The World Today for October 26, 2018

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The World’s Worst Guest

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is a heroic activist-whistleblower to some and a Russian-backed provocateur to others.

He’s also “one of the world’s worst houseguests,” according to Vox.

An Australian computer engineer, Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for six years. He took refuge there in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault charges.

Those charges were dropped last year, but he still faces arrest in Britain if he leaves the embassy, and he fears that British officials would extradite him to the US if they arrested him.

So he stays in the embassy, where he enjoys diplomatic protection.

But now Assange is suing the government of Ecuador, saying it has ordered him to comply with a list of restrictions if he wants his Internet, phone service and visitor privileges restored, the BBC reported. On Thursday, the lawyer representing Ecuador in the proceedings told reporters that UK officials had assured the country they hadn’t received any extradition request for Assange and he would spend no longer than six months in jail in the UK for violating terms of his bail, Reuters reported.

The embassy cut off his Internet and connections with the rest of the world in March, saying he was “meddling” in politics abroad and hurting Ecuador’s standing in the international community. Accordingly, the embassy wants information on visitors and the right to seize their property and hand that property over to British authorities.

Those measures appear to reflect Ecuador’s hope of resolving the issue to improve relations with Britain, whose leaders don’t appreciate the Latin American country providing safe haven to outlaws.

But also, the Ecuadorians want Assange to clean up after his cat.

“Mister Assange will be in charge of the well-being, feeding, cleanliness and proper care of his pet,” said an Ecuadorian document obtained by ABC News. “If he does not provide enough required attention for the pet, the Chief of Mission will require that Mister Assange bring the pet to another person or to a pet shelter away from the diplomatic mission.”

Assange and his allies would not stand for it.

“Ecuador’s measures against Julian Assange have been widely condemned by the human rights community,” said a WikiLeaks statement.

Ecuador has tried before to kick Assange out of its embassy. Reuters reported that the nation gave Assange diplomatic status last year in the hope that he would go work in Russia, where WikiLeaks allegedly received documents that embarrassed the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential election in the US.

But the British wouldn’t give Assange diplomatic immunity, so he couldn’t leave the embassy to go to the airport and fly off to Moscow.

In the US and elsewhere, prisoners are always suing the government. But usually, they’re going to court to get out of, not stay in, their cages.



Tit For Tat

NATO began its largest military exercises since the Cold War.

Staged in Norway, the maneuvers deal with a projected scenario in which NATO forces must restore the country’s sovereignty after an attack by a fictitious aggressor, CBS News reported. But Moscow was not reassured that NATO didn’t mention Russia by name.

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War times,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday, claiming that Moscow might be forced to respond.

There is irony here, some noted, considering the NATO exercises, which involve around 50,000 personnel, are considerably smaller than a similar display of force by Russia last month – in what was also condemned by NATO as a rehearsal for a large-scale conflict with the West, according to the Guardian. That week-long exercise involved 300,000 Russian soldiers and 3,500 Chinese troops.

But with Russia simultaneously accusing the US of attacking a Russian military base in Syria, according to the Washington Examiner, nobody is laughing.


Yes, Prime Minister

The bureaucrats run circles around the elected officials in the classic British comedy series Yes, Minister. In Iraq, they’ll have fewer politicians and parties to wrestle with.

That’s because Iraq’s parliament on Thursday approved only 14 of 22 cabinet ministers nominated by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, even as the legislature gave his government the green light to start work, the Associated Press reported.

Among the posts left vacant: the ministers of defense, justice and interior. Abdul Mahdi himself will control those posts until a later date.

That’s not such a bad thing.

Abdul Mahdi had only 30 days to form a government after being named prime minister earlier this month, so confirmation of a partial cabinet ends worries of further gridlock. And Abdul Mahdi is widely perceived as a capable technocrat. Unaffiliated with any political party, he is also reputed to be secular – two facts that suggest the country may be moving away from politics centered around sect- and party-based patronage.


Son of a Gun

“He may be a son of a gun, but he’s our son of a gun,” US President Franklin D. Roosevelt purportedly said of one of America’s more dastardly allies. Of course, he didn’t use the word “gun.”

The same logic likely lies behind Islamabad’s release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, this week, reported the BBC. As the US begins talking directly with the Taliban in a bid to revive peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government, Islamabad wants to make sure it has somebody at the table.

“He wasn’t released because he was ill,” a Taliban source told the BBC. “In fact Pakistan also wants him to play a role in peace talks. He is in good shape and is expected to play a role in the peace process.”

Baradar is one of four men, including Mullah Omar, who founded the Taliban in 1994. He fled to Pakistan after the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban government and was later arrested near the port city of Karachi in 2010, Al Jazeera said.


Writing on the Wall

Archaeologists are about to rewrite the history of a major event in the Roman Empire.

Recently, they discovered that Pompeii’s destruction might have occurred two months later than previously thought, thanks to a simple inscription, the Telegraph reported.

Archaeologists found a charcoal writing on the wall of a villa detailing the date on which the building was being restored – Oct. 17, according to the Latin inscription.

They think a builder or architect may have made the note as a record of his work a few days before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which experts now believe occurred on Oct. 24, 79 AD.

Originally, historians believed that Vesuvius erupted on Aug. 24, as per the record of Pliny the Younger. But the recent archaeological findings debunk this thought.

Calcified remains of fresh pomegranates and berries further support an October date for the eruption, since those fruits ripen during autumn.

Though the new theory needs more proof, it’s amusing that writing on the wall can alter ideas about history.

“In a small way we are rewriting the history books,” said Italian Cultural Heritage Minister Alberto Bonisoli.

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