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, June 30, 2012

Absorbing Jewish Heritage

The Palestinian Authority has succeeded once again in appealing to UNESCO, the World Heritage Committee, to declare a site in the West Bank as worthy of world heritage status and funding for repairs.  That site, a Christian church in Bethlehem, most certainly is a worthwhile candidate.  The decision of acceptance made by 13 of the 21 members of the committee was greeted by a standing ovation. 

For Christianity the fourth-century Church of the Nativity is of vital importance.  It is reputed to have been built over a grotto.  Christian tradition claims Jesus to have been born there, and it is in need of repairs.  Which the Palestinian Authority, claiming ownership and rule of Bethlehem insists it cannot undertake on its own, as it is short of the required funds.

It enters the realm of statehood when it exhorts a world body to regard it as a sovereign state in responding to such requests.  And this is the purpose of its overtures to UNESCO; to breach the normal approaches by which such sites are declared.  There are plans to register an additional 20 sites with UNESCO, including the ancient city of Jericho which resonates with Judaic heritage; a perversion of reality and process.

The Pilgrimage Route where tradition claims Joseph and Mary travelled to reach Bethlehem from Nazareth over two millennia ago, is included in the PA's request for heritage funding.  These ancient Jewish places which the Arab Palestinians now claim for their own, insisting that they have great meaning for them, yet which vastly pre-date them, are being used as a tool to gain eventual membership for the PA as a sovereign state within the UN.

Palestinian militants used the Church of the Nativity as a place of refuge during a violent uprising.  The PA cites that 2002 event, when Israel laid siege to the building in an attempt to remove the terrorists, as having been a threat to the survival of the building.  The terrorists who threatened and caused violence were ostensibly not the cause of damage to the building, but those who took action to defend themselves were held to be.

Independent experts tasked by UNESCO to examine the church brought back their report which recommended against the request.  The shrine, they wrote could not be considered "to have been severely damaged or to be under imminent threat".  But that, of course, was not the real purpose of the move.  And there will be other sites that will be used by the Palestinian Authority, many of them sacred to Judaism as heritage Jewish sites, co-opted by Arab Palestinians as representing their own heritage.
"This gives hope and confidence to our people in the inevitable victory of our just cause.  It increases their determination to continue efforts at deepening readiness for the establishment of an independent State of Palestine, with its capital in East Jerusalem within the 1967 borders."  Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

Another view of the situation, however, is stated by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office: "This is proof that UNESCO is motivated by political and not cultural considerations.  Instead of taking steps to promote peace, the Palestinians are acting unilaterally, which makes peace more distant."

This approach, in appropriating Jewish historical monuments and heritage sites for their own, seeking legitimization through the UN's heritage agency, is a method that has been taken by the Palestinians to seek their goal of independent sovereignty and membership in the United Nations in lieu of the more responsible authority to be had in meeting across a negotiating table with Israel.

Achieving statehood without reaching an agreement with Israel that would ensure they would each agree to addressing issues of contention between them, is an assurance that peace will remain illusory and non-achievable.  The PA harbours the impression that it should not be prepared to surrender any of its aspirations or set conditions, while Israel must accede to all of its demands.

This situation is certain to ensure that the implacable continuation of hatred and aggression between the Palestinians and Israel will simply continue.

Labels: , , , ,

Another Refugee Crisis

But not just any refugee crisis, according to UNHCR which describes this particular situation between Afghanistan and Pakistan as the "largest and most protracted refugee crisis in the world".  How would they then qualify the Palestinian 'refugee crisis'?  Protracted, most certainly, since although the Afghanis fled their crisis-torn country 32 years ago, the Arab Palestinians fled theirs on a song and a promise well over 60 years ago.

For the Palestinians the United Nations created a very special refugee-assistance supporting body, UN Relief & Works Agency, UNRWA which did not seek permanent refuge and placement for the original estimated 350,000 fleeing Palestinians. It is more concerned with the encouragement of a return than an absorption of those refugees which now claim to number in the multiple-millions.

Pakistan has been burdened with 1.7 million refugees, including hundreds of thousands of others who are unregistered, having illegally migrated from Afghanistan.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees searches for a solution to yet another seemingly intractable problem of people fleeing their homelands in search of security.  Those refugees can, if developed countries allow, migrate there.

"No country allows illegal immigrants, how it is (sic) possible to legalize something which is illegal?"  A rhetorical question on the part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's information minister, Mian Ifukhar Hussain.  It is in Pakistan's northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where most of these undocumented 400,000 Afghans live.  Shades of Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns".

If course the situation began with the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in its futile, death-dealing and utterly impossible determination to stop what they foresaw as an fanatically fundamentalist Islamist government taking over the country and complicating their own stability.  Their installation of a communist Afghani leadership met the inevitable challenges of a people insistent they would find their own solutions.

