[guest post by Dana]
First news item
Pope Francis weighs in on gender ideology:
Pope Francis has said that gender ideology is “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” today…“Gender ideology, today, is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations,” Francis said in the interview published on the evening of March 10. “Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women,” he added. All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation…
While he is not writing something on gender ideology, the pope said that he talks about the subject “because some people are a bit naive and believe that it is the way to progress.”
He said that they “do not distinguish what is respect for sexual diversity or diverse sexual preferences from what is already an anthropology of gender, which is extremely dangerous because it eliminates differences, and that erases humanity, the richness of humanity, both personal, cultural, and social, the diversities and the tensions between differences.”
Second news item
Poland on Thursday pledged it would send four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the first NATO member to do so, in a significant move in Kyiv’s battle to resist Russia’s onslaught.
President Andrzej Duda said the planes – from about a dozen that it had inherited from the former German Democratic Republic – would be handed over in the coming days after being serviced.
“When it comes to the MiG-29 aircraft, which are still operating in the defense of Polish airspace, a decision has been taken at the highest levels, we can say confidently that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine,” Duda said.
Duda said Poland’s air force would replace the planes it gives to Ukraine with South Korea-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s.
Also, more good news as Slovakia is stepping up too:
Slovakia will donate 13 MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine, its prime minister has said, making it the second Nato member to announce such a shipment in 24 hours, after a similar move by Poland.
Meanwhile, Switzerland shames itself:
How far will Switzerland’s obstinacy in not helping Kyiv “militarily” – even indirectly – go? Since the beginning of the war, Switzerland has irritated its European partners by forbidding them to give Ukrainian forces the munitions it sold to them…
[The Swiss Army] will soon get rid of 60 Rapier ground-to-air defense systems, an anti-aircraft missile system developed by the British Aircraft Corporation in the 1960s for the British Army and the Royal Air Force. The Rapier entered service in 1971 and first saw action on the front lines during the Falklands War. Bern acquired 60 of them in 1980 (worth 1.7 billion Swiss francs at the time), which were modernized several times until recently, before being decommissioned and declared unfit for service at the end of last year.”
However, the report notes that while old, the missiles are not obsolete, and “could still be used “against low-flying targets…”
Several Swiss MPs are unhappy with the decision.
Third news item
In big news, Turkey’s President says he will support Finland’s admission to NATO:
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey would move forward with ratifying Finland’s NATO application, paving the way for the country to join the military bloc ahead of Sweden…“When it comes to fulfilling its pledges in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara following his meeting with Niinisto.
Meanwhile, Turkey is still a “no” on Sweden’s efforts to become NATO member as believes Swedens is being too soft on groups that it deems to be terror organizations, including Kurdish groups.
Fourth news item
As San Francisco’s First Republic bank has seen its share price fall and credit downgraded, some of the nation’s largest banks deposited $30 billion into the bank amid concerns depositors would continue withdrawing money from the banks en masse.
In a statement, 11 banks said they would make uninsured deposits worth $30 billion into First Republic Bank to shore it up. The deposits came from Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, State Street, Truist and U.S. Bank.
Reportedly, some of the institutions that were part of the $30 billion deposit are interested in purchasing First Republic.
Fifth news item
With the 20th anniversary of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq looming, the US Senate has begun the process of revoking the laws that allowed the United States to wage war against the Middle Eastern state in both the 1990s and 2000s.
On Thursday, the Senate voted to begin debate on a bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana that would repeal both the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) against Iraq.
The measure passed overwhelmingly, with 19 Republicans — ranging from self-styled nationalists like Sens. Josh Hawley and JD Vance to moderates such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — joining all Democrats in support of the bill.
Immigrant veterans who fought for the United States are still struggling to secure US citizenship 20 years since the war began…His case echoes those of hundreds of veterans, according to advocates, who fought for the U.S. in Iraq and elsewhere on the understanding their service would help them gain citizenship but instead found themselves being deported to their birth countries.
Advocates say many fell into crime due to PTSD and other issues linked to their time in the military, and struggled to readapt to civilian life with insufficient support from government agencies.
Some veterans have since been granted citizenship, while others have given up trying to come back…Segovia Benitez is among dozens who are back in the country – some temporarily – after the Biden administration launched a program in 2021 to benefit deportees…But despite such initiatives and noted progress on the issue, advocates and former military personnel told Context the U.S. government continues to fail many foreign-born post-9/11 veterans 20 years since the start of the Iraq War.
Lawful permanent residents in the United States must generally live in the country for five years before applying to become a citizen, but the process is much quicker for foreign-born military personnel. They can apply for naturalization in as little as a year – and potentially less if they were on active duty during the “war on terror” declared by former President George W. Bush following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Bush issued an executive order in July 2002 intended to streamline the naturalization process for non-citizens who serve during a designated “period of hostility”, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But advocates say the order was not properly enforced – leading many veterans of both conflicts to be deported on a variety of grounds – even for minor infractions in some cases.
Sixth news item
The International Criminal Court said Friday it has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in the abductions of children from Ukraine.
The court said in a statement that Putin “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of the population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
It also issued a warrant Friday for the arrest of Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, on similar allegations.
