Curtain Raiser

Satellites Crash, Ideals Don’t, Colltalers

A police massacre in Rio, political unrest in Bogotá and Jerusalem, and a blast in Kabul; some capitals had a hell of a weekend. Speaking of it, as rich countries walk to full Covid immunization, impoverished ones still suffer from lack of vaccines, even if drug patterns may be temporality lifted.
An assassination attempt against the Maldives’ former president and environmentalist Mohamed Nasheed rocked the tiny archipelago. Which made a  surprising second appearance in the week headlines: as it turned out, the out-of-control 10-store Long March 5B Chinese rocket crashed off its waters.
In the U.S. there’s a growing concern that, unless Congress axes the filibuster, much of the Democratic agenda won’t be even voted on, or it will but after being washed out. The party that controls the presidency, the House, and the Senate hasn’t yet passed any of the badly needed plans outlined in Biden’s campaign and first 100 days in office. Thus a word of advice: stop harassing progressives and do what only you can do, end the filibuster.
In fact, some of those proposals have already been criticized for being too timid, too vague, or not fresh enough, but it’d be definitely worst if they’d be buried before hitting the Senate floor like its ex-leader used to do with bills he didn’t like. Wise up, Lib warriors, the GOPtrumpt is coming to roost.
At this moment, a lot of well-established elected Democrats have been disliked not for being too rich or for lacking cohesion, but for being in the pocket of big corporations. Consider the pharma slash healthcare industries, for instance. Ask, is there something more abject Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Save the Whistleblowers, Colltalers

President Biden has received deserving high marks for his first 100 days in office, mainly for his infrastructure and recovery spending proposals. As for Afghanistan, Iran, and Latin America, though, not so much. That’s why critics are now placing his actions in the context of his own political trajectory.
But for most Americans, relief for not having the ex-president at the White House is still, well, a relief. Trouble is brewing, though as it wont to do. Covid is killing over 600,000 people a day in India and Brazil, there’s a faulty Census to be dealt with, and climate is still an emergency. But we’re Ok.
Certainly way better than the still over a billion with no chance of being inoculated before being killed simply because rich nations won’t do enough to relax patterns that overly-profitable pharmaceutical firms own. Regardless of the surplus doses donated by the U.S., humanitarian initiatives by Cuba and others, and heroic but isolated actions, there’s something very wrong about the global healthcare establishment for such cruelty to even stand.
“Crimes against humanity.” That’s the scathing finding of a report by the U.S.-based National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers on police deadly force against unarmed Black people. The group stepped in after the U.S. pressured the U.N. Continue reading

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Bear Ears Is Listening, Colltalers

There’s a lot of goodwill for U.S. President Biden as we approach his 100th day in office. The economic relief package, rejoining global treaties on Iran nukes and the climate, calling genocide the massacre of over a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks. But do we want more? Let us count the ways.
As Covid-19’s overwhelms India, calls intensify for rich nations to share their vaccine excedent. But they may need to be forced to do it. Elsewhere, FIFA got a rare challenge, and soccer fans, a beef with social media, the FBI needs clues, and it’s the 35th anniversary of Chernobyl’s nuke explosion.
Speaking of radioactivity, there’s a startling new report about American honey, the bee product not the sweetheart of yore. As it turns out, the more than 500 nuclear detonations the world’s superpowers conducted since the late 1940s impacted the sweet nectar loved since ancient times. According to a Nature Communications study, honey in the U.S. has still alarming levels of cesium, the longest-lasting fission product generated by a nuke explosion.
While respected environmental groups cite nuclear power as an unredeemed threat to our civilization, Earth Day celebrations this year were correctly focused on the still weak response by world leaders to the climate emergency threat. But regrettably, all awash in corporate memes and propaganda.
Now, it’s bad enough notorious environment-depleting corporations such as Apple and Google go on capitalizing on concerns about ‘Mother Earth,’ as twisted as the rationale behind it may be. But it’s an outrage that say, gas-burning Florida Power & Light is also welcomed to this free goodness ride.
Reporters Without Borders identified 132 countries where journalists have been routinely attacked or prevented from reporting on the coronavirus. The 2021 World Press Freedom Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Guns, Hate Will Kill America, Colltalers

Would that be possible, America’s longest war will be canceled on Sept. 11 of all days? The president said it so, repeating what Obama and Trump had promised before. Will it happen? it should. Did it work? no, but now it’s done. What it did was what every conflict does: it killed people, lots of them.
Not that we don’t do plenty of that in the U.S. too; there have been new gun massacres we’ll do little or nothing about it. Just as we manage hunger: the media glows over billionaires but food banks are overwhelmed across the nation. Tomorrow is Pot Day, though, and Thursday, Earth Day, so light up.
Let’s begin our weekly world tour in Taiwan, which is nervous about the buildup of Chinese war vessels off its waters. After pulverizing Hong Kong’s drive for democracy, Beijing’s now eager to re-litigate an old imperialistic folly: to rule the democratic-run “Republic of China,” which lost control over the mainland in 1949. The military “drills” seem designed to rattle the pro-West nation, already shaken Sunday by two non-damaging earthquakes.
Questions abound in Russia as it builds up combat troops near Ukraine’s eastern border – the largest since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, according to The Guardian. After being publicly chastised by President Biden, who ordered more sanctions against his country, critics are unsure about Putin’s strategy at this time, since an invasion would not be cost-effective, and he may soon have another problem in his hands: Alexei Nalvany’s death.
But analysts such as Anatol Lieven, senior fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, also warn Ukrainians that “they may be a kind of partner of the U.S. but they’re not an ally.” In a DemocracyNow interview, he calls up the example of Georgia and how the U.S. did not, and will not again this time, engage in a war with Russia. And how Putin is unlikely to have plans to wage war with the U.S. over them either.
In France, Kobili Traoré beat Sarah Halimi, 65, before throwing her out the window of her Paris apartment in 2017 to cries of “Allahu akbar,” or god is great, and “I killed the devil.” Now, the country’s highest court has ruled that he cannot stand trial because he was Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Bring Your Whole Crew, Colltalers

The world is about to hit three million obits by Covid-19, with a fifth in the U.S. and Brazil as a steady No. 2 with over 350.000 deaths. Yup, little has improved: rates are still rising in the West, poor nations have had little access to vaccines, and big labs are still unaccountably in control of all patterns.
Elsewhere, the explosion of split-up families and their lost children at the chaotic U.S.-Mexico border is becoming the Biden administration’s greatest challenge. Also, Peru and Ecuador choose a new president, Northern Ireland is in turmoil over Brexit, and somehow related, Prince Philip had died.
Let’s get busy first with Iran, where a suspicious ‘accident‘ disabled the Natanz nuclear facility’s electrical grid just a day after it’d started to enrich uranium. Iran said that it won’t turn off its centrifuges till sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy are fully lifted. Israel, a strong opponent of the nuke agreement that the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from and that now may be revived, is suspected to have a part in the ‘terrorist‘ incident.
Poland, with over 2.6 million coronavirus cases, may be using the pandemic to crackdown on civil rights. The government, which wants ‘repolonize‘ the media, is being accused of picking winners, cutting down on ads for independent newspapers, and Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Kids Are Getting Frustrated, Colltalers

A new Capitol Hill attack showed that the U.S. Congress still hasn’t got the memo. Since the attempted Jan. 6 coup, members who supported it are still in, there’s no attack weapons ban or action on the filibuster. Don’t take for granted what it took to get us a Democratic majority or next year you’ll lose.
The week’s sore points: Biden’s immigration mess and the GOP’s shameful vote suppression efforts. Great news as Iran agrees to revive nuclear talks. But there’s also a new global push for a U.N. treaty banning all nukes and/or any kind of fuel that can kill us and destroy the planet. It makes sense.
We start in Mexico where femicide – women being murdered by former or current partners only for being women – is now rampant, aggravated by lockdowns and a weak judicial system. President Andrés López Obrador, still popular despite coronavirus mismanagements and the poor economy, hasn’t done much about it, as rape and child pregnancy increase. Ten women are killed every day and last year, near two thousand were also murdered.
In Ethiopia, an investigation by BBC Africa Eye found evidence of a massacre of at least 15 men slaughtered by the military. The attack had not been disclosed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who finally admitted it’s been a ‘difficult and tiresome‘ fight against that Tigray People’s Liberation Front. There are increased concerns about Ahmed, who despite winning the 2019 Peace Nobel, is fully invested in crushing the guerrilla group.
As the U.S. reaches four million Covid-19 doses per day, Brazil had 300,000 deaths on Saturday. It’s Ok to compare the two topping the grimmest list of fatalities and most cases. It shows leadership – and money, surely – can change a nation’s dire straits. But someone with a brain has to be the leader.
Former president Lula da Silva’s return to political life has certainly driven the latest cabinet shake-up by President Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Fire From Another March, Colltalers

Mexico, pop. 131 million, beat Brazil, 190 million, and India, 1.4 billion to reach the unofficial highest number of Covid-19 deaths behind numero uno U.S.A. Patent monopoly has hampered equitable global distribution, and allowed fully-inoculated Israel for instance, to deny vaccines to Palestinians.
President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief bill has triggered promising, and not so much legislation, but the latest gun massacres again challenge Congress to enact gun control. It doesn’t look good. Plus, the U.S.’ stuck in its longest war; genocide may come to Myanmar; and a humongous ship clogged Suez.
But let’s begin in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee camp, where a devastating fire killed scores of the Rohuynga, who’d fled the blood-thirst Myanmar military that staged a coup in 2017. Their plans to return during the brief social stability that followed were dashed with the new Feb. 1 coup. Many lost again everything in the fire while over 100 Burmese were killed by the army this past weekend. Tragically, the world is asleep.
In Yemen, the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis shows no sign of letting it up, despite a new peace proposal by Saudi Arabia, whose daily, seven-year U.S.-backed strikes have reduced the country to rubble. The Saudi aim at exterminating the Houthi, a 100K-strong group of fighters supported by Iran. Like Syria, Yemen is hosting a conflict between proxies of political enemies, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

We All Come From Elsewhere, Colltalers

The Atlanta massage parlor massacre has a clear provenance. It began by the ex-president calling Covid-19 the ‘China virus.’ It escalated unimpeded through attacks on Asian-Americans as police looked into the debunked ‘lone wolf’ theory. Thus who’s ever doubted it all would end up with bullets?
As the U.S. hits the 100-million-dose mark, there’s growing pressure for President Biden and other Western leaders to force a suspension of patterns owned by big labs, so everyone can get a shot. AstraZeneca has some explaining to do. Plus floods and rats in Australia, and the unwavering Burmese.
We start in Russia where President Putin congratulated himself on the anniversary of his unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014. He’s got away with it so far, except for his complicated relationship with Ukraine and its president, former actor Volodymyr Zelensky – yes, that Zelensky of the first Trump impeachment. See, he may be against it, but millions of Russians, Ukrainians, and even Crimeans may be just fine with it. Thus Putin wins again.
In Brazil, 1,290 people lost their lives to what President Bolsonaro once called it ‘a little flu‘ in just 24 hours last week while adding near 48,000 new cases. Brazil seconds only the U.S. with near 300 thousand Covid deaths, but they’re almost twice those in India, which has 6,5 times its population.
As for Myanmar, the Burmese people are offering the world a tremendous lesson on resilience and dignity, fighting the truculent army that took power on Feb. 1. The military has conducted night raids resulting in thousands of civilians ‘disappeared’ besides enforcing a policy of summary extermination, shooting street protesters at will. As refugees reportedly seek asylum in India, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

What Legacies Are Made of, Colltalers

Daylight Time Savings is on, a sight spring is not too far. Covid-19, though, is yet to receive the memo; global cases have beat the 120 million mark, and the U.S. has a quarter of them. Good and bad news about vaccines: many got their shots in the global north but billions worldwide remain uninoculated.
Brazil, second on that grim list of virus casualties, experienced an earthquake of sorts with the return of former President Lula da Silva to politics. And there’s also a string of sad anniversaries to mark: Breonna Taylor, Marielle Franco, the Syrian civil war, and the Fukushima nuke disaster and tsunami.
Let’s start with Bolivia, where far-right Jeanine Añez was arrested on terrorism and sedition charges. She instigated the 2019 military coup that ousted the country’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, and led a brutal regime that persecuted and killed countless pro-democracy activists. Morales has since returned and in Oct. his ally Luis Arce won a closely-watched special election. Bolivia, population of 11 million, has 260,000 coronavirus cases.
In Poland, as around the world, massive marches marked Women’s Day on Sat but the focus this year was the draconian anti-abortion law that went into effect on Jan. With increasingly restrictive measures against sex minorities – the country has now what it calls ‘LGBTQ-Free Zones!‘ –  religious zealotry seems to have been inscribed into law. Poland may be ready for a gifted leader to take it out of a past of coal, war, and prejudice and back to the future.
And Scotland, whose efforts to become independent from the United Kingdom have increased since Brexit, was told by the U.K. Prime Minister that he’s against another referendum. The first one, in 2014, failed to grant autonomy to Scots, but F.M. Nicola Sturgeon has since pushed for a new vote.
A few other issues of note include Myanmar, where the now indiscriminate killings of civilians by the military Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Raise Girls as World Leaders, Colltalers

Once again Brazil shocks the world and not in a good way. As President Bolsonaro told Brazilians to ‘stop whining,’ it hit 10 million Covid-19 cases, almost two thousand a day last week. They could use some of the $1.9 trillion relief bill Republicans fought tooth and nail not to give to Americans.
The far-reaching bill seems well poised to boost the U.S. recovery but it also shows the limitations of President Biden’s ‘mandate‘ as it failed to raise the minimum wage. The Pope’s in Iraq and, in Minneapolis, the trial of the police officer who brutally killed George Floyd last May gets started today.
More on that in a moment but let’s start with Myanmar where the military is shooting to kill protesters of the Feb 1 coup and the junta seems unfazed by the international uproar. Not that it’s been particularly strident. While the army reportedly conducts overnight raids, the casualty count rises, and China takes its sweet time before stepping in. Since the European Union is not acting, the U.S. should put its diplomacy corp in a state of high alert.
Serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.‘ Amnesty International’s assessment matches United Nations’ fears that invading Eritrean troops in Ethiopia’s Tigray region may bring about more deaths, violence, and potentially mass starvation.  Eritrea’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, now is accused of ordering illegal troop raids across the border.
Pope Francis may be arguably presiding over the Catholic church’s biggest decline but no one is crazy to count the Vatican out just yet. Argentina-born Francisco, who leads 1.2 billion devouts, has then been entrusted with revitalizing the church’s dwindling attendance using a favorite from the Dark Ages playbook: playing kingmaker. It’s not clear whether the U.S. has offered him pointers for his meeting with Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
$45 billion. That’s the combined amount that Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca are expected to make with vaccine sales in 2021. Which has its upside: after all, these and other companies are offering a safe cure and treatment to an illness that in one year, killed almost three million people, safely developed at a fast clip, and that’s already benefitted some of us. Other companies Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

By All Means Necessary, Colltalers

Lacking strong world censure, the Myanmar military has moved to phase 2 of its power grab: shooting civilians. President Biden, who bombed Syria instead, has also been criticized for ignoring an intelligence report that accuses Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
But the week in America may be dominated by two arresting issues: the battle to include in the government’s Covid relief package raising the minimum wage to $15h, the first such rise since 2009; and a bombshell revelation about the murder of Black leader Malcolm X, 56 years ago this February.
We begin with a disturbing Guardian report about the more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, who died since 2010 while building stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The data highlights the failure of the secretive ‘absolute monarchy‘ ruled by the Al Thani family to protect its over two million migrant workers, as it blames the average 12 deaths a week on ‘natural causes.’
As it becomes almost a dark tradition, 317 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped at gunpoint on Friday. What started in 2014 with the abduction of 276 girls by the armed group Boko Haram, which opposes Western education, has become a cottage industry in Nigeria. Different groups have been staging kidnappings for money in Continue reading

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Percy & Us Will Persevere, Colltalers

There’s no shortage of ‘I told you so’ being thrown at those facing jail for their murderous Capitol Hill rampage last month, and at Texas officials. After all, only the rioters didn’t expect their leader’s cowardice at that key moment. Or only a fossil-fuel-based state economy would deny climate change.
500,000 Americans dead of Covid-19 also means that the U.S.’s less than 4% of the world population has a fifth of all deaths reported. As President Biden reenrolls the country into the Paris Agreement, the WHO, and Iran’s nuclear treaty, still unfulfilled campaign promises are back to pressure him.
We start our roundabout this week celebrating NASA and its nothing-short-of-epic landing of the rover Perseverance on Mars. In usual fashion, the arguably most popular U.S. government agency reliably achieved yet another technological feat. It sent the artifact through seven months and millions of miles to skydive amid toxic fumes and land safely on the Red Planet. All so mankind knows it enough to exercise bragging rights. Well done, Percy.
The Nov. 3 elections will be forever marked as the day a U.S. president was stopped from proclaiming himself a king. The Democratic Party gained control over the Senate, we’re closer than ever to decriminalize pot, and a number of other good things were made into law too. But in ‘liberal’ California, the so-called gig economy scored a major and deeply demoralizing boost: the passing of Prop 22 allows some employers not to comply with labor laws.
Uber and Lyft, the U.S.’s two biggest car-services companies, can keep calling employees ‘independent contractors,’ that is, no benefits, no paid time off, and no health insurance, and it’s all for minimum wages. Oh, and you may be fired too, no questions asked. Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

They’ll Come Back For More, Colltalers

It’ll be long before we fully take in the implications of the second Trump impeachment acquittal. The unpunished Fascistic rampage at Capitol Hill though has sure pried opened a back door to power. Senate may prevent the ex-president from ever running again but not someone else, likely smarter.
While few are paying attention, femicide continues to wretch the lives of countless women throughout the world. In times of deception, it’s often what we don’t see that hurts us the most. Thus unseen until detected was the serious cyberattack into the water supply of an entire community in Florida.
But before anything, let’s take a moment to carve the half a million mark, as in, 500,000 Covid-19 deaths in America. And the even more staggering fact that despite all celebrated technological breakthroughs, the reality is that not enough vaccines have been produced so far to go around. Globally. Not yet anyway, and part of the glacial path of immunization is due to unaddressed inequalities and the focus of Big Pharma on their own bottom line.
Americans have mourned and grieved for those gone and those being hit by it but still stings to bear witness once again to privilege and influence buying a ticket out of any trouble. It’s not just rich countries purchasing and storing way more shots than they currently need, to detriment of poorer ones. But even within states and cities, wealthier citizens are managing to get spots in suburban lines, originally set to locals. And getting away with it.
That’s why it’s so important for the U.S. and other nations to let the World Health Organizations manage all global health Continue reading

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To Impeach a Wrongdoer, Colltalers

5.077 Covid-19 American deaths. That’s the audited total registered Thursday. We’re speeding toward the half-a-million cases before the month is out. The virus spreads by jets while vaccines are hand-delivered; guess which is faster? New variants may arrive even faster but immunization will prevail.
The Burmese are out in the streets trying to undo Myanmar’s military coup before it grows roots. They’ll need help. ‘Incitement of insurrection.’ That’s the charge on the second Trump impeachment starting tomorrow as the FBI rounds up members of the deadly mob that stormed Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.
We start on a related note as Canada has just declared the Proud Boys, which took part in the tragic events in DC, a terrorist organization. Court filings charge that the group spouses political violence, Fascism, misogyny, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, and white supremacist ideologies. As many face criminal penalties in the U.S., they may forget delusions of freedom that many a Wild West gunslinger has shared: to run away North.
In Brazil, an investigation on over 230 thousand coronavirus casualties concluded that President Bolsonaro is personally responsible for allowing the pandemic to run amok through an ‘institutional strategy to spread the virus.’ The Conectas Derechos Humanos and São Paulo University study also has exposed the administration’s lack of a national plan or provision for vaccine availability and still blames the media and others for the pandemic.
Meanwhile, indigenous leaders and human rights groups asked the International Criminal Court at The Hague to charge Bolsonaro with ‘ecocide,’ the dismantling of environmental policies and violation of native rights. Since 2018, Amazon deforestation Continue reading

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People Own These Vaccines, Colltalers

The expectation, chaos, and general anxiety over a vaccine that’d start defanging Covid-19 are holding for ransom the world’s breath. Over 100 million cases and 2.3 million casualties justify public concerns. But why no one is holding the big labs accountable for such appalling distribution failures?
Also, why terrorists arrested by the FBI for their Jan. 6 Capital Hill murderous rampage have been freed by local judges? And an irrelevant bruhaha, staged by small investors against Wall Street, had predictable results. Hint: they lost. And even without the virus, 2020 was deadly to asylum seekers.
We start the new month near a town across the Rio Grande from Texas, where 19 burned bodies were found a week from last Friday. Believed to be migrants, at least two of them from Guatemala, they’d been shot first, and their full identification may take months. A year and a week before, 21 had been burned to death in nearby Ciudad Mier, which prompted the Mexican army to kill 11 alleged gunmen, which all but doomed the investigation.
In India, tens of thousands of landowning farmers have been protesting new agricultural laws they see as unfairly stacked against them. On Saturday, the government blocked the Internet in areas surrounding Delhi as some started one-day hunger strikes to mark the 48th anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi’s assassination. Clashes with the police left at least one farmer dead last week but it’s unlikely that the Modi administration will back down.
The European Union, however, did back down on sending vaccines to the Republic of Ireland while skipping Northern Ireland and that was perceived as a relief. The open-borders issue that almost derailed Brexit – with many hoping that it would – just proved again how it can still crush some sensitive toes. The real issue, of course, lies elsewhere: the U.K.’s exit from the E.U. was never driven by people’s best interests but by those of its architects.
As for the bumbling handling of the virus, it’s run roughshod of any common sense in the U.K., throughout the E.U., the U.S., and in many countries. For all vaccines now reaching the market and making billions to Big Pharma are mostly funded by taxpayer money and should be labeled as such, say healthcare activists, rather than advertising their maker. Please follow the #ThisIsOurShot hashtag for further actions promoting a ‘People’s Vaccine.’
Concerns about gargantuan inequalities in vaccine access and distribution have grown steadily as the epidemic starts its second year of terror. While rich nations can afford to buy and store extra doses, a global forecast group’s new report has found that 84 of the world’s poorest countries will not get enough for their populations, and some may not get anything before 2024. That’s alarming: Continue reading

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A Work Cut Out For Us, Colltalers

There’s a potential new U.S.A. ahead of us. But we may still get stuck with our nation of yore or with what it’s been in the past years. Only a new dawn is worth pursuing, though, and yes, that may include the second impeachment. In any event, Americans must wisely choose before the 2022 elections.
The future we pick may be in response to the Doomsday Clock, which is been closer than ever to midnight, i.e., global annihilation. That may change Wednesday when atomic scientists unveil the new time. But with 25 million COVID cases, the U.S. still has ways before regaining the world’s respect.
Hold those thoughts while we do our abridged version of a news round-up. Starting by Russia where thousands took the streets in support of Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader Putin tried to kill by poison and who was arrested as soon as he arrived home. As the Kremlin sets up a court hearing in Feb. that may send him to prison on trumped-up charges, most Western nations accused of supporting him have no idea what he actually stands for.
In Portugal, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won in a landslide five years more in office, while far-right and progressives had mediocre showings. It was likely a vote for continuity as Portugal has now over 600 thousand coronavirus cases and more than 10,000 have already died from the virus.
In a surprising row over media regulations, Australia may face a future without Google, as it presses the search behemoth to pay for the news it quotes from media organizations. It’s unlikely that the trillion-dollar-valued Alphabet Inc., owner of Google, will back down but after recent moves by the European Union to curb its privacy infringements, along with Facebook and other social media Continue reading

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The Year We Cannot Forget, Colltalers

If you’re neither a billionaire nor had a lucky break in 2020, chances are you’re happy this year is finally (almost) over. Also, because it’s not hard to feel grateful for having pulled through while so many did not. For it’s Ok to be thankful amid tragedy but it feels better knowing we did make a difference.
Yes, there’s been Covid and the 1.6 million-plus lives it took with it, including over 300,000 Americans. There’s the brutal reality of millions going to bed hungry every day. The scourge of climate emergency and injustice of racism and rising femicide. There was Trump. And yet, we’re still breathing.
Naturally, most of us would like this moment to be a celebration of what humanity has done so well, but we’re at loss for words; so many of us stepped up to the plate and saved lives, showed compassion, risked life and limb, stood on bullets’ way to speak and protect those whose voices were silenced.
Their sacrifice has countered the horror of having a president who lied, mocked, denied, chastised, and ultimately, ignored the pleas of his own citizens at their most vulnerable time. In the end, it didn’t matter whether Trump’s deceived his own supporters or tried to disenfranchise dissenting Americans; everything he’s done in office was to advance his own cause and at times, that of his family and friends. For that, there must be no redemption possible.
We also didn’t want the year to end so badly to Black people, killed mercilessly by a truculent police establishment. We wished for better things to happen to people of color, asylum Continue reading

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Who’s On First, What’s On Colltalers

The Covid-19 vaccination rollout is about to start and with that comes another stage of the pandemic. And questions such as, who will be first? how will the process work itself out? and how much big pharma corporations stand to make? That’s why there’s the ‘People’s Vaccine Alliance‘ on the rise.
Facebook, the social media that’s richer and more powerful than many nations, is facing antitrust lawsuits filed by the Federal Trade Commission and 48 U.S. states, ultimately seeking to break it up for buying out its competition only to crush it. But hang in there, you may not need to quit it just yet.
Let’s start on a sobering note, though (hoping to improve it later): last Tuesday it’s been 1000 days since Rio’s Black councilwoman, rights activist, and LGBTQ firebrand Marielle Franco was executed, on March 14, 2018. There’s no secret who killed her but seemingly no proof of who ordered the hit.
Hated by corrupt police and militia alike, a fierce advocate for the shantytown dwellers of her city, there’s no mystery why she was murdered either. Her still unpunished assassination is a stain on Brazil’s justice system, and as many fingers point to President Bolsonaro and his politician sons, hers is yet another indictment on the impunity of crimes perpetrated against women, Black communities, sex minorities, and the poor, all of which she not just embodied but used her platform as an elected politician to defend. She’s still sorely missed and the silence about her true killers is simply an outrage.
Four years after the U.K. unexpectedly voted to split up from the European Union, the reality that the vote was a fluke and the separation would be in fact a mistake may have Continue reading

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Dreamers Have the Power, Colltalers

The repulsive spectacle of our non-conceding president seeking to pre-pardon himself, his family, and friends, is not just an admission of guilt. It’s also why those related to 15 million dead and alive Americans with Covid-19 deserve full accountability for the Trump administration’s criminal ineptitude.
When 65 years ago last week Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, AL, hers was neither a first for such a rebellious act nor the most dramatic but a turning point. Her courage still dwarfs our current resolve to set racial equality in the U.S.
More about that later but let’s start with ‘Make Amazon Pay,’ the movement to force the world’s largest online retailer to fulfill its social obligations. Launched on Black Friday by over 50 organizations, it demands better working conditions and full tax transparency (Amazon paid 0 taxes in 2018).
A letter by over 400 lawmakers from 34 countries to founder Jeff Bezos, who became a trillionaire exactly during the pandemic, says the company has ‘dodged and dismissed … debts to workers, societies, and the planet‘ on its way to market domination and to top the $11 billion profit it made last year.
Good news to those who were born in the U.S. but remain in the limbo of draconian immigration laws: a federal judge ordered the ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,’ or DACA, to be restored to protect the so-called ‘Dreamers‘ from deportation while providing a path to their citizenship. Being but a fraction of undocumented immigrants living in the country, the ruling still benefits over a million and their families, currently terrorized by ICE raids.
An outpour of sadness has been expressed by scientists the world over about the destruction of Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Stand For Those Who Can’t, Colltalers

These are uncertain times. Covid-19 is at calamity levels of transmission and no healthcare system seems capable of handling its ravenous expansion. Months from a vaccine, we’re all we’ve got to keep ourselves safe. While Americans die by the thousands, a lame-duck president refuses to concede.
The assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, though, fuels rumors of a desperate attempt to keep Trump in office – with a little help from Israel? Elsewhere, there were massive street protests in France and Thailand, and municipal elections in Brazil brought grief to progressives.
For a change, let’s open with some upbeat news: in Scotland, menstruation products will be free and available to anyone. Let’s turn the idea into a right in the entire world; there’s plenty of exploitation and abuse of the female body but not nearly enough support for being a woman and all that it implies.
Tomorrow is World Aids Day and speaking of epidemics past and present, the news about HIV contagion is again mixed. According to the CDC, fewer people died of H.I.V.-related causes, but survival rates for women and people of color did not improve as much. There are surely lessons to be learned from the Aids outbreak and crisis since the 1980s, the wreck it’s left in its wake, and how it came under control, including the fact that’s still around.
France is having its ‘George Floyd moment,’ as cameras captured the violent beating of Michel Zecler, a Black music producer. Thousands took to the streets to protest racial violence Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Tell Him to Move Out of DC, Colltalers

Georgia’s recounted its votes and certified Joe Biden as the presidential winner. Today Michigan and Pennsylvania will do the same, and by Dec. 1 so will Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin. That’s why President Donald Trump may be about to concede his defeat and congratulate his opponent. Not.
Thus, upon careful consideration, we offer that the President-elect should lead a great march to the White House to tell in person our current lame-duck leader that he needs to move out so America may move on. If not by Thursday Thanksgiving then before the 300.000th American dies of coronavirus.
But before dwelling on the disturbing and entirely avoidable constitutional crisis that may make or break the olde U.S. of A., let’s start with the other pandemic which has been unwittingly aggravated by the virus lockdowns: femicide. Even before the global health scare, the number of women being murdered, including transgender and other non-binaries, was already rampant in Latin America, with Brazil and Mexico leading the despicable way.
Now, it’s ever more visible that the sad phenomenon is not restricted to that region only; Australia had 45 women killed this year, according to Destroy the Joint. In the U.K., a Femicide Census found that over a ten-year period, more than 1,400 women have been violently killed by men, foe or friend. Wednesday kicks off a U.N.-sponsored ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,’ which will hold global activities to increase awareness.
Despite significant support from women for the confessed rapist who’s just lost the U.S. presidential race, the trend runs counter wise around the world. Women are having a decisive impact on government and authoritarian regimes, and Turkey, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Canada, South Africa, Israel, France, and many others have seen huge rallies, for not just women’s reproductive rights but also the sacred right to remain alive, being disrupted by the police.
Speaking of Australia, it’s also been shaken by an official report about elite forces that allegedly killed Afghan civilians and prisoners in ‘competition killings.‘ Unlike what happened in the U.S., though where the president granted clemency to war Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Time to Get Those Keys Back, Colltalers

Elections are designed to settle, a period placed at the end of a cycle, a clean slate for the future. Democratic nations rely on such normality. Defeated leaders are to graciously get out of the way, so a new day may rise. But not the president. To Donald Trump, America simply can’t quit Donald Trump.
As the U.S. faces a potential constitutional breakdown, the world shivers. Foes and allies gingerly prepare for what may come but can’t afford to ignore their own political turmoil. Uncertainty spreads like wildfire but ultimately, it’ll be up to Americans to keep it up or stop this whole insanity. Will we?
For while we correctly fret about the presidency, there’s an upsurge – second wave? third wave? does it matter? – of Covid-19 cases. What the president has affirmed at least 38 times it’d ‘disappear, like a miracle,’ has now killed over 250,000 Americans and more than 1.3 million worldwide. Record-breaking spikes threaten to overwhelm healthcare systems and a vaccine is still a long shot, but Trump’s only concerned about remaining in power.
We’ll go back to these issues in a moment but let’s conference the world first. Starting with Bolivia which finds itself in the solitary position of looking forward towards the future. The last Sunday’s inauguration of the socialist Luis Arce government and the return of its first indigenous president, Evo Morales, ousted about a year ago by a coup, has filled the small Andes country with joy and the hope it’ll build this time the nation its majority wants.
But if in the north people are afraid things may go south, in most of the global south, they’re pretty much there already. In Peru, where President Martin Vizcarra was impeached and Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

No Karma. Simply Reality, Colltalers

So Trump caught Covid-19, a ‘fake’ virus that’s nevertheless killed over 200 thousand Americans and is nearly lodging 40 million cases worldwide. To say that chickens have come to roost doesn’t do justice to the irony of this cataclysmic event. Now the presidential election is officially up for grabs.
Suddenly all world headlines are locked below yet another stunt by the U.S. President. To the media, the galloping resurgence of coronavirus cases, the Amazon on fire, mass protests in Israel and Mexico, an armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, all pale in comparison. Except that it doesn’t.
Thousands took the Israeli streets over the weekend calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. One of Trump’s staunchest supporters, he’s been indicted for bribery, corruption, and breach of trust, but that may not be the rallies’ main reason. Some say there’s anger at surveillance tools used during the virus lockdown, which is being reinstated, that’s made citizens face tough measures long associated with the suppression of Palestinians.
Mexico’s President López Obrador is facing criticism from both civil and women’s rights organizations, for his failure to curb the Covid’s rise, now at almost 800,000, and apathy towards rampant femicides in the country, and by the Chihuahua, the state bordering New Mexico. The president accuses opposition governor Javier Corral of denying by political reasons, to send water to the U.S., as dictated by terms of a little known 1944 bilateral treaty.
And Facebook, which is not a country but has a budget larger than many, has again blocked environmental and social justice groups, this time for an online event against the Coastal GasLink Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A High Turnout Beats All Lies, Colltalers

Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat at the Supreme Court all but assures two things: the court’s conservative majority for years to come, and the urgent need for its reform. Critics say too that the Obamacare and Roe v Wade rulings now top an endangered list.
It may be worse if the Nov. 3 election is contested and that new majority keeps Trump in power, even if he loses again the popular vote. In these 36 days left, Americans who want to pick a new president must go back to basics: the battle cry now is, break all voting records, win to leave no doubts.
There are indeed few doubts about certain things. Covid-19 will still be rising from the current 33 million-plus cases worldwide, and so will the U.S.’s ‘leadership’ position, after adding a million cases in less than a month, to over seven million. No safe vaccine will be ready before at least six months, no matter how much the administration lies about it, and by then, if there’s no change in Washington, its interest in the cure will be greatly diminished.
Another pattern that emerged early on was that the ranking for most cases and fatalities is headed by nations whose democracy is under siege: the U.S., Brazil, India, and Russia. That is, calling them ‘democracies’ may soon become inappropriate. For obviously, the more economies reopen and public spaces are filled with unconcerned people, the higher will be the contagion rates. Some see the coronavirus becoming endemic just like the annual flu.
But it’s not just that most viruses take time to be studied in-depth and for vaccines and therapies to be safely developed; it’s also for the scandalous U.S. response to the virus, which could’ve inspired the world but rather treated it as a tool for political gain. Continue reading

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Real Change Comes at a Cost, Colltalers

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg won many women’s rights battles in her life. In the past years, she became a leading dissenter at the Supreme Court and a hero for her progressive stands. She beat cancer too. But not even her could’ve pulled this one off: when the time came, she crossed it like a champion.
Her death may’ve upended the election – and vaporized Joe Biden’s polling numbers. It’s also topped the week’s other staggering news, from revelations that the U.S. immigration agency forced hysterectomies on asylum seekers, to seven million Americans sick of Covid-19, or climate-change wildfires.
The superstition-inclined sees the ongoing mass die-off of migratory birds across the U.S. and Mexico as an omen for what’s coming. Theories abound but there’s no clear scientific answer to what’s going on. Maybe they took off too early, or maybe it was the wildfires. It’s quite a sight to suddenly see a bird drop lifelessly from the sky, but it does happen. On a related plea, can we be done with the weirdness and heartbreak of this year already? Thanks.
As for the coronavirus, it’s still doing its thing: it passed the 30 million worldwide mark, and daily cases are still on the rise in many countries. Worse, there are unfounded expectations that a vaccine will suddenly deliver us from this scourge. As with most things these days, from rallies ‘for freedom’ against lockdowns to mostly American skirmishes of people refusing to wear masks, it’s all pre-fab and its purpose is to instill confusion and fear.
That’s Trump’s strategy to win. So perhaps getting as many people to vote as to take it to the streets and protest may be the perfect counter-strategy. He wants the chaos that may frighten his base into voting for him; but when the unrest is for racial and social equality, for dignity to dissent and freedom to protest, if it’s all to fulfill citizens’ constitutional right to choose their own leaders, then be it. We’ll be out there too, at the pavement and at the polls.
Speaking of it, Italians are choosing regional representatives today, but the biggest draw is a referendum on whether Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Path We Choose, Colltalers

Why don’t they call it climate change? The apocalyptic wildfires burning California and Oregon are frightening enough to trigger public outrage. But the fact that only 15% of media coverage mentions it shows how gas and oil corporations are spending their Covid-19 bailout money to avoid scrutiny.
It’s the United Nations’ 75th anniversary and the General Assembly gathers in New York to reassess its relevance. It’s not part of Taliban-Afghanistan talks and has had only a limited role in the pandemic, and yet, it’s as crucial today as ever. Meanwhile, there’s been bad news about a virus vaccine.
Before diving into that, let’s also reassess the week that’s been, starting by a WWF report on the two-thirds of the world’s wildlife wiped out by human activity in the past 50 years. It’s a staggering loss only compounded lately by catastrophic wildfires and man-made climate change. A vicious circle, it begins with rising global demand for forest clearings for agriculture, which then become out-of-control fires, ultimately killing more flora and fauna.
Adding to the Amazon Rainforest, for instance, which it’s burning at a faster clip than 2019, fires rage now through Pantanal, Brazil’s wetlands, home to jaguars and other endangered species. Then and now, though, President Bolsonaro remains unmoved to the fate of animals and indigenous peoples. There as in the West Coast, it’s the countless anonymous heroes who supply the compassion that counters these horrifying tales of tragedy and despair.
There’s an uproar in Mexico against femicide, the rampant violence and killing of women, which lockdowns only aggravated and may surpass last year’s record of 3,833 deaths. As President Andrés Lópes Obrador calls such protests a ‘conspiracy,’ feminists Continue reading

Curtain Raisers

Prepping Up a New Season, Colltalers

It’s Labor Day in the U.S., Independence Day in Brazil, a coincidence that adds to the ill-advised pax de deux both have been engaged on lately. Other Latin American nations have their own day this month too. But only Canada and the U.S. mark today what everybody else honors on the First of May.
The end of the Northern summer also ushers mournful Sept. 11 remembrances, both from 2001 and 1973. And global isolation as the U.S., leader in Covid-19 cases, is out of the World Health Organization’s 170-nation coordinated strategy against the virus and chooses to ignore the changing climate.
We’ll get to that but first let’s go out to the races, the belated 148th Kentucky Derby, and the almost normalization of sports events being held without a crowd. As it turns, it’s fine, the horses still run and this year Authentic came out on top. What cannot be normalized though is the scary presence of squads of incredibly armed far-right supremacists, aching to pick a fight with social and racial justice protesters, such as Black Lives Matter activists.
It’s no longer possible to believe that Big Media is mistakenly equating their hate and intent to harm with earnest calls for a better nation and a safer planet. Short of condemning civilians for having such easy access to military-grade arsenals, it’s fair to assume that their narrative itself is crooked on purpose. Their faulty reporting benefits the Arsonist-in-Chief on his quest to put the country on fire and name himself as the one who’ll put them out.
The Trump Circus is as ratings-lifting as a train wreck and few can take their eyes off it. Thus, big news corporations have spent the past four years playing on the crowd’s bemusement while collecting fat advertising fees. As the Orange Clown diverts with gimmicks, hordes of pickpocketers feast on gullibility and work the audience. Every time they buy one of his many crate-full of snake-oil bottles, they unwittingly surrender their citizenship.
He cannot conceive of courage because he is a coward.‘ Retired Capt. Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, a pilot who in 2009 safely landed an airliner in NYC’s Hudson River and save all its 155 passengers, has had enough and is not going to take it anymore. His was the indignant response by a combat veteran to a draft dodger Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Don’t Watch it From the Shadows, Colltalers

The Democratic Convention brought comfort and hope to part but not all of the party’s constituency. But the Republican one, held while protests raged against police brutality and white supremacists killed three (white) people in the ‘inner-city chaos‘ they see, was everything supporters wished it to be.
Meanwhile, the U.S. still tops the world with six million Covid-19 cases and near 190,000 deaths, California wildfires are burning an area larger than Delaware, and about 20 million Americans are unemployed. To the GOP, though, these are not a priority; only the consecration of Donald Trump is.
We’ll go back to the Democrats’ half-delivered message and to the Republican lying feast, but first, let’s ask once again, why almost as many have rallied in big cities against the use of masks as those denouncing the killing of Blacks and people of color? While the latter rebel against an unjust system that perpetuates itself, the former is an absurd, spoilt demand that could be called ‘Save the Virus,’ for it’s the only one to gain from it.
There’s no global vaccine – and mercifully, no anti-vaxxer to deal with – yet and despite the extraordinary efforts by some nations other than the U.S., the virus is alive and kicking. That’s why many doubt the sincerity of such rallies as they don’t make any sense given rising casualties and seem rather childish on their complaint about social restrictions. So, when do people fight against their own interests? When someone paid them for it, that’s when.
There’s no cynicism or intended irony though after China ordered the arrest last week of Lam Cheuk-ting, a Hong Kong lawmaker. He’s charged with publicizing on social media a 2019 subway attack on activists returning from a pro-Democracy rally by an unidentified group wearing white T-shirts and armed with clubs. Along Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

All That We’ll Ever Need, Colltalers

Another week, another member of the Trump administration gets in trouble with the law. But Steve Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist who makes a living advising would-be despots, is arguably the greatest grifter to be caught. Given his influence, though, it’s unlike that he’s down and out.
130° F. That may’ve been the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth if it’s confirmed. The scorching heat in Death Valley, CA, was the opening salvo of yet another season in hell for the state, courtesy of the climate emergency. Wildfires and the deadly coronavirus: 2020 is not nearly done yet.
But before having another crack at those two headlines, let’s get going with the newest episode of poisoning in Russia suffered by a political opponent of Vladimir Putin. Despite his denials, the dissenting voice of Alexei Navalny was muted by strong symptoms of poisoning; he’s now in a coma em Germany, where he’d been flown to. He’s the sixth well-known foe of the Putin regime to suddenly experience a devastating, likely lethal intoxication.
Now, there’s a demonization of Russia spoused by most of the Western media, after it’s been reported that it did interfere in the 2016 election and may be at it again as we speak. Such heavy-handed coverage all but clouds facts and drive us to unwittingly fall prey to conspiracies, for lacking the tools to make the right call. Putin may deny it but these poisoning incidents, if Navalny’s indeed another one, have the clear purpose of silencing his critics.
The armed forces of Mali staged a coup d’etat Tuesday that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in office since 2013. EcoWas, a group of West African nations, and the United Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Cheater’s Playbook, Colltalers

A deceptive Middle East diplomatic agreement has shed some light on what the president is willing to do to get reelected. Sold as a peace accord, it’s in fact a coalition of Israel, the Arab Emirates, and the U.S. to put Iran on notice. If a Covid-19 vaccine won’t work, an Iranian blast could come in handy.
The first-ever virtual Democratic Convention starts today to deliver its strategy to block the White House and the GOP from preventing people from voting them out. It’ll also name Joe Biden for U.S. President and Kamala Harris, the first Black and Asian woman in a presidential ticket, for his VP.
With 78 days before the election, headlines may be dictated by these and other related themes. But let’s begin today with a class of profiteer directly related to people’s misery: health insurers. The pandemic has killed over 170,000 Americans, probably more, but your plan may cost more, thank you.
You may no longer afford it – and still owe for that 10-minute doctor’s visit last March – but top U.S. insurers’ profits doubled in the second quarter compared to the same period last year. They’ll certainly be joined in record-topping earnings by big pharma when a vaccine becomes available. Even if it’s under-tested, useless, or downright dangerous, shareholders and the Trump administration will cash in their investments either way. But not us.
Healthcare coverage in the U.S. was a failure way before the coronavirus scourge. Now it’s also helping the industry to pack billions in profits. That thousands are struggling and can’t spare a dime on their health even if their lives depend on it, which they often do, are not a glitch but a feature of the system. In the richest nation in the world, don’t dare to fall sick unless you’re, say, a CEO of a healthcare corporation. Or work for the White House.
The aggravating factor, of course, is candidate Biden’s refusal to embrace Medicare for All. If the evidence is not enough, that the system is broken and the Obamacre Act has Continue reading

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Notes on a Planned Failure, Colltalers

When the first American caught Covid-19 in Jan., there’d been plenty of warnings from China to the WHO. But the world was not worried because the U.S. had top epidemiologists and detailed pandemic playbooks to guide us through the crisis. America would lead and save the day as it’d done before.
Instead, it ‘leads’ the world but in cases, over five million, and logic-defying health polices. Everything the Trump administration has done contradicted what we’ve learned in a hundred years of knowledge and public health practices. Puzzling, though, Americans are not quite fired up with indignation.
In fact, one wonders if the Black Lives Matter movement wasn’t already on the streets, people would be even up in arms protesting. In Israel, Bolivia, Lebanon, Russia, and other nations led by authoritarian regimes, citizens are confronting their leaders’ self-serving attempts to cover up the tragedy.
The BLM unrest hasn’t let up either, but its fight against racial prejudice and police violence has been hijacked at times by other pressure points of popular dissatisfaction. It must not lose its clarity but it’ll have to welcome those hurt by Trump’s neglect. All the way to the polling pols of Nov. 3.
For at close to 20 million cases worldwide, Covid-19 has become the darkest horse running against democracy all around. Since it’s still rising and a safe vaccine is at least months away, it’s already exposing the sheer incompetence of some political leaders and leading to multiple, violent rallies.
We’ll come back to that right after checking what else is news. And it turns out, plenty. Starting by the month-long marches in Israel against four-time Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policies, a position he fought charges of bribery and corruption, and three election cycles in one year in order to keep it.
It’s a sight for sore eyes for those who don’t get how come 64% of well-educated Israel’s 18 to 34-year olds identify themselves as right-wing. They’ve been major P.M. supporters Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Guts to Not Repeat the Past, Colltalers

A sample of four of the biggest threats to the survival of humanity highlights the week ahead: a virus nearing 20 million cases worldwide; the faltering democracy in the world’s strongest nation; a mild but still powerful hurricane; and the sobering 75th anniversary of Hiroshima’s atomic bombing.
Plagues, oppression, climate change, and nuclear power are of course what makes these apparently unrelated events relevant as we’re helpless against any of them. It’s been sheer luck that they’re yet to strike us all at the same time. But it’s getting closer to it and if they do, we’re certainly doomed.
More on that later, but first, Asia’s monsoon season is up to a particularly nasty start and a quarter of Bangladesh is already flooded, with millions left homeless as per reports. Millions more have been dispossessed in China, in torrential, climate change-boosted rainfalls. Monsoons are known for ages but were never as deadly as in the past 30 years. Sad then that, unless we address the climate emergency, all we can do is wait for the water to recede.
Speaking of China, it again did something while no one was looking: it postponed Hong Kong’s September elections that a moribund pro-Democracy movement was counting on to remain breathing. Officially, it was COVID-19 but if you believe that, we’ve got a 2008 Beijing Olympics ticket to sell you. Which does not justify Sec. of Sycophancy Mike Pompeo’s warmongering threats, since his boss wishes and may still do just that in the U.S.
Another piece of scary news comes from Germany, where an underground militia was just uncovered. It had elaborate plans with artillery to match for taking over the government with a Nazi 0.2 regime. Politicians and members of law enforcement were involved in a sort of echo of what’s happening in America, including the police involvement. Even scarier is to think of a present-day Axis, with the U.S. and maybe Russia replacing Italy and Japan.
That’s as good as any a moment to mention the Anti-Fascist movement, born in the 1920s to fight the rise of Benito Mussolini in Italy, and later, Hitler in Germany, and the Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Riding Out the Storm, Colltalers

150,000 Covid-19 deaths; paramilitary forces kidnapping activists; steps curbing minority voting. What’s going on in the U.S. has been alarming. But to Trump believers and the Republicans, all is fine. For he’d promised, ‘We’ll determine the course of America and the world for many years to come.’
But despite a still-rising number of cases worldwide, the European Union for instance is managing to flatten the contagion curve while passing a new stimulus package to help workers and safely reopen their economies. That surely gives Trump’s inaugural speech a dark, contrasting shade, doesn’t it?
If anything, the virus has exposed the contrast between the pandemic response by actual or soon-to-be restrictive regimes, and countries more focused on preserving their democratic ways. It’s a difference that shows how nations led by repressive leaders, China, India, Brazil, Russia, are facing growing resistance and social turmoil, while others have experienced mostly a tragic disruption of their way of life but are still engaged in keeping people safe.
China, which had a strategy in place for the novel coronavirus and followed scientific procedures to control it, couldn’t help itself though, taking the opportunity to crush dissent in Hong Kong. Similar to India, which has been using the virus spread to raid minority communities and arrest dissidents.
For Brazil’s Bolsonaro, four times is apparently a charm: after three positives, he now says he’s tested negative for the virus. For the other 210 million Brazilians, however, it has been an awful escalade of deaths – the second highest in the world, with over 87,000 obits – and despair. As the president is not interested in supporting a stimulus package for a crisis that up to a few weeks ago he denied it even existed, the poor has no way to turn for help.
Except, well, to organized crime, which has been fulfilling the role of local governments and providing minimal aid for people. For a price, of course. Drug and weapon gangs operating in shantytowns are known to dispense exacting policies to those under their aegis and require a pathological, Trump-like style of loyalty. Amazon communities though have no such ‘luxury,’ and the virus has been reported navigating freely through the Amazon river.
There’s a surprisingly robust anti-Putin movement in Russia’s far east region with thousands protesting the arrest of governor Continue reading

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Lives Making Ours Better, Colltalers

Record COVID-19 cases and no federal action to reverse them show that President Trump’s mind is elsewhere: reelection. But with falling polls, many say he may not leave the White House if he loses. Law enforcement and the military won’t go along with that, but his new, unmarked police force may.
As Black Lives Matter strikes nationally today, after months of protests against racism and police brutality, it’s fitting that two giants of the 1960s’ civil rights struggle, Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian, passed away on the same Friday. Both have made this world better than when they came to it.
Let’s start the news roundup with the imminent danger of annihilation faced by Brazil’s indigenous peoples due to rampant coronavirus infection rates. President Bolsonaro’s just vetoed legislation that would support heavily affected native communities in the Amazon. Under pressure from corporations and investors, the administration had enacted a bill temporarily banning forest fires but it still refuses to address the seriousness of the pandemic.
A ‘stillborn decree,’ calls it Dinaman Tuxá, coordinator of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples Articulation, about an act seen as largely ineffective for lacking funding to be enforced. Over 500 natives have died from the virus out of an estimated 15 thousand cases, Tuxá told Mesa Para Seis, a virtual panel with journalists. Over two million Brazilians – and Bolsonaro – have COVID-19, the second-highest number after the U.S.’ near four million cases.
Something else became apparent in the tragically incompetent response to the pandemic by the most powerful country in the world, closely echoed by Brazil, India, and Russia: apart from the fact that most of their misery is of their own making, they’re all regimes ruled by autocrats solely focused on self-preservation. While these nations still call themselves democracies, they’re heading to institutional authoritarianism. So many more will perish.
But don’t count on nature to offer us a reprieve from the climate emergency, while we sort out petty issues related to intellectual property of medicines. A Global Carbon Project Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Trail of Tears Haunts Us, Colltalers

It’s now frighteningly easy to predict the COVID-19’s expansion. With the U.S. set to reach 3.5 million cases, and Brazil, two million and counting – the two top spreaders have no discernible health strategy to slow it down – worldwide cases may reach 14 million next week. Will they change? Nah.
Not even if Trump gets sick, as Bolsonaro and many members of their inner circle did. There’s no pro-democracy movement in Brazil, as Hong Kong had, and in the U.S., the Supreme Court just wrapped its ‘full of sound and fury, signifying‘ well, little term. So the president pardoned another crook.
To begin unpacking this chock-full of news week – you’d be surprised – let’s get to the issue affecting most nations around the world: when should kids go back to school? Many leaders have detailed plans to proceed in stages, along with testing and tracing for new cases, while social distance measures are to remain in place. Some countries have also enviable public policies for child care and health coverage so it all can be orchestrated accordingly.
Not the U.S., of course, and neither Brazil, as it’s clear their leaders’ rule number one is to self preserve by any means necessary. They’re not just quickly becoming global pariahs but their policies have the potential to encourage other far-right would-be despots to seize more power on the slight.
India and Russia, the two following coronavirus record-holders, have reportedly close to a million cases each, even though knowing what’s really going on in any of these four nations is a game of educated guesses. The bottom line is countries with virtually half of all cases have no school plan at all. In families struggling to remain above the poverty line, no classes also mean less time to earn income, and worse, no school meals available for the kids.
In the U.S., as daily cases of infections are beating all-time records, the president is bullying schools to open, threatening to suspend federal funds if they don’t. It’s not hard to know why: Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Sad Disparity Among Us, Colltalers

Psst, hear that? It’s the frightening silence of China crushing Hong Kong’s bones of democracy. Now there’s a second generation of young Chinese to mourn the missing opportunity for regime change. Not that it was ever in their hands. Would this have happened if the West cared just a little about it?
As if 12 million cases, over 500 thousand obits, and vaccine research still far from trials were not enough, here comes the greed of big pharma not to help us but profit from it all. Gilead has priced its COVID-19 drug, Remdesivir, which is not even a cure at $3,120 per treatment. And ‘experts’ like it.
Throughout the U.S., Black Lives Matter protests continue, even if in a subdued way. But as the movement decides its next steps – may we suggest start working for getting a new president at the White House? – gratuitous police confrontations and despicable acts by white supremacists are still on the rise. Rewards from the top can be significant: the St. Louis couple who pointed loaded guns at peaceful marchers got a tweet from the president.
But in Seattle, it again went too far when a car drove through a police barrier on Saturday hitting a crowd and killing Summer Taylor. The hard-to-watch video, as many to come out lately about police brutality against African-Americans, doesn’t show that the 24-year-old BLM supporter was actually white but it doesn’t matter. Hate towards people of color includes their allies. (In case you’re wondering, we won’t name these criminals here).
The fact that black Americans amount to 12.3% of the U.S. population and yet just in 2020 have already been killed 105 times out of 506 fatal police shootings, according to business platform Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Rulings and Reparations, Colltalers

The scary but thoroughly expected explosion of new COVID-19 cases in the world has a common cause, the rush to restart economic activity even if people are dying as a result of it, and a disheartening realization: the coronavirus is now an integral part of our near future. But a vaccine may not be.
Meanwhile, constitutional decisions in Israel, Hong Kong, and Russia may further erode human rights and the ability of democracy to truly represent people. That’s why the Black Lives Matter uprising has been so crucial exposing the racist complacency of American society. Now, to reparations?
But let’s start with the proposed settlements of lawsuits brought up against Bayer and Johnson & Johnson over two of their cancer-causing products. Bayer offered $10.9 billion to settle 75% of 125,000 cases against its subsidiary Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup. And J&J agreed to pay $2.1 billion in damages for people who got cancer from using its asbestos-suffused talc product. As noted, other lawsuits against the same products will continue.
Don’t get too impressed with the amounts, though, or expect either company to give up or stop pushing those products to impoverished communities and minorities. Even as lawyers have been already paid millions, corporations always try to slash the compensation awarded to its harmed customers.
Furthermore, in the case of Bayer, it’s had the help of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to whom Roundup does not cause cancer, despite all evidence. And J&J, which like Bayer has issued statements supporting the BLM movement, is working hard to deny the allegations. They shouldn’t, people died Continue reading

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A Confederacy of Dunces, Colltalers

As long as you keep a person down, you cannot soar. It’s fitting to paraphrase the great Marian Anderson to mark yet another fervid week of protests in America, for black lives lost and re-energized. Nearing the first act’s end, we cannot yet soar. But ours will be a better country by heeding to this struggle.
Despite a brutal push back, racists and xenophobes sustained big blows to their hegemony, as the Supreme Court refused to endorse deporting citizens born here from foreign parents, and supported rights of working LGBTQ people. Would a favorable ruling on abortion be next? Don’t hold your breath.
The world, however, is not helping much as we hit nine million COVID-19 cases, two million in the U.S. and a million in Brazil, the title holders of a ‘confederacy of malefic dunces,’ as an exhausted nurse put it to a sympathetic bodega audience. There and here, as more choose to ignore the reality, the coronavirus keeps its neck-breaking rate of contagion. Half a million lost their lives to it and many will never have one worth living after this.
The protests have been revealing to Americans, in what the majority is now fully behind the Black Lives Matter movement, appalled by police caught on camera murdering black people. Starting of course with the excruciating killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day, which ignited the current unrest.
They displayed a scarily heavily-armed police force acting as the army they are not, ready to steamroll peaceful protesters in the reassurance they won’t be held accountable for their crimes. Well, they now are, and the whole institution of law enforcement was put on notice with calls to defund the police and/or simply, dismantling it. Starting with the Minneapolis cops who killed Floyd and those who’ve tried giving the guilty cover under their badge.
Protests also highlighted the indiscriminate use of tear gas, a so-called ‘safe’ weapon of mass control that nonetheless is banned from the battlefield and has caused permanent injuries to many a peaceful city marcher. An Amnesty study found that its global Continue reading

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The Making of a New Day, Colltalers

It’s clear by now that the administration doesn’t care about people. Massive worldwide protests against racism and murder of African-American George Floyd by the police, and eight million COVID-19 cases, are not as important to Trump as the economy. And now, cops killed Rayshard Brooks too.
Many say that Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro closely follows the U.S. president but there’s one big difference: he’s not up to reelection. Thus, besides a threat of a coup, he’s free to pursue his deranged denial of almost a million coronavirus cases and the unforgivable killing of the Rainforest and its natives.
We’ll be back to these two intertwined topics but first, let us have our usual world roundup. Starting with some good Middle East news, as Israel’s High Court canceled the Regulation law that’d retroactively legalize settlements built on Palestinian land. But the ruling may as well be symbolic; on July 1, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring up to vote the law for the annexation of West Bank, which may render this and other rulings irrelevant.
Speaking of Israel, Europe’s Court of Human Rights sided up with pro-Palestinian activists convicted of campaigning for the BDS movement, which seeks to condition support to the Israeli government according to its treatment of Palestinians. The non-violent movement has found resonance around the world, from civil rights to peace in the Middle East organizations. But not from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who spoke against it.
On Saturday, Ilyac Halaq, an autistic Palestinian with a ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner, was killed by the Israeli police. His death happened in the context of traditional Palestinian support to African-American causes. According to black liberation activist and scholar Angela Davis, commonalities of their struggle and alliance reach far back to the 1960s when Palestinians led the international pressure to free Davis, jailed on unproven murder charges.
Also on the good side is the spontaneous Twitter movement of women in Turkey who are switching genders of misogynistic assumptions and making the Turkish society rethink its view of feminism in the process. But don’t let the humor of Tweets such as, ‘I’m a modern woman, so I help my husband with housework,’ or, ‘Men should be chaste. They should not laugh out loud in public,’ fool you: it’s gotten a powerful response. And of course, threats.
A note of solidarity to the heroic Navajo people in New Mexico who are facing yet another devastating battle. Besides being one of the world’s worst-affected communities by COVID-19, they’re also waging an unfair battle against the U.S. Land Management Continue reading

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Stop the U.S. of Lyncherdom, Colltalers

Get your knees off our necks.‘ The eloquence of Rev. Al Sharpton’s eulogy of George Floyd, choked to death by a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day, was appropriate to match the public horror about his death. Hundreds of thousands across the U.S. and the world marched in protest.
The massive 11-day rallies are not only a response to the horrifying 8:46min video of Floyd’s killing but also a demand for change, redress, renewal of our tenets as human beings. Not surprisingly, the police behaved badly all along, arresting and beating people up. So now there’s talk of defunding it.
The crowd also paid respects to Breonna Taylor, whose 27th birthday was Friday, and countless of young black lives cut short by police brutality and cruel social inequality now reigning in the U.S. Breonna, an African-American medical technician, was shot by police at her own home in the middle of the night, mistaken by someone already in custody. And then there are all the people of color who face daily the wrath of white supremacists.
The grief also brings up our desperate need to comprehend the magnitude of what’s happening for 400 years. The toxic legacy of slavery boils up again about the disproportional number of COVID-19 fatalities among minorities, biased laws, overcrowded jails, prison-for-profit, police unions, restitution, and, yes, police defunding. In four decades, wages, safety nets, health, and education budgets got all savagely slashed. But not the funding for security.
American police forces today act like armies and there’s always a tragedy in the wake of their street deployments. And a crucial reason for such status quo is rarely mentioned in the same sentence, or articles about it: defense budgets. If city and state budgets prioritize police over community building and other badly needed social reforms, it’s almost redundant to remind everyone that the U.S. military budget surpasses entire groups of nations.
That includes billions of dollars allocated yearly to weapon makers, military equipment suppliers, intelligence, and especially, defense contractors, the expression that replaced the word ‘mercenary’ in the crooked lexicon of Pentagon insiders. Now, these Continue reading

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We Do Not Lack Conviction, Colltalers

All the suffering COVID-19 has caused – over six million cases worldwide and close to 400,000 dead – almost pales in comparison with what the 200-year-old open wound of racism has exacted upon people of color in the U.S. Even if they’re also the majority of the virus’ victims. Yup, it’s on again.
The explosion of protests that erupted over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, knee-chocked to death by a white police officer caught on camera is not only absolutely justified but has now a troubling component too: white supremacists disguised as allies inciting violence and looting.
It’s been hard to focus but did you hear that? It’s the silence about what should’ve been major news: Hong Kong and its struggle with its motherland’s crushing hug. The Trump administration rushed to help Beijing again by revoking H.K.’s special status, a colonial relic that allowed Communist China to do business with the West. No one needs that now. As for the violent repression and persecution of pro-democracy activists, there’s now just silence.
Another one? hunger. Actually, the threat of child starvation, not in remote African villages or war-ravaged Yemen, Gaza, and Syria, all caused at some level by one-sided U.S. foreign policies, but here in America. Be it for the temporary lockdown, as school lunches are often the only meal millions of American children eat daily, draconian cuts in the welfare support systems, or downright neglect by the administration, the fact is, hunger is growing.
Study after study has shown that what was already a disturbing trend, that of academic scores getting lower as food availability becomes scarcer, may become a catastrophe of its own. Given that most data was collected before the crisis forced 40 million to file for unemployment benefits, the potential negative impact of childhood hunger on the future is obvious. Worse, it also exposes how the world’s richest nation treats and feeds its own children.
And Brazil, a sentimental favorite never so riddled with political dysfunction as now. As it’s crossed the half-a-million mark of COVID-19 cases, President Bolsonaro stuck to his ‘little flu’ Continue reading

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Don’t Let it Happen, Colltalers

Norma McCorvey never meant to be part of an American cultural landmark, the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. Then she switched sides and became a ‘pro-lifer’ activist. But in her deathbed she confessed that she did it for the money. The Evangelical money.
China thought the tragic COVID-19 diversion was perfect to crush Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. Instead, it turned the world against it and fueled President Trump’s conspiracy claims blaming it for the virus and for all he hasn’t done about it. Also, Hongkongers won’t take it lying down.
Not to sound spoiled, but let’s face it, we’re not doing too well. With close to 5.5 million cases worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic is still expanding albeit at a slower rate in some places, and according to epidemiologists we’re still at least a year from a vaccine if one can be developed for this virus.
You’ve seen the numbers, with the U.S.’ unquestionable ‘leadership’ in cases and fatalities, and now Brazil in second place. Numbers may jump again in the coming weeks as U.S. states start to reopen for business and nations that have ‘flatten the curve’ of contagion set to fire up their economic engines.
The rhetoric for some governments to get it all going again, before any semblance of a coordinated global effort is in place, stands at odds with what most citizens think they should be doing instead. But the emergent authoritarianism currently dominant around the world has no place for dissent. Just now, the U.S. threatens to cut funds of the World Health Organization, the very entity that for 70 years has been dealing with this kind of global crisis.
As for Brazil, which seven years ago had the sixth-largest world economy and now is mired in political turmoil and subjugated by the coronavirus, its 360,000 cases may not include the devastation of Amazon indigenous communities. It’s also out of luck with Jair Bolsonaro who’s seen raging in a vulgarity-laced (in-person, mask optional) cabinet meeting viral video against governors, Continue reading

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When Leaders Play With Matches, Colltalers

Daily acts of courage, altruism, and compassion by common people have been overwhelming on the Internet. But none has come from Trump, Xi, Putin, Bolsonaro, or others alike. Would it be fair to expect that the three billion-plus under their rule are ready to kick them out of office? Hardly.
The toll of having the coronavirus on the hunt; a continuous flow of lies and false promises; and the staggering pace of deaths of people of color, the elderly, and indigenous natives has caused yet another dark side of the crisis: depression. By the way, Antarctica’s biggest iceberg just broke off. Again.
There have been devastating times in our history before. But none had a combination of too many nuclear bombs, a terminal climate emergency, and the resurgence of lethal viruses to haunt us. As democratic institutions are attacked by many, even those benefitting from them, manipulated by leaders with a book of matches at hand, there comes to mind the acuity of a popular line in a comic book hero: ‘some men just want to watch the world burn.’
But whereas in fiction heroes catch the bad guys to exact revenge, in real life, flesh-and-bone heroes run to tend to the victims left behind from the explosion. They can’t wear capes; in fact, they chronically lack protective gear but still they go, for life wouldn’t be acceptable to them if they wouldn’t. While we’re busy mourning loved Continue reading

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The Killing of Native Sons, Colltalers

No matter the national event or moment: a virus killing thousands or a rogue government with no competence or decency: in America, racism is never far away from anything else. COVID-19 should be a glaring example, but there had to be a cold-blooded execution of a black man in the mix too.
‘Skyrocketed.’ That’s what happened to deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon between Jan. and April, according to a Greenpeace analysis. While President Bolsonaro got busy dismissing the coronavirus, the razing of indigenous lands increased by 59%, raising fears of fatal contamination and genocide.
But let’s start with the grim task of reporting the tragic, broad-daylight ‘lynching’ of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old stalked and shotgunned to death in February, while jogging outside Brunswick, Georgia. The father-son duo of murderers was known by local police but hadn’t been charged until now.
That’s because the video of the execution surfaced last week, and while the elder killer has been arrested, neither his son nor the friend who captured it on camera has been so far. The case reminded us of the late Trayvon Martin, another black youth murdered eight years ago, who’d also be 25 now.
Even as the killings of black young men by police or white supremacists, or a combination of both as in this case, is so terribly frequent, just as mass shootings of any kind, it never ceases to devastate us. Their brutality and banality of their killers’ obsession convulse our guts deep down to near exploding our hearts and minds over it. Why? Not why they do it and mostly get away with it, but why we accept living in a society that allows that?
As if the profoundly unfair toll of this pandemic hasn’t been enough to shock us all, for its crushing majority of casualties among people of color. A preliminary study by Amfar, an AIDS research group, found that despite one in five counties nationally is black, representing only 35% of Americans, they account for nearly half of COVID-19 cases and 58% of deaths. As of Sunday, there were 1.35 million U.S. cases with over 80 thousand deaths. Factors such as Continue reading

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Solidarity Is a Loaded Gun, Colltalers

