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Tokyo Olympics: Games’ opening ceremony director SACKED on the eve of the event over Holocaust jokes



Tokyo Olympics: Games’ opening ceremony director SACKED on the eve of the event over Holocaust jokes


Organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have sacked the director of the opening ceremony just a day before the event takes place in the latest blow to the troubled Games. 

Kantaro Kobayashi, a 48-year-old comedian, was fired after a skit he performed in 1998 that made light of Nazi genocide resurfaced, including the moment he told his audience: ‘Let’s play Holocaust’. 

Seiko Hashimoto, president of Tokyo’s Olympic committee, said Kobayashi’s entire ceremony is now being ‘reviewed’ just hours before it is due to be performed, adding: ‘We’re still considering how to hold the opening ceremony tomorrow’.

However a spokesman for the Games later confirmed the ceremony would go ahead as planned with no amendments.

The comedian is just the latest big name to be sacked from the Olympic organising team this week after the opening ceremony composer was fired and a popular children’s author withdrew from a cultural event – both over historic bullying claims.

Meanwhile the number of Covid cases linked to the Games rose to 91 including more Czech and Dutch athletes amid fears the already-unpopular competition could turn into a super-spreader event.  

Tokyo Olympics: Games’ opening ceremony director SACKED on the eve of the event over Holocaust jokes

Footage circulating on social media purports to show Kobayashi and a comedy partner in a 1998 TV skit brainstorming games to play with children, when he jokes ‘let’s play Holocaust’

Kobayashi was sacked from his position as director of the opening ceremony just hours before the show is due to go on, with organisers saying they will now 'review' the entire performance

Kobayashi was sacked from his position as director of the opening ceremony just hours before the show is due to go on, with organisers saying they will now ‘review’ the entire performance

Table tennis player Pavel Sirucek and beach volleyball player Marketa Nausch-Slukova were the Czechs to test positive, as the country’s Olympic committee launched an investigation into the flight that brought the team from Prague.

Meanwhile Dutch taekwondo athlete Reshmie Oogink also tested positive, after skateboarder Candy Jacobs became a confirmed Covid case on Tuesday.

Sirucek and Oogink have now been ruled out of the games as they will miss their qualifying events while in isolation. The news is particularly heartbreaking for Oognik who recovered from injury to make the Olympics, and will likely not compete again.

In the unearthed sketch of Kobayashi, her performs alongside a comedy partner while pretending to be children’s entertainers. 

As they brainstorm an activity involving paper, Kobayashi refers to some paper doll cutouts, describing them as ‘the ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust”, sparking laughter from the audience.

The pair then joke about how a television producer was angered by the suggestion of a Holocaust-themed activity.

In a statement, Kobayashi apologised, describing the skit as containing ‘extremely inappropriate’ lines.

‘It was from a time when I was not able to get laughs the way I wanted, and I believe I was trying to grab people’s attention in a shallow-minded way.’

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights group based in Los Angeles, said: ‘Any person, no matter how creative, does not have the right to mock the victims of the Nazi genocide. 

‘Any association of this person to the Tokyo Olympics would insult the memory of 6 million Jews and make a cruel mockery of the Paralympics.’

Hashimoto said she accepted full responsibility for hiring Kobayashi, adding that vetting should have been more thorough.

Keigo Oyamada, an opening ceremony composer, was sacked earlier this week over historic bullying claims

Keigo Oyamada, an opening ceremony composer, was sacked earlier this week over historic bullying claims

In a frank acknowledgement, she said there will be people who no longer want to watch the scandal-hit opening ceremony.

But, she added, she has no intention of stepping down and wants the event to go ahead. 

In a nod to the controversy the Games has courted, officials said Thursday that the opening ceremony has been adapted to include a segment paying tribute to all those suffering from or who have died of Covid in the last year.

An Olympic source told MailOnline: ‘There has been massive criticism of the games going ahead, particularly as spectators have been banned. 

‘The Olympics knows it cannot ignore the opposition or the fact that many of the nations are struggling with the virus back in their homelands.

‘The opening ceremony will have a segment that will state that sport can help the world to overcome adversity.

‘This was part of the rehearsal which was conducted on Wednesday.

‘It will focus on togetherness and how the youth of the world can help ease the catastrophic situation and give hope.’

Kobayashi, a well-known figure in theatre in Japan, is the latest member of the opening ceremony team to depart in disgrace.

The creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned in March after suggesting a plus-size female comedian appear as a pig – referring to her as an ‘Olympig’.

And on Monday, composer Keigo Oyamada, whose music was expected to be used at the ceremony, was forced to resign because of past bullying of his classmates, which he boasted about in magazine interviews.  

A four-minute musical piece he composed was removed from the ceremony, but organisers left it unclear Thursday how Kobayashi’s firing might affect the event.

‘We’re still considering how to hold the opening ceremony tomorrow,’ Hashimoto said. ‘I want to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible.’

Details of the opening ceremony have been kept under wraps, and strict coronavirus rules mean only around 950 people will be in the stands of the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium for the extravaganza.

That includes just 15 world leaders – down from some 40 in Rio in 2016 – with even Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former prime minister who was instrumental in getting the Games brought to the country, set to skip it.

In one piece of good news for Tokyo, US First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Tokyo on Thursday for the Games, marking the highest-profile individual to arrive so far. 

Biden is set to dine with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife and it is hoped may discuss getting crucial Covid vaccine supplies to Japan to boost its stuttering roll-out.  

Tokyo 2020 has been plagued by a series of gaffes and missteps by Olympic officials, including Hashimoto’s predecessor Yoshiro Mori, who resigned after claiming women speak too much in meetings.

Even before the latest series of firings, the Games were deeply unpopular in Japan with polls consistently showing a majority of Japanese do not want them to go ahead and do not expect to enjoy them.

The troubled Tokyo Olympics is due to kick off in just 24 hours but has been plagued by issues including rising Covid cases, with 91 now linked to the event

The troubled Tokyo Olympics is due to kick off in just 24 hours but has been plagued by issues including rising Covid cases, with 91 now linked to the event 

The Games are being held against the backdrop of rapidly rising cases in Japan (pictured) with Tokyo itself reporting a record daily case total on Wednesday

The Games are being held against the backdrop of rapidly rising cases in Japan (pictured) with Tokyo itself reporting a record daily case total on Wednesday

Scandal-by-scandal, how FIVE officials and artists linked to the Tokyo Olympics have been sacked

Japan thought it had the Olympics in the bag: By mid-2019, most of the venues had been finished on or ahead of time and the country was being hailed as the best-prepared host ever.