Children as young as four months old were abducted…
Russia is a wee bit upset that the warrant has been issued:
The Kremlin said on Friday that an arrest warrant for war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against Russian President Vladimir Putin was outrageous, but meaningless with respect to Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia found the very questions raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable”, but noted that Russia, like many other countries, did not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC.
This, this, this:
I don’t care if Putin leaves his bunker in chains or in a box, but his trial could be an education for brainwashed Russians who must confront their culpability in his crimes. There would be backlash and denial, but the facts would come out.
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) March 17, 2023
Meanwhile, Trump and DeSantis are the gift that just keeps on giving:
Meanwhile in Russia: Vladimir Solovyov and state TV correspondent in the US rejoice about Trump and DeSantis declaring neither one of them would support Ukraine if elected president. Solovyov is urging everyone not to trust Americans and to be cautious.https://t.co/vTBcWtS8Cq
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) March 16, 2023
I knew this would happen. Useful idiots.
— MarkHertling (@MarkHertling) March 17, 2023
Seventh news item
The survey sponsored by FIRE…asked almost 1,500 university faculty members about their views on campus civil liberties. The data show that faculty members today are more fearful than during the Second Red Scare, with 72% of conservative faculty, 56% of moderate faculty, and even 40% of liberal faculty afraid of losing their jobs or reputations due to their speech. Untenured faculty are more afraid than tenured faculty, with 42% of untenured faculty censoring themselves, versus 31% of tenured faculty.
“We’re finally seeing the extent to which faculty have lost their peace of mind,” said FIRE Research Fellow Nathan Honeycutt. “When professors across the political spectrum become terrified of losing their jobs for exercising their rights, true academic inquiry and diversity of thought become nearly impossible.”
Even more concerning are findings that suggest that faculty are not just afraid of overzealous administrators, but also of students and each other.
Sadly, this will no doubt resonate with commenter Simon Jester.
Eighth news item
JVW on the ongoing decline of Los Angeles:
Drug use is rampant in the Metro system. Since January, 22 people have died on Metro buses and trains, mostly from suspected overdoses — more people than all of 2022. Serious crimes — such as robbery, rape and aggravated assault — soared 24% last year compared with the previous…“Horror.” That’s how one train operator recently described the scenes he sees daily. He declined to use his name because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Earlier that day, as he drove the Red Line subway, he saw a man masturbating in his seat and several people whom he refers to as “sleepers,” people who get high and nod off on the train. “We don’t even see any businesspeople anymore. We don’t see anybody going to Universal. It’s just people who have no other choice [than] to ride the system, homeless people and drug users.”
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported that between November and January there were 26 medical emergencies at the station, the majority of them suspected drug overdoses. Last year, there were six deaths and one shooting, nearly all related to suspected drug activity. Earlier this year, a 28-year-old man was fatally stabbed in a breezeway of the station.
Maintenance crews are often called out for repairs at the station, and when they return to their vehicle they often find it has been burglarized. Gangs control the area and police say many of the informal vendors on the sidewalks are part of the larger drug economy, wittingly or not. Some are forced to pay the gang taxes, others sell stolen property.
Cue the clueless social justice advocates who think it would be positively beastly to crack down on the miscreants:
Some board members and social justice advocates have argued for less policing on the system, saying that racial profiling targets many passengers.
“What will harassment and jailing people who use drugs do to address drug use rates?” said Alison Vu, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Community Transit-LA, a social justice advocacy coalition that wants the agency to eliminate contracts with law enforcement. “We’ve poured so much money into policing, without any measurable impact on care or safety for transit riders.”
Ninth news item
As I was preparing to go onstage for an event recently, the moderator warned my co-panelist and me that the very first prompt would be “Please define the word woke for the audience.” We all sighed and laughed. It’s a fraught task, requiring qualification and nuance, because woke has acquired what the French philosopher Raymond Aron termed “subtle,” or “esoteric,” and “literal,” or “vulgar,” interpretations. Put simply, social-justice-movement insiders have different associations and uses for the word than do those outside these progressive circles. Before you can attempt to define what “wokeness” is, you should acknowledge this basic fact. Going further, you should acknowledge that as with cancel culture, critical race theory, and even structural racism, the contested nature of the term imposes a preemptive barrier to productive disagreement.
Chatterton Williams concludes (and I wholeheartedly agree):
But perhaps we can all agree, at bare minimum, to set ourselves the task of limiting our reliance on in-group shorthand, and embracing clear, honest, precise, and original thought and communication. If we want to persuade anyone not already convinced of what we believe, we are going to have to figure out how to say what we really mean.
This takes work as it rejects the laziness of catch-all-insider-phrases employed by both sides of the aisle. I want to do better. Put 10 people in a room, and ask them to define “woke,” and you’ll get at least 10 different definitions. And maybe even 15!
Tenth news item
While not conclusive, new study released on Covid origins:
A new analysis of genetic information conducted by an international group of researchers has found evidence to suggest that COVID-19 originated from infected animals sold at a market in Wuhan, China.
As first reported by The Atlantic, French evolutionary biologist Florence Débarre recently uncovered genetic data from the global virology database GISAID. The data had been submitted by Chinese researchers who collected the genetic sequences from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been scrutinized as being the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the name, thousands mammals were found to have been sold at the market, where they were kept in cramped and unhygienic spaces.
The genetic data suggested that raccoon dogs being sold at the market could have been carrying and shedding the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the time.
Have a great weekend!