Curtain Raiser

Running Out of Excuses, Colltalers

Rare protests erupted in Beijing, Shanghai, and Wuhan, triggered by anger at China’s repressive Covid policies. As the World Cup dominates the sports headlines, attention is slowly turning to the fate of the estimated thousands of migrant workers killed constructing Qatar’s stadiums and infrastructure.
Trump’s tax records, which he’s been fighting to keep away from the public, may be reviewed by the House, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled. But given its recent history, don’t hold your breath just yet. Iran’s abhorrent “Morality Police” is using rape to silence and traumatize for life an entire generation.
Let’s begin in Brazil, where a 16-year-old killed three and wounded 13 in two schools in Aracruz, Espírito Santo state. The uncommon attack follows two other school shootings in the past six months. The suspect, who wore military attire with a swastika pinned to his bulletproof vest, is in custody. Presidente Bolsonaro is a supporter of the new gun culture emerging in the country and Brazilians now purchase more than a thousand weapons a day.
In Ukraine, a winter without power may be even more devastating than the Russian shelling, which now seems directed at disabling the country’s vital infrastructure. But when President Zelenskyy said that Kyiv residents were not getting what they need, local hero Mayor Klitschko, a former world heavyweight champion, took issue. “This is not nice. Not for Ukrainians or for our foreign partners,” Klitschko said of his political rival’s allegations.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have reinstated public floggings as a form of criminal punishment, and 14 people got beat up this week. “Public flogging of women and men is a cruel and shocking return to out-and-out hardline practices by the Taliban,” said Amnesty International’s activist Samira Hamid.
In the U.K., two Just Stop Oil protesters were found guilty of criminal damage to an 18th-century frame. Emily Brocklebank and Louis McKechnieentered London’s Courtauld Gallery in June and glued their hands Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Cup Made of Offsides, Colltalers

A “loss and damage” fund for poor nations hurt by the climate is the most consequential result of the COP27 summit held in Egypt. Or just another pie in the sky. Qatar World Cup kicked off under the specter of dead migrant workers. Saudi Arabia’s bin Salman avoids suit for role in reporter’s murder.
Title 42, the policy that summarily barred thousands of asylum seekers, was struck down by a federal judge. A Senate subcommittee is probing alleged abuse of women in custody in Georgia by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And a special counsel will weigh criminal charges against Trump.
We start in Colorado where at least five people were shot and killed by a gunman with an AR-15, on Sunday inside an LGBTQ club. It happened in the early hours of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, in an apparent hate rampage. Over 25 others were injured before patrons subdued the attacker.
The attack coincides with a Human Rights Campaign report which found that 85% of transgender and gender-nonconforming victims of fatal violence since 2013 were people of color. 63% were Black transgender women, most younger than 35. At least 300 members of the community have met violent deaths since 2013, due to “racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, as well as poverty, and economic inequality,” last week’s HRC report has shown.
In Ukraine, once again the shelling around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex has raised concerns that the world is closer, not farther, to a catastrophic ‘accident’ that may cost us civilization. “You’re playing with fire,” said the U.N.’s head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, an understatement for the ages.
60 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which risked a fatal conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, we’re again on the brink of annihilation due to the NATO-Russia proxy war. Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Bringing it All Home, Colltalers

Cop27, the U.N. Climate Conference, heads for its second week the same way the previous 26 had: with lots of heated speeches and a bunch of happy lobbyists, but no breakthroughs. But Biden will see Xi. Speaking of inaction, there’s the G20 summit. And a most immoral World Cup begins Sunday.
The U.S. midterm elections offered a reprieve to President Biden and the Democratic Party, despite neither of them being really attuned to what most Americans demand: fight for the climate, immigration, income distribution, the list is long. Democracy is still in peril and so are all eight billion of us.
Let’s begin in Turkey where a bomb killed six and wounded dozens on a busy Istambul street on Sunday. A suspect is in custody. President Erdogan said the blast had the “smell of terror.” On Saturday, crowds in Düsseldorf, Germany, protested Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons against the Kurds.
Erdogan is conditioning support to Sweden and Findaly’s entry into NATO if these countries don’t take specific security measures to curb members of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party, the PKK, and its supporters. He considers them terrorist organizations responsible for the 2016 attempted coup.
In the U.K., the British counterterrorism police warned hundreds of journalists and political activists that they may be targeted by Iran, allegedly for their Islam criticism. Across the pond, the FBI said that Iran and China are hiring private investigators who unwittingly help them spy on dissidents. The disturbing trend, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Vote After the Penumbra, Colltalers

Tomorrow’s U.S. midterm elections may either prove women and minorities still hold the key to the future of American democracy or seal Republicans’ deal to reelect Trump in 2024. If that’s the case, a World Meteorological report about the last eight years as the hottest on record will likely be buried.
To survive Russian attacks on Kyiv’s power grid, Ukraine may decide to evacuate all its three million people, a Herculean task that may have one too many moving parts to succeed. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu may become Prime Minister for a third time, despite being still on trial for corruption.
Let’s get going in Pakistan after former P.M. Imran Khan was shot at a rally. Khan, who was ousted by a non-confidence vote in April, has pushed for new elections since he’s been barred from running again on corruption charges. He calls them “politically motivated” and is expected to fully recover.
In Iran, the women-led movement continues rallying against the punitive Sharia law imposed by the Theocracy when Ayatollah Khomeini returned to power in 1979. This time, protests erupted in universities and the Kurdish region, followed by threats of further repression by Iranian security forces.
On Nov. 4, 1979, 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days at the American embassy in Tehran by a group of students. The crisis is arguably credited with giving Ronald Reagan the edge over President Jimmy Carter to win the White House, and later on, during his second term in office, to the Iran-Contra affair. The administration was charged with secretly selling weapons to Iran and using the proceeds to destabilize Nicaragua.
In Egypt, where AfricaCop27, the 12-day, U.N.-backed climate summit will start next week, there’s been an agreement to include the issue of “loss and damage” financing to the agenda. There’ll be formal Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Phoenix Reborn in Brazil, Colltalers

Brazil chose Lula as their new president after a tight second-round win. Russia’s Putin withdrew support for a grain deal brokered by the U.N. adding to the global food crisis triggered by its invasion of Ukraine. The Uyghur is suing the U.K. for importing forced-labor-produced goods from China.
A disturbing hammer attack that almost killed Paul Pelosi was aimed at his wife, Nancy, Speaker of the House and third in the line of succession to the White House. Elon Musk, unassumed leader of “Billionaires Without a Clue” and Twitter’s new boss, didn’t miss a chance to make a clueless remark.
We begin in South Korea where a horrific stampede crushed over 150 people to death in Seoul, during a Halloween celebration. Authorities are still investigating the causes of the tragedy which point to overcrowding by revelers and a lack of appropriate crowd-control measures by law enforcement.
In Somalia, two car bombs detonated near the Education Ministry, in Mogadishu, killing over 100 people and injuring scores. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist group al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack allegedly as a protest against the ministry’s teaching of Christian values to children.
And in India, a bridge collapse in Morbi plunged more than 130 pedestrians to their demise, wrapping our far-from-comprehensive inventory of mass casualties of the week. The colonial-era suspension bridge over the River Macchu has just been reopened and as many as 400 were on it at the time.
In Australia, some 16 players of the national soccer team have issued a statement just weeks before the Qatar World Cup starts, calling for an end to the host nation’s criminalization of same-sex relationships. They also demanded “effective remedy” to the rights Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Eclipse & the Mississippi, Colltalers

Russian forces used electrical shock, waterboarding, beatings, and death threats on Ukraine’s Izium residents, survivors told Human Rights Watch. An Alaskan snow crab harvest was canceled for the first time. Despite teetering on the brink of disaster, the U.K. decided Boris Johnson is not the answer.
Former President Trump is set to testify on Nov. 14 to the Jan. 6 House Committee, while his ideological honcho, Steve Bannon, was sentenced to four months in prison. And Meta-boosted pro-Bolsonaro “fake news” threatens front-runner Lula’s favoritism to win his return to the presidency of Brazil.
We start in China which ended its Communist Party’s congress by granting another five-year term to President Xi Jinping. The discreet leader of the world’s most populous nation, and soon its largest economy, quickly took steps to promote allies and demote rivals, a long-standing Chinese tradition.
In Australia, Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced that her country will no longer support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That reverses a prior decision by her predecessor Scott Morrison, who followed a 2017 Trump ruling. Now only the U.S., Guatemala, and Kosovo support Israel on this issue and have relocated or may relocate their ambassies. But there’s “no lasting peace that doesn’t address” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Wong said.
In the Marshall Islands, where the American military detonated some 67 nuclear warheads between 1946 and 1958, there’s growing pressure to address the U.S. failure fulfilling an agreement signed in 1986. Known as the Compact of Free Association, or COFA, it addresses issues of compensation for damage, immigration privileges, and economic and defense aid for the Marshallese. The agreement is expected to be renewed by the end of this year.
In Iran, the women-led movement for democracy and personal freedom has found resonance throughout the world Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Last Call to Catch a Liar, Colltalers

