Curtain Raiser

One Miscalculation Away, Colltalers

It’s been 77 years of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and tomorrow, Nagasaki. With the Russian-Ukraine war, the world’s never been this close to another mushroom. But now, it may trigger a century-long nuclear winter. Will we, instead, see a re-strengthening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
Meanwhile, Israel bombed Gaza again, militants responded, many Palestinians got killed, and now there’s a ceasefire. How will they ever break free of this vicious cycle? Texas and Arizona governors found a new, cynical way to deal with asylum seekers: send buses full of them to New York and D.C.
Let’s begin in Mexico, where 10 miners remain trapped in an underground tunnel that’s threatening to collapse in Sabinas. The coal mine, which is in operation since January, is still flooded and pumps have been on non-stop sucking out water and mud. But there has been no contact with the trapped.
In the Taiwan Strait, Chinese and Taiwanese forces have spent a tense weekend of military drills, in the wake of last week’s poorly-advised visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to China’s former colony. Although China has no legitimate claim over Taiwan, despite its authoritarian “One China” dream, this mini-Asian tour seems like an unnecessary risk to take right now, considering Madam Speaker’s own lack of transparency about its goals.
In Ukraine, there’s been furor after an Amnesty International report documented sites where Ukrainian forces are stationed next to densely populated areas, putting civilians at risk. After President Zelenskiy called the report “immoral selectivity,” Amnesty said that it “regrets the distress” the findings may have caused, adding that “nothing justifies Russian violations.” But it also said that “social media mobs and trolls (…) won’t change the facts.”
In Moscow, American basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony for “drug smuggling,” in a political verdict. The U.S. and Russian diplomacy are now trying to coordinate a prisoner swap that would free her and Marine Paul Whelan for Victor Bout, the “Merchant of Death” arm trafficker. “I made an honest mistake,” said Griner after her sentencing. “And I hope your ruling doesn’t end my life here.”
In Kenya, voters may choose tomorrow or in a second round within 30 days, the successor of President Uhuru Kenyatta. William Ruto, who calls himself a “hustler” in reference to his poor upbringing, and Raila Odinga, an opposition leader, are the frontrunners. At stake, is the future of 56 million Kenyans, their agricultural economy, and embattled democracy. Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first president, has been in power since 2013.
In South Dakota, the Oglala Lakota Nation tribal council has banned Christian fundamentalists from the Pine Ridge Reservation, after a self-appointed missionary was caught handing out material demonizing Indigenous peoples and their beliefs. “Hate has no place on Oglala land,” voted the council.
In Alabama, the city of Vincent has voted to disband its police force, because racist text messages exchanged between officers went viral. User “752 asked, “What do y’all call a pregnant slave?” When someone not identified by handle replied with question marks, 752 answered, “BOGO Buy one, get one free.” In the fallout following it, the city council fired Police Chief James Srygley, Assistant John Goss, and disbanded the entire department.
In Texas, a jury ordered conspiracy theorist – terrorist? – Alex Jones to pay $45 million to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of one of the 20 children and six adults killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre. For 10 years, Jones profited handsomely from what he called an “orchestrated hoax” He was forced to admit in court that the attack was “100% real,” but some wonder if his punishment fits the extent of his crimes.
And Indiana is now the first state to ban almost all abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the law that kept the procedure legal for 49 years. It was a disappointment for most of the almost seven million “Hoosiers,” in sharp contrast to Kansas, which chose to keep it legal.
At 11:02 am, August 9, 1945, a U.S. bomber dropped a 10,000-pound plutonium bomb, unironically called the “Fat Man,” over the Japanese port city of Nagasaki, to kill an estimated 74,000 people, the majority immediately. It was the second of a deadly two-punch attack on Japan in as many days – the other had been “Little Boy,” the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and killed about 140,000 just two days before. The twin nightmares still haunt us.
We’ve got plenty of reasons to fear a reprise, even if for different reasons, as Russian forces have occupied Ukrainian nukes, inviting a strike that may prove fateful to humanity. The world hangs by a thread because, as a few accidents have shown, there’s no effective method to prevent a nuclear core from melting under certain conditions, or stop a chain reaction once it starts. And there’s no way to control radiation that would leak once a plant is hit.
It’s 100 seconds to midnight, shows the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock. We’re “one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” said U.N. Secretary António Guterres in last week’s media-ignored review conference of the landmark 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, NFT.
After three days of airstrikes and rocket attacks that killed 43 and injured more than 300 in Gaza, and forced Israelis to shelter in bunkers, Israel and Gaza militants have agreed on a ceasefire. With no policy changes and the so-called “two-state solution” all but left for dead, is clear it’s far from over.
Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona have scored political kudos from fellow GOP-ers for coming up with yet another way of not doing the right thing about immigration and asylum seekers: to ship them to New York and Washington, D.C., by the busload. The ridiculous stunt is sure to cause more pain to those willing to sacrifice everything to share the American dream. Instead, they’re getting a taste of American stupidity.
Today is Bodega Cat Day in the U.S., where people celebrate these not quite unsung small heroes, patrolling our delis and eateries from their basement HQs – even if they spend the day lounging in shelves and food displays. So it’s fitting to report a disturbing trend going on around the world: a backlash against cats. Apparently, only now have people realized that, despite their size, these top predators haven’t left the wild, even while sleeping next to us.
Poland now calls domestic cats “invasive alien species,” while Australia, Iceland, and the U.K. consider a night curfew for felines. Studies prove that they’re responsible for the killing of millions of birds worldwide and, in fact, most creatures up to twice their size that unfortunately cross their paths.
Left at then-inhabited lands during the Discovery Era, they’re also accused of eating entire species to extinction, but there’s exaggeration in the claim. Cats can easily adapt indoors to continue their Internet dominance without stopping being what nature made them be: creatures of formidable grace.
Finally, Earth has just had its shortest day ever, so now you know why you’ve run out of time. On June 29, Earth set a new record for the length of a day in the atomic-clock era: -1.59 milliseconds. “Terra. Terra. No matter how far away the wandering navigator, who would ever forget you?” in a free translation of the popular song written by Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso, who’s just turned 80. Apparently many already did. Hail the cat. WC


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