The Friend of My Enemy
News roundup: March 22nd-March 29th, 2023.
Tragedy in Nashville
The week began with yet another school tragedy, furthering a nausea-inducing cycle of violence and headlines. On Monday, about a half-dozen people — including three 9-year-olds — were shot to death at The Covenant School, a private Presbyterian parochial school in Nashville, Tenn.
If that sounds horrifically familiar, it’s not surprising. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death in children and teens, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sit with that for a moment. In fact, the number of school shootings in the U.S. has been climbing for some time. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, there have been 376 school shootings in the U.S., impacting more than 348,000 students, according to data from The Washington Post.
After the recent shooting, politicians are squaring up for another gun control brawl.
POLITICS and WORLD
FISSION CAUSES FISSURES: Russia is stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. The announcement prompted Ukraine to call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. It also comes only about a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would not reinstate U.S. inspections of its nuclear arsenal, as required under New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last of the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaties.
OVERSIGHT UNDER PRESSURE: The Mexico high court has paused electoral reforms while they’re under review. The reforms pursued by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his allies have won comparisons to “democratic backsliding” across the Americas. But the Electoral Institute INE, the public institution that organizes elections in the county, is challenging those reforms. Thematically related: protests have kept the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his own attempted judicial overhaul.
THE FRIEND OF MY ENEMY: The standoff over China’s intention to annex Taiwan continues. Taiwan, trapped between the U.S. and China, ruptured relations with Honduras, the second poorest country in Latin America. The break occurred in relation to Honduras formalizing ties with China. But, in countering trends, Ma Ying-jeou — a former president and member of the Kuomintang (KMT) opposition party — is in China this week, where he gave a speech that’s been characterized as playing to China’s “reunification” policy. Actually, it’s the first visit from a Taiwan senior leader since the conclusion of the 1949 civil war that swept communists into power.
BUSINESS and TECH
FREE ISN’T CHEAP: The Internet Archive lost its court battle over “controlled digital lending.”
BAD TO WORSE: Sam Bankman Fried caught another charge in the still-unfolding FTX fraud saga. This latest one is for bribery related to a $40 million payment to Chinese officials to unfreeze his hedge fund’s accounts.
INNOVATOR ANXIETY: In the continued fallout from Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse, startups and investors around the world are concerned that “innovation” financing is thinning faster than ex-SVB CEO Greg Becker’s hairline. Meanwhile, Congressional hearings into the bank’s demise are ongoing.
PRIVATE SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Ethiopia, one of the most populated countries in Africa, ended the government’s telecoms monopoly last year. The decision has had the nice effect of swapping a shoddy service, dominated by the government-run Ethio Telecom, for a more functional one. It’s already producing results, according to an analysis by the tech publication Rest of World.
PUNCHING BAG: TikTok took its turn receiving body blows from Congress last week, with murmurs of a potential ban looming in the background. The hearings provided Congress a chance to tie together two of the big issues it’s failed to understand and properly regulate: social media and foreign influence. It may lead to action. For example: there’s the RESTRICT Act, a bill from Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) meant to limit tech from “adversary nations.” While tech has been global, it may become more nationally defined.
EPIDEMICS: At its two-decade anniversary, the PEPFAR program — funding AIDS/HIV treatment and prevention — received love notes for its connection to positive health, and even non-health, impacts. To date, the program is noted as being one of the largest commitments from a government to a single disease, entrenching the link between public health and society in general.
ART OF THE DEAL: A three-day strike in Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the country, ended with a deal that included a 30 percent wage hike and retroactive pay for about 30,000 support workers.
ANATOMY OF A SAFE SPACE: The principal of the Tallahassee Classical School, Hope Carrasquilla, was forced to resign after parents complained related to showing students Michelangelo’s “pornographic” statue of David. The school follows the conservative Hillsdale curriculum, with an emphasis on western values and anti-“woke” ideology. In a bizarrely self-righteous interview, Barney Bishop III, the chair of the board, clarified that Carrasquilla's ousting happened because a letter wasn’t sent warning parents ahead of time, rather than the statue being inherently pornographic. An oddly legalistic distinction. “[P]arents are entitled to know anytime their child is being taught a controversial topic and picture,” Bishop huffed. Was the statue generally controversial? If it’s because of the nudity, I think precedent recommends attaching a fig leaf.
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