Xi Jinping opened China’s single-party congress with one simple directive: to stay the course and to stay in power. A deadly fire at Iran’s Evin prison adds fuel to the turmoil triggered by the month-long women-led protests against the regime. From Switzerland to Antarctica, glaciers continue to melt.
From Moscow, some chilling words by a Kremlin aide: Brittney Griner’s release “is not the main issue we are concerned about.” Nearly 20,000 asylum seekers, sent to New York City by Republican governors, risk overwhelming the city’s social resources. And Trump is finally subpoenaed.
Let’s start in Mexico where gunmen killed 12 people in Irapuato in what’s been Guanajuato’s second mass shooting in less than a month. On Sept. 21, ten were also murdered in a similar fashion. Then, as now, the police can’t explain why and have labeled the killings with the generic “gang-related.”
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro declared three days of mourning for victims of last week’s devastating mudslide in Las Tejerias. 34 people are confirmed dead with dozens still missing and the town nearly erased. The landslides were caused by torrential rains brought by Tropical Storm Julia.
In the U.K., environmental activists threw tomato soup on Vincent Van Gogh’s 1888 “Sunflowers” painting at the National Gallery. The group, “Just Stop Oil,” tweeted that “the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis is driven by oil and gas.” The painting was not damaged and it’s back on display.
In Iran, 20 years ago this Sunday, the U.S. Congress gave George W. Bush clearance to invade Iraq under the false pretense that the Saddam Hussein regime had weapons of mass destruction. 4,500 troops and an estimated 160,000 civilians were killed in Bush and Dick’s most ‘repellent’ adventure.
Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Oklahoma, stood alone with her vote against the war. Time vindicated her courage Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Sun Does as it Pleases, Colltalers

Thousands participated in the Women’s March in several cities, fighting to restore legal abortion in the U.S. Activists encircled the British Parliament demanding freedom for Julian Assange, the publisher facing life in prison for exposing American war crimes. And Biden will pardon jailed pot users.
It’s Indigenous People’s Day, even as many still celebrated Columbus Day, so let’s highlight the missing and murdered native Americans and forest defenders, relentlessly targeted by hired assassins. Protests against the World Cup in Qatar continue 40 days before kickoff; this time, it’s Denmark.
We begin in Crimea where Ukrainian commandos apparently bombed a bridge linking it to Russia. Putin called it “a terrorist attack,” oblivious to the fact that his own army stands accused of similar crimes. Rail service across the bridge should be restored shortly but his headaches are far from over. On Friday, Belarus’ Ales Bialiatski, Russia’s human rights Memorial, and Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties were awarded the Nobel of Peace.
The award reinforces rising pressures to end this war before it turns into a nuclear “Armageddon,” in Biden’s words, also oblivious to the fact he too is contributing to it. Amid rising tensions, ex-CIA director and retired 4-star general David Petraeus missed a great opportunity to keep quiet. By saying that we “would take out every Russian conventional force (…) and every ship in the Black Sea,” he only betrays arrogance and throws gas into the fire.
In Germany, a “malicious and target act of sabotage,” according to authorities, wreaked havoc in all northern rail traffic on Saturday. Attackers cut two crucial cables vital for the network, disabling the system. The police are investigating the incident but, so far, no parties have claimed responsibility.
In Mexico, digital rights group R3D found that between 2019 and 2021, journalists and activists had their phones infected with the spyware Pegasus, developed by Israel-based NSO. Since Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Only Sorrow Wins Wars, Colltalers

Brazil’s presidential election goes to an Oct. 30 runoff between ex-President Lula, who came ahead with 48% of the votes, and the current, Bolsonaro, with a high percentage of abstentions. In Iran, the women-led rebellion continues, triggered by the Morality Police’s Sept. 16 killing of Mahsa Amini.
Despite protests, Russia’s Putin has annexed Ukraine’s Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Donetsk, although Lyman’s “fully liberated,” according to Ukraine’s Zelensky. Meanwhile, 66 nations used the U.N. assembly to call for an end to war. And efforts to recover from Hurricane Ian have started.
Let’s begin in Indonesia where a stampede after a soccer game killed over 125 people, according to officials. When police used tear gas to quell violent fans, unhappy with their local team’s loss, it triggered a deadly rush to the exits, crushing hundreds. Tear gas is banned in stadiums as per FIFA’s rules.
In Burkina Faso, yet another military group seized power this year. On Saturday, forces commanded by Capt. Ibrahim Traoré ousted Col. Paul-Henri Damiba, who’d sought shelter at a French military base, before officially resigning, the new Junta said. The West African nation of some 20 million, a former colony of France, became Burkina in 1984. It’s been plagued by coups and famine and since 2010, has become a hotbed for radical Islamism.
In Afghanistan, a morning blast killed at least 19 mostly female students at an education center in a Shiite neighborhood in Kabul. Dozens of women are forced to take classes Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Cataclysm On Our Doorstep, Colltalers

The Western media downplayed the gathering of Russia’s Putin with China’s Xi, and India’s Modi, and the Russian troop escalation in Ukraine. But we remain wary; this war is still being fed by weaponry and oil money. Meanwhile, the alleged “staged” vote on the annexation of territories continues.
Fridays for Future has gathered thousands in dozens of cities over the weekend, introducing a new demand: restitutions by rich societies to nations impacted by the climate disaster they did not cause. And Italy has elected Giorgia Meloni, its first far-right Prime Minister since her hero Mussolini.
We start in Lebanon where 97 refugees drowned on their way to Italy. The boat carrying Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian asylum-seekers capsized and sank in the Mediterranean, causing its deadliest boat accident. Now the only 20 survivors left have an even bigger challenge: to survive under Meloni.
In Iran, the murder of Mahsa Amini by the “Morality Police” has triggered a week-long of protests, led by Iranian women who no longer seem to fear the wrath of the authoritarian Theocracy. They have purposely danced in public, burned hijabs, and vowed defiance to the Patriarchy, acts punishable with jail terms or death, just as the regime works hard to join the strict club of nuclear-enable nations. Naturally, such chaos in Iran pleases the West.
In Israel, an investigation into the shooting of Al Jazeera’s Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh has determined with scientific certainty that she was shot and killed on purpose by Israeli Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Mass Graves & Bad Climate, Colltalers

The pre-nuclear war in Ukraine has reached another tragic milestone: the discovery of mass graves in Izium, which Russians occupied for six months until Ukrainian forces kicked them out. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has again wandered into the risky foreign policy realm by traveling to Armenia.
The Republican cruel stunt of shipping asylum seekers to New York, Washington, and even Martha’s Vineyard, may have also been illegal since they were lured into the buses under false premises. The U.K. buries its queen today and tomorrow, world leaders gather in NYC for the U.N. Assembly.
Let’s begin in Puerto Rico where the now hurricane Fiona has made landfall and cut power on the entire island. Five years since Maria devastated the territory, the new storm arrived with 85-mph winds and torrential downpours. There are no silver linings about yet another climate change-powered tempest hitting an impoverished nation, except that this time there won’t be any orange demagogue giving paper towels away in lieu of financial help.
In Diego Garcia, a U.S. military base on the Indian Ocean, hundreds of Filipino workers can’t leave the island in a pay dispute between a contractor and the Philippine government. As workers demand to be paid the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, not the current $5.25, their flights home got suspended in what appears to be a reprisal. But the engineering contractor, Kellog Brown & Root, denies it, blaming Covid instead for the suspension.
In Peru, Indigenous representatives from all nine Amazon Basin countries, have gathered to press world leaders to adopt a global pact and protect 80% of the Amazon forest by 2025, Thomson Reuters reports. As the largest tropical rainforest faces its biggest threat of extinction due to widespread man-made fires, rampant deforestation, and pollution-driven, unregulated mining, the world’s richest nations continue to drag their feet to come to the rescue.
“The tipping point is already happening in some areas of the Amazon,” warns Alicia Guzmán, whose report, “Amazonia: Against the Clock,” shows that 74% of the Amazon requires Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Denying Peace a Chance, Colltalers

