Saturday, March 30, 2019

A Civil Servant's Interpretation of Canadian Law

"So while I typed out notes during the phone call, I took the extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step of making an audio recording of the conversation without so advising the Clerk."
"This is something that I have never done before this phone call and have not done since."
"It does not matter how I would look in doing that -- I would be a mockery, and that is not the problem -- [in acceding to the persistent and frequent urging of principals in the PMO and the Clerk of the Privy Council to shelve her moral principles and go astride the law to satisfy the wish for the Prime Minister to shield SNC Lavalin from criminal prosecution], the bigger problem is what it would look like down the road for the government."
"One, it has never been done before, but two, this is going to look like nothing but political interference by the prime minister, by you, by everyone else that has been involved in politically pressuring me to do this."
"This conversation, previous conversations I’ve had with the PM and people around him are entirely inappropriate. It is political interference."
Jody Wilson-Raybould, former Minister of Justice

"You are not just the attorney general, you are the minister of justice in a cabinet. I am not seeing anything inappropriate here."
"That is not my recollection of the conversation [above]. I do not have an independent recollection of the event. I did not wear a wire, record the conversation or take extemporaneous notes."
Michael Wernick, former Clerk of the Privy Council

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould take part in the grand entrance as the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission is released on Dec. 15, 2015. (The Canadian Press)

"[The clerk of the Privy Council Office (PCO) never briefed Justin Trudeau on his talk with ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould."
"[The Prime Minister was] unaware of the full contents of this recording before today."
"[The prime minister] should have spoken directly with the former justice minister and attorney general about this matter — and wishes that she had come to him."
"[There was] clearly an erosion of trust over the past few months between PMO, the clerk of the Privy Council, and the former justice minister and attorney general."
Statement from the Prime Minister's Office

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau professed to being confused over his former Attorney-General's claims of having been relentlessly harassed by his executive assistants and advisers. They, evidently, took it upon themselves with no guidance whatever from him, much less orders, to press Jody Wilson-Rayboult to reconsider her decision not to intervene when the prosecutorial services decided not to extend a DPA agreement to SNC Lavalin over its criminal bribery (under Canadian law) of Libyan officials to secure contracts.

A Delayed Prosecution Agreement which would have resulted in the construction and engineering firm paying a fine, pledging to reform, and getting on with business rather than facing a criminal trial and being restricted from government contracts for a ten-year penalty period. The prosecution service, held to be immune from political interference had determined that SNC did not qualify under the provisions that might exempt it from a criminal trial, and the former Minister of Justice agreed. And she was not amenable to being badgered by anyone to reverse her judgement.

When Michael Wernick returned again to the subject with Wilson-Raybould he made it clear that he was intervening on the direct orders of the prime minister: " I am going to have to report back before he leaves...he is in a pretty firm frame of mind about this so...I am a bit worried..." It takes no genius mind to infer from that statement that direct and immediate contact took place between himself and the prime minister and what the subject was. And the threat implicit in " is not a good idea for the Prime Minister and his Attorney General to be at loggerheads" speaks volumes of the reason for Wilson-Raybould's removal as Minister of Justice.

And certainly while Clerk of the Privy Council snapped at the Justice Committee interviewing him about the matter that he wasn't wearing a wire, that he hadn't made a recording, that he simply did not recall the type of details that in her testimony before the committee Jody Wilson-Raybould made it quite clear just how she was being pressured by all and sundry to change her judgement in favour of following the prime minister's line because "jobs were at stake", his recalcitrance to recall was laid bare by the simple reality that someone else recorded a critical conversation revealing absolute proof of malfeasance and false testimony.

And, as Wilson Raybould admitted when she realized that the fix was in and she was about to suffer the consequences: "I am waiting for big...the other shoe to drop, so I am not under any illusion how the Prime Minister has and gets things that he wants...I am just stuck doing the best job that I can..." presaging her dismissal and how wise she was in retrospect to record that damning conversation for posterity and an unfortunate legacy for this dismal failure of a Liberal government headed by a pretentious and unprepared-to-govern, egotistical dilettante.

"The prime minister stated publicly when issues about the propriety of the government's conduct in relation to the SNC matter arose that my ongoing presence in cabinet spoke for itself."
"I resigned the next day and I trust my resignation also speaks for itself."
Jody Wilson-Raybould

Labels: , , , , ,

Warming Seas, Fish Scarcity

"That four percent decline [the figure arrived at through the study of declining fish populations attributable to warming seas] sounds small, but it's 1.4 million metric tons of fish from 1930 to 2010."
"And that region [northeast Atlantic Ocean and the Sea of Japan where a much steeper decline was noted] is home to some of the largest-growing human populations and populations that are highly dependent on seafood." 
"We hope that this highlights the importance of accounting for the fact that climate change is driving shifts in productivity."
"Overfishing is a one-two punch: it makes populations more vulnerable to ocean warming and rebuilding overfished populations is hindered by warming,"
"We recommend that fisheries managers eliminate overfishing, rebuild fisheries and account for climate change in fisheries management decisions."
"Policymakers can prepare for regional disparities in fish catches by establishing trade agreements and partnerships to share seafood between winning and losing regions."
Chris Free, researcher, University of California, Santa Barbara
Fishing in the North Sea off Shetland, Scotland, where fish stocks have declined. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

"We were stunned to find that fisheries around the world have already responded to ocean warming."
"These aren’t hypothetical changes sometime in the future."
Malin Pinsky, study co-author, associate professor, Rutgers’ Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources

"Fish populations can only tolerate so much warming, though."
"Many of the species that have benefited from warming so far are likely to start declining as temperatures continue to rise."
Olaf Jensen, senior study author, associate professor, Rutgers’ Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences
A new study published in the journal Science warns that climate change has already impacted seafood catches around he world, that fish populations are declining in response to warming oceans, placing a food source and fishing income at risk, affecting millions of people worldwide. In some coastal areas and island nations fish represent 70 percent of the animal protein people consume. Elsewhere, around the world, fish make up 17 percent of the intake of animal protein.

