Curtain Raiser

Eclipse & the Mississippi, Colltalers

Russian forces used electrical shock, waterboarding, beatings, and death threats on Ukraine’s Izium residents, survivors told Human Rights Watch. An Alaskan snow crab harvest was canceled for the first time. Despite teetering on the brink of disaster, the U.K. decided Boris Johnson is not the answer.
Former President Trump is set to testify on Nov. 14 to the Jan. 6 House Committee, while his ideological honcho, Steve Bannon, was sentenced to four months in prison. And Meta-boosted pro-Bolsonaro “fake news” threatens front-runner Lula’s favoritism to win his return to the presidency of Brazil.
We start in China which ended its Communist Party’s congress by granting another five-year term to President Xi Jinping. The discreet leader of the world’s most populous nation, and soon its largest economy, quickly took steps to promote allies and demote rivals, a long-standing Chinese tradition.
In Australia, Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced that her country will no longer support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That reverses a prior decision by her predecessor Scott Morrison, who followed a 2017 Trump ruling. Now only the U.S., Guatemala, and Kosovo support Israel on this issue and have relocated or may relocate their ambassies. But there’s “no lasting peace that doesn’t address” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Wong said.
In the Marshall Islands, where the American military detonated some 67 nuclear warheads between 1946 and 1958, there’s growing pressure to address the U.S. failure fulfilling an agreement signed in 1986. Known as the Compact of Free Association, or COFA, it addresses issues of compensation for damage, immigration privileges, and economic and defense aid for the Marshallese. The agreement is expected to be renewed by the end of this year.
In Iran, the women-led movement for democracy and personal freedom has found resonance throughout the world over the weekend. Several U.S. and European cities held ‘solidarity rallies’ gathering thousands. Women have been rebelling against Iran’s theocracy since its “Morality Police” beat to death 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, for not wearing the hijab. Other killings have followed it, triggering a now global mass-protest movement.
Back in the U.S., the Biden administration has expanded Title 42, a Trump-era policy that lets the government turn away Venezuelan asylum seekers to Mexico. The U.N. and human rights advocates condemn the policy that forces claimants to fend for themselves at the dangerous strip across the border.
There, entire families face rape, kidnappings, theft, and even murder. Meanwhile, a mere 24,000 may be allowed to enter the U.S. if they apply online, find a financial sponsor, and come by plane, unrealistic demands for a nation that’s faced years of economic sanctions mandated by the previous and current administrations. The strict demands are in harsh contrast with what’s expected from Ukrainians applying for American residency, activists say.
In Memphis, the legendary Mississippi, one of the two most important rivers in North America, has reached its lowest level since 1954, when records began to be kept. A persistent, climate change-boosted drought has affected Lake Itasca in the Gulf of Mexico, which feeds the mighty body of water.
Levels from Cairo, IL, to Baton Rouge, LA, are so low that even “commercial activities such as barge traffic and riverboats are experiencing difficulty navigating portions of the river,” according to the National Weather Service. With 3,896 miles, the Mississippi is the four-longest river in the world.
In New York, Narkis Golan, a domestic abuse survivor who fled Italy with her son to escape his abusive father, Isacco Jacky Saada, was found dead at her home. In a historical ruling in June, the Supreme Court said she could not be forced to return the child. “Why must I be threatened and silenced by the system that’s meant to protect us?,” she posted on Facebook in Sept., eerily invoking the fact that “many women end up dead” in cases like these.
And in Washington, the U.S. Mint will make quarters with Anna May Wong, known as Hollywood’s first Chinese-American movie star. She’s the first Asian-American to be honored on any American currency, reflecting her years of struggle to portray dignified Asian characters in leading movie roles.
Ukrainians who survived threats at gunpoint and relentless torture by Russian soldiers in Izium have identified at least seven locations, including two schools, where they were detained and abused. “Multiple victims shared credible accounts of similar experiences of torture during interrogation,” said Belkis Willie, a conflict researcher at HRW. “This treatment was part of a policy and plan.” Russian forces occupied Izium from March to early Sept.
The entire snow crab harvest for the year has been canceled in Alaska, as nearly 11 billion crabs mysteriously vanished in the Bering Sea. That means that nine out of ten crabs died since 2018, financially bankrupting those who make a living harvesting them in an industry worth $200 million a year.
The climate emergency which is warming the regions surrounding the North Pole at an extremely fast rate may be to blame for the population collapse. For the same reason and for the second year in a row, Alaskan fishing authorities have also canceled the harvesting of the red king crab in Bristol Bay.
Liz Truss’ 44 days as U.K. Prime Minister were even worse than her predecessor’s, who resigned in disgrace for a string of scandals. Undaunted, some dared to even consider a Boris Johnson comeback. Fortunately, sane minds prevailed but what’s next for the Brits? Thousands took to the streets of London over the weekend to call for a return to the European Union, i.e., to cancel Brexit. Will sane minds prevail again and make a go for it? Tune in.
In the very same week that the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack set up Trump’s date of appearance to testify next month, the notorious Banon, former White House strategist (and White Supremacist) was sentenced to a four-month prison term. None of these related events are enough to deliver fireworks displays for those victimized by the duo’s Machiavelism. But the coincidence’s surely sweet all the same. Wish them sleepless nights.
“The tidal wave of ‘fake news’ circulating on Meta’s social media platforms is helping to promote Bolsonaro’s Trump-like effort to discredit Sunday’s presidential election,” which Brazilian polls suggest he will lose, a report by Center for Economic and Policy Research found. “This new, unchecked disinformation campaign by Meta – Facebook, the world’s largest social network, What’s App, and Instagram – could have devastating consequences” for Brazil and for the planet. Unless restrained by legislation, “these companies will continue to exchange lies for cash.” the CEPR has concluded.
And a farewell to Eclipse, the Seattle dog known for riding a city bus herself who died on Friday. The 10-year-old black lab-bullmastiff mix passed in her sleep and had a closely-followed Facebook page, since she was caught riding the bus alone and getting off at a local park every day for seven years. Seattleites knew she was diagnosed with tumors and adored her peaceful but indomitable spirit. R.I.P. Eclipse, you’ve earned your Shining. Lie down.

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