Thursday, February 22, 2018

Convoluted Alliances in Syria : Syrian War Crimes, Turkey's Kurdish Assaults

"We don't have anything - no food, no medicine, no shelter."
"They targeted everything [Eastern Ghouta]: shops, markets, hospitals, schools, mosques, everything.
"Maybe every minute we have 10 or 20 air strikes...I will treat someone - and after a day or two they come again, injured again."
"Where is the international community, where is [the UN] Security Council... they abandoned us. They leave us to be killed."
Dr. Bassam, Eastern Ghouta, Syria 

"There are cases where we find someone we thought was dead and they turned out to be alive. A baby of 20 months was brought in after an airstrike. He was blue and he wasn't breathing but his heart was working. I opened his mouth and I found his throat was completely full of sand, back to his tonsils."
Abu al-Yasa, doctor, Eastern Ghouta
A Syrian man carries a wounded infant at a makeshift hospital in the rebel-held town of Douma, 20 February 2018
A makeshift hospital was set up in Douma - one of the several towns under bombardment   AFP
"I feel suffocated down here but we are lucky because some people have no basement to hide in."
"We are just breathing but this is not living. The situation is worse than your imagination."

Abu Abdelrahman, Eastern Ghouta resident

"It is not a good place for them [wife and newborn child]. It is not healthy, it is not equipped. It is too cold."
"And I know it is not safe if it is hit by a missile. But what else can we do? This is a war of extermination."
Bassem, 33, anesthetist, resident, Eastern Ghouta

Eastern Ghouta has become a trap for about 400,000 people, half of whom are children. It is a death trap for some of those civilians whom the regime and its Russian allies target as they intensify their air strikes. A softening up, many believe, of the area's defences preparatory to a planned all-out assault on the enclave of starving, fearful people scheduled for a week from the present. Bassem's wife was just delivered of a baby boy several weeks ago, his wife too malnourished to breastfeed. 

Residents of the besieged area fear their fate, that they will be among the next several hundred that the fierce artillery and bombardment assaults will kill. Of the 200 people killed in the last several days, 57 were children. The Syrian opposition characterized this focused offensive as "a bloodbath of innocent women and children". The doctor in Douma who had cleared the infant's mouth and throat of sand was able to find space for a respirator to enable the child to breathe, and hopes are that he will survive. 

His mother and two siblings did not.

Islamist fighters and Syrian rebels have formed a coalition to fight back in hopes of repelling the advance. Odds of defence are not with them, they haven't the warplanes or the heavy arms to match those of the regime, their Iranian-backed militia partners and the Russian military. Those who have succeeded in finding haven from the bombs, sheltering in basements have no electricity or running water. A volunteer must exit whenever a bomb explodes nearby to clear the resulting rubble from pipes providing ventilation.
A picture taken on 20 February 2018 shows smoke plumes over the besieged Eastern Ghouta region in Syria
The Eastern Ghouta town of Hamouria has been heavily bombarded   Getty Images
On Tuesday ten towns and villages across the Eastern Ghouta region were bombarded. The humanitarian situation has eroded from dreadful to horrible leading the UN to call for a ceasefire so aid can be delivered and the wounded evacuated. A call hardly likely to be heeded in the maelstrom of vicious bombardment. The region hosts as its defenders aside from Syrian rebel groups, Jaysh al-Islam, an Islamist group as well as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a former affiliate in Syria of al-Qaeda -- in a jihadist alliance.
 "People have nowhere to turn," a local doctor explained to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, which supports Eastern Ghouta medical facilities. "They are trying to survive but their hunger from the siege has weakened them significantly." Six hospitals were struck by bombs on Monday and Tuesday. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights barrel bombs filled with explosives and shrapnel were used in regime strikes on the towns of Jisreen and Kfar Batna .

Afrin, the Kurdish enclave just south of the Turkish border, is experiencing similar attacks, but from Turkish troops shelling the area. Scores of pro-government gunmen entered Afrin just prior to that latest shelling. They set out to "defend our people against the Turkish aggression", according to state-run Syrian television, of the Turkish troops in Syria attacking the Kurdish YPG fighters as "terrorists" linked to the Kurdish PKK separatist group in Turkey.

The merciless bombardment of civilians in Eastern Ghouta by the Syrian military and its Iranian and Russian allies have devastated the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians. The Turkish military is doing the same to Kurdish civilians in Afrin, and pro-regime fighters come to their aid. Russia appears to have given assent to Turkey to invade Syria and bomb Afrin in its zeal to expunge the YPG. Iran is determined that Turkey not interfere with its regional plans. It's difficult to determine which group is hostile to the other.

In this region but for the Kurds, the veneer of civilization is thin indeed.
 
