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Newsletter 10-29-2021

Colin Powers
Colin Powers

Hi everyone. Thanks for subscribing. If you have the means, please consider becoming a paying member. If you have the inclination, please pass this newsletter around to others who might enjoy the read. Now onto this week's edition of No Craic, Mad Craic, and Great Craic.

(Am on the road the next few weeks folks so apologies for the atypical brevity.)

No Craic

(1) Norm Coleman, former Republican Senator for the state of Minnesota and one-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, is currently lobbying for the government of Saudi Arabia. Coleman does so through his position as Senior Counsel for the super sketchy law firm Hogan Lovells, which took home $2 million in Saudi contracts in 2019. Amongst other things, disclosures provided through FARA filings reveal our lad recently sent fact sheets around the Hill promoting Saudi's exemplary record on women's rights.

(2) Benny Gantz, current Defense Minister and erstwhile heartthrob of a certain contingent of Israel apologists, declared six Palestinian institutions working in the general space of human rights research/activism/legal advocacy terrorist organizations this week.

For now, the White House has only requested clarification, waiting to see, perhaps, if the dossier Gantz compiled on the Defense for Children International-Palestine or the Union of Agricultural Work Committees contains not only baseless drivel about the PFLP, but evidence of the group's in question possessing the olde uranium yellowcake GW Bush reckoned was in Niger.

(3) Chief General of the Armed Forces Abdel Fattah al-Burhan staged a coup this week in Sudan, throwing a precarious and drawn-out transition which began with Omar al-Bashir's ousting in 2019 into further disarray.

To their immense credit, the Sudanese people are refusing to take al-Burhan's actions lying down. Protests have filled the streets since Monday, and Wednesday saw state oil company workers, the doctors' union and the pilots of the country's three airline companies go out on strike. Likely at the behest of a frustrated Biden administration--which itself suspended $700 million in emergency aid--the World Bank is adding to the pressure on al-Burhan by stopping flows from the $2 billion facility it provided Sudan back in March.  

These are early days yet and there are some grounds for being hopeful. That said, one would be remiss to neglect the fact that the Sudanese military retains the support of Saudi, the UAE and Egypt.

(4) Speaking of militarymen and politics, Mohamed-Dhia Hammami has flagged Tunisia's Retired Admiral Kamel Akrout as one to watch.

Per Hammami, the former head of military intelligence looks to be laying the ground for the launch of a new political party built around his person. Should one be curious of his interests and ideological proclivities, it is worth noting that Akrout publicly advocated for President Qais Saied to suspend parliament and seize emergency powers two full weeks before the President actually did so this past summer.  

(5) Polling still has Chile's leftist contender for the Presidency Gabriel Boric out in front. Closing in on him, however, is a reactionary lunatic named Jose Antonio Kast, who has whipped up support through appealing to those "scandalized" by the protests of 2019. That non-marginal constituency affords Kast a fairly steadfast base. With the incumbent center-right's preferred option Sebastian Sichel sullied by the current President's Pandora Papers-related troubles, Kast--a descendant of a former Nazi officer--seems likely to add to it as well by absorbing much of the normy pro-business in the final instance.

Boric's ability to keep a fairly wide working class-middle class tent standing has gotten him this far. Let's hope he can see this through.

Mad Craic

(6) The Eastern District of New York will soon hear the case being brought by the Federal government against Genaro Garcia Luna. Luna was the head of public security in Mexico and the operational lead for the country's struggle against the cartels until it was revealed that he actually worked for the cartels. According to DoJ's prosecutors, over the course of a decade, Luna took in millions in bribes for El Chapo himself in exchange for allowing the Sinaloa clique to conduct its business relatively freely.

Given how closely they worked with Luna, the trial is likely to draw attention to the incompetence-cum-criminality of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This will only add to a ledger already filled with misdeeds; it was under five years ago when it came out that the organization had lied to Congress regarding its relationship with a police unit in Honduras that murdered four civilians.    

Great Craic

(7) Milan Babic has a new article out in Review of International Political Economy. Focused on the role of states as contemporary economic actors, it contains some great data visualizations concerning the assets presently held by states themselves. Below is one capturing the geographic dispersion of the holdings of some of the big national players:

(8) Courtesy of Primates Daily, I learned there is something called infinite monkey theorem, which states that a "monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type any given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare." More than that, I learned that a group of academics managed to get a small amount of funding to test the theorem's empirical validity. That may sound silly, but I reckon it a better use of funds than is typical of universities, which as rule prefer to build buildings and hire functionless administrators.

At any rate, you can find the appropriate visual here:

Have a great weekend.


Colin Powers

Colin received his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2020. He is a two-time Fulbright Fellow.