Curtain Raiser

Who’s On First, What’s On Colltalers

The Covid-19 vaccination rollout is about to start and with that comes another stage of the pandemic. And questions such as, who will be first? how will the process work itself out? and how much big pharma corporations stand to make? That’s why there’s the ‘People’s Vaccine Alliance‘ on the rise.
Facebook, the social media that’s richer and more powerful than many nations, is facing antitrust lawsuits filed by the Federal Trade Commission and 48 U.S. states, ultimately seeking to break it up for buying out its competition only to crush it. But hang in there, you may not need to quit it just yet.
Let’s start on a sobering note, though (hoping to improve it later): last Tuesday it’s been 1000 days since Rio’s Black councilwoman, rights activist, and LGBTQ firebrand Marielle Franco was executed, on March 14, 2018. There’s no secret who killed her but seemingly no proof of who ordered the hit.
Hated by corrupt police and militia alike, a fierce advocate for the shantytown dwellers of her city, there’s no mystery why she was murdered either. Her still unpunished assassination is a stain on Brazil’s justice system, and as many fingers point to President Bolsonaro and his politician sons, hers is yet another indictment on the impunity of crimes perpetrated against women, Black communities, sex minorities, and the poor, all of which she not just embodied but used her platform as an elected politician to defend. She’s still sorely missed and the silence about her true killers is simply an outrage.
Four years after the U.K. unexpectedly voted to split up from the European Union, the reality that the vote was a fluke and the separation would be in fact a mistake may have become self-evident. Not to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of course, for it helped him move to 10 Downing Street. But to his fellow Brits, the official Dec. 31 divorce, even if it lasts beyond that, will be a rude awakening and much hardship for the entire Commonwealth.
Great Britain is about to leave the union without any trade or security agreement, the worst possible outcome for a long list of terrible possibilities. But reminding everyone of you-know-who, Johnson chose to recast reality as a ‘wonderful‘ outcome: call it good what’s essentially only good to yourself, and blame others when questions get too inconvenient. Many awful things happened in 2016 but Brexit is among the top three or four certifiably bad.
Speaking of dreadful things, ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft spent over $200 million to pass Proposition 22 in California, in a win for the so-called ‘gig economy.’ It’ll help them deny basic job and labor rights to workers, while they amass a fortune taking advantage of the pandemic’s impact on public services and the American workforce. Even worst, there’s talk now they’re ready to invest to turn the measure into some national legislation.
It’s perhaps the final straw for 75 years of prosperity of U.S. workers, hard-earned through union organizing and improved labor relations. Although it may date to the Reagan administration the start of the undermining of the labor movement, something else was at play in the approval: deceiving advertising. A survey found that 40% of ‘Yes‘ voters thought they were supporting gig workers’ ability to earn a living wage. But it does the opposite.
Independent contractors‘ at DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates, which Uber now owns, are no longer eligible even to minimal job protections, such as overtime pay or retirement contributions matched by the employer, and may be fired in a whim, with no possibility of collecting unemployment for it.
The U.N. World Food Programme, the humanitarian organization for hunger and food security, has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. Wars, climate change, and now the pandemic may drive 270 million people to the brink of starvation, said director David Beasley while accepting the award.
With global vaccination set to start, as vaccines owned by big pharmaceutical companies but partially developed with taxpayers’ funding reach their final testing stages, there’s a growing call for accountability. The People’s Vaccine, a coalition of Amnesty, Frontline AIDS, Oxfam, and other non-profit groups, wants vaccination to be free and accessible to anyone in the world, starting with the sick and first responders. But now, not in 2022.
Facebook’s revenues last year were over $70 billion and profits, above $18.5 billion, according to the FTC whose suit is separated from the one led by N.Y. Attorney General Leticia James and other 47 AGs. But despite support from users for splitting up Mark Zuckenberg’s creature, two of its most nefarious aspects are not part of either suit: the implicit but still immoral sale of private information, and its veiled support for right-wing extremists.
We mourn journalist Malalai Maiwand who became the 10th media worker killed this year in Afghanistan, and yet another woman assassinated by sectarian violence around the world. And former Uruguay President Tabaré Vázquez who died on Dec. 6. His stewardship of the South American nation was a turning point for the ‘Pink Tide,’ a period of prosperity and progressive leaders and policies in the region during the first decade of 2000.
The sudden, lovely visit of a humpback whale to the NYC harbor this past week reminded us of why we take so seriously climate change. For it may offer us a spectacular sight of a majestic animal frolicking within sight of the West Side Highway. But we wonder, what is he or she doing here?
And we couldn’t possibly end this without a warning to penguins living in South Georgia Island: the world’s biggest iceberg is heading your way, no two ways about it. The trillion-ton, 97-mile-long megaberg has been on a long track since it broke off in 1997 from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf. Roughly the same size of the entire island – and many times the size of Manhattan – a collision could be disastrous for the birds. Would you tell them?
We may have to postpone Christmas and find ways to go back to lockdown over the holidays without losing our minds, but if over 16 million cases in the U.S. and 34,000 deaths only in Nov. are not strong enough arguments to anyone, why bother pretending ’tis the season of joy, ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo‘ and all that jazz? Who needs religion if it’s not about compassion for your fellow humans? Don’t answer that, just please wear a mask. Cheerio WC


2 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. Colltales says:

    Thanks Nina, it’s good to hear from you. Cheers


  2. Dina says:

    You are so spot on, thank you for being so outspoken. And shame on you, Boris Johnson!
    No need to answer the last question, I’ll wear a face mask for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

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