Wednesday Night #2196

Written by  //  April 17, 2024  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2196

Belated (by one day) Birthday greetings to Peter Frise!

Normally the Middle East would have been our continuing top story, however all other considerations in Canada -or at least Toronto, the center of the Canadian universe- have been blown away by the news of the Toronto Pearson gold heist: Multiple people charged in historic $20M theft, complete with inside people at Air Canada, cross-border arms dealing and cooperation with the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau. With arrests announced a year-to-the-day since the heist. Bravo U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau!

Iran, Israel and the Middle East
Media of all kinds has exploded with analyses and conjecture regarding the weekend’s events in the Middle East. Everyone has an opinion, most do not agree with either the pundits or one another – especially given Bibi as the wild card.
So what next?
Despite Allies’ Pleas
“We will make our own decisions,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rebuffing European diplomats’ requests to stand down.
European diplomats traveled to Israel on Wednesday to make one more plea for restraint in response to the aerial attack that Iran launched this weekend, but Britain’s foreign secretary acknowledged that an Israeli reprisal seemed inevitable.
One intriguing , but far too reasonable, suggestion comes from The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood in A Before-and-After Moment in the Middle East Israel, over the past several years, has created what turns out to be a pretty durable and effective alliance with the governments of Arab states in the region. We’re talking about Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Without those states, the prospects for having only one casualty in Israel from the Iranian attack would have been nil. That means that there’s gratitude to be doled out to those states, and there are compromises that can be made as part of that expression of gratitude. … Among the things that they could have considered are creative solutions that would have involved these Arab allies who have populations, as well as governments, who are not thrilled by what they’re seeing in Gaza. And in the past 24 hours, Israel’s need for those countries has been demonstrated. It’s a moment where a trusted, courageous leader could step in and perhaps create some kind of change in policy that would allow the Gaza war to, if not conclude, then come closer to its conclusion.
Also worth considering: What was Iran thinking? Maybe not what you think. by Jason Rezaian, who served as The Post’s correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016. He spent 544 days unjustly imprisoned by Iranian authorities until his release in January 2016.

Our friend Uday Bhaskar writes from India
How domestic politics in Israel, Iran and America could determine scale of conflict after the Saturday bombing
…There are many imponderables, including that of non-state entities (Hamas and Hezbollah among others) entering the fray that could lead to an unexpected and rapid spiral of macro violence, resulting in a wider inter-state war. This exigency would have grave implications for regional stability and global geopolitics.

One effect of the weekend’s events has been further undermining of US congressional support for the desperately needed aid to Ukraine. MAGA is using Israel to undermine Ukraine, harming them both and Speaker Johnson is NOT coping well. He declined to simply call a vote on the Senate-passed $95 billion package, which would easily pass the House and reach President Biden’s desk immediately. Rather, with his job on the line, he said he expected Saturday evening votes on the long-stalled package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and other American allies.

Meanwhile, Ukraine waits for help as Russia advances
…the grinding battles over cities like Bakhmut and Avdiivka are expanding to other towns in the Donetsk region, and Ukraine’s depleted air defenses leave its cities increasingly vulnerable to Russian attack. Slow but steady gains come at great cost to Russian lives and equipment – both sides have seen tens of thousands of soldiers killed and hundreds of thousands wounded – but Russia has deeper reserves of both men and munitions. The BBC confirms that, thanks to its so-called meat grinder strategy, Russia’s military death toll in Ukraine has now passed the 50,000 mark.

Sudan’s Most Horrible Year
April 15 was the one-year anniversary of Sudan’s civil war and the single largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The conflict accelerates, the humanitarian crisis is worsening — all while most of the world’s attention is firmly focused elsewhere.
World leaders are gathering in Paris this week to revive stalled fundraising efforts to support humanitarian relief in Sudan, which thus far is pitifully underfunded. The UN and humanitarian relief agencies are seeking $2.7 billion for emergency relief efforts to support displaced and hungry Sudanese. In a galling display of apathy, aid agencies have thus far only been able to raise less than 6% towards that funding goal.

On Wednesday two important elections in small countries on opposite sides of the globe.
Voters in the Solomon Islands will vote in a parliamentary election on Wednesday that has repercussions for the Asia Pacific region due to the country’s close relationship with China. … But for most Solomon Islanders, the election is less about China and more about the economy. The 900 islands are rich in natural resources but rank just 155 out of 199 countries in the UN Human Development Index, which many blame on the government’s economic mismanagement and corruption.
WN is fortunate to have its very own expert on Small and Pacific Island States.
Cleo Paskal believes that it may take a while for outcomes to be clear and looks forward to further analysis and discussion in a couple of weeks. Meantime, read her pre-election commentary PRC shadow looms as the Solomons head for election.
While in Croatia, the governing center-right Croatian Democratic Union party, or HDZ, led by Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, an outspoken populist which has held power almost continuously since Croatia’s independence in 1991, is facing a stiff challenge from a center-left coalition led by the Social Democrat Party (DCZ) whose leader, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, has warned that Milanovic wants to drag Croatia into “the Russian world.”
The HDZ’s platform is largely pro-EU and pro-NATO, and it supports backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
India‘s 6-week-long general elections start on 19 April, but results are to be announced only on 4 June. Gwynne Dyer warns:
“‘Hindutva’, the aggressive modern version of Hindu nationalism, is largely a contemporary ideology created for political purposes, but it currently dominates the Indian political scene. It has given Modi licence to transform an imperfect but functional democracy into a ‘soft’ fascist state.
This will be Modi’s third consecutive term in office, and many Indians believe that it will complete his transformation of the country. What will emerge, they fear, is a BJP one-party theocracy, nastier than Orban’s Hungary or Erdoğan’s Turkey although perhaps not as vicious as Khamenei’s Iran.”

15-20 April
The Spring Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG)
Global economy is growing but may be headed for trouble, IMF saysWeak productivity means pace could slow between now and 2030 See also Lawrence H. Summers and N.K. Singh in Long reads.

Tony Deutsch called to our attention the news that we had missed:
Daniel Kahneman, Who Plumbed the Psychology of Economics, Dies at 90
He helped pioneer a branch of the field that exposed hard-wired mental biases in people’s economic behavior. The work led to a Nobel. … Professor Kahneman, who was long associated with Princeton University and lived in Manhattan, employed his training as a psychologist to advance what came to be called behavioral economics. … As opposed to traditional economics, which assumes that human beings generally act in fully rational ways and that any exceptions tend to disappear as the stakes are raised, the behavioral school is based on exposing hard-wired mental biases that can warp judgment, often with counterintuitive results.
We feel sure that Ron Meisels will disagree with this thesis.

Whilst not having the global impact of IMF and World Bank pronouncements, after a major campaign of ‘revelations’, Chrystia Freeland tabled the 2024 Federal Budget on Tuesday, and in numerous interviews outlined how the Liberals plan to allocate $39.2 billion in net-new spending, while upholding the intended fiscal guardrails. It’s likely to be a balancing act worthy of the Cirque de soleil.
Value judgement Tuesday’s As It Happens featured an interview with Don Drummond whose review of the Budget was both scathing and entertaining.
Another note: QCGN feels let down by federal budget slightWhile francophone official minority-language communities received special mention in a number of areas, including support for French-language film production and references to supporting official-language minority communities outside Quebec, we heard no mention of the English-speaking official-language minority community here in Quebec.

Andrew Caddell met with Antoine Dionne-Charest and came away impressed. “The fluently bilingual Dionne-Charest is a lecturer at Université de Montréal, where he is finishing a doctoral thesis. While he has no interest in the vacant leadership post, he makes no bones about his intent to run for a seat in the National Assembly.” This week’s column Is there another Charest in the Quebec Liberals’ Future? briefly summarizes the younger Charest’s emergence in Quebec politics including his participation in the QLP Reflection and Consultation Committee whose 97-page report called for a written Quebec Constitution, a comprehensive reform of French-language education, a basic income, economic initiatives and Senate reform.

Thursday, 18 April
Seeking Asylum: Building a Shareable World.
5 pm
Kyle Matthews advises that MIGS and the Chaire Raoul Dandurand at UQAM are co-hosting the event. Speakers will be Toula Drimonis (author), Flavia Leiva (Volunteering Coordinator, Welcome Collective), and Prof. Elisabeth Vallet (UQAM). You can register here.

Thursday, 25 April
Run, don’t walk to Concordia’s De Sève Cinema for the Canadian premiere of John Curtin‘s labour of love THE TRIALS OF ALAN DERSHOWITZ – 5 years in the making!
Alan Dershowitz, one of the only surviving (Where Are They Now) members of the legal team that helped O.J. Simpson get an acquittal, has courted controversy by helping the late hedge fund manager and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein win a lenient sentence. He was also part of President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team that ended with his acquittal.
Watch the trailer
Please get tickets quickly as there are only 160 seats.

Congratulations Christopher Neal, who has been elected president of McGill Community for Lifelong Learning (MCLL), the volunteer-led effort that delivers about a hundred study groups a year, in-person, online and hybrid. It’s $125 per semester to join up to two study groups. Perhaps you’d like to join? Registration for Spring semester opened 2 April.

McGill ranks among world’s best universities in QS rankings by subject
University trends upward across annual rankings with more subjects in global Top 20, 50, and 100 than ever before
The rankings are based on five indicators, including academic and employer reputation, research citations per paper, H-index (which measures productivity and citation impact of the publications of a scientist or scholar), and international research network.

Good reads (books)
Judi Dench gets chatty and cheeky about Shakespeare
Part intimate memoir, part insightful commentary, Dench’s book, written with Brendan O’Hea, shows how the Dame and the Bard make a winning combination
Posthumous memoir by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to be published Oct. 22
Before He Died in Prison, Aleksei Navalny Wrote a Memoir. It’s Coming This Fall.
In the book, Navalny tells his story in his own words, chronicling his life, his rise as an opposition leader, and the attempts on his life.

Climate Change varia
Cloud seeding probably didn’t cause Dubai’s floods. The UAE has been trying to control its weather for years, and the US does it too.
Historic floods in Dubai didn’t come from cloud seeding, but humans’ climate impacts are playing a role.
Dubai Grinds to Standstill as Cloud Seeding Worsens Flooding
Seeding planes used to take advantage of low pressure system
Heavy rain disrupts transport systems and closes UAE schools
Canada and Quebec are preparing for another heavy forest fire season
Federal and provincial officials say another severe fire season is possible, and preparations are underway but climate change is the cause.
And some good news about a local initiative
This Concordia PhD student is turning Montreal balconies into biodiversity hotspots
Nicole Yu partners with local residents to boost the population of monarch butterflies and other pollinators
How can we better harness the green potential of urban spaces? For Concordia PhD student Nicole Yu, the answer came in the form of the Balcony Garden Project. It’s a participatory science initiative that invites residents across select Montreal boroughs to transform their balconies into vibrant habitats for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Long reads
A VERY long read, highly recommended
The impact of Iran’s attack on Israel
Brookings scholars offer their insights following Iran’s drone and missile attack against Israel on April 13, 2024. Their responses provide [a wide range of] perspectives on the implications for various actors as well as a range of policy issues.
The World Is Still on Fire
Lawrence H. Summers and N.K. Singh: Setting aside the complex problem of climate change for a moment, world leaders haven’t even been able to tackle the simplest, most straightforward challenges. War, inflation, and poor governance have brought some of the poorest people – including in Chad, Haiti, Sudan, and Gaza – to the brink of famine, yet the international response has been slow and muted.
Although not a major issue in Wednesday’s elections, Bloomberg notes that Migration Looms Large Over Year of Elections and is “influencing the debate in some surprising locations and in unpredictable ways”.
Politico Ottawa Playbook -always an entertaining read- goes to town on the budget outlook in Tuesday’s Sharp tongues and wishful thinking which, by the way mentions that “[Global Affairs Minister Melanie] Joly has yet to visit China since her appointment as foreign minister in late 2021. She arrives in Capri, Italy today for the first of two G7 foreign ministers meetings this year. Joly is the only G7 foreign minister to have not visited China in the past year.”
The New Rules of Political Journalism
In this election, the reporting strategies of the past will not be enough.
Lest we need reminding, this year’s election features a candidate who incited an insurrection, called for terminating sections of the Constitution, was found liable for what a federal judge says was “rape” as it is commonly understood, faces 88 felony charges, and—I’m tempted to add “etcetera” here, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? The volume and enormity of it all is impossible to take in.
The man is neither a riddle nor an enigma. He lays it all out there: his fawning over the world’s authoritarians, his threats to abandon our allies, his contempt for the rule of law, his intention to use the federal government as an instrument of retribution. Journalists must be careful not to give in to what Brian Klaas has called the “Banality of Crazy.” As I’ve written in the past, there have been so many outrages and so many assaults on decency that it’s easy to become numbed by the cascade of awfulness.

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