July 15, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 AM


Turkey and the coup attempt: How it changed the country's behaviour (Rabia Iclal, Sunday 15 July 2018, Middle East Eye)

The July 2016 coup bid, carried out, the government says, by supporters of exiled Fethullah Gulen, was the bloodiest in modern Turkish history. Social observers and analysts report that the anger and fear it generated still permeate Turkish society two years later.

Nurullah Ardıc, an associate professor of sociology at Istanbul Sehir University, said that while the defeat of the coup had strengthened social bonds, it had also weakened the prestige of the military, police, religious groups and even NGOs.

According to a survey on social cohesion in Turkey conducted by the Istanbul Policy Centre (IPC), an independent research policy institute at Sabanci University, between January and February 2018, 47 percent of Turks were happy about the measures taken by the government to restructure the state after 15 July, against 21 per cent who were not.

Pinar Akpinar, an academic at the centre, said: "One cannot really speak of an overall 'change' of society but, rather, the alleviation of fears."

She said the coup had touched on several existential fears of Turks, including Sèvres syndrome, named after the post-First World War treaty which abolished and then divided the Ottoman Empire.

That fear, Akpinar said, meant that "people from very different segments of society united under a perceived threat of their country being carved up".

But that moment of unity, she said, was very short-lived. "Eventually, Turkish politics went back to its usual agenda of polarisation."

Like Alkilic, Adviye Gul, 17, took to the street on the night of the attempted coup, along with four other members of her family. She headed for Istanbul's Sarachane district, where she and hundreds of others gathered outside the municipality building to prevent it being taken over by coup plotters.

"We went out to the streets, praying," she said. "We stood against the traitors and occupiers, with bare hands and the love of our land.

"Normally, I'm a very young person with dreams for the future, and I wouldn't risk my life. But, that day, my god had completely taken the fear from us." 

Eventually, forces who backed the coup opened fire on the crowd: Gul was hit in the arms and remained in a critical condition for four days.

Before the coup she had always been interested in politics. But now she has taken more of an interest and watches the news more frequently.

"I am now awake to the facts about our history and the dangers we face today. As a young Turk, I'm now more hopeful and confident about my future."

As news of the coup reached the wider world, the response from the West was slow in coming, with many governments lukewarm in their support for Erdogan.

Gurkan Zengin, formerly news director of Al Jazeera Turk, who wrote Kusatma (Siege) about the coup attempt, said that events in July 2016 woke Turkish society to the "level of danger the Gulen movement poses to Turkish society".

He said that the general perception was that the US wanted to depose Erdogan and his regional policies by using Gulenist supporters.

"No one in Turkey can believe that any military coup can occur in a Nato country without approval from the Pentagon or another US security and intelligence apparatus."

That sense, academics believe, was also at play on 24 June 2018, when Turkey held its first presidential and parliamentary election since the attempted coup, despite the two events being almost two years apart.

Ali Yasar Saribay, political sociologist at Uludag University, said: "It can be safely concluded that 15 July had a decisive influence on the 24 June election results, meaning that Erdogan was supported by the electorate, against the West."

He said that several of the political, legal and economic measures that Erdogan's ruling AK Party had taken after 15 July were not fully backed by the West.

"The support in the election was not only a show of favour for Erdogan, but a political reaction against the Western world fuelled by instinctive preservation of the state. It's difficult to understand this without taking into consideration the sensitive points of the state-society relations in Turkey historically."

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


Trump's ambassador lobbied Britain on behalf of jailed right-wing activist Tommy Robinson (Mark Hosenball, 7/15/18, Reuters) 

Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, complained to the British ambassador in Washington D.C. about the treatment of an English right-wing activist who is in jail for disrupting a trial, according to three sources familiar with the discussion. [...]

