Growing up in North Korea, Yeonmi Park says she survived the great famine of the 1990s by foraging for grasshoppers and dragonflies. Today, she is a human rights activist living in Chicago. How she got from there to here is the story of a lifetime.
Rising tensions between the US and Iran threaten the security of the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway plied daily by dozens of tankers carrying oil out to the rest of the world from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. At the moment, the US Navy provides security in the international waters there, but President Trump has suggested other major oil consuming countries should pitch in more to help. Here's a look at the countries that are most dependent on oil exports shipped through the world's most important energy chokepoint.
Globally, more than 1 billion people are living with a disability, yet just one in 10 people has access to assistive technology. Microsoft has been building inclusion into its products and services. And to help everyone get the most from accessibility resources, the company has the Disability Answer Desk. It is free, 24/7 technical support from Microsoft experts trained in assistive technologies.
Mexico's Army Stretched Thin — Mexico has deployed 15,000 troops to its border with the United States to reduce the flow of migrants seeking undocumented entry into El Norte. It's an unprecedented deployment, but the country is scrambling to reduce the flow of northbound migrants as part of a deal reached with the Trump administration earlier this month to avoid US import tariffs on Mexican goods. The move comes atop 9,000 troops already deployed to Mexico's southern border to prevent Central Americans from entering Mexico. We are watching to see how a cash-strapped Mexican government will balance the twin tasks of keeping Trump happy with border security, while addressing huge domestic security problems at the same time. There are only so many troops available.
The Defense of Human Rights in Europe — The Council of Europe, a 47-member human rights institution, has reinstated Russia's voting rights several years after revoking them over the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Ukraine is incensed and other Western European governments see the scot-free readmission as a blot on the integrity of an institution that defends civil liberties for more than 800 million people. But supporters of the move say it's better to give human rights activists struggling within Russia some recourse to the Council's legal protections than to risk stranding them if Russia leaves the body all together. Most Russians polled agree. And from a purely pecuniary perspective, a reinstated Russia will start paying its 10 percent share of the Council's annual budget again.
What We're Ignoring:
Word Bans in Pakistan — The deputy speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly on Sunday banned lawmakers from using the phrase "selected Prime Minister," a favorite of opposition politicians keen to suggest that Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is close to the military, was chosen by the country's generals rather than by the people in last year's election. As you might expect in Pakistan's spirited legislature, the move backfired: lawmakers are just using synonyms like "handpicked" and now the legally questionable ban itself is a focus of opposition ire, drawing far more attention to the original phrase. We are ignoring this unless they try to ban the term "Streisand Effect" next.
80: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo estimates that the US had already sanctioned more than 80 percent of Iran's economy even before new sanctions came into force this week against the country's Supreme Leader and other politicians. The screws are certainly tightening, but the US is also running out of things to sanction.
2137: The computer science field is so dominated by men that, at current rates of progress it would take until the year 2137 for the number of papers written by women to equal those written by their male colleagues, according to a new study cited by Steve Levine at Axios Future.
71: A poll from the crucial US swing state of Florida finds that 71percent of the state's voters (and 85 percent of local Democrats) not only believe in climate change, but want to see the government take concrete measures to address global warming. That makes sense: over the past year, roughly a third of Floridians have had to invest in protecting their homes better against weather-related events.
1 billion: It's no secret that North Korea engages in hacking and cyberattacks in order to get money, but a UN report estimates that between 2015 and 2018, a single North Korean hacker netted more than $1 billion for the Hermit Kingdom. For context, the FT notes that Pyongyang was clocking about $500 million a year in arms sales in the mid-2000s.
Well who knew that the adult in the room on military action would turn out to be none other than President Trump. His advisers pushing him towards military confrontation. He doesn't want to do it. Still more likely than it has been. Certainly, the potential for escalation leading to accident and military confrontation is greater than we'd like.
What's the biggest thing to watch for at the G20 this week?
It's a big one. It's the big U.S. - China conversation about trade, about North Korea, about Huawei and 5G. It's U.S. and Russia. It's U.S. and Turkey. So many issues where the bilateral relations are more confrontational than they have been historically. And things could get dicey. Big one to watch.
