Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tidying Up Manila's Slums

"Most of our crimes start with drinking in public places."
"They have a drink, they hold people up, shoot each other, cause mischief."
Inspector Adonis Sugui, chief investigator, Tondo police station, Manila

"It [martial law] ended with the arrest, torture, detention and disappearance of so many young people who were branded as enemies of the state."
"I think you can expect more repression, more confusion, more contradictory statements from the president [Rodrigo Duterte]."
"To the point that even his own people will not be sure what they should be doing."
Jose Manuel Diokno, dean, De La Salle University College of Law, Manila
Homeless people detained in Manilla
Homeless people detained by police in Manila    Photo AFP Noel Cens

In the slums of Manila, 45-year-old Edwin Panis acted as a neighbourhood security officer. It was his duty to ensure local law and order in a nation that under its hardline enforcer president has slammed anyone suspected of pushing or even using drugs into bullet-ridden eternity. Mr. Panis, a law-and-order fan, voted to put Mr. Duterte into office, trusting him to clean up the crime-ridden streets and drugs-and-guns problems haunting the Philippines, as he had done as mayor of Davao City.

The law-abiding people of the Philippines were tired of struggling, of being harassed by the presence of criminal gangs, of fearing for their lives, and they welcomed Rodrigo Duterte's brash personality, his coarse persona, his promise that criminals would run at his presence, and he wasn't averse himself to dealing personally with criminals. He had killed, and he said, he would do so again.

Mr. Panis, on a hot night, stepped outside his cramped living quarters to have a smoke and share a beer with friends and neighbours. "The war on drugs has become a war on drunks", he observed following his surprise arrest at the rough hands of six plainclothes policemen with their holstered guns who had swept purposefully through the winding alleys of the slum where they had come across the informal gathering.

Drinking beer in public is now a criminal offence in a nation suffused with violent crime. From an unseemly social misstep to a criminal offence in one fell swoop under the rubric of 'cleaning up the streets'. A new initiative which Mr. Duterte had authorized, for the police to begin arresting people for infractions such as public urination, men outdoors with bare chests, smoking and drinking in the streets; representing public order violations. Violations in fact that men like Mr. Panis were authorized to deal with.

Over 50,000 people have been summarily taken into custody for offences such as these; Manila's slums are on notice. "There's no way not to be scared", Amy Jane Pablo, 37, noted, a neighbour of Mr. Panis. In the wake of two high-profile murders, "radical changes in the days to come" was promised by Mr. Duterte; that people idling in the streets represented "potential trouble for the public". No idling, no public drinking, no going out shirtless, no kidding.

It took no more than a week after the announcement for police to arrest 7,000 for loitering, public drinking and additional violations of neighbourhood ordinances. The public's mind has shifted to memories of martial law imposed in the Philippines under the military rule of Ferdinand Marcos in the suspension of normal law replaced by the imposition of military rule. From 1972 to 1981 martial law ruled in the Philippines to ensure that "ridiculous rules" were not flouted.

A backlash ensued when a man arrested for going out in public shirtless somehow died while in custody. The official story was he was having "difficulty breathing". Arresting loiterers was "foolish", denounced the president, not at all in line with what he had ordered. He had informed police to break up gatherings, not authorized them to harass people; they had obviously misinterpreted his intention.

This was not, after all, the war on drugs with its bloody, lethal consequences. Merely people being people.

Contradictory messages and sloppy communications echoing the persona of Donald J. Trump, an admirer of Mr. Duterte, who for all anyone knows returns the compliment.

Detainees sit next to an anti-drug mural of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte inside the Manila City Jail, October 16, 2017© 2017 Reuters

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Monday, July 30, 2018

With All Due Respect...

"With all possible respect for the pastor of souls, instead of helping Africa's poor come to Europe, my duty in the government is to first think of the millions of Italian poor."
"Am I wrong?"
"[Undocumented immigrants represent a] tide of delinquents [to be sent packing]." 
"I am the least of the good Christians. But I don't think I deserve as much. I am reassured by the fact I receive on a daily basis the support of so many [Italian citizens] women and men of the church."
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini

"If there are Christians that feel an ease in saying no to reception, the church must ask itself a question."
"This means we have spoken about Jesus -- performed ceremonies and done liturgies -- but we surely haven't created a mentality according to the gospel."
Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary general, Italian Bishops' Conference

"[There is a need to] save our own humanity from vulgarity and barbarization [by saving lives], beginning with the most exposed, humiliated and trampled upon."
Statement, Italian Bishops' Conference

"It's really unprecedented that the official voices of the Catholic Church are so squarely opposed."
"That hasn't happened before. The Catholic Church is the opposition, basically."
Massimo Faggioli, Villanova University professor of Catholicism and European politics
Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's square during his Sunday Angelus prayer on the weekend.
Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's square during his Sunday Angelus prayer

There was a time when fascism swept Italy in the first quarter of the 20th Century. It was a nationalism supported by the Catholic Church. A Catholic Church that in its holiness deigned not to remonstrate with Benito Mussolini or with his collegial partnership with Nazi Germany. Mussolini may not have been a Nazi, but he certainly was a fascist. And the Catholic Church of the day made no overt effort to publicly distance itself from either Mussolini or to denounce Hitler's vicious anti-Semitism, nor to protest the deadly victimization of Jews.

In a new world order with a new situation where refugees are suddenly embraced and not spurned while their status as refugees is questionable as it has been observed that most are really economic migrants, their search is not for rescue from certain mass death in a genocidal plan to finally rid the world of Jews, political opponents, homosexuals, Roma, and those with physical and mental disabilities, but for opportunities to advance their economic futures as much as to escape oppressive governments and constant tribal conflicts.

There must compassion be directed without hesitation or stint. That the cost is great in the sense that there is a sacrifice of sovereignty and often public security, that there are few expectations the incoming hordes will shed their faith in a religion that holds them responsible for the imperative to jihad -- in missionary work for Islam, and incites them to decry other religions and reject any law but Sharia, bringing with them a culture inimical to integration and to equality among the genders is but a detail to the Vatican.

