|Have we mentioned that we’re looking for sponsors for 5 Things You Should Know? We’ll say your name, and more. Contact us.|
A lot of news, but is it art?
Welcome to another Monday. Temperatures are still cold out this morning, but by mid-afternoon, we might just make it above freezing for the first time in several days. This is the beginning of a warming trend that will see central Indiana near 60 degrees by Thursday, but with that comes a reasonable chance for rain every day except today. By next weekend it will be cold and wintery again, so enjoy the warmer weather while you can.
The weekend managed to conjure up a fair bit of news for this morning. McDonald’s has sold most of its business in China and Hong Kong to investors who can help them grow. Turkey claims they’ve killed more than 40 ISIS fighters over the weekend, and the Friday’s Ft. Lauderdale shooter is likely facing the death penalty. Yet, it’s an award show that seems to be getting all the chatter this morning. Let’s look at our 5 things you should know and see if we can figure out why.
But first, the weather
We tend to look at the weather in terms of local forecasts and are typically thankful when everything is benign and quiet. A little bit of snow in the wrong place can be a real problem with it hits in the South, such as it did on Friday and Saturday last week. But what you might have missed was a massive winter storm that hit Europe over the weekend, leaving at least 20 dead and closing businesses and services across much of the continent1.
Those of you familiar with European geography know that, like the US, Southern Europe rarely sees a touch of winter. The Greek Islands are a popular winter tourist destination because they tend to stay warm. The same is true for Southern Italy. Yet, both are frozen over today and have a heavy blanket of fresh snow, closing ferries, ports, and schools. Overnight temperatures in Northern Europe reached as low as -22° F, which contributed to many of the deaths. Many of those dying are homeless and immigrant people with insufficient shelter.
At the same time, however, the Western US is getting hit with a storm of its own. Hundreds of homes have been evacuated in Nevada and in Northern California police are rescuing people from cars as the strongest winter storm to hit that region in 10 years pummels them with more water than they can handle2. This is on top of the more than six feet of snow dumped on the Sierra Nevadas in the past week. What you should know is that this is normally a high desert region that sees less than eight inches of rain a year. They’re looking at a very rough start to their week.
Death of a diplomat
People in Iran are mourning the death of Former Iranian president Akbar Rafsanjani who died Sunday at age 823. This is important because Rafsanjani, who was a political moderate, played a large role in the election of Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani and was a force within Iran for supporting the current nuclear agreement between that country and the West. Without Rafsanjani, Rouhani faces considerable objections from Iranian hardliners in favor of ditching the agreement and developing Iran’s nuclear program.
Given the rhetoric toward Iran from president-elect Donald Trump, many moderates and Middle Eastern academics feel that Rafsanjani’s death could not have come at a worse time. With political instability on both sides of the nuclear agreement, fears are high that the whole thing might fall apart without Rafsanjani’s voice working to keep both sides calm. Any political misstep on either side now could have catastrophic results.
In a country that has often been isolationist and protective, Rafsanjani was a rare voice of reason who advocated not only stronger ties with the West but closer relations with Iran’s Middle Eastern neighbors. A three-day period of mourning has been declared and the former president’s funeral will be held on Tuesday.
Using trucks as weapons
We may soon begin seeing a more diligent inspection of trucks on city streets as, once again, a truck has been used as part of a terror attack, this time in Jerusalem4. At least four Israeli soldiers were killed and 17 people wounded as a Palestinian driver rammed his truck into a crowd at a popular tourist attraction. This is the deadliest single attack in the region which has seen a considerable amount of violence over the past year.
This time, however, the US has a direct role in the causation for the attack. Tensions in the region have been high based on president-elect Trump’s statement that he plans to move the US embassy to Israel to Jerusalem. Palestinians have warned that such a move would have dire consequences, which has many wondering if this was merely a warning of what might be to come should the president-elect follow through on his promise.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is blaming the so-called Islamic State, however, given that organization’s recent use of a truck at a market in Germany that left 12 dead. The truck driver was a Palestinian man from a nearby neighborhood known for being home to other terrorists in the region. Security cameras show the truck barreling through the streets at a high rate of speed toward a group of soldiers, and then backing up rapidly after hitting them. The driver was shot dead by other Israeli soldiers surviving the attack.
Ending the program but not the controversy
Following the death of Tilikum, the orca that killed a trainer at Sea World back in 2010, Sea World San Diego has announced that it is ending its Killer Whale show5. The final presentation featuring trainers interacting with the giant mammals was held yesterday afternoon. Sea World says it plans to redesign the large tanks and open a new orca exhibit in the spring that is more of an educational experience. Visitors will see how orcas eat and interact with each other rather than with a trainer.
Don’t think this is an end to the controversy surrounding the Sea World program, though. Tilikum died at an estimated age of 36. While that might seem old compared to the life of your family pet, orcas in the wild have been known to live well over 200 years, with some estimated to live another century beyond that. The effect of captivity on the giant animals dramatically shortens their lifespan, no matter how well their care might be.
What you should know is that Sea World parks in Orlando and San Antonio will continue their orca shows through 2019. Attendance at all Sea World parks has fallen off since the documentary Blackfish criticized the conditions of the orcas at Sea World, specifically Tilikum, saying that captivity makes the massive mammals more aggressive. Sea World has also announced they are laying off some 320 people across its 12 parks, none of which are likely to affect the orca programs.
And finally …
The first big awards show of the new year, the Golden Globes, was held last night and, as one might expect, the tabloids and entertainment news is full of chatter about who won what6. Now, before anyone busts a gut, we can tell you that the musical La La Land took the lead with seven awards, which definitely brightens its chances going into the Oscars. Tracee Ellis Ross, took the award for best actress in a TV comedy for “Black-ish,” the first black woman to win in that category since 1992. Emma Stone won for best movie actress in a comedy or musical, and Billy Bob Thornton won for best actor in a TV drama.
What has tongues wagging fiercely this morning is Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech after winning the Cecile B. DeMille award, where she called the president-elect a bully and challenged the press to hold those in power accountable. What is getting the most attention, however, is when she said, “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick ’em all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”
That comment set off a firestorm about athletics not being the arts. MMA supporters especially took exception, given the word “arts” is in the title. Stop and think about it, though. We don’t called anyone a football artist, we call them “players.” We call those who participate in MMA “fighters,” not artists. Just so we’re clear, the Fine Arts always have been, and continue to be painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry extending to dance and drama. Modern modifications include film, photography, and other visial elements, but they do NOT include athletics. Those are sports. Don’t get confused.
And that’s all we have time and energy for this morning. Being a Monday, I’m sure there will be a lot happen throughout the day today. We’ll watch it all and we’ll be back in the morning to sift through all the nonsense. Enjoy the warming weather if you can and we’ll back tomorrow.