Curtain Raiser

Cataclysm On Our Doorstep, Colltalers

The Western media downplayed the gathering of Russia’s Putin with China’s Xi, and India’s Modi, and the Russian troop escalation in Ukraine. But we remain wary; this war is still being fed by weaponry and oil money. Meanwhile, the alleged “staged” vote on the annexation of territories continues.
Fridays for Future has gathered thousands in dozens of cities over the weekend, introducing a new demand: restitutions by rich societies to nations impacted by the climate disaster they did not cause. And Italy has elected Giorgia Meloni, its first far-right Prime Minister since her hero Mussolini.
We start in Lebanon where 97 refugees drowned on their way to Italy. The boat carrying Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian asylum-seekers capsized and sank in the Mediterranean, causing its deadliest boat accident. Now the only 20 survivors left have an even bigger challenge: to survive under Meloni.
In Iran, the murder of Mahsa Amini by the “Morality Police” has triggered a week-long of protests, led by Iranian women who no longer seem to fear the wrath of the authoritarian Theocracy. They have purposely danced in public, burned hijabs, and vowed defiance to the Patriarchy, acts punishable with jail terms or death, just as the regime works hard to join the strict club of nuclear-enable nations. Naturally, such chaos in Iran pleases the West.
In Israel, an investigation into the shooting of Al Jazeera’s Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh has determined with scientific certainty that she was shot and killed on purpose by Israeli forces. She was covering raids in Jenin, wearing clearly marked Press attire, so her shooting was not accidental, according to the Forensic Architecture group and Al-Haq, a human rights organization. The findings were filed at U.N. International Criminal Court.
In Myanmar, where horror never takes a day off, 11 children were killed in a school attack in Sagaing, a stronghold of resistance against the military junta that seized power early last year. The dictatorship is accused of multiple massacres against civilians, including the killing of some 350 children.
In New York, Indigenous leaders of the Amazon region have called on trendy brands and banks to stop supporting mining, logging, and oil drilling that are destroying the forest. Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla, all have products made with illegally extracted gold, while Blackrock, Vanguard, and JP Morgan Chase, are financing infrastructure projects largely against the interest of native communities, and accelerating the demise of “the lungs of the world.”
In California, heatwaves will be ranked according to their possible impact on people, on a scale of 1 to 5 based on a maximum sustained wind speed. Unlike hurricanes and earthquakes, though, measured strictly on their power and destruction, the classification will take into consideration weather forecasts, historical data, “measures of extreme heat severity,” California’s microclimate factors as well as public input. It goes into effect in January.
In Nevada, the monumental Hoover Dam, which provides potable water to 40 million people and serves urban centers like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Tucson, may be shut off for the first time in 86 years due to drought-driven Lake Mead and Colorado River’s extremely low levels. States relying on water pumped via the dam are getting ready for the fourth year of climate change-caused drought, which scientists called the worst in 1,200 years.
It’s rather unwise to minimize the consequences of the support, at least on paper, of leaders of the world’s two most populous countries to Russia. No one is saying China and India would back Putin’s use of nukes to annihilate Ukraine (and the planet in the process). But it is a direct warning to the U.S. and its insistence on all but annihilating Russia. The Biden administration continues to act as the arbiter of the universe but its rationale is weak.
To convince Putin and Zelensky to shake hands and talk, rather than listing demands to be followed and sanctions to be enacted, Biden should support aggressive diplomacy to ease tensions, seek concessions from both sides, and enact an immediate cease-fire. Peace talks could follow, about occupied territories, transparent referendums, and control of nuclear facilities by an international task force. Or simply hear humankind’s plea to stop the war.
The obscene emotional and material gashes war inflicts on the fabric of history always bring along an assortment of smaller and greater miseries, that aggravate the collective trauma. This time, it has two formidable helpers, and each one can destroy the Earth on its own: nukes and the climate disaster. There hasn’t been a conflict with these three man-made evils together, but world leaders seem oblivious to that; to them, it’s a matter of proving a point.
The youth-organized Fridays For Future, started by environmentalist Greta Thunberg in 2018, led rallies all over the world on Friday, along with other climate change groups and activists, to protest inaction by wealthy countries. And to insert a new element into this debate: compensation for poor and impoverished nations, least responsible for the climate emergency, from those who actually caused it, those same wealthy countries and corporations.
And finally, here comes the far-right Brothers of Italy party, of newly elected P.M. Meloni, which is likely to drive European politics further down the path of Fascism. Since Benito Mussolini’s 1945 execution by the mob, Italy has had a tumultuous but democratic political system. But all bets are off as both the Fratelli and Meloni are partial to religious nationalism. She may find a friend in the new occupant of London’s 10 Downing Street, though.
What is 5,484 years old, 100 ft tall, and stands on the edge of an ancient forest? Not Methuselah, either the Biblical 969-year-young sage or the pine tree found in California. It’s Gran Abuelo – great grandfather -, an alerce discovered in Chile and tested for age. Many complain about the inconsistencies of time, life, and even love for that matter, forgetting the constant, reassuring existence of trees. Let us wish you a long life, Abuelito. That’s all, folks. WC

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