Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Confronting the Misogynist Dragon

"My hands were trembling. I was anxious and feeling powerful at the same time. And proud, I felt proud."
"I took my scarf off because I'm tired of our government telling me what to do with my body."
28-year-old Iranian activist

"These protests are done by instigators, saboteurs and vandalists and anarchists."
"Recently, our enemies were communists and liberals, now Americans are provoking masochists against us."
Kazem Anbarlooie, editor-in-chief Resalat
Unexpected support: A woman wearing the chador is seen holding out a scarf in front of her in solidarity with women protesting the compulsory headscarf
Unexpected support: A woman wearing the chador is seen holding out a scarf in front of her in solidarity with women protesting the compulsory headscarf

The Islamic Republic of Iran ideologically requires that Iranian women wear a hijab, a scarf covering their hair. Iranian men, viewing women's hair, much less any exposed body parts not covered by a traditional chador are susceptible to raging hormones that incite in them lustful reactions harmful to the decorum of Islamist society. It is therefore the responsibility of women to ensure that nothing about them leaves the impression in some vulnerable man's mind that she is of loose character and available to his overtures.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranian women have transited from appearing in their dress and behaviour like any other 20th-century woman, independent and self-assured, wearing clothing of their choice, to meek and obedient religion-inspired chador-clad women conscious of their duty to their ideologized fascist society to keep the peace by imprisoning themselves within dark fabrics and comporting themselves in a manner complicit with the instructions of the ruling ayatollahs. 
When the widespread protests began appearing in cities all over Iran late last year, with people in their thousands taking to the streets demanding accountability of the billions that the Republic was spending on the support of foreign terrorist groups, ignoring the upkeep of their own infrastructure, putting people back to work, ensuring sufficient food, heating and water supplies were available, the tenor of the protests became increasingly vocal and bold.
In no small part due to the leadership and activism of Iran's women who on social media platforms urged their male counterparts to be more overtly courageous and lend themselves to the popular sentiments being expressed by the protests demanding an end to the rule of theocracy and an introduction to democratic means of governing the population. That persecution and poverty must come to an end, and women's equality must be recognized as a  basic human right.
An Iranian woman poses without her headscarfMovement: This woman stood on the same pillar box as Ms Movahed, on Enghelab Street in Tehran, Iran

The hijab was seen rightfully as a symbol of the oppression of women by the regime, placing them as appendages of male control in the societal order that was blueprinted by the Iranian Revolution. The mass protests may have diminished once the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei dispatched the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to bring 'order' back to the streets and disband the leaders of the protests through arrests and detentions, but the women have renewed their courageous resistance.
The original headscarf removal during the riotous days of the protests in full sway brought retribution to the young woman who so distinguished herself by being arrested and incarcerated and kept incommunicado for weeks. She has recently been released, although she has not been in contact with anyone and it isn't clear where she now is. But other Iranian women now mount utility boxes in the squares of Tehran to gain visibility as they remove their hijabs and display them on sticks.
These women are applauded by many others, from taxi drivers to older women, all wanting photographs of her and her actions. Six such events have now taken place, according to social media accounts with that notable symbolic gesture taking place; off with the headscarves, onto a stick to be waved about in the jubilation of release. One of those women was arrested, according to a shopkeeper who witnessed her arrest.
And while the protests are still in their early days of women discarding their hijabs and freeing their provocative hair and their souls, it is entirely possible that a new wave of dissent is on the brink of disconcerting the ruling ayatollahs. It seems that an exiled Iranian journalist's campaign to reach Iranian women on Persian-language satellite television and social media to convince them to discard their hijabs and restore dignity to themselves, is involved in the process.
Living in the U.S. now, Masih Alinejad launched her White Wednesday campaign, where women post images showing them removing their headscarves and insisting on an end to the headscarf law. A law reflected as a pillar of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It may very well be a rising tide of female objections to their role as handmaidens to male chauvinist social/religious dysfunction that may ultimately begin another revolution to cast asunder the old one.
The original: Vida Movahed, 31, was arrested after taking off her hijab in public and standing on a telecoms box in Tehran in December - inspiring others to do the same  
The original: Vida Movahed, 31, was arrested after taking off her hijab in public and standing on a telecoms box in Tehran in December - inspiring others to do the same

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Zimbabwe, Formerly an African Breadbasket

"He [police commander] said that mother and daughter Grace Mugabe wanted this place. So you better move away"
"They left us out in the open [after destroying their homes]. We felt betrayed."
"Even if they come back [the white European/Zimbabwean farmers] , that's fine as long as they give us another place."
"We won't deny them. What we need is only some land where we can survive -- and title to the land."
Denboy Chaparadza, Mazowe village leader, Zimbabwe

"Repossessing our land cannot be challenged or reversed."
"[But I am] committed to compensating those farmers from whom land was taken."
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Farmer Darryn Smart, centre, and his family are welcomed back to their farm, Lesbury, by workers and community members Thursday  in Tandi, Zimbabwe.Smart’s return, facilitated by Mnangagwa’s government, could mark a new turn in the politics of land ownership.
Farmer Darryn Smart, centre, and his family are welcomed back to their farm, Lesbury, by workers and community members Thursday in Tandi, Zimbabwe.Smart’s return, facilitated by Mnangagwa’s government, could mark a new turn in the politics of land ownership.  (Farai Mutsaka / The Associated Press

When he was Robert Mugabe's heavy enforcer, Emmerson Mnangagwa's violence in forcefully denying white farmers' titled ownership of large, productive farms that gave Zimbabwe its agricultural reputation with ample food to feed the population and more yet to send abroad whose sale brought great profit to the government, ensured the ruination of the nation's food supply. The confiscated land was then transferred to the ownership of Mugabe loyalists, recognized as those who fought for independence.

The Zimbabweans who had worked for generations for the white farmers, earning a living and proudly considering themselves well-remunerated and -respected farm workers were put out to pasture, while the new owners moved in, and while some made an effort to replace the work of the ousted farmers, others were content merely to be land owners, allowing the land to lie fallow, nothing but weeds thriving on the land abandoned to nature.

