Monday, October 16, 2017

Iran's Freedom to Pursue Nuclear Ambitions

"Given these problems, it's actually difficult to argue with a straight face that the deal improves our national security. That's before we even contemplate Iran's ongoing harassment of our military personnel or their support for international instability in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, let alone Tehran's longstanding and expanding patronage of terrorism and violent extremism."
"After the deal is decertified, Congress and the Trump administration can bring Iran back to the negotiating table to regain some of the leverage President Obama carelessly flushed away. Without leaving the deal, we can seek concessions from Iran that should have been in there from the start. We can establish some red lines on Iran's behavior, and put in place plans to actually enforce them. The Revolutionary Guard Corps sanctions are a great first step."

At best, the JCPOA pauses Iran's development of nuclear weapons temporarily.

"Next, we'll have to deal with support for Hezbollah, Iran's most violent and powerful proxy. Beyond that, the United States must work with our allies to contain Iran's regional influence, sharing intelligence, enhancing cooperation and even arming nations, such as our Sunni Arab allies, that share our interest in keeping Tehran in check."
Gregg Roman, director, Middle East Forum
"The president of the United States has many powers. Not this one."
"The deal has prevented and continues to prevent and will continue to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."
Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief, European Union

"[The White House and Congress should] consider the implications to the security of the United States and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine [the Iran agreement]."
Joint statement, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Theresa May, President Emmanuel Macron

"Keeping faith to an agreement is absolutely fundamental in international diplomacy. And this is exactly what the president is putting into question."
"[Not backing the agreement] would have a disastrous consequence with regard to the Middle East."
"Perhaps a nuclear race would be ignited. It would drive a real wedge into international relations between the U.S. and Europe. And it would make North Korea even more complicated because the credibility of the United States would suffer."
Norbert Rottgen, chairman, foreign affairs committee, German parliament
Iranian worshippers shout anti-U.S. slogans at weekly Friday prayers in Tehran on Friday, October 13, 2017, AFP

U.S. President Barack Obama led negotiations that ended up giving the Iranian Ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Presidential Guard chiefs the fig leaf of legitimacy in their claims they had no interest whatever in developing a nuclear program aimed at achieving atomic weapons. Enabling them through the agreement to continue their furtive underground experiments and their collaboration with North Korean scientists in both nuclear research and ballistic missiles was a disaster to begin with.

The first impact of the agreement was the release of hundreds of millions in oil money held back from Iran through the sanctions program to free up the Islamic Republic of Iran's straitened financial circumstances resulting from the success of the sanctions imposed upon it as penalty for its illegal building of nuclear sites and the ongoing research directly aimed at achieving nuclear success in its ongoing search for Middle East dominance. Its financial base restored, Iran lost no time in re-funding its favoured Hezbollah and Houthi militias in Lebanon and Yemen.

It returned to its support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's butchery against Syrian civilians and resumed its bellicose threats of annihilation against Israel while consolidating its hold on Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen to form the solid base of Shiite power it has been  working toward so strenuously. The fiction that Iran is disinterested in nuclear weapons and wants only to produce domestic nuclear power and radio-isotopes for medical use belies the nature of a regime  whose passion is sectarian dominating power.
During the rally, held after the Friday prayers, the protesters chanted slogans such as “Death to Israel” and “Death to the US” and “Death to Britain.” Press TV/Iran
European leaders stress that in their opinion President Donald Trump backing away from the Iran nuclear deal would serve to distance the Western alliance, harming efforts to addressing potential dangers from Tehran and North Korea; they plan to carry on in support of the agreement, and state that Trump's authority does not permit him to shelve the deal that a UN resolution placed into international law. After all, when the agreement was signed all the signatories were immensely pleased with themselves; group portraits were of smug, satisfied faces.

Despite knowing that Iran had no intention of other than appearing to honour the agreement. As they had done with previous agreements, which even Iranian President Rouhani, present at those previous agreements in a leading capacity then as now, later bragged that Iran had pulled the wool over the international communities' eyes. Signing the current agreement did not leave a chastened Iran, uneasy over its support for terrorism, and its responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. It left a triumphant Iran, satisfied it could continue to re-embark on its trajectory of nuclear  attainment.