Its singular and separate state of comfortable isolation will be unchallenged by the influx of 'those in need' of succour. Italy's new stance on rejecting further absorption of migrants and haven-seekers has the opprobrium of parish priests who insist that anti-migrants "cannot call themselves Christian", that the "Italy First" movement is a rejection of Christian values.

In reality, welcoming incalculable hordes of Muslims in very fact is a rejection of Christian values, for the haven claimants do so, and as their numbers increase the fallout will soon be visible and visibly felt in their spurning and contempt for "Christian values".

The anti-immigrant sentiment building across Europe, saturated beyond a hellish nightmare by those claiming haven and drowning the continent in a heritage and culture bred of tribalism and Islamic sectarian violence and a rejection of humanistic values of equality and tolerance and pluralism has offended Pope Francis whose papacy speaks of the humanity and rights of migrants. The reverse appears to be of no concern to this shepherd of god's word, but that the developed world must be prepared to sacrifice its rights and humanity to that of those opposing them.

The move by Catholic countries aside from Italy; Poland and Austria, to no longer open their arms to alien migrants who share little in cultural commonality with their values has jolted the Church into action. Francis asks nations to "decisively and immediately" act in prevention of the "tragedy" of deaths at sea of migrants who decisively and resolutely and immoderately set out to place themselves in situations of potential lethal harm while seeking the level of social services and human welfare absent in their countries of birth.

The resolute action of the Western world in opposing those same conditions ushering in a new world order for themselves is too much to expect of those from Africa and the Middle East.

Italy has seen over 650,000 foreigners arrive at its shores since 2014, uninvited and unappreciated past the first wave of welcome. Viewing Italy's plight its neighbours had no wish to share the burden to process asylum claims. Germany and Austria, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands opened their hearts and the borders and the swell of burgeoning migrants inevitably overwhelmed the welcome, in the process transforming the welcoming countries in the short view, but nothing as opposed to what will occur in the long run.

But they performed their Christian obligations in fine form.
Pope Francis (C) delivers his speech next to Ecumenic Patriarch of the Orthodox Church Bartolomeo I (C-L), Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros (Theodoros) II (C-R) and other religous leaders after their meeting at the Pontifical Basilica of St Nicholas in Bari, in the Apulia region in southern Italy, on July 7, 2018. Pope Francis, during the five years of his papacy, has spoken about the humanity and rights of migrants, cautioning about the anti-immigrant sentiment taking hold in parts of the developed world. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Deadly Arson, From Israel To Greece

"We have serious indications and significant findings of criminal activity concerning arson."
"We are troubled by many factors, and there have been physical findings that are the subject of an investigation."
Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas

"The procedure is difficult, harder than that of other mass disasters which we have dealt with in the past as a forensics department."
"Here, the main cause of death was burning, in most cases the complete burning [of the body], so identification is very difficult."
Coroner Nikolaos Kalogrias
In this aerial view taken from a drone, showing the devastation caused by Greece wildfires, in the village of Mati, east of Athens   Associated Press
Greek authorities are blaming the flimsy structures of the village of Mati as being responsible for part of the death toll of 82 people, that the maze of buildings and blocked roadways helped the wildfire spread and foiled peoples' efforts to escape. Greeks and tourists trapped by the fire and forced to find their own escape routes and to protect themselves as well as they could from death, are in turn blaming the government for not having in place a semblance of responsible and responsive communications, guidelines and response teams to rescue people in such dreadful disasters.

Now that Greek authorities have stated publicly that fires that broke out in multiple places within a short period of time from each other were likely to have been deliberately set, a criminal investigation is under way to find the fire-setter, singular or plural. Suspicion is rumoured that a Pakistani migrant may have been involved. Actual suspicions and details have not been divulged; it is the rumour mill that is being challenged on overtime. The arson section of the fire department is conducting the investigation into the start of the wildfires.
A pall of smoke turns large parts of the sky orange over the ancient Acropolis hill,
If suspicion is validated, it would be an interesting development, should a foreign agent be found to be involved. There is a precedent, in fact, where wildfires are being incessantly and deliberately set in Israel, from across the Gaza border. These incendiary attacks are numerous, following Friday night mosque prayers when religious authorities and Hamas operatives incite Palestinians to go forth and light fires with the use of kites, balloons, whatever can be flown across the border into fields, farms, orchards and settlements where vast acreages of land have been scorched, animals have been killed and a costly replanting will eventually be undertaken.

As usual, there is no global condemnation of these events. Firefighting crews in Israel are in a state of constant vigilance. Frustration grows that arable land is being devastated. The danger to residents nearby the border is obvious and fraught with potential. On occasion, IEDs have been found attached to these flying unguided missiles. The discovery of a dead bird fitted out with an incendiary device was yet another indication that any imaginative, destructive steps that can be undertaken courtesy of the terrorist group Hamas, will be.
Firefighters and soldiers fall back as a wildfire burns near Athens
The mayor of an area where one of the wildfires broke out felt that the cause could conceivably have been sparks emanating from a severed electricity pylon cable. Meanwhile, rescue crews and volunteers continue their desperate search for victims whose bodies have not yet been discovered. The fear being that the death count of 82 may yet rise. As it is, many of those who have been found dead were unrecognizably burned, ensuring that identification will be extremely challenging.

