Curtain Raiser

Under War and Plastic Rain, Colltalers

Two full months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a vital word seem to have been scraped from any efforts to stop it: peace. Outside Orthodox Easter celebrations there and elsewhere, it’s simply vanished from the headlines. That means, never mind conspiracies: this war is in the books to last.
President Emmanuel Macron was re-elected in France, barely defeating far-right Marine Le Pen. He’s expected to use the vote as an endorsement of his pro-business agenda. Meanwhile, it’s raining plastic over America. And another black man was murdered by a police officer. Some things never change.
We start in the U.K. where a judge has ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the U.S., where he faces a 175-year sentence. The final decision will come within the next two months. Assange is being prosecuted for espionage after publishing classified material that exposed war crimes committed by American forces in Iraq. This decision makes journalists now “look over their shoulder,” said Amnesty’s Simon Crowther.
In Brazil, indigenous peoples have gathered for the annual, 10-day Free Land camp, to protest the Bolsonaro administration’s anti-Indigenous policies and plans to open their habitat for mining and oil exploration. The president is also supporting changes in the legislation to thwart the demarcation of their lands. Many ethnicities, from Pataxó, Kayapó, Munduruku, and Yanomami, to Xikrin and other groups from across Brazil showed up to protest.
In the U.S., 15 among the top 400 high-earners pay comparatively less or no taxes than the other 300+ million Americans. We already knew this but what nonprofit newsroom ProPublica has revealed in its latest report is how the system, which is supposed to collect more from those who have more, is actually helping speed up the unbearable gap between haves and have-nots. And yes, Jeff Bezos may not be the current world’s richest person. Today.
Maybe when Congress is forced to bail out his space for millionaires” company. But if the rich’s taxes are not increasing in any shape or form, it’s a different story for the proverbial “little man.” The Internal Revenue Service has said recently that it lacks funding to go after the big fish, i. e., high earners and corporations. Instead, it’s doing what many readers also already knew: it’s increasing audits of those who do pay their taxes but make less.
And in Arizona, Nebraska, and New Mexico, over 150,000 acres have been burnt by wildfires in a sobering warning of what summer may bring about. Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict erupted, climate talk and action have been relegated to an undeserved back burner. Tragically but expected, the fossil fuel industry has been the ultimate war beneficiary.
As President Biden lifted a moratorium on new drilling on federal public lands and offshore sites, areas in Montana, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and New Mexico are now open again to the business that’s destroying the planet.
Speaking of that low-burning but murderous and potentially catastrophic conflict, it is all that every contemporary political leader speaks of wherever there’s a microphone nearby. But when Biden, Macron, Boris Johnson, Olaf Scholz, and every other high-ranking official both in the U.S. or in Europe discuss Putin, NATO, or weapons, peace is not part of the conversation; neither is the human carnage. This war won’t be won; it’ll be settled or else.
French progressives may breathe in relief for now but the radical right has reason to celebrate coming this close. Critics who nevertheless may’ve voted for President Macron to prevent Le Pen’s victory, know they’ve re-elected a business-oriented leader whose forays into privatization have pleased conservatives and irked entire segments of society. Needing alliances, he greeted supporters with promises of unity; the French, of course, will argue.
It’s bird droppings, it’s jet fuel. Nope, it’s 1.100 tons of plastic and it’s raining down over the western U.S., according to new modeling published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This storm of microplastic – particles smaller than 5 millimeters – comes from, you guessed, plastic bags, bottles, microfibers from synthetic clothing, flecks splintered from billions of rubber tires, the list is long and frightening. Almost as frightening as to think that our bodies are already full of it, an alien, unedible mass we swallow every day, slated to decay and disintegrate in just a few millennia.
In a month, it’ll be two years since George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The tragedy had global repercussions and a lot of promises to reform and even defund the police. To no avail, apparently: on April 4, Patrick Lyoya, 26, a Congolese refugee, was killed by a white police officer with a single, point-blank shot in the back of the head. In fact, since Floyd’s death, U.S. cops killed an average of three people a day.
“When you have been born in a war like me, living in a war as a child, when you have been in wars as a war correspondent all your life – trust me! You develop a form of fatalism; you are always ready to die.” Legendary journalist Oriana Fallaci covered WWII and most conflicts that followed it in the 20th century. War correspondents, however, could express their political allegiances and still be free to report, not censured by soldiers as they are now.
Today, the media wages its own turf wars, its mandate is to please its sponsors, not to inform, and reporters who won’t simply rewrite the “pool,” the sanctioned information prepared by the Pentagon, are pretty much on their own, even when their employers have their own newsgathering system. An estimated 21 journalists have been killed covering the war, even if this figure is impossible to confirm or deny. But even one reporter is one too many.
It’s quite satisfying to pilot this private observation deck I use to digress about the world, the impossible, and everything in between. Most of the time, it’s not pretty and almost always, the biggest reward is just seeing it out there, defending our bidding. But Sundays without this affliction of sorts, and Mondays not making it into the new week feel awfully empty and void of purpose. We’d rather keep on pushing. So, yes, it’s good to be back. Maybe. WC


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