• Politics
    The Week

    Obama reportedly expects he'll have to play a 'prominent role' in uniting Democrats this summer

    Expect former President Barack Obama's radio silence on the 2020 Democratic primary to continue in the coming months. After all, he's reportedly got a very specific reason for staying out of it.Obama has intentionally remained on the sidelines throughout the primary so far, not throwing his support behind any candidate, including former Vice President Joe Biden. This, New York Magazine reports, is part of a "choreographed strategy" on the part of Obama, who is "increasingly sure he will need to play a prominent role in bringing the party back together and calming its tensions later this summer."Between now and then, Obama is "committed to not allowing his personal thoughts to dribble out" into the open, the report says, since this might make it more challenging for him to serve as an "honest broker." Apparently, this effort could be going better considering this very same report features a few of Obama's personal thoughts, including that he's supposedly "unimpressed" with Biden's campaign.A Fox Business report recently suggested Obama was considering speaking out about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he becomes nervous that he'll secure the Democratic nomination. But there's reportedly not much truth to that, and a source told New York Magazine, "there is no way Barack Obama is intervening, unless something very strange happens."In fact, Obama reportedly isn't paying a whole lot of attention to the "day-to-day dynamics" of the race, following it through newspaper reports but not even watching all of the Democratic debates. But Obama is reportedly "sure that he'll have to catch up" on these dynamics he's been missing out on later, meaning some binge-watching of the Democratic primary may soon be in the cards. Read the full report at New York Magazine.More stories from theweek.com Mike Bloomberg is not the lesser of two evils The Democratic Party is weak. Mike Bloomberg could break it. What if Trump stopped tweeting?

  • U.S.
    The New York Times

    Cambodia's Coronavirus Complacency May Exact a Global Toll

    SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia -- When Cambodia's prime minister greeted passengers on a cruise ship amid a coronavirus scare on Valentine's Day, embraces were the order of the day. Protective masks were not.Not only did Prime Minister Hun Sen not wear one, assured that the ship was virus-free, his bodyguards ordered people who had donned masks to take them off. The next day, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, W. Patrick Murphy, who brought his own family to greet the passengers streaming off the ship, also went maskless."We are very, very grateful that Cambodia has opened literally its ports and doors to people in need," Murphy said.But after hundreds of passengers had disembarked, one later tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, health officials worry that what Cambodia opened its doors to was the outbreak, and that the world may pay a price as passengers from the cruse ship Westerdam stream home.Before the Westerdam docked in Sihanoukville, fearful governments in other countries had turned the ship away at five ports of call even though the cruise operator, Holland America, assured officials that the ship's passengers had been carefully screened.Hun Sen's decision to allow it entry appeared to be a political calculus as much as anything else. The region's longest-serving ruler and a close ally of China, he is known for his survival skills.But Hun Sen's critics worry that the aging autocrat might have acted rashly."Of course, he had to do the dictator thing: photo op, roses, exploit this for its maximum value," said Sophal Ear, an expert in Cambodian politics at Occidental College. "Whatever is in the best interest of Cambodians is completely irrelevant to him."It is too early to tell whether the decision to let hundreds of passengers from the Westerdam fly off has the makings of an epidemiological disaster. Cambodian health authorities said that 409 of the 2,257 passengers and crew had left Cambodia for their homes scattered across the globe. The rest remain in hotels in Phnom Penh, the capital, or on the ship.But deficiencies in screening for the coronavirus aboard the ship, along with continued complacency about the epidemic in Cambodia, are raising fears this small Southeast Asian nation could prove to be a surprising vector of transmission for a virus that has already killed more than 1,700 people, mostly in China, the epicenter of the outbreak.Many health experts urge people who have been in contact with coronavirus patients to self-quarantine for 14 days, lest they add another spoke to the contagion network.But on Monday, Hun Sen directed officials in Phnom Penh to treat passengers from the Westerdam to a sightseeing jaunt."To tour the city is better than staying in rooms or at the hotel feeling bored or scared," said a post on Hun Sen's Facebook page.The lack of urgency in Cambodia, where officials milled around the ship Monday without protection, points to the obstacles in trying to contain a virus that experts warn is spreading faster than SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome)or MERS, (Middle East respiratory syndrome)."This is influenza-like transmission," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "It's like trying to stop the wind."Last week, when the Westerdam docked in Sihanoukville, the Cambodian government and the cruise operator deemed the vessel virus-free.The declaration was at a minimum premature.Only 20 people out of the 2,257 onboard were tested for the virus before disembarking, and that was because they had reported themselves to ship medical staff with various ailments.The woman who twice tested positive after traveling on to Malaysia, an 83-year-old American, was not among those 20, Holland America said.Health monitoring for the rest of the passengers was limited to a handful of temperature checks conducted with infrared thermometers, passengers said. In a statement, Holland America said that during one of those screenings, not a single person on board recorded an elevated temperature.On Monday, an announcement broadcast to passengers remaining on the Westerdam warned that they should avoid the ship's hot deck and return to their air-conditioned rooms to avoid falsely high temperature readings.Some health experts have questioned the efficacy of infrared thermometers, also known as temperature guns, saying they measure the heat emanating from the surface of the body, rather than core body temperature.Various environmental factors can distort thermometer gun reading, said Gary Strahan, who runs a small infrared device company in Texas."In Cambodia, you have warmer background temperatures," he said. "It could impact the measurement. That's the issue with any noncontact thermometer."Even if temperatures are accurately gauged, people may be taking medication that lower their temperature, like some arthritis drugs.And in any case, people who are asymptomatic can still pass on the coronavirus, scientists have found."A person who does not present as feverish is not necessarily uninfected with a disease or a virus," said Jim Seffrin, an expert on infrared devices at the Infraspection Institute in New Jersey.In the wake of the positive test in Malaysia, Cambodian health officials said they would be relying on a domestic lab to test all passengers and crew members still in the country for the coronavirus.On Monday evening, passengers celebrated news from Cambodian health officials that a first batch of 406 people in Phnom Penh had tested negative, although there was no certainty they would not later test positive."People on the ship are very grateful to the people of Cambodia," said Tammie Graves, an American from Kansas. "I was a bit worried that they might be afraid of us, even at the hotel, but it hasn't been like that at all."On Monday afternoon, more than 100 Westerdam passengers took up Hun Sen's offer of a capital tour, piling in buses to see the royal palace and other sites.In pictures of the excursion, posted on a government-linked website, only one person can be seen wearing a mask.Despite cases of coronavirus popping up in Southeast Asia, Hun Sen has campaigned against masks, arguing that they are better at spreading fear than stopping germs. At a news conference last month, he announced that he would kick out anyone who dared wear a mask.Even as other governments instituted China travel bans that angered Beijing, Hun Sen traveled to the Chinese capital and met with Xi Jinping, China's leader, in another photo op.And as other countries organized airlifts of people trapped in Wuhan, the city where the virus is believed to have originated, Hun Sen said he would not ferry Cambodian students home because they should be "joining with Chinese to fight this disease."The sense of solidarity makes sense in a country heavily dependent on China for its fortunes, after having turned its back on a West that was demanding progress in human rights in return for aid and investment.A torrent of Chinese cash has remade Cambodia, nowhere more so than in Sihanoukville, a once sleepy beach town that is now a sprawling construction site of gilded casinos and towering residential blocks. More than 90% of businesses in the city are now Chinese owned.On Monday, Oeun Yen, a masseuse here, worried about the massages she had given three female passengers from the Westerdam before the virus case was confirmed by Malaysia. She was not afraid at first, she said, because the prime minister had assured people all was fine."Now I am more concerned," she said.In a country where Hun Sen has dissolved the biggest opposition party and political assassination is not uncommon, such mild concern is as much as many ordinary residents are willing to muster.But there is also widespread skepticism of the government's contention that only one person in Cambodia has tested positive for coronavirus, a Chinese citizen who has since returned home."There is a natural lack of credibility and trust associated with the Cambodian government," said Ou Virak, a human-rights activist and founder of the Future Forum, a local think tank. "This is Hun Sen's Westerdam problem, because even if he was doing the right thing, purely as a humanitarian, he will be seen as the puppet of China instead."On Monday, Hun Sen announced yet another publicity stunt: He wants to invite the passengers of the Westerdam to a party.Masks won't be welcome.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

  • U.S.

