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Friday: Possibility

Let’s try a Swedish import today, a little something I can’t really classify by a particular genre. This piece is one of my favorites, one of the most haunting tunes I’ve ever heard. It’s probably dream pop for lack of a better label. Lykke Li’s most popular works tend toward indie and synth-pop, sharing a strong rhythm and English lyrics melded with Lykke Li’s unearthly vocals.

Try out I Follow Rivers (dance/synth-pop) and Sadness Is A Blessing (retro indie pop) for comparison. The latter in particular has a funky video featuring another famous Swedish artist, Stellan Skarsgård. Love his understated effort which acts like a punctuation to the singer’s work.

Speaking of Sweden…

Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden (1991-1994) and former Minister for Foreign Affairs (2006-2014), tweeted on Wednesday:

I never thought a serious candidate for US President could be a serious threat against the security of the West. But that’s where we are.

Bildt is known for his conservative politics and neoliberal business ethics. Pretty sure he wasn’t referring to Clinton.

Turkic troubles

  • Insane numbers of people arrested or detained after Turkey’s anti-Gülenist crackdown (EWN) — Graphic in article offers a breakdown. Doesn’t break out the journalists arrested; see Mahir Zeynalov’s timeline for a journo-by-journo roll call.
  • UN Special Rapporteur and OSCE worried about Turkey’s journalists (OSCE) — UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Representative on Freedom of the Media condemned President Erdoğan’s purge of journalism attacking free speech. The numbers bolster their concerns:

    Reports indicate that the Government ordered the closure of three news agencies, 16 TV channels, 23 radio channels, 45 papers and 15 magazines. Since the attempted coup, authorities have issued arrest warrants against 89 journalists and have already arrested several of them, blocked access to more than 20 news websites, revoked the licenses of 29 publishing houses, and cancelled a number of press accreditations.

  • Generals stepped down as military rejiggered (Euronews) — Looks like the president is grabbing power over the military in the same way the judiciary’s independence has now been smashed by removals from office. Hey, anybody worried at all about Incirlik air base while the Turkish military is reformulated?

Economic emesis

  • Investors ‘totally lost’ (Business Insider) — Credit Suisse’s clients are casting about for direction because there’s no strong performance in the market across any industry, and indicators are confusing:

    Here’s a summary of what clients are worried about: workers fighting back in the US, hitting earnings; equities still not cheap; US growth mixed; China still screwed; central banks’ empty policy cupboards; politics being nuts (protectionism, anti-immigration moves, anticorporate feeling); and technology running rampant and destroying business models.

    Yeah, about the “workers fighting back”…perhaps if workers were better paid, making a living wage, all of the confusion would evaporate as consumption improved. There’s a reason home ownership rates have dropped below 1965 levels and it’s not because Millennials don’t want them (really crappy blame-casting, CNBC, catch the cluestick).

  • Nevada utilities commish not reappointed due to solar energy rate structure (Las Vegas Sun) — Something about this story tweaks my hinky-meter. Maybe a certain commissioner has friends who don’t want solar energy to become competitive? Which is really a shame considering the Tesla’s new Wonderwall battery plant now in the Reno area.
  • Five-year-long shortage of cancer drug forces reliance on disqualified Chinese maker (Bloomberg) — There’s been a shortage of doxorubicin since 2011, and companies the size of Pfizer — the largest pharma company in the world — rely on a facility in China banned by the FDA because of quality problems like contamination. What the hell is wrong with this picture?
  • Kazahk emigre sentenced for export violations (The Hill) — How did this guy pull off exporting dual-use technology to Russia for ten years? Doesn’t look like it took much effort based on available information. Have we cut regulatory oversight so much and been so distracted at the same time that we’ve given away the farm?

