- Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, rejected U.S. efforts for a ceasefire between Turkey and Syria for the second time on Wednesday.
- Speaking during a press conference later, President Trump denied that Erdogan had said he would not agree to a ceasefire and expressed optimism that a U.S. delegation led by Vice President Pence would broker a truce.
- Over the weekend the Trump administration also announced that it would be imposing sanctions on Turkey while simultaneously withdrawing more U.S. troops from Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his rejection to the United States’ call for a ceasefire between Turkey and Syria on Wednesday.
The announcement comes the same day that a U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to travel to Turkey to meet with the Turkish leader and to try to press Turkey for a ceasefire in its incursion into Northern Syria.
The Turkish military operation started last week after the White House released a statement saying the U.S. would step aside while Turkey went ahead with a long-planned offensive against Kurdish forces in the region.
Turkey considers the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) that control the region terrorists and has said the operation is necessary to secure their border.
However, the U.S. has long been allied with the SDF, which has done the bulk of fighting against ISIS on the ground in Northern Syria and also guarded prisons holding tens of thousands of captured ISIS fighters and their families.
In a direct rebuke of the U.S., while speaking before the Turkish Parliament, Erdogan said that Turkey would not broker a truce because it has “never in its history sat down at a table with terrorist groups.”
“We are not looking for a mediator for that,” he continued. “Nobody can stop us.”
The president also called for Syrian fighters to lay down their weapons and leave the region immediately.
Although it appears that Pence and Pompeo still intend to make their trip, there have been conflicting reports about whether or not Erdogan would meet with Pence or Pompeo.
“I am standing tall. I will not meet with them. They will meet with their counterparts. I will speak when Trump comes,” he told Sky News Tuesday.
Later, his communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the president had reversed that decision.
“He does plan to meet the U.S. delegation led by @VP tomorrow — as confirmed in the below statement to the Turkish press,” Altun said in a tweet.
Sanctions and Ceasefire
Erdogan’s statement Wednesday echoed a similar sentiment he expressed the day before, while also speaking about sanctions imposed by the U.S.
“They say ‘declare a cease-fire’. We will never declare a cease-fire,” the president said speaking in Azerbaijan. “They are pressuring us to stop the operation. They are announcing sanctions. Our goal is clear. We are not worried about any sanctions.”
In an announcement Monday, President Donald Trump said that he would “soon be issuing an Executive Order authorizing the imposition of sanctions against current and former officials of the Government of Turkey and any persons contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria.”
He added that, among other things, the U.S. would stop negotiations of a trade deal, increase steel tariffs by 50%, and “authorize a broad range of consequences including financial sanctions, blocking of property and barring entry into the U.S.”
U.S. Withdraws Troops & Kurds Side With Assad
Trump’s announcement of sanctions Monday came after a series of rapid developments the day before.
Speaking to CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that following discussions with the national security team, Trump had directed that the U.S. “begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.”
Esper did not say exactly when or how many troops would be withdrawn, but he later told Fox News that the number would be “less than 1,000 troops.” According to reports, the U.S. only has about 1,000 troops in the region.
The announcement also came amid reports from Kurdish officials and others in the area that around 800 people held in ISIS prisons broke free. Erdogan responded by saying the claims were “disinformation” intended to provoke the U.S. and others.
But Kurdish forces maintained that this was a serious security threat.
Many experts and lawmakers have warned that the U.S. removal of troops in Syria would allow ISIS to regroup because Kurdish forces would be stretched too thin fighting a military attack and would not able to keep a stable hold on the region or stop ISIS fighters from escaping from the camps.
Some condemned Esper’s announcement, arguing that the U.S.’ decision to remove even more troops would just make the situation worse.
Just hours after Esper’s statement, Kurdish leaders announced that they had struck a deal with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that the Syrian government, which is backed by Russia and Iran, would be sending troops to help the Kurds fight Turkey.
Many described this move as a turning point in Syria’s eight-year-long war because it represents a notable shift in influence from the United States to Russia.
Those critical of the removal of U.S. forces in Syria have argued that it will pave the way for Russian forces allied with the Syrian government to fill the power vacuum created by the U.S. leaving the region.
Trump, for his part, responded to the move in a tweet later on Monday, writing, “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”
Russia appeared to have taken that to heart, and announced Tuesday that they would be sending their own troops to patrol between Turkish and Syrian forces.
Trump Press Conference
Trump on Wednesday maintained that he will try to mediate discussions between Turkey and the Kurds.
While speaking to reporters Wednesday, Trump claimed that Erdogan did not refuse to agree to a ceasefire, and downplayed U.S. involvement in the crisis.