Reuters was unable to determine why the top U.S. official responsible for defending religious freedom would try to intervene with the British government on behalf of an activist who has expressed anti-Islamic views.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Mueller's Blockbuster Indictment: With the special counsel's latest indictment, Americans are one step closer to knowing the truth of what happened during the 2016 election. (PAUL ROSENZWEIG, JUL 13, 2018, The Atlantic)

[T[hese forensic details are stunning, and the import of their publication is far broader that the verisimilitude they lend to the allegations. At a minimum, the level of detail here makes it difficult to deny the truth of what they assert. Take but one example--the question of the identity of Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer 2.0 was an on-line persona who claimed to be behind the hack of the Democrat emails. He also claimed he was not a Russian but rather an independent Romanian hacker. The evidence of the indictment, linking web searches by the Russian conspirators to posts by Guccifer 2.0 is damning indeed.

But perhaps more saliently, the level of detail suggests that the veil of anonymity that has long protected hackers is slowly being torn apart. The forensic information here (doubtless sourced from the intelligence community) makes it clear that, with enough time and effort, the chances of penetrating a secret operation are much higher than they have been in the past. That's a good thing for American counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations, but it is not necessarily a good thing for social or political dissent--especially not that in authoritarian Russia.

Fourth, Wikileaks is revealed to be, at best, a pawn of Russian intelligence and at worst part of a coordinated Russian operation. Wikileaks affirmatively solicited DNC material from Guccifer 2.0, and scheduled its release immediately before the Democratic National Convention, in an effort to harm the Clinton campaign. If they knew that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian operative, they were willing participants; if they did not then they were dupes. Either way, anyone who continues to take Wikileaks seriously as a journalism outlet strains credulity. Their anti-America and anti-Clinton bias is demonstrable.

Finally, Trump adviser Roger Stone is in a great deal of trouble and the specter of "collusion" is more real now than it has been in the past. Stone, who the indictment describes as "in regular contact with senior members of the [Trump] presidential campaign" was also in regular contact Guccifer 2.0, now known to be the front for Russian intelligence. Stone had previously given conflicting statements about the state of his knowledge as to Guccifer 2.0's identity, and about what, if anything, he did with information he may or may not have received. But the indictment now puts Stone's actions squarely in focus and will, undoubtedly, result in more scrutiny of his conduct by prosecutors.

Moreover, the indictment also alleges that the Russian attempt to hack the Clinton campaign's emails began, quite literally, on the very day that Trump publicly asked the Russians to find Hillary's missing emails. This may well be nothing more than a case of conscious parallelism, but when combined with the Stone allegations, it is yet another strand of evidence suggesting actual contact and collaboration between Trump supporters and the Russians.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


The car industry needs to embrace open source (RAMI SASS, 7/15/18, TNW)

In 2017, a report from Visual Capitalist showed that software for the automotive market contains upwards of 100 million lines of code. To give some perspective, only Google, with all of their services, was said to have more code in their products.

If the automotive market wants to stay ahead of these software giants, who may have their own ambitions of breaking into the car making game, they need a secret weapon to give them that nitrus boost into the next generation of development.

Automakers have begun to understand that if they are going to have a shot at beating Silicon Valley at their own game, then they are going to have to pool their resources and work smarter together.

One of the ways that they are already doing this is in their use of open source components. This software is written and maintained by the open source community and made available for reuse by others so long as they follow their licenses.

Open source components are essentially the building blocks of software, comprising between 60-80 percent of the code base in modern applications. These reusable components give developers a fast and free way to solve problems and add powerful features to their products without having to write new code themselves.

In hopes of making code sharing in the industry a reality, the majority of stakeholders -- including Panasonic, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Toyota, and many more -- have joined with The Linux Foundation's Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project.

The goal of the AGL initiative is to create a space, through the Unified Code Base (UCB), where developers can contribute to projects, which in turn will be available to developers at other companies. Through this code sharing, companies can speed up their development of products without having to reinvent the wheel.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


The quantified heart (Polina Aronson & Judith Duportail, 7/15/18, Aeon)

Some people might be more comfortable disclosing their innermost feelings to an AI. A study conducted by the Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles in 2014 suggests that people display their sadness more intensely, and are less scared about self-disclosure, when they believe they're interacting with a virtual person, instead of a real one. As when we write a diary, screens can serve as a kind of shield from outside judgment.