Something STEMmed

  • TSA’s keys compromised (TechCrunch) — Hacking’s not just for software. All seven of TSA’s master keys have been cloned; anybody can 3D print one and unlock baggage with TSA-approved padlock. Why even bother locking stuff? Of course bags can be so damaged during handling the lock may be worthless anyhow. Makes you wonder how many other physical security devices can be defeated with 3D printing.
  • Bees’ sperm dramatically affected by insecticides (SFGate) — Hey dudes, especially you in Congress. Maybe you ought to ask if insecticides reduce bees’ sperm production by 40% whether human sperm might also be similarly affected? Just sayin’.
  • Huge great white shark trolls family’s boat off east coast (Cape Cod Chronicle) — But there’s an app for that; they could ‘see’ him coming, thanks to an app which monitored the tag. Mixed feelings on this: glad the family was safe, but jeepers, how else can this tag be used?

Oikonomia
How screwed up is the United Kingdom post-referendum vote and how jacked up is the current economic system, when a disabled theoretical physicist and cosmologist must beg in an op-ed for his country to reconsider its understanding and reaction to wealth?

Worth recalling the word ‘economics’ originated from the Greek ‘oikonomia’, meaning “household management.”

Have a safe, relaxing weekend!

Wednesday: Chansons françaises

This Parisian artist is fascinating. Indila is extremely popular in France, mostly because of ballads like this one with multi-generational appeal. Many of her works contain lyrics in more than one language which increases the breadth of her allure. This particular song is indie/dream pop, but she also works in rap and fusion raï — the latter a form of Algerian folk music.

It’s no surprise that some of Indila’s work fuses raï with other genres. She’s of Algerian descent, though she’s said she’s also Indian, Cambodian, Egyptian and Moroccan. Indian influences her work with band TLF in Criminel, African cultures shape her collaboration with Youssoupha in Dreamin’ (the video is set in Arizona, oddly enough), and Middle East in Poussière d’empire with artist Nessbeal.

Do surf YouTube for more of her solo work when you’re in the mood for something sweet and angst-y.

Troubles continue abroad

I-spy

  • UK oversight struggles with MI5’s bulk collection (The Guardian) — Jeepers, it’s like MI5 took lessons from U.S. law enforcement on resisting oversight.
  • Canada’s intelligence agency likewise resists oversight (CTVNews) — Communications Security Establishment (CSE) won’t disclose what information has been shared with other non-Canadian entities which may result in human rights violations. CSE may not spy on Canadians anywhere, but compliance can’t be proven with censored records.
  • Not even going to bother with the Trump+Russia crap here, because it’s all over social media. Probably well-fanned smoke to hide his refusal to release tax returns.

Dick moves
These are among some of the stupidest, rudest, dickiest things in my timeline today. Perps deserve a whack along side the head. Don’t like my language? Tough rocks.

Long-listen
If you have the stomach for it, listen to this Bloomberg podcast in which Laurence Ball, Department of Economics Chair at Johns Hopkins, says the U.S. could have avoided the 2008 crash by rescuing Lehman Brothers. Hindsight is 20/20 — in this case, it’s nauseating, too. Fecking Bush administration…

Hasta pasta!

Tuesday: Crazy

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you’re in control

Well, I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
Just like me


— excerpt, Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

Why’d I pick this song today? Oh, no reason. Just kind of popped into my head while I was reading through my aggregators.

Ahem. Anyhow…not much time again today, lot of hurry-up-and-wait stuff demanding my time.

Turkey curry buffet

Quick lap around the track

  • BREXIT: IMF cuts UK’s growth forecast (The Guardian) — Really, what the hell did the Leavers expect? Put the brain trust and creative sector into a tailspin as so many are immigrants, and ask them to sustain or expand growth? Completely unrealistic.
  • US-UK RELATIONS: Presser today with Johnson and Kerry (The Guardian) — You watch it. I can’t even with that lying hack Johnson — he spun more crap right to journos’s faces. And nobody takes these two to task over most recent bombings in Syria or Yemen.
  • ZIKA: CDC studying unusual case of UT caretaker infected by Zika (CDC.gov) — The elderly Utah man who died of Zika recently somehow infected his caretaker with the virus without sexual contact. Mosquitoes may have been involved, but UT isn’t home to known carriers Aedes aegypti and albopictus species. The deceased, however, had a viral load 100,000 times greater than the average Zika patient. What?!
  • EARTHQUAKES: Earthquake swarm continues in San Benito County, California (NBC Bay Area) — 24 quakes in 24 hours based on report published about two hours ago. The affected area is west of Silicon Valley and the San Andreas fault line.
  • POLICE REFORMS: Hire more women: one of several known solutions to police racism and abuse (Yes! Magazine) — Take note of the gender of police accused and charged with abuse and killing of unarmed civilians. Body cameras, greater diversity matching community, and openness to research also included in solutions.

