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, May 31, 2014

The Harmony of Communist Leadership

"I am the captain of a sunk ship. I will always question of myself, 'Why didn't I die?' I believe, for the rest of my life. ... I will try my best to remember the guilt and try to realize the dreams of those who died that night [Tiananmen Square]."
"I still consider myself as a democracy activist, an active dissident. It just unfortunately doesn't pay, so I have to find another way to support the family."
Wu'er Kaixi, Taiwan

Mr. Wu'er was a 21-year-old protest leader during the June 1989 military crackdown to put an end to the weeks of student protests  in Beijing. Since then, twenty-five years have led to a sea change, at least for the Chinese economy and society, as China transformed itself from a purely Communist regime whose brutality became legend, to a somewhat less brutal regime which, using Hong Kong as its blueprint for success, adapted to capitalism.

Mr. Wu'er was a hunger striker in 1989, whose rise to prominence owed to his haranguing then-premier Li Peng at a meeting with protesters that had been televised. Two weeks following that, he spoke of witnessing "the atrocity, the killing" that haunts him yet. Following that fateful day, he escaped China in a boat, was smuggled out of the country, where he ended up in the United States.

He is now, at age 46, with a family and two teen-aged sons, an investment banker in Taipei, Taiwan. Quite the transition that; from a penurious Chinese hunger-striker to an investment banker. But then, as he said, ethics somehow fray at the ends when one has to support a family. Mr. Wu'er was furious when China won the Beijing Olympics, and then trotted itself out again for display at the Shanghai Expo.

"I felt like the world was betraying the idea of democracy ... giving in to China. But we, the Chinese democracy activists, want to carry on our own mission., to finish the unfinished business." The world watched, mesmerized, at the confrontation between the Chinese military and defenceless university students who carried flowers to plug the muzzles of rifles, but whom the military mowed down anyway.

Beijing June 4, 1989.  Photo: Jeff Widener & Associated Press

While the image of a lone young man standing against four tanks fascinated and horrified a watching world, it was the mass murders, the indoctrination, the vanishing of intellectuals, the banishment of the learned elite of China to the countryside so they could learn humility, the misery of starvation and privation, the state against the well-being of the people during the Cultural Revolution that took place quietly, behind a wall of private mass atrocity that the world could not see that represents the true picture of Communist China.
Song YongyiOnline Encyclopedia of Mass Violence
The Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was a historical tragedy launched by Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It claimed the lives of several million people and inflicted cruel and inhuman treatments on hundreds of million people. However, 40 years after it ended, the total number of victims of the Cultural Revolution and especially the death toll of mass killings still remain a mystery both in China and overseas. For the Chinese communist government, it is a highly classified “state secret,” although they do maintain statistics for the so-called “abnormal death” numbers all over China. Nevertheless, the government, realizing that the totalitarian regime and the endless power struggles in the CCP Central Committee (CCP CC) were the root cause of the Cultural Revolution, has consistently discounted the significance of looking back and reflecting on this important period of Chinese history. They even forbid Chinese scholars from studying it independently and discourage overseas scholars from undertaking research on this subject in China.
Zhao Ziyang, the-then Communist party general secretary, who had expressed some understanding and sympathized with the students, faced accusations of having split the party, and that resulted in his being forced to live the final 16 years of his life under house arrest. His aide, Bao Tong, was imprisoned for seven years, living since his release in 1996, under house arrest in Beijing.
"Back then, they feared the students, and deployed tanks and guns against these students. Today, they don't dare to tell this to the public. They don't dare to tell the truth to the Chinese people, tell the whole world what really happened."
"I think Deng took this decision [to deploy the army] because he wanted to safeguard one-party rule, and its governing of China. He feared the people would become the masters of this country, and would leave the party out, and then the party would not be able to continue being the master of China."
"He has already passed away, and his successors, his heirs in the party, still do not dare to point out and say, 'Deng Xiaoping made a mistake'."
Bao Tong, loyal aide to former Communist party general secretary Zhao Ziyang

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The Gentle Sex

They have always been vulnerable to attack. Men prized them for their bodies, giving them the means by which to reach sexual gratification. There is nowhere on the face of this Earth where women and girls and young boys can be entirely safe from predators. Nature constructed her animal kingdom in such a way that infused within our biology is the urge to reproduce. And to ensure that her creatures did reproduce and thus perpetuate the species, she made it pleasurable for men, to entice them to rut.

For women, not so much, though there is the physical pleasure of sex, and far more than that the contentment and pleasure in close physical and emotional confluence with another human being. The pains of giving birth are soon forgotten, if the mother and the newborn survive the physical ordeal. In advanced countries of the world these things present few problems; the mechanical biological systems involved. Far more complex are the emotional portions.

In developing countries of the world it is an entirely different story. Where mass rapes are regularly on schedule during times of tribal conflict, or when one clan settles a score with another. Or just simply a society's culture which accepts that men have the right to accost and take advantage of any woman or girlchild who is in an unprotected and vulnerable place.

And in India there are now an estimated 37-million more men in the immense population of 1.2-billion people, than there are women, thanks to the cultural preference for male babies, and the equally acceptable cultural method of female baby restraints like infanticide. The culture carries its customs over into abortion when in advanced societies the gender of a fetus can be ascertained before birth.

India is so assailed by relentless incidents of brutal and often deadly rapes that it finally made rape a capital crime punishable by the death penalty after the infamously horrific incident where a young woman in the company of a male friend had been repeatedly gang-raped on a moving bus, then mutilated, leading to her death.

In India, social equality for women is yet a dream to be realized. There are certain comparisons to the state of women's status in countries of the Middle East, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Six in ten women cover their heads in cultural modesty in India, somewhat similar to the enforced head-to-toe garb women must wear in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, to 'preserve their modesty'.

Eight of ten Indian women require permission to enable them to visit a doctor. Almost half of Indian women marry before they reach the age of 18. Four of ten have no influence on their marriage; they must submit to the decisions made by their families on their behalf. These figures were released as a result of a recent survey undertaken by India's National Council of Applied Economic Research.