Many Ukrainians don’t know yet but the war with Russia may last a long time. If there’s no world resolve to end it, it’s not going to be the fossil-fuel industry or weapon manufacturers, making gazillions out of it, that will stop it. Rather than celebrating small wins, give peace talks a fighting chance.
The Queen is dead, her son became King Charles III, and the U.K. has a new conservative Prime Minister in place. In other words, nothing’s changed. Something else won’t end anytime soon: climate change-driven wildfires. And to no one surprise, many Oath Keepers are cops or elected politicians.
We start in Somalia where nearly seven million may starve to death, according to the U.N., as the Russia-Ukraine conflict makes food deliveries pricier and scarcer, and terrorist groups like the Al Shabab force mass displacement. The entire Horn of Africa faces its worse drought in over forty years. As rich societies remain oblivious to their carbon footprint, poor nations are being ravaged by the climate emergency and wars they have not provoked.
In Cairo, four Mada Masr journalists were charged with criminal offenses for writing about the ongoing probe into government corruption and a likely shakeup at the top of President Abdel el-Sisi’s ruling Future Party. Reporters Rana Mamdouh, Beesan Kassab, Sara Seif Eddin, and Lina Attalah are accused of “insult, slander, and defamation,” Egypt’s last independent news outlet Mada Masr said. El-Sisi ascended to power in a 2013 military coup.
In Iran, talks about its nuclear program are still on hold as the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, said that it “cannot assure” that the program is exclusively peaceful. Iranian authorities have been slow in answering crucial questions such as uranium being found at non-listed sites, fueling the suspicion that it’s being siphoned off to make weapons. Iran said the IAEA is “re-digging” issues of the past and now it wants them out of the country.
In Europe, wood pellets and chips are being burned in the name of renewable energy, the NYTimes reports. Over a decade ago, wood burning became subsidized for its potential Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Tomorrow May Die Today, Colltalers

Guns fell silent for a bit around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex while U.N. inspectors visited it. A report will follow. Iraq remains calm too after last week’s bloody clashes between Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and security forces. And this Labor Day may mark a global resurgence of unions.
Chileans have decided not to approve a new, progressive constitution, to replace the one left by dictator Augusto Pinochet. Brazil celebrates 200 years of independence with competing political rallies. And there’s been another tragedy for migrants to the U.S. as nine drowned crossing the Rio Grande.
Let’s begin in Canada where a horrific knife attack on Sunday left at least 10 Indigenous people dead and scores of others injured in several places in and around Saskatchewan. As police seek two suspects identified as culprits, the James Smith Cree Nation declared a state of emergency until Sept. 30.
In Argentina, Vice President Cristina Kirchner survived an attempt on her life caught on camera, as the would-be assassin’s gun failed to shoot. The attack turned the tide against her: last week, crowds were angry at her for allegations of corruption during her presidency, from 2007 to 2015. But now thousands rallied to support her. The Brazilian gunman, a driver who posed on social media with a Nazi ‘Schwarze Sonne’ tattoo, is already in custody.
In Brazil, three members of the Guajajara tribe, known for its ‘Guardians of the Forest’ environmental defense squad, have been killed in the last few days. Rallies against violence, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

This War Cannot Be Won, Colltalers

As the United Nations’ team of nuclear experts waits to travel to Zaporizhzhia, the world holds its prayers that an errant missile doesn’t hit Europe’s biggest nuke. The specter of Chernobyl still haunts us all. Worst yet, Russia’s just rejected the U.N. review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has strengthened the status of “Dreamers,” children born in this country to undocumented parents. The so-called DACA waits on Congress to pass its legislation. And the affidavit of the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago’s just proved its validity.
Let’s begin in Pakistan, where rains and floods have killed over 1,000, with thousands more left homeless, since June. “Pakistan is going through its eighth cycle of monsoon,” Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said. “Normally there are only three or four” per year.
In Myanmar, the military junta arrested artist and peace activist Ko Htein Lin and his wife, former British ambassador Vicky Bowman, on “immigration law violations.” They were taken to the feared Insein Prison, where prisoners have been taken to, and vanished, for years.
In Sri Lanka, student activists Wasantha Mudalige, Hashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake, and Galwewa Siridhamma were detained along with others, under an anti-terrorist law. Last July’s economic collapse led president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the nation and citizens to occupy his palace. But to popular dismay, the new president and Minister of Defense Ranil Wickremesinghe is actually arresting people.
In India, there’s anger with the release of 11 men who were in jail for life for gang-raping a pregnant Muslim woman Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Worst Than Killer Meteors, Colltalers

Fears of a nuclear holocaust have forced Putin to allow the IAEA to inspect Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia complex. Gun battles around Europe’s largest set of nukes have irrupted too dangerously close for comfort. Similar dread fuels the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and France’s talks over Iran’s nuclear program.
Outrage has followed Saudi Arabia’s 34-year sentencing of a British resident who posted an inconvenient tweet while visiting her home country. And immigrant groups are suing LexisNexis for selling personal data of millions of Americans to ICE, which uses it to arrest and deport asylum seekers.
We begin in Moscow where a car bomb killed Daria Dugina, daughter of Alexander Dugin, a nationalist intellectual and Putin’s major ally. “Ukraine, of course, has nothing to do with yesterday’s explosion,” said advisor Mykhailo Podolyak. On Wednesday, Ukraine marks its 31st Independence Day.
In Mexico, ex-Attorney General Jesús Murilo Karam was arrested in connection with the 2014 disappearance of 43 students. Suspicions of the army and police involvement have plagued the case as have the still unknown reason for their demise, but Karam is the highest ranking official arrested so far, along with 72 other suspects. The saga of the missing students, of whom only three partial sets of remains were ever found, has transfixed Mexico.
In India, over 50 people have perished so far in floods and landslides triggered by the monsoon season. Although expected, torrential rains at this time of the year always impact India’s economy through its vulnerable crop agriculture. Extreme flooding has also been reported in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, New Zealand, and in large swaths of U.S. Southwest states. Climate changes worldwide are fast turning seasonal events into major cataclysms.
In Angola, some 35 million will have a chance to choose a new president, with incumbent João Lourenço, a veteran of the People for Liberation of Angola (MPLA) battling Adalberto Costa Júnior, of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita). The youth vote will be crucial.
Both parties have dominated the oil-rich nation’s 48 years of independence, Unita with U.S. support, and MPLA, with the former Soviet Union. The body of ex-President Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Our Enemies Have a Point, Colltalers

A watershed? Ukrainian President Zelensky’s threat to target Russian soldiers guarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, Europe’s largest, may be the escalation of the resistance against the invasion that no one wanted and everybody feared. What happens now matters to our civilization’s fate.
The FBI seized boxes of top-secret documents illegally kept by ex-President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago home. The raid triggered supporters and some took up arms. One’s stabbed Iran-cursed writer Salman Rushdie 10 times. And guess what, the Arctic is warming up faster than the rest of the planet.
We start in Guatemala, where a judge has indicted journalist José Rubén Zamora on criminal charges of money laundering. Human rights groups have called the charges intimidation as Zamora heads the El Periódico, a newspaper critical of President Alejandro Giammattei and A.G. Consuelo Porras.
In Mexico, at least 11 people were killed in four cities at the U.S. border, Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito, and Ensenada, over the weekend. The gang-related wave of violence targeted civilians, destroyed local businesses, and set cars on fire as retaliation for recent detentions made by the authorities.
In Brazil, the police made five more arrests in the murder of journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous specialist Bruno Pereira, who were killed in the Amazon’s Javari Valley in June; their dismembered remains were found weeks later. Despite numerous seizures, critics say they’re still waiting for the masterminds of their murder, believed to be among the many illegal fishing organized crime groups operating in the region, to be brought to justice.
In Israel, people are mourning Duniyana Al-Amour, a 22-year-old artist killed along with 48 other Palestinians by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip last week. The promising artist was at home Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

One Miscalculation Away, Colltalers

It’s been 77 years of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and tomorrow, Nagasaki. With the Russian-Ukraine war, the world’s never been this close to another mushroom. But now, it may trigger a century-long nuclear winter. Will we, instead, see a re-strengthening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
Meanwhile, Israel bombed Gaza again, militants responded, many Palestinians got killed, and now there’s a ceasefire. How will they ever break free of this vicious cycle? Texas and Arizona governors found a new, cynical way to deal with asylum seekers: send buses full of them to New York and D.C.
Let’s begin in Mexico, where 10 miners remain trapped in an underground tunnel that’s threatening to collapse in Sabinas. The coal mine, which is in operation since January, is still flooded and pumps have been on non-stop sucking out water and mud. But there has been no contact with the trapped.
In the Taiwan Strait, Chinese and Taiwanese forces have spent a tense weekend of military drills, in the wake of last week’s poorly-advised visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to China’s former colony. Although China has no legitimate claim over Taiwan, despite its authoritarian “One China” dream, this mini-Asian tour seems like an unnecessary risk to take right now, considering Madam Speaker’s own lack of transparency about its goals.
In Ukraine, there’s been furor after an Amnesty International report documented sites where Ukrainian forces Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Fires We Can’t Put Out, Colltalers

