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Celerity's Journal
Celerity's Journal
December 31, 2023

Doom dominates 2024 messaging as Trump and Biden trade dire warnings

Apocalyptic messages, reflecting country’s anxious mood, could prompt convulsive reaction to the election results



In President Biden’s increasingly stark telling, an America led by former president Donald Trump in 2025 would be a dystopian dictatorship with American values constantly on the brink of collapse. “The greatest threat Trump poses is to our democracy,” Biden said earlier this month at a fundraiser in Bethesda. “Because if we lose, we lose everything.” Trump, who has used terms like “vermin” to describe his enemies and called 2024 “the final battle,” has said if Biden wins a second term, Americans would “no longer have a country” and the globe would quickly descend into a third world war. “As long as Joe Biden is in the White House, the American Dream is dead,” Trump said during a rally in Durham, N.H., where he also accused migrants of “poisoning the blood” of the nation. As the two leading candidates trade depictions of doom, the 2024 race for president is increasingly dominated by dark sentiments and appeals to fear — a phenomenon experts and pollsters say is reflective of the country’s broadly pessimistic and apprehensive mood.

As Democrats often point out, while Biden’s warnings repeat Trump’s explicit promises about what he would do if he wins, Trump’s predictions often reflect baseless hyperbole. But the result is that if either man wins next November, nearly half of the country could be primed to believe it spells the end of the nation and its values. White House officials and Biden campaign aides have said they feel compelled to respond to the former president’s growing use of hateful, bleak messaging. As recent polls have shown Trump with a commanding lead in the Republican primary and a consistent, if smaller, lead in a general election matchup with Biden, the president and his aides have increasingly invoked ominous language as they seek to raise an alarm about the potential return of his predecessor. “What’s at stake in 2024: Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy,” Biden told donors in Weston, Mass., this month. “And that, again, is not hyperbole. That’s a fact.

The former president makes no bones about it. Don’t take my word for it. Just listen to what he has to say.” He went on to read a list of some of Trump’s most incendiary quotes. For Biden’s allies, repeating and responding to Trump’s rhetoric — and at times using stark language of their own — represent a key component of the messaging strategy for next year’s election. While some Democrats worry about elevating their opponent’s rhetoric, at the core of much of the president’s reelection pitch is a warning that if Trump returns to power, Americans’ democratic values, fundamental freedoms and physical safety would be under threat. “Trump’s America in 2025: More Guns, More Shootings, More Deaths,” read one Biden campaign statement last month, part of a series of messages aimed at describing what life under Trump would be like if he takes office 13 months from now. Other messages have portrayed a second-term Trump as “coming after your health care,” rounding up immigrants into detention centers and attempting to be a “Day One Dictator.”

The latter moniker was derived from Trump’s claim, in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, that he would only be a dictator on the first day of his presidency. The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment. But the former president has only escalated his apocalyptic descriptions of America and its ostensible future under another Biden term. “Our border has been erased. Criminals are running wild in our Democrat-run cities. And thanks to crooked Joe’s breathtaking weakness, the world is going up in flames,” Trump said at a rally in Iowa. “The whole world is up in flames.” He also told his audience that “the communists, Marxists and fascists are going hard after Catholics” and that Democrats “want people to take your children and do things with your children that are not even speakable.” Biden and “the far-left lunatics,” he said, are “willing to violate the U.S. Constitution at levels never seen before,” adding that “we’re very close” to World War III.

December 31, 2023

How the costs of Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza are mounting



JERUSALEM — It might seem obscene to assess the mounting financial cost of Israel’s war in Gaza while the bombs are still falling on the besieged enclave, when hundreds of Palestinians, on average, are dying each day — alongside smaller, but historic, numbers of Israeli soldiers. And yet, the economics behind the weeks-long assault have powerful implications for Israel, the Palestinians and the Middle East.