Mugabe's infamous land confiscation program led to a breakdown of the economy, high unemployment, soaring inflation and debt, a worthless currency, and hunger. The village leader and farm owner quoted above was describing the villagers of Hazowe's experience when hundreds of police exited their vehicles to issue an order that they vacate the village and their farms. Grace Mugabe wanted their land, for which they had no legal title. The Mugabes in fact, owned about 40 percent of all the confiscated farmland.

Refusing to leave, though their homes were destroyed, they experienced police harassment, threats and violence. The 146 families who were being violently coerced to leave Mazowe had themselves seized the land in 2000 from a white farmer under the land reform program. Still called Arnolds Farm, the 1,260 hectares of prime farmland and cattle ranching beside a lake had become home to those families. All of the country's richest most arable land was in the possession of a few thousand white settlers at a time when the country was called Rhodesia and white settlers ruled the country.

With Robert Mugabe finally persuaded to step down after 37 years as president, the latter decades completely ruinous to the fortunes of the country and its people, the government is attuned to the need to compensate the white farmers whose properties were seized, as a way of demonstrating to potential investors that theirs is a country of law and order where their investments will be safe for Western nations and international lenders to return.

Zimbabwe's economy is in dire need of Western assistance to revive itself. Almost all the Zimbabweans benefiting from the land policy by taking possession of farms the white farmers were violently removed from, were given no registered titles to the land they seized, although the government encouraged them to take the land. Government officials began mapping the 6,000 farms sized from the late 1990s under the fast-track program, to enable the country to qualify for international credit.

The raids in Mazowe no longer continue with the ouster of Robert Mugabe. Unlike the efficient and professional farming techniques that had rendered the land so productive, those families occupying the village practised a traditional type of subsistence farming. The tools and machines owned by the prosperous white farmers were not at their disposal; they were reduced to farming by hand. Which leaves the glaring question: since everything owned by the white farmers was taken from them in complete dispossession, what happened to that machinery?

It would have made sense for it to have been left on the farm for the use of the families that took possession of the farm to continue the agricultural purpose of the land. Corruption was so rife that while the farmers were given no compensation for the sacking of their property and its mechanical farming tools, even while the government invited black Zimbabweans to take the land, they likely took everything considered to be of any value to be given to those in power.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, January 29, 2018

Networking With Death in Kabul

"This murderous attack renews our resolve and that [of] our Afghan partners."
"The Taliban's cruelty will not prevail. The United States is committed to a secure Afghanistan that is free from terrorists who would target Americans, our allies, and anyone who does not share their wicked ideology."
"Now, all countries should take decisive action against the Taliban and the terrorist infrastructure that supports them."
U.S. President Donald Trump
"[The attack was] nothing short of an atrocity [targeting a civilian area]."
"While the Taliban claim suggested the purpose of the attack was to target police, a massive vehicle bomb in a densely populated area could not reasonably be expected to leave civilians unharmed."                                Tadamichi Yamamoto, head, UN mission in Afghanistan
A wounded woman is assisted at the site of the attack Saturday in Kabul.
A wounded woman is assisted at the site of the attack Saturday in Kabul.   CNN
"[The attacks do] not impact our commitment to Afghanistan, our commitment to the mission and seeing this through and our commitment about making sure that the Afghan national security forces have what they need to deal with this particular enemy,"
"As horrible as this is, to me, it strengthens our resolve to help them move forward."
Gen. Joseph Votel, head, U.S. Central Command
The Taliban are becoming more ambitious, week after week. Success makes them more avaricious in harvesting humans and delivering them to Death. One week ago, a thirteen-hour standoff with Afghan security forces at Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, this week another well-coordinated attack, this one taking a page out of a Hamas book, with the use of two ambulances to convey suicide bombers to their well-chosen place of attack, yet another secure and secured area where no such attacks should take place in a world of reasonable and reliable security. 

How clever is that, how without conscience and utterly depraved, to use a vehicle meant to transport the wounded, recognized by international agencies as inviolable to the pathology of perversion? To receive immediate clearance by explaining an ambulance is taking a wounded person to hospital, gaining entry past the first checkpoint, and at the second checkpoint those tasked to safeguard the premises instantly recognizing the ruse, paying for it with their lives when the suicide vest was activated.
A massive concussion that took the lives of another 103 human beings in a succession of barbaric attacks where the greater the number of casualties the more satisfaction ensues on the part of the psychopaths whose agenda is fully engorged with their mission to slaughter those who oppose their goal of once again controlling Afghanistan to impose their very special brand of fundamentalist Sharia on the entire country, controlled by ignorant, brutal mullahs whose dedication to Islamism is not without its own brand of corruption.
Among the total of 235 people who were wounded in the attack, were 30 police officers whom the Taliban claimed represented the focus of their attack. So to succeed in their mission, the violence injuring or killing another 300 people who just happened inconveniently to be in the way. Last week 22 people died at the international hotel, this week 103 deaths, garnering much satisfaction in a job well accomplished for those who consider themselves warriors of Islam, and scholars of impeccable wisdom, reflecting Koranic values.
Between them, the Taliban and ISIL, comprised largely of former Taliban figures for whom ISIL's appeal as a more monstrously vicious killing machine represented the greater attraction, are making one huge, unpredictable graveyard out of a country whose history accustomed it to conflict, destruction and death, unable to free itself from the deadly, never-ending cycle. 
Security forces inspect the site of Saturday's attack in the center of the Afghan capital.
Security forces inspect the site of Saturday's attack in the center of the Afghan capital.  CNN

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Profession Under Siege

"This was an attempt to take me away and turn me into a silent statistic. My worry is that the next time they come for me, it could end up in something much worse."  
"The car suddenly stopped right in front of me... and it just braked in the middle of the road."
"Four guys came out - they were all armed, they had AK-47s. One of them had a pistol."
"I realized I was being abducted... and I started resisting. I started screaming and shouting and saying 'let me go, let me go'. They were saying 'shoot him if he resists' - in English - and then they said 'shoot him in his leg'."
Taha Siddiqi, bureau chief, Indian television channel WION

"It is public knowledge that the military establishment is annoyed with Taha's Twitter activity."
"What has happened is worrisome but not surprising."
Ibal Khattack, Pakistan representative for Reporters Sans Frontieres
Taha Siddiqui
An award-winning journalist known for his critical reporting of Pakistan’s powerful military has said he narrowly avoided abduction after his taxi was stopped by armed men.  CNN
The 2014 winner of the Albert Londres Prix award, equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize, but a French award -- Taha Siddiqui -- has written articles for a number of international publications, including The New York Times. He is also, as it happens, hugely unpopular with the Pakistani military establishment. And that would be as a result of his frequent criticism of the powerful entity.