Climate change shrinks many fisheries globally, Rutgers-led study finds
Haddock in the North Sea are among the climate change "losers" as a result of warming ocean temperatures. Credit: NEFSC/NOAA

Climate change is steadily impacting marine life where oceans have absorbed 93 percent of heat trapped by greenhouse gases. Ocean temperatures, according to a study published in January, were increasing faster than previous estimates suggested they would. Fish are consequently migrating to other areas more conducive to their existence since high ocean temperatures can kill fish, along with the food those fish depend upon.

In the northeast Atlantic ocean where Atlantic cod proliferate, there was a 34 percent decline in sustainable catches. In other regions representing a quarter of the world's fishing populations, no significant changes were noted. Fish had, however, expanded their range in roughly a quarter of the studied regions so that off the Atlantic Coast of the United States catches of black sea bass have increased by six percent; a rare reversal of the shrinking fish habitat.

Black sea bass are one of the climate change "winners" that have seen their productivity increase with warming ocean temperatures. Credit: Orion Weldon

Over the eight decades that the study encapsulates, more populations of fish declined than increased. This new research studied historical data to determine that the declines which previous studies predicted would lead to fewer ocean fish in the future, had already begun to occur noticeably.  "This is going to be one of those groundbreaking studies that gets cited over and over again", noted Trevor Branch, associate professor, University of Washington School of Aquatic and fishery Sciences.

In colder parts of the ocean, fish populations tended to fare more favourably; cold fails to impact deleteriously on fish the way warming does. The researchers found less detail in the data they studied relating to the tropics, leading them to the realization that in those regions fish losses may have been steeper than in regions the study focused on. When warm ocean areas are overfished this adds to the vulnerability of the stock, since fish are hindered in their reproduction.

Climate change shrinks many fisheries globally, study finds

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 29, 2019

China's Re-education Centres

"Efforts are made [in Xinjiang] to fight terrorist extremism in accordance with law."
"Human rights are also seriously protected. There is no such problem as arbitrary detention."
"Vocational skills training [centres are aimed at preventing Muslims from becoming terrorists]."
Beijing statement, UN meeting on human rights

"[Government bids] call for spiked clubs and cattle prods -- all kinds of things that you wouldn't expect for a vocational training centre."
"There's also the obvious evidence that you don't need to train people in their 80s with vocational skills, or university presidents [and] other kinds of cultural elites who have been swept up."
Rian Thum, Xinjiang historian, University of Nottingham

"It's not as they have said, telling to the world that they are great, merciful, clever and strategic by educating and teaching skills to all these people."
"I didn't learn any skills there -- it's all not true."
"[After refusing instructions, an iron suit was forced on him that stretched his limbs out] After that, I was the most obedient person. It was so painful."
Kairat Samarkan, 30 former inmate

"[Inside], it was not somewhere humans could stay. In there, one minute felt like one year."
"I hate China. I hate the Communist Party."
Amina, former inmate

"It wasn't their choice [guards of the same ethnicity] ... they were obeying the Chinese government [who had ethnic Kazakhs watched over by Kazakh guards]."
"It looked like a prison. Everything was iron. You're asking yourself -- why am I here? What have I done to end up here?"
Yerzhan, former inmate 
A person wearing a blue mask with tears of blood takes part in a protest march of ethnic Uighurs asking for the European Union to call upon China to respect human rights in the Chinese Xinjiang region and ask for the closure of “re-education centre” where Uighurs are detained, during a demonstration around the EU institutions in Brussels on April 27, 2018. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
Yerzhan awakens by the ringing of an alarm each morning at 5 a.m., one among 18 others in a concrete cell, garbed in a thin blue uniform, prepared for armed guards to escort him to a bathroom. Two hours later breakfast is served, tea and a steamed bun for all 18 cell inmates. The remainder of the day Yerzhan is seated with back straight, and attentive on a stool learning Mandarin, singing patriotic tunes, memorizing the ideology of the Communist Party.

Noon renders a portion of rice and at 6 p.m. the ritual of praising Chinese President Xi Jinping echoes as all the inmates shout "Long live Xi Jinping!". A cattle prod helps convince any who refuse in the internment camps situated in the province of Xinjiang as described by eight former detainees whose testimony provides a current idea of conditions in camps which, according to UN estimates, hold something like a million Uighur Muslims and Kazakhs.

Upon their release in January most of the former inmates made their way to Kazakhstan where they remain and have agreed to being interviewed with the stipulation their names be withheld in the interests of shielding relatives in China from retaliation. Beijing 'legalized' those internment camps, describing them as voluntary 'vocational skills training' centres, which hasn't convinced anyone critical of the crude human rights abuses China employs.

Yerzhan had committed the crime of using WhatsApp, blocked in China. As for Amina who had been an inmate of a female facility, she had committed the offense of travelling abroad in Kazakhstan and choosing to study there. Her stay had her witness guards bursting into cells at night, placing black hoods over women's heads, to take them away. One woman returned in the morning, weeping, but one morning she failed to return and was never again seen.
Ethnic Uighurs take part in a protest march asking for the European Union to call upon China to respect human rights in the Chinese Xinjiang region and asking for the closure of “re-education centre” where some Uighurs are detained, during a demonstration around the EU institutions in Brussels on April 27, 2018. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

"[The Chinese government is] trying to align reality, at least to a certain degree on the surface, to this story that they are crafting."
Rune Steenberg, Xinjiang expert, University of Copenhagen
Pretense at normalcy is critical, while also clumsily transparent. As when a detainee was handed a government certificate concluding her detention, certifying her six months had been well spent at an "education" centre, having satisfactorily completed all requirements. She was required, before her release, to restore to the government whatever it had expended in feeding her for that period, and a receipt for what she paid was subsequently given her; 10 yuan daily, totalling 1,800 yuan.

