Monday, June 17, 2019

Barefoot and Pregnant

"[Dorothea Palmer, social worker, Parents' Information Bureau, 1930s] told the cops to go ahead and arrest her, because the minute she got out of jail she'd go back to doing what she'd been doing."
"[Palmer, in a 1978 interview, speculated she had been 'set up' to do] the men's dirty work. She felt perhaps that Kaufman had put her in that situation knowing what would happen."
"I don't think she had a eugenic bone in her body. She believed [contraception] was a woman's right."
Elizabeth Koester, historian, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Toronto
Dorothea Palmer, an Ottawa-area social worker, was arrested in 1936 and charged with advertising birth control, which was then a criminal obscenity. She did not testify at her own trial. Historian Elizabeth Koester speculates that this was because Palmer's marital status was in question. She ran a bookstore with a man she called her husband, Gordon Ferguson, but it’s not clear if they were actually married. Palmer went by her maiden name. Someone who was “living in sin” would have been seen as an unreliable witness in a trial that was concerned with public morals, Koester said.
Dorothea Palmer, an Ottawa-area social worker, was arrested in 1936 and charged with advertising birth control, which was then a criminal obscenity. She did not testify at her own trial. Historian Elizabeth Koester speculates that this was because Palmer's marital status was in question. She ran a bookstore with a man she called her husband, Gordon Ferguson, but it’s not clear if they were actually married. Palmer went by her maiden name. Someone who was “living in sin” would have been seen as an unreliable witness in a trial that was concerned with public morals, Koester said.


Dorothea Palmer, a social worker working with the Parents' Information Bureau, an institution created by A.R. Kaufman of the Kaufman Rubber Company which made Sorel boots, was recruited to visit the homes of poor francophone women living near Depression-era Ottawa. He employed seasonal workers to be laid off after the winter rush for boots was over. He took note that the workers, young women, complained of being destitute. At the time there were crusades for birth-control, and he decided the problem for the women was they had too many children.

He hired dozens of women, most of whom were nurses, to make home visits and give contraceptive advice to his workers, and he arranged sterilization operations for them. He eventually extended the operation of the Parents' Information Bureau to the wider community, and then to other communities throughout the nation. Dorothea Palmer was one among many women whom he had hired.

And she ended up being accused of advertising contraceptives, considered at the time an obscenity under the Criminal Code of Canada, The women she visited did have too many babies and they were concerned over having more. And they were unable to care for them all, much less feed and clothe them. Some of the women attempted induced abortions at home. And they were all receptive to the visits from Ms. Palmer, who informed them of other options available to them, other than continued pregnancies.

The women of the impoverished town of Eastview (now part of greater Ottawa) were called to testify in the trial called the Eastview Birth Control Trial that took place in 1936-37. They testified in fact, for Ms. Palmer. In the end, a magistrate dismissed the charge against her in March of 1937. She had a brilliant lawyer, hired by A.R. Kaufman; Franklin Wellington Wegenast who mounted a successful defence arguing that Palmer had acted in the public good.

Through the six months of court proceedings with testimony from social service organizations and religious groups, deep questions about morality, social justice, the rights of women, church and state and war and peace were all aired. Wegenast "threw everything plus the kitchen sink at the issues", said Koester the historian who studied the case. He dispatched two men at one point in the trial to pharmacies to search out contraceptives and they returned, dumping armfuls of condoms and spermicidal jellies on the courtroom table.

Ably demonstrating that birth control was viewed as a public positive, its enabling tools widely available if one was informed. So to victimize one individual as the law was intent on doing with Dorothea Palmer made no moral sense whatever. Dozens of women were called as witnesses for their connection with Palmer, to testify that she had advertised contraceptives to them. When Wegenast cross-examined the women they testified what a good thing it turned out for them that they could prevent unwanted pregnancies to space their childrens' births.

As for Kaufman, though his actions appeared to stem from altruistic care for the plight of the poor and the unwanted children foisted upon long-suffering women, the man in fact felt that poor "feeble-minded" women were simply the wrong types of people to have children. He harboured "virulent" prejudice against Catholics in particular, according to Dr. Koester. And he was a founding member of the Eugenics Society of Canada.

The group that advocated for immigration restrictions, for the segregation of people considered mentally deficient and encouraged policies to encourage "fit parenthood", based on the notion of applying the science of selective breeding to humans. He did not, however  advocate openly for sterilization lacking consent. And he has been honoured with a school and a YMCA in Kitchener, Ontario named after him.

