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(1) The US State Department financed paramilitary training for four of the Saudis who took part in killing/dismembering Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The training itself was provided by a shady, private equity-owned firm called the Tier 1 Group. (The private equity outfit in question is Cerberus Capital Management. Worth noting, the Trump administration attempted to appoint one of the company's senior executives, Louis Bremer, to a high-level post with the Defense Department, though the nomination eventually stalled out in Congress due to fallout from the Khashoggi murder).
Were another example needed of the ways through which empire, the subcontractor state, and profit seeking coalesce in facilitating human rights abuse throughout the world, well, there ya go.
(2) Human smugglers in Syria have taken to advertising their services on TikTok. Appealing specifically to those at risk of being conscripted into the Syrian Army, these entrepreneurs promise swift if not luxurious passage to Beirut. Posted prices are fairly cheap, which gives some indication for how unexceptional people trafficking has become in Syria in recent times.
(According to 2019 lists circulated by the Syrian Defense Ministry, more than 250,000 young Syrians are currently "evading" military service, a crime which can be punished by property seizure should the individual in question fail to pay a conscription exemption fee of $8000.)
(3) On Wednesday, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a decision to destroy the family home of a man currently being detained under accusations that he carried out a drive-by shooting that killed a settler in the occupied West Bank.
This ruling was made despite the accused having a documented history of mental illness. It was also made despite the accused having not resided in the property scheduled to be demolished since 2012, and despite fact that the man's estranged wife and children, all of whom are American citizens, currently live in the house.
Cruel and unjust as the Israeli Supreme Court's actions are, one can hardly say that Palestinian residents of the West Bank get any better treatment from their own quasi-sovereign politicolegal authorities. Early Thursday morning, the PA's security forces abducted, tortured, and killed local dissident/legislative candidate Nizar Banat. As of the evening hours, they were teargassing protestors throughout their nominal jurisdiction.
(4) Lebanon's economy is now smaller than the economies of Zimbabwe and Yemen, having cratered from a GDP of $55 billion in 2018 to just $19 billion in 2020. With its recession showing few signs of relenting in 2021, there is little reason to hope that the country's nightmare may soon come to an end.
As the graph above indicates, in the space of roughly twelve months, twenty years of growth have been wiped out. Utterly tragic.
(5) The brilliant Rick Rowden has a nice write-up detailing how pronouncements of the demise of the Washington Consensus are sadly premature, at least from the perspective of the global south. While research departments at the IMF and World Bank have certainly rediscovered Keynes, expressed growing skepticism with old orthodoxies, and advocated for more aggressive fiscal policies in the developed world, the conditionalities those institutions attached to lending arrangements with poorer countries are little changed from the halcyon days of the 1980s/1990s. Regardless of evidence and abundant historical precedent, deflationary austerity, current and capital account liberalization, and a laissez-faire approach to industrial policy remain the orders of the day.
With many such countries now facing unprecedented debt crises by dint of COVID-19, the material effects of the Washington Consensus' stubborn endurance will become apparent soon.
(6) Saudi Aramco Chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan is set to join the board of India's multisector conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd., further deepening the firms' budding relationship. (Reliance sold 20% of its oil-to-chemical op to Aramco back in 2019 for $15 billion).
Modi's India has been ingratiating itself politically to the Gulf's monarchies for some time now. These kinds of economic entanglements only buttress the reactionary axis that is already emergent.
(7) Property prices in many parts of the world have gone absolutely bonkers in the past eighteen months. Goosed by loose monetary policy (including the Fed's aggressive interventions in the mortgage-backed securities market), the median price of existing houses in the US is up a remarkable 23.6% year on year. Though declining sales volume last month suggest the market top may be in, so long as central banks press on with policies whose most direct effect is to preserve/grow asset valuations, a steep correction is unlikely.
(8) Zack Kopplin has published another wonderful piece of investigative journalism. This time, his work concerns the Virginia-based DGC International, a firm which has been enriching itself and its partners in Erbil (principally the Barzani family) through illegally supplying American military bases in Iraq with Iranian-produced gasoline.
Grifters are going to grift.
(9) Adam Doyle has a nice wee piece tracing the history of the Ireland-Palestine relationship. I didn't know Churchill dispatched the Black and Tans out to Palestine after they finished their grizzly deeds in Ireland, or that Ronald Storrs, Britain's first military governor of Jerusalem, saw his mission as being to create a "little loyal Jewish Ulster" out in the land of milk and honey.
(10) Here's a video of baby gorilla working on his skills:
Have a great weekend.
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