Wednesday Night #2141

Written by  //  March 29, 2023  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2141

A poignant 50th anniversary:
March 29, 1973: Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops leave South Vietnam as Hanoi frees many of the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. America’s direct eight-year intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam.

The week of the three Bs -Bibi, Biden, Budget- plus Beirut, along with some other items that don’t fit easily in the B category.

Thanks to Ian Bremmer for Israel’s political crisis, explained He concludes: After three months of ceding no ground despite the damage done to Israel’s social, economic, and military fabric, one could be tempted to see Bibi’s announcement as a climbdown or a concession. It’s not. The pause is a pit stop, a tactical breather to lower tensions and deprive the opposition of momentum that doesn’t commit the government to any genuine concessions in return.

President Biden’s visit to Ottawa was a great success by all accounts.
In Canada, Biden Offers Cooperation, Not Threats
President Biden used his first official trip to Canada since taking the Oval Office to underscore what he called an “inseparable” relationship between the United States and its northern neighbor, which had become badly frayed during the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
In place of Mr. Trump’s belittling comments about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his trade threats, the conversation between the two leaders on Friday turned repeatedly to the close ties between their two countries and to the announcement of agreements on several key issues, including migration, clean energy and protecting the Arctic.
Deals on migration and trade emerge from a meeting that restored ties between the two nations after four years of tension under the former U.S. president, Donald J. Trump.
In an unanticipated move, Mr. Biden said that a Canadian astronaut would form part of the crew when the Artemis II space mission circles the moon, likely next year.
“We choose to return to the moon together,” he told the Parliamentarians and guests in the House of Commons.
Staving off a potential trade dispute, the president said that electric cars and trucks assembled in Canada, and which are overwhelmingly exported to the United States, will qualify for tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act. Without such credits, Canada feared that production would gradually shift to plants in the United States.
Mr. Biden is generally aligned with Mr. Trudeau on climate change and other environmental issues — a keystone of the prime minister’s political agenda. The two leaders are also both critical of China.

Budget 2023:
Even Paul Wells is happy
Chrystia Freeland’s invisible hand
Unshackle the market! And other budget surprises
Canada’s C$80B response to U.S. clean energy push: ‘We will not be left behind’
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland sells energy transition as an economic imperative.
Economist Brett House reacts to green initiatives outlined in government’s fiscal plan
Budget Day +1
Finance Minister CHRYSTIA FREELAND kicks off her roadshow today at an Ottawa daycare, drawing the spotlight on the budget’s family-friendly cost-of-living measures.
— What’s hot: The dental-care program and the extra C$7 billion it will cost to expand coverage to families who earn less than C$90,000 and individuals at C$70,000. Last year, finance forecast the program would cost C$6 billion over five years. That price tag has ballooned to C$13 billion.
— What’s not: Ottawa’s fiscal anchor. Because it’s 2023.

Takeaways from AP’s interview with Ukraine’s Zelenskyy
A team of journalists from The Associated Press spent two days traveling by train with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he visited the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, which still faces regular shelling from Russian forces, and northern towns in the Sumy region that were liberated shortly after the war began a year ago.
Zelenskyy rarely travels with journalists, and the president’s office said AP’s two-night train trip with him was the most extensive since the war began. Here are some takeaways from an interview with Zelenskyy as he returned to Kyiv late Tuesday.

Enjoyed a catch-up conversation with Joumane & John Buchanan this week, during which they regaled me with accounts of living in two time zones in Beirut. Of course, religion plays its part. Pity Lebanon’s national carrier MEA [that] said its clocks would stay in winter time but it would adjust its flight times to keep in line with international schedules. So why should we be surprised to learn that the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development (AFSD) met in Beirut earlier this month to discuss, among other topics related to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities. After all, if Beirut can continue to survive in chaos, it is perhaps the perfect symbol of a sustainable city – at least, a resilient one.

Shooting Prompts a Shrug in Washington, as G.O.P. Rejects Pleas to Act
President Biden said he had reached the limit of his powers to act alone on gun violence, and needed Congress to respond. Republicans said they had already done all they were willing to do.
As the bloody toll of school murders continues to mount, Chris Goodfellow‘s cri de coeur speaks for all of us.
“The trail of blood through our schools….
Where is the moral courage to deal with this? Today, tomorrow, this week, next week there will inevitably be another child cut down in this butchery. No the little girls and boys don’t go to heaven and get to play in nice fields of flowers but end up cremated in furnaces or in the cold hard earth. That’s the reality of it.
The 535 in Washington who could do something to end this American nightmare in 24 hours have no, zero, moral courage to do the right thing. It is shameful.”

From Peter Frise comes this news China Seeks Superalloys, Supply Chain Boost For Military Engines with the comment “. Strategic materials are one of THE keys to many modern aerospace and defense technologies and another key is accurate 5- and 7-axis milling machines to shape complex parts like gas turbine engine compressor and hot-end turbine blades (and these are almost entirely made in Germany, Japan and Korea as noted in the article). Let’s hope that somebody in Ottawa has got the brains to NOT allow them get those materials here in Canada.”

Key lines from Elon Musk, others’ call to pause AI development
Dozens of scientists, experts and tech leaders, including Twitter and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, recently signed a letter calling on labs generating artificial intelligence (AI) to slow down production so potential risks can be studied —and researched.
AI programs like ChatGPT and GPT-4 have come a long way in capturing public interest, but they still have trouble convincing tech’s biggest leaders that society is ready for them.
Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang and more than 1,000 others signed an open letter to AI labs urging them to “immediately pause” production of AI models more powerful than GPT-4 — the most recent update of its text generator engine — for at least six months.
ChatGPT Has Impostor Syndrome
AI doesn’t know its own strengths.
(The Atlantic) Young people catch heat for being overly focused on personal identity, but they’ve got nothing on ChatGPT. Toy with the bot long enough, and you’ll notice that it has an awkward, self-regarding tic: “As an AI language model,” it often says, before getting to the heart of the matter.

How to watch 5 planets align in the night sky this week
Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Uranus will form an arch immediately after sunset
You’ll need a full hand of fingers to count how many planets you’ll be able to see in the night sky this week. Just after sunset, sky watchers will have the opportunity to see Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Uranus form an arch stretching into the evening sky. And don’t forget to take a peek at the moon, too!

If I had only enough $$ for one subscription, it would be for The Atlantic, whose quality has never diminished over the years.
A Great Day for The Atlantic – The magazine won the top honor at the 2023 National Magazine Awards.

Paul Rusesabagina, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Dissident, Departs Rwanda for Qatar
His release ended more than two and a half years of captivity, during which he was tried on terrorism charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Mark Hamill lends ‘Star Wars’ voice to Ukrainian air-raid app
“Attention. Air raid alert,” the voice says with a Jedi knight’s gravitas. “Proceed to the nearest shelter.”
It’s a surreal moment in an already surreal war: the grave but calming baritone of actor Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker of “Star Wars,” urging people to take cover whenever Russia unleashes another aerial bombardment on Ukraine.
When the dangers from the skies pass, Hamill announces via the app that “the air alert is over.” He then signs off with an uplifting: “May the Force be with you.”

New Analysis Shows News Industry Reaps Considerable Economic Benefit from Facebook
New research by NERA Economic Consulting shows that claims from news publishers that Facebook benefits unfairly at their expense are wrong.
Publishers make a business decision and choose to share links to their content because they benefit from traffic from social media platforms. Facebook does not actively scrape for links or news content from the internet.
NERA’s global report found that news content from traditional publishers is of low value to Meta and declining, and posts with links to news articles are less than 3% of what people see in their Facebook feeds.

Congratulations to Anita Nowak, whose book Purposeful Empathy – Tapping Our Hidden Superpower for Personal, Organizational, and Social Change, with Foreword by Muhammad Yunus, will be launched next month.

Thank you, Sandy, for advising that ‘Lac-Megantic: This Is Not an Accident,’ From Oscar Nominee Philippe Falardeau, Debuts Trailer Ahead of Canneseries, Hot Docs Premieres

Since Marc Garneau’s departure, things are heating up in the race for the Liberal nomination in NDG-Westmount.
“I intend to seek the nomination to be the next Liberal Party of Canada candidate in the federal electoral district of Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Westmount. I am currently Vice President and General Counsel, Labour & Employment at Air Canada. I am also Past President of the Canadian Bar Association. I am a member of the Board of Governors of McGill University and of the Board of Directors of Finchley Pharmaceuticals Inc. Since 2018, I have also been a course lecturer at the Faculty of Law at McGill University. Fred Headon, CIC.C, Ad. E.

CAQ budget “out of touch” says NDG’s McGraw
The Official Opposition critic on Environment and Climate Change Désirée McGraw said the CAQ government’s budget is “out of touch.”
The [Quebec] budget released [on 21 March] is not aligned with what the scientific community is saying regarding the climate crisis, says the MNA for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, recalling that on Sunday the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest and most dire report yet.

Long reads
Ian Bremmer offers a cogent summary: Israel’s political crisis, explained Up-to-date -for now

This looks like  a fun read!
Need a consultant? This book argues hiring one might actually damage your institution. Beware, argue the authors of a new book. Besuited jetsetters, armed with prestigious degrees and powerpoint slides, have infiltrated governments and corporations around the world. They claim to offer valuable expertise and fresh ideas. But don’t be fooled! The consulting industry, the authors argue, is selling snake oil that is poisoning governments and distorting economies.
The book is by economists Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington, and it has one of those titles that really drives home the authors’ argument. It’s called The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens Our Businesses, Infantilizes Our Governments, and Warps Our Economies. It offers some provocative arguments against what you might call Big Consultant.

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