The Truck Stops Here
February 9, 2022
Last week, we shared a story about President Biden searching for Justice Breyer’s replacement. Biden promised to put a Black woman on the bench, but his proclamation received mixed reactions. We wondered how our readers felt about this issue. Here are the responses when asked if Biden should only consider Black women for the vacant Supreme Court spot.
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton
The Truck Stops Here
Much like conspiracies shut down a butterfly preserve, the streets in Canada’s capital were shut down by conspiracies about public health “scams” and “socialist” vaccine mandates that mutated into an anti-government crusade. Both examples illustrate the dangers posed by followers of fringe groups on social media. For 12 days, thousands of truckers and fellow travelers have occupied downtown Ottawa. Unprecedented coordination between anti-vaccine and anti-government organizations and activists sent them there.
The so-called “Freedom Convoy” was the brainchild of James Bauder, a longtime fringe figure and admitted conspiracy theorist who endorsed the QAnon movement and called Covid-19 “the biggest political scam in history.” Bauder’s group, Canada Unity, contends vaccine mandates and passports are illegal under Canada’s constitution and a plethora of other international conventions. Numerous peripheral organizations were protesting the government’s strict public health measures. One, Action4Canada, challenged mask and vaccine mandates in a 400-page court filing alleging the “false pronouncement of a Covid-19 ‘pandemic’” was carried out by Bill Gates and a “New World (Economic) Order” to facilitate injecting 5G-enabled microchips into people.
On January 15, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended vaccine exemptions for truckers crossing the U.S-Canada border. The backlash was severe, and days later Trudeau dropped the vaccination requirement for Canadian truckers. The incident was a boost for Bauder, who saw the truckers’ plight as a compelling public relations angle, perfect for molding together disconnected causes. Bauder reworked his anti-vaccine message into one of freedom. Action4Canada partnered with Canada Unity, and other organizers and fringe activists joined in.
When the Freedom Truck Convoy arrived in Ottawa on January 29, extreme elements of the protest also showed up. Neo-Nazi and Confederate flags were flown, QAnon logos were emblazoned on trucks, and signs and stickers bearing Trudeau’s face and reading “Wanted for Crimes Against Humanity” were pasted to telephone poles around the occupied area. Bauder’s laser-focused “freedom” messaging attracted mainstream support. Members of the opposition Conservative Party met with protesters, Elon Musk and Donald Trump endorsed the convoy, and Fox News hosts provided glowing updates on the continuing occupation. Bauder vowed the convoy would camp out in Ottawa for “as long as it takes” to meet their demands, which could even include new elections to oust Trudeau.
The occupation continues and officials are fighting back. Ottawa’s mayor declared a state of emergency Sunday; on Monday a judge issued a ten-day moratorium on “incessant horn-blasting” disrupting downtown. Police said thousands of liters of fuel had been seized and an oil tanker removed, dozens of protesters have been arrested and hundreds of tickets were issued. But authorities acknowledge it will take much more than police tactics to neutralize conspiracy theorists and right-wing anti-government instigators. (Guardian, NBC News)
Intervention Detention Extension
- In December 2019, Samuel Bickett, an American corporate lawyer employed by Bank of America in Hong Kong, was walking through a subway station on his way to dinner when he saw a man beating a commuter with a baton. Bickett intervened and the attacker, who happened to be an undercover police officer, was injured.
- In July 2021, a Hong Kong magistrate found Bickett guilty of assaulting the officer and sentenced him to four months and two weeks in jail. Bickett was denied bail. He vowed to appeal the “outrageous” verdict and said he would not “rest until justice is done.” After serving six weeks, Bickett was released while pursuing his appeal.
- On Tuesday, Judge Esther Toh of Hong Kong’s High Court upheld Bickett’s conviction and ordered him to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Toh noted the incident had taken place at the height of the unrest in Hong Kong. Police officers were subject to verbal and physical attacks and off-duty officers were issued batons as a form of protection. (ABC, NBC)
A Full France Card
- French President Emmanuel Macron, who’s positioned himself at the center of Europe’s furious diplomatic maneuvering over Ukraine, had a five-hour meeting Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. After the meeting, Macron told reporters he’d “secured an assurance there would be no deterioration or escalation” of Russia’s massive troop presence on Ukraine’s border.
- Macron then flew to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A French official later told reporters that Macron and Putin agreed that Russia would pull troops out of Belarus at the end of exercises taking place near Ukraine’s northern borders. On Tuesday, Macron reiterated that Putin had said Moscow would not further escalate the Ukraine crisis.
- However, the Kremlin denied that Macron and Putin struck a deal on de-escalating the crisis. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “in the current situation, Moscow and Paris can’t be reaching any deals.” The White House believes Moscow has assembled at least 70% of the firepower it needs to give Putin the option of a major military operation in Ukraine by mid-February. (BBC, Guardian)
Additional World News
- Australia will reopen to fully vaccinated travelers in 2 weeks (NPR)
- Keir Starmer: Two arrested after protesters surround Labour leader (BBC)
- Omicron forces S. Korea to end GPS monitoring, some checkups (AP)
- Israeli and Palestinian figures propose a plan for an independent state of Palestine (NPR)
- Vegetable shortage adds to Hong Kong’s COVID woes (Reuters)
- Israel PM vows action as police Pegasus spying scandal widens (Al Jazeera)
- You’ve heard of fast food, and fast fashion, but have you ever heard of fast furniture? The EPA estimates that 9 million tons of furniture end up in landfills every year. And just like fast fashion, ‘fast furniture’ has major environmental consequences. Outer wants to change that.
- Outer is on a mission to fight fast furniture. Poorly-made pieces end up in the landfill after only one season and a handful of uses, which not only rapidly depletes our planet’s natural resources, but also creates a huge waste problem.
- Outer uses sustainable materials to build products that stand the test of time. Their Outdoor Eco-Friendly Rugs are made from 100% post-consumer plastics, and their sleek Aluminum outdoor furniture is guaranteed to stand up to 10+ years of everyday use. Shop now for furniture that lasts.
Do No Farm
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday his agency will invest $1 billion in pilot projects that promote farming, ranching, and forestry practices that cut greenhouse gas emissions or capture and store climate-warming carbon. The program, called Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, will tap funds from the U.S.D.A.’s Commodity Credit Corporation, which provides up to $30 billion annually from the U.S. Treasury to help stabilize agricultural product prices and support farm income.
- The investment is the latest Biden administration initiative aimed at combating climate change, with a goal to cut the farm sector’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and put the U.S. on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050. Qualified projects could include initiatives that cut or capture methane emissions on dairy farms or programs which expand the use of farming practices that soak up more climate-warming carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. (Reuters)
Fire In The Console
- Automakers Hyundai and Kia are telling owners of almost 500,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S. to park outside and away from buildings due to a possible defect that can cause the vehicles to spontaneously catch fire even when they are not running. The problem is said to be “foreign contaminants” that can cause the anti-lock brake computer control module to short circuit and start a fire in the engine compartment.
- Hyundai issued a recall for 2016-2018 model year Santa Fe SUVs, 2017-2018 Santa Fe Sport SUVs, 2019 Santa Fe XL models, and 2014-2015 Tucson SUVs. Kia is recalling 2016-2018 K900 sedans and 2014-2016 Sportage SUVs.
- Dealers will inspect the vehicles’ anti-lock braking control module, a small computer system that controls the vehicle’s emergency anti-lock braking system, and may replace it with a new one. Dealers will also replace a fuse that controls the electric current to the anti-lock braking control unit at no cost to owners. The new fuse will reduce the amount of power going into the module. (CNN)
Additional USA News
- US House set to debate bill extending stop-gap funding through March 11 (Reuters)
- Texas Church-Shooting Survivors, Families Awarded More Than $230 Million From US Government (WSJ)
- Supreme Court allows Alabama election map over black vote dilution claims (ABC)
- Climate change: Top companies exaggerating their progress – study (BBC)
- Schools are starting to spend Covid relief dollars. Here’s what they’re prioritizing. (NBC)
- Austin residents must boil water after treatment plant issue (AP)
A Good (Pas)Sport
- They’re colorful, they’re whimsical, and non-Belgians want to know how to get one! Of course we’re talking about Belgium’s new passports that celebrate the country’s comic strip history. Anyone who’s ever traveled knows you need a passport. And anyone who’s ever seen a passport knows they tend to be plain in color and uniform in design – usually burgundy, black or blue, maybe embossed with a small version of a nation’s symbol. Nothing to write home about.
- Now, look at the new Belgian passport that came out Monday. It’s an experience like watching the Wizard of Oz start out in black and white, until the tornado carries Dorothy and her house to an eye-poppingly-colorful world, where streets are Bright Yellow Brick and footwear can be Sparkly Ruby Slippers. It’s just that fun! Belgium’s official travel documents now have images of its famous comic strip heroes, from Tintin to the Smurfs, in all their colorful glory. Holders of these adorable objet d’arts can flip through the pages and spot some of their country’s most beloved fictional characters, including Lucky Luke, and Blake and Mortimer, alongside Hergé’s famous boy reporter and the blue Smurfs.
- Most of the images on the new passports are taken from classic comic strips, like Tintin’s “Explorers on the Moon,” first published in 1954. The characters chosen to grace the new passport pages are cleverly linked to a travel theme. Tintin’s adventures took him across the globe from America to Australia, and even outer space. If you don’t know all these characters, you probably should. Belgium is renowned for producing them and collectors still love them. The first original cover art featuring Tintin – from “The Adventures of Tintin Vol. 1: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” – sold in 2019 at the European Comic Art Signature Auction in Dallas for $1.125 million. (CNN, Heritage Auctions)
- World’s glaciers contain less ice than thought, researchers find (NBC)
- The Galaxy S22 will use plastic from recycled fishing nets (The Verge)
- Amazon more than doubles salary caps to $350,000 for US white-collar employees (CNN)
- Women ‘led Bronze Age immigration to Orkney’ (BBC)
- Chimpanzees apply ‘medicine’ to each others’ wounds in a possible show of empathy (CNN)
- NASA picks Lockheed Martin to build rocket that can launch samples of dirt off of Mars (The Verge)
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