Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Living Purgatory of North Korea

"I was so ignorant. I did not understand that the country I was seeking temporary refuge in was literally a giant, demented prison; once someone goes there, they almost never, ever get out."
"Thinking back now, I was a fool. If there’s a God in heaven, he carried me through it."
Charles Robert Jenkins, 2009 autobiography, Reluctant Communist
Former U.S. Army deserter to North Korea, Charles Jenkins, has died. He was 77
Former U.S. Army deserter to North Korea, Charles Jenkins, has died. He was 77  (AP Photo)

He was just 24, an American Army sergeant stationed at Camp Clinch, a U.S. outpost along the Korean Demilitarized Zone, in 1965. Word was circulating that his unit, the 1st Cavalry Division, was set to be mobilized and sent to the escalating war in Vietnam. He envisioned a fearful "war in the jungle", and a plan took shape in his head for what he later characterized as his "despicable crime". He reported  for duty, leading a patrol along the border with North and South Korea, and his commanding officer failed to notice that Sgt.Jenkins was in a state of semi-intoxication.

He planned to desert his unit, quite simply to walk into North Korea where he would surrender to the first soldiers he would come across, and then to ask to be referred to the Russian embassy. In his mind it was all so workable; from Russia he would be extradited back home to the United States. There he would pay the price for abandoning his unit, and serve prison time, but at the same time he would have effectively averted any personal role in fighting in Vietnam. In due time he would be released, and his normal life in North Carolina resumed.

That, however, didn't quite materialize. He became a "guest" of North Korea, and as such was spared the deprivation suffered by most North Koreans, even the famine that ended up killing up to 3.5 million bypassed him. Not that his life in the hermit kingdom was laudable, as a "guest". As a guest he was subjected to torture and to medical experimentation. As a guest his lifestyle in the capital Pyongyang was without electricity, heat or plumbing; primitive and miserable. He faced forced re-education and became knowledgeable of socialist 'principles'.

The Peoples' Republic maintained him along with several other Americans as captive propaganda tools. Sgt. Jenkins and three other American defectors were a propaganda prize for the North. "You're here, you'll never leave" was the greeting he received by one of the other four prisoner-guests. Shortly thereafter, the American soldiers guarding South Korea were acquainted with what had become of their former colleague when propaganda pamphlets were distributed where images of all four Americans appeared, living an idealized existence of leisure, wealth and access to women.

With the pamphlets, price lists appeared indicating what the North Korean regime would pay for American military equipment surrendered to them. Sgt. Jenkins would receive, for his forty-year guest status in North Korea, extra food rations linked to the M14 rifle he had brought over when he entered North Korea. Jim Jong-il, who succeeded to the dictatorship of the Kim family dynasty in 1994 was obsessed with film as a propaganda medium. The Americans were used as props in films as antagonists for the courageous North Korean soldiers.

Eventually all of the American men were gifted with foreign women to marry; women who had been kidnapped for that very purpose. Sgt. Jenkins was matched with a 21-year-old Japanese women who had been abducted with her mother while walking on the street on Sado Island in Japan by North Korean agents, among some 17 Japanese civilians who were forcibly taken during the 1970s and 1980s, forced to work training North Korean spies in Japanese. Hitomi Soga, given in marriage to Sgt. Jenkins never saw her mother again.

The arranged marriage paired Jenkins, 20 years the senior of Soga, but by some strange alchemy of fate and fortune the two loved one another, and had two children together, daughters who as adults accompanied their mother when she was eventually repatriated to Japan at a time when North Korea had attempted to smooth out relations between itself and their native country. Their father too was permitted to visit his wife, living in Indonesia temporarily. Once there, however, they all flew to Japan when Sgt. Jenkins was 64, aged beyond his years, having lived in North Korea for over 40 years.

Once in Japan he took the step of reporting for duty at a U.S. base in Japan. He received a 25-day sentence for desertion at a court-martial. When he had arrived on Sado, he declared that this was where he would spend his "remaining days""Everyone in Japan knows who I am", he told an interviewer in 2008. Finally, at age 77, he died of heart failure, collapsing outside his home on Monday, the only one of the four American deserters not ending his life still marooned as a 'guest' in North Korea.

FILE - In this July 18, 2004 file photo, former U.S. Army deserter to North Korea, Charles Jenkins, left, escorted by his wife Hitomi Soga, right, and their daughter Mika, center, arrives at Tokyo's Haneda International Airport. Jenkins, who married Soga, a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release in the 2000s, has died. He was 77.(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, File)
Jenkins met his wife Hitomi Soga when she was kidnapped by Pyongyang to teach North Korean spies Japanese.  (AP Photo)

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Venezuela: Nation Beyond Crisis

"For a family of five [the subsidized box of food] that goes quickly. We don't eat much."
"It's like something from a movie where you become accustomed to something that you shouldn't be accustomed to."
"Standing in line [in hopes of accessing limited amounts of food] erodes the mind, erodes your thinking, the capacity to create."
David, 42, hairdresser
Children dying from lack of medicine, food in Venezuela
Children dying from lack of medicine, food in Venezuela    CNN Money

Venezuela's population of over 30 million people is forced to cope with living conditions that mire them in a state of perpetual poverty and fear for the future, where basic foods are in scarce supply, where medically prescribed drugs are simply unavailable, where salaries have stagnated in lock-stop with runaway inflation, where hospitals are barely functioning, and children routinely go to bed hungry, and where violent crime, always a problem in Venezuela, has soared in incidence.

