World News Roundup

A few long-time readers wrote to ask why the Weekly Link Roundup became less… regular. And the truth is, while I have been keeping up with the goings-on in the world, the atrocities being committed in Ukraine (and beyond) loom large, and I don’t know how to incorporate coverage of those events into the Weekly Link Roundup without (feeling as though I’m) trivializing them. But I’ve decided to, for the time being, post two types of link roundups: one focused on fashion and US domestic news; and the other on world events, with an emphasis on the conflict in Ukraine.

How Putin’s US$14,000 Coat, Zelensky’s Green T-shirts and Macron’s Air Force Hoodie Send a Message to the World (South China Morning Post): “Power dressing for men is an increasingly complicated sport … Unsurprisingly, the political leaders who currently hold the globe’s future in their hands tend to dress on the more masculine side of the fashion spectrum … Stalin had his tunics; Lenin liked hiking boots; Brezhnev wore USSR-made suits. And Putin has his ultra-high-end Italian labels, including Loro Piana. Autocratic leaders nearly always have distinguishing outfits, such as Kim Jong-un in his double-breasted trench coat in black leather.”

Why Ukraine Must Win (The Economist): “… a lot of Ukraine remains in Russian hands … For Ukraine, a decisive victory would deter yet another Russian invasion. The more convincingly Ukraine can see off the Russian army, the more able it will be to resist the compromises that could poison the peace. Victory would also be the best basis for launching a post-war democratic state that is less corrupted by oligarchs and Russian infiltration.”

Shunned by Others, Russia Finds Friends in Africa (The New York Times): “South Africa was among 24 African countries that declined to join the resounding vote denouncing Russian aggression: 16 African countries abstained, seven didn’t vote at all and one — Eritrea — voted against it, keeping company only with Russia, Belarus, Syria and North Korea … Many African countries have a longstanding affinity with Russia stretching back to the Cold War: some political and military leaders studied there, and trade links have grown. And in recent years a growing number of countries have contracted with Russian mercenaries and bought ever-greater quantities of Russian weapons … African sympathies for Ukraine were also diluted by reports of Ukrainian border guards forcing African students to the back of lines as they attempted to leave the country, raising a furor over racism and discrimination … Mr. Putin has partly sidestepped opprobrium in Africa by calling in chits that date back to the Cold War, when Moscow backed African liberation movements and presented itself as a bulwark against Western neocolonialism.”

The End of the Middle East (Foreign Affairs): “Since the early years of the Cold War, the Washington establishment has viewed the Middle East as the Arab world—broadly conceived as the member states of the Arab League … plus Iran, Israel, and Turkey. These parameters feel natural to many … But such a map is increasingly outdated. Leading regional powers operate outside the traditional Middle East in much the same way as they operate inside it, and many of the rivalries most important to the region now play out beyond those assumed borders. The Pentagon has long known this … the region covered by U.S. Central Command, the combatant command that handles the Middle East, included not only Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf states but also Afghanistan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan—a grouping that was directly at odds with the State Department’s Middle East … Trained to think according to this map … academics and policymakers tended to draw conclusions about the region without taking into account the many social and political forces that transcended its boundaries … Similarly, the long-held idea that Muslim countries are somehow uniquely resistant to democracy ignores the real drivers of autocratic resilience in the Middle East: Western-backed oil monarchies and Arab strongmen with little accountability to their poorly governed citizens. It also overlooks the regular participation of Muslims in many democracies outside the Middle East—from India and Indonesia to the United States itself. The assumption that Muslims would inevitably choose radical Islamist governments if they had the chance has been used to justify decades of American failure to support real political reform there.”

Why the World’s Largest Democracy Won’t Back Ukraine (Slate): “Russia is the subcontinent’s most important weapons dealer. Its tools account for up to 60 percent of India’s current defense arsenal, including missile systems that were subject to sanctions by the U.S. since before the Ukraine crisis … India imports oil, fertilizer, and pharmaceutical drugs from Russia—and exports lots of medicine to Russia in turn … India’s in-between posturing is historically familiar. After all, during the Cold War, it led the global Non-Aligned Movement of countries that chose not to side with either the United States or the Soviet Union.”