Now, after a year of delays due to the pandemic, the ‘best prepared’ country is stumbling from crisis to crisis: Forced to shut out crowds due to Covid with cases rising among athletes, and scandal after scandal hitting organisers.

No fewer than five officials and artists linked with the Games have now been forced to resign – three of them in the last three days.

Scandal-by-scandal, MailOnline looks back at who has been sacked so far:

Yoshiro Mori, organising chief, fired Feb 22

Mori, now 84, is a former Prime Minister of Japan and was appointed head of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee in 2014 at the age of 76.

At the time he dubbed organising the Games ‘my one last service to the country’, joking that he would barely live to see the event staged.

Even before his time as Olympic organiser, Mori was known for gaffes and undiplomatic comments – with Japanese media once describing him as having ‘the heart of a flea and the brain of a shark’.

True to form, in February this year Mr Mori quipped during an online meeting that women should have time limits placed on them during summits because ‘they talk too much’. 

Amid public outcry Mr Mori initially refused to quit though did apologise, before finally leaving his post a week later after petitions to oust him garnered widespread support

Hiroshi Sasaki, artistic director, quit Mar 18

A 66-year-old advertising executive, Sasaki was initially hired to oversee the Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies but added artistic director of the main Games to his CV after the event was pushed back to 2021 due to Covid.

Sasaki had been responsible for the torch handover ceremony between Brazil and Japan at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, which saw then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appear dressed as Super Mario. 

While discussing his changes to the opening ceremony with staff, he suggested lowering a plus-sized Japanese music artist into the stadium dressed as a pig – dubbing her an ‘Olympig’.

The comments were made in 2020 but only became public in March this year, prompting a speedy resignation from Sasaki.

Keigo Oyamada, composer, fired Jul 19

Better known by his musical alias Cornelius, 52-year-old rock musician Oyamada had been announced as a composer for the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on July 14.

Oyamada had composed a four-minute piece that would feature during the ceremony, organisers said, centered around the concept of ‘celebrating differences, empathizing, and living side by side with compassion.’

The announcement triggered an immediate backlash, as people reposed magazine interviews Oyamada had given in the 1990s where he appeared to brag about bullying disabled and minority ethnic classmates.

Incidents he described included forcing a boy with Down Syndrome to eat faeces and forcing another to masturbate in front of classmates.

Oyamada issued an online apology on July 15, before announcing he had quit on July 19.

Nobumi, children’s author, quit Jul 21

A popular children’s author in Japan, Nobumi was scheduled to appear at a cultural event linked to the Games in August.

Called ONE, the online event was billed as a way to ‘realize an inclusive society’ through music and dance.

However, Nobumi’s name became caught up in the scandal around Oyamada as people also began reposting historic bullying claims against the author.

People pointed out that Nobumi had written and spoken about being abusive towards a female teacher, and had mocked children with birth defects.

Organisers said they raised the comments with him in a meeting following Oyamada’s departure and he subsequently quit. 

Kentaro Kobayashi, opening ceremony director, quit Jul 22 

A comedian, director and artist, 48-year-old Kobayashi was put in charge of directing the new-look opening ceremony after the Games were delayed.

But, on the eve of the performance he helped devise, a clip of a 1998 TV routine in which he mocked the Holocaust appeared online.

In the clip, he and his comedy partner – part of a double-act known as the Rahmens – were dressed as famous children’s entertainers of the time.

The skit involves the pair discussing ideas to entertain children, when one of them pulls out a string of paper figures – prompting the other to ask where the figures have come from.

‘They’re from that time you said “let’s play the Holocaust”’, the other replies before the pair go on to make light of Nazi atrocities.

Kobayashi attempted to defend himself after the clip surfaced, admitting the lines were ‘extremely inappropriate’ but added they were from a time in his career when he was trying to get attention ‘in a shallow-minded way’.

The Tokyo organising committee subsequently ‘decided to relieve Koybayashi of his post’. 


In a recent poll, 68 per cent of respondents expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronavirus infections, with 55 per cent saying they opposed the Games going ahead. 

It comes against the backdrop of rising Covid cases within the country driven by the more-infectious Delta variant which has seen Tokyo put into a state of emergency that bans large gatherings, meaning most events will take place without crowds.

On Thursday, the city reported a new daily high of more than 1,900 Covid cases – a rise of 155 per cent in a week – driven mostly by infections among the unvaccinated.

Japan as a whole reported some 5,300 Covid cases Thursday, up from 4,900 infections reported the previous day and the country’s highest toll since May 20. 

‘What we have worried about is now actually happening,’ Japan Medical Association President Toshio Nakagawa said at a weekly news conference. 

‘The surge in cases has been expected whether we have the Olympics or not, and we are afraid that there will be an explosive increase in cases regardless of the Games.’

More than 500,000 people in Tokyo have also signed petitions in a bid to stop the Olympics from being held.

Opponents vented their anger on the eve of tomorrow’s official opening with the NO OLYMPICS 2020 campaign group claiming the Games are a cynical bid to make money and gain political power at the expense of public health.

A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We oppose the Olympic Games because they are a massive exploitation and destruction of people’s lives, livelihoods, public spaces, environment and democracy for the benefit of the IOC, the host city governments, politicians, developers and other capitalists. 

‘Tokyo Olympics has brought us many problems such as huge expenditures, evictions, and gentrification of parts of the city. 

‘Now, despite the pandemic, the Olympics are about to be forced on the Japanese people with disdain for their lives and livelihoods, and many people are against it. 

‘We strongly insist that the Tokyo Olympics should be cancelled immediately.’

Just 19 per cent of residents of the host city believe the Games can be held safely, with more than two-thirds demanding the event be cancelled, even at this late stage.

Pensioner Hideo Kora, 63, told MailOnline: ‘The Games should definitely be cancelled.

‘The number of coronavirus cases is rising and it’s not enough to hold the Games without spectators.’

Moe, 34, a businessman man, said: ‘It’s not an easy question, but if there are no spectators then I think it’s okay to hold the Games.

‘Of course, the athletes have made great efforts to participate so we should show consideration for their feelings.’

However some younger people continue to support holding the Games.

High School student Yu, 17, said: ‘I think the Games should go forward. ‘These events come along only once every four years and the athletes have trained hard. I’d feel sorry for them if it were cancelled.

Part-time worker Keisuke, 25, added: ‘I guess it’s better to hold them.

‘Although there is some impact from the coronavirus, it’s an event for the nation and the world, plus the athletes, so it’s better to continue, I think.’

The Olympic source added: ‘It is going to be hard for the athletes with no supporting crowds and somewhat surreal.

