This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Black Clouds Over East Ukraine

The Donetsk People's Republic's Denis Pushilin has reiterated that his 'authority' will not give recognition to Ukraine's interim government; it is illegitimate. Occupation of government buildings and surrender of arms will not take place if he has anything to say about it. And he has, plenty. His counter-demand is that Ukrainian leaders leave their own public buildings.

Speaking at the insurgent-occupied regional headquarters in Donetsk, he felt entitled to insist that "everyone should vacate the (government) buildings", including Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov, acting Ukrainian prime minister and president. Mr. Pushilin sneers at the prospect of the scheduled May 5 presidential election, calling instead for a referendum on self-government for the region by May 11.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe had been repeatedly blocked from visiting Crimea, sent there at Ukraine's request, but pro-Russian units firing warning shots refused them entry to be able to report what was occurring between March 5 and 20. They did, however manage to report that the units included regular Russian military troops.

And their plan now is to send election monitors to Ukraine before the May 25 election, to enable the reporting of any irregularities that may take place during the presidential vote. A report is soon to be issued on its findings after an OSCE rights mission met with officials and Russian and Ukrainian minority communities, and that should be of huge interest both within and outside Ukraine.

As for Mr. Pushiulin's group, it has no intention whatever of handing over their weapons. On second thought they might consider it as soon as the spurious government of Ukraine puts a stop to its illegal efforts to reclaim the occupied buildings. Diplomatic accord be damned, it has nothing to do with them. He has obviously taken his cue from Russian military intelligence and special forces. Who were wearing camouflage without insignia, and quite present in Ukraine, but invisible to the naked eye.

Theirs was and remains the vital task of supplying the insurgents comprised of local thugs and volunteers, criminal sociopaths, and those who have been persuaded by the emotions of nationalism, ethnic division and sectarian suspicions that east and south Ukraine are not truly meant to be part of Ukraine, but remain, heart and soul, part of Russia. And if the increasingly involved Cossacks have anything to say about it, part of Russia they will be.

The issues are clear enough, the methodology elastic enough to use any fortuitous opportunities that arise, from destabilizing the country's tentative provisional government to provoking an economic crisis (both of which have been well underway, and need no especial push and shove from the Kremlin) to provoking the dreaded civil war or a credible facsimile thereof, to achieve the goal of destabilizing Ukraine beyond rescue. And in the process improving Russia's geographic holdings.

The sheer cost of all of this, balancing Crimea's needs for investment while Russia itself is undergoing an economic recession which the lavish $50-billion Sochi Games did nothing to aid, and everything to help it continue faltering, appears not quite to have occurred to the brilliant, conquering minds in the Kremlin. And 'authorities' like the Donetsk People's Republic, enabled to transform into a paramilitary force is really feeling its oats; nothing can now vanquish their spirit of secession.

The Internet has been busy as a clearing house for revelatory visions of "pro-Russian activists" holding aloft Russian-produced RPGs, along with audio clips of Russians barking authoritative orders, more or less giving the lie to Moscow's coy denials of provocation. "Moscow is not interested in destabilizing Ukraine" insists the Russian foreign minister, while Vladimir Putin calls on the United Nations to condemn Ukraine's military response to attacks against its symbols and its troops.

Russian media closely scrutinized by people in eastern Ukraine denounces violence that has never occurred but which comes from "fascist Kyiv". And Moldova, Poland and the Baltic States shiver in anticipation of who may be next on the revived Russian imperialist agenda.

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Hello! Again ....

"In the year 2014, after all of the miles travelled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable; it's grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities, from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of, there is no place for that."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Very well put indeed. Along with his concerns relating to threats advanced toward members of the Russian Orthodox Church from members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A little spat between sects and nationalities. And Mr. Kerry referenced the signed agreement of Thursday between Ukraine and Russia, spurred on by the European Union and the United States attempting to mediate the impasse that has resulted from Russia's neo-hegemonic aspirations which "strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism."

From his mouth to god's ear.

The leaflet in question, distributed to Jews in eastern Ukraine requires that they register with a local authority, the "Donetsk People's Republic of Donetsk", an rebelliously imaginary 'authority' inspired by ambitions of separation from Ukraine which itself aspires to be absorbed by the Russian Federation. But the pamphlet/leaflet/letter is written in Russian, bearing the national symbol of Russia along with the Donetsk insignia.

Jews over the age of 16 are instructed to 'register' before the third of May. They must be prepared to provide a detailed list of property or whatever else of value it is that they hold ownership to. Any who feel they can ignore the grotesque demand should be aware that their citizenship would be revoked, and they would face deportation, their assets seized. The registration fee, just incidentally is $50. The leaflet was reportedly distributed by "masked men wearing military uniforms, and carrying a Russian flag Tuesday."
“Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality.
Due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported (Nazi era allied) Bendery Junta and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk, (it) decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic’s territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.”
“ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”
“Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.”
 The flyer allegedly handed out to Ukrainian Jewish community members

Well, obviously, Russia is not involved, for wasn't it President Vladimir Putin himself who railed against the 'fascist' right-wing Ukrainians that removed former president Viktor Yanukovych and installed themselves in his stead, who he accused of anti-Semitism? On the other hand, there are those who label this event in a league with the others, of Russian origin; the infiltration of Russian military, for example, posing as pro-Russian Ukrainians, leading the way to secession.

The leaflet, it appears was distributed as Jews left Synagogue, by "three unidentified men wearing balaclavas and carrying the flag of the Russian Federation", according to a report in Novosti Donbassa for the obvious purpose of causing consternation, and "to blame the attack on separatists", representing the activities as those which can be anticipated in the future should Russia be invited to eastern Ukraine formally, in grand accordance with Moscow's obvious plans.

The signature of Denis Pushilin, referring to him as the "people's governor" appears on the flyers. He has confirmed the distribution in Donetsk of the flyers while rejecting the content and denying his organization was behind them. "Some idiots yesterday were giving out these flyers in targeted areas", he said. He had never gifted himself with the title of the "people's governor", he pointed out, but he had no idea who might be involved in the flyers and had nothing but criticism for the situation himself.

He was not among the idiots.

