What Happened Today: September 08, 2022
The Queen is dead; Ukraine’s counteroffensive; U.K. repeals fracking ban
The Big Story
Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday at age 96. She was the longest-serving monarch in British history, spending 70 years on the throne. Elizabeth, a member of the royal House of Windsor, will be succeeded by her son Charles. Formerly the Prince of Wales, Charles, 73, is now set to be coronated as king of the British monarchy. The past two years had been “hugely challenging and upsetting for the aging monarch,” according to the Daily Mail. First, she was forced to strip Prince Andrew, reportedly her favorite son, of his royal titles after he settled a case with a former victim of Jeffrey Epstein who accused the royal of sexually abusing her. Then last April, Elizabeth’s husband, Philip, died at age 99. Born in Mayfair, London, Elizabeth rose to the throne in 1952 after the death of her father, George VI. Following the queen’s death, the British commonwealth now begins a ceremonial mourning period that will last 10 days.
Read More: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4071298/Queen-elizabeth-II-dead-aged-96-prince-charles.html
In the Back Pages: Why Mali is turning away from the West
→ Ukrainian officials are touting significant gains in a recent counteroffensive against Russian forces that has reportedly recaptured more than 270 square miles of Ukrainian territory in the country’s embattled east and south. The recent operation is being hailed as Ukraine’s biggest victory since it repelled Russia’s initial effort to capture the country’s capital, Kyiv. Russian forces appear to be tied up attempting to stop a Ukrainian drive to retake the southern port city of Kherson, leaving them undermanned and unable to stop simultaneous Ukrainian offensives in eastern regions like Kharkiv.
→ Number of the Day: $13.2 billion
The total amount of military aid the United States has given to Ukraine, not including the $2 billion Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged during an unannounced visit to Kyiv today. Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv and said the money was both for Ukraine and other countries in the region that are threatened by Russia. He has not specified which other countries will be receiving the funds. The Pentagon did confirm, however, that some of that aid would come in the form of the M982 Excalibur, the most accurate artillery shell in the U.S. arsenal. Yesterday, before embarking on his trip to Kyiv, Blinken posted a slickly produced video to Twitter that is apparently intended to rally American support to the Ukrainian cause. Polling shows that a bare majority of Americans support the current clip of financial assistance the United States is providing, though that majority continues to shrink as time goes on.
→ In Tablet, Tony Badran explains the Biden administration’s new old approach to “balancing equities” in the Middle East between Iran and traditional U.S. allies like Israel.
Read it here: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/israel-middle-east/articles/america-regional-integration-scheme-benefits-iran-deal-obama-biden
→ Days after taking office, Britain’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, is lifting the country’s ban on fracking—a method of drilling for shale gas—in an effort to increase domestic fuel production and tame runaway energy costs. The repeal of Britain’s fracking moratorium, put in place three years ago by Truss’ predecessor and fellow member of the conservative party, Boris Johnson, is part of a larger energy plan she announced Thursday that will cost upwards of $170 billion—with more than half of that going to household relief. The spending will also cover a new “energy price guarantee” limiting what gas suppliers can charge customers, new licenses for drilling in the North Sea, and increased support for renewables and nuclear energy. In a speech to the House of Commons, Truss said that her plan “will end the moratorium on extracting our huge reserves of shale, which could get gas flowing as soon as six months, where there is local support for it.” But with new drilling relying on buy-in from British locals—only 17% of whom support fracking, according to a government survey taken last year—there are significant obstacles in the way of achieving that timeline.
Read More: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/08/uks-liz-truss-will-unleash-billions-of-pounds-to-help-with-energy-bills.html
→ On Feb. 1, 2020, in the early days of COVID-19’s global spread, Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins, then leaders of the National Institutes of Health, exchanged emails about whether any NIH funding had gone toward the Wuhan lab that was at the center of an international debate about the origins of the novel coronavirus. The back-and-forth specifically concerned an article being prepared for publication that detailed the coronaviruses studied at the Wuhan lab, including one that was very similar to COVID-19. “In case you haven’t seen this preprint from one week ago,” Collins wrote to Fauci of the article, set to be published in Nature. “No evidence this work was supported by NIH.” Fauci wrote back shortly after: “I did see it but did not check the similarities. Obviously we need more details.” On the same day of that exchange, Fauci and Collins joined a teleconference with other virologists, which led to an influential piece published in Nature Medicine, “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” which argued against the Wuhan “lab leak” theory and asserted that there is “strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is not the product of purposeful manipulation.” Both men offered “advice and leadership” on the piece—input that was never disclosed in the publication despite the obvious conflict of interest.
Read More: https://usrtk.org/biohazards-blog/francis-collins-and-anthony-fauci-worried-about-nih-funding-wuhan-lab/
→ Graph of the Day
As sanctions against Russian oil and gas roil the European energy market, exponentially raising costs for consumers, a new analysis by the Financial Times finds that “Indian and Chinese oil buying has offset most of the fall in Russian shipments to Europe.” After reviewing customs data from China and India, the Times concluded that “the countries imported 11mn tonnes more oil from Russia in the second quarter of 2022 compared with the first quarter” and that “payments for Russian oil from the countries increased by $9bn.” These purchases, analysts believed, are not primarily aimed at buoying Russia’s economy so much as cashing in on its inexpensive and abundantly available oil and gas. “In a situation where inflationary pressures and shortages of fertilizers were upsetting all calculations, the Russian supplies came in handy,” Biswajit Dhar, professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told the Times.
