For anyone following the action in the South China Sea, as laid out in the previous posts collected in this Thread, I highly recommend a post at the LawFareBlog on the fine points of the dispute. It’s by Adam Klein and Mira Rapp-Hooper, and it carefully delineates the differing claims that China, the United States, and other countries are making about the rocks/islands/reefs/airstrips in the South China Sea — and the differing ways in which U.S. Navy ships passing through this area can establish freedom-of-navigation principles.
The whole thing is closely argued and worth reading. Here is the payoff point on what they recommend as the highest-payoff approach with the least gratuitous provocation:
According to Klein and Rapp-Hooper, the Navy should conduct “normal operations” — that is, anything they would feel free to do on the open seas — near “low-tide elevations.” These are reefs or other locations that are submerged at high tide and exposed at low tide, and on some of which China has built artificial structures. These low-tide elevations don’t normally convey territorial-water privileges; one of the issues at dispute is whether, by building new islands there, China can create new territorial rights. Klein and Rapp-Hooper say about their recommended strategy, with emphasis added:
What this would entail: A U.S. Navy surface vessel sails within 12 nm of a low-tide elevation, or an artificial island built on a low-tide elevation, such as Mischief, Subi, or Gaven Reefs, while conducting normal operations. Vessels could conduct searches or military maneuvers, indicating that they are not engaging in innocent passage.
What message it would send: This operation would indicate that the United States does not recognize a territorial sea in the area of operations, but rather views the water as the high seas, and is exercising accordingly. This would send the signal that Chinese construction on low-tide elevations does not confer a territorial sea.
Analysis: This seems like the appropriate, and most likely, course of action. It clearly addresses the core legal disagreement between the parties: whether human improvements to a land feature increase the maritime rights that attach to it.
Thanks to the authors for this clarification, and to Judah Grunstein of World Politics Review, quoted here yesterday, for the tip.
The ruling this morning by Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague in favor of the Philippines, and very strongly against China in their dispute over the South China Sea, was not surprising in its basic result. Most people following the issue had expected that China’s very sweeping claims would not hold up.
The foreseeability of that outcome is precisely why the Chinese government has preemptively been pooh-poohing the court and its legitimacy over the past few weeks, and lining up a ragtag set of allies to support its cause. This group includes none of the countries most affected by China’s expanded maritime activities, and it features those reliant on Chinese aid or trade. (Eg Cambodia, Liberia, Senegal, etc.)
But the sternness of the ruling, and its explicit criticism of the basic premises of China’s arguments, was more than most people expected. For the moment this is a placeholder note on ways to learn more about the ruling, its consequences, and China’s dismissive initial response:
Andrew Erickson, of the Naval War College, has been on this subject for a long time. You can read his initial assessment here, with links to related items.
ChinaFile has kicked off a conversation today with Erickson and a number of other China luminaries, which is very much worth reading. Sample from Peter Dutton, also of the Naval War College:
“This decision is much more than a pyrrhic victory for the Philippines as some will be tempted to suggest. This opinion will have normative power that over the long run will and should affect the way every state thinks about the South China Sea in the future. Ultimately, the ruling’s power is not in its direct enforceability, but in the way it will inevitably alter perceptions about right and wrong actions in the South China Sea. Coercion will no longer stand with moral impunity. Even if indirectly, the opinion should therefore serve as the basis for improved bilateral negotiations in the future. It has significantly narrowed the scope of what is in reasonable and justifiable dispute and therefore should help the parties move closer to a final resolution of their differences.”
At the Lawfare site, Julian Ku of Hofstra offers his quick take. Sample:
“Is it possible to win by too much? The complete and sweeping nature of the Philippines legal victory may make it harder for China to agree to any negotiations that do not exclude the award’s effects as a precondition. This could be a problem going forward.”
The Interpreter, an always-valuable international-affairs site from the Lowy Institute in Sydney, has not yet analyzed the ruling itself (time zones etc). But yesterday it had this preview article, about expected results of the ruling, by Derek Lundy.
A final note on that evergreen theme, the destructive paralysis of national-level U.S. politics. The Philippines took China to court under the terms of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, often known as the Law of the Sea Treaty. As a matter of practical policy, the U.S. government says it adheres to terms of the treaty — and as presidents both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have supported the treaty and urged its ratification.
But treaties require a two-thirds vote of the Senate for ratification. And over the years enough Senators have opposed it to keep either the Bush or Obama administrations from moving ahead. Here is a sample of the latest big showdown, which occurred in 2012 while the Democrats still held a Senate majority. At that time 34 Senators, all Republicans, said they’d vote against the treaty, which means it couldn’t pass.