One of life's many little intriguing mysteries, in a region where rampant anti-Semitism is no stranger.

donestk flyer full

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Iran killer's reprieve stokes campaign against executions

Balal, who killed Iranian youth Abdollah Hosseinzadeh in a street fight with a knife in 2007, reacts as he stands in the gallows during his execution ceremony in the northern city of Nowshahr on 15 April 2014 The man, known as Balal, stabbed 17-year-old Abdollah Hosseinzadeh to death seven years ago

It is Wednesday, early in the morning. Balal is walking to the gallows to face execution in the city of Nour, in northern Iran.
It is before sunrise but hundreds of people have gathered near the prison to watch it.
His mother and sisters are crying hard, but blindfolded Balal cannot see them as he steps on the wooden stool.

Some in the crowd start shouting "forgive him, forgive him". They are asking the family of the victim to pardon him.

Balal stabbed Abdollah Hosseinzadeh to death seven years ago in a street fight. He was 19 at the time, Abdollah was 17.
The guards put the rope around Balal's neck. Now he cries hard.

As the dramatic scenes - captured in photographs by onlookers - unfold, the mother of Abdollah goes towards Balal and slaps him in the face.

Then, in front of the surprised crowd, she takes the rope from around his neck. She has forgiven her son's killer, sparing his life. Now even the police officers start crying.

The mother (R) of Abdollah Hosseinzadeh slaps the face of Balal, who killed her son, on 15 April 2014 Samereh Alinejad, the mother of Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, slapped Balal's face as he stood in the gallows
The mother (R) of Abdollah Hosseinzadeh removes the noose from around the neck of Balal, who killed her son, on 15 April 2014 She then removed the noose from around his neck with the help of her husband
The mother says she had a dream that her deceased son had asked her not to take revenge.

According to Iran's sharia laws, murder and several other crimes are punishable by death. But the victim's family has the right to spare a convict's life in return for 'blood money'.
For months, many Iranian celebrities had taken part in a campaign to save Balal's life. They started collecting money to pay compensation to the relatives.

Adel Ferdosipour, a famous television sports presenter, raised the issue in his popular show just days before the execution.

He called on people to ask Abdollah Hosseinzadeh's parents to pardon Balal. One million people texted the show and supported the campaign.

Samereh Alinejad cries after she spared the life of her son's convicted murderer with an emotional slap in the face as he awaited execution with the noose around his neck in the northern city of Nowshahr on April 15, 2014 Emotions ran high as the prisoner got a last-minute reprieve in Nour, near Nowshahr, in northern Iran
Ghani Hosseinzadeh, Abdollah's father, used to be a football player and many Iranian footballers called him in person.

He and his wife finally agreed to forgive Balal. They said they would build a football school under their son's name using the compensation collected.

But not all the people on death row in Iran have been as lucky as Balal.
Behnoud Shojaee was executed in Evin prison in 2009 when he was 21, although many Iranian actresses and actors started a campaign to save his life.

Behnoud was found guilty of killing a boy when he was 17 and the family of the victim refused to pardon him.

Iran is said to have the second highest number of executions of any country in the world.
Public execution is common as the government believes it sets an example.

Iranian lawyer Afrouz Maghzi blames the high number of executions on the legal concept of "qisas" - a law based on the principle of "an eye for an eye" that gives victims the right to retaliate.

"Iran's law gives the family of the victim this right to kill another person.
"Everyone has the right to life, and no citizen should be given this permission to take it from another person."

Widespread debate After saving Balal's life, Iranian campaigners are hopeful they will be able to save more.

Attentions are now focused on the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, who is currently on death row. She killed a man in 2007 and claims she acted in self-defence after a sexual assault.

Director Asghar Farhadi Director Asghar Farhadi is among the public figures to get involved in the debate about capital punishment
Even Asghar Farhadi, the Oscar-winning Iranian director, asked the victim's family to forgive the 26-year-old woman in the name of "humanity".

In his letter, the director - whose titles include A Separation - said Reyhaneh had played a short role in one of his films when she was a child.

This week Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, urged the country to stop Reyhaneh's planned execution.

He also published a report on 13 March, which condemned the execution of juveniles in Iran as well as the use of capital punishment for offences that do not classify as serious crimes under international law.

Balal and Reyhaneh's cases have provoked widespread debate in the country - especially on social media - about the use of capital punishment.

Iranian journalist Siamak Bahari praised the pardon of Balal in his blog, describing society as more united and "ready to pose new challenges against the death penalty".

He called the campaign "a historic decision by society against a system that was born with a noose".
Tahmineh Milani, a renowned Iranian filmmaker, has for years been donating money from her movies to victims' families as blood money in order to spare killers.

She told BBC Persian she also believes campaigners' success in Balal's case can lead to a change in the law.

"People should take their influence seriously, as each signature can change the destiny of a person," she said.

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Putin The Unstoppable

"We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water and more readiness on the land."
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Photo by: Manu Brabo
Soldiers of the Ukrainian Army sit atop combat vehicles as they are blocked by people on their way to the town of Kramatorsk on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents commandeered six Ukrainian armored vehicles along with their crews and hoisted Russian flags over them Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes of re-establishing control over restive eastern Ukraine. (Associated Press)

Crimea is a done deal. Vladimir Putin appears determined to move on from there. Which is why 30,000 Russian troops along with fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and other war machines are on standby along the border between east Ukraine and Russia. Mr. Putin's idea of war games. They were stationed there, Russian troops, he blandly assured any who would believe him, routinely, because of previously scheduled practise manoeuvres for the military.

Just incidentally, "concerned citizens" of east Ukraine, balaclava-clad in military fatigues and armed to the teeth, driving tanks not necessarily their own, happen to be running riot through the eastern provinces, and declaring autonomy to the cheers of hundreds -- not thousands, in a population area to which hundreds is fairly meaningless but where the loud voices of dissent and threats usually intimidate the weak -- inciting them to further exciting exploits to embarrass Kyiv.

The sanctions and letters of disinvitation to specific Russians has been recognized as an insult to Moscow, but what of it? Western Europe has very robust trade ties with Russia, and those nations' corporations who visualize their bottom line bottoming out are very persuasive as lobbyists twisting the financial arms of their various parliamentarians, wincing with discomfort themselves at the penalty their defiance of Russian hegemonic plans will elicit.

Of course in Britain, a response with teeth could have ensued immediately Crimea was expropriated, in a bravura demonstration of what a determined democracy could aspire to, leading by example. Say, for example, expropriating the mansions of the oligarchs who so adore living in London; seize bank accounts, claim the luxury yachts, and then sit back and watch Vladimir Putin's friends and colleagues lambaste him for the inconveniences his adventures have caused them.

