Saturday, the 2nd of September
DEEP DIVE
The media's anglo-centric bias again came into sharp relief this week as the loss of lives and property in Houston dominated the news despite the far greater desolation of lives, homes, crops and infrastructure south of the Himalayas.

It's difficult even to comprehend the sheer scale of the floods following South Asia's worst monsoon in decades. 41 million people have been displaced, and more than a 1,200 are dead.
Hundreds of villages have been lost in the subcontinent.
The heaviest monsoonal rains were late to arrive in Mumbai this year but were also particularly severe. India's financial capital has been hammered in recent weeks and water levels in some areas have risen by several feet. A huge effort is underway to evacuate numerous low-lying areas, but the going has been slow.

The deluge brought down a four-storey building on Thursday, killing at least 33 people. Rescue workers used mechanical diggers through the night to sift through the wreckage of the 117-year-old structure in Mumbai's crowded Bhendi Bazaar area. There have also been at least 10 more lives lost due to the floods in Mumbai. 

Across India at least 30 million people have been affected by weeks of downpour. Readers will remember that a fortnight ago we wrote about the scale of damage in India's downtrodden Bihar state. Fortunately, the embankments protecting Bihar's floodplains continue to hold. Despite that, more than 500 people have already lost their lives. Train lines and highways in Bihar have been washed away, isolating the northeastern territories from the rest of India. And still the violently overflowing Brahmaputra river continues to wreak havoc.

Further downstream the riverine marshes and deltas of Bangladesh remain completely inundated. At best guess some 10,000 hectares of farmland have been lost and another 60,000 have been damaged. But until the floodwaters recede it's impossible to know just how bad the damage is.

The tremendous blow is one that Bangladesh can scarcely withstand. The nation's farmers were already playing catch up before the monsoon struck; flash floods in April had wiped out an estimated one million tonnes of rice stock. Bangladesh is no newcomer to flooding, but this year's scale and intensity makes 2017 the worst year it has had in the last thirty.

Back in the States, a street-by-street search is underway across greater Houston as the tropical storm formerly known as Hurricane Harvey now dumps rain across neighbouring Louisiana.

Texas has been pummelled for the past week by a truly unique weather event as Harvey escalated from a Category 1 to a Category 4 hurricane in less than a day. It dumped so much rain on Texas that Houston eventually became an extension of the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane essentially started to feed itself. 

The cleanup costs will undoubtedly come in at tens, if not hundreds, of billions. 45 people are known to have died and that toll too will rise. Worryingly, Houston is also home to a large number of America's refineries, chemical manufacturers, and 75% of US production of Ethylene - the world's most important chemical. At Arkema Inc.'s chemical plant 6-foot-deep floodwaters led to a series of explosions. Now noxious fumes and the disruption of manufacturing across the world are two more concerns to add to that list.

And that's not it for bad weather. Over the past two days Hurricane Irma has been intensifying rapidly over the Atlantic. It is now classified as a Category 3 hurricane and is likely to strengthen even further as it heads towards the Caribbean islands and the US in the coming week. 

We're still not done. In the West Africa nation of Niger at least 40 people have perished this rainy season. The capital Niamey has been particularly hard hit and hundreds of homes along the River Niger have been washed away. Dirt roads have been turned into vast mud pools rendering vehicle transport highly difficult. It's a grim reminder of last year's deadly flash-floods. In May the United Nations warned that as many as 100,000 were at risk of serious danger as the wet season approached.

For anyone who doesn't think our climate is changing these events must pose a truly remarkable coincidence.
 
WORLDLYWISE
A sentence has been handed down, although it's unclear whether justice was done.
Bhutto slaying verdict - The most controversial Pakistani trial this century has ended with former junta boss Pervez Musharraf being found culpable for the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan's anti-terrorism court declared the self-exiled Musharraf a fugitive for his role in the 2007 suicide attack in Rawalpindi. Two high-ranking police officials were also handed severe sentences for failing to secure the event and for fudging the investigation afterwards.

