Curtain Raiser

A Pocketful of Sunflowers, Colltalers

As Russia begins its gruesome cavalcade to occupy Ukraine and seize its nuclear plants, including Chernobyl, nations scramble to find ways to stop Putin. But sanctions will only worsen misery for Russians and Ukrainians. And world billionaires won’t let us go after his – and their – offshore assets.
War is bound to impact everything. Except for FIFA, it seems, as the soccer authority plans to keep Russia competing for the World Cup later on this year. Who will want to play them? Speaking of nukes, talks over a new Iran accord continue. And the U.S. is about to hit its one million Covid deaths.
We begin in the sports world by praising the Women’s U.S. soccer team for achieving equal pay, a historic step in the road to justice. They earned it for doing the same job as their male counterparts – even though they’re the world’s #1 and the men are still struggling to make it to the cup. Praise also to Wladimir Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv and a former world heavyweight champion, and his brother, also an ex-boxer and prior mayor. They took up arms.
In Iraq, telecom giant Ericsson has secretly worked with Daesh, the terrorist Islamic State, since at least 2011, to smuggle equipment into cities under siege by the group. According to a report obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Ericsson made millions of dollars in suspicious payments just as ISIS was controlling millions of people, trafficking sex slaves, and using its technology to spread images of beheadings.
In Peru, last month’s unprecedented oil spill from a Repsol refinery has spread to miles of beaches shocking researchers who were already monitoring coastal wildlife. The spill in Huamán was aggravated by heavy swells triggered by the eruption of a volcano near Tonga, more than 6,000 miles away.
In Australia, several days of heavy rain have flooded parts of Brisbane e elsewhere in Queensland, with reportedly seven deaths in their wake. Severe downpours are just the latest climate change-fueled extreme weather conditions Down Under, after the devastating wildfires of the past few summers.
And again praise for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Nation points to her years as a public defender and distinguished qualifications helping to implement “federal sentencing guidelines to reduce harsh sentences for drug crimes.” Congressman Mondaire Jones considers her an “intellectual heavyweight.” Judge Jackson will be replacing retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
At this rate, the U.S. will hit yet another sobering threshold: one million Americans will have been killed by Covid in a few weeks. In two years, the coronavirus, now confirmed by two separate studies to have originated in China’s Wuhan Market, has killed more in the world’s richest country than anywhere else. There’s still no explanation as to why so many remain unvaccinated. Only perhaps Trump.
Suddenly that old spectral fear of a global nuclear hecatomb comes back to haunt us. In other words, the nightmare has already started, even if it won’t necessarily lead to that. Humanity must rise to stop this madness. In the meantime, no one’s allowed to sleep for now.
It’s evident that, unlike the world at large, Putin was not just preparing for this escalation but planned on using it to prevent western nations from trying to stop him. That’s why Russian forces seized the still-radioactive area of one of the worst nuclear disasters on record, the Chernobyl meltdown, even before attempting to seize the Mariinsky Palace. No other war was fought so close to nukes.
Even before Ukraine made overtures for a dialog with the Kremlin, heavy sanctions were imposed on Russia, with more to come. But they work only so far and mostly affect common citizens, not their rulers. The way for the U.S. and the E.U. to crush Putin’s ability to stay in power amid an appalling economy is to go after offshore assets of his oligarch supporters, says Nobel economist Paul Krugman.
Just on cue, Russian billionaires who support the regime such as Roman Abramovich, owner of the English football club Chelsea, took steps to lessen the blow of sanctions. He’s just passed “stewardship” of Chelsea to a board of trustees just as the team lost the Carabao Cup to Liverpool on Sunday. The Russian wealthiest have lost a combined $39 billion with the invasion but no one will cry over them.
Amidst the scary prospect of war, the world’s governing soccer federation, FIFA for short, has announced that it’s ok for Russia to keep competing for a berth at the November World Cup in Dubai. Just like that. Finland and Sweden – specifically threatened by Putin if they join NATO – and Poland have said they won’t play the Russians. As it stands, most nations won’t either, so FIFA, get it together!
Iran is “seriously reviewing (the) draft of the agreement,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Twitter. There’s a “very high probability” that Tehran and Washington will end their impasse to restore the 2015 atomic accord by the week’s end, said Mikhail Ulyanov, a Russian negotiator whose country is about to achieve the dubious status of “rogue nation” even before any agreement is signed.
An esteemed German astrologer once established a link between the 11-year sunspots cycle to humanity’s desire to ascend to the stars by tracing the solar phenomenon back to the Tower of Babel times. And from then on, to mass movements during the cycles. Perhaps the lesson to learn was one of humility, she reasoned as time and again Icarus flies too close to greatness and gets burned by it.
Solar Cycle 25 is active since last year and has produced storms and solar flares several times the size of Earth pretty much every day of 2022, according to EarthSky. No one knows for sure whether there is a link – separate studies have also focused on the movement of whales during solar spots – but the Ukraine conflict does threaten the end of civilization so the notion could teach us a thing or two.
“Take these seeds and put them in your pocket. So at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.” That’s what a Ukrainian woman who’s surely seen her share of hardship and grief, told a Russian soldier stationed in her part of town. The deep resentment of neighbors who are all but related by fate and blood is the despicable legacy Putin is willing to carry to his grave. She’s probably right about that unfortunate soldier she’s cursed.
When it comes to the point where the only peace acceptable by the brave and the wronged is to serve as fertile ground for future sunflowers, war has inflicted its evilest deed. All bloodshed and destruction to follow are consequences of that initial rupture of the human contract of living without harm along with others. Some have turned that fatal puncture into virtue, but most can only despair over it. We choose to say instead, Trymaysya, Ukraine. WC

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