Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Greek Ship has Sunk

"When an economy has been destroyed, it takes many years to rebuild."
"The bailout may be ending, but the problems that drove people away aren't."
"The Germans have welcomed us. They want highly skilled people."
Vasilis Kapoglou, founder, Greek Engineers of North Rhine-Westphalia club

"Engineers are connected to the development of a country."
"But there is no development happening in Greece."
Martha Ouzounidou, chemical engineer from Thessaloniki, Dusseldorf

When the educated, the professionals, the ambitious see no avenue for themselves to advance into the future with workplace challenges and salaries to match, they have a penchant for leaving a country in which they remain unemployed or underemployed. It is they, after all, who are advantaged, enabled to pack their technological expertise since it is portable, the skills useful anywhere. The less advantaged, the unskilled and the dependent ones remain where they are and hope for an upturn in their nation's fortunes.

And in the case of Greece, which had too long lived beyond its means, where people found methods to avoid paying taxes yet demanded social programs, national bankruptcy was avoided only when the International Monetary Fund and the European Union stepped in to take charge and impose on the proud country a need to impose economic constraints and to restrain public expectations that social services could continue despite the mountainous debt, a veritable brain drain developed.

Close to a half-million Greeks decided they could advance their prospects for the future by becoming economic migrants. "When you realize that your country has become a cemetery of dreams, you need to find dreams elsewhere", explained Constantine Kakoyiannis who plies his trade as an engineer not in Greece, but in Dusseldorf because Germany welcomed him with open arms, to take advantage of his experience and work ethic.

Doctors, technicians, architects and both skilled professionals in all occupations, along with recent graduates have left their country of birth for more stable, wealthier northern Europe locations. Even though Athens will be exiting its eight-year reliance on international financial bailouts, repaying its debts, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declaring a recovery, the exodus continues with no signs of abatement.

Loyalty and trust appear to have evaporated in favour of personal gain.

Little wonder, when one of every five Greeks of employable age remains unemployed inside an economy that fails to match the one that prevailed a more ten years ago. In North Rhine-Westphalia including Dusseldorf and Cologne, the economy is booming and about 130,000 Greeks have installed themselves to work in German tech, tele-communications and construction companies.

Ironically enough it was Germany that insisted austerity in Greece be enforced as it demanded cuts to pensions, salaries and the public sector before it would agree to make available about $380 billion of bailouts for the reduction of the Greek debt. Angela Merkel is viewed as the architect of this debilitating and devilish diminishing of Greek fortunes.

Another irony; a diminished and financially unstable Greece has been assailed by the entrance of tens of thousands of economic migrants from North Africa, imposing their needs on the still-fragile economy of a recovering Greece. A Greek tragedy. Much of which is attributable to the willingness of Frau Merkel to accommodate the presence of the hordes of mostly young men seeking their own economic advantage in Germany.

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Infiltration Through Stealth of Numbers

"According to a Harvard University study, the Islamisation of a country cannot be stopped once the Muslim population reaches 16 percent of the total population. This is what Islam expert, Nikoletta Incze, said on 22 June, on Hungarian public television".
"Incze is a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Political Islam, a foundation of American Islam critic Bill Warner, which is active in several countries."
"The interview with the Islam expert was broadcasted as part of a morning magazine report that focuses on the spread of Islam in Europe and bears the title “Islamic Advance – Already 44 Million Believers in Europe."
Voice of Europe

Muslim women in Paris - Photo Credits: Zoetnet / CC BY 2.0
"The main issue is ... about what the people believe what should be done."
"[The move to return migrants to where they came from represents the beginning of a] new period when we try to reconstruct the European democracy."
"[No more migrants should be admitted, those that entered Europe and remain there] should be sent back."
"The invasion should be stopped, and to stop the invasion means to have a strong border."
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

"It seems as if today [at the European Council Brussels summit to place deterrence and EU border protection at the forefront of EU migration policy] we will manage a shift in migration policy."
"[No longer should being rescued in the Mediterranean] automatically become a ticket [into central Europe]."
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz

"Some may think I am too tough in my proposals on migration."
"But trust me, if we don't agree on them, then you will see some really tough proposals from some really tough guys."
European Council President Donald Tusk

"We all face a simple choice: do we want national solutions or do we believe in European solutions and co-operation?"
"For my part, I will defend European solutions."
French President Emmanuel Macron
The "European solutions" that Emmanuel Macron speaks of so fondly, in support of central decision making that all EU members must adhere to for conformity of purpose and design and strengthening of the union which has been noticeably fraying at the edges when Eastern European nations began their dissent over accepting the tens of thousands of mostly North African but also Middle East refugees comprised mostly of single, young men has come at a time when some member-nations have absorbed a presence of Muslim immigrants who have failed to integrate into the prevailing values, customs and laws of the nations they burden with their presence.

This was a choice that France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Norway made, generously opening their doors to Muslims harbouring a wish to live elsewhere than in their countries of birth. Ostensibly to find greater freedoms elsewhere, along with opportunities to advance their interests, which includes taking advantage of generous social assistance programs in 'progressive', democratic nations. Despite which, these are populations which have often held themselves apart from the general population, failed to respect national laws and impose their religious-cultural practices on others.