The cost to Gaza, while clearly devastating, has not yet begun to be calculated. About half of the buildings and two-thirds of the homes in the Strip have been damaged or destroyed, 1.8 million people have been displaced and more than 21,000 people are dead, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The Israeli economy has been damaged, too — and it is Israel more than Hamas that will decide when the shooting stops. Some economists compare the shock to the Israeli economy to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Others say it might be worse. Since Oct. 7, when Hamas and allied fighters streamed out of Gaza to kill about 1,200 people in Israel and take 240 more hostage, government spending and borrowing have soared, tax revenue has plummeted and credit ratings could take a hit.

And gross domestic product will fall — from forecasts of 3 percent growth in 2023 to 1 percent in 2024, according to the Bank of Israel. Some economists predict contraction. The impact on Israel’s high-tech sector — the engine of the economy — is sobering. Many Israel Defense Forces reservists work in the tech sector. Every day they fight in Gaza, their employers struggle to continue investing in research and development and maintain market share.

December 30, 2023

Biden administration approves emergency weapons sale to Israel, bypassing Congress for the second time


For the second time this month, the Biden administration is bypassing Congress to approve an emergency weapons sale to Israel as Israel continues to execute its war against Hamas in Gaza under increasing international criticism. The State Department said Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress that he had made a second emergency determination covering a $147.5 million sale for equipment, including fuses, charges and primers, that is needed to make the 155 mm shells that Israel has already purchased function.

"Given the urgency of Israel's defensive needs, the secretary notified Congress that he had exercised his delegated authority to determine an emergency existed necessitating the immediate approval of the transfer," the State Department said. "The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to ensure Israel is able to defend itself against the threats it faces," it said.

The emergency determination means the purchase will bypass the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales. Such determinations are rare, but not unprecedented, when administrations see an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for lawmakers' approval. Blinken made a similar decision on Dec. 9 to approve the sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million.

Both moves have come as President Biden's request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs remains stalled in Congress, caught up in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and border security. Some Democratic lawmakers have spoken of making the proposed $14.3 billion in American assistance to its Mideast ally contingent on concrete steps by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza during the war with Hamas.

December 30, 2023

MILLENNIAL MONEY 'I love everything about it:' 38-year-old only spends $792 a month to live in a 160 sq. ft. RV


Think you could squeeze your life into a space about the size of a parking spot? Carly DeFelice wouldn’t have it any other way. The 38-year-old community manager at a coworking space in Austin, Texas, lives in a 20-foot by 8-foot travel trailer, and doesn’t plan to leave the RV life anytime soon. “I love tiny living. I love everything about it. I love that everything has a spot,” she tells CNBC Make It. “It’s so quirky, it’s so weird — but it’s just so much fun.” Of course, it hasn’t always been a dream living situation. DeFelice began her tiny living journey in 2019, when she was feeling career burnout and took a sabbatical. She quickly learned that she loved the flexibility and simplicity of tiny living, but that conducting your life from an RV meant acquiring some new skills. “At first, everything was intimidating,” she says. “I had no idea how to do anything with the tanks — the black water, the gray water — everything was like a foreign language to me.” DeFelice eventually learned the ropes and currently lives a stationary RV life, setting up her trailer in a park with other RVs and tiny homes. With the benefit of experience, here’s what she says are the best — and worst — things about living in an RV.

Pro: Affordability

DeFelice bought her RV, and an SUV to haul it, in cash, paying $14,000 for each. The move gives her a monthly cost advantage over other RVers who opted to finance fancier digs, she says. “A lot of people buy expensive rigs, so they have a payment on their RV. And then they buy this massive truck to haul it,” she says. Paying for a vehicle she could afford in cash and avoiding taking out a loan, she says, “makes everything a lot less expensive.” DeFelice pays $750 for the lot she parks on in East Austin, though she paid as little as $350 a month when she briefly lived in South Carolina. In September 2023, she paid about $42 for utilities, split between propane, water and electricity. Wi-Fi is included in her lot rental. Add it all up, and DeFelice pays about $792 a month to live within a short bike ride of her office.