Iranian MPs took selfies of E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini after the swearing-in of Iran's president in Tehran on Saturday. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

Federica Mogherini in her guise as an influential EU official became a personal advocate for Iran and was not the least bit abashed to do so, appearing in the Iranian parliament to profess her trust in its leaders and their intentions. Choosing to ingratiate herself with Iranian lawmakers and conveniently overlooking the regime's constant existential threats against a member of the United Nations, and its role in funding terrorism, persecuting its own political dissidents, its wholesale and gruesome capital punishment and its threat to Middle East stability.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Swift Plunge Into Uncertainty of Armageddon

"The US military action hardens our determination that the US should be tamed with fire and lets us take our hand closer to the 'trigger' for taking the toughest countermeasure."
Kim Kwang Hak, researcher, Institute for American Studies, North Korean Foreign Ministry

"Those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops."
"The President has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically."
"He is not seeking to go to war."
Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State

"Our president has been really clear, he's not going to permit this regime and Kim Jong Un to threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon."
"He's going to do anything necessary to prevent that from happening."
"What Kim Jong Un should recognize is that if he thinks the development of this nuclear capability is keeping him safer, it's actually the opposite."
"Our military leaders are refining, improving plans every day."
"We hope we don’t have to use them, but we are ready. All of our officers are at a high, high state of readiness."
"The real danger is in terms of communicating with Kim Jong Un is that he doesn’t understand how serious we are about his behaviour and the behaviour of the regime."
"The president has been very clear on that. North Korea will be shocked by how serious we are."
General H.R. McMaster, U.S. Secretary of Defense
North Korea calls Trump a 'strangler of peace'
North Korea calls Trump a 'strangler of peace'    CNN

When the world watched horrified, in real-time television news coverage of the multiple al-Qaeda-launched mass-atrocity-by-passenger plane attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, images of incipient Apocalypse were not far from everyone's mind. Fear, uncertainty and apprehension of the future enveloped the minds of those who witnessed what might seem in saner times to be the impossible. Our minds have since settled down.

The images and the hopelessness of the situation as it unfolded made for bleak, dark theatre, only we knew this was not theatre, but quite possibly a damning rehearsal for events of greater magnitude at some time in the future. Yes, there were horrors that occurred long before, when Ottoman Turkey unleashed their genocidal assaults on Turkish Armenians, accusing them of treachery in supporting Russia during World War I.

There was the countless millions dying during the Communist Revolution, the mass starvation in Ukraine during the Holdomor, the incalculable death toll with the partition of India and Pakistan, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and more, there was always more: Rwanda and Darfur's anguish in Sudan, and then along came the Syrian regime's war on its Sunni Syrian citizens. The Holocaust years that were meant to eradicate the presence of Jewish life in Europe was an elaborate Nazi administrative priority.

And when the United States' President Truman decided the ultimate persuasion to prod Imperial Japan to sue for peace, the world watched in fascinated disbelief as two atomic bombs were dropped, one each on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The plight of civilians melted into nothingness where they stood a moment earlier, the fallout of the radiation imperilling countless lives, the sheer destructive force of a nuclear impact taught us all that this truly was the last spike in the railway taking us to self-destruction.

No nation valuing the 'deterrent effect' of its arsenal of nuclear weapons would ever use them as anything other than for their mutual assured destruction value of brute suasion. That's what we thought because our minds could not bring us around to believing that anyone in any position of national authority with the responsibility to make such decisions would ever deem it needful to authorize the use of such a massive death-deliverance.

And because we could not recognize the potential in the unthinkable we tucked what we preferred not to ruminate on away in the dark  recesses of our minds -- all of us, from ordinary citizens, to authority figures and scientists and members of the military, because the simple truth is how do you deal with an issue so enormously out of control that threatens human existence?

So, could we respond in the event that the unthinkable occurred? How would we do that? Assuming we weren't among those whose lives were immediately forfeit, what steps to take for survival?
North Korea Missile
The North Korean government is purported to have launched a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, as shown in this July 28 photo distributed by the country. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

What kind of experience have we had in avoiding death under circumstances that created the conditions for a lingering, anguished death? Are we in any way equipped to respond to this ultimate emergency? To limp along as best we can under the most primitive of conditions? When the Twin Towers fell in New York, it took a few days before 'normalcy' returned. There was no interruption to communications, to the power system, to the transportation system, to the work conducted by civil society to ensure that the infrastructure and the community could re-commence its normalcy.

The electrical grid was functional, the water and purification plants, hospitals and emergency personnel, municipal functions and infrastructure were all intact but for the destroyed Twin Towers and the unforgivingly malevolent loss of life that brought a universal sorrow not only to distraught New Yorkers but to the world at large -- with some exceptions. The military with its engineering arms were responsive as were police and firemen, who mourned the loss of their own in that great tragedy.