And, thanks to neighbour Pakistan in collusion with the U.S. CIA, Islamist mujahadeen were trained and armed and given shelter, then sent into Afghanistan to do their sacred duty by Islam which abhors the very idea of a secular-ideological administration in a culture dedicated to the fundamentals of pure Islam.  Pakistan, then and now, with its continuing support of the resulting Taliban, is itself hugely responsible for the plight and the flight of Afghan citizens desperate to escape the ravages of brutal conflict victimizing them.

"We have been accommodating Afghan immigrants for 32 years.  The provincial government cannot take their burden any more, they should go back to their country", huffs Mr. Hussain.  Who should in fact be speaking to the heads of Pakistan's military apparatus, and its secret service, to convince them to put a halt to supporting the Afghan Taliban.

Peace might then proceed to gradually overtake that desperately benighted country.  Perhaps then Afghan farmers would no longer farm poppies, supplying 90% of the world's trade in heroin, preferring instead to be able to adequately feed the population.  And the corrupt government of Afghanistan would be pressured successfully by those in the international forum who fund it, to channel aid where it belongs.

But equally corrupt and far more sinister Pakistan with its paranoia and fearful suspicions about its neighbours' intentions has no wish to become a good and decent neighbour.  And so, migrants desperately seeking shelter enter Pakistan and Iran where they look for personal solutions to generalized miserable social failures.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, June 29, 2012

Well Matched: Venezuela/UN Human Rights Council

 Someone with the conviction of his moral certainty that his country of Venezuela is being socially perverted by the ongoing presence of Hugo Chavez who has ruled the country like a despot, curtailing liberties , enforcing edicts, arresting and imprisoning those who would challenge him, has decided to speak out against the UN Human Rights Council's newest welcome of another human rights abuser to their ranks.

Venezuelan bank president Eligio Cedeno knows of what he speaks when he speaks of the Chavez regime's moral bankruptcy.  Pity that he seems unaware that the UN Human Rights Council champions the morally bankrupt, because they speak the same language, obey the same imperatives, recognize the same values and respect authoritarian might deployed against the helpless and the vulnerable.

Mr. Cedeno served three years in prison, charged with politically motivated crimes.  Even UN human rights experts spoke in condemnation of the sentence meted out to him by the regime.  Venezuelian judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni ordered Mr. Cedeno's release in recognition of the trumped-up charges brought to bear against him, as a critic of the Chavez presidency's administration.

For her troubles the judge was detained as soon as Mr. Cedeno was released.  She and her lawyer were arrested.   Three UN rapporteurs spoke of a "climate of fear" that prevails in Venezuela, exemplified by the arrest of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, insisting that punishing her for doing her job delegitimized the the regime, creating that climate of fear.

Mr. Cedeno fled the country in justified fear of further persecution, while Judge Afiuni remains incarcerated.  The very same UN Human Rights Council that Venezuela is expected to join as a member sitting in judgement of other countries has this case to consider on their roster.  Mr. Chavez took umbrage at Judge Afiuni's decision in the Cedeno case, calling her a bandit, accusing her of corruption, calling for a jail term of 30 years.

In response to which the Human Rights Council called for her release.  Venezuela has called upon Interpol to arrest Mr. Cedeno, where he is taking refuge in Miami.  Interpol has suspended the request recognizing the connection of political persecution on the part of Venezuela.  A Human Rights Watch report has characterized Venezuela's political atmosphere as reflective of "a precarious human rights situation".

The country's citizens' right to free expression is absent, conditions in the country's prisons are deplorable, and the regime's security agents are actively engaged in extrajudicial killings.  The Human Rights Council will proceed with its intention to welcome Venezuela into its fold.  Certainly other members like Cuba, Nigeria and China will welcome it with open arms.

Labels: , ,

They Could Have Been Saved

"That mall should be demolished.  It should be replaced with maybe some kind of a park, for people to walk to, maybe with a couple of nice statutes with Dolores' name and Lucie's name on it.  Based on what I saw,they could have been saved." Gary Gendron

Mr. Gendron was as closely affected by the outcome of the Elliot Lake mall collapse as anyone might be.  His future has certainly been altered beyond recognition.  His near future was to have been married to one of the two women killed when the roof of the mall collapsed onto the shopping centre below.  He echoes the frustration and bitterness of many of the residents of Elliot Lake, most of whom saw a disaster in the making.

Now, the announcement by Eastwood Mall Inc. and Robert Nazarian, owner of the mall, planning to reconstruct it entirely.  Their decision to rebuild the 200,000-square-foot shopping centre will be dependent on the engineers' report on the condition of what is left of the building.  "One day, this mall will be up again.  In what form, in what shape, in what format, I don't know", said the owner's lawyer.

Lawyer Antoine-Rene Fabris also acknowledged that the owners had received notice of a class-action lawsuit.  Hardly surprising, that.  And it has been revealed, as well, that engineers who had examined the state of the building's integrity had warned that it was in a parlous state.  That if nothing were to be done to dramatically ameliorate the situation a catastrophe was certain to ensue.  And it did.