Fanned by gale-force winds, the fire that broke out near Rafina, northeast of Athens, sped throughout seaside resorts or local homes along with vacation residences, burning all in its wake, including hundreds of vehicles. These areas, popular in the summer with tourists and Athenians alike have been destroyed. According to officials, given the large area involved complicates the need to assess the number of people who may have been present as the fires broke out, to attain an official number of those still missing.
Firefighters try to extinguish flames during a forest fire in Neo Voutsa, a northeast suburb of Athens, Greece
 "In the sea, there was a rain of fire, there was smoke, there was a Force 12 wind. I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye to my mother", sorrowfully remarked 53-year-old Thanassis Moraitis, looking for his 90-year-old mother's body at the local morgue. He, his wife and 19-year-old son along with his mother had attempted to drive away from the fire, but were unable to outrun it. They were forced to abandon the car and try for the beach to reach the water to protect themselves from the raging fire. All but his mother managed to reach the water.

As they ran for the beach Moraitis sustained leg burns from the heat-suffused air. How quickly could a 90-year-old woman move to outrun a raging inferno? Meanwhile "serious indications" identifying almost-simultaneous fire breakouts have been provided by ground inspections and satellite image analysis. What remains to be seen is whether those suspicions are validated, and whether a criminal investigation to identify a perpetrator will succeed.

Flames rise as a wildfire burns in the town of Rafina, near Athens

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Islamist Terrorism, ISIL-connected Or Not

Video posted on social media showed Hussain clad in black, firing at least three shots into a cafe or restaurant. (@ArielAnise/Twitter)
"The executor of the attack in the city of Toronto in Southeastern Canada this past Sunday evening is from the soldiers of the Islamic State and he carried out the attack in response to appeals to target citizens of coalition countries."
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

"At this stage, we have no evidence to support these claims. Since Sunday evening, all areas of the Toronto Police Service have been involved in this investigation. We have received assistance from law enforcement partners at every level and I have been updated regularly."
"Accurate information about this investigation will only be released by the Toronto Police Service. We will continue to explore every investigative avenue including interviewing those who knew Mr. Hussain, reviewing his online activity, and looking into his experiences with mental health."
Toronto Chief of Police, Mark Saunders

"We have to be cautious on this. There are reasons to be skeptical."
"In this case, they haven't given any new information, there is no proof of a pledge of allegiance and so far, national security authorities have said there is no national security nexus."
"They [ISIL claims] are now much less cautious and much less disciplined [in the accuracy of their claims of involvement and credit-taking for international atrocities]."
Dr. Stephanie Carvin, professor of international relations, Carleton University
Faisal Hussain is seen in a 2008-2009 Victoria Park Collegiate Institute yearbook photo.
Faisal Hussain is seen in a 2008-2009 Victoria Park Collegiate Institute yearbook photo.

Dr. Carvin's expertise lies in domestic and international security, terrorism and technology; hers is, of necessity, an academic approach to interpreting motivation and involvement, leaning heavily on her research, which is to be expected. What those critical of ISIL claims of responsibility fail to acknowledge, however, is that it hardly matters whether their incitement to action in reaching out to Muslims ensconced in Western societies to do their duty in jihad links them not as motivators but as captains of the team.

In practical essence, it hardly matters whether or not a convinced Islamist clasping the fixation of jihad and martyrdom has sworn allegiance to ISIL. They served their purpose in demonstrating how it can be done, in offering encouragement and praise, urging the simplicity of simply attacking wherever they happen to be located to do their duty to the faith of universal Islam. To the corrupted minds of psychopathic Islamists for whom dedication to jihad motivates them to devote their lives to serving Islam, what the West views as terror, the jihadis grasp as courageous defiance.

As for the police and political authorities, their concern is to release as little incriminating-Islam information as possible for a twofold purpose; to uphold public security and minimize social backlash, and to suppress their own responsibility in helping through their stupendous lack of awareness and sense of justification in forestalling such atrocities. The news media, skilled in interpretive reportage and investigative journalism give this one a pass. They publish in support of the authorities' strenuous back-bending to direct the public thought away from 'blaming Islam'.
Julianna Kozis, left, and Reese Fallon, right, were killed in the shooting. (Toronto Police Service/Facebook)

Stewart Bell who had over a decade ago published a book on Islam's violent infiltration in Canada has now co-written a piece pointing out that Faisal Hussain, the 29-year-old loner with the "million-dollar smile" who stalked the Danforth on Sunday night likely obtained the handgun he used to such great effect, shooting 15 innocent people strolling Danforth Avenue or sitting in its many cafes, indoors and outdoors on a lovely summer evening, from his brother, a dealer in illegal guns. His brother who was also a drug dealer.

Terry Glavin, writing for Postmedia, has traded in his normally astute observations on his loathing for China, to berate the readers of his peerlessly limpid column on compassion lacking for the family of the Hussains who have undergone much tragedy in their lives, losing a daughter in a car accident, mourning an older son lying in a coma in a Toronto hospital. An enormous cache of the deadly carfentanil was discovered along with 33 guns at the home of a surety with whom Fahad Hussain was living while on bail for criminal drug charges.

A former high school teacher has explained why it was that he contacted police, concerned that Faisal Hussain was openly planning at some future date to commit murder because he thought it was "cool". A former schoolmate at the same high school, spoke of her horror, leading her to remonstrate with Faisal Hussain, when he revealed he wanted to kill his mother. While allegations of mental health problems surrounding this man have been grasped by authorities in his defense, it is far likelier that he was just a plain old psychopath imbued with passion for jihad.

"If the people cannot find it within themselves to discharge the same duty of solidarity and compassion in respect of the Hussain family, to enclose them as warmly within the embrace of their empathy as the families of Reese Fallon and little Julianna Kozis, then they should be ashamed of themselves", writes Glavin. This sanctimonious display of generous compassion, equating the deaths of two innocent young girls at the hands of a murderous felon with the anguish felt by their parents and that of the Hussain parents is grossly inappropriate.

Glavin faults Ezra Levant for his perfectly logical query whether police had deliberately withheld the name of the perpetrator of violence, mayhem and murder on Sunday evening. To withhold the name or any identifying feature of such terrorists has become a common tactic in Europe where many countries have been blessed with the settlement of huge numbers of Muslims; Germany, France and Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Netherlands come to mind, where suppression of Muslim crime sprees is now a feature of daily life.

