Was Gatsby Great? The Great Gatsby Part 2: Crash Course English Literature #5

In which John Green continues to explore F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby.

In this installment, John looks into the titular Gatsby’s purported Greatness. Gatsby’s single-minded pursuit of Daisy, his checkered past, and his checkered present all play a role in determining whether he was, in fact, great.

Here’s a hint: you don’t have to be good to be great.

It turns out greatness doesn’t have much to do with whether you’re a good person.

Along the way, John explores the relentless forward march of time, the use of poetic language, and ironic titling of novels.

Note from Among the Fray: We will continue watching Crash Course’s Black American History series as episodes are released on a weekly basis.

An episode of Crash Course’s series on Literature – in chronological order of course – will be posted with the morning news while we wait for a new Black American History video.

Finnish far right hopes to use local elections as national springboard

Finns Party is on course for huge gains in local elections.

The far-right Finns Party is on course to more than double its share of the vote at local elections in Finland on Sunday in a show of strength that could spell trouble for Brussels.

May 16, 2019: Europe’s far-right parties are fielding candidates in their 20s and early 30s to appeal to the young. And they are using aggressive social media campaigns playing on themes favored by white supremacists in the U.S.

Over recent weeks, Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho has revved up interest in normally sedate local elections, entering the race to be mayor of the capital Helsinki and dragging hot-button national issues into the campaign, especially immigration and Finland’s relations with the EU. 

A controversial Finns Party ad campaign suggesting immigrants are able to jump Helsinki’s public housing queue was pulled by the authorities this week after accusations that it was discriminatory, but not before the posters had grabbed national headlines and provided the party with valuable extra publicity.

The ad campaign built on months of similar messaging. 

In a speech last month, Halla-aho blamed rising social security spending on immigration and claimed new arrivals made life harder for various groups in society. 

“For the poor, it means ghettoized residential areas and schools and poorer public services,” he said. “For entrepreneurs and wage earners, it means a growing tax burden.”

In the same speech, he decried EU member Finland’s lack of influence in Brussels and said his country should push back harder against policies it doesn’t like. 

“There is no influence in being quiet and nodding,” he said. 

Dec 6, 2018: Hundreds joined a neo-Nazi march in Helsinki on Finnish Independence Day, some carrying the red Nazi flag often seen on display during the Third Reich. A counter-protest of about 2,000 people mobilised in response to the march. Report by Louee Dessent-Jackson.

The rise of the Finns Party echoes similar developments in nearby countries, where anti-EU parties have become more influential. In Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats could get real power for the first time at national elections next fall and in Estonia, the far-right EKRE party was in government until recently and is plotting a comeback. 

For its part, the Finns Party recently did its best to hold up Finland’s ratification of the EU’s €750 billion recovery fund, Next Generation EU, which for the first time includes a plan for joint borrowing by EU states on capital markets. 

Finns Party MP Sebastian Tynkkynen spoke out against the EU plan for eight hours in parliament without a break in mid-May — a Finnish record — in an effort to drag out the approval process. 

“I think that this Next Generation EU package is harmful both for Finland and for the EU,” Tynkkynen told POLITICO. “In the longer term, this gives a dangerous signal for member states that mismanagement of economies will be taken care of by other member states.”

Recent opinion polling suggests the Finns Party’s harsher anti-immigrant, EU-hostile messaging is proving effective ahead of the municipal election on Sunday, with the party expected to win 18 percent of the vote, behind only the center-right National Coalition Party, NCP, on 19.6 percent. Just 8.8 percent of voters backed the Finns at the last municipal elections four years ago. 

“The Finns are definitely heading for their best municipal election results in history,” said Thomas Karv, a political scientist at Finland’s Åbo University. “It will be easy for Halla-aho to frame the election results as a success.”

The Finns Party was founded in 1995 but didn’t score a significant breakthrough in parliament until 2011 when it seized on anti-EU sentiment in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to win 39 of 200 seats. 

Jun 2, 2011: ”Nationalist, anti-immigration and strongly euro-sceptic. The True Finn party made an historic breakthrough in Finland’s recent elections.

The party leader at the time, Timo Soini, won voters over with stiff resistance to the EU’s efforts to support struggling southern European member countries, especially Greece. 

Soini took the Finns into government in 2015 but saw support for the party collapse as voters became disillusioned with his perceived willingness to compromise with coalition partners, especially over immigration policy. 

Since taking over from Soini in 2017, Halla-aho has rebuilt the Finns Party’s anti-establishment credentials through a steady stream of harsh criticism of the current government and Brussels.