Will Erdogan back down after his party lost the Istanbul mayor's race?
Oh I don't think Mr. Erdogan is going to back down. But he lost big. Almost a million votes which means he wasn't able to actually control the outcome. Doesn't mean he's not going to try to undermine the power of the mayor of Istanbul. But the big thing here is that a lot of people that used to support Erdogan, some of his major members of cabinet and the rest of them, are now going to start their own parties to challenge his AK Party. This is a tipping point in Erdogan's leadership for Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has amassed much power in recent years, but on Sunday he showed some real political superpower alchemy: he turned a narrow defeat into a blowout loss.
Back in March, his preferred candidate, Binali Yildirim of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), lost the Istanbul mayoral election to opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu by just 13,000 votes in a city of 15 million people. After forcing through a (highly controversial) rerun of the vote, Erdogan watched his man lose again last Sunday—this time by 800,000 votes – a nine percentage point spread in the final tally.
To lose control of the symbolic and economic capital of Turkey, a city where Erdogan himself once served as mayor, is a heavy political blow for him personally and for his party. He had campaigned vigorously for Yildirim. Imamoglu, meanwhile, styled himself as an alternative to Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian, divisive, and economically ham-fisted politics. The final vote was at least in part a referendum on the president himself.
As the dust settles, there are a few points to consider:
A loss like this puts blood in the water around Erdogan, who has dominated his country's politics for the past 16 years. Opponents both within and outside the AKP will feel emboldened to challenge him more directly on a host of issues, including his handling of the economy and foreign policy. New opposition parties led by former Erdogan allies may now spring up.
You can bet Erdogan will make life hard for Imamoglu. Yildirim and Erdogan both accepted the outcome – with a margin like that how could they not? But Erdogan will want to keep Imamoglu from being too effective as mayor, lest that provide a platform for a national-level challenge. At the same time, Erdogan will have to tread carefully to avoid provoking protests from a city that has very clearly turned against him.
Turkish democracy is more resilient than it's sometimes made out to be. Yes, Erdogan has in recent years pushed his country in a more authoritarian direction – by clamping down on the courts and the media, and purging the bureaucracy of perceived political opponents. But as Imamoglu's win shows (twice!) -- Turkish party politics and elections remain plenty competitive and unpredictable.
The big question: As Erdogan looks towards 2023, the scheduled date for the next national elections (barring a coalition collapse that leads to an earlier ballot) will he moderate his politics at all in order to bounce back from the Istanbul loss? Or will the famously pugnacious president double down on his approach, reasoning that any concessions would simply encourage more challengers? A thwarted would-be autocrat is a dangerous thing.
What was the most interesting thing to come out of the South Carolina Democratic Convention?
Well I think it was that they all kind of got along after a few days of sniping over Joe Biden's comments about segregationist senators. It was mostly all collegiality. I don't think that's going to last into the debates this week Wednesday and Thursday in Miami expect them to go after each other.
Is Mayor Pete naïve on race?
I don't know if he's naive but he certainly has a problem with African-American support. You can't win the Democratic nomination without it. He's got some problems with police and race relations in South Bend. He's really got to do some work here.
Will President Trump carry out ICE raids?
I think he will carry out immigration deportation raids. I don't see a big deal happening with Democrats but not on the scale that he's promised because that's not possible.
Finally for The Rant: my rant is on President Trump saying again this weekend that he inherited the family separation policy from Obama.
This is a lie. There were very limited family separations under Obama. The huge crisis at the border and with these detention camps comes from the president's zero tolerance policy. It is all a result of Trump policy.
If the state of California were an independent country, it would have the fifth largest economy in the world, according to a fascinating report by The Economist that looks at both that state and Texas as the harbingers of two alternative futures for the United States. That got us thinking – how do the economies of the individual US states stack up against other countries? California's economy is about the size of the United Kingdom's, while Texas's matches up with Canada's. Who's on par with Sri Lanka or the Czech Republic? Our map's got 'em all.