Wednesday Night #2180

Written by  //  December 27, 2023  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2180

Hanukkah and Christmas 2023 are now memories, as African American and Pan-African holiday Kwanzaa that celebrates history, values, family, community and culture takes their place.

For those of you not already subjected to my weeping and gnashing of teeth: As many of you know, I have for some year prided myself on my ability to craft evocative, thoughtful and/or entertaining Christmas messages – at least I thought they were.
Sadly, not this year
I was felled by the worst winter cold EVER! I still can only think straight with some difficulty as I sneeze, wheeze, cough and ache.
Did not have the energy to decorate the tree. Much difficulty concentrating on writing or even reading.
I missed out on some delightful festive gatherings and can only hope for a raincheck next year.
But with no family this year, I was free to wallow in my misery with only my faithful four-foot “Fellow” for company. He has been wonderfully sympathetic!

I have missed Christmas, the start of Kwanzaa is not auspicious, we can no longer count on Orthodox ‘Little Christmas’ as a fall-back, so I simply have to hope to be able to bounce back soon
and to share some thoughts with you about the parlous state of our world. With that excuse, I beg your indulgence for a somewhat haphazard last ‘prologue’ of WN 2023.
Meantime, I send loving greetings to you and yours, with wishes for happy whatever-you-celebrate, and above all, fervent prayers for a new and vastly improved 2024 filled with health, peace, joy and light.

Congratulations to Graeme Campbell whose latest movie (as director) Mom’s Christmas Boyfriend premiered on Lifetime December 23rd – not available outside U.S., unfortunately. Grame writes: “This was a blast to make with a wonderful script by Victoria Rose, a stellar cast led by Jeananne Goossen, Zack Smadu, and the precocious and amazing Ai Barrett.”

Félicitations also to Yvette Biondi whose book Guide sur les outils des relations publiques was published in late September.

Africa: Conflict and governance
The year has seen deterioration of governance in a number of African nations, aided and abetted by Russian disinformation campaigns and the presence of the Wagner Group in some countries. The year-end was marked by deplorable situations in Nigeria and DRC.
However all news from the continent is not bad. CNN highlights From railways to ports, these infrastructure megaprojects are reshaping Africa
See also From Lagos to London: Africa’s economic powerhouse makes historic debut at Lord Mayor’s Show

What to say about the Israel-Hamas conflict?
The world wants a respite for Gaza. Israel vows to keep fighting.
The U.N. Security Council has called for “urgent and extended” humanitarian pauses in Gaza to allow more aid into the enclave. The United States, Israel’s best friend, says it wants its ally to move from block-flattening airstrikes to operations that target Hamas leaders more precisely.
But in recent days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli military commanders have suggested that the level of violence with which they’re prosecuting the war — already among the most destructive of the century, and a source of regional instability — will persist or even intensify.
Israel widens offensive in central Gaza as Netanyahu refuses to discuss postwar plan
Security officials keen to arrange meeting as ‘time running out’, according to reports
Israeli Teen Jailed for Refusing to Take Part in Army’s ‘Criminal Attack’ on Gaza
“I believe that slaughter cannot solve slaughter,” said 18-year-old Tal Mitnick, who was sentenced to 30 days behind bars for refusing to participate in what a fellow draft resister called a “genocide” in Gaza.

The news that Jacques Delors, key architect of the European Union, [has died] at 98 reminds us that the strong European leaders of that era have not been replaced, nor are any heirs apparent in view.
As president of the European Commission, he helped fulfill the vision of a single E.U. market and currency
… In 1985, when European unity still appeared tenuous, Mr. Delors was appointed president of the Brussels-based European Commission with Mitterrand’s strong backing. Over the next 10 years, Mr. Delors came to exert more influence over the continent’s future than any president before or since.

As usual, much to discuss in the US political scene, but this stands out. If only it happened more often!
After Sandy Hook, they voted no. Now these senators want new gun laws.
Reflecting on a decade of mass killings and surging AR-15 sales, four current and three former senators recant some or all of their 2013 positions on gun laws in emotional interviews with The Post
It is rare for politicians to shift their views on policy issues as culturally divisive as gun rights. But the expressions of remorse underscore how the failure to change laws in response to Sandy Hook continues to haunt many who held power at the time — prompting some of them to openly wonder if they allowed short-term political considerations to cloud their judgment on votes that might have saved lives.

For sure, politicians of the CAQ persuasion do not change their minds. However, Robert Libman gives us hope in this creative reworking of two favorite Christmas pieces. If only …
Robert Libman: On the night before Christmas, a wish for Quebec
A classic poem reimagined.

The battle for minds -and money- waged by the CAQ government against Quebec’s English-language universities continues. Excellent interview We don’t have the means that McGill does’ |The Corner Booth (YouTube)
Aaron Rand, Bill Brownstein and Lesley Chesterman chat with Graham Carr – President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia University. Every time we hear from President Carr, we admire him more and more.
Chris Selley: Quebec’s English universities realize now they’re at war with the Legault government
The university [McGill] will simply make up the $3,000 proposed tuition hike with its own money

While McGill, Concordia and Bishop’s contend with the CAQ government’s relentless pursuit of its goal to destroy Quebec’s Anglo universities, ponder this: The World’s Global Classroom
‘University of the People’ offers tuition-free degrees for marginalized students across the globe
The University of the People bills itself as the first nonprofit, tuition-free, American-accredited online university. Thanks to technological developments and the acceptance of online learning, the nature of higher education is changing fast. But are the university’s 137,000 students from more than 200 countries, including the US, getting a quality education?

The Only Thing More Dangerous Than Authoritarianism
The forces of Christian nationalism are now ascendant both inside the Church and inside the Republican Party.
By Tim Alberta

81 Things That Blew Our Minds in 2023
Where The Atlantic’s Science, Technology, and Health reporters found wonder this year
Some samples:
Mars has seasons, and in the winter, it snows.
Bats are arguably the healthiest mammals on Earth.
Mammal milk changes depending on the time of day, a baby’s age and sex, the mom’s diet, and more.
The genetic mutation behind “Asian glow” might help protect people against certain pathogens—including tuberculosis.
The overwhelming majority of sweaters available on the American mass market are made at least partly of plastic.
In 2003, a NASA Investigation Board blamed the disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia in part on PowerPoint.
As much as 36 percent of the world’s annual carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are sequestered, at least temporarily, in fungi.
Mice and rats can’t vomit.
In the 1930s, the U.S. Army considered distributing daily rations of yerba mate to soldiers.

Musical Ride veteran Alaska will have his pick of greener pastures
Thanks to change in policy, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police can now divest horses from its Musical Ride program to members of the public. Currently, Alaska is the only horse in need of a new home, and RCMP riding master Sgt. Maj. Scott Williamson said over a thousand applications were received in just 24 hours.

The word we have needed (but are afraid to pronounce!) psithurism The sound of rustling leaves or wind in the trees. Standing in the glade I heard a quiet psithurism, just straddling the line between music and noise.

Just when we think we are appropriately politically correct
The checkered history of the poinsettia’s namesake and the flower’s origins get new attention.
… nearly 200 years after the plant with the bright crimson leaves was introduced in the U.S., attention is once again turning to the poinsettia’s origins and the checkered history of its namesake, a slaveowner and lawmaker who played a part in the forced removal of Native Americans from their land. Some people would now rather call the plant by the name of its Indigenous origin in southern Mexico.
…Among Nahuatl-speaking communities of Mexico, the plant is known as the cuetlaxochitl (kwet-la-SHO-sheet), meaning “flower that withers.”

Long reads
We can be heroes: the inspiring people we met around the world in 2023
From a karaoke-singing paramedic on a boat in Bangladesh to a proud campaigner for a queer museum in Namibia, these are some of the figures who raised our hopes for humanity
by Guardian reporters

Why universities warrant public investment: Preparing students for living together well
Jennifer S Simpson, Special Adviser to the President, EDID (Curriculum Transformation) and Professor, School of Professional Communication, Toronto Metropolitan University
(The Conversation) A recent report noting that funding for Ontario’s universities is “low when compared with support in other provinces” points to underfunding as a serious problem in the province’s post-secondary sector.
Funding quickly raises the question of value: what is it that universities offer that warrants public investment?
The Conversation Canada Education newsletter
It amazing to look back over 12 months at the range of educational research and analysis relevant to many dimensions of our lives.
Today in The Conversation Canada, Helena Osana and Vera Wagner of Concordia University with Jairo A. Navarrete-Ulloa of O’Higgins University write about how children learn about the meaning of multidigit numbers. It’s a neat example of research that considers what we might take for granted like the meaning of the number 27 (today’s date) or even 2024 (soon-to-be the year) and yields insight into the significant steps involved in learning.

What Comes Next in Gaza and Israel?
The Atlantic writers think through the possible futures that await the region.
Weeks after Hamas’s attacks on Israel, amid the ensuing war in Gaza, …Franklin Foer published an article titled “Tell Me How This Ends.” “The Israeli operation faces the same question that ultimately vexed the American project in Iraq,” he wrote: “What comes next?”
Two months later, the questions that Frank raised about the future of the region are no easier to answer, and the civilian death toll in Gaza continues to rise. I’ve come back to the guiding inquiry of Frank’s article many times in recent months: How does this end? The reading list below offers a range of perspectives from our writers about what could, or ought to, come next.

Fun is dead.
It’s become emphatic, exhausting, scheduled, hyped, forced and performative
Sometime in recent history, possibly around 2004, Americans forgot to have fun, true fun, as though they’d misplaced it like a sock.
Instead, fun evolved into work, sometimes more than true work, which is where we find ourselves now.

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