Curtain Raiser

Protect Mothers & the Climate, Colltalers

So this is it. The U.N. Climate Change Conference is not yet done in Madrid but it’s clear that no breakthrough is about to be announced. We’re on our own, and as Greta Thunberg put it, ‘we have achieved nothing.’ Not to give anything up just yet, there’s the alternative Cumbre Social por el Clima.
Tyrants share a common trait of hating women. But only Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro was caught on camera telling a congresswoman that she was ‘too ugly to be raped.’ Since he’s president, rape and femicide rates have spiked: four girls are raped every hour and over 1,200 have been killed this year so far.
We’ll touch these headlines later but first, let’s start at a Texas Border Patrol facility’s unsanitary cell where a sick Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez spent his last minutes on this earth. A ProPublica report includes a harrowing 5/20/19 video of the 16-year-old Guatemalan asylum-seeker agonizing and dying as his also sick cellmate slept. He found Carlos’ body in the morning. The footage debunks the agency’s claims that his death was inevitable.
It also, once again, exposes the Trump administration’s sheer cruelty and staggering lack of empathy by which it’s been rewriting immigration laws and universal human rights. It’s another image in a gallery of horrors that top each other every few months: the grotesque separation of families, many to remain as such for an unpredictable time; kids in cages; toddlers testifying in court; and the brutal, and often secret, deaths of children in custody.
But the issue is unlikely to be on the articles of impeachment against the U.S. president the House of Representatives will compile this week. If laws were based on morality, he would’ve been already removed from office; as it is, a technicality could do it.

Either way, it needs to be done but it won’t.
‘Trump has the real potential to become ever more dangerous, a threat to the safety of our nation.’ The warning comes from a group of 350 mental health professionals, in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee. They fear a high-stakes event such as the impeachment could trigger an emotional response from the president which itself ‘could lead to catastrophic outcomes.’ It’s not every day that mental illness is so evident.
It comes after yet another erratic performance of his at the world stage, this time the NATO conference in London, which he abruptly left, not before publicly calling Canada’s PM, Justin Trudeau, a ‘two-faced.’ Timing of his unexpected departure seems in sync with the release of a now-viral video, showing world leaders led by Trudeau openly laughing at him. Remember when he used to say that was happening (it was not) to President Obama?
Three more worth noting. Questions are being raised about the Organization of American States’ role in the coup that deposed Bolivia’s democratically elected President Evo Morales. After analyzing the results, which the OAS declared ‘hard to explain’ on Oct. 21, the day after his reelection, a group of intellectuals, political scientists, and economists are calling for a congressional inquiry on the agency whose incorrect statements supported the coup.
And Thursday, the U.K. may have – possibly, likely, almost surely – the last word on whether to support Brexit, while one of its architects, P.M. Boris Johnson plans his next move. By now, with all due respect, the Brits must decide this issue for good as the world is too busy to keep up with its tosses and turns. Even those who see Brexit approval as a disastrous step for the Commonwealth are now too fatigued to care and want it settled already.
No one can say it’s the United Nations’ fault, or that this sort of summit is, by definition, destined to fail. But the stakes were never so high, so blame will be uselessly assigned either way. The climate conference will last till Friday, but way more relevant has been what’s happening outside its walls, in the streets of Madrid and world cities. Resistance to the U.N.’s likely canned solutions mounts and independent groups are seizing the moment.
A feeling of great disappointment and even disgust has been taking hold, especially by the way corporations have been allowed to infiltrate the climate emergency narrative without spending a cent on solutions. Advertisement budgets, however, are always hefty and usually drown legitimate proposals.
The parallel Cumbre gathers social justice and environmental groups protesting corporate influence, political repression in Chile, and Spain’s own failure to address the crisis. Saturday half a million people heard Thunberg and other global youth leaders from Fridays For the Future, Pacific Warriors, and many others, call for action, not words, to radically reduce carbon emissions, but hope may be waning that we’ll get it together in time.
A World Meteorological Organization study found that this has been the hottest decade on record. To keep priorities straight, the week brought us also the Right Livelihood Award to be graced to Thunberg; Sahrawi human rights activist Aminatou Haidar; Chinese women’s rights lawyer Guo Jianmei; and Indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa and the Yanomami Hutukara Association. The 40-year-old award has been called the Alternative Nobel Prize.
Lastly, it’s also fitting that Chaules Volban Pozzebon, considered the Amazon’s biggest deforester, was finally arrested for being part of a criminal organization. Local communities have long suffered in the hands of this ruthless logging owner, capable of anything to keep his 120 logging projects in the area.
Nov. 25 marked the International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women and thousands marched around the world. What’s happening in Brazil is far from being the exception and besides notorious offenders such as India, Saudi Arabia, and most of the middle eastern world, violent crimes against women, and repression of their reproductive rights, is a constant even in rich societies. In many ways, we’re already backpedaling on it.
Over 17 percent of women around the world have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or ex-partner, and of the 87,000 murdered in 2017, half were killed by them or a family member, according to the U.N. And the World Bank estimates that more than a billion women lack legal protection from domestic violence. This picture is reinforced by a disturbing increase in gender violence and discrimination against sexual minorities.
Electing the first woman and mother to the U.S. Presidency may be a way to start addressing those vicious trends. But most importantly is to denounce and expose not just the perpetrators but the system that allows them to fester. If all women would vote out of the office certified sexual abusers, we’ll surely be halfway there. But we need more. It takes lots of courage, so offer them support and watch them and the kids show how it’s done. Cheers WC


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