Causing the death of 37-year-old Lucie Aylwin, and 70-year-old Dolores Perizzolo, killed when a section of the roof crashed through two floors.  Mr. Gendron is now in mourning for his fiancee, Lucie Aylwin.  His future will proceed as it will, but without her.  He speaks of buckets placed around the mall to catch water "raining from the ceiling". 

"There was nothing safe there at all.  I think, myself, that mall should have been closed a long time ago", he says, mournfully.  "We all had bets when this mall was going to go down, and we were hoping it would be at night time so no one would get hurt", said one resident of the community of 12,000 people.  For whom the mall represented a social and economic meeting place.

Despite which, concerns had grown to the point that the state of the building and the potential of collapse worried everyone.  One woman expressed her opinion that "no one of Elliot Lake would have let anyone they knew enter the mall, putting their lives at risk."  Yet, 300 to 400 people worked at that mall.  As a gauge of importance to the community, that's a fairly good yardstick.

The lawyer for the owners, a resident of Elliot Lake himself, along with his family, said the owners have offered their sympathies to the victims.  They are speaking with their insurers with respect to benefits for mall employees and shop owners.  It was, evidently, received wisdom that friction from the upper story parking lot was responsible for the leaky roof.

And that, revealingly enough, the owners had been planning for two years to relocate the parking lot to nearby land.  Now wouldn't that have been a timely solution to ongoing plagues in that building?  To have taken the initiative to simply close down the upper story to use as a parking lot.  To proceed with preparing parking at ground level adjacent the mall.

A simple enough solution, and one obviously badly needed.  Yet the owners spent $1-million on repairs to the roof and continued to use that upper story for parking, even though the rumble of cars parking above was felt and heard throughout the lower stories of the building.  An ominous and cautionary warning, surely?

Labels: , , ,

United Nations Leadership

A country that poses a very real threat to regional security, one moreover whose human rights record is so perversely blemished manages by some miraculous sleight-of-mind to present as a member in good standing of the United Nations, the very body that has led in exacting economically ruinous sanctions in response to its unauthorized uranium enrichment program.  Yet this very same country is seen quite obviously as one to be respected as witnessed by the fact that the United Nations holds conferences in its capital city of Tehran.

Knowing full well that given that international forum the Islamic Republic of Iran will speak to any topic of general attention, somehow managing to inveigle absurdly slanderous accusations against the State of Israel as being the fount of all evil in the world.  Amazingly, in attendance at these conferences are not only human-rights-abusing states whose record of abuse is only minimally less invasive than Iran's, but also diplomatic envoys of advanced European states.

Their acquiescence to such scenarios is implicit, in that when they become part of such gatherings and are exposed to the incredibly image-damaging rants of the vice-president of Iran vilifying Israel, claiming it to be involved in all manner of pernicious schemes to bring misery to the world, there is no one present who would bother to demonstrate the merest contempt for such mind-boggling and vicious inanities.

And so, those gathering in Tehran for a UN-sponsored conference on drug trafficking hear out instead the ravings of rabidly hateful accusations against a country and its people having nothing whatever to do with the matter under discussion.  But their very presence in the country of a nation whose leaders have gone out of their way to repeatedly threaten violence of obliteration against another country serves to give legitimacy to that country's assertions.

The western delegates at the UN global drug enforcement conference in Tehran were treated to an extraordinary spectacle as Iran's Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi roused himself to an inflammatory speech against Israel, claiming the Talmud "teaches them how to destroy non-Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother".  A perplexing accusation that must have whirled about in the mind of a fanatic determined to instill dread and distaste in the minds of like-minded bigots.

"Zionists", he claimed are responsible for the trafficking of illicit drugs throughout the world.  "You cannot find a single addict among the Zionists", he claimed.  The idea being that Jews infect others with the germ of narcotic addiction, but yet are themselves usefully immune from contracting that very same disease, armoured with the wish, presumably, to destroy other societies, not their own.  This kind of nonsensical, childish nonsense emanating from the mind of a high ranking government official boggles the mind.

The New York Times which appears to have covered the UN-sponsored conference titled International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, wrote that this man with the truly troubled mind echoing the prevailing official opinion of his peers, confidently asserted that Zionists order gynecologists to kill black babies.  What's more, he had inside information that the 1917 Russian Revolution was initiated by Jews - and tellingly, none, he said, died in it.  Though if any of them heard what he had to say they might have died laughing.

That credibility would be given this kind of incredible claptrap by those present and hearing out the hateful messages would simply listen and report on what they had heard, without anyone lifting a voice to challenge the mindset that conceived of such legendary absurdities, speaks volumes about the general atmosphere that dominates at all United Nations-sponsored events.