Conflicting interests: Iran confronts Turkey in Syria's Afrin region
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters react as they hold their weapons near the city of Afrin, Syria February 19, 2018.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Canada's National Shame and Penance

"It is a sin and redemption narrative, plain and simple [reason for Canada's and Australia's pained  narrative mea culpa as ferociously heartless colonizers of Canada and Australia]."
"A literary trope has thus been co-opted for Aboriginal history."
"Surely we need to be objective and dispassionate about our past -- recognizing in a rational way both our errors as well as our accomplishments."
"Anything else is just self-indulgent moralizing and fanciful garbage."
"Australians have a totally incorrect view of their own country because of a campaign meant to convince everyone that our treatment of Aboriginals has amounted to genocide."
Keith Windschuttle, Australian historian, author of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History

"Such a process runs parallel to the political need or constant and abject apologies from Ottawa. This is why the objectively sad tale of Chanie Wenjack has been made worse through the imaginative addition of Roman Catholic pedophiles, in the same way the remarkable experience of Molly and her sisters has been made more horrible by the creation of a monstrous genetic conspiracy. And while Australia had a head start in this imaginative shame fest, we're rapidly gaining ground."
"Much of what is said and done in the name of native reconciliation in Canada today amounts to a troubling misrepresentation of historical facts -- from last year's scrubbing of Sir Hector-Louis Langevin's name from a prominent building in Ottawa because he was 'an architect of Canada's residential school system' [he was the minister of Public Works responsible for constructing the necessary buildings, he did not create the policy], to the recent removal of Edward Cornwallis' statue in Halifax because the first governor of Nova Scotia once offered a cash bounty for Mi'kmaq scalps [in response to Mi'kmaq warriors scalping English settlers, paid for by the government of New France]."
"History is no longer the collection of facts bequeathed to us by those who went before. Today it is whatever story satisfies current sensitivities, regardless of what actually happened."
Peter Shawn Taylor, editor-at-large, Maclean's magazine 
Yukon Indigenous leaders went to Ottawa in February 1973, to convince the federal government to begin land claim negotiations. The delegation was led by Chief Elijah Smith, seen here standing in front, wearing a trench coat.
Yukon Indigenous leaders went to Ottawa in February 1973, to convince the federal government to begin land claim negotiations. The delegation was led by Chief Elijah Smith, seen here standing in front, wearing a trench coat. (Council of Yukon First Nations)

From the charges of 'genocide' against white European colonialists in Canada resulting from the 19th Century institution of Residential Schools in a social compact between the federal government in Canada and religious groups engaged in humanitarian work among First Nations tribes, where Aboriginal children were taken from their parents living on reserves and sent to schools set up by Anglican, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic bodies to give these children a practical education and teach them how to merge into mainstream society and be accountable for their personal interests, Canada has accepted its guilt and prostrated itself before its accusers.

Initially, many Aboriginals who had gone through that educational system had come forward to describe their personal experiences as invaluable to the advancement of their futures, in teaching them skills to look after themselves. Their perceptions were swiftly over ruled by many more coming forward claiming to have been oppressed and subjected to shaming, threats and violence, including sexual violence. Bringing to mind the cultural practise in Great Britain at a matching time in history when wealthy families sent their children to boarding schools to be taught and schooled in British traditions. Young men taken from their families from age 5 to young adulthood often spoke of being bullied and sexually maltreated, usually at the hands of older students.

In Canada, the Residential Schools were accused of cultural genocide, of depriving Indian children of their heritage, of alienating them from their history, their culture, the traditions and languages. Most of the modern ills of the current generation of Aboriginal children are laid at the feet of the larger earlier generations' experience of the Residential Schools, said to have traumatized those who attended, so that they had no idea how to raise children of their own and therefore neglected and abused them. When in point of fact many of the children who were taken to the residential school projects had been neglected and abused.

Now, when alcoholism, drug addiction, violence and crime occurs within Aboriginal communities it is largely attributed to the wholesale trauma experienced through the residential schools, communicated throughout the entire community in the creation of mass dysfunction. So a disinterest in guiding children and endowing them with values, encouraging their educations, is missing. The high suicide rate among young Aboriginals resulting from the general anomie and dysfunction of families and tribes in isolated traditional communities, all attributed to the generational effects of the residential schools.

The Assembly of First Nations' chiefs along with regional chiefs resists any initiative that would replace the Indian Act and allow First Nations like any other citizens of the country to be responsible for themselves, to integrate into the larger Canadian community, to be independent instead of relying on government financing of reserves, housing and a total way of life pretending to be traditional, in isolated areas of the country where the AFN insists that education and medical services should be equal to those found in any large  urban area making a mockery of the traditions, heritage and nationhood of First Nations.