Soon enough, we might not even need to confide our secrets to our phones. Several universities and companies are exploring how mental illness and mood swings could be diagnosed just by analysing the tone or speed of your voice. Sonde Health, a company launched in 2016 in Boston, uses vocal tests to monitor new mothers for postnatal depression, and older people for dementia, Parkinson's and other age-related diseases. The company is working with hospitals and insurance companies to set up pilot studies of its AI platform, which detects acoustic changes in the voice to screen for mental-health conditions. By 2022, it's possible that 'your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family,' said Annette Zimmermann, research vice-president at the consulting company Gartner, in a company blog post.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Some MAGA hats made in China may increase in price because of tariffs (JOHN BOWDEN, 07/14/18, The Hill)

A California-based company that sells "Make America Great Again" hats similar to the official hats sold by the Trump campaign says its prices may rise in response to trade tensions with China prompted by President Trump's tariffs.

David Lassoff, who runs the company IncredibleGifts, told ABC News that prices of the hat could double from between $9 and $12 to at least $20 if he is forced to abandon his Chinese manufacturers and make the hats in the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


How the Russians hacked the DNC and passed its emails to WikiLeaks (Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, July 13, 2018, Washington Post)

The DCCC served as the hackers' gateway to the DNC. Armed with the credentials of a DCCC contractor authorized to gain access to the DNC network, the GRU infiltrated the national committee, eventually gaining access to 33 computers, according to the indictment.

Once inside the DCCC and DNC computers, the hackers searched for keywords related to the 2016 election, prosecutors allege. In mid-April 2016, they searched one DCCC computer for terms including "hillary," "cruz" and "trump," the indictment states. The hackers also copied particular DCCC folders, including one labeled "Benghazi Investigations." And they "targeted" computers that contained information about opposition research and "field operation plans" for the 2016 election.

The hackers used computer network infrastructure that they leased inside the United States, including in Arizona and Illinois, to move files from the targeted computers.

On June 22, the indictment stated, WikiLeaks sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 asking to have access to the material, saying "it will have a much higher impact" on its site.

The GRU made repeated attempts to transfer the stolen DNC emails to WikiLeaks beginning in late June 2016. On July 14, the Russians got an email to WikiLeaks with an attachment titled "wk dnc link1.txt.gpg." The attachment contained an encrypted file with instructions on accessing an online archive of hacked DNC documents, the indictment said.

On July 18, WikiLeaks confirmed it had "the 1Gb or so archive" and would release the material "this week," according to the indictment.

On July 22, three days before the Democratic National Convention opened, WikiLeaks put up the DNC email archive of more than 20,000 emails and other documents hacked by the GRU, the indictment said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


'Conservativism' Review: Holding On to the Good Things (RICHARD ALDOUS, 7/14/18, WSJ)

On one level this slim volume is the ideal primer for those who are new to conservative ideas -- a kind of "conservatism: the greatest hits."  Smith, Burke, Jefferson, Arnold, T.S. Eliot, Leo Strauss : They're all here.  Less commonly celebrated writers, such as Michael Oakeshott and James Burnham, are restored to their place in the canon.  Others who did not identify as conservatives -- such as George Orwell and, stretching the point almost to breaking, Simone Weil -- are claimed philosophically for the tradition.

Mr. Scruton is an agreeable companion.  His style is brisk and often amusing, and he has a nice way of summarizing complexity without being simplistic.  Individual thinkers fit within a broader narrative that sets out to show how modern conservatism, beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries as a defense of tradition during debates over popular sovereignty, became an appeal on behalf of religion and culture against materialism in the 19th century.  It then joined forces with classical liberals, such as Friedrich Hayek, in the fight against socialism in the 20th century and eventually became today "the champion of Western civilisation" against its enemies, notably "political correctness" and religious extremism.  "In all these transformations something has remained the same," Mr. Scruton writes, "namely the conviction that good things are more easily destroyed than created, and the determination to hold on to those good things in the face of politically engineered change."

