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Sunday, Dec 03, 2023 - 00:39 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

When November Ends

If the pause in Twilight Struggle: New Moon since late October was awaiting meaning, it has been found with the passing of Henry Kissinger on November 29, several months after what would be his final visit to Beijing, as analyzed in Action Round 3 of this Turn (and with his Shuttle Diplomacy remembered by the WSJ). As asserted at the beginning of Turn 12 last September, Kissinger's death definitively ends the previous (post-Cold War I) era (and world order), from the yet-unequalled Influence that he wielded in its crafting.

There has surely seldom been as stark of a deviation between (political) elite and populist opinion on any matter, as there has been on Kissinger's legacy; while a bevy of global leaders honoured the former U.S. Secretary of State, with China particularly effusive in their praise - as were our (now-multitasking) President and Prime Minister - the plebs were... far less appreciative. The sentiment of Rolling Stone's headline of Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America's Ruling Class, Finally Dies has found widespread resonance on various subreddits and forums throughout the Internet, and Bloomberg's verdict of "a complex man for a complex century" might make a fair epitaph for "Super K".

Turn 14, Action Round 7 (Team Blue)

Team Blue plays Southeast Asia Scoring, as expected:

ASEAN represent!
(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com)

And let's get to the board situation, without undue delay:

Finely poised...
[Click to enlarge]

Unlike the other regional scoring cards, Southeast Asia Scoring doesn't bother with overall Presence, Domination and Control - perhaps a nod to the ASEAN Way of non-interference in member states' internal affairs, and deliberate lack of (legally) binding mechanisms. Instead, VPs are awarded for Control of individual countries, with six of the seven states worth 1 VP, and 2 VP for the Battleground State of Thailand, referencing its pivotal role in halting the Red advance down south about the Vietnam War era. In terms of present-day ASEAN, Singapore and Brunei are not explicitly represented, with Singapore part of [British] Malay[si]a until 1965, and Brunei only gaining full independence from the British in 1984.

Other than that, Cambodia and Laos are combined into a single entity, which is perhaps not entirely unreasonable given their generally-consistent Alignment, and which is where Kissinger comes in again. His advocacy for the (joint) carpet bombing of the two countries is often considered one of the darkest doings of his career, with Laos becoming the most-bombed country in history with over 270 million cluster munitions dropped there, many of which remain unexploded to the present day. Remarkably, Laos was not even at war with the U.S. then, and the (secret and illegal) CIA bombing campaign was largely to destroy Viet Cong supply lines, which failed anyway. This might or might not explain their settling in the Red camp, then.

With the additional Stability assigned to Vietnam and Indonesia, neither country are under Control of the superpowers as yet, and this leaves Burma and the Philippines to cancel each other out, for a net 1 VP to Team Red.

The long red V
(Source: nlb.gov.sg)

As the Teams file out for a deserved break before the next Turn, we might as well add some commentary on regional history. It is perhaps not very well-known nowadays that Southeast Asia had been carved up by two external (colonial) powers as recently as the nineteenth century. Decades before the French claimed Laos/Cambodia, the British and Dutch had contracted a treaty in 1824 (soon after Singapore's founding), which basically assigned (Peninsular) Malaysia and Singapore to the British sphere of influence, and Indonesia to the Dutch. Another attempt to divvy up the region in Cold War II should not be counted out, then, and has arguably been tried by Team Blue already with the IPEF from last May - which is however sadly crumbling due to America's continued reluctance to grant actual trade concessions, probably as they want to get something concrete (and enforcable) against the Reds, out of the deal.

The recent revival in interest on a Taiwan blockade has only reemphasized the geopolitical importance of the Strait of Malacca, and with the last and possibly the greatest of the original Cold War I 中国通 deceased, there may no longer be anyone of Kissinger's stature able to bridge the gap between the two main players. Xi's supposed reconciliation with Biden at APEC, where he again wined and dined American business doyens, surely did little to assure their strategic set that he was not simply looking to run the U.S. down on the economic clock, as expounded on at the beginning of this Turn. Well, if it's any consolation, there happens to be a newly-available opening for Grandmaster of The Greatest Game...

As was long foretold
[N.B. With Chinese fentanyl exports to the U.S., U.S. instigation in Hong Kong, China's potential human wave immigration tactic, and even coordination in "population control" (ahem pandemic), have all been duly* predicted, alongside some sniggering at the attempted assassination of Chen Shui-bian]
[*Easy riddle: what do the white and black cats reference here?]
(Source: manhuagui.com)

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Monday, Nov 27, 2023 - 23:14 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Three Million

It's been almost a month since the last post, just like that, and this humble blog's passed three million pageviews in that time. Nothing very impressive in this age of billion-hits-in-three-months YouTube sensations and influencer simp/粉丝 farming, one supposes, but still not too bad for an essentially unfindable (through search engines) and unadvertised outlet.

I suppose I could throw out minor involvements in summit organization as a mitigating factor, but that would be mostly an excuse; but in the spirit of shared (dilettante) research from the event, let's return to blogging with a couple of ideas:

Long Look At Short Sight

Myopia treatment had been last discussed in some depth here some two years ago, from what I can recall, and Monday's Garnagol has inspired some follow-up observations, given that entry's announcement of Ronaldo (alas). In the meantime, new interventions such as Japanese "smart glasses" to possibly slow progression have been introduced, but with actual reversal still out of reach, there has been continued emphasis on preventing myopia (progression) in kids locally. The latest development from a week or so ago has seen NUS link up with the Technical University of Munich, to optimize (ultraviolet) light exposure for schoolchildren (and the elderly, although to improve sleep quality/mood in their case), to reduce myopia rates.

Personally, despite the recent focus on (sun)light levels, I remain curious about the contribution of eyeball focus, which one supposes is an independent (if correlated) factor. In other words, if a child regularly exercises his focus by alternating between looking at close objects and faraway ones (i.e. about the horizon), instead of being glued to TikTok etc., would this be sufficient to mitigate myopia even given poor (sun)light conditions? There might be room for natural experiments in this end, with one more-obvious population possibly being Eskimos/Inuit, who might linger under long polar nights for weeks or months on end.

A cursory search of the literature reports extremely low rates of myopia for Inuit about a century ago (elders, from a 1975 paper), however with significantly increased prevalence in Inuit youngsters already noted some fifty years back. Interestingly, this prevalence was noted to be especially pronounced in females, which the authors suggest indicates an environmental and not genetic cause - in particular, school attendance (with male Inuit youngsters tending to go about hunting instead)

Given this, an emphasis on (sun)light exposure might possibly be reconsidered, especially if interpreted as "sitting outdoors but still watching videos on the smartphone". Indeed, it seems that myopia is nearly nonexistent amongst present-day hunter-gatherers, whom one would expect to spend much of their day scanning the prairie, or at least potential animal hiding places, at various distances. Well, it would sure be nice if there were evidence from populations with relatively low (UV/sun)light exposure, but high habitual eyeball focus/accommodation exercising, to properly disentangle the contribution of these two factors - which seems lacking in some prior literature.

In Such A Bind

Perhaps I'll make a fool of myself for misinterpretation or not keeping up with latest theory here, but what the heck. It's been a few years since I last attended linguistics classes, but some random surfing had me back at Wikipedia's Poverty of the stimulus page, and its Binding theory example in particular. To save a click, I will reproduce the section here:

  1. While he was dancing, the Ninja Turtle ate pizza.
  2. He ate pizza while the Ninja Turtle was dancing.
In general, pronouns can refer to any prominent individual in the discourse context. However, a pronoun cannot find its antecedent in certain structural positions, as defined by the Binding Theory. For example, the pronoun "he" can refer to the Ninja Turtle in (1) but not (2), above. Given that speech to children does not indicate what interpretations are impossible, the input is equally consistent with a grammar that allows coreference between "he" and "the Ninja Turtle" in (2) and one that does not. But, since all speakers of English recognize that (2) does not allow this coreference, this aspect of the grammar must come from some property internal to the learner.

As background, Poverty of the stimulus (POS) is Chomsky's theory (dating from 1959) that since children are not exposed to rich enough (speech) data to acquire every feature of their language (i.e. their knowledge is underdetermined), there is some inborn biological human universal grammar that allows them to (consistently) infer the correct structure, where multiple grammatical interpretations are possible. In the Binding theory example above, the argument is that everyone understands that for sentence (1), "he" can refer to either the Ninja Turtle or some other person (turtle?), while for sentence (2) the initial "He" must be a different entity than the Ninja Turtle referenced later in the sentence.

However, is it really true that no data D distinguishes the target grammar from all other grammar consistent with the input, for this (binding) pattern?

Given that humans (often?) learn (their first?) language via visual correspondence (e.g. actual people/turtles, dolls, comics, etc.), it does not seem immediately clear that children never employ the wrong usage of (2) (i.e. expect "He" to refer to the Ninja Turtle) while acquiring the language, before eventually converting to the expected usage on (repeated?) correction. Did Chomsky (or other POS supporters) have a (complete) transcribed corpus of toddler speech in making this assertion, one wonders; certainly at least some preschool English teachers might scoff at the grammaticality of their charges? Well, from current trends, one might perhaps train a not-so-large language model (NSLLM) with deliberately-impoverished stimuli/data, and see what (grammar) we get!

Introducing The Latest Hamsters

Right before surprise grooming
[N.B. Don't worry, Mr. Robo is used to it. Mostly.]

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Friday, Oct 27, 2023 - 19:44 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Intra-Round Obit

In this lull in the Twilight Struggle, let us commemorate China's sidelined former Number Two, a reformer who left the stage - and the world - all too soon.

这是一部虚构的作品。 名称、人物、企业、地点和事件要么是作者想象的产物,要么是以虚构的方式使用的。 与真实的人(活着的或死的)或真实事件的任何相似之处纯属巧合。

(Sources: manhuagui.com, channelnewsasia.com)

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Wednesday, Oct 25, 2023 - 19:31 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Return To Saigon

There's a brief technical update scheduled before the final Action Round of the Turn begins, in which we should see Southeast Asia Scoring by Team Blue next. This involves the upgrading of Stability status for Vietnam and Indonesia, who both go from 1 to 2 Stability, reflecting their heightened geopolitical maturity since the Cold War I era. This update is further deemed as ex post facto, which legitimizes previous Influence placement for 1 Ops in Vietnam by Team Red, in Turn 12, Action Round 6. A Chinese foreign ministry official tries to sneak in a few more lines with his permanent marker in the South China Sea as part of the process, but is rebuffed.

Turn 14, Action Round 7 (Team Red)

Team Red plays Vietnam Revolts for 2 Ops.

Last time, you got One Stability, now - Two Stability!
(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, ketv.com)

1 Ops: Team Red attempts Realignment in Indonesia (2/2), despite Team Blue having Control of the adjacent Philippines (5/2), with the other neighbour Malaysia (1/2) not under Control of either Team yet. Despite Team Blue having a +1 modifier, Team Red gets a 5, while Team Blue manages only a 3, resulting in the latter losing 1 Influence in Indonesia (now back to 1/2) from the move.

Ongoing territorial disputes aside, disagreements between Indonesia and China have perhaps been oversold, with Indonesia long viewing themselves as a natural core player in the Global South/Third World - as exemplified by their hosting of the Bandung Conference in 1955 towards coalescing the Non-Aligned Movement - and probably also ASEAN. Recent months have seen China pour yet more billions into the archipelagic state, in particular a US$7 billion high-speed rail between Jakarta and Bandung, which has been seen as outgoing President Joko Widodo's legacy, alongside the relocation of the capital from Jakarta to Nusantara, in which heavy Chinese involvement is also expected.

The ongoing multi-angled cooperation has in turn seen Indonesia consistently peddle China's official line with respect to opposing a new Cold War, which clearly has to severely stymie Team Blue/America's increasingly unsubtle efforts to "contain" China in the region and elsewhere. While the popular Jokowi is likely not about to try and overturn Presidential term limits to stay in power, all signs are that the post may be staying amongst family and friends in true Southeast Asian kampung spirit, with Jokowi's son Gibran now a (not-so-)surprise vice-presidential candidate for populist right-wing Defence Minister Prabowo, in the upcoming elections.

Well, this... forward thinking, when considered together with the not-overly-covert actions by both Teams to "secure" friendly leaders in relevant countries, brings to mind an old adage to describe how the (globalist) Establishment has dealt with populist movements and other resistance thus far: if you have the judiciary on your side, bang the judiciary; if you have the legislative on your side, bang the legislative; if you have the (social) media on your side, bang the media; if you have none of those, bang bang bang (Coup)!

No hard feelings there*
(Source: archive.4plebs.org)

1 Ops: Team Red attempts Realignment in Vietnam (2/2), having Control of Laos/Cambodia (0/4), with Thailand (2/1) up for grabs. They manage only a 2 this time, however, with Team Blue rolling a 4, and Team Red loses 1 Influence in Vietnam instead (now 2/1)!

Biden's folksy rambling in Vietnam - in which his microphone got cut off by his own handlers - has nevertheless had an impact, as the U.S. upgraded their Vietnam ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, putting the Americans on equal footing with Team Red duo China and Russia on that end. The visit also saw the customary denial of a new Cold War by POTUS, as Vietnam continues to hedge against China, as they have notably previously done with India and Russia.

The French involvement in Vietnam had been briefly touched upon in Action Round 3 on Decolonization, and we might as well explore their relationship with America a little more here, towards their ultimately-successful bid for independence against Western occupation, as shown in Vietnam Revolts. The end of World War II saw Vietnamese leader (and longtime American admirer) Ho Chi Minh repeatedly petition then-POTUS Harry Truman, but this case evidently didn't meet the U.S.A. definition of "freedom" then. Undeterred, Ho went to Team Red instead, and have stayed such to the present day.

Interestingly, despite the damage that the U.S.A. wrought in what was in hindsight probably an(other) unnecessary (and possibly unjust) war, the Vietnamese don't seem to bear that much of a grudge in general, which might be partly down to the more-persistent threat posed by their northern neighbours. Vietnam's part in Cold War I would continue with their involvement in Cambodia in 1978 ostensibly to end Pol Pot's genocide there, the description of which got a little dicey a few years back, when our Prime Minister (technically accurately, IMHO) called it an "invasion" on Facebook.

From Singapore's perspective, a firm posture against outside regime change (i.e. Coups) has ever been a guiding security principle, together with the sanctity of international norms and laws (and a bit of profit) - over and above humanitarian considerations. China's "wolf warrior diplomacy" has perhaps not served them well in their ASEAN interactions, then, and it remains to be seen whether a shift to soft power mode will work out for them, in The Greatest Game!

[*The staunch Vietnamese support for GEOTUS, even after his stepping down, was probably to a large extent due to his principled conscientious objection to the tragic conflict. The future leader of the free world would instead courageously wage a very private and personal Vietnam, emulating Lennon in the spreading of love and not war. But seriously, was he wrong?]

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Tuesday, Oct 24, 2023 - 17:21 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert


We return after a short - and needed - breather, to find Team Red conspicuously absent from the vicinity, as Team Blue limbers up to play their next card.

Turn 14, Action Round 6 (Team Blue)

Team Blue plays Olympic Games for its Event.

That'll teach them!
[N.B. Le French possibly annoyed at their Tricolour getting disassembled and converted into Russian ones, in their former African colonies]
(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, youtube.com)

Bloc members skipping meetings thought too Dominated by the other Team is something of a formality in The Greatest Game, and this has seen Team Red bigwigs China and Russia give September's G20 summit a pass - with the Team Blue Anglos having done the same against Russia last year. Such snubbing is perhaps most pointed when it comes to the Olympic Games, which have been meant to supersede conflicts (in theory, at least) since antiquity. Cold War I would see both Team leaders ignore the expected truce, however, with the U.S.A. and 65 other nations boycotting the 1980 edition in Moscow, which brought a retaliatory boycott by the U.S.S.R. and fourteen Red states, of the next Games in Los Angeles. This would be tried again for Beijing's Winter Olympics in 2022 ostensibly in support of Tibet, Taiwan and the Uyghurs, which however largely failed, from the participant count.

Attendances and abstentions from global fora will likely be regarded as an indication of a bloc's support in Cold War II, with Putin's movements greatly curtailed due to his ICC arrest warrant, and Russian athletes having their representative flag banned at many sporting events since their invasion of Ukraine - a prohibition that seems to be gradually weakening. A Russia/Belarus no-show might again be happening for the next Olympics in Paris next year, with the International Olympic Committee not inviting the two countries, although individual Russian athletes might yet participate as neutrals.

The Control of established international organizations - especially the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Criminal Court etc., and their associated rules - remains an arena where Team Blue has a legacy advantage, and one that is increasingly bitterly resented by Team Red and Team Grey (mostly the Global South). The disproportionate Team Blue Dominance of the World Bank/IMF by voting share compared to actual present-day financial heft, together with the unspoken rule for the World Bank head to be an American and the IMF's to be European, has only encouraged Team Red/Grey "outsiders" to grow their own alternatives (e.g. the Asian/BRICS Development Banks)

It do be like that
(Source: mangakakalot.com)

Team Red decides to Boycott, seeing little alternative, and DEFCON falls to 2, with Team Blue now having 4 Ops to deploy:

3 Ops: +1 Influence in India (4/4), +1 Influence in Saudi Arabia (4/4), +1 Influence in Gulf States (4/4). Knowing the above, the just-concluded IMF/World Bank meet has seen Team Blue leaders the U.S.A. aim to expand their lending capacity to counter China's growing economic Influence, and this general thrust is being further buttressed by the unveiling of a direct competitor to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

The Memorandum of Understanding for the IMEC would be signed at the boycotted G20 summit in mid-September, with Team Blue core players the U.S.A., France and Germany roping in key Battleground States India and Italy (who have pulled off the old switcheroo once more, it seems), together with the recently-wavering Gulf States (via the UAE). Israel, whose Port Haifa will be a critical rail terminus on the corridor, was not officially represented, but their inclusion is easily recognized as part of America's plan to Stabilize the Middle East region, through the normalization of ties between them and the Sauds.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in France (4/5). As shown in the card itself, France can't be too amused by Russia's hand in the breaking-apart of their African rump empire, which has seen Macron gradually swing back towards the rest of Western Europe, to align closer with the Blues. They're now blaming their bedbug panic on Russian FAKE NEWS, in a sign of the times.

We have a question from the audience: shouldn't Team Blue have to play their revealed Southeast Asia Scoring card? To this, the answer is that Turns have seven Action Rounds after the third Turn - so no worries: we'll see it soon enough!

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Saturday, Oct 21, 2023 - 21:43 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

To The Last Of Us

It's back to the Reds after that little peek behind the curtain, and a normal-sized green man places the card:

Turn 14, Action Round 6 (Team Red)

Team Red plays Solidarity for 2 Ops; since "John Paul II Elected Pope" is not in effect, the Event is not triggered, and the card goes to the discard pile.

So ronery...
(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, hindustantimes.com)

Misleading as the viral photo of Zelensky standing alone at July's NATO Summit - after some exposure locally - might have been, the Ukrainian President does face an uphill battle in keeping Team Blue hangers-on united towards his cause, in the face of competing global trends. Brusquely thrust onto the biggest stage of all in February 2022, the former comedian became an unlikely superstar on the European political circuit, and his carefully-curated olive green fatigues have since been omnipresent in the Team Blue media space.

On the ground, however, it has been quite a different story, with there being barely any change in territory occupied by the opposing belligerents, since the start of 2023. These hard facts might be disconcerting for the fine common folk, who have been bombarded with headlines lauding Ukraine's many victories against the Russian orcs, in their long-awaited righteous counteroffensive - which, as it turns out, has not quite budged the frontlines, despite persistent and at times extremely imaginative efforts by the Team Blue media to put a positive spin on their (non-)progress.

While reiterating that Russia's invasion of a sovereign state is unequivocally wrong, the presentation of this stalemate as not actually being one, is easily understood - from the beginning of it all, it had to be known that Ukraine's fate would rest on outside support, given their insignificant production capacity, and said outside support in turn depended on political will - and public opinion in the benefactor countries. Were the general mood to be that Ukraine had no real hopes of prevailing, so the thinking goes, further (military) aid would no longer be as forthcoming, and pressure towards a negotiated settlement - involving some loss of Ukrainian land - increased.

This loss of interest is doubtless what Team Red elements have been counting on, and repeated assurances of continued commitment by America and certain European nations aside, memories of previous broken promises in Afghanistan, Syria, Vietnam etc. - all non-core U.S. interests eventually deemed to have become too costly to be worth it - will have to haunt Zelensky, the lack of interest in the Global South besides. It's tough to see NATO getting themselves involved at this point, unfortunately for Ukraine, and there has been some perceived ungratefulness on their part on insufficient weapons being provided. Best not have another conflict diverting arms, then...

1 Ops: +1 Influence in India (3/4). If Team Blue/America were hoping that their Cold War I tactic of setting one Asian giant against another would do the trick again, the mid-September spat between Canada and India might suggest otherwise. Then, Trudeau would up and accuse India of assassinating Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh activist, in June. Bearing in mind that India has denied involvement, the killing if true has been noted to be technically more serious than the Khashoggi case from a diplomatic perspective, since it represents a foreign subject being murdered on his own soil.

Wider Team Blue/Anglo involvement would come into play with Canada presenting evidence drawn from the communications of Indian diplomats, and the presumed eavesdropping under Five Eyes auspices could not have endeared them to India, who appear of the opinion that while they did not take Nijjar out, he was a designated terrorist anyway. Granted, the death of one man was never likely to swing bloc-level strategy, with key Canadian allies initially reluctant to back them on this.

However, the unexpected conflict does still remind that India were never going to play ball all that nicely with the Blues, and that as the most-populous nation on Earth with over 1.4 billion souls, India will have their own pride and ambitions - which may well soon extend to overhauling the U.S. too. Neither party is backing down, with India expelling 41 Canadian diplomats and the Anglos closing rank with (somewhat ironic) charges levelled over Indian spies infiltrating the West. The way it's going, it might not be long before their diaspora gets targeted too à la Japan in the 1980s, or China today.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Gulf States (3/4). Team Red continues their prying of Middle Eastern states from the Blue camp, with the United Arab Emirates withdrawing from the U.S.-led Combined Maritime Forces security coalition, notably soon after signing up with Iran, India, Saudi Arabia and a few others in their own naval alliance. New era, indeed...

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Friday, Oct 20, 2023 - 22:22 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

I Do Suppose So

Then shalt thou count to five, no more, no less. Five shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be five.

Team Blue appears otherwise engaged, but they have still gone through the effort to add some levity to the proceedings, after the sombre - and stifling - presentation by the Reds last turn; I do hope those AK-47s were props! An actor in full crusader knight getup has got to be so much more engaging in contrast, even if chainmail gauntlets aren't exactly made for handling flimsy cardboard cards. We can't quite make out what he's saying as he struggles to flip the card over, but it sounds like "Ni", which seems like a rejection of assistance... ah, there!

Turn 14, Action Round 5 (Team Blue)

Team Blue plays The Bulgarian Five for 2 Ops, resolving the Event after Ops.

Zero marks for originality here
(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, independent.co.uk)

Uh, we seem to have seen this before... yup, back in April as The Compromised Five, in Turn 13, Action Round 5 - which happens to be the number of this Action Round too.

You've heard the story before, then: a ring of five spies based in the United Kingdom - the Greater London area, to be exact - that passed information to Russia during the Cold War. Our doughty cosplayer fidgets under his heavy armour - I don't think there's even much to add - so we will spare him his discomfort, and get on with the Ops pronto:

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Bulgaria (1/1). Team Red's successful maybe-Coup had been reported in Turn 11, Action Round 2 back last July, but the ingrained Russian Influence in Bulgaria has been wavering in recent times, with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church expelled in September on espionage charges, which has been followed by their charging hefty transit fees on Russian gas bound for the Red-friendly Hungary (1/3) and Serbia [Yugoslavia] (0/2).

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Pakistan (3/2). Team Blue really, really wants Pakistan locked into their camp, it seems, as ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan remains in jail despite the High Court overturning his previous conviction in August, with the latest charge against him now being his allegation that the U.S. State Department had "encouraged" the Pakistani government to remove him back in March 2022, over his visit to Russia and subsequent hints at neutrality over Ukraine.

Towards this accusation, Khan brandished a diplomatic "cipher" as evidence, which has seen him fall foul of the Official Secrets Act - which seems like the go-to denunciation by deep state globalist establishments against populist leaders these days. Then again, we did point out how "one can only try to play both sides to a certain extent, especially when things get real" as the Event unfolded live last March, so no surprises for us here either. The Americans don't seem very concerned at an elected Prime Minister being detained by a military-backed kangaroo court in this case, so maybe this isn't one of the autocracies that they're interested in reforming, as the more Team Blue-aligned Nawaz Sharif returns to the fray.

The Event now resolves, and a helpful assistant riffles through the remaining cards in hand for a grateful crusader, exposing Southeast Asia Scoring as required by the rules text. Given this, Team Red adds 1 Influence to Laos/Cambodia (now 0/4), with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen passing his position on to his son, after 38 years in charge (and without the pretense of a seatwarmer, as in the local case). Hun Manet has indicated that their China policy will remain unchanged, and Xi might well be up for some tips instead, on extending his tenure.

Our official business dispensed with, let's duck into the backstage area, for some juicy behind-the-scenes histrionics! We have the show's producer - garbed in Illuminati dress - berating the director, on the sheer laziness of this Action Round's narrative; five Russian spies in London, indeed! His high school drama club could do better, he says. The director defensively responds that he couldn't do anything, all his writers were on strike. Then just use ChatGPT instead, do I have to teach you how to do everything, the producer screams. Participants from both Teams eventually restrain the duo from coming to blows, thankfully, and the issue is settled with the director ordered to attend remedial creative writing classes.

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