‘But in some way this will be all about natural sporting effort and it all being down to the athlete to get themselves into a medal winning position.

‘They will have to draw on, like never before, banks of energy, guile and self-determination without the roar of the spectators.’

Even with strict Covid rules in place, some 50,000 people are expected to arrive in Tokyo for the event – another sore point after Japan imposed strict border controls to keep the pandemic under control.

Japan has registered 850,000 Covid cases and 15,000 deaths to-date – relatively low figures for such a populous country.

But there are fears the Olympics could accelerate the country’s already-rising case totals because only 20 per cent of the population are vaccinated.

Already there have been 91 Covid cases linked to the Games – including among athletes, coaches, volunteers and staff.

That total only includes those who returned a positive test after arriving in Japan and does not include those diagnosed in their home countries before travelling.

The latest athlete to be hit is Czech table tennis player Pavel Sirucek who will have to withdraw from the competition to complete mandatory 10-day isolation. 

US First Lady Jill Biden is pictured arriving in Tokyo to attend the Olympics on Thursday, a day before the Opening Ceremony kicks off

US First Lady Jill Biden is pictured arriving in Tokyo to attend the Olympics on Thursday, a day before the Opening Ceremony kicks off

Jill Biden greets US diplomatic staff based in Japan as she arrived in Tokyo for the Olympics

Jill Biden greets US diplomatic staff based in Japan as she arrived in Tokyo for the Olympics

‘Today, we were informed that Pavel Sirucek has tested positive for COVID-19 and is placed in isolation,’ the International Table Tennis Federation said Thursday.

‘Pavel will be marked as Did Not Start in the table tennis competition, in accordance with the Tokyo 2020 Sport-Specific Regulations. We wish him a speedy recovery.’

The 28-year-old is ranked 52nd in the world.

It comes after Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs and Chilean taekwondo fighter Fernanda Aguirre withdrew from the Olympics after being diagnosed Wednesday. 

Japanese Emperor Naruhito, speaking at an IOC event on Thursday, acknowledged the difficulty in hosting the games during a pandemic – telling chief Thomas Bach that it is ‘not easy’ to keep infections down.

‘I express my deep respect for your efforts,’ he added.

Despite the opening ceremony taking place on Friday several competitions have already got underway, including soccer – with players from several teams taking the knee to protest racial injustice before kickoffs.

But the International Olympic Committee courted controversy after removing footage of them making the protest from highlight reels broadcast around the world – forcing a quick U-turn.

It comes after the IOC watered down a decades-old rule banning political protests from the Games after backlash from athletes.   

The concession under Olympic Charter Rule 50, which has long prohibited any athlete protest inside event venues, was finally allowed this month by the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC has tried to reconcile enforcing the rule while recognizing, and sometimes celebrating, the iconic image of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising black-gloved fists on the medal podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

On Wednesday, the British and Chilean teams kneeled before the opening games and were followed by the United States, Sweden and New Zealand players in later kickoffs. The Australia team posed with a flag of Australia’s indigenous people.

Those images were excluded from the official Tokyo Olympic highlights package provided by the IOC to media including The Associated Press who could not broadcast the games live.

Official Olympic social media channels also did not include pictures of the athlete activism.

‘The IOC is covering the Games on its owned and operated platforms and such moments will be included as well,’ the Olympic body said Thursday in an apparent change of policy.

The IOC said hundreds of millions of viewers could have seen the footage watching networks that have official broadcast rights and ‘can use it as they deem fit.’

The decades-long ban on all demonstrations was eased by the IOC three weeks ago when it was clear some athletes – especially in soccer and track and field – would express opinions on the field in Japan.

Two reviews of Rule 50 in the previous 18 months by the IOC’s own athletes commission had concluded Olympic competitors did not want distractions on their field of play.

The new guidance allows taking a knee or raising a fist in pre-game or pre-race introductions but not on medal ceremony podiums. The IOC will still discipline athletes who protest on the podium.

Sports governing bodies still have a veto, and swimming’s FINA has said its athletes are prohibited on the pool deck from any gesture interpreted as protest. 

Olympic Committee vice-president branded a ‘mansplaining dinosaur’ 

The International Olympic Committee’s  vice-president has been branded a ‘mansplaining dinosaur’ after berating a female Australian politician about attending the Tokyo opening ceremony. 

John Coats began berating Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk following a press conference on Wednesday during which Brisbane – the capital of her state – was announced as the host of the 2032 Olympics.

Ms Palaszczuk, who was in Tokyo for the press conference, had previously said she would reject an invitation to be one of 950 VIPs attending the closed-door opening ceremony on Friday.

‘You are going to the opening ceremony,’ Mr Coats – who is also Australia’s most-senior Olympic official – told Ms Palaszczuk while leaning back in his chair and folding his arms. 

‘I’m still the deputy chair of the candidature leadership group,’ he continued, speaking through a plastic screen, ‘and so far as I understand, there will be an opening and closing ceremony in 2032.

‘All of you are going to get along there and understand the traditional parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony.’

‘So none of you are staying behind and hiding in your rooms, alright?’

Palaszczuk – one of the most senior women in Australian politics – was visibly uncomfortable, staying silent throughout his monologue.

‘I don’t want to offend anybody, so,’ she said later in the press conference, before trailing off.

Australian lawmakers pilloried Coates for his behaviour, calling on him to apologise and even resign.

‘John Coates should resign on return from Tokyo,’ independent senator Rex Patrick tweeted. ‘He’s a social and political dinosaur who has spent far too long in the rarefied, self-interested @Olympics bubble.’

Pictured: John Coates (left) and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (second left) celebrate with other delegates after Brisbane was announced as the 2032 Summer Olympics host city during the 138th IOC Session in Tokyo on July 21, 2021

Pictured: John Coates (left) and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (second left) celebrate with other delegates after Brisbane was announced as the 2032 Summer Olympics host city during the 138th IOC Session in Tokyo on July 21, 2021

Social media users also called out Coates for his ‘bullying’ of the centre-left leader.

‘Someone asked what the definition of a mansplaining dinosaur looked like and Coates simply raised his hand,’ one tweeted.

Former Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell labelled it ‘disgusting’ while conservative MP Darren Chester called it a ‘disrespectful performance which reeked of arrogance’.

In a statement released by the Australian Olympic Committee, Coates said that his comments had been ‘completely misinterpreted by people who weren’t in the room’.

‘The Premier and I have a long standing and very successful relationship. We both know the spirit of my remarks and I have no indication that she was offended in any way,’ he said.