Poland and Hungary among other countries have refused to dilute their heritage and values in this same way and they have been joined by the Netherlands and Austria, Italy, Greece and Spain, however tardy that has been with their populations already swelling with the presence of strangers at their gates, entitled, resentful, regarding themselves as victims and imposing their cultural values and demands on the indigenous populations, dismayed at the fraying of their nations' valued culture. Europe has been swamped.

And it is slowly, but inadequately realizing that it is imperilled, turning toward the potential of transforming itself to "Fortress Europe", a situation imposed upon it through the unending tide of hopeful economic migrants under the guise of refugees from oppressive and dysfunctional governments, sectarian and tribal conflict, resulting in mass unemployment and corruption. Leading tens of thousands of young men to abandon their countries rather than embrace the more difficult route of political activism demanding change.

Now, with the EU forced into action to protect its borders from continued incursions of the magnitude seen in the past several years which saw invasions of millions, Italy finally sees some relief on the horizon: "We hope these words will be translated into action. Italy no longer has a need for words and statements, we need concrete acts", emphasized Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte in the wake of the country's spat with France and Spain over its refusal to absorb migrant rescue ships' cargo of human traffic.

"Europe has many challenges but migration could end up determining Europe's destiny", remarked German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose own decision to open wide Germany's frontier to a million migrants in a gesture of virtuous generosity, ended up with her countrymen and women expressing frustration and rejection at the unwelcome flood of mostly young men for whom social welfare was extended and toward whom civil respect for women had to be emphasized in the wake of mass sex assaults. Another cultural importation.

Europe now imagines it can have a partnership with the very African nations from which migrants are endlessly streaming, by convincing them to agree to accept those migrants back into the African fold. And what's more to agree to hosting EU immigration stations to legalize entry through normal, civilized means of making application to emigrate in circumstances where the EU will be enabled to evaluate suitability for immigration and make those determinations either denying or accepting applications at their source.

Donald Tusk visualizes increasing border forces in Europe to maintain order and control of borders to ten thousand personnel, in tandem with forging return agreements with the migrant-source African states. As well, "hot-spot camps" to be set up in North Africa to be established to ensure that the ongoing floods of human beings entitling themselves to haven, could be controlled outside Europe. The African reception of these novel, civil and normalized solutions has not, however, been very welcoming.

"That's not a solution", Morocco's migration and border surveillance director Khalid Zerouali, scoffed, referring to the "regional disembarkation platforms". Morocco has been increasingly in use as a jumping-off point to access Spain, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from Tangiers on unseaworthy boats or clambering over high fences to reach enclaves in Morocco: Melilla and Ceuta, Spanish enclaves.

Europe has struggled to react to, absorb and attempt to control approximately 1.8 million sea arrivals of migrants since 2014, with thousands of migrants losing the battle for safe arrival, to a watery grave. Morocco, it seems, has not come up with a workable solution of its own, since its country serves as a major transit point. Africa seems not to mind its citizens searching elsewhere for personal fulfillment thanks to its own mismanagement of its human resources.
Migrants rescued at sea in the Mediterranean. [Irish Defence Forces/Flickr]    

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Friday, June 29, 2018

A Pop Musical Dynasty

"We'd perform for him, and he'd critique us. If you messed up, you got hit, sometimes with a belt, sometimes with a switch."
"I'd take a shoe and throw it at him, or I'd just fight back, swinging my fists. That's why I got it more than all my brothers combined. I would fight back, and my father would kill me, just tear me up."
"I'd just stare at them [children playing in parks, while he had to constantly rehearse] in wonder. I couldn't imagine such freedom, such a carefree life -- and wish more than anything that I had that kind of freedom, that I could walk away and be like them."
Michael Jackson, 1988 autobiography Moonwalk
Pop star Michael Jackson and his father Joe Jackson gestures to his fans
Joe Jackson, seen here with his son Michael, had been in hospital for terminal cancer   Reuters
A steelworker from Gary Indiana, Joe Jackson found his calling in breeding children, nine in all, with the talent he himself lacked, though he played in a band with high hopes to get somewhere in show business -- but it was only through his children that he did, as their manager. This man was a perfectionist, demanding nothing less than the ultimate from his children, depriving them of childhood and steeping them in never-ending practise sessions, grooming them beyond the amateur into the professional heights of musical accomplishment.

Of his nine children, all would eventually be involved in producing major hit records, while his son Michael evolved into the most popular recording artist of his time. Throughout all of these struggles to achieve celebrity and musical prominence in a competitive world of pop music, a stream of tabloid headlines screeched of parental over-reach, and hinted at lurid episodes in the lives of those children growing to an adulthood of fame and instant name recognition leading to acclaim as they reached the heights of their professional careers.

The Jackson 5 performing on BBC's Top of the Pop in 1972 - photographed in black and white
The Jackson 5 played BBC's Top of the Pops at Christmas in 1972

From playing guitar in a band in the 1950s to training his talented children, Joe Jackson succeeded in introducing the appreciative public to the Jackson 5, where eight-year-old Michael's transcendent voice and cosmopolitan stage presence enraptured the audiences he appeared before as an unusually talented and driven child. Joe signed a contract for his sons with Motown in Detroit where "bubble gum soul" became the label's imprint to fame.

Michael Jackson's contract with his father expired in 1979 when he turned 21. Firing his father as manager, Michael began work with Quincy Jones, jazz arranger and bandleader, who went on to produce Michael's 1980s hit albums selling hundreds of millions of copies as Michael Jackson became an unrivalled superstar. Following his example, Joe's other children began to leave their father's controlling, brutal management style.

