The World Today for July 28, 2016


Russian Dolls

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sent geopolitical ripples hither and thither on Wednesday when he called on Moscow to locate the 30,000 emails his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton deleted before investigators began looking into how she routed State Department messages through a private server in her New York home.

Trump’s comments riffed off allegations that Russian hackers broke into the Democratic National Committee and recently released a batch of emails that forced party boss Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign on Sunday – those messages revealed she and others were favoring Clinton over ex-Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The Daily Beast pondered whether Trump might have broken the law when he called on Russia to release the emails. Prosecutors theoretically could charge the real estate tycoon under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, for example, if they determined that he was encouraging “imminent lawless action.”

Others simply wondered whether Trump was not-so-secretly working with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man whom the possible next president has described admiringly.

After all, Trump’s comments came two days after the Republican questioned whether the United States would only come to the aid of NATO members in the case of a Russian attack if they had “fulfilled their obligations” to the United States, a shocking statement.

The Washington Post also reported that Trump’s representatives removed language in the Republican Party platform that called for military aid to Ukraine. The platform still contains sanctions against Russia, however.

Those representatives have been friendly with the Kremlin in the past.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych – the guy who fled to Russia during the country’s revolution in 2014 – was once a client of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to Quartz.

Bloomberg outlined how Trump foreign policy aide Carter Page forged close ties with Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled energy giant, when he was a private businessman.

Finally, the Guardian noted that Trump probably has business connections to Russia now, citing his comments at a real estate convention in 2008. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump said.

It’s impossible to verify those comments, however, because Trump has not released his taxes.

The Trump campaign has countered the reports by saying the candidate has “zero investments” in Russia.

But of course that comment doesn’t address Russia’s investments in Trump.

Given Putin’s policy of expanding Moscow’s power by funding rightwing, xenophobic political parties throughout Europe – from the National Front in France to Ataka in Bulgaria – it’s not a stretch to believe Russia has invested in Trump, too, and expects dividends.


‘Terror Is All I Saw’

A suicide bomber killed 44 people in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, blowing himself up in a crowded area of the Kurd-controlled town of Qamishli, in an attack claimed by Islamic State (IS).

Hours after the attack, which devastated the surrounding buildings, rescue workers were still searching for bodies and survivors. Most of the victims were Kurdish civilians, though the area does house a station for Kurdish security forces.

“Terror is all I saw among the residents when I first arrived,” a witness told the Chicago Tribune. “I was shocked at the extent of destruction in the homes and shops.”

Opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the mainly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces have been the main force fighting IS in northern Syria, with US air support.

A Full-On Purge

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks to be expanding a crackdown on supporters of a failed bid to oust him from power into a full-fledged purge.

On Wednesday, the leader dismissed 1,700 military personnel and closed down 131 media outlets, targeting the suspected followers of Fethullah Gulen – a US-based Muslim cleric whom Erdogan blames for the attempted July 15-16 coup.

More than 15,000 people, including around 10,000 soldiers, have been detained so far over the coup. More than 8,000 of those detainees were formally arrested pending trial.

Washington recognizes Turkey’s need to prosecute the perpetrators of the attempted coup. But US officials expressed concern over the shuttering of media outlets and the detention of an additional 47 journalists.

Guilty Bystanders

UN Peacekeepers are supposed to stand up for the powerless, not just stand around. But a disturbing account of dozens of rapes near a UN compound in the South Sudan capital of Juba has again tarnished the blue helmet – as at least one sexual assault took place while peacekeepers looked on, according to witnesses.

Speaking to the Associated Press, witnesses described a July 17 incident in which two South Sudanese soldiers in uniform dragged a woman away from the UN camp’s western gate to assault her. One witness estimated that 30 peacekeepers from Nepalese and Chinese battalions saw the incident, according to the agency.

“They were seeing it. Everyone was seeing it,” the witness said. “The woman was seriously screaming, quarreling and crying also, but there was no help. She was crying for help.”

The assaults followed the expulsion of troops loyal to Vice President Riek Machar from the capital last week. Soldiers reportedly targeted the women because they share Machar’s Nuer ethnicity. The fighting in South Sudan largely centers around ethnic tensions between the Nuer and the Dinka – the tribe from which President Salva Kiir hails.


Zany Zika

As Brazil ramps up for the Summer Olympics next month, many are concerned about the condition of athletes’ facilities, whether the trains will be running on time and, of course, the Zika virus.

August in Brazil is winter, however. The World Health Organization, not submitting to Zika hysteria, has suggested folks keep away from mosquitoes, wear long sleeves and use bug spray if they don’t want to contract the disease.

Despite the WHO’s sober recommendations, folks have conjured a host of absurd Zika precautions, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Australian athletes will be armed with “condoms doused in anti-viral gel.” South Koreans will wear uniforms doused with bug repellent. Taiwan is sending its competitors with thermometers for daily fever readings, face masks for public spaces, alcohol swabs for who knows what and hand disinfectant, which, again, won’t help against Zika.

Health experts have roundly panned those and other ideas. But that hasn’t stopped a Utah company from creating a tincture of “lemon eucalyptus, peppermint and geranium” that it’s billing as an insect repellent called Zika Pro Plus.

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