Among Mr. Scruton's many strengths is an ability to make fresh the ideas of writers who may otherwise appear bloodless or, worse, heartless.  Adam Smith, for example, is famous (and often reviled on the left) for his defense of the market economy in The Wealth of Nations.  But Smith himself saw his less well-known work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, as the more important book.  There he developed his theory of the "impartial spectator," that part of ourselves that allows us to assess our own thoughts, feelings and actions and to pass judgment on their moral worth. 

This ability to view ourselves from the outside, to see ourselves in fact as others see us, is for Smith the greatest of social goods, because it creates sympathetic feelings -- the foundation of community -- and implies a responsibility for others that will inevitably place limits on freedom.  This idea, Mr. Scruton argues, is at odds with the extreme liberal view, which values the freedom of the individual "above all other things."  The conflict, he says, is "one of the principal political issues of our time."  It is a battle over whether liberty requires us to look at our own conduct and that of others from the standpoint of impartiality -- to be able to say, in other words, that sometimes we may be wrong and that others within our community, even if they're our opponents, may have a point. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Worker wages drop while companies spend billions to boost stocks ( IRINA IVANOVA, 7/11/18, CBS News MONEYWATCH)

Six months after the Tax Cut and Jobs Act became law, there's still little evidence that the average job holder is feeling the benefit.

Worker pay in the second quarter dropped nearly one percent below its first-quarter level, according to the PayScale Index, one measure of worker pay. When accounting for inflation, the drop is even steeper. Year-over-year, rising prices have eaten up still-modest pay gains for many workers, with the result that real wages fell 1.4 percent from the prior year, according to PayScale. The drop was broad, with 80 percent of industries and two-thirds of metro areas affected.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


GOP Candidate Disavows 'Jews Must Be Stopped' Robocalls -- But Sticks With Holocaust Denial (Alyssa Fisher, July 12, 2018, The Forward)

Although the call's message is consistent with his anti-Semitic rhetoric -- he's an known Holocaust denier -- Fitzgerald denied responsibility, writing on his congressional campaign site Wednesday that it was the work of a person known as The Road To Power. [...]

Despite his disavowals, Fitzgerald's campaign website includes plenty of anti-Semitic claims. It falsely says that 9% of U.S. government officials are dual citizens of Israel and that Jews played a "prominent role" in the African slave trade, and celebrates a "courageous" elderly German woman who was sentenced to two years in prison for denying the Holocaust.

"Why is the holocaust the ONLY historical issue that cannot be questioned without fear of fines and/or imprisonment in eighteen countries - and counting - throughout the world?" Fitzgerald wrote on May 16.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


By allowing towns to segregate, Israel may cross a different kind of red line: The wounds of America's redlining policy, which led to segregated housing, still fester 50 years after it was rescinded. Will the nation-state bill put Israel on the same path? (Joshua Davidovich, 13 July 2018, Times of Israel)

It took over 30 years for the US to reverse course, passing the Fair Housing Act that outlawed discrimination in April 1968.

Yet according to Rothstein and other historians, the damage had already been done, and even 50 years later, cities still bear not only the scars but festering open wounds of those policies.

A 2017 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that inequalities persisted as late as 2010 along border areas between red and yellow, and yellow and blue areas. "The maps had a causal and persistent effect on the development of neighborhoods through credit access," the authors wrote.

"We still have a very, very segregated society, in terms of housing and [by extension] schools," Brown University sociologist John R. Logan recently told US News and World Report.

According to Rothstein, a large part of the problem was the fact that by the time blacks could buy in more affluent areas, the homes there were already out of reach because prices had risen so much.