Why Macron Matters (The Economist): “On April 10th Mr Macron will face voters once again … liberals around the world should see Mr Macron as a cautionary tale … five years of government by the world’s centrist standard-bearer has eroded support for the centre. There are many reasons for this. War and the pandemic have polarised politics, and not only in France. Mr Macron also sometimes repels voters with his aloof Jupiterian manner. Critics dub him ‘le président des riches’. The label sticks, partly because he cut France’s unworkable wealth tax, but mostly because his manner is that of the high-flying banker he once was. Mr Macron also faces a problem that responsible politicians always face when running against populists. He offers policies boringly grounded in reality. They say whatever will stir up voters, whether or not it is true … Politics is so much about tribes and identity that material gains in terms of jobs and economic growth are necessary but not sufficient for re-election. Another is that one person cannot sustain the radical centre. That is not only because too much is riding on each re-election and on a successor turning up, but also because, as centrists know, individuals are flawed.”

Worst Drought in 40 Years Threatens Millions in Horn of Africa (Bloomberg): “A fourth failed rain in the Horn of Africa could further exacerbate hunger that’s threatening the lives of 13 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and SomaliaThe March to May rains ‘have failed to materialize,’ and the drought has exhausted the coping mechanisms of people who now have to rely on humanitarian aid to survive … The reliance on imports from the Black Sea countries such as Ukraine will worsen the situation by inflating prices”

Growing Risk of Somalia Famine, as Drought Impact Worsens (UN News): “Even before the current drought, an estimated 7.7 million Somalis were in need of humanitarian assistance and protection this year – up 30 per cent in one year. The situation has deteriorated, with the current drought wiping out crop harvests and livestock dying due to a lack of water and pasture, depriving many pastoral communities of their only source of income … Some 4.5 million Somalis are directly affected by the drought, and about 700,000 people have been displaced … In the 2022 Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan, the UN seeks nearly $1.5 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to 5.5 million of the country’s most vulnerable people, including 1.6 million IDPs, 3.9 million non-IDPs, and people with disabilities. However, just about four per cent – $56.1 million – has been received so far.”

The U.S. Has Recognized Myanmar’s Genocide. But Is That Enough? (Foreign Policy): “International attention on Myanmar’s offensive against the Rohingya intensified when violence against the ethnic group peaked in 2017, following years of repression. The five-year gap between the surge in violence and the U.S. genocide declaration led some human rights activists to criticize Washington for taking too long to make the determination … The U.S. designation focuses on mass atrocities committed in 2016 and 2017, when more than 800,000 Rohingya were forced to flee from violence … Most experts agree that the determination itself won’t suddenly halt persecution against ethnic Rohingya. But human rights organizations still say it matters, both for ramping up pressure on the military junta running Myanmar and for laying the groundwork to hold military officials complicit in the genocide accountable, whether through international tribunals or future economic sanctions. Along with the determination, Blinken announced the United States is applying targeted sanctions against 65 Myanmar leaders and their associates, as well as sanctions and export controls on 26 entities accused of human rights abuses or of funding the Myanmar military. In addition, the United States pledged to give almost $1 million in additional funding for the mechanisms investigating the crimes. This is on top of $1.6 billion provided to Rohingya refugees since 2017.”

Yemen’s President Cedes Power Amid International Efforts to End Civil War (The Wall Street Journal): “Yemen’s president handed over his powers to a leadership council … in a Saudi-backed move aimed at reviving negotiations with the Houthi rebels to end the country’s seven-year civil war … Saudi Arabia endorsed Yemen’s new leadership, urged the start of peace talks and released a video of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receiving the eight-man council at his palace in Riyadh. The country announced $3 billion of direct economic aid and $300 million for the U.N. humanitarian response. The fighting has devastated Yemen—sparking famine, a cholera outbreak and killing tens of thousands of civilians, including from errant coalition airstrikes … Tentative steps toward ending years of tactical stalemate come after the Houthis ramped up cross-border drone and missile attacks on key Saudi oil and water desalination facilities, threatening global energy security already imperiled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine … Washington has backed Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen, while separately carrying out drone strikes there as part of a counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda.”