That’s all I have time for now. See you tomorrow!

You, Too, Armenia?

By Captain Blood - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=645273

By Captain Blood – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=645273

Come on, give us a break, will you? Most of us are still digging out of news on France’s latest terror attack, the 28-pages released on Friday, and Turkey’s so-called coup. Couldn’t you wait until later this coming week?

Apparently not.

Reliable reports are even more scarce than for Turkey as Armenia is even more aggressive in its monitoring and policing of social media. What reports have emerged indicate an organized, armed hostage-taking event demanding the release of a political prisoner rather than a coup.

Persons identified as opposition sympathizers have been taken into custody; numbers taken by law enforcement or military are not available. Police snipers appear in photos.

Armenian media had not been reporting on the event and social media content is rather thin. Some Twitter accounts claim social media is not throttled, but these same accounts may be operated by government agents.

Latest reports indicate state forces are on standby, ‘pending orders for action‘.

Meanwhile, in Turkey...

The Turkish commander of Incirlik air base was taken into custody on charges of complicity with the insurgents — some reports say ‘detained’, others say ‘arrested’.

Roughly 24 hours ago, power had been cut to the air base and flights in and out suspended. The Turkish government suspected the base had been used for fueling so-called rebel aircraft. Flights for anti-ISIS efforts resumed a little over an hour ago.

Erdoğan’s government has now rounded up approximately 6000 on suspicion of complicity with the so-called coup. President Erdoğan is calling for the return of the death penalty. Application of the death penalty could halt Turkey’s accession to the EU as the death penalty is illegal under EU laws.

I won’t even get in to the weirdness of Erdoğan’s claims the coup was led by an ex-pat moderate cleric living in Pennsylvania’s Poconos. Or the empty gestures of UK’s new foreign secretary about the events in Turkey.

(Personally, I find it really hard to believe a conspiracy of ~6000 persons would be completely undetectable in advance.)

It’s nearly 2:00 a.m. local time in Tokyo. The Nikkei 225 opens in seven hours. Watch oil and natural gas prices. Who might benefit from all this volatility?

Stuffing Turkey

By Maurice07 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22784526

By Maurice07 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22784526

Watching events unfold in Turkey last night was surreal. It was difficult to tell the various players apart, let alone pick credible voices.

By midnight EDT I was skeptical — more than I usually am.

— President Tayyip Erdoğan was allegedly in the air at some point, allegedly asked for asylum in Germany which allegedly wasn’t granted. He allegedly flew back into Istanbul airport. Did he not seek asylum anywhere else?

— Social media was throttled or shut off in some reports, but Erdoğan managed to Facetime to an audience which is ostensibly throttled, in order to call them to defend him by rallying in the streets.

— Fighter jets and armed helicopters were flying overhead, but Erdoğan called civilians to rally in the streets? Some civilians were killed by aircraft firing on them after Erdoğan’s call to rally.

— No political party claimed responsibility for the relatively small number of “insurgents” conducting the coup. For some reason, the military members responsible for the coup undressed and disarmed on the Bosphorus bridge.

— Earlier today, Erdoğan removed 2,745 prosecutor and judges from duty.

— Reports claim U.S. intelligence was taken by surprise by the coup.

Electricity has been cut to the U.S. Incirlik air force base, where a number of nuclear gravity bombs are kept. The bombs are not an immediate threat (read the thread at that link), but who knows this?

Let’s not forget the recent attack on the Istanbul airport, responsibility for which has only been assigned by Turkish officials.

The whole thing stinks, like a Thanksgiving Day bird left out of the fridge a couple days too long.

