Wednesday Night #2204

Written by  //  June 12, 2024  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #2204

Week-long celebrations, ceremonies and evocation of memories in the presence of today’s leaders of the WWII allies and the dwindling number of veterans appropriately commemorated the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The exception was British PM Rishi Sunak who left the ceremonies early to do a political interview. NOT well received. How could he?

From 6 to 9 June, European Union citizens voted in the 2024 European Parliament elections whose not-unexpected result was a noticeable -but not disastrous- far-right surge, most acutely felt in France and Germany. See Long reads Europe is beset by global threats.
One consequence: Macron dissolves French National Assembly, calls for elections after thrashing in EU vote
The vote will take place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7 – the second round just three days after the British election.

Jeremy Kinsman reviews the outcomes of the European Parliament vote and concludes that “the leader with enhanced stature is the diminutive but daring Prime Minister of Italy, Georgia Meloni, [who] has made her government both pro-Brussels…and pro-Ukraine. … This week, Meloni will host the G-7, whose embattled leaders look at re-election struggles as a potential end of their political rides (don’t even think about poor UK PM Sunak). They will look at PM Meloni with admiration, and as the proof that Europe will survive all this.” Have Europeans Fallen for the Anti-Democratic Right?
Unlikely allies: Von der Leyen and Meloni’s potential partnership
(GZERO media) As the dust settles from last weekend’s EU Parliament elections, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is holding all the cards, and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is preparing to kiss the ring.

Would we could be as optimistic about the on-going Israel-Hamas war.
Outrage over ‘massacre’ in Gaza as Israel rescued four hostages
In the wake of Israel’s deadly operation, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken continues to push for the adoption of the U.S. cease-fire proposal, but says some of Hamas’ proposed changes to a cease-fire plan in Gaza are workable and some not.

Italy hosts the 50th G7 Summit meeting this week (13-15 June) with a full agenda to be discussed by a Who’s Who of world leaders, including Pope Francis, who will be speaking on AI.
Why G7 leaders are turning to a special guest — Pope Francis — for advice on AI
For everything [else] you need to know:  G7 Puglia summit: Participants, agenda and key issues explained

Heather Cox Richardson June 10, 2024
The lede we never expected to read: Former president Trump met with a New York City probation officer today for a pre-sentencing interview. They met over video for a first step in the sentencing process, in which an officer assesses the convicted criminal’s living situation, finances, mental health, addiction, and criminal record.
Concurrently, Hunter Biden was found guilty of federal gun violations. While commentators generally agree that the verdict will not reflect on President Biden politically, there is worry about the toll the verdict will take on him personally. There will be boundless commentary on Hunter Biden, for the moment we will restrict ourselves to Virginia Heffernan’s Hunter Fits Right In I don’t know about you, but for old times’ sake I love having a prodigal kid like Billy Carter, Cameron Reagan, Roger Clinton, and Jenna Bush in the picture. and add Byron‘s reminder “Don’t forget the Trump kids, most notably Ivanka and Jared, with the Trump non-profit court decision and now the takeover of the RNC treasury by Laura Trump.”

Andrew Caddell‘s column targets Madwa-Nika Cadet, Enrico Ciccone, Monsef Derraji, André Fortin, Brigitte Garceau, Greg Kelley, Jennifer Maccarone, Désirée McGraw, Elizabeth Prass, Michelle Setlakwe, all Quebec Liberal Party Members of the Quebec National Assembly (MNAs), elected in predominantly Anglophone ridings in the Montreal area.
They recently supported a National Assembly resolution that said “the National Assembly firmly reject all statements that Québec would be stronger as an officially bilingual State” and proceeds to emphasize “Québec’s rich history…to defend…the vitality of its only official language, French.”
Andrew argues “In one simple resolution, the National Assembly erased the contributions of English-speaking Quebecers over centuries. For the 1.25 million current English-speaking Quebecers, their representatives failed to speak up for their community, its values and history.”

City matters
We will restrain ourselves from any comment regarding the Peel Street terrasses SNAFU, but remind everyone involved that Valerie Plante is not only Mayor of Montreal, but also Mayor of Ville-Marie borough where this played out.
As Calgary wrestles with the problems of a major water main break, a paper published by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is asking for a new fiscal framework to better support services used daily by Canadians, such as transportation, water services, housing and other city-run infrastructure.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities urges governments to develop new fiscal plan for cities‘We need money flowing back to us,’ says Calgary mayor
This discussion paper appears as over a thousand municipal politicians from across Canada gather in Calgary over the next few days for the The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has released new recommendations calling on federal, provincial and territorial governments to modernize funding and commit to a new support framework for municipalities.
In a discussion paper released Thursday, the FCM says municipalities are “struggling to fund, maintain and improve” municipally-managed services because of an “outdated revenue framework that is creaking under Canada’s record population growth.”
Meanwhile, Brookings reminds us that Calgary’s problem is far from unique
Atlanta’s water burst is the latest reminder of America’s mounting water bill
On a (much) happier note: The Architect Who Made Singapore’s Public Housing the Envy of the World
With a focus on affordability, community, convenience and light, Liu Thai Ker replaced squalid slums with spacious high-rises.
Montreal take note “He used to tell me that the symptoms of a backward city are: one, homeless people; two, traffic jams; three, flooding; and four, polluted air,” Mr. Liu said of Mr. Lee, Singapore’s founding father.
Unfortunately, we don’t believe that Montreal’s ‘plan’ will have the same happy results as the Singapore model.
What will Montreal look like in 26 years? City says more housing, trees and public transit Mayor says plan will help city respond to the housing crisis
At a morning press conference, Mayor Valérie Plante said the plan, released in a heap of more than 200 documents, diagrams and graphics, was a “key” guide for the city.
“We want to develop the territory in an intelligent way,” she said. Now that’s a novel idea!
The plan says Montreal in 2050 should have several tramways — and at least one Metro extension on the Blue Line. Cars are deprioritized, with the vast majority of travel taking place on foot, by bicycle on new, year-round bike lanes or using the expanded public transit network.
‘Re-enchanting’ the Champs-Élysées
Committee Offers Plan To Modernize Famous Thoroughfare
The report commissioned by the Comité des Champs-Élysées comprises no fewer than 150 proposals, over 400 maps and 1,800 pages. It mobilized 183 experts and 30 design offices. The aim? To make the avenue an attractive place to stroll once again, “to reinvent a form of urban planning, to make the area more desirable, and to make it a sustainable and inclusive place,” said Philippe Chiambaretta, architect and founder of the PCA-STREAM agency, which coordinated and steered the study.