“The style of Halla-aho is such that he is not seen as someone who kneels before others,” said Teivo Teivainen, a political scientist at Helsinki University.

Halla-aho’s challenge, two years out from the next parliamentary elections, is to build strong enough links with potential partners to be able to turn the Finns Party’s current momentum into national power. 

Experts believe Halla-aho sees the center-right NCP as the most suitable coalition ally. To this end, they note that Halla-aho has already moved the Finns Party’s economic policies closer to those of the NCP, with suggestions that state support for businesses should be cut and job security for workers reduced.

But for a coalition between the two to work, the NCP will have to decide whether it can accept the Finns Party’s more aggressively anti-immigrant positions.

Halla-aho recently posted a link to a story about an attempted abduction of a woman to his Twitter feed. Above it, he added a comment in quotation marks: “The victim’s mother says that the perpetrators had ‘Arab-like complexion.’”

The quote was not from the article, and it was unclear where Halla-aho had sourced it from. He did not respond to a request to comment. 


Israeli forces kill Palestinian officers in ‘undercover mission’

Jun 11, 2021

Israeli forces have shot dead at least three Palestinians, including two Palestinian Authority (PA) military intelligence officers, in a pre-dawn raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian authorities said on Thursday.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker is near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank.

Israel closes case of prison officers filmed beating Palestinians

Only four of 10 officers questioned, and none arrested after March 2019 incident at Ketziot Prison, Haaretz reports.

Israel has closed a case that involved at least 10 Israeli officers who were filmed beating Palestinian inmates, according to an Israeli media report, in what has been described as one of the most violent incidents against prisoners in an Israeli jail.

Jun 11, 2021: Leaked footage dating back to 2019 shows Israeli prison guards assaulting more than 50 Palestinian prisoners with batons

Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Friday that only four officers were questioned and none was arrested after the incident on March 24, 2019, at Wing 3 of Ketziot Prison, where dozens of Hamas members were being held.

Footage showed about 55 Palestinian prisoners bent over on the floor and restrained, as Israeli officers punched, kicked and beat them with batons. The prisoners were ordered not to speak nor move for hours.

The Israel police unit investigating prison personnel said the official reason for the escalation was an “unknown offender”, before closing the investigation, Haaretz said.

According to the Israeli media, a Hamas member who was among the detainees had reportedly stabbed two officers, leaving one of them wounded, earlier that day.

At the time of the incident, the prison service had said in a statement that prison guards tried to restore order in the wing after riots broke out following the stabbings.

But the footage showed no riots. Instead, security camera footage showed security guards beating the prisoners without any provocation.

‘They were going to kill us’

According to Amir Salum, a 26-year-old from Shofat, a Palestinian refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, who was serving a four-year sentence in Ketziot Prison at the time of the incident, the situation escalated without any reason.

“They decided to transfer us from Wing 4 to Wing 3,” Salum, who filed a complaint, told Haaretz.

“Suddenly, in the middle of the move, we heard someone shout ‘stabbing, stabbing!’ Within a few minutes, guards from the Masada [Israel Police Service] unit came in and started shooting these steel bullets at us. We then fled to the other side of the wing,” he said.

Another unit then entered and “put us in restraints and no one resisted, and then they simply began to beat us with batons”, Salum continued.

“They tossed us into the centre of the wing, like we were nothing, and beat us without us being able to defend ourselves.

“We were sure they were going to kill us,” he was quoted as saying by Haaretz.

“Everyone prayed to God. Only after seeing all the blood around me did one of the officers order that I be taken to the clinic. They beat me along the way, too,” Salum said.

Another prisoner, who also filed a complaint about the incident that night, described the events as “brutal, random violence by the guards, saying a guard beat him seven or eight times with an iron baton”, reported Haaretz.

Ali Da’ana, a Palestinian prisoner serving a 20-year sentence for attempted murder, said in his complaint that the guards waged a campaign of retaliation against the prisoner, according to the daily.

“I was beaten mercilessly by masked guards as I lay on the floor, for no reason,” he recalled. “It was revenge. I told one of them that I had a chronic illness and he said it didn’t matter. They kept hitting,” he said.

Lack of evidence

The Israeli police reportedly failed to identify all the officers involved in the incident, despite the presence of the video footage.

According to Haaretz, police investigators said the security cameras were not enough to identify the officers in the prison wing that night.

