https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/16/rex-tillerson-state-department-sidelined-by-white-house

As Rex Tillerson meets with counterparts at the G20 summit in his first foreign outing as Secretary of State, here are issues facing him and the department

  • Senior officials have had to rely on foreign diplomats to find out about new decisions
  • There is no daily press briefing from the department
    • This is how US views and policy on world events are typically revealed
  • No one was consulted before the Muslim travel ban executive order
  • No one was consulted before the failed raid in Yemen, which killed 25 civilians including 9 children
  • Tillerson’s choice for deputy secretary of state, Elliott Abrams, was vetoed by Trump because Abrams criticized Trump during the campaign
  • There are no nominees to replace senior staff members who were dismissed or resigned days before Tillerson’s arrival

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/12/the-opcat-treaty-could-revolutionise-australias-treatment-of-detainees

The Opcat Treaty enhances how independent bodies inspect places of detention in order to identify and address problems before they escalate into mistreatment and worse.

  • The Australian government has announced it will ratify and implement this international treaty
  • This article doesn’t mention offshore detention centers but given Australia’s past record of detention centers for both citizens and asylum seekers, this treaty is sorely needed to reform institutions

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/02/al-bab-operation-euphrates-shield-isil-170215103720562.html

Al Bab is a city in Syria currently being fought over between ISIS, Kurdish fighters, Assad’s forces, and an allied Turkish-Russian force

  • Why is it important to..
    • Kurds
      • Taking Al Bab would allow the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to create a land corridor between two territories they already control in northern Syria
    • Assad
      • Al Bab lies quite close to Aleppo (less than 30km / 20 miles)
      • Turkey taking Al Bab would thus allow Turkey to create a greater zone of influence in the north
    • Russo-Turkish alliance
      • Taking Al Bab would prevent the SDF from creating the corridor. Turkey considers Kurdish fighters to be terrorists and have been fighting the SDF as well as ISIS in Syria.
    • Russia
      • The alliance allows Russia to take political credit for advancements against ISIS while not overstretching itself 
  • http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38939492

http://www.npr.org/2017/02/14/515205098/new-cia-deputy-director-past-s-intertwined-with-cia-s-history-of-waterboarding

Short profile on new CIA deputy director Gina Haspel’s past

  • Decorated officer
  • Served more than 30 years undercover
  • Ran a “black site” prison in Thailand where al-Qaida suspect Abu Zabaydah was waterboarded 83 times
    • Sessions were videotaped but destroyed in 2005
      • Haspel apparently wrote the order to destroy them

http://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/1/24/14363148/trade-deals-nafta-wto-china-job-loss-trump

A very long, but fascinating read with lots of facets and data points that I did not include here for the sake of brevity. Would highly encourage reading this

NAFTA, China in the WTO, and the TPP don’t kill American jobs

  • The decline of manufacturing jobs is inevitable
    • The US has shed nearly 2/3 of relative manufacturing jobs since 1971
    • Someone who loses a manufacturing job takes a 10% hit on income over the next 20 years
    • In addition, all people benefit from cheaper products (higher purchasing power)
  • What did NAFTA do
    • Mostly shifted employment from manufacturing to another sector
    • Approximately 116,400 jobs were lost between 2007 and 2010
      • This is less than 0.1% of the US labor force
    • The auto industry few by 14.1% in the 3 years after NAFTA was signed
  • What did China joining the WTO do
    • Approximate loss of US jobs is 300,000
      • 0.22% of non-farm employment and 1/18 of the total loss of manufacturing jobs since 1971

Post Election Read (published soon after results were finalized)

http://www.vox.com/first-person/2016/11/17/13642864/trump-election-empathy-baratunde-thurston

Meanwhile, many of those we are asked to empathize with are celebrating the retreat of political correctness, so they can finally say what they feel! But do you imagine, angry white American, that you are the only one who hasn’t been able to say how you feel? You think women in misogynistic workplaces have felt free to express themselves? You think black Americans have felt free to tell police how we really feel? I mean, if we’re going to take off the rhetorical gloves, then be prepared for everyone to take them off. I’m pretty sure there are things you haven’t yet heard because for us to utter them would be to shatter your world.

  • Pointed and well dictated, although anyone who’s a Trump supporter may not like it as much as I do

Mental Healing

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/ray-allen-letter-to-my-younger-self/

A little inspiration from a seasoned athlete

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