Wednesday Night #2042

Written by  //  May 5, 2021  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The 4th of each month usually brings out a few May the Fourth Be With You Star Wars references, however, this being May (get it?) there are a couple of unusual gems.
Canadian YouTubers engineer hyper-realistic plasma lightsaber that can cut through steel
CBC’s As It Happens reprised a great story about Hacksmith Industries of Kitchener, Ontario. Founder James Hobson has developed a unique way to inspire young people to take interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by replicating fictional objects using real-world technology and engineering. Previous creations include Iron Man’s helmet, Captain America’s shield, Batman’s grappling hook and Inspector Gadget’s helicopter hat.

Lisa Napoli‘s new book “Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie” about the Founding Mothers of NPR has been receiving blanket coverage, great interviews and rave reviews as NPR celebrates the 50th anniversary on May 3rd, (coincidentally since designated World Press Freedom Day) of its first on-air original broadcast, All Things Considered.
Lisa notes in a post the 40th anniversary of the adaptation of the original Star Wars Trilogy as a 14-hour radio drama by NPR and broadcast in the spring of 1981. True fans can hear it all today.

Early May is replete with anniversaries including the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death on May 5th. As is the case for so many historical figures, his legacy is being reexamined and judged deeply flawed by many. Despite the enduring Code Napoléon and foundations of today’s education system, researchers have long emphasized the merciless wars Napoleon waged across Europe and his misogynist views. Less attention had been paid to his decision to restore slavery, but that oversight has been rectified in recent years.
A quick aside, how many of you saw last month’s announcement of the closure of the elite (and elitist) École Nationale d’Administration and its replacement by the Institute for Public Service (ISP).

Heather Cox Richardson deplores the fact that “it’s hard to get airtime for good, solid, progress when Republican leadership is openly feuding, the former president’s advisor Rudy Giuliani is in front of cameras talking about the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s first impeachment, and a federal judge today whacked Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr, for misleading her, Congress, and the public about the Mueller investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”
She devotes most of her May 4 column to the good news:
“…the country’s dramatic economic recovery from the recession sparked by the coronavirus. In the first three months of 2021, the economy grew by 1.6% as economic stimulus measures kicked in and people started to buy things again. Supply chains are still frayed, pushing prices upward, but those problems are expected to ease as the chains heal.
At the beginning of the year, economists predicted just 0.6% growth, because they did not expect vaccinations to go into circulation as quickly as they did, and they expected the recession to linger for months. If the current growth rate holds, it would mean an annual rate of 6.4% (it’s unclear, of course, if it will hold). For the last three weeks, jobless claims have dropped”….

Among the items dominating U.S. domestic news are the implosion of the Republican Party (see Cheney Strikes Back as G.O.P. Leaders Move to Oust Her From House Leadership) and the ruling by the Facebook Oversight Board upholding  the social network’s ban of former President Donald J. Trump, thus ending any immediate return by Mr. Trump to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech. Much as we have deplored Trump’s presence on social media, we -along with many others- are not comfortable with  the idea  of  arbitrary and permanent banishment.  The board said Facebook was right to suspend Trump in the immediate aftermath of the January 6th insurrection, but said Facebook couldn’t just make the suspension “indefinite” with no actual rule on its books allowing for that. The board said Facebook must review the decision and figure out if Trump should be banned from the platform forever. The decision was in many ways not just about Trump. It may ultimately be more important for parts that were really only secondarily about him. The ruling was a shot across Facebook’s bow, warning the company that it has to get its house in order and can no longer make world-altering decisions on the fly.

The Wednesday Bloomberg Politics newsletter gives a quick round-up of U.S. foreign policy vis à vis the G7, China and Russia.
Most of the chatter at this week’s Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in London has been about China, with a U.S. push for a new cooperation mechanism for dealing with Beijing’s growing influence.
But that doesn’t mean Russia is off the agenda. If anything the discussions around Moscow are picking up steam ahead of a potential summit between President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin somewhere in Europe.
Biden told reporters at the White House yesterday a June meeting is “my hope and expectation,” adding “we’re working on it.”
That’s even as Secretary of State Antony Blinken used his G-7 sideline chats to pressure Berlin again to halt the Nord Stream II gas pipeline project from Russia into Germany — and before he travels on to Ukraine amid tensions over Moscow’s recent buildup of troops on the border.
The U.S., like others, is closely watching the health of imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, while Washington sanctioned Russian entities last month for hacking.
As with China, the Biden administration is operating on a double track: work against Russia on issues of contention, work with it where merited. That includes on Iran, where the two have a shared interest in resurrecting the 2015 nuclear deal.
Blinken is expected at an Arctic Council gathering two weeks from now in Iceland, as is his Russian counterpart. That could enable them to finalize the details to allow Biden and Putin to meet.
A lot could happen in the meantime, though. A summit is still far from guaranteed.

This week Wednesday Nighters have been more prolific than usual and on such a diversity of subjects!

Andrew Caddell devotes this week’s column to his 2011 run for the LPC in Kamouraska
“For all the money spent, the effort made, the pitiful result, and the anguish of nearly losing my job, it was an unforgettable experience: I had the privilege of participating directly in the democratic process.”

Congratulations -and a tardy acknowledgment of her tireless efforts- to Joyce Pillarella for achieving the federal government’s apology to families of Italian-Canadians interned during WWII. Brava Joyce!

In his interview with l’Actualité about the state of quantum computing in Canada and around the world, Alireza paints a rosy future for this emerging technology, noting that Quebec is among the leading places in the world for this disruptive force and his company, Anyon Systems, is at the forefront of this effort in the private sector. L’informatique quantique, la prochaine fierté québécoise ?

Very proud of the pandemic-induced innovations introduced by Marc & Jean Nicholson with the 1880 team:
Life after advertising with 1880 founder Marc Nicholson
With the new restrictions, 1880 had to pivot its offerings, and instead of hosting huge groups of people to its venue, it sought to bring people closer together in the comfort of their own homes. During the circuit breaker period, members started to request the team to send cakes for their friends’ birthday or other special occasions. Sometimes members would hold dinner parties through digital platforms and place food orders from 1880. The team then made sure that food for the different parties all arrived at the same time, so its consumers can have their dinner together over Zoom.
To align its new-found delivery services with its purpose to sparking conversations, the team at 1880 started including conversation cards in meals so guests could share a meal and quality conversations. Following positive feedback garnered from its conversation cards, 1880 eventually made it into an official game deck.
Additionally, 1880 started to host “Table of five”, an event where five people who do not know each other come together and get to know one another. This soon became “super popular” among members who were lonely and suffering socially.

Congratulations to Jaime Webbe, who has joined Alinea as Global Director of Climate Change & Biodiversity. Read her first feature post on the role of Nature-based Solutions in achieving concrete progress on climate action. For those who are not familiar with the organization, see About Alinea.

Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas look at Vaccine diplomacy…can the world get its act together on Covid? including the pros and cons of eliminating patent protection. Larry offered an elegant solution. However, during Wednesday’s discussions at the WTO the Biden administration has backed waiving Covid vaccine patent protections and will participate in conversations with the WTO to help lift protections “The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” Katherine Tai said in a statement.
This development may counter the criticism that the developed world has done little to promote global vaccination, in what analysts call both a moral and epidemiological failure.As Covid Ravages Poorer Countries, Rich Nations Spring Back to Life

As India continues to suffer a devastating surge in coronavirus infections (382,315 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, India’s tally has risen to more than 20.6 million since the pandemic began), C Uday Bhaskar writes that maximising the institutional capacity of the military in the war against Covid-19, without diluting its primary operational orientation, in the backdrop of a resource crunch, is the task ahead for the Indian political and defence leadership. He adds a personal note:
Covid numbers in India are distressing…as also the oxygen shortage but some faint rays of hope … vaccination is picking up and the hot-spots are stabilizing….
Apropos domestic politics…the results from Bengal & Kerala [
see Modi’s Party Loses a Key Election] have infused a new dynamic…about the stoic Indian voter and exposed the inadequacies among large sections of the media.

Margaret Lefebvre has drawn our attention to the Sandbox Impact Program which is focused on mobilizing new collaborations and building momentum for change across child and youth health and wellbeing sectors. Specifically, the 2021 collaborations will prioritize children and youth who are most impacted by the pandemic, including: First Nations, Métis and Inuit children; Black and other children of colour; children growing up in poverty, those with complex medical needs and disabilities, and children who experience abuse in their homes. The deadline for applications for project support is 14 May.

Event
13 May
1-2 PM EDT
The “Fourth Option”: how does Canada reduce its dependence on China?
Three Canadian experts, former diplomats with experience in the region, will discuss the issues and the prospects for growth in the region.
The Canadian International Council (CIC), Montreal Branch
Please register for free event

Varia
Amidst reaction to the news that Finland has been named the happiest place in the world for the fourth year running in the annual World Happiness Report, Jukka Savolainen offers a thoughtful explanation and a lesson for all the other less happy populations: It’s not hygge, the welfare state, or drinking. It’s reasonable expectations The Grim Secret of Nordic Happiness

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