"In Levittown, there were very inexpensive homes. They sold for $8,000 to $9,000 [$100,000 in today's inflation-adjusted dollars] a piece. African American families could have afforded those and could have moved out of public housing," Rothstein said, referring to the post-war New York suburb where blacks were forbidden. By the time the town was desegregated, those homes were out of reach. "Today they are worth $400,000 to $500,000. The white families who purchased them gained enormous equity appreciation."

Meanwhile, blacks were in debt to unregulated money lenders, the only places they could get a loan, and even after 1968 some banks continued to practice racist lending policies.

The resulting legacy is rampant inequality, in both wealth and opportunities for escaping poverty. Black communities continue to not only be separate but unequal.

"Nationwide today African American wealth is about 10 percent of white wealth, but African Americans make 60 percent as much as whites. That's an enormous difference," said Rothstein, pointing the legacy of segregated housing as the main factor keeping blacks in poverty.

"Discrimination ... laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government--through housing policies--engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day," wrote Ta-Nehesi Coates in a landmark 2014 Atlantic article titled "The Case for Reparations."

"An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating."

Historians say the racist housing policies were a way to continue segregating communities after the Supreme Court knocked down explicitly racist zoning regulations.

In Israel, clause 7B of the controversial Nation-State Bill presents a virtual mirror of those century-old processes in the US, using law to directly further existing arrangements.

Much housing in Israel is already de-facto segregated. Towns describe themselves as Jewish or Arab, aside from the odd mixed city like Haifa or Lod, and even these places have Jewish or Arab neighborhoods.

It's extremely rare for a Jew to have an Arab neighbor or vice versa, but until now it has never been part of the country's de facto constitution to enforce those separations.

The clause, which has come under vociferous criticism and may now be softened, would "authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community."

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


U.S. oil boom delivers surprise for traders - and it's costly (Julia Payne, Devika Krishna Kumar, Dmitry Zhdannikov, 7/15/18, Reuters) 

The world's biggest oil traders are counting hefty losses after a surprise doubling in the price discount of U.S. light crude to benchmark Brent WTCLc1-LCOc1 in just a month, as surging U.S production upends the market.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Illinois elections board 'very likely' named in Mueller indictment of Russian hackers, officials say. (Monique Garcia, Patrick M. O'Connell, 7/14/18, Chicago Tribune)

Though the Mueller probe continues to make national waves, Illinois voters have known about the cyberattack for nearly two years. It was discovered in July 2016, and the FBI issued an alert the following month. The timeline listed in the indictment matches up with what the state publicly acknowledged about a data breach in 2016.

Still, state officials said Friday's charges help put to rest some uncertainty.

"We are grateful that DOJ has identified who the perpetrators are," state election board spokesman Matt Dietrich said at a hastily arranged news conference at the Illinois Capitol. "We never had anything on paper until today, and even then we don't have a firm statement saying 'Yes, it's you,' although we think it's more than likely 'yes.' "

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Emirati Prince Flees to Qatar, Exposing Tensions in U.A.E. (David D. Kirkpatrick, July 14, 2018, NY Times)

Sheikh Rashid's flight to Doha appears to be the first time in the nearly 47-year history of the U.A.E. that a member of one of its seven royal families has publicly criticized its rulers, according to scholars of the region. In an interview with The New York Times, Sheikh Rashid accused Emirati rulers of blackmail and money laundering, though he provided no evidence to support his claim.

He also spoke publicly about tensions among the Emirates that were previously discussed only in whispers -- notably resentments over Abu Dhabi's leadership of the U.A.E.'s military intervention in Yemen.

The rulers of Abu Dhabi, he charged, did not consult the emirs of the other six Emirates before committing their troops to the war, now three years old, against an Iranian-allied faction in Yemen. But soldiers from smaller emirates, such as Fujairah, have filled the front lines and accounted for most of the war deaths, which Emirati news reports have put at a little more than 100.