Con: Maintenance

Before she gave tiny living a try, DeFelice assumed upkeep would be pretty straightforward. “I thought, how much could possibly be dirty?” she says. “Somehow, that’s not the case. It’s the fall, so leaves come in. You’re constantly sweeping. And everything breaks all the time.” Even though her amenities are limited, DeFelice has had to learn how to fix numerous issues that have come up, such as a lack of water pressure in the shower that turned out to be a broken aerator. Once DeFelice got that fixed, she had to figure out how to unclog her shower drain. “If you’re thinking about RV life, there’s always maintenance to consider,” she says.

Pro: Freedom of movement

DeFelice likes the sense of community she has keeping her RV parked in Austin, the city where she has spent most of her adult life. But having a home on wheels means she has the freedom to pick up and live wherever she wants. Before settling back in Texas, DeFelice embarked on a lengthy road trip, towing her rig up through the Pacific Northwest with stops in Sedona, Arizona; Devil’s Bridge; the Grand Canyon; Pismo Beach, California; and a lot of national parks. “The most empowering thing in the world is hauling my RV,” DeFelice says. “I felt so empowered getting that tow hitch, attaching it to my SUV and just hitting the road. There’s an amazing sense of freedom and adventure and thrill that I could not explain unless you’ve actually done that.”


December 29, 2023

Boris Brejcha - Christmas Mix 2023


1. Sleepless (unreleased) | start point: 0:00
2. Down Low (unreleased) | start point: 6:50
3. Frozen World (unreleased) | start point: 13:25
4. The Music Is The Dancer (unreleased) | start point: 19:18
5. Infinity feat. Désirée (unreleased) | start point: 24:47
6. Simba The Cat feat. Leonie Cruson (unreleased) | start point: 31:14
7. Good Vibes Only feat. Aline (unreleased) | start point: 36:49
8. Destruction (unreleased) | start point: 43:12
9. Hold Me (unreleased) | start point: 49:37
10. Racing (unreleased) | start point: 55:40

December 29, 2023

Common stomach bug could increase Alzheimer's risk by a quarter

Two in three people worldwide carry the Helicobacter pylori bacterium



A stomach bug carried by two in three people may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 24 per cent, a study has found. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found those infected with symptomatic Helicobacter pylori had an 11 per cent higher risk of contracting Alzheimer’s, representing a “moderate but significant” risk.

The study, analysing the health data of more than four million people in the UK over the age of 50, found the risk peaked at 24 per cent between seven to ten years after the original infection took place. The correlation weakened again after a decade.

Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium found in contaminated water, food and soil and — while it is unlikely to cause any issues for most — around 40 per cent of Britons and two thirds of the world’s population carry it. It can easily pass from person to person through bodily fluids, with the bug latching on to the sticky mucus of a carrier’s stomach.

Around 15 per cent of those affected will suffer from symptoms including stomach pains, nausea, weight loss and, potentially, ulcers. Experts are unable to say how the bug is exactly linked to Alzheimer’s but have speculated that the bacteria might be able to travel to the brain, inflaming cells and causing neurodegeneration.

December 29, 2023

The Student Debt Debacle: Rising Costs, Decreasing Public Support


College debt is approaching $2 trillion, more than all other types of household debt except mortgages. Fueled by tuition that exceeds $25,000 a year (room and board adds another $11,000), Federal student loan debt averages more than $37,000 among those with any student debt. Following a hiatus of more than 3 years, 45 million Americans have had to resume repaying their student loans in October. For those struggling to pay their bills over the past 3 years, this additional burden (averaging around $500 per month) will require large spending cuts and will bring additional financial stress.

It will also affect the jobs they can take, where they can afford to live, and whether they can buy a home or save for retirement. Worse yet, many Americans have made payments regularly but have seen little change in their student debt balances because illness, caregiver responsibilities, or unemployment forced them to miss some payments. Twenty years after graduation, half of student borrowers still owe more than $20,000. This debt cannot easily be dismissed via bankruptcy. At retirement, any remaining balances get taken out of Social Security benefits. It should be clear to everyone that tens of millions of Americans are being crushed by their student debt.

