Curtain Raiser

Getting Closer to the Edge, Colltalers

Thousands of Americans rallied against gun violence over the weekend. But given Congress’ feeble response to this repeating tragedy, protesting needs to grow stronger. House hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of Capitol Hill by Trump thugs have also been gripping. But will it lead to convictions?
Brazil’s search for a missing journalist and a researcher has taken a grim turn. Amnesty International calls Russia’s pounding Ukrainians with cluster bombs a ‘war crime,’ as Ukraine’s second-largest city, Sievierodonetsk, may fall in a week. And another Summit of Americas ended disappointingly.
We start in China, where a group of men assaulted and beat up women diners, all caught up on video. The footage went viral and shocked the nation, almost as much as the one aired in Feb. of a mother of seven chained by her neck. In a country that abides by secrecy and opacity, such incidents are an embarrassment to the regime, revealing the actual state of feminism there. The restaurant brawl may have been a fluke or an omen of things to come.
In Texas, a powerful explosion at a liquefied natural gas terminal has rattled Freeport residents in what is also a harbinger of things to come. As global demand for fossil fuels spikes with the war – climate change be damned – producers rush to meet quotas and may all but ignore concerns about safety.
In the U.K., the parliament plans to revise post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, which may trigger a trade war, and opposition from the European Union and the U.S. To Sinn Féin’s president Mary Lou McDonald, there should be expected a backlash from Washington as a revision may “undermine the Good Friday Agreement,” the 1998 treaty that marked the end of the Troubles. Yet others see it as an opening for an Irish reunification.
In Scotland, the Lakota people are in full negotiations to bring back to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota three personal items taken from the estimated 300 men, women, and children massacred by the U.S. Army at Wounded Knee, in 1890. A year later, the Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum acquired the items, a war necklace, beaded moccasins, and a child’s bonnet. In 1999, the museum returned to the tribe a bloodied Ghost Dance shirt.
Many museums around the world hold sacred objects belonging to Native cultures, and the process of having them returned to their rightful owners is never simple or fast. But it’s necessary. In Iraq, for instance, Jim Fitton, a retired British geologist, was just sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to smuggle some ancient pottery shards out of the country. Even if his sentence is commuted, researchers and museums must understand this new reality.
In Brazil, only four in 10 families managed to feed properly during the pandemic, Brazil’s Sovereignty and Food Security Research Network, Penssan, has reported. An estimated 33 million Brazilians are hungry, just as they were in the early 1990s, while over 120 million went through some periods of food insecurity recently. The majority are also people of color. Not long ago, Brazil’s fight against hunger, the Fome Zero program, was a success story.
In Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez was sentenced to prison for leading the 2019 ‘coup’ that forced three-term President Evo Morales out of office. The senator used the vacuum in power to occupy the presidency but didn’t last. Less than a year later, the party of Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, was back in contention, and last year, Añez wound up arrested for sedition. Although she claimed innocence, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
And in Thailand, the government has legalized marihuana and is giving away thousands of plants with one important caveat: do not smoke it. The idea is to boost the economic potential of the plant, not to make Thais high. Which would be too difficult anyway: THC content cannot be more than 0.2%.
The successive mass gun slaughters in the U.S. – over 250 since January so far – have constantly met firm opposition in Congress. Even now, as a bipartisan deal will allow some gun control legislation to pass, the resolve of our elected politicians to end this scourge once and for all in America always falls short. That’s why the pressure for change must remain on. While billions are easily poured over war like gasoline on the fire, funding for peace is hard.
The riveting accounts of the violence and vandalism perpetrated by white supremacist groups on January 6, 2021, in DC are not just upsetting but also terrifying. Those thugs sent by the ex-president to break the law did believe in a lie, but even if theirs was a just cause, Jan. 6 was truly shameful. Over 700 of them are already facing legal woes but will the mastermind of this attack on democracy ultimately pay for his crimes? The case is being built.
“Traces of blood were found on the boat of Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira,” the Brazilian police said in a statement, adding that the suspect known as “Pelado” was arrested on Tuesday. The British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous specialist Bruno Pereira have disappeared a week ago Sunday while traveling through Brazil’s Amazon, and there are growing concerns about foul play being involved. Phillips has been covering the Indigenous cultures in Brazil for years and the remote area where both were last seen is riddled with armed drug traffickers, miners, gold diggers, and poachers.
Russia is slowly but surely starting to gain the upper hand in its quest to subjugate Ukraine and that means this war is far from over. It’s not just that it’s already crushing an emergent economy with a crucial role as a crop producer, and the impact of that is already being felt. But that Russian advances may draw the happy-to-oblige U.S. even further into a conflict that should’ve been avoided, to begin with. On top of that, there’s the ‘nuke nightmare.’
And a clearly deflated Summit of the Americas drew to a close with little to justify the entire gathering. That’s because when the host U.S. banned three Central and South American nations, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, from participating, it made clear whose interest the Cumbre would solely serve. Then Mexican President Amlo boycotted the proceeding and it went from an opportunity for Biden to gain support from the hemisphere to utter failure.
“If god invented the grapefruit spoon he’d have done it before billions of people got grapefruit juice squirted into their eyes over the generations. The grapefruit spoon defies the will of god.” That’s an excerpt of a Jack “Old Jules” Purcell’s blog. He passed away in 2020 but his wit remains. Rock on. WC

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