As a worst-instance scene, that infamous day stands out as among the most difficult North America faced resulting from the deadly enmity of a foreign ideology based in a religion of conquest. In contrast, the First World War accident that befell Halifax in the great explosion that took place when a vessel carrying war munitions exploded in its harbour through an accidental collision, destroying most of the city's downtown and killing two-thirds of the number that perished during 9-11.

A nuclear explosion targeting a North American city on the other hand, would result in a catastrophic event of far greater and wider proportions. Destruction would be complete, deaths too numerous to imagine, injuries with nowhere to be treated since hospitals would have been destroyed along with all other buildings, and no infrastructure reflecting civilized life would remain. Rescuers? From where, and how long might it take to hope to address an emergency of such absolute dimensions?

Were a single, 150-kiloton nuclear head to be detonated in any city, some 55,000 people would be estimated to die outright. All the networks we depend upon would have been destroyed, from communications  to transportation and services networks, let alone the infrastructure or emergency response. Chain of command? No further than your own devices, depending on your ability to respond in your own survival defence. You and any other survivors would need food, medicine, water and in short supply it would lead to mayhem.

Everywhere, radiation refugees, people in varying states of illness or slow recovery -- or eventual death. No buildings to shelter in, no one to consult with, everyone distracted and busy jealously guarding whatever they could find to sustain themselves. The dead left to fester and inevitably dread diseases to spread. Total civil order breakdown; how could it be otherwise? People foraging, to extend their miserable lives, waiting for some vestige of outside rescue.

More than one bomb dropped elsewhere, so that others are in the very same plight of hopelessness? Would there be any comfort in the thought that as soon as the authorities in your country became certain that the bombs were impending they sent their own in a counter-offence, and the other nation that had invaded yours with nuclear devices would be suffering in the very same way? Unlikely.

But we shouldn't be concerned. Not to worry. Sane minds will prevail.

The sane mind, as example, of Kin Jong-un; his threats of destroying his nemesis, the United States are not to be taken seriously; they represent, after all, the juvenile musings of an arrested adolescent -- oh, and minds arrested in the adolescent phase of maturity are known for impulsive, self-destroying behaviour.

On the other hand, there's the rational intelligence of the most powerful man on the planet, the President of the United States of America....

World War 3 North Korea
The graphic flyer is one of many pieces believed to have been sent over the border  Getty/Twitter

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Some Semblance of Normalcy

"We're being told in Colorado Springs [NORAD headquarters] that the extant U.S. policy is not to defend Canada."
"[In the] heat of the moment [the U.S. command could go contrary to the policy, but] it would be entirely a U.S. discussion and a U.S. decision."
Lt.-Gen. Pierre St-Amand, deputy commander, North American Aerospace Defence Command

"The U.S. isn't going to take the chance of radioactive drift coming across from Vancouver or Toronto."
"Any missile coming towards North America would be targeted by the Americans. We don't need to be part of U.S. missile defence for that to happen."
Michael Byers, political science professor, University of British Columbia

"We trained children in schools to get under their desks and cover the backs of their necks to protect themselves from shattered glass, which does absolutely nothing to protect them from radiation."
"[Once a nuclear detonation has gone off] all electronic communications would be out. A public education campaign should be going on now."
Dennis Mileti, former director, National Hazards Center, University of Colorado

"Part of the problem is that the emergency planners themselves, personally, are overwhelmed psychologically by the thought of nuclear catastrophe. They are paralyzed."
"You say 'nuclear' to them, and they're thinking, 'Oh my God, we're all gone. What's the point? It's futile. And we're trying to tell them 'It's not futile. We can change the survival rates by doing some commonsensical things."
"You want as much distance and as much shielding as possible between you and the detonation, and you stay in this shelter environment [either underground or on the middle floors of a tall building, away from windows] for somewhere between 24 and 72 hours."
"We would have essentially permanent loss of real estate that will not be habitable for people's lifetimes and more. [There would be economic reverberations] not just locally in the communities affected, but regionally, nationally and internationally."
"I hope we're never in that position where we have to choose between not responding to an actual nuclear attack or wiping out another country, which consists of 99.9999% of people who just want to get up in the morning and have some semblance of normalcy."
Irwin Redlener, public health professor, Columbia University

"Just imagining this kind of incident is already impacting the general public [by causing anxiety]."
"The closer you are, the more connection you have with the country, the higher the impact is."
"You should not expect government emergency responders to reach you, even before two weeks. They would be exposed to radiation that might affect them. It is better even for emergency responders to wait for a few days sometimes so that radiation level goes down and they can go to help."
Ali Asgary, Associate professor of Disaster and Emergency Management, York University, Toronto
 The British Government is reportedly working on a new nuclear new alert system
The British Government is reportedly working on a new nuclear alert blast system. Alamy
Should a nuclear-tipped missile hit an area, it is the resulting size of the blast that speaks to the extent of the fallout. Wind speed affects fallout spread, sandlike grains. Even while potentially fatal radiation sees a rapid drop, hundreds of kilometres off from the target of a bomb to mitigate the effects of fallout, protective measures should be planned for. In 2010 the American government produced a response guide reflective of a 10-kiloton nuclear detonation. In that scenario it was pointed out that fallout could "have a low-level continental impact".

Should Asia, as an example, be the venue, which is to say under current political circumstances, should a preemptive strike hit North Korea, radiation would be certain to drift onward to North America; no region would be exempt from long-term health effects. In addition to the physical impacts, the psychological damage from nuclear radiation fallout would be far-ranging, the wholesale traumatization that would result could incapacitate a nation.

And the reality just happens to be should a North Korean nuclear warhead manage to thread its way through missile defences to strike a city in North America, disaster preparedness experts are quick to point out that there is no preparedness for a response. There have been no appreciable actions taken by authorities to educate people what they should do, how they should ideally react to help themselves in the wake of a nuclear detonation. Dr. Redlener of Columbia University has been foiled time and again in attempting to alert the public.

Not a single city in the United States has formulated plans that might be even marginally effective in dealing with a nuclear detonation, and the disaster it would plant on the continent. And nor is Canada any more responsible in alerting its citizens to self-defence in reaction to such potentially unimaginable events. Within the blast zone no human life would be expected to survive, but beyond that zone the greatest risk to survival would be represented by the resulting radioactive dust and debris falling to ground in the explosion's wake, with no time to outrun its return to ground level.

The blast wave and thermal pulse created by a nuclear explosion would result in immediate deaths within seconds; for a 150-kiloton warhead, within a radius of several kilometres a dead zone would prevail. Canadians work with Americans in the vital task of detecting missiles, at NORAD headquarters. They are not the decision-makers though we are the risk-takers. "Look at Canada, we can unleash a demonstration on Canada, a light-and-fire spectacular as ample proof of what we can achieve in levelling the imperialist majesty of the United States", a not-unlikely thought process flickering through Kim Jong-un's febrile mind.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Reuniting Fatah and Hamas

"We don't trust Hamas and they don't trust us, so we have to build trust. Everyone has gone the first step in the right direction, and I think trust will be built gradually because we want this reconciliation to be a gradual process."
"Without Yahia Sinwar [newly elected Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar] this could not have happened. He has two hats. He wears the Al Qassam (Hamas' military wing) hat, where he has credibility, and the politburo hat, where he [also] has credibility."
"The difference is Egypt. Cairo has a vested interest in this reconciliation and wants to recapture its prestige in the region."
Mohammad Shtayyeh, adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah central committee member

"They had to do it because the people are fed up with this division between Fatah and Hamas."
"We hope that this unification will add strength to the Palestinians at the negotiating table with Israel. Possibly, this is a step in preparing something for Trump's deal."
Hussein Al-Rimmawi, professor of political geography, Ramallah

"[The US welcomed] efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza." 
"We will be watching these developments closely, while pressing forward ... to try to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza."
"Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations."
White House Special Representative Jason Greenblatt
"[Israel must be aware of and guard against] bogus reconciliations [which take place] at the expense of our existence."
"Whoever wants to make such a reconciliation, our understanding is very clear: Recognize the State of Israel, disband the Hamas military arm [and] sever the connection with Iran, which calls for our destruction."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
"The Egyptian role is overt, aggressive and we basically have the same instinct as the Egyptians do when it comes to Hamas."
"Of course, they have a way of influencing in Gaza that Israel no longer has."
Eran Lerman, former deputy director, National Security Council, Israel
Senior Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri (left) sits next to Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad as they sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on Thursday. Under the agreement, Hamas would cede control of the Gaza Strip to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority by Dec. 1.  Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Once again the rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas have pledged to work together. They do, after all, share one overwhelming aim; to destroy the State of Israel. Fatah, through their leadership in the Palestinian Authority in its ongoing mission to continue fostering hatred of the Palestinian Arabs toward Israeli Jews and their continuous incitement to violence, while posing as a legitimate partner with Israel toward successful peace negotiations, and Hamas, which states up front that its existence is mandated toward the destruction of Israel.