As for Dorothea Palmer, the trial placed her under great stress. Her character was impugned and she fought furiously for what she believed in. As she attempted to enter the courtroom one day, two men were alleged to have grabbed and groped her, threatening she would be raped. "She kneed them in the groin. She was just fabulous", said Koester, the academic historian.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Rich Diversity of Vietnam's Forests

"The ancient forest contains almost 2,000 species of trees and among them live some amazing and rare animals including the clouded leopard, Delacour's langur, Owston's civet, otters and Asian black bears!"
"...Owls, flying squirrels, lorises, bats and cats."
Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam

"Every day we all wake up and say: 'Do we have time? Do any of these species have time?"
"Are we just fighting a war that we've already lost'?"
"But if we don't fight, then we definitely have lost."
Quyen Vu, executive director, Education for Nature-Vietnam
Image result for Tiger
Indo-Chinese tiger, Vietnam

Vietnam advertises its openness to tourism. The country is a treasure house of wild nature with some of the world's most biologically diverse areas within its thirty national parks. It boasts as many kinds of animals as safari-destination countries like Kenya and Tanzania. Furthermore, biological science has been busy with new discoveries in Vietnam over the past three decades, with newer discoveries joining the long list annually.

There is the saola, resembling an antelope, long-lost rhinos, barking deer, striped rabbit, and at least two dozen species of primates including gibbons, macaques lorises and langurs. But it isn't necessarily its fabulous forests and national parks that official Vietnam wants to steer curious tourists toward, but its burgeoning cities, the urban landscape, not the natural one.

A country that has become the epicenter for diversity in wildlife and ongoing discoveries is loathe to direct tourists to their locales. Not for the purpose, mind, of protecting wildlife. But to ensure that it does not become too well-known that population growth leading to habitat loss and corruption have spurred criminal wildlife trafficking. Where the wild animals are being shot, snared and live-captured to the extent that natural areas have become afflicted with "empty forest syndrome".
Snared paw of Ferret Badger. (Photo by Lorraine Scotson/Free the Bears)
Snared paw of Ferret Badger. (Photo by Lorraine Scotson/Free the Bears)

The habitats may flourish but the animals that once did in their natural surroundings are scarcely to be found; animals and birds hunted into local extinction. In one single remote national preserve that Vietnam officially set aside for its saola and other rare animals, 23,000 wire snares were discovered, in 2015. The result? No sightings verified of a saola since a photo was snapped of one of the creatures six years earlier.  Poachers in the Cat Tien National Park shot the last rhino in 2010.

Tigers, those noble creatures? Hunted out of existence. Limited populations of bears and elephants are hanging in. The national appetite for Eastern traditional medicine in Vietnam and neighbouring China is responsible for some of the carnage. More so "is to supply the rampant demand for wildlife meat in urban restaurants", Barney Long, a director with the nonprofit group Global Wildlife Conservation stated.

Cue Phuong, the first national park in Vietnam, stands a few hours' drive south of Hanoi, created in 1962 by Ho Chi Minh, and there no more Delacour's langurs exist, nor any other of its type; no bears, leopards of smaller cats according to Adam Davies, director of the Endangered Primate Rescue Center. The richest collection of rare animals can still be seen, however, along a narrow park road where animal rescue centers have set up shop.

Saola
Pseudoryx nghetinhensis Saola (aka Vu Quang ox) 4 - 5 month old female at the Forest Inventory & Planning Institute Botanical Garden. Hanoi, Vietnam (David Hulse, WWF-Canon)

There is the Primate Rescue Center where nearly extinct langurs, gibbons and lorises can be seen -- having been rescued in large part from wildlife traffickers. Two other rescue centers are nearby; one protecting dozens of species of turtles, all of them endangered, while the other is reserved for confiscated leopard cats, civets, binturong or bearcat and the pangolin.

Education for Nature Vietnam pursues research, criminal investigation, political fights and legal maneuvers. They hope to make a difference, but worry that time is running out. International tourism arrivals amounted to 15.5 million people visiting Vietnam in 2018, representing a 64 percent leap from 2016. The growing economy, and the affliction of corruption in the government of Vietnam represent major factors in the disappearance of natural habitat and endangered species.

