Curtain Raiser

Earth Is Way Too Crowded, Colltalers

A fist bump. President Biden went to Saudi Arabia so Americans won’t be short at the pump despite the high prices. But by warmly greeting Crown Prince bin Salman, accused of ordering the murder of American-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he also marked a low point of his term in office.
The Jan. 6 House committee investigating the invasion of Capitol Hill has subpoenaed the Secret Service for text messages agents reportedly deleted. Political change is apace in Italy, also hit by a heat wave, along with France, Portugal, and Marocco. And make room: we’re about to become 8 billion.
We hit the ground in Hungary where thousands of protestors took the streets of Budapest to rally against a new tax regulation that will raise to market values above-average consumption rather than keeping them under a subsidized state rate. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is putting pressure on Hungary as it depends heavily on Russian gas and oil. Inflation and currency exchange woes are also undermining the authoritarian rule of P.M. Viktor Orbán.
In Turkmenistan, a Central Asia country of six million, human rights groups are denouncing a repeat of an old and vicious practice: to force everyone to pick cotton during its annual harvest. The U.S. passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to help regulate the trade of commodities and goods forcibly produced, with an obvious focus on China, but also on Malaysia, Congo, India, Japan, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe.
In the United Arab Emirates, host of the World Cup soccer tournament in November, rights organizations are concerned about foreign migrants who may become indebted for life just for getting a job. A report by the Wake-Up Call group is raising red flags about exorbitant recruitment fees charged by hiring hospitality companies. The competition has been plagued by labor abuse allegations and a still undetermined number of worker casualties.
In Spain, the body of José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola for 38 years and died 10 days ago, remains unburied pending a family dispute with the government that threatens the August presidential elections. Santos has been in self-imposed exile and his hand-picked successor, João Lourenço, has already disavowed his tenure, blaming him and his family for profiting from oil while Angolans struggled to survive, making less than $2 a day.
In Brazil, scientists Patricia Neves and Ana Paula Ano Bom are working on an mRNA vaccine for low- and middle-income nations around the world. The development of this new class of vaccines has been a breakthrough in treating Covid-19 and saving lives. But Pfizer and Moderna, which hold its pattern, refused to make it available at a reasonable price, or free, for those who need it. That shows the relevance of Patricia and Ana Paula’s research.
In New York, a traffic stop yielded the apprehension of Rhodium, the “most precious metal on Earth,” according to Scientific American’s Andrew Robinson. It’s been used in every U.S. vehicle since 1975 to reduce toxic gas emissions into the atmosphere. No word yet as to why the riders had it.
“So there’s been a nuclear attack. Don’t ask me how or why,” says a woman walking on a city street. “Just know that the big one has hit, OK? So what do we do?” NYC Emergency Management Dept’s 90-second public service announcement made already jittery New Yorkers even spookier. But the surprise is unfounded: the Russia-Ukraine war does have the potential to escalate and involve nukes; for some evildoers, there’s no better target.
And in California, speaking of heavy chemicals, a lawsuit against candymaker Mars Inc. calls for Skittles, one of its most popular sugary junk snacks, to be declared “unfit for human consumption,” after new research found that it contains a known toxin, titanium dioxide, that can alter human DNA.
Biden’s little tour of the Middle East was centered in the wealthy kingdom regime of Saudi Arabia, with room for talks with Israel, Iraq, Egypt, and other six Arab leaders. “I just don’t believe we should be maintaining a warm relationship with a dictatorship like that,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, echoing criticism of the president who campaigned on the promise to turn it into a “pariah” in world society. But nothing of sorts happened.
A CIA investigation found that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome 2018 operation that tortured, killed, and dismembered Washington Post columnist Khashoggi, at the Saudi Embassy in Istambul. There was some expectation that the U.S. president would confront him on this issue. He said he did; Saudi officials deny it. We may never know for sure. But the momentum was lost and the overall consensus is that the prince got away with it.
It’s not yet clear which law enforcement, intelligence, or simply general security officials were explicitly supporting the thug invasion of Capitol Hill on Jan, 6, 2020. But it is nothing short of astonishing that secret service agents actually erased phone calls and messages prior to and around that day. They’ve been subpoenaed and once again, we’re up to thrilling television. We simply can’t wait to watch them spin their yarn at the Tuesday hearing.
There’s been a rare reaction in Italy to P.M. Mario Draghi’s attempt to resign: President Sergio Mattarella, members of his coalition cabinet, a group of 100 mayors, and even citizens expressed their opposition. The far-right 5 Star party, which had refused to give him a confidence vote last week, even threatened to quit the coalition. But Draghi, in power since 2021, withstood 5 Star’s “ultimatum,” won the vote, and was asked to remain in charge.
Another thing that will remain in Italy, for the time being, is the infernal heat wave, also affecting other parts of Europe. As a matter of fact, large swaths of the U.S. are also under extremely high temperatures and the global consequences are now well known: the threat of wildfires and drought. These increasingly frequent, climate change-caused “natural” disasters just got a boost from fossil fuels being burnt at an even higher speed. Hot yet?
And things are bound to become even more interesting, as the world is about to hit eight billion people, despite catering to less than 0,1% of us. It seems like yesterday but it was actually in March of 2012 when we reached seven billion. It took 13 years to get to that point but things sped up. But after we reached five billion, in July of 1987, we still have the same resources and the same limited ability to produce food for all. Now, do the math.
“The U.S. has regularly provided support for murderous tyrants when it was convenient (…): Marcos, Duvalier, Ceausescu, Suharto, and a long string of other villains, including Saddam Hussein until he violated (or maybe misunderstood) orders and invaded Kuwait,” said world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky. Biden is simply following in the path of his “imperial predecessors.” Mr. President, a fist bump? Ciao WC


3 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. unclerave says:

    I was referring to Biden’s meeting and greeting with Crown Prince bin Salman, Wes. Not a good look! Glad to hear you are well. Haven’t heard from you in a while. All’s well on my end. Don’t be a stranger, my friend. — YUR

    Liked by 1 person

  2. unclerave says:

    Just one more thing for the Republicans to harp on! And, this time I agree with them! — YUR (How ya been, stranger?)

    Liked by 1 person

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