In a 1991 memoir, middle daughter La Toya Jackson revealed that all of Joe's children had been physically and emotionally abused by him. The girls, she hinted, may have been molested, a charge she backed away from later and which her father vehemently denied. Four years ago, a reporter enquired of Joseph Jackson if in retrospect he nursed any regrets about how difficult and demanding he had been with his children. "Not at all. I don't live that way", he responded.

Joseph Jackson, dead at age 89, in a Los Angeles hospital, of cancer.

Joe Jackson in 2005.
I’m glad I was tough, because look what I came out with’ … Joe Jackson in 2005. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian


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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wholesale Transition: North Africa, Middle East Invasion

"Plaintiffs argue that this President's words strike at fundamental standards of respect and tolerance, in violation of our constitutional tradition."
"But the issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements. It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility."
"In doing so, we must consider not only the statements of a particular President, but also the authority of the Presidency itself."
"The Proclamation is squarely within the scope of Presidential authority."
Chief Justice John Roberts, U.S. Supreme Court

"Migration pits southern Europe against the north."
"Italy and Greece smoulder with resentment at having been left alone to deal with migrant arrivals. Meanwhile, northern countries blame the south for not patrolling their Mediterranean borders better and for having, at least in the past, enabled migrants to "slip away" northwards towards richer Germany, Austria and Sweden."
"Migration slashes the EU from east to west too."
"Newer member states from Central and Eastern Europe never signed up to the post World War Two "all for one and one for all" vision."
"When it comes to EU solidarity and burden-sharing, they are fervent non-believers. They determinedly turn their backs when Italy and Germany plead for migrant quotas."
"The number of migrants arriving illegally in Europe may be down, but so is voter tolerance of the problem."
"The rise and rise across the EU of tough-on-migration politicians has emboldened hardliners such as Hungary's Victor Orban and Austria's Sebastian Kurz, who takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU this Sunday and will push migration as a top priority."
"'Keep Them Out' is Austria's main aim and while Europe's [still] most influential leader, Angela Merkel, arrives in Brussels on Thursday pushing - and praying - for compromise on burden-sharing and prevention, the number of EU leaders pushing single-mindedly on the migrant deterrence button is growing."

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, left, standing in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, advises migrants that they are about to illegally cross from Champlain, N.Y., and will be arrested, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.    AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Migrants on an inflatable boat boarding the Lifeline sea rescue boat at sea on June 21, 2018
The splits within the EU have been highlighted by Italy's refusal to accept migrants carried by NGO rescue boats in the Mediterranean    AFP

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The Suspenseful Intolerable Wait

"We went in a few kilometres and were able to enter a second chamber behind the entrance. In that chamber, there was an area where I saw shoes and bags left behind on the ground."
"We believe the students have gone further in."
Lt. Naponwath Homsai, Royal Thailand Navy

"I haven't slept and I hope that all of them can come out all safe and sound."
"My son is a strong boy. I still have hope."
Namhom Boonpiam, mother of 13-year-old missing boy
Relatives of the boys and their coach, who are missing in a flooded cave, wait under a tented area for any updates in the search, on Tuesday in Mae Sai, northern Thailand. (Tassanee Vejpongsa/Associated Press)

"[Not explorable from November to June due to flooding, the cave has an] impressive entrance chamber [leading to an easy walk along] spacious passageways [about a kilometre in length]."
"At the end of the marked path the passage enters a series of chambers, boulder collapses and boulder chokes where route finding can be difficult."
Online guidebook, The Caves of Northern Thailand
The cave narrows to a two-metre wide passage, three metres in height. Then it splits into different directions, several passages leading to other chambers, to pools, or to places with lofty "avens", shafts that reach the surface. Its mystique and geology no doubt intriguing to teen-age boys' sense of adventure. Which is how and why a dozen teen-age boys between 11 and 13 years of age, belonging to a soccer team, along with their 25-year-old coach sought to satisfy their curiosity by entering the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on Saturday afternoon.

They parked their bicycles, left their backpacks and entered the cave for an impromptu adventure. But they never emerged. The cave, as so often happens evidently at this time of year, was  flooded. And three days later they still haven't emerged, and the flooding continues, the water rising in the caverns. Rescuers brought to the scene speak of five metres of water. They also believe that the missing boys and their coach are still alive.

The Royal Thai Navy has sent rescuers in the hopes of being able to search further into the cave, thought to be about six to eight kilometres in length and in which large chambers are located. But they were unable to penetrate far into the chamber and its pathways. The boys' parents seek shelter in tents close by the cave entrance, staying there overnight, rain pelting down around them. Another nearby tent contains medics. Reminders of the boys' plight are as close as the cave entrance where sit the boys' soccer cleats, backpacks and bicycles.

From time to time mothers enter the mouth of the cave to call out to their children, begging them to appear. Footprints and handprints were discovered within the cave complex. An officer of the district police station felt that the boys are young, strong athletes which should be a factor in their survival. "We're confident that the kids should still be in good condition", said Deputy Governor Passakorn Bunyalak of Chiang Rai, at a news conference.

Special diving skills, supplemental oxygen would be required to access deeper into the flooded cave; conditions that complicate rescue efforts. Speculation is that divers would bring food in to the boys and all would wait out the flood, or be introduced to the basics of scuba diving to enable them to swim out.

