Wednesday Night #2140

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UN warns of ‘draining humanity’s lifeblood’ amid worsening water scarcity
22 — 24 Mar 2023, New York
UN warns of ‘draining humanity’s lifeblood’ amid worsening water scarcity
Secretary general urges countries to tackle ‘vampiric overconsumption’, water guzzling industries and climate crisis
The United Nations opened its first water conference in almost half a century in New York on Wednesday, with a plea for countries to work together to tackle overconsumption, water guzzling industries and the climate crisis – or else face more hunger, conflicts and forced migration due to worsening water scarcity.
A quarter of the world’s population still does not have access to safe drinking water while half lacks basic sanitation, and despite some progress in recent years, the climate crisis is making the situation worse.
Let us remember that this is a problem not only for nations of Africa and Asia, but much loser to home
Dozens of Canada’s First Nations lack drinking water: ‘Unacceptable in a country so rich’

So, the Fed raised its rate
The Federal Reserve extended its year-long fight against high inflation by raising its key interest rate a quarter-point despite concerns that higher borrowing rates could worsen the turmoil that has gripped the banking system. and the World heading for ‘great reset’, says S&P report – Rising rates and slowing economies pose a crisis risk
The Global Banking Crisis and World Economy
Jeffrey Sachs (not everyone’s flavour of the month) writes that “The banking crisis that hit Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) last week has spread. We recall with a shudder two recent financial contagions: the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which led to a deep Asian recession, and the 2008 Great Recession, which led to a global downturn. The new banking crisis hits a world economy already disrupted by pandemic, war, sanctions, geopolitical tensions, and climate shocks.”

The banking crisis -if it is one- has has almost eclipsed Xi’s visit to Moscow to visit the newly ICC-targeted Putin.
Xi and Putin just wrapped up talks in Moscow: What does it mean for the war in Ukraine and China’s global standing?
However, The Guardian’s Pjotr Sauer writes that Despite Xi’s trip to Russia, dialogue between China and Ukraine is still possible, Kyiv remains keen not to anger Beijing given its influence over Moscow, and Zelenskiy is open to a meeting.

As we seek balanced, knowledgeable opinion, we are devastated to learn from Jeremy Kinsman that
Diplomatic Community, a supper-hour (Eastern) CTV News program, succumbed peacefully on March 14, 2023, after an unexpectedly long run of trying to connect the dots on fractious world issues. It combined American and Canadian perspectives, and had an eye on history. (William Faulkner: “The past is always with us. It’s not even past”). No cause of death was given but it occurred during an epidemic of obsessive breaking local news syndrome.
Diplomatic Community was born in the summer of 2018 to enlightened parents at CTV News, Toronto. It is survived by various family members including regular contributors Larry Haas of Bethesda, Maryland and Jeremy Kinsman of Victoria, B.C., and devoted moderator and foster parent, CTV’s Merella Fernandez. It was the only international news program on Canadian TV network in English. Instead of sending flowers, mourners, if any, are urged to support hard-news-discipline international reporting, in an age of declining attention spans, and waning media interest in the rest of our world.”

The Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) has announced the retirement of our friend Michel Kelly-Gagnon as CEO of the MEI; Michel will become Founding President. In this role, he will act as an ambassador for the organization as well as continuing to be in charge of managing special projects, of developing our Calgary office, and of fundraising.
Daniel Dufort is the new President and CEO of the MEI as of April 5, 2023.

Experts provide briefing on the 2023 Global Terrorism Index – March 22, 2023
Kyle Matthews is in Ottawa on Wednesday for the news conference at which experts discussed the 2023 Global Terrorism Index, an annual report produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace to examine key global trends and patterns in terrorism. In attendance at this event are Serge Stroobants and Michael Collins (Institute for Economics and Peace), Kyle Matthews (Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies), and Phil Gurski (University of Ottawa).

An all-consuming news topic -or family of topics- over the past three months has been and continues to be AI, Chatbots, Society & Technology. Fascinating, frightening and sometimes fantastical with a capacity for good (Last summer, DeepMind reported a version of its AlphaFold program can predict the 3D structure of 350,000 proteins — information that is key to designing medicines and understanding disease but can be tedious and time-consuming to get with traditional methods); potential evil (The Imminent Danger of A.I. Is One We’re Not Talking About); and outright bizarre (A Conversation With Bing’s Chatbot Left Me Deeply Unsettled – A very strange conversation with the chatbot built into Microsoft’s search engine led to it declaring its love for me).
As we follow the topic(s), we frequently are referred to Gary Marcus, Sandy’s friend and Hampshire College fellow alumnus whom she introduced to Wednesday Night several years ago. We are grateful for his expertise, skepticism and the clarity with which he expresses (most of) his thoughts. If you seek guidance through the maze of (dis)information and commentary, we strongly suggest following Dr. Marcus.
And rather than worrying about Chatbots, perhaps debate the merits of TikTok which, it is reported, is ramping up a public relations campaign to fend off the possibility of a nationwide ban by the Biden administration, and it’s bringing some unconventional advocates to help: online influencers.
Dozens of TikTok creators — some with millions of followers on the video-sharing app — came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby in favor of the platform, one day before lawmakers are slated to grill the company’s chief executive about concerns over user data falling into the hands of the Chinese government. …
At the heart of TikTok’s trouble is a Chinese national intelligence law that would compel Chinese companies to fork over data to the government for whatever purposes it deems to involve national security. There’s also concern Beijing might try to push pro-China narratives or misinformation through the platform. Wow! Really?

John Buchanan wrote from Beirut:
It turns out that for those of a slightly autistic bent Lebanon is a bountiful feast of numbers and calculations!
When I arrived 8 days ago the black market exchange rate, which now seems to have become the de facto commercial rate, was 87,000 Lebanese £ (LBP) to the dollar.
This morning as I entered the local grocery the rate was 111,200. As I shopped for 30 minutes the rate changed to 111,500! Over 8 days the £ has lost 28% of it’s value in dollars!
On Tuesday, he added “On arrival this morning it was at 140,000. And 4 hours later the rate is back to 115,000. I had no idea the Lebanese £ could actually increase in value.
To which Tony Deutsch laconically replied: “the dollar weakened”.

For those following the events in Israel, see Israeli Democracy Faces a Mortal Threat – If Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition have their way, my country could deteriorate into a dictatorship. By David Grossman and PLEASE, with due respect, this is not an invitation to Sandy and Julien to resume their debate!

REMINDER: President Biden comes to Ottawa on Thursday
Border concerns, defence priorities: Wide range of topics to discuss during Biden’s official visit to Canada

I cannot imagine how, in January, I missed this critical event in the evolution of U.S. State Department public policy
Could it have been preoccupation with Putin’s War, events in Israel, Iran, Turkey, debate over classified documents, AI & Chatbots, mass shootings in California and the threatened decimation of the Montreal Gazette staff? In any event, we now correct the oversight.
The State Department is ditching Times New Roman for Calibri
The State Department has used Times New Roman for its official communications since 2004. Now it’s switching to the sans-serif Calibri in an effort to improve accessibility.
A delightfully nerdy debate has erupted over the past 48 hours. Based on a hard-hitting leak obtained from The Washington Post, the State Department is planning to ditch Times New Roman for all of its official communications and high-level internal documents, opting instead for Calibri.
The reason? According to a memo to staff from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, serif fonts like Times New Roman “can introduce accessibility issues for individuals with disabilities who use Optical Character Recognition technology or screen readers.” The switch to Calibri, a sans-serif, was recommended by the secretary’s office of diversity and inclusion.
Why the State Department is the new ambassador for the Calibri font
A 19-year-long alliance with Times New Roman will end next month.

What made Beethoven sick? DNA from his hair offers clues
Nearly 200 years after Ludwig van Beethoven’s death, researchers pulled DNA from strands of his hair, searching for clues about the health problems and hearing loss that plagued him.
They weren’t able to crack the case of the German composer’s deafness or severe stomach ailments. But they did find a genetic risk for liver disease, plus a liver-damaging hepatitis B infection in the last months of his life.

An evening smile: Good boy turned bad: Anxious dog found his forever home in an unlikely place
Inmates in a Tasmanian prison have adopted a dog that was so anxious no one else wanted him

The Nightmare of AI-Powered Gmail Has Arrived
Are you excited for your co-workers to become way more verbose, turning every tapped-out “Sounds good” into a three-paragraph letter? Are you glad that the sort of semi-customized mass emails you’re used to getting from major brands with marketing departments (or from spammers and phishers) are now within reach for every entity with a Google account? Are you looking forward to wondering if that lovely condolence letter from a long-lost friend was entirely generated by software or if he just smashed the “More Heartfelt”

The 2022 CBC Massey lectures were given by Cree author Tomson Highway and titled Laughing with the Trickster: On Sex, Death and Accordians. All broadcast -and, happily, rebroadcast- on CBC Radio Ideas. The final one, # 5: On Death is an uplifting and joyous conclusion to his series ⁠— a message that the worldview of Indigenous people suggests ways of seeing and believing that make our journey on Earth joyous, hilariously funny and rich in diversity.

Long read
‘The hydropower goldrush’: how Europe’s first wild river national park saw off the dams
The Vjosa River in Albania teems with more than 1,000 species, while rare vultures and Balkan lynx visit its banks. It has seen off the threat of a surge in barriers, but the shadow of development persists

Border concerns, defence priorities: Wide range of topics to discuss during Biden’s official visit to Canada

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