Curtain Raiser

We Need a Bigger Scream, Colltalers

Russia’s war on Ukraine has added another threat to an already dire campaign: global famine. But not to worry: the U.S.’ $40 billion+ aid package is mainly for military use. Despite nationwide protests, the Supreme Court seems set to outlaw abortion in the U.S. The consequences can already be felt.
While Australia picked a new Prime Minister, Labor’s Anthony Albanese, in a politically seismic change, the Philippines elected Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the dictator expelled for corruption in 1986, calling back its ruthless past. And Davos millionaires demand to pay taxes! Now that’s refreshing.
We begin in Mexico, where 100,000 people vanished, mostly since the so-called ‘drug war’ started in 2006. Ignored by the Amlo administration, and haunted by such a grim milestone, relatives of the ‘desaparecidos’ have formed national brigades to search and dig suspicious sites for their remains. Drug wars, politics, femicide, and poverty are cited as causes. In 2016, for instance, 43 students were likely abducted and have never been seen again.
In Qatar, host of the soccer World Cup in November, Amnesty has asked FIFA to earmark $440 million for its workforce. “Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have not received adequate remedy, including financial compensation, for serious labor abuses,” says the open letter signed by other civil rights groups. Allegations of human rights violations have plagued the rich, authoritarian monarchy even before being awarded the tournament.
In the U.K., over 100 activists signed a letter protesting the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli troops. They demand “full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorizing it.” The Al Jazeera reporter had covered human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for well over two decades. Pedro Almodóvar, Susan Sarandon, and Angela Davis among others signed the letter.
For Alaskan and Indigenous women, the end of Roe v Wade will result in an escalation of the violence already experienced by many, said Urban Indian Health Institute’s Abigail Echo-Hawk. Natives are already 1.7 times more likely than white women to face sexual violence, abuse, or being trafficked.
The demise of legal abortions in the U.S. has of course unpredictable consequences, besides the obvious negative impact it’ll have on impoverished women and communities of color. 13 states have already set legislation to follow suit if Roe v Wade is overcome, de facto canceling a woman’s right to make decisions affecting her body. Just like a rapist wouldn’t allow her to. Thus sex offenders and religious zealots have finally found common ground.
In New York, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization said that critical global indicators of the climate crisis broke records in 2021. In the past seven years, “droughts and floods triggered food price rises that have been exacerbated in 2022,” besides being also the hottest years on record. To Secretary-General António Guterres, the report is “a dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption. Fossil fuels are a dead end.”
Another report shows that Earth’s atmospheric CO2 hasn’t been this high in at least three million years. According to NOAA, the weekly average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reached 421.13 parts per million (ppm) from May 8 to May 14 – the highest in recorded history and up from 418.34 ppm one year ago. A decade ago, it was 397.38 ppm. “We simply do not know a planet like this,” said meteorologist Eric Holthaus.
In Las Vegas, the climate emergency has produced yet another unexpected outcome: the bodies of the murdered are starting to pop up at Lake Mead and if there’s still a mob alive, they’re certainly uneasy about it. Whereas strange things – but no mobsters – have been fished out of nearby Lake Tahoe, in a community cleaning effort, blame climate for snitching er exposing those who were done in the lake when the sun wasn’t shining. R.I.P., suckers.
Not in the least an issue for the architects of this war in Ukraine, but crucial to millions of people worldwide, is the impact of the Russian invasion on food production. Neither Putin nor Biden or E.U. leaders have even considered the issue when they engaged in their military adventure but now even last year’s harvest, close to 30 million tons of grain, wheat, corn, rapeseed oil, and others, is still waiting to be shipped. New crops will be ready soon.
Half of the grain for the U.N. World Food Program comes from Ukraine. Everything it produces is shipped from ports now blockaded by Russia. To Ukrainians, the war has become a reminder of the 1930s tragedy of Holodomor – “death by hunger” – when Stalin forced millions to starve to death. Of the total $54 billion the U.S. has allocated to Ukraine so far, 40% has been directed to weapons, intelligence, and troops. The rest may be for food.
Albanese’s overwhelming win in Australia as only the fourth Labor leader since WWII to oust a Liberal prime minister was a shock and a possible turn for the better in the fight against the climate emergency. Scott Morrison, a Trump ally and called ‘the first ‘post-truth’ minister by the local media, was known for being a climate denier and once brought a lump of coal to Congress to mock activists. The Green Party also won new seats in this election.
For 21 years, Ferdinand Marcos ruled over the Philippines, enriching himself and his wife Imelda in the process, while torturing, killing, or ‘erasing’ thousands of people. To many, the nightmare was over when he was finally kicked out. And yet, 36 years later, Filipinos gave his son, ‘Bongbong’ Jr. the keys to their country again. Even as democracy groups ask the courts to probe irregularities during the campaign, it’s unlike it’ll change anything.
History repeats itself as farse but to many ‘Marcos cronies, as well as ‘bolsonaristas’ and ‘trumpians.’ that’s exactly what should happen: a return to the bleak past where poverty and violence reigned. Let scholars determine why is that so, while we wonder whether anything makes much sense anymore.
“Patriotic millionaires.” A good thing about claims by the powerful is that they know who to buy to get to the headlines when it’s convenient for them. But it’s not every day that a group of wealthy individuals does the right thing. At the Davos, Switzerland, annual gathering of the world’s richest, some have expressed a surprising take on income inequality. “The only credible outcome of this conference is to tax the richest and tax us now,” they said.
“There are heatwaves right now that are unprecedented. There’s tremendous famine, and violent weather patterns we’ve never seen. The only way it can be solved is a global effort, and I think more than anything, that is the most important thing that people have to address.” That’s punk laureate Patti Smith expressing a “great joy” to accept the “Legion d’Honneur,” France’s highest order of merit. Congrats, Patti, people do have the power, indeed. WC

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