SUNDAY 22 JANUARY 2023
Morning News Notes:
Republican Inspired Violence
There is yet another mass shooting at a ballroom dance location in California. The area is largely Asian. There are 10 people dead.
The Wagner Group
The U.S. has designated the Wagner Group as a “significant transnational criminal organization” and will impose further sanctions against enablers. (Note: I am waiting for them to designate Trump, et. al. as a significant transnational criminal organization.)
The Wagner group is known for committing widespread human rights violations. Ali Velshi, MSNBC, says they have a “reputation for being inhumane,” according to the UN. It is interesting that Velshi chooses to include the word “reputation” rather than claiming that Wagner commits inhumane acts. (Note: I don’t know if the “reputation” is from the UN or from Velshi).
Russia is estimated to have mobilized 200,000 – 250,000 troops for the war against Ukraine. They are thought to have lost 100,000 of those troops. The Wagner Group is estimated to currently have 50,000 troops. (Note: I think this means 50,000 in Ukraine, but I am not sure.) Only about a quarter of these troops are trained military, the rest are convicts recruited by Wagner. (Note: In Russia or in other countries?)
The only significant military gains Russia has made in recent months have been made by Wagner troops. The founder and head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has recently used the opportunity to publicly brag about this fact.
Prigozhin’s outspoken bragging and also his praise for Zelensky and Ukrainian forces has led many to speculate just how powerful a “rival power center” Wagner has become in Russia. There is evidently dissatisfaction with him in the Kremlin. Those criticizing Prigozhin include Vladimir Gerasimov, the new head of Russia’s war effort.
There are actually countries that educate their citizens against misinformation, countries that have made a conscious effort to train citizens to spot deception and lies in the media. We, however, are a country that not only ignores misinformation, but in some cases (like Florida) actively prevents training citizens against it.
One of the Biden administration’s efforts to counter disinformation about Russia and migrant smugglers was met with Republican opposition, claiming Biden was trying to set up a “ministry of truth.” The board was (within weeks) dissolved. (Note: That tells you all you need to know. Republicans view countering disinformation as an Orwellian “Truth Commission.” Democrats fold at the slightest opposition.)
The five nations which have been most successful in promoting resilience against misinformation are: Finland (for the fifth year), Norway, Denmark, Estonia and Ireland.
Teachers in Finland are required to teach media literacy and critical thinking (MSNBC). According to officials in Finland, the kindergarten teacher is the first line of defense. (Note: Just think about this. The first line of defense. Can you imagine the Republican outcry if anyone said that in this country.)
Classrooms in Finland are teaching elementary skills like reading skills. Students need to recognize the difference between opinion and fact, for example. Students, according to Finish teachers, should think, why has this been published, what are the motivations of the people quoted?
The Fins also use library programs to reach adults who will not be exposed to these classes in school.
But, as Ali Velshi and the Finnish teachers point out, the entire program rests on a good educational system. (Note: The Republicans and the evangelicals are trying to destroy the pubic school system. They are not content with having a school system that is set up with vast inequality depending on the income of the parents living in the school district.)
Students in Finland put together video projects so they will learn the process of gathering and editing video. After going through this process, it is easier to understand how decisions are made about what to include and what to leave out, what backgrounds surround a particular shot that can either be edited out or included. They also learn about the number of takes involved in producing a particular scene. They are taught to “read the picture.”
(Note: The program, according to the head of a Finnish media organization, depends heavily on trusting the media and trusting the government. This was a rather inconvenient statement, said in the context of promoting critical thinking. It seems the point is not trusting anybody, or not trusting them completely. Perhaps that is what he meant.) (Note: I started to edit out the inconvenient statement.)