First Taiwan and now China: the announced visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei has triggered war games and a diplomatic knot to the Biden administration, regardless of its previous, equally ill-advised warnings to Beijing. Meanwhile, the murderous Myanmar junta remains in power.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pressures Sweden’s entry to NATO as it’s a signer of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Germany’s plans to end its nukes. Climate change, partially due to deforestation, may be drowning Kentucky, but Brazil wants to build a highway through the Amazon’s heart.
We begin in Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony since 1917, where lawmakers introduced a bill to begin the process of self-determination and the future of the island. But however anxiously expected, former San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz points to flaws that undermine the proposal’s intent. For instance, pro-statehooders want “Spanish to be spoken here,” which would alienate both native and English-speaking citizens, besides being hard to enforce.
The law sets statehood, independence, or sovereignty in free association with the U.S. as options for residents, but lacks “clarity on what each status would mean.” After the disastrous Trump administration’s actions during the 2017 Hurricane Maria, when 3,000+ people died, “Puerto Rico became kind of the black eye on America’s face,” even before the catastrophic energy crisis that followed. That’s why “there should be hearings,” Cruz says.
In Iraq, followers of the Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are staging a sit-in in parliament, after having stormed through the fortified Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday. The disturbing trend, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Justice Bears No Apologies, Colltalers

Can an ex-president go to jail for not defending his nation for at least 187 minutes out of his term? Probably not but he may never run again, as per the Fourteen Amendment. Steve Bannon was found guilty of contempt. The Pope goes to Canada to apologize to Indigenous people. They won’t accept it.
Turkey forces have allegedly killed by drone three women, commanders who’d just spoken at the Kongra Star Conference of the People of Rojava, in Syria. The Mercosur trade bloc has declined Ukrainian President Zelenski’s offer to address the group. Monkeypox is now a global health emergency.
Let’s start in California where a raging wildfire near Yosemite National Park has forced the evacuation of 3,000 residents. The Oak Fire’s tripled since first reported Friday in rural Mariposa County. Temperatures may remain in the 90s there and throughout most of the U.S. where other wildfires rage.
In Texas, a mile-long convoy of 52 yellow school buses paid a visit Thursday to Senator Ted Cruz, in Houston. On the 4,368 seats of the empty buses, there were belongings of each of the children killed by gun violence since 2020, the first year their deaths by gun beat car accidents. Cruz, a cheerleader for anti-abortion and homophobia, has received more money from gun nuts in this decade than any other member of Congress, according to OpenSecrets.
The poignant procession of grief and accountability, called the NRA Childrens’ Museum, was set up by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin wrote a letter to “gun owners” as school homework five years before he was shot and killed, along with Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Earth Is Way Too Crowded, Colltalers

A fist bump. President Biden went to Saudi Arabia so Americans won’t be short at the pump despite the high prices. But by warmly greeting Crown Prince bin Salman, accused of ordering the murder of American-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he also marked a low point of his term in office.
The Jan. 6 House committee investigating the invasion of Capitol Hill has subpoenaed the Secret Service for text messages agents reportedly deleted. Political change is apace in Italy, also hit by a heat wave, along with France, Portugal, and Marocco. And make room: we’re about to become 8 billion.
We hit the ground in Hungary where thousands of protestors took the streets of Budapest to rally against a new tax regulation that will raise to market values above-average consumption rather than keeping them under a subsidized state rate. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is putting pressure on Hungary as it depends heavily on Russian gas and oil. Inflation and currency exchange woes are also undermining the authoritarian rule of P.M. Viktor Orbán.
In Turkmenistan, a Central Asia country of six million, human rights groups are denouncing a repeat of an old and vicious practice: to force everyone to pick cotton during its annual harvest. The U.S. passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to help regulate the trade of commodities and goods forcibly produced, with an obvious focus on China, but also on Malaysia, Congo, India, Japan, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe.
In the United Arab Emirates, host of the World Cup soccer tournament in November, rights organizations are concerned about foreign migrants who may become indebted for life just for getting a job. A report by the Wake-Up Call group is raising red flags about exorbitant recruitment fees charged by hiring hospitality companies. The competition has been plagued by labor abuse allegations and a still undetermined number of worker casualties.
In Spain, the body of José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola for 38 years and died 10 days ago, remains unburied pending a family dispute with the government that threatens the August presidential elections. Santos has been in self-imposed exile Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The World Comes Undone, Colltalers

People protested for weeks. Then they invaded Sri Lanka’s presidential palace and chased off the president. The Jan. 6 riot in DC has set a disturbing trend but the similarities end there. As Russia pounds Ukraine, NATO approves Finland and Sweden’s memberships. That’ll likely add years to the war.
The assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shocked the world. But in the jaded U.S., where dozens of people are shot every day, this crime won’t offer pause. Another PM is no longer: U.K.’s Boris Johnson capped a scandal-ridden term at 10 Downing St with his resignation.
Let’s begin in Israel’s Occupied Territories where Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by Israeli troops last May 11. A U.S. Dept of State official investigation has concluded that, although gunfire may have been initiated by the soldiers, it “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed” her. But to human rights, press, and Palestinian groups, the conclusion was but a “whitewash.”
In Iraq, efforts are underway to rebuild Mosul, the first city to fall to Daesh, which occupied it between 2014 and 2017 and turned it into rubble. To help the reconstruction of what the “caliphate” considered its political center, the U.N. Development Programme allocated $372 million. Work’s been slow but steady. For Iraqis, there’s jubilation and also sadness: the battle to retake the city killed thousands and turned entire neighborhoods into ashes.
In Indonesia, finance ministers of the G20, a group of median-income nations, have ended a convoluted summit in Bali. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov abruptly walked out and robbed the meeting of its main discussion, Russia’s role in triggering a worldwide food crisis with its invasion of Ukraine. Since its 1999 Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Mournful Wail of Millions, Colltalers

The staggering fate of 53 migrants, baked to death inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, won’t affect U.S. immigration policy, even if lifts the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” aberration of a rule. Will Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Salman get immunity from a suit accusing him of murder? Biden to say.
Wrecking the U.S. Constitution it’d pledged to defend. That’s the legacy the current Supreme Court will leave behind for Americans to deal with in the decades to come. And it’s not done yet. A funny thing happened to the American democracy on its 246th Fourth of July: a radical minority seized power.
We begin in Lysychansk, Ukraine, where Russian forces “are gaining a foothold in the city,” according to Luhansk province’s governor Serhiy Haidai. The state is “one of two separatist regions in Ukraine that Russia recognizes as sovereign,” a Russian Defense Minister statement said. With that, and peace negotiations faltering, Putin may bring his troops to the front gates of the Mariinskyi Palace in Kyiv before the year is out. What happens then?
In Russia, U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner has appeared in Moscow at the opening of the trial where she’s accused of smuggling vape cartridges with traces of cannabis. She was arrested a week before the invasion of Ukraine and has already spent 130 days in jail. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, said that the 6-foot-9 Phoenix Mercury player is being transported in a “very tiny cage” on the five-hour round-trip drive it takes from prison to the court.
In Afghanistan, about 1.2 million girls no longer have access to secondary education as per the Taliban rule, and many women are choosing suicide as the only way out, the U.N. Human Rights Council has heard. “Every day there is at least one or two women who commit suicide,” said Fawzia Koofi, formerly with the Afghan Parliament. Right on cue, clerics gathering over the weekend had many warnings to the West but said nothing about women.
In Texas, Pete Arredondo, the police chief who ordered the force to stand down while a shooter massacred 19 school children in Uvalde on May 24, has resigned. His role during the shooting will go down in history as one of the greatest law enforcement failures ever, in a country already routinely rocked by police Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Go Where the Blood Beats, Colltalers

The U.S. Supreme Court’s radicalization didn’t start last week. Neither the decision to void Roe v Wade by the court led by Justice John Roberts was unexpected; there were at least two other rulings that combined, represent profound betrayals of the Constitution and mortal wounds to democracy.
In Afghanistan, a land whose time is filled with tragic news, Wednesday’s 6.1 earthquake may have killed thousands but help has mostly not arrived. Publisher Julian Assange, soon to be extradited from the U.K. to the U.S., can’t count on Australian new P.M. Albanese for support. Here comes G-7.
We begin in Ecuador where weeks of protests by the Indigenous majority forced President Guillermo Lasso to lift a state of emergency he’d imposed in six provinces. That and security enforcements had been his answer to a general strike called up by the country’s largest indigenous organization to demand lower gas prices, controls over agricultural goods, and an education budget. Talks are now underway between the government and the group.
In Brazil, over 270,000 mothers who gave birth between 2010 and 2020 were no older than 14, according to Health Ministry data. These children were victims of rape, given the Brazilian legislation, and as such, were all entitled to legal abortion. The case of an 11-year-old who became pregnant and was initially refused an abortion caused an uproar in Brazil last week, especially after it came out that a judge had tried to coerce her to keep the baby.
In Iran, state television aired the launch of a solid-fueled rocket, stirring tensions just as there have been Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Dark Days for Democracy, Colltalers

