Links for 4-25-2018

  • Syria is the biggest electronic warfare battlefield on the planet, and the Russians are fighting very well.

  • Russia’s government claims it has nothing to do with Russian civilians fighting in Syria, but Reuters reporters witnessed Russians getting off planes from Damascus and going to straight to a military base where a special forces unit operates:

    Reuters reporters saw a Syrian Cham Wings charter flight from Damascus land at the civilian airport in Rostov-on-Don on April 17 and watched groups of men leave the terminal through an exit separate from the one used by ordinary passengers.

    They boarded three buses, which took them to an area mainly used by airport staff. A luggage carrier brought numerous oversized bags and the men, dressed in civilian clothes, got off the buses, loaded the bags and got back on.

    The three buses then left the airport in convoy and headed south; two made stops near cafes along the way and one on the roadside. All three reached the village of Molkino, 350 km (220 miles) south, shortly before midnight.

    In the village, each bus paused for a minute or two at a checkpoint manned by at least two servicemen, before driving on. About 15–20 minutes later the buses drove back through the checkpoint empty. Publicly available satellite maps show the road leads to the military facility.

  • The U.S. Air Force successfully test launched a Minuteman 3 missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

  • Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran.

  • The U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee voted along party lines to shorten the post-cloture debate period from 30 to 8 hours for most executive branch nominees. Senate Democrats have been using the rule to delay nominations and prevent the Senate from moving on to other business.

  • A U.S. State Department team is interviewing Rohingya men and women in refugee camps in Bangladesh, investigating accounts of murder, rape, and beatings in Myanmar.

  • Alexandra Desanctis expands the case of Alfie Evans, the U.K. toddler with a terminal illness who has been sentenced to die by doctors and judges, to the issue of selective abortion:

    In the United Kingdom, a young boy is fighting for his life. Alfie Evans’s doctors have deemed him unable to survive his terminal illness, and the state has forbidden his parents from removing him to Italy for further care, despite the fact that the Italian government has granted him citizenship and Italian doctors have agreed to treat him.

    This situation is a barbaric display of what can happen when judges have the authority to arbitrarily prevent parents from seeking treatment for their own child, even treatment outside the state’s purview. According to this judge, and the doctors he echoes, Alfie Evans must die, and he must die now.

    But this case is also an example of what can happen when our culture of death embraces the idea that human life, most especially the lives of suffering children, has no intrinsic value. (This belief is evident, too, in the growing debate over end-of-life care, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia.)

    Charles C. Camosy notes there are important differences between Alfie Evans’ case that of Charlie Gard:

    Like Charlie, Alfie has what appears to be a neurodegenerative disease, from which his UK doctors believe he will never recover. Like Charlie’s doctors, Alfie’s doctors believe that the damage to his brain means that his life is no longer worth sustaining, and they have recommended that his ventilator be withdrawn so that he can die—in his own best interests. Like Charlie, Alfie has the support of many people around the world, including Pope Francis, who want his life to be sustained. Indeed, Alfie has been made an Italian citizen, and Italy has volunteered to transport him to the Vatican’s Bambino Hospital—at no cost to the UK’s National Health Service. (This afternoon, a British judge dismissed the parents’ latest appeal of the court order preventing Alfie’s departure to Rome.)

    There are some important differences between the cases, however. Charlie’s disorder, though rare and poorly understood, was actually diagnosed. Alfie’s has not been. Charlie had been treated comprehensively by multiple kinds of medical teams, but Alfie has been seen almost exclusively by an acute care medical team. Physicians generally rate the value of the lives of their disabled patients lower than the patients do themselves, but acute care physicians, with their near-constant exposure to horrific conditions without seeing longer-term outcomes, are particularly prone to this kind of bias.

    But perhaps the most important difference between the cases is that when UK authorities ordered Alfie’s life support withdrawn, he did not die. At the time of this writing, he has been breathing on his own for nearly two days.

    In response to this remarkable turn of events, it appears that Alfie’s medical team is giving him some water and oxygen (not enough, according to some reports), but they are also apparently denying him typical levels of nutrition.

    This procedure can in no way plausibly be described as foregoing burdensome or extraordinary treatment. Making sure that a disabled child has proper nutrition and hydration, especially when he cannot get it on his own, is not a medical act. It is basic human decency.

  • Ford plans to narrow its U.S. vehicle lineup to almost exclusively trucks and SUVs. Ford’s car sales have been declining, and the only two they’re planning to sell in the U.S. going forward are the Mustang and the Focus Active crossover.

Links for 4-24-2018

Links for 4-23-2018

Links for 4-21-2018

  • Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons finally obtained samples from Douma, Syria.

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said business leaders should be happy with Turkey’s perpetual state of emergency “because it guards against terrorism and prevents works from going out on strike.”

  • Eric Bennett writes that the liberal arts are dying, and liberal arts professors are to blame:

    By the 1990s, many scholars equated expertise with power and power with oppression and malicious advantage. The humane gesture was not to fight on behalf of the humanities — not to seek standing — but rather to demonstrate that literary studies no longer posed a threat. Unmaking itself as a discipline, it could subtract at least one instance of ideological violence from the nation and world.

    If the political events of 2016 proved anything, it’s that our interventions have been toothless. The utopian clap in the cloistered air of the professional conference loses all thunder on a city street. Literature professors have affected America more by sleeping in its downtown hotels and eating in its fast-food restaurants than by telling one another where real prospects for freedom lay. Ten thousand political radicals, in town for the weekend, spend money no differently than ten thousand insurance agents.


    The propagandistic nightmare of 1939 was metastatic unity, but the propagandistic specter today, just as grave, is the arrogant and ubiquitous hunch that an individual mind can overthrow the collective lie. The humanities were once upon a time a laboratory for experiments in shared interpretation. They have become, like politics — and, in fact, as politics — aggressively individualistic and resolutely anti-historical.

    Later still:

    Yet the editorial logic of right-wing media resembles closely the default position of many recent books and dissertations in literary studies: The true story is always the oppositional story, the cry from outside. The righteous are those who sift the shadows of the monolith to undermine it in defense of some notion of freedom.

Links for 4-20-2018

Links for 4-19-2018

Links for 4-18-2018