The prisoners declared they could identify the perpetrators, but no further investigation was conducted.

Instead, only four officers were briefly questioned on suspicion of battery.

Albert Goldberg, a commander at Ketziot Prison, said a riot broke out in the wing following the alleged stabbing.

“It was decided to call backup to calm the situation … To the best of my knowledge, there was controlled use of force to conduct the mission and there were no exceptions,” he told Haaretz.


Russia Raises 2020 Covid-19 Death Toll By 38% in Grim Admission

  • Statistics service reports 144,691 coronavirus deaths in 2020
  • People who recovered from Covid were also more likely to die

Russia’s statistics agency raised the number of deaths directly attributed to Covid-19 last year by 38%, showing the pandemic’s toll has been worse than acknowledged.

May 31, 2021: Has the vaccine uptake in Russia been sluggish? A Russian news agency says that COVID-19 is spreading faster than at any time since last October. Moscow’s mayor says, the capital has lower rates of vaccination than any major European city.

There were 144,691 deaths last year attributed to the coronavirus, up from 104,826 previously reported, according to a Rosstat report released late Friday.

The data did not contain deaths of people who had Covid-19 but were found to have died from other causes. Previously, Rosstat listed 58,499 deaths in that category for last year, but a spokesman said some of those had been shifted into the revised total for deaths attributed to covid.

“Reduced immunity in people who had the coronavirus is a very serious issue,” Rosstat deputy chief Pavel Smelov said in an interview before the data was published. “Many of them later ended up in hospitals and died from completely different causes, most often circulatory problems, strokes, diabetes, respiratory diseases and kidney complications.”

His agency and the Health Ministry have been tracking such people, according to Smelov. The data show that this group was more likely to die from an array of health problems than people who never got Covid-19, he said.

Excess Deaths

Over 340,000 more Russians died in 2020 than the previous year. Friday’s revision didn’t change the overall number of deaths reported for last year.

In data for 2021, the discrepancy between the number of Covid-19 related deaths and excess deaths has largely vanished. In the first four months of this year, Rosstat reported 77,943 deaths attributed to coronavirus.

An increase in the number of fatalities attributed to the coronavirus raises questions about upbeat official assertions on Russia’s handling of the pandemic. President Vladimir Putin told 5,000 in-person attendees at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week that Russia could hold such events because “our situation is better than in many other countries.”

More Infections

Russia has the seventh-most deaths from Covid-19 globally, according to the daily figures the government’s virus-response center reports. However, it rises to third-most, behind the U.S. and Brazil, when using Rosstat’s figures, which are released with a delay but considered more accurate.

The new data is unlikely to lead to a change in Russia’s policy. After an initial lockdown, authorities largely avoided restrictions in order to limit the economic fallout from the pandemic.

While western countries have seen a decline in infections as vaccination rates rise, Russia’s case count is growing amid a slow uptake of domestically-developed vaccines. The number of daily cases on Friday rose to the highest since February, while just 12% of the population has been inoculated despite widespread availability.

In May, overall deaths declined 6.3% from a year earlier, when Covid was already spreading widely, RIA Novosti reported Friday, citing Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova.


Thousands march in support of Muslim family killed in truck attack in Canada

Thousands of people marched on Friday in support of a Canadian Muslim family run over and killed by a man driving a pick-up truck last Sunday in an attack the police described as a hate crime.

Jun 12, 2021: Thousands of people have marched in Canada in support of a Muslim family run over and killed by a man driving a pickup truck. Police have described the incident last Sunday as a premeditated attack motivated by Islamophobia. Crowds in London, Ontario marched five miles on Friday from the spot where the family was killed to a nearby mosque, the site close to where police arrested the attacker. Candlelight vigils were also held to honour the victims and protest against hatred

The four victims, spanning three generations, were killed when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, ran into them while they were out for an evening walk near their home. A fifth family member, a 9-year-old boy, survived. read more

People in London, Ontario marched about 7 kilometers (4.4 miles) from the spot where the family was struck down to a nearby mosque, the site close to where Veltman was arrested by police.

Some carried placards with messages reading ‘Hate has no home here’, ‘Love over hate.’ Similar events were held in other cities in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province.

“The best part was not just the numbers … but the diversity of the people coming from every single community in London, coming together for this cause,” said 19-year old college student Abdullah Al Jarad at the march.

The attack sparked outrage across Canada, with politicians from all sides condemning the crime, spurring growing calls to take action to curb hate crime and Islamophobia.

