The Fires We Can’t Put Out, Colltalers
First Taiwan and now China: the announced visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei has triggered war games and a diplomatic knot to the Biden administration, regardless of its previous, equally ill-advised warnings to Beijing. Meanwhile, the murderous Myanmar junta remains in power.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pressures Sweden’s entry to NATO as it’s a signer of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Germany’s plans to end its nukes. Climate change, partially due to deforestation, may be drowning Kentucky, but Brazil wants to build a highway through the Amazon’s heart.
We begin in Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony since 1917, where lawmakers introduced a bill to begin the process of self-determination and the future of the island. But however anxiously expected, former San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz points to flaws that undermine the proposal’s intent. For instance, pro-statehooders want “Spanish to be spoken here,” which would alienate both native and English-speaking citizens, besides being hard to enforce.
The law sets statehood, independence, or sovereignty in free association with the U.S. as options for residents, but lacks “clarity on what each status would mean.” After the disastrous Trump administration’s actions during the 2017 Hurricane Maria, when 3,000+ people died, “Puerto Rico became kind of the black eye on America’s face,” even before the catastrophic energy crisis that followed. That’s why “there should be hearings,” Cruz says.
In Iraq, followers of the Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are staging a sit-in in parliament, after having stormed through the fortified Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday. The disturbing trend, of hordes forcing their way into political institutions, hasn’t started yesterday but did get a big endorsement from the world’s most powerful nation on Jan. 6, 2020. The Sadr’s Sadrist Movement demands parliament to be dissolved and new elections be called.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin has sent another “screw you” message to the world: Russia will be out of the International Space Station, a move that seems born out of spite. Since NASA and especially private firms have rebooted the American space program in ways that surpass even its heyday, the U.S. no longer depends on Soyuz vehicles to carry astronauts aloft. So what’s the political dividend to come out of such a knuckle-headed move?
The space age as a fruit of the Cold War was the perfect P.R. coverup for the weapons race being waged in its shade. But something happened on our way to the moon: the world fell in love with space, astronauts became heroes, and the dream of flying in the stars was suddenly possible. So why now?
In Italy, there’s grave concern that the snap elections scheduled for Sept. may elect a far-right prime minister, as neo-fascist parties such as the League, Brothers of Italy, Forza Italia, and Trump-inspired 5-Star movement, all declaring truly admiration for Benito Mussolini, who was P.M. for 21 years.
As the right coalition denied moderate Mario Draghi a confidence vote, it sank his premiership. As a result, he’s handed his resignation for the second time and is in power in a limited, caretaker position. Il Duce, the founder of Italy’s Fascist Party, was caught fleeing by partisans and executed in 1945.
In D.C., a House panel found that American weapon manufacturers Bushmaster, Daniel Defense, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, and Sturm, Ruger & Co. had a combined $1.7 billion in revenues, selling AR-15-style rifles in the past decade. And yet none feels responsible for the tragedy of gun violence.
“Any firearm can be used for good or for evil,” was all Sturm’s president Christopher Killoy said about the over 40,000 people killed by guns in the past 10 years. “I cannot even imagine what those innocent children had to go through,” said Daniel’s CEO Marty Daniel to the parents of a 10-year-old girl killed with an AR-15 rifle in the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school massacre, present at the panel, Neither do we, but we’ll do something about it.
There’s something unsaid about Speaker Pelosi’s Asian tour and her now kept-under-wraps likely visit to Taiwan that so irked China: why? It’s not that it’s in the Far East that she’ll find the support to say, legislation to keep abortion legal in the U.S., or perhaps a request to intercede for peace in Ukraine.
But the Chinese see a trip by the third U.S. public official in the line of succession “very seriously,” says Susan L. Shik, of U.C. at San Diego’s 21st Century China Center. But why, in these times of war and pandemics, would an elected official visit such a troubled region of the world without a public agenda, either commercial or in some official capacity? Thus the war games. Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang said he’s “grateful” for her visit.
Since Feb. 2021, the military dictatorship installed in Myanmar has had free reign over the lives of 55 million Burmese, killing, imprisoning, and even torturing dissidents. Last week, it boldly said it’d executed four pro-democracy activists and, just as it happened 17 months ago, the world chose to be silent about it. That’s just what despots such as chief General Min Aung Hlaing like, and with China’s standing by him, the worse may be yet to come.
Sweden and Finland’s admission to NATO is arguably Putin’s nightmare of his own making, regardless of all nightmares he’s imposed on Russians and Ukrainians. But at least to Sweden, there’s a major huddle: the country is a signer of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. So how will this affect the likelihood of having them stationed within its territory? In Germany, the war-driven quagmire is whether nukes should remain an alternative to gas.
The violence and devastation of climate change-driven floods in Kentucky have shocked even the battle-weary, as almost 30 have been reported dead or missing and the count is likely to rise. From now on, we’re bound to repeat headlines about the climate wherever its impact is being felt at any given moment. We’ll report on the destruction and the casualties, but given our current predicament, of leaders who can’t lead, next year may be even worst.
On top of that, the Bolsonaro administration gave the ok for parts of an old highway through the Amazon forest, the Transamazônica, to be paved so as to link the capital Manaus with the rest of the country. The decision faces huge opposition as it’ll only accelerate deforestation, already going on at rates never reached before. It was an impractical idea then and now it’s just as wrong. Bolsonaro trails ex-President Lula da Silva in the October elections.
On Sept. 9, 1945, Nagasaki, Japan, looked like a “massive anvil” had flattened it, wrote U.S. Army Air Force Lt Daniel McGovern who shot footage of the city and of Hiroshima 77 years ago next Monday. The two atomic bombs killed more than 200,000 people. As it turned out, footage of children’s skulls was not welcome by the White House then and was deemed classified for 22 years. But they should be an integral part of any school curricula.
In July 1955, the brilliant minds of physicist Albert Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell, horrified with the prospects of an atomic age, published with nine other intellectuals the Einstein-Russell Manifesto, warning us to “remember your humanity, and forget the rest.” But they were not heard.
With foresight, they advised: “In any future world war, nuclear weapons will certainly be employed and they threaten the continued existence of mankind. We urge governments (…) to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of disputes.” No one is on board for that either. Or are we? WC