Welcome to Newscoop Footnotes —
the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.
Hi, I’m Zoe Licata.
Following the Saudi murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, aDecember 13 opinion piece in the New York Times by Katherine Zoepf gave an urgent reminder of the other victims of the Saudi regime. Zoepf’s friend, Fahad al-Fahad, a marketing consultant and human rights activist in Saudi Arabia, received a five-year prison sentence for “inciting hostility against the state” with his simple tweets. Following his prison term, he will not be allowed to travel for 10 years, nor write for the rest of his life.
Prisoners of Conscience, an organization that keeps a tally of Saudi political prisoners, recently announced a total Saudi prisoner count of 2,613, most of them convicted for things like “criticizing the royal court.” They include scientists, lawyers, and human rights activists.
- Next, the influential American conservative news magazine, the Weekly Standard, is closing after 23 years. Founded by journalists Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz, the Standard distinguished itself from other conservative media by virtue of its intellectual seriousness, fact-based analysis, and opposition to Donald Trump. In an interview with NPR, John Podhoretz said: “It was the general view of… much of the editorial staff that he was unfit for office…”
The Standard was originally funded by Rupert Murdoch, who sold it to billionaire Philip Anschutz in 2009. Anschutz also owns the conservative Washington Examiner, and is said to be cannibalizing the Standard’s subscriber list for a new magazine connected to the Washington Examiner.
Conservative commentator and former Standard editor David Brooks added his own assessment: “This is what happens when corporate drones take over an opinion magazine, try to drag it down to their level and then grow angry and resentful when the people at the magazine try to maintain some sense of intellectual standards.”
While many are bemoaning the loss of this important intellectual conservative voice, Trump has been gloating over Twitter.
- And the Intercept reported that after complaints from its privacy team, Google has shut down the data analysis system it was using to develop Dragonfly, a censored search engine for China. That means that after making that search engine a priority for the last 2 years, Google is now shelving (at least temporarily) its development of the project. Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared before the U.S. Congress last week to answer questions about, among other things, Dragonfly. His testimony was for many, far from satisfying, with a lot of questions remaining.
- And on December 15th, Australia announced that it was recognizing both West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and Palestinian aspirations for East Jerusalem as the capital of their new state. It also said it would not move its embassy from Tel Aviv until the parties reached a final settlement.
The Australian decision seemed at first to be a balanced and politically sensitive one, far more diplomatic than Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem last year as the Israeli capital. But it displeased just about everyone. Malaysia’s foreign ministry blasted the decision, calling it a “humiliation to the Palestinians”. And Izzat Salah Abdulhadi, head of the Palestinian delegation to Australia, was unhappy that they had not been consulted prior to Australia’s announcement, and he promised “condemnation” of the decision.
Not even Israel was happy. Israel’s minister for regional cooperation called the move “a mistake” — saying “There is no division between the east of the city and west of the city.”
This has been the latest edition of Newscoop’s Footnotes – important events getting too little attention. See you next week with more.
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