Veltman made a brief court appearance on Thursday and will return to court on Monday. He faces four charges of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder. read more

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the killings a “terrorist attack” and vowed to clamp down on far-right groups and online hate.


Japan’s upper house of Parliament passes motion to support Taiwan’s bid to join WHO assembly

The upper house of the Japanese Parliament on Friday passed a resolution supporting the self-governed island’s participation in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) annual assembly.

The House of Councillor on Friday unanimously passed the nonpartisan motion calling on all countries to allow Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly(WHA) from next year.

It has also asked the Japanese government to work with other countries to ensure that Taiwan is given the opportunity to attend the conference. China for years has blocked Taiwan’s participation in the WHA’s assembly, The Mainichi reported.

The move which will irate Beijing comes at a time when ties between Japan and China are strained.

Despite calls from several countries, Taiwan was not invited to this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA).

It was the fifth straight year for the Taiwan government not to receive an invitation to attend the annual gathering due to mainland China’s opposition.

The resolution passed in the Japanese Parliament called Taiwan’s inability to attend last month’s WHA in Geneva a “global loss” in terms of disease control as the island was unable to share its successes in containing COVID-19 after its outbreak.

Beijing has been blocking Taiwan’s representation at WHO meetings after the self-ruled democracy elected Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s president in 2016 and again in 2020.

Delegates from Taiwan had attended the WHA as non-voting observers from 2009 to 2016, during a period of relatively warm ties between Beijing and Taipei.

Taiwan thanked the upper house of the Japanese parliament on Friday for passing a resolution.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou expressed her government’s “highest welcome and most sincere appreciation” for the resolution of the House of Councilors, calling it “unprecedented.”

Describing Taiwan and Japan as “important partners and precious friends,” Ou said Taiwan will continue to work with Japan and other like-minded countries to deepen relations and create an environment where Taiwan can participate in international organisations.


A Fire And Cyberattack Cause Major Blackouts Across Puerto Rico

A large fire at an electrical substation for Puerto Rico’s new electricity provider, Luma Energy, knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of the island’s residents Thursday.

Jun 11, 2021: Puerto Rico Substation Power Outage Causes BLACKOUT in House of Representatives

At the height of the blackout, nearly 800,000 customers were without power, according to Luma. By midnight, roughly 60,000 customers were still in the dark.

“The fire caused major blackouts across the entire island. The situation is under assessment and work is being done to restore the system,” LUMA Energy tweeted.

The fire and blackout were not the only crises facing Luma on Thursday.

Earlier that day, the company announced its client portal and mobile app fell victim to a cyberattack that disrupted customer access to its online services.

The DDoS attack, or distributed denial of service attack, generated 2 million visits per second to the client portal and mobile app, impacting many customers’ ability to access account information, according to Luma.

The company said in a statement that it “regrets that its customers experienced the inconvenience the attack may have caused and looks forward to continuing to provide them with an exceptional customer service experience.”

It’s unclear whether the fire and DDoS attack are connected.

Luma is just 10 days into its new role as the island’s power authority. The prior energy provider for the island, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, had its own notorious struggles with blackouts, bankruptcy and overall mismanagement in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Officials had cautioned residents to be patient in the early days of the transition as Luma inherited frail electric infrastructure. But even before Thursday’s blackout, more than 1 million customers lost power just this month alone, not counting those affected by the substation fire, according to The Associated Press.

Puerto Rico’s governor calls for an investigation

The fire broke out in a transformer at Luma’s Monacillo substation in San Juan, according to the company. Police and fire services went to the scene. No injuries have been reported.

In a message shared on social media, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi referred to the incident as an “explosion.”

Pierluisi said both state and federal law enforcement authorities are investigating.

He added, “Whoever is responsible for it will have to answer to the People of Puerto Rico.”

FBI San Juan authorities said they are “evaluating” the power outage and encouraged people with information to come forward.

The blackout comes as the island is still working to vaccinate its residents against the coronavirus. Vaccines must be kept at a low temperature to remain viable.

The island’s Secretary of Health Carlos Mellado López said in a tweet that hospital services remain uninterrupted and that vaccines are still safe. “Our suppliers have generators and we have over 70 support centers to keep them safe,” he wrote.


Gay Marriage Support SKYROCKETS To Record High – Secular Talk

Jun 10, 2021

U.S. support for legal same-sex marriage continues to trend upward, now at 70% — a new high in Gallup’s trend since 1996. This latest figure marks an increase of 10 percentage points since 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all states must recognize same-sex marriages.

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