The Next Sino-Russian Split? (Foreign Affairs): “As Putin’s assault rolls on, the image of China in Europe and in the United States is in free fall … In terms of Chinese interests, this might not turn out to be quite as successful a strategy as Xi assumes, at least not in the long run … Russia will be a wild card, rather than a reliable partner for Beijing. It is true that Russia under Putin, a bit like North Korea under Kim Jong Un, will have nowhere else to turn than to China. But that dependency of a weak regime, locked in forever quarrels with its neighbors, might not serve China well, in spite of Russia’s tempting riches in energy and minerals … The biggest lesson from the last Sino-Russian alliance is probably this: the development of the relationship is much more dependent on the domestic dynamics in the two countries and on the relationship between them than on anything the United States can do or say. The best strategy for the United States is to watch and wait but be ready to explore cracks in the alliance as soon as they appear … For Russia and China are not natural partners.”

Kidnappings in Haiti Are Up 58% So Far This Year (Bloomberg): “Haiti registered 225 kidnappings during the first quarter of 2022, representing a 58% jump from the same period a year ago … ransom demands are increasing and hostages are spending more time in captivity versus last year … the primary targets of kidnappers were doctors, lawyers and professionals, followed by public officials, students and police.”

Trust Must Be Earned: Perceptions of Aid in Haiti – A Reality Check on Post-quake Accountability to Affected People (Ground Truth Solutions): “Haitians feel strongly about aid: it should be empowering, participatory, and transparent. But their reality falls short … people value being involved, informed, and consulted … Transparency is key. Humanitarian communication is often one way, aimed at community behaviour change (like hygiene messaging) or how to access specific services, but people in Haiti want more … People feel disrespected when they receive poor quality aid from aid providers, such as spoiled goods or dirty clothing. Feelings of shame prevent people accessing distributions. They know there is a better way. They demand that aid is given with respect and dignity.”

♥ (Podcast) A Covid Mystery in Africa (The Daily – The New York Times)

Nearly Two-thirds of Africans May Have Contracted the Coronavirus, the W.H.O. Says. (The New York Times): “A W.H.O.-led analysis published last month and not yet peer-reviewed synthesized 150 surveys across the continent and found that 65 percent of Africans had been infected with the coronavirus as of September, nearly 100 times the number of confirmed cases … antibody levels varied in populations across the continent, with the highest levels in eastern, western and central African countries … With just over 15 percent of the population in Africa fully vaccinated, antibodies overwhelmingly come from infections. But Africa is young: 42 percent of the population is under 15, and just 3 percent 65 or older. And the conditions that make Covid-19 more lethal, such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, are less common.”

What Makes Armies Commit Atrocities? (Foreign Policy): “All wars, by their very nature, contain some degree of atrocity … war as an act of force drives each side to extremes of brutality by its very nature … atrocities do not just happen, nor are they inherent to any given country. Rather, they are the product of organizational culture, command decisions, and an institutional structure that shields a military from civilian checks or accountability … Armies prone to atrocity are more often not the consequence of undisciplined soldiers escaping the control of their officers but rather of obedient soldiers following the brutal commands of their officers. When bogged down, officers attempt to restore momentum and compel results in the field the same way they would in the barracks: through increasing levels of violence, which rapidly spiral into atrocity … armies prone to atrocity tend to lack effective external checks on military culture or behavior … the military’s position as the ultimate patriotic institution provided an effective rhetorical cudgel to prevent undue civilian oversight, which (in turn) provided the lawless context for atrocity … The organizational culture and institutions that encourage atrocity in armies do not appear all at once; rather, they escalate through a learning process.”

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Hi, I am Elle!

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