Curtain Raiser

No Time to Drift Apart, Colltalers

Hearts go out to Haiti where human resilience is being tested to the hilt. The earthquake was another punch in a devastating series of knockouts as the world’s mostly stood by. But now it has to step in big time. Meanwhile, our collective breaths are equally suspended with the impending fall of Kabul.
Rising Covid numbers in the U.S. and worldwide are kicking people out of their homes in record numbers. The Supreme Court will add some more with a ruling banning parts of an eviction moratorium. And the quest to free embattled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has just suffered a new blow.
Let’s pick it up with the climate emergency which has just set July as the hottest month on Earth ever. Get to the highest temperature ever registered in Europe, 119.85F in Syracuse, Sicily. And on to the Agora Energiewende’s report foreseeing that Germany may hit this year its biggest greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. While you ruminate on what this all means, just notice that we haven’t even mentioned wildfires, floods, or hurricanes just yet.
On the same theme, a Dutch court has ordered Royal Dutch Shell to pay about $111.6 million to communities in Nigeria over crude oil spills in 1970, and once it does, it’ll potentially end a 13-year legal battle. Two claimant farmers have died while Shell spent the bigger part of half a century trying to deny liability for the Niger Delta’s pollution, but now “ran out of tricks and decided to come to terms,” said the communities’ lawyer Lucious Nwosa.
Since the alarming U.N.’s report on the state of climate change was released last week it became clearer how far we’re from achieving any of the goals set in Paris in 2015. Scientific evidence indicates that the planet will indeed warm by 1.5° Celsius in the next two decades because there’s no sight that the Biden administration and the other rich countries in the world are completely serious about climate change. Activism can go only too far; without drastic government action, it’s not enough. “You can’t build pipelines and be sustainable. A green pipeline is still a pipeline,” said a #StopLine3 tweet.
As fossil-fuel companies rush projects before public outcry is loud enough to wake up the White House – the Enbridge’s Line 3 oil sand pipeline in Minnesota may start operations next month – the president showed that he’s more concerned about high oil prices that with a potentially dramatic spike in greenhouse gas emissions: he’s asked Opec to increase output, which is astoundingly tone-deaf given what billions are going through as we speak.
Organizations are now targeting big companies such as JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock, and Liberty Mutual, for investing, funding, and ensuring fossil-fuel industry projects like Line 3. Legions of native water protectors and their allies are trying their best to disrupt the construction but have mainly got crushed against well-paid, taxpayer-funded police officers who seem encouraged to harass, spy on, arrest, and suppress Indigenous dissent. Mr. Biden?
Justice for victims of the war in Darfur may finally be in the works: Sudan said that it’ll “hand over” longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity charges. The U.N. says 300,000 people have been killed during the 18-year-old conflict while Bashir was ruling Sudan by force since 1989. He was deposed and imprisoned in 2019. At the same time, border tensions with Ethiopia are at an all-time high.
Saturday started badly in Haiti: a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook the nation whose president was brutally murdered just over a month ago. It killed over 1,300 but the death toll is expected to rise. As Storm Grace brings disgraceful weather to an already horribly eroded land, Haitians may fear two things the most: aftershocks, and the kind of international help that also brings along crooks and opportunists, just like the devastating 2010 quake did.
Judge Mathieu Chanlatte who was investigating the killing of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, stepped down just hours before the quake. His resignation, which didn’t mention last week’s killing of his chief clerk, Ernst Lafortune in mysterious circumstances, throws the probe into disarray.
Now that President Ashraf Ghani has fled Afghanistan, and the Taliban has been reported at the gates of Kabul, help for those who helped American troops has become scarce but not fear. “The Taliban will kill us,” say scores of translators, drivers, guides, allies, entire communities; whoever is now perceived as a “collaborator” is in mortal danger. The U.S. exits – partly – the country the same way it entered: unprepared. It’ll get worse, of course.
They did it again. The Supreme Court just banned a portion of a New York State eviction moratorium that may hurt those whose jobs and income have been lost to the pandemic: next stop, the curb. It’s a cruel ruling that will energize landlords and evict poor people of color by the thousands; they won’t even be able to invoke hardship. The Supreme has now a simpler switch: to give voting rights to corporations and/or to deny them to minority voters.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who published classified documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2010 and 2011, is closer to be extradited from the U.K. after a new appeal was accepted. Confinement has compromised his health and his defense team expressed doubts that he’d have a fair trial in a polarized U.S.. For sure, he’d have restricted access to crucial data to defend himself, due to the classified nature of the material.
Friday the 13th was a fitting date to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, dismantled in 1989 along with the Soviet Union. Its building was infamy and its destruction, although meaningful, did not break the divides WWII imposed on humanity. Its toll of hatred, prejudice, and racism sadly lives on even if its line of bricks no longer does. Only a commitment to speak truth to power will prevent Fascism and the Nazis to ever rise again.
“Are you lonesome tonight? /Do you miss me tonight? /Are you sorry we’ve drifted apart?” It feels almost odd to remember Elvis Presley today, 44 years since he passed. The world’s gotten so busy trying to self-destroy before we actually do it that only a few are still attuned to ideals of freedom of expression and the promise to break up with the past. Elvis rode that high wave twice but we were hardly paying any attention the second time around.
“Honey, you lied when you said you loved me /and I had no cause to doubt you. /But I’d rather go on hearing your lies /than go on living without you.” In the end, though, we forgive whom we can and forget what we must. The boy from Tupelo couldn’t possibly understand what he’d started, neither we could get enough of him. “With emptiness all around /if you won’t come back to me /then make them bring the curtain down.” Thank You Very Much. WC

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