Wednesday Night #2023

Written by  //  December 23, 2020  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2023

Normally, our  pre-Christmas message is a tad nostalgic and/or pensive, but basically cheery and hopeful, reflecting a fundamental confidence that most of ‘mankind’ seeks peace and goodwill.
Sadly, it is hard -if not impossible- to convey such thoughts today, thanks largely to events in Washington.

But before we go there, Graeme Campbell advises that the film he directed “A Christmas Break” airs in Canada on Christmas Day at 7PM CityTV. “I’m sure you’ll be jumping up from Christmas dinner to watch it, but that’s why there’s PVR, n’est-ce pas?”

I also want to thank Ali for educating me on the topic of the Iranian festival of December 20, Yalda Night, when Iranians celebrate the arrival of winter, the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness. Let us continue to hope that the triumph of light over darkness prevails in every sense!

We had hoped that the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem augured a bright, new future – that Wise Men and Women would magically appear from the Southwest or wherever, bearing gifts of wisdom, forbearance and charity.

Cloud cover prevented us from witnessing the astral phenomenon, however we took comfort in the promise of a brighter future with the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 – flawed but essential – that would stave off disaster and keep the U.S. funded until next September. It passed with a veto-proof majority, but on Tuesday evening, Trump on Tuesday evening called on Congress to increase the “ridiculously low” $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 and outlined a list of provisions in the overall package of legislation that he described as “wasteful spending and much more.”
While we agree with him that the $600 was inadequate, if he carries out his threat to refuse to sign the bill, the $900 billion in emergency economic aid will be frozen, and the government will shut down on Dec. 29. As Heather Cox Richardson points out in her as-always comprehensive commentary “If Trump vetoes the Consolidated Appropriations Act—along with the National Defense Authorization Act he has also threatened to veto– Congress has the votes to override it. But such an override would take time that has now run out.”
The good news is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly responded to the Twitter post by saying congressional Democrats would move as soon as Thursday, when the House is scheduled to meet for a brief pro forma session, to advance the $2,000 stimulus checks.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” she posted on Twitter on Tuesday night after Trump’s message. “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”

NOT SO FAST: Five ways 2020 could end
(Politico Nightly) The last-minute Covid relief chaos isn’t all President Donald Trump’s fault, senior editor David Kihara told the Nightly. “Sure, no one expected Trump to do what he did” — proposing bigger stimulus checks for a spending bill that his own administration negotiated, jeopardizing the fate of the package just days before the government runs out of money and expanded unemployment benefits expire — “but Congress sat on this for a very long time,” David said. “This is everyone’s fault.”
So what happens now? Here’s how this standoff might play out in the final days of 2020, from least- to most-likely outcome:

Health Canada approves Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
The Moderna approval means vaccinations can now begin in northern, remote and Indigenous communities, which haven’t seen any doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because they lack the freezer equipment necessary to safely store it at –70 C.
Good news if only we were more convinced that the logistics and distribution process were reliable. There is no information so far about how the recipients who are neither caregivers nor long-term care residents will be identified and prioritized. Given the one-step-forward-two-steps-back announcements from M. Legault & Co. over the past weeks, we are not confident.

Not that we think any of you need convincing, but this Covid vaccine Q&A with Dr. David Agus is excellent. Thanks to Ron Meisels for sending it.
And for a lighter tone Fauci on a Couchi

If you have not yet discovered Politico Canada’s Corridors newsletter, check out
How 2020 changed Justin Trudeau, and didn’t – the newsletter could be particularly useful to expats.

This is NOT good news, but what can one expect from Jason Kenney (although, in fairness his government does seem to be managing the Covid crisis fairly well).
Alberta is planning new mountaintop-removal coal mines.

Depending on your viewpoint, Wednesday’s news that the Brexit trade deal was expected within hours was welcome or not. A vote by the European parliament to give consent to a trade and security agreement with the UK is no longer possible, given the lack of time left before the end of the transition period. The UK exits the single market and customs union in eight days’ time, with or without new trade and security arrangements with the EU. MEPs said that did not provide sufficient time for scrutiny.The capitals will instead have to agree to “provisional application” of the deal on 1 January, with MEPs having their vote later in the month.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is calling the UK Plague Island because it’s true: a mutant strain of the coronavirus is out of control, laying waste to fantasies that any region is out of the woods, or that the November lockdown had its desired effect, or that we might manage a “merry little Christmas”, in the words of the prime minister. The UK is dealing with the “dangerous” spread of the Covid variant that appears to have originated in Kent, it has been revealed that two cases of another new variant of Covid-19 linked to South Africa have been identified.

The ghost of Christmas yet to come: how an AI ‘SantaNet’ might end up destroying the world starts as an almost whimsical vision of what could go wrong; e.g. “When SantaNet learns the true meaning of Christmas, it may conclude that the current celebration of the festival is incongruent with its original purpose. If that were to happen, SantaNet might just cancel Christmas altogether.” But becomes a morality tale concluding that “It is crucial we find and implement appropriate controls…[including] regulations on AGI designers and controls built into the AGI (such as moral principles and decision rules), but also controls on the broader systems in which AGI will operate (such as regulations, operating procedures and engineering controls in other technologies and infrastructure).”

Last week we reported  that Marc’s 1880 Club would host the launch of Eat Just, Inc.’s GOOD Meat Cultured Chicken on Saturday, December 19 (Eat Just Follows Regulatory Approval With Historic, First-Ever Sale of Cultured Meat). According to Marc, all went well.
We cannot help but love the juxtaposition of the news that Singapore street food added to Unesco heritage list; the country’s hawker culture being added to the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Last year, of the 58 places to eat in Singapore that made it on to the Michelin Bib Gourmand list, 33 were hawker stalls. Several of the stalls even have Michelin stars, which makes Singapore home to some of the cheapest Michelin-starred food in the world.

Must reads:
Heather Cox Richardson: December 22, 2020
Trump’s final month might make the past four years seem calm “the few checks that remained on the president’s behavior are eroding, potentially leading to a Jan. 6 showdown over electoral votes on Capitol Hill that could further damage U.S. democracy.”
Robert Reich: Trickle-down economics doesn’t work but build-up does – is Biden listening?
A new study confirms tax cuts for the rich do not benefit the rest. Recovery from the pandemic is a chance to change course
The Mysterious Link Between COVID-19 and Sleep
The coronavirus can cause insomnia and long-term changes in our nervous systems. But sleep could also be a key to ending the pandemic
For those who are following the Pornhub story: Pornhub Funders Include… Cornell University, Financial Times Report Reveals
Every report on Pornhub [owned by Montreal company Mindgeek] makes it increasingly clear that this company is extremely shady, and deserves scrutiny not only from journalists, but from the government.
We find it hard to develop much sympathy for this story: Independent creators say they stand to lose the most from credit card crackdown on Pornhub, however, creativity takes many different forms.

Next week, we promise some happy talk as we look forward to January 20th, 2021 and the following weeks & months. We will also spend some time on Russia, including the cyber attacks on the U.S. government. Maybe by then Trump will have admitted that Russia is responsible?

Finally, we offer warmest wishes for healthy, safe, locked-down Christmas or other festivities taking comfort in good memories and lots of happy albeit physically distanced communications with loved ones.

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