One Western diplomat present at the event claimed that the 10-minute speech had him "really shocked and surprised".  So shocked and surprised, evidently, that his reason and his voice left him shell-shocked, incapable of responding intelligently, rationally, and with the conviction of having the truth at his recall.  "We've heard speeches like this before but this was so much worse than the usual rhetoric.  This wasn't about drugs.  It seems the Iranians want to create an issue and are deliberately looking to stir things up", the diplomat elaborated.

And as long as those who know better but hold their counsel allow that perfervid nonsense to go unchallenged, Iran will continue to consider its outrageously lunatic and dangerous slanders to be perfectly acceptable, in fact validated by all those who are exposed to it.  Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief responsible for negotiating with Iran on behalf of six world powers with respect to nuclear talks that lead to no solutions whatever, reacted by saying the speech was anti-Semitic, "unacceptable".

Those present at the conference appear to have thought it completely acceptable. 

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Equal Access...Human Rights Violations

"In the increasingly militarized context, human rights violations are occurring across the country on an alarming scale during military operations against locations believed to be hosting defectors and/or those perceived as affiliated with anti-government armed groups, including the Free Syrian Army..."  Extract from report by United Nations investigators

United Nations investigation head Paulo Pinheiro released a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.  That report listed kidnappings and killings by armed opposition groups.  That would be the opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the groups he refers to as terrorists.  And if that designation can be held to the description of those who convey emotions of terror in the hearts of those whom they attack, the opposition certainly qualifies.

Of course, to be entirely fair, so does the Alawite regime of President al-Assad.  His military troops with their orders to defeat the opposition at whatever cost it takes are no less terrorists than the opposition who clearly have among their ranks groups which are identified as terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood, among others.

And the Syrian government forces include members of the terrorist group Hezbollah, as well as Iran's Republican Guard al Quds units, aiding and assisting the regime.  They are almost equally matched in their proclivity for butchery.  And to deny that this all-out civil war owes much of its steamy hatred to sectarian and tribal animosities is to deny reality.

The United Nations investigators have come to the conclusion that they could not definitely determine who exactly it was that carried out the massacre of over 100 civilians in Houla in late May.  Forces loyal to President al-Assad may have been responsible for many of the deaths based on a preliminary analysis of satellite images, videos and witness interviews.

Which does not entirely preclude the potential of some or all of those deaths having been carried out with the collusion of the opposition.  There appears to be some evidence in support of the rebels, opposition, terrorists, whatever nomenclature seems suitable under the circumstances, having been the real and actual cause of the Houla massacre.

"We can't say things for which we do not have sufficient evidence.  We are in good company because nobody knows exactly what happened in that crime scene", investigation head Paulo Pinheiri informed at a press conference.

And while government troops have the use of artillery, tanks and machine guns in their assaults, rebel forces were increasing their use of improvised explosive devices.  Neutral death-dealing explosives so popular among the Taliban in Afghanistan.  What works there can most certainly work elsewhere.  Deadly devices to leaven the playing field as it were.

Syria's ambassador treats all of this as a smear campaign deliberately embarked upon by the international community wishing to find fault with a country that is legitimately engaged in protecting its citizens from terrorist activity.  "All sides recognize now that the crisis is not attributable to peaceful demonstrations and legitimate demands for reform. "The crisis in Syria is a genuine war", warned Ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui.

The UN investigators expressed their unease with the knowledge that the rebels were increasingly dependent on the use of children as messengers, cooks, medical porters.  Some of whom had been passing across the border with Turkey in their helpful missions tasked to them by the rebel army.  Those children were clearly being exposed to risk of injury and death.

It is questionable whether the UN Human Rights Council will find much amiss in this report.  After all, so many of their respectable members are themselves fully practising human-rights abusers.

Labels: , , , , ,

Buchenwald and Beyond

"This is a historic milestone and represents closure.  They are finally getting the recognition they deserve.  They exhibited great bravery and performed unbelievable deeds.  They set a standard of professionalism we aspire to today."  Lt.-Gen.Andre Deschamps RCAF commander

"After what I saw at Buchenwald, I felt good about what we did.  Those Germans showed no humanity whatsoever.  Irrespective of what others might say, thank God we did what we did.  Every Remembrance Day I not only think of those in Bomber Command who died, but all the others who were killed in Buchenwald."  Former flyer with Bomber Command, Ed Carter-Edwards

Buchenwald concentration camp was notorious for the brutality meted out to its inmates, most of whom were Jews.  And some 56,000 civilians were murdered there.  Mr. Carter-Edwards was taken as a prisoner of war after being shot down while flying his 22nd mission over Nazi-occupied Europe.  He was one of 168 Allied POWs at Buchenwald.

Where he was beaten by the SS and the Gestapo, threatened with execution, listened to the screams of those being tortured and experienced what it felt like to be crammed into a cattle car with one hundred other prisoners as they were transported east by rail.  He has no fond memories of the Germans as a result of his involvement in the Second World War.

And he feels he has no reason whatever to regret the part he played within Bomber Command.  Of the fifty-five thousand Canadian airmen who were part of Bomber command, 42 elderly men are all that remain.  Almost half of the 120,000 airmen, Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealanders were killed.  Over 3,000 Bomber Command airmen disappeared over the English Channel, the North Sea or the continent.

"Sixty-nine years ago today I was on a troop ship - the Louis Pasteur - bound from Canada for Liverpool to fight the war.  It is high time we were recognized.  What we are experiencing here this week should have happened when the war ended, but I say better later than never.  For our progeny this will be here forever", said Malcolm MacConnell of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia who flew Lancaster bombers, attached to the Royal Air Force's 97th Pathfinder Squadron.

"Our squadron was always told we were going after shipping and industrial targets.  Our first mission was over Gelsenkirchen.  No doubt there were people who lived there but this was war and it didn't bother me.  The Germans had bombed cities in Poland, Holland and Britain before we bombed Germany.  what we did hastened the end of the war."

Eight days after the Germans has surrendered unconditionally, Mr. MacConnell flew a Lancaster for the last time, on May 15, 1945.  "I squeezed in as many ground crew as I could fit and flew all over Germany for six and a half hours to show them what we had done.  I have never been up in a Lancaster since."

And finally, Bomber Command flyers were formally recognized with the unveiling of a memorial by Queen Elizabeth, across from Buckingham Palace.

Labels: , , , , ,

Call In The RCMP

As though the Royal Canadian Mounted Police don't have enough embarrassing incidents made public to last them a lifetime.  The inglorious public unveiling of high-ranking RCMP members pulling rank to harass and sexually molest their underlings, the charges of theft for another.  These public displays of RCMP members abusing their roles as model members of Canada's security establishment will not be readily forgotten.

The newish Commissioner of the RCMP vows, just as his predecessor did, that things must change, and he will be the man to effect those long-overdue changes.  We are reminded that the vast majority of members of the federal police force are mindful of their duties and exemplify in their professionalism the best of the best in policing and public protection.

And then comes yet another story focusing, however unfairly, on that ailing force.  Yet another member of the RCMP revealed as having behaved in a rather less than acceptable manner, quite lacking in nobility.  And, as such, besmirching the already sorry reputation of a national police force that at one time held the admiration of the country for its professional expertise.

An RCMP restorative justice co-ordinator and crisis negotiator, no less, "lost it".  St. Michel D. Luciak of Saskatchewan assaulted his 14-year-old-daughter for disobeying his edict.  He instructed the girl that she was forbidden from going on Facebook.  And then he discovered that she had been on the social networking site, revealing personal data in a posting.

Not only giving information about herself personally, but posting as well her opinion in quite crude terms of her father's girlfriend.  Sgt. Luciak admitted to having experienced a "flash of anger", according to his defence lawyer, in Saskatoon provincial court. 

One supposes his professional expertise as a mediator and anger management consultant abandoned him when it moved from the zone of neutral arbiter to personally emotionally involved.  Much good did his professional status do his daughter.

Labels: , , , ,

And Why Not?

"What did we do?  We aired images that Pauline Marois herself and her party had aired.  I am very intrigued by the reaction of the Pequistes.  Are they embarrassed by their own images, that they themselves made public?  If so, why?"  Quebec Premier Jean Charest

"I believe that it's time to move on.  I wore it with pride, I defended what it represents, namely making education a priority and fairness for all students....  With the fete Nationale approaching, we are wearing the fleur-de-lys.  It brings people together."  Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois

So what's the fuss?  Footage of an awkward-appearing Ms. Marois wearing the red square of support for Quebec students, banging pot lids, so what?  The video, after all, appeared on a Parti Quebecois web site, to demonstrate her unalloyed support for the law-breaking, spoiled-child antics of Quebec's student unions in defying the province's move to minimally raise their minimal university tuition fees.

A cash-strapped province with many areas of society needing support makes a decision to raise fees by a nominal sum that will still leave Quebec post-secondary students with the lowest tuition fees in the country most certainly has a right and an obligation to the rest of its society to ensure that everyone pays at least some modest fee toward something that benefits them uniquely.

The sometimes violent, always obstreperous antics of protesting hordes of students who didn't mind interrupting the studies of other students - the majority of Quebec students in fact, who wanted nothing whatever to do with the protests and who geared themselves to getting on with their studies - ensured they suffered at the hands of their protesting peers.

The disruptions caused by student protesters, backed by their unions, which ended up inconveniencing the rest of society by blocking highways, obstructing bridge passes, smashing storefronts, invading colleges and university premises to destroy computers and desks, won them no support from the public.  But it did prod the government to enact a law that would require a permit to launch such protests.

The backlash to which the Parti Quebecois made the most of, wearing red squares on their clothing as symbolic support for the student-union-led youth who continued their rampages, interrupting the province's major tourism events with their raucous and juvenile antics.  The governing Liberals, in advance of a possible close election date, simply took the footage of Ms. Marois to demonstrate how foolish she appeared.