“The Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight,” he said. “And as I said they’re not angels, they’re not angels, if you take a look, you have to go back and take a look. But they fought with us and we paid a lot of money for them to fight with us, and that’s okay.”
“So, if Russia wants to get involved with Syria, that’s really up to them. They have a problem with Turkey. They have a problem at a border. It’s not our border, we shouldn’t be losing lives over it,” he continued.
The president also later seemed to echo what Erdogan said when Kurdish forces reported that ISIS prisoners had escaped.
“Some were released just for effect, to make us look a little bit like ‘oh gee, we got to get right back in there,’” Trump said.
Meanwhile, the violent military standoff between Turkey and Syria continues.
It is currently unclear how many military personnel and civilians have died, but what is clear is that the Turkish incursion is tearing up a country already ravaged by war, and displacing hundreds of thousands of people in a country where there are already millions of refugees.
On Tuesday, the United Nations reported that “at least 160,000 civilians have been displaced since the offensive began,” also adding that “hospitals and schools and other public infrastructure hit or affected by the fighting.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Al Jazeera) (Axios)
Mukbangs and Ordering Too Much Food Banned in China
- China recently passed a law that bans ordering too much food and sharing content online that portrays overeating.
- Though food scarcity is not an issue in the country, the law is meant to combat food waste, with authorities pointing out that China tosses 35 million tons of food annually.
- The law doesn’t penalize consumers at restaurants. Instead, it fines restaurants $1550 for allowing diners to order “more than they need.”
- TV stations, media companies, or people who post overeating content, such as Mukbangs, can face a $16,000 fine.
The End of Mukbangs
Some of the most popular content across Chinese social media has effectively been banned under an anti-food waste law that authorities passed late last week.
The law bans diners from ordering more than they need, which could hurt an entire class of eating videos, including ones where people enter all-you-can-eat restaurants to consume thousands of dollars worth of food. While it could be argued that if the creators eat all that food, they’ve satisfied the “more than they need” clause, the law also bans binge eating and posting such content online, meaning no more mukbangs for Chinese fans.
Censors have already begun removing overeating content, and much of it went missing overnight from Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese sister app.
The law also affects far more than a fringe group of people making food content. It’s so vague and open to interpretation that it could disrupt everyday restaurant-goers.
President Xi Jinping called food waste a “distressing” problem that threatens China’s food security, despite the fact that China is not facing any imminent food shortages.
Nearly 35 million tons of food go to waste every year in China, though that’s a relatively small amount for its population size. The U.S., for comparison, manages to throw away 66 million tons of food yearly.
Still, the legislation does not come as a complete surprise since Xi launched a food-saving campaign back in August claiming that COVID-19 was threatening the food supply chain.
Across China, restaurants have already begun to comply with the new rules. Some have set up scales at their entrance to give recommended food portion sizes to customers based on their weight. Meanwhile, others have promised to offer smaller-sized plates as an option.
One standard that many are seeking to enact is the “N-1” rule, which states that the number of dishes should be one less than the number of guests. The rule could be an attempt to curb a cultural practice that sees hosts ordering far more food than could be eaten in an effort to show off wealth.
Under the law, much of the blame towards a consumer wasting food is placed on restaurants, as there’s no clear cut fine for diners violating the law. Any establishment found allowing customers or misleading customers into ordering excessive amounts of food facing a $1550 fine. Showing content related to binge-eating could result in TV stations, online media companies, or even content creators facing a $16,000 fine.
Tuesday seems to have been the first time regulators went after a particular business, warning a Nanjing bakery to stop throwing away pastries that the business didn’t believe would sell because of visual defects. It has promised to donate them instead.
See what others are saying: (SCMP) (The Guardian) (Vice)
Zimbabwe Considers Controversial Mass Elephant Killing
- Zimbabwe is considering culling its 100,000 elephant population over concerns of how they destroy other habitats and interact with farmland.
- The plan isn’t unheard of, as Zimbabwe has done similar culls in the past, while other countries have done their own more recently.
- However, the large-scale killing of elephants has faced pushback, with some suggesting the animals should instead be transported to areas with falling elephant populations.
- For the time being, the plan is still just a proposal, and the government of Zimbabwe has promised to make a decision based on “scientific advice.”
Killing Elephants Is What’s Best for Them?
For the first time since 1988, Zimbabwe is considering a mass killing of elephants.
In a local radio interview on Wednesday, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Mangaliso Ndlovu said, “We are trying to see ways in which we can reduce the numbers. We have to discuss it at policy level as government. Options are on the table…”
“It’s an option but not a decision yet,” Ndlovu later added by text message to the station. “We will obviously rely on scientific advice.”
