A Coup in Niger

Happy Monday! Congratulations to Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who over the weekend set a standard for good governance to which political leaders throughout the Americas can aspire.

“I wish him luck and strength,” he tweeted after his son Nicolás was hit with charges related to money laundering and drug trafficking. “May these events strengthen his character and let him reflect on his own errors.”

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Biden administration announced Friday it will transfer $345 million worth of weaponry from Pentagon stockpiles to Taiwan, with MQ-9 Reaper drones and small arms ammunition reportedly making up the bulk of the package. Congressional lawmakers granted the Biden administration up to $1 billion in such drawdown authority for the island this year; the shipment announced Friday—which a Chinese Communist Party spokesperson said would not “shake our firm will to realize the reunification of our motherland”—was the first tranche the White House announced.
  • At least 54 people were killed—and up to 200 more injured—by an explosion at a political party gathering in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhunkhwa province on Sunday, just months before elections in the country are set to take place. Local police believe a suicide bomber was behind the attack—which targeted members of the religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl party (JUI-F)—but no group had formally taken responsibility as of Sunday night. ISIS and other jihadist groups have previously carried out attacks on JUI-F members, who they believe are not hardline enough.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported Friday on email exchanges between Facebook executives and Biden administration officials—obtained by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee—that seem to indicate Facebook shaped its COVID-19 content moderation guidelines in response to demands from the Biden administration in mid-2021 as it sought to get its vaccination campaign off the ground. “Can someone quickly remind me why we were removing—rather than demoting/labeling—claims that Covid is man made,” Nick Clegg, the tech company’s president of global affairs, wrote in a July 2021 email, according to the Journal. “We were under pressure from the administration and others to do more,” a colleague replied. “We shouldn’t have done it.”
  • The Justice Department announced Thursday that it will open a civil rights investigation into the Memphis Police Department to determine whether police officers routinely discriminate against black civilians and use excessive force. The investigation follows the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols earlier this year. The DOJ recently concluded a similar probe of the Minneapolis Police, finding officers’ behavior there often violated residents’ constitutional rights.
  • Brazil’s Justice Ministry said Thursday it would not extradite Sergey Cherkasov, an alleged Russian spy under indictment in the United States serving a five-year prison sentence in Brazil for document fraud. The U.S. had reportedly hoped to use Cherkasov—who allegedly posed as a Brazilian graduate student in Washington, D.C.—as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia for a detained American such as Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.
  • Norfolk Southern—the railroad operator whose train full of toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this year—more than doubled its original estimate of the costs related to the Ohio accident last week, now forecasting cleanup and various penalties will exceed $800 million. The company has thus far paid $287 million in costs related to the derailment, which forced thousands to evacuate their homes. 
  • Yellow, the nearly century-old trucking company, shut down operations over the weekend and—facing both a debt crisis and a standoff with the Teamsters union—is expected to file for bankruptcy. The company received a $700 million federal loan during the pandemic but was informing staff at locations across the country in recent days that they would be let go.
  • Seeking to quash any speculation about his future after his public freeze-up last week, the 81-year-old Sen. Mitch McConnell issued a statement through a spokesperson making clear he does not plan to step down as Republican leader before 2025. “Leader McConnell appreciates the continued support of his colleagues,” the statement reads, “and plans to serve his full term in the job they overwhelmingly elected him to do.”
  • In a statement published by People magazine Friday evening, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden publicly acknowledged their seventh grandchild, four-year-old Navy Joan Roberts, for the first time. “Our son Hunter and Navy’s mother, Lunden, are working together to foster a relationship that is in the best interests of their daughter,” the statement read. “This is not a political issue, it’s a family matter.” President Biden had for months maintained he only had six grandchildren.

A Coup in Niger

A Nigerien policeman stands as Nigerien cadets paradeas supporters rally in support of Niger’s junta in Niamey on July 30, 2023. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

Late last week, Mohamed Bazoum, the besieged president of Niger, posted a message of defiance online. “The hard-won achievements will be safeguarded,” he wrote on X, the website formerly known as Twitter. “All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it.” 

If only ‘X’ing’ made it so. The country, once seen as a beacon of democracy in West Africa’s “coup belt,” is now facing a military takeover of its own, forcing Western nations to rethink their relationships with a key regional ally in the fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

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