The individual who had taken the video, and who placed it on his Facebook page with the title "Get rid of the Liberals", has publicly complained that his video has been highjacked, demanding the Liberals withdraw the electioneering advertisement they made of it.  Ah, responded the Liberals, the images are in the public domain, having been used by a PQ candidate.

And it is, after all,only a 15-second advert.  Of Ms. Marois bashing pot lids, peering foolishly at the camera, pursed lips smugly smiling. 

Labels: , , , ,

A Grieving Process

"Rescuers have a sort of protector image.  If you ever see what these rescuers do, it's very much that way.  People just sort of fall down at their feet before being spirited away on a backboard."

"I've worked with a lot of [rescuers] who seem larger-than-life - guys who dangle - and it can all get very dramatized.  Because we watch so many movies, we tend to think of things like that as romantic when in fact they're downright terrifying and dangerous."

"If you had put the miners in there, they would have been out by Saturday.  You don't walk away from a site when someone's alive."

"[The public's] expectations are very, very high.  But from a responder's perspective, it has to become more mechanical...  We cannot afford emotion to cloud judgement.  It might look like it's 'All hands on deck and just keep digging' but there is a lot of risk-analysis that goes into it.  People see us doing good.  They see us saving lives.  they don't want the rescue process to end because then it becomes a grieving process."

Those are some of the second-thought voices of people experienced in the business of responding to disaster situations.  And it is terrifying and dangerous when catastrophic incidents occur, whether man-made through neglect and lack of foresight, or natural occurrences when climate or other conditions humankind has no control over, from volcanic eruptions to earthquakes and tsunamis, floods and hurricanes interrupt the normal flow of life.

It is terrifying and dangerous to contemplate the plight of those caught in the path of these natural phenomena, and it is terrifying and dangerous for those tasked with the impossible-seeming job of  successfully coming to the rescue of those directly impacted.  In their professional zeal to be doing the right thing in their response the responders are also placed in imminent danger, little different from that which has caused a disaster that imperils human life.

Without doubt the response to the Elliot Lake Algo Centre Mall collapse was deficient.  Time lapsed, indecision, the logic of ascertaining safety before proceeding aligned with the emotion of fearful restraint to a catastrophic wreckage under which most certainly lay victims and possibly some survivors ensured that a valiant rescue attempt turned into a debacle.  What else to call it with a uncertain interim of 24 hours' response delay?

Twenty four hours when whoever might have been trapped under the rubble might have been saved if rescue had been enacted in a timely manner.  Clearly, the region, the province and the federal government all lack the necessary and orderly proficiency in establishing a set of conditions, processes and technical responses that might kick in when disaster strikes.  Rescue control contemplated the situation reaching the technical conclusion that nothing could be done.

The premier of the province insisted that everything must be done, that rescuers had a societal obligation to "exercise every option, explore every possible avenue" to enable themselves to reach survivors, give them immediate succour, bring them out of further danger and respectfully remove those who may have died.  He contacted the prime minister who responded by offering the expertise of the military, should it be required, to bolster other more localized efforts.

An experienced search and rescue, disaster team from Toronto and structural engineers were thought to be sufficient of a response to ensure that success would result, initially.  The 37 Toronto-based HUSAR team members were joined by ten OPP Urban Search and Rescue personnel and two medics, a chemical geological radiological nuclear response team, and massive pieces of machinery meant to begin methodically disassembling the collapsed building.

"We will push it with this machine backwards, which should cause it (escalator) to fall ... away from the victims on the floor.  Once that settles and we see how things do move on that manoeuver, we'll take a step back to have the engineers reassess and then we will start to move in from the front of the building to begin shearing off the south corner", explained Bill Neadles of Toronto's Heavy Urban Search and Rescue police team.

Residents of Elliot Lake remained on the scene, baffled at delays, enraged at the thought that people they know, personal friends, relatives, acquaintances, hovered below the wreckage in a state between life and death, and death was inevitably winning the battle as those buried slowly lost hope.  The town's mayor insists he had no word from the premier of the province until two days had elapsed after the mall's Saturday collapse.

"We know everyone in this town (of 12,000 residents), so we know everyone in there."  The efforts they were spectators of seemed to virtually everyone to be too little too late.  "If anybody survived after three days in that, good luck", one resident commented bitterly.  This was a town mall that everyone complained about, of its state of disrepair.  Buckets were used to catch water dripping all around the 200,000 square-foot mall.  They could view exposed rusting beams.

"We knew it was going to happen, we just didn't think it was going to be that soon", said one woman who had been working in the mall.  "They said, 'Everything is A-OK'  I pointed up above my cash [register] to one of the many wet spots.  They said, 'Oh, that's just cosmetic damage'."  From inside the mall the rumble of cars parking on the roof could be clearly heard on the inside.