The country is home to about 100,000 elephants, the second largest population in the world after neighboring Botswana. The mass killings are better known as culls, and the concept isn’t completely unknown in areas with large animal populations. They can happen for a variety of reasons, such as removing sterile males from the mating population that prevent fertile ones from accessing mates.
In Zimbabwe, authorities are worried that the elephant population has outgrown the resources available, causing the animals to destroy habitats that other species need to survive by eating the bark off trees and killing them. Additionally, the large population increases the chances of violent human-elephant interactions as elephants encroach on farmlands.
Elephants are known for their great intelligence and advanced emotional states compared to other animals, and therefore authorities are concerned about how a cull could affect populations. Notably, elephants can experience Post-traumatic stress disorder. In an effort to minimize those effects, other countries that have initiated culls, such as Uganda, have targeted entire herds for eradication while leaving others completely untouched.
Any discussion of a cull causes alarm bells among animal conservationists, particularly as total elephant populations in Africa have been on the decline over the last decade. However, in both Botswana and Zimbabwe the populations have actually risen considerably. Despite this, the possible plan has received considerable pushback online.
Many people have pointed out that there are other viable solutions to control the population and protect both the animals, other habitats, and farmland. As journalist Yashar Ali pointed out, “The only reasonable solution for Zimbabwe and other countries with large elephant populations is to work on human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures, contraception for elephants, and translocation.”
In particular, translocation has been touted as a viable alternative to not only help reduce the elephant population in Zimbabwe but also bolster the falling populations in other countries. Now, some have wondered why there has been any pushback against a cull, pointing out that animals such as deer are regularly culled across the world.
But it’s not quite apples and oranges. Take the U.S., which often hosts deer culls. The country has over 30 million deer, compared to Zimbabwe’s 100,000 elephants. On top of that, deer can give birth to over 20 fawns in their roughly 10-year lifespan, compared to less than 10 for an elephant during its more than 60 years alive.
For the time being, the plan is still just a proposal. It remains to be seen if Zimbabwe’s government will take such a large-scale cull seriously.
Cash-in-Transit Truck Driver Praised After Foiling Robbery Attempt in South Africa
- Viral video captured the moment a rookie security guard and the driver of an armored cash-in-transit truck were ambushed in South Africa by robbers firing bullets at them last month.
- The footage shows the driver, 48-year-old Leo Prinsloo, keeping his cool as he sped off and maneuvered through traffic to get away from the two groups chasing them.
- When the truck eventually jerked to a halt, he grabbed a gun from his partner and exited the vehicle to confront the attackers, who had fled empty-handed.
- While Prinsloo has faced widespread praise, he has also been placed under protective guard because of death threats he’s received since foiling the heist.
The Viral Video
Millions of people all over the world have watched dash-cam footage of a rookie security guard and the driver of an armored cash-in-transit truck as they were ambushed in South Africa by robbers firing bullets at them.
The incident happened on April 22, though the footage, which looks like it was pulled straight from an action movie, has recently gone massively viral.
It shows the driver, 48-year-old Leo Prinsloo keeping his cool as he sped off and maneuvered through traffic to get away from the two groups chasing them. When the truck eventually jerked to a halt, he grabbed a gun from his partner and exited the vehicle to confront the attackers, who had fled empty-handed.
It turns out Prinsloo, who served with the South African Police Services special forces unit for 12 years, actually teaches the nation’s military special forces how to shoot. People who watched the insane footage are now calling him the real-life Jason Bourne, with many impressed by his incredible instincts.
“I cannot say much as an investigation is underway but I and my fellow guard did what was expected of us. They needed to take us out so they could take out the cargo vehicle,” Prinsloo said when speaking to the Daily Mail.
“But there was no way I was going to let that happen and unfortunately I did not have a chance to return fire,” he added.
Prinsloo Defends Partner
Prinsloo’s partner, Lloyd Mtombeni, has been facing a bit of criticism for what some perceived as a lack of action. However, it’s worth noting that Mtombeni told local reporters this was only his fourth day on the job and the first time he had ever experienced gunfire from inside the vehicle.
Because of the backlash against him, Prinsloo defending Mtombeni, saying, “I think those people should keep their opinions to themselves until they’re in the same situation and see if they can do better in the same circumstances.”
Others also spoke out in support of the guard online, commended him for staying composed and taking direction from Prinsloo. Still, it doesn’t appear like the threat is over.
According to News24, Prinsloo has been placed under protective guard because he’s been receiving death threats since foiling the heist. So far, no arrests have been made in this case but police are still investigating.