Wednesday Night #1816

Written by  //  December 28, 2016  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Yes, the door is open to Wednesday Nighters in town and recovering from holiday hangover!

Due to assorted constraints, the usual world event round-up is not yet available, however, for the last WN of 2016, we would be derelict were we not to at least point to some key events/stories that will stimulate and influence conversations throughout the early days (or longer) of the New Year.

First, on our plate, is the nasty spat over the U.S. abstention (Rebuffing Israel, U.S. Allows Censure Over Settlements) from the vote on the UN Resolution regarding the Israeli settlements. Unsurprisingly, Alan Dershowitz is not amused.  In unpresidented terms, Donald Trump lobbied against the U.S. position and has now assured his buddy Bibi that things will change after 20 January. Meanwhile the Israeli PM has scolded everyone he could think of and convoked the U.S. ambassador for a dressing-down on Christmas Day.  And, undaunted, Prepares to Build More Settlements
And P.S., the Trump administration will move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Thank you, Rick Sindelar, for reminding us that  After the divisiveness of 2016, Christmas and Hanukkah falling on the same day is the perfect antidote
In the same vein, we add the story of the restoration of The Church of the Nativity, in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, one of the world’s oldest continually operating churches.

Meantime, more and more concern is building up around Donald Trump’s actions as president-elect, his tweets and inconsistencies, his cabinet picks, and most of all, his very unpresidential  thin-skinned persona. Most alarming to many is his recent stance on nuclear arms. The pre-Christmas analysis of Brooks & Shields summarizes the unease that permeates seasoned Washington watchers.

Let us hope that some of the leading global thinkers of 2016 identified by Foreign Policy will help us to find a way forward in these difficult times.

With thefall of Aleppo, Ed Blanche of The Arab Weekly writes that Syria’s Tehran-Moscow axis starts to fraylargely because the two countries’ strate­gic imperatives in Syria are widely divergent and could become even more so. The Assad regime’s recent con­quest of eastern Aleppo, held by re­bel forces since mid-2012, may be a pivotal point in the Russian-Iranian partnership as it could mark where they part ways in terms of what comes next in Syria.”

2016 has been a year of  devastating loss of celebrities of the entertainment industry. Starting with David Bowie, it is a long list including Prince, Mohamed Ali, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and two personal favorites, Kenny Baker (R2D2) and Robert Vaughan (Napoleon Solo), who was the last of the original cast of The Magnificent Seven.  Not sure why none of the many published lists include the tragic loss of 64 members of Russia’s famed choir, the Alexandrov military music ensemble (Red Army Chorus) who died in Sunday’s crash of the Tu-154 military transport plane.

As Rogue One dominated the holiday box office,  the news that  Legendary Star Wars Actress Carrie Fisher had died at 60 came as a shock and surprise.

Fellow Star Wars enthusiasts and tekkies may be interested in the story The most controversial part of ‘Rogue One’ has finally been explained

CNN reminds us that 2016 also took Vera Rubin,  one of the greatest female scientists of all time and an amazing role model for young women today. Probably not a household name for many, but the  pioneering astrophysicist proved the existence of dark matter.

Much is being written about fake news and the enabling role of the Internet. Three articles you may enjoy.
Celine Cooper writes about : Fake news in the ‘post-truth’ era
One of the late-breaking stories of 2016 was a Buzzfeed News Analysis that found that during the final three months of the U.S. presidential election campaign, fake election news on Facebook outperformed real news. In other words, false stories got more engagement — clicks, likes, shares, comments — than real stories from such major news outlets as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post and NBC News. Increasingly, the lines between true and false are barely perceptible — Our inability to tell them apart could have similarly grotesque consequences.”
Meanwhile,  Wired writes that in 2016: The Mainstream Media Melted Down as Fake News Festered “The election inspired more than the usual amount of tribalism online, and citizens’ trust in traditional media fell to an all-time low: just 32 percent told Gallup they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This lack of trust formed the perfect petri dish in which a plague of misinformation could fester and bloom.”
Jeremy Kinsman, writing in Policy Magazine , The Trump Tsunami: “The factors that converged to produce Donald Trump’s previously unthinkable election victory weren’t so much a perfect storm as a tsunami of discontent among certain voters, dissatisfaction with the Democratic alternative and the ultimate manifestation of a truth our culture has failed to reckon with for a decade: that the internet has been not the great democratizer it was supposed to be but rather just the opposite. “ He then turns to how Canada must deal with the new Trumpian reality.

Our cousin, Jacques de Larosière, former head of the IMF, informs us that he published his ” Mémoires” in 2016  with the title: “50 ans de crises financières”. An English version is in the works – should make for a fascinating read in either language!

Peter Berezin is with us next Wednesday, January 4th and though he is too young to have experienced 50 years of financial crises, perhaps he can enlighten us as to how to avoid one at a personal level.

In conclusion, let’s take heart from this year’s Christmas Message of Queen Elizabeth II.
“When people face a challenge they sometimes talk about taking a deep breath to find courage or strength. In fact, the word ‘inspire’ literally means ‘to breathe in’. But even with the inspiration of others, it’s understandable that we sometimes think the world’s problems are so big that we can do little to help. On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.”

To our many friends who are away, or otherwise occupied, we send warmest wishes for a promising beginning to a New Year filled with  joy, health and only interesting challenges.

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