The PA under President Mahmoud Abbas portrays itself as innocent of any violent plots against Israel; Hamas unabashedly and with pride celebrates its own.

Each time they have committed to join the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in a common bond with a common purpose, extolling their ability to rule together in harmony, they have succumbed to the hostility each faction feels against the other; Hamas with its fundamentalist Islamist colouration and Fatah with its secular-type Islamic ideology, each deploring the other. They ruled together for a few short years in a unity government when elections resulted in Hamas obtaining a surprising percentage of the vote.

And then that unity government fell apart when Hamas decided it would take over a fractious Gaza, making it even more dangerous when they succeeded in ousting their Fatah rivals in a spasm of ultra violence. Now, as a result of Egypt having declared the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is an offshoot) a terrorist group after the coup that removed Mohammed Morsi from the Egyptian presidency and the Brotherhood from power, returning Egypt to military rule under President Abdel Fattah el Sisi and Hamas's estrangement from its funder Iran, its control in Gaza de-funded, it  turned in desperation to offering to rejoin Fatah.

Negotiations taking place in Cairo facilitated the two rivals agreeing to unite, with Hamas eager and willing to render unto Fatah the governance of Gaza, which had proven too difficult for Hamas ever since their funding shortcoming had been complicated by the PA withholding payment to enable Gazan employees to be paid, and ordering Israel to stop supplying the Strip with electrical power by refusing to pay for it.

But reconciliation is in the works, not so much a 'win' for Fatah as it is for Hamas. Hamas no longer has to be concerned about administering the civil affairs of the Strip; that will now revert to Fatah and become their headache, leaving Hamas free to concentrate its effort entirely on its military. With, of course, its mandate intact, to destroy Israel. In Gaza, residents are understandably pleased: "I hope there will be implementation on the ground for the issues agreed upon, because we are truly tired from the division and poverty", sighed resident Waed Mesameh.

What seems like a surrender to Fatah by Hamas is anything but; it is a rescue of Hamas by Fatah. Fatah regains command of Gaza alongside that of the West Bank as autonomous regions under Israeli control, a condition required to ensure that no massive attacks by Palestinians eager to blow up Israelis are committed through lack of Israeli vigilance. What Fatah and the world call the 'occupation' would never be in place were it not for the threats to Israel and its citizens emanating from the West Bank and Gaza.

How likely is it, however, that the crossings between Israel and the Palestinians will now fall into Palestinian Authority hands, given the ongoing pledge of Hamas, now realigned with Fatah, to continue its war against Israel? Hamas remains on the terrorist list of most of the West. Opening Gaza's borders would have a number of purposes; on the one  and, it would help relieve the isolation of Gazans, and offer them a more 'normalized' existence; on the other offer greater opportunities for Hamas to rebuild its military infrastructure after the last conflict with the IDF, and expand its deadly arsenal of weapons.

After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 in a schism with Fatah, the terrorist group 'appointed' 40,000 Gaza residents as employees to work in the ministries they set up in Gaza. This is a measure to ensure that at least that number of Gazans will be loyal to Hamas, and dependent on it for their livelihoods. When the 40,000 were appointed, the tens of thousands that Fatah had previously employed were put out of work. Now that Fatah will resume authority in Gaza, it plans to recall its Fatah employees, and the Gaza appointees will be out of luck.

Already a divergence of opinion has arisen with Gaza arguing that if the Fatah employees are returned to work, the Gaza employees should also be retained on the job. With Fatah retorting that it cannot afford to absorb them all as paid employees and its priorities are the deployment of its own employees, so the Gaza appointees will be out.of.luck, oh my. Dissension, already, before the ink is even dry...!

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sparse Employment, High Poverty

"Today, First Nations stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples everywhere to revitalize and restore our collective rights as peoples and to support one another in that goal."
"This is a day for all governments to recommit to work with us to fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration affirms Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and sets out minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being." "Implementing the UN Declaration will promote peace and help close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians. Canada has stated its unqualified support for the UN Declaration and, as we approach the 10th anniversary of its adoption by the UN General Assembly, it is time to work together to give life to the Declaration in Canada and around the world."
AFN [Assembly of First Nations] National Chief Perry Bellegarde. 

Last week, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde stated that a meeting is due between Indigenous, federal and provincial leaders to work on closing the economic gap among First Nations, to more closely resemble income levels of the wider Canadian population. This, when billions of dollars are earmarked and dispatched annually in support of First Nations aboriginal reserves. The AFN insists that First Nations tribes continue to live in reflection of their heritage, on often-remote areas of the country difficult to access.

Most people who chose to live away from urban centres on properties where services are absent are on their own; they must themselves provide potable water from wells for themselves, and access to medical care is fairly inconvenient, necessitating long drives to reach hospital and medical centres. Schooling for children can also be a problem, where children are bused to local schools in nearby towns taking hours of commuting time out of peoples' daily schedules. Those committed to living rurally and remote accept these conditions as those they've chosen.

The seasonal inaccessibility to many remotely-located reserves ensures that commodities and food ae expensive, and access to potable water often a problem, as is reaction to unstable or seasonal weather conditions leading to wildfires or to flooding conditions. On reserves, residents do not own their homes and as a result make no effort at upkeep. On reserves there is scant employment available other than what the band council doles out, usually to their own family members. This is not living traditionally, this is living in hazardous conditions where poverty is almost guaranteed.

Conditions are further exacerbated by the social conditions that prevail, with alcoholism and drug dependency common problems. As are poor parenting skills and interests in the welfare of children. Leading to a good degree of social dysfunction, made far worse by epidemics of suicide, particularly among children. Violence perpetrated by males against female members of tribal communities is common and frequent. And each time a reserve is faced with emergencies they seem incapable or unwilling or both to execute measures to meet those emergencies, instead calling upon government to solve those social ills.

Complaints are plentiful about unkempt homes requiring replacement because they've never been cared for, about a lack of psychological counselling and medical facilities close at hand, and the quality of the schools to which aboriginal youth are expected to attend until they reach higher grade levels and must go elsewhere to continue their educations. Health is impacted, both physical and mental, but persuading health and medical professionals to commit to living in hardship posts that remote communities represent is difficult.

Now Statistics Canada has released a report on income data retrieved from the 2016 census revealing that four of every five Aboriginal reserves report median incomes falling below the poverty line. A review of census figures for Indigenous communities reveal 81 percent of reserves had median incomes below the low-income measure, considered to be $22,133 for one person. Of the 367 reserves where data was available, 297 communities fell below the low-income measure, and 70 registered median incomes above the de facto poverty line.

Median total incomes below $10,000 were reported for 27 communities, registering at the lowest end. Oddly, women had marginally better incomes than their male counterparts with about 22 percent of female incomes on-reserve over the low-income measure, as opposed to about 19 percent for males. Indigenous peoples living on reserve reflect a significantly younger population than the general community in Canada reflecting a fertility rate exceeding non-Indigenous counterparts. The bad news is a shorter life expectancy and lower incomes.

A mere 26 of the 503 reserves on the Prairies had higher median household incomes where some reported household incomes of up to $70,336, reflecting employment, investments and government benefits, ranging from $13,168 in Manitoba to $114,381 in James Bay, Quebec.
Statistics Canada released another installment of census data Wednesday, this time with a focus on poverty and income. Still from Video

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Altered Timeline, Changed Story

"Our officers got there as fast as they possibly could and they did what they were trained to do."
Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo, Las Vegas Police Department

"This changes everything."
"There absolutely was an opportunity in that time frame that some of this could've been mitigated."
Joseph Giacalone, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

"I can tell  you I'm confident that he was not able to fully execute his heinous plan and it certainly had everything to do with being disrupted."
"I don't think the hotel dropped the ball."
Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, Las Vegas, Nevada
Alexandra Gurr cries Monday as she lays flowers at a makeshift memorial for victims of the Vegas mass shooting.
Alexandra Gurr cries Monday as she lays flowers at a makeshift memorial for victims of the Vegas mass shooting. (John Locher/Associated Press)

The psychopath that was loner, gambler, weapons aficionado and mystery man Stephen Paddock has a guaranteed place in American history as a notorious mass murderer. This is the man who occupied a suite in the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino and over the space of several days amassed a fascinating collection of deadly rifles and rounds of ammunition, as his very personal arsenal. With which he planned to shock the world, and did.

As the sheriff's department had it, he smashed several windows in his hotel suite, overlooking the site of a music festival to which an estimated 22,000 music fans had gathered, cramming themselves tightly into the park hosting the festival with others of like mind prepared to enjoy themselves in convivial surroundings, relaxing from the pressing cares of everyday life. Mostly young people, many with their children in strollers.