When he was recently stopped on January 10 by a dozen armed men in plain clothing at the airport and dragged from the cab he had taken to the airport, he was battered by them and threatened with death. While the cab driver was ordered to vacate his vehicle, Mr. Siddiqui was ordered back into it, but managed, miraculously, to leap away and into another cab whose driver took him a mere hundred meters and asked him to leave.

Meanwhile his attackers took Mr. Siddiqui's tools of the trade, his laptop, data drives, phone, passport and luggage. His major tool, Mr. Siddiqui managed to take with him to freedom as he escaped their clutches, and that was clearly his brain. Bolstered by his uncorrupted sense of justice and dedication to writing truth and reality so all would know.

Journalists and those who exhibit the reckless effrontery of criticizing he Pakistani military have for years been exposed to a game where they are viewed and then treated as the ducks during hunting season. Extrajudicial killings, torture, intimidation, disappearances, all play a vital part in the military's determination to erase the potential for public disclosure of their corrupt affairs.

The Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence, (ISI, spy agency) stands accused by human rights investigators of responsibility for those threats and attacks against journalists. The ISI is known to have supported both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and it has been well-infiltrated by Islamist jihadis.

According to Syed Mustafa Tanveer, the police superintendent of Islamabad, the incident of the attempted abduction of Mr. Siddiqui is under investigation. One unofficial military spokesman speaking anonymously, scoffed at the very notion that anyone could, as Mr. Siddiqui claimed he did, escape an attack by security agents.

Mr. Siddiqui described the siutation that once he reached a police station he asked the investigating officer to inform him as soon as anyone was arrested. "When I said that, he just looked right at me and laughed out loud. Right to my face", said Mr. Siddiqui.

Pakistani journalists and civil society activists demonstrate in Karachi (28 October 2017)

Getty Images    Press freedom and access to justice in Pakistan are both in danger, campaigners say

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Much Ado: Cinematic Verity and Violence

"We behave rather strangely for a country acclaimed as the world's largest democracy."
"In a country beset with such serious problems as a slowing economy, crumbling infrastructure, suffocating pollution, ailing health care and a pathetic education system, the national conversation is dominated by a mythical character."
Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief, India Today, India

"Karni Sena [the hardline Rajput group leading the protests] was unknown outside Rajasthan so far."
"In 2010 when they vandalized theatres in Rajasthan over a less high-profile film, they barely received attention."
"By now strategically going after a highly anticipated film like Padmaavat, they have gained national visibility."
Anna MM Vetticad, Indian film critic and author
Tribal and ultra-religious people living in the Indian sub-continent can be passionately violent, their outrage over perceived disrespect to cultural traditions and religious precepts, let alone popular myths that become as fixating as ideological commitments of strictured fundamentalism, can cause riots that do little to reflect well on those lending themselves to the kind of mass hysteria that can roil society on occasion. In this, at least, they rival the tendency leading fundamentalist Muslims to mount raging mobs of hateful violence, concerned that their Prophet or religion are being mocked by the kuffars, Infidels and Jews.

Extremist Hindu groups have taken to whipping their faithful into a frenzy of outrage over a recently produced Bollywood film portraying a dramatized version of a legendary 14th Century Hindu queen who is popularly believed to have committed suicide rather than surrender to the amatory advances of a Muslim grandee consumed with carnal desire for her supposedly unmatched beauty. The Hindu queen, Padmavati, is considered a saint by many who believe the legend to be fact and who now are enraged that Bollywood has trivialized her memory.

Indian riot police have been mobilized in various areas of India to put down violent protests where movie theatres have been vandalized, vehicles burned, a school bus pelted with stones. The school bus, carrying children and their teachers drove into a near-riot. A video clip of terrified and weeping children crouching on the floor of the bus while windows were being smashed by rocks flung by a screeching horde outside, portrayed an image of a world gone mad. That same mob had earlier torched a state transport bus after the passengers had disembarked.

The Rajput community of Rajasthan, in reverence of the legendary Queen Padmavati whom historians doubt ever existed, has been the source of the opposition to the film and the savage temper of the crowds that has resulted from their incitement to react. In the film, the queen is shown as "flirting" with a sultan, though she is the wife of the king of the Rajputs. According to its critics, the film is not "historically accurate", which is a bit of a stretch since there is no historical evidence to support the contention that this deity-like personage ever even existed.

"Rajputs [the ethnic tribe depicted in the controversial film] can never even think of attacking a school bus. This is a plot being created by politicians, who wish to weaken our peaceful protest", Vijendra Singh, a spokesman for the group attested. While in its filming stages death threats were sent to the cast and director of the film. Some state governments refused to allow the film to be screened, though the Indian supreme court ruled this to be an illegal move.

Indian security personnel stand guard during the screening of Padmaavat at a cinema hall in New Delhi.

The fact that few people have yet seen the film, perplexes Indian intellectuals, given that fact and the widely reported violence that has accompanied its release; it is hearsay and that alone that motivates the mob violence. And though the leader of the Muslim invasion the film depicts, Alauddin Khilji,  did exist as well as the Hindu king Ratnasimha, there are no historical sources to be found giving mention of Queen Padmavati. "We are living in strange times", commented Manish Tewari, an official of the nation's leading opposition party.