This is the legacy of the great socialist reformer Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, held sacred by his successor who carries on the tried-and-true methodology of administrative dysfunction, repression, arrest of political opponents and neglect of vital civil and state-owned enterprise infrastructure, along with the corruption techniques that are part and parcel of such socialist endeavours on behalf of the people.

The country's economic crisis leaves it teetering on t he brink of complete collapse. The kind of hyperinflation that sees the rate of inflation at a staggering 800 percent this fall and where consumer prices are forecast to rise over 2,300 percent according to the International Monetary Fund, sees its people's ability to purchase fundamental necessities of life plummeting hopelessly. Public service itself has collapsed.
Venezuelan currency
As of March, Venezuela's inflation rate surpassed 220 percent, according to the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics. The country's largest bill - the 100 bolivar note - was worth just $0.04 at the end of last year. Shopping trips now require stacks, or even bags, of cash to buy the bare necessities.

The bolivar is in short supply, leaving people to endure lineups at cash machines, withdrawing maximum amounts of cash equivalent to about ten cents in value, barely enough to pay for tickets on a public bus. Venezuelans increasingly regard their depressed lifestyles as being akin to living through a long, debilitating and destructive conflict. According to the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the nation's inflation rate rose to 45.5 percent from its previous 36.3 percent, figures that President Nicolas Maduro denies.

A 2016 survey concluded that 80 percent of the people of Venezuela now live in poverty, with the cost of basic food items a family of four requires rising 48 percent during one month alone. Digital banking has skyrocketed in response to the cash shortage and the sheer number of devalued bills needed to purchase the meanest of items. Now, debit and credit cards and Internet bank transfers have become the norm for purchasing transactions.

"We have to choose between medicine and food", said Beatriz, 53, formerly a nurse in Caracas before nursing staff was let go, even though they earned minimum wage. When she was working for that minimum wage "Food was never an issue". Now, working as a cleaner in the Caracas office of an international advertising firm, she still makes the same salary as when she nursed, but is now unable to cover her family's most basic living needs.
venezuela reserves july 2017

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Are They Spies, Escapees, or Just Desperate Fishermen?

"It's after Kim Jong Un decided to expand the fisheries industry as a way of increasing revenue for the military. They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing."
"It will continue."
Satoru Miyamoto, professor, North Korea expert, Seigakuin University, Japan

"I am wondering why so many of these [North Korean boats] have all of a sudden come in such a short time."
"[North Korea] is a mysterious country. We don't know so much. I don't know if they are coming here to escape or whether they just accidentally drifted here."
Kazuko Komatsu, 66, resident, Yurihonjo, Japan
Japanese officials gather on Nov. 27, 2017, near a boat washed ashore in Oga, Akita Prefecture. Authorities found eight bodies in the unidentified wooden boat.
Japanese officials gather on Nov. 27, 2017, near a boat washed ashore in Oga, Akita Prefecture. Authorities found eight bodies in the unidentified wooden boat.  CNN

"Everyone was hungry, even the soldiers", North Korean defector, former army officer Kang Ri Hyak reported on "brutal" conditions in North Korea before he left four years earlier. "The UN is sending rice and fertilizer and it all goes to the ranking officials under [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un. There are many soldiers who also die from disease because they're not given medical treatment", he explained.

A Japan Coast Guard boat approaches a capsized wooden vessel, on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Three crew members rescued from the capsized boat are North Koreans, and Tokyo is arranging their return home.
A Japan Coast Guard boat approaches a capsized wooden vessel, on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Three crew members rescued from the capsized boat are North Koreans, and Tokyo is arranging their return home.  CNN
For years dilapidated fishing boats have washed ashore on Japanese beaches. Some without the presence of humans, others replete with human skeletons, and some carrying fishermen who are taken into detention and questioned. In the last few years the sightings of these boats, with and without crews, dead and alive, have been increasing in number and they are puzzling both to Japanese rural residents who see them and to authorities who question those aboard.

Seven boats in the past two weeks came ashore in coastal Akita, all of them identified as North Korean, one with eight crew members who arrived in Yuirihonjo an Akita prefecture port town. They were taken directly into police custody for a week, then transferred to a facility for immigrants in Nagasaki, from where the Immigration Bureau plans to return them to North Korea. Although no news has been released to the public, it would be interesting to know whether the eight North Koreans are delighted to be returned to their homeland.

In all probability they can look forward to being detained by the North Korean military and punished for their infidelity to the People's Republic. No doubt while in Japanese detention they will be fed in a manner quite unlike what they are accustomed to in North Korea. No doubt hunger and privation led them to shove off on a fishing venture a little further from North Korea's fishing coastline than practicable if they hadn't meant to 'drift' off to another country on a long sea voyage that could have ended disastrously for them.

That it will end disastrously for them is another matter.

Given the tensions and concerns emanating from North Korea with its violent provocations in sending rockets over Japan and threats to go with them, little wonder Japan will not give haven to these desperate people. Perhaps returning them to South Korea where they will receive grudging haven would be more humane. Stories in the local Japanese media are not averse to noting instances of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. It has happened, and no one wants it to happen again.

