Established borders looked increasingly brittle this week as Russian forces moved further into Ukraine and the West struggled with the Islamic State’s transnational jihad. Despite denying Russia’s participation in the Ukrainian conflict, satellite imagery demonstrates that Putin is driving ahead with his campaign of neo-Stalinist imperialism. In contrast, Obama urged military restraint, refusing to describe Russia’s actions as invasion and walking back from action against IS extremists in Syria, despite continuing strikes on their comrades just across the Iraqi border.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s your last chance before the NFL dominates anything and everything next week, so enjoy this Labor Day sports cornucopia. The Ryder Cup teams are almost complete and the U.S. looks set for a thrashing, although Serena Williams may soften the blow with a win at the U.S. Open. On the diamond, Andrelton Simmons is defying physics as the playoff races intensify. Finally, college football is in full swing, with 60 games on the slate for Saturday alone.
It’s been almost 13 years, yet the most significant terrorism case in history is still mired in preliminary hearings. For five Guantanamo detainees accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, as well as for the families of victims, a day in court looks distant at best and impossible at worst. At the heart of the delay: the FBI’s obstruction of the defense cases, the fact that Guantanamo is ill-suited to legal proceedings and the top secret classification of any records related to the CIA’s use of torture.
The U.S. Congress called it “one of the clearest examples of genocide in recent history,” but the majority of Khmer Rouge targets — the Khmer people — have not been classified as victims of genocide because they share their ethnicity with the perpetrators. Instead of providing closure, the trial of Pol Pot’s closest surviving associates left many Cambodians feeling cheated. It’s a reminder that strict application of law doesn’t always benefit post-conflict societies, and that there’s a big difference between what lawyers call genocide and what communities experience as genocide.
EU leaders meet in Brussels to consider fresh sanctions against Russia. (BBC)
Jews forced out of Guatemalan village. (Al Jazeera)
British prime minister raises terror threat level to ‘severe.’ (The Guardian)
Judge tosses new requirements for Texas abortion clinics. (NYT)
Ebola case confirmed in Senegal. (DW)
Tall, dark and handsome isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, a preliminary study analyzing 3,033 couples over more than 30 years indicates that short men are better husbands and boyfriends than their vertically enhanced counterparts. They do more housework, earn a greater proportion of the household income and are less likely to get divorced. Sadly, gender norms dictate that these gents have limited opportunities to showcase their skills — almost 50 percent of women restrict their online dating searches to taller men.
Is stringent libertarian ideology driving a surge in Portuguese tourism? The sector represents nine percent of GDP and has seen a 12 percent bump in 2014. Behind this extraordinary rise is Adolfo Mesquita Nunes, an eccentric right wing politician who ferociously supports both the free market and social freedoms like abortion and gay marriage. Think Rand Paul in Ray-Bans. Armed with a technocratic background, Nunes has liberalized the sector, cutting away all the red tape, making it easier to run small tourist businesses like food stands and walking tours.
From birth, William Buttars suffered racking seizures that damaged his brain and occurred so frequently his parents feared he would soon die. Medications and treatment failed, leaving doctors with one radical option: removing a portion of William’s brain through a procedure known as hemispherectomy. His parents made the impossible choice, saving their child’s life with an operation they knew would harm his vision, motor skills and IQ. Years later, the fourth-grader with half a brain plays soccer and baseball and, his parents hope, will one day earn a high school diploma.
Was Nero really that bad? Sure, he killed his mother and two of his wives, but he didn’t actually fiddle while Rome burned. Some historians believe that he deserves a rebrand; they argue that the boy emperor introduced important reforms, designed beautiful public spaces and promoted culture, but that his name was blackened through the animosity of early biographers. No one denies his brutality; barbarity was in the Roman Emperor’s job description. Leaders like Augustus were simply better at spin.
Devaughn Darling was a promising football player at Florida State, but his death during winter workouts at the school turned promise to pain. After a $2 million wrongful death settlement, the school paid Darling’s family just $200,000, saying the state of Florida owed the rest. And 13 years on, their $1.8 million will only be paid if Florida’s state legislature approves a Claims Bill specifically for their case — and less than a quarter of such bills are approved. Adding insult to injury, Florida’s last budget was $77.1 billion, with a $1.2 billion surplus.