Wednesday Night #2199

Written by  //  May 8, 2024  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2199

8 May 1945 – Victory in Europe (VE) Day
Great Britain, the United States and other Allied countries celebrate Victory in Europe Day. Cities in the U.S., U.K., and Western Europe, along with in the Soviet Union, Canada and Australia put out flags and banners… Pockets of German-Soviet confrontation would continue into the next day. On May 9, the Soviets would lose 600 more soldiers in Silesia before the Germans finally surrendered. Consequently, V-E Day was not celebrated until the ninth in Moscow, with a radio broadcast salute from Stalin himself: “The age-long struggle of the Slav nations… has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over.”
Will our world ever again know the euphoria of that celebration?

Vladimir Putin & Russia
World-wide coverage of Putin’s fifth inauguration on Tuesday (7 May) ranged from scrutiny of the guest list to skeptical overview as in Politico’s Russia’s Vladimir Putin was sworn in as president again on Tuesday in a stage-managed ceremony eerily similar to previous efforts.
Triumphal Putin was inaugurated on Tuesday for his fifth term as Russian president in a ceremony that highlighted his quarter-century grip on power in Russia.
For the occasion, The WaPo published an extensive, in-depth series “Russia, Remastered” (see Long reads)

China, Europe and geopolitics
Meanwhile, Putin’s some-of-the-time good buddy Xi is visiting Europe for the first time since 2019. He first met with Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen whose objective was to persuade Xi to reduce trade imbalances and to use his influence with Russia over the war in Ukraine. He then continued his trip to Serbia and Hungary, both good friends to China.
The Guardian’s Diplomatic editor, Patrick Wintour, suggests that China angles for Gaza mediation role to expand influence in Middle East
Beijing joined France in urging Israel against Rafah offensive in latest effort to make its diplomatic mark – not that it had much impact.

Israel, Palestine/Gaza/Hamas
With an exquisite sense of timing, two days after World Press Freedom Day, Israel ordered the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close Sunday (Israel orders Al Jazeera to close its local operation and seizes some of its equipment), escalating a long-running feud between the broadcaster and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government as Doha-mediated cease-fire negotiations with Hamas hang in the balance.
On Wednesday, Battles rage around Rafah after US halts some weapons to Israel and Washington said it had held up a shipment of powerful bombs to Israel to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties.
US signals to Israel more arms shipments could be paused over Rafah offensive
The United States, which aims to stave off a full Israeli invasion of Rafah, said it believes a revised Hamas ceasefire proposal may lead to a breakthrough in an impasse in negotiations, with talks resuming in Cairo on Wednesday.
Don’t hold your breath.

U.S. politics
Starting with the good news:
Mike Johnson Survives [Representative Marjorie Taylor] Greene’s Ouster Attempt as Democrats Join G.O.P. to Kill It
Republicans and Democrats banded together to block a motion by the right-wing Georgia congresswoman to remove the speaker. … Ms. Greene, who had supported Mr. McCarthy as speaker, found herself on a political island. Only 11 Republicans voted in favor of moving forward with a vote on ousting Mr. Johnson.
A useful primer
In May 7, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson carefully dissects the criminal trial for falsifying business records case against Trump for the uninitiated, underlining that “The case is not about sex but about business records.” She continues: “The other election-related cases involving Trump indict him for his determination to cling to power after voters had turned him out in 2020. This case, from before he took office, illuminates that his willingness to manipulate election processes was always part of his approach to politics.”
With six months to go, the US election is more unpredictable than ever
Depending on the expert, either Biden or Trump is likely to pull ahead, but this election race is playing out in an unstable landscape
Larry Jacobs, director of the center for the study of politics and governance at the University of Minnesota, said: “It’s almost impossible to imagine Biden winning when you start stacking up the case against him. The economy appears to be in decline with high inflation. You’ve got signs of the Democratic coalition fraying, including the extraordinary protests and arrests of youth on college campuses, the backlash among Arab Americans with regards to Gaza.
“You put that together and it’s like, how could Biden win? And then you turn to Trump and it’s, how could a candidate who’s openly running on defying the will of voters win? It’s just an incomprehensible set of choices.”
Shall we agree to put aside the happily brief Kristi Noem chapter in the Republican saga? The ‘puppy killer’ appears to have alienated everyone including Donald Trump.
Meanwhile news items around RFK Jr. continue to be either bizarre
R.F.K. Jr. Says Doctors Found a Dead Worm in His Brain
The presidential candidate has faced previously undisclosed health issues, including a parasite that he said ate part of his brain.
or alarming
RFK Jr’s ‘history lesson’ on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine flunks the fact test
A line-by-line dissection shows he’s often echoing Russian talking points.

What happens if a US presidential candidate dies?
… If Biden, as the sitting president, were suddenly unable to serve, either through incapacity or death, the vice-president, Kamala Harris, would immediately assume the powers of the presidency under the 25th amendment. But replacing Biden or Trump as their party’s presumptive nominees for president – a prospect that is entirely hypothetical – is more complicated. In the event of an unforeseen vacancy, party rules, state and federal election laws and the US constitution would guide what would undoubtedly be a messy process.

We have recently been made aware of a thoughtful blog In the Crosshairs by Eduardo del Buey, president of Crosshairs Communications. He is a former Canadian diplomat, a former deputy spokesperson for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and former spokesperson and director of communications and media relations for the Secretaries-General of the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
His most recent Canada: Right or Left? echoes the dilemma of many thoughtful Canadian voters.

a first world problem:
Unions vow to fight Ottawa over rule requiring federal workers in office three days a week
Union leaders have cast the policy change as an ill-conceived, and unfair effort to push workers back into ill-equipped offices (??)  to satisfy mayors and premiers.
Former journalist Joyce Napier named Canada’s ambassador to the Vatican
Quebec politics in upheaval as PQ jumps ahead in polls, Legault’s popularity drops
(iPolitics)Marc-André Bodet, a Université Laval political science professor, says Legault, like Trudeau, Biden and Macron, whose popularity was based more on their personal appeal than their party platforms, are suffering now because of factors they cannot control, namely the cost of living.

Long-ago Wednesday Nighter, Joyce Napier is headed to the Vatican as Canada’s new ambassador.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly announced Napier’s appointment and says she will work to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the new role.
She is the only person to have been a parliamentary bureau chief for both an English and a French network. Napier’s biography says she was born in Montreal and raised in Rome before moving back to Canada as a young woman. She speaks French, English and Italian along with some Spanish and Arabic.
A score-settling book by Brian Mulroney is being kept under wraps
In 2007, former prime minister Brian Mulroney published a mammoth memoir. … But there was an extraordinary omission in the volume. Not a single word about … the Airbus scandal and his receiving at least $225,000 in cash-stuffed envelopes from Karlheinz Schreiber, a German-Canadian lobbyist.
“I will deal with this extraordinary abuse of a citizen’s rights and the attempt to destroy a former prime minister of Canada,” he wrote “in another book at another time.”
Though very few know it, Mr. Mulroney, who died in February, did write that book. It’s not yet published. It might never be published.

Campus demonstrations continue
Andrew Caddell‘s always timely Hill Times column The Right to Protest Doesn’t Come without Consequences (read on Facebook) “The concept of civil disobedience is as old as time itself. The early Greek philosophers grappled with it. In the nascent stages of democracy, the question was: should the authority of the majority always be respected?
In the 19th century, Henry David Thoreau coined the phrase in his essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience in refusing to pay his taxes for wars and slavery. Mahatma Gandhi undertook unlawful activities against the British in India many times. Martin Luther King Jr. led civil rights protesters in marches that broke the law. And Saul Alinsky counselled leftists on how to develop strategies that defied the authorities.
But in each of these actions, it was acknowledged breaking the law meant consequences. Indeed for many, going to jail was a badge of honour. As protests and occupations have taken over Canadian streets and university campuses of late, this is pertinent to issues of free speech and the right to protest.”

Olympic torch begins journey across France after festive welcome in port city of Marseille, where a majestic three-mast ship carrying the Olympic torch arrived from Greece ahead of a welcoming ceremony at sunset Wednesday. Paris Games organizers promised “fantastic” celebrations in the city, where the Old Port has been placed under high security. The torch was lit in Greece last month before it was officially handed to France. It left Athens aboard a ship named Belem, which was first used in 1896, and spent 12 days at sea.
More than a thousand boats will accompany the Belem’s parade around the Bay of Marseille. The ship will dock on a pontoon that looks like an athletics track in the Old Port. The welcoming ceremony at dusk on Wednesday will include a demonstration by the jets of the Patrouille de France, the acrobatic team of the French air force.

Scientists discover sperm whale ‘phonetic alphabet’
Study reveals whale clicks make up building blocks of language, pointing to potential parallels with human society.
Scientists studying sperm whales have discovered that they communicate through a sort of “phonetic alphabet”, enabling them to build a rough equivalent of what humans refer to as words and phrases.
The study, published on Tuesday, involved sperm whales living around the Caribbean island of Dominica, describing how they communicate by squeezing air through their respiratory systems to make rapid clicks resembling Morse code, with sets of the noises making up the basic building blocks of language.

World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5C target
Exclusive: Planet is headed for at least 2.5C of heating with disastrous results for humanity, poll of hundreds of scientists finds
Hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists expect global temperatures to rise to at least 2.5C (4.5F) above preindustrial levels this century, blasting past internationally agreed targets and causing catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet, an exclusive Guardian survey has revealed.
Almost 80% of the respondents, all from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), foresee at least 2.5C of global heating, while almost half anticipate at least 3C (5.4F). Only 6% thought the internationally agreed 1.5C (2.7F) limit would be met.
Many of the scientists envisage a “semi-dystopian” future, with famines, conflicts and mass migration, driven by heatwaves, wildfires, floods and storms of an intensity and frequency far beyond those that have already struck.

Long reads
“Russia, Remastered” Under Putin, a militarized new Russia rises to challenge U.S. and the West
Should India take from the rich, give the poor? A new election flashpoint
As India enters the second half of its giant election, wealth distribution has emerged as a central campaign faultline — and a battering ram for PM Modi to target the opposition.
A 600-Year-Old Blueprint for Weathering Climate Change
During the Little Ice Age, Native North Americans devised whole new economic, social, and political structures.
What if, instead of doubling down on the ways we have been living, we were to do what 13th- and 14th-century Native North Americans did, and develop more balanced and inclusive economic, social, and political systems to fit our changing climate? What if we put our highest priority on spreading prosperity and distributing decision making more broadly? It sounds unprecedented, but it has happened before.

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