Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Post

One hundred years ago, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia after an assassin kills Franz Ferdinand and his wife.

Why John Kerry's truce is a failure:

Secretary of State John Kerry's push for a ceasefire in Gaza last week was so flawed it managed to unite Israel's fractious political leadership in opposition while simultaneously being lambasted by the Palestinian Authority.

The proposal called for negotiations on Hamas demands, including opening border crossings into Gaza and relaxed boating restrictions off the Gaza coast. In addition, its language reportedly upgraded Hamas – a designated terrorist organization – to an equal plane with Israel. Then, President Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday to make "clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement."

In other words, Obama demanded that Israel institute an immediate unilateral ceasefire even while Hamas continues its terrorist operations against Israel. True to form, Hamas escalated its attacks on Monday.

A mortar attack on the community of Eshkol near the Gaza border killed four Israeli civilians and wounded nine others, five of whom were in critical condition. At the same time, a squad of heavily-armed Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz in an attempt to carry out a mass murder attack. The Israeli military killed one terrorist and is searching for the others.

The U.S. response? In addition to more demands that Israel stop trying to root out the Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza, administration officials Monday expressed anger that the Israelis would leak details of the proposed ceasefire and criticize Kerry.

The Obama administration has never been a friend to Israel nor has it any interest in understanding the complexities of any geopolitical situation that the US, still seen by some as a superpower, must contend with. Obama is quite content to be blameless in any foul-up so it doesn't matter to him if Kerry takes the brunt of deserved criticism from Israelis of all political stripes. However, it does matter when not only the messenger but the message is raked across the coals by even the Egyptians. It's humiliating for the imperial administration to not be taken seriously even if it doesn't carry the pragmatic weight that other leaders do. Kerry's proposed truce is a boon to Hamas which is in no way on a moral footing with Israel. While Israel would be asked once more to surrender, Hamas could continue arming and attacking Israel. The proposal is just plain stupid.


Hamas militants are attempting to negotiate a new arms deal with North Korea for missiles and communications equipment that will allow them to maintain their offensive against Israel, according to Western security sources. 

This is not looking good for the Russians:

A Ukrainian security spokesman said Monday that data from the recovered flight recorders shows Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed due to a massive, explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel. Andrei Lysenko said the plane suffered "massive explosive decompression" after it was hit by fragments he said came from a missile.

With the Ebola virus spreading, the Liberian president closes the borders:

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has announced the closure of most of the Ebola-hit country's land borders after the deadly tropical virus spread to two of west Africa's largest cities.

Liberia, along with neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, is struggling to contain an epidemic that has infected some 1,200 people and left at least 670 dead across the region since the start of the year.

Last week authorities in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown and Lagos in Nigeria announced their first cases, marking an alarming new front in the fight against a disease mainly confined to remote villages and rural outposts. 

"All borders of Liberia will be closed with the exception of major entry points," Sirleaf said in a statement late Sunday.

Prior to its entry into the Dominion of Canada in 1949, Newfoundland was technically a separate state fighting for Canada. It suffered one of its worst losses at the Battle of the Somme on July 1st, 1916 where, out of eight hundred Newfoundlanders, only sixty-eight survived for the roll call next morning.

"Recruiting Sargeant".

And now, animals of the First World War.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Night Special

A cuddlier conflict

Some deer.

Some female deer.

Behold, a baby gorilla!

How much do you know about punk rock music?

No-bake cheesecakes for your barbecue or whatever summer event you're having.

They were heroes and they had a bear:

Going off to war often means leaving your family, friends, and beloved pets behind. During World War II, Polish soldiers compensated for their missing loved ones by adopting a Syrian brown bear, christening him Wojtek (pronounced "VOY-tek"), or "smiling warrior," and accepting him into the company. Soldiers bottle-fed the cub, who eventually grew to eat anything he was given—including cigarettes, which he smoked for a single puff before swallowing them whole.

Saturday Post

The story so far....

Nine days ago, Russian rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 killing two hundred and ninety-eight people.

This is why you never have a ceasefire with Hamas:

Israel extended a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for another 24 hours, but Hamas, which dominates the coastal enclave, said it would only accept the truce if Israeli troops left the territory.

The IDF should finish Hamas for once and for all, including the schools where the UN lets them keep rockets and the tunnels built by children.

Didn't one know that Hamas used child labour to dig the tunnels it uses for its terrorist purposes?