The barbaric abduction, rape and murder of two teen-age girls from a field in their village where they had gone -- as do most of the villagers through lack of toilet facilities -- nearby their home to evacuate their bodily functions, has roiled Indian society. The raw entitlement of upper caste Hindus to do as they wish with the lower caste 'untouchables', was starkly evident in the blatant openness with which the girls were abducted, though they were seen, and attempts made to stop their kidnap.
Members of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union shout slogans during a protest against a gang rape of two teenage girls in Katra village, outside the Uttar Pradesh state house, in New Delhi, India, Friday, May 30, 2014. A top government official said the northern Uttar Pradesh state has sacked two police officers who failed to respond to a complaint by the father of the two teenage girls who went missing and were later found gang raped and killed. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

The local police did nothing to apprehend the event which led to the rape, strangulation and public hanging of the two cousins, 14 and 15. The villagers gathered beneath the tree where the bodies of the two girls dangled, refusing to move until their rapist-murderers had been taken into custody. The plight of the Dalit in India whom their own religion has consigned to poverty and disdain by the upper castes seems irremediable

But then, India is not alone in the horrific scourge of rape. While it is endemic throughout Africa, and used as a weapon of war through mass rapes, the developed world also has its shameful and seemingly incorrigible statistics of rape befouling the culture and social pride of socially-advanced and culturally-progressive nations where equality of women is a standard legal entitlement.

One in four women in Sweden report that they were at one time raped, according to a European Commission-funded study. The United States can boast the highest number of reported rapes at over 83,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice. The occurrence of child and baby rape in South Africa is among the highest in the world; between 28 and 37 percent of South African men admit to having raped, according to the Africa-based Institute for Security Studies.

A survey by the United Nations revealed that men living in Asia and the Pacific region admit in a one-to-four ratio of having raped at least one woman. And in Canada, every 17 minutes the estimate is that a girl or woman is raped. What's notable about all these reports is that just six percent are reported to police leading to fewer than half of those resulting in criminal charges. Of those charges, one in four leads to a conviction.

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South Africa Needs Him

"I don't come as a know-all who is going to pontificate and tell you Canadians what you must do."
"I think I can almost say, without fear of contradiction, that you do know what you should do."
"The Bible says God said to Adam, 'Till it and keep it'. Not 'Till it and destroy it.'"
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"He has a little bit more credibility than the actors and the players. Desmond Tutu has a lot of political experience and the public's ear. I hope he uses it well."
Melvin Campbell, Syncrude employee, Alberta
Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives the keynote address during the conference, As Long as the Rivers Flow: Coming Back to the Treaty Relationship in Our Time, in Fort McMurray, Alta. on Saturday May 31, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson ORG XMIT: EDM104Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives the keynote address during the conference, As Long as the Rivers Flow: Coming Back to the Treaty Relationship in Our Time, in Fort McMurray, Alta. on Saturday May 31, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson ORG XMIT: EDM104
Canada has been given a special gift, a visit by now-retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu whose work alongside that of former South African President Nelson Mandela drew world attention in their fight against the racism of white-dominated South Africa's apartheid regime. Their political party gained power. The ruling African National Congress never managed to live up to its mandate nor its promise.

South Africa's dismal poverty level is as critical as ever, housing for the underprivileged is abysmal, unemployment is high, government corruption is endemic, and criminality is out of control. It is considered one of the murder capitals of the world. According to the Africa-based Institute for Security Studies, between 28 and 37% of all men in South Africa admit to having committed rape.

The police are impotent and are themselves corrupt and brutal. Their president, Jacob Zuma, is a rapist, so ignorant about HIV/AIDS, an epidemic in his country -- where men believe that raping a virgin child will protect them from contracting AIDS --  that he felt showering after raping an HIV-positive woman who regarded him as an avuncular family friend, would protect him against AIDS.

He is accused, with good reason, of siphoning off public funds for his private advantage.

Furthermore the incidence of child and baby rape in Bishop Tutu's country is one of the highest in the world. Now that's quite the social, cultural, political background for any country. South Africa has failed, time and again, to speak out against travesties of justice when someone like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe brought his country into ruination.

But he has most generously given of himself to help prevent the economic and trade exploitation of the Alberta oilsands, equating the efforts by those such as himself to bring development to a screeching halt to aid the environment, to the equally global effort to bring down the apartheid South African regime.

He has pledged himself to taking emphatically energetic stands on climate change and to refute the Keystone XL pipeline, signing a petition against the project, considering it appalling that Canada proposes to move oilsands bitumen from Albert to the United States; or anywhere else, for that matter.


Not the human rights violations, slavery, mass rapes, forced mass migrations leading to refugee homelessness, child abductions and violent tribal conflict renting asunder much of Africa?

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Allies, Economic Partners: Adversaries

"We are now fighting by peaceful means, by propagandizing against China's illegal invasion. In addition, we try to avoid any intentional clashes with Chinese vessels to minimize damages and casualties on our end."
Ha Le, Deputy Head, Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Department

A Vietnamese fisheries patrol ship shows signs of damage that Hanoi says was a result of being rammed by Chinese vessels during  recent encounters in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)
A Vietnamese fisheries patrol ship shows signs of damage that Hanoi says was a result of being rammed by Chinese vessels during recent encounters in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)
China and Vietnam have an uneasy relationship. And it is one that has become strained to the breaking point in the last short while, even though they have enjoyed robust trade ties and China has invested heavily in Vietnam. But on Sunday, after weeks of outraged condemnation of China's high-handed positioning of a huge oil rig on the waters near the disputed Paracel Islands, Vietnamese protesters have come out in droves in furious protests against China.

On Sunday, the increasing bad faith and anger between the two countries; China, because it sees Vietnam making a nationalist nuisance of itself; Vietnam because it sees its sovereignty flagrantly abused, led to four Vietnamese fisheries officers being wounded, after being hit by water cannons from Chinese vessels. Almost all of Vietnam's vessels have sustained damage from attacks launched by China's vessels in the dispute.

The close economic ties between the two countries aside, Vietnam, like the Philippines, like Japan and South Korea, are all simmering with resentment over China's bullying aggression, claiming its ownership of territorial waters traditionally claimed by its Asian neighbours. China's declaration of ownership of the airspace between itself in the East China Sea and Japan has infuriated Japan.
File photo of the city government of Tokyo's survey vessel sailing around a group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China in the East China Sea The city government of Tokyo's survey vessel sails around a group of disputed islands known as Senkaku
The two countries' long-standing dispute over the rocky oceanic outcroppings called Diaoyu and claimed by China, and named the Senkaku Islands by Japan claiming legal possession, has caused no end of frustration and threats. Japan claims a Chinese fighter flew within 30 meters of a Japanese surveillance plane above the waters where the two countries' air defence identification zones overlap.

Japan Coast Guard vessel PS206 Houou sails in front of Uotsuri island, one of the disputed islands

Last Thursday a protest in Ha Tinh province, Vietnam, turned violent at a steel mill, where 21 people were killed, 15 of them Chinese workers. Hundreds of Chinese workers have now been evacuated out of Vietnam. The Ha Tinh steel mill, attacked by outraged Vietnamese was a Taiwanese operation as were many of the 15 foreign-owned factories set ablaze, attacked and looted. Owned by Taiwanese and South Korean interests.