Accusing white society of abusing and violating First Nations people rather than recognizing that among First Nations people themselves a dreadful situation exists of self-harm, of violence perpetrated one upon the other, of neglect of children's needs producing a cohort of children taken into public custodial protection far disproportionate to their numbers in society, equalling the disproportionate number of Aboriginals in prisons as a product of the incapacity of First Nations to govern themselves, socially, culturally and politically, but all is blamed on the white colonialist majority.

When Aboriginal youth commit crimes there is a certain degree of impunity where police hesitate to look too deeply into the proliferation of petty crimes knowing that charges of racism will rain down on their heads. When justice is meted out, consideration must be given to the deprivated backgrounds of First Nations perpetrators. Whenever white farmers in rural areas deplore the prevalence of thievery and damage to private property they too are charged with racism. And those charges stick. For to criticize First Nations is to court disparaging condemnation as a racist, effectively silencing those who would like to help effect a conciliatory agreement between the two solitudes.

Until First Nations groups decide to take responsibility for themselves and stop blaming everyone else for their misfortunes they will not face their own shortcomings. And it is long past time that they do so, for the furtherance of their own futures and those of their children.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reforming a Deleterious Food Culture : Then Reversing It

"It was a hard-fought guerrilla war. People have a right to know what these food companies are putting in this trash and with this legislation, I think Chile has made a huge contribution to humanity."
"Sugar kills more people than terrorism and car accidents combined. It's the poison of our time."
Senator Guido Girardi, vice-president, Chilean Senate

"I never really paid attention to labels."
"But now they kind of force you to pay attention. And if I don't notice, my kids do."
Patricia Sanchez, 32, accountant

"Originally we didn't believe the logos would make much of a difference, but in focus groups, we've discovered that kids really do look at them."
"They'll say, 'Mom, this has so many logos I can't bring them to school. My teacher won't allow it'."
Dr. Camila Corvalan, University of Chile
This product sold in a supermarket carries the labels required by law to show the levels of calories, sugars and fats, in Santiago, Chile, June 27, 2016   Associated Press

Across the globe, countries rich and poor have been struggling with the reality of rising rates of obesity in their populations, and lock-step with a hugely overweight population comes strains on any health care system alongside an increasingly troublesome mortality rate as diseases such as diabetes, heart and stroke take their toll in association with a public so accustomed to fast food outlets proliferating with cheap, non-nutritious food heavy in fat, sugar and salt that they imperil themselves.

And as governments begin to realize that processed food manufacturers have lured consumers with their public relations ploys and clever advertising marketed to grasp the attention of the most vulnerable, their efforts at persuading giant food corporations to diminish the assault on consumers' appetites has had minimum success. Chile prepared itself to take a more aggressive approach rather than rely on compliance on the part of processed food manufacturers.

Its soaring obesity rates have sounded a panic bell. Up to the late 1980s Chile faced a different kind of problem, where widespread malnutrition among poor Chileans, children in particular, was their nightmare. At the present time in Chile, an estimated three-quarters of adults are considered to be overweight or obese, according to the nation's ministry of health statistics. Childhood obesity in particular shows rates that rival the world's highest. Over fifty percent of six-year-old children are overweight or obese in Chile.

The strains on the health system are acute, with the medical costs of obesity reaching $800-million in 2016, representing 2.4 percent of all spending on the nation's health care file. This is a figure projected by analysts to reach close to four percent by 2030. These statistics and the fact that they will only increase finally spurred the Chilean government to unleash marketing restrictions, mandatory packing redesigns and labelling rules in hopes of achieving a social transformation.
Customers stand in line at a fast food restaurant in Santiago, Chile, June 22, 2016.
Customers stand in line at a fast food restaurant in Santiago, Chile, June 22, 2016.

Experts in nutrition recognize the measures as the world's most ambitious effort to refurbish an entire nation's food culture to save the population from itself. Should it succeed, it could represent a model for other countries with similar problems to turn around their obesity epidemic contributing to four million premature deaths annually resulting from the global emergency of obesity. "It's hard to overstate how significant chile's actions are -- or how hard it has been to get there in the face of the usual pressures", commented Stephen Simpson, director of the Charles Perkins Centre, representing scholars focused on nutrition and obesity science and policy.

Chile's food law was put into motion two years ago, forcing multinationals like Kellogg to abandon their iconic cartoon characters so attractive to children. Cereal boxes loaded with sugar are now absent those child-centric cartoons. Kinder Surprise candies have been banned from using trinkets to attract children. Chilean schools are now prohibited from selling junk food like perennial favourites, ice cream, chocolate and potato chips. Television programs aimed at children may no longer advertise these products.

In an effort to persuade Chilean mothers that breastfeeding is the best option for healthy babies, a ban on marketing infant formula will be initiated this coming spring. Chile has mounted an 18 percent tax on beverages high in sugar. A new labelling system has been instituted requiring packaged food companies to include black warning logos prominently in the shape of a stop sign on any packaged foods high in sugar, salt, calories or saturated fat.
Candy store owner Sofia Rumpf attends a customer in Santiago, Chile, June 24, 2016 photo.
 Candy store owner Sofia Rumpf attends a customer in Santiago, Chile, June 24, 2016 photo.