→ In the latest argument in favor of abandoning our smartphones and creating an elaborate can-on-a-string communication system, Snap Inc., the company behind the social media platform Snap, unwittingly granted political campaigns access to troves of voter data, according to Axios, which Democratic campaigns made good use of in their midterm strategies. What a lucky accident that was for the campaigns!
Social media platforms like Snap are feeding grounds for “data brokers” who collect information on users to sell to other companies and political campaigns. These data brokers will often collect and sell the data of particular demographics, and some companies focus solely on political alignment in the data they collect and sell.
One such company, the Koch-affiliated i360, collects and sells the data of Republican or right-leaning voters.
Companies like i360 make their data available to other pre-approved companies; the error occurred when Democratic campaigns were inadvertently—and, in all likelihood, unwittingly—granted access to i360’s information. The same error occurred with a left-leaning data broker, TargetSmart, which saw its data used by The Daily Wire. There is currently no indication that any of these organizations knew they were using data inappropriately.
“We take full responsibility for this mistake,” a Snap Inc. spokesperson said, “and as soon as we became aware of it, we notified the two Democratic and Republican vendors who were equally impacted, and took action to correct the issue. We are also taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
You can buy your new tin-can telephone here.
→ In a 20-hour shooting spree that created eight crime scenes across Memphis, Tennessee, Ezekiel Kelly drove around the city indiscriminately firing upon civilians, streaming the shooting on Facebook live as he killed four people and injured three. The victims were “ordinary citizens doing ordinary things,” Memphis Sheriff Floyd Bonner said. “Getting off from work. Picking up children from daycare. Just going about their ordinary lives, when it was all of the sudden shattered.” Kelly was eventually apprehended by police in a vehicle he had stolen at gunpoint. In 2020, he was charged with attempted first-degree murder. In that case, he plead to a lesser charge and was sentenced to three years in prison, only serving 11 months before being released this past March.
→ Police in Las Vegas have arrested Robert Telles, the Clark County public administrator, in connection with the stabbing-murder of an investigative reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jeff German, who had written a series of articles this past spring chronicling Telles’ abusive workplace behavior. “The Clark County Public Administrator’s office has been mired in turmoil and internal dissension over the past two years, with allegations of emotional stress, bullying, and favoritism leading to secret videotaping of the boss and a co-worker outside the office,” German wrote in an article published on May 16. Telles would go on to lose his June reelection bid, while German continued to investigate him and his office. German’s body was found on Sept. 3, and police quickly followed a trail of clues to Telles.
Additional reporting and writing provided by The Scroll’s associate editor, David Sugarman
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Today’s Back Pages comes from Sam Savage, a writer and former NGO worker living in California. Savage is currently working on his first film, a documentary about a rock band from Mali.
The West’s Abandonment of Mali
Why the West African Nation is turning away from the United States and towards Russia
On July 22, Islamist terrorists in Mali carried out a series of unprecedented attacks across the country—including one on the country’s primary military base in Kati, just outside the capital city of Bamako. The attacks, which were later blamed on groups associated with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, killed 42 soldiers, according to Malian officials, and revealed the extent to which terrorist groups can now strike wherever and whenever they want inside the landlocked West African nation. On Wednesday of this week, the Associated Press reported that the Malian military conducted air strikes after militants associated with the Islamic State took over the town of Talataye.
As the region descends deeper into chaos, Mali’s battle with terrorists has implications for the United States. Three weeks ago, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, “acknowledged that the military takeover in Mali and cooperation with Russian forces is hindering Western attempts to contain terrorism” in the Sahel. What he failed to note is that the West hasn’t been able to contain this terrorism for the past decade, preceding Mali’s recent turn away from the French and the United States and toward Russia.
In fact, the United States arguably caused the steep rise in instability and terrorism in Mali through its ill-fated decision to participate in the NATO campaign against Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. In March 2011, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973 (Russia and China abstained during the vote) to implement a no-fly zone over Libya. NATO then led a military operation in the country under the guise of achieving what the United Nations Security Council hoped would be “an immediate cease-fire” to the Libyan Civil War. The truth of what prompted that operation would emerge later: The French, who long sought to oust Gaddafi, came to the Americans asking for their help to take him out. By this point, Gaddafi was no longer the firebrand he was decades before; while he still had grandiose visions of pan-Africanism, his days of preaching a cocktail of pan-Arabism, anti-imperialism, and Islamism while hijacking planes, among other international crimes and misdeeds, were long over. But the French wanted his head. President Obama was on the fence; Senior Advisor Susan Rice said don’t do it, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yes, and the rest is history: By October 2011, Gaddafi was dead, his murder caught on camera and his body soon paraded through the streets. The catastrophic consequences of that decision reverberate across the region to this day. In the ensuing decade, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have all experienced coups d’état (attempted coups). The slave trade has been reborn, terrorist attacks are increasingly common, and a growing number of refugees continue to flood across the Sahel.
After Gaddafi’s death, a power vacuum ensued, heavy weapons flooded the Sahara, and al-Qaeda sensed an opportunity. It entered the region in earnest, partnering with the Saharan Touaregs, a Berber group that had long sought independence from Mali’s central government. With al-Qaeda entering the picture, what had been small skirmishes usually consisting of brief exchanges of rifle fire between the Touaregs and Malian forces were replaced by battles with armored vehicles and heavy machine guns. Al-Qaeda used the Touaregs (and others, who recognized their mistake too late) for its own gain; the new regime began to seize significant territory throughout the country. The al-Qaeda-led coalition declared a new state, Azawad, and continued its offensive …