No fewer than 18 North Korean fishing crew have come ashore on beaches in Japan over the course of this year. The number of skeletons found on ghost ships have been higher, however, a gruesome sight that underlines the sheer desperation of people for whom no other solution to their plight can be envisioned by them as an alternative to remaining in North Korea to starve. The stories the North Koreans tell Japanese authorities is that of bad weather, mechanical problems, and drifting with the currents taking them to Japan.

Evidently, Japanese authorities have reason to doubt some of those stories as for example, when the Japanese coast guard found a North Korean boat near Hokkaido and when they questioned the fishermen from it, they extracted a confession that some of the ten-man crew had been ashore to take possession of refrigerators, televisions, washing machines and a motorcycle from unprotected fishing shacks. The decision whether or not to arrest the men hadn't yet been arrived at. The public is given very few details.

When a North Korean soldier dramatically ran across the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas under gunfire, authorities swiftly made details public. South Korean doctors examined the man to discover multiple and numerous types of parasitic worms, some 27 centimeters long, and that he was also infected with hepatitis B. A professor at Seoul National University College of Medicine specializing in parasites pointed out human fertilizer used on crops and poor sanitary conditions responsible for parasitic cysts in the North.

Contact with feces or unwashed hands lead to intestinal worms, and the North uses untreated human waste as crop fertilizers. Something neighbouring China also traditionally has engaged in. Such infections are readily treated with drugs. "It is a vicious cycle that is hard to stop in North Korea. They are so desperate to make ends meet that they cannot take proper preventive measures", explained Professor Choi Min-ho from Seoul National University.

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Witness To Evil : Mosul Eye

"I am leaving. I am writing this for the history because I know this will end. People will return, life will go back to normal."
"My job as a historian requires an unbiased approach, which I am going to adhere to and keep my personal opinion to myself. I will only communicate the facts I see."
"I am not a spy or a journalist. I tell them [foreign intelligence agencies] this. If you want the information, it's published and it's public for free. Take it."
"I was so tired of worrying about myself, my family, my brothers. I am not alive to worry, but I am alive to live this life. I thought: I am done."
"It's like a death game and one mistake could finish your life."
"IS [Daesh] is forcing abortions and tubal ligation surgeries on Yazidi women."
"The forensics department received the bodies of 23 IS [Daesh] militants killed in Baiji. They had no shrapnel, no bullets, no explosives and the cause of death does not seem to be explosion. It is like nothing happened to the bodies. A medical source believes they were exposed to poison gas."
"43 citizens were executed in different places, this time by gunfire, which is unusual because they were previously beheadings. A source inside IS [Daesh] said that 13 of those who were executed are fighters and they tried to flee."
"[I am fighting: writing this blog on two fronts] One against ISIS [Daesh] and the other against the rumours. Trying to protect the face of Mosul, the soul of Mosul."
"I had to run away with the proof that will protect Mosul for years to come, and to at least be loyal to the people who were killed in the city."
"I think I deserve life, deserve to be alive. I can't be anonymous any more. This is to say that I defeated ISIS [Daesh]. You can see me now and you can know me now. I am Omar Mohammed. I am a scholar."
Omar Mohammed, Mosul resident, scholar, documentarian, historian, witness
He remained anonymous for more than three years, documenting Islamic State’s atrocities and the destruction of his city as the blogger Mosul Eye. Omar Mohammed, now in Europe, is done hiding.   | Photo Credit: AP

He had just completed his master's thesis, was prepared to take up his profession as a university teacher, and then his life changed. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant happened. And the courageous Iraqi military stationed in Iraq's second largest city to protect its two and a half million residents fled en mass in a panic of terror, leaving behind all the military equipment, the vehicles, the rockets and the weapons that the United States had lavished on the nation's military after training it in their use. ISIL was grateful, happy to take possession and to use everything to their advantage, including the $1-billion in Mosul's treasury.

This young man in his mid-20s felt compelled to record everything that he witnessed, to make note of the personal narratives he extracted through conversations with residents of Mosul, with members of Islamic State, with anyone who would speak with him, casually, person-to-person, ventilating opinions and describing events and experiences to augment his very own. All to be collected, carefully notated and dated, placed for safekeeping for the future. He would write a fist-person account on all of this carefully assembled data, three years-worth.

But in the meanwhile, he would keep the world informed of what was happening day-to-day in his city that was his city no longer, but a city in pain while being transformed to a large extended terror camp where the inmates had stern rules to follow and sterner punishments when they failed to follow those rules. He witnessed beheadings and stoning deaths, garbed in the requisite long hair and beard. And then in the quiet calm of night in a darkened room addressed a computer and wrote a blog about the misery that had become Mosul.

He was, this man, anonymous but for the sobriquet, 'Mosul Eye". A documentarian, this witness to archaic, barbarian history. He recalled their arrival, black-clad men with a black flag driving new American trucks, all-terrain vehicles. In the fighting they were merciless, a well-calibrated killing machine which hung enormous banners in the streets, over buildings trumpeting their arrival. Circulating the vital information that all school curricula were to be based on strict Koranic interpretation.