Palaszczuk, who is under political pressure for flying to Tokyo during the pandemic, played down the incident, telling public broadcaster ABC that Coates was ‘fantastic’ and the ‘driving force behind us securing the Olympics’.

Most Australians are prevented from travelling overseas due to strict international border closures, while about half the country’s population of 25 million is currently under lockdown.


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Connecting the Dots Between Climate Devastation and Fossil Fuel Profits



Connecting the Dots Between Climate Devastation and Fossil Fuel Profits
If the world does not take action on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, the future could be very grim indeed. IstockPhoto

As Pakistan drowns, as Puerto Rico is cast into darkness, and as Jacksonians remain thirsty, it’s past time for a climate tax on fossil fuel companies.

What do Pakistan, Puerto Rico, and Jackson, Mississippi, have in common? They’ve all recently experienced climate-related catastrophic rains and flooding, resulting in the loss of homes, electricity, and running water. But, even more importantly, they are all low-income regions inhabited by people of color—the prime victims of climate injustice. They face inaction from negligent governments and struggle to survive as fossil fuel companies reap massive profits—a status quo that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called a “moral and economic madness.”

Pakistan, which relies on yearly monsoons to enrich its agricultural industry, has had unprecedented floods since June, impacting 30 million people and killing more than 1,500—a third of them children.

Zulfiqar Kunbhar, a Karachi-based journalist with expertise in climate coverage, explains that “things are very critical” in the rain-affected areas of his nation. Kunbhar has been visiting impacted regions and has seen firsthand the massive “agricultural loss and livelihood loss” among Pakistan’s farming communities.

Sindh, a low-lying province of Pakistan, is not only one of the most populous in the nation (Sindh is home to about 47 million people), but it also produces about a third of the agricultural produce, according to Kunbhar. Twenty years ago, Sindh was stricken with extreme drought. In the summer of 2022, it was drowning in chest-deep water.

The UN is warning that the water could take months to recede and that this poses serious health risks, as deadly diseases like cerebral malaria are emerging. Kunbhar summarizes that provinces like Sindh are facing both “the curse of nature” and government “mismanagement.”

Climate change plus government inaction on mitigation and resilience equals deadly consequences for the poor. This same equation plagues Puerto Rico, long relegated to the status of a United States territory. In September 2022, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 and killed nearly 3,000 people, another storm named Fiona knocked out powerfor the entire region.

Julio López Varona, chief of campaigns at Center for Popular Democracy Action, spoke to me from Puerto Rico, saying, “the storm was extremely slow, going at like 8 or 9 miles an hour,” and as a result, “it pounded the island for more than three days” with relentless rain. “Communities were completely flooded; people have been displaced,” he says. Eventually, the electrical grid completely failed.

Days after the storm passed, millions of people remained without power—some even lost running water—leading the White House to declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico.

Even on the U.S. mainland, it is poor communities of color who have been hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change. Mississippi’s capital of Jackson, with an 82 percent Black population and growing numbers of Latin American immigrants, struggles with adequate resources and has had problems with its water infrastructure for years.

Lorena Quiroz, founder of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, a Jackson-based group doing multiracial grassroots organizing, told me how the city’s residents have been struggling without clean running water since major rains and resulting floods overwhelmed a water treatment plant this summer.

“It’s a matter of decades of disinvestment in this mostly Black, and now Brown, community,” says Quiroz. In a state run by white conservatives, Jackson is overseen by a Black progressive mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who is now suing the state government over inaction on the city’s water infrastructure.

Quiroz says it’s “painful to see how government is not doing what they should, how the state government is neglecting its most vulnerable populations.”

Over and over, the same pattern has emerged on a planet experiencing catastrophic climate change. Setting aside the fact that we are still spewing greenhouse gasesinto the atmosphere as the world burns and floods, the impacts of a warming climate are disproportionately borne by poor communities of color as evidenced in Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Jackson, and elsewhere.

The UN head, Guterres is doing what he can in using his position to lay blame precisely on the culprits, saying in his opening remarks to the UN General Assembly in New York recently, “It is high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors, and enablers on notice. Polluters must pay.” Guterres specifically touted the importance of taxing fossil fuel companies to cover the damage they are causing in places like Pakistan. According to the Associated Press, “Oil companies in July reported unprecedented profits of billions of dollars per month. ExxonMobil posted three months profits of $17.85 billion, Chevron of $11.62 billion, and Shell of $11.5 billion.”

Contrast this windfall with the countless numbers of people who lost their homes in Pakistan and are now living in shanties on roads where they have found some higher ground from the floods. “If you lose a crop, that’s seasonal damage, but if you lose a house, you have to pay for years to come,” says Kunbhar.

Kunbhar’s view of what is happening in Pakistan applies equally to Puerto Rico and Jackson: Society is “divided between the haves and have-nots,” he says. “The poorest of the poor who are already facing an economic crisis from generation to generation, they are the most vulnerable and the [worst] victims of this crisis.”

In Puerto Rico, Varona sees displaced communities losing their lands to wealthier communities. He says that the local government in Puerto Rico is “allowing millionaires and billionaires to come and pay no taxes and to actually take over many of the places that are safer for communities to be on.” This is an “almost intentional displacement of communities… that have historically lived here,” he says.

And in Jackson, Quiroz says she is aghast at the “mean-spiritedness” of Mississippi’s wealthier enclaves and state government. “It is so difficult to comprehend the way that our people are being treated.”

Although disparate and seemingly disconnected from one another, with many complicating factors, there are stark lines connecting climate victims to fossil fuel profits.

Pakistan’s poor communities are paying the price for ExxonMobil’s billions.

Puerto Rico remains in the dark so that Chevron may enjoy massive profits.

Jackson, Mississippi, has no clean drinking water so that Shell can enrich its shareholders.

When put in such terms, Guterres’s idea for taxing the perpetrators of climate devastation is a no-brainer. It’s “high time,” he said, “to put fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers on notice,” so that we can end our “suicidal war against nature.”

Independent Media Institute____________________

Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.

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Violence Against Indigenous Women Grows in Vancouver Amid ‘Apathy and Injustice’



Violence Against Indigenous Women Grows in Vancouver Amid ‘Apathy and Injustice’
Indigenous women in Canada protesting (Image via: Red Women Rising)

Indigenous women and girls in Canada continue to face disproportionate levels of violence and insecurity rooted in colonialism.

Violence against Indigenous women is “escalating like never before,” the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has warned. A series of tragedies have rocked the city of Vancouver (unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh lands) in recent months, including the discovery of the body of a 14-year-old Indigenous child, Noelle O’Soup, in May.