Attempted Coup in Qatar? Updated: Probably Not

Both the Iranian Fars News Agency and Pakistan’s The News Tribe are reporting that a coup attempt in Qatar has failed. The post by The News Tribe cites Al Arabiya TV, but nothing appears on Al Arabiya’s English website as of this writing, nor is there anything on the story at the English version of Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar.

From Fars:

Qatar is experiencing critical conditions after it was the scene of a coup attempt against Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, sources close to the country’s royal family revealed on Tuesday.

Informed sources close to the royal family in Qatar told FNA that a failed coup d’état has happened in Qatar but the Qatari officials have sought hard to keep it away from the media and the public, given the growingly fragile conditions in the country and the instability in a number of regional Arab states.

/snip/

The limited news reports released by some local and Arab media earlier this week said that the Qatari Emir succeeded over the past weekend to foil a coup attempt against him. They added some 30 senior army officers were detained while some others were put under house arrest.

The News Tribe starts out with pretty much the same information as Fars:

According to Al Arabiya TV, a number of high-ranking military officers rose against the Qatari Emir, triggering fierce clashes between some 30 military officers and US-backed royal guards outside the Emir’s palace, the report said on Tuesday.

The coup was foiled following the arrest of the officers involved in the effort.

But they have much more:

American helicopters have reportedly transferred the Qatari Emir and his wife to an unknown location.

Meanwhile, informed Kuwaiti sources said that mediated recent disputes between Saudi Arabia and Qatar have unveiled a new series of disagreements between the officials of the two Persian Gulf states.

The revelation of Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani’s secret phone conversation on the internet intensified internal conflicts between the two Arab states.

In a telephone conversation, the Qatari premier envisioned a definite overthrow of the Saudi regime, saying Qatar will step in the al-Qatif and al-Sharqiya regions one day and Saudi Arabia will be disintegrated.

The US, of course, relies very heavily on Qatar. From the Congressional Research Service (pdf) in May of 2011: Read more

Zardari Flees to Dubai Again Under Cover of “One Day” Trip: Is He Finished?

Events continue to unfold at a very rapid pace in Pakistan. On Tuesday, I had noted, in comments to my post on the constitutional crisis facing the country over implementing the repeal of the National Reconciliation Ordinance, that Dawn was reporting that Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari had said that he is ready to resign if that is what his political party desires. Further, Zardari had called for a meeting of Parliament for today, along with a meeting just before that with high officials in his PPP political party.

In the meantime, Wednesday was very eventful, as the civilian government and military traded multiple charges back and forth over the continuing memogate controversy. In the midst of that tussle, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani fired the country’s defense secretary and the military announced a new head for a “brigade known for its prominent role in coups”.

Today, it appears that Zardari has once again fled to Dubai. Both a scheduled medical follow-up to last month’s hospitalization in Dubai and a wedding have been given as reasons for this trip. So far, I’ve seen no mention in any of the stories on his departure of the Parliament meeting and political party meeting that he had called for today. Neither a “scheduled” medical trip nor a trip for a wedding make sense as explanations for a sudden trip which cancels these hastily called meetings. Despite the explanation that this is a one day trip, I’d be very surprised if he chooses to return to Pakistan.

Reuters reports on Zardari’s departure:

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari flew to Dubai on a scheduled one-day trip on Thursday, a member of the ruling party and sources said, while tensions grew over a memo seeking U.S. help in preventing a coup by Pakistan’s powerful military.

/snip/

Relations between Pakistan’s civilian government and the military have reached their lowest point since a coup in 1999, reducing the chances that the leadership can take on the country’s enormous social and economic challenges.

Military sources say that while they would like Zardari to go, it should be through constitutional means, not another of the coups that have marked Pakistan’s almost 65 years of independence.

“There is no talk in the military of a takeover,” a mid-level army officer, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, told Reuters.

“I don’t foresee a military coup.”

The stage is set, of course, for the “constitutional” removal of Zardari, as his government has a deadline of Monday for responding to the Supreme Court on the NRO case. As noted earlier this week, the Supreme Court has threatened to find the civilian government unfit to rule if it does not respond properly to its rulings. Zardari’s sudden departure, only four days before that deadline, would appear to be an admission that he and his government have no response to the charges.

