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Under the Radar News…aka Things that Happened While You Talked about Potential Supreme Court Picks at a BBQ

Folks,

Here’s hoping you enjoyed the 4th of July, even if you think that whole American Revolution thing was a mistake.

Imagine you have two harmless ingredients which, when combined, become more powerful than VX gas. Imagine it is undetectable in most chemical security testings. Imagine it is deadly to the touch. Imagine it can absorb into any soft surface, from park benches to leather. Imagine it can remain lethal for years. The bad news is that you don’t need to imagine it — it is Novichok (or “newcomer”). The worse news is that the Russians have deployed it once in an attempt to kill double agent and UK citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter. This week’s news is that two innocent people in the same area have died from Novichok, leading to speculation that they came in contact with the substance. The ramifications are endless: the Russians have a fear-inducing weapon; Novichok’s benign ingredients make it ideal for travel; the Russians have a network of interested buyers, or the Russians could simply keep it for themselves — they have plenty of their own enemies, after all. All in all, this is a bad-news cocktail. Good thing that whole chemical weapon “redline” thing has gone the way of the 1980s, huh? Maybe it makes sense that the the Syrian rebels have decided the better part of valor is to meet with the Russians in attempts to appease them.

Elsewhere in Syria, we are hammering ISIS with artillery, which is like sooo 1991. When your government is trying to gas you, Russians and Iranians aren’t interested in helping you and ISIS takes over your town, it’s hard to find the silver lining in all of it. But the NY Times squints hard enough and finds one in ISIS’ law-and-order regime cracking down on petty crime. Even though Eric Garner wouldn’t have been allowed to sell illegal cigarettes on street corners in Syria either, the NYT has not yet attempted to compare ISIS to the NYPD.

Did you hear about the new laws affecting “non-Western ghettos”? Due to the surge in immigrant and refugee families, every week, children from families receiving welfare in 25 “ghetto” areas will be separated from their families and forced to learn about the country, Christmas and Santa Claus. Crimes committed in the ghetto areas can be subject to double the punishment of the same crimes in the rest of the country. And there will be a four-year prison sentence on families that send their children back to their home country for “re-education.” OK, you probably haven’t heard about any of this, because it’s happening in Denmark. But when the volume of refugees living in Denmark has resurrected the term “ghetto” for the first time since the 1930s, it’s safe to say Angela Merkel’s well-intentioned idiocy has predictably backfired in a spectacular way. Smart money says that the NYT is mostly peeved that Denmark might end up giving Western democratic socialism a bad name.

When Americans try to dissect our military operations in Somalia, we generally talk about al-Shabaab. And for good reason. The US has a large Somali diaspora that has been affected by al-Shabaab recruitment in the past. Somalia is not really about al-Shabaab, though. Somalia is all about geopolitics. UAE, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Russia…all play a large role in prolonging or abridging al-Shabaab’s influence. But perhaps no foreign entity is as influential as China. A point which was underscored when Somalia’s president, among others, praised Djibouti’s new free trade zone (largest in Africa!) which was financed in part by Djibouti’s $1.3 billion debt (and will be co-managed by three Chinese companies). Of course, China ignores al-Shabaab (much like they ignore the Seleka in CAR, the ADF in DRC, or the South Sudanese civil war) because they are focused on the long game: colonization by soft power. It starts when China acquires vast swathes of natural resources, improves the host nation’s infrastructure to facilitate China’s commerce, and entices the host nation to carry so much debt that China essentially leverages the whole country. From Uganda to Ethiopia, from DRC to Somalia, China has already snatched up oil, silver, cobalt, copper and uranium. Now it has made significant headway in controlling the shipping routes in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

It’s worth mentioning that foreign influence in Somalia comes most persistently from its African neighbors. Ethiopia has amended its terror group list to exclude several groups including the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Taking away that designation may bring about more peace among the large Somali population inside Ethiopia as well as helping to unify the substantial Ogaden population in southern Somalia — an effect which may lead to Ethiopian annexation. Again, Somalia is about a lot more than just al-Shabaab.

Busy week for Iranian operations. An Iranian diplomat in Austria is being imprisoned due to his involvement in a bomb plot in Paris. And several German intelligence agencies are outing Iran’s Quds Force for multiple attempts to acquire missile technology in violation of, among other things, the infamous “Iran Deal.” In addition, to quote the article, Iran has been active “spying on Israeli and pro-Israel institutions, Israeli nationals living in Germany, and people of the Jewish faith.” And if you’d like a run-down on everything Iran’s been up to since, well, 1979 (or if you think I’m overblowing the whole Iran thing), the State Department just published selected highlights of Iran-Sponsored Operational Activity from 1979–2018. If only John Kerry had access to that information in time…

Lastly, why has the internet gotten so centralized? Per the subtitle: “Google handles a quarter of all internet traffic”. Didn’t read the article, but I’m assuming PornHub handles the rest.

Until next week…

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