“Apathy and injustice prevail among the authorities while the intersecting crises of MMIWG2S+ [missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and others], the colonial child welfare system, homelessness, and the opioid crisis are literally killing our people,” said Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, UBCIC secretary-treasurer, according to a press release by the organization.

Noelle O’Soup was found in an apartment approximately a year after she went missing from a group home in Port Coquitlam, while under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), British Columbia. Reports on the circumstances of her disappearance and the investigation into her death have revealed negligence by both the police and the government. “The major investigative oversight occurred despite multiple visits to, and apparent inspections of, the single room occupancy unit where Noelle O’Soup’s remains would finally be discovered,” stated Global News. Her case, unfortunately, is more the rule rather than the exception in Canada.

An Ongoing Genocide

In 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG) released its final report, declaring that the violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual) people amounted to “genocide.”

The NIMMIWG emphasized that this genocide had been “empowered by colonial structures evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Indigenous rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations.”

The inquiry found that “Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or [go] missing than any other women in Canada,” with the figure soaring to 16 times when compared to white women in the country.

A report by Statistics Canada released in April 2022 stated that 56 percent of Indigenous women have experienced physical assault, while 46 percent have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. Constituting approximately 5 percent of Canada’s population of women, Indigenous women accounted for 24 percent of all women homicide victims between 2015 and 2020, according to the Statistics Canada report.

The likelihood of experiencing violence seems to be higher in cases where Indigenous women live in rural and remote areas, if they have a disability, have experienced homelessness, or have been in government care—81 percent of Indigenous women who have been in the child welfare system have been physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Statistics Canada.

“Across multiple generations, Indigenous peoples were and continue to be subjected to the detrimental harms of colonialism,” acknowledged the report. Not only are Indigenous children disproportionately represented in Canada’s child welfare system (52.2 percent), but advocates have also found that more children have been forcibly separated from their families now than during the brutal Indian residential schools period.

Along with its final report, the NIMMIWG also made a key intervention in prevailing definitions of genocide, stating that “In actuality, genocide encompasses a variety of both lethal and non-lethal acts, including acts of ‘slow death,’ and all of these acts have very specific impacts on women and girls.”

“This reality must be acknowledged as a precursor to understanding genocide as a root cause of the violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada,” the NIMMIWG added, “[n]ot only because of the genocidal acts that were and still are perpetrated against them, but also because of all the societal vulnerabilities it fosters, which leads to deaths and disappearances.”

‘The Police Don’t Protect Us’

The remains of Noelle O’Soup were found in Downtown Eastside (DTES), a neighborhood referred to as “ground zero” for violence against Indigenous women. Residents face disproportionate levels of “manufactured and enforced violence, poverty, homelessness, child apprehension, criminalization, and fatal overdoses.”

Approximately 8,000 women live and work in DTES, where the rates of violence have been more than double compared to the rest of Vancouver, according to data provided by the police.

Indigenous women have an acute vulnerability to violence, and yet the institutional response has been to stigmatize the women in DTES for having “high-risk lifestyles.”

“Harmful stereotypes that are perpetuated against Indigenous women are used as an ongoing tool of colonization to enforce their vulnerability to violence,” stated Christine Wilson, director of Indigenous Advocacy at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center (DEWC), in an interview with Peoples Dispatch.

In 2019, the DEWC published “Red Women Rising,” a historic report produced in direct collaboration with 113 Indigenous survivors of violence and 15 non-Indigenous women in the DTES who knew Indigenous women who have experienced violence, have gone missing, or have overdosed. “Red Women Rising” was published in response to the final report of the NIMMIWG.

Echoing the argument put forth in “Red Women Rising,” Wilson reiterated that “the criminal justice system constructs Indigenous women as ‘risks’ that need to be contained, which leaves them unsafe and exacerbates inequalities.” Widespread bias within the policing system has not only influenced whether police take Indigenous women’s complaints seriously, Wilson explained, but also whether Indigenous women approach the police at all.

“The police don’t protect us; they harass us,” stated DJ Joe, a resident of DTES, in the report by DEWC. “Native women face so much violence but no one believes a Native woman when she reports violence.”

In cases involving missing or murdered women, there is a lack of proper investigation and adequate resources, Wilson stated, adding that family members of victims were subjected to insensitive and offensive treatment, alongside general jurisdictional confusion and lack of coordination among the police.

Police have also been actively hostile and abusive toward Indigenous women in Canada. They continue to be targets of sexual violence by police forces, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which has been deployed on contract policing services in 600 Indigenous communities.

Lack of police and judicial protection also overlaps with criminalization, thereby exacerbating violence against Indigenous women and girls. Wilson added, “Indigenous women are more likely to be violently attacked by their abusers and then more likely to be counter-charged by the police, compared to non-Indigenous women.”

Colonial Patriarchy Poses the Highest Risk

As “Red Women Rising” outlined, “Settler-colonialism intentionally targets Indigenous women in order to destroy families, sever the connection to land-based practices and economies, and devastate relational governance of Indigenous nations.”

The report identified “[m]ultiplying socioeconomic oppressions within colonialism,” including loss of land, family violence, child apprehension, and inadequate services, which worked to displace Indigenous women and children from their home communities.

Forty-two percent of women living on reserves lived in houses requiring major repairs, according to the report, and nearly one-third of all on-reserve homes in Canada were food insecure, with the figure soaring to 90 percent in some areas. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Indigenous women lived off-reserve, in areas such as DTES.

Displacement is closely linked to housing insecurity, with all members of DEWC having experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

The violence that Indigenous women face is tied to poverty, which in turn “magnifies vulnerability to abusive relationships, sexual assault, child apprehension, exploitative work conditions, [and] unsafe housing,” stated the “Red Women Rising” report.

Not only are Indigenous women disproportionately criminalized for “poverty-related crimes,” but Indigenous families are also investigated for “poverty-related ‘neglect'” eight times more as compared to non-Indigenous families. “[H]igher stressors associated with living in systemic poverty such as drug dependence and participation in street economies are used against Indigenous women in order to apprehend Indigenous children, thus perpetuating the colonial cycle of trauma and impoverishment,” the report pointed out.

As a result, activists argue that what is needed is an “assertion of Indigenous laws and jurisdiction, and restoration of collective Indigenous women’s rights and governance,” and “individual support for survivors such as healing programs.”

“Red Women Rising” had made 200 recommendations to address violence against Indigenous women. Meanwhile, the NIMMIWG had issued 231 “Calls for Justice,” stressing that they were legal imperatives, not recommendations. However, in the three years since the release of both these reports, the Canadian government has made “little progress.”