Meanwhile, as if the Supreme Court breathing down its neck weren’t enough, the Zardari government has further enraged the military with the firing of the defense secretary: Read more

Zardari Released From Hospital, Remains in Dubai; Memogate Reply Delayed

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari was released from the hospital in Dubai on Wednesday, but has not returned to Pakistan. His reply to Pakistan’s Supreme Court investigation into the Memogate scandal had been expected today, but could be submitted tomorrow since the deadline has been extended.

Reuters gives us details on Zardari’s release from the hospital:

“President Zardari has been discharged from the hospital and he has moved to his residence in Dubai,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

The article also has more information on the ongoing question of whether Zardari suffered a stroke:

Zardari’s office had released a statement earlier on Wednesday from his doctor saying the president had been admitted to hospital with numbness and twitching in his left arm and had lost consciousness for a few seconds.

“All investigations are within normal range and he was kept for observation for a few more days,” Khaldoun Taha said, adding that Zardari would now rest at home and continue with his regular heart medications.

Zardari likely suffered a transient ischemic attack, senior sources in Zardari’s party said last week, an ailment that can produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage to the brain.

Admitting to a TIA appears to thread the needle nicely in providing a few symptoms consistent with the widespread rumors of a stroke while avoiding any long-term stroke damage which would be obvious should Zardari return to public life. With Zardari now out of the hospital, his need for “rest” begins to look more suspicious, especially with the rest taking place in Dubai. I’m having a hard time seeing how Zardari can take two weeks of rest outside the country at a time when such crucial questions are facing Pakistan’s government and then come back and resume his duties.

One immediate crisis facing Zardari is the investigation into Memogate being carried out by the Supreme Court. Read more

Zardari in Dubai Hospital; Coup Rumors Quelled for Now

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari (Wikimedia Commons)

Late Tuesday afternoon, Twitter was awash in a flurry of rumors on the status of Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari. One tweet that was repeated over and over stated that Zardari had been sedated, flown to Abu Dhabi, and would leave as soon as possible for London due to a medical condition. Then Josh Rogin put up a story at Foreign Policy stating that Zardari was in Dubai after complaining of chest pains and that there was a possibility that he would resign before returning to Pakistan. After first stating that Zardari was in Dubai only for medical tests relating to a known previous heart condition, the Pakistani government later stated that Zardari had suffered a minor heart attack and was in Dubai for treatment, which many have described as angioplasty.  Zardari is expected to return to Pakistan soon.

The tweet that set things off appears to have come from Najam Sethi, whose twitter profile lists him as “Editor, The Friday Times, & Group Advisor GEO TV; Senior Fellow New America Foundation, Washington DC; Eric Lane Fellow Clare College Cambridge University UK”. Although the tweet doesn’t seem to be in his timeline now, retweets put it as: “Prez Zardari sedated and taken to hosp in AbuDhabi. He will go to London asap. Faranaz Ispahani with him but not HH!” Tweets that are still in his timeline state that he meant to say Dubai, but he had just returned from Abu Dhabi and typed that instead. There is an additional tweet stating that he still expects Zardari to go to London.

Faranaz Isphahani is Zardari’s spokeswoman, “HH” is presumed to refer to former US Ambassador Husain Haqqani, who resigned in the memo scandal and has been placed on the Exit Control List, preventing his exit from Pakistan.

An even higher level of Twitter activity ensued after Josh Rogin Tweeted a link to his story at Foreign Policy.  The key aspect to Rogin’s story was information received from “a former US government official”:

A former U.S. government official told The Cable today that when President Barack Obama spoke with Zardari over the weekend regarding NATO’s killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers, Zardari was “incoherent.” The Pakistani president had been feeling increased pressure over the Memogate scandal. “The noose was getting tighter — it was only a matter of time,” the former official said, expressing the growing expectation inside the U.S. government that Zardari may be on the way out.

The former U.S. official said that parts of the U.S. government were informed that Zardari had a “minor heart attack” on Monday night and flew to Dubai via air ambulance today. He may have angioplasty on Wednesday and may also resign on account of “ill health.”

Rogin then went on to quote another source on a potential coup: Read more