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 as a reason. It’s the end, possibly, to one of the most absurd decisions by the Biden administration, taken almost immediately after the 2021 Climate Summit in Glasgow. With that, the president seriously compromised his credibility which he invoked profusely during his campaign. Americans wonder, has he learned it?
Northern Ireland marked the somber 50th anniversary of the Jan. 1972 Sunday Bloody Sunday, when British soldiers opened fire and killed 14 Irish Catholics rallying against Protestant loyalists marching through their communities. The bitter highlight of what came to be known as The Troubles boosted a violent movement for independence of the U.K. The 1998 Good Friday accord started the healing process but without plans for a reunification.
Welcome to Nusantara, Indonesia’s new capital, which replaces Jakarta. The former capital, home to 10 million-plus, is plagued by environmental and social problems. It’s also one of the world’s fastest sinking cities, falling at an estimated rate of 25cm a year due to over-extraction of groundwater.
In Colorado, Elizabeth Ann is seeking a “gentle” mate. Mating for the world’s first black-footed ferret, cloned from an animal that died 30 years ago, would be historic for this endangered species. There’s just one thing: Elizabeth’s cute but feisty. Thus her handlers are careful screening candidates.
In Texas, cloning is following another path as private company Colossal is betting that the world needs to “de-extinct” mammoths, the giant wooly creature that disappeared millions of years ago. It’s one of those situations: the technology to make it happen does exist. The question is: should we?
The U.S. approach to the now empowered threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine has “left the domain of rational discourse far behind,” said world-renowned dissident Noam Chomsky. He’s not alone considering that the Biden administration not just mishandled badly this situation but also contributed to escalating it by publicly dismissing concerns by Vladimir Putin about the eastern expansion of NATO.
There’s no question that by moving a massive troop build-up right at the Ukrainian borders, Putin opened himself to severe criticism. But there’s also no question that NATO has no business executing military maneuvers in the area, while the U.S. deploys troops in the Baltic and Eastern Europe, and its contractors flood Ukraine with weapons. But on the American media, there’s just one tenor: war, war, war.
The U.S. crossed the grim threshold of 900,000 deaths from Covid, still the most in the world by reasons that defy reason. But also, by a ruthless effort by the Republican Party to sow confusion and discredit science, so to capitalize dissatisfaction and win the Nov. election.
This pandemic aggravated the gargantuan gap between the haves and the have-nots of the world and the wealthy got obscenely richer. While the world walks toward its 400 millionth case, it’s all but certain that the virus will continue to generate new variants that will take even more lives of the poor, while enriching vaccine-making corporations’ coffers. After all, this is the new Gilded Age of Lies and Deceit.
It explains the bizarre and criminal wave of threats of violence toward scientists and preservationists, in this case, of one of the most gracious creatures on Earth. All the National Butterfly Center does, often with little local support, is to study and protect these winged wonders who last so little on this Earth – can you blame them? But to be called “sex trafficker” for doing that, now that’s just deranged.
Something that could be said also about the situation in the occupied territories of Israel, which is relentlessly evicting and demolishing Palestinian homes, and giving them to settlers, all amidst extreme violence and poverty. All Amnesty International, the world’s biggest human rights organization, has done was to document how Israeli policies toward Palestinians do amount to crimes against humanity.
Nevertheless, right-wing lobbyists in D.C. have tried to dismiss humanitarian concerns and divert the discussion to a reliable favorite: calling human rights and anti-apartheid activists anti-semitic, a charge not only uncalled for but downright disingenuous in this context. Even as Jewish people remain targeted for violence in the world, the Israeli government is guilty of oppression of the Palestinian people.
Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe had emigrated with his family to Brazil in 2011 to escape war in his native Congo. On the 24th, he was murdered by three men by the iconic Copacabana Beach in Rio. Over the weekend, thousands rallied to decry the murder, not oblivious to that fading vision of a nation known for its friendly people. Brazilians are heartbroken about how fast such a universal image has been defaced, perhaps for good. R.I.P., Moïse.
We’ve got right back to the same themes that keep us up all night: war, climate change, Covid, inequality. We gained some and lost lots. We still need a few good humans, but life is its own upside and being alive is halfway there. The planet is heeling and tragedy remains unabated but we won’t be discouraged. As Martin Heidegger once put, “the most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we’re still not thinking.” Cheers WC

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