THE WRAP — 17 September 2016
Hillary’s health, Truce in Syria, Brazil’s corruption scandal, Duterte’s war on drugs, and more…
America’s 24-hour political wash-cycle spun up to a hysterical new gear this week as the candidates stumbled (both figuratively and literally). In the Blue corner, Hillary Clinton’s health was back under the microscope following the appearance of her acute discomfort at a 9/11 memorial ceremony. The candidate was filmed staggering away from the event early, sparking wide-ranging speculation about her health. But the doctor’s certificate revealed (much to the chagrin of hyper-conservative ‘alt-right’ wingnuts) that it was just a prosaic case of pneumonia. Nonetheless, the manner in which the diagnosis was revealed raised further questions about the Clinton camp’s ongoing bias towards secrecy and mismanagement of information. The good news for those with ‘Her’ was that the illness obscured criticism of Clinton’s earlier comments in which she had said that half of Trump’s supporters were a ‘basket of deplorables’. We gather from the ensuing commentary that 50% was the wrong number.
Meanwhile, in the Red corner Donald Trump uncharacteristically failed to capitalise on someone else’s misfortune because he was too busy having to put out spot fires of his own. It turns out that the candidate’s eponymous charitable organisation, the Trump Foundation, has been accused of misappropriation and dishonesty. The New York Attorney General’s office has opened an investigation and Democrats are now calling for an inquiry by the Department of Justice. The controversy surrounds a $25,000 payment made by the Trump Foundation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013. At the time Bondi was weighing up whether or not to investigate the Trump Foundation.
And then, seemingly dissatisfied with the prevailing state of chaos, Trump made yet another an inappropriate reference to his daughter Ivanka in sexual terms.
The good news dear readers is that this will all be over in less than two months. That is, unless Trump becomes President, in which case it will ALL be over soon.
For the first time in months, a shaky ceasefire is mostly holding across Syria. Images have emerged from the besieged city of Aleppo showing the rare sight of children playing in the streets. Russian and US negotiators had spent weeks hashing out the details of a multi-pronged approach which culminated in a week-long ceasefire in the lead-up to Eid al-Adha. Eid is celebrated as a feast all across the Islamic world, although the Syrians themselves had meager respite from fighting. In the days prior to the cessation the conflict had escalated as all sides tried to consolidate ground. Russia has accused the US of ignoring rebel infringements of the truce as sporadic fighting continues across the country. Time will tell whether the deep mistrust between the Russian and American forces can be overcome. US Secretary of State John Kerry was clearly exasperated in Geneva when explaining that the only other alternative to the deal is more death.
Despite the ceasefire, aid is not reaching the beleaguered civilians of Syria. The United Nations’ chief Syria negotiator, Staffan de Mistura, has laid blame at the feet of the Assad regime. He argues that the government has not issued permits for the dozens of food trucks massed at the Turkish border. The regime is unwilling to see the rebel-held eastern suburbs of Aleppo resupplied because it had only just encircled the city after some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. Moscow and Washington, acknowledging the disappointing holdup, have extended the ceasefire by another two days. In the south, regime positions have been pounded by Israeli jets flying in over the Golan heights. Syria’s state television channel SANA claimed it had downed an Israeli fighter, a claim that was flatly contradicted by Tel Aviv.
Who will guard the guards
The farcical merry-go-round of corruption allegations in Brazil’s political class claimed its biggest scalp so far. Former President and national icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was charged on Wednesday for being the “conductor” of the $12b graft scheme at Petrobras, the state-owned energy company. Lula is widely adored for his welfare program which helped bring millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Although his involvement in the scandal (which helped tip Brazil into recession) had long been suspected, it was considered highly unlikely that he would be brought up on charges. The week also brought another moment of dark humour when Eduardo Cunha, the Senator responsible for impeaching former President Dilma Rousseff, was also ejected from the Senate. He too now faces his own corruption and perjury charges.
Rodrigo Duterte has made a name for himself in the international arena in an extraordinarily short period of time. He snubbed Barrack Obama at a summit, alarmed human rights organisations the world over with his murderous anti-drug campaign, and is in the process of ejecting US Special Forces from his country. He has also sanctioned summary executions by vigilante gangs which have already led to 3,400 deaths. Now explosive testimony from a former death squad member has revealed that his gang had killed Duterte’s political opponents when the latter was the mayor of Davao. The hired killer allegedly executed criminals and Muslims alike on Duterte’s word, even feeding one to a crocodile.
Step into my office — Well, this might explain why our last intern disappeared mysteriously and has never been heard from again. An Australian university study has found that 21% of CEOs display psychopathic traits. That’s a strikingly similar figure to the prison population. So if you don’t get the Wrap next week, send for the police.
They are taking all our jobs — No, not immigrants. Robots. A recent study has found that automation and robotics will replace 6% of the entire American workforce by 2021.
Kiss your Uber drivers goodbye — The company is leading the way by launching its first self-driving car fleet in Pittsburgh. We can honestly say that’s the first and only time that anything has made us want to move to Pittsburgh.
When the moon hits your eye — That’s amore. Or it might be an earthquake. Despite all our paeans of praise over the centuries it now turns out that the deceptively innocent-looking Moon might actually be a cause of earthquakes. Apparently its gravitational pull plays havoc on heart-strings AND tectonic plates.
Well, despite the cold deluge, the story that froze the marrow in our bones this week was the finding that (yet again), this last month was the hottest on record. *Insert swear words here*
What rocked? We couldn’t look past the wonderful yarn about Google Street View’s new privacy mechanism which blurs out faces. It’s so darn effective that it even blurred the face of a roadside cow. Cue standing ovation for Google. Take all my data you fools.
Fare thee well inklers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately, due to personal obligations your regular correspondent has taken an immediate leave of absence from inkl. We are advertising for a replacement. Successful applicants will be of blood type A+.