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Choi Soon-sil has been sentenced to three years in prison over a case which brought down the president.

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East Timor police capture two foreigners who escaped from Bali’s Kerobokan Prison by using a tunnel.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled legislation that would replace Obamacare with a plan that scales back aid to the poor and kills a tax on the wealthy, but the bill’s fate was quickly thrown into question as several senators voiced skepticism.

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SEOUL (Reuters) – The friend of former South Korean leader Park Geun-hye who was at the center of an influence-peddling scandal that rocked the country’s business and political elite has been sentenced to three years in jail, the Yonhap news agency reported on Friday.

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QUITO (Reuters) – Britain is interested in finding a solution to the standoff that has led to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for five years, the foreign minister of the South American country said on Thursday.

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto asked the attorney general’s office on Thursday to investigate charges the government spied on private citizens, saying he wanted to get to the bottom of the accusations that he called “false.”

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In a country where bikes are either a poor man’s transportation or a weekend workout for spandex-clad racers, the longest and most highly engineered network of car-free paths in the world is being built through dense evergreen forests, down wildflower-lined river valleys and over steep mountain crests.

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Enrique Peña Nieto says his government did not use spyware against journalists, lawyers and activists.

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They call it the “grill”: The victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun furiously within a circle of fire.

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How a 61-year-old farmer embodies Uganda’s welcoming attitude to South Sudanese refugees.

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CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan troops on Thursday fired what appeared to be rubber bullets at protesters as they attacked the perimeter of an airbase, and a demonstrator was killed, bringing the death toll to at least 76 in unrest since April.

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The story of performers who are saving a traditional theatre art form in the age of smart-phones.

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CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan troops on Thursday fired what appeared to be rubber bullets at protesters as they attacked the perimeter of an airbase, and a demonstrator was killed, bringing the death toll to at least 76 in unrest since April.

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Kuwait has handed Qatar a list of demands from the Arab states boycotting it, Al Jazeera television said quoting sources.

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(Reuters) – A U.S. district court judge in Michigan has temporarily blocked the deportations of more than 100 Iraqi nationals until a decision is reached over who has jurisdiction over the matter, according to court documents filed on Thursday.

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NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is expected to approve India’s purchase of a naval variant of the Predator drone, a source familiar with the situation said, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi tries to revitalize relations with Washington when he meets President Donald Trump for the first time.

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BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday it has the right to reject plea bargains made in corruption probes, potentially undercutting investigations that have threatened President Michel Temer’s government, prosecutors said. A majority of the court said plea bargains, such as those made by dozens of executives at the world’s largest meatpacker JBS SA and construction firm Odebrecht [ODBES.UL], could be evaluated by the full court and rejected if they rule that a state’s w

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The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 6.8 earthquake has hit off Guatemala’s Pacific coast.

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The secret of how a healthy young American ended up in a coma in a North Korean jail may have gone with him to the grave.

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A key part of reducing the number of Ebola deaths was ensuring safe burials, research says.

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The Chilean equivalent of the FBI has declassified World War II-era files that show Nazi agents in the South American country’s main port of Valparaiso plotted to destroy the Panama Canal.

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A recent headline in The Atlantic (6/9/17) earnestly pondered if the US was “Getting Sucked Into More War in Syria.” “Even as Washington potentially stumbles into war…” was how the article’s discussion began.

One of the most common tropes in US media is that the US military always goes to war reluctantly—and, if there are negative consequences, like civilian deaths, it’s simply a matter of bumbling around without much plan or purpose.

This framing serves to flatter two sensibilities: one right and one vaguely left. It satisfies the right-wing nationalist idea that America only goes to war because it’s compelled to by forces outside of its own control; the reluctant warrior, the gentle giant who will only attack when provoked to do so. But it also plays to a nominally liberal, hipster notion that the US military is actually incompetent and boobish, and is generally bad at war-making.

This is expressed most clearly in the idea that the US is “drawn into” war despite its otherwise unwarlike intentions. “Will US Be Drawn Further Into Syrian Civil War?” asked Fox News (4/7/17). “How America Could Stumble Into War With Iran,” disclosed The Atlantic (2/9/17), “What It Would Take to Pull the US Into a War in Asia,” speculated Quartz (4/29/17). “Trump could easily get us sucked into Afghanistan again,” Slate predicted (5/11/17). The US is “stumbling into a wider war” in Syria, the New York Times editorial board (5/2/15) warned. “A Flexing Contest in Syria May Trap the US in an Endless Conflict,” Vice News (6/19/17) added.

Sliding,” “stumbling,” ”sucked into,” “dragged into,” ”drawn into”: The US is always reluctantly—and without a plan—falling backward into bombing and occupying. The US didn’t enter the conflict in Syria in September 2014 deliberately; it was forced into it by outside actors. The US didn’t arm and fund anti-Assad rebels for four years to the tune of $1 billion a year as part of a broader strategy for the region; it did so as a result of some unknown geopolitical dark matter.

Reuters: White House says it retains right to self-defense in Syria; Moscow warns Washington

Note that “self-defense” here means shooting down a plane flying over another country because it’s trying to bomb forces that you’re supporting to try to overthrow that country’s government. (Reuters, 6/19/17)

Syria especially evokes the media’s “reluctantly sucked into war” narrative. Four times in the past month, the Trump administration has attacked pro-regime forces in Syria, and in all four instances they’ve claimed “self-defense.” All four times, media accepted this justification without question (e.g., Reuters, 6/19/17), despite not a single instance of “self-defense” attacks occurring under two-and-a-half years of the Obama administration fighting in Syria. (The one time Obama directly attacked Syrian government forces, the US claimed it was an accident.)

Why the sudden uptick in “self-defense”? Could it be because, as with the bombing of ISIS (and nearby civilians), Trump has given a green light to his generals to adopt an itchy trigger finger? Could it be Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has a decades-long grudge against Iran, want to blow up Iranian drones and kill Iranian troops? No such questions are entertained, much less interrogated. The US’s entirely defensive posture in Syria is presented as fact and serves as the premise for discussion.

When US empire isn’t reluctant, it’s benevolent. “Initially motivated by humanitarian impulse,” Foreign Policy‘s Emile Simpson (6/21/17)  insisted, “the United States and its Western allies achieved regime change in Libya and attempted it in Syria, by backing rebels in each case.”

“At least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy,” the New York Times editorial board (2/7/17) swooned.

“Every American president since at least the 1970s,” Washington Post’s Philip Rucker (5/2/17) declared, “has used his office to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.” Interpreting US policymakers’ motives is permitted, so long as the conclusion is never critical.

Vanity Fair: Is Putin’s Master Plan Only Beginning?

Vanity Fair (12/28/16): No “stumbling” for Vladimir Putin.

In contrast, foreign policy actions by Russia are painted in diabolical and near-omnipotent terms. “Is Putin’s Master Plan Only Beginning?” worried Vanity Fair (12/28/16). “Putin’s Aim Is to Make This the Russian Century,” insists Time magazine (10/1/16).

Russia isn’t “drawn into” Crimea; it has a secret “Crimea takeover plot” (BBC, 3/9/15). Putin doesn’t “stumble into” Syria; he has a “Long-Term Strategy” there (Foreign Affairs, 3/15/16). Military adventurism by other countries is part of a well-planned agenda, while US intervention is at best reluctant, and at worst bumfuzzled—Barney Fife with 8,000 Abrams tanks and 19 aircraft carriers.

Even liberals talk about war in this agency-free manner. Jon Stewart was fond of saying, for example, that the Iraq war was a “mistake”—implying a degree of “aw shucks” mucking up, rather than a years-long plan by ideologues in the government to assert US hegemony in the Middle East.

War, of course, isn’t a “mistake.” Nor, unless your country is invaded, is it carried out against one’s will. The act of marshalling tens of thousands of troops, scores of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and coordinating the mechanisms of soft and covert power by State and CIA officials, are deliberate acts by conscious, very powerful actors.

Media shouldn’t make broad, conspiratorial assumptions as to what the bigger designs are. But neither are they under any obligation to buy into this mythology that US foreign policy is an improvised peace mission carried out by good-hearted bureaucrats, who only engage in war because they’re “sucked into” doing so.

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(Reuters) – The man charged with stabbing an airport police officer in Michigan unsuccessfully attempted to purchase a gun before the attack, which is being investigated as an act of terrorism, federal officials said on Thursday.

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Theresa May offered fellow EU leaders a “fair” deal on Thursday for compatriots living in Britain after Brexit, though her peers are likely to push for more from a prime minister weakened by an electoral misfire two weeks ago.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea has carried out another test of a rocket engine that the United States believes could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, a U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea has carried out another test of a rocket engine that the United States believes could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, a U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday.

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HAVANA (Reuters) – The liberalization of marijuana laws is fueling drug trafficking but Cuba will not follow the trend of loosening restrictions on marijuana, a government official said on Thursday.

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Guatemala’s Supreme Court has rejected a request to have President Jimmy Morales’ immunity of office lifted to permit an investigation of him in connection with a fire that killed 41 girls at a home for troubled youth.

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The beleaguered comic wants to educate young people about sexual assault, his representatives claim.

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Puerto Rico has signed a deal with Airbnb under which the company will collect a room tax from hosts on the island and turn the revenue over to the U.S. territory’s government, which is mired in a financial crisis.

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