Dark Days for Democracy, Colltalers
The U.K. will hand over Julian Assange, a news publisher, to be persecuted by the U.S. for publishing news: U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bodies of Dom Phillips, a journalist, and Bruno Pereira, an indigenous specialist, were found shot and buried in Brazil. Who ordered them dead?
Colombia picked a leftist and a Black woman to run the country. The Fed raises its benchmark rate, to 0.75 percentage point, its highest in 28 years, as the economy gets heated up by profits of war, and the unions reawake in America. Another big lie? Trump’s “election defense fund.” So now we know.
We begin in Ukraine where Russian forces have surrounded and stranded thousands of Ukrainian fighters defending Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. That would get President Putin closer to his stated objective of seizing all of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. That may happen as soon as this week.
In Russia, where bad news has been plenty lately, there’s been a methane leak for six months, releasing into the atmosphere what five coal-fired power stations would. Our gifted leaders are naturally too busy with war to even pretend to care but the leak is from, you guessed it, a coal mine. At its peak in January, it was releasing hourly 90 tons of methane, a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide. But as mentioned, war takes precedence.
In Israel, dozens of Palestinian women are being held in prisons in the occupied territories, for political activism or otherwise. According to Addameer, a Palestinian NGO, besides enduring horrible conditions, abuse, and lack of legal or medical assistance, they’re also subjected to something arguably even more sinister: the world’s indifference. While the West fails to hold Israel accountable for the illegal occupation, other brutal regimes take note.
In France, President Macron has lost the majority vote and three cabinet ministers in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Far from gathering support for his business-centered reforms, he’s faced fierce opposition from Nupes, a left-wing coalition, and the National Rally, Marine Le Pen’s far-right party.
In New York, a judge ruled that Happy, a Bronx Zoo elephant, is not entitled to the same rights as a person. The decision will sadly prevent her from moving to a larger sanctuary. “Elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote. But are not the intended target for habeas corpus laws, the argument Happy’s lawyers were pursuing. The debate about animal rights though remains unabated.
In Vermont, the harvest of maple syrup is beating state records. 2.5 million gallons of the sweet stuff have already been produced, and it’s on its way to your breakfast. Maine and West Virginia have also reported record crops. Collecting sap is so labor-intensive though that labor shortages are frequent.
In Alaska, an elementary school program mistakenly served students floor sealant instead of milk. Fortunately, none of the at least 12 students and two teachers at the Glacier Valley School in Juneau, who were given the milk-resembling Hillyard Seal 341, reported serious health issues. Amid warnings of gun massacres and formula shortages, the children of America today, the future of this planet, have often to risk life and limb just to survive school.
“This ruling just says, you know, the U.K. government agrees that a journalist, a publisher can be extradited from the U.K. solely for doing their job,” Gabriel Shipton, a filmmaker and Assange’s brother, told DemocracyNow. The Wikileaks founder is being persecuted for publishing in 2010 classified footage of U.S. forces killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’d been handed to him by Army Intel Chelsea Manning, who’s also spent years in jail.
If extradited, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison for violations of the 1917 Espionage Act. The decision by Home Secretary Pitri Patel to allow the U.S. to put Assange on military trial is a betrayal to press freedom and a chilling warning to reporters all over. It also ignores a recent Yahoo News story exposing a CIA plot to assassinate him. “A dangerous precedent that’s been set in the U.K. for journalists and publishers,” said Shipton.
The remains of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenist Bruno Pereira were found on Wednesday, after fisherman “Pelado” confessed to killing the pair, and took police to the place where he would have buried the bodies, according to NYTimes. He used a hunting firearm to kill them and the autopsy showed they were shot at point-blank. The police said that at least five people were involved; three of them have already been caught.
But the murders were certainly ordered by a higher power. The Amazon region of Javari valley where both have been working for the past two decades is now riddled with hired guns, contract killers, and small armies that control drug and exotic fish traffic, illegal mining, and poaching in indigenous land.
Despite police claims that the killers acted alone, it’s obvious that the activists had become targets, especially since Pereira received death threats.
Gustavo Petro, a leftist, and Francia Marquez, Colombia’s first Black and female VP, start a new era in the country that not long ago, was a haven for drug trafficking and crime. The challenges are big but Latin America is experiencing a tilt to the left again, after years of dictatorships and neoliberal policies that have driven most of its 700 million population to poverty. Some in Washington, the Kremlin, and Beijing may be a bit nervous right now.
The U.S. Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rates, the rate banks charge each other to lend money, to 0.75 percentage point. It’s the highest increase since 1994 and economists wonder if it won’t constrain a labor market that suddenly saw workers regaining some of their long-lost power of bargaining with employers. Some believe the decision will cool demand while protecting corporate profits, as unions become a market factor again.
The hearings of the House January 6th Committee resume tomorrow to focus on how Trump pressured state officials to overturn the election results, most prominently in Georgia. But it has already exposed the real big lie of the entire affair: even knowing that he’d already lost and the appeals his team was filing were being dismissed by courts all over, the ex-president conned his supporters to fund a non-existent campaign to finance legal woes.
His entire presidency was one continuous money drive, and millions of dollars poured into his accounts during his scary rallies may never be properly accounted for or recovered. However, even as there seems to be no end to his flim-flaming, there’s also little hope that supporters wise up to the con.
The U.S. is “playing with the lives of Ukrainians, Asians, and Africans, the future of civilization, in order to weaken Russia, to make sure that they suffer enough,” said world-renowned political dissident, linguist, and author Noam Chomsky. “There’s no moral basis for it. (…) And people who are standing on a high horse about how we’re upholding principle are moral imbeciles.” Let’s dedicate tomorrow’s Soltice to peace. See you in the clubs. WC