Wednesday Night #1920

Written by  //  January 2, 2019  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

WARNING! While all are welcome, as always this Wednesday Night and WN #1921 are limited to the agile not fragile, those who are not deterred by the challenge of walking three flights up (and down again at the end of the evening). We are, it seems, about to be blessed with a shiny new elevator. Yes, this is a First World problem, but then, we live in the First World, so the 10-day interruption in service is an annoyance.

Welcome to 2019 and note the juxtaposition of the Wednesday Night number!

We hope that the beginning of the New Year was appropriately festive for all and pray that the next 363 days will be somewhat less frenzied than those of 2018. Not bloody likely!

South of the border, the government shutdown continues while the White House says that Speaker-designate Pelosi’s plan to reopen the government ‘a non-starter’. Donald Trump has convened congressional leaders to a Wednesday afternoon briefing on the border wall at the White House. Democrats are set to take control of the House on Thursday and immediately pass a bill to reopen the government without providing the $5 billion the president has requested for his wall with Mexico. Trump, meanwhile, has vowed to hold out and continue the shutdown standoff until he gets his funding.
Now that the holiday season is over, Politico reviews How the shutdown is reaching a breaking point The Office of Management and Budget said in recent guidance that no federal employee — including those still working without pay — can be compensated for the pay period spanning Dec. 23 to Jan. 5 until the shutdown ends.

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration signals a sharp turn to the right – Since his stunning election, Bolsonaro has ditched plans to host key UN climate talks next year and appointed a foreign minister who believes climate change is a Marxist plot. As president, he looks set to take a sledgehammer to Brazil’s hard-earned reputation as a global leader in the fight against climate change and herald a new era of wrecking in the Amazon. Foreign policy will also be upended, as Bolsonaro’s Brazil seeks a snug and historic allegiance with Donald Trump’s US. Looks like a highly qualified member of the club that embraces Hungary’s Orban and Turkey’s Erdogan

Following Mr. Trump’s December 19 surprise announcement that US troops would be withdrawn from Syria within 30 days, he has backtracked somewhat and confirmed on Twitter that troops would “slowly” be withdrawn over four months. This does not solve the innumerable problems that his decision (opposed by just about everyone except for one lonely opinion voice in the Globe & Mail).  Aforementioned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now expected (by Trump) to handle the problem of ISIS remnants. However, as Colin P. Clarke and Ahmet S. Yayla argue The United States Can’t Rely on Turkey to Defeat ISISErdogan wants to confront the Kurds, not the Islamic State. Outsourcing the battle to Ankara will endanger America.

One of the most chilling articles we have read is Ben Taub’s “Shallow Graves” (Iraq’s Post-ISIS Campaign of Revenge) in the December 24 issue of The New Yorker. “The Islamic State has been mostly destroyed on the battlefield, but the war is far from over. Air strikes cannot kill an idea, and so it has fallen to Iraq’s fractured security, intelligence, and justice systems to try to finish the task. But, insofar as there is a strategy, it seems almost perfectly crafted to bring about the opposite of its intent. American and Iraqi military officials spent years planning the campaign to rid Iraq of ISIS, as if the absence of the jihadis would automatically lead Iraq toward the bright democratic future that George W. Bush’s Administration had envisaged when U.S. forces invaded the country, in 2003. But ISIS has always derived much of its dangerous appeal from the corruption and cruelty of the Iraqi state.”

Across the world, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un said Tuesday that he was willing to have a second summit meeting with President Trump, but he paired the offer with a threat that if international sanctions against his country were not lifted, the North would “have no choice” but to return to nuclear confrontation. As the headline of the NYT’s David Sanger succinctly analysis states: Kim and Trump Back at Square 1: If U.S. Keeps Sanctions, North Will Keep Nuclear Program

At least this appears to be positive news
The Comprehensive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has been activated by Japan, Singapore, Mexico, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It eliminates 18,000 tariffs and slashes others in stages over coming years.

Good news from NASA: The New Horizons Spacecraft Is Triumphant in Encounter With the Most Distant Object Ever Visited
Now scientists await clearer pictures and a bounty of new data about a small, mysterious icy body four billion miles from Earth. Thirty-three minutes into the new year, scientists, engineers and well-wishers here at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory celebrated the moment that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to a small, icy world nicknamed Ultima Thule.

And despite what you might think, Quartz tells us that 2018 was in many ways the best year yet to be a human living on Earth and offers 15 charts to show How the world got better in 2018

Not sure it is a great idea, but probably inevitable. There will be lots more announcements in the next months and, no doubt, plenty of shifting alliances.
Elizabeth Warren Announces Iowa Trip as She Starts Running for President in 2020
The competition for the Democratic nomination is poised to be the most wide open since perhaps 1992: The party has no single leader, no obvious front-runner for 2020, and no broadly unifying ideology as it moves away from a quarter-century of dominance by the Clintons and Barack Obama.

This dates from November 2017, but is worthwhile pondering, even if you do not agree with the author’s analysis
Why Are Conservatives More Susceptible to Believing Lies? – An interplay between how all humans think and how conservatives tend to act might actually explain a lot about our current moment.

You might like to have a look at this early edition of Forecasts for 2019 – it’s still early days and will be many updates, revisions, possibly consultation with Tarot cards…

Maclean’s offers this off-beat look at Three classic dystopian flicks set in 2019. Did they hit the mark?

I know, there isn’t much cheer in most of these items, but I hope that HOW TO SOUND FRENCH WHEN YOU SPEAK FRENCH will make up for the doom and gloom.

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