Mosul Eye was busy, there was ample material to document, and just as much to blog about; that Daesh compiled lists identifying women said to be prostitutes of whom around 500 in the first months were stoned or shot. Then came the men felt to be gay who were flung from the tops of buildings while Shiites, Christians and Yazidis fled their city, the once-peaceful city where various religions lived in peace together. The Sunnis  accused of spying were whipped, put to death; failing to attend Friday mosque identified them as apostates.

A 14-year-old boy was beheaded before a crowd; attendance mandatory; a dozen others arrested for smoking cigarettes and flogged. Young men from Mosul were convinced. They lined up to join ISIL. A child accused of stealing had his hand severed, as a gift of repentance, he was assured god would be pleased. Came a time when it seemed a good idea to put together computer hard drive documenting and dating cause of death, perpetrator, neighbourhood and ethnicity, his notebooks, his maps, a few books -- and leave. A smuggler was paid $1,000.

Alarmingly, he discovered the pickup point close by Raqqa. But he ended up in Turkey after all, and from there Mosul Eye posted to WhatsApp and Viber, to Facebook where he communicated with friends with inside contacts. And he kept posting to his well-read blog. He was unable to keep up with the 2016 death-acceleration. He went to Twitter. Finally he got sanctuary in Europe. And he kept writing. But apart from the blog posting he began writing his dissertation on 19th Century Mosul. And then, Mosul was free and ISIL was gone.

And the future became a large, quivering question mark hovering over his city of birth. Omar Mohammed, the scholar.


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Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Hubris of Canada's Condescension Courtesy Justin Trudeau : What! Trudeau Patronizing?!

"China does have a strategy for influencing public opinion and political opinion in other countries on issues that are important to China." 
"The Chinese communist successfully links patriotism to support for the party and the government. [Chinese students studying abroad can succumb to frustration, hearing their country criticized, turning them into [super patriots]."
"We do that [reaching out to other countries through above-board negotiations] above board, we do that publicly. Where China differs is its willingness to use diaspora groups, people who have an economic stake in China to work behind the scenes. That's a form of interference in Canadian affairs."
David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China, senior national security adviser

"The superiority and narcissism of the Canadian media is beyond words."
"This is the most genuine attitude of Chinese society; [China should] not be in a rush to develop its relations with Canada through a free trade agreement]."
"Let it be."
China Global Times
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Dec. 4, 2017. Trudeau has just returned from China without a promise to start formal talks on a comprehensive trade deal with the country.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Dec. 4, 2017. Trudeau has just returned from China without a promise to start formal talks on a comprehensive trade deal with the country. (Fred Dufour/Pool photo via the Associated Press)

"I'm a huge supporter of progressive views on gender equality, human rights, environmental protections and labour conditions, but despite the nice-sounding rhetoric, trade agreements are just not effective in pushing that agenda forward."
"We like to think of ourselves as being nice and the rest of the world likes us. But when it comes to these trade agreements ... we're coming across as being patronizing, we're coming across as arrogant and frankly, we're coming across as being naive."
"The rest of the world is playing chess and we're coming with our checkers."
Martha Hall Findlay, CEO, Canada West Foundation think tank
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is suffocatingly confident that his 'sunny ways' can win over the most cantankerous of critics of his Liberal-led, 'progressive' government. But that he admires China and its Communist administration is without doubt. It  is an inheritance, a family tradition. His father as Canada's prime minister launched a friendship with China, and the son famously mused years ago how impressed he was with the Chinese Politburo that could 'turn its economy on a dime'. Yes it could. Yes it did.

And nations across the world want the opportunity to buy into some of that promise of China attaining to the status of super-power, both in influence and in economic strength. Without even trying, it has reached the pinnacle in population status at 1.4-billion people. And its astonishing ability to capture the world market in manufacturing, exporting consumables abroad with products cheaper to acquire through the effort of cheap labour is legendary. The supreme irony being of course that people the world over clamour for cheap goods and their own nations' industries languish.

The current Trudeau prime minister embarked on a trip to China for the express purpose of bringing to life the final negotiations to achieve a free trade deal with the trading giant. Uniquely, Justin Trudeau feels justified in insisting that any country doing business with Canada on the scale of a free trade agreement recognize the viability and the justice of doing so with full respect for workers' rights, the environment and female empowerment. In effect, using the diplomacy of a cudgel to achieve inroads in a market to benefit Canada.

Setting aside that China's human rights record is fairly sub-par, its commitment to the environment emerging at home while investing in infrastructure abroad that would see coal-fired plants built in huge numbers there, while clearing them out of China to improve its dreadful atmospheric conditions. Arriving with full confidence that an open free trade deal was full steam ahead only to brought up short in his meeting with the Chinese premier who stamped hard on the fantasy of an agreement Trudeau-style, Xi Jinping, China's  president explained: "China encourages other countries to explore ways that suit their own national situation."

China did not take well to  the impudence of a middle power's leader dictating to China how it should conduct itself, and what Canada's expectations are to entice it to sign a free trade agreement with China. That it is Canada, and not China, that is anxiously pursuing such a deal is irrelevant to Justin Trudeau's way of thinking. An item not lost on China, where this junior politician has been identified as Mr. 'Small Potato'.