"There have been more deaths from Fujairah than anywhere else," Sheikh Rashid said, and he accused Abu Dhabi of hiding the full death toll.

He said he decided to give the interview in the hope that public attention to his case would protect his family in Fujairah from pressure by Abu Dhabi, and he appeared to hope that threatening further disclosures might give him leverage against Abu Dhabi as well. "I am the first in a royal family going out of the U.A.E. and telling everything about them," he said.

But his arrival in Doha has also posed a dilemma for Qatar, in part because of uncertainty surrounding Sheikh Rashid's dispute with Abu Dhabi.

The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have led a campaign to isolate Qatar, cutting off all diplomatic and trade relations in an effort to pressure the tiny petroleum-rich monarchy to adhere to a common foreign policy and join their crackdown on political Islam. Adding to the pressure, Abu Dhabi has played host to a handful of exiled members of the Qatari royal family, playing up their criticism of the current emir and promoting them as alternative leaders.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Public perception of crime rate at odds with reality

July 14, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Gov. Matt Bevin's 'disturbing' West End comments spark outrage (Thomas Novelly, 7/10/18, Louisville Courier Journal)

Gov. Matt Bevin said in a promotional video featuring the West Louisville chess club that some people might be surprised by the connection between the club and the neighborhoods it draws children from, unleashing a barrage of criticism on social media.

"I'm going to go in and meet the members of the West Louisville Chess Club," Bevin said in the video. "Not something you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town." [...]

Councilman David James, who represents District 6 in Louisville, was present at the event where Bevin filmed the promo. James said it is a sign of Bevin's deteriorating relationship with the state's African-American community. 

Didn't he ever watch Shelby Lyman cover chess on PBS?

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Man Who Harassed Woman Over Puerto Rican Flag Shirt Is Charged With Hate Crimes (Matt Stevens, July 11, 2018, NY Times)

A Chicago man who was caught on video harassing a woman over a Puerto Rican flag shirt was charged with felony hate crimes on Thursday, just hours after a police officer who ignored the woman's pleas for help resigned, the authorities said.

July 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM


Moscow now accused of US election meddling, in indictment (Eric Tucker, 7/13/18, Associated Press) 

Twelve Russian military intelligence officers hacked into the Clinton presidential campaign and Democratic Party and released tens of thousands of private communications in a sweeping conspiracy by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, according to an indictment announced days before President Donald Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The indictment represents special counsel Robert Mueller's first charges against Russian government officials for interfering in American politics, an effort U.S. intelligence agencies say was aimed at helping the Trump campaign and harming Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The case follows after a separate indictment that accused Russians of using social media to sow discord among American voters two years ago.

The 29-page indictment lays out how, months before Americans went to the polls, Russian officers schemed to break into key Democratic email accounts, including those belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Stolen emails, many politically damaging for Clinton, appeared on WikiLeaks in the campaign's final stretch.

The charges allege the Russian defendants, using a persona known as Guccifer 2.0, in August 2016 contacted a person who was in touch with the Trump campaign to offer help. And they say that on the same day Trump said in a speech, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Russian hackers tried for the first time to break into email accounts used by Clinton's personal office.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM



But from this crisis is emerging a series of fintech platforms that are helping young Nigerians save better. There's PiggyBank, which launched in 2016 and works on simultaneously securing money and instilling financial discipline. Customers earn a minimum of 6 percent annual interest, and if they keep their savings longer, can secure even higher returns. Between 2016 and 2017, it built a savings customer base of more than 53,000 registered users. CowryWise, which started in July 2017, combines digital savings and investments with wealth management, all online. Over the past year, its user base has grown 30 percent month-on-month. Alat, launched in May 2017, describes itself as Nigeria's first digital bank. Diamond Bank, a retail bank, in 2016 launched what it calls the Diamond eSUSU platform, modeled after Esusu, a traditional West African contributory and rotational savings practice.

