Storm Daniel triggered flooding across Libya on Tuesday causing two dams to collapse in Derna, 20,000+ are missing or dead. Friday’s Marrakesh-Safi earthquake of 6.8 has left nearly 3000 fatalities in its wake. Combined, hundreds of bodies are washing ashore or have been buried alive in North Africa.
Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pulled out of Pyongyang in a dark green, slow moving bulletproof train headed for Russia to discuss technology, weapons and trade with President Vladimir Putin. Ballistic missiles were detonated in his wake.
And all as the United States sued Google, and opened an impeachment inquiry to President Joe Biden. While an apartment in Hanoi was catching fire, leading to nearly 60 casualties, Biden was simultaneously on the ground and the first U.S. president to make an official state visit to Vietnam. “Your visit is truly significant,” Secretary General Nguyễn Phú Trọng said, and therein lies the stable long-term constant of statecraft.
Everyone sees what we appear to be. Few experience who we really are.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged his full support for Russian President Vladimir Putin in what he called a "fight against imperialism.” Putin hosted Kim at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East, offering North Korea technological assistance to launch a satellite into space in exchange for stockpiles of aging ammunition and rockets for Soviet-era weapons. While Iran supplies the drones, their mutual collaboration fills in the missing pieces of each other’s military industrial complex. North Korea and Russia’s militaries are now being subsidized by one another’s defense industries.
The Russian Federation’s recent announcement of plans to station non-strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus represents the first “nuclear sharing” agreement made since the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons entered into force in 1970, a senior United Nations disarmament official told the Security Council in March. "Against the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict, the risk such arms will be used is higher today than at any time since the end of the cold war."
Hong Min, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, believes that Russia's perception of a U.S. threat on its eastern flank will cause it to drop previous inhibitions about helping Pyongyang. "I believe the plan is for Russia to provide technical assistance in stages for North Korea's needs, such as reentry technology for ICBMs and SLBM," Hong says.
Kim peered into the cockpit of Russia’s most advanced fighter jet (Su-57) on Friday, “and we are seeing potential for cooperation for solving our countries’ task of achieving technological sovereignty,” says Denis Manturov, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister.
Kim traveled on to Russia’s Pacific fleet following an historic summit between two of the world’s most isolated nuclear powers. There are nine in all, and combined have collected 12,512 nuclear warheads. In January 2023, Russia reported 5997; United States reported 5428; and North Korea remains unconfirmed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
U.S. v. Google
The United States took Google to court this week for “exploiting its dominance of the internet search market to lock out competitors and smother innovation,” the Department of Justice charged Tuesday at the opening of the biggest U.S. antitrust trial in the 21st century. The DOJ’s lead litigator Kenneth Daintier explains, “This case is about the future of the internet, and whether Google’s search engine will ever face meaningful competition.”
Over the next 10 weeks, the state will try to prove that Google struck anticompetitive deals with Apple and other companies for prime placement of its search engine. Google contends its dominant market share is the result of a superior product.
The Justice Department filed its antitrust lawsuit against Google nearly three years ago during the Trump administration, charging that the company has used its internet search dominance to gain an unfair advantage against competitors. Government lawyers allege that Google protects its franchise through a form of payola, shelling out billions of dollars annually to be the default search engine on the iPhone and on web browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox. The U.S. suggests Google strong-armed Apple into giving its search engine a default position as a condition for getting revenue sharing payments.
Google counters that it faces a wide range of competition despite commanding about 90% of the internet search market. Its rivals, Google argues, range from search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing to websites like Amazon and Yelp.
From Google’s perspective, perpetual improvements to its search engine explain why people reflexively keep coming back to it, a habit that long ago made “Googling” synonymous with looking things up on the internet.
The trial begins just a couple weeks after the 25th anniversary of the first investment in the company — a $100,000 check written by Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim that enabled Page and Sergey Brin to set up shop in a Silicon Valley garage.
Today, Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet, is worth $1.7 trillion and employs 182,000 people, with most of the money coming from $224 billion in annual ad sales flowing through a network of digital services anchored by a search engine that fields billions of queries a day.
It’s the biggest tech antitrust trial since the US took on Microsoft in the 1990’s. Ten weeks that could tip the balance of power online. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta will likely rule early next year.
While common enemies unite us, "no man has natural authority over his fellow man," said the enlightenment philosopher Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract; Principles of Political Right concerns the legitimacy of the state over its people. Rousseau observes:
Man is born free but everywhere in chains. Freedom is the power to choose those chains.
He begins by imagining a population of peoples without a political order. In this state, people are granted unlimited natural freedoms and entitled to what Thomas Hobbes called a "right to all things” which invariably leads to conflict and an endless "war of all against all" (bellum omnium contra omnes).
In exchange for security, people began to surrender their natural freedoms to the state including: democracies; totalitarian regimes; monarchies; authoritarian regimes; and hybrid regimes. Sadly, those very states have lived in a perpetual state of war since the advent of civilization.
Rousseau argued that holy wars and religious crusades only weakened the state. “It is impossible to live in peace with people you think are damned,” Rousseau said, favoring a “civil religion” that embraced a social contract with a cohesive force; a common set of values; a universal light.
Perhaps why the Greeks, the principal architects of the republic, along with the Enlightenment philosophers and signatories of the modern republics, so often invoke metaphysics in their search for an omniscient: a prescient symbol of direction, guidance, stability and purpose in the universe.
Man adapts when coerced, as Danelo Cavalcante who was captured after a 14-day manhunt on Tuesday can attest, but evolves if and only if exercising reason over physical violence.
Looking to the astral plane for inspiration, the emerald-hued comet Nishimura streaked across the planet on Tuesday and rivaled the North Star: the astrological symbol of direction, guidance, stability and purpose in the universe. That it coincided with Kim’s arrival in Russia; the opening arguments of U.S. v. Google; and the torrential rains and rescue efforts in Africa may be a coincidence. As conceivably, there may be no coincidences in the universe.