Hanoi and Beijing also, despite their economic ties have a long-running dispute over the Paracel Islands ownership located in the South China Sea. The two countries' relationship seemed to be on an even enough keel until a Chinese company towed an oil rig into the waters close by the Paracel Islands, with the stated intention of remaining there until at least August, triggering anti-Chinese sentiments.

China can weather the economic storm that has resulted, but it is questionable whether Vietnam will be able to, without lasting harm to its more fragile economy.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

An Unspeakable Atrocity

"Boys will be boys. They make mistakes." 
"[The Samajwadi Party is opposed to the law calling for gang rapists to be executed]"
Mulayam Singh Yadav, head Uttar Pradesh state governing Samajwadi Party
Watch this video
New Delhi protest, CNN
It does seem like a dreadfully harsh sentence. Particularly for boys. But in India there is a culture of rape, one that the sternest laws appear incapable of turning around. Much like the Indian caste system in the Hindu faith that believes in lower and higher castes, the former in thrall to the latter. And though India has long since declared that the traditional oppression of its Dalit lower caste be outlawed, the Dalit remain mired in poverty, shunned by the higher classes, held in universal contempt.

And it was two young Dalit girls, cousins, aged 14 and 15 whose bodies were discovered hanging from a mango tree in Katra village in Utter Pradesh on Wednesday. The girls had been gang-raped, strangled, then their bodies hanged from the tree. One might imagine that the perpetrators would be aware of the horror their act would elicit from the villagers. Might they have been so certain that there would be no penalty for their barbaric act that they could boast of the atrocity by hanging the girls in full public view?

In India fifty percent of the population has no access to toilets. People exit their homes to defecate and to urinate in the out-of-doors; railway tracks, open fields, forests, wherever they can manage to evacuate the waste their bodies produce. Public and personal hygiene is difficult to maintain when not even group facilities are available for the use of the public, at a close range to where they live. Other than to venture forth, as the girls did, doubtless together for company.

UP gang-rape
Two girls, cousins, 14 and 15 are seen hanging from a tree Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state, India, 28 May 2014, in still taken from Reuters video

It was said that they had been abducted from the field where they had gone to relieve themselves. In the full sight of others engaged in the same activity. Brutally bold, uncaring. But boys will be boys. And in this particular instance, some of the boys, said to number seven in total, were police officers. The unspeakable vile atrocity of men abducting, defiling and murdering children has left their community and the international community as well, aghast with disbelief.

For these barbarians without souls the death penalty seems rather appropriate. The villagers accused the chief of police at the local station of having ignored the concern expressed by the father of one of the girls when they hadn't returned. When the girls' bodies had been discovered, villagers gathered around the tree, refusing to disperse or to permit the bodies to be taken down until the suspects had been arrested.

Two of the four men so far arrested are police officers. Although the girls were from the "untouchables", that didn't mean they would be left untouched; it meant that in Indian tradition, they were of such a low status that it hardly mattered what became of them; Dalits are thought to be easy prey for predators. In India the protection of women from the predatory drive of men without conscience must overturn a long tradition of discriminatory and violent oppression.

The men accused of this despicable crime come from the influential Yadav upper caste. Brothers Pappu and Awadhesh Yadav considered the instigators, were arrested. Constables Chhatrapal Yadav and Sarvesh Yadav were fired from the jobs. Four others, Urvesh Yadav, policeman Chhatrapal Yadav and two persons unidentified remain at large.

The father of one of the young girls claims that when he went to the police station to ask that Yadav's house be searched, the constables "took the side of the culprits".

Had they reacted in a timely manner, the father says, the girls might have been saved.

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Anti-Semitism in Ukraine

"Far from being controlled by neo-Nazis, the new [Ukrainian] government includes several members of ethnic minorities, including Russians. The new government has an Armenian minister of internal affairs and a Jewish deputy prime minister."
Amelia Glaser, professor of Russian literature, University of California, San Diego

"Yes, we are all aware that the political opposition and the forces of social protest who have secured changes for the better are made up of different groups. They include nationalistic groups, but even the most marginal do not dare show anti-Semitism or other xenophobic behaviour. And we certainly know that our very few nationalists are well controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government -- which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your [Russian] security services."
open response-to-Russia letter published by Ukrainian Jewish groups in North American newspapers

"Putin is just using anti-Semitism as a kind of tool to discredit the Euromaidan process. He doesn't care about anti-Semitism."
"If he had cared about anti-Semitism, he would have acted differently, because anti-Semitism in Russia and neo-Nazism in Russia is a much more significant problem than in Ukraine."
Anton Shekhovtsov, political scientist, University College, London
Tensions Continue In Eastern Ukraine Despite Diplomatic Progress : News Photo
A worshipper arrives at a synagogue in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Masked men distributing leaflets several weeks ago in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, to inform resident Jews that they were required to register with authorities to avoid deportation, caused huge, but temporary apprehension in the Jewish population of Donetsk, a historically-established community of Jewish-Ukrainians.

Whoever published and distributed the tract is still unknown, though the name attached to it was the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, which has denied being involved. Now, Jewish leaders in the city view the incident as a pernicious provocation, to make them uneasy and fearful, part of the usual anti-Semitic agenda among Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russian provocateurs.

It is, however, illustrative of how both sides have used the threat of anti-Semitism to demonstrate to the West that it is not they who are virulently bigoted, but their antagonist opposites; thugs, racists, nationalists. All Jews over 16 were instructed to register with the 'provisional' government; failure to act as ordered would see their property confiscated and themselves deported. This was seen as a response to the anger of the support of Ukraine's Jewish leaders for the Euromaidan movement.

"From our perspective, the real issue is, whatever the motivation, whoever the source, this was an incident of anti-Semitism that echoes the treatment of Jews in Germany by the Nazis in the 1930s, a message of intimidation", according to Michael Salberg, director of international affairs, for the Anti-Defamation League, in New York. "The context is not just the echo of Nazi Germany, but centuries of violence and scapegoating and singling out of Jews in Ukraine and in Russia."

According to Anton Shekhovtsov who specializes in European extreme right group activities, though right-wing groups did fractionally emerge in the Euromaidan movement, they have a much higher representation in the pro-Russian separatist movement in southern and eastern Ukraine. "I would say that for the majority of those pro-Russian fascist groups that have been active in Ukraine, anti-Semitism is one of the defining features."

Anti-Semitic posters, fascist banners and Nazi salutes were on public display within the pro-Russian extremists' activities in southeastern Ukraine. "I think that what we're seeing play out in Ukraine is this tactical anti-Semitism, where the Jew becomes the instrument of trying to advance the agenda", observed Shimon Fogel, chief executive of the Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs, in Ottawa.

