Due to recent (and ongoing) events, the arrival of The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, by Professor of Ukrainian History Serhii Plokhy, feels about as timely as any history book ever could.
In fact, it's hard to read Plokhy and not gain insight into modern times. For example, he recalls that even around the time of the Soviet Union's collapse, while Russians were basically split over the question of Lithuanian independence, "only 22 percent of Russians favored Ukrainian independence, while almost 60 percent were opposed."
And for those interested in debates over what might be described as pedantic semantics, there's an interesting history on the linguistic debate that took place prior to President George H.W. Bush's visit, over whether or not to refer to Ukraine as The Ukraine:
Jack Matlock [the American ambassador in Moscow], who was shown the text of the speech that Bush was scheduled to deliver later that day in the Ukrainian parliament, protested to one of the speechwriters against the use of the definite article with 'Ukraine.' "Make sure the president leaves out the article. He should just say 'Ukraine.' Ukrainian Americans think the article makes it sound like a geographic area rather than a country." The speechwriter protested, "But we say 'the United States,' don't we?" But Matlock eventually prevailed. His argument was not linguistic but political: If the president says 'the Ukraine,' the White House will be getting thousands of letters and telegrams in protest next week." [The Last Empire]
Interestingly, the speech still managed to cause problems back home, becoming derisively known as the "Chicken Kiev speech." But it had nothing to do with the definite article.
With Russia and Ukraine back in the news, it feels like everything old is new again. Two decades later, Americans are still struggling with the definite article. Matt K. Lewis
Saturday Night Live censured SNL alum Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) over a reporter's allegation that in 2006 he kissed her without her consent and took a picture groping her while she slept. "I know this photo looks bad, but remember: It also is bad," said Colin Jost in a Weekend Update segment on the subject. "And, sure, this was taken before he ran for public office, but it was also taken after he was a sophomore in high school. It's pretty hard to be like, 'Oh, come on. He didn't know any better. He was only 55.'"
Watch the full clip below, and read The Week's Peter Weber on what would happen in a Senate ethics investigation of Franken's conduct, which the senator invited in his second apology statement. Bonnie Kristian
Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party prepared Sunday to remove President Robert Mugabe from office nearly four decades after he first took power in 1980. The decision comes after the Zimbabwean military put Mugabe, 93, and his wife Grace under house arrest earlier this week, prompting thousands of Zimbabweans to take to the streets over the weekend demanding an end to Mugabe's regime.
Zanu-PF has removed Mugabe as party leader and expelled Grace, a would-be successor, from the party as well. Emmerson Mnangagwa, who served as Zimbabwe's vice president until Mugabe fired him this month, was chosen as the new party head. "He has been expelled," one delegate told Reuters. "Mnangagwa is our new leader."
Air Force General John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), on Saturday at a national security conference in Canada said there are circumstances under which he would resist obeying a nuclear strike directive from President Trump.
"I provide advice to the President," Hyten replied to a question about a nuclear order scenario. "He'll tell me what to do, and if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm gonna say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' Guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."
Watch Hyten's comments below, and read about the recent Senate hearing on the president's nuclear strike authority here. Bonnie Kristian
Top general: I'd resist illegal nuclear order from Trump https://t.co/WxOhN3q1So
— POPTOP #tv (@poptopittv) November 19, 2017
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was caught on a hot mic Saturday commenting that the Republican Party is "toast" if it becomes the party of President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, both of whom are subject to multiple serious allegations of sexual misconduct.
Flake was speaking to an Arizona ally, Mesa Mayor John Giles, after a town hall meeting with constituents. "If we become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast," Flake can be heard saying.
"And I am not throwing smoke at you, but you're the guy that could, just for fun — think about how much fun it would be — just to be the foil, you know, and to point out what an idiot this guy is," Giles replied. The mayor appeared to be referring back to a town hall question he asked about Flake running for president in 2020, a reference which would make Trump, rather than Moore, the "idiot" in question. After Giles' comment, a third man made Flake aware his microphone was still on so he could turn it off.
The senator has not been shy about his opposition toward Trump. In October, he announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate in a dramatic speech condemning the president on the Senate floor. Watch Flake's hot mic moment below. Bonnie Kristian
The Pentagon on Friday released data on sexual assault in the military from 2013 to 2016. Reports of sexual assault rose considerably during that time, from 3,604 cases in 2012 to 6,172 in 2016.
However, increased reports does not always mean increased incidents of sexual assault, as the Department of Defense estimates one-half to two-thirds of sexual assaults in the military go unreported. The DoD report argues the total number of sexual assaults actually declined from 2014 to 2016 — from about 20,300 to about 14,900 — even as reports multiplied.
This is not the first time similar data has been collected and published, but it is the first time it has been broken down by base, showing where each assault was reported. Among the bases with higher assault report counts were Norfolk, Virginia, with 270 reports in fiscal year 2016, 211 reports at a collection of bases in South Korea, and 199 at Fort Hood, Texas.
The Argentine navy has been unable to make contact with one of its submarines, a diesel-powered craft carrying 44 crewmembers, since Wednesday, Argentine officials confirmed Saturday. Naval authorities have ordered "all terrestrial communication stations along the Argentine coast to carry out a preliminary and extended search of communications," and the U.S. military is assisting the search with aerial surveillance.
The ARA San Juan has been in service since 1983 and has operated without incident throughout most of that time. It was on a routine trip up the eastern coast of South America to its home port of Mar del Plata when communications capabilities apparently failed without warning. The submarine crew did not send an SOS signal before going silent, and the ship was last seen near the San Jorge Gulf, about halfway through its journey from the southern tip of the continent. Naval policy dictates the sub should surface after spending this much time incommunicado.
The ARA San Juan is due to arrive in Mar del Plata on Sunday. Bonnie Kristian
AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young died Saturday, three years after he was diagnosed with dementia and retired from the band. He was 64. "With enormous dedication and commitment he was the driving force behind the band," said a statement posted on AC/DC's Facebook page. "He took great pride in all that he endeavored. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed."
RIP Malcolm Young
He was the founding member of AC/DC & the engine that roared behind the most powerful band in the world.
He wrote Back In Black, Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long, Highway to Hell, so many songs...
Travel safely to the stars, Malcolm.
— Ryan Adams (@TheRyanAdams) November 18, 2017
Born in Scotland and raised in Australia, Young co-founded AC/DC in 1973 with his brother Angus Young as lead guitarist. "As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special," Angus wrote in the Facebook post. "He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever." Their brother George, who also worked in the music industry, died last month at 70. Bonnie Kristian