The U.K. will hand over Julian Assange, a news publisher, to be persecuted by the U.S. for publishing news: U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bodies of Dom Phillips, a journalist, and Bruno Pereira, an indigenous specialist, were found shot and buried in Brazil. Who ordered them dead?
Colombia picked a leftist and a Black woman to run the country. The Fed raises its benchmark rate, to 0.75 percentage point, its highest in 28 years, as the economy gets heated up by profits of war, and the unions reawake in America. Another big lie? Trump’s “election defense fund.” So now we know.
We begin in Ukraine where Russian forces have surrounded and stranded thousands of Ukrainian fighters defending Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. That would get President Putin closer to his stated objective of seizing all of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. That may happen as soon as this week.
In Russia, where bad news has been plenty lately, there’s been a methane leak for six months, releasing into the atmosphere what five coal-fired power stations would. Our gifted leaders are naturally too busy with war to even pretend to care but the leak is from, you guessed it, a coal mine. At its peak in January, it was releasing hourly 90 tons of methane, a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide. But as mentioned, war takes precedence.
In Israel, dozens of Palestinian women are being held in prisons in the occupied territories, for political activism or otherwise. According to Addameer, a Palestinian NGO, besides enduring horrible conditions, abuse, and lack of legal or medical assistance, they’re also subjected to something arguably even more sinister: the world’s indifference. While the West fails to hold Israel accountable Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Getting Closer to the Edge, Colltalers

Thousands of Americans rallied against gun violence over the weekend. But given Congress’ feeble response to this repeating tragedy, protesting needs to grow stronger. House hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of Capitol Hill by Trump thugs have also been gripping. But will it lead to convictions?
Brazil’s search for a missing journalist and a researcher has taken a grim turn. Amnesty International calls Russia’s pounding Ukrainians with cluster bombs a ‘war crime,’ as Ukraine’s second-largest city, Sievierodonetsk, may fall in a week. And another Summit of Americas ended disappointingly.
We start in China, where a group of men assaulted and beat up women diners, all caught up on video. The footage went viral and shocked the nation, almost as much as the one aired in Feb. of a mother of seven chained by her neck. In a country that abides by secrecy and opacity, such incidents are an embarrassment to the regime, revealing the actual state of feminism there. The restaurant brawl may have been a fluke or an omen of things to come.
In Texas, a powerful explosion at a liquefied natural gas terminal has rattled Freeport residents in what is also a harbinger of things to come. As global demand for fossil fuels spikes with the war – climate change be damned – producers rush to meet quotas and may all but ignore concerns about safety.
In the U.K., the parliament plans to revise post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, which may trigger a trade war, and opposition from the European Union and the U.S. To Sinn Féin’s president Mary Lou McDonald, there should be expected Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

What Bullets Do to Kids, Colltalers

With no peace talks, the war Russia’s waging on Ukraine now has a dramatic twist: it may starve half of the world while millions of tons of grains rot in Ukrainian warehouses. As the U.S. sends in weapons, in a thinly disguised challenge to Russia, the Interpol worries they’d end up in criminal hands.
Phan Thi Kim Phuc was nine in 1972 when Napalm rained over her Vietnamese village. But she’s survived to tell her tale of horror and forgiveness. Guns are ravaging the fabric of American society but a pro-gun Congress refuses to act. Time to publish the devastating photos of the victims’ bodies?
We begin in Nigeria where gunmen killed dozens of Sunday worshippers at a Catholic church in southwest Ondo. Although it’s not clear who led the deadly attack, Africa’s largest economy has been battling an Islamist insurgency, armed gangs, and kidnappings for ransom in the country’s northeast.
In Iran, two military officers and a weapons scientist have died under mysterious circumstances in Tehran in recent days, and fingers point to Israel, which had accused Colonels Ali Esmaelzadeh and Sayad Khodaei of being part of a Revolutionary Guard unit allegedly running killing missions of foreigners abroad, according to the NYTimes. Meanwhile, Ayoob Entezari, a missile and drones aerospace engineer, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The World Gets Worse Fast, Colltalers

Everything about the massacre of 19 school children and two teachers in Uvalde, CA, by an 18-year-old with an AR rifle is awful. Including the likely response to it – nothing- and its fast obliviousness when the new one happens. And the next. Now, will anti-vaxxers fight monkeypox vaccines too?
Speaking of diseases, to everyone, the Covid scourge went beyond the estimated millions of deaths and forced lockdowns it’s caused. But not to U.K.’s Johnson: pictures now out show the P.M. partying like it’s 1999. And progressive Gustavo Petro won the first round of Colombia’s presidential race.
In Ukraine, where Russian troops “stormed” Sievierodonetsk and are on their way to capture the Donbas region, accusations of war crimes from both sides now muddle the narrative. That’s also part of the war, of course, especially one with so few independent journalists covering it. The latest so far unverified claim is about children being used in combat. It wouldn’t be a first and producing evidence of it will be hard. But it’s still necessary.
In Sweden, the Stockholm International Peace Institute has published a report about our future, and guess what, it’s not pretty. “Between 2010 and 2020 the number of state-based armed conflicts roughly doubled to 56. (…) The number of refugees and other forcibly displaced people also doubled, to 82.4 million.” To think that just last year, we were spending Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

We Need a Bigger Scream, Colltalers

Russia’s war on Ukraine has added another threat to an already dire campaign: global famine. But not to worry: the U.S.’ $40 billion+ aid package is mainly for military use. Despite nationwide protests, the Supreme Court seems set to outlaw abortion in the U.S. The consequences can already be felt.
While Australia picked a new Prime Minister, Labor’s Anthony Albanese, in a politically seismic change, the Philippines elected Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the dictator expelled for corruption in 1986, calling back its ruthless past. And Davos millionaires demand to pay taxes! Now that’s refreshing.
We begin in Mexico, where 100,000 people vanished, mostly since the so-called ‘drug war’ started in 2006. Ignored by the Amlo administration, and haunted by such a grim milestone, relatives of the ‘desaparecidos’ have formed national brigades to search and dig suspicious sites for their remains. Drug wars, politics, femicide, and poverty are cited as causes. In 2016, for instance, 43 students were likely abducted and have never been seen again.
In Qatar, host of the soccer World Cup in November, Amnesty has asked FIFA to earmark $440 million for its workforce. “Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have not received adequate remedy, including financial compensation, for serious labor abuses,” says the open letter signed by other civil rights groups. Allegations of human rights violations have plagued the rich, authoritarian monarchy even before being awarded the tournament.
In the U.K., over 100 activists signed a letter protesting the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli troops. They demand “full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorizing it.” The Al Jazeera reporter had covered human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Miseries as Vast as the Sky, Colltalers

‘The Summer of Rage’ got its official kickoff over the weekend when thousands took the streets of 400 American cities for the right to legal abortion. In Ukraine, Russia may suffer its biggest diplomatic defeat yet if Finland and Sweden join NATO. And the Athens Declaration demands peace right now.
The murder of Al Jazeera Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces has gone much beyond the grim stats on reporters being targeted. After Canada, the U.S. now confronts its despicable past of subjugation and violence against Native Americans via schools of ‘reeducation.’
Let’s start in Buffalo, NY, where an 18-years-old allegedly white supremacist shot and killed 10 people and injured three in a “racially motivated” attack, according to the police. He’d published a 180-page manifesto highly influenced by Fox News conspiracy lies such as a supposed “great replacement” and had already threatened his school. Once again, signs of mental illness and racial hatred were unaddressed with dire consequences.
As it turns out, the Center for Diseases Control and Preventions had just published a study on the rates of gun-related homicides in the U.S. which have soared 35% from 2019 to 2020, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

No Women, No Peace, Colltalers

Russia’s strike that may have killed dozens at a Ukrainian school has shown how far we still are from the bottom of this grotesque war. But no less terrifying is the prospect of a direct U.S.-Russia confrontation. A matter of time? Perhaps since American intel is already enlisted to help Ukraine.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s tone-deft move to reverse legal abortion has catastrophic social consequences, and one upside: it’s called the women’s movement back to the streets. Such fiery leadership is what’s needed to fight this and other issues, including hunger and a still rising Covid death toll.
Let’s begin in Northern Ireland where Sinn Féin, formerly the IRA’s political army, won a historic election and the right to nominate its leader Michelle O’Neill, the First Minister. It’s the first time a party identified with the unification of Ireland beats the two powerful pro-Britain unionist parties. Since 1921, when the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed and 26 counties out of 32 formed a new Republic, many on the other side long to reunite their nation.
In India and Pakistan, 104°F temperatures have exposed over a billion people to scorching heat even before the hottest time of the year. While richer and way more polluting countries ignore and continue to play their games of war and conquest, climate change-related threats devastate impoverished populations. “This heatwave is likely to kill thousands,” tweeted Robert Rohde, lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, a climate science research non-profit.
In Israel, a high court has ruled that about 1,000 Palestinians from West Bank can be evicted and the land repurposed for military use. It’s one of the biggest land expropriations since Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Dead Bees & Doublethink, Colltalers

