Bombs Over Baghdad

January 3, 2020



“Control over the production and distribution of oil is the decisive factor in defining who rules whom in the Middle East.” – Christopher Hitchens

“Our actions are like ships which we may watch set out to sea, and not know when or with what cargo they will return to port.” – Iris Murdoch


The Ottoman Empire 2: This Time It’s Personal

The Ottoman Empire was one of the mightiest and longest-lasting dynasties in world history. The Islamic-run superpower was centered in present-day Turkey and ruled large areas of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North Africa for more than 600 years. By the start of WWI in 1914 the empire was in decline; it officially ended in 1922 when the title of Ottoman Sultan was eliminated. Turkey was declared a republic in 1923. 

Turkey’s current president, 65-year-old Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has long desired to restore his country’s position of leadership in the Muslim world, much as it had under the Ottomans. He’s pursued an expansive foreign policy which at times has pitted his geopolitical ambitions against those of other Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Yet despite domestic setbacks brought on by a faltering economy — weakening currency, growing unemployment, inflation — Erdogan’s nationalistic aspirations remain popular at home. 

On Thursday Turkey’s Parliament overwhelmingly supported a new military intervention into Libya; the approval comes just months after aggressive incursions into Syria. Erdogan has begun oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean in competition with Greece, Cyprus Egypt and Israel, and his flirtation with Russia has stirred American and European ire. 

Such assertive posturing has helped Erdogan to stir up nationalistic feelings over foreign enemies and rally his core supporters. “Our right-wing parties did not use to act like they did not care about the United States,” a former party member said. “This independence, this challenging is a new thing. Turkish right-wing voters love it.”


Brr, It’s Cold In Here. There Must Be Pollution In The Atmosphere

  • Northern India is known for its sweltering heat. But on Monday the capital of New Delhi experienced its coldest day in December in 119 years. The record-breaking cold blanketed streets in freezing fog and dipped temperatures below 49 degrees Fahrenheit (9.4 Celsius), some 20 degrees below the average for December. The unusual cold intensified pollution, disrupted hundreds of flights and prompted school closures. 
  • Six people were killed last week near New Delhi when their car skidded off the road in heavy fog. In neighboring Bangladesh at least 50 people have died during a prolonged cold spell that began last November. (NYT)
  • India’s First Human Space Mission Planned For 2022 (NPR)

Rest In Pieces

  • A months’ long investigation by CNN shows that China has apparently been destroying traditional Uyghur cemeteries as part of what critics describe as a broader, coordinated campaign to control Islamic beliefs and Muslim minority groups within its borders. CNN worked with sources in the Uyghur community and analyzed hundreds of satellite images that revealed the destruction of more than 100 cemeteries, most in just the last two years. 
  • In Xinjiang, the well-known, ancient Sultanim Cemetery in the center of Hotan City literally disappeared between January and March, 2019. The destruction of Uyghur cemeteries was first reported in October by French news agency AFP and satellite imagery analysts Earthrise Alliance; the two sources found that since 2014 at least 45 cemeteries had been eradicated. (CNN)

Dozens Dead In Flood

  • Metropolitan Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, is home to 30 million people. Intense storms that began on New Year’s Eve inundated the city’s rivers and drainage canals, overwhelming embankments and causing one of the worst flooding disasters in the city’s history. By Thursday the death toll had risen to 30 and thousands have been left homeless. 
  • Jakarta is particularly vulnerable to flooding disasters, in large part because residents rely on pumping underground water for daily use. That has caused the land above to subside and floodwater not to drain into the sea as it naturally would. 40 percent of Jakarta’s land area is already below sea level. (WSJ)

Plastic Plastic Everywhere, In Every Drop We Drink

  • Each year eight million tons of plastic enters the ocean. And for at least the past decade the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean is so abundant, but why it isn’t. What can be seen and measured, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water. So where’s the rest of it? Lurking below the surface, often at extraordinary depths.
  • The search for this vast majority of missing maritime plastic has opened new frontiers of research, including how it is moving from the surface to the depths. Scientists from California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium Institute have been using customized remote-control submersibles to take samples of the near-invisible plastic drifting far below the surface. What they and other scientists are learning is that plastic is ending up in huge quantities in the deepest parts of the ocean, much of it buried in sediment on the seafloor, and caught like clouds of dust deep in the water column.
  • What’s even more frightening, one biogeochemist says the plastic could be fragmenting into such small pieces that it can barely be detected. At this point it becomes “more like a chemical dissolved in the water than floating in it.” (Guardian)

Additional World News


Ron Wurzer via Getty Images

2 Day Shipping, 2 Day Returned

  • United Parcel Service has dubbed January 2nd “National Returns Day”; UPS predicts it will have processed a record 1.9 million returns on that day. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 55 percent of Americans said they planned on returning unwanted holiday gifts within a month of receiving them.
  • Online shopping has made returning items easy, but most shoppers may not know that shipping returned goods contributes to greenhouse-gas emissions, and much of what’s sent back winds up in landfills.
  • Optoro, a technology company that helps retailers process returns, says each year Americans return about 3.5 billion products, and five billion pounds of returned goods end up in US landfills. “Our data shows that 88 percent of consumers think that returns go right back on the shelf and are resold to the next consumer. But in reality, the majority of returned items cannot be resold as new.” (Guardian)

Fruit Of The Doom

  • New reports state that the Food and Drug Administration will implement new regulations banning the sale of fruity flavors in cartridge-based e-cigarettes. However, the FDA will notably continue allowing the sale of tank vaping systems commonly found at vape shops.
  • This may be the first of many steps taken in the new year to combat the rising epidemic of teenage vaping – an issue President Trump once promised to address before taking a step back due to pressure from some White House officials.
  • One of the companies at the forefront of the vaping craze is Juul Labs, which has slowly begun taking steps to follow stricter regulations while combating lawsuit after lawsuit throughout 2019. E-cigarette makers will have to submit for FDA review any vaping products they want to remain on the market following the implementation of the new regulations. (WSJ, $)
  • Juul Finds It Is Tough to Quit Vaping in the Office (WSJ, $) Seems like a toxic work environment to us.


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Bombs Over Baghdad