"The agenda on both sides is to discredit and undermine the credibility of their adversaries in the eyes of the international community that's looking on with a great deal of anxiety. To be sure, I think that the Jews do feel a degree of anxiety and distress. I think that is shared by all Ukrainians who are unsure where things are going. But there is always an additional element of fear that attaches to Jews because of the bitter history, of how they have been the victims of all sorts of civil unrest, especially in that part of the world."

"When Jews are considered a natural part of the Ukrainian nation, anti-Semitism in Ukraine should wane, and the temptation to use anti-Semitism in politics should follow", claimed a more optimistic Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

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Back In The USSR

"The world hasn't forgotten the Second World War and Russia wants to start a third world war. Russia's support for the terrorists in Ukraine constitutes an international crime and we call on the international community to unite against the Russian aggression."
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine's temporary Prime Minister

"The West wants -- and this is how it all began -- to seize control of Ukraine because of their own political ambitions, not in the interests of the Ukrainian people."
Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister

(Photo: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis / )   A gunman walks by thirty coffins prepared for the funerals of pro-Russian rebels killed during heavy fighting at Donetsk airport on May 26, outside a Donetsk morgue May 29, 2014.
"There is no doubt that Russia continues to ramp up its propaganda machine all the while accusing the West of some sort of plot to control Ukraine."
"Such ridiculous statements show just how out of touch -- and out of touch with reality -- the leaders are in the Kremlin."
John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada

A Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter was shut down by pro-Russian rebels using a portable air defence missile, on the outskirts of Slavyansk. The Ukrainian military has encircled Slavyansk, now considered to be rebellion-central, in Donetsk province. This is not the first helicopter the rebels have destroyed, an earlier assault with a rocket-propelled grenade hit a grounded helicopter the week before killing two crew.

On this occasion, however, the helicopter that was hit was in the process of rotating troops into a checkpoint when rebel fire struck while they were in flight. The result is a dozen dead soldiers, among them a high-ranking general who had served in the Soviet army and was now in charge of combat training for Ukraine. President-elect Petro Poroshenko, to be sworn into office on June 7 has his work cut out for him.

His election vow was that he would uproot the pro-Moscow rebels fighting for secession, to join the Russian federation. The rebels have made Slavyansk, a city of 120,000 population, their insurgency base. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-styled mayor of the city has declared himself at war with Mr. Poroshenko, willing to match bloodshed for bloodshed.

Last week the leaders of Germany, France and Italy called upon Moscow to abide by a Geneva agreement to reduce tensions."Given the absence of progress, we have to think about -- and not just think about, but act on -- the option of new sanctions", warned Angela Merkel, German chancellor.

When, last Thursday, armoured vehicles and Ukrainian commandos briefly slipped into Slavyansk, killing one insurgent, the Russian foreign minister warned that the commanders of the Ukrainian army would face justice. Now, it seems his warning has been transformed into action with the death of General Serhiy Kulchytskiy, in charge of training Ukraine's National Guard.

Moscow still retains tens of thousands of Russian troops on Ukraine's border, fully equipped with tanks, artillery and Grad rocket launchers. But, not to worry, they are there only to conduct previously scheduled and completely routine manoeuvres; whatever else is happening within eastern Ukraine is simply incidental to the presence of the Russian military.

"Of course, if you will continue this hysterical campaign about Russia with empire ambitions trying to recreate the Soviet Union you can ramp up people's sentiments."
"There won't be any war. More than that I predict tensions will start gradually to recede around Ukraine. We'll soon have some kind of international framework facilitating normalization in Ukraine."
"This isn't a policy; it's propaganda. It reminds me of the Soviet Union. Lately in my discussions with your officials, I feel like I'm back in USSR, only this time it's you who are listening to the central committee of the Communist party."

"If you consider yourself here in Quebec a distinct nation, there are also people in Russia, and certain parts of Ukraine that consider themselves to be a historic nation. Historically, politically, culturally, Crimea always thought it was part of Russia. When this crisis unravelled, there were concerns the same thing would happen to them as what is happening now in Donetsk."
Russian ambassador to Canada Georgiy Mamedov

And, on the sidelines, something peculiar appears to be happening with the rebel movement in eastern Ukraine. Pro-Russian fighters with armoured personnel carriers took possession of the movement's headquarters in Donetsk, destroying the barricades surrounding it. They represent a group calling themselves the Vostok Battalion, involved in conflict with the Ukrainian army.

What occurred looks suspiciously like infighting, with a move to purge those individuals considered undesirable within the Donetsk Peoples' Republic. Despite which, key rebel leaders, absent when the Vostok fighters arrived, claimed still to be in control of their revolution.

"It is extremely difficult to fight against guerrillas. You just cannot destroy them. They are not regular troops. It's the classic problem which Russia had in Chechnya and the United States had in Vietnam", stated Igor Sutyagin, research fellow at Royal United Services Institute in London

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Everything Is Moving Along Nicely, Now...

"The reconciliation is telling the world, 'We don't need your mediation, we can do it ourselves'. And with the elections, Assad is saying there's no need for a transitional governing body."
Murhaf Jouejati, professor Middle East studies, National Defense University, Washington

"We tell them, 'We die, our children die', but what about our grandchildren? Should their fate be the same?"
"Let's solve the crisis ourselves [acting] in accordance with directives from the president."
Sheikh Jabir Issa

Thousands of Syrian nationals living in Lebanon arrive outside the Syrian Embassy in Yarze east of Beirut on May 28, 2014, before voting in the upcoming presidential elections in Syria. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
It helps to have influential friends. And in the Middle East, Russia is now an influential friend to Iran and to Syria, and Iran's proxy militia, Hezbollah.  It is Russian arms that have so munificently aided the cause of the regime against the Free Syrian Army. Now that the regime has the upper hand, thanks to the sacrifice of Hezbollah's presence in Lebanon, the United States has finally decided to train and arm the Syrian rebels.

Which has not yet resulted in any measure of success for the rebels. Rather, when Russia intervened on behalf of Syria, to forestall American intrusion in the civil war, relating to the use of chemical weapons, President Putin, skilfully guided President Obama in a diplomatic putsch, toward the demand of stripping Syria's government of its chemical arsenal, deftly defusing the threat of American interference in the carnage.

Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security now states there are unresolved "omissions" in Syria's declaration of its chemical stockpile. Isn't that a surprise. The influence of Iran, a master at subterfuge and obfuscation under the guise of meek acceptance of orders from the international community has taught Bashar al-Assad the fine points of manipulation.

Now his government has designed 'truces' through a network of committees that persuade village elders, mosque clerics or clan members to persuade their Sunni Syrian rebels to surrender. Which the opposition interprets as residents of towns and villages are first forced to surrender their arms under pressure of starvation and the destruction of intense bombardment.

In the process of putting down an insurrection, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has outdone his father before him.  Hafez al-Assad, who destroyed only one town and many of its inhabitants in a deadly gas attack, would be so pleased at the alacrity with which his son took up his post as President, taking his lessons well learned to destroy much of the country's infrastructure, wiping out whole neighbourhoods, hospitals, schools and airports.

Depriving a generation of children of security and an education. But launching an election to give himself an aura of 'legitimacy' where a limited proportion of the country's residents will be free to vote in the midst of a "complex affair, incorporating overlapping political, religious, sectarian, ethnic and tribal narratives", in the words of Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institutions's Doha Center.

The vote will be "farcical", spits out Ahmad al-Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition. President Assad's plan to hold an election to restore himself to the people's favour as their sole choice for president represents "a black comedy". Noura Al Ameer, Mr. al-Jarba's deputy, speaks of the regime's cutting off food supplies to force surrender.

Assad uses "the loaf of bread as a means of pressure to achieve military and political goals", she stated. Rebels are given safe passage; surrender to the government or join local pro-Assad defense groups, leading the army to halt its offensive against that particular area. Which was what occurred in Homs earlier this month, leading to the evacuation of fighters, with the government reclaiming territory held by the rebels.

As for the chemicals? 100 tonnes are held at a storage facility near Damascus. The OPCW claims the chemicals have been packed in preparation for transport to the port of Latakia. Syrian authorities say it is not safe to move them. American authorities claim it will take 60 days for the Cape Ray, an American ship designed to neutralize all the chemicals, to complete its work. Which it has not yet begun.

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Leading, On The World Stage

"You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan."
"Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader and especially your commander-in-chief -- to be clear about how that awesome power should be used."
"As frustrating as it is, there are no easy answers, no military solutions that can eliminate the terrible suffering [international conflicts] anytime soon."
U.S. President Barack Obama, West Point Military Academy 2014 graduation ceremony

Was there ever before a president of the great United States of America who so relished referring to himself so constantly as "your Commander in Chief"? In that pondering, professorial, lecturing voice?

Obama arrives at West Point.
Obama arrives at West Point. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
"In helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos."

As for Syria and American non-involvement in the mass butchery of the Syrian regime, well, chemical weapons are being (eventually) removed and destroyed (eventually).

Citing efforts to rally European support for sanctions against Russia after the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, President Obama claims Russia is isolated, while his critics scoff, pointing to his inability to stop Vladimir Putin from proceeding to take the peninsula to begin with as a failure of resolve and capability.

Interestingly enough, Exxon Mobil Corp. extended its partnership with Russia's OAO Rosneft this month. It has seen no requirement to alter its business in Russia despite Ukraine-related sanctions claiming such steps typically are ineffective. "We don't find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented", said chief executive Rex Tillerson during a shareholders meeting Wednesday in Dallas

Exxon, you see, is among U.S. oil producers ignoring U.S. State Department recommendations to skip an energy forum in St. Petersburg last week, extending a pact with Rosneft involving drilling for crude both in the Arctic and Siberia. This, while the U.S. and European nations have imposed sanctions for the quite express purpose of punishing Vladimir Putin's regime for his Ukrainian interference and aggression.

And while in Canada an independent pharmaceuticals tycoon spearheads an international movement to boycott the products of major sponsors like Budweiser and Anheuser-BuschInBev, to help implement a move away from Russia of the 32018 World Cup. "[Putin] has no right to have that. It goes against every possible theme of soccer and the World Cup and what it's supposed to stand for", said Eugene Melnyk, chairman of the Campaign Advisory Committee for United with Ukraine.

Coming a day after outlining his plans to wind down the country's involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2016, President Obama was delighted to inform the military graduates that they, unlike previous graduates, will not be likely to be posted abroad to fight in foreign war theatres. He took time to praise ongoing diplomatic efforts between Iran, the U.S. and other negotiating partners making up the G5+1.

Accomplishments? Zip. President Obama agreed the odds of reaching an agreement appear remote. However, a diplomatic breakthrough would be "more effective and durable than what would be achieved through the use of force". Does this man really know his adversary? "Throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side", he self-congratulated.
U.S. President Barack Obama and the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, Lieut.-Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., take the pledge of allegiance at the start of the West Point Military Academy 2014 graduation ceremony in Highland Falls, N.Y., on Wednesday. EPA/Peter Foley Org

However, America would continue to use military force on its own "when our core interests demand it -- when our people are threatened, when our livelihood is at stake, or when the security of our allies is in danger". He does, it should be iterated and reiterated, prefer acting as part of an international coalition rather than pressing on alone.

No sign of weakness as his detractors claim; it highlights the ability of the U.S. to lead on the world stage.

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Sudanese Islamist Justice

"They didn't even take Meriam to a hospital -- she just delivered inside a prison clinic. But neither her husband nor I have been allowed to see them yet."
Elshareef Ali Elshareef Mohammed, lawyer for Miriam Ibrahim

"If they want to execute me, then they should go ahead and do it because I'm not going to change my faith. I refuse to change. I am not giving up Christianity just so that I can live. I know I could stay alive by becoming a Muslim and I would be able to look after our family, but I need to be true to myself."
Miriam Ibrahim, 27-year-old Sudanese Christian doctor
Meriam insists she has always been a Christian and told her husband she could not 'pretend to be a Muslim' just to spare her life
Meriam Ibrahim and husband Daniel Wani

"Apostasy and adultery should not even be crimes. It's a personal choice who to marry and what to believe."
"The human rights situation has been deteriorating for the past few years. It's an extremely repressive regime, with opposition activists tortured and the targeting of anyone who dares to defy the regime."
Manar Idriss, Sudan researcher, Amnesty International

Of course Sudan is a repressive regime. One only has to look at the mass atrocities that took place in Darfur, with the Arab Sudanese government dispatching attack helicopters and Janjaweed terrorists to slaughter black Sudanese Muslims who rebelled against a government that increasingly marginalized and oppressed them. Hundreds of thousands of Darfurians were displaced, tens of thousands of women were raped, thousands killed.
darfur Picture Credit: interet-general.inf
The International Criminal Court in 2005 undertook an official investigation concluding with the issuance of an international warrant for the arrest of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity, stopping short of charging him with genocide. The African Union, on the other hand, passed a resolution that members not turn over al-Bashir to the ICC. And nor did the Arab League feel compelled to other than congratulate him on his excellent administration.

That a Sudanese woman has been sentenced to hang for refusing to renounce her devotion to Christianity, a religion she grew up with, simply affirms the country's fanatical Islamist fundamentalist credentials. Meriam Ibrahim, who married Daniel Wani, a a biochemist and fellow Christian, has been charged with apostasy. Her mother was Christian, her father Muslim, a man who abandoned his family when Meriam was a child, leaving her mother to bring her up a Christian.

She was charged with apostasy at the urging of her husband's family, and ordered to return to Islam, which she refused, for to do so would also force her to dissolve her marriage to a Christian. Her 20-month-old son has lived with his mother inside the prison since she was charged and imprisoned in February, and where she has been shackled by the ankles, impeding her movement, despite that she was heavily pregnant.
Pictured are Daniel Wani, his son Martin (20-months-old) and he and newborn baby girl Maya
Martin, above, is pictured with his father on a visit. His family claim he is American because his father has been granted U.S. citizenship. He is being held with Meriam because the authorities claim he is a Muslim and will not release him into the care of a Christian

Now she has given birth, inside the prison, to a little girl. She will be permitted, charitably, to nurse her baby for two years. When the infant is weaned, her mother is to be hanged for the cardinal sin of abjuring Islam for Christianity, a hanging criminal offence. This is Islamic justice. Amnesty International has launched a petition on her behalf, to have her freed, one signed by 660,000 people worldwide. Unfortunately they have been banned from Sudan since 2005, unsurprisingly.
Proud: Father Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen, from Manchester, New Hampshire, holds Maya for the first time after being allowed to visit to his wife, Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death for marrying him, a Christian
Father Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen from Manchester, New Hampshire, holds Maya for the first time after being allowed to visit his wife, Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death for marrying him, a Christian

Her lawyers, filing an appeal, hope to take her case to Sudan's Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. Apostasy is defined in Sudan as the renouncing of your religion. Considered a crime of the highest order, based on a Hadith from the Prophet Mohammad, who stated: "Whoever changes his religion kill  him."

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Unabashed, Unmitigated Gall

"You were diagnosed with prominent traits of narcissistic personality disorder and some psychopathic traits."
"It was noted that narcissistic injury could again trigger dangerous actions."
"You have displayed a negative attitude toward the criminal justice system and have blamed the store, the court system and the media for your troubles."
"You have refused participation in school, psychology, intake assessment and some programming (considered imperative to address your risk factors)."
Parole Board of Canada
Tatyana Granada is angry, and she is offended and she is furious over the manner in which justice has erred in handling her case. She had originally been arrested, charged with tampering with food products after a Calgary grocery had barred her from entry to their store, because of her shoplifting habit. She had been sentenced to three years in prison. That people in Calgary had been terrified of the potential of coming across pins and sharp objects she had inserted in food items was not the issue, as far as she is concerned.

What is of great meaning is that her human rights have been tampered with. She has appealed for early release from prison. The Parole Board in reviewing her case, concluded that she is at low risk to re-offend, with the caveat that the risk is low just as long as she is not offended by the actions of others, causing her to strike out in reaction, as she did in endangering the health and safety of others through her malicious pins-insertion in food.

They concluded further that they would turn down her application for early prison release in February of 2014, following her 2012 conviction on four counts each of mischief and trespassing. She had been convicted by a provincial court judge of those charges in 2012, when she was found guilty of inserting pins, needles and nails in produce items at the Calgary Oakridge Co-op store in 2010.

Quite apart from the shopping public's panic at the discovery of those objects in their food, their subsequent avoidance of shopping at the Oakridge Co-op cost at least $600,000 in lost business and extensive investigation of the incidents, where employees left because of the stress they felt, and many had their hours of work cut back. Despite which, the psychiatrist assessing the woman made note that she "harboured resentment toward the justice system", feeling no guilt for her actions.

He also reported the scorn that Ms. Granada expressed for her husband, who committed suicide in 2011, before she was tried, found guilty and taken to prison in 2012. "You commented that the incident was no big tragedy, adding that your husband caused you trouble by leaving no insurance", wrote the Parole Board.

Her parents had moved temporarily from Latvia to take care of the couple's two children, while their mother remained incarcerated. But she is now at large, freed on statutory release, mandated by law for offenders having served two-thirds of their sentence. Tatyana Granada is now suing the Co-op, which no doubt hoped that their ordeal had passed and the future would look brighter for them.

She is suing them for $8-million, claiming them to have been responsible for the shame and loss of family honour incurred to her husband, leading to his suicide. Not her behaviour, but that of the grocery store in publicly naming, shaming, blaming and holding her to account in a criminal court of law for her descent into malicious pay-back for being banned from the store, endangering the lives of innocent consumers.

The company, she alleges, is fully responsible for the emotional distress she suffered when they defamed her. They are also responsible for her inability to secure employment.

Woman convicted of grocery store food tampering denied parole
The Parole Board of Canada has refused to grant Tatyana Granada’s (left) application for early release from prison, where she is serving a three-year sentence following her conviction for four counts each of mischief and trespassing. Photograph by: Daryl Slade , Calgary Herald

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Ukraine army helicopter shot down near Sloviansk

The BBC's Mark Lowen says that the incident is "a huge blow to the Ukrainian military"
Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have shot down a military helicopter near Sloviansk, killing 14 people, the country's outgoing president says.

Olexander Turchynov said the rebels used a Russian-made anti-aircraft system, and a senior general was among the dead.

The town of Sloviansk has seen fierce fighting between separatists and government forces in recent weeks.
President-elect Petro Poroshenko has vowed to tackle "bandits" in the east.

The helicopter was hit during heavy fighting between Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, reportedly after it had dropped off troops at a military base.

President Turchynov said the 14 dead included Gen Serhiy Kulchytskiy, head of combat and special training for Ukraine's National Guard.

It is one of the worst losses of life for government forces in the conflict so far. Last week at least 14 soldiers died in a rebel attack on an army checkpoint near Donetsk, some 130km (80 miles) from Sloviansk.

Earlier this month the separatists shot down two army helicopters, also near Sloviansk, killing a pilot and another serviceman.

Mark Lowen, BBC News, Donetsk
Ukrainian army helicopter before being shot down (29 May) The helicopter had just taken off after transporting soldiers to a Ukrainian base
This is a significant blow for the Ukrainian military and the government in Kiev as it pursues what it calls its "anti-terror operation" in the east. Sloviansk, a town taken by the rebels early in this uprising, has long been the epicentre of the heaviest fighting here.
Two other Ukrainian helicopters were downed there at the start of May, a reminder that Kiev is not simply facing an amateur group of fighters here.
This has been a week in which the conflict in eastern Ukraine has escalated. After Kiev launched an air-and-ground assault on separatist groups at Donetsk airport to retake control, the rebels have vowed to regroup.
They hold patches of land and are clearly equipped with significant weapons. When Ukraine's new President-elect, Petro Poroshenko, vows to crush what he calls the "terrorists" within "a few hours, rather than a few months", this latest loss of life illustrates the immense challenge he faces.

