• Seal with a Pen

The Upbeat: Easter, the Passover, and Ramadan

Updated: May 3

Happy Easter! Chag Sameach! Ramadan Mubarak!


Yesterday was Easter, and with it comes a variety of proclamations from world leaders.


Pope Francis called for peace in Ukraine, Yemen, and other countries. President Biden prayed for those in the shadow of war, persecution, and poverty. Franklin Graham visited Ukraine and reminded us of God's love for mankind. Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, called for forgiveness, renewal, and compassion. President Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints witnessed of Christ's victory over death. British PM Boris Johnson shared Psalms 31:24 in the Ukrainian language. The Republican National Committee invited Christians around the world to rejoice in Christ. Hindi Indian leader Narendra Modi hoped for Christ's "spirit of joy and brotherhood" to be advanced. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, a Muslim, wished happiness and peace for all.


Once again, leaders from both sides of the aisle, from every faith and denomination, from every nation and political ideology, come together to express their well-wishing on this special day, reminding us that we may not be so different after all. No matter one's beliefs, sentiments of love and compassion stand for themselves, and no person -- no Christian, no Jew, no Muslim, no Atheist, no Hindu, no Sikh -- should be excluded from this love and compassion.


Passover was also celebrated this weekend, marking the deliverance of Israel from the tenth plague of Egypt. Various leaders commemorated the Jewish holiday as well. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jew, wished Jews worldwide peace and good as various Ukrainian refugees celebrated Passover with the countries that graciously received them. The Republican National Committee also celebrated Passover, wishing "our Jewish friends a blessed start to Passover." And from President Biden's statement: "The enduring spirit of this holiday continues to teach us that with faith, the driest desert can be crossed, the mightiest sea can be split, and hope never stops marching towards the promised land."


It is also Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, at the moment. This is a rare coincidence of some of the holiest days for the three great Abrahamic religions, and it is a special time for all. Both President Biden and the Republican National Committee made statements in honor of Ramadan as well, expressing their best wishes for a blessed month. There is far more that unites us as Americans seeking good-will for our fellow beings than there is that divides us.


In addition to the spirit of good-will that abounds at this time of year, I've compiled a few more special, positive events in the world of politics and international relations below for you all to enjoy. I hope you have a wonderful evening and a great week!


-- Seal with a Pen


Rendering of the Tiangong space station in orbit (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)


Chinese astronauts participate in event with American kids. In an increasingly tense diplomatic environment between the US and China, the odd gesture of good will is ever rarer and more valuable. Last year, China started building their own space station, smaller than the International Space Station (ISS) but much larger than their previous satellites. (Space.com has a good write-up about this station here.) On each mission to the station, called Tiangong ("Heavenly Palace"), Chinese astronauts -- called taikonauts -- will carry out experiments and other work, similarly to what American astronauts do aboard the ISS. But this project evidently won't only benefit the Chinese: earlier this month, the Chinese embassy in Washington hosted an event where American schoolchildren and their parents had the opportunity to submit questions and watch the taikonauts give answers. Two American astronauts spoke at the event, while Elon Musk also appeared in a pre-recorded video. Reminiscent of calls American kids get to make with the International Space Station, the Chinese event demonstrates that though the relationship between our governments isn't always good, there is still some good will between our countries. China is also allowing other countries, including the United States, to send experiments to their space station. Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3173723/elon-musk-featured-chinese-embassy-event-focused-space (South China Morning Post), https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202204/11/WS62537ddca310fd2b29e561f2.html (China Daily, Communist Party of China outlet), https://spaceflightnow.com/2022/04/16/chinese-astronauts-return-to-earth-after-six-month-mission-on-space-station/ (Spaceflight Now, taikonaut return)


Republican senators seek to improve federal hiring process. For a while now, the employee hiring process at the federal government has been growing longer, lengthening from an average of 87 days in fiscal year 2012 to an absurd 106 days by FY2017. Two Republican senators have set out to fix this problem, however, introducing a new bill that would help federal agencies not only fill vacancies faster, but also allow federal agencies to bypass some red tape when there's a shortage of "highly qualified" candidates. Following earlier permission granted by the Trump and Biden administrations to help agencies cut through hiring red tape, the new bill would simultaneously allow agency leaders to make more temporary appointments and would also grant a special process called direct hire authority to all agencies lacking qualified candidates, instead of only agencies without any job applicants at all. It would also allow agencies to hire recent college graduates faster than before. The bill is sponsored by James Lankford and Mike Braun, both conservative Republican senators. Whether it will gain enough support to be put to a vote is unclear. Read more: https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2022/04/republican-senators-plan-fix-dysfunctional-federal-hiring-process/365732/ (Government Executive)


Yemen truce a success so far. As I have previously reported, Yemen began a new two-month truce in their religious war in order to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The truce was only a few days old as of that post, however, and with another week and a half having passed, I am pleased to say that the truce has held. Last Thursday, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg delivered a report to the UN Security Council, describing the truce as "a rare opportunity to pivot toward a peaceful future" and as providing "light at the end of the tunnel." While there still remains an enormous amount of work to do to rebuild Yemen after the immense destruction of the war, and the truce is only temporary, the truce offers an opportunity for the country's dark descent to halt, if only for a moment, and for officials and citizens to start working towards stopping it permanently. The UN is presently working to get supply chains moving again, raise money for further humanitarian aid, and stabilize the nation's currency, the rial. Furthermore, the Houthis, a rebel group participating in the war, signed an "Action Plan" with the United Nations -- announced today -- to stop recruiting child soldiers and help such children reintegrate into normal society. Read more: https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116282 (UN News, truce progress), https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1116402 (UN News, child soldiers)


The Pentagon has made a tiny, mobile nuclear reactor. Last week, Nextgov, a subsidiary of Government Executive which focuses on technological developments in government, published an article detailing a new project initiated in 2020 by the Department of Defense (DoD), called Project Pele. The idea behind the project is to make a very small, very advanced nuclear reactor that can be transported to remote areas and provide electricity, without requiring a fuel supply chain and with fewer carbon emissions. The reactor is planned to be easily transportable and will be built at the Idaho National Laboratory with safety in mind. On the project's uses, the program manager, Dr. Jeff Waksman, said that it "has the potential to be a strategic game-changer for the United States, both for the DoD and for the commercial sector." Project Pele will be the very first electricity-generating fourth-generation nuclear reactor to be designed and built in the United States, and will involve more government agencies than just the DoD, with the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NASA among others getting on board as well. When projects like these are successful, they demonstrate the power of good governance to drive life-changing research and innovation forward, for the better of humanity. Read more: https://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2022/04/pentagons-mobile-nuclear-microreactor-will-be-demonstrated-idaho-national-lab/365693/ (Nextgov), https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/2998460/dod-to-build-project-pele-mobile-microreactor-and-perform-demonstration-at-idah/ (Department of Defense press release)

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