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Germany's Disintegration

"[It is] regrettable that it was the victim that had to disappear from the other school while the others continued to enjoy its advantages."
"We learned there were many, many such incidents [occurring] everywhere in Germany."
Wenzel Michalski, head, German division, Human Rights Watch

How strange it is, that Nazi Germany set out a meticulous blueprint for genocide and succeeded to a remarkable degree in its dedicated pursuit of rounding up Europe's Jewish population into ghettos, transporting them to concentration and death camps, and managing to annihilate an estimated six million Jewish children, women and men, while prosecuting simultaneously, a world war with its Axis partners. Having lost World War II, Germany faced a paroxysm of guilt led by international condemnation of its fixation with deadly anti-Semitism.

World Jewry has not yet, after the passage of 76 years since the start of World War II, recovered. And it is problematical that it ever will. Germany has been attempting to live down its Fascist past, to make amends for the unspeakable atrocities it visited upon the world and most particularly upon the world of Judaism, for its extermination fixation. It has become an entirely other country whose culture hearks back to the refinement of pre-wars Germany. A Germany where Jews played an integral role in its culture, its literary, artistic and scientific preeminence as a cultivated and proud nation.

After the war, Germany found itself short of labourers and sought to fill the gap by bringing in temporary workers. Turkey, Germany's ally in the First World War, had ample workers willing to displace themselves and fill the gap of the worker shortage, advantaging themselves with well paid employment. The intention was that once their service to Germany was completed they would return to Turkey, but few made the effort, while Germany was not prepared to offer them citizenship. But it did eventually.

At the present time, given the conflicts raging in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe being overrun with an influx of migrants and refugees seeking haven from conflict and opportunities to advance themselves economically, the Muslim population in Germany taking advantage of the country's generous open doors, and social programs, stands at six million. Germans feel proud they have 'rescued' six million Muslims, a nice balance of the six million Jews whose lives were destroyed.

Ironically, the European Jews who perished were integrated into their societies, they were French, German, Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Czech, Estonian, Dutch, Italian and from other countries all of whom surrendered their Jews who had lived among them for hundreds of years, when they were occupied by German troops, consigning them to certain death. German Jews placed their Germanness above their ancestry. German Turks, on the other hand, and other Muslims who have migrated to Germany, have not achieved the integration imagined, mostly because of Islam's 'differences', its grip on its faithful.
Muslims bow their heads during Friday prayers at the Turkish Kuba Camii mosque (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters)

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have built numerous mosques in Germany to accommodate German Muslims and to ensure that no integration takes place, that Muslims maintain the integrity of their faith to Islam and Islam alone. Germany now goes out of its way to accommodate the 'differences'. In some schools the population of students is majority Muslim . In one, a 13year-old Jewish boy was isolated and exposed to monumental and brutal harassment in his high school with a 80-percent Muslim enrolment.

That his father is Human Rights Watch German division head helped him not one iota. Nor that is grandfather sits in the British House of Lords and is Government Advisor on Policing and Criminal Justice. When his parents approached the school that prides itself on inclusiveness, diversity and anti0racism, they had no idea that the anti-racism and inclusiveness referred only to Muslims. That their son was told "Muslims and Jews cannot be friends" because "Jews are murderers", and the constant aggression the boy suffered, including a "mock execution" where he was headlocked to close unconsciousness, was of little interest to the school administration.

The boy's mother was criticized for being "pushy", was advised that her son's "presence was provocative" to his attackers. No one was investigated, suspended or punished. The boy was taken out of the school and now attends a private international school. The story was publicized because the parents wanted it to be known, and many others came forward to speak of their similar experiences, all sharing a fear of speaking publicly. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and the liberal elites ruling Germany, inclusive of the media, all portray the success of Muslim immigrant immersion in German culture and values.

That integration is superficial to the extreme. To begin with, it is foolish to think that anti-Semitism ever vacated Germany; it was kept under control, impolite to bare it in post-war society. With the surging presence of Muslims, it has been re-invigorated and finds a comfortable home there. What Germany succeeded admirably in suppressing in its indigenous population, it has reintroduced with its immigration policies, returning anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews to its traditional place in the country, but with a vengeance.

That vengeance will eventually sweep much further afield encompassing a much larger demographic as Germans increasingly find themselves displaced in their own country, their culture, their heritage, their values and their laws morphing into forms unrecognizable and utterly foreign.

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Friday, December 08, 2017

National Capital Status By Exterior Consensus

"The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement t hat is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to forge such an agreement."
"Some say they [predecessor presidents of the United States] lacked courage, but they made the best judgement based on the facts as they understood them. Nevertheless, the record is in. After more than two decades, we're no closer to a lasting peace agreement."
U.S. President Donald Trump, 6 December 2017, Jerusalem capital announcement

Palestinian protesters burn pictures of US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City, on December 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
Israel, the only nation on Earth whose capital is universally contested by outside sources, established its parliament, its supreme court and its office of the prime minister in West Jerusalem. No one, no nation outside the Middle East contests West Jerusalem as being an integral part of Israel. Why then has the international community and the United Nations steadfastly refused to recognize Israel's capital in West Jerusalem? That recognition was finally announced by an American president whose presidential campaign made that promise.

And then the slander and the lies, the public relations campaigns, the denunciations and the warnings, the threats and the insults, the violence and promise of more, much more marched in on cue. That the response from the PLO, from Fatah, from Turkey, from Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East would be to warn and threaten and carefully arrange for 'spontaneous' popular protests with Hamas inciting to promote another intifada, is expected. And in a way, the response from France, the U.K., the United Nations and the European Union was predictable.

International news agencies, slavering at the bit to portray the long-overdue recognition as playing war games, and sounding the death-knell of the 'peace process', plays right into the Palestinian Authority's public relations-and-slander game. To ensure that journalists and photographers from around the world had ample feed to work, with classes for the West Bank school system were cancelled. If there's anything young Palestinians look forward to, it's the mayhem and photogenic opportunities that can be counted on in spontaneous rages of stone-throwing at Israeli forces.

Invariably, the military response, tepid at first, increasingly vigorous to match the fervent violence of the crowd, intensifies, and to no one's surprise but the satisfaction of the news media and the Palestinian Authority, there will be casualties to enable the following day's headlines to read "Israeli military wounds Palestinian Youth", and Twitter will be agog over the latest scandals to hit Israel, persecuting innocent Palestinian children. Three "days of rage" have been arranged, where shops will be shuttered in a display of rage over the perfidy of the United States.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas supporters burned American and Israel flags, chanting "Death to America", and "Death to Israel", demonstrating in the process that the Islamic Republic of Iran's fixation on the diabolical murderers of Muslims is fairly universally shared in the neighbourhood.
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 7, 2017. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)
It makes for great footage and news coverage when Israeli troops in full riot gear use water cannon. On this occasion the cannon shot out a liquid known as "the Skunk", foul-smelling and effective in dousing the violent ardour of mostly masked demonstrators. The occasional rubber bullets were fired at the crowd which served, it would appear, to become ever more passionately engaged in throwing rocks and other detritus, including Molotov cocktails at the troops. The air was stifling from tear gas and the fires that Palestinians lit for burning tires. Making a statement.

"These condemned and unacceptable measures are a deliberate undermining of all efforts exerted to achieve peace and represent a declaration of the United States's withdrawal from undertaking the role it has played over the past decades in sponsoring the peace process", huffed Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, speaking of decades of wasted efforts when, time and again the Palestinians declined to sign a peace treaty with Israel, nor to recognize it as a Jewish state.

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Thursday, December 07, 2017

Her Entire Life A Prison

"My whole life has passed in this prison."
"Yes, I wish I could go out. I want to leave here and live outside with my mother, but I won't leave here without her."
Meena, 11, daughter of prisoner, Jalalabad, Afghanistan

"How do you think she feels? It's a prison, how should she feel? A prison is a prison, even if it's heaven."
"You, Mr. America [New York Times reporter], tell that blind man Ashraf Ghani [Afghan president] your puppet, your slave, tell him to get me out of here. I didn't commit any crime. My only fault is that I cooked food for my husband who committed a crime."
"What you should do, Mr. America, is get her a TV. You’re my visitor, you came to talk to me. We don’t even have a TV. I should get ISIS to come and cut off your head."
"I have many enemies. I wouldn't trust anyone to take Meena outside."
Shirin Gul, convicted serial killer, Jalalabad, Afghanistan
Mauricio Lima/The New York Times

Shirin Gul was a married woman in Afghanistan whose husband was a police colonel. As a demonstration of just how much of an outlier she is, in a culture of Sharia in Afghanistan, she had an affair with a man reputed to be a former Taliban commander. She and her lover murdered her legal husband. It didn't seem to bother Shirin Gul that her lover, Rahmatullah, was also a pedophile and a thief. And he was not, as it happens, Meena's biological father. They never, in fact, met one another.

While Shirin Gul and Rahmatullah were arrested and placed in prison [he implicated her once he was arrested], they were in different prisons located in different cities. A prison officer evidently, was Meena's biological father. It would seem that prison officials feel that the little girl's mother connived to become pregnant as a means to avoid being hanged as her sentencing deemed would be appropriate punishment for her crimes.

Her crimes? She claims  to be innocent of any crimes. This gruff, spirited woman so unalike how Afghan women are meant to be; retiring, soft-spoken, subservient to men, above all chaste. Shirin chain-smokes, she wears tattoos, she has a brash demeanor and is clearly outspoken, and her hair is streaked with henna, her head scarf worn carelessly askew to show off her hair. But she loves her daughter. And clearly, the child loves her mother. And the child shows nothing of her mother in her demeanour.

The little girl has no other relatives. They are dead. Before she was born her mother was quite involved in criminal activities. Working as a prostitute, she invited men into her home and gave them kebabs doctored with drugs. Members of her family robbed, killed and buried those men who were mostly taxi drivers. And in the yards of two family homes their corpses were eventually discovered, among them Shirin's husband's corpse.
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Meena, 11, with her mother Shirin Gul, serving a life sentence. Mauricio Lima/The New York Times

Police arrested Shirin, her lover, her brother-in-law, her son, an uncle and a nephew, all of whom played a role in this macabre, murderous scheme. All six of the arrested were sentenced to death, the five men hanged, but Shirin Gul spared, because she was pregnant. The result is that Meena and her mother are never visited by family members or friends; they are either dead or estranged, and because there are no surviving relatives to take care of the girl outside prison, she remains there.

She is not the only child to live in the prison with a convicted mother, but she is the only one who has lived all her life in the prison. Under Afghan prison policy Gul is able to keep her daughter living with her until the girl turns 18. Shirin Gul is meant to serve a life sentence and in Afghanistan a life sentence is a life sentence. The Nangarhar provincial prison maintains the women's wing allowing children to remain with their mothers.
Mauricio Lima/The New York Times

There are 36 children with their mothers living in the jail, a common practice in the country, most particularly when no other close relatives are available and willing to look after these children. There exists an estimated hundreds of such imprisoned children in Afghanistan, living with their convicted mothers. In the prison there is a spacious courtyard with mulberry trees where the children are free to play on rudimentary swings, monkey bars and slides. The women's cells are placed around the courtyard. One of the cells is converted to a schoolroom.

The setting is bleak and unappealing, severely limiting to a child's needs. Meena likely lacks nothing in intelligence, but she has managed to advance only to the second grade. A single teacher teaches three grades. There is a white board and benches and chairs to seat 16 children at eight desks. It is by no means an enriched and inviting atmosphere, one to motivate children to learn and to satisfy any curiosity they may have about life. Theirs is dreadfully circumscribed.

Mauricio Lima/The New York Times

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Illegal and Contraband Mailing of Drugs and Guns?

"Organized crime groups are and will continue to exploit the legislative gaps in the domestic mail system."
"These changes would support efforts to restrict access to children and youth, and others not legally permitted to possess and consume the drug by sending cannabis through the mail."
"There is also a pressing time frame to resolve this issue."
"The consensus among portfolio partners including PS is that legislative change is an effective way to address the issues that the [Canada Post act] presents for police to address contraband in the domestic … mail system."
2016 Public Safety Canada report
Canada Post employee at Edmonton processing facility. The federal government has decided not to let police search domestic mail, despite internal document indicating officials backed the change    Codie McLachlan/Edmonton Sun

The governing Liberal Party of Canada just will not have it. They're the ones who make the final decisions about such matters, after all. They may task Canada's criminal investigative arms with ensuring public safety, but this they'll have to accomplish with the restricted tools at their disposal and since the mail is private and thus sacrosanct, that option to intercept suspected deliveries of drugs through the mail is off limits; so saith the government.

The RCMP, along with the Canadian Border Services Agency are in agreement of the benefits in changing current law barring police from intercepting mail moving between domestic addresses. But move the government to agree with their assessment of the value of so doing in certain instances, not likely. Canada is currently in a desperate emergency situation with respect to the illicit market in opioid drugs such as Fentanyl and the emerging appearance of Carfentanil, two powerful, destructive drugs.

The requested change in legislation to allow police with the proper judicial approval to open mail in an interception protocol apprehending the spread of Fentanyl and allied opioids and at the same time put 'stop' to mail exploited by organized crime could also expand to aid in ensuring that legalized cannabis stays out of the hands of children. Public Safety Canada acknowledges the need to combat the opioid epidemic killing unsuspecting and vulnerable drug users when it is cut into other drugs.

Yet the government fails to be convinced that a change in the Canada Post Corporation Act allowing police, search warrants in hand, to open domestic mail and for that reason, is warranted: "no further changes are proposed at this time", according to a spokesman for the Ministry. On the horizon, however are changes to the rules on intercepting mail into Canada from other countries.
Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo. Handout via Canadian Press

Police are now enabled to search international mail under Bill C-37, weighing 30 grams or less representing the potential in weight of 15,000 fatal doses of Fentanyl. Under the new rules, according to the Ministry, interception is now enabled of pill-making equipment as well. Failing to convince the Chiefs of Police Association of Canada that the law preventing officers from searching mail in transit within the local Canada Post system, which they have long lobbied to change, should remain as is.

According to an RCMP report produced in 2012, guns, grenades, a rocket launcher, stun guns, dangerous chemicals and an assortment of drugs have all been shipped by mail. Various government agencies have convened meetings where bureaucrats in Public Safety, the CBSA, the RCMP, Public Services and Procurement Canada, along with the privy-council office have wrapped their heads around the issue.

Which is one encompassing items much beyond illicit opioid shipments in the domestic mail. The need to amend current law has been given impetus by the imminent legalization of recreational marijuana. Police currently are able to react to a tip of mail containing contraband only by seizing it once it is received at the address to which the mail directs it.  For the last several years, the police chiefs' group has passed resolutions on this very issue, each time failing to convince government.

Even the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has stated it would have no major qualms with such a change, as long as police are required to obtain a judge's approval beforehand.

A Canada Post employee climbs into a mail truck. Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press

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Credit Unduly Taken  -- That Scheming Putin!