Cut into a mountainside in far northern Thailand, the cave is a tourist attraction that severely floods during the rainy season, June to October.  However, tourists trapped in the cave in past floods have been rescued once the water receded in a few days' time.

A geographer and expert on the Tham Luang Nang Non cave said that divers went as far as three kilometres into the complex where the cave maintains a stable temperature of about 25C. The only way to get the boys out would be for them to dive, said Anukoon Sorn-ek, the geographer. "But they have to be found first."

Rescue workers continue the search on Tuesday, as electricians extend a power line into a flooded cave. (Tassanee Vejpongsa/Associated Press)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Europe in Migrant Turmoil

"[EU nations have to see] how can we help each other without always having to wait for all 28, but by thinking what's important to whom."
"It is also about bi- and trilateral agreements for mutual benefit [in coping with short-term migration pressures]."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Migrants, part of a group intercepted aboard dinghies off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea, are seen on a rescue boat upon arrival at the port of Malaga, Spain on Saturday. (Jon Nazca/Reuters)

Europe appears to be in an ethics war with itself. With the 'enlightened', wealthier open-border states virtuously condemning the 'nationalist' closed-border-minded eastern EU members for their unwillingness to dilute themselves, their history, culture, laws, legacy and religious convictions to any extent resembling those of the western Europeans whose population base is now suffocating with the tendentious and troubling arrival of economic migrants straining the capacity of social services and the initial willingness to absorb them.

Italy, Greece and Spain have paid the price of geographic proximity, unwillingly receiving boatloads of haven seekers and migrants from North Africa and the Middle East beyond their capacity to accommodate and absorb them. And though they have pleaded repeatedly with their neighbours for relief, that relief has been slow in arriving, if at all. After all, they represent the first countries of asylum. Germany has absorbed more than its 'share' of the unwanted, and they will pay the price for that choice long into the future, even as they now do, with the growing prevalence of violence.

Italy would like to see a "paradigm change" in the manner in which Europe manages migration preferably to do so with the determination that will stop the flow altogether by some magical means of persuading those willing to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean that life is better for them at home and they should remain there to dedicate themselves to changing the environment in their nations of birth rather than forcing other nations to accommodate their needs.

It is beyond obvious that Muslim-majority countries are the source of most migrants eager to escape the violence and dysfunction that prevail there.

The Dublin Regulations whereby migrants must apply for asylum in the first European country where they land hasn't much favour in Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's opinion, much less that of Greece or Spain. Around 40,000 people have arrived thus far this year in Europe by sea. Italy has received about 15,000, Greece 12,000 and Spain another 12,000. The burden of their accommodation on top of those already absorbed in the past several years is exacerbating the economy and the social services meant to provide support to their own populations.

In desperation, the EU is now considering the need and functionality of establishing migrant screening operations for asylum seekers in North Africa and the Balkans to alleviate tension between EU nations. France and Germany in the lead, 15 EU countries have been discussing how long Italy, Greece and Spain should be expected to absorb the migrants, and how and whether the EU as a whole should be involved. 2018 anticipates that 80,000 migrants will enter Europe by sea, according to recent trends, joining the millions that already have.

Plans are being discussed for screening centres to be set up in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia, and possibly Albania as well; Muslim countries all. "The method that we are going to adopt" involves "working together vis-a-vis the countries of transit and origin outside the European Union", stated French President Emmanuel Macron. Libya remains the major exit point for Europe-bound migrants. "It's a political crisis that Europe and the European Union is mostly living today", he under-stated.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Tribal, Sectarian Africa's Conflicts

"Nigerians in their thousands have been gruesomely dispatched to the Great Beyond by armed Fulani herdsmen who are being protected by the powers that be."
Emmanuel Onwukibo, coordinator, Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria 

"The reverend fathers [Christian priests killed along with parishioners during Mass] were not farmers."
"The armed herdsmen have moved the narrative of the current crisis from search for grass to other obvious motives [promoting Islam through jihad to the detriment of Christianity]."
Christian Governor Samuel Ortom, Benue State 

"[President Muhammadu Buhari is running out of time to convince Christians that a] grand mischievous plan for territorial conquest, ethnic cleansing and religious imposition] by Muslim Fulanis is not in the works]."
"The very survival of our nation is now at stake."
Catholic Archbishop of Abuja John Onaiyekan, Abuja, Nigeria
A Fulani herdsman waters his cattle on a dusty plain between Malkohi and Yola town on 7 May, 2015
A Fulani herdsman waters his cattle (file picture)AFP/GettyImages
Nigeria is special; it is Africa's largest, wealthiest country and its most populous. It is divided by Christianity and Islam. And it has its very own special deadly radical Islamist terrorist group defying authority and stalking and murdering Nigerian villagers, abducting young girls and creating countless homeless people desperate to escape their depredations. It had a Christian president and now has a Muslim president, both of whom pledged to rout Boko Haram and neither of whom succeeded.

And though Nigeria is one of those rare African countries with great natural resources and has considerable income from petroleum, there isn't much of a trickle-down effect to ensure that the country's wealth is equally shared. There are, throughout Africa, droughts impacting on agriculture and cattle-raising, and since the two enterprises are diametrically opposed, there is great tension between the herdsmen wanting to graze their herds, and the agriculturalists who want their fields unmolested.

Climate change has impacted Africa, bringing stress and deadly hostility between herdsmen and agriculturalists to the fore in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Muslims and Christians have turned against one another in confrontations for that very same reason in Nigeria. Armed cattle herders, Muslims of the Fulani tribe, have raised militias in Nigeria, just as has occurred in northern Kenya where farmers both white and black have been killed.

In Nigeria, hundreds of thousands of people have vacated farms and villages, leaving their homes to abandonment. Where crops are not being raised, hunger, economic collapse and disease spreading in camps for the displaced looms on the near horizon. Aggression on the part of semi-nomadic cattle herders from the Fulani ethnic group, some 20 million in number, their territory spread across west and central Africa, threatens stability.

Traditional pasturage in the north of Nigeria has collapsed as it has elsewhere in some northern African states where up to 75 percent of grassland has been transformed through desertification. Water sources have been disappearing alongside attacks by Boko Harm to combine circumstances thrusting the Fulani and their herds into the fertile central farmlands of Nigeria; the Middle Belt, home to a Christian majority population.

Local authorities and farmers' attempts to protect crops and farmland has resulted in reprisals where farmers tending their crops have had their hands severed, stuffed into their pockets as examples meant to terrify other farmers to abandon their fields. Fulani gangs on motorcycles attack villages and the terrorized inhabitants flee as the gangs open fire, set fire to homes, hack children to death. In a village in Kaduna state last month 71 people were killed.

Even some Fulani have been slaughtered by their fellow tribesmen in this battle between agriculture and herding.  But it's not solely herders involved in these attacks. Young gangs of Fulani have organized kidnapping camps in the vast Rugu forest, emerging on their motorcycles to prey on pedestrians walking isolated nearby pathways. As many as a hundred people were kidnapped in two days last month in Kaduna state.

One attack on a church in Benue state in April  saw two priests and 17 of their parishioners killed during Mass, persuading many Christian Nigerians that the real intention of the Fulanis is to dispossess them through territorial acquisition and the expansion of Islam through ethnic cleansing of Christians. The result has been that Christian tribesmen felt compelled to form armed vigilante groups to battle the herders during attacks, and to implement reprisal attacks themselves.

Muslim President Muhammadu Buhari, accused of turning a blind eye to the attacks has ordered the military to restore order. Nigeria's armed forces have been dispatched to do just that, finding their opponents in possession of arms superior to their own, the very situation that prevailed when they went out to rout Boko Haram terrorists.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

!WOT! Canada's Feminist Prime Minister?

"[Trudeau] remembers being in Creston for the Avalanche Foundation, but doesn't think he had any negative interactions there."
"As the PM has said before, he has always been very careful to treat everyone with respect. His first experiences with activism were on the issue of sexual assault at McGill [University in Montreal], and he knows the importance of being thoughtful and respectful."
Matt Pascuzzo, spokesman, Prime Minister's Office

"Shouldn't the son of a former prime minister be aware of the rights and wrongs that go along with public socializing?"
"Didn't he learn, through his vast experiences in public life, that groping a strange young woman isn't in the handbook of proper etiquette, regardless of who she is, what her business is or where they are?"
Editorial, Creston Valley Advance, August 2000, community newspaper, British Columbia

"It's pretty bizarre. [There are] no doubts [the described groping incident occurred]. I consider [her -- the complainant] to be of sound character and that she would not have made this up."
"It wouldn't have come to light at all, I'm sure, if the person in question hadn't gone on to become the prime minister of Canada. If he wasn't prime minister, I'm under no illusions that people would be scouring the archives of the Advance to find the great journalism that we did [back then]."
Creston Valley Advance then-editor, Brian Bell
Justin Trudeau gets inducted into the Order of Sasquatch Hunters at the Columbia Brewery’s Kokanee Summit Festival in Creston, B.C. on Sunday August 6, 2000. Postmedia file

Back then, a 28-year-old teacher of drama at a private school in Vancouver arrived in the southern interior of British Columbia for a special fund-raising event whose proceeds would help fund a memorial named for his late brother, Michel Trudeau, who had died in an avalanche accident several years previously. A female reporter in her early 20s was on scene to write a story and take photographs for her community newspaper. And that was the occasion when Justin Trudeau made inappropriate, rude and offensive physical overtures described as "groping" when the two interacted.

Trudeau had arrived in Creston for a music festival raising funds to help build a backcountry ski lodge to honour his brother's memory. The paper's publisher and then-editor verified the-then reporter's experience as she had related it to them immediately after the event had taken place. A day later that same reporter wrote the anonymous editorial chastising Trudeau for his decided lack of moral courtesy. "I know that she told me about it when I got back [from vacation] and I don't doubt she spoke to the publisher about it", affirmed Brian Bell.

That transgressor in the guise of a dedicated feminist is now the Prime Minister of Canada. Away back then he was merely a morals-challenged scion of a former Prime Minister of Canada. A political gossip/satire magazine, Frank, based in Ottawa, chose to publish that old editorial verbatim in April; perhaps to be viewed as a little jolt of reality, in a mood of mischief. Seeing in it a far greater lapse in character, however, political commentator and Trudeau critic Warren Kinsella posted the editorial on Twitter, stirring the Twitterverse to a virtual storm of condemnation/indignation/defense.

To be picked up elsewhere and everywhere on American websites such as Breitbart and The Daily Caller, and at home in the Toronto Sun, rating a post on BuzzFeed, coverage in Britain and France and even popping up in The New York Times. This, at a time when the #MeToo movement has been bringing down the high and the mighty (and suddenly defenceless) and garnering for ill-treated women a little payback for the insults, assaults and humiliations they have suffered since time immemorial. And which Justin Trudeau has personally condemned, committing to a reversal of women's place in global society.

Starting with dismissing two Liberal MPs from the Liberal caucus after being made Liberal leader, for their sexual harassment of two NDP MPs. Going on from there to condemn his former Minister of Veterans' Affairs Kent Hehr for alleged sexual harassment, consigning him to the back benches to nurse his humble regrets in isolation. Another MP from Calgary resigned from caucus for similar misdeeds as did Trudeau's deputy director of operations in the PMO. Deny the allegations they might, but repercussions were firm, administered by the feminist avenger.

And Trudeau? Well, he's awfully, awfully special. Isn't he? Who else has insisted that women's equal entitlements would rule whether or not Canada signs vital trade deals with the EU, the TPP, China, etc.?  Winning him no great applause from those incredulous sources who seem to believe, as the male chauvinist pigs they are, that women's rights have nothing to do with trade and economic ties between nations, but enabling his preening credentials to signal how very virtuous this sanctimonious child of fortune is.

But wait! He did apologize, yes he most certainly did. The day following the unfortunate incident when he must momentarily have gone stark, raving berserk soaked to the core with the brew of the unwashed masses where at the festival "thousands of people cruised the grounds", drinking, eating, taking in the music and some ungrateful women wrote inconsequential things like "It wasn't a good place to be if you're female. It was a ten-to-one ratio of men and women. I got my ass grabbed I don't know how many times. It was scary. I've never been so disgusted in my life".

A woebegone Trudeau had proffered his sincere and unreserved apology to the reporter whose sanctity of person he had transgressed by humbly informing her: "I'm sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward", having become privy to the reality that the reporter was covering festival events for the Advance, but also for the National Post and Vancouver Sun, part of the same news chain, and understanding just how vulnerable to outing as a grubby little predator he might be.

The apology was clearly contingent on the high visibility brought into focus by the realization that a national newspaper had the potential of publishing his stupid behaviour back in 2000. Some apology, that. The reporter rated an apology on the basis of who and how far her reportage reached. Not on the fact that he had violated her space and uninvited to do so, manhandled her physically. Some apology. Little could he know that it would take eighteen years for the dreaded story to be published in that same national-circulation newspaper to reveal the man's hypocrisy.

But hey, if Bill Clinton won't be held in a state of jeering condemnation for his penchant for forced sex, why should Justin Trudeau, whose admiring public will only shrug off any accusations as petty and vindictive, his actions only those of any red-blooded male? He is, of course, an embarrassment to himself, yes, but also to men who would never dream of forcing their unwanted attentions on women, much less shrugging off the incident, then going on to destroy the political lives of other men for the very same infractions he indulged in.

"The standard applies to everyone." Justin Trudeau "When women speak up it is our duty to listen to them and believe them."

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The Healing Arts

"There was a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening the lives of a large number of patients by prescribing and administering 'dangerous doses' of a hazardous combination of medication not clinically indicated or justified."
"[Records show that] whereas a large number of patients and their relatives understood that their admission to the hospital was for either rehabilitation or respite care, they were, in effect, put on a terminal care pathway."
"[Dr. Jane Barton was] responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards."
Bishop James Jones, chairman, enquiry panel
Dr Jane Barton
Dr Jane Barton worked at the hospital for 12 years. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA

Found guilty of "multiple instances of serious professional misconduct" in 2010 by the General Medical Council of Great Britain, this woman who institutionalized the practise of administering opioids without medical justification in the British hospital she headed, retired soon afterward. It was, however, the deep and lasting harm she imposed on vulnerable and ill seniors brought to the hospital in the belief by family members that their loved ones would be safe and well looked after, that marks her name with infamy.

Hospital senior management, health-care organizations, police, prosecutors, local politicians and medical authorities all had failed in their civil-social and professional duties to ensure patients were protected and were found responsible when their interests were "subordinated to the reputation of the hospital and the professions involved."  "They have grossly failed their ethical standards by abusing people's human rights [in view of] vulnerable relatives who were stripped of their final words to their loved ones, silenced by overdoses", accused the granddaughter of one victim.

Gosport War Memorial Hospital in southern England underwent a rigorous three-year investigation of its practices between the years 1989 and 2000 to account for 833 death certificates signed by Dr. Barton. Over a million pages of documents were examined leaving the enquiry with the conclusion that 456 patients lived lives shorter than they should have, with an additional 200 more "probably" similarly affected.

In very point of fact, two hospital nurses made an effort to raise the issue expressing their concerns 27 years ago in 1991 with respect to prescribing practices that troubled them. Those two nurses' concerns were ignored, leaving them "ostracized" in the workplace. The panel of enquiry found inappropriate use of opioids began in 1989, steadily increasing until 1994 when the practise plateaued until a decade later then rapidly declined. No additional cases were reported in 2001.

Many deaths might have been avoided had the hospital treated the nurses' concerns seriously.

Medication prescribed by Dr. Barton had contributed to six patients' death according to inquests conducted in 2009 and 2013. The panel was exposed to comments about her "brusque, unfriendly and indifferent manner, her "intransigence and worrying lack of insight", into effects her actions resulted in, along with her inability to "recognize the limits of her professional competence".

