Underground Mall Newsletter: 2019-10-26

Global protests, extradition bills, Northeast Syria, oil, sports, tourism, and our future tech overlords! Curated letter of the recent news you should know!

Christian Patterson
Underground Mall

Let’s start with protest news!

[Common Dreams] ‘The Revolution Is Lit’: Jubilant Lebanon Uprising Fueled By Music, Dancing, and… ‘Baby Shark’

  • Baby Shark seems like a good protest song, everyone knows the words!

[New York Times] Iraq Will Prosecute Military and Police Leaders Over Protest Shootings

  • Imagine if the US prosecuted military and police who shot civilians? We wouldn’t have military and police left!

[AlJazeera] Thousands rally in Sudan, call for Bashir party to be disbanded

  • Sudan is protesting, a newer protest than some that are currently going. The dictatorial Bashir Party was deposed earlier this year, but now Sudanese wants the Bashir to be completely disbanded.

[Reuters] Haitian Catholics march for political reform as protests spread

  • Catholic leaders join the protests in Haiti, which, according to Reuters, is not typical for them to do.

[CNN] Chile protests: Presidential apology fails to quell anger as death toll rises to 18

  • Why isn’t the American press pushing and highlighting this much? Of course, the source site is CNN, but no American politician is criticizing the Chilean government, and we’re not exactly being blasted with it.

Transitioning to Hong Kong

[New York Times] Hong Kong Frees Murder Suspect Whose Case Led to Protests

  • A news issue peripherally related to global protests, Chan Tong-kai, who murdered his pregnant girlfriend, and inadvertently instigated the Hong Kong protests, is now out of jail. However, the issue is nowhere near over, because he murdered his girlfriend on a trip to Taiwan, which has no extradition laws with Hong Kong. Taiwan still wants Chan prosecuted, but is walking a political tightrope about how to do so.

[Strait Times] Hong Kong protests an example of backlash against neoliberalism

  • This title made me wince, because the protests are more a socio-cultural backlash, of a generally middle class character. I don’t see it as a backlash against neoliberalism at all. Immediately upon reading it, they portray the Hong Kong protests on the some plane as Brexit and Trump. I wouldn’t agree right-wing lash-outs like that are considered anti-neoliberal action, but if you take those premises as true, the article makes sense.

[Bloomberg] Singapore Sees Cash Starting to Flow From Turbulent Hong Kong

  • In an ironic turn for the Hong Kong protests, Hong Kong richies are moving value and wealth to Singapore. The irony is, the Hong Kong protesters claim they oppose the extradition bill, because China could use it to detain and punish Hong Kong capitalists (although nothing in the bill indicates such). But now, the protests themselves are driving out capital.
  • From the article:

“Whenever there is political instability in the region, money always flows into Singapore,” said Bilveer Singh, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore who wrote a book on the country’s politics. “Politically, it makes the government look very good, like they are the ones creating political stability for the world, that they are the good guys. Even if it will have a minimal impact on the economy the government will say it has done well.”

Moving onto the ongoing Kurds / Syria / Turkey / Russia situation…

[Business Insider] The US may still punish Turkey over Syria and Russian weapons — here’s how it can avoid making things worse

  • The US may still punish Turkey for doing what the US wanted them to do(?)

[NPR] Turkey, Russia Reach Deal To Control Syrian Areas Once Patrolled By The U.S.

  • The deal is that Russia and Syria will facilitate the evacuation of Kurds from the area of Syria that Turkey is now claiming. In this deal, Kurds have more time to evacuate, but presumably Russia will be easier on them than Turkey will. The impact of this is that the Kurds are now solidly aligned with the Russia-supported Assad regime, making the anti-ISIS and radical Islamist factions more unified, whereas previously, the US was actively complicating the issue, giving resources to all sides, and isolating the Kurds from Syria.
  • Ultimately, it’s hard for me to say this is a good agreement. But it does seem like it helps everyone, except the US, thankfully. I just hope the Kurds don’t get screwed over too bad, but that seems like the M.O.

Also Russia has been allegedly talking to Venezuela

[Forbes] Russia Attempts To Take Over Venezuelan Oil, Creating A Challenge For The U.S.

  • In bleaker Russian news, Russia is looking into the state-owned oil company Rosneft buying Venezuela’s National Oil Company. This would greatly alleviate Venezuela’s debt. But it would also be devastating for the Chavismo movement, and leftism in Latin America in general, because Venezuela’s semi-socialist economy hinges on their nationalized oil production. Thankfully, Venezuela is denying any such thing will happen, but I’m not holding my breath.

Which transitions to some sport news…

[NBC Sports] Russian hockey team fined for coach’s arson threat

  • Speaking of Russia, NBC writes about the hockey coach’s arson threat, “Gulyavtsev later claimed he meant the comments as ‘a joke,’ adding that ‘I just said car, it’s not as if I said apartment.'”

