Curtain Raiser

Taming the Beasts of War, Colltalers

Despite American intelligence’s strident warnings about Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine, peace still holds even with skirmishes here and there. Against the wall, Putin either backs up his threats or risks embarrassment. Many fear they already know the answer; we’ll surely regret it either way.
As the U.S. lifts its temporary ban on Mexican avocados, Honduras’ ex-President Hernandez has been extradited on drug traffic charges just days after finishing his term. Victim relatives of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre’s won a settlement with a gunmaker. And Qanon‘s identity may’ve been revealed.
Let’s begin in Petrópolis, Brazil, where torrential rains triggered fatal floods and landslides that have already killed 117 people. This tragedy seems to visit the region periodically but climate change has increased the misery. “All my friends are gone, they are all dead, all buried,” said resident Maria José de Araujo. It was the heaviest rainfall since 1932 in the “Imperial City,” as it was known in the 19th century by the vacationing Brazilian royalty.
In Israel, P.M. Naftali Bennett has already put a negative spin on a potential agreement between Iran and the world over its nuclear capability. As the talks resumed in Vienna, Iran seeks guarantees that the U.S. won’t unilaterally quit the deal as it did before and that some sanctions will be lifted. The Israelis oppose an Iranian nuclear state, though, and Bennett’s said that proceeds from a possible break from penalties “will eventually go to terrorism.”
In Argentina, as the government readies a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund, wildfires have destroyed 800,000 hectares of land or nearly 10 percent of the northwest region of Corrientes. Fires, drought, and heat waves have marked the start of 2022 in the region. As for the IMF, unlike prior harmful accords with other emerging economies, this time there are no demands for austerity, labor reforms, or pension “adjustments.”
Speaking of Latin America, as Covid vaccination rates spike, there’s been a coordinated effort to increase independent production throughout the so-called Global South. Given the staggering profits made by the labs that owe the patents, and how impoverished nations were left out of the push for immunization, Mexico, Brazil, and others are already producing vaccine components. But the goal is to follow Cuba and develop their own vaccines.
In the land of corporate bliss, however, American private equity firms are making a killing by investing in fossil fuels that are increasing greenhouse gas emissions, an investigation led by two non-profit groups has revealed. The Private Equity’s Dirty Dozen report names 12 firms, led by the Carlyle Group, KKR, and ArcLight Capital Partners, that are investing billions in coal, oil, and gas fracking, using the pension money of unwitting retirees.
Then there’s Novak Djokovic, the exceptional Serbian tennis player who’s unfortunately become known for cheating. Not in the game but with Covid. While denying allegiance to the anti-vax movement, in his first interview after being deported from Australia for trying to play with a phony vaccine “exemption,” Novak said he’s willing to sacrifice his Grand Slam record and miss tournaments to follow his convictions. If that happens, tennis lovers will be the ones feeling cheated. Like Swiss Roger Federer, Djokovic’s won 20 titles, but both are now second to Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who has 21.
To millions of Russians and Ukrainians who despise war and wish their leaders would too, prospects for a peace agreement are beginning to wan, and those who could, have already fled their homes, while those who’re stuck, well, they have no hope. Russian forces continue to conduct “exercises” with Belarus and the Ministry of Defense has charged Russia of violating the ceasefire agreement “20 times,” using mortars and anti-tank grenade launchers.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico said it’ll lift a ban on avocado imports into the U.S., which was in place since last Sunday. In Michoacán, an American plant safety inspector who had refused to allow a shipment due to safety concerns received a threat on his official cellphone, likely from a drug cartel.
Longtime U.S. ally Juan Orlando Hernandez was twice president of Honduras and also presided over congress for one legislature before being arrested and placed on his way to prison where his brother Toni is already spending his remaining life. Before that, though, his corruption has cost Honduran lives.
He rose to power thanks to the Obama administration’s support for a coup against democratically elected Manuel Zelaya, in 2009. As he worked his way through lucrative drug deals with Mexican cartels, Honduras became one of the most dangerous places to be. In 2014, he started his two terms in the presidency. But this Jan. 27, he was succeeded by progressive Xiomara Castro, Honduras’ first female president and, oh, the irony, Zelaya’s wife.
The Sandy Hook School massacre of Dec. 2012 was one of the most horrific in a country that has already registered 62 mass shootings so far this year. 20 young children and six adults were killed that day. But in the 10 years since, besides the insurmountable grief and despair, victim relatives had to contend with another evil: conspiracists claiming, often in violent terms both in person and via social media, that the entire slaughter had been staged.
Since neither the White House nor Congress has shown resolve to address the issue of gun violence and easy accessibility in America, even as bodies keep piling up, the families sued gunmaker Remington, which manufactures AK-15-style rifles, used in the attack and won a $73 million settlement. Had America dealt with the issue of gun violence before, now we’d have a valuable weapon in the fight against say, supremacist paramilitary groups.
The rise of outrageous conspiracy theories, which often lead to tragedy or compound to it, is a relatively recent phenomenon not confined to the U.S. But it’s here that its despicable intentions have acquired a destructive political power, as the Jan. 6, 2021 rampage of Capitol Hill has shown. Now one of those voices of the dark side, Qanon, may have been exposed, not as a glorious Pentagon insider, as it led followers to believe, but as two dudes.
According to the NYTimes, separate teams of computer scientists identified both Paul Furber and Ron Watkins as the likely authors of the incendiary viral messages that its followers consider sacred. Furber, a software designer, was the first but somehow got jumped along the way by his then friend Ron Watkins, who’s now running for Congress in Arizona. They both denied being “it,” of course. Time to page Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“By all means necessary.” 57 years today, Malcon X, was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. He was 39 and the most vibrant public speaker this side of MLK Jr. Briefly allies in the struggle of Black Americans, they both felled by hate and the barrel of a gun. Still sorely missed.
Four hundred years ago, someone had already notated with the utmost poetic precision, what happens when the world finds itself stuck in this same situation. “The citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all their rights unto the leader and gladly so.” But Shakespeare was not the only one to notice it, just the most brilliant. The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is still an up-to-date history play. But we still haven’t learned. Buvaj. WC

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