The World Today for June 19, 2017



Third Try

War in Afghanistan is escalating again, putting pressure on a third American president to find a solution to the country’s woes since the US invaded after the September 11th terror attacks 16 years ago. 

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told senators last week, as quoted in the New York Review of Books.

This weekend was especially violent.

An Afghan soldier who is supposed to be working with US troops shot and wounded seven American soldiers on Saturday. It was the second recent “insider attack,” the Washington Post reported.

Taliban fighters, including a suicide bomber, killed six police officers and injured dozens more on Sunday, wrote Reuters.

ABC reported that an American was kidnapped on Sunday in Kabul on his way to work. That incident occurred two days after two Pakistani diplomats went missing, according to Al Jazeera.

Fighting has racked Afghanistan for decades. The difference between the past and now is that there is a new occupant in the White House and the Islamic State is making inroads into the country even as the Taliban remains restive.

“Obama’s Dilemma on Troop Surge in Afghanistan Now Vexes Trump,” read a recent headline in the New York Times.

That story explained how President Donald Trump had been overseeing a debate between his generals and his political advisors. The generals want more boots on the ground, but the advisors fear that the president could face the same problems that Obama encountered when trying to calm the turbulent country.

Evidently, the generals won out.

Trump now plans on adding 4,000 additional troops to the 9,800 already deployed to Afghanistan to beef up training and counterterrorism efforts, the Associated Press claimed.

A Daily News op-ed argued the increase would be a mistake, saying that Afghanistan is no longer a base for terrorists seeking to attack the US or Western Europe.

A commentator in the Los Angeles Times suspected that Mattis was Trump’s “fall guy,” meaning that the defense secretary would take the blame if the surge failed to change things.

The San Diego Tribune, meanwhile, cited a retired Army colonel who believed the US and its Afghan allies were making slow and steady headway that could yield tangible benefits soon.

The US unfortunately is stuck in the classic gambler’s dilemma: Pull out and risk wasting previous investments, or expend more effort and stand to lose everything on a potentially fruitless endeavor.

Trump appears to be doubling down. He has a few years to see if he’s making the right bet.

[siteshare]Third Try[/siteshare]



Recurring Nightmare

A van plowed into a crowd near two mosques in north London early Monday in an uncomfortable echo of two recent terror attacks using vehicles in other areas of London.

Though they are not calling it a terrorist attack yet, London police took the driver into custody and the Counter Terrorism Command will investigate the incident, the Washington Post reported.

Police said one person was killed and 10 others were injured – including eight who required hospitalization.

A large crowd remained in the street hours after the incident, which many called a terrorist attack that deliberately targeted Muslims.

Meanwhile, in the US, police in Fairfax, Virginia, believe they have found the body of a 17-year-old Muslim girl who was reported missing early Sunday after leaving a mosque with a group of friends, according to Buzzfeed. Officers arrested 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres and charged him with murder in connection to the case.

Though the incident occurred near a mosque and the victim’s dress obviously identified her as Muslim, police said they had “not gotten any indication that this was motivated by hate or bias.”

[siteshare]Recurring Nightmare[/siteshare]


Big Fish, Small Pond

French President Emmanuel Macron won a decisive majority in parliament, as expected, in the second round of elections on Sunday. But record-low turnout prevented the victory from providing a truly decisive mandate.

Macron’s party, La République en Marche (the Republic on the Move), and its allies had won 350 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, the New York Times reported.

The center-right Republicans and their allies managed only 135 seats. The Socialists and their allies, who won a majority in the last election, were reduced to just 45 seats. On the other hand, far-left and far-right parties won more votes than pundits had predicted going in, and Macron won fewer than expected, the Times noted.

More discouraging, voter turnout was only 43 percent, suggesting that “a large part of the working-class electorate are not going to vote anymore,” the paper quoted French political expert Luc Rouban as saying.

That could encourage union-led street protests if Macron attempts to fast-track his legislative program – which includes weakening France’s tough labor laws and reforming its generous pension system.

[siteshare]Big Fish, Small Pond[/siteshare]


The Fog of War

The US shot down a Syrian army jet and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched missiles into eastern Syria over the weekend in separate incidents that illustrated that the waning fight against the Islamic State could still spiral into another kind of war.

A US warplane on Sunday shot down a Syrian jet that Washington said had dropped bombs near US-backed forces fighting to take Raqqa, but Damascus said the plane was shot down while flying a mission against the Islamic State, Reuters reported.

The US said it does “not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces.” But it confirmed that a US F/A-18E Super Hornet downed the Syrian plane after a battle between pro-Syrian regime forces and US-backed fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqah.

Separately, in a rare strike originating from inside Iran, the Revolutionary Guard fired missiles at Islamic State militants in Syria Sunday in response to an attack on Iran’s parliament and a shrine in Tehran, the Associated Press reported.

[siteshare]Fog of War[/siteshare]


A Monstrous Tragedy

Two heads are better than one, as the saying goes.

But for an ultra-rare set of conjoined harbor porpoises caught off the coast of the Netherlands, their condition likely resulted in their death.

On May 30, trawlers off the coast of the Hook of Holland hauled up the carcass of a newly born porpoise – with two heads.

The fishermen took photos of the strange creature then quickly tossed the corpse back out to sea, fearing legal repercussions if they brought it back to shore, the Washington Post reported.

Scientists say that’s the real tragedy here.

Conjoined twins – or twins generally, for that matter – are an extreme rarity in the wild: Only nine known cases of conjoined cetacean twins had been documented until now.

Those cases mostly resulted in fetal deaths. This specimen, however, had been born alive, but likely died shortly thereafter as one heart and two brains attempted to navigate a single body.

Two heads on any animal might be scary.

But the fact that the creature is forever lost to scientific analysis is the “real horror” of the tale, according to Erwin Kompanje, the curator of mammals at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam.

[siteshare]A Monstrous Tragedy[/siteshare]

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