Those who misbehave while being educated will have suitable penalties meted out. Amina's hands and feet were shackled. She was kicked with metal-tipped boots. To teach her that she must cease asking what crime she had committed. After she agreed never again to go to a mosque nor to wear a head scarf or to pray, she earned a commendation.
"[China may] finally create the very problem it has claimed to be trying to prevent, producing potentially a new generation of suicide bombers."
Jo Smith Finley, Xinjiang expert, Newcastle University
In this Nov. 4, 2017 file photo, Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region. Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Instructing Israel

"Shame on you [European Union; specifically the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium and Poland]."
"The Golan Heights and Jerusalem and the Land of Israel [have] been the home of the Jewish people thousands of years before France was the home of the French and the United Kingdom the home of the British."
"So we will continue building our amazing country. We will continue defending the free world from radical Islam, even though you do not deserve it."
Education Minister, head, New Right party, Naftali Bennett

"The EU must stand together courageously with the US and recognize that the Golan will forever be part of Israel."
"What is their alternative? To give the murderer Assad control of strategic Israeli territory? This won’t happen."
Yair Lapid, co-leader, Blue and White joint list

"We now allow those who keep the Iranian terror regime’s economy afloat to preach morality to us."
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
Israeli soldiers work near their tanks at a gathering area near the Israel-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Tuesday, March 26, 2019.
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
"It is definitely possible that senior Hamas leaders were not informed of the attack [though insrructions came from Iran]. However, the leaders of the military wing of Hamas were notified and even coordinated with the Islamic Jihad’s leadership, which was responsible for the preparations [for the attack]."
"In Gaza, it was believed that Israel would not launch a major operation in Gaza two weeks before the elections. [Hamas was surprised when Israel responded overnight with a series of airstrikes on Gaza, rejecting Hamas overtures delivered via Egypt for] quiet in exchange for quiet."
Egyptian senior intelligence official involved in mediating talks between Israel and Hamas
Scene of attack in Moshav Mishmeret
Scene of attack in Moshav Mishmeret    Israeli Police
Nations of the world are pretty well united in continual condemnation of a tiny country whose neighbours are determined to extirpate its presence from the Middle East. Israel, they thunder, reacts "disproportionately" to "provocations" from Hamas, from Hezbollah, from Iran, from Syria. Why Israel cannot just sit there and let the rockets fly is beyond understanding. After all, Germany, France, Belgium and the U.K. have millions of Muslims and Arabs living amongst them, and they have never found it necessary to react with the kind of military force that Israel does.

Needless to say, though Islamists do run amok and engage in all manner of criminal activity in Europe, including jihadist attacks, most of their venom is directed against Jews and Israel evidenced in the mounting anti-Semitism prevalent in all those Muslim-occupied sectors of Europe. Europe finds it can live comfortably with that, although it does make noises decrying the presence of anti-Semitism and vowing to 'fight' it. As for Poland, well, that nation has made it a point to exclude the presence of Muslims in that firmly Christian nation.

And its current spat with Israel over the matter of wording and responsibility around the issue of "Polish death camps" which Poland would prefer be referred to as "German death camps", and its irate response to the reminder by undiplomatic Israelis that Poland hosted its very own distinctly Polish-populated assaults against Polish Jews during the pre-and-post Nazi occupation as well as throughout the occupation has resulted in a political rift that has given Poland the pleasure of now refuting Israel's claim to the Golan Heights as a protective measure against Syrian attacks.

Poland, which itself went through generations of being handed off to other occupying European neighbours, now zealously guards its borders against incursions by migrants flooding Europe. Israel has accepted the presence of non-Jews as citizens with equal rights to Jews in a Jewish state, be they Druze, Kurds, Bedouin, Arab or Christian. Yet other countries which have a long record of warring with one another feel justified in sternly counselling Israel how it should act and react.

Europe, which became a bleak, dark and bloody charnel house for its Jewish populations whose ashes now fertilize European agriculture. Israel has indulged in extraordinary efforts to reconcile its return with the presence of resentful Arabs and Muslims, from vacating Gaza to providing the Strip with water and power in hopes of alleviating the misery that Hamas's rule has imposed on Palestinians there. Fatah in the West Bank is no less threatening to Israel, but far more circumspect in its intentions if celebrating 'martyrs' and paying their survivors and those imprisoned for murdering Jews can be classified as 'moderate'.

Israel defended itself from invading armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria when it gained the Golan Heights from which Syria shot munitions down upon Israel and its citizens. It no longer can, though Iran does its utmost to arm Syria and Hezbollah with stockpiles of advanced weapons against a future war. The rockets which Hamas and Islamic Jihad aimed at Israel in the past week were provided by Iran and those attacks were spurred by Iran.

When increasingly more advanced rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel the Jewish border communities go into emergency lockdown, with all residents evacuated to bomb shelters, schools and businesses close, and people live in overwhelming fear of death and injury. This is called terrorism. Europe does not face these constant tests of a people's resolve to endure and to survive. Hypocrites of the first order, all of them.

Shame, indeed!

A  missile (top L)  from Israel's Iron Dome air defense system lights the sky as rockets (C and R) are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on March 25, 2019. (Said KHATIB / AFP)
A missile (top L) from Israel's Iron Dome air defense system lights the sky as rockets (C and R) are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on March 25, 2019. (Said KHATIB / AFP)

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Within A Lebanese Dungeon

"Within the frame of its fight against espionage for the Israeli enemy entity and the dismantlement of its rings inside Lebanon, the General Directorate of the General Security has arrested Lebanese-Canadian F.G., born 1978, upon the notice of the military prosecution."
"[The detained spy was also] preparing to enter the occupied Palestinian lands."
General Security intelligence agency, Lebanon
In this December 13, 2018 photo, Israeli soldiers stand guard next to cameras at their new position in front of a Hezbollah flag, near the Lebanese southern border village of Mays al-Jabal, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
In this December 13, 2018 photo, Israeli soldiers stand guard next to cameras at their new position in front of a Hezbollah flag, near the Lebanese southern border village of Mays al-Jabal, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Spywork is dangerous work. There has to be very strong motivating factors to convince a man born in Lebanon and who has moved to a safe Democratic country like Canada far from the violence of the Middle East, that spying on his country of birth to benefit the intelligence interests of a neighbouring country his birth country considers an enemy would make sense. It would make sense if that man felt that Lebanon had fallen under the control of a truly malevolent influence threatening the stability of the entire region and much further afield.