No one knows how many saola are left.
No one knows how many saola are left. (World Wildlife Fund)

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Coping With Iranian Intransigence

"It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today."
"This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication." 
"Iran's Supreme Leader rejected Prime Minister Abe's diplomacy today by saying he has no response to President Trump and will not answer."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
A photo released by Iranian media purports to show the fire that broke out on the Front Altair oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

"We need to remember that some 30 percent of the world's [seaborne] crude oil passes through the straits."
"If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk."
Paolo d'Amico, chairman, INTERTANKO Tanker association
Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz for years. It has on occasion committed to hostile acts against other countries' vessels passing through the Strait. More latterly it re-issued those threats in response to its deepening economic crisis brought on by the new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration to force the Republic to return to the bargaining table, after the White House withdrew from the nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the members of the Security Council plus Germany and the EU.

President Trump has stated his intention on forcing Iran to stand back from its nuclear enrichment entirely, along with the threats inherent in continued development of missiles, an issue of great importance to the region, and which the 2015 Iran nuclear deal failed to address. That, and its ongoing support of and incitement to violence of its proxy militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen representing additional issues of huge importance both in the Middle East and abroad.

Tensions have been growing between Washington and Tehran since President Trump cancelled U.S. support for the Iranian nuclear agreement when he stated the obvious, that it had no teeth. Secretary of State Pompeo minced few words when he noted that behind the attacks lay a "maximum pressure campaign" of sanctions imposed by the administration he is part of. Sanctions designed to force Iran to negotiate the future of its nuclear program and its militia support threatening the stability of the Middle East.
This still, obtained by AFP from Iranian State TV IRIB, purports to show smoke billowing from a tanker said to have been attacked off Oman. CNN has not independently verified this image.
This still, obtained by AFP from Iranian State TV IRIB, purports to show smoke billowing from a tanker said to have been attacked off Oman

These most recent attacks near the entry to the Strait of Hormuz which represents a critical shipping artery for Gulf energy producers and Saudi Arabia have all the hallmarks of Iran's viciously destructive skulduggery. Iran's May12 attacks on four tankers set the pattern, and it appears to be on repeat, though Iran denies any involvement.

According to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif the incidents are "suspicious", and he's certainly right there; suspicious to others, a seemingly logical manoeuvre to Iran, however.

Thursday's attack targeted a Japanese and a Norwegian tanker, just as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was attempting to persuade Iran, on a diplomatic mission to Tehran, to de-escalate the situation and agree to negotiations with the United States.

The crew of the Kokuka Courageous tanker owned by Japan was safely picked up after the tanker was hit by a suspected torpedo. On the side of the Japanese tanker an unexploded device, presumably a limpet mine, was seen. It would appear that an Iranian ship and crew were dispatched to remove the mine from the Japanese tanker. The Norwegian-owned Front Altair was the first of the two to be attacked; its crew abandoned ship between Gulf Arab states waters and Iran following a blast.

That explosion was theorized to have been caused by a magnetic mine setting the ship ablaze, with a huge plume of smoke reaching toward the sky. Its crew was plucked to safety by a passing ship that handed them to an Iranian rescue boat. According to Saudi Arabia, this latest incident, along with new attacks on Saudi soil by Houthi rebels from Yemen, represent a "major escalation" of hostilities between Iran and the Gulf nations.

As an ally of Iran, Russia has urged caution, urging no one to rush to judgement, much less use the incident to place additional pressure on Tehran.
"Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table at the right time to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the broad range of threats [from Iran]."
"Iran should meet diplomacy with diplomacy, not with terror, bloodshed and extortion."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
US Navy helping ships in Gulf of Oman after distress calls



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Friday, June 14, 2019

Societal Dysfunction

"Almost to a body, the [surviving] women described them [Magdalene Laundries] as 'Dickensian'."
"Everything was taken away that was a reminder of a possession of identity. [The institutions based on the notion of contagious] moral pollution."
"They're told that they are bad, they're shameful, they're sluts, that they have done something really wrong. The state has imprisoned them and the Church has imprisoned them, and their families have abandoned them."
"The language that's used to describe them is shameful -- you need to clean, you need to clean, you need to clean, you need to be penitent. You are not worthy of your old name. You may not mention  your former life. This is a stripping-away, through ideology and words, that creates a stigma that becomes internalized and believed -- believed as fact."
"It broke their resistance to other more immediate and explicit forms of violence in their lives."
"The state was working with the church, and families were, too."
"[Women were seen as] solely responsible for any sexual transgression that's happening in society."
"The very system of incarceration that was supposed to reform them, became a significant factor in shaping their lifelong inequality. Those who the church and state targeted for saving were simultaneously treated as bad, dirty and unsalvageable."
Rie Croll, associate professor of social cultural studies, Memorial University, Newfoundland
Relatives of victims of the Magdalene Laundries hold a candle lit vigil in solidarity with Justice for Magdalene Survivors and their families outside Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland, on Feb. 19, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Peter Morrison
Relatives of victims of the Magdalene Laundries hold a candle lit vigil in solidarity with Justice for Magdalene Survivors and their families outside Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland, on Feb. 19, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Peter Morrison