Their strategies vary, but they share a common core market: Nigerian millennials. And they're tapping distrust of Nigeria's commercial banks while leveraging the digital comfort enjoyed by this demographic.

"Most millennials couldn't be bothered to save in banks because there is a general distrust of the banking system in Nigeria," says Seun Oyajumo, an investment and venture analyst, before arguing that digital savings platforms like PiggyBank appear to be clicking with this section of Nigerians better. "PiggyBank has taken a different approach to customer service and is not failing in its promises."

A year since launching CowryWise, founders Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola aren't sitting at ease, despite the rapid growth in their customer base. Because of the volatility of Nigeria's economy -- Africa's largest -- Ahmed emphasizes that just savings aren't enough. In addition to savings, CowryWise offers financial advisory services. "Because the Nigerian economy doesn't run as optimally as it is supposed to, saving will never be enough," says Ahmed. "Arming people with knowledge of finances is something that needs to be done."

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Turkey's Gulen movement on the rise in Germany: After Turkey's foiled coup attempt in 2016, many supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen were driven out of the country. But in Germany, the movement is increasingly gaining influence (Gunnar Köhne, 7/13/18, Deutsche-Welle)

When the Turkish government crushed an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States. There were plenty of rumors about Gulen's involvement in the incident, yet the authorities in Ankara have so far failed to present conclusive evidence to prove this.

It is undisputed, however, that Gulen supporters previously held many positions in the Turkish state apparatus, which they used to their own advantage, and which Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) tolerated. That is, until Erdogan and Gulen had a falling out.

After Turkey's foiled coup, Erdogan ordered an unprecedented purge of the state apparatus. Some 100,000 civil servants were fired and 40,000 jailed. Most of these individuals are suspected members or sympathizers of the Gulen movement, or Hizmet. Tens of thousands were forced to flee the country. Many of the 800 Gulen-affiliated schools in Turkey and across the world were forced to close. Turkish authorities pressured Muslim countries in particular, such as Kosovo and Malaysia, to shut down these schools and expel Turkish teachers.

In Germany, meanwhile, the situation is much more hospitable for Gulen supporters. They enjoy wide-ranging support from German media, political figures and even the country's Christian churches, as DW research reveals.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM



FIFA recently launched "Nations League" play to determine some qualifiers for the 2020 European Championships. Europe and North America will start Nations Leagues this fall, while FIFA hopes to take the concept worldwide soon. The governing body also envisions a "mini-tournament," held the year before the World Cup, to decide the final places in the Cup.

The Nations Leagues are promising ventures, but they're a bit redundant with qualifying games for the World Cup and continental championships. The mini-tournament idea is also interesting, but why make it so "mini"?

Instead, let's do this:

Reward the top 16 teams in the Global Nations League with direct qualification to the World Cup. They get one summer off, aside from some tune-up friendly matches.

Take the next 64 teams in the Global Nations League, including some from the lower tiers, and have them play off for the other 16 berths in the World Cup.

Split them into four 16-team tournaments in different sites across the globe.

Call the whole thing the Pre-Cup.

Tournaments pretty much suck until you get to the knockout round.  Just put every nation in a seeded bracket and play all knockout games.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Is There Really a 'China Model'? (Bonnie Girard, July 13, 2018, The Diplomat)

If China's model is so successful, and represents a viable and perhaps more appropriate development "alternative" to the American model, then why is China itself using a completely different economic and investment paradigm than its own in most of the rest of the developing world? If, as He Yafei declares, the Chinese model is so strong that it has allowed China to make "remarkable contributions to the world and U.S. economies," then why doesn't it apply the principles of that model in developing countries in which it has strong economic relationships and interests? For example, much of China's relationship with developing African and Latin American nations suggests that it accepts local terms and practices, and seeks to benefit economically from them.

This is very different from the 1980s and 1990s in China, when China was first becoming familiar with various aspects of business and contract law, and was indeed, inviting foreign assistance in formulating those laws. Along with other factors, this cooperation with the richer, industrialized nations of the world to create at least a semblance of a reliable international business framework and legal foundation, inspired foreign direct investment into China of unprecedented levels, which in turn played a large role in China's overall development.