The Institute for Palestine Studies published a detailed report on Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon in the summer of 2012. It reported that tunnel construction in Gaza has resulted in a large number of child deaths.
“At least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials”

The author, Nicolas Pelham, explains that Hamas uses child laborers to build their terror tunnels because, “much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies”.

Human rights groups operating in Gaza raised concerns about child labor in the tunnels as far back as 2008. Hamas responded by saying it was “considering curbs.” Following Operation Cast Lead in 2009 Hamas softened its position and the Interior Ministry established the Tunnel Affairs Commission (TAC) which, “In response to public concern at a rising toll of tunnel casualties, particularly of child workers…issued guidelines intended to ensure safe working conditions.” No mention is made in the report of the conditions that would result for both Palestinian and Israeli children from building tunnels that would be used to launch terror attacks.

Nor does it seem that Hamas paid much subsequent attention to ensuring the safety of the child workers that it used to build the tunnels that would wind up endangering the lives of many in Gaza. On a tour of the tunnels in 2011, Pelham noted that, “nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels.”

Not only are Hamas misappropriating much of the humanitarian aid supplied to Gaza—800,000 tons of cement were used to construct the terror tunnels into Israel—they are also directly exploiting and endangering Gaza’s youth in their construction and operation.

ISIS, which has ordered Christians to leave Mosul, is now denying it wants females from eleven to forty-six years old to be mutilated:

A report released by the United Nations' resident and humanitarian coodinator in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, suggested that the terrorist group Islamic State had issued a fatwa demanding all women between the ages of 11 and 46 undergo female genital mutilation. While conflicting reports followed the claim, some rushed to defend the terror group. ...

In addition to supporters of Islamic State online, various experts consulted by progressive sites argued that the edict was unlikely. In a column titled "No, ISIS is Not Ordering Female Genital Mutilation in Iraq," the website ThinkProgress dismissed the claims entirely, rather than treat them as "disputed," the way outlets like BBC and Talking Points Memo have. According to one expert by ThinkProgress, female genital mutilation is "based more on culture" and "not something jihadists have ever really taken up... [or] spoken about.” The Guardian also challenged the claim, noting that ISIS supporters who very prominently posted ghastly images of beheadings and mass killings were denying this particular crime: "If ISIS responds to every lie and rumour they will not be able to control all these areas you hear about," they wrote.

The Guardian noted, however, that the UN is not the only source of this report. Kurdish officials and some in Mosul have claimed the report is real. Ahmed Obaydi, a spokesman for Mosul police, said publicly that the edict came directly from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the "Caliph Ibrahim" of the Islamic State. Said Obaydi, "Baghdadi's decision to have all women circumcised is, as he claims, to prevent immorality and promote Islamic attitudes among Muslims. The decision was made by Baghdadi as a 'gift' for people in Mosul."

The best way to dispel this alleged myth is for women who post articles for ThinkProgress to go to Mosul right now and prove that there is no fatwa and that ISIS' al-Baghdadi is really a reasonable man and not at all a murderous thug.

Go on, ThinkProgress.

Related - why burqas are a great idea:

If a woman does something dishonorable or is raped by a mob, she should probably have rocks hurled at her until she dies. This takes some mettle because you see her collarbone get broken and her cheek split open way before the final brain hemorrhage. It probably takes forever to kill a woman with stones and when the whole village is watching, you want to be killing a woman who has been sufficiently dehumanized. 

I mean, imagine it was Western culture, and the woman being stoned to death was Pam, the red-haired, freckle-faced lady who sells pies at the local bakery. When she starts crying and begging for mercy, you’re like, “Uh, this is awkward.” Then, when she’s gone, people are all, “Where’s Pam?” They notice there are no pies and her likable chatter has been erased from the village. When you prevent women from making their presence known, it’s easy to obliterate them.

Supported by liberals/leftists everywhere.

Ontario Liberals have the government they voted for:

Ontario’s government under Kathleen Wynne is planning a massive tax increase on jet fuel, which is likely to set airfares soaring. But consumers won’t be the only ones hurt. Airlines and Canadian airports are all bracing for a hit.

The fuel tax, currently at 2.7 cents per litre, will jump to 6.7 cents by 2017, under Ontario’s budget proposal — an “unbelievably punitive” hike according to Ben Smith, Air Canada’s chief commercial officer. Smith isn’t wrong. Airlines, which continue as barely profitable in 2014, operate on the tightest of margins. The hike is expected to cost Air Canada alone more than $50-million next year. To put this figure into context, the airline generated just $50-million in net profit in 2012.

The country’s airlines will not of course swallow the tax hike whole: Much of the Wynne surcharge will be passed on to Canadian consumers in the form of higher ticket prices. That is certain to send even more Canadian travelers scrambling to U.S. border cities, where fares cost an average $428 less per round trip ticket.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

And Then There Were None

On June 6th, 1829, Shanawdithit died of tuberculosis thus marking the extinction of the Beothuk people (though some would argue that the Beothuk genetic line did not really die out or that the Beothuks are a part of the Mikmaq gene pool or that European settlers deserve entire blame for Beothuk extinction). As it stands, the Beothuk are no more. They are a mystery lost in time and a source of indignation at the loss of one people.

Exchange “Beothuk” for “Christian” and “European” for “Islamist” and watch the interest in the plight of a scattered or nearly-extinct people vanish.

A thriving religion since the first century, Christianity spread from Israel to surrounding regions of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, parts of Turkey, Greece, the Caucasus and Iraq. Its presence predates Islam which spread over the Middle East six hundred years after Christ.

As of 2010, there were 7.5 million Christians living in the Middle East. Those numbers are dwindling.

In the void of the now-deposed and/or killed tyrants who offered native Christian populations stability is a cultural cleansing that mirrors past genocides and displacements. Coptic Christians have had to flee as far as Georgia for survival. Syrian Christians have been forced to leave or face being murdered. Christians in Mosul have been forced to flee. Their homes have been marked. They must convert to Islam, pay jizya or be killed.

A home in Mosul, Iraq marked with an N for Nazarene.

This is not a new occurrence nor is it a sudden wave of events transpiring too quickly for the rest of the world to react. This is on-going. Had this been any group other than Christians in a region other than the Middle East, the poseur indignation would be louder and the threats of retaliation perhaps more believable.

But that is not the case.

It has become clear that the only recourse for Middle Eastern Christians is either self-defense or dispersal. The world will not come to their aid.

As to why Middle Eastern Christians are left to their fate, one can conclude that those in power or influence hate or are indifferent to Christians or Christianity, they are indifferent to events in other parts of the world, that they fear Islamists or fear that any condemnation or reaction brings political or monetary loss. All of the preceding reasons are quite plausible. I have yet to see any major player really put him or herself on the line for the world's largest religious group or call Islamists out for the violent, emotionally retarded thugs that they are and eliminate them accordingly. 

Another side of this human tragedy is what it does to those who are indifferent or riddled with hatred. It is a deadening of the moral nerves a human society needs to feel or else it does descend into real darkness. It should matter when human life is gone. The historic populations of the Middle East will truly be no more. We are witnessing an extinction.

By the time someone noticed that the Beothuk were dwindling, it was too late.

Is it too late to care now?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mid-Week Post

It’s right behind you…

The body of South Korea's most wanted man, linked to the sinking of a ferry in April that killed 300 people, was identified more than a month after being found in an orchard, police said on Tuesday, with his book and empty bottles of alcohol nearby.

The police chief in charge of the case in a small city in the south of the country was sacked on Tuesday for not recognising the book, or putting two and two together, and for not identifying the corpse earlier.

Police said that DNA and fingerprint evidence from the heavily decomposed body found on June 12 showed it to be that of Yoo Byung-un, 73, the target for more than two months of South Korea's largest manhunt.

This entire fiasco just reeks of incompetence. It’s making the Costa Concordia look organised in comparison.

Four different reports from various House of Commons committees have revealed that the U.K. has as many as 251 active arms sales licenses with Russia. British arms export licenses cover the type of missiles that brought down the jet, killing 298 people, mostly tourists, The Guardian noted.

At the same time, the Conservative Party has taken huge political donations from Russian interests. Mayor of London Boris Johnson — who is expected to stand as a Conservative MP in the upcoming general election — has said he may now refuse to play a game of tennis with one Russian oligarch who donated £160,000 to the party.

Cameron promised on Monday that Britain had already stopped arms sales to Russia. That turned out to not be the case....

Worse, Cameron chided the French for selling two warships to Russia right before the arms export reports came out. French politicians immediately called him out on that, calling him a hypocrite.

Aside from its general weakness, Europe can't afford to confront Putin and hold him to account for his support of the Russian rebels who now stand accused of murdering two hundred and ninety-eight people. Europe's dependence on Russian gas/oil and its unwillingness to pursue other means of energy are chief reasons for Europe's inaction.

Kiev said two of its fighter jets were shot down over the rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, and the missiles that brought them down might have been fired from Russia.

"There is no direct military threat to our country’s sovereignty or territorial integrity at present," he said.
To a Western ear, that might sound like belaboring the obvious. For a Russian audience today, it's a jarring note for their leader to strike.

Mr. Putin's statement flatly contradicts what the domestic media have been saying for months. Just days ago, Russian outlets were warning of a White House "offensive against Russia and China," with the US trying to create "instability on Russia's borders." Putin himself earlier this month claimed that Russia's annexation of Crimea was to forestall NATO from getting a foothold in Ukraine.

"If you've been reading the Russian press and watching TV over the past few months you would have gotten an entirely different impression," that the country was in a state of emergency and facing imminent peril, says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Moscow-based foreign policy journal "Russia in Global Affairs." 

Russian experts say that Putin's sudden reversal is a clear sign he is looking to ratchet down the domestic anxieties and anti-Western attitudes that have been rife since the Ukraine crisis erupted about five months ago. And perhaps most significantly, it's time to end the siege mentality.

Or not.

Putin does not capitulate. He cannot afford to look weak but he also cannot afford to maintain the illusion of eminent danger to Russia or its interests. He knows that the only country that could pose any hindrance to him will not challenge him. The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 is incredibly damning. Putin's only recourse is to appear to have softened slightly. He would not have to maintain this illusion for long as neither the US nor Europe will enact any serious punishments on him.

It's time for every major airport to refuse to let Aeroflot leave or land. Putin's friends also cannot land at any airport in their private aircafts.

Perhaps then Putin will appear contrite.

Known as the 'Jerusalem of the East', Wenzhou is reportedly home to the largest Christian community in China and around 1,000 people gathered to form a human blockade against police at Salvation Church on the night of the attack. However, police are said to have used iron batons to beat those who stood in their way, and "bloody pictures and videos of riots" that ensued are now circulating on social networks.

The church is just one of hundreds to be targeted in Zhejiang province – at least 360 have already been completely or partially demolished, apparently as a result of defying building regulations.

Local Christians, however, are convinced that it is part of an invigorated attack against Christianity, which is seen as a rival to the Communist government. ICC reports that local officials "compete" to remove the most church crosses in order to bolster their own careers.

Despite the latest incident of violence, members of Salvation Church are determined to protect their building, and defend their faith.

A 38-year-old victim was infected by a marmot, a wild rodent, and died on July 16. Several districts of the city of about 100,000 people in Gansu province were subsequently turned into special quarantine zones, Xinhua said.

It said 151 people who came into direct contact with the victim were also placed in quarantine. None have so far shown any signs of infection, the news agency said.

The Western world "cannot tolerate" the strategic threat posed by a Hamas with newly uncovered "state-like" capabilities in rocketry and tunnelling, a senior Israeli defence official told reporters in Ottawa today.

The senior official, who cannot be identified under the ground rules of the briefing, said the Israeli military had considerable prior knowledge of Hamas weaponry and tunnels, but was still "surprised" by the extent of both when the current ground operation began last Thursday.

​He said the Hamas arsenal has now been revealed to include R-160 Iranian missiles with a range of 250 kilometres that were smuggled into Gaza in pieces and assembled there.

Even after launching by Hamas of more than 2,000 rockets already, the Israelis estimate that thousands more remain from an original supply of 6,000 in the hands of Hamas itself and another 4,000 in the hands of the hardline militia, Islamic Jihad.

Those include the heavy M-302 rocket with a range of 160 kilometres, enough to hit most of Israel, the official said, adding that it had captured and destroyed many of those before the recent conflict erupted.
There is no danger of this vast amount of weaponry aimed at one country ever affecting the wrong-headed judgment of pro-Hamas supporters, most of whom are violent:

“I was trying to get men off my little brother and I was punched in the face by a man in my left cheek and my left, and then punched in the back of my head and then had my hair pulled,” she said.

Last week, a protest at city hall in support of Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza turned violent when a handful of Israeli supporters showed up.

Some men began pushing and shoving, and one man stomped on an Israeli flag before police moved in and set up a line of officers to separate the groups and try to ease tensions.

Naturally, the "handful of Israeli supporters" was the fuse for this otherwise peaceful demonstration.

Jake Birrell, who wore an Israeli flag around his neck, said he was attacked during the second clash. He confronted an officer asking why police hadn’t intervened.

“When you’re wearing that, what do you expect is going to happen here?” the officer asked him.

“What do you expect is going to happen when you walk through this group?”

No one can rely on the police, either.

He's the bear we deserve, but not the bear we need right now because it's just too hot. Rescuers saved this bear, who is named Georges when he does not wear the cowl of the bat, from bear bile farmers.

(Apparently bear bile is an ingredient in the traditional medical practices of certain East Asian cultures.)

Georges has escaped that awful fate. He's now trying to beat the summer heat in a rescue facility in Vĩnh Phúc, Vietnam.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Post

In the middle...

It was a busy week-end in history.

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong became  the first man to walk on the moon. A French soldier serving under Napoleon found the Rosetta Stone on July 19th, 1799. On July 18th, 1969, Ted Kennedy let Mary Jo Kopechne die in Chappaquiddick.

History: not just a rich and fascinating subject but a lesson for us all.

Four days after Russian separatists shot down a Malaysia Airlines flight 17, Ukrainians hand over the black boxes of the downed air craft:

A senior separatist leader, Aleksander Borodai, handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts in the city of Donetsk in the early hours of Tuesday.

"Here they are, the black boxes," Borodai told a room packed with journalists at the headquarters of his self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic as an armed rebel placed the boxes on a desk.

Both sides then signed a document, which Borodai said was a protocol to finalise the procedure after lengthy talks with the Malaysians. 

"I can see that the black boxes are intact, although a bit damaged. In good condition," Colonel Mohamed Sakri of Malaysian National Security Council said in extending his thanks to "His Excellency Mr.Borodai" for passing on the recorders.

Borodai also said a train carrying the remains of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane catastrophe has reached Donetsk. It is on its way to Kharkiv, some 300 km (186 miles) north-west.

The Malaysian experts and a Dutch delegation also on site in Donetsk will travel along with it, he said.

Meanwhile, Russian separatists have been tampering with evidence and bodies, one Russian rebel leader claimed the bodies were somehow planted, a Dutch politician issued some vague threat to Putin (which I'm sure was ignored and forgotten) and a Sky reporter rifles through the belongings of the deceased.

Question: why wasn't this treated as a crime scene and sealed off?

Oh yeah- Europe.

Israel continues to destroy Hamas' tunnels through which it infiltrated Israel, kidnapped soldiers and ran weapons. As each dead sandbag Palestinian is somehow seen as a victory for the emotionally retarded Hamas, the death toll has climbed to five hundred.

There are now five hundred more reasons for thugs all across the globe to attack Jews and Israel supporters (though the numbers of the indignant are quite questionable).

Moving on...

Asian opinion of the Chinese has soured greatly:

A more interesting item, noted in The Washington Post, is a graphic of Pew Research polling data from Asian countries showing that majorities (or strong majorities) throughout the region are afraid of China’s bad touch. In all, 83% of South Koreans, 85% of Japanese, 84% of Vietnamese, and 93% of Filipinos are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that “territorial disputes between China and its neighbors will lead to a military conflict.” Most shockingly of all, 62% of Chinese agree.

Taiwan was not surveyed.

Why are we trading with them?

McDonald's and KFC in China faced a new food safety scare Monday after a Shanghai television station reported a supplier sold them expired beef and chicken.

The companies said they immediately stopped using meat from the supplier, Husi Food Co., Ltd. The Shanghai office of China's food and drug agency said it was investigating and told customers to suspend use of the supplier's products.

Dragon TV said Sunday that Husi, owned by OSI Group of Aurora, Illinois, repackaged old beef and chicken and put new expiration dates on them. It said they were sold to McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants.

The report added to a series of food safety scares in China that have battered public confidence in dairies, fast food outlets and other suppliers.

There's audacity and then there's this:

A standoff is brewing between the City of Vancouver and a group of protesters camped out in a Downtown Eastside park — but in a twist, the city itself has been handed an eviction notice. 
On Sunday, just over a dozen tents stood at Oppenheimer Park. Those living in them tell CBC News they're homeless with nowhere else to live. 

In the past three days, the campers have received two eviction notices from the city, which has bylaws prohibiting sleeping in parks and erecting structures on public property. ...

But the deadline to leave, 7 a.m. Sunday, came and went without the city taking any action to remove the tents. 

Now, some members of a local First Nation have stepped forward to challenge the city's right to issue the eviction orders — and issued an eviction notice of their own.

I hope they issued an eviction notice for water and electricity, as well.

(With thanks to one and many)