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News 13.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 13.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@elisabarg
News 13.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@lolariostyle

In addition to fear and horror, the war in Ukraine during its first weeks awakened a strange feeling of self-confidence in Europe. “Solidarity with Ukraine makes democracy cool again,” the Serbian activist Srdja Popovic told the French newspaper Liberation on March 23. Vladimir Putin, through his rhetoric, indiscriminate bombing, and civilian massacres, has taken on a role much bigger than that of an old-fashioned tyrant: that of an openly fascist stateman. At last, after decades of false alarms, the first real one of his kind in Europe in 80 years. And somehow, perhaps because we’d been expecting a leader like him for so long, it also sounded to some like reinvigorating news.

During the Balkan War of the early ’90s, Popovic opposed the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević with what he called “laughtivism,” using mockery against power. He stood in a tradition of the weak fighting against the strong, the dreamers riding against the men of action, as Leonard Cohen used to sing during that same decade—a tradition that Václav Havel called, in his essay condemning Communist totalitarianism, “the power of the powerless.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 13.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 13.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

We were whaling with cameras, joining a flotilla of a dozen other tourist boats from harbours all around the Salish Sea. It was one of my first trips to the area, in August 2001. The fuzz and beep of ship radios stitched a net over the water, a blurry facsimile of the sonic connections of the whales themselves. Every skipper heard the voices of the others, relayed by electromagnetic waves. The quarry could not escape. “Whales guaranteed” shouted the billboards on shore.

We motored on, weaving around island headlands. A sighting off the south-west shore of San Juan Island. Through binoculars: a dorsal fin scythed the water, then dipped. Another, with a spray of mist as the animal exhaled. Then, no sign. But the whales’ location was easy to spot. A dozen boats clustered, most slowly motoring west, away from the shore. We powered closer, slowing the engine until we were travelling without raising a wake and took our place on the outer edge of the gaggle of yachts and cruisers.

A sheet of marble skated just under the water’s surface. Oily smooth. A spill of black ink sheeting under the hazed bottle glass of the water’s surface. Praaf! Surfacing 15 metres ahead of the boat, the exhalation was plosive and rough.

The pod of about 10 animals came to the surface. Part of the L pod of orcas, our captain said, one of three pods that form the “southern residents” in the waters of the Salish Sea between Seattle and Vancouver, often seen hunting salmon around the San Juan Islands. Others – “transients” that ply coastal waters and “offshores” that feed mostly in the Pacific – also visit regularly. The L pod continued west, heading toward the Haro Strait. Our engines purred as the U-shaped arc of boats tracked the pod, leaving open water ahead of the whales.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

WHITE PINE COUNTY, Nevada — A dusty field in the high desert of eastern Nevada’s Snake Range. Remote, desolate scrubland. Sagebrush, Rocky Mountain juniper trees, Jerusalem crickets, sage grouse. Sheep skull fragments and rusty cans left behind by bygone ranchers. Old bullet holes in a rusty, abandoned truck.

October.

I scanned for a campsite. The setting sun turned Mt. Washington’s limestone cliffs to a deep orange. I tried to take in the region’s temporal immensity. Nearby were ancient clonal aspen groves, a melting Pleistocene alpine glacier, 3,000-year-old Indigenous cave paintings, Cambrian trilobite fossils and the “forgotten Winchester” — a rifle manufactured in 1882 and discovered leaning against a tree in 2014, where it had been mysteriously abandoned perhaps a century before. “Pondering this vast desert landscape,” I wrote in my notebook, “can grind up one’s short-term predicaments into the shifting sands of deep time.”

I had driven over 500 miles east and north from Los Angeles, along what a 1986 issue of Life magazine called “the loneliest road in America,” Nevada’s Highway 50. But it was the San Francisco Bay Area that never felt closer. I’d embedded myself in the Long Now Foundation’s annual “trip of self-reliance,” hoping to gain an anthropological understanding of the staunch optimism of the organization’s leaders — their trust that humans will still exist 10 millennia from now — and what that can offer at a moment of political disillusionment, ecological degradation and intergenerational mistrust.

Read the rest of this article at: Noema

News 13.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 13.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Lucy Esparza-Casarez thinks she caught the coronavirus while working the polls during California’s 2020 primary election, before bringing it home to her husband, David, her sister-in-law Yolanda, and her mother-in-law, Balvina. Though Lucy herself developed what she calls “the worst flu times 100,” David fared worse. Lucy took him to the hospital on March 20, the last time she saw him in the flesh. He died on April 3, nine days before their wedding anniversary, at the age of 69. Lucy said goodbye over Skype. During that time, Yolanda fell ill too; after two months in the hospital, she died on June 1. Balvina, meanwhile, recovered from her bout with COVID-19, but, distraught after losing two children in as many months, she died on June 16. Lucy found herself alone in her home for the first time in 23 years. Because the hospital never returned David’s belongings, she didn’t even have his wedding ring.

Lucy had coped with the losses of her father, sister, and mother in the two decades before the pandemic. But she told me that what she feels now is fundamentally different. She never got to comfort David before he died, never got to mourn him in the company of friends, and never escaped the constant reminders of the disease that killed him. Every news story twisted the knife. Every surge salted the wound. Two years later, she is still inundated by her grief. “And now people are saying we can get back to normal,” she told me. “What’s normal?”

The number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the United States has always been undercounted because such counts rely on often-inaccurate death certificates. But the total, as the CDC and other official sources suggest, will soon surpass 1 million. That number—the sum of a million individual tragedies—is almost too large to grasp, and only a few professions have borne visceral witness to the pandemic’s immense scale. Alanna Badgley has been an EMT since 2010, “and the number of people I’ve pronounced dead in the last two years has eclipsed that of the first 10,” she told me. Hari Close, a funeral director in Baltimore, told me that he cared for families who “were burying three or four people weeks apart.” Maureen O’Donnell, an obituary writer at the Chicago Sun-Times, told me that she usually writes “about people who had a beautiful arc to their life,” but during the pandemic, she has found herself writing about lives that were “cut short, like trees being cut down.” On average, each person who has died of COVID has done so roughly a decade before their time.

In just two years, COVID has become the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means that it is also the third leading cause of grief in the U.S. Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states. Under normal circumstances, 10 percent of bereaved people would be expected to develop prolonged grief, which is unusually intense, incapacitating, and persistent. But for COVID grievers, that proportion may be even higher, because the pandemic has ticked off many risk factors.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 13.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

LONDON — Financial monitors at one of New York’s most storied banks were watching as hundreds of millions of dollars moved through offshore accounts.

The wire transactions — a dozen in all, totaling more than $700 million — were suspicious enough to officials at Bank of New York Mellon that they submitted a stream of alerts to the U.S. Treasury Department.

But the officials seemed completely unaware of who was truly behind the transactions, according to copies of the submitted reports. Even their attempts to track down the companies named on the wire transfers were, in some cases, spectacularly wrong, with one report erroneously linking a $100 million payment to a British merchant that “specializes in the sale of fruits and vegetables.”

In reality, the shifting funds were part of a vast offshore empire associated with Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov. His connection to those transactions almost a decade ago is discernible only now because of details in secret financial records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with The Washington Post.

Kerimov is one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals, a political ally of President Vladimir Putin and a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, representing his native Dagestan. He was first put under sanctions by the United States in 2018. Britain and the European Union followed suit last month as part of a global crackdown in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the gaping holes in those bank reports — which now reside in a database maintained by Treasury — underscore how difficult it will be to locate, let alone freeze, assets connected to Kerimov and other Russian elites that have been moved into offshore accounts over the past decade.

U.S. officials described the task of penetrating the layers of shell companies and proxies that cloak many oligarchs’ holdings as one of the most difficult-to-execute aspects of the economic assault against Russia.

“Russian elites and oligarchs are probably some of the best in the world at hiding their wealth,” said a senior Treasury official involved in directing the sanctions policy. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject. Luxury yachts, lavish homes and private jets are relatively easy to pursue because they are “out in plain sight,” the official said. “The thing that’s going to be hardest is places where people have set up front companies to hide their assets.”

A spokesperson for Bank of New York Mellon, since renamed BNY Mellon, said the firm “takes its role in protecting the integrity of the global financial system seriously,” but declined to answer questions about the reports the firm submitted, including whether it made any subsequent filings linking the transactions to Kerimov.

Kerimov is among more than 4,000 Russian individuals whose names have appeared in vast troves of secret offshore financial records obtained by the ICIJ in recent years. Among them is a collection of more than 11.9 million documents known as the Pandora Papers, which was the basis for an investigative series published by The Post and international partners last year.

Russians outnumber other nationalities on the lists of individuals who have turned to the law firms and financial advisers that cater to global elites seeking to shelter their assets in Panama, the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

Details in this article are drawn from those troves as well as a cache of intelligence reports maintained by the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a unit of the Treasury Department that is the main repository for reports that banks by law must file to flag suspicious transactions. The FinCEN Files, as that collection is known, was obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with the ICIJ.

Read the rest of this article at: The Wahington Post

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.