In contrast, college debt is not a problem in Europe. Residents of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Scotland, Slovenia, and Sweden enjoy free tuition. Elsewhere in Europe tuition varies from a few thousand dollars to around $7,000 per year. Until the 1980s the situation in the US was similar– college education was relatively cheap. The annual cost of attending a public university– tuition, room and board– was around $9,000 (in 2023 dollars). As in Europe today, college graduates typically had little difficulty repaying their loans. A college education was an opportunity to better oneself and achieve a middle-class existence. College costs in the US then soared, increasing more than almost everything else. Tuition, room and board is now several times what it cost in 1980 even after controlling for inflation. Different mindsets can explain the difference between Europe and the US.

Europe sees college education as an investment in the future and a government responsibility. Some benefits are political. A more educated population is more likely to vote and be better citizens. There are also economic gains. College graduates make more money, and are more likely to make discoveries that enhance everyone’s life. To secure these gains, European governments keep tuition low, which both encourages college enrollment and keeps down college debt. This mindset was predominant in the US until the 1980s, when a college education began to be viewed in terms of personal gains. Consequently, we made people responsible for financing their education, rather than having taxpayers foot the bill. And these individual gains are huge. An average US college graduate earns $1 million more during their working life compared to someone without a college degree. It is tempting to come after some of this money.

December 28, 2023

The idea of a 'precolonial' Africa is theoretically vacuous, racist and plain wrong about the continent's actual history

We should expunge, forever, the epithet ‘precolonial’ or any of its cognates from all aspects of the study of Africa and its phenomena. We should banish title phrases, names and characterisations of reality and ideas containing the word.


To those who might be put off by the severity of the proposal, or its ideological-police ring, I hear you and ask only that, with just a little patience, you hear me out. It will not take much to jolt us out of the present unthinking in assuming that ‘precolonial’ or ‘traditional’, and ‘indigenous’, has any worthwhile role to play in our attempt to track, describe, explain and make sense of African life and history. When ‘precolonial’ is used for describing African ideas, processes, institutions and practices, through time, it misrepresents them. When deployed to explain African experience and institutions, and characterise the logic of their evolution through history, it is worthless and theoretically vacuous. The concept of ‘precolonial’ anything hides, it never discloses; it obscures, it never illuminates; it does not aid understanding in any manner, shape or form.

Let us begin with the fact that the ubiquitous phrase is almost exclusive in its application to Africa: ‘precolonial Africa’. How often do we encounter this designation in discourses about other continents? If not, what explains the peculiar representation – treating the continent as if it were a single unit of analysis – when it comes to Africa? I am afraid it comes from a not-so-kind genealogy that always takes Africa to be a simple place, homogenises its peoples and their history, and treats their politics and thought as if they were uncomplicated, each substitutable for the other across time and space. Once you are thinking of ‘Africa’ as a simple whole, it becomes easier to grossly misrepresent an entire continent in the temporal frame of ‘precolonial’.

In reality, ‘precolonial’ Africa never existed. It is a figment of the imagination of scholars, analysts, political types, for whom Africa is a homogeneous place that they need not think too hard about, much less explain to audiences. It was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a racist philosopher, who argued in the 1820s that Africa was a land ‘outside of Time’ and not a part of the movement of ‘History’. Our intellectual forebears in the 19th century fought against this false characterisation. They were the first to remind people of the fact that Africa had always been a part of the movement of history and the global circuit of ideas. They knew what was behind Hegel’s effort to divide Africa into ‘Africa proper’, or ‘Black Africa’, and ‘European Africa’ – it was his need to reconcile his idea that Africa stood outside of history with the undeniable reality of the attainments of ancient Egypt. His ‘solution’ was to identify the achievements of Egyptian Africans as coming from exogenous sources and to remove it from ‘Africa proper’.