As of today, 34 U.S. Senators are on record promising to oppose the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea if it comes to the Senate floor. Because two-thirds of Senators present and voting are required to ratify any treaty, the long-stalled Law of the Sea Treaty is effectively dead.
Heritage Action, which led the conservative lobbying push, released the following statement from CEO Michael A. Needham:
America had little to gain through accession to the Law of the Sea Treaty – but much to lose. Rather than affirming existing practices, it would have instituted a radically new, international legal regime. The demise of the Law of the Sea Treaty not only represents a victory for American sovereignty, but also the American people. For months, constituents have called and emailed their Senators, requested meetings, submitted letters to the editor, and organized in an effort to sink this dangerous treaty. We commend the 34 Senators who stood with their constituents on the side of freedom.
Below is a list of Senators who have signed the letter or otherwise stated opposition:
1. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
2. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
3. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)
4. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS)
5. Senator David Vitter (R-LA)
6. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)
7. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
8. Senator Jim Demint (R-SC)
9. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)
10. Senator John Boozman (R-AR)
11. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
12. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID)
13. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
14. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
15. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)
16. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
17. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)
18. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL)
19. Senator John Thune (R-SD)
20. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)
21. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
22. Senator Dan Coats (R-IN)
23. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND)
24. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
25. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
26. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)
27. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)
28. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)
29. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
30. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
31. Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)
32. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
33. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
34. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Just to spell this out: the set of international rules that both the Bush and Obama administrations felt would strengthen the U.S. hand, and which successive panels of members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have endorsed, and which is the main limit at the moment on China’s territorial claims, is something the U.S. Senate cannot ratify, because of bloc opposition from one party.
These words came from an elderly woman sitting behind me on a late-night flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. The plane was dark and quiet. A man I assumed to be her husband murmured almost inaudibly in response, something to the effect of “I wish I was dead.”
I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but couldn’t help it. I listened with morbid fascination, forming an image of the man in my head as they talked. I imagined someone who had worked hard all his life in relative obscurity, someone with unfulfilled dreams—perhaps of the degree he never attained, the career he never pursued, the company he never started.
Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say.
1. The Disappearance
At 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was 370. Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator.
An influencer’s “surprise adventure” was apparently pitched to brands months before it even began.
Updated at 2:48 p.m. ET
On Tuesday, Marissa Casey Fuchs, a fashion influencer known on Instagram as @fashionambitionist, shared a video to her 160,000-plus followers. In it, her boyfriend, Gabriel Grossman, professes his love and tells her that she’s about to embark on “an extraordinary adventure.”
“I have the most important question of my life to ask you,” he says. “The problem is, we’re not really into traditional weddings. It’s not really our style.” But, he adds, he figured out how to provide “something to experience, enjoy, and, you know, capture for the ’gram so we know it happened.” The video had originally come from Grossman’s feed, and when Fuchs reposted it to her own, she added a caption: “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!”
For 30 years, we’ve trusted human-resources departments to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment. How’s that working out?
In April 2018, I spent three days in Austin, Texas, in the companyof more than 2,500 people, most of them women, who are deeply concerned about the problem of workplace sexual harassment. The venue was the city’s convention center, and when a man named Derek Irvine took the vast stage and said that there had been “an uprising in the world of those who refuse to be silent,” the crowd roared its support. He introduced a panel of speakers who have been intimately involved with the #MeToo movement: Tarana Burke, the creator of the original campaign and hashtag; Ronan Farrow, who broke the Harvey Weinstein story in The New Yorker; and Ashley Judd, one of the actors who says she was harassed by Weinstein. Adam Grant, the author of many highly regarded books on management theory and a professor at the Wharton School, interviewed them, and their remarks were often interrupted by loud, admiring applause.
A very strange hybrid whale was the offspring of a narwhal mother and a beluga father.
In the late 1980s, an Inuit subsistence hunter named Jens Larsen killed a trio of very strange whales off the western coast of Greenland.
He and his fellow subsistence hunters would regularly catch two species: narwhals, whose males famously have long, helical tusks protruding from their snouts; and belugas, with their distinctive white skin. But Larsen’s new kills were neither. Their skin wasn’t white, nor mottled like a narwhal’s, but uniformly grey. The flippers were beluga-like, but the tails were narwhal-esque. In all his years of hunting, Larsen had never seen anything like them. He was so struck that he kept one of their skulls on the roof of his toolshed.