"Those poor women. They staggered on to the street [at the 1996 closure of the last Magdalene laundry in Dublin]."
"He said [Irish politician] they didn't even know how to cross a busy, modern street."
"They were so institutionalized. It was heartbreaking."
These were Catholic institutions for wayward girls and women. They were called the Magdalene Laundries, meant to provide asylum to "fallen" women; unwed mothers, former prostitutes, young girls who ran away from home.... Women and girls as young as 12 or 13 were institutionalized in these places to live out their lives as labourers, boiling and stirring, rinsing and wringing and hanging out laundry in service to wealthy, respectable members of society.

They were given the opportunity to redeem themselves by this labour, living in isolation from decent society for they were indecent by implication.

While the laundries infamously began in Ireland, they also turned up in the U.K. Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. In Canada the Sisters of the Good Shepherd operated over a dozen of these institutions for girls and women; from the Maritimes, to Ottawa, to Vancouver. These 19th Century institutions were a plague posing as a rescue mission for naughty girls and women where they would learn a respectable trade and be useful to society.

The last to remain in operation was in Toronto. The St. Mary's Training School was finally shuttered in 1973.

Few records survive. There is no data on how many Canadian women were incarcerated or how many now survive. Survivors and their families shamed into silence. In these institutions, at dawn the nuns clapped their hands to awaken the women who leaped out of bed, dropped to their knees and prayed. They were dressed in long cotton dresses and aprons. Dressing was performed under their nightgowns for no one, not even those among whom they lived, must see their naked bodies.

A Magdalene Laundry in England in the early Twentieth Century, from Frances Finnegan, Do Penance or Perish, Congrave Press, 2001.Wikimedia Common

Quietly washing, silence reigned throughout as they filed into the dining hall for their meals, and then in equal silence into the laundry workroom. Where they were to spend the day, boiling, scrubbing, rinsing, squeezing, hanging laundry to dry, then ironing it. An hour before bedtime a break would be announced when they would make rosaries for sale to the public. Their ordinary street clothing had been confiscated, hair and nails cut short. Their given names were abandoned as they were re-named, forbidden to use their own.

They might remain in the laundries on an indefinite basis, or their length of time extended at will; their sins were to have become involved in sex work, or having been pregnant out of marriage; others "defiant", "incorrigible", or "wayward", others yet "lipping off to their parents, smoking cigarettes, stuff that in those days would have been shocking", explained Rie Croll who had interviewed as many of the former inmates as she could find. One of whom had been declared "unmanageable", sentenced in 1961 to a reformatory for sneaking away from her abusive parents in preference to spending evenings with friends.

One of the interviewed had been born in a Good Shepherd Laundry in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1934, her mother a 13-year-old Indigenous girl, impregnated through gang rape. Mother and daughter worked side-by-side from the time the girl reached eight years of age until she finally managed to escape over a fence, at age 18. The institutes were used to shield society's violence and dysfunction within families where adolescent girls, victims of incest ended up; little wonder families felt no urgency in reclaiming them.

A woman stands near a poster as relatives of victims of the Magdalene Laundries hold a candle lit vigil  in Dublin, Ireland, in February 2013. The Irish government apoligized for the laundries in 2013.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Praying for Hong Kong's "One Country, Two Systems"

"When the fugitive extradition bill is passed, Hong Kong will become a 'useless Hong Kong'."
"We will be deep in a place where foreign investors are afraid to invest and tourists are afraid to go."
"Once the Pearl of the Orient', [it] will become nothing."
Jimmy Sham, convener, Civil Human Rights Front, Hong Kong

"Maybe we [Hong Kong] will die, but we will not die in silence."
"We are protesting until the end."
Sunny, Leung, 24, protester

"[The size of the demonstration and frustration of people in Hong Kong create for Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam the] greatest crisis for the credibility and authority of her administration."
"Although it is unlikely that most people would be affected by the proposed bill, many in Hong Kong no longer believe that she [Lam] would defend Hong Kong's core values such as freedom and the rule of law and her way of life."
Peter T.Y. Cheung, associate professor, department of politics and public administration, University of Hong Kong

How many within China or externally actually believed the Communist Party of China's promise not to interfere in Hong Kong, to adhere to the "one country, two party" framework that was agreed upon to allow Hong Kong a degree of political autonomy from Beijing when the island state was handed back to China in 1997? It was, according to skeptics, only a matter of time before Beijing would set aside the agreement in favour of restoring 'harmony' and a "one country, one party" reality. All it needed was time.