All who talk glibly about ‘precolonial’ Africa, insofar as the designation bespeaks a temporal horizon, award an undeserved victory to the racist philosopher. Of course, the ‘pre’ in ‘precolonial’ supposedly designates ‘a time before’ colonialism appeared on the continent. But how do we deign to describe a period from the beginning of time to the moment when the European, modernity-inflected colonial phenomenon showed up? It accords more of a mythological than a historical status to the arrival of modern European colonialism in Africa and its long and deep history. The ‘precolonial’ designation, in practice, even excludes two earlier European-inspired colonialisms in Africa. After all, for those of us who know our history, Roman and Byzantine/Ottoman colonial presences on the African continent were not without legacies on the continent, too.

December 28, 2023

Israel's war in Gaza threatens to spill into Lebanon and beyond



TEL AVIV — Escalating strikes and counterstrikes along the border between Israel and Lebanon are raising fears of a possible new front for Israel, even as its fighters remain mired in bloody urban combat in Gaza to the south in its campaign to destroy Hamas. Hezbollah fired more barrages at northern Israel on Wednesday in the latest in a string of attacks by Iranian-backed groups across the Middle East against Israeli and U.S. assets.

Hezbollah has lobbed scores of rockets and explosives-laden drones at Israel this week, including at a Greek Orthodox church, where two Israeli Christians were wounded. Drones targeted the Egyptian resort city of Dahab in the Sinai Peninsula, the second such incident there in the past month. There was an explosion outside the Israeli Embassy in India’s capital, New Delhi. And an airstrike near Syria’s capital, Damascus, killed a senior officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The group has vowed that Israel will “pay.”

“We are now at a fork in the road,” Eylon Levy, spokesman for the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Wednesday. “Either Hezbollah backs off from the Israeli border, in line with U.N. Resolution 1701, or we will push it away ourselves.” “Hezbollah and its Iranian warlord patrons are dragging Lebanon into a totally unnecessary war, into the war that Hamas started,” Levy said. “Our region does not deserve a broader war.”

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was in “a multifront war,” in which the country had been attacked from “seven arenas” — Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran — and had responded in six. Israeli media reported that Israel has not yet acted in Yemen, where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have for weeks been firing missiles at Israel and at commercial vessels at sea, disrupting international shipping routes.


December 28, 2023

Skepticism Grows Over Israel's Ability to Dismantle Hamas

Israel has vowed time and again to eliminate the group responsible for the brutal Oct. 7 attack, but critics increasingly see that goal as unrealistic or even impossible.



Standing before a gray backdrop decorated with Hamas logos and emblems of a gunman that commemorate the bloody Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Osama Hamdan, the organization’s representative in Lebanon, professed no concern about his Palestinian faction being dislodged from Gaza. “We are not worried about the future of the Gaza Strip,” he recently told a crowded news conference in his offices in Beirut’s southern suburbs. “The decision maker is the Palestinian people alone.”

Mr. Hamdan thus dismissed one of Israel’s key objectives since the beginning of its assault on Gaza: to dismantle the Islamist political and military organization that was behind the massacre of about 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials, and which still holds more than 100 hostages. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has repeatedly emphasized that objective even while facing mounting international pressure to scale back military operations. The Biden administration has dispatched senior envoys to Israel to push for a new phase of the war focused on more targeted operations rather than sweeping destruction.

And critics both within Israel and outside have questioned whether resolving to destroy such a deeply entrenched organization was ever realistic. One former Israeli national security adviser called the plan “vague.” “I think that we have reached a moment when the Israeli authorities will have to define more clearly what their final objective is,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said this month. “The total destruction of Hamas? Does anybody think that’s possible? If it’s that, the war will last 10 years.”

Since it first emerged in 1987, Hamas has survived repeated attempts to eliminate its leadership. The organization’s very structure was designed to absorb such contingencies, according to political and military specialists. In addition, Israel’s devastating tactics in the Gaza war threaten to radicalize a broader segment of the population, inspiring new recruits. Analysts see the most optimal outcome for Israel probably consisting of degrading Hamas’s military capabilities to prevent the group from repeating such a devastating attack. But even that limited goal is considered a formidable slog.


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