Two other key conditions play a large role in the "China model." The first is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). China's economic model rests on a one-party political system, which is part and parcel of the fabric of the country. The CCP is the connective tissue that ties all business, social, and public sectors together in China. Its presence and power had already been established by the time that it decided to let go of strict Marxist principles and allow a modicum -- which became a tidal wave -- of for-profit business to take root in the country. For good or for bad, there is no denying the pivotal role that the CCP plays in the "China model" of economic development.

China does not, however, any longer openly encourage other developing nations to develop their own communist parties, or to organize under Marxist (with Chinese characteristics) principles. Yet, as He surely knows and would agree with, without the CCP, the China model doesn't exist.

A second, more technical condition exists in the China model, one which has had a profound importance on the development of business at all levels in China. Chinese companies, whether domestic or foreign-owned, must be capitalized.

In its original iteration, all companies in China were required to deposit in a bank in China an amount of money, called Registered Capital, that authorities in the relevant Industry and Commerce Bureau deemed sufficient to start up, operate, and maintain the business as a going concern for at least a year. [...]

Do Chinese companies advise their counterparts in the developing countries in which they operate to require Registered Capital as a component of their company law? A review of the record would suggest no.

There is little evidence that China, in practice, promotes its own model of development in the developing countries in which it operates around the world.

July 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


North Koreans skip meeting to discuss remains of American troops: report (BRETT SAMUELS, 07/12/18, The Hill)

North Korean officials reportedly did not show up Thursday at a scheduled meeting with U.S. officials to discuss returning the remains of American soldiers, and instead suggested talking with United Nations military leaders about the issue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


These 9 Candidates Have Ties To White Nationalists Or Nazis -- And They're All Republicans (Juliana Kaplan and Alyssa Fisher, July 11, 2018, The Forward)

More white nationalists are running for state or federal office than in any other election in modern history, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Some of these candidates are proud, card-carrying Nazis, while others have had more subtle flirtations with the "alt-right." There's even a Jew among them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Zimbabwe's elections: a turning point? (Stuart Doran, 7/12/18, The Strategist)

In the 38 years since the end of colonial rule, Zimbabwe has never held an election in which Robert Mugabe has failed to participate--or win. The country gets its first chance in combined presidential and parliamentary polls on 30 July, following the November 2017 coup that brought the ancient autocrat's remarkable and seemingly interminable rule to an end. But will it make any difference?

The optimists point to new energy and new ideas, built around new leaders. Those who lean towards the ruling Zanu-PF party--from which Mugabe has been ejected--note that his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has adopted a modernising agenda, focused on economic reform and international reengagement. Supporters of the opposition, meanwhile, cite a renewed sense of unity and purpose since Mugabe's departure and the death in February of Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's long-time bête noire. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Nobody's Going to Sports in Person Anymore. And No One Seems to Care. (Will Leitch, 7/11/18, New York)

But the main reason attendance is down, in Major League Baseball as well as most of the other major professional sports, and the main reason owners and commissioners aren't sweating it too much, I'd argue, is because it can be. Teams don't really care anymore about bringing fans to the stadium -- at least not as much as they used to --because they no longer need people in the seats to make money.

Last year, the NFL brought in revenues of more than $17 billion, and Major League Baseball earned more than $10 billion, records for both sports. An increasingly small percentage of all that revenue came from attendance. The NFL attributes most of its 2017 improvement to a new Thursday Night Football television package and increased media payments from other properties. MLB's numbers, which grew even more the year before (when its Advanced Media arm spun off into its own company and was sold for $2.58 billion to Disney), came from expanded partnerships, local television ratings, and its own media-rights deals. Attendance has been down each of last seven years in MLB, and MLB's revenue has been up every single season. Knowing that, how much would you sweat attendance numbers?

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