Medical records confirm that over a twelve-year period as clinical assistant Dr. Barton was responsible for and central to "prescribing any medication required". As for the police; family members were treated as though they were troublemakers by investigators who deferred too much to the hospital.

Families of those who have died at Gosport Memorial Hospital
Families of those who have died at Gosport Memorial Hospital gathered at Portsmouth Cathedral to hear the findings of the inquiry   BBC News

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Broken Kurdish Aspiration

"Training with the peshmerga was ceased when it was no longer of any value in terms of the battle against Daesh,:
"We have changed … partners,"
"They [Islamic State sympathizers] are not actively conducting operations but they could."
"We are still deeply involved in helping set conditions for the successful return of the population to Mosul."
Gen. Jon Vance, Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff

"During the high point of ISIS as a threat, we put all our chips behind the Kurds because they were in the best position to fight and the most willing to fight."
"But if we’re training them now, we’re training a separatist movement."
"We will need to monitor the situation very closely and find out if the people we are training are becoming death squads, or were death squads. [In that case], we would need to get out of business."
Prof. Stephen Saideman, political scientist, Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa
The Canadian Press
A Canadian soldier directs Kurdish soldiers training near Erbil in northern Iraq in 2015.
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau had pledged to supply $9.5-million of military weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga who had distinguished themselves as the only reliable fighting force in Iraq to face the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Where the Iraqi military turned and fled the advance of ISIL, the Peshmerga held their ground and prevented them from entering Erbil, from massacring fleeing Iraqi Christians and Yazidis finding haven in Iraqi Kurdistan, protected by the Peshmerga.

The Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighting force of courage against stark adversity were universally admired. The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq in recognizing the fighting skills and determination of the Peshmerga committed military trainers and small arms to the Kurds to enable them to acquire modern fighting skills and capability in the use of more advanced weaponry than they were familiar with. ISIL had taken advantage of an immense store of weapons and vehicles the fleeing Iraqi military left behind, in Mosul.

That was four years ago when Islamic State emerged as a viral scourge and threat destabilizing the entire Middle East, sending its jihadi fascist tentacles well beyond the Middle East, to Africa and North America and Europe. The weapons destined to support the armoury of the Peshmerga were never delivered, though the Iraqi government had issued its permission. The Kurdish independence referendum intervened. The Kurds felt they had established a reputation, they had the support of NATO members.

They represented the original inhabitants of the land and across the Iraqi border to Syria, Iran and Turkey. They felt entitled to recognition and the only recognition that had real value to them would be that Kurdistan be declared a fully sovereign and autonomous state. Only if this were to be recognized by the international community, however, could that be accomplished. Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria would never acquiesce, and the outcome would be catastrophic. As it was, Iraq reacted instantly, making it clear that Kurdish aspiration for total autonomy would never be sanctioned.
A trench near the Christian town of Bartella marks the extent of Kurdish military control in northern Iraq. Photograph: Cengiz Yar

When the Iraqi military moved in to take possession of the oil fields and areas that Kurds declared their own, part of their nascent independence, the Peshmerga melted away rather than risk a military confrontation with all the loss of life that would entail. Those weapons have been stored, collecting dust in warehouses in Montreal and Jordan. General Vance, Chief of the Canadian Forces, spoke of those arms never finding their way into Kurdish military service at this juncture, past the imbroglio of the independence bid.

The most successful fighting force in Iraq whose central role in arresting the advance of the jihadis of the Islamic State, driving them out of Iraq overplayed it hand. The Kurdistan government was convinced of its right to campaign for independence and to demand it of the world. And it was not wrong. But the world was not prepared to support them and in the process to take sides, wresting territory from four powerfully resistant countries who had no intention of sharing the geography despite Kurdish heritage.

The years that Canadian special forces took pride in working alongside the Kurdish fighters to provide military assistance was borne of recognizing the effectiveness of the Peshmerga as opponents of the Islamic State. Even while so doing, Canadian authorities were fully aware that in sharpening the fighting skills of the Peshmerga, Canada could conceivably be involved in a situation where it could be blamed for helping to prepare Kurdish ambition to become reality in the pursuit of independence that would unleash mass regional violence.

The Kurds deserve much, much better. But that better future has been forestalled. Their just entitlement doesn't appear to be anywhere on the near horizon and more's the pity.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Unappeasable National and Personal Grief

"It is impossible to overestimate the significance of the Smolensk crash in the life of Jaroslaw Kaczynski -- and in the life of Polish politics in general."
"For Kaczynski, public debate is no longer a political one -- between people of different values, it's an eschatological war between good and evil."
Marek Migalski, lecturer, University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland
Poland's ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, next to the country's new Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak (second from right), during monthly remembrance ceremonies in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Wednesday. Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara
Poland's ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, next to the country's new Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak (second from right), during monthly remembrance ceremonies in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara

In 2010, to mark an anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre where in the early days of the Second World War, the place became a killing ground when Red Army soldiers slaughtered over 20,000 Poles, then-President Lech Kaczynski died as his plane mysteriously crashed over Smolensk. Along with him the top ranks of the Polish military and members of parliament perished, the memorial ceremony they meant to honour by attending, a destination they would never meet.

