Curtain Raiser

Mass Graves & Bad Climate, Colltalers

The pre-nuclear war in Ukraine has reached another tragic milestone: the discovery of mass graves in Izium, which Russians occupied for six months until Ukrainian forces kicked them out. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has again wandered into the risky foreign policy realm by traveling to Armenia.
The Republican cruel stunt of shipping asylum seekers to New York, Washington, and even Martha’s Vineyard, may have also been illegal since they were lured into the buses under false premises. The U.K. buries its queen today and tomorrow, world leaders gather in NYC for the U.N. Assembly.
Let’s begin in Puerto Rico where the now hurricane Fiona has made landfall and cut power on the entire island. Five years since Maria devastated the territory, the new storm arrived with 85-mph winds and torrential downpours. There are no silver linings about yet another climate change-powered tempest hitting an impoverished nation, except that this time there won’t be any orange demagogue giving paper towels away in lieu of financial help.
In Diego Garcia, a U.S. military base on the Indian Ocean, hundreds of Filipino workers can’t leave the island in a pay dispute between a contractor and the Philippine government. As workers demand to be paid the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, not the current $5.25, their flights home got suspended in what appears to be a reprisal. But the engineering contractor, Kellog Brown & Root, denies it, blaming Covid instead for the suspension.
In Peru, Indigenous representatives from all nine Amazon Basin countries, have gathered to press world leaders to adopt a global pact and protect 80% of the Amazon forest by 2025, Thomson Reuters reports. As the largest tropical rainforest faces its biggest threat of extinction due to widespread man-made fires, rampant deforestation, and pollution-driven, unregulated mining, the world’s richest nations continue to drag their feet to come to the rescue.
“The tipping point is already happening in some areas of the Amazon,” warns Alicia Guzmán, whose report, “Amazonia: Against the Clock,” shows that 74% of the Amazon requires immediate protection, while 6% can be restored to reach the plan’s goal of ’80×25,’ 80% conservation by mid-decade.
In Iran, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died at the hands of the ‘Morality’ police and that triggered violent protests resulting in scores of injured. Amini was arrested for not wearing a hijab and taken to a precinct that later claimed she’d suffered a heart attack and died. But her family believes she was beaten to death, instead. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi will be in New York this week, to attend the U.N. assembly and may answer questions from reporters.
Also in New York is Little Amal, the Syrian 12-foot-tall refugee puppet, bringing its peace message to the Big Apple. As a character in the play “The Jungle,” performed in Brooklyn in 2018, Amal, or “hope” in Arabic, has spent a decade traveling to refugee camps and migrant communities around the world, calling attention to the plight of refugees. She’ll tour the five borrows and before heading to the U.K., she’ll lead a parade on Staten Island.
In California, sportswear Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has given away his $3 billion enterprise to fight the climate emergency, by placing it on a trust fund, non-profit structure. “Any hope of a thriving planet – much less a thriving business – 50 years from now, it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have,” he said. But so far such a rare billionaire move got no backing from Chouinard’s top-earning bracket peers.
In Minnesota, 15,000 private nurses, whose three-day strike was the category’s longest in U.S. history, have returned to work but may be heading back to the picket line soon. That’s because demands for better pay and more staffing continue to be ignored by the hospitals where they work. Their bind is common to this chronically underpaid class that, along with fast-food workers, is largely credited with getting Americans through the Covid pandemic.
A week after Russian forces fled Izium in a frantic retreat, investigators found several burial sites in its surrounding forests. The largest so far could hold the remains of over 400 people, killed after six months of occupation. The brutal act of internment of enemies is a war crime and violates Geneva Convention’s precepts. But it’s not atypical of modern warfare and the likelihood of finding more graves at other sites is a grim but real possibility.
When House Leader Pelosi went to Taiwan over a month ago, against the judgment of experienced diplomats, she single-handedly almost caused a U.S. confrontation with China. Now, in another apparently poor-advised trip, she went to Armenia which is deep into a border dispute with Azerbaijan.
But while her reasons remain secret, they may relate to the razing of historical Armenian sites by Azerbaijan, called a “cultural erasure” by Caucasus Heritage Watch. A CHW report identified 108 medieval and early modern monasteries, churches, and cemeteries, destroyed between 1997 and 2011.
For almost two months now, Republican governors have been sending buses full of asylum seekers to what they called ‘liberal sanctuaries,’ clearly trying to stir phony patriotic fervor enough to keep them in office and embarrass their political opponents. But the strategy, a certifiably nasty stunt, may backfire if it’s proved that the refugees were lured into the buses with false promises of employment and citizenship as they reported themselves.
The back-to-back media coverage of the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II may thankfully end today. But not debates over the anachronism of the British monarchy and the sickening idea of honoring a thousand-year-old empire that crushed Indigenous peoples on all continents. Also about the new king, Charles III, and his inherited, and immoral, fortune. And yet, against all logic, there are those who see him rising to the occasion. We don’t.
“Our world is blighted by war, battered by climate chaos, scarred by hate, and shamed by poverty, hunger, and inequality.” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ pre-opening remarks for the 77th Assembly accurately describe the main challenges of our time. “Debate must be about providing hope and overcoming divisions,” he said. It may also be about confronting war hawks and weapon manufacturers already planning the next conflict.
Finally, the great tennis player Roger Federer has retired from the sport he graced like no other. After achieving everything a long-term No. 1 would, he went beyond the stats, perhaps due to his otherworldly feline athleticism, and has become, arguably, the perennial champion to the great majority of aficionados. His and Selena Williams’ retirements mark a turning point for the sport. May future #1s be as gracious as Roger. Thanks for the memories. WC

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