8 November 2017   Leave a comment

The confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran is one of the more complex conflicts in the world.  The two states do not face each other directly, but are currently engaged through proxies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Qatar, and Lebanon.  Simon Henderson gives a good account of why the recent missile attack on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from Yemen represents a significant escalation in the dispute.  Robert Malley offers a perspective from Lebanon which analyzes the fluidity of the alliances in the region and how Israel and the US, although not yet directly involved, create a destabilizing environment.  For its part, Iran blames Saudi Arabia for the tensions and that the US is manipulating Saudi Arabia for its own purposes.


The US State Department has suffered tremendous personnel losses over the last year.  Under the leadership of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson many career Foreign Service officers have simply left.  According to Zack Beauchamp in Vox:

“The number of people in each of those posts has declined dramatically since President Trump took office in January. The number of minister counselors in the State Department has gone down by 15 percent, career ministers by 42 percent, and career ambassadors by a whopping 60 percent.”

Due to hiring freeze imposed by Tillerson, many positions are being left unfilled and there is not a younger cohort being groomed to step into positions of higher responsibility.  According to Max Greenwood writing for The Hill the number of applicants to the Foreign Service has dropped by more than half in the last year.


Air pollution in New Delhi, India has reached such serious levels that schools there have been closed for a week.  The smog is an annual event in Delhi as farmers in surrounding areas burn farm residues after the post-monsoon harvests.  But modernity, in the form of cars and industrial activity, amplifies the problem and it is a serious health hazard to the residents of the city.  The New York Times provides the metrics of the seriousness of the problem:

“In some parts of the city, the levels of PM 2.5 — insidiously small particles that can settle deep in the lungs — had climbed to more than 700 micrograms per cubic meter, which is considered hazardous to breathe, according to data provided by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. Scientists estimate these particles have killed millions.”

That level of PM 2.5 is more than 10 times the level considered safe.

New Delhi on Tuesday

Posted November 8, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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