Does that tell us something about architectural engineering, when it is considered a smart thing to do, installing a parking garage above the mall shops and restaurants, not underground?  For that matter, where land is not quite the premium in Elliot Lake as it might be in say, Toronto, why would the mall not have had a bigger footprint, extending the parking garage beside the mall, not above it, for maximum safety?

"That mall should have been torn down a long time ago.  But I can't see why they waited so long until somebody got hurt", observed another resident.  Lawyers for the mall owners say they are "devastated" about the collapse.  Death threats have reached them from some local residents.  The Labour ministry confirms that the mall had a long history of leak and mould complaints.

They had sent out inspectors six times over the past three years to determine the status of an unsafe escalator, leaky roof, mould, leaky pipes.  The lawyer insists "My clients never, never had the view that this created a danger to the public that were visiting the mall"; they had, after all, spent $1-million two years ago on roof repairs and other work.

Litigation pending down the road.

Labels: , , , ,

A Splendid Vision of Democracy

That's the accolade given by Iran in response to the recent presidential election that took place in Egypt that has brought the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi to his new position as president-elect of 80 million Egyptians.  And Mr. Morsi has promised Egyptians that he will represent them all, irrespective of gender, religion or ideology.  To further emphasize his commitment to bringing democracy to Egypt, he has officially distanced himself from the Muslim Brotherhood, belying his life-long commitment.

He has also pledged to announce the appointment of no fewer than six vice-presidents, each to represent a different facet of religion, political allegiance, gender.  He has a rather crowded agenda. Somehow mending the broken economy, assuring Egyptians that he will not impose Sharia law, improving employment prospects for those desperate to find work, bringing tourism back to where it left off after the evolution of the revolution of the Arab Spring, among many other imperatives.

 Top of mind for him appears to have been 'normalizing' relations with Iran.  One Shia the other Sunni, but both dedicated to a fiercely fanatical view of Islam.  Where Mr. Morsi's challenger for the position of president, former air force general, former prime minister Ahmed Shafik has gone to Saudi Arabia, no doubt to reassure the Saudis that all is not as bleak as it appears, Mr. Morsi is courting Iran.

"We must restore normal relations with Iran based on shared interests, and expand areas of political coordination and economic cooperation because this will create a balance of pressure in the region", claimed Mr. Morsi, reported by the Fars news agency.  For their part, Iran has hailed Mr. Morsi's victory as a "splendid vision of democracy" that emphasizes the country's "Islamic Awakening".

Something like Iran's last presidential election, a miserably corrupt affair that brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back to power by orchestrated acclaim to the disgust and through the objections mounted day after day by opponents of the regime.  That growing backlash that resulted in daily protests and crowds gathering in the streets of Tehran to demonstrate their lack of acceptance of the political coup, was brutally put down by the regime's Republican Guard and police arresting and torturing protesters.

Another splendid vision of democracy so beloved of the Iranian theocracy portraying themselves as the vanguard of a new Islamist vision of Middle East renaissance.  The split between Iran and Egypt resulted from the formal recognition by Egypt of Israel, and the signing of the peace treaty that brought the Sinai back to Egypt and an icy peace between the neighbours, hugely resented by the other Arab and Muslim states as a betrayal of Islam.

"Iran is hoping for Egypt to become a deterrent against an Israeli attack as well as a regional player that Iran can use as a potential counter-balance against Turkey and Saudi Arabia", claimed a Tehran-based diplomat.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Contemporary Awakening and Imam Khomeini's Thoughts

Well, he thought, did he not, that Oriana Fallaci was impudent.  And she was.  How otherwise might she have been able to interview the great man, the saviour of his country and the exponent extraordinaire of Islamism's renewal and Iran's irresistible march to domination of the world of Islam?  He thought also that people were expendable, most particularly if they demonstrated the unforgivable, unmitigated gall to challenge his dominance and his first-name relationship with Allah.
"We think reputable academic institutions have a moral obligation not to turn a blind eye on atrocities committed against their colleagues in other countries."  Expatriate Iranian Academics' first letter to Carleton University's president, Roseann O'Reilly Runte.

"Carleton University, one of the leading academic institutions in this country, negligently permitted its campus to become the site of a celebration of human rights violations, gender inequality and anti-Semitism."  Academics' second letter.

"Thank you and your colleagues for your recent letter.  Carleton University did not sponsor or act as host to the event you mention."  Terse response by Carleton's president Runte to Iranian-Canadian Academics' letters.

The occasion in question was an event co-hosted by the student group, Iranian Culture Association of Carleton University, and the Culture Centre of the Islamic Republic of Iran in honour of the 23rd anniversary of Khomeini's death.  Which was very thoughtful, honouring the man's death.  Three featured speakers at the event "provided the perfect image of how great the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran truly was", according to the student group's web site.

This was the very same Khomeini whom the world knows as somewhat other than a great man, a man whose human rights record is rather spectacularly soiled with mass executions of political prisoners and minority groups and scholars and activists imprisoned under his regime.  Quite a difference of perspective and certainly of opinion.