Chilealimentos, an industry association, is fighting back. Its director states the new nutrition labels are confusing and "invasive", the marketing restrictions based on a scientifically flawed correlation between consumers' weight gains and the promotion of unhealthy foods. "We believe that the best way to approach the problem of obesity is through consumer education that changes people's habits", he stated rather piously, given that the advertisements used by his industry have already achieved that end.

Over 1,400 food items representing 20 percent of all food products sold in Chile have been reformulated since the law was enacted, according to AB Chile, a food industry association. Coca-Cola initiated an advertising campaign for new Sprite and Fanta versions with the tag line "Free of Logos, Equally Rich" reflecting that those drinks no longer contain warning labels since half the sugar has been replaced by artificial sweetener. Raising other alarm flags.

A Kinder Surprise company executive from Italy and the Italian ambassador to Chile accused Dr. Jaime Burrows Oyarzun, the vice-minister of public health, of waging "food terrorism", during a trip to his office. Managing director at Ferrero, Mauro Russo, claimed Chile's law had been erroneously applied to Kinder Surprise, since the toy is an intrinsic part of the treat and certainly not to be mistaken for a "promotional gadget", as the law would have it. "Kinder Surprise's impact on obesity is very marginal", he insisted.

Chile's current president who lent himself to the new consumer-protective food laws is due to step down from the presidency. His successor is the former president, recently re-elected to the office, a conservative businessman who during his first term in office, vetoed the food bill in 2011. His incoming administration had formerly backed a nutrition initiative financed by multinational food companies emphasizing healthy recipes, exercise and moderation related to junk food.

The incoming president's intention, noted a spokesperson, would be to take a second look at the law, to explore ways "to improve it", once he takes office. His wife had led the campaign financed by the multinational food companies. "We don't need more taxes", she said recently.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Diplomatic Spurning 

"For me to be able to be here on an official trip while bringing my kids with me to share this is really special."
"It sort of shows for me how work-life balance has evolved a bit."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canadian PM Trudeau was visiting the Taj Mahal at the start of a visit to India in which he will aim to promote trade and investment with India
Canadian PM Trudeau was visiting the Taj Mahal at the start of a visit to India in which he will aim to promote trade and investment with India

So then, Justin Trudeau has gone off on a seven-day holiday jaunt with family on the taxpayer's dime to India. Who wouldn't appreciate that opportunity? All the more so when the cost doesn't come out of your personal bank account. Canadians are footing that holiday. Justin Trudeau and wife are fond of that kind of arrangement, reminiscent of their Christmas jaunt off to the Aga Khan's all-expense-paid (except for the hefty amount paid by the Canadian taxpayer) private estate on an island in the Bahamas.

They embarked from their plane on arrival in India with the Trudeau family expressing their fond familiarity with Hindu custom by inclining heads downward, and clasping hands together on their chests, as patronizing and cynical a gesture as any to demonstrate their good faith in another faith. But this is yet another Trudeau specialty accompanying his sunny ways; to ingratiate himself with Sikhs and Muslims by adopting their gear and briefly gifting them with his presence at their temples of worship. Getting out the vote rather prematurely.

Candice MalcolmVerified account @CandiceMalcolm
On official state visits to India, PM Modi personally greets and welcomes the Israeli PM, UAE Crown Prince and US President. For PM Trudeau, he sends a low-ranking official. “Canada is back”

The Trudeau entourage and the ostensible reason for the trip, as a "trade mission" doesn't appear to have impressed the powers that be in India, however. India's growing political, cultural and economic clout hasn't escaped Trudeau's advisers and since this prime minister has mishandled trade deals with the Trans Pacific Partnership, with China, and fears the final outcome of the renegotiated NAFTA, a trade deal with the world's second largest population, fifth largest economy would do wonders for a country that appears to be experiencing some stumbles in its near economic outlook.

This is a state visit without a reciprocal state acknowledgement of its status. Indian Prime Minister Modi, who appeared to have enjoyed his relationship with former Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't seem too impressed by a new Canadian Prime Minister whose cabinet includes four Sikh-Canadians who appear to have separatist sympathies by association. The cultural and economic ties that Trudeau appears to have been intent on tweaking doesn't in fact appear to be mirrored on the Indian side.

But then, perhaps this isn't as important to Trudeau as the impression he hopes to make on the home front, hitting all the right buttons to impress ethnic/religious voters in Canada with his visit.

