Wednesday Night #2076

Written by  //  December 29, 2021  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

A Christmas gift to science: After more than 25 years of development and delays, the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope on Christmas Day.
The NYT waxed poetic James Webb Space Telescope Launches on Journey to See the Dawn of Starlight
More prosaically, The Atlantic headline says simply The Wait Was Worth It before enthusing “Webb carries the hopes of countless scientists into the expanse, and, if the process works, it will have a deliciously unobscured view of the cosmos” and cautioning that “The next six months will involve a series of careful maneuvers for Webb—some automated, others manual—that will test the nerves of everyone involved.”
‘Game changer’: Canada’s crucial role in the James Webb telescope launch, but stay tuned when in return for the contribution to James Webb Canada’s researchers start to receive about five per cent of the telescope’s viewing time.

Congratulations to the 135 appointees to the Order of Canada (Canada’s equivalent of the New Year’s Honours List). The list was published on Wednesday. Although we are not familiar with all of the names, it appears to be singularly free of dubious appointments and to include some deserved recognition of individuals who may not be widely known.

Our usual contributing authors are on holiday and we sadly miss Jeremy Kinsman in light of the breaking news that Biden and Putin to speak on Thursday amid Ukraine tensions as Washington crafts a common response to Russia’s military build-up on the Ukraine border with European allies.

We are also concerned by the news that Police in Hong Kong have arrested seven people connected to independent media outlet Stand News – the latest crackdown against the press in a city once known as a hub for journalism in Asia. One of those arrested is pop star and activist Denise Ho, who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Canada. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that Canada’s ‘consular officials are engaged and stand ready to provide assistance on the ground’ – of course, we have no ambassador to China at present…

This week and next week are the Janus sessions A time to look back over the past year and forward to the next.

The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall: The world in 2022: another year of living dangerously
The climate, pandemic and tensions between states means the year ahead is likely to be as tumultuous as the last 12 months
How to think about the threat to American democracy For its last cover story of 2021 The Economist assesses the state of the Republican Party nearly a year after the Capitol riots and ahead of the mid-term elections in November and concludes that Extreme partisanship and the Republican Party’s denial about the election make a dangerous combination. Yet easily lost in the daily diet of outrage is a fundamental truth about two-party politics: Democrats and Republicans need each other for the system to function. Renewal therefore must flow through the Republican Party. That will be hard—but not as hard as the cata¬strophists would have it
Ian Bremmer’s GZERO is a scrollers delight What went down in 2021? : At the start of 2021, Eurasia Group, our parent company, released its predictions for the top 10 geopolitical risk stories of the year ahead. The report tried to answer many questions. What major issues will a post-Merkel Europe contend with? Will crisis-ridden Latin America emerge from the pandemic in far worse shape? How will US President Biden govern in a country where roughly half the population deems his presidency illegitimate?
As 2021 draws to a close, we take a look at how some of the report’s forecasts have stacked up, and where things might be headed in 2022.
New York looks back at Intelligencer’s 20 Most-Read Stories in 2021
Two stories dominated 2021, the Trump administration’s calamitous finale and the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s no surprise that those topics are heavily represented on this list of Intelligencer’s most-read stories of the year, measured by audience engagement time. Readers also gravitated toward pieces that explored seismic power shifts, from Andrew Cuomo losing his grip on New York politics to redditors banding together to terrorize Wall Street. And they made time for offbeat topics, too, including the Pentagon (sort of) revealing what it knows about UFOs and what it’s like to become a millionaire overnight.

Policy‘s Outlook 2022: Recovery or Relapse? Douglas Porter gives a quick glance at 2021 before making careful (somewhat hedged) predictions regarding the 2022 economy. You might also like to take a look at Kevin Page’s 2021 Fiscal Update: The Moneyball Version

The end of the year always signals a time to reflect on those who have died, those who were close to us -family and friends- and those notables who were familiar, whom we admired and/or who inspired us. The past week has seen a number of deaths and three in particular have affected many of us.
Le cinéaste Jean-Marc Vallée n’est plus
Brownstein: ‘Actor whisperer’ Jean-Marc Vallée was a remarkable talent
“Every single actor he worked with said that their process with Jean-Marc was transformative,” a colleague says of the Quebec filmmaker, who died over the weekend.
Desmond Tutu dies
Desmond Tutu, 90, was Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran of South Africa’s struggle against white minority rule
Joan Didion, ‘New Journalist’ Who Explored Culture and Chaos, Dies at 87
She established a distinctive voice in American fiction before turning to political reporting and screenplay writing. But it was California, her native state, that provided her with her richest material.

Allison Hanes: 2021 was a roller-coaster ride
The year began in a dark, lonely tunnel. And now it feels an awful lot like we’re back where we started.
Once again, we in Montreal and Quebec are under new Covid-related restrictions as Quebec reported 13,149 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 10 new deaths.  On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that at least 14 residents and 14 employees have tested positive at Château Westmount
We envy our friends who have escaped to warmer climes, but remain unconvinced that we would want to be in Florida.

Varia
Chimes from Crusader times: Recreating Nativity Church’s Mediaeval music
Crusader-era bells and organ pipes from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem are inspiring researchers’ efforts to re-create music as it may have sounded in the birthplace of Jesus during almost 800 years ago. Worried they might otherwise be destroyed, mid-13th century Crusaders buried the 13 bronze bells near the church on the eve of a Muslim offensive, slathering them in animal fat to protect them from rust
Genetic Study Detects Unknown Vast Migration to Britain 3,000 Years Ago
The English derived half their DNA from French migrants who descended from early Turkish farmers. Not so the Scots

While many reviewers don’t like Don’t Look Up, the public is seemingly oblivious. Lisa Napoli comments: All that is wrong with the media (broadly), the news (specifically), politics, and society…right here in one package.. She is right, of course, BUT the ‘package’ is one of the worst movies we have seen. If you have not seen it, don’t look (it) up.

Long reads
‘We have more in common than what separates us’: refugee stories, told by refugees
Bloomberg’s Iconic Home Designs series continues to tackle two big questions: What does a floor plan reveal about a city’s history? And how has this architecture been adapted for modern day use? This year, CityLab peeked inside homes all over the world and told the stories behind them — from Hong Kong’s severe housing crunch that led to a boom in microflats the size of parking spaces, to the demand for apartments in Stockholm’s 1930s housing projects that were once considered shameful to live in.

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