• Chemical atrocity.
The Syrian government allegedly unleashed another chemical attack on its own people last weekend. Russia is warning of “most serious consequences” if the U.S. strikes Syria over the attack. Get the feeling that we’re walking along the crumbling edges of an abyss?
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Dozens of Syrians choked to death after a suspected chemical attack struck the rebel‐held suburb of Douma, east of Damascus, and aid groups on Sunday blamed President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the assault.
The attack after dusk on Saturday sent a stream of patients with burning eyes and breathing problems to clinics, medical and rescue groups said.
Russia is warning the U.S. against any “military intervention” in Syria over the government’s alleged chemical attack against civilians this weekend, saying any such response would be “unacceptable” and lead to the “most serious consequences”.
The foreign ministry in Moscow also says in a statement on its website that allegations of the chemical attack are “fabricated,” suggesting the claims were invented by rebel forces and the Syrian Civil Defense known as the White Helmets.
• Lonely America
The critique of radical individualism is catching fire out in the hollow chasms of the Empire. From National Review:
America is increasingly a lonely nation. The proportion of American adults who say they are lonely has increased from 20 percent to 40 percent since the 1980s. Roughly 43 million adults over the age of 45 are estimated to suffer from chronic loneliness. The unmarried and the uncommitted to community report higher rates of loneliness, with the causality likely being a two‐way street. Prosperity has afforded our independence from neighbors and networks, as the Social Capital Project of Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) found, but the relational and emotional collateral damage has fallen hardest on those least able to afford it. Put another way, an isolation of affluence is indelibly marking modern society…
…Loneliness is an emotional response to a rending of the fabric of American society. Why the isolation? The reasons are complex, but the story they weave is simple: The ties that bind us have come unwound in the face of enormous change. The movement from agrarian life to industry coincided with a shift away from the family and toward the individual as the basic unit of society and the economy. Our politics were downstream of these changes and embedded a healthy tension: between a liberal individualism and a moral communitarianism, both oriented toward liberty. Now we appear to be entering a disorienting new era of hyper‐individualism and radical diversity.
Today we live Spotify lives — full of options that cater to our every whim. We have liberated our desires from want of choice and given voice to our own identities. Just a glance at our phone instantly widens the horizon of our self. Yet this freedom has come at the cost of our cultural and economic order. Family, faith, and community — the reserves of liberty — have suffered tremendous losses, particularly since the 1960s and 1970s. It turns out that “You do you” is disorienting to anyone who lacks dense social networks and deep wells of social capital to draw on. The result, as Yuval Levin articulates in The Fractured Republic, is that “we have set loose a scourge of loneliness and isolation that we are still afraid to acknowledge as the distinct social dysfunction of our age of individualism.”
• Capetown Water Crisis
The water crisis in Capetown, South Africa, has eased — sort of. From Reuters:
An El Niño‐triggered drought two years ago hit agricultural production and economic growth throughout South Africa. Cape Town was particularly hard hit, and lack of good subsequent rains around the city has made its water shortage worse.
The City of Cape Town said on its web site that Day Zero had been “pushed out to 2019.” Residents have been living with stringent consumption restrictions, which now stand at 50 litres per person per day. Those restrictions remain in effect.
Dam levels for the Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town, were at 18.3 percent last week compared with 19 percent the week before, according to South Africa’s Department of Water Affairs. Elsewhere, the water situation has been improving.
• The Never‐Ending Agony Of Iraq
The black flag of ISIS may no longer be flying in cities across Iraq, but militant groups are rebuilding and present a very real threat to the country’s stability. One such group — known as the White Flags — has built itself a mountain stronghold from which to launch its attacks.
• Slow‐Motion Apocalypse — Venezuela.
The Venezuelan descent into hell continues, while the U.S. media’s is apparently unable to tear its gaze from Stormy Daniels’ impressive bust.
After six years of studying and working part‐time jobs, Cristian Diaga, 24, will soon graduate from medical school in Caracas, Venezuela. But instead of continuing his training in a top hospital in the country, as he had hoped, he is taking a job in a fast‐food restaurant in Argentina – a situation he says is much more preferable.
“I do feel bad leaving. I think everyone would like to give something back to their country, but right now it is my life and future and all my possibilities to help my family to get out of this madness,” he says.
More than half of Venezuelans between 15 and 29 want to move abroad permanently, according to a poll carried out by the US firm Gallup and shared exclusively with the Guardian.
“In Venezuela, it feels like we are all just dying slowly and there’s no hope for a change. I don’t care if I’m gonna work as a doctor or not. I just want to have food, medicines, security, a house, a car, and be able to give a good life to my loved ones,” he says.
Bloomberg notes that :
Venezuela’s currency is worth even less than previously believed, with new trackers of the black‐market rate showing deep discounts compared with the long‐standing benchmark gauge.
• Narco Insurgency In Mexico
Mexican news site Nacion321 reported last month that between September 2017 and the beginning of March, 58 political figures, including mayors, deputies, and candidates, were killed. Excelsior reported in mid‐March that since September, 62 political figures, including candidates, mayors, former mayors, city councilors, and party members, were slain around the country. At the beginning of April, El Universal reported that 42 political figures, including mayors, former mayors, councilors, activists, and party functionaries, had been killed since September.
According to El Universal’s report, the most recent, killings took place in 16 states — the most in Guerrero, which had 12, eight in Oaxaca, and three each in Jalisco and Veracruz. Thirteen members of the governing center‐right Institutional Revolutionary Party were slain, 10 from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, and five from the conservative National Action Party. Morena and Movimiento Ciudadano, both leftist parties, had three members killed.
• The Empire Is Watching
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”
It’s seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3.
The data to be collected includes a publication’s “sentiment” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed.