Curtain Raiser

Days Last as Long as Nights, Colltalers

It was tragic but not our last mistake in Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s admitted that the Aug. 29 drone strike killed 10 civilians, including seven children, and not an Islamic extremist as first claimed. In Washington, 650,000 white flags mark the now near 700 thousand Americans who have died of Covid.
France’s mad at being left out of a U.S. pact with Australia and the U.K., to build American-technology nuclear-powered submarines to counter China’s growing influence. President Macron’s recalled its ambassadors and will call Biden. And a pro-Kremlin party held its majority in Russia’s Parliament.
More on that later but let’s begin with El Salvador, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary, where protests erupted against far-right President Nayib Bukele after he declared bitcoin as the country’s legal tender. The move has been highly criticized as it’ll leave out millions of poor Salvadoreans who lack bank accounts or smartphones. To prove critics right, the volatile currency often used by criminals for money laundering, has already crashed.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterne will face a probe by the International Criminal Court at the Hague, for alleged crimes committed during his brutal anti-drug traffic crackdown. Violent police raids he’s ordered may have killed over 6,000 mostly poor people, often without due process.
In Iran, undercover Israeli agents used a drone to assassinate top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh with a remote-controlled machine gun and help from artificial intelligence, according to a report from The New York Times which Iran disputes. The killing took place last November in Absard.
A 2016 FBI document released on the eve of the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 confirmed what many suspected about Saudi Arabia’s role in the attacks. According to ProPublica, evidence shows U.S.-based Saudi religious leaders “had connections not only to people who provided support to hijackers but also to other al-Qaida operatives and suspected extremists.” The U.S.-friendly authoritarian regime has always denied involvement in the attacks.
And a new report on nature defenders by environmental group Global Witness shows that a record 227 activists have been killed worldwide in 2020, more than four a week on average. In Brazil, for instance, the Guajajara Guardians have taken it upon themselves to safeguard the ecosystem where they’ve lived in and helped shape for centuries. But despite their efforts, the Amazon is being slashed and burned by big landowners and corporations.
Lastly, attesting that in immigration matters, the Biden administration has been as cruel as the previous one, it’s started to deport Haitians back to their homeland. Yes, the one where the president has been assassinated, an ongoing probe is riddled with corruption, a massive earthquake has leveled parts of Port-au-Prince, and a storm followed it right after. And this just in the last few months. Before that, they’d endured a lot of suffering while here.
To at least some, deportation may have looked even better than their present conditions: they’re among 10,000 Haitian migrants who have been kept under the Del Rio International Bridge, in Texas. Faced with such a despicable fate, we may ask, how’s possible they’ve found no friends in America?
That the U.S. would commit a spectacular error by assuming a well-known community organizer in Kabul was in fact a suicide bomber on his way to the airport was almost expected. And so were the two weeks of denials, along with the justification that there’d been a second detonation, which was not true. Even worst is the fact that this killing, as with many other unjustified bombings of innocent Afghans, was and still is morally unacceptable.
“In America: Remember,” an outdoor art installation by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg is a memorial of over 650,000 white flags in the shadow of the White House, to mark the already near 700,000 Covid deaths. Families will have till Oct. 3 to pay respect to relatives and friends lost to the disease.
France, America’s oldest ally, was taken aback last week when Australia gave up on a submarine contract worth $66 billion to enter an agreement with the U.S. and United Kingdom. For that, it’ll receive eight nuclear-powered submarines to help counter possible expansionist moves by China in the Indo-Pacific region. President Emmanuel Macron has recalled both the Aussie and the American ambassadors as an intro to his phone call with Biden.
The Chinese regime has expressed anger about what it calls “anti-China alliance,” and vows to resist the “interference” in its efforts to re-incorporate Taiwan. Naturally, Taiwan applauded AUKUS, the poor-choice acronym for the agreement, but some fear it may lead to a likely catastrophic conflict.
Speaking of what everyone has expected, Russia’s ruling United Russia party, President Vladimir Putin’s support in the Parliament, has retained its majority after a three-day election. But even winning an estimated 45%, victory was only achieved after a crackdown of Putin’s critics, including the most prominent of them at the moment, Alexei Navalny. Like him, many were thrown in jail while others were prevented from campaigning or voting.
Navalny suffered but survived an attempted murder by poison in 2020, orchestrated by whom he says were Kremlin agents. That helped him little as Russian courts sent him to two and half years of prison in Feb. But he remains active from behind bars and has thousands of followers on social media.
Days will last the same as nights for a while, as the Sept. 23 Equinox finds the sun right above Earth’s equator. In the ancient vernacular we’ve created to relate to the apparent movement of heavenly bodies, equinoxes and solstices have a muted solemnity as if the paths drawn in the sky above us have meaning and consequence to mere mortals. But mortals, we do find reasons to consider our ways and act accordingly when space phenomena happen.
It’s with that spirit of communion with the universe and the exquisite movement of the giant and utterly alien space spheres surrounding us that we take this moment to reaccess our priorities. We’re past the halfway point of this year and hopefully of the devastating coronavirus. But we haven’t started with the Earth and what it’ll take to prevent it from being unable to shelter us. That’s a task for us, the living. Let’s not play games and get to work. WC

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