"Enough already!"
"What is happening with 'the investigation into Russian interference', is not just a disgrace but a collective eclipse of the mind."
"The Kremlin is of course very proud of this whole Russian interference story. It shows they are not just a group of old K.G.B. guys with no understanding of digital but an almighty force from a James Bond saga. This image is very bad for us [Russia]. Putin is not a master geopolitical genius."
"This helps the Kremlin a lot. It promotes Putin's image as a geopolitical mastermind, the smartest and strongest man in the world."
"It hurts us a lot that no evidence has been released [by U.S. intelligence agencies]. And it helps Russian propaganda because the Kremlin can say it is all just a conspiracy against Russia."
Leonid M. Vokov, chief of staff, Aleksei Navalny's political opposition

"The image of Putin's Russia constructed by Western and, above all, American media outlets over the past 18 months shocks even the most anti-Putin reader in Russia."
Oleg Vl. Kashin, journalist, Republic news site, Russia

"American liberals are so upset about Trump that they cannot believe he is a real product of American life."
"They try to portray him as something created by Russia. This whole thing is about America, not Russia."
Ivan I. Kurilla, America specialist, European University, St. Petersburg

What?! Vladimir Putin is not a master manipulator, strategist, capable of outsmarting and leading on two American Presidents, Obama and The Donald? Even edging back to Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush waxed eloquent when he spoke of seeing Putin's 'soul' through his expressive and doleful eyes, calculating that this was a man he could work with for the greater good of the two countries and, of course, ultimately the world.

And evidently Donald Trump is of a like opinion; which is to say he was away back when; before the whole notion of Putin's Russia willing to cooperate with Trump's America for the greater good of the world set the U.S. Congress aflame with blame. Setting aside, of course, the inconvenience of Putin's interference in Georgia, his Crimea grab, his criminal military activity in Ukraine, his oblique threats to the Baltics, his invaluable aid to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and the aerial bombing of Sunni Syrians.

It has been to Putin's and Russia's advantage that under its last two presidents, the United States has withdrawn from critical world stages in ferment, leaving former allies in doubt and advantaging Putin eager to fill the vacuum, swiftly and conclusively. Americans are severely conflicted within themselves, uncertain which way they want the wind to blow to accommodate their perceived needs, tired of playing sheriff but loathe to surrender their respected status as world guide.

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin as they pose for a group photo ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017.
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin as they pose for a group photo ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017

Americans cannot understand nor come to grips with the fact that they themselves voted for a man so severely inappropriate to lead any country, let alone the world's sole superpower; their disbelief in their own dysfunction requires someone or something other than themselves to hold responsible for their failure, and Trump offered ample reason to believe he is capable of anything including colluding with a foreign power to gain the presidency.

While he is idiotically voluble, Putin is silently sardonic, both managing to provide a joint picture of two men in collusion, one disservicing his nation, the other promoting the fallacy that singlehandedly he was able to destabilize the world order while handing America over to a stumbling dolt, leaving Putin to order Russian affairs in the disorder he has created elsewhere in the world, from eastern Europe to the Middle East, and the biggest prize of all, America.

And, it . is . all . Putin's.fault that the United States is now in such political turmoil. For good ol' red-blooded Americans could not possibly have done such a thing to themselves, now could they?
Image result for putin in his palace
Vladimir Putin enters the St. George Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace at the Kremlin

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Jerusalem, Undivided

Will He, Or Won't He?

Arab League
ARAB LEADERS attend the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

"That choice to made good the pre-election promises would reveal the United States as] so incredibly one-sided and biased, [it] would be the total annihilation of any chances of peace, or any American role in peacemaking".
Hanan Ashrawi, Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member

What does the Palestine Liberation Organization, and all its member-parts envision for the future, what is it exactly that they want? If they had any aspirations toward peace with Israel that would long ago have been accomplished. One opportunity after another has been deliberately squandered, generally under the guise aimed toward the West of appearing to be anxious to bring about peace, to establish a working arrangement with the Jewish State, while in asides to their home audience they baldly state their intention to stall and forestall any such thing.

The name of the PLO gives it all away, even if they did not habitually incite their population to mayhem and murder against Jews. The PLO is a 'liberation' organization. Their aim is not to liberate the Middle East from its stalemate with the presence of a Jewish state, but to ensure that 'normalization' that would result from recognizing its presence, accommodating themselves to it and setting aside for good the antagonizing forces that have attacked Israel time and again.

The 'liberation' that the PLO strides toward is the total liberation of the land they claim surreptitiously as their own, from the grasp of a Jewish population that has returned to its heritage tradition, bolstering the presence of those Jews who have never left, with the Jews who were forcefully expelled from their homeland to take up residence throughout the Middle East in Arab countries where they were dispossessed and exiled and to recall the diaspora Jews from across Europe.

Liberating Palestine from Israel, when in historical fact Palestine was Israel until the incoming Arabs migrating from other points of the Middle East to take advantage of a growing opportunity decided to plagiarize an entire identity and geographical connection, highjacking history and reality to make it their own, claiming to be the original inhabitants and the genuine inheritors of the land. To gain the expulsion of Jews from 'Palestine' and reclaim it for the Palestinians that Arabs claim themselves to be.

In the panic that has arisen over the potential of Israel's original heritage status with Jerusalem as its capital, the Palestinian Authority and its president have called upon the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to emergency action once again in the United Nations to hope to compel the United States to back down on this current administration's vow to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital; all of Jerusalem, including the East that the PA insists should be recognized as its.

The 'total annihilation' of the peace process has long since been accomplished, despite Hanan Ashrawi's moans and Mahmoud Abbas's panic to bring all the Islamic heavy guns to his defence in renewing the ongoing offensive against Israel which the United Nations and its various arms like UNESCO have already subscribed to, divesting Jerusalem of the historic and heritage presence of Jewish antiquity, re-writing history.

The Israeli flag flutters in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque and the city of Jerusalem, on December 1, 2017.
Israel sees Jerusalem as its indivisible capital    AFP

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