When suddenly a hail of live bullets began raining down on them, setting off a panic to escape death. People rushed everywhere in an effort to avoid becoming an unfortunate statistic, but 58 people failed in their efforts to survive the steady assault of fire, while another estimated 400 sustained wounds. The non-stop hail of bullets hitting their mark went on for ten minutes. Until police responded a few minutes after being alerted, clearing the floors of the hotel and finally reaching the 32nd floor where the hermit had stationed himself.

And there they found him, dead. A camera was mounted in the suite to record his historic punishment of people whose love of music exposed them to someone's deadly hatred as a supreme misanthrope. Another camera mounted in the hall, ostensibly to warn him on the approach of police. But he was dead, shot himself to death after delivering death to 58 people he didn't know and didn't care about. And that was that.

Except that it wasn't, really. The scenario as it played out, that is. Of course 58 innocent people were still dead, and another 400 or so wounded; that much was unchanged. The question is, however, had certain actions been taken, might the unfettered slaughter have taken place? It appears to have been revealed by Sheriff Joe Lombardo that the killer shot and wounded a hotel security guard, spraying hundreds of bullets six minutes before he targeted the crowd of music lovers below the hotel.

A door alarm had sounded on the 32nd floor, which brought the security guard and a maintenance man up there, outside the suite of the killer. Who had been out in the hall, drilling a wall perhaps to set up another security camera. He had been busy up there, drilling holes, bolting a metal bar so an emergency exit door close to his suite couldn't be opened. When the security guard and maintenance man came upon this busy man they experienced what it felt like to have over 1,000 shots fired at them.

The guard was wounded, and when the police eventually stormed the floor, he was the first to be encountered.

Now the question is: did anyone dial 911 immediately to alert police of the situation? And if that had been done, might the slaughter that followed have been averted, or at the very least, interrupted sufficiently so as to save at least a few lives? Of course the question really is, why did the police initially render a timeline of events so at odds with what they must have known really occurred?

Sheriff Lombardo had, after all, spoken of the guard, Jesus Campos as a "hero", that when he arrived in the hallway, the killer had halted in his firing, when the truth is the firing on the crowd below commenced only after the encounter in the hall. The sheriff admitted that he had no idea what caused Paddock to stop firing and then to take his own life, when it seemed clear that he meant to make himself scarce after completing his planned rampage.

Questions, such nuisance, irritating, inconvenient questions!

Las Vegas Shooting
The Las Vegas Strip is pictured on Sunday, a week after the shooting, shortly before some of the casinos dimmed their marquee signs for about 10 minutes to pay tribute to the victims. (Steve Marcus/Associated Press)

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Inevitable, Dread Wildfires in California

"We live in the valley, where it's concrete and strip malls and hotels and supermarkets."
"The last thing you think is a forest fire is going to come and wipe us out."
Jeff Okrepkie, Sonoma, California

"Though our containment numbers haven’t gone up just yet, we’ve at least been able to hold these fires and keep them at their current acreage."
"Overnight, the wind that had fanned these fires had really decreased, and that gave us an opportunity to really take a stand against these fires."
"We are again today [Tuesday] hoping to see very little wind compared to Sunday."
"Many of these fires, it’s going to take several more days, even potentially more weeks, before we have full containment."
Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant

Eighty km/h winds drove flames in blazes that began to fire up the California landscape on Sunday, "at explosive rates" according to Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Over a 200-mile region north of San Francisco, from Napa to Redding in the north, no fewer than fourteen large wildfires burned through the landscape, leading Governor Brown to declare a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

If it's October it's wildfire time in California. These fires were so ferocious that authorities had little option but to focus on safely removing people from the affected areas, abandoning their homes to the fire in an area covering over 160 square kilometres, and eight counties. At least seventeen people are now confirmed dead as a result of those wildfires and 1,500 homes burned, destroyed, while high-end resorts, grocery stores and tree-lined neighbourhoods suddenly became incendiary danger zones.

Peters Canyon Regional Park
Smoldering Peters Canyon Regional Park in Orange.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California is no stranger to wildfires. Already, at this stage in the battle against the fires, authorities are declaring the current crop the worst such that the state has ever experienced. Miles along main gateways into wine country there is an eerie resemblance to a nightmarish blackened inferno with thick smoke rolling from one structure to another, and encompassing some of the famed wineries of the state.

In Santa Rosa, the largest city in the fire area in Sonoma County, the population base is about 175,000. Hotels have burned to the ground, along with homes and grocery stores and any other structures with the misfortune to be in the fire's path, fed by heat and high winds. Businesses and homes alike lighting into blazes shutting down schools, forcing hundreds of patients to evacuate two city hospitals.