It was members of the al-Quds Iranian Revolutionary Guards who were dispatched by the Ayatollahs into Lebanon in the 1980s to assemble, fund, arm and train Shiite Lebanese in guerrilla tactics in the creation of its proxy militia, Hezbollah, recognized as a terrorist group in many western countries. Its first wholesale act of mass murder was the bombing of the American multinational force barracks in Lebanon, killing hundreds of U.S. marines with two truck bombs. The U.S. and French embassies were their next targets.

Hezbollah has since carried out bombings, instructed by the Islamic Republic of Iran to hit Jewish or Israeli targets abroad. More recently, Iran and the Quds Force deployed Hezbollah in Syria to the service of the Syrian regime struggling to put down a civil war brought about by revolting Syrian Sunnis. Hezbollah had also provoked a three-month war with Israel in 2006. 
Lebanese security forces stand guard as others carry out documents and computers from a shop that handles money transfers on Hamra street, in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 8, 2017. (Photo by The Associated Press)
Lebanese security forces stand guard as others carry out documents and computers from a shop that handles money transfers on Hamra street, in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 8, 2017. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Hezbollah has since graduated from being an independent army of terrorist fighters in a country where Druze, Shiites, Sunnis and Christian Lebanese communities have lived in an uneasy truce for generations and where Palestinian 'refugee' camps have added to the distrust and unease amongst various Arab groups of sectarian and tribal dissonance, to being part of the government, even though it has never agreed to coalesce its forces with that of the national military. Lebanon remains a country riven between its various parts and strong-armed into an alliance with Iran.

And into this morass of steaming disunity and terrorist enablement returned a Lebanese-born Canadian with a purpose, ostensibly as an agent recruited by an arm of the Israeli Mossad to try to ferret out intelligence on arms in the possession of Hezbollah. Iran has steadily provided Hezbollah with increasingly dangerous-to-Israel advanced rocketry and other weapons, stockpiled against a time when Iran plans to assemble its Shiite militias, Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza for a concerted attack on a number of fronts against Israel.

Now, taken by Lebanese security, a man of 40 identified only by two initials has been accused of working for the benefit of Unit 504, the human intelligence division of the Israeli Defense Forces. His mission was to himself recruit informers and to obtain data on Hezbollah. Critically, Israel would have wanted him to discover what he could about the fate of a downed and captured Israeli pilot, Ron Arad, in Lebanese custody since 1986.

This newly-detained man with Canadian-Lebanese citizenship is not a rarity among Lebanese deciding to work on behalf of Israel. Dozens of people were arrested on espionage charges after the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon.
This picture taken on December 4, 2018 from the southern Lebanese village of Kafr Kila shows a view of the border with Israel, with Israeli vehicles driving on the right side and UN and Lebanese vehicles driving on the left. (Ali Dia/AFP)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Islamic State's Promising New Foothold

"ISIS has money coming into the Philippines, and they are recruiting fighters."
"ISIS is the most complicated, evolving problem for the Philippines today, and we should not pretend that it doesn't exist."
Rommel Baniaoi, chairman, Philippine Institute for Peace,Violence and Terrorism Research

"They convinced me [at age 11] that if you die in battle, you will be rewarded in the hereafter."
"They said it was the right path."
Jem Habing, 22, former Abu Sayyaf fighter
"The fight is not over"... The comment came just over a year after Isis was defeated in Marawi City, after a five-month battle with government forces (pictured). Photograph: Pacific P/REX/Shutterstock

The Islamic State laid its claim to a pair of its suicide bombers causing the carnage during a January Sunday Mass at a Catholic cathedral in the Philippines when two bombs tore through the church compound, killing 23 people. To push home their point, Islamic State circulated on its dedicated chat groups an illustration of President Rodrigo Duterte kneeling on a pile of skulls with a terrorist over him holding a dagger, captioned "The fighting has just begun".

No longer does the Islamic State caliphate celebrate its existence in Iraq and Syria after four years of U.S.-backed bombs and Kurdish and Shiite militia fighters engaged in ground combat, finally extirpating the terrorist group from a territory once the size of Great Britain, taking up a third each of both Iraq and Syria, and planning even greater expansion before Russia entered the scene bombing while Syrian and Hezbollah troops and Iran-linked Shiite militias added to the toll taken on ISIS in Syria.

ISIS lost their precious caliphate territory but their ideological ferocity lives on in Africa and Asia. In the Mindanao island group of southern Philippines, a longtime haven for Islamist insurgents in a mostly Catholic nation, where dense wilderness and lax policing allows them to thrive, ISIL has gained dedicated converts. "ISIS has a lot of power", former child fighter Motondan Indama confirmed. "I don't know why my cousin joined, but it's happening all over."
Philippines’ soldiers clear streets in the battle for Marawi in 2017. Local authorities are monitoring Isis foreign fighters, with fears their numbers may have grown. Photograph: Jes Aznar/Getty Images

In 2015, ISIS made its initial foray into southern Philippines, to recruit by circulating online videos leading to hundreds of fighters from disparate Islamist groups to pour in from Chechnya, Somalia and Yemen, according to intelligence officials. Militants pledging allegiance to Islamic State took over Mindanao's city of Marawi, bringing the Philippines' military into five months of battle, leaving the largest Muslim-majority city in the  country in ruins.