Historian uses Canadian prize money to buy drones for Ukraine
The $50,000 (CDN) Lionel Gelber Prize goes to what its jury identifies as the best book of nonfiction about international affairs published in English. [Timothy] Garton Ash won in 2024 for his book, Homelands: A Personal History of Europe.
(CBC Radio Ideas) Having observed the rise of democracy and liberalism across the continent, Garton Ash now grieves what appears to be a turning of the tide, with authoritarian-leaning governments such as that of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.
He makes the case that all-out victory for Ukraine should be the only acceptable outcome of the current war for other Europeans, based not only on duty to a fellow liberal democracy, but also on rational self-interest. “If he’s not stopped in Ukraine, he’ll push on.”
Listen to the full conversation by downloading the IDEAS podcast

This is alarming to say the least
What happened when 10 teens gave up their smartphones?
The detox is part of a BBC project looking at young people’s smartphone habits – 10 students at Media City’s University Technical College have agreed to trade in their phones for a basic Nokia handset.
Almost every aspect of the students’ lives will be affected – they’ve grown up with smartphones and use the internet for everything. They communicate mainly on Snapchat or Facetime, use Google Maps rather than A-Zs, and are always streaming music on-the-go.
It’s going to be a “real challenge”, says college principal Colin Grand, who is locking the students’ devices away for the duration of the experiment.
… In February, the government published new guidance to try to stop pupils using phones during the school day.
But a group of cross-party MPs went one step further in May, saying an outright ban on smartphones for all under-16s – not just at school – should be brought in by whoever wins the general election.
In a survey of 2,000 13 to 18-year-olds, conducted by BBC Radio 5 Live and BBCBitesize, young people were asked about various aspects of life – including mental health and their smartphone habits.
Need to follow up on the Quebec project
Quebec students forbidden from using cellphones in classrooms after winter break
The directive, which aims to reduce distractions in class, enters into force Dec. 31, 2023 and applies to public elementary and secondary schools, but it offers teachers flexibility to let students use phones for specific pedagogical purposes.

Rustic luxury awaits G7 leaders in heart of Italy’s Trullishire
Wealthy visitors, notably British and American, normally fork out more than €5,000 a night for a luxury villa

Elephants call each other by name, study suggests
Analysis of hundreds of calls — or “rumbles” — found a component that individual elephants recognized and responded to, according to a study in a Nature journal.

Wild horses return to Kazakhstan steppes after absence of two centuries
Seven Przewalski’s horses, the only truly wild species of the animal in the world, flown to central Asian country from zoos in Europe
The Przewalski’s horses’ grazing will benefit pollinators, small mammals and ground-nesting birds, helping restore the steppes ecosystem.

Long reads
Europe is beset by global threats. How will a destabilised EU cope with them?
From Putin to China, the continent faces dramatic challenges – a rightward lurch leaves the union less able to protect its people

Ian Bremmer: What’s next after the collapse of Israel’s unity war cabinet?
Gantz’s departure won’t topple Bibi.
To trigger an early ballot and have a shot at ousting Netanyahu before then, Gantz and other leading opposition figures (including Yair Lapid, Avigdor Lieberman, and Gideon Sa’ar) would need to put up a united front and convince at least five Knesset members to defect from the ruling coalition and join them in a vote to dissolve the parliament. Gantz’s move could inspire some of Likud’s more centrist lawmakers to rebel, bring intra-coalition tensions to the fore, and increase public pressure to call for new elections, making this scenario possible. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

America Is Losing the Arab World
And China Is Reaping the Benefits
By Michael Robbins, Amaney A. Jamal, and Mark Tessler
October 7 may turn out to be a watershed moment for the United States, too. Because of the war in Gaza, Arab public opinion has turned sharply against Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States—a development that could confound U.S. efforts not only to help resolve the crisis in Gaza but also to contain Iran and push back against China’s growing influence in the Middle East.

Homelands by Timothy Garton Ash review – Europe’s story
The author and journalist charts some of the lessons learned from the Hungarian revolution to the invasion of Ukraine

‘We sold everything off, even the semen flasks’: the film about the farming couple who struck gold by rewilding
Knepp estate was £1.5m in debt. Now it thrums with wildlife, visitors flock there – and farmers are stampeding to copy its success.

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