Wednesday Night #1918

Written by  //  December 12, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Looking forward to welcoming Andrew Caddell (here for a book interview on CTV) and Charlotte Sobolewski (here for meetings of Element AI)

TIME has revealed its 2018 “Person of the Year” and it is “The Guardians.” With a record number of reporters behind bars around the planet — the Committee to Protect Journalists documented 262 cases in 2017 — an avalanche of misinformation on social media and government officials from the United States to the Philippines dismissing critical, real reporting as “fake news,” Time is spotlighting a handful of journalists who have one thing in common: They were targeted for their work. We strongly recommend the long read from TIME that explains their choice: The Guardians and the War on Truth

Meanwhile the decrier (and generator)-in-chief of fake news put on a performance in the White House on Tuesday in full view of the media that simply defies comprehension … unless you conclude with Tony Deutsch that “is this not his optimal strategy to deflect attention from Mueller? Given the usual Trump performance, this one is remarkably intelligent.”
The 17 gripping minutes that captivated Washington
In the Oval Office, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer clashed in spectacular fashion, with the cameras rolling and shocked reporters watching.
… before he ended the meeting, [Trump] gave Democrats exactly what they wanted — a sound bite that they are certain to replay every time a government funding deadline nears.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. People in this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country,” Trump said. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I won’t blame you for it. The last time, you shut it down. It didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting it down. I’m going to shut it down for border security.”

Theresa May and Brexit are not in a happy place right now. The best summary may be this headline from New York Theresa May Delays Brexit Deal So It Can Die Another Day The story continues:
“She doesn’t have the votes. She never did — and most likely, she never will. Indeed, May’s Brexit deal was practically dead the moment she first unveiled it, with over 60 members of Parliament rejecting it out of hand. The objections came from all quarters: pro-Europe MPs who didn’t support Brexit at all, hard-line members of her Conservative party who wanted a “harder” Brexit, and Northern Irish allies of the Tories who consider her plan for the Irish border unacceptable.” And in Parliament, the unthinkable happened: Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle grabbed the ceremonial mace the symbol of royal authority and without which neither House can meet or pass laws,” and it is illegal for Parliament to meet if the mace is not in place. We cannot resist the idea that “The mace is not in place” sounds like a Peter Trent-George Bowser song!

Across the Channel, President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to quell violent rioting across France by offering economic concessions to his countrymen — expected to cost the country $11 billion — appears to have been insufficient. Leaders of the “Yellow Vest” protest movement indicated Tuesday that Macron’s offers were not enough, as hundreds of students staged a “Black Tuesday” of protests over Macron’s education policies and voiced solidarity with the Yellow Vests. … The Yellow Shirt movement gained new support on Tuesday from another group of French citizens angry over changes brought in by Macron’s government: students. There has been a fierce reaction from high school and university-aged students to new standardized testing policies, a lack of college enrolment places available to graduates, and new requirements for graduates to secure those places.

And in Poland, at the Climate Change COP24, work continues despite disruptions from the U.S. (That was awkward — at world’s biggest climate conference, U.S. promotes fossil fuels) From Tuesday on, close to 100 Government ministers will be involved in negotiating a final deal on moving forward with climate action with the goal of agreeing a concrete plan to implement the historic 2015 Paris climate deal by mid-century. The stakes are high with numerous different pressure points. See COP24 negotiations: Why reaching agreement on climate action is so complex Meanwhile the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its annual Arctic Report Card revealing that Over the past three decades of global warming, the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by a stunning 95 percent.

No doubt you have been following the Huawei story including the recent detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, likely a tit-for-tat reaction to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, despite the Canadian government’s assertion that it saw no explicit link to the Huawei case. The Globe & Mail offers a pretty complete picture of what is at stake and why in Huawei and Canada: What we know about the company, the arrest and China’s reaction, while Global/Reuters focuses on the fate of Michael Kovrig in No update from China on arrest of Canadian Michael Kovrig, including an interview with Minister Chrystia Freeland. For those who, like us, are not up on why Huawei is so important, check out What is 5G?
Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas weigh in on the Huawei issue and the detention of Michael Kovrig  (whose family are friends of Jeremy)  and also on the Brexit delay. They do not mince words on either topic.

Bloomberg features a different aspect of China’s geopolitical strategy, with emphasis on Asian disenchantment with the Belt & Road Initiative, citing a report this year by the Washington-based Center for Global Development that identified eight nations at risk of debt distress from Chinese financing, among them Pakistan, the Maldives, Laos, Mongolia and Djibouti, where China has its only overseas military base.
“Asia is in desperate need of infrastructure upgrades and no country other than China has the appetite—or the ready resources—to meet the demand for large-scale investments. Yet the criticism in Asia comes at a sensitive time of growing international skepticism of China’s global intentions. While much of the focus is on President Donald Trump’s standoff with Xi over trade, technology and market access, governments across Europe, in Australia and in Japan are tightening up their vetting of Chinese investments, particularly in critical infrastructure such as key ports and network systems.”

You may have missed the news that Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme became effective on Monday, when people or companies in Australia who are acting on behalf of foreign principals in the political sphere have to register and detail their activities on a public website.  “While the US has been focused on Russian meddling in its 2016 elections, Australia has led the democratic pushback against quiet intrusions from authoritarian states, especially China.”

Jordan Peterson has a provocative (nothing new there)  piece  in the National Post on gender equality that is sure to stimulate heated discussion. Although not a fan, we admit that his comments on gender, competence and selection of Cabinet members makes sense,  but would argue that the practice is no worse than selecting for regional balance. Of course, when both criteria are used, the chances of competence may be greatly reduced.

Heads up! Geminid meteor shower peaks this week – The Geminid meteor shower runs from Dec. 4 to Dec. 16, but it peaks on the night of Dec. 13–14. The best thing about meteor showers is they require no equipment to spot. Just bundle up, head outside and look up.

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