Among the 900 Islamists killed there were foreign fighters and the Islamic State's East Asia emir Isnilon Hapilon with them. Despite victory being declared, Islamic State loyalists have since regrouped. Ten thousand Philippine soldiers have been deployed in Jolo, site of the January 27 cathedral bombing, and airstrikes by the military have been carried out intensively. Police had declared the bombing of the cathedral case-solved, blaming it on Abu Sayyaf, a local Islamist group.

Abu Sayyaf and other local Islamists have for decades pursued a campaign of bombings and beheadings, thriving in the lawless wilderness interior and seas from Philippines to Malaysia and Indonesia. Global calls for jihad resounded in the Philippines in the 1990s when Filipinos left the battlefields in the Middle East.

A peace agreement was struck with the government and former Abu Sayyaf rebels, bringing autonomy to the Muslim south. During the ensuing ceremony, security concerns mandated the presence of Philippine soldiers vastly outnumbering the presence of former rebels.

Two bombs hit the church in Sulu in January. The first blast occurred inside the church as mass was being celebrated, and was followed by a second explosion in the parking lot as troops responded. Photograph: HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 25, 2019

African Healers Treating Ebola

"Let it [Ebola] stay in Congo. We seldom see Congo people here. Let it not come."
"In that state [hallucinogenic trance resulting from seeds he feeds his patients], they say many things."
"And I can tell from their words whether it is demons or a curse making them ill, and I can decide how to treat them."
Samuel Muriisa, 74, traditional healer, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Traditional healer Gogo Phephisile Maseko attends to patients using a blend of cannabis and other herbs in Johannesburg
In 2014, during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, there is the example of a prominent traditional native healer who became a vector, linked to over 300 cases of the dread disease, as a "super-spreader". The healer lived in rural Sierra Leone, and died after the virus was communicated to her from one of her patients. When she died it was viewed as a calamity, bringing hundreds of relatives and admirers from a long distance to attend her funeral.

They helped to wash her body. A body unbeknownst to them, thriving with virus.

And when they subsequently returned to homes in Guinea and Liberia the worst Ebola epidemic in history was ignited. According to the World Health Organization about 80 times as many traditional healers are present across the continent of Africa, as are medical doctors present to use modern medicine in the treatment of illness and disease. It is traditional for Africans to consult their healers. And millions of Africans do just that.

Congo is now facing an Ebola outbreak with doctors fighting the disease as best they can among patients that become infected while in the process of visiting their traditional healers. When they arrive to see their faith healers it is usually because they are ill with a cough or malaria or minor health problem. But in the course of being treated, they lie next to someone afflicted with Ebola, not yet diagnosed. And they become infected, themselves.

Mr. Muriisa is the most highly respected omushaho wekishaka -- traditional healer -- in the area of Uganda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. He understands the disease is raging a mere 30 kilometres distant. But one of his wives whom he utilizes as his triage nurse claims she can recognize anyone with bleeding eye sockets or fingernail beds, known, she heard as the chief symptoms of Ebola. What she obviously does not know is that most victims of Ebola never hemorrhage, and for those who do, bleeding represents a late-stage symptom.

In his office, a thatched mud hut located at the top of a steep hill over a boat landing, he wears a cloak of serval cat fur and a black-and-white monkey hair headpiece, the symbols of his office as a medical practitioner. Lake Bunyonyi lies at an altitude of 2,000 meters, crowded with farmers, crawfish-gatherers and lakeside resorts. Africans travel long distances to visit healers in their home villages, trusting the healers who spend time with their patients, speaking  homey dialects.

Payment of vegetables, alcohol, chicken and goats for medical services are negotiable, as the currency of value recognized by the indigent and by their healers. Trust is also placed in herbalists who dispense teas, ointments and powders proven to alleviate simple and common conditions like allergies, nosebleeds, arthritic pain or toothaches. Potions to ward off lightning strikes or jealous neighbours are also available.

While Mr. Murissa agrees he cannot cure cancer, he does treat snake bites successfully. And the treatment of mental illness begins by the patient imbibing hallucinogenic seeds from a shrub, to enable the good doctor to determine whether he must treat demons or a curse, after interpreting the patient's stream of consciousness emissions.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Monumental Mozambique Misery

"They [the estimated number of dead and humanitarian needs] are nowhere near the scale and magnitude of the problem. And I fear we will be seeing more in the weeks and months ahead, and we should brace ourselves."
"The situation is simply horrendous, there is no other way to describe it. Three thousand people who are living in a school that has 15 classrooms and six, only six, toilets. You can imagine how much we are sitting on a water and sanitation ticking bomb."
Elhadj As Sy, secretary-general, International Federation of Rd Cross and Red Crescent Societies

"Yesterday [we] did a reconnaissance and we found another [inland] lake."
"So we are still very early in the phase of identifying what the scope of this is, for who is affected and how many are lost."
Emma Batey, coordinator, Oxfam, CARE, Save the Children consortium

"[What rescuers are seeing is] sometimes it's just a hut completely surrounded by water."
"If islands are big enough, we can even see smoke coming out, meaning that they're cooking."
"[It remains] super difficult [to estimate a death toll let alone the numbers missing]."
Pedro Matos, emergency co-ordinator, World Food Program

"I've never seen anything like this. We were not warned. Suddenly the roof flew away."
"[She and neighbours herded children away but] we lost some of them."
"[They have received nothing from aid groups or the government] not even bread."
Marta Ben, 30, mother of five
More than 65,000 people are already in shelters in central Mozambique [Enock Muchinjo/Al Jazeera]
More than 65,000 people are already in shelters in central Mozambique [Enock Muchinjo/Al Jazeera]

Parts of Mozambique are finally seeing flood waters recede as the estimated number of deaths rises above a thousand, the number the country's president predicted earlier in the week. Thousands of dazed and fearful survivors are slowly making their pilgrimage toward Beira, the city where 90 percent of its infrastructure has been destroyed. Despite which, it has become a centre for rescue efforts for the entire region.

People have made their cautious way along roads heavily carved by the raging floods days ago, while others were rescued as part of a local effort by fisherman plucking stranded people from small islands, to bring them to safety. Despite the rain, helicopters take off to search for people clinging to rooftops and branches of trees. Water-borne diseases threaten as a result of water and sanitation systems being destroyed.

In the centres, children absent parents, separated in the chaos or newly orphaned wait to be tended to, confused and fearful. Women stake out places for themselves and their children on sidewalks with nowhere else to go, awaiting aid that hasn't yet reached them. They sit there, barefoot, nursing cooking pots, minding their children and begging those passing by for help.

In Zimbabwe, school children and their headmasters are missing. Miners operating illegally looking for gold and diamonds, have been swept into the raging rivers. In the worst-affected part of Zimbabwe, a woman who had left Chimanimani for the diamond fields to search for her son-in-law, who mined illegally, buried and mourned him.

"There are no jobs and all he wanted was to feed his family. He was with his colleagues. They thought it would be easier to mine since the rains would keep the guards and the police away from patrolling", said Maina Chisirlirwa of her son-in-law who was swept away while his colleagues survived. Even police, arresting illegal miners were swept away with their prisoners.

People stranded by Cyclone Idai wait for rescue by the Indian Navy on March 22
Thousands of people are still awaiting rescue from flooded areas across in southern Africa   Getty Images

Labels: , , , , ,

Another Massive Disaster For Africa

This image made available by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Monday March 18, 2019, shows an aerial view from a helicopter of flooding in Beira, Mozambique. The Red Cross says that as much as 90 percent of Mozambique's central port city of Beira has been damaged or destroyed by tropical Cyclone Idai.
"This is a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour."
"[Mozambique's Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed creating] inland oceans extending for miles and miles in all directions [and where dams at 95 percent to 100 percent capacity resulted leading to overflow]."
"People visible from the air may be the lucky ones and the top priority now is to rescue as many as possible."
"[Many people were] crammed on rooftops and elevated patches of land outside the port city of Beira [and WFP was rushing to rescue as many as possible]."
Herve Verhoosel, World Food Program

"It's dire. We did an aerial surveillance yesterday and saw people on rooftops and in tree branches."
"The waters are still rising and we are desperately trying to save as many [people] as possible."
Caroline Haga, Red Cross, Beira, Mozambique
People desperately trying to outrace the floods report seeing hundreds of corpses washing up beside roads they travel on, while on the floodwaters rushing to the sea, corpses bob on the flash currents. "People were on the rooftops and in the eucalyptus, mango and cashew nut trees" described stranded motorist Graham Taylor, a Zimbabwean living in Mozambique who walked along a raised road the 25 kilometres it took to reach safety in Nhamatanda village. He counted passing 400 bodies on his trip, as survivors and relatives of the dead stood beside corpses, weeping.

Aid workers rushed to rescue victims whose grasp on trees and balance on rooftops gambled against the rising waters reaching them in the wake of the cyclone Idai. "This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique's recent history" Jamie LeSueur, head of response efforts in Beira for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said, in describing a catastrophic natural disaster that has left 400,000 people homeless. "An inland ocean" was created in Mozambique by the rising floodwaters.

Tens of thousands of families are threatened as the scramble to rescue survivors and airdrop food, water and blankets is carried out by aid workers. In the midst of all of this, heavy rains adding to the flooding. Many roads are impassable, so the extent of the carnage remains guesswork since key roads have been washed away leaving aid groups unable to see food, medicine and fuel reach hard hit Beira, a city of 500,000 people, by air and sea.

People from the town of Buzi unload at Beira Port after being rescued on March 22, 2019, in Beira, Mozambique. Thousands of people are still stranded after after Cyclone Idai hit the country last week.
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

In Zimbabwe, the death toll rose to 98, according to the government where the mountain town of Chimanimani was struck, roads into the town cut off, leaving sole access by helicopter, and the death toll expected to rise steeply. A South African pilot at Beira airport said he had spotted up to 250 people sheltering on a small hill surrounded by floodwater on the south of the city. A rescue mission was delayed when a local government official ordered a plane to take him to the scene instead of directly coordinating a rescue mission. And then it was too late; the hill was inundated, everyone stranded on it lost.

The plains of Mozambique had 60 centimetres of water dropped by the cyclone, causing rivers to burst their banks and there was little warning when the first torrents came flooding and roaring through the villages. Desperate people hoping to find salvation grasped that the trees might provide safety. And three days later branches giving haven to one person now carry many people seeing them as refuge, but they are places from which there is no escape other than death. Now other creatures seeking haven have joined the people.

Among them snakes, while crocodiles swim in the waters below. And the people holding on to those branches in the trees have had no food, no drink, no rest and they have now no energy to continue their vigil. Exhaustion, and lack of sleep is now the stalking danger when falling asleep will result in falling in to the rapids, and few among the villagers can swim. Rescuers speak of having to make choices; there are so many awaiting help they must take the most vulnerable to safety, choosing children, leaving those who seem hale and those who are too old to continue fending for themselves.

And villagers living nearby who have small fishing boats of their own, dispatch themselves in their boats to attempt to rescue as many as they can, returning them to safety from their threatened positions above the floodwaters. One man tied strings of large plastic floaters behind his boat to increase his chances of rescuing those who could hold on behind his boat as he paddled to the safety of a firm, dry shoreline beyond the rushing torrents.

Africa's poorest countries are ill served by their geography, by the climate and by natural phenomena that even wealthy nations with modern technology and armies well equipped to mount rescue missions would be hard put to carry off.

People from the isolated district of Buzi take shelter in the Samora M. Machel secondary school used as an evacuation center in Beira, Mozambique, on March 21, 2019, following the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai. 
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Profit Motive Sidelining Corporate Responsibility and Safety -- Boeing Dereliction

"As the pilots of the doomed Boeing jets in Ethiopia and Indonesia fought to control their planes, they lacked two notable safety features in their cockpits. One reason: Boeing charged extra for them.
For Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers, the practice of charging to upgrade a standard plane can be lucrative. Top airlines around the world must pay handsomely to have the jets they order fitted with customized add-ons."
"Sometimes these optional features involve aesthetics or comfort, like premium seating, fancy lighting or extra bathrooms. But other features involve communication, navigation or safety systems, and are more fundamental to the plane’s operations."
Many airlines, especially low-cost carriers like Indonesia’s Lion Air, have opted not to buy them — and regulators don’t require them."
"Now, in the wake of the two deadly crashes involving the same jet model, Boeing will make one of those safety features standard as part of a fix to get the planes in the air again."
The New York Times
Boeing 737 Max 8 planes have been grounded in the UK.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
"They’re [manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS)] critical, and cost almost nothing for the airlines to install."
"Boeing charges for them because it can. But they’re vital for safety."
Bjorn Fehrm, analyst, aviation consultancy Leeham

"[The 737 Max will be grounded until] the problem is solved. This country was one of the first to ground the 737 Max planes. That is absolutely the right thing to do. There are clearly some very alarming circumstances around the two accidents [Lion Air flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302] that have taken place."
"It is something that Boeing clearly have to deal with because, unless and until the problem is solved, I can’t see countries like ours allowing those planes to fly again."
UK Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling
A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 plane parked on the tarmac of Soekarno–Hatta international airport near Jakarta, Indonesia Photograph: Reuters
It has become standard for manufacturers such as Boeing not to include upgrades that can be critical to a plane's performance and ultimately the survival of its passengers and crew unless the purchaser is willing to pay an additional, hefty fee. Typically, low-cost airlines will consider upgrades as non-essential and opt not to spring for them. In the instance of both the Indonesian and Ethiopian carriers this has proven to be a massive error in judgement.

Almost as serious as the decision by Boeing to extract every last dollar possible out of their customers even if the end result might be airborne carnage.

Upgrades that in fact represent essential standard safety features eliminated because the buyer feels they're unnecessary and the seller feels their product can be used to squeeze every last bit of profit out of a reluctant buyer or they can face the consequences. It's hard to imagine that a 'reputable' manufacturer with global sales could not foresee that it too would face fallout as a consequence of their unwillingness to be responsible unless they're paid to be.

Now that the worldwide fleet of this model of a popular passenger jet is grounded and its future unknown after the entirely preventable mass deaths of two failures in air transport safety, the company deserves the censure coming its way. The company made the decision not to include a critical safety process leaving it up to airlines whether to pay to upgrade a standard plane and regulators are certainly at fault for enabling manufacturers to get away with a situation where low-cost carriers can opt not to buy 'optional' extras.

Safety is not optional.

The stunning communications failures all around demonstrate just how careless all major actors involved have been. When the downed Lion Air plane in a flight previous to the disaster exhibited the threat in its erratic performance and its pilots had no idea  how to respond, an off-duty pilot who happened to be flying with them leaped to the rescue, diagnosing the problem, instructing the crew how to respond to disable the malfunctioning flight-control system, saving the jet and its passengers and crew

That this air crew and the helpful pilot failed to report the incident and the plane once again took off with another crew having as lax training as the previous one, leading to a similar malfunction and the crash into the Java Sea where all 189 aboard were killed is beyond belief. But as hostile to reason as this event was, it evidently has aided investigators in understanding what happened to the Ethiopian airliner March crash and why it is some 737 Max pilots have no idea how to respond when the plane malfunctions.

Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee's report on the November crash contained no data that might have been useful to other carriers with this plane in their fleet, and their pilots inadequately trained in its operating details. The Lion Air crash on its second malfunctioning flight reveals through the cockpit voice recorder on investigation that the pilots desperately checked their quick reference handbook to attempt a response before crashing as the Indonesian officer called "Allahu akbar" as the plane hit the water.

Airline mechanics with Lion Air attempted to fix issues on the plane four times after reports from pilots of incorrect displays of speeds and altitude in two prior flights, replacing a key sensor. Both the plane manufacturer and Indonesia's safety committee are guilty of malfeasance in failing to tend to due diligent safety procedures. In requesting maintenance for the plane that had come close to disaster on its October 28 flight, no mention was made by the pilots of the stall warning and faulty sensor, still delivering false readings when it took off the next morning then crashed.

The March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 followed the same trajectory of events. Now questions are emerging over Boeing's design of the new 737 model, and how they were even approved. The inspector general of the U.S. Transportation Department is undergoing a review of the plane's certification while the U.S. Justice Department has struck a grand jury seeking records in a potential criminal probe of that certification.

The U.S. pilot's unions speak of the potential risks of the system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System as having not been sufficiently explained in training. Boeing, required by the FAA to notify airlines about the system in the wake of the Lion Air crash, sent a bulletin to its customers with the Max in their fleets reminding them of the disabling process in response to an emergency.

Had their clients, including the Ethiopian Airlines disseminated that 'reminder' to upgrade the expertise of its pilots, why would the pilots on the March flight not have known how to disable the system?

Priests swing incense over empty caskets draped with the Ethiopian flag at a mass funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa on March 17. (Mulugeta Ayene/Associated Press)

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 21, 2019

With Little Hope In Sight, Afghanistan

"She [his baby girl] was born in such circumstances that I don't wish upon any human."
"I was lost [in despair over his children's safety and the decision to leave his property]. I didn't know whether to stay with my suffering wife, or to take these other children to a safer place."
"I have no prejudice against anyone -- not with the Taliban, not with the government. I would be happy if they made their peace, if they declared their ceasefire."
"All we want is our houses to be freed again so we could return."
Sayed Mohammed, Afghan farmer, father of five, Tirin Kot, Afghanistan

"People rightly feel so marginalized that they become angry -- that fuels conflict."
"Countries that have been involved in waging war must not turn their backs on the civilians who have borne the brunt of 40 years of violence."
Jan Egeland, secretary-general, Norwegian Refugee Council

"In the past, it would be clear where the fighting would happen. Now, the lines are not clear. It could happen anywhere."
"I don't even know how many times we have moved houses over the past five months that we got here."
Mohammed Salem, migrant from Helmand Province
An Afghan boy stands near a public water pump in Kabul January 13, 2010. Nearly half way through the Afghan winter, unusually warm and dry weather is raising fears of a drought that could cause food shortages, undermine efforts to slash poppy growing and worsen security problems. Picture taken January 13, 2010.        To match analysis AFGHANISTAN-DROUGHT/      REUTERS/Ahmad Masood (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER IMAGES OF THE DAY) - GM1E61E16CY01
This year, 275,000 people have been displaced by water shortages.

Continual government raids, bombings against the Taliban, and Taliban land mines continue to place civilian lives at risk in Afghanistan. According to the United Nations, roughly one and a half million Afghans have become internally displaced. Mostly as a result of the never-ending conflict between the Taliban and the government military and police. The recent drought has had a similar effect; forcing people to leave their parched environment hoping for better luck elsewhere. So families move again and again.

A fifth child born to Sayed Mohammed and his wife simply made the burden on two people that much more difficult. A raging battle had ensued and that's when little Halima was born; explosives shaking the family farmhouse located on the outskirts of the city of tirin Kot with blasts so intense four-year-old Saber bit his lips so compulsively blisters ensued as the terrified child tried to find comfort inside his father's shirt.

Not long afterward the couple saw no other option for them but to leave, and leave they did taking with them just what they could manage to carry. Now they rent a dark, cold room about a ten-minute walk from the family farm, unable to remain there, with their neighbourhood become a raging battlefield. On the farm they have 4,500 chickens. A loan had enabled him to stock the farm.

The gains of past years since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban from power and with them al-Qaeda, stand to be reversed should the Taliban return to government after the 17-year war. At the present time, the U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban to end the war. Even while the Taliban refuses to include the Afghan government in the negotiations. Women's right to an education, to work, to lead a normal life is threatened.

Half the country is exposed to the violence of the conflict between the two, Taliban and government, depriving rural Afghans of peace and security, of improvements that the peace negotiations are meant to settle. At the same time displacement by conflict is exacerbated by a drought leaving 13.5 million people surviving on one meal daily with 54 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

According to the Norwegian aid group, in 2012 some 50 percent of the displaced Afghans received aid; five years on that number dropped to 25 percent. Aid agencies in the country required $612 million to enable them to fulfill aid obligations for 2019, yet only $14.2 million has so far been donated.

 Close to 140 of the country's 400 districts had not seen a single female graduate in the past 18 years while about 50 districts were unable to produce male graduates. Schools built in the early years after the Taliban rule was toppled have been shuttered or destroyed during the conflict.

Afghans represent the world’s largest protracted refugee population
Afghan returnee families are arriving at a UNHCR registration office in Kabul. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Unhinged or Terrorist? 

"If it is a terror attack, then we have only one answer: Our nation, democracy, must be stronger than fanaticism and violence."
"[Authorities are trying to determine whether the attack had] terror motives."
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Utrecht, Netherlands
"We assume a terror motive" Mayor Jan van Zanen stated while the search for the killer was ongoing. "Today is a black day for our city." 

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, and in the aftermath of the shooting it was placed on lockdown, the threat level raised to the maximum with tightened security at airports and government buildings throughout the country while police issued a photograph of a bearded man on a tram wearing a blue-hooded sweater.
A handout picture released on the twitter account of the Utrecht Police on March 18, 2019 shows Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis
Gokmen Tanis was known to police before he was arrested on Monday in connection with the shooting   AFP

Three people were killed, another five wounded in mid-morning at a residential neighbourhood. The suspect born in Turkey was taken into custody following the manhunt that ended as the day did. Gokmen Tanis, 37, was no stranger to authorities, with a long criminal record. Police arrested another two men, suspecting involvement.

Because a Turk was involved, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan let it be known that he has instructed Turkish intelligence to get involved to 'look into the matter'. This is the same friend of the West who snarled at Australia and New Zealand after a few Turks were among the 50 that died in the attack at the Christchurch mosques, that if they planned to come to Turkey for Anzac commemoration they'd better behave or they'd return home in wooden coffins.

The 350,000 residents of Utrecht were cautioned to remain indoors while the eight-hour search for the killer (called a 'suspect' of course) was ongoing. And of course what would an event such as this call for other than for police to be dispatched to guard the city's mosques. Armed police with dogs were all deployed in the search for the killer. When he was apprehended, the threat level was reduced from its high of 5 to 4.

This is a man who had charges laid against him in the past, ranging from attempted manslaughter to petty crimes executed around the city. People who knew him characterized him as a psychopath. He was in court a matter of several weeks earlier on charges of a 2017 rape. When the shooting began shouts of "shooter" rang out as people scattered in panic from the tram, the area quickly shut off by police and three trauma helicopters flew overhead while anti-terror forces rushed the streets.

Special Police Forces inspect a tram, after the attack on a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, The Netherlands
The threat level was temporarily raised to its highest point in the province of Utrecht   EPA
"I can't believe this happened in my city. [It] seems like nowhere is safe now."
"Those poor people attacked in the tram on a quiet Monday."
Greet Oldenlam, 65, witness

"I saw someone lying behind the tram and thought she had been ridden over People came out of cars running toward her."
"Then a shooter came running with a pistol up, and [I] heard people shouting 'shooter!'. I ran."
Daan Molenaar, tram witness
Residents stood beside their houses, watching the helicopters overhead and the drones that flew over the area. Schools and businesses closed.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus (2nd R) laid flowers close to the scene of the attack
Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus (2nd R) laid flowers close to the scene of the attack   AFP

Labels: , , ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet