10 Mind-Blowing Things That Happened This Week (05/19/17)
Keeping up with the news is hard—so hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most mind-blowing events each week. This week, there’s been one story on everybody’s lips and the mainstream media has never been so thrilled! We’ll get to that eventually. But first, here’s what else was happening around the world while you were glued to the White House’s ongoing saga.
10 Spain Decided To Rebury Its Dead Dictator
General Francisco Franco is the fascist leader you should probably revile a lot more than you do. As dictator of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975, he presided over a carnival of bloodshed so bleak that historian Paul Preston named it the “Spanish Holocaust.” Franco was pals with Hitler, set up brutal concentration camps, bombed refugees, ordered his troops to gang-rape women, and had his supporters dance in the blood of his murdered victims.
In short, he was one bad dude. Yet it was only at the end of last week that the Spanish government finally voted to effectively stop people from worshiping this dead monster. Madrid passed a symbolic resolution to remove his body from its gigantic mausoleum and give it a proper burial.
Franco’s body lies in a vast tomb atop a mass grave containing 30,000 dead from the Spanish Civil War. The tomb itself was partly built by slave labor using political prisoners, and fresh flowers are still laid on Franco’s grave every day. The new resolution is intended to stop ardent Francoists from using the gruesome crypt as a place of celebration and instead transform it into a memorial for the dead from both sides.
9 Ivorian Soldiers Seized An Entire City In A Pay Dispute
When Ivory Coast’s 10-year civil war finally ended in 2011, the government came up with an ingenious plan for reintegrating the rebels. The government gave the rebels jobs in the army, effectively buying their loyalty. It was a clever solution, but one that only lasted so long as the cash kept rolling in. Last Friday, it ran out. Within hours, major mutinies broke out across the country, culminating in rebel soldiers seizing control of the second-biggest city.
The former rebels number around 8,400 of Ivory Coast’s 22,000-strong army. That’s a substantial fighting force, something which doubtless contributed to the Ivorian government’s decision not to send loyalist troops in to retake Bouake. The fear of reigniting the civil war can’t have been far from anyone’s mind, either.
Thankfully, tensions were ultimately cooled. After reneging on a peace deal minutes after it was signed on Tuesday, the mutineers agreed to lay down their arms on Thursday. In return, they received around $12,000 each.
8 Britain’s Most Reviled Serial Killer Finally Died
All serial killers are reviled, but few are denounced quite as much as Ian Brady. Between 1963–65, Brady abducted five children. He and his girlfriend, Myra Hindley, tortured them, sexually abused them, and finally murdered them, burying the bodies on Manchester’s lonely moors.
The depravity of Brady and Hindley was legendary. At their trial in 1966, it was discovered that they’d made a tape recording of one of their victims, Lesley Anne Downey, begging for her life. Downey was 10 years old when Brady killed her.
Brady was caught only a few months after the UK abolished the death penalty. As a result, he spent the rest of his long life in a secure psychiatric unit, occasionally surfacing in the news due to his habit of writing unhinged letters to the press.
The worst part? One of Brady’s victims—12-year-old Keith Bennett—has never been found. Every time Brady made a public statement, Bennett’s family was left to wonder if they’d finally find their missing son.
Those hopes were finally shattered last week. Brady died at age 79 on May 15. His last moments were spent with police officers begging him to reveal the whereabouts of Bennett’s body. A scumbag to the end, Brady took the secret to his grave.
7 Brazil’s President Was Taped Offering To Bribe Witnesses
Right now, Brazil is in the middle of a corruption scandal that threatens to blow all previous scandals out of the water. A third of the government’s cabinet, business hotshots, and many leading lawmakers have already been ensnared in a gigantic anti-graft probe by the Brazilian police.
But President Michel Temer had so far managed to stay clean . . . until yesterday. On Thursday, it was revealed that Temer had been taped discussing how best to bribe witnesses against key allies into staying silent.
Ironically, Temer came to power after he helped get former President Dilma Rousseff impeached during an earlier phase of the scandal. Now it looks like it may well be his turn as the latest revelations sparked major protests across the country.
However, just replacing Temer probably wouldn’t be enough. The new tapes allegedly implicate many other major players in Brazilian politics, suggesting that the already epoch-shaking scandal may yet grow even bigger. Given Brazil’s already high levels of civil unrest and distrust in politics, it’s hard to see how this could end happily.
6 Japan’s Princess Mako Renounced Her Royal Status To Marry A Commoner
After all that corruption and misery, here’s a tale to warm the cockles of your heart. On Thursday, 25-year-old Princess Mako of Japan made a surprise announcement: She was going to renounce her royal status and become a commoner. The Disney-worthy reason? She’d fallen in love with an ordinary man.
Japanese law does not allow royalty to marry commoners. If you meet someone without blue blood and decide you wanna shack up, you need to renounce your royal title first. Although this is unusual, it is not completely unprecedented.
In 2005, then-Princess Sayako married an urban planner for the Tokyo city government, the first time in history that a Japanese royal had voluntarily given up a title. Over a decade later, the couple is still together.
In Princess Mako’s case, she apparently fell for lawyer Kei Komuro while the pair was studying together. They are now due to be wed next year.
5 Chelsea Manning Was Released
Before there was Edward Snowden, there was Chelsea Manning.
In 2010, the low-level intelligence analyst (then known as Bradley Manning) dumped a massive trove of US government data onto WikiLeaks, revealing all sorts of memorably nasty stuff about torture and the Iraq War along with lesser stuff that was simply embarrassing.
While Snowden would later divide US opinion, the public verdict against Manning was pretty damning. She was judged a traitor, found guilty of espionage, and sentenced to 35 years in prison, the longest sentence ever handed out to a leaker.
Since you’re not reading this in 2045, you’re probably wondering what happened. Well, as one of his final acts in office, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to a mere seven years. On Tuesday, the sentence expired and she left prison a free woman.
This is a slightly ironic end to her story as President Obama was one of those driving the crackdown on leakers that sent Manning down for three decades in the first place. She now walks into a world where her legacy is unsettled. Was she a hero or a traitor? We’ll let you guys duke it out in the comments.
4 Iran Embarked On Its Most Important Election In Decades
As you read this, the people of Iran are heading to the polls in a knife-edge election that could shape the Middle East for decades. This might sound strange as Iran isn’t a democracy. Although citizens vote, they’re voting between preselected candidates approved by the Guardian Council and the president remains answerable to the supreme leader.
But Iranian elections are still bellwethers for public opinion. And public opinion is a huge part of determining the most important question of all in Iranian politics: Who will become the next supreme leader?
Ayatollah Khamenei is an old dude. At age 77, the second supreme leader of the Islamic Republic is said to have been receiving treatment for prostate cancer. Whoever wins this election will likely help to select his replacement. That means defining the future of the country in a way that controversial US Supreme Court picks can only dream of.
The challenger to incumbent moderate (by Iranian standards) President Hassan Rouhani is ultra-hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi. If Raisi wins, it’s expected he will become the next supreme leader. Thanks to Iran’s regional clout, this could determine the path of the entire Middle East.
3 The ‘Big One’ Cyberattack Finally Happened
It started with a massive ransomware attack that took Britain’s National Health Service offline, endangering thousands of lives. It ended with companies across the globe nearly collapsing, essential infrastructure going dark, and millions of computers locking out their users. It was the “Big One” cyberattack that experts had been warning about for ages, and it nearly brought the world to its knees.
Known as WannaCry, the bug spread to roughly 100 countries, damaging actors as varied as the Russian Interior Ministry and Spain’s largest telecom provider. By a sheer fluke, a researcher discovered a kill switch hidden in the code and managed to stop its spread before we reached the cyber apocalypse. But the two big stories came when it was revealed who was responsible for developing the tools to create WannaCry and who may have released it: the NSA and North Korea.
WannaCry was made possible by something called EternalBlue, a tool developed by the NSA for breaking into Windows computers. Ironically, hackers broke into the NSA, stole EternalBlue, and released it into the wild. Remember all those politicians a while back insisting you could make an electronic “back door” into any system and only give the good guys the keys? Yeah, this is what happens when you follow that moronic logic.