Mr Poroshenko, a confectionery magnate, won 54.7% of the vote in last Sunday's presidential election, according to final results announced on Thursday.

After the poll, he called the separatists "terrorists" intent on maintaining a "bandit state". He vowed to tackle them "in hours", not months.

The conflict has intensified in recent days. The rebels say they lost up to 100 fighters when they tried to seize Donetsk airport on Monday.

Alexander Borodai, the separatist leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said 33 Russian nationals had been among those killed in the airport clashes.

Mr Borodai, himself a Russian citizen, said their bodies had been identified and would be taken to Russia.

Gen Serhiy Kulchytskiy
Gen Serhiy Kulchytskiy
  • Born on 17 December 1963 in East Germany where his father served with a Soviet military contingent
  • Began military career as a marine platoon commander at the Soviet Northern Fleet in Murmansk Region
  • Moved to western Ukraine in 1992 and became deputy commander of a National Guard battalion in Ternopil
  • Awarded the rank of major-general by President Viktor Yanukovych in August 2013

On the same day, pro-Russia militiamen seized four international monitors in Sloviansk.
The four - a Dane, an Estonian, a Turk and a Swiss national - are members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The self-proclaimed mayor of Sloviansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, told Russia's Interfax news agency they were safe and well and could be released soon.

The OSCE has said it does not know the monitors' whereabouts, but Mr Ponomaryov told another Russian news agency they were being held in the village of Makeyevka.

Pro-Russian separatists in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence after referendums on 11 May, which were not recognised by Kiev or its Western allies.

The separatists took their cue from a disputed referendum in Crimea, which led to Russia's annexation of the southern peninsula.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Family Honour ... Killing Together

"I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed in front of a court."
"Either the family does not pursue such cases or police don't properly investigate. As a result, the courts either award light sentences to the attackers or they are acquitted."
Zia Awan, Pakistani lawyer, human rights activist

"We were in love. I simply took her to court and registered a marriage."
Mohammad Iqbal, Lahore, Pakistan

"I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it."
Mohammad Azeem

Farzana Parveen was was stoned to death by her family outside a court in Pakistan. (MOhammad Tahir/Reuters)
Farzana Parveen was was stoned to death by her family outside a court in Pakistan. (Mohammad 

Mohammad Azeem filed an abduction case against Mohammad Iqbal, contending the man whom his daughter, Farzana Parveen 25, had married had taken her against her will and forced her into marriage. Mr. Azeem had his own settled idea about whom his daughter should marry and it was not Mr. Iqbal to whom she had been engaged for years, and finally married against her family's wishes.

The couple had gone to court to challenge the charge that her father had lodged against her husband. They had walked up to the main gate of the court located on a main downtown thoroughfare. As they reached the entrance, family members who had waited outside the court fired shots at random in the air, and attempted to snatch Farzana Parveen from her husband.

She resisted, leading her father, brothers and other relatives, some twenty family members in all, to beat her and begin pelting her with bricks they picked up from a nearby construction site. All this took place in broad daylight before a crowd of onlookers in front of the high court of Lahore. Farzana Parveen died of her wounds, three months pregnant.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, reported last month that 869 women had been murdered in their country in 2013, resulting from honour killings. Among conservative Muslim Pakistanis, marriage for love is considered a cultural transgression, where arranged marriages are the accepted norm.

Mr. Iqbal, whose previous wife had died after delivering five children, had fallen in love, at age 43 with the woman 20 years his junior. He contended that his wife's family attempted to extort money from him, before they would agree to her marriage. The dismally unfortunate end to this cultural travesty is that Farzana Parveen is returning to her husband for burial.

Mohammad Iqbal, right, husband of Farzana Parveen, 25, sits in an ambulance next to the body of his pregnant wife who was stoned to death by her own family, in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday, May 27, 2014.
Mohammad Iqbal, right, husband of Farzana Parveen, 25, sits in an ambulance next to the body of his pregnant wife who was stoned to death by her own family, in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday, May 27, 2014.
AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

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Stifling First Nations Students' Future

"Our government is extremely disappointed that the Assembly of First Nations (AFN did not honour its agreement with the government."
"As we have said all along, this legislation will not proceed without the support of AFN, and we have been clear that we will not invest new money in an education system that does not serve the best interests of First Nations children; funding will only follow real education reforms."
Andrea Richer, director of communications, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt

"[The government] must withdraw Bill C-33 and engage in an  honourable process with First Nations that recognizes and supports First Nations control of education based on our responsibilities and inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights."
"[First Nations] reject [Bill C-33 and] demand the government withdraw it immediately."
AFN chiefs' special Tuesday meeting

Chief Rufus Copage of Shubenacadie (Indian Brook) First Nations, N.S., carries the Assembly of First Nations Eagle Staff as chiefs parade into a special AFN meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday.  Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Chief Rufus Copage of Shubenacadie (Indian Brook) First Nations, N.S., carries the Assembly of First Nations Eagle Staff during the grand entry as First Nations leaders, elders, youth and delegates gather for the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - See more at: http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/news/national/chiefs-vote-to-reject-proposed-changes-to-first-nations-education-1.1076489#sthash.LHHCrKeO.dpuf
First Nations chiefs insist on their demand that the federal government "negotiate" a new agreement. Foremost among their demands, however, is that of insisting that the government immediately surrender the $1.9-billion that was supposed to accompany and accommodate the institution of Bill C-33 education reforms which proposed to hand control of on-reserve education to First Nations, at the same time setting standards along with the provision of additional funds.

This was a bill whose details were undertaken in full consultation with the Assembly of First Nations which demanded a number of alterations to the bill to reform First Nations education. Grand Chief Shawn Atleo approved of the resulting amended bill and gave it his stamp of support. The federal government was prepared to proceed, when some of the AFN chiefs protested and demanded its rejection on the basis that the federal government hadn't engaged in sufficient consultation.

Their belligerent stance caused Shawn Atleo to stand down from his post, something that had never before occurred within the Assembly of First Nations, leaving it leaderless. With Chief Atleo's resignation, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Valcourt stated the government had no intention of imposing the bill on an unwilling First Nations and placed it on hold "until the AFN clarifies its position".

It has now done so, after hours of debate between chiefs some of whom were dismayed at their internal and eternal fractious bickering: "This is ridiculous. All we do is sit here and fight amongst ourselves. Eventually, we've got to compromise", stated British Columbia Chief Byron Louis, who had supported Bill C-33.

It is, in fact, beyond mere 'ridiculous'. It is an oppositional AFN determined to reject anything and everything proposed within reasonable debate by a government that strives to meet its full obligations both to First Nations' future and to the taxpayers of Canada. In summation, short of offering unrestrained funding for anything the AFN deems fit to undertake, and never asking that the funding be accounted for, nothing will suffice to satisfy the AFN leadership.