[PBS] Iran banned from world judo until it agrees to face Israel

  • Sticking with sports news, Iran is banned from International Judo competitions because they refuse to acknowledge and compete against the Israeli judo team.

Here’s an article about Netherlands tourism I liked:

[New Yorker] The Uncertain Fate of Amsterdam’s Red-Light District

  • This is an interesting article about how De Wallen, Amsterdam’s Red-Light District, has become overrun with tourists. In the mid-2000s, the Netherlands beefed up their Amsterdam tourism campaign, and now that De Wallen is unmanageably swarmed by tourists, they’re having difficulties. This is an example of a broader trend of Europe, and lots of parts of the world, becoming overrun with tourism.

In Canada news…

[NPR] Canada’s Justin Trudeau Rejects Coalition In Favor Of Minority Government

  • NPR beats around the bush a little bit in this piece. But Trudeau will not form a coalition with the NDP to form a majority government. They include a lot of “we must unite as a country and work together” rhetoric.
  • The implication of this piece is that Trudeau wants the Liberal Party to stay distinctly centrist between the Conservatives and NDP, it doesn’t want to unite with the further left NDP against the Conservatives.
  • The article does brush against Trudeau’s true intentions though:

“Trudeau, who said he would unveil his new Cabinet on Nov. 20, promised to move ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, something the New Democrats and the Greens oppose but that Alberta — where the Liberals failed to win any seats — desperately wants.”

  • In other words, Trudeau doesn’t want a Liberal/NDP coalition because he wants to appease conservatives, and NDP won’t do that.

In Indonesia news…

[Bloomberg] Jokowi’s Cabinet Is a Blend of Politicians, Tycoons, and Technocrats

  • Jokowi was reelected in Indonesia. His political reign has been a bit of a mixed bag. He was the first Indonesian president to not be from the political elite, or not tied to the established political structure in any real way. He was seen as a reformer and the Indonesian Obama (looks like him too).
  • Bloomberg writes, ” Indonesian President Joko Widodo named a millennial startup founder as the new education minister and tapped his election rival to head the defense ministry.”
  • Certainly not a good sign if we expect even mild reform from Jokowi.

[Jakarta Post] Hungary seeks stronger ties with Indonesia

  • Hungary wants to be friends with Indonesia as they bond over anti-communist past.

And a strange piece of Thailand news…

[Council on Foreign Relations] Thailand’s King Consolidates Power—Stripping His Consort of Titles is Just a Tiny Fraction of His Increasing Power

  • This story is weird as hell so I’m just going to quote the first paragraph:

“Earlier this week, Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn stripped his consort of all her titles, claiming that she had been disloyal and was essentially trying to take the place of the king. He had only appointed the consort, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, about three months ago. As consort, she was essentially another companion for the king, in addition to his wife. The practice of having an official consort, in addition to one’s wife, had not been in practice in Thailand in a century, since the era of Thailand’s absolute monarchy. In the absolute monarchy period, polygyny was common and monarchs often had many consorts, but that practice of having an official consort had not occurred since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.”

Something from North Korea

[New York Times] Kim Jong-un Orders ‘Shabby’ South Korean Hotels in Resort Town Destroyed

  • South Korea won’t operate a resort they co-controlled with North Korea, unless North Korea denuclearizes, so Kim Jong-un wants them demolished.

And finally, some stories related to tech and our corporate overlords:

[Reuters] Czechs unlikely to differ from Germany on Huawei approach

  • Despite the US’s peer pressure campaign to stamp out Huawei, it will spread throughout Germany, Czech, and seemingly all, or most, of Europe.

[The Verge] Foxconn’s giant glass dome in Wisconsin is back, baby

  • Foxconn unveils a fancy glass building to be part of their Wisconsin factory, which still very likely may not exist…

[The Verge] Foxconn finally admits its empty Wisconsin ‘innovation centers’ aren’t being developed

  • … and the next day, it’s gone.

[USA Today] Amazon declares war on Dollar Tree and Dollar General: Analysis

  • Dollar General, which has recently spread across the US like wildfire, has filled the gaps created by an Amazon dominated consumer economy. Dollar General provides ultra cheap (in price and cost) crap, in the hollowed out shells of rural grocery stores. Now, Amazon is offering next day shipping for the cheapest of crap, filling in the gaps of their consumerist apparatus.

[Motley Fool] How the U.S. Trade War With China Might Affect Sony

  • Sony will either have heavily reduced profit margins, or maybe more likely, will charge more, for their upcoming Playstation 5. This echoes the release of Playstation 3, which was considered very spendy at $500. Will the gamers rise up when Trump’s trade policy effects their consumer goods? Or will they blame China somehow?

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