“While there have been crucial acknowledgments on the subject of violence against Indigenous women,” Wilson told Peoples Dispatch, “now we need actions. We need funds for reparations, we need housing, and we need clean water on the reserves.”


Tanupriya Singh is a writer at Peoples Dispatch and is based in Delhi.

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We Are in a Climate Emergency, No Solution is Too Novel



We Are in a Climate Emergency, No Solution is Too Novel
Most of us are doing something for the environment. Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Did the Earth’s climate just cross the Rubicon? It certainly feels that way given all the extreme weather events taking place. Europe recorded its hottest summer on record. California remains in an unprecedented climate emergency that may result in rolling electricity blackouts. We don’t even know what challenges will take place in the Southern Hemisphere when summer sets in. The gravity of these climate-related events is having knock-on effects across societies around the world. From electricity generation to safe drinking water, extreme weather is forcing us to craft durable solutions for these problems. It’s time to think outside of the box. 

In the arid climate of the Arabian Gulf, access to drinking water is a climate-related challenge that has long been a scourge to the rapidly growing economies in the region. With ample access to seawater, desalination efforts have been a tried and tested method of securing water supplies. The UAE is home to one of the world’s largest aquifers of desalinated water. The reserve sits under the Liwa desert and contains nearly 26 billion liters of water that can provide about 100 million liters of water per day in case of emergency. Desalination is effective but costly. Each plant costs more than $1 billion to build and uses an enormous amount of energy to maintain. 

In recent years, cloud seeding has exploded in popularity across the Middle East. While the effectiveness of cloud seeding is still a matter of debate and some scientists are concerned about unforeseen complications, governments from Morocco to the UAE are investing heavily in cloud seeding programs to secure water resources. Ethiopia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have recently started large-scale cloud seeding operations. As the regional leader in the technology, the UAE has invested millions in extensive cloud seeding efforts. 

In a land without water, artificially creating clouds is one way to create rain. Cloud seeding uses chemicals such as silver iodide as a seeding agent that quickly starts the rapid formation of ice crystals, which turn into clouds and produce rain. The chemicals are fired from specifically designed airplanes when the conditions are ripe for creating clouds. 

Since the technology was created in 1946, scientists have noted instances where cloud seeding decreases the number of clouds in the sky. Some scientists worry that cloud seeding can cause severe weather events like hail or floods by increasing rainfall in regions that are adept for such weather. Others have discredited this claim by arguing that cloud seeding can be suspended if there is a danger of flooding. Israel, one of the original pioneers in cloud seeding, stopped its program in 2021. The country had been cloud seeding for nearly 50 years but only saw a marginal gain in rain precipitation. In 2019, cloud seeding was blamed for creating such heavy rains in the UAE that some residential neighborhoods flooded in Dubai. 

While cloud seeding might not be as effective as desalination efforts, it’s much cheaper to run a successful cloud seeding campaign. That’s appealing for lower-income countries suffering from similar climate-related water shortages. In 2018, South Africa’s second-largest city and tourism hub came dangerously close to running out of water as a result of a prolonged drought. City officials rushed to put desalination contingency plans into place but the prohibitive cost became an insurmountable barrier. The city was able to commission emergency desalination plants but they have already been decommissioned for a lack of budget. Cape Town’s current plan for better water resiliency calls for an investment of $335 million but there is no clarity on where that money will come from. 

A delicate dynamic is taking shape between wealthy and poor countries that experience water insecurity. Wealthy countries can shoulder the cost of desalination programs and add cloud seeding efforts to boost supplies while poorer countries need to rely on the cheapest options such as cloud seeding (which doesn’t require access to the ocean). In the Middle East, the spike in cloud seeding is leading to geopolitical tensions as Iran is rushing to seed more clouds than its neighbors. 

Challenges aside, there is an economic calculus at work that could define more than just the future of climate change. China has the world’s most ambitious cloud seeding program with aims to stimulate half the country. Given the size of that goal, the Chinese might be able to refine the technology and make it more efficient. If that were to happen, Chinese cloud seeding technology will be quickly exported throughout emerging markets through Chinese infrastructure programs like the Belt and Road Initiative. Beijing has a long track record of using infrastructure to establish geopolitical power. It might soon use water technology to the same end. 

Given the size of the climate crisis we are facing, efforts to improve novel technologies like cloud seeding will certainly help societies face serious problems. While it’s important to be aware of how this technology (and any other) can be weaponized to achieve political goals, we can let politics intervene in finding solutions to the climate crisis. It’s a matter of life and death. 

Joseph Dana is the former senior editor of Exponential View, a weekly newsletter about technology and its impact on society. He was also the editor-in-chief of emerge85, a lab exploring change in emerging markets and its global impact. Twitter: @ibnezra.

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Humanitarianism Must Adapt to Climate Change, Too



Humanitarianism Must Adapt to Climate Change, Too
If the world does not take action on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, the future could be very grim indeed. IstockPhoto

Aid is finally reaching the millions of Pakistanis whose lives have been upended by devastating floods. The United Nations has launched a $160 million emergency plan; supplies are being flown in from the Middle East and Asia; and donors and publics across the world are responding to this most recent disaster appeal.

Pakistan’s tragedy is the latest in a series of global emergencies resulting from a rapidly changing climate. And while the floodwaters have not yet receded, it isn’t too early to assess what this crisis can teach us about the challenges of humanitarian response in an era of increasingly extreme weather.

Since the mid-20th century, humanitarian action has made a measurable impact on lives and communities. Disasters, especially famine, kill far fewer people today than they did before the 1960s. But the changes wrought by the climate emergency mean disasters will become deadlier unless the humanitarian aid sector adjusts its strategy. For all the good humanitarianism has done, it has also created dependency on a system that reacts to, rather than seeks to prevent, disasters from occurring.

Meeting the new challenges will require re-thinking some of the core tenets of humanitarianism and speeding up reforms and changes to create a more flexible, proactive system built on principles of prevention, resilience, and decentralized disaster governance. 

First, risk analysis and modeling must become firmly baked into the heart of humanitarianism. Early warning systems that can detect impending droughts or floods have long been a feature of disaster prevention and mitigation (and may have helped limit the number killed in Pakistan’s floods, a tally that now exceeds 1,250). Models predicting the impact of changes in temperature, precipitation, disease outbreaks, and other variables are already helping communities prepare for the worst.

But current systems need more funding to maintain, and new systems must be decentralized across global regions to maximize their utility. Critically, data needs to be shared more widely between state and civil society organizations.

Second, disaster management must shift from a response mindset to one of reducing risk and building resilience before crises strike. In 1970, flooding triggered by a massive cyclone killed around 500,000 people in Bangladesh (then part of East Pakistan). A similar cyclone and flood in the same area two years ago killed 30, thanks to extensive flood-mitigation measures and policies. Meanwhile, governments in Pacific Island states like Kiribati and Vanuatu are investing in health infrastructure that will be better able to withstand floods and typhoons, as well as preparing community-based disaster preparedness plans to respond more rapidly and effectively.

It’s not only countries of the Global South that are focused on making systems, structures, and societies more resilient. The Californian state government recently allocated an additional $15 billion to reduce the risk and mitigate the impact of wildfires. Ensuring transport networks, health systems, and food systems can withstand shocks is vital for protecting the most vulnerable during a disaster.

Building resilience and preparedness is often seen as falling outside the humanitarian sector’s area of responsibility, acting as it does as the global first responder. Yet such activity is core to disaster management, and must be a core part of humanitarianism’s mandate.

The third change is shifting how the sector responds to disasters themselves. Here, reforms are needed to speed up and better integrate local solutions that ensure more resilient communities emerge when the emergency passes.

In the aftermath of the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake, humanitarian organizations were criticized for failing to work with local, state, and non-governmental organizations in their responses, creating parallel and separate systems that increased aid dependency and made building back local capacity harder.

Reflecting on those failures and others, the humanitarian sector and donors have committed to delivering more aid and interventions through local organizations. To date, however, progress has been slow and limited. Embedding responses within local contexts, with active participation from affected communities, will enhance and improve those responses.

But localization also needs to be integrated more fully into global and regional infrastructures. The United Arab Emirates has played a critical role in coordinating support to Pakistan, while Dubai’s International Humanitarian City is the largest of a growing network of humanitarian hubs that can respond quickly to regional disasters. Such infrastructure can support the bridging of global and local responses.

Many humanitarian organizations view building more resilient systems as beyond their remit, concerned that anything that deals with social inequality and vulnerability risks becoming politicized in a way that might conflict with the humanitarian concept of neutrality. But failing to address this necessity will only perpetuate dependency on external responses and organizations and worsen the impact of disasters.

The devastating human toll of the floods in Pakistan is a warning to us all. As the impact of the climate emergency picks up pace, and as rich countries continue to evade their culpability in its creation, the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized are dying as a result. These issues are already being debated within the humanitarian sector, but as Pakistan’s horrific floods remind us, commitments and discussions alone will not prepare the humanitarian system for the challenges that await.

Syndication Burea____________________

Michael Jennings is a professor in global development at SOAS University of London, where he works on issues related to global health and the politics and history of global development.

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Russia’s War Shifts its Battleground to Africa



Russia’s War Shifts its Battleground to Africa
Smoke rises from the territory of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry's unit, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. REUTERS

As the war in Ukraine enters its sixth month, with no signs of the conflict ending any time this year, the diplomatic war for hearts and minds has shifted to the African continent.

At the end of last month Russia’s foreign minister toured four African countries, followed swiftly by Emmanuel Macron last week, who visited three. Two US officials are due in the coming weeks, culminating in America’s secretary of state visiting three African countries later in August. It is quite the charm offensive, only slightly offset by no-one spelling out what all the charm is for.

On the surface, the reasons are obvious. Lavrov wanted to meet the Arab League, to lay the foundation for a nuclear power plant in Egypt and to prepare for an upcoming Russia-Africa summit in Ethiopia. The French president was in West Africa to chart a new relationship with former French colonies. Antony Blinken wants “partners” to tackle climate change and food insecurity.

Yet all of this comes against the background of the war in Ukraine, and when it comes to diplomacy, Ukraine is the war that dare not speak its name.

Both Russia and the West have focused on Africa ever since the March vote at the United Nations that condemned Russia’s invasion. Although the vote passed easily, half of all African states abstained, the largest such bloc. Since then, Russia has looked to African countries to reinforce its narrative about the war, while the West has sought to persuade them to change their minds: Countries that abstained on the day of the vote feature heavily on the itineraries of western leaders. The hot war in Europe has given way to a charm offensive in Africa.

This latest phase of the conflict started at the end of July, when Lavrov began his tour of African countries. Barely had he started, then Macron landed in Cameroon.

What has followed has been a war of narratives. From the start of the Ukraine war, Russia has sought to portray it as a local military operation, even going so far as to ban the use of “war” to describe the conflict on Russian television. The Ukrainian and Western response was to “internationalize” the conflict, describing the Russia invasion as a threat to the entire European continent and thereby galvanizing support across Europe. (Nor was this a mere description: It sufficiently tallied with the facts that Sweden and Finland dropped their longstanding ambivalence towards NATO and applied to join.)

Yet as Russia and western countries have gone to African leaders to seek support, this internationalizing of the conflict has worked against the West. In that regard, at least, Russia has been smart, talking up western interference and colonialism on the continent, in a way that resonates with many leaders (if not always their populations).

The arguments that Russia is no threat to African countries (unlike, wink, the West); that it has never sought to colonize African nations (unlike…); and that, just as Africans do not wish western countries to interfere in their domestic affairs, so Russia does not wish for outside interference in its “special military operation”, resonate powerfully.

Macron, arriving in Benin last week, waded directly into the argument, saying, “Here in Africa, a continent that has suffered from colonial imperialism, Russia is one of the last colonial, imperial powers – it decides to invade a neighboring country to defend its interests.” Given that Macron arrived in the country just as celebrations were beginning for the anniversary of Benin’s independence … from France, it’s safe to say that argument didn’t wash much.

These political arguments, and the desire of African leaders to show just enough solidarity to be left alone, collide with a visceral reality: The war in Ukraine is causing real hunger across the continent. Together, Ukraine and Russia provided 40 percent of Africa’s wheat supply pre-war. The conflict has been devastating. In Egypt, which relied on the two countries for three-quarters of its wheat, prices for the staple have soared almost 50 percent. In the Horn of Africa, the war has made a drought worse. Combine that with soaring oil prices and some of the most fragile countries are being hit the hardest.

The ugliest aspect of these competing tours is how little say Africa has in this war, even though it is paying some of the steepest prices. Promises of trade or partnerships don’t add up to genuine independence. As unedifying as it was to watch Lavrov talk about respecting the sovereignty of African nations even while Russia is slicing apart Ukraine’s territory, it was equally unpleasant to listen to Macron’s tone in Cameroon, where he chided African countries for “not calling it a war when it is one” – as if the label attached to a far-away European war mattered more to him than food and fuel crises across the continent.