Some chiefs, like Manitoba's Derek Nepinak and Saskatchewan's Perry Bellegarde, would be satisfied only if the government dissolved its own authority and handed over the country's funding of all national projects to the AFN for their expert disbursement, with no restraints whatever either on amounts or outcomes.

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Praying For Peace

"I was not surprised because [in this part of the world] you take certain actions and there are always different interpretations."
"There was some difficulty [among the Israelis] in interpreting the positive side of his act."
Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman
Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank in the West Bank city of Bethlehem
Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank, on his way to celebrate a mass in Manger Square, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 25, 2014 Osservatore Romano—Reuters

The "act" was Pope Francis's spur-of-the-moment impulse to halt his motorcade at the separation wall, near Bethlehem. There, beside graffiti that read "Free Palestine", he rested his forehead in brief contemplative prayer for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Authentic Palestinians are those who lived on the land for multiple generations dating well back into timeless history, and they were Jews. Their descendants will never be permitted to return to their ancestral land.

The separation wall is there for a defined and quite necessary purpose. Before its erection Palestinian Arab incursions into Israel bent on suicide missions to martyr themselves for the greater glory of Islam were frequent occurrences. Once the separation wall had been installed, the suicide attacks came to a sudden halt. The presence of the wall has incurred practical hardships in the lives of ordinary Palestinians; the price they pay for their leadership inciting to violence.

Pope Francis's sincere wish to pay notice to Palestinian suffering is authentic and laudable to say the least, tugging at his humanitarian heart. Israeli authorities were angry at what they interpreted as a symbol of favouritism toward the Palestinian cause, which in all fairness it was. The Pope sees the need for a just and acceptable end to the constant tugs of war between the adversaries, a miserable stalemate that has gone on far too long.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevailed upon Pope Francis, in his lightning-strike-swift Middle East trip, to also visit at the last moment, a memorial to Jewish victims of terrorism, and as a gesture to appease his hosts, and equally to pay his humble respects to the victims of violence, Pope Frances acceded. Which was when and where a verbal tug of war took place:

"Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew", said the prime minister.

"Aramaic", corrected the pope.

"He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew", responded Mr. Netanyahu.

Both men were correct, according to biblical scholars, for while Christ's mother-tongue was Aramaic, he would have been exposed to the-then holy language of the Judaic sacred scriptures, Hebrew. Vatican officials, attempting to mediate the offence taken by Israel stressed that Pope Francis prayed for peace for the region in its entirety, a gesture not meant in its heartfelt sincerity to be taken as selective partisanship.

Pope Francis touches Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City (REUTERS)
"I want to thank the Pope for accepting my request to visit this memorial", said Mr. Netanyahu. The wall, he commented, had saved "thousands of lives -- after it was set up, the terror stopped." Terrorism, the Pope said, after praying at the memorial, is "evil", and "fundamentally criminal". And, visiting the Yad Vashem memorial, he described the Holocaust as "a boundless tragedy".

Pope Francis lays a wreath in the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem

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Where? Pakistan!

"This never happened in this town before. We think they had some news about him coming from the U.S. There is a fatwa against the institution where he was going to help; no one should go there for treatment. They chased him down after morning prayer."
Hadi Ali Chaudhary, Maple, Ontario
Hadi Ali Chaudhary wipes tears from his face while being consoled by friends, at the Baitul Islam Mosque in Maple after hearing that his brother Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar had been murdered in Pakistan while visiting the graves of family members at the Ahmadi Cemetery, Monday May 26, 2014.
Peter J. Thompson/National Post    Hadi Ali Chaudhary wipes tears from his face while being consoled by friends, at the Baitul Islam Mosque in Maple after hearing that his brother Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar had been murdered in Pakistan while visiting the graves of family members at the Ahmadi Cemetery, Monday May 26, 2014.
Maple, Ontario, is home to the Ahmadi-Muslim-Canadian community. It is where they find peace and security, where their Ahmadiyya sect of Islam is not derided as falsely insulting to Islam and to the Prophet Mohammed, nor are they oppressed in Canada, much less considered to be heretics whose well-being is endangered by the near presence of more orthodox streams of Islam.

But in Pakistan -- where the sect decided to settle in 1947, after India which had been their home, had agreed to partition in 1946 and when Pakistan declared itself a sovereign state -- the 1.5-million Ahmadi Muslims living in the Punjab region were officially declared 'non-Muslims' in 1974. Ahmadi Muslims may not speak of themselves as Muslims, for to do so is deemed to be a criminal act.

It is not only Pakistan where the Ahmadiyya Muslims are persecuted, but in most fundamental Islamist regimes. Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan also persecute their minority sects. More recently Indonesia, the most populous of all Muslim nations which had long prided itself on its motto "Unity in diversity", has seen a rise in fundamentalism reflective of the larger global debate within Islam where what was once a radical fringe have become mainstream.

Mehdi Ali Qamar left Pakistan and came to Canada in 1991, where he studied medicine. He later received U.S. residency and moved to the United States, holding dual American/Canadian citizenship. He had latterly, on visiting with his relatives in Markham, Ontario, informed them of his intention to move back to Canada for good. But first, he embarked with his family on a trip back to Pakistan.

Mr. Qamar perhaps had become too accustomed to being treated with respect in North America. A cardiologist, he had decided to travel to the Punjab region of Pakistan for the purpose of using his expert medical professionalism to train local doctors at a heart clinic. His brother, an imam at the Baitul Islam mosque in Maple, spoke of his brother's passion revolving around humanitarian issues.

On Monday after morning prayers he went with his wife and toddler son to pay their respects at the graves of relatives. There, two men on motorbikes approached, shot Mr. Qamar in the back. When he turned after being shot to face them, they fired an additional ten rounds into his chest. After this murder, those who killed him posted a triumphant photograph of Mr. Qamar, dead, their mission accomplished

His brother, Hadi Ali Chaudhary, weeping in mourning for his brother, stated the family had migrated from Pakistan precisely because of religious persecution. Though knowing from past experience that he was returning to an atmosphere of fear and repression, Mr. Chaudhary mentioned that his brother, before embarking on his trip wasn't overly concerned.

Chenab Nagar in the Punjab is the centre of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, considered to be a relatively safe place, where the sect is least disturbed by the barbaric fanatics who target them. But it is where Mr. Qamar met his sad destiny. Nowhere is safe, as is proved time and again, from the bloody ravages of fanatical Islamists.

Earl Rinehart | Dispatch
Abdullah Ali, 16, looks at a photograph of his father, Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar, a Pickerington cardiologist who was slain by gunmen in Pakistan.

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