Bhutto had twice served as the PM of Pakistan, and her second term in the 1990s was marred by allegations of corruption and violence. She absconded and spent several years in self-imposed exile in Dubai while corruption charges against her continued to mount back home. She finally returned to Pakistan in 2007 when Musharraf, the coup-leader-cum-president, granted her permission to run in the 2008 elections. But at a crowded campaign rally in Rawalpindi, Bhutto was shot by assailants who also set off suicide-belts, killing 24 others.

Although the attack had been claimed by Al Qaeda at the time, many believed that Pakistan's shadowy ISI spies and the local Taliban had conspired in the slaying. In the years that followed, the trial was dogged by controversy. The chief prosecutor himself was assassinated and a total of eight judges have since heard the case. More outrage followed in 2016 when Musharraf, under trial himself by then, was allowed to travel to Dubai where he predictably decided that he would not return to Pakistan. 
Jimmy Morales lost an important fight this week.
Morales spurned - This week Guatemala's top court forced an embarrassing about-face from its leader. Just last weekend President Jimmy Morales had set tongues wagging by announcing that the top UN anti-corruption official in the country was persona non grata and by demanding his expulsion. However, this week the Supreme Court blocked the expulsion and its decision was also upheld later in the week by the powerful Constitutional Court. 

It seems like Morales might have been tying to head-off investigations into himself and his family by Guatemala's Internal Commission Against Impunity (known by its Spanish acronym CICIG). The president has been accused of breaking campaign finance laws, and his brother and son have already been arrested.

The irony of the present situation is lost on no one because Morales was elected in 2015 on an anti-corruption platform after his predecessor Otto Perez Molina was toppled and jailed for corruption. CICIG was also instrumental in that investigation.

Morales also couldn't have picked a worse target. The man in question is Ivan Velasquez, a Colombian prosecutor who is by all intents and purposes above reproach. Velasquez cut his teeth investigating the torture and extrajudicial killings of civilians at the hands of Colombia's army during the war against FARC. He was a key contributor to what would become the hugely damaging Parapolitca scandal that linked members of congress to murderous paramilitary units.
 
TRUMPETER
Insiders describe the president's worsening moods.
1. Trump visited flood-struck Texas
2. He pardoned Arpaio’s racial profiling
3. He ousted Bannon-ally Gorka from the WH
4. Concerns about Trump’s mental health grew
5. Border wall contracts went up for bids 
6. NAFTA talks were resumed
7. US 2nd qtr GDP grew fastest in two years
8. Illegal immigrants’ kids may be deported
9. Tillerson further shook up the State Dept
10. More Trump-Moscow links emerged
 
THE BEST OF TIMES...
This is great.
4th century find - Divers have discovered over 20 hectares of Roman ruins off the coast of Tunisia this week. Well preserved streets, monuments, and even a multitude of fermentation tanks. The find furthers the notion that the ancient outpost of Neapolis was lost in a tsunami after a tidal wave rocketed around the Mediterranean in 365 CE. 

Parkinson's breakthrough - A team of Japanese researchers have been astounded by the potential for a new type of stem-cell therapy to treat Parkinson's disease. Monkeys with an artificially-induced form of the debilitating disease showed a 50% improvement in motor skills after stem cells replaced their diminishing mid-brain cells. The treatment will progress to human trials in the very near future. 
 
THE WORST OF TIMES...
What do you do when the nurse is trying to kill you?
What Hippocratic oath? Two years ago a German nurse made headlines when he was jailed for the murder of two patients. That body count has now exploded to at least 84 victims after authorities investigated unusual deaths at every hospital that Niels Hoegel worked at. Terrifying stuff.

Assad's prisons - A recent report on the prisons of Bashar al-Assad's intelligence bureaus has shed horrifying light on the barbarism inflicted in them. Repeated rapes, torture, disease, starvation. It is worth your attention if only to know more about the tactics of a regime that the world cannot or will not punish. 
 
P.S.
Your weekend long read... No preamble needed for this one. A Financial Times gem on the threat of unethical robots. A bonus Maximum Overdrive reference.

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