Lech Kaczynski's twin brother Jaroslaw was devastated, he clung to the hope that his brother might somehow have survived the crash. Facing reality, he reached out to conspiracy theories involving Russia. Now effectively leader of Poland in his  turn, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leading the ruling Law and Justice party, despite two independent inquiries into the crash having concluded that inclement weather and human error were responsible for the crash, believes otherwise.

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — As Poles mark the eighth anniversary Tuesday of a plane crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of other top Polish officials, new monuments are going up and streets are being renamed to honor the victims of the national tragedy.

Eight years on, his brother long dead, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, along with other Eastern European members of the European Union appear to have shrugged off the democratic values that the ruling body of the EU feels all its members must adhere to. Warsaw and Brussels confront one another in a disagreement over Poland's trajectory seeming to approximate authoritarian rule, a relaxation of the judicial system and a rejection of EU values, particularly alongside orders to accept its 'share' of refugees and migrants flooding Europe

Kaczynski's alliance has been forged with Central and Eastern Europe whose nationalist leaning he shares with Hungary's Viktor Orban, and which is having its impact within the larger geographic sphere. Kaczynski is defiant in reflection of the Brussels meeting scheduled to discuss whether to penalize Poland for alterations it has made to its judicial system, characterized by law experts as undermining the rule of law. The concern is that nations like Slovakia and Romania may emulate this "illiberal democracy".

That Jaroslaw Kaczynski remains wedded to the belief that his brother's death owes to Russian intrigue has opened the way to launch another investigation under the imprimatur of the ruling Law and Justice party. The party itself appears to flirt with the idea of a thermobaric bomb having blown up the plane carrying Lech Kaczynski, his cabinet members and top-flight military. Failing that the use of artificial fog to make the plane's landing on the runway difficult.

The party's own national political opponents who opposed Lech Kaczynski's re-election bid in 2010 are also held to have been in some way responsible, alongside the Kremlin. Government prosecutors acting under the authority of the Law and Justice party ordered the exhumation of victims of the plane crash, promising that the completed inquiry would present new evidence revealing the truth of what happened on that fateful day. Their suspicions fuelled by Russia's track record in political assassinations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow ( AP )

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Basic Civil Services, New Delhi Trash

"There is absolutely no painless way to fix this waste problem."
"Politicians are not willing to make even one resident unhappy because then that resident will vote for the other party."
Ashutosh Dikshit, chief executive, United Residents Joint Action, Delhi

"We are fourth-class citizens."
"Nobody listens to us. We die like insects."
Mohammed Ismail, 66 business owner, New Delhi

"The height of the dump keeps increasing and my health keeps decreasing."
"We are uneducated people. We do not understand the law, but we do know that this dump is illegal."
"What do I do? Shall I smash my head into a wall? How long can I live here?"
Faiyaz Khan, owner, Buffalo dairy plot, Ghazipur, India
Ghazipur waste India 2
Rescue operations underway at Ghazipur landfill where a mound of garbage collapsed, in east Delhi. (Prabhat Pandey/HT)

The land on which one of New Delhi's garbage dumps sits was once a dense forest. It is now the Ghazipur dump. It rises higher year over year. At the present time it is the height of a 17 story-high mountain of trash. About 36.3 billion kilograms of garbage in the metropolitan area of Delhi, including New Delhi accumulates at four official dump sites in the capital already struggling with polluted air and toxic water problems.

But it is these garbage dumps that have become among the largest, least regulated and most hazardous in the international community, according to Ranjith Annepu, co-founder of Waste Wise, a nonprofit environmental group. The Government of India has pledged it plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022. Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated "I reiterate our commitment to sustainable development", in a country swiftly overtaking China as the most populous in the world with 1.3-billion people.

The population of Delhi over the last two years has increased to 19 million from 12 million, with infrastructure and services incapable of keeping pace. In that period, waste taken to the dumps has proliferated from 3.6 million kilos to 9 million daily, about half of which is converted to energy or composted, with the rest festering, in  he words of P.K. Khandelwal, chief engineer of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation.

The Ghazipur dump wafts particles to nearby residents infecting neighbourhoods with tuberculosis and dengue fever. It has turned ground water yellow, and singed nearby trees with the noxious toxicity of its presence. And it proved its instability even as trucks rumble over it depositing greater amounts of trash daily, when a tower of trash became unstable during monsoon rains last year and crashed into a canal nearby, creating a surge of sewage, and two people died.

The problems of the dumps and their administration intersect both municipal and national government agencies, controlled by different political parties, hesitant to annoy people who depend on the dumps and their contents to sift through for salvageable items for sale, representing their living income. Residents of Delhi might or might not use trash cans placed on streets; they have been long accustomed to flinging their trash anywhere, leading to piles of refuse everywhere.
Ghazipur waste India 4
Photo: CivilEngineer

According to Mr. Khandelwal of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, the government is unable to find land suitable for the opening of new dumps. Politics come into play when hundreds of thousands of ragpickers living in nearby slums tend to protest over safeguarding their source of income. At an estimated cost of $75 million it would be possible to collect the Delhi waste and convert the dumps into sanitary landfills.

But the condition of the Ghazipur dump seems secure at this point, with no solution on the near horizon to its fallout where skin infections run rife, suffocating asthma attacks complicate the lives of residents, and heart arrhythmias have become common. Government has promised to shut the dump down after last year's collapse and area residents question why nothing has yet been done and the dump continues to grow.

It is 50m tall, spreads over 70 acres and has received 13 million tons of garbage up to now Photo: Civil Engineer

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