Curtain Raiser

Last Call to Catch a Liar, Colltalers

Xi Jinping opened China’s single-party congress with one simple directive: to stay the course and to stay in power. A deadly fire at Iran’s Evin prison adds fuel to the turmoil triggered by the month-long women-led protests against the regime. From Switzerland to Antarctica, glaciers continue to melt.
From Moscow, some chilling words by a Kremlin aide: Brittney Griner’s release “is not the main issue we are concerned about.” Nearly 20,000 asylum seekers, sent to New York City by Republican governors, risk overwhelming the city’s social resources. And Trump is finally subpoenaed.
Let’s start in Mexico where gunmen killed 12 people in Irapuato in what’s been Guanajuato’s second mass shooting in less than a month. On Sept. 21, ten were also murdered in a similar fashion. Then, as now, the police can’t explain why and have labeled the killings with the generic “gang-related.”
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro declared three days of mourning for victims of last week’s devastating mudslide in Las Tejerias. 34 people are confirmed dead with dozens still missing and the town nearly erased. The landslides were caused by torrential rains brought by Tropical Storm Julia.
In the U.K., environmental activists threw tomato soup on Vincent Van Gogh’s 1888 “Sunflowers” painting at the National Gallery. The group, “Just Stop Oil,” tweeted that “the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis is driven by oil and gas.” The painting was not damaged and it’s back on display.
In Iran, 20 years ago this Sunday, the U.S. Congress gave George W. Bush clearance to invade Iraq under the false pretense that the Saddam Hussein regime had weapons of mass destruction. 4,500 troops and an estimated 160,000 civilians were killed in Bush and Dick’s most ‘repellent’ adventure.
Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Oklahoma, stood alone with her vote against the war. Time vindicated her courage and proved her right. “Not one bit” of the intel’s assessment that Iraq had nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons was proved correct, as for a 2005 presidential report. But as it still struggles to recover – hint: it’ll take forever – not one of the architects of such a colossal criminal misdeed has faced any accountability for their acts.
Back in the U.S., several airports, including those in Atlanta, Chicago, NYC, and Los Angeles were cyber attacked allegedly by Russian hackers of the Killnet group. Oddly enough, though, only the airport sites were temporarily disabled and there was no impact on flight operations. A dress rehearsal?
And in Connecticut, a jury ordered Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $965 million to the families of Sandy Hook victims, for his decade-long campaign of lies that the shooting was a hoax. Last August, a Texas jury told Jones to pay $50 million to the family of a six-year-old killed in the massacre. But before Karma fans throw hosannas to the heavens, keep in mind that most state laws have caps on such punitive charges.
China’s not just the world’s most populous country, at 1.402 billion, but it’s also on track to become its biggest economy. Indeed, in many ways, it has already topped the U.S, as an ally to emerging economies of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Apparently, the memo didn’t reach D.C.
That makes the confrontational trade strategy adopted by the Biden administration even more myopic. “We will enhance the military’s strategic capabilities,” Xi said, even though China’s military budget – the world’s second – is but a fraction of the U.S.’ own permanently-supplied war chest. As expected, censorship will increase, but here’s the breaking news still to be announced: Xi will change the rules and remain in power for another term.
Ever since Sept.16, when Mahsa Amini was beaten to death by the so-called Morality Police for not wearing a hijab, Iranian women have taken over the revolution, so to speak. Facing a brutal crackdown, women are still getting out now, unaccompanied by male escorts, and ostensibly cutting their hair in public. As for the Evin prison’s fire that killed four inmates, there’s also concern that detainees who face security charges are being targeted.
While world leaders argue whether oil production is insufficient given the war in Ukraine, the climate emergency continues to wreck our future. Take Antarctica’s Denman ice shelf which is melting at a rate of 70.8 billion tons a year, according to Australian researchers. Or the Swiss Alps which have lost 3.1 cubic kilometers of ice since last year, or more than 6% of their volume. Floods, fires, landslides, and hurricanes have all been metastasized by the climate emergency. But the rising of sea levels, due to glacier melting, is arguably the fastest way the global debacle will be felt on a global scale.
Brittney Griner is the unluckiest of basketball stars as she was detained in Moscow at the dawn of the conflict between Putin and Zelenskyy. Now she faces the prospect of rotting in prison until it comes to a halt or ends. Human rights groups must keep the pressure on to free her before it gets too late.
Speaking of being unlucky, asylum seekers who were illegally forced into buses heading to New York, D.C., and Martha Vineyard, straight from the U.S. border, will be camped at a newly-built facility in Randalls’ Island, which is already deemed inadequate even as a temporary solution. As Mayor Eric Adams asks for help from government agencies, the city’s own unhoused population, already in the thousands, wonders what’s in store for them.
The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol has voted – unanimously – to subpoena the ex-U.S. president, in an attempt to make him accountable for inciting supporters into breaking the law. It’s a perilous path for Congress to tread given what may happen if the hearings are botched and wind up helping him run again for higher office. For sure his ‘Teflon’ abilities are notable but so is the case against him.
“Here is a man whose life and actions the world has already condemned – yet whose enormous fortune has already brought him acquittal.” The Roman statesman Cicero said this 2.100 years ago but the same could be said today about a few contemporary politicos, including the ‘former guy.’ Before his righteousness cost his head, however, he’d already lost it to another popular figure of the Empire, Marcus Antonius. Steady when turning, friends. Ciao WC


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