The new climate in global diplomacy brought to the fore, courtesy of Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning Barack Obama encourages discussions and negotiations, and putting the force of arms on the back burner, way, way back. And that's rather a good thing prospectively for an always too-violent world. Except that refraining from carrying through on threats of retaliation against those who impose their own violent will on the vulnerable, only encourages them to carry on, doesn't it?

The chemical weapons deal with Syria had everyone congratulating themselves that they hadn't embarked on a mission with boots on the ground to stop a tyrant from assaulting his population. Good thing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to surrender all those chemical weapons. Of course, it is unfortunate that Iran just keeps providing him with more that no one need know anything of.

And just as well that plans to aggressively intervene to stop Iran from acquiring those feared nuclear warheads were put aside, because why should any world body interfere in an autonomous nation's aspirations?

Russia is everywhere. Putting in a good word for Syria, for Iran, and strutting on the world stage as the exemplar of international diplomacy. While Washington slips from "disclose and dismantle" with Iran, deferring instead to diplomatic action, there is no longer any need to insist on Iran dismantling its military-nuclear infrastructure, because in fact, Iran will not of its own accord, let alone anyone else's accord. And it no longer fears American physical intervention, so mark up another win on that score.

The IMF has reported the effects of the de-escalating sanctions allowing Iran to experience a tentative economic recovery. A just-in-time reprieve from potential financial collapse. Which would not, of course, have caused Iran to halt its resolute march to nuclear entitlement. So Iran is feeling pretty good about the deal it negotiated with the G5+1, and last week a chemical bomb was dropped on the rebel-held Syrian village of Kfar Zeita, and Russia's ambassador to Canada assured that Russia had no designs whatever on Ukraine.

Merely "rumours". Days only, before Russia's invasion after the transparent manipulations, Georgiy Mamedov said for the record on the record: "It's the last thing you should be worried about." As in, friends and neighbours, perish the very thought. In which case, what is NATO so concerned about? Ukraine is large and unwieldy, and its population is divided. There is the Ukrainian part of Ukraine and there is the ethnic-Russian part of Ukraine.

Ukraine will simply have to accustom itself to the realization that eastern Ukraine is not really Ukraine; it has become de facto Russian territory and Moscow is prepared to welcome it into the fold with open arms. Leaving Ukraine without its traditional industrial heartland, and that's a huge pity. But then, they've already lost their jewel of the the Black Sea ports come to think of it, along with most of their military marine assets.

Pity, that. But Vladimir Putin's on a roll!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

NATO: Getting It Together

"Obviously this is in response to the situation that's developing (in Ukraine) and, frankly, more generally, to the concern that we have on what really is expansionism and militarism on the part of Russia under the presidency of (Vladimir) Putin."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
The Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 fighter. Postmedia News files Photo: Postmedia News files

The "long-term, serious threat to global peace and security" has merited Canada's response to NATO's request for member-countries' military to participate in plans to aid in countering the Russian "expansionism and militarism", even while faint hope arose of a diplomatic agreement between Ukraine and Russia prevailing. Even while, in Donetsk, a veritable handful of gunmen have declared that they represent the new government of the new state of Donetsk, and any agreement agreed to by Russia will not impact on their plans.

The Prime Minister announced Canada's military deployment of six CF-18 fighter jets to be based at an as-yet unnamed military airfield in Eastern Europe to aid in patrolling the skies over Poland and the Baltic States, which feel themselves particularly vulnerable to Moscow's expansionist plans, along with other NATO aircraft. A show of strength and solidarity, in support of eastern European member-nations; Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. All four of which joined NATO with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Twenty high-ranking Canadian military officers will be flying out to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's headquarters in Brussels to engage with others in planning response strategies to Moscow's incursions in Ukraine and threatening expanded incursions in east Ukraine, along with the prospective threats to other vulnerable states. Canada represents one of a number of NATO member countries prepared to contribute forces in lock-step with the alliance's plans to increase patrols on land, sea and air in targeted areas.

NATO plans as well to strengthen its ties with other non-NATO former Soviet countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova bordering Russia. Canada's pledge of planes and personnel was presented even before the Geneva meeting between the U.S., E.U., Ukraine and Russia was completed with the declared commitment to de-escalate the Ukrainian situation. "I don't think we can be sure of anything at this point", commented U.S. President Barack Obama.

President Obama has already ruled out NATO forces entering Ukraine; a volatile confrontation certain to result from that kind of direct action. In any event, Western Europe is anything but anxious to provoke Russia to any greater dissatisfaction with their perceived interference in Russia's sphere of influence. Irregardless of whether that "influence" is one of shared agreement or enforced compliance, such as has occurred with Georgia and Moldova, and now Ukraine.

NATO's approach appears geared to caution Vladimir Putin that he has gone one step too far. In the hopes that the international presence that NATO presents will persuade him to mitigate his ambitions. It represents a three-pronged approach to the volatile situation; the pursuit of diplomatic, and economic avenues included. Should Russia nonetheless advance troops into eastern Ukraine the bluff would be called; Mr. Putin seems furiously adamant.

Canada has among its population millions of citizens who trace their family back to Ukraine, Poland and other eastern European countries. Among them, there would not be many who might have fond recall of the memory of those hereditary homelands' faring under Soviet rule. The opposition parties in Parliament have been broadly supportive of Canada continuing to contribute to a broader NATO enterprise in Eastern and Central Europe.

Cda Ukraine 20140317 Harper Prystaiko
Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, on Monday to discuss the worsening situation in Ukraine. (Adrian Wyld)

"We are very grateful for the prime minister's announcement that he's strengthening NATO and Europe, particularly sending to Central and Eastern Europe six fighter jets. We think that's a good move in the current, very unstable situation in our region", said Polish Ambassador to Canada Marcin Bosacki, of the "strategic shift" leading NATO back into the region.

NATO member commitments for increased allied forces in Eastern Europe:
  • Canada; Six CF-18 fighter jets, 20 military officers to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
  • United States; Six F-15 fighter jets, 12 F-16 fighter jets (not attached to NATO); one destroyer (not attached to NATO).
  • United Kingdom; Four Typhoon fighter jets.
  • Germany; Six Typhoon fighter jets.
  • Denmark; Six F-16 fighter jets.
  • Turkey; One air-to-air refuelling aircraft.
  • Netherlands; One air-to-air refuelling aircraft, One minehunting ship.
  • Norway; One military support ship; One minesweeping ship.
  • Belgium; One minesweeping ship.
  • Estonia; One minehunting ship.

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Breaking Fragile Hearts

"There are 160 divers from the special forces, but the current is so strong that they are being swept away when they enter the water."
"The teams are tapping on the outside of the ship with hammers to listen for any survivors inside. When they can go in, only two divers at a time can fit because the corridors are so narrow."
"There is an air pocket in the front of the boat. If anyone made it there, they may have survived. But for anyone in the rest of the boat, the hopes are low."
Kim Dohyun, Korean Special Forces liaison

"The parents are very upset about the captain of the coast guard who ordered the civilian divers to leave. There is no clear chain of command, the navy, the special forces, the coast guard and the local police all have different commanders and do not talk to each other."
Jin Kwangyung, father of missing Yoonhwee
Parents whose children were aboard the Sewol ferry and are now missing rest on the floor at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea on April 18, 2014. The captain of the doomed ferry delayed evacuation for half an hour after a South Korean transportation official ordered preparations to abandon ship, raising more questions about whether quick action could have saved lives.
Photo, Ahn Young-joon -- Parents rest on floor of gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, 18 April 2014

Wrapped in light raincoats against the wind and the rain, parents stood in agonized vigil on the jetty. Their teenage children -- 250 of them and most certainly no longer alive trapped inside the 6,200-tonne Korean ferry Sewol -- rested underwater, twenty kilometres from the jetty. They had been en route to a four-day field trip on the holiday island of Jeju. So festive and yet ordinary an event, suddenly turned into a viciously dreadful catastrophe.

The captain of the vessel had turned over control of the steering to a third officer with scant training. And Captain Lee Joon-seok was being asked why it was that he had been among the first on board the sinking ship to evacuate, while knowing full well the desperate state of affairs, and that hundreds of passengers, high school teens in his care, were desperately helpless below. Abandonment of responsibility, for which a shamed apology could do nothing to salve the festering wound of loss.

South Korean Navy officials work on buoys to mark the sunken passenger ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea.
South Korean Navy officials work on buoys to mark the sunken passenger ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea.  (Photo: AP)

Navy divers are attempting to do what they can under truly vicious sea conditions leaving them scant visibility. They have been unable to enter the submerged ferry's hull. So dreadful were the weather conditions and the swelling seawaters the divers were forced to abandon their efforts by early afternoon. Officials who would not allow their names to be used commented that the chance of finding any passengers alive would be "close to zero".

"We have received at least 20 text messages from children on the boat who are still alive", wailed one mother on the jetty. Spoken communication with the children still on board was not possible due to weak mobile-phone conditions, but text messages were getting through initially; messages like "Mom, I'm sending you this now because I'm afraid I might not be able to say it later. I love you." Or, "Dad, don't worry. I'm wearing a life vest and am with other girls. We're inside the ship, still in the hallway."

Tell these parents that there is no longer any hope their cherished children will be found alive? Some of the waiting parents had to be held back by the crowd, to stop them from attacking coast guard officials on the jetty. "Children are dying! They sent messages! What do you mean bad weather has stopped you!", shouted a father.

The ship, explained Kim the special forces liaison, had been "outside its authorized route", and may have struck a rock, gashing the prow. Rescued passengers had recalled a loud bang. Investigators felt the ship had turned sharply left before tilting representing perhaps the captain attempting to steer back on course. A suggestion was made that the load of 160 vehicles and over a thousand tonnes of cargo may have shifted, improperly secured, causing the ship to "tilt out of control", when it turned.
A relative of a missing passenger weeps as she waits at the port on Jindo Island.
A relative of a missing passenger weeps as she waits at the port on Jindo Island.  (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images)

"There are few people on the ship, can't see a thing, it's totally dark. So there are few men and women, women are screaming and we are not dead yet, so please send along this message." 
Student to parent text message.

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Flimsily Spiteful Vengeance

"Overall, however, the organization failed to gel, and by mid-November it was apparent that we were falling seriously behind. We had no office space, no campaign pamphlet, little money, and no discernible fundraising plan. We we did have was a plan for a launch that would cost $60,000, even though we only had about $40,000 in the bank. Stephen and I realized in mid-November that the organization wasn't working and couldn't be saved. He therefore called all the paid people and told them he would have to terminate their employment, though John Williamson would stay a few more weeks as press secretary and First Past the Post would continue to do our web business. I admired the way Stephen did this; it would have been easier to tell me to fire everyone, but he didn't take the easy path. This willingness to handle the unpleasant side of things has continued to be one of his strengths in his subsequent political career. Even when he has to replace people, they appreciate how he delivers the bad news personally, and they often remain supportive and willing to work in other capacities in the future."
"Stephen's biggest tactical triumph came in autumn 2007, when he pounced on a House of Commons resolution by Gilles Duceppe to recognize Quebec as a nation. Rewording the resolution to read that "the Quebecois form a nation within a united Canada", Harper pulled off a coup by getting all parties, including the out-manoeuvred BQ, to support it. He also departed from platform commitments when he removed the tax exemption for income trusts and when he unveiled a new equalization formula that fell short of his campaign promise to allow provinces to exempt 100 percent of natural resource revenues from the transfer calculation. Under heavy pressure, he went beyond the platform to embrace the view that global warming was caused by greenhouse gas emissions and that the Canadian Government should take action to reduce those emissions, a position he had resisted in the past. He also made a dramatic apology to First Nations over residential schools, something not mentioned in the 2006 platform. I didn't particularly like either the new greenhouse gas policy or the residential schools apology, but they were in line with the incrementalist course I had recommended in the first edition of this book and which Harper openly professed in the second week of the 2008 campaign."
Tom Flanagan, Harper's Team; Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, second edition, C.2009

"He can be suspicious, secretive, and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia, at other times falling into week-long depressions in which he is incapable of making decisions."
Tom Flanagan, Persona Non Grata: The Death of Free Speech in the Internet Age, C.2014
So, as long as Professor Flanagan was on the inside, helping the Conservative Party of Canada in its drive to unseat the Liberals to form a government of their own, he could recognize and appreciate the outstanding leadership qualities of the man who would be prime minister, and who achieved that goal. Either Mr. Flanagan is a fairly good judge of character, or he is not. Failing that, Mr. Flanagan is without doubt, a most poisonously vindictive man in his own right.