How to measure a tragedy? by length? global reach? number of casualties? Heading to 70.000 deaths, the U.S. already passed the near 59 thousand American lives lost in Vietnam. The war that left America with PTSD ended 45 years ago last Thursday. Vietnam has reported no COVID-19 deaths.
Calamity also brings up strong feelings for those who’ve experienced it on a personal level. For instance, victims of mass shootings, a preventable social disease. Canada took a step in that direction by banning some assault weapons. Which are mostly purchased in the U.S. and may all return to it.
Let’s leave those heady words ending in Y behind for a moment and take a look at what else is news. Remember the glorious four-time World Cup U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, which had filed a suit against the federation for being paid less than the men’s team? Well, a federal judge dismissed their case.
The ruling found no Equal Pay Act violation, even though they were, in fact, paid less than their less brilliant male counterparts. Hero and all-around awesome person Megan Rapinoe scored another one of her defiant, beautiful goals when she tweeted, ‘We will never stop fighting for EQUALITY.’
Two traditional, community-building, utmost essential American institutions are under threat of being extinguished and that has little to do with the coronavirus crisis: the Postal Service, and restaurants in general. Yes, the tragedy has worsened everything but the former has had long-term foes, eager to privatize it and turn a civil right older than the Constitution into a for-profit cash cow. They’ve been trying for years and this time, they may get it.
Unlike false assumptions capitalized by the president and the Republican Party, the Post Office is not funded by taxpayers; it survives strictly on its own. And despite all bell and whistles advertised for the Internet, that in the future everyone would have access to it, the mail-carrying agency is often the only game in town for citizens to connect. It’d do much better if it could offer banking services too, but heaven forbid if the FDIC would allow it.
It allowed the end of the separation between commercial and investment banking, the root cause of the 2008 catastrophic financial collapse. That, in turn, cost Americans billions Continue reading

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Of Failing Leaders & Stardust, Colltalers

Rumors North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who acts like a king, is dead and will be replaced by his next of kin, sister Kim Yo-jong, haven’t been confirmed yet. But as China, North Korea’s ‘sponsor,’ is expected to handle the situation, no new world order will be established. The future will still be redacted.
Down South America way, turmoil in Brazil reached a feverish pitch, as Minister of Justice Sergio Moro quit, opening a gash on the already porous Jair Bolsonaro administration. The corrupt judge who played a national hero until his illegal deeds were caught, is the latest to jump the sinking ship.
‘Is there a way we can do something like that by injection (of Lysol!) inside?’ It was the most irresponsible and staggeringly ignorant remark uttered by Trump, the world’s most dangerous president. And that on a long, extensive, exhausting list of risky, absolutely non-sensical, self-serving statements. Obviously, calls to poison centers and medical facilities flooded the hotlines with members of his constituency, to whom everything he says is the law, nervously inquiring about the right dosage for their president-prescribed COVID-19 treatment. No, not one has died of it yet, but since when that’s the standard to which we should hold the president accountable for his words? Even Republicans, concerned about their own jobs, acted as if startled.
Don’t believe it for a minute, though. As we approach three million coronavirus cases worldwide, of which almost a third are in the U.S., and over 200 thousand deaths, again, with more than a quarter being Americans, don’t expect there won’t be another outrageous briefing, broadcast live, with some other set of criminally-uninformed statements. Insulated by the GOP and an army of sycophants, our only shot at shutting him down is in November.
If there will be one. Joe Biden, a presidential candidate who believes he can unseat the president from the couch of his basement, fears the elections may be postponed. Gee, who’d have thought Continue reading

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Racism Is a Deadlier Virus, Colltalers

We’re free but not equal,’ says civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson. He sees the coronavirus as a ‘reality check’ that exposes a disproportionately high rate of COVID-19 infections and death in black and brown communities. That’s not a glitch but a feature of race relations in America, circa 2020.
The world’s largest marine oil spill happened 10 years ago today. The lasting impact of the explosion of Deepwater Horizon’s rig and Trump’s plans to allow drilling in pristine areas will certainly dampen any cheerful mood for the week’s other environmental news, the 50th anniversary of Earth’s Day.
But let’s start by the phony controversy of the week, that of whether to open or not the economy and when. It should be a non-issue whenever there’s no exact account of infections, treatment is not reliable, and no one knows when a vaccine will be available. That is, in the U.S. and most nations. Not to the Trump administration and other far-right regimes around the world, though. They’re set to reopen for business even if kills even more people.
From an initial outrageous statement, that he had the ‘ultimate authority’ to cancel the nationwide lockdown, to a more tactical, constitutional backstep, since it’s up to state governments, not him, to decide, the events are already set in motion. Soon enough we should see some business almost-as-usual along with an inevitable spike in new cases and deaths. Ultimately, no one won the tug of war between Washington and the states, but everybody loses.
The U.S. president, a strict constitutionalist – not really – has already despatched his minions to put up ‘protests’ against the lockdown in the only way he sees fit: by carrying slogans and targeting officials with calls for ‘lock him/her up.’ Plus, by crowding streets that should be traffic-free for first responders, deluded ralliers are in fact endangering even more lives. That’s what ‘state TV’ Fox News won’t show in their round-the-clock coverage.
Don’t bother trying to understand why people whose own lives and those of their loved ones – assuming that they have some – are in mortal risk would willingly support corporate views Continue reading

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Beauty That Still Remains, Colltalers

In February, most people here and abroad suspect it; by March, they were sure this was already a tragedy. Now, COVID-19 has killed near two million worldwide, 22,000 just in record-holder U.S., and it’s evident who else also knew it all along: the president. Many told him about it but he ignored them.
As more black and brown people catch the lethal virus, though, the conversation’s shifted: not so much about how this crisis reflects income inequality but when to reopen the economy. Never mind that it may cause a deadly reoccurrence; the established media will latch on this topic the whole week.
It’s the absolutely wrong thing to focus on right now but when did that stop this administration from going ahead and perpetrating another avoidable blunder? Some 2,000 are dying every day in the U.S., there’s no widespread testing or sign of a vaccine, and we don’t even know when it’ll strike next. But the people who dismissed this threat when they’d a chance to stop it, and kept denying it for over a month, now want to make that fatal decision.
The half-full version of any scourge is how some rise to the occasion, usually followed by a technological leap that lands us on the other side with a better outlook in life. The half-empty one sees an epidemy as an opportunity for leaders to tighten up their grip on power. To hold contradictory visions within one’s mind is Ok but while being half-full is grounds for a cheer, leaders trying to seize even more power is something worth fighting against.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The past week, all hopes that the U.S. presidential election would represent a change of pace toward a more humanitarian, progressive even direction were dashed. Bernie Sanders has bowed out and Joe Biden is the Democratic presumptive candidate.
It was a contest that started unusual and promising, with lots of diversity candidates, several women to break the glass ceiling, and great debates on issues crucial to the well being Continue reading

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Adopt a Healthcare Worker, Colltalers

The oil industry ‘moved with breathtaking speed‘ to seize the moment, says respected environmentalist Bill McKibben about the outbreak. And so did the whole fossil-fuel complex and their Congress acolytes. And Big Plastic. And an entire cottage conspiracy net that’s freaking out people to death.
But no matter how billionaires may trivialize it, a million of anything is a lot. This threshold of coronavirus cases in the world was vanquished, with no signs of relenting. And yet, it’s Trump’s knuckle-headed decisions, the breakdowns, and vile profiteers what really is making it all much worse.
Some Americans may think they’ve got the answer for the crisis: to buy another gun. Either incentivized by far-right radio talkshow hosts, or by that insane rationale that they’d be able to go to war with the world’s most powerful army, people are lining up to get ‘ready’ for a dystopic future that could come about exactly as a result of their thoughtless behavior. Wanna bet how many feet of distancing they stand from each other in those lines? Don’t.
COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the new coronavirus, has lodged some impressive records, and that’s without counting victims or even cataloging the businesses that may have to fold for good. It’s been hard, for instance, to imagine a rebirth for the restaurant industry, which has been plagued for ages by labor violations, wage theft, waste, and plain, old-fashioned corruption. Servers, cooks, and kitchen help are out of luck.
Since the 1980s, the U.S. has moved from manufacturing hub to a finance and services-driven economy, and by a record of technological invention. The latter is hardly true now as brainpower required for scientific breakthroughs comes from access to higher education and smart immigration.
As a result, most of the 13 million-plus restaurant and bar workers are out of jobs they most likely won’t be able to return to. Part of the relief package passed by Congress last week was supposed to provide immediate help to them, the small-business owners employing them, and to countless little eateries that contribute Continue reading

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Don’t Die to Save the Dow, Colltalers

Here’s Trump’s America: the world’s biggest climate-denying nation, with the largest prison population and a stellar healthcare system, of course. Also of note about this paradise are its 3.3 million-strong unemployment claims. Good thing Congress just signed a $500 billion relief bill. To corporations.
The world is in lockdown with more confined people than those alive during WWII. Numbers are staggering and bound to increase. But that sort of stats and its big numbers are mind-boggling: good for shocking headlines and little else. There are more important lessons to be learned from this all.
But first, our usual news roundup even as most seems to be either related to the new plague or to the catastrophic leadership of some top world leaders. Following the nefarious sway of the U.S. president, who called the virus a hoax and is still lying and misinforming the American people, many were caught flat-footed and are now behind the curve. Thus, there’s no global coordinated strategy and each country is doing its own thing. That is crazy.
The world spent 70 years signing agreements, forming alliances, and setting international organizations to protect dialog and peace, the food supply, labor and trade disputes, and the rule of law. Whether it succeeded is beside the point; Trump spent three and a half years cutting ties with allies and singing praises to tyrants. The ‘leader of the free world’ sowed distrust, threatened war, acted as a criminal brat while enriching himself and his family.
Even if Trump doesn’t get reelected in Nov. – which is as improbable almost as there will be an election in Nov., – the consequences of his acts will be felt for years. How will we survive in a world where China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Ecuador, the entire African continent, and allies such as Germany, France, Continue reading