As the war rages, it’s irrelevant to digress about Ukrainian heroism and Russia’s war crimes. Instead, people need to demand accountability from world leaders and weapons makers. That’s why non-aligned nations are not, well, aligned with this war, even if armed dolphins are patrolling Russian bases.
It’s been 30 years since race-fueled riots in Los Angeles shook the U.S. That is, until another ugly incident of Black people being shot at followed it, likely a few hours later. But it’s a scar in the national soul that refuses to heal. And after a long, dark stretch, May Day has again meaning in America.
We begin in Atlanta where five million bees perished from exposure to the 80°F heat of an airport tarmac. They were on their way to Alaska on a Delta Air Lines plane forced to a stopover in Georgia. The carrier’s apology didn’t mention how they were left baking to death on the runaway. “People don’t grasp just how dependent we as a species are on honeybees for pollination,” said Sarah McElrea who ordered them on behalf of Alaskan beekeepers.
In New Mexico, thousands of villagers have been evacuated on Sunday from the path of Calf Canyon, the largest active U.S. wildfire, which is closing in their drought-ridden land. A dozen climate change-fueled fires are raging in the Southwest, and over a million Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Under War and Plastic Rain, Colltalers

Two full months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a vital word seem to have been scraped from any efforts to stop it: peace. Outside Orthodox Easter celebrations there and elsewhere, it’s simply vanished from the headlines. That means, never mind conspiracies: this war is in the books to last.
President Emmanuel Macron was re-elected in France, barely defeating far-right Marine Le Pen. He’s expected to use the vote as an endorsement of his pro-business agenda. Meanwhile, it’s raining plastic over America. And another black man was murdered by a police officer. Some things never change.
We start in the U.K. where a judge has ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the U.S., where he faces a 175-year sentence. The final decision will come within the next two months. Assange is being prosecuted for espionage after publishing classified material that exposed war crimes committed by American forces in Iraq. This decision makes journalists now “look over their shoulder,” said Amnesty’s Simon Crowther.
In Brazil, indigenous peoples have gathered for the annual, 10-day Free Land camp, to protest the Bolsonaro administration’s anti-Indigenous policies and plans to open their habitat for mining and oil exploration. The president is also supporting changes in the legislation to thwart the demarcation of their lands. Many ethnicities, Continue reading

Play Dough

But Why Didn’t They
Call it The Big Pizza?

The world would laugh if it’d even care about the little idiosyncrasies New Yorkers take at heart and seem to invest their entire being championing it. As if the fate of humankind lays squarely on the top of their shoulders. Case in point: pizza, local fast food extraordinaire.
Now, would it kill us to exercise restrain and abstain from such prosaic subject? But how could we if only yesterday, when we were hungry and broke, nothing else on the face of Earth would be more satisfying?  Fear not, for we approach the beast with utmost respect.
First off, there are no two ways of eating it. No solemnity lost either. Denizens of this great cesspool are proud of mastering the holy dough early on. And then there’re all the wrong ways to be ashamed doing it. Just ask the Mayor; once caught eating it with fork and knife, it was all downhill from then on.
Anathema, no less. Come on, the whole combo of flour, cheese, and tomato sauce may have been invented in the old country ages ago, but the slice and the ‘fold and eat with your hands’ maneuver have been both trade-marked on the streets of the five boroughs, just like steaming manholes and yellow cabs.
What? You have a problem with that? Many an argument has flared up or settled down over a steaming pie. For the growing crowd with only a pocketful of change, nothing beats a 4 AM slice by the curbside.
But alas, not even pizza can be that ‘New Yorker.’  As with other city-by-the-river staples, it’s been appropriated by the world many times over, grit, warts et al. No chance of pizza going the way of the sleazy Times Square just yet, though. But we digress.
We’re living in odd times, that’s for sure, even if equally lean. Most other local treats, like the Egg Cream and the Knish can’t compete any longer with a pie printed in space, or a slice lasting longer than a heat wave. Never mind old shoes like us, though: by the looks of it, millennials are all for it, thus the future is assured.
Big Apple? Who were they kidding? So, fine, it was supposed to evoke the original sin and all that, besides looking a bit more photogenic in tourism ads. But the likelihood of seeing someone eating apples on the streets of New York was never bigger than spotting a kangaroo at a subway stop, or a beret-wearing mime.
Although we’re sure those have also been spotted somewhere around (more)

___________
Read Also:
* New York Bites
* Wait a Minute

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Excuse Me While I Hit the Road

Curtain Raiser

Remember Your Humanity, Colltalers

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proceeds as tragic as expected, aggravated now by the illegal use of cluster bombs by Putin’s armies. Since the U.S., the U.K., and others have used these particularly brutal devices on civilian targets to universal condemnation, who has morals to stop the Russians now?
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the torture and 80 times waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah by American agents in a Polish so-called Black Site earlier in the Iraq invasion is a sanctioned “state secret.” Chile’s new president has hit the ground running. And why Brittney Griner is still locked up?
We begin in Saudi Arabia, the murderous regime President Biden is reportedly cozying it up to so to neuter Russia’s oil influence, announced that it has mass executed 81 people. The kingdom’s largest execution included Yemenis, Houthis, and Shiites among the executed. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has ordered the killing of American-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, told The Atlantic that he’s “the real victim” of Khashoggi’s murder.
In Pakistan, an unarmed Indian missile landed near Mian Channu, luckily with no casualties, after being accidentally let off during maintenance. The incident revived for a moment Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Don’t Cry Out for Blood, Colltalers

As war rains death and destruction over Ukraine, the world holds its breath: will Putin use nuclear power if we try to stop him? It’s a rhetoric question,  we already know the answer. So what, then? WNBA All-Star Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner is being held in Moscow, allegedly on drug charges.
As the conflict rages on, few noticed the alarming U.N. Panel on Climate Change report on that other civilization-ending disaster we should be tending to 24/7. The media continues to underreport the issue and as a result, even fewer people know that their burgers help destroy the Amazon Rainforest.
We begin in Peshawar, Pakistan, where a suicide bomber – yes, they’re still around, but like refugees of color, we tend not to notice them – killed 63 and wounded over 200 in a mosque. A local ISIS group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The killer was an Afghan national, the Pakistani police said.
In Mexico, all first-division soccer games have been canceled after violence broke out at a match between Querétaro and Atlas. The brawl caused many injuries in not exactly an isolated incident: fights, field invasions, and attacks on players by rival supporters are on the rise throughout Latin America.
In Chile, Gabriel Boric takes the Oath of Office Friday, becoming his nation’s youngest president just as a new, likely progressive constitution is being worked on by the legislator. Boric, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Pocketful of Sunflowers, Colltalers

As Russia begins its gruesome cavalcade to occupy Ukraine and seize its nuclear plants, including Chernobyl, nations scramble to find ways to stop Putin. But sanctions will only worsen misery for Russians and Ukrainians. And world billionaires won’t let us go after his – and their – offshore assets.
War is bound to impact everything. Except for FIFA, it seems, as the soccer authority plans to keep Russia competing for the World Cup later on this year. Who will want to play them? Speaking of nukes, talks over a new Iran accord continue. And the U.S. is about to hit its one million Covid deaths.
We begin in the sports world by praising the Women’s U.S. soccer team for achieving equal pay, a historic step in the road to justice. They earned it for doing the same job as their male counterparts – even though they’re the world’s #1 and the men are still struggling to make it to the cup. Praise also to Wladimir Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv and a former world heavyweight champion, and his brother, also an ex-boxer and prior mayor. They took up arms.
In Iraq, telecom giant Ericsson has secretly worked with Daesh, the terrorist Islamic State, since at least 2011, to smuggle equipment into cities under siege by the group. According to a report obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Ericsson made millions of dollars in suspicious payments just as Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Taming the Beasts of War, Colltalers

Despite American intelligence’s strident warnings about Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine, peace still holds even with skirmishes here and there. Against the wall, Putin either backs up his threats or risks embarrassment. Many fear they already know the answer; we’ll surely regret it either way.
As the U.S. lifts its temporary ban on Mexican avocados, Honduras’ ex-President Hernandez has been extradited on drug traffic charges just days after finishing his term. Victim relatives of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre’s won a settlement with a gunmaker. And Qanon‘s identity may’ve been revealed.
Let’s begin in Petrópolis, Brazil, where torrential rains triggered fatal floods and landslides that have already killed 117 people. This tragedy seems to visit the region periodically but climate change has increased the misery. “All my friends are gone, they are all dead, all buried,” said resident Maria José de Araujo. It was the heaviest rainfall since 1932 in the “Imperial City,” as it was known in the 19th century by the vacationing Brazilian royalty.
In Israel, P.M. Naftali Bennett has already put a negative spin on a potential agreement between Iran and the world over its nuclear capability. As the talks resumed in Vienna, Iran seeks guarantees that the U.S. won’t unilaterally quit the deal as it did before and that some sanctions will be lifted. The Israelis oppose an Iranian nuclear state, though, and Bennett’s said that proceeds from a possible break from penalties “will eventually go to terrorism.”
In Argentina, as the government readies a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund, wildfires have destroyed Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Time to Make Love, Not War, Colltalers

As the world watches in horror as if a conflict in Ukraine is inevitable, and Biden screams at Russia’s Putin as if he’s a naughty schoolboy, we should be clear about what we’re getting into here: another forever war. Which makes the U.S.’ $19 billion arms sales to Saudi Arabia and others just peachy.
Canada has finally stamped down on a nearly-week-long anti-vax bridge blockade ostensively supported by global far-right groups. France’s starting to do the same with their own copycat ralliers. And Elsy, a Salvadorean woman who spent 10 years in jail for having suffered a miscarriage, is now free.
We begin in Washington, DC, where the Biden administration has decided to use half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghanistan’s assets to pay off legal claims by families who lost members in 9/11, a decision that provoked outrage even by those affected by the 2001 attacks. “I can’t think of a worse betrayal of the people of Afghanistan,” Barry Amundson, a relative and member of 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, told the NYTimes. Indeed.
In California, billionaire Elon Musk-owned brain-chip firm Neuralink is being sued by an animal rights group, for inflicting “extreme suffering” to monkeys for years. To fulfill Musk’s promise to restore mobility to paralyzed people and make humans “hyper-intelligent,” the company has been subjecting the animals to gruesome experiments, graphically detailed in a complaint filed at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture by Physicians for Responsible Medicine.
In Switzerland, however, a ban on animal experiments didn’t pass in Sunday’s referendum, after heavy lobbying against it by big laboratories. It’d have made the exclusive nation Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Outside Rational Discourse, Colltalers

A Russian troop buildup at Ukraine’s border and a U.S.-led rush to war are our newest global nightmares. But concerns about such a tragedy foretold are still to reach the White House. And old foes Covid, climate change have not let out yet, and neither has the national debt, now topping $30 trillion.
But America’s biggest woe now is ignorance: as in a butterfly preservation center forced to close by thugs who believe it’s a sex trafficking facility! And in Israel, an Amnesty report on its “apartheid state” shocked, shocked authorities just as its army killed a Palestinian man holding a U.S. passport.
We hit the ground running in New York where the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists presented its newest issue of the so-called Doomsday Clock. We’re now at the short distance of 100 seconds to midnight, which marks the end of civilization as we know it. The clock, created by Mary Langsdorf in 1947 marked its 75th. anniversary this January, and the Bulletin’s report urges world leaders to mind the “extremely dangerous” time we’re facing. Will they?
In Siberia, there’s growing concern about the impact of global warming on its millennia permafrost. As it turns out, the frozen ground under Russia and the Arctic Circle has kept locked up thousands of years of organic material deposits. Until now. As soil microbes awake and begin to feast on biomass, their digestion releases greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, in amounts several times what the planet currently holds.
In the Gulf of Mexico, a federal sale of leases for oil and gas exploration was canceled by a judge, citing the climate emergency Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Year We Lost the Future, Colltalers

A month away from its Jan. 22, 1973, anniversary, the legislation that made abortion legal in the U.S., Roe v Wade, may be overruled, a Supreme Court’s Xmas gift to religious zealots all over. Since the failed U.N. summit in Glasgow, the world asks: who’s responsible for the climate disaster?
Despite only one in 10 Africans having had at least one dose against Covid, and the new Omicron variant continuing to spread, Pfizer, Modena, e other pharma companies refuse to share the know-how to make vaccines. Now a 2.5 million-strong global nurses union is calling for a probe of rich nations.
Let’s start in Alabama where online retailer Amazon’s employees will have another chance to vote to unionize. Workers at a Bessemer warehouse had voted in April but the National Labor Relations found that the company had illicitly interfered and pressured voters during the process and nullified the results. Amazon “made a free and fair election impossible,” the board ruled. Workers in New York and elsewhere are considering following suit.
The second-biggest U.S. company on the Forbes list, which posted a $21.3 billion profit just as Covid closed down the world economy, is also being accused of overcharging seller fees and of “creative” accounting to mask profits. Amazon is among 39 U.S. companies that paid zero taxes in 2020.
In Mexico, you may remain in life-threatening conditions, according to the Biden administration. Never mind the inefficacy of such a cruel policy first enacted by the 45th. If after traveling thousands of miles often on foot, fleeing prosecution and murder at home, you want a shot at saving your life in America, you’ll be taken somewhere across the border and wait indefinitely for a chance to speak Continue reading

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Drowning Refugees & Hope, Colltalers

Omicron entered Covid’s lexicon of despair this week as a new variant potentially capable of undermining current vaccines. Its timing couldn’t have been worse as the world still fights 263 million cases. Off the coast of France, 27 refugees drowned as Europe continues to mishandle its borders.
Honduras may change if progressive front-runner Xiomara Castro beats Nasry Asfura, picked by President Juan Orlando Hernández,  who the U.S. accuses of being funded by drug money. And Sharbat Gula’s on the run again, having fled Afghanistan. You do know who she is: Google it and weep.
But let’s start in Oklahoma where 21-year-old Native American Brittney Poolaw was convicted of manslaughter for a second-trimester miscarriage. A medical examiner attested that she’d methamphetamine in her system during pregnancy. As she began a four-year sentence last month, groups such as the Indigenous Women Rising are trying to thwart a growing national trend of criminalizing people of color for the outcomes of their pregnancies.
In Vienna, Iran and Russia, China, the U.K., France, Germany, and the European Union will talk about reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement that the U.S.’ former president destroyed. That’s right, the Biden administration was not invited, but can you blame them? The world, of course, is grateful that the Iranians are having another go at it even if they’ve got no choice: sanctions are strangling the country. But the U.S. still has a lot to catch up with.
In Peru, which just got hit by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, the opposition has called for President Castillo’s impeachment and hordes took the streets to protest corruption. The ex-rural teacher has suffered a relentless push from wealthy conservative Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Everybody Had a Hard Year, Colltalers

Far-right José Antonio Kast won Chile’s first-round presidential election, ahead of student leader Gabriel Boric. That may be reversed next month if Chileans opposing the country’s neoliberal policies decide to vote. Nearby, the deforestation of the Amazon reached its highest rates in 15 years.
Covid? For the first time ever, 100,000 Americans died in a year but of overdose, a tragic statistic with many profiteers as sponsors. Self-medication is a symptom, but the billionaire Sacklers had a big part in it. Meanwhile, the world’s transfixed by the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.
Let’s hit the ground in New York City when a record 200 “ghost guns,” or weapons without serial numbers, assembled from parts ordered online, have been recovered by the NYPD. The total may not sound like much but the prospect of easily possessing a firearm, regardless of your age, legal status, or mental condition is truly frightening. Especially at this age, when a growing number of Americans are walking around fully “packed with heat.”
In Manhattan, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, who each spent over 20 years in prison for the alleged 1965 assassination of Malcolm X had their convictions thrown out on Thursday. The overdue exoneration comes 12 years after Islam’s death and a lifetime of injustice for both of them, giving solace to no one. But it clears the way for correcting history: a probe found that the FBI and the NYPD had withheld evidence that would clear them.
Confessed killer Mujahid Abdul Halim, then known as Talmadge Hayer, was shot and caught at the scene, and a few days later, Aziz and Islam, then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson respectively. All three Nation of Islam members were charged with murder. In 2010, Halin named late Newark activist Almustafa Shabazz – formerly William Bradley – as the one Continue reading

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Get Ready For a Bumpy Ride, Colltalers

If COP26, the U.N. Climate Conference that’s just wrapped up in Scotland proves anything is that there’s no need for a COP27. Or 28, for that matter. What it failed to adequately address in the past 26 editions won’t be addressed in the next. The conference is now fossil-fuel friendly. So why have it?
Canada’s Mohawk Institute has started digging for thousands of Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves between 1831 and 1970. Congress has indicted Steve Bannon, mastermind of coups and right-wing rampages. And the Myanmar junta’s sent journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison.
Let’s start in the Arctic, where a European Space Agency’s satellite study found that millennia-old permafrost is melting at an accelerated rate, at times exposing bubbling methane, a greenhouse gas whose emissions are more powerful than carbon dioxide. There are also concerns about the structural integrity of buildings and roads, which now rest on unstable ground and future northern trade routes that may bring even more pollution to the pole.
In Austria, millions of the unvaccinated are forced to reenter lockdown today, as Covid cases have spiked and vaccination rates remain low. It’s the most radical decision by a European country but others have also imposed lockdowns. Expensive or unavailable vaccines and the anti-vax conspiracy have assured that obits will Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Climate Is No Commodity, Colltalers

As Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi survives a drone attack, the world gets a new glimpse of the tragic chaos left behind from the 2003 U.S. invasion. A few hours later, rockets hit Turkey’s Zihan military base in Iraq’s Nineveh but so far no link between the two attacks has been established.
The U.N. climate conference made it clear that real environment leaders were out, protesting, not in, blabbing. It’ll drag on till Friday but few expected breakthroughs. The House committee probing the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill invasion has issued dozens of subpoenas but some won’t abide by it. Then what?
Let’s start with a study that shows that ten publishers are responsible for 69% of Facebook’s climate-change denial content. The Center for Countering Digital Hate’s “Toxic Ten” list is dominated by U.S.-based conservative sites but it also includes Russian state media outlets. It’s called on Google to stop profiting from hate – a tall order nowadays. FB said it’s expanding its monitoring to more than 100 countries such as Belgium, Brazil, and India.
In Siera Leone’s capital Freetown, almost 100 people were killed in a fuel tanker explosion. People had rushed to collect the oil leaking from the collision of two trucks when it ignited into a fireball. Similar incidents with high casualties had also happened Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Done With the Double Talk, Colltalers

With all the pomp of a country club outing, the world’s 20 richest economies won’t fund some new coal projects and may get to net-zero emissions “by or around mid-century.” Keep your shirts on yet for the thrilling COP26 climate meeting. Big Oil is not worried though, and the Supreme may help it.
The murderous big white thug rampage of Jan 6 at Capitol Hill also had help but from members of Congress and White House? Shocking. Minnesota may dissolve its police department? Tantalizing. But Brazil Senate’s call to indict President Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity? A bit unsurprising.
We open in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the devastating testimony of Majid Khan about the torture and sexual abuse he endured since the 2003 Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. It’s the first time an al-Qaeda operative speaks out about what went on in the many U.S.-run “black sites” around the world and his testimony shows how far goes the divide between what Americans like to think of themselves and what those they delegate do in their behalf.
The graphic descriptions of torture by Khan led some military officers in the sentencing team to ask the war court to grant him clemency, and call the treatment of the ex-Baltimore high school teen “a stain in the moral fiber of America.” With that being said, they sentenced him to 26 years in prison.
In Saudi Arabia, there’s jubilation for the newest $500 million military contract with the Biden administration. As the president boarded Air Force One to Rome and Glasgow he took a step that Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Last Call For Earthlings, Colltalers

The U.N. Climate Conference in Glasgow and the G20 meeting in Roma. Two major global gatherings this week could mean humanity’s last-ditch effort to demand its leaders to act against climate emergency, vaccine monopoly, wealth inequality, attacks on democracy. But few believe it’ll happen.
According to WHO, up to 180,000 healthcare workers have succumbed to Covid even as less than 10% in 50 countries have been vaccinated. A Public Citizen’s exposé of Pfizer shows its corporate bullying of poor nations. And the infamous Steve Bannon, the scourge of free elections, is on the lam.
Let’s begin with some graphic, horrific videos of Russian security forces sexually torturing detainees. Videos posted by Sergei Savelyev, then serving a drug sentence, went viral and landed him in the Kremlin’s most wanted list. As he seeks asylum from France it’s useful to consider that, while 330 Russians out of every 100,000 are incarcerated, it’s the U.S. that sends more people to jail than anyone else: 2.3 million currently languish behind bars.
In Hoffman, North Carolina, whose majority of 588 residents is black, life hasn’t been the same since a paramilitary group moved there. Oak Grove Tech offers “tactical and cultural training” for defense, enforcement, and crowd-control but to locals, its unholy noise of gunfires, explosions, and doors being blown out “for forced entry,” plus a multistory shoot house shows it’s in fact a training facility for tomorrow’s minority-shooting vigilantes.
An unrelated BuzzFeed News analysis found that 28 current elected officials are part or support the Fascist organization Oath Keepers, whose at least two dozen members are being charged with the Jan. 6 invasion and looting of Capitol Hill. These Continue reading

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I Am Because We All Are, Colltalers

The fatal stabbing of Conservative parliamentary Sir David Amess reawakens fears of terrorism in the U.K. And throws an inconvenient light over the British government’s insistence in prosecuting Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, especially in light of the revelations that the CIA planned to assassinate him.
Alabama coal miners, Nabisco, Kellogg’s, and John Deer workers, nurses in California, healthcare staff in Buffalo, Hollywood crews; could we be entering another age of labor strikes? And despite global shortages, since March the U.S. has tossed millions of doses of Covid vaccines.
Let’s begin in Haiti where 17 members of an American Christian group were kidnapped on Saturday by the 400 Mawozo, a well-known gang linked to previous kidnappings. It’s not clear how positive is the presence of thousands of foreign religious missionaries in a nation that’s experienced in quick succession the murder of its president, an earthquake, and a hurricane, and already struggles with foreign pressure.
Their fate contrasts with that of 15 Nigerian women and children who last week fled their infamous captors, the Boko Haram which also resorts to abduction as a standard M.O. In the past six years, it kidnapped over 1,000 women and girls, and only a few have ever returned.
In Brazil, President Bolsonaro faces yet another challenge, this time from Austrian legal organization AllRise. The group is urging the International Court in the Hague to probe the former Army-expelled Captain for “crimes against humanity” over his tragic missteps in the Amazon and its Indigenous peoples. Under his watch, Continue reading

Curtain Raisers

Hail the Earth Protectors, Colltalers

China’s push for what it calls “reunification” is keeping Taiwan up at night, but whatever happens there has the potential to drag the U.S. and the world into an unthinkable conflict. To avert it, only some high-level diplomacy, the kind an underfunded and overpowered U.N. sadly can no longer handle.
Low-turnout parliamentary elections in Iraq and the Czech Republic, where far-right P.M. Andrej Babiš lost his re-election bid, brought no surprises. The Supreme Court’s hearing the first Guantanamo case brought to U.S. soil: Abu Zubaydah, who spent 19 years in the infamous jail without a charge.
We start in Lebanon, where power was finally restored after a 24-hour nationwide blackout. After weeks of providing only a few hours of electricity each day, the power grid was shut down Saturday, as the country’s two main power plants ran out of fuel. Army reserves were used to restart the grid.
In Afghanistan, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 46 Shiite Muslims in a mosque. Daesh accuses the Taliban of abiding by a request by China to expel Uyghers out of the country. But to Afghans caught in the crosshairs, what comes out of these attacks is always death and heartbreaking despair.
In Gaza, farmers and traders held a rally at Karm Abu Salem crossing, the only one for import and export, as Israel’s constant shutdowns threaten the economy. Palestinians depend on Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Keep the Pressure On, Colltalers

Thousands in the U.S. took the streets to defend women’s reproductive rights. Crowds were also loud in Milan, Italy, where youth activists marched ahead of the U.N. Climate Change summit starting on Oct. 31, and massive across Brazil, protesting President Bolsonaro’s anti-environment policies.
The week’s heartbreak was the totally predictable delisting of 23 species from the endangered status because they’re all but extinct. And of course, the devastation of Covid as 700,000 Americans perished from the virus, and much of the world still remains unvaccinated. But tiny Mercury is rising.
Let’s start with Venezuela which has cut six zeroes of the bolivar so to fight the year-on-year inflation of 1,743%. OPEC’s only Latin American nation member has been battling severe economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. in the past that the Biden administration doesn’t seem too keen on lifting.
Texas, not known for sensible environmental regulations, is now halting new permits for wastewater injection wells, a destructive procedure used in fracking. The relatively surprising decision by the state’s regulator comes after a wave of earthquakes were linked to the practice. Colorado, Oklahoma, and Delaware have also reported fracking-caused quakes recently. By the way, banning fracking was once one of President Biden’s campaign promises.
In Australia, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people will take ownership of the world heritage-listed Daintree tropical rainforest, Continue reading