So horribly offended at the unfairness of being professionally and personally considered outside the realm of acceptable tolerance that his presence became persona non grata when, in an off-guard moment he expressed himself in a public forum as disfavouring jail time for anyone in possession of child pornography on the grounds that they had a right to favour the kind of photos that appealed to them, and they weren't hurting anyone in the process, a line of thought repellent to the prime minister.

So Mr. Flanagan scribbled his notes and set about writing a lengthy riposte to the assault against his character that he had himself initiated, defending himself against all those who had made it clear they had no wish to be connected in any form possible to someone who saw little amiss in people aiding an industry that is horribly destructive to children. His new book soon to see publication had some vituperative leaks beforehand, so those who salivate at the prospect of reading an insider's view of the prime minister's traits would anticipate the opportunity to purchase the book.

"It's odd that after not having worked on the Hill in almost a decade, and in the context of defending his own outrageous comments on child pornography, Mr. Flanagan comes forward with these ridiculous allegations. As the public knows, and as the prime minister's record shows, he's had no difficulties making decisions in good times or bad", pithily responded Mr. Harper's director of communications, Jason MacDonald.

A common interest in politics and in specific the original Reform Party brought Mr. Flanagan and Mr. Harper together; one to become the eventual head of the newly-formed Conservative Party of Canada through a merger of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties, the other to visualize, recommend and perform the backroom strategic manoeuvring that would help Stephen Harper's aspirations become reality. Mr. Flanagan quite obviously recognized the exceptional metier of the man at that time.

With the first, unauthorized book, Harper's Team, that Mr. Flanagan wrote in an obvious ploy at elevating his status as a mover-and-shaker of political vision and verity, it might be said that he had set out to alienate a man who prizes his personal privacy, to begin with. Choosing to write fairly intimate details of his observances when he was privileged with the friendship of the Harper family, it is little wonder that Mr. Harper chose not to be indifferent to this infringement of a friendship's implied trust.

"I would see Stephen sometimes get morose and sad, but it never affected his ability to do his job. Yes, sometimes he would get depressed, but he was always a hard worker and always doing his job. He is so smart and he had a great imagination and can think about all the horrible things that can happen", in all the things can conceivably go wrong, and concerning himself with exerting an effort to ensure that those matters would not surface to mar planned events, explained Gerry Nichols, who had worked with Mr. Harper at the National Citizens Coalition.

The consensus among those who knew and recognize Stephen Harper as a colleague appears to be one of affection and admiration. Obviously those among his collegial acquaintances and friends who had never disappointed the trust that he placed in their friendship. As for decision making and proceeding on the basis of those decisions the Prime Minister does not appear to have made many grave errors due to indecision and bad humour.

He has expressed the opinion of most thinking Canadians on issues from Sri Lanka to Syria, Iran to Russia, Ukraine to Israel as far as international issues are concerned. Most latterly his Ukraine file stand has all-party support, just as his decision on Libya intervention along with NATO had. In foreign policy issues, including Canada's relationship with Israel, this prime minister has proven his mettle.

His handling, along with his long-time, trusted and effectively assured Minister of Finance, with the economic file throughout a period of global financial instability has been outstanding, the envy of Canada's G7 peers. A future surplus will make a package of tax reductions for the population possible. And his feeling, compassionate eulogy for Jim Flaherty paints a full picture of a man of many parts, capable and intelligent, reliable and resilient.

Mr. Flanagan, for all his academic credentials and political associations, once a trusted adviser, chose to  burn his candle at both ends, unfortunately, and then used himself as a burnt offering with his penchant for musing in favour of sexual deviants' "right" to pursue their harmful-to-society proclivities, and his own pursuit of revenge on a man whose sensibilities simply do not match his, while outrunning him on the morality-and-decency scale by a wide, wide margin.

Stephen Harper delivers the eulogy at the state funeral for Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Stephen Harper delivers the eulogy at the state funeral for Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, 
April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn


The leaking Kerry-Lavrov deal for Ukraine will only fuel continuing US-Russian dissent

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis April 18, 2014, 7:37 PM (IDT)
Russian flags fly in Donetsk
Russian flags fly in Donetsk
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have developed a template for “de-escalating” international crises in a way that avoids US military intervention. The formula was first unveiled in the pact they concluded in September 2013 for disposing of Syria’s chemical weapons. Two months after this, the duo went into action again for the interim nuclear accord for Iran.
Kerry believes that the same recipe will work eventually for an Israeli-Palestinian final accord. It is a dish with three main ingredients: a slick-sounding compromise that the US and Russian can more or less live with; a gloss over the real elements at issue between them; and a deal that goes over the heads of the prime movers involved in the conflict. By the time the dish they cook up goes sour, the two diplomats have moved on to the next crisis.

This dynamic was repeated in Geneva Thursday April 17 for the three-point formula hammered out by the US, Russia, the EU and the Ukraine for assuaging the Ukraine crisis. Its key stipulation required all protesters to vacate the buildings they have illegally occupied and lay down their arms.
No sooner was the deal in the bag, than it faced insuperable impediments.

One of the pro-Russian separatist leaders Denis Pushkin called a news conference in Donetsk Friday to announce that Russia “did not sign anything for us.”

If illegally occupied buildings are to be relinquished, he said, then the “illegitimate government” should vacate the presidential administration building in Kiev. Pushkin also pointed out that the central government had not pulled military forces back from Slavyansk, one of the 10 cities in which pro-Russian separatists had seized public buildings.

The provisional Ukraine government has seized on the Geneva document to transform the humiliating outcome of its armed operation against the pro-Russian militias last week into a political gain. Although most of the soldiers of the Ukraine special force defected to the opposition or turned tail, government spokesmen were saying Friday that they would give the protesters a few days to remove themselves from the buildings they seized.

The warning was hollow. For one thing, the Kiev authorities don’t command the strength to force their will on the regions of East and South Ukraine and, for another, the separatists will stay put until the “illegitimate” government evacuates central Kiev, if that is what Moscow tells them to do.

Washington and the European Union responded to this impasse by calling on Moscow for steps to “de-escalate” the situation. The Russians believe they have taken the first step already by making sure that by Friday morning no armored personnel carriers and armed militiamen were to be seen.
This does not mean that the weapons are not hidden away nearby ready for use.

In any case, the West wants Russia to make the running and is threatening “more costs” if it does not comply.

President Barack Obama commented Thursday: “My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days, but I don’t think – given past performance – that we can count on that.”
President Vladimir Putin, during his Q&A session from the Kremlin, stressed Russia’s right to use military force in Ukraine if deemed necessary.

Russian troop concentrations have not moved back from the Ukraine border.
Russia and the West are therefore as far apart on a consensual solution for the Ukraine crisis after the carefully worded Geneva accord as they were before.

debkafile’s Moscow sources say that the West is again misreading Putin and his motives. The Russian president feels that in the past two years, he has gone more than halfway in meeting Obama on two issues of vital importance to the US president: Iran and Syria.

He agreed to work with the Obama administration to achieve détente with Tehran and a negotiated accord for Iran’s nuclear program. Washington presents this as an American breakthrough. Putin believes that these goals would have been unattainable without Russia’s quiet intercession withTehran to smooth the way.

Although their understanding was kept under close wraps, Putin is convinced that it was the key to Washington’s approval of Iran’s right to enrich uranium, a US concession adamantly withheld from the Islamic Republic by all of Obama’s predecessors in the White House.

This understanding also meant that both powers overlooked the door they had opened to possible Israel military action for curbing Iran’s nuclear program, given the international latitude Tehran won to move its nuclear plans forward.

The Russian leader also considers that by permitting Lavrov to join Kerry for a Syrian chemical disarmament pact last year, he gave the US president a much-needed ladder for climbing down from his commitment to deploy military force against Bashar Assad. Obama in return let Assad stay in power. The outcome of this trade-off was the strengthening of the radical Iran-Syria-Hizballah alliance.

That Kerry-Lavrov pact has not held water either. In the last few weeks, our sources reveal that Iran has begun sending the Syrian army new types of chemical substances that are not covered by that pact.

For Putin, the Iranian and Syrian arenas are poles apart from Ukraine in the sense that the former are far from Russia’s borders, while Ukraine is its back yard and of immediate concern to its national security. On this , Putin will make no concessions.

He is now looking past the angry rhetoric emanating from Washington and Europe and waiting to see if the Obama administration acts to make the government in Kiev offer real concessions for the sake of the broad national dialogue stipulated in the Geneva accord to work.

So far, there is no sign of flexibility in Kiev. And so the pro-Russian militias in Donetsk and the rest of eastern Ukraine will hold their ground - even in the face of the US threat to exact more “costs” from Moscow.

With the strategic Crimean peninsula in his pocket and no visible Western gains in Kiev, Putin feels he can afford to persist in a posture of confrontation.

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Turkey's president downplays job swap with Erdogan

BBC News online -- 18 April 2014
Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Ankara, 15 April President Gul says he has no political plans for the future
President Abdullah Gul of Turkey appears to have ruled out a job swap with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan when his term ends in August.

Mr Erdogan has not confirmed he will stand for president but the largely ceremonial office is being strengthened and he is tipped to run.

Mr Gul is an ally from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but has differed with the prime minister.

He told reporters a tandem would not be "appropriate" for a democracy.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, 15 April Prime Minister Erdogan in Ankara this week

He had been asked if he and Mr Erdogan might follow the example of Russia, where President Vladimir Putin swapped roles with his ally Dmitry Medvedev for a term before returning to the Kremlin.

"I don't have any political plan for the future under today's conditions," he told reporters in the western province of Kutahya, when asked about the presidential election.

Correspondents say that Mr Gul's remark throws open the question of who might succeed Mr Erdogan as prime minister when his final term expires.

Turkey's president was previously chosen by parliament but will be elected directly this year for the first time.

Mr Gul has been seen as a more conciliatory figure and a check on Mr Erdogan's more hardline impulses, analysts say.

The AKP has won six consecutive elections, at national and local level, maintaining a solid base of support among the working class and religious people.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

In All Humility ... Outmanoeuvred

"Yes, I'm from Crimea, and of course I took part in the operation to restore order there. We've got about six guys from Crimea. The other guys are from Kharkhiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and other places."
pro-Russian gunman

"We've been taken prisoner by dirty means. I'm surrounded by 500 people, what do you want me to do?"
Ukrainian commander

"There is only one directive for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry -- the Russian government has to immediately withdraw its commando groups, condemn the terrorists and demand they lave the installations."
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, acting Ukraine Prime Minister

"[The Kremlin is feeding Russians] misinformation exaggerations, conspiracy theories, overheated rhetoric and occasionally, outright lies [through state-controlled media]. It is an extraordinary propaganda campaign that political analysts say reflects a new brazennness on the part of Russian officials."
The New York Times

  • A combat vehicle with pro-Russian gunman on top goes through downtown Slaviansk on April 16, 2014. The troops on those vehicles wore green camouflage uniforms, had automatic weapons and grenade launchers and at least one had the St. George ribbon attached to his uniform, which has become a symbol of the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine. (EFREM LUKATSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS)A combat vehicle with pro-Russian gunman on top goes through downtown Slaviansk on April 16, 2014. The troops on those vehicles wore green camouflage uniforms, had automatic weapons and grenade launchers and at least one had the St. George ribbon attached to his uniform, which has become a symbol of the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.  (EFREM LUKATSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Television channel Rossiya 24 on Tuesday reported that between four and 11 innocently peaceful pro-Russian supporters were killed, strafed by helicopter gunfire near Kramatorsk. Unbelievable, that Ukrainian military is resorting to the kind of bloodthirsty atrocities the world has come to recognize as the barbaric practices of the Syrian military led by Bashar al-Assad. Except that, in reality, a helicopter landed near the town at an airfield, and when a Ukrainian commander emerged, he was attacked by the pro-Russian crowd.

"The continued strong presence of the Russian military along the Ukrainian border and the continued inflammatory reporting by Russian state media that are also watched in eastern Ukraine are a destabilizing factor" stated German government spokesman Georg Streiter, after Chancellor Angela Merkel informed President Vladimir Putin that his country possesses "the main responsibility" to calm the spiralling-to-conflict situation he has himself inflicted on Ukraine.

Hopelessly inept, the interim government hardly knows how next to respond, other than to repeat the querulously-worded condemnations of Russian actions against Ukraine's stability and autonomy. Ukraine did order in its armed forces, but both the military and the government has suffered yet another blow to their self-esteem after pro-Russian separatists took possession of six armoured personnel vehicles, replacing the Ukrainian flags with Russian flags and paraded them proudly.

Pro-Russian gunman clears the way for a combat vehicle with gunmen on top in Slovyansk, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 16. AP Photo
Pro-Russian gunman clears the way for a combat vehicle with gunmen on top in Slovyansk, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 16. AP Photo 

Shouts of "Russia! Russia!" rang through the streets from the upturned faces of joyous crowds of supporters in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk, seized and held by rebels. Taken from Ukrainian troops in Kramatorsk, the vehicles were driven the 20 minutes to Slavyansk. Instead of being used to disperse an armed rebellion taking control of the area, the vehicles were used to contemptuously display Ukrainian helplessness.

Simply put, the Ukrainian soldiers were unprepared to fire on the protesters. So they were themselves disarmed, surrounded by crowds of rebellious residents eager to see Russia prevail and Ukraine brought to its knees. "Let's say we didn't buy them in a shop. We came by them in the course of things, if you know what I mean" said a masked gunman, claiming that the crews of the vehicles had defected. Reports suggested they were forced to surrender.

Crowds look on as pro-Russian separatists drive round the city on armoured vehicles Crowds look on as pro-Russian separatists drive round the city on armoured vehicles. Photograph: Luke Harding

"They made a decision to give us their vehicles", a gunman who offered his first name, Vladimir, stated describing himself as an army veteran from Donetsk. A group of 40 Ukrainian servicemen were placed on buses heading out of town. Not far away, another 15 armoured troop carriers were surrounded and stopped in their tracks by a pro-Russian crowd eager to humiliate the Ukrainian paratroopers.

Attack helicopters circled, a Ukrainian air force jet flew low passes hoping to disperse the crowd as the standoff continued, but neither was successful. The paratroopers, unwilling to use force on civilians stood by to await instructions. The troops, isolated and surrounded were persuaded to remove the clips from the rifles, then the firing pins, and finally to surrender their ammunition. Ultimately, the unit was disarmed and retreated.

At the four-party talks between Russia, the EU, the U.S. and Ukraine in Geneva, Russia demanded that Ukraine assume a federal system of government and agree to granting eastern regions autonomy, while Ukrainian leaders understand very well that full federalization opens a path to Russian annexation though they claimed to be prepared to consider the devolution of some powers to the regions.

There is no mystery regarding the presence of Russian military in eastern Ukraine, dressed as well armed ethnic Russian Ukrainians, without identifying signia, urging action upon Russian speakers in emulation of what had expeditiously turned the tide in Russia's favour in Crimea. Men equipped with machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers are not persuasively local. Ukrainian commanders believe at least some of the gunmen are Russian soldiers, leading the way, inciting to rebellion.

And Russia has sternly warned Ukraine that an armoured offensive in the eastern region would not be countenanced by Russia. "You can't send in tanks and at the same time hold talks. The use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva", warned that master of hypocrisy, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

And for its part, NATO too has issued warning shots across the bow, aimed at the Kremlin. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen vowed that its aircraft will fly increased sorties over the Baltic, and ensure that allied ships are deployed to the Baltic Sea, and the eastern Mediterranean, as required. "We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water and more readiness on the land."

The sound and the fury is there, but there is something elementally fundamental somehow lacking.

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Melancholy Farewell

"He was a man who was highly principled and ruthlessly pragmatic, combative but engaging, smart and educated while never assuming that he knew it all.
He could be hard-headed, yet also soft-hearted.
He could display a quick and biting temper, but, far more often, a deep and gentle sense of humour.
He particularly enjoyed -- and delivered -- many jokes about his own shortness.
He observed that he never got in the way of his own PowerPoints, but, short as he was, upon the world stage he strode like a giant.
I do not say these things to imply that Jim was a contradictory person. He was not, in any way.
As a human being he was the complete package."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper attends Jim Flaherty's state funeral
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen arrive at the state funeral for former finance minister Jim Flaherty in Toronto on April 16, 2014. Flaherty died of a heart attack last week.   Photograph by: Tyler Anderson/Postmedia News, Postmedia News
Yesterday, Canada laid to rest its longest-serving Minister of Finance, who served under the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. A man of great integrity, pride and love of Canada, the partisan ugliness that has gripped Parliament appears somehow to have passed him by; he was respected and appreciated by his colleagues in the House of Commons, of all political stripes.

And on the occasion of his state funeral, many of those same Parliamentarian colleagues were in evidence to pay their last respects to a man they all recall with fondness. He served in the Ontario cabinet of former Premier Mike Harris, and many of his colleagues from that era were in evidence, as well. Along with the current mayor of the City of Toronto for whom he was a stalwart family friend, loyal to that friendship even in dire adversity.

A book of condolences and a photograph of former finance minister Jim Flaherty in the lobby of House of Commons on Parliament Hill. Flags have been flying at half-mast on Parliament Hill and Canadians have been lining up to sign an online book of condolences since Flaherty died last week. Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand, Canada.com
A photograph of Jim Flaherty, along with several books of condolence were laid out in the House of Commons for visitors or anyone interested to write their comments in his memory, and many thousands lined up to do just that. His death appears to have joined together Canadians in a common purpose of paying tribute to a man dedicated to Canada's future, prepared to lay aside differences, for the moment. And they did in the most wholesome manner.

The shocking, totally unexpected death of this man who had resigned his cabinet post having achieved his goal of presenting Canadians with a balanced budget, foreseen for 2015, cast a pall of grief and disbelief over those who knew him as a reputable and credible man of public office. His premature death at age 64, just at a time when he was determined to spend more time with his family, after years of travelling the world in service to his country sent shock waves throughout the international community.

Ontario MPP Christine Elliott and her sons stand by the casket of her husband, the late former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, during visitation in Whitby, Ont., on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario MPP Christine Elliott and her sons stand by the casket of her husband, the late former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, during visitation in Whitby, Ont., on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
His widow, Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament, Christine Elliott, and their triplet 28-year-old sons Quinn, John and Galen, spoke moving tributes to the man they loved and will now sorely miss while never forgetting that his spirit lingers over them and will do so to the end of their days. All those in solemn attendance, recalling the man who was, wore bright touches of green to pay tribute to the Irish in Jim Flaherty.

"Dad, I love you", Quinn Flaherty declared. "We love you. Put your feet up, lay your head back, close your eyes and relax. We will take it from here."

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Utter Devastation

"This is a day to mourn the loss of members of our community and to provide support to family, friends and university community members. This was a house party off campus and today is not the day to evaluate activities on campus. But I can tell you that Bermuda Shorts Day is a 53-year-old tradition at our university. We have students doing support in the community, at the Drop-in Centre, at Ronald McDonald House, and it concluded yesterday at five o'clock.:"
Elizabeth Cannon, president, University of Calgary
Signs of a party remain in the backyard of a home after five people were stabbed to death at a home on Butler Cres. NW on April 15, 2014.
Signs of a party remain in the backyard of a home after five people were stabbed to death at a home on Butler Cres. NW on April 15, 2014.   Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald
The rampage was surreal. Who might have envisaged a laid-back day of relaxation, talking among friends, barbecuing, just hanging out together and appreciating life on a day that is a tradition with the university, that for most of those present at the house party in rented quarters on a quiet family street, would end as it did? Neighbours whose homes surrounded the house where the ten young people had gathered were hardly aware a party was in progress. All was in order.

Except, eventually there was gross disorder. And that happened when one invited young man, recently accepted to study law at the university after achieving his undergraduate degree there, arrived from his workplace to join his friends. The son of a Calgary police officer of over 30 years' service, he was well liked and appreciated for his quiet, unassuming demeanor and friendliness. Who might have thought this well-bred, respectful man would suddenly become psychotic?
"I don't think these people had a chance to defend themselves. A situation like this is really hard on us; students are trying to find their place in the world and make a difference. Something like this makes you feel there's no hope."
"It's just surreal ... they were all mellow people. They were not into drugs or anything like that. I'm going to go to their funerals."
Rachel Shabalin, Calgary student
Medical examiner staff remove one of the bodies from a home as Calgary Police Service members investigated after five people were stabbed to death at a home on Butler Cres N.W.
Medical examiner staff remove one of the bodies from a home as Calgary Police Service members investigated after five people were stabbed to death at a home on Butler Cres N.W.   Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

"He seemed to get along well with everyone", said one of his classmates from St. Francis High School, recalling the teen he'd attended high school classes with. "I don't think anyone ever had anything bad to say about him, and he never had anything bad to say about anybody. Every time we saw each other, we'd catch up", said another old classmate of the boy she had shared classes with at high school. This was 22-year-old Matt de Grood.

Who was arrested by police soon after he had plunged a knife into the bodies of five of his friends; Lawrence Hong, 27; Zackariah Rathwell 23, Josh Hunter, 22; Jordan Segura, 23; and Kaitlin Perras, 23. They had all attended that quiet party to spend time with their friends, never imagining they would never emerge again alive, free to go on with their promising lives. It is as beyond belief to their parents that their children will never come home again, as it would have been to them.

According to the police account, when Matt de Grood arrived at the rented Calgary house, he "obtained a large knife", and with it, stabbed each of his victims several times. Methodically, hitting them in just the right places for maximum effect, striking those body zones easy enough to reach if the victims are in any way unaware, incapacitated, sleeping, and rendering them vulnerable to a very swift death due to loss of blood.

"It is unusual" to have five stabbing victims in a single incident and have all five die. That's the kind of outcome usually associated with gunshot wounds. "It really just depends on what you hit, what part of the body. It comes down to bad luck", said Dr. Homer Tien, trauma director at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital, asked to comment on the situation.

Traumatized is as good a word as any to describe the utterly bleak and desolate emotional state of dreadful bereavement of all those parents. That would include the parents of Matt de Grood.

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Jordanian air strike destroyed Al Qaeda raider force heading for US military base

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 17, 2014, 12:20 PM (IDT)
Jordanian air strike destroyed combat veihicles
Jordanian air strike destroyed combat vehicles
The Royal Jordanian Air force strike Wednesday, April 16, against a combat vehicle convoy from Syria destroyed an Al Qaeda raider force on its way to attack US military targets in the kingdom, debkafile’s military sources reveal. Jordan’s first assault on a target outside the country took place on the Syrian side of the border opposite the eastern town of Ruwaished.

This episode brought to the fore how dramatically the threat al Qaeda-Iraq poses to Jordan, the US forces based their and Israel has escalated.

Amman has not disclosed where the air strike took place, who rode in the destroyed armored vehicles and where they came from.

According to debkafile’s counterterrorism sources, they were driven by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) fighters, coming from the western Iraqi province of Anbar. To avoid running into Jordanian military formations around Ruwaished, the group moved through Syria in the Abu Kemal region and, after refueling and collecting extra fighters and arms, turned south and aimed for the Jordanian border, where their expedition was abruptly brought to a close.

Our intelligence sources report that their target was a secret US-Jordanian training facility situated west of Ruwaished, where Iraqi army troops are being instructed in advanced counter terror combat tactics. At the end of these courses, the graduates return to their units, better able to put up a fight against the al Qaeda forces continuing to overrun large swathes of their country, and posing a real danger to Baghdad.

This episode broke new ground in more than one area.

It was the first ISIS operation directed against the American military presence in Jordan, and also the first time the jihadists used stealth to creep through a crack between the Jordanian, Iraqi and Syrian borders.

ISIS planners were well aware of the two full divisions the Jordanian army had strung out along its borders with Syria and Iraq, to seal the kingdom off from Islamist terrorist incursions. Those planners were crafty enough to find away around this barrier.

However, many Jordanians have joined up with the Al Qaeda branches of Iraq and Syria. It is thought to be only a matter of time before they return to home ground fired up with the jihadist doctrine of terror.

The Jordanians don’t say how they knew the ISIS vehicle convoy was heading their way. It stands to reason that US or Jordanian surveillance aircraft detected the vehicles on the move. Since there was no time to drop Jordanian commandos to apprehend the terrorists in Syria before they crossed the border, it was decided in a hurried conference between Amman and Washington to send the Jordanian air force into action. The commanders likely used the US Command and Control Headquarters established near Amman a year ago to maintain close US-Jordanian military coordination.

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