At a state home for the severely disabled, emergency workers dashed from their vehicles to take part in the evacuation of residents when flames began licking the side of the sprawling campus in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County. As flames closed within close proximity, the emergency crews succeeded in evacuating hundreds. "It was like Armageddon was on. Every branch of every tree was on fire", Mike Turpen of Glen Ellen described the situation.
Image: The remains of the fire damaged Signarello Estate winery
The remains of the fire damaged Signarello Estate winery after a wildfire moved through the area in Napa, California, on Oct. 9, 2017. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

"It may take weeks to determine the spark that touched off each of the firestorms that consumed hunks of more than a dozen California communities this week."
"But the consensus in the scientific community is that the conditions that cleared a path for the tsunami of flame were made by humans. Decades of aggressive firefighting left too much fuel on the ground. And more than a century of carbon emissions exacerbated the state’s drought and the record high temperatures that baked brush and timber to an explosive dryness."
NBC News

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Cuban Medical Slavery

"When you leave Cuba for the first time, you discover many things that you had been blind to. There comes a time when you get tired of being a slave."
"You are trained in Cuba and our education is free, health care is free, but at what price? You wind up paying for it your whole life."
Yaili Jimenez Gutierrez, 34, Cuban doctor, Minas Gerais State Brazil

"The end of the program [by the U.S. to welcome Cuban doctors] was a huge blow to us. That was our way out."
"It was a pretty acceptable offer [to leave Cuba for  Brazil, finance-wise, initially] compared to what we made in Cuba."
"We began to see that the conditions for the other doctors were totally different. They could be with their family, bring their kids. The salaries were much higher." 
"It's sad to leave your family and friends and your homeland. But here we're in a country where you're free, where no one asks you where you're going, or tells you what you have to do."
"In Cuba, your life is dictated by the government."
Maireilys Alvarez Rodriguez, Santa Rita, Maranhao, Brazil
Part of the over 7,000 Cuban doctors working in Brazil. Photo: Juvenal Balán/granma

Cash-strapped Cuba has garnered an enviable reputation as a country that trains more doctors than it could possibly have use for within the country itself. And the purpose of all those redundant medical professionals is to farm them out to other countries in need of what Cuba has an excess of. Contracts are signed between the host country and the services-providing country and young doctors are persuaded to further their life-saving careers abroad where they gain experience, are honoured, and in the process do a great service to their country of origin.

Cuba receives $3,620 monthly for each doctor they send to Brazil. At the present time, 18,600 Cuban doctors work in Brazil, out of the 18,000 doctors from Cuba who have completed their contract time in the country. Great satisfaction is felt that this program, according to the United Nations, has significantly lowered the infant mortality rate in Brazil, while extending care to indigenous communities served by the presence of these Cuban doctors.

When Dr. Alvarez was first recommended to go abroad by the Cuban government the offer was a stipend that appealed to her and to her husband, Arnulfo Castanet Batista, another doctor. They would have to leave their two children in the care of relatives after signing up, but each would earn 2,900 Brazilian reals monthly, to the value of $1,400 compared to $30 monthly they would earn in Cuba, although that original $1,400 is now worth $908.

"There is no injustice", Brazil's health minister Ricardo Barros stated. "When they signed up, they agreed to the terms." He speaks here of lawsuits launched in Brazil by a number of Cuban doctors. A year ago a Cuban doctor had a  conversation with a clergyman in a remote village. Arriving at the conclusion of her three-year medical assignment, Anis Deli Grana de Carvalho having married a Brazilian man wanted to remain in Brazil. When the pastor learned what the government pays Cuba and what the doctor received, he introduced her to a lawyer. She sued. Other doctors followed.

Brazilian lawyer Andre de Santana Correa analyzed the contracts coming to the conclusion they were not compliant with the equality provisions in Brazil's Constitution. Justices issued temporary injunctions but a federal judge ruled that allowing Cuban doctors to walk away from their contracts represented "undue risks in the political and diplomatic spheres". The Cuban doctors were immediately fired, each invited to fly back to Cuba within 24 hours, or face an eight-year exile.

Dr. Alvarez and her husband had the good fortune to keep their jobs and be granted a large pay raise, enabling them to bring their children to Brazil. But Dr. Jimenez has been unable to find work since she was fired and now she is barred from Cuba for an eight-year period. Mr. Barros, Brazil's health minister feels the Cuban doctors were not poorly compensated; their salaries equal to what Brazilian doctors earn during residencies.

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