In 1990, it caught the attention of Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen, a scientist who studies marine mammals. With Larsen’s permission, he took it to the Greenland Fisheries Research Institute in Copenhagen for study. And after comparing it to the skulls of known belugas and narwhals, he suggested that it might have been a hybrid between the two species—a narluga.
The president is stewing over the possibility Democrats could try to remove him from office. His reelection-minded advisers want him focused on just about anything else.
Anyone can tell from President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed that he’s furious with congressional Democrats for even contemplating impeachment. But to get a better sense of what he’s telling friends, I went to one of his confidants and occasional golf partners: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “Does Trump ever mention impeachment to you?” I asked, trailing the senator through the hallways of the Russell Senate Office Building. “Yeah! He’s really pissed,” Graham said.
“What does he say about it?” I pressed, looking for specifics. Graham had reached his private office by this point, but he re-created Trump’s end of the conversation before closing the door: “I’m really pissed.”
Trump’s advisers believe that impeachment is inevitable: Though Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spent weeks rebuffing House Democrats who want to open proceedings, the party’s base will force her to eventually relent, they reckon.
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
Clyde Ross was born in 1923, the seventh of 13 children, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the blues. Ross’s parents owned and farmed a 40-acre tract of land, flush with cows, hogs, and mules. Ross’s mother would drive to Clarksdale to do her shopping in a horse and buggy, in which she invested all the pride one might place in a Cadillac. The family owned another horse, with a red coat, which they gave to Clyde. The Ross family wanted for little, save that which all black families in the Deep South then desperately desired—the protection of the law.
In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy. The majority of the people in the state were perpetually robbed of the vote—a hijacking engineered through the trickery of the poll tax and the muscle of the lynch mob. Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state.
A great deal of communication is based on metaphor.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is in the linguistic hot seat yet again. This time, she is taking heat for accusing Donald Trump’s administration of operating “concentration camps” on the southern border. Some people, it appears, would prefer that she refer to them as “tender-age facilities,” as the administration has proposed. Or, at least, some believe it is below the belt for Ocasio-Cortez to use a term that implies a parallel between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler.
However, the idea that Ocasio-Cortez is coarsening public discourse in all its recreational nastiness is based on an almost willfully immature take on how language works. In general, the right is acutely aware that a great deal of communication is based on metaphor and playfulness. For Ocasio-Cortez’s critics to suddenly pretend that language is a matter of blankly stating observations—à la the foreign-language textbook’s “My uncle is a lawyer but my aunt has a spoon”—is a high-school debate-team feint.
Small schools across the United States are facing budget shortfalls and low enrollment—leading some to shut down in the middle of students’ higher-education experience.
Updated at 12:07 p.m. on June 19, 2019
Like most other colleges across the country, Newbury College, a small, private liberal-arts school in Brookline, Massachusetts, held classes through the end of this past spring semester and then bid farewell to cap-and-gown-wearing seniors. But unlike almost every other college, those classes, and that farewell, were the school’s last: Newbury officially ceased operations at the end of May.
One of the first sources to publicly confirm the long-rumored closure was the president’s blog, where the news was shared last December. “It is with a heavy heart,” the school’s president, Joseph Chillo, wrote, “that I announce our intention to commence the closing of Newbury College, this institution we love so dearly.”
For nearly a century, an oak in a German forest has helped lonely people find love—including the mailman who delivers its letters.
Every morning for 20 years, Karl-Heinz Martens steered his yellow mail truck through the narrow streets of Eutin, a market town arranged around a little castle in northern Germany, near the Baltic Sea. On his route, Martens would drive through miles of farms and fields before disappearing into a deep, enchanted forest, where he unlocked a gate using a special key and reversed into his parking spot—as all mailmen do—facing outward to ensure a quick exit. As he crunched into the woods carrying his mailbag, his tidy beard and glasses were sometimes flecked with snowflakes or sleet, and every morning, just before the clock struck 12, he arrived beneath a towering oak.
“People used to memorize my route and wait for me to arrive because they couldn’t believe that a postman would deliver letters to a tree,” Martens told the press, who called the now-retired mailman the “messenger of love.” The Bräutigamseiche, or Bridegroom’s Oak, is the only tree in Europe with its own mailing address. Every day the 500-year-old tree receives dozens of lonely-hearts letters, and singletons arrive from near and far to reach into a small knothole in the trunk, hoping to find a match. The tree is believed to possess magical matchmaking powers.