The film was believed to have cost around $30 million in its production. Whether that investment will be recouped is now in doubt since many cinema owners refuse to allow the film to be shown in their premises for fear of their own safety, much less that of their theatres. The reputation of the warrior tradition of the Rajput caste established in Gujarat and Rajasthan states places fear in the hearts of those who know they will become a target for violence should they be foolhardy enough to invite the film into their premises.

Albeit in sane minds this is much ado about nothing, in India this is a serious matter. Or one of delicious absurdity. Given the fact that a group of 300 women has threatened mass suicide should the film be shown anywhere. They await a response from the government before embarking on making good on their threat. A Bharatiya Janata Party official (state level) offered a bounty to anyone who would defend the honour of Queen Padmavati by beheading the lead actress and the director of the film.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Entitlements of the Estimable Elite

Madison Marriage FT undercover video
Marriage describes the evening in a video recorded immediately after the event. Financial Times
"[The job requirements as  hostesses required] tall, thin and pretty [young women]."
"[Hiring indoctrination included the advice to wear] BLACK sexy shoes, black underwear, short tight black dresses [and a] thick black belt resembling a corset."
"[The women were informed the men might be] annoying. You just have to put up with the annoying men and if you can do that it's fine." 
"According to the accounts of multiple women working that night, groping and similar abuse was seen across many of the tables in the room."
"Outside the women's toilets a monitoring system was in place; women who spent too long were called out and led back to the ballroom." 
"[One unnamed ] society figure [grabbed a hostess] by the waist, pulled her in against his stomach and declared 'I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers and dance on that table'."
Expose, Financial Times
"With the dinner properly underway, the hostess brief was simple: keep this mix of British and foreign businessmen, the odd lord, politicians, oligarchs, property tycoons, film producers, financiers and chief executives happy -- and fetch drinks when required."
"A number of men stood with the hostesses while waiting for smoked salmon starters to arrive. Others remained seated and yet insisted on holding the hands of their hostesses . . . a prelude to pulling the women into their laps."
"I was propositioned and groped and received some very lewd comments."
"I genuinely felt incredibly sad and upset by what I had seen, the fact that the upper echelons of our society are operating this way in 2018."
Madison Marriage, reporter, Financial Times
Financial Times
 Burlesque dancers were on the stage wearing "star-shaped stickers" over their nipples. A 70-year-old guest asked a 19-year-old hostess if "she was a prostitute". A scene of "braying men" fondling one hostesses' bottom, stomach and legs was described, while another guest "lunged at her to kiss her". This was The Presidents Club Charitable Trust, a yearly event ostensibly to raise funds for "worthy children's causes", that took place a week ago at the exclusive Dorchester Hotel in London.

Those in attendance represented the British elite from business, finance, fashion, entertainment and political establishments in the British capital, a "men only" event of 360 notables in attendance catered to by 130 hostesses hired for that purpose. Madison Marriage, a journalist with the Financial Times and another women who worked with her at the event applied for places as hostesses and were  hired. It was their experience, what they saw and heard and took part in that formed the basis for an expose published in the Times.

That publication resulted in quite an upheaval with the charity announcing it was dissolving, and planning to distribute the funds raised to needy causes; which is to say any causes that would be willing to overlook the foul odour associated with those funds. The event's chairman himself stepped down from his post as nonexecutive director of Britain's Department for Education. Strangely, the male attendees were anxious to distance themselves from the event and the outrage that followed those revelations.
The Dorchester stock photo 2013 flickr
A photograph showing the outside of The Dorchester hotel in London, where the event took place. This photograph was taken on a different night. Flickr/Spanish Coches

The evening began with the Master of Ceremonies welcoming the male attendees "to the most un-PC event of the year". And so it was, indeed. Men, according to the hostesses recounting their experience, repeatedly placed hands up the women's skirts, one even exposing himself to a hostess. Those hostesses who had the fortitude to carry on without enthusiasm were pushed to interact more robustly with the guests by "an enforcement team".

For their tolerant work ethic the hostesses, many students, actresses among them, dancers and models hoping to earn a little additional cash were paid about $211 for the evening's work under intolerable circumstances. An evening of fun and games with patrician elite members of polite society among whom mingled the 19 to 23-year-olds whose presence was hired to amuse these upstanding, prominent, wealthy leaders of British arts and letters, industry, salons, aristocrats and politicians.

The undersecretary of state for children and families, Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, claimed he had departed from the event at an early evening hour, so of course he was witness to nothing awry, much less lending himself to the general ribald proceedings. According to the Presidents Club statement, organizers were "appalled for the allegations of bad behaviour asserted by the Financial Times reporters". So the reports of misbehaviour were merely 'asserted', but if they had taken place, the club's members were 'appalled'.

Needless to say none of the honourable gentlemen had any idea of what was transpiring, much less had a hand in the disgrace.

Presidents Club Dinner
Still frame from video inside Presidents Club Dinner: Business Insider

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Re-Educating Enemies of the State

"Before even being tried by legal authorities, [women] are taken to a place called ‘Gasht-e Ershad’ [Guidance Patrol], where they can be harshly beaten up."
"Whether a case is opened for them or not is not important. The illegal punishment they have had to bear has always been much more than what is foreseen in the law."
Nasrin Sotudeh, Lawyer and human rights activist, Islamic Republic of Iran  
Girl of Enghelab Street
"He was neither an outlaw, nor dangerous, nor rebellious, he didn't deserve this. I have no doubt."
"This kid was neither political nor a protester, nor a rebel, nor an outlaw, he had simple but big wishes for himself, like making his mother happy!"
"Why should he be killed?"
Bahare Rahnama, Iranian actress, Twitter
Vida Movahed, known a the "girl of Enghelab Street", arrested for removing her headscarf and triumphantly waving it about became an international symbol, an icon of the protests that swept Iran. She swirled her hijab in the air signifying freedom, protesting Iran's compulsory hijab law. She has been arrested for the second time. The first time was when the regime had made an announcement that it was prepared to relax the punishment women in Iran could expect for failing to adhere to strict Islamic dress code, on December 27.

According to police, women who wear cosmetics and loosen their headscarfs will be taken into custody where they will be retrained as it were, exposed to "Islamic values" classes in a kindly, paternalistic gesture, to re-orient them in what Islamic values and the culture of obedience really mean. She was considered to have been taken into custody; perhaps abducted officially is just as reliable a descriptive, but no one has any idea where she is, there is no information available and her whereabouts represent a mystery.
Vida Movahed, 31, is the mother of an infant; her current whereabouts unknown.
There is no mystery about what has happened to other young Iranian 'deviants' whose defiance has angered the theocratic regime, fuming in rage over the impudence of the thousands of Iranians who, day after day, risked their safety to confront the Ayatollahs with their anger over the scarcity of basic foods and consumer goods during a time of enforced consumer restraint that coincides with ample funding for terrorist groups and Islamist Shiite thuggery in Syria and Yemen.

The protest marches brought out thousands of enraged Iranians who see little value in their government and its strictures upon the population, much less its focus on funding terrorism. They chanted the downfall of the government in a stinging condemnation of the Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the country's 'moderate' President Hassan Rouhani. After weeks of spontaneous protests and marches throughout the nation's towns and cities, the Presidential Republican Guard corps was called out to replace security police in quelling the protests which at times turned into riots.
Students protest at the University of Tehran on December 30.

An estimated 4,000 Iranians were detained and arrested while 25 people died during the protests, and there were several deaths among those who were incarcerated; sometimes torture does lead to death, a well known reality in Iran. The official line is that three young men among the over two dozens simply died while in prison; of unknown causes, presumably. A young woman who was tortured and died was returned to her family for burial with a denial of any responsibility for her death. Iranians are now insisting on investigations taking place into prison deaths.

"This news of so-called suicides is making people angry; they demand answers", Farshad Ghorbanpour, an analyst with ties to the government declared. Top Iranian judicial authorities seem uncertain how to address the demands of the mainstream public in Iranian society repudiating the government narrative. In this nation of 80 million souls, retribution can be the reward for such behavior. Hundreds of the detained have now been released, but the public insists on knowing the truth of the prison 'suicides'.

Those who died in detention, according to national prosecutor Gholant Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, had "committed suicide". It should be taken on trust in his honour that "none of the bullets" found in those who were killed matched the kind in use by police officers and the military in Iran. Friday Prayer leader Kazen Sadighi, rebuked the protests, naming protesters as "garbage". Authorities lifted their ban on the app Telegram used by half the population for phone messaging on January 13 after Iran's National Security Council suppressed its use in an effort to put a halt to news about the protests.

As soon as the app was once again available it became the conduit for accounts of the prison deaths and skepticism became rampant in the population. In Arak in central Iran, Vahid Heidari, a street peddler was arrested for possession of drugs, the charge judicial authorities brought to bear against him. Abbas Qassei, city prosecutor claimed that video footage showed the man stabbing himself with a knife. The video was not released, and no explanation ensued as to how Mr. Heidari obtained a knife in his prison cell.

In dreaded Evin Prison, Sina Ghanbari, a 23-year-old student, hanged himself in a bathroom on January 6, according to judicial authorities. Another man, Saru Ghahremani, an Iranian Kurd of 24, was arrested at the protest. Mohammad Ebrahim Zarei, governor of Sanandaj identified Ghahremani as an associate of a "terror group" who was, unfortunately, killed in a clash with law enforcement agents, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

It was that explanation that brought Iranian actress Bahare Rahnama to tweet her disbelief. The governor's office then asked her "not to spread false rumours", and she deleted her tweets taking exception to the prosecutor's explanation of the "terrorist" Saru Ghahremani's unfortunate death.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Human Intervention in Nature's Design

"We know from past volcanic eruptions -- the last big one was Mount Pinatubo in 1991 -- that it will create a cloud of sulphuric acid droplets in the stratosphere, where there's no rain to wash it out. It will last for a couple of years and it will reflect sunlight."
"We know that this can cause climate change, so the idea is to emulate that."
Alan Robock, meteorologist, distinguished professor of climate science, Rutgers University

"[To date the geoengineering proposal risks to biodiversity have been] almost completely unexplored."
"Interstate conflict could cause geoengineering to fail, and unintended negative consequences or regionally severe climate events such as extreme droughts could force rapid termination, even if direct attribution of these events to geoengineering could not be demonstrated."
"Extreme climate velocities from geoengineering termination thus represent a potentially acute threat to species survival in the most biodiverse region on Earth."
New scientific paper
“People become more concerned about doing something about global warming when they find out that scientists are considering doing this.”    Stuart Broce/NASA

Climate change mitigation is on the minds of environmentalists to the extent that a strategy has been hypothetically developed that would block the warming effects of the sun, serving to cool down the temperature of the Earth to a purportedly controlled degree, turning back the threatened effects of global warming. One of the leading strategies to challenge impending climate change is to spray gases high into the atmosphere to have them reflect sunlight back toward space; a method known as geoengineering, described in a new scientific paper.

Solar geoengineering would have the effect of countering rising temperatures when reflective aerosols serve to impede sunlight reaching the Earth. What this new paper points out is the proposal's effectiveness can cause surface temperatures on the planet to drop to a dramatic degree and precipitously, as though global warming was occurring in reverse. Should such a scenario arise, it would conceivably come with dire existential effects on the planet's plants and animals.

Custom designed high-altitude jets would be used to spray sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, above most clouds, to mimic the meteorological effects of a major volcanic eruption, some of which have been so violently catastrophic they have through history been followed by long periods of global cooling. After the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, for example, Canada was seen to be roughly three degrees colder than would be normal in the summer and it was found that ice remained in Hudson Bay for an additional month or so.

Professor Robock's and colleagues' paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution pointed out risks and benefits of geoengineering, qualified as large scale projects whose purpose is designed to halt, slow or reverse climate change. The model of a major project spraying sulphur dioxide for 50 years and abruptly putting a halt to the program gave researchers cause to highlight the most unpredictable and possibly harmful element in such plans for ameliorating climate change: geopolitical leaders' propensity to change their minds.

A fairly major point is that spraying sulphur dioxide has the effect of producing acid rain and acid snow adding to what humans already place into the lower atmosphere by burning coal and oil. "Locally it can be quite polluting but globally it's not that much", added Professor Robock. The real problem, the paper emphasized, is with political leaders where the paper speculated a  geoengineering scheme might disintegrate for a mass of reasons, from drought to war.

A controlled experiment on Earth's climate could, in effect, become shuttered abruptly leaving an increase in what is known as climate velocities; the speeds at which an animal or plant would be forced to migrate to enable it to remain in their optimum climatic comfort zone. And while some animals would simply trek, fly or swim as climate becomes altered, to ensure they reach a geography where the same average temperatures prevail through moving up in either altitude or latitude, other affected animals are unable to.

The paper points out that inhabitants of tundra, boreal forests and temperate grasslands would be the species most likely to be seriously adversely affected.

Sulfurous emissions from volcano eruptions, like Calbuco in Chile, temporarily cool the climate, and were the inspiration for some geoengineering techniques.   Getty Images

Labels: , , ,

Faceoff : Syria/Turkey : God Willing

"We are taking these steps to ensure our own national security, as well as of our thirteen million Syrian brothers and sisters, who are displaced."
"This is a national struggle. We will crush anyone who opposes our national struggle."
"Our jets took off and started bombing. And now the ground operation is underway. Now we see how the YPG ... are fleeing in Afrin."
"We will chase them. God willing, we will complete this operation very quickly."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

"[The campaign was] not against the Kurds. [Ankara would defeat the YPG there and restore democratic institutions and infrastructure]."
"People there are asking Turkey to cleanse the region and save them as well."
Bekir Bozdag, Turkish deputy prime minister

"The Turkish army wants through these military operations to inspire fear among civilians to force them from their lands and lay the ground for occupying the city."
"[Both Ankara and Moscow will be held accountable for the] massacres that will be committed in Afrin."
YPG branch in Afrin statement
AFP/Getty Images
Turkish artillery shells the People's Protection Units (YPG) positions near the Syrian border on Jan. 21, 2018 near Hassa, in the Turkish province of Hatay.   BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

If Erdogan is so convinced his Syrian brothers and sisters need protection, he should have stepped in years ago to protect them from t he Alawite Shiite regime of Bashar al-Assad. His interests lie solely in cleansing the border area between Syria and Turkey of the presence of the very groups that have been mostly involved in wresting control of Syrian territory from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the terrorist group that found assistance from Erdogan in the first place.

The fiction that democracy is alive and well in Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan and that he and his Justice and Development Party are dedicated to freedom and justice belies the evidence that his is a corrupt and violent regime, prepared to wreak havoc on the Kurds living in Turkey and to expand his reach into Syria and beyond to do the same there. His pathological conviction that Kurdish sovereignty aspirations equate with terrorism betrays his own propensity to terrorism inflicted on any he perceives as his opponents.

While Turkish military operations have been dispatched once again in Turkey's southeast targeting the Kurdistan Workers' Party the rebel group whose commitment to restoring Kurdish independence and sovereignty in their own ancient heritage geography withheld from them since colonial days, the Kurdish towns and villages will not be immune to the violence he unleashes on the Kurds. His northern Syria incursion that saw overflights bombing Afrin followed by a ground invasion of the 600,000-population town is meant to destroy the presence of the ten thousand Kurdish fighters there.

In a twisted sense of cruel irony Erdogan has named his assault on Afrin "Operation Olive Branch". Which is as ironic as the name of his party: "Justice and Development"; the utterly nonsensical use of language by regimes such as Erdogan's is downright Orwellian. As is his notion of justice and of terrorism, for there is no justice for Kurds in opposition to Erdogan, and it is Erdogan whose military missions have distinguished themselves as terrorist operations, bombing civilian enclaves and charging them with shielding terrorists.

The YPG has been an ally of the United States, recognized for its military efficiency in cleaning up ISIL enclaves. Washington has recognized the value of the YPG as a fighting force, has helped to train and to arm them. Relations between Ankara and Washington have been anything but solid and amicable, as Erdogan's steady and swift descent into Islamist-tinged madness of dictatorship has furthered his alliance with both Iran and Russia. NATO has sufficient reason to blush at the company it keeps.

So while both Russia and the United States urge restraint on Turkey, neither is prepared to rein it in, leaving Kurds at the mercy of an unrestrained brittle Kurdomaniacal tyrant determined to wreak slaughter on those whose aspirations Erdogan loathes. Syria, itself a proven mass destroyer of lives, now threatens to fire on Turkish warplanes should they attack Afrin, after they already have. The best possible scenario would be to have the Syrian and Turkish regimes attack one another in reflection of the proven track-record of the sectarian Sunni-Shiite divide of mutual hatred.

At that juncture, the world could look on with folded hands and feel no guilt of abandonment.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 21, 2018

An Exceptional Woman in Raqqa

"She would like to come back; she has asked for pardon from her family, her friends, her country."
Mother of Emilie Konig, German convert to Islam, ISIL 'terrorist'
French female jihadists should face trial in Syria: Gov’t
"A Kurdish state does not exist, and French citizens cannot be judged by the Kurds."
"They [children born to ISIL women] did not ask to be born in Syria. Nor to be detained by the Kurds, and they cannot be held responsible for the choices of their parents."
Marie Dose, lawyer for French female jihadist 

"[If] there are legal institutions capable of guaranteeing a fair trial assuring their right to a defense [women arrested in Kurdish-held Syria should be] judged there."
"Whatever crime may have been committed -- even the most despicable -- French citizens abroad must have a guaranteed right to a defense. We must have confirmation of that."
French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux
Now 33 years old, Emilie Konig originally resident in a small town in Brittany, decided to convert to Islam while a teen. She later married, became the mother of two small children. She never felt quite comfortable living in France since she took to wearing a black abaya and niqab veiling her face. Since France did not seem to value her presence, she felt more comfortable leaving her two small children to travel to Syria where she became a propagandist and recruiter for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. There, she felt appreciated.

This woman is exceptional in that she became an important recruiter for ISIL, whereas other women who travelled from across Europe to Syria to join the ISIL caliphate were more content to be breeding mares for the Islamist fundamentalist movement. They too were important, raising ISIL "cubs" taught from childhood ISIL's values and indoctrinated into the militancy of its murderous ideology. Who can forget in the heights of its abysmal notoriety the photographs disseminated widely of children wielding firearms, shooting at prisoners, helping to decapitate prisoners?

This was the world-class purveyors of hatred and bloody gore that Emilie Konig exalted in her propaganda, urging Muslims to commit themselves to jihad, ISIL-style. In October when Raqqa, the erstwhile Syrian capital of Islamic State was finally taken from the barbarian Islamists, mostly through the courageous actions of the Kurdish militias, the women and children who were resident there were taken to prison camps in Syrian Kurdistan. Europe, needless to say wouldn't mind if the ground beneath Raqqa had swallowed these European jihadist females.

Many of them were indeed discovered underground in the many tunnels that Islamic State had built. It makes eminent good sense for captured felons, murderers and their enablers to stand trial in the very place where their crimes were committed. All too often compensation for murder is not Paradise but state punishment of execution. And since European countries writhe in an agony of discomfort at the very notion, they are faced with the dilemma of claiming their own to have them extradited to stand trial at  home for crimes against humanity committed elsewhere.

This photo taken on October 20, 2017 shows fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) walking down a street in Raqqa past destroyed vehicles and heavily damaged buildings after a Kurdish-led force expelled ISIL fighters from the northern Syrian city, formerly their "capital". Bulent Kilic / AFP
This photo taken on October 20, 2017 shows fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) walking down a street in Raqqa past destroyed vehicles and heavily damaged buildings after a Kurdish-led force expelled ISIL fighters from the northern Syrian city, formerly their "capital". Bulent Kilic / AFP

An estimated 4,300 people left Europe to join the battle in Syria and Iraq, according to the International Center for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague. This is not a hard-and-fast number since other agencies place that number even higher. Foreign fighters remain in Syria of whom an estimated 43 percent are women. French President Emmanual Macon stated that decisions on retrieving women and children to return from Iraq and Syria would be reached on a case-by-case judgment basis.

Mustafa Bali, speaking for the Syrian Kurdish Defense Forces stated that his leaders have urged "all countries, European or other, to extradite their women and children". Presumably that advice has been set aside in indecision; the countries involved uncertain whether they plan or wish to return their nationals to stand trial at home, where no crimes were committed by them. Kurdish journalist Arin Shekhmus on visiting three camps where Arab, Asian and European "war prisoners" were kept, said he had seen up to a100 women and children.

They should be returned to their home countries which include Russia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia,  however: "The European governments still haven't reached out to extradite their citizens", he said. They don't want their wayward and blood-stained citizens to return necessarily, and presumably remain content to have them remain under the stewardship of the Kurds. Yet should the Kurds take the initiative to rid themselves of the camps' inmates and executive their due punishment, those same European countries would rise up in irate disgust to sanctimoniously slam the Kurds for 'taking matters into their own hands'.

Both the United Nations and the United States took the unusual step of distinguishing Emilie Konig in recognition of her vital role for Islamic State, of listing her as a terrorist, subject to sanctions. On her arrival in Syria at age 27 she started to post propaganda videos and to appeal to Muslims to recognize their jihadist duty to support the Islamic State caliphate. From all accounts her valuable services were duly appreciated and recognized as heroic in nature.

Emilie König
Emilie König, a Frenchwoman suspected of recruiting fighters for Islamic State who appeared on US and UN blacklists, has been arrested by Kurdish forces in Syria, her mother said on Tuesday.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Cranky Pope

Hard on the heels of the explosive and exploding incidences of women revealing for the first time the identities of their sexual abusers, a phenomenon of unveiling a dark hidden secret of many men in positions of power and influence using their positions to prey on women whose careers they are capable of advancing or retarding, a public figure of immense authority has stepped into the fray, and in all likelihood not by intention but through a momentary irascible backlash flash of irritation.
"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I'll speak."
"There is not one shred of proof against him. It's all calumny. Is that clear?"
Pope Francis, Santiago, Chile
Pope Francis arrives in Peru
Pope Francis has accused victims of Chile’s most notorious paedophile of slander, in an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic church its credibility in the country. The Guardian
"As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all."
"These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty."
Juan Carlos Cruz, accuser

"[It is] sad and wrong [for the Pope to discredit the victims since] the burden of proof here rests with the church, not the victims -- and especially not with victims whose veracity has already been affirmed."
"He has just turned back the clock to the darkest days of this crisis. Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be believed?"
Anne Barrett Doyle, online database
Pope Francis, pressed for a comment by a Chilean journalist with respect to the status of Bishop Juan Barros whom he had named bishop of the southern diocese of Osorno in Chile at a time when victims of Barros's superior, the Rev.Fernando Karadima were accusing him of rampant sexual crimes, snapped back with the response that made it quite clear he failed to believe the accusations of the victims that Bishop Barros knew, and had even witnessed that abuse.

In one fell swoop not only turning asunder his main thrust of address in travelling to Chile with the purpose of apologizing for the horrendous misdeeds of the Catholic Church when its priests pledged to celibacy chose to pursue other avenues of satisfying their sexual desires by targeting children and parishioners for abuse. It was always widely recognized that these events took place, and that superiors within the Church sought to keep the scandal within the church, never admitting it took place, simply transferring the offending priest to another parish to repeat his sins anew.