Although it remains unknown who was behind WannaCry, online security experts at Symantec and Kaspersky have found circumstantial evidence linking it to North Korea. If the Kim regime really is capable of knocking half the world offline, it’s far more frightening than we thought.
2 President Trump Had The Worst Week Of His Presidency
Now we get to the biggest story of the week: the maelstrom of scandals currently swirling around the Trump White House.
It started at the end of last week when President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey, the man who was investigating the Trump administration’s links to Russia. Comey’s ousting sparked a series of follow-up stories that eventually snowballed into a full-on avalanche.
There is so much here that we may accidentally leave something out. In a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Trump allegedly leaked intelligence secrets from a US partner. (Reports initially said Israel, but some are now saying Jordan).
This intel was so sensitive that the partner didn’t even want the US to pass it on to the rest of the Five Eyes network (Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia), let alone Russia.
But this was soon swept away by reports that Trump had personally asked Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into disgraced general and former Trump adviser Michael Flynn. On top of that, it was revealed that the Trump team may have known that Flynn was compromised long before his links to the Russian and Turkish governments became public.
Finally, as we were writing this on Thursday, anonymous sources have stated that members of President Trump’s team had 18 undisclosed contacts with the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign, but that “they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia”. With all this scandal, there was only one possible outcome.
1 An Independent Special Counsel Is Now Overseeing Russian Probe
In retrospect, the worst decision by the White House may have been throwing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein under the bus last week by blaming the Comey firing on him. This week, Rosenstein responded by throwing the administration under the express lane on the interstate by appointing an independent special counsel to investigate the president.
A special counsel is not the same as a special prosecutor. The law allowing the creation of special prosecutors to investigate the president lapsed in 1999 following a slew of investigations into President Bill Clinton that left everyone in Congress dog-tired from the whole shebang.
A special counsel is less independent and can be fired at any time by the attorney general (or in this case, his deputy, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has officially recused himself from the investigation).
Still, this is a major step. It signals that the Department of Justice thinks there is something worth investigating in this whole Russia debacle, whether that something is linked to the president himself or merely to former advisers like Michael Flynn. It’s not Watergate yet, but it certainly has the potential to make the next few months very uncomfortable for the White House.
Our bet? This story is gonna keep rolling for a long, long time.
+ The Murder Of Seth Rich
While the mainstream media busied themselves reporting on their favorite Russian-collusion stories, a very significant event went relatively unreported. A private investigator hired by the family of murdered DNC staffer, Seth Rich, announced that he had discovered evidence that Rich had leaked 400,000 DNC emails to Wikileaks just prior to his murder. Rich’s family have since denounced this news on the advice of the Democratic National Committee lawyer representing them.
Seth was killed with two gunshots to the back while returning home from a bar on July 10, 2016. The police stated that it was a robbery (even though none of Rich’s belongings were taken from him) and the investigation was basically closed. However, many people began to connect the dots when Wikileaks began releasing the Podesta emails shortly after. This, of course, led to claims that another person had joined the Clinton death toll.
The same investigator also said that police and FBI were told to “shut down” the investigation by the Department of Justice headed by Loretta Lynch who met secretly with Bill Clinton during the election campaign.
The Podesta emails revealed that Clinton’s campaign knew there was a leaker in their midst and Podesta went as far as to say that an example must be made of him. Not surprisingly this entire cover up, in conjunction with the recently revealed plans by Podesta and Robby Mook (Hillary’s Campaign manager) to blame Russian interference in the election for their defeat, has given rise to a plethora of new conspiracies surrounding the DNC and the Clintons.
Adding further fuel to this particular fire is the recent claims of Yevgeniy Nikulin, a Russian Hacker, who has said that the FBI offered him money and immunity if he would publicly state that he hacked the DNC on behalf of the Russian government.
There is now a total reward pool of $175,000 for information leading to a conviction for the murderer of Seth Rich.