An official estimate of 250,000 protesters, whose numbers were in fact, contested when the number was put up to a million on the weekend demanding that Beijing remain true to its promise and not interfere with Hong Kong's autonomy, might have moved any other chief executive to back down, but evidently not Beijing's choice, Carrie Lam, one tough legislator, insisting her intention to press on with the proposed law allowing extradition to the mainland.
Protester try to use water to put out tear gas which the police used against them in Hong Kong Photograph: Geovien So/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Beijing is, through its bulldozing of this bill in the Hong Kong legislature, informing any who had thoughts that China would honour its commitment to permitting Hong Kong to remain as it was under British rule, how in error they are. The political autonomy that assured Hong Kong it would remain politically, socially, economically and culturally separate from the mainland is vanishing. When Britain prepared in 1997 to hand Hong Kong back to China with special provisions, wealthy citizens of Hong Kong desperately sought citizenship abroad; a lifeboat should China renege.

Now that it has, it remains to be seen how many citizens with dual passports will now leave for good to take up residence elsewhere. Hong Kong's 70-seat Legislative Council, led by the pro-Beijing Carrie Lam prepared for its second debate on the bill against broad opposition. Under tight security around the legislature and riot police presence, protesters continued their heated objections against the trajectory leading Hong Kong into Beijing's direct clutches.
A police officer fires tear gas during clashes with protesters in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
A police officer fires tear gas during clashes with protesters in Hong Kong on Wednesday. PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images

Strikes and go-slows, ongoing protests were planned as the legislature debated the bill again. Protesters representing small business owners, students, bus drivers, social workers, teachers all committed to a last-ditch protest hoping to block the bill's passage. Even the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong became involved, urging the government not to pass the bill "hurriedly", and that Christians pray for the future of Hong Kong.

Hopes for further democratic reforms have intersected with China's interference in local elections. According to official Chinese media it is "foreign forces" who are behind the chaos over the extradition bill.

A protester makes a gesture during protests against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong Photograph: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Stopping the Epidemic

"The new protocol is that we just abandon the body."
"They will learn their lesson when they get sick."
Philemon Kalondero, 39, Ebola response team

"Can we stop the epidemic? Certainly we can."
"[But to succeed, a political solution is first required to reduce the violence]."
Mike Ryan, World Health Organization emergencies program
Health workers carry a coffin containing a victim of Ebola virus on May 16, 2019, in Butembo, DRC, a city at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.
Health workers carry a coffin containing a victim of Ebola virus on May 16, 2019, in Butembo, DRC, a city at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, in rural Beni, subsistence farmer Janvier Muhindo Mandefu set aside his farming occupation to work instead buying the bodies of Ebola victims, aware of the highly contagious state of the decomposing bodies. He is aware of the possibility of contagion, handling these bodies, but he perseveres. The bodies' threat to his own state of health is one thing, the threat he is equally aware of that he and his burial team could be attacked by relatives of the dead, is more worrying. He has already experienced one such attack.

Mourners accuse burial team members of stealing organs from the corpses, threatening to throw the team members into the open graves. Mr. Muhindo has been attacked by a swinging hoe. On another occasion a mourner had a hand grenade. On that occasion the entire team scattered and failed to return. The three-year-old Ebola victim remained unburied. "Someone like me can be buried alive", Mr. Muhindo said, watching his team hose down the trucks following another day of burials.

It was thought that the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo was under control. Now, however, it has roared back, and is spiraling out of control mostly because combat efforts have been interfered with by attacks on treatment centers and health workers, making this outbreak the second-largest ever recorded. Growing mistrust of government managing the efforts at eradication, and mistrust of international medical experts struggling to steer patients into treatment centers, have taken their toll.
Insecurity has significantly complicated efforts to contain the DRC's ongoing Ebola outbreak [File: Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro/AP]
Insecurity has significantly complicated efforts to contain the DRC's ongoing Ebola outbreak [File: Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro/AP]

Treatment centers were attacked by gunmen, others set on fire, health workers suspended their work when a doctor was killed. Some international groups have seen fit, given the dangers involved, to pulling some of their personnel out of the situation. Mid-May saw almost 1,150 deaths from Ebola. When the outbreak first occurred, police would remove bodies from homes sometimes at gunpoint. Now, the bodies are left as a result of the violence from relatives of the dead.

The outbreak has occurred in the part of eastern Congo afflicted by armed groups, conflicts over land possession, natural resources, ethnicity and religion motivating them. One of the groups is tied to the Islamic State. When the latest wave of health experts and humanitarian workers arrived they had their previous experience treating Ebola. They had lessons learned from the outbreak across West Africa in 2013 that killed over 11,000 people. And they had recently contained an outbreak in western Congo.

They brought with them medical advances, an effective vaccine, experimental treatments and a transparent enclosure called the "cube", where patients would be placed within, reducing the risk of transmission. Because the outbreak was in a vulnerable region close to the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan it was imperative to bring it under control to halt its spread.

The region had been exempt from the presence of Ebola until last year when it manifested in a town called Mangina and by late summer it had shown up in Beni, a city of about 350,000.

In Beni massacres by machete killed an estimated 800 people in recent  years. Local politicians speculated the government had imported the disease in a region where an estimated two percent of those surveyed felt mistrust for the national government. "Scientifically, I don't believe that it's possible to first have the killings of people in Beni, and now this disease without them being related", sagely said Crispin Mbindule Mitondo, a national assembly member, his remarks broadcast on local radio.

A tight national election was occurring along with the first transfer of power by ballot in Congo since 1960's independence. But when Ebola arrived Kinshasa suspended voting in Ebola-effected areas claiming that polling places might spread the disease in an area that was an opposition stronghold. A coincidence that persuaded locals that Ebola was part of a government plot to deny them the vote. And a day later an Ebola triage center in Beni was set on fire by protesters.

"When they cancelled the elections, it was a disaster for us", Emmanuel Massari of Doctors Without Borders remarked. Vaccination teams traveled under armed police or military escort, adding to the locals' suspicion, which made it appear as though the Ebola response was in reality an extension of an unpopular national government. Where, during confrontations with grieving family members, police officers and soldiers accompanying medical teams have opened fire.

The city of Butembo, with its million residents is now another disease locale where patients who had Ebola refused to go to treatment centers, viewing them as a place where they would not be cured, but die from the infection. In Katwa, an outlying area of Butembo, operated by Doctors Without Borders the Ebola treatment center was set on fire, the patients fleeing into the night.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Defending Canada While Holding Canada to Account

"[The National Defence counter-intelligence unit can not] arbitrarily conduct surveillance on Canadian citizens; [investigations may take place when a clear link is present to defence security interests]."
"[In] an increasingly complex global information environment, and with Canadians constantly travelling all over the world [military-intelligence personnel may incidentally gather some information about Canadian citizens]."
Capt.Nicola LaMarre, National Defence spokeswoman

"We're worried about what it means when they collect inadvertent information."
"We don't know the scope or the degree to which Canadians' information is being captured."
Tim McSorley, national coordinator, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Ottawa
Military spies will be allowed to gather the information of Canadians in certain circumstances. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
"We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms … when governments, regardless of which stripe, do not defend those rights, Canadians have to pay."
"I hope people take notice of this. I hope people are angered that governments violated people’s fundamental rights."
"And I hope people remember to demand of governments, this one and all future governments, that nobody ever has their fundamental rights violated."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, October 2017
Under Canadian law military intelligence is able to collect and share information about Canadian citizens -- and that includes material gathered by chance -- when it supports a legitimate investigation. This is a federal directive newly disclosed on a public request for information by the Canadian Press. The incidental or 'chance' information-gathering includes anything dredged from the Internet. And this concerns civil-liberties advocates who think in terms of the vast amount of data and sources available in cyberspace.

The directive, encompassing eight pages dated August 2018, is titled Guidance on the Collection of Canadian Citizen Information, made available through the Access to Information Act. It represents an instruction manual meant for National Defence employees and members of the Canadian Forces, that any information collected on Canadian citizens must have a "direct and immediate relationship" to a military operation or activity, warning as well that "emerging technologies and capabilities" increase the potential for such data to be scooped inadvertently from open sources such as social-media feeds.

Whether inadvertently collected or intentionally, data on Canadians may lawfully be kept and used in support of authorized defence-intelligence operations, points out the directive. Parliamentarians attached to the national-security and intelligence committee are in the process of examining the directive through a study on the manner in which Canadian Forces gather, use, keep and share information about Canadians, forming part of their intelligence work.

This study follows on an earlier report the committee produced that concluded the military has one of the largest intelligence programs in Canada, with little outside oversight. Thousands of pages of data were examined by the committee along with a number of closed-door briefings, to find that defence agencies carry out an entire range of intelligence activities. Information is collected through sensitive methods by means of human sources, technical means and investigations; activities that encompass considerable risks, among them the potential for Canadians' rights infringements.

Stricter controls on the military's intelligence-gathering including the possibility of legislation setting out when and how defence intelligence operations can take place, is being called for by the committee. The Canadian Forces national counter-intelligence unit carries out Canadian citizens' information which includes identifying, investigating and countering threats to the security of Canada's military from foreign intelligence services, or from individuals or groups engaged on espionage, sabotage, subversion, terrorist activities and other criminal activity relating to security concerns.

The activities of intelligence gathering, ensuring that specialized agents acquire and maintain critical information pertaining to the actions and activities of Canadians whose sympathies may lie with an outside body engaged in terrorism, potentially threatening the safety and security of other Canadians and/or Canadian institutions logically would seem to justify the requirement for such data collection. Without which it would not be possible to be alert to danger, and to the capacity to react, in apprehending dangerously sinister plans to wreak havoc on Canadian interests.

There have on occasion been just such incidents which have been identified and apprehended, those involved placed on trial, convicted, sentenced and imprisoned. There have also been instances where Canadian intelligence units have shared information with foreign-partner counterparts as within the Five Eyes compact in a bid to allow for cooperation between Western democracies threatened by common enemies. Aside from which it is no secret that malign actors on the international scene have infiltrated Western societies, requiring that their activities be monitored.

All this by way of setting the stage for events that brought the Charter of Rights and Freedoms into direct confrontation with the imperative for Canadian Defence and intelligence to apprise their global defence and intelligence partners in discussions and prevention of terrorist attacks. Particularly at a time when Islamists have demonstrated their facility in carrying out horrendously murderous attacks on Western democracies. Not to mention the issues involved in Canadian Muslims enrolling themselves as members of Islamist terrorist groups.

Omar Khadr appears at the courthouse in Edmonton with his lawyer in hopes of getting a Canadian Passport to travel to Saudi Arabia and permission to speak with his sister in Edmonton, December 13, 2018. Greg Southam/Postmedia
As, for example the prime minister asserting that Ottawa’s apology and reported $10.5 million compensation to Omar Khadr is about the former Guantanamo Bay inmate’s Charter rights, not about the details of the case. Details, what details? That the Khadr family, Egyptian immigrants to Canada, the father a confidant of Osama bin Laden, who raised funds within Canada for the support of al-Qaeda activities and who took his sons to Afghanistan's jihadi training camps where 15-year-old Omar was taught how to make explosives and threw one at a U.S. Army medic, killing him, blinding another.

Details, details. American surgeons saved Khadr's life from life-threatening injuries he sustained during that attack in which he took part against an American military group in conflict with the Taliban. As a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay prison for Islamists Khadr claimed to have been mistreated. As a Canadian he was visited by a Canadian diplomat and by the CSIS group who questioned him there. That, according to the prime minister, abridged his Charter rights, therefore Canadian taxpayers were on the hook for $10.5 in 'compensation'.

And there were others. Just after the horrific 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, the international community was placed on high alert, and Muslim men were under great scrutiny, a web that caught another Canadian, Maher Arar who happened to be in the wrong place at the right time, was apprehended by U.S. agents and sent to his home country of Syria where he was arrested, imprisoned and tortured. His Charter rights too were judged to have been abridged and a similar pay-out of 'compensation' awarded him for his pain and troubles; Canadian investigators charged with giving questionable data to their U.S. counterparts.

Wait, why stop there!? There's also the 'settlement' reached by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with three other Muslim-Canadians, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin who sued the government for $100,000 million. Trudeau saved Canadian taxpayers quite a bit of tax funding, he claimed, with the final payout to the three men of $31 million, who wee 'falsely accused of terrorist links' but not by Canada. 

El Maati had been detained in Syria after travelling to the region from Canada for his wedding, which he was never able to attend. Nureddin, a geologist and educator in Toronto, was imprisoned while visiting family. Almalki, an Ottawa electronics engineer, was held for 22 months. And they alleged that Canada was instrumental in aiding in their ordeals. And our government agreed with them, yet even so in language couched to imply perhaps yes, perhaps not.

That uncertainty can be read in the joint statement issued by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland who formally apologized to the three men "for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to their detention and mistreatment abroad and any resulting harm."

Is this the price of being Canadian?


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Monday, June 10, 2019

Criminal Chaos in Rio de Janeiro

"Military-style security operations that leave a trail of death in poor neighborhoods do not enhance public security. On the contrary, these killings make communities fear the police and much less likely to collaborate with the police in the fight against crime."
"The mission of the police is to protect people, including those who live in poor neighborhoods. The excessive use of lethal force puts everyone at risk."
Daniel Wilkinson, Americas managing director, Human Rights Watch

“I think we are facing a great defeat of this civilizing project. For us and some of the more open-minded sectors of the police, the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) program was an opportunity to change the security model—leaving behind the old model of confrontation and trying to turn towards a protection-based model, aiming at harm reduction and minimizing confrontations."
"This didn’t happen and now we’re seeing a cyclic return to old policies of confrontation."
Ignacio Cano, coordinator, Violence Analysis Laboratory, Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ)
Rio de Janeiro state has registered a record number of five people killed a day on average during police operations in the first quarter of the year. Photograph: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images
Latin America has immense, seemingly intractable social and criminal problems with drug cartels, gangsters and endemic crime. This is a situation reflective of much of the rest of the world to various degrees. But the violence infesting countries like Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines -- along with many others -- is impacting on the security of the state, imperilling the lives of ordinary civilians, and bringing police into action that resembles that of the gangs they are instructed to eradicate.

Brazil, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, appears to be taking a page out of Rodrigo Duterte's military/police instructions to kill on sight as a remedy for the pervasive drug-crime culture in the Philippines. During the first four months of 2019, police in Rio de Janeiro shot to death 558 people -- representing the highest number of police killings since records began being kept by the state twenty years earlier.

Years of state policies that reduced police killings have been set aside with the determination of the new government to put an end to the trafficking and violence that has contributed to a political crisis and economic decline. Since 2014, criminal gangs have responded to a vacuum by reclaiming lost territory where across Brazil violence has exploded; the evidence seen in over 51,500 people killed in 2018, a staggering number of deaths.

According to state statistics in response to that situation, police in Rio de Janeiro have themselves killed a growing number of those they consider criminals, increasing to a high of 1,538 in 2018. In October, Brazilians voted in a new government, supporting candidates promising to fight violence with violence. Gun ownership rules were relaxed and police were given permission to fire on armed suspects. Since then, close to five killings a day have taken place.

Wilson Witzel, Rio de Janeiro's new governor, points to a drop in homicides as justification of an approach that is working. Police were promised greater leeway to kill suspected criminals by President Jair Bolsonaro, who had stated that a "good criminal was a dead criminal", sounding quite like the Philippines' Duterte. As for Governor Witzel, a former federal judge "We'll dig graves", he said when a question arose of a shortage of prison space for criminals.

Snipers, the governor stated, were gunning down armed suspects who "have to be lethally neutralized". But it is the suspicion of extrajudicial killings that is motivating criticism against the police. State representative Renata Souza urged the United Nations and the Organization of American States to investigate the situation, on the basis that "Summary executions are being carried out in favelas and other peripheral areas."

A task force was created in 2014 by the state prosecutor's office, to investigate allegations of this nature and since then police have been responsible for killing over four thousand people. There were 72 officers charged with homicide. At least 19 of that number have been acquitted, and none of the accused have been placed in prison. According to a leader of the task force, the team has a crushing workload, struggles with deficient forensic investigations and attempts to cope with witnesses who fear retaliation.

In Rio de Janeiro districts were settled by squatters decades ago and are controlled by drug traffickers and paramilitary groups. In the Fallet-Fogueteiro district on February 8, a shootout occurred as an elite police squad rumbled up a hill and suspected traffickers scrambled into a house where they removed their shirts as a gesture understood to represent surrender. Despite which police opened fire, leaving nine men dead on the ground, and four others dead outside the house.

"They didn't come to take them into custody. They came to kill", charged Tatiana Antunes de Carvalho, mother of a 21-year-old student who had been among those shot. Another operation took place in early May when the police shot down from a helicopter leaving eight people they targeted dead in the Complexo de Mare favela. An elderly woman witnessed two men surrendering in an alley. "My order is to kill", she heard an officer respond as they were shot, along with two others on a terrace.

"Confrontation generates an unsafe environment, mental illness and stress for police officers and residents" commented Roberto Sa, who served in an elite police unit earlier in his career, overseeing security policy in the state from 2016 to 2018.
A police operation left 13 dead in the Fallet-Fogueteiro district. EPA Photo: Marcello Sayao

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