Wednesday Night #2163

Written by  //  August 30, 2023  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2163

NOT a happy anniversary:
On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans, as a Category 3 hurricane; Katrina was among the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States. Hurricane Idalia hit the Florida Gulf coast as a Category 3 storm on Wednesday morning and moved east to threaten Savannah and Charleston with high water.
Aside from immediate worries about loss of life, income, and destruction of property, the increasing number of climate-related natural disasters is raising risks of financial disaster for home owners, insurers and bankers.
Dramatic climate action needed to curtail ‘crazy’ extreme weather
Heatwaves, wildfires and floods are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, leading climate scientists say
Heat and wildfire records have been broken around the world in 2023, from North America, to Europe, to Asia. … Climate models have accurately predicted the rise in global temperature as humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions have surged. But numerous scientists highlighted the particular difficulty they have in projecting extreme weather events, which are by definition rare.

Lovers of CBC radio will know that after a remarkable 33-year run Eleanor Wachtel is retiring and Writers & Company is ending. As she does so, she presents ten of her favourite episodes from the show’s archive.
We are exceptionally partial to his body of work and therefore delighted that her selection includes her 2017 interview with the late John le Carré on his legacy as a spy-turned-novelist.
What a pity he is no longer with us to write the/his definitive interpretation of the past week’s events surrounding the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin. Hard to believe that it was only last Wednesday that breaking news informed us of the fatal plane crash (Jet believed to be carrying Wagner boss Prigozhin crashes in Russia), whose victims, we are now assured by Russian investigators included Yevgeny Prigozhin. Sceptics abound.

New proverb:
Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer to the open skies or windows.
At the Aspen Security Forum in July, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of Russia having an “open windows” policy —

Meanwhile, the future of the -now leaderless- Wagner forces is an important geopolitical consideration. Most likely outcome?  Something along the lines of  Richard Kemp’s analysis:  “Those predicting the decline of Russian influence in Africa after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s suspected assassination could not be more wrong. Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, is right to think that, under Putin’s direct control, Wagner will become even more effective – and more dangerous. He was talking about the threat in Eastern Europe, but the same applies elsewhere in the world, especially Africa where Wagner has fuelled instability, bolstered authoritarian regimes and plundered natural resources.” (Putin has just become even more dangerous)

It has been some time since there has been any encouraging news about U.S.-China relations, however Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s recent trip to Beijing and Shanghai does appear to have struck some positive notes US Commerce Secretary Raimondo offers China more dialogue at ‘very open’ talks in Beijing.

Quote of the week: Georgia Republican Says Trump Has “Moral Compass” of “Ax Murderer”
As just about everyone in the world knows, Donald Trump surrendered last Thursday in Atlanta in connection with his Georgia indictment. Much has been made of some of the other prominent names indicted along with him; including former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis. One less well-known name is of far greater interest to Canadians: Mike Roman. (See Long reads, below) Reddit notes: Conservatives are wiping ALL mentions of co-conspirator Mike Roman charged in trump indictments from their websites. Mike Roman worked for their campaign and co-chair to Stephen Harper. (Thank you, Donna Logan)
Much has been and will be written -and spoken- about the frightening ideological rift between the Trump faction and the remainder of the American population. With Doug Sweet and some others, we hope to bring you regular reports on the thinking of the pundits and experts with respect to the prospects for democracy, good governance and justice in this fraught election run-up. For starters, we would like to point to Kyle Matthews’ recent piece in Policy Magazine The Global Stakes for Human Rights in America’s Election (See below – Long reads)
The link to the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is obvious.
‘I Have a Dream,’ Yesterday and Today
At the March on Washington, where thousands gathered on Saturday to renew the call for equality, participants reflected on Martin Luther King’s historic speech and its themes in the present.
Sixty years ago, on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1963, a crowd of 250,000 filled the National Mall in Washington and heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. As NPR reports, (Thousands march to mark the 60th anniversary of MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech) “On Saturday, tens of thousands of people gathered in that same spot to declare that dream was in jeopardy — that America had slid backwards in its fight against hatred and bigotry”.

Free and fair elections?
The popular will is thwarted again in Thailand
On Tuesday, more than three months after a decisive election, Thailand finally has a new prime minister — but it’s not the winner of the election.
Soldiers in Gabon say they’ve seized power and appointed the republican guard chief as head of state
(AP) — The coup leaders said in an announcement on Gabon’s state TV that Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema had been “unanimously” designated president of a transitional committee to lead the country.
Oligui is the cousin of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who earlier Wednesday had been declared the winner of the country’s presidential election in a victory that appeared to extend his family’s 55-year rule in the oil-rich nation.
Zimbabwe opposition calls for re-run of elections and African mediation – President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF was declared the winner in the vote late on Saturday. ZANU-PF denies that it tried to influence the outcome, and Mnangagwa has urged those with complaints about the results to approach the courts.

As previously noted, Canada is suffering from a housing crisis which is increasingly linked to the national immigration policy and, in particular, the 900,000 international students who are to be welcomed this year (Integrity of immigration system at risk as international student numbers balloon, minister says.) Problems are not limited to influxes of international students nor to urban centres – see Nunavik housing shortage – The far-reaching impacts on education
These two problematic portfolios are now being managed by competent ministers who have only recently (Marc Miller on an abrupt job change) been given their new respective mandates. We do not envy them.
With only three weeks until Parliament resumes sitting, the outlook for the Trudeau government is not rosy.
Paul Wells: The shuffle and the cabinet retreat didn’t work. Now what?
…as their manoeuvring room and novelty wear off, incumbent leaders can usually offer compensating virtues: their experience and wisdom. Sure, he’s less exciting than before, but now he’s a surer hand.
Unfortunately, for that to work you need to be a surer hand.

As we follow the news of wildfires in NWT and BC – with other slightly less dramatic -for now- cases across the country, even taking into account her political agenda, Jen Gerson’s long piece I asked some questions about our disaster response plans about Canada’s disaster preparedness, makes for a disturbing read and reminder that Canada needs a coordinating body, similar to the US FEMA.  This is not just a Fed problem, it requires a concerted effort between all levels of government and across the nation. But, the Fed should take the lead in consultation with the numerous on-the-ground experts.

The only logical solution to a disgracefully neglected issue
Ottawa looking to drop 24 Sussex and build new home for PM elsewhere: sources
The residence at 24 Sussex is in a state of disrepair after decades of neglect, and the grounds are simply too small to meet modern security standards, several sources and experts have told Radio-Canada.

Andrew Caddell has been busy. This week’s column StatsCan isn’t doing Quebec’s Anglophones any favours dissects two recent reports from StatsCan: “Key facts on the English language in Quebec in 2021” and “Key Facts about the French language in Ontario in 2021.”
Andy Riga’s Tuesday column Bill 96 lawsuit argues French is growing in Quebec, not declining is dedicated to the crowd-funded lawsuit [“Caddell et al versus Attorney-General of Quebec and Attorney-General of Canada”] against Bill 96 that had its first hearing at Quebec Superior Court on Tuesday.

AI, Society & Technology
In case you have not been paying attention, a reminder to read
The AI Power Paradox
Can States Learn to Govern Artificial Intelligence—Before It’s Too Late?
Ian Bremmer and Mustafa Suleyman
Murdered by My Replica?
Margaret Atwood responds to the revelation that pirated copies of her books are being used to train AI.
“Remember The Stepford Wives? Maybe not. In that 1975 horror film, the human wives of Stepford, Connecticut, are having their identities copied and transferred to robotic replicas of themselves, minus any contrariness that their husbands find irritating. The robot wives then murder the real wives and replace them. Better sex and better housekeeping for the husbands, death for the uniqueness, creativity, and indeed the humanity of the wives.”
Stephen King: My Books Were Used to Train AI
One prominent author responds to the revelation that his writing is being used to coach artificial intelligence.

The Blurb Problem Keeps Getting Worse
Publishing has come to depend on fawning endorsements, but not every title can be electrifying, essential, and revelatory.

There is something awfully wrong with this picture!
France has too much wine. It’s paying millions to destroy the leftovers.
France is about to destroy enough wine to fill more than 100 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Ruining so much wine may sound ludicrous, but there’s a straightforward economic reason this is happening: Making wine is getting more expensive due in part to recent world events, and people are drinking less of it. That has left some producers with a surplus that they cannot price high enough to make a profit.
The impacts of COVID and the high cost of living have contributed to the country’s wine industry woes. But across Europe, wine consumption has also decreased. A contributing factor could be high inflation that increasing food and drink prices, leaving consumers to buy fewer bottles while production remains strong, Bloomberg reported.

Long reads
Civil rights leaders seek energy of original movement at March on Washington’s 60th anniversary

Jeremy Kinsman: A US Election Like No Other
This US presidential election prompts in America and abroad unprecedented degrees of anxiety. The stakes could not be higher, including for America’s image and influence internationally.

The Global Stakes for Human Rights in America’s Election
In an ever-interconnected world, the political choices made by the United States reverberate far beyond its borders. As discussions about a potential re-election bid by former President Donald Trump emerge as he is battling criminal charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election, it’s crucial to assess the possible implications for human rights on a global scale. Trump’s past actions and decisions, including personal friendships with dictators, withdrawal from international organizations tasked with upholding human rights, attacks on journalists and the media, and threats to established alliances, raise concerns about the future of human rights and stability worldwide. Particularly worrisome is the context of rising authoritarian alliances, where the US’s role as a powerful democracy is essential in countering the threat posed by countries such as China and Russia.

Is Canada Really So Immigrant-Friendly?
Trudeau’s ambitious plan to increase immigration is facing pushback from the left and right.
Since 2019, the Canadian government has resettled more refugees than any other country, with little public backlash. So in November, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to expand immigration, it seemed like a politically savvy move. Since Trudeau took office in 2015, immigration has already increased from around 300,000 to 400,000 new residents per year.

An issue we have raised for years without seeing any improvements in the situation
Canada’s underemployed economic immigrants: How to stop wasting talent
As Canada plans to attract more skilled immigrants to fill gaps in the labour force and support the economy, better use of their skills and integration of this talent are becoming more crucial. Their prosperity means generations of benefits to come.

While Canada frets (rightly) over the housing crisis, we ask whether anyone shares these concerns:
How the ‘urban doom loop’ could pose the next economic threat
A commercial real estate apocalypse — especially in midsize cities — could spiral into the broader economy
The Remote Work Revolution: Impact on Real Estate Values and the Urban Environment

Stephen Harper Heads a Global Org That Helps Get Right-Wing Parties Elected. What Will It Do for Andrew Scheer? The Tyee gives background on the International Democratic Union and its treasurer, one Mike Roman, also a former employee of the Koch Brothers and now one of those indicted in Georgia.

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