Canada is heading in the very same direction. Protection of Islam as a religion of peace. Any who question that sensitivity on the part of government at every level are put in their place as disgraces to Canada, clearly "Islamophobic" in nature. And nor can it be pointed out that increasing numbers of Muslims in Western societies comes in lock-step with an increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks infusing society. Much less that gangs, guns, drugs and crime appear irresistible to a sizeable proportion of Muslim youth.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ferocious, Killing Wildfires in Greece

"We assume they became trapped by the fire because it was so strong and so fast."
"Some were huddled together as if trying to protect each other. They were badly burned and have not been identified."
Haris Malimagolou, Hellenic Red Cross, Refina, Greece

"We ran to the beach. We were all crowded on to the sand and rocks. Then all the trees surrounding the beach burst into flames. I jumped in the water because I didn't know what else to do. Ash was falling on me from the sky while I was in the water."
"We were not informed and were not evacuated. There was a big lack of communication."
Paulina Corvisier, 25, French tourist, Mati, Greece

"We went into the sea because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water. It burned our backs."
"It reminded me of the eruption at Pompeii. It was terrible."
Kostas Laganos, wildfire survivor

"It happened very fast. The fire was in the distance, then sparks from the fire reached us. Then the fire was all around us."
"The wind was indescribable ... it was incredible. I've never seen anything like this before in my life."
"We ran to the sea. We had to swim out because of the smoke, but we couldn't see where anything was. We fell into the sea and tried to distance ourselves, to get away from the monoxide. We went as far in as we could. But as we went further, there was a lot of wind and a lot of current and it started taking us away from the coast. We were not able to see where we were."
"It is terrible to see the person next to you drowning and not being able to help him."Nikos Stavrinidis, wildfire survivor
Firefighters and volunteers try to extinguish flames in Kineta, Greece, on Tuesday, July 24.
Deadly wildfires ravage Greek towns   CNN

Greece is accustomed to spontaneous wildfire eruptions in their forests, as a yearly event geared to time of year and dry conditions. But not ever a wildfire eruption of the intensity and speed with which these have overtaken communication, resources and people's lives. A group consisting of 26 bodies many of whom were children, driven to the sea in a desperate effort to escape the wildfire was engulfed instead before they could reach the water, overcome mere metres from the shore.

They shared a comforting group embrace before perishing, and this is the way they were found by the Greek Red Cross.

Residents and tourists caught up in the sudden panic of outrunning the surprise advance of wildfires were devastated by their escape from death. By Tuesday night the official death toll stood at 74 deaths with the knowledge that more bodies will be found to raise that total. Those who survived feel they have ample reason to express their frustration and anger with the experience when a lack of resources became evident and they were forced to fend for themselves, no obvious official presence to take on the wildfire, much less warn and reassure locals and vacationers of what was occurring.
People take refuge Monday from the fires along the beach north of Mati.
People take refuge Monday from the fires along the beach north of Mati.

Mr. Stavrinidis, and those with him who had survived were rescued by an Egyptian crew in a fishing boat. Four separate areas of Greece were consumed by fires that began in Corinth on Monday morning. Mati, a small town in the eastern region of Rafina, popular with Greek families and pensioners was the worst hit; utterly consumed, not much of it remaining. The hundreds of people who evacuated in a burst of life-preserving energy after roads were blockaded by burning cars and the oncoming fire, were rescued by boat.

Over seven hundred people were ferried to the port of Rafina. Its mayor, Evangelos Bournous, spoke of over one thousand buildings and 300 cars damaged, leaving the village a smouldering wreck and leading her to announce, "Mati no longer exists". EU members Cyprus, Spain, Turkey, Italy and Germany responded to Greece's call for aid, offering what support they could, the EU promising it "will spare no effort to help".
An aerial view shows burned-out houses in Mati.
An aerial view shows burned-out houses in Mati.

"We have been asking for more resources for any years. We have been asking for a new aircraft. But even if we'd had ten [additional aircraft] it may not have made a difference as the fire was so strong because of the winds, and houses and trees so close together", stated two firefighters on condition of anonymity, who had long warned they were not equipped to fight a major incident, though it would seem that even they might never have imagined the severity of such a wildfire that struck the area, dubbed one of 'biblical' proportions.

Bodies were found inside homes and in burnt-out vehicles. Some people who had leaped into the sea failed to escape death, dying as a result of smoke inhalation from the fumes that billowed out and across the water, to consume their lives. Rescue workers, stated Panos Skourletis, Greece's interior minister, were "still searching to see if there are more missing".
"I saw dead people. I saw at least 300 cars burned. I saw the burned houses. There is no such settlement [Mati] anymore."
"We are trying to function in another reality because two settlements, Mati and Kokkino Limanaki [just south of Mati], have disappeared. They have been lost on the map. The number of dead is rising."
"It has changed the landscape. We live another reality."
Evangelos Bournos, mayor of Rafina-Pikermi
A firefighting helicopter drops water to extinguish flames Tuesday in the village of Kineta.
A firefighting helicopter drops water to extinguish flames Tuesday in the village of Kineta.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Remember Them? Their Lives Are Sacrosanct....

"This decision to abandon our principled opposition to the death penalty is both abhorrent and shameful, and I call on ministers even at this late stage to reverse this decision."
Diane Abbott, Labour Party legislator, Parliament, London

"We should not forget that the crimes that we're talking about involve the beheading and videoing of those beheading [of] dozens of innocent people by one of the most abhorrent organizations walking this Earth."
"[The government risks] being seen as hypocrites [if it makes no exception of assurances the death penalty not be used yet itself uses lethal force to kill people in battle]."
U.K. Security Minister Ben Wallace
Still from Islamic State beheading video

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has evidently conveyed to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Britain would not succumb to mass bereavement should two jihadis of British derivation infamously representing the Islamic State group be executed, were they to be placed on trial in the United States. That message between nations in official attitudes to punishment of the brutish jihadis who so obviously relished the pain and suffering they inflicted upon those they took prisoner as representatives, albeit civilian, of 'enemy states', clear enough in their shared vision of the aptness of taking a guilty life to avenge a monstrous death.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, part of a cell of notorious British jihadis unfondly but popularly named "the Beatles", reflecting their British accents, and responsible for the unspeakably barbaric handling of hostages taken by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant whose showmanship was unparalleled for its extreme malicious cruelty. The best known and most atrocious of the quartet was known as "Jihadi John" for whom punishment for his failure to adopt the mantle of humanity was death by drone strike in 2015.

In that year and the one previous, the world's attention was focused with horror on the dreadful plight of over twenty Western hostages in Syria whom the group tortured before dispatching them in great videoed shows of merciless atrocities. Seven Americans were beheaded along with British and Japanese journalists and aid workers. And nor were members of the Syrian military spared, all fodder for the group to gloat and boast of their butchery through the slick production of their grisly videos loaded onto the Internet for all to shudder at.

Britain, according to a news report out of the Daily Telegraph, had no intention of seeking "assurances" the two jihadis would not face execution despite Britain's opposition to the death penalty leading to Britain refusing to send prisoners to those countries which prosecute them for their crimes committed there, where punishment of those crimes could result in execution. The issue is the provision by Britain of incriminating information to be used in a future prosecution in the U.S. against the two gruesome murderers.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Dressing up Qatar

"We are modest. We want people to come and see [Qatar, hosting 2022 World Cup soccer event]."
"Yes, you could be a modest person, you could be a conservative country and still be a fun-loving country, and you could still play football and you could still host a World Cup."
Nasser al-Khater, assistant secretary general, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy Tree Nursery
The artists' impressions of Qatar stadia are sexy, but the issues seem to no longer be

Israel pioneered the advent of making the desert bloom, and it did so for agricultural purposes, to make itself self-sufficient in the basics of whole food availability in fruits and vegetables grown on Kibbutzim, collective agricultural farms. This was a country that started with hard labour -- hard labour of its own, with its young men and women committing themselves to becoming farmers, agricultural workers, ensuring that the new nation was capable of feeding itself.

Qatar is a country whose discovery of natural gas resources made it enormously wealthy. It too is engaged in transforming the desert from grey to green, a verdant Paradise where this nation of two-point-six million people can anticipate rainfall of five centimeters annually. And where temperatures in its capital Doha are in the mid-30s Celsius summer-long, with an oppressively hot desert sun baking the atmosphere.
Qatar’s population is 2.6 million, of whom nearly 90 per cent are migrant workers

Qatar is confident that it will give the visiting world a first-class show in November of 2022, and preparations are apace to ensure this can be accomplished. The desert on which it sits will by then host eight stadiums where competition at the elite level will take place of the most popular sport in the world. Qatar will manage to 'air condition' those stadiums through clever, expensive engineering. But in Qatar money is no object for it is plentiful.

Vast tents have been erected as plant nurseries with ten thousand trees being nurtured to semi-maturity before being planted eventually. Those tender saplings require the tented shade and when they eventually are planted they will be an anomaly in a region with sparse-to-nil rainfall and vegetation-broiling heat. And nor will there be a shortage of green, green grass, now being cultivated in huge rolled sheets to ensure the desert will not appear barren.

After all, an anticipated million-and-a-half visitors are expected to travel to Qatar for this world event to help Qatar celebrate its uniqueness. Of course there is already millions of foreigners present there. They represent the labour that will build the infrastructure, roll out the carpets of grass, plant the trees and any other hard work that must be done for this splendid occasion. The International Labour Organization, a UN agency, is satisfied Qatar is cooperating in recognition of workers' rights.
Calton (Right).
Calton (right) left his native Kenya to work in building structures for the World Cup in Qatar. 
Credit:Image courtesy of “The Workers Cup LLC”
"Amongst the most frequently reported problems facing migrant workers are: deceptive recruitment practices which see migrant workers promised more favourable conditions of work by recruiters in their home country than they are given on arrival in Qatar; employers compelling workers to live in squalid conditions; employers confiscating workers’ passports and denying them the exit visa they need to leave Qatar; late or non-payment of wages; and employers not giving workers proper identity documents, which leaves them exposed to arrest. In extreme, but not exceptional, cases migrants are subjected to forced labour."
Amnesty International
Close to two million foreign workers from what was once called 'third-world countries' and are now euphemistically referred to as 'developing countries', are working in Qatar to prepare the sites for a world celebration of the beautiful game. They are very busy, making Doha beautiful. Al Jazeera will have much to crow about on behalf of its paymaster. It certainly will not point out that some of the workers slave away for over 72 hours weekly, nor that one contractor worked for over 124 consecutive days.

Qatar is looking for greater name recognition, to be more celebrated for its place in the world. The World Cup is a splendid opportunity, and its own news organ with tentacles world-wide represents a great asset to ensure it crows long and hard.

Image result for Khalifa International Stadium
Al Bawaba
Khalifa International Stadium

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Life Goes Better With Coke - Dontchaknow?

"When I was a kid and used to come here, Chamula was isolated and didn't have access to processed food."
"Now, you see the kids drinking Coke and not water. Right now, diabetes is hitting the adults, but it's going to be the kids next. It's going to overwhelm us."
Vicente Vaqueiros doctor, San Juan Chamula clinic

"Coca-Cola is abusive, manipulative."
"They take our pure water, they dye it and they trick you on TV saying that it's the spark of life."
"Then they take the money and go."
Martin Lopez Lopez, local activist

"Coca-Cola pays this money to the federal government, not the local government."
"While the infrastructure that serves the residents of San Cristobal is literally crumbling."
Laura Mebert, social scientist, Kettering University, Michigan
[A road-sign marking the way to YITIC, in the Altos de Chiapas (Maria Verza)]

Coca-Cola arrived in this normally rainiest region of Mexico fifty years ago to set up their factory locally, employing locals and advertising its product in marketing campaigns shared by Pepsi producing billboards in local languages using models in traditional Tzotzil outfits. The locals became so psychologically involved with the sweet chemical drink that they have adopted it in their religious ceremonies practised by the indigenous Tzotzil population. To the extent that many believe the power to heal the ill lies within the purview of the carbonated soda drink.

Cruel irony.

Coca-Cola pays the government a minuscule amount for its right to extract water for the production of its world-famed pseudo-potable product; about ten cents per 1,000 liters. Water runs so short in San Cristobal de las Casas in the southeastern state of Chiapas, some neighbourhoods can count on running water several times a week only. Tanker trucks sell additional water to households. And because of the shortage of potable water, in steps Coca-Cola priced in competition with bottled water.

Chiapas residents drink an average of over two liters of soda daily. This habit born of avoidable circumstances has affected people's health, raising the mortality rate from diabetes 30 percent between 2013 and 2016. The second leading cause of death in the state after heart disease is diabetes, with over 3,000 people dying annually from complications of diabetes. Those complications are not only blindness and vascular problems, but primary links to heart disease.

San Pedro Chenalhó (M.V)

The Coca-Cola bottling plant is owned and operated by a food and beverage giant with the rights throughout much of Latin America. Femsa executives claim their plant impacts minimally on the water supply for the city; their wells are deeper by far than the springs supplying local residents. And Ferma has permits to extract over one million liters of water a day in its decades-old deal with the Mexican government. Its deep wells, of course deplete the water table; little wonder that wells further up run dry....!

But Femsa represents an influential force for the local and federal economy. Four hundred people are employed at the plant, which contributes roughly $200-million annually to the state economy. In that sense, it is like a tax, funded by the locals who consume inordinate amounts of the unhealthy concoction whose manufacture leaves them critically short of water. It is a situation that represents an insane, repetitive raping of a vital natural resource, victimizing those whom it claims to serve.

The rivers running through San Cristobal are found to be rife with infectious pathogens and E.coli, speaking to a general neglect of the area by the federal government; the population ill served by their own municipal authority with a lack of wastewater treatment, raw sewage flowing directly into local waterways. Maria del Carmen Abadia, a resident of the city, witnessed her father die from diabetes complications, sees her mother's health waning, fears for herself. "I'm worried I'll end up blind or without a foot or a hand. I'm very scared", she says.

She should be.

Coca-Cola bottlesBigstock

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Israel's Righteously Unblemished Critics

"[The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] rejects and disapproves] of the new State of Israel proclaiming Israel a "Jewish" state by legislation which contradicts international law]."
"[The international community should] confront such a law and or other Israeli attempts, aimed at perpetuating racial discrimination against the Palestinian people."
Saudi Foreign Ministry 

"[The new law is] racist [it] enshrines the racism of this entity [Israel] through an apartheid system that goes beyond the former apartheid system in South Africa."
"This Israeli law would not have been issued without the unlimited support provided by successive U.S. administrations to this rogue entity. [The Trump administration’s recent relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem] came as a green light [for Israel] to pursue its aggressive policy and racism."
Syrian Foreign Ministry

"[Adoption of the law] reflected the regime of racism and discrimination against the Palestinian people."
"[Israel clearly means to obliterate the Palestinians'] national identity and depriv[ing] them of their legitimate civil and human rights on their occupied homeland."
GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani

Israeli flag.
Israeli flag.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Amazingly, unpredictably, there are others in the Arab world of diplomatic niceties who politely and vehemently feel threatened that a clearly Jewish state which freely celebrates its home-coming in the re-establishment of its heritage lands as a place of comfort, security and haven for persecuted Jews worldwide, finally asserting its preeminent position as the only country in the world where being Jewish is not a reason to fear being yet again persecuted, oppressed, threatened and violated adamantly presents itself in legal terms, as Jewish.

The chorus of Arab condemnation of the new Israeli legislation that now enshrines the country as "the national home of the Jewish people", has sung its outrage in a choir including the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Israel, must be feeling utterly devastated, disappointed, outcast and alone; its neighbours, in a totally new move will surely now exclude the Jewish state from the friendly and civil relations that prevail among all countries in the Middle East.

How can Israel possibly live with this rejection and the loss of comradely relations between it and its Middle East neighbours? Possibly if it explains that the thousands of years of Jewish yearning to return to its ancient homeland, to escape the recurring deadly hostility that Jews have been subjected to; culminating from endless pogroms, humiliations, expulsions, scorn, and victimization, Jews have felt worn out from being forced to find a place for themselves where no country would accept them.

Turning as a bright alternative to the ageless pledge to one day return to Zion, they did, after the world extracted an exorbitantly horrendous price, tasking the Angel of Death to hover over the Jews
of Europe while they were tormented and vilified, ghettoized and anguished in preparation for mass annihilation as the ultimate assault and insult to the existence of that people collectively refusing to vanish from the face of the Earth.
Proclamation of Nationhood is read by Israel's Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Around him are members of the provisional government, including Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok (third from right). Labor Minister Moshe Ben Tov (extreme right) wears sport shirt. Portrait above is of Theodor Herzl, Zionism's founder
Proclamation of Nationhood is read by Israel's Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.   Frank Scherschel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

In the State of Israel, which considers itself the final refuge for Jewish life, non-Jews were welcome to remain, and they did. Arabs constitute 17.5% of the eight million population, with the Jewish presence estimated at over six million, hosting as well Druze, Kurds, Armenians, Africans and Bedouin among others such as European Christians. Hebrew will now legally represent the only official language of the Jewish state; Arabic downgraded to special status.

Saudi Arabia guards its citizenship, awarding it to Saudis exclusively; it recognizes no religion other than Islam, and its concern for the welfare of Palestinians has not excited it toward offering either haven nor citizenship to them. It considers the Shiite sect of Islam false and results in accusations of a heretical nature, leading to violent enmity. The conflicts that result from sectarian hatred and violence creates gross destabilization, military assaults, mass murder of civilians, starvation, deprivation, refugees.

Syria's Shiite regime has waged an unrelenting war against its sectarian majority population, viewing them as 'terrorists' for the unsupportable crime of protesting against the unjust treatment meted out to them by their dictator-president Bashar al-Assad. Millions of Sunni Syrians have become both internally displaced and external refugees, crowding for safety from the regime into Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, flooding Europe for asylum.

Iran has mustered the strength in numbers of the minority Shiites, supporting their armed militias, creating non-state militias as terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, with an agenda focused solely on the destruction of the State of Israel, with a side-issue of promoting Shiism over Sunni Islam, with all the attendant fury of accusations, venom and threats that accompany a power struggle of one over the other, each reaching to attain the coveted status of ultimate power.

Israel, seeking to live in peace and security in its ancient homeland, cradled in a geography that once held disparate indigenous populations, all of which jockeyed endlessly for territory, has brought modernity and democracy to the Middle East in a geography to which both were foreign in a world stilled in the amber of quaint medievalism and backwardness. Viewing Israel as an usurping intruder, the Arab world shudders at the progress and civility Israel represents, challenging the brutality and ignorance that suffuses their culture.

After an Arab air raid, bodies of dead Jews lie in the rubble along the Tel Aviv waterfront.
After an Arab air raid, bodies of dead Jews lie in the rubble along the Tel Aviv waterfront.
Frank Scherschel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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Drowning in Plastic Refuse
This dead albatross chick was found with plastics in its stomach on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Marine plastic can be dangerous to wildlife.

"The interesting piece is that at least half of what they’re finding is not consumer plastics, which are central to much of the current debate, but fishing gear."
"This study is confirmation that we know abandoned and lost gear is an important source of mortality for a whole host of animals and we need to broaden the plastic conversation to make sure we solve this wedge of the problem."
 George Leonard, chief scientist, Ocean Conservancy
"I knew there would be a lot of fishing gear, but 46 percent was unexpectedly high."
"Initially, we thought fishing gear would be more in the 20 percent range. That is the accepted number [for marine debris] globally—20 percent from fishing sources and 80 percent from land."
Laurent Lebreton, oceanographer, Ocean Cleanup  
vaidehi shah from Singapore - Litter on Singapore's ECP
A 2017 study out of Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany drew the conclusion that up to 95 percent of global ocean plastic emanated from ten rivers -- eight of which are in Asia and two in Africa. Ocean Conservancy issued its own report the same year with their conclusion that 60 percent of the world's ocean plastic pollution saw five countries as being responsible for that trash: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

According to the Helmholtz report, some of the lowest levels of floating plastic were found in the drainage basin of the Great Lakes, where over nine million Canadians live, an area that takes in as well on the U.S. side, Cleveland and Chicago. These are regions where waste undergoes management with recycling and collection programs reflecting the conscientious choices of consumers in the West whose trash plastic waste represents a minuscule proportion of worldwide plastic waste.

The rapid economic development in Asia through the previous thirty years is attributed to the virtual tidal wave of garbage consumers have become accustomed to discarding and which their municipal administrations have been incapable of instituting measures to minimize waste by recycling methodology or reducing plastic packaging. In North America overall, there are no beach landscapes overwhelmed with plastic garbage, nor do open-air dumps close to coastal areas proliferate as they do in Asia.

Countries were ranked in a 2015 study published in the journal Science, by their rate of "mismanaged" waste,  highlighting ocean pollution countries like Bangladesh where 89 percent of garbage has been mismanaged, in comparison to the U.S. rate of two percent. A panel of ecological experts was canvassed in a 2015 study led by Ocean Conservancy to figure out which types of plastic trash represented the most danger to marine life. Plastic bags, buoys, cigarette butts, balloons, fishing equipment, utensils and food packaging made the list, followed by plastic straws.

It is the plastic detritus that has the very real potential of entangling creatures of the sea that present the most damaging danger in the ocean. According to a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, an estimated 46 percent of plastic making up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is comprised of abandoned fishing gear, called "ghost gear", which has been lost or deliberately abandoned. "In comparison to other consumer items discarded in the ocean, it seems that fishing gear poses the greatest ecological threat", the 2015 Ocean Conservancy report noted.

Now three times the size of France, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to exponentially expand. The great misfortune is that ocean plastic has a food odour attractive to seabirds, explaining why it is that up to 90 percent of all seabird species consume such trash. A whale washed up on the coast of Australia, died from consuming close to 30 kilograms of plastic. Seafood is beginning to host trace amounts of plastic.

A report by the World Economic Forum warns that should current trends continue, there will eventually be a greater presence of discarded waste plastic than the current number of fish in the sea by sheer weight alone.

NOAA marine debris removal Hawaiian Islands, 2014

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Caught In The Net of Furious Symbolism

"We have the impression that [the] FBI, instead of fulfilling its main responsibilities in fighting crime, is fulfilling openly political orders."
"It's coming from those forces that are continuing to fuel Russo-phobic hysteria [in the United States]."
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman, Russian Foreign Ministry

Maria Butina speaks at a Moscow press conference in 2013.

This is a quite impressive woman, Maria Butina, the  young Russian woman who apparently enjoyed her freedom to bounce back and forth from Russia to the United States in pursuit of an agenda that, incredibly, revolved around the right to gun ownership. Doubtless she made quite an impression with the National Rifle Association. Her one-woman campaign to loosen Russian laws on gun ownership to make it more like the U.S., where people can avail themselves of guns quite readily, accounting in great measure for astonishing incidents of mass shootings, may even be popular in Russia.

What a resume this woman has acquired, not only in establishing her bona fides as an excellent entrepreneur, but as a quasi-political figure who has acquired some interesting contacts at elite political levels, both in Russia and the United States. And all by age 29. It's head-spinning, actually. She was obviously born to intrigue and manifestations of capability leading to trust and an unerring instinct to ingratiate herself with those capable of further advancing her remarkable career.

It is, unfortunately, a career put on hold, for the moment. She and her presence in the United States, have been seized upon as representing the damning issue of a dark power geared to penetrating government agencies and lead players for the unforgivable purpose of spying. Shucks, the United States has no agents installed in the Russian Federation or elsewhere for that matter, acquiring sensitive data useful to U.S. intelligence agencies -- perish the thought!

But relations between the U.S. and Russia are currently at a sensitive pitch of feverish accusations. Not so much Russia since it is held to be the aggressor, but the United States most certainly where denunciations of state interference in the last presidential election that saw the elevation of a most improbable candidate to the presidency, elected by quite a large margin of votes in a contest of two incompetent liars of low-to-absent principles, saw a man with a benevolent attitude toward a Russian president whose actions have been nothing short of alarming globally ascend to power.

Returning to Maria Butina, that enterprising woman of ambition and talent to match; born in the steppes of Siberia, she acquired a university education, opened a furniture store and in short order transformed one store into a furniture empire. But other options to spread her prodigious talent called and she entered the United States on a student visa to further her academic eduction there. In the process she acquired a fascination with guns and mounted a challenge in Russia to relax gun laws.

This young woman has been charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government to gather intelligence on American officials and political organizations. And get this: to work toward establishing back-channel communication lines for the Kremlin. Facilitating open communications between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? Oh, dear! The Washington establishment will not, simply not have it! An enemy is not a competitor with whom one consults and exchanges views.

And when the U.S. views their president as having been Trumped by the slick imperturbable manner of a sly fox such as Putin they are enraged. Hatred, not a bland form of nation-to-nation communication is the order of the day this day in Washington. And plucking the presence of a Russian university student into the ambit of an FBI investigation of a woman who publicly posts social network updates on her travels between the U.S. and Russia offers speculative fodder for yet another threat emanating from Russia.

"It's psychosis. A witch hunt", her father stated from her hometown of Barnaul, in Russia. She is on the cusp of graduating from American University with a master's degree in international relations, finishing with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Smart woman, wrong place, right time.

Alexander Torshin, Scott Walker, and Maria Butina in April 2015

Alexander Torshin, Scott Walker, and Maria Butina in April 2015.
Maria Butina’s Facebook

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wrongly Accused?

"We ask you both to do everything you can to save Monika Schaefer from her ongoing unjust and immoral imprisonment in Germany."
"Every day that Canada refuses to act or acts ineffectively is a day that Ms. Schaefer spends in a foreign jail."
"Therefore, we express the required urgency."
Joseph Hickey, executive director, Ontario Civil Liberties Association
Monika Schaefer was arrested in Germany in January for a series of online videos denying the Holocaust ever happened. (Emilio Avalos)

The government of Canada is being  urgently bidden to extend its good offices to diplomatically inform Germany that its anti-Holocaust-denial laws are beyond the pale, fail to exercise good state judgement and explicitly victimize people who simply express their honest opinion. In so doing their viewing as a criminal act justifiably requiring the punishment of incarceration is depriving German Canadian Monika Schaefer of the courtesy of her due human rights entitlements.

The Ontario Civil Liberties Association finds it deplorable that Canada is not exercised over the uncivil treatment of a woman whose right to free speech places Germany in a rather awkward position. The German state knows it cannot make amends for a previous, Nazi iteration of their government having taken the world to war and in the best tradition of barbaric tyranny exercised great effort and determination to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

They succeeded to a remarkable degree starting with a sinister, foreboding campaign to dehumanize Jews, portraying them as sub-human predators on the world stage, seeking to conquer every index of civilizational development through an agenda to acquire power in banking, news, governmental access and the acquisition of properties with the intention of impoverishing nations and accessing their wealth in a notorious global conspiracy. In stopping this agenda, Nazi Germany saved the world.

Democratic Germany, however, cringes with horror at the very mention of the Final Solution and its eventual toll. To this day, 70 years later, the world's Jews have been unable to replace the six million which Nazi carnage destroyed. Even so, passionate Holocaust-deniers spend their lives 'proving' that the death of six million Jews simply never occurred. Look around you; they, the Jews, are everywhere, flourishing and still plotting.

And this woman who finds common cause with the Islamic Republic of Iran and all other Jew-haters is described by the Ontario Civil Liberties Association as a Canadian "political prisoner" in a German prison, charged with a German criminal law of which Canada has no counterpart and is, according to their reasoning, contrary to international law. All this and more unequivocally stated in a letter made public and addressed to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, urging them to act immediately on behalf of this beleaguered woman.

Oddly enough, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's Ukrainian grandfather was a Nazi-supporting anti-Semite, an editor of a newspaper aligned with the Third Reich that vilified Jews and supported the Final Solution. This woman, Monika Schaefer, ran as a political candidate for Canada's Green party in the Yellowhead riding of Alberta, until the party set her candidacy aside with the revelation of her commitment to Holocaust denial.

In 2016 a You Tube video denying the Holocaust produced by Ms. Schaefer and featuring her as the star informant was released. It was released in Germany, by her approving brother, Alfred Schaefer who uploaded it to the Internet. Her brother has also been arrested and incarcerated. What a tragedy.

This photo provided by Paris' Holocaust Memorial shows a German soldier shooting a Ukrainian Jew during a mass execution in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, sometime between 1941 and 1943. This image is titled
This photo provided by Paris’ Holocaust Memorial shows a German soldier shooting a Ukrainian Jew during a mass execution in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, sometime between 1941 and 1943. This image is titled “The last Jew in Vinnitsa”, the text that was written on the back of the photograph, which was found in a photo album belonging to a German soldier

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