Africa is forced to be part of this war, bearing consequences but not taking decisions, even as politicians from abroad appear to flatter, lecture or cajole. The African proverb that when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers comes to mind: a continent still paying for the sins of Europe. 


Faisal Al Yafai is currently writing a book on the Middle East and is a frequent commentator on international TV news networks. He has worked for news outlets such as The Guardian and the BBC, and reported on the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Twitter: @FaisalAlYafai

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In Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Cold War Echoes Reverberate



In Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Cold War Echoes Reverberate
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, left, shakes hands with U.S. President Ronald Reagan at the Geneva conference in November 1985. The invasion of Ukraine has rapidly returned echoes of a Cold War mentality to the United States, with a familiar foe in Russia. (AP Photo, File)

A rivalry with Russia. A proxy battleground. Nuclear brinksmanship. For many generations of Americans, it’s just like old times.

The invasion of Ukraine has rapidly returned echoes of a Cold War mentality to the United States, with a familiar foe in Russia. Bars have poured out their Russian vodka. McDonald’s, a symbol of the end of the Soviet Union when it first opened in Moscow, has shuttered its Russian locations. Once again, a U.S. president sees a pitched ideological battle. “We will save democracy,” President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address.

For an America where Russia never quite went out of style as an evergreen villain in film and television, revived tensions with the Kremlin have drawn from a well-worn geopolitical script. A familiar, chilly East-West wind is blowing again.

“It’s very much a Cold War echo,” says James Hershberg, professor of history and international affairs at Georgetown University and former director of the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Hershberg sees much that’s different about today’s inflamed tensions with Russia. Vladimir Putin’s aggressions, he says, don’t seem driven by ideology the way communism was for the Soviet Union. A transformed media landscape, too, has helped turn Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into a global protagonist.

But in a crisis that pits two nuclear superpowers on opposing sides, history is repeating in other ways. A Russian strategic overreach, Hershberg says, is again sparking a potentially perilous moment in international order.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, left, walks with U.S. President John F. Kennedy at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Vienna, Austria on June 3, 1961. The invasion of Ukraine has rapidly returned echoes of a Cold War mentality to the United States, with a familiar foe in Russia. (AP Photo, File)

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, left, walks with U.S. President John F. Kennedy at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Vienna, Austria on June 3, 1961. The invasion of Ukraine has rapidly returned echoes of a Cold War mentality to the United States, with a familiar foe in Russia. (AP Photo, File)

“We are in a second Cuban Missile Crisis in many ways in terms of the danger of escalation,” says Hershberg, whose books include “Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam.” “Putin is acting so irrationally he makes Nikita Khrushchev appear like a rational actor in comparison.”

The largest land conflict in Europe since World War II, Russia’s two-plus weeks of war in Ukraine has rallied Western alliances like few events before it. In repudiating Putin’s invasion, the U.S. and its European allies have enacted crippling economic sanctions on Russia — which Biden on Tuesday extended to Russian crude oil — while still drawing the line on military engagement with Russia.

“If we’re talking about a capitalized Cold War, I don’t think I could call this Cold War II,” says Fredrik Logevall, professor of history and international affairs at Harvard and Pulitzer-Prize winning author most recently of “JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956.”

“But,” Logevall says, “if we’re talking more generally about a cold war, if we mean a titanic struggle that involves all aspects of national power waged between two incompatible systems but short of outright military conflict — then yeah, I guess this is a cold war.”

The Cold War is innately connected to the crisis in Ukraine partly because it so much informs Putin’s world view. A former KGB agent, he once called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. The invasion of Ukraine is intended to deter Western influence and NATO infringement from Russia’s sphere of influence, and potentially to restore a Texas-sized part of the former Soviet Union.

Barely two weeks in, the Cold War has often been invoked. The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said “the threat to global security now is more complex and probably higher” than during the Cold War, partly because there aren’t the same back channels of communication. A Russian Foreign Ministry official, Alexander Darchiyev, according to an Interfax report, recently suggested that “perhaps it would be worth recalling the well-forgotten principle that worked during the Cold War — peaceful coexistence.”

Even before war began in Ukraine, Americans had a historically dim view of Russia. According to Gallup poll conducted in February, 85% of Americans viewed Russia unfavorably, easily the country’s worst rating in more than three decades — a slide accelerated by Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections, its annexation of Crimea and the nerve agent attack on Putin’s leading opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who’s currently imprisoned.

And while former president Donald Trump has maintained his esteem for Putin, anti-Russian opinion has uncommon bipartisan support. Gallup found that 88% of both Republicans and Democrats have an unfavorable view of Russia. Nothing unites like a common enemy.

President Joe Biden announces Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court at the White House in Washington on Feb. 25, 2022, left, and President Vladimir Putin speaks during a visit to the construction site of the National Space Agency at Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 27, 2022. The invasion of Ukraine has rapidly returned echoes of a Cold War mentality to the United States, with a familiar foe in Russia. (AP Photo)

President Joe Biden announces Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court at the White House in Washington on Feb. 25, 2022, left, and President Vladimir Putin speaks during a visit to the construction site of the National Space Agency at Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 27, 2022. The invasion of Ukraine has rapidly returned echoes of a Cold War mentality to the United States, with a familiar foe in Russia. (AP Photo)

Nina Khrushcheva, a Moscow-born professor of international affairs at the New School in New York and the great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, maintains that the Cold War never really went away — that the West’s view of Russia remained stuck in the broad portrayals of villains Boris and Natasha in “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoons. To her, Putin’s invasion was devastating because it confirmed the worst about her native country. Now, she begins her classes by apologizing.

“Putin is the global villain he deserves to be, and Russia is finished for decades to come,” says Khrushcheva, whose great-grandfather was premier of the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when John F. Kennedy was president of the United States. “My country just killed itself,” she says, and the U.S. “got their enemy back.”

“They got their enemy that has always been, always deserves to be and is always at the forefront of the American mind,” says Khrushcheva. “Russia has no excuse. But for America, it’s a field day. America is back and it’s on a white horse saving a white country in the middle of Europe against the horrible Russian Bear.”

Logevall, who co-authored the book “America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity,” doesn’t expect a Cold War rerun. The world isn’t as bipolar as it was decades ago. China, which signed a pact with Russia shortly before the invasion of Ukraine, looms much larger. And the interconnectedness of the global economy — where waves of corporations have severed ties with Russia — makes isolated coexistence harder to tolerate.

The conflict in Ukraine seems sure to be at least a coda to the Cold War, if not a new beginning.

“Putin feels great resentment about how the Cold War ended. The West declaring victory. Russia losing power and influence. I think he resents a certain Western triumphalism,” Logevall says. “In a way, I think history is what drives him.”



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