    Missing more than a year, an abandoned 'ghost ship' washed ashore on the other side of the Atlantic

    The MV Alta washed ashore in Ireland's County Cork amid Storm Dennis, but the vessel took a more than a year journey from off Bermuda to get there.

  • U.S.

    Christian Lawmakers Group Blames Satan After Twitter Poll Goes Badly Awry

    The National Association of Christian Lawmakers posted a Twitter poll about religion in politics. They didn't like the response.

  • World

    Russia Faces $50 Billion Payout From Seizure of Oligarch Oil Assets

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Russia may have to pay a record $50 billion arbitration ruling after a Dutch court ruled in favor of the former owners of Yukos Oil Co.The ruling by The Hague Court of Appeal Tuesday reinstates an award issued in 2014 by an arbitration panel and could set off a new wave of efforts to seize Russian state assets around the world. The decision is the latest twist in a 15-year legal saga that has raged between the Kremlin and the owners of what was once Russia’s biggest oil company.“We are ready for war, and a legal battle is better than any other kind,” said Leonid Nevzlin, one of the former Yukos owners. “We can now begin a full-scale seizure of assets that are recognized as the property of the Russian state.”The decision can be appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court.Russia will continue to defend its interests in the case and plans to appeal, the country’s Justice Ministry said in a statement.Long-Running ConflictThe Yukos affair was a pivotal moment early in President Vladimir Putin’s now 20-year rule that reestablished the Kremlin as the ultimate power in Russia after the chaotic post-Soviet transition. The arrest of Yukos’s founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man at the time, on the tarmac of a Siberian airport in 2003 sent a clear signal to other oligarchs that their interests were now subordinate to those of the state.The judgment could further strain relations between Russia and the Netherlands, which accuses the Kremlin of involvement in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, in which 298 people died. Putin has denied any Russian role.In the wake of Khodorkovsky’s arrest, Yukos was dismantled amid billions of dollars of tax claims that he described as revenge for his funding of opposition parties. Putin issued a pardon to free Khodorkovsky in 2013 after a decade in prison on convictions for fraud and tax evasion linked to Yukos. He now lives in London, where he campaigns in exile for an end of Putin’s system.Khodorkovsky sold his claims to Yukos to his former partners, including Nevzlin, who argue that their property was expropriated by the Russian state.Kremlin DefianceThe Hague court found there was no conflict with Russian law in regards to a treaty that Russia signed, but never ratified, according to a copy of the ruling. In 2016, an appeals court had overturned the initial ruling, citing the treaty.The Kremlin has said it isn’t bound by the award, which amounts to about 3% of Russia’s gross domestic product. Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled in 2017 that the country wasn’t liable to pay billions of dollars in Yukos-related damages ordered by the European Court of Human Rights. Putin in January proposed amending the constitution to give Russian law precedence over international obligations.After the 2014 ruling, the former Yukos shareholders sought to seize assets in countries including France, Belgium, the U.S. and India. In Belgium and France, state assets that had been frozen were unblocked following Russian protests.Nevzlin Tuesday declined to comment on what assets the shareholders might seek to seize. In 2014, a representative of the former shareholders said they may target state-owned Rosneft PJSC, which took over most of Yukos’ assets and operates in 25 countries around the world.(Updates with comment from former Yukos shareholder in third paragraph)\--With assistance from Irina Reznik.To contact the reporters on this story: Jake Rudnitsky in Moscow at jrudnitsky@bloomberg.net;Ellen Proper in Amsterdam at eproper@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Torrey Clark at tclark8@bloomberg.net, Gregory L. White, Anthony AaronsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.