In effect, this is what the Pontiff himself has done, irrespective of his sincere apology on behalf of the Catholic Church. Loyal Catholics who had been abused had attempted for years to apprise the church hierarchy of what was occurring only to hit a blank wall of indifference and disbelief. Sexual abuse and the cover up of the church is legendary. The Archbishop of Santiago eventually apologized for refusing to believe victims once they spread their stories at large and they became news of shocking importance.

Yet knowing that the victims' stories had been substantiated, Pope Francis still chose to believe that the man he named as Bishop, a former Karadima protege, could honourable and in good faith be accepted by the Osorno community as their church authority, in so doing repeating the very routine the church always engaged in when confronted by such abuse. As far as the Osorno controversy was concerned where people refused to consider Bishop Barros as their bishop, Pope Francis spoke of the controversy as "stupid".

This, from a man claiming himself to be dedicated to serving the people, not the classical indulgences of the church hierarchy. "Isn't the pastoral problem that we're living (in Osorno) enough to get rid of him?" asked Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of Osorno lay Catholics whose three-year campaign against Barros no doubt added to the Pope's rejection of the claims by parishioners that they could not respect an insider who had stood by and done nothing to help stop the abuse.

This is the church establishment which has vowed to do penance for the past, for having accused victims of slandering and attacking the church with unsubstantiated claims. And which Pope Francis set out to reverse, assuring Catholics that the church had much to apologize for and he was the man to assuage the wounds. Instead, he has chosen to open a new wound by the expedience of reverting to the former stance of the church, accusing the accusers.

A "tremendous error" in judgement by the Pope, according to to German Silva, political scientist at Universidad Mayor in Santiago, that will reverberate in Chile and beyond.

Labels: , , , ,

The Snowboard Instructor, Drama Coach is out of His Depth

"It boils down to our political masters to have a serious reflection on all of this."
"There's a need for an internal debate and maybe [to] make some revisions to the strategy. I think this is taking place now, so hopefully there will be progress in the next few weeks. There's a bit of hard swallowing that is required." 
"I think that if the prime minister wants to stick to an explicit reference to labour rights, we won't have negotiations -- and in a way, then that could have an impact on the bilateral relations because they will say, 'Well, the Canadians are not serious and they should know better'."
"Otherwise I think it will remain an agenda that will be difficult to push."
Guy Saint-Jacques, former Canadian ambassador to China

"There's more substance in a fluffernutter sandwich than there is in that damn thing [NAFTA negotiations]."
"The government is actually endangering the progressive agenda that they're putting forward by making people think that all these wonderful things have been done, when jack-all has been done."
Carlo Dade, director, Trade and Investment Centre, Canada West Foundation

"There is still some work to be done."
A progressive trade agenda opens more doors, raises standards and positions the middle class for success."
Joseph Pickerill, spokesman, Canada's Minister of Trade

"[While China values Canada as an important trade partner and] stands ready to negotiate and sign a free-trade agreement with the Canadian side at an early date, [it considers some issues to be off the table]."
"China always maintains that non-trade issues should not be brought in the FTA negotiation no matter in what kind of name, for it is not conducive to talks on the basis of equality and fairness."
Xiaozhong Zhu, Chinese embassy, Ottawa
Trudeau took part in a business round table in Beijing on Tuesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's admiration for China's ability to administer its vast empire as a totalitarian government appears to know few bounds. It just seems that totalitarian dictatorships fascinate Trudeau. His father's close relationship with Fidel Castro geared his son to regard that dictatorship as a resounding success too. In a way, while the world snorts its derision over the election to the American presidency of Donald Trump, a political novice whose personal attributes are anything but sterling, it has fawned over the election to the prime ministership of Justin Trudeau.

What few seem to notice is that Trudeau is a knock-off of Trump. Younger, more personable, more delicate in his language, but equally egocentric, and just as dedicated to prevarication, holding dear to himself the notion, like Trump, that he can do no wrong. Trump made many promises during the election campaign that brought him the presidency, some of which alarm the world at large. Trudeau made many promises during his election campaign that focused on representing the interests of Canada when in fact he has focused on his own personal interests.

To cap things off, he's as disingenuous and untrustworthy as Trump, but while Trump leers, Trudeau smiles beatifically, and congratulates himself on his "sunny ways". Both are bullies; Trump is criticized for his bullying,Trudeau's supporters prefer not to notice his bullying tactics. Trudeau has focused on re-orienting the world in his image, and as a feminist and touchy-feelly progressive plans to gift the international community with his vision and version of justice and fairness.

Introducing his "progressive trade agenda" into all negotiations for free trade agreements with Canada. Trudeau managed to scupper the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on the cusp of signing through his sanctimonious insistence of renaming it the Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, based on his vision of including workers' rights, a feminist agenda and protection of First Nations community interests in trade issues. When he did the same with China the bilateral talks came to a swift parting of the ways.

What is surprising is that Trudeau is so oblivious to the impression he leaves with others of his monomaniacal agenda that he cannot believe it when he is rebuffed. He's fine and there's something seriously amiss with the rest of the world. His efforts to impose his personal views on moral and ethical considerations that the rest of the world should be eager to import, fails to mesh with their domestic situations on reforms in their due time.

Japan's ambassador to Canada, Kimihiro Ishikane mused that "progressive" is "a political word". Japan, he said, is prepared to talk trade when specific issues are brought to the table in concrete terms. Logical, but Justin Trudeau is emotional, not logical. Carlo Dade points out that Trudeau has failed o define what "progressive trade" means in its lexicon, nor has he proposed any solutions to solve inequality that Trudeau references.

Aside from the fact that there are so many contradictions in what this man contends are non-negotiable values he will not surrender. He insists on adding a chapter on gender to the North American Free Trade Agreement, considering it an absolute priority. Now wouldn't that be a winner with Donald J. Trump? Other than for the fact that in the negotiations for the Canada-Chile free trade agreement there are no substantial binding commitments to anything but the hard fundamentals of trade.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet