a just and decisive battle.” They also plan to gain every advantage from the “people’s war” by employing tactics from China’s zero-COVID policy to “fully mobilize grassroots organizations; widely mobilize cadres and masses; organize military, police, and civilian forces; launch grid control; create an atmosphere of national preparedness; and improve the people’s ability to withstand war and disaster so that enemies and spies have no place to hide.”
🔴 An English translation of the transcript is available on Lude Media, along with this explanation:
The following audio recording is the very first time such a top secret military meeting has been recorded, obtained and made public since the founding of the PRC in 1949.
It’s from a group of senior members of the Chinese Communist Party military who risked their own lives to expose the evil plan of Xi Jinping and the CCP to the civilized world. …
This intelligence operation was planned and carried out by Lude Media along with our allies within the CCP (code name: Thunder), especially the military. Xi Jinping administration panicked after the audio recording was made public and launched an internal task to hunt “Thunder,” saying that “Thunder” has to be captured and eliminated at all costs.
The recording, which is coded with a series of military terms, reveals the Xi Jinping administration’s detailed plans for the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, the East China Sea and to cross the First Island Chain, eventually to achieve a strategic victory against the United States. It also provides significant value to understand the PLA’s “People’s war” from both strategic and tactical ways.
🔴 Human rights activist Jennifer Zeng has also provided a translation, along with photos of some of the participants, links to their bios, and links to the websites enterprises and labs they mention. She writes that “according to CCP and PLA rules, anyone who dares to leak info of this meeting is subjected to death.” Jennifer Zeng is a prominent exponent of Falun Gong who now lives in the US.
Comrades, we now convene an expanded meeting of the Standing Committee of the Provincial Party Committee, mainly to decide the province’s major issues related to the transition to a wartime system.
First of all, Comrade Zhang Hu（张虎） will convey the national mobilization order and the instruction spirit of the State Council Central Military Commission on transferring to the wartime system and put forward a Normal to War transition proposal. …
According to the spirit of the instructions from above, combined with the actual situation in our province, it is recommended that in accordance with the principle of a rapid and orderly Normal to War status transition, military planning, and mobilization, we will focus on the following three tasks.
First, the construction of a national defense mobilization command system
Second, the implementation of a wartime work mechanism
Third, wartime control preparation
Next, please discuss and make speeches.
The recording treats the logistics of the invasion and protecting mainland China from counterattacks.
“In accordance with the idea of protecting the front line and maintaining stability at the same time, we should do well with social prevention and control, strict and tight. We should initiate the joint defense and control mechanism among the party, government, military, police, and civilians, and special measures for wartime control. We should transform the experiences we gained from pandemic prevention and control in previous years into wartime social prevention and control initiatives to ensure that people’s production and life are in order, to ensure the general situation of social stability, and to create a favorable environment and conditions for the strategic victory. …
“Comrades, the strategic decisive victory is related to the great cause of our national rejuvenation and the future fate of our country. It will also impact the world’s strategic pattern. The Normal to War transition is a key move to win the overall war, the decisive battle of our country, and the people’s war in the new era. We must do it quickly and well.
“First, we need to unify the ideological understanding and strengthen the awareness of transition. We won’t hesitate to start a war, crush Taiwan’s independence and strong enemies’ plots, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is the Party Central Committee, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s major strategic decision to coordinate the big pictures of international and domestic affairs, as well as the overall strategic situation of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It was made after carefully reviewing the timing and the situations. …
🔴 Here, Jennifer Zeng discusses the video:
🔴 Zeng discusses her experiences in Chinese labor camps here: “My organs were nearly harvested in a Chinese labor camp but people still deny it’s happening.”
She claims four generals were executed and many arrested after the leak.
Full vid of explosive leak of PLA’s #War Mobilization Meeting
4 generals executed, many arrested after this file was exposed. This is said to be the biggest proactive rebellion from inside the #CCP‘s army!
The entire should be concerned. https://t.co/yc9KLVzsxq
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferatntd) May 22, 2022
She also points out that a new article in the CCP media has been published: “Once in a state of war, what should the general public do?” She says it dovetails with what was purportedly said in the mobilization meeting. (It’s not so close that I take it, as she does, as evidence of the authenticity of the recording).
After decades of efforts, China’s national defense force has become stronger and stronger. In addition, China has adhered to the path of peaceful development and has maintained a relatively peaceful posture at home. China has not had a war for a long time. However, the international situation is changing, and the world situation may not always tend to be better. There are still many countries in the world who are still covetous at us. If they are not good, confrontations and conflicts may break out. …
The country is a huge whole. When a war breaks out, the stable operation within itself is as important as war. The stable development in China greatly affects the results of the war situation. After all, war consumes a lot of money, material resources. Without a stable rear, the army is prone to fall into a desperate situation of isolation and even run out of food. Therefore, when the people are on alert, as long as they continue to live a normal life and work, they can support the country by the way. (In Chinese.)
A recent war game, conducted by the Center for a New American Security in conjunction with the NBC program “Meet the Press,” demonstrated just how quickly such a conflict could escalate. The game posited a fictional crisis set in 2027, with the aim of examining how the United States and China might act under a certain set of conditions. The game demonstrated that China’s military modernization and expansion of its nuclear arsenal—not to mention the importance Beijing places on unification with Taiwan—mean that, in the real world, a fight between China and the United States could very well go nuclear. (Paywalled, depending how many articles you’ve read.)
🤝 Speaking of leaks, a draft of the regional and economic agreement China is hoping will be signed by ten Pacific nations next week has been leaked, too, and this one is certainly authentic:
China is pursuing a sweeping regional economic security deal with Pacific nations that would dramatically expand its influence and reach into those countries, in a pact that has western countries and some Pacific leaders deeply worried.
The wide-ranging deal lays out China’s vision for a much closer relationship with the Pacific, especially on security matters, with China proposing it would be involved in training police, cybersecurity, sensitive marine mapping and gaining greater access to natural resources.
A draft of the deal, written in a similar style to the controversial bilateral security deal signed by Solomon Islands and China last month, and a five-year action plan, both of which have been obtained by the Guardian, cover a huge range of issues, including trade, financing and investment, tourism, public health and Covid-19 support, establishing Chinese language and cultural exchanges, training and scholarships, as well disaster prevention and relief.
The agreement will be discussed by Pacific leaders and Chinese foreign minister 🌏 Wang Yi, who has embarked on a tour of the Pacific, visiting eight countries in ten days:
Wang is due to stop in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor … The visits emphasize China’s push for engagement with the region, which has traditionally retained close ties with Beijing’s major rivals including the United States and Australia.
🇦🇺 Australia’s alarmed foreign minister, Penny Wong, went to the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji, to face off with China and show the contrast between Canberra and Beijing:
Foreign Minister Penny Wong has promised Australia will be a partner to Pacific Islands nations “that doesn’t come with strings attached”.
Senator Wong spoke to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Fiji on Thursday where she said the region hadn’t faced more vexing circumstances in decades, citing the challenges of climate change, Covid19 and strategic contests. …
“Our objective is (that) your independence and your own economic sustainability and prosperity don’t come with strings attached,” she said. Senator Wong also sought to contrast Labor and the Coalition, saying past Australian governments had ignored and disrespected Pacific nations on the “existential threat” of climate change.
🇫🇲 The president of the Federated States of Micronesia, David Panuelo, said he would argue for the rejection of the “pre-determined joint communique” because it could spark a new Cold War between China and the West. The draft communique and five-year action plan, he said, “threatens regional stability.”
It was the week that everything changed. For years, security analysts and politicians have warned of China’s rise in the Pacific. Officials representing Beijing have worked slowly and, for the most part, quietly in the small island nations that dot the vast Pacific Ocean—cementing allies, funding infrastructure projects, conducting concerted person-to-person diplomacy.
But this week, Beijing picked up the pace.
The leak of a sweeping economic and security pact has revealed that China hopes to sign ten Pacific nations in a deal that could fundamentally shift the balance of power in a region that spans almost a third of the globe. Today, Pacific nations face a choice that will shape the region for decades to come.
🇨🇳 China’s ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang, accused the Biden administration of turning the Taiwan Strait into “a powder keg” in an op-ed published in the South China Morning Post:
The one-China principle has been the bedrock of China-US relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. This bedrock, however, is in peril like never before. …
The US government, while claiming its one-China policy has not changed, that it does not support “Taiwan independence” and does not want conflict or confrontation with China, considers Taiwan as a “strategic node” in the first island chain to contain China. … While substantially upgrading its official relations with Taiwan and sending senior officials to the island, the US side has been whitewashing its moves as developing “unofficial relations”. While paying lip service to cross-strait peace, it keeps selling sophisticated weaponry to Taiwan, only to add fuel to the fire. US actions will embolden separatists and turn the Taiwan Strait into a dangerous powder keg.
🇨🇳🇹🇼✈️ Meanwhile, seven Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone this morning. This is the 23rd day this month in which unauthorized Chinese aircraft have entered Taiwanese airspace. (In Chinese.)
🇺🇳 Stalemate in the UN Security Council: China and Russia vetoed attempt led by the US to impose more sanctions on North Korea for its recent ballistic missile launches. It was the first time in 16 years that the Security Council declined to escalate sanctions against Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
😷🇨🇳 Beijing and Shanghai are easing Covid restrictions. A Beijing city spokesman said a few cases are still being found in some districts, but they’re within a controllable range. “This round of outbreak has been put under effective control.”
🇺🇳🤦🏻♀️ Michelle Bachelet wrapped up her Xinjiang trip without seeing where China locks up Uyghur activists. Advocacy groups said they were “appalled” by UN human rights chief’s performance:
Activists wanted more from what is the first trip to China by a UN top official on human rights in nearly two decades, especially following the release of the striking dossier known as the Xinjiang Police Files containing shocking images of life inside those facilities. Bachelet is set to be scrutinized over whether her trip—also featuring a video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping and a physical meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi—would turn into material for Chinese propaganda.
Volkswagen continues to operate a factory in the heart of Xinjiang, despite massive criticism from human rights activists. The factory is largely meaningless from a business perspective. Is the company trying to prove its loyalty to the Chinese government?
🇰🇵💊 North Korea is compelling party members to contribute household medicine and food, ostensibly for people in quarantine. But it doesn’t seem to be going to the people who need it:
North Korean authorities are forcing party members to cough up household medicine in their possession, ostensibly for “support.” The authorities seem intent on emptying people’s cupboards of medicine that the government cannot supply through the nation’s medical system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s donation of his own household medicine appears to have influenced the recent call for people to contribute their own drugs. North Korea may be attempting to create an image of the nation overcoming the crisis with the country’s supreme leader at the center; in short, pushing the idea that party members are voluntarily participating in donations after being inspired by Kim’s initiative and example. …
People in quarantine facilities are failing to receive even the fever medicine they need, the source said. “They are receiving just salt water to gargle, so there’s plenty of complaints that if this is how it’s going to be, it would be better to just [leave the isolation facilities],” he added.
🇰🇵🧑🏼🌾 The Covid outbreak is apparently making it difficult to mobilize people to plant crops—so North Korea is expected to fall far short of its agricultural targets:
“Since they can’t forcibly mobilize people, they aren’t able to send enough people to the farms.” … Moreover, the source said many people are avoiding the mobilizations, adding that “everyone is trying to skip out using COVID-19 as an excuse.” …
Most farms in North Korea are not mechanized, so people have to do the planting manually, the source said. “However, since there are no people to work, it will be virtually impossible to finish the planting on time.” Moreover, due to a lack of vinyl film, seed beds are suffering from severe cold damage, and with the added drought, the young rice plants are not growing enough to plant. “Planting efforts are facing problems, but the party just tells people to make up for the lack of fertilizer, agricultural chemicals and vinyl film through self-reliance. They have no measures to deal with drought or cold damage.”
🇦🇫؋ Letter from Kabul: A new decree calling for women to cover their faces in public is the latest sign that the Taliban government is increasingly out of touch with the mood of the nation:
The most anxious women I have spoken to in recent months are those who continue to hold down jobs in the government and private sector. Even before the latest decree was issued they were worried about feeding their families and trying to sustain their careers. Those who used to enjoy going to work wearing makeup no longer do so. In offices they now carry out their duties separately from the men: typing, writing, cleaning, eating, talking and praying in their own confined spaces. They criticize the Taliban quietly among themselves and on the condition of anonymity or off the record to me.
🇮🇳 The Hinduization of India Is nearly complete. Narendra Modi’s ethnonationalist rule is unraveling the country’s constitutional commitment to its Muslim and Christian minorities:
Nominally, India remains a secular state and a multifaith democracy. Religious minorities account for roughly 20 percent of the country’s 1.4 billion people, who include about 200 million Muslims and 28 million Christians. But beneath the country’s ostensible inclusivity runs an undercurrent of Hindu nationalism that has gained strength during the eight-year rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The concern shared by many among the country’s religious minorities, as well as by more secular-minded liberals within the Hindu majority, is that the country’s secular and inclusive ethos is already beyond repair. (Paywalled.)
🛫🇳🇵A small plane with 22 souls on board is missing in Nepal.
⛴🇮🇩 A cargo boat sank in the Makassar Strait in Indonesia. 25 people are missing.
🍜 Japanese researchers have developed computerized chopsticks that enhance salty tastes to help people who need to reduce sodium in their diets:
The device uses a weak electrical current to transmit sodium ions from food, through the chopsticks, to the mouth where they create a sense of saltiness, said Miyashita. “As a result, the salty taste enhances 1.5 times,” he said. (In Chinese.)
On all continents, democracies are dwindling while undemocratic systems are on the rise, currently accounting for 70 percent of the world’s population, that is, affecting 5.4 billion people. According to studies by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg, a decade earlier the percentage of people without democracy was 49% percent. Not since 1978 has there been such a low number of countries in the process of democratization.
Q. In The Revenge of Power, there is a chapter called Mafia States. Is this what we will end up in?
A. It is a perverse and dangerous mutation of corruption. From this, we move to kleptocracy and from there to a third variant, the one that Putin embodies: the criminal state. This implies that the criminals are not outside the government trying to influence it, but that the criminal is the government itself.
Q. How do you define the three P’s—post-truth, polarization and populism—that are behind this demise?
A. All three have always existed, but now they have become more powerful due to technological and social change, and economic and geopolitical transformations.
Russia’s botched invasion and Ukraine’s remarkable fortitude in fighting back have illustrated the diminishing power of the heavy and expensive unit of military power, its role challenged by nimbler, easier-to-use—and, crucially, cheaper—systems. Tanks, fighter jets, and warships are being pushed into obsolescence, giving way to new tools of conflict. In the process, we are seeing the very nature of combat change. In fact, we may be witnessing in Ukraine the final war of 20th-century militaries.
A growing cross section of societies around the world has taken to the streets in the past few years to challenge systemic injustices, from corruption to a lack of basic services to racial inequity. These mass mobilizations have been particularly prominent since 2019. Protests have significantly shaped political narratives, especially in the Middle East and the United States.
One of the key challenges for activists is to harness the political energy of mass protests—to go from protesting to organizing. The decline of traditional organizations and the rise of new communications technologies and social media have changed the conditions under which protests evolve from mobilization into movements. The transformed information environment provides both opponents and states with new tools. At the same time, civic spaces are closing down, and state security often responds to protests with a heavy hand. As a result of all these factors, building movements can be harder than in the past.
On the other hand, movements enjoy rich opportunities to learn by working across generations, regions, and with other movements. Often, though, activists must go out of their way to foster such learning, because popular protest movements lack the robust institutional memories of states and regimes. …
💰 The US is the top-ranked country in a list of jurisdictions most complicit in helping individuals to hide their finances from the rule of law. Switzerland is number two:
“Globally, we’re starting to curb the financial secrecy used by Russian oligarchs, and also by tax evaders, corrupt politicians and organized crime around the world to hide and launder ill-gotten wealth. But the US, UK, Germany, Italy and Japan cut back that global progress by more than half, fueling financial secrecy instead of fighting it.”
🕴🏻Teleportation breakthrough paves the way for quantum internet. A Dutch team has succeeded in exchanging qubits between distant nodes with no direct connection between sender and receiver.
🪄 We’re one step closer to a quantum internet and an entirely new kind of computer, one that can carry out in minutes tasks that would take supercomputers thousands of years—paving the way for huge breakthroughs in artificial intelligence.
Weekend Venn Diagram
Headline of the week
☦️ A dose of bracing bats*hit from Eurasia Daily
If there is a journalist outside Russia worthy of the most prestigious Russian profile award, then this is definitely the great American presenter Tucker Carlson. In the United States, he is called the terrible dream of “sleeping president” Joe Biden, an information killer, a guy “with steel eggs,” a professional of the highest level.
We bring to your attention another masterpiece of Carlson, where he breaks Biden to shreds for record inflation, and charges White House spokesman Karin Jean-Pierza with racism. …
🥢 The CCP is deeply sorry for you
… After Bachelet honestly and objectively told the press conference her experience and details of her stay in China, some stubborn Westerners still turned a blind eye to all this. The US State Department even takes the lead by expressing its “concerns” and its feeling of being “troubled,” and it accused China of restricting and manipulating Bachelet’s visit. It also put forward its previous tailor-made lies about Xinjiang region again.
In previous years, Xinjiang region was deeply affected by terrorism and religious extremism. But China has cracked down on terrorist activities in accordance with the law, safeguarded the lives and properties of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and effectively protected their human rights. After unremitting efforts, Xinjiang has become free of violent terrorism for more than five years in a row, with social security and stability, development continuing to improve, and people living and working in peace and happiness. However, some people in the US and the West stubbornly refuse to believe the reality in Xinjiang, and insist on imagining Xinjiang as a big theater with 25 million “extras,” which is an insult to the intelligence of those who have seen the reality of the region.
🐘💤 Today’s animal: The elephant
China’s wild elephants, photographed by drone:
A roaming herd of 15 wild elephants is on the move again after resting for a day in a patch of forest on the outskirts of the city of Kunming in southwest China, resuming a year-long, 500-kilometer trek that has captured the public’s imagination. …
The herd began its journey northwards more than a year ago, traveling from a designated elephant protection zone in Xishuangbanna, near China’s border with Myanmar. (h/t: Our reader David Gordon.)
Today’s place you might like to visit
… Canon is a ode to disconnection, an island lost in a natural setting, a break out of time. Alone labeled village most beautiful village in France by Ariege, Camon remains anchored in the memories of travelers, the scent of its hundreds of roses being unforgettable.
Claire Berlinski is the editor of the Cosmopolitan Globalist.