The uncomfortable impression that Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appears to be weighted with, that Canada's Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan is a Khalistan sympathizer, matched by his statement to Outlook India magazine that "there seems to be evidence that there are Khalistani sympathizers in Trudeau's cabinet", appears to have cautioned Trudeau to bypass an anticipated and evidently pre-arranged meeting with Amarinder Singh, who was to have guided the Trudeau family through the Punjab portion of the visit.

And nor has Prime Minister Narendra Modi set aside much welcoming pomp and ceremony for a visiting head of a Commonwealth country. Both he and President Ram Nath Kovind will meet with Trudeau halfway through his seven-day itinerary. Most tellingly, is that no high-executive-level minister was present to greet Trudeau on his arrival at the airport. The Indian Agriculture Minister was dispatched to do the honours, and if that isn't a diplomatic slight it's hard to imagine what would rank as such.

Canada's 1.3 million Indo-Canadians are watching this little drama at a remove, and most will not be terribly impressed with the presence in India of their Canadian Prime Minister. This trip will, by all indications, certainly not turn out to be the success that Trudeau most certainly must have planned it to be. It is an awkward and untoward performance, altogether, one that does anything but inspire confidence in Canadians with their prime minister who has blundered time and again and never seems to learn circumspection.

Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and children, Xavier, 10, Ella-Grace, 9, and Hadrien, 3, arrive in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Gender Perception-Response?

“I think [her criticism: Oxfam’s former head of global safeguarding, Helen Evans] was very unbalanced, and ironically didn’t give enough credit to the very work that she promoted. I don’t think she gives either herself or Oxfam enough credit for what was actually steady improvement.”
“I believe it was done in good faith to try and balance being transparent and protecting Oxfam’s work."
"I don’t think [Oxfam] wanted to promote a sensation and damage the delivery of that programme. With hindsight, we should have said more. I’ve been clear about that right since this broke. But if Oxfam’s business is to help save lives, if people are motivated by protecting Oxfam, they’re motivated by actually delivering that. If your organisation is there to actually help make the world a better place, I can see why people thought this was the right thing to do."
"What happened was a disgrace and we are absolutely committed to rooting out abuse across the organisation.We are doubling the number of people who work on safeguarding to make sure we are living up to our responsibility to protect staff, volunteers and the communities we support around the world. An independent commission is being established which will review our entire operations and tell us what we need to change about our culture and practices."
"The intensity and the ferocity of the attack makes you wonder, what did we do?"
"We murdered babies in their cots? Certainly, the scale and the intensity of the attacks feels out of proportion to the level of culpability. I struggle to understand it. You think, 'My God, there’s something going on there'."
Mark Goldring, chief executive, Oxfam GB (Great Britain)
‘Anything we say is being manipulated’: Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, at the organisation’s Oxford headquarters.
‘Anything we say is being manipulated’: Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, at the organisation’s Oxford headquarters. Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian
"The Oxfam case is the visible part of the iceberg."
"It is not only Oxfam — there are other NGOs [non-governmental organisations] in the same situation, but they hide the information internally."
"There should be an investigation into other organisations that have been working here since 2010."
"For example, Doctors Without Borders had to repatriate about 17 people for misconduct which was not explained."
Haitian President Jovenel Moise
A report warned children as young as six were being sexually abused in Haiti     Getty
Accusations have been raised from Haiti, Ivory Coast and Southern Sudan of sexual molestation of children on the part of humanitarian aid workers sent to those troubled countries to give aid and solace. Children were being propositioned by aid workers and abused, while the actions of those directing humanitarian operations in the field were calling in prostitutes to service them in their charity-funded headquarters.

When it was first revealed that United Nations-employed peacekeepers in troubled areas of the world were involved in the sexual abuse of the people they were tasked to protect, the scandal that resulted was understandably vehement in accusations tarnishing those whose mission was seen as a sanctimonious exercise in human futility. Now that well-regarded, publicly-supported and trusted humanitarian groups have indulged in this same kind of unforgivable persecution of helpless people meant to trust them, the reaction is incredulity.
"Clearly Oxfam have a long way to go before they can regain the trust of the British public, their staff and the people they aim to help."
"The actions and attitude of the organization over the coming weeks will be critical. Hundreds of good, brave and compassionate people working for Oxfam around the world [were] poorly served by Oxfam's leadership team."
Penny Mordaunt, British International Development Secretary

"What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so."
"I'm here for all the women who have been abused. I want them to come forward and for justice to be done for them."
Winnie Byanyima, executive director, Oxfam International
New funding meant to furnish operating costs for Britain-based aid agency Oxfam has been suspended in the wake of Oxfam staff having been accused of exploiting people sexually in zones of crisis they have been responding to, in delivering aid. Oxfam, shamed and belittled for its lax oversight has agreed to withhold any bids for taxpayer funds from the United Kingdom until such time it succeeds in meeting the British government's "high standards" to meet the obligations of a humanitarian organization.

Out of a total operating income of $700,00 in public and corporate subscriptions representing its 2016/17 operating year, Oxfam relied upon the British government for a substantial $55.8 million, which has now been withdrawn for the subsequent year's operation. A shortfall that will severely curtail its operations, shrouded under a dark cloak of shame and regret. Senior staff deployed to Haiti in the wake of the country's 2010 earthquake now must defend their reputations against sexual misconduct charges, from the use of prostitutes to pornography possession.

It is not merely the rank-and-file employees, some of whom may be locally engaged, but the elite authorities operating locally of the organization that have been implicated, divulged as having besmirched the reputation of the charity. On the surface, Oxfam appears to have acted promptly once the accusations were made public, in firing a handful of workers and allowing others to resign. Charity regulators have also criticized the humanitarian agency's apparent lack of transparency in attempting to shield itself.

Oxfam is preparing, under British government pressure, to report those staff members who have been accused of rank behaviour unbefitting decency and respect for those in need, to their respective governments along with the evidence relating to the sexual abuse perpetrated by Oxfam representatives, to the government of Haiti. According to Oxfam International's director, an independent commission is being appointed to "look into our culture and our practices" and for a vetting system for its staff. Long overdue, unfortunately.

Oxfam besmirched itself, when a former employee attested to the fact that complaints of sexual misconduct on the part of its employees have been reported for at least a decade, with no official reaction forthcoming to examine the issue, to deal with it, to remove the perpetrators. Not until the accusations were made public did Oxfam move itself to ostensibly correct the situation. Where a child of six reported being sexually molested, where grown men and boys have been raped, where one child responded when asked why she didn't report her rape to Oxfam leadership that her rapist was among them.

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French Unity, Tolerance, Civility

"One racist act out of three committed in France in the last two years was directed against a Jew, while Jews now represent less than 1% of the French population."
"Anti-Semitism has grown so much recently, that acts of aggression which cause no injury are no longer reported. Most victims feel powerless and are afraid of reprisals if they file a complaint."
Jewish Community Protection Service, France

"The problem, is that anti-Semitism today in France comes less from the far right than from individuals of the Muslim faith or culture."
Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls  
Document

The bastion of French secularism in its promise of liberty, equality and fraternity appears to be dead and buried. The France that was has collapsed with the invasion of Muslim multitudes in their insular Islam and Sharia that has given France the experience of reclusive, hostile and dangerous enclaves where French law and order no longer prevail. The banlieues are places of dark threat where police fear to venture, where ambulances and fire trucks, police cars and any who erroneously enter are subject to threat and violence.

France has the distinction alongside Germany of hosting the largest influx of Muslims of any European nation. As time and fortune would have it, France also had the largest population of European Jews. Jews experienced French collaboration with Nazi Germany during the Fascist occupation of France through World War II; collaboration included the zeal with which French police were pleased to do the bidding of their German overseers in rounding up Jews for transport to forced labour and death camps.

In this new era of world history, politicians in France cannot get elected if there is any hint that they might disparage in any way, shape or form the overwhelming presence of a hostile Muslim population. The worldwide surge in anti-Semitism occurs wherever Islam sends its faithful, and in France the faithful are resident in abundance, prepared to enact whenever the occasion arises, acts of jihadist violence. Any criticism of Islam, of jihad, of the place of Islamic fundamentalism in a secular society is not tolerated by the Muslim population

People rally in Jerusalem in support for the French nation and the Jewish community in France, following a series of attacks in Paris and its suburbs, January 11, 2015.
People rally in Jerusalem in support for the French nation and the Jewish community in France, following a series of attacks in Paris and its suburbs, January 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The presence of Jews living as a minority among the growing number of Muslims ten times their number has meant that Jewish children may become subject to vicious attacks. Jewish schools, synagogues and social centres must now be prepared to defend themselves from violent attack stationing armed guards for protection. An estimated 100,000 French Jews have departed the country of their birth, fearful for their children's future in an increasingly anti-Semetic atmosphere, where even the French President abstains from mentioning the Holocaust when speaking of Auschwitz.

There is a need, Emmanual Macron tweeted -- the new mass communication tool for politicians everywhere -- to "preserve peace, unity and tolerance" while the unfortunate reality is that there can be no peace, unity and tolerance on one side only, while the other side does all in its power to create an atmosphere of threat, intolerance and foreboding among those whom they target in demonstrations of pure, unadulterated hatred.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

The Perpetual Catching-Up Treadmill

"Over the past twenty-five years, progress has been made through, for example, legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sex with respect to inheritance and citizenship, laws that guarantee equality within the family and laws that address domestic violence."
"However, while progress has been significant, discriminatory constitutional and legislative provisions remain in place in many countries, leaving women without protection or legal basis to claim their rights."
"Where adequate sanitation facilities are lacking, for example, concerns over safety and menstrual hygiene management may keep girls away from school or compromise their learning experience."
United Nations report 
Women Poorer And Hungrier Than Men Across The World, UN Report Says
Anand Kumar saved to Human Relations & Management
Women Poorer And Hungrier Than Men Across The World, UN Report

The latest United Nations report on Turning Promises Into Action: Gender Equality in the 2040 Agenda for Sustainable Development recites a universal litany of hindrances and lack of opportunities and the will to empower women to access equality matching men's progress has been produced, its details more than adequately outlining areas where women are disadvantaged in life, failing to advance their aspirations into the future.

Global benchmarks for progress as for example eliminating extreme poverty and hunger and having all children attend school were laid out in several global benchmarks included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Some targets have seen significant progress but this study focused on women specifically and how well they are progressing, finding in its final analysis an abysmal result. In virtually every category appraised women fare worse than men.


According to the conclusions of the newly-released report, 122 women aged 25 to 34 live in extreme poverty for every 100 men within that age group also living in poverty. Women living in poor households hovers at about 12.8 percent while for men the figure is 12.3 percent, a disparity which results in roughly five million more women than men who are struggling to exist. It is more difficult for women than for men to escape poverty since women have less opportunities to access employment and economic opportunities.

Laws in some countries make it less than possible for women to inherit wealth, own land and have access to credit. When women do find employment they are frequently paid less than men performing work of equal value. Women face shorter working hours for payment since they also must look after child-rearing, housework and the preparation of family meals. Where food insecurity prevails in two-thirds of all countries women are most vulnerable.

The greatest challenges facing women is in sub-Saharan Africa where low-income women are especially vulnerable. Surprisingly enough, a like situation prevails in the United States as well, representing the sole developed country where the rate of maternal death is on the increase. One in five women and girls aged 15 to 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the past year.

On the positive side, more women attend school than previously and many remain in school longer. Across the globe, 90.8 percent of primary school-age girls were enrolled in school in 2015 in comparison with 82.2 percent in 2000, and for boys those figures were 91.9 percent of primary school-age boys were enrolled in 2015. Despite which, 15 million girls will never see the opportunity to learn to read or to write.

In Africa in particular, all these drawbacks represent an acute challenge, where 48.1 percent of adolescent girls are not able to attend school, along with 25.7 percent of girls of primary-school age. The numbers are 43.6 percent and 21.7 percent respectively, for boys.

Education

  • Women make up more than two-thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people.
  • According to global statistics, just 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school. This is far fewer than rural boys (45 percent), urban girls (59 percent) and urban boys (60 percent).
  • Every additional year of primary school increases girls' eventual wages by 10-20 percent. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence.
  • While progress has been made in reducing the gender gap in urban primary school enrolment, data from 42 countries shows that rural girls are twice as likely as urban girls to be out of school.
  • In Pakistan a half-kilometre increase in the distance to school will decrease girls' enrolment by 20 percent. In Egypt, Indonesia and several African countries, building local schools in rural communities increased girls' enrolment.
  • In Cambodia, 48 percent of rural women are illiterate compared to 14 percent of rural men.
  • Rural women's deficits in education have long-term implications for family well-being and poverty reduction. Vast improvements have been seen in the mortality rates of children less than 5 years old since 1990, but rural rates are usually much higher than urban ones.
  • Data from 68 countries indicates that a woman's education is a key factor in determining a child's survival.
  • Children of mothers with no education in the Latin American and Caribbean region are 3.1 times more likely to die than those with mothers who have secondary or tertiary education, and 1.6 more likely to die that those whose mothers have primary-level education.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Twitter Prestige and Influence in Followers

The New York Times  Follower Factory

"Social media is a virtual world that is filled with half bots, half real people."
"You can't take any tweet at face value. And not everything is what it seems." 
"We're working with completely unregulated, closed ecosystems that aren't reporting on these things. They have a perverse incentive to let it happen."
"They want to police it to the extent it doesn't seem obvious, but they make money off it."
Rami Essaid, founder, Distil Networks, cyber-security

"It's fraud. People who judge by how many likes or how many followers, it's not a healthy thing."
James Cracknell, Olympic gold medalist
Mr. Cracknell, a British rower, should know. He's among those plentiful numbers who bought followers. Which is to say he became a Devumi client; an American company in business to promote the image for people that they have more followers on Twitter than they have actually acquired without resorting to fraud. Devumi has itself collected millions of dollars in the global marketplace promoting social media fraud.

The company sells Twitter followers and retweets to its clients who have a wish to appear popular or to exert influence online by appearing to have great numbers of followers. They have a stock estimated at about 3.5 million automated accounts, any one of which can be sold multiple times providing its customers with over 200 million Twitter followers with at least 55,000 of the accounts making use of names, profile pictures and allied personal details of real Twitter users.

Eric Schneiderman Retweeted The New York Times
Impersonation and deception are illegal under New York law. We’re opening an investigation into Devumi and its apparent sale of bots using stolen identities.
Eric Schneiderman added,

The accounts, including some of minors, are counterfeit in the economy of online influence -- booming in popularity -- reaching into any industry where a mass audience -- rather, the illusion of  mass following can be monetized. As many as 48 million Twitter users representing close to 15 percent of their total are such automated accounts meant to simulate the presence of real people. Even Facebook was forced to disclose it had 60 million fake accounts on its social media platform.

Fake accounts, known as bots, are useful in influencing advertising audiences, in reshaping political debates, in defrauding businesses and in ruining reputations. Despite which their creation and sale rest in an unclear legal zone. Twitter and other platforms may prohibit the purchase of followers, but dozens of sites continue to sell them without repercussion of any kind. And while 27-year-old German Calas, founder of Devumi, claims to know nothing of social identities stolen from real users he also denies his company sells fake followers.

Business and court records indicate that Devumi has over 200,000 customers among whom are television stars, professional athletes, pastors and models. Devumi offers to Twitter followers YouTube views, plays on SoundCloud and LinkedIn endorsements. The computer billionaire Michael Dell is a client, while Kathy Ireland who presides over a half-billion-dollar licensing empire has hundreds of thousands of Devumi followers.
Photo: Valerie Loiseleux/Getty Images

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Coming To A Guerrilla Theatre Near You

"I smuggled about fifty ISIS fighters into Turkey. They were wearing cool clothes, classic jeans with many necklaces, trying to disguise as much as they can."
"They hid their passports in their boots. They were completely shaved, you never guess they are ISIS."
"They didn't speak any Arabic, few words."
Abu Omar, smuggler between Syria and Turkey

"The group is transitioning into an underground organization that places more weight on asymmetrical tactics, like suicide bombings against soft targets in government-secured areas like Baghdad."
Otso Iho, senior analyst, Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center, IHS Markit, London

"Since this invasion of Afrin by Turkey, ISIS is getting stronger in the south."
"The Turks want to give another chance to ISIS to grow again. Before the Turkish invasion, we were very close to finishing ISIS."
Mustafa Balli, spokesman, Syrian Democratic Forces
An Isis convoy was stranded in the Syrian desert after a US-led coalition airstrike bombed the road AFP/Getty Images

News is that the caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is injured and in poor health, but yet alive, according to an Iraqi intelligence chief as well as American officials. On the Syrian side of the border with Iraq in northeast Deir Ezzor province, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi still is invested in rallying his troops. "We have irrefutable information and documents from sources within the terrorist organization that al-Baghdadi is still alive and hiding", stated Abu Ali al-Basri, director general of the Iraqi intelligence and counter0terriorism office.

Not seen in public since the July 2014 declaration of his caliphate while in Mosul, U.S. officials confirm that despite Russian claims to have killed ISIL's caliph, he is very much alive. His public message in a 46-minute audio broadcast last September called on his supporters to convey the Islamic State's message wherever they live in  he West, using whatever means come to hand. The faithful in jihad have gone to great lengths to prove their support of ISIL's deathly ideology in carrying out attacks as dictated.

And now that the geographical caliphate has been forcefully disbanded and Islamic State is advancing toward other means of attack, moving toward guerrilla warfare at which it distinguishes itself, the West can look forward to greater initiatives on the part of returning jihadists who have stealthily re-established themselves in their democratic places of origin through citizenship and birth. For thousands of Islamic State foreign fighters and their families escaped the eastern Syria campaign to dislodge them.

Many fled the U.S.-led military campaign along with the Raqqa agreement between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State to allow their fighters to retreat, rather than face the brutal street-by-street fighting that would have ensued had they remained in their tunnels to emerge to counter the Kurdish-led forces. Many ISIL members trained in the use of chemical weapons defected to the Syrian al-Qaeda branch.

Among others tens of thousands are being paid to smugglers to funnel them into Turkey and from there to return home to Europe. To regain their former lives, smouldering in resentment against the West? Some, perhaps, while others take with them the incitement for vengeance expressed by Baghdadi using any and all means possible. The premature assurance that ISIL is finished is giving way to ISIL recharging itself and reappearing in another deadly form to challenge the power and endurance of the West to resist the Islamist jihadi menace.

An estimated 40,000 fighters from 120 countries had streamed into the conflicts in Syria and Iraq in the last four years. Thousands may have been sacrificed as martyrs on the battlefields, but many more thousands filtered their way to take part in conflicts in Libya, Yemen or the Philippines, while still others have found temporary haven in Turkey and elsewhere. As many as 1,500 of the 5,000 European ISIL jihadis have returned to Europe, among them ISIL-branded women and children.

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