Curtain Raiser

A Vote After the Penumbra, Colltalers

Tomorrow’s U.S. midterm elections may either prove women and minorities still hold the key to the future of American democracy or seal Republicans’ deal to reelect Trump in 2024. If that’s the case, a World Meteorological report about the last eight years as the hottest on record will likely be buried.
To survive Russian attacks on Kyiv’s power grid, Ukraine may decide to evacuate all its three million people, a Herculean task that may have one too many moving parts to succeed. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu may become Prime Minister for a third time, despite being still on trial for corruption.
Let’s get going in Pakistan after former P.M. Imran Khan was shot at a rally. Khan, who was ousted by a non-confidence vote in April, has pushed for new elections since he’s been barred from running again on corruption charges. He calls them “politically motivated” and is expected to fully recover.
In Iran, the women-led movement continues rallying against the punitive Sharia law imposed by the Theocracy when Ayatollah Khomeini returned to power in 1979. This time, protests erupted in universities and the Kurdish region, followed by threats of further repression by Iranian security forces.
On Nov. 4, 1979, 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days at the American embassy in Tehran by a group of students. The crisis is arguably credited with giving Ronald Reagan the edge over President Jimmy Carter to win the White House, and later on, during his second term in office, to the Iran-Contra affair. The administration was charged with secretly selling weapons to Iran and using the proceeds to destabilize Nicaragua.
In Egypt, where AfricaCop27, the 12-day, U.N.-backed climate summit will start next week, there’s been an agreement to include the issue of “loss and damage” financing to the agenda. There’ll be formal discussions on wealthy nations responsible for the climate emergency funding efforts by poor countries to mitigate the devastating impact on their economies of extreme weather, increased temperatures, and exploitation by the fossil fuel industry.
In Italy, the return of Fascism to power with the appointment of P.M. Giorgia Meloni has produced its most visible sign yet of what may be ahead: charity-run migrant rescue ships are being denied safe port. In Catania, the Humanity I was told to leave after disembarking only 144 of its 179 rescued migrants. But its captain refused “until all survivors (…) have been disembarked.” Two other rescue ships remain at sea without clearance to approach.
Back in the U.S., in Oklahoma, 24 unmarked graves have been found in a Tulsa cemetery, as part of efforts to find and identify victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre, over a hundred years ago. Between May and June of 1921, a mob killed an estimated 300 men, women, and children, and burned down Greenwood, a then-prosperous Black district. The project aims at identifying victims and the facts of the massacre using DNA analysis.
At the U.S.-Mexico border, over 4,000 have been killed or disappeared since 2014, according to Missing Migrant Project. The report found legislation hostile to asylum seekers followed in the U.S. encourages other nations to also refuse taking in migrants, a violation of international law. In Eagle Pass, Texas, there’s now a “backlog of bodies” and many had to be stored in a city-owned refrigerated truck, fire chief Manuel Mello told The Guardian.
2022 has been the deadliest year for people trying to enter America without papers. More than 800 migrants already lost their lives by drowning, heat,  smugglers and criminals, or being shot by agents. Sadly, on the immigration issue, there’s no difference between President Biden and his predecessor.
In Seattle, Mercedes Wedaa is suing her employer of 18 years for being forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day as a housekeeper with “no reasonably accessible bathroom,” no rest or lunch breaks. She was even told “to work around a family without being seen,” and was fired after complaining.
But so it happens that her employer is the world’s second-richest person, Jeff Bezos, and the facts of her lawsuit track closely claims by employees of Amazon, which he owns. Reports of staff peeing in bottles and working long hours with no compensation have plagued Bezos. They may place themselves above the fray, but there’s a growing understanding that billionaires in general are lucky, probably savvy, but not too bright, and hardly fair.
According to most polls, the GOP will likely regain congressional majority in the midterm elections. And that is, if confirmed, an incomprehensible assumption to make, given that the party has spent now almost two years denying the results of the 2020 presidential contest. Republicans are engaged in an aggressive campaign against women’s reproductive rights and voting rights for people of color while favoring morally bankrupted candidates.
Considering that women represent at least half of the electorate, and people of color, immigrants, environmentalists, democracy activists, and regular, working people are expected to show up to vote, what’s driving these polls numbers after all? Voters may reflect on Brazil’s recent presidential election. For weeks, polls showed Lula winning in a landslide but the final count was much tighter as he edged Bolsonaro only by a little over two million votes.
Despite the war, income inequality, the dire effects of globalization, and even a faltering global economy, the most crucial foe to our survival on this planet is the climate. With the emergency determined by humanity’s predatory approach, the elections have suddenly acquired an enhanced relevance.
The WMO report shows that the last eight years may be the hottest on record and warns that still-rising emissions mean that our hopes to comply with global temperature targets may not be achievable. We all know that, even those who deny it. It’s time to vote them out and pick a new crop of leaders.
As winter arrives, Ukraine is facing the prospect of a long, cold, deadly war, with casualties mounting and no sign that its deameed NATO membership is anywhere near. Support from the big powers comes at a hefty price, Ukrainians may realize, and nothing that won’t suit their sponsors’ interests will ever fly, despite promises and grandstanding. Russia will continue pounding until it’s forced to stop, and that means the unthinkable. Peace talks now.
As for Israel and Netanyahu, they proved irresistible to an impressively large and powerful constituency: the far right and its religious zealots. If the new P.M. manages to form a new government, it’s fair to say that the killing, dispossession, persecution, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians will proceed.
Tomorrow’s election will be the first to take place during a total lunar eclipse, a spectacular event on its own right. But to millions of Americans, the real event takes place tonight when the $1.9 Powerball jackpot, the highest ever, will be announced. There’ll be longer lines for tickets than voters to fulfill their citizenship rights. Pay no heed to naysayers and instead, picture yourself as a newly minted billionaire inside the voting booth. See ya. WC


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