World update: March 6 2019



ISIS attacked the offices of a construction company in the city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people. The five ISIS attackers were all killed in the ensuing fight with Afghan security forces.


United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet delivered her annual report to the Human Rights Council on Wednesday. She singled out a few cases of serious ongoing rights violations: the war on drug users in the Philippines, the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the Saudi crackdown against activists and government critics, and China’s Xinjiang internment program. Bachelet called on China to allow international monitors to investigate the situation in Xinjiang, and I’m sure they’ll get right on that.


Donald Trump says he would be “very disappointed” if the reports that North Korea has begun to rebuild its Sohae satellite launch center turn out to be true. Bummer. Kim Jong-un’s decision to rebuild the site may reflect an effort to increase North Korea’s leverage in negotiations at a time when the North Korean economy is being particularly crippled by sanctions, and if that’s true then it’s unlikely Kim is prepared to do anything really provocative like resuming missile testing. But he’s unlikely to meaningfully whittle away at US sanctions by rebuilding and dismantling the same site over and over again.

The Ploughshares Fund’s Catherine Killough suggests that the future for US-North Korea talks isn’t as bleak as it may have appeared when Trump left his summit with Kim in Hanoi last week:

But in the wake of the Hanoi summit, media coverage has focused overwhelmingly on who is to blame instead of what needs to be done to move US-North Korea diplomacy forward. While it is important to examine what went wrong, a myopic focus on President Trump’s inability to strike a deal overlooks the larger picture: Both sides are still at the beginning of a fundamentally long-term process.

To be sure, the Hanoi summit was disappointing, and critics are right to hold the Trump administration accountable for walking away empty-handed. But the fact that both sides left on a positive note suggests that negotiations are not over, and in fact are just starting. Negotiators on both sides must now get diplomacy back on track.



The main Algerian veterans’ organization for those who fought in the country’s 1954-1962 war of independence says it supports the rights of protesters demanding that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika–or whatever is left of him–not run for a fifth term in next month’s election. The National Organization of Mujahideen has a good deal of influence within Algeria, and its statement on Wednesday reflects more cracks within the Algerian regime. Two local branches of the country’s large UGTA labor union as well as a national lawyers association have also expressed solidarity with the demonstrators.


The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it is extending US sanctions against Zimbabwe, imposed back when Robert Mugabe was still in power, for at least another year, but the Zimbabwean government seems to be taking it in stride. It says it still intends to improve its relations with the West, even though the US sanctions make it virtually impossible for the Zimbabweans to participate in Western economic institutions and systems.



Several members of Congress are calling for an investigation into US funding for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) because…well, this is so batshit I’ll let you read it for yourselves:

A yearlong BuzzFeed News investigation across six countries — based on more than 100 interviews and thousands of pages of documents, including confidential memos, internal budgets, and emails discussing weapons purchases — can reveal:

  • Villagers have been whipped with belts, attacked with machetes, beaten unconscious with bamboo sticks, sexually assaulted, shot, and murdered by WWF-supported anti-poaching units, according to reports and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.
  • The charity’s field staff in Asia and Africa have organized anti-poaching missions with notoriously vicious shock troops, and signed off on a proposal to kill trespassers penned by a park director who presided over the killings of dozens of people.
  • WWF has provided paramilitary forces with salaries, training, and supplies — including knives, night vision binoculars, riot gear, and batons — and funded raids on villages. In one African country, it embroiled itself in a botched arms deal to buy assault rifles from a brutal army that has paraded the streets with the severed heads of alleged “criminals.”
  • The charity has operated like a global spymaster, organizing, financing, and running dangerous and secretive networks of informants motivated by “fear” and “revenge,” including within indigenous communities, to provide park officials with intelligence — all while publicly denying working with informants.

So, yeah, probably a good idea to look into that.


Scottish police on Wednesday destroyed a suspicious package sent to the University of Glascow, just a day after three homemade explosives were sent to London’s City airport, Heathrow airport, and Waterloo station. There’s no word on any connection with Tuesday’s devices.



That’s Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro asking Twitter what a golden shower is, after he tweeted video of one in an attempt to criticize the annual Carnival celebration because, I guess, gay people enjoy it. In doing so he may have run afoul of Brazilian obscenity laws, but I say good for him. It’s counterproductive to constantly be worried about Bolsonaro’s fascism, and frankly good to be reminded that he’s also a gigantic dumbass scold.


Guaidó remains a free man, but his fan club is being targeted by Venezuelan authorities. Nicolás Maduro’s government on Wednesday expelled German ambassador Daniel Kriener, because Kriener was one of several diplomats who greeted Guaidó at the airport upon his return to Venezuelan on Monday.

Apparently Guaidó’s humanitarian aid stunt on February 23 was a lot closer to being a pretext for invasion that it even seemed:

Late last month, as U.S. officials joined Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido near a bridge in Colombia to send desperately needed aid to the masses and challenge the rule of Nicolas Maduro, some 200 exiled soldiers were checking their weapons and planning to clear the way for the convoy.

Led by retired General Cliver Alcala, who has been living in Colombia, they were going to drive back the Venezuelan national guardsmen blocking the aid on the other side. The plan was stopped by the Colombian government, which learned of it late and feared violent clashes at a highly public event it promised would be peaceful.

Almost no provisions got in that day and hopes that military commanders would abandon Maduro have so far been dashed. Even though Guaido is back in Caracas, recognized by 50 nations as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, the impromptu taking up of arms shows that the push to remove Maduro — hailed by the U.S. as inevitable — is growing increasingly chaotic and risky.

Kudos to the Colombians for stepping in here to stop what most assuredly would have been the fast track to a US invasion. I’d say this revelation of his apparent desire to start a regional war would be an excellent time for the United States to reassess its support for Guaidó, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

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