The letters were put together in protest of the event labelling itself "The Contemporary Awakening and Imam Khomeini's Thoughts", by ten Iranian-Canadian academics and fourteen additional prominent figures representing Iranian-Canadians, including the wife of Canada's Defence Minister, all of whom deplored the occurrence of the conference in question.

Carleton University spokespeople made an effort to protect their reputation, indicating that the views expressed at the conference were not a reflection of those of the university, that Carleton "like all other Canadian universities, encourages a culture of debate and free expression".  An explanation that did not serve to mollify its detractors, not should it have.

"This meeting is not an academic study of the writings or legacy of Khomeini, it's a propaganda exercise and one could argue hate speech because of what it omits.  It's a bit like having an event on the life and writings of Adolf Hitler without mentioning the Holocaust", observed Payam Akhavan, one of the signatories and a professor at McGill University, a co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre.

Invoking the halo-enshrined issue of multiculturalism,  Ehsan Mohammadi, president of the Carleton student group wrote an exculpatory note: "It is against the principles of Multiculturalism, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of speech, which are the significant principles of the Constitution of Canada", demonstrating yet again how those who despise the rights and freedoms of others use the Charter to defend their own agendas turning reality inside out to their advantage.

In response, a group of Iranians, some who attend Carleton, led by a member of the opposition party, the National Front of Iran and Iranian Green Movement Ottawa, explained that he was blocked by Carleton security from protesting the event by holding posters with photographs of detained political activists in Iran.

"Security told us they would not even allow us to go close to the doors", said Ali Tabatabaei.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Turkish Fury

"Whatever is needed to be done will definitely be done within the framework of international law.  We have no intention of going to war with anyone.  We have no such intent.  Everyone should know that this kind of action will not remain unpunished.

"Our plane, which had gone to rescue (the pilots), was fired upon.  This situation was brought to an end following a warning from our foreign ministry.  But yes, there was a short period of harassing fire."  Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc 
Statements that appear somewhat contradictory.  But time will tell.  After all, Syrian forces had deliberately destroyed an unarmed Turkish warplane.  Yes, it had overflown slightly into Syrian airspace, but swiftly departed on instructions from Turkish officials, and it was while it was in international airspace that it was shot down.  Not only that, but Syrian forces also fired on a Turkish military transport plane that was searching for the F-4 reconnaissance jet and its two crew members.

The incident would not go "unpunished".  Turkey is big on punishing.  Observe its destroyed relationship with Israel, at one time its closest ally in the Middle East, pre-Islamist Justice and Development Party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.  Who became incensed when Israel invaded Gaza in an attempt to stop the incessant lobbing of rockets into Israel, accusing Israel of unmitigated aggression. 

Aggravated by the purported blockade-busting Turkish ship carrying 'humanitarian aid' to Gaza, complete with on-board 'activists' who violently attacked Israeli naval commandos boarding the ship, who then responded by defending themselves and in the process dispatching seven of the Turkish 'activists' in self-defence.

The F-4 reconnaissance jet certainly proved its mission to test Turkish air defences - or, alternately, testing the responsiveness of Syrian radar.  Deputy Prime Minister Arinc made reference to Syrian air "elements" having violated Turkish air space no fewer than five occasions "recently", but Turkey had withheld itself from responding violently as Syria had done.

And while Syria claimed that the plane was shot by short-range anti-aircraft fire, proving its contention that the plane was flying low inside Syrian territory, Mr. Arinc insisted the plane was taken down by a laser-guided or heat-guided missile, fully capable of striking the plane in international airspace.  After the plane had left Syrian airspace in response to warnings from Turkish radar operators, they received no advance warning before being struck.

"The rules of engagement of the Turkish armed forces have changed given this new development.  any military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria, by posing a security risk and danger, will be regarded as a threat and treated as a military target", warned Prime Minister Erdogan, addressing the ruling AK party in Ankara.

"If Syrian soldiers try to organize a cross border attack or try to hit targets within Turkey, like they did a few months ago, then the Turkish army will hit targets in Syria", stated Umit Ozdag, an analyst of Turkish defence policy.  "If they were to hit a Turkish airplane a second time, it could cause a war between the two countries."

Labels: , , ,

Acceleration in Anti-Semitic Violence

Anti-semitism, after taking a long-deserved rest, decided not to absolve itself after all, of its self-assigned responsibility to the world by disappearing entirely and has undergone a renaissance, particularly in Europe in the last decade.  Aided and abetted, no doubt, by immigration to Europe of those fleeing persecution and poverty in their home countries, yet taking with them the cultural imperative to hate and threaten Jews.

France is one of those countries, where anti-Semitism has been bubbling along, pleased with its growing acceptance.  Official France declares that all French citizens are equal, and that it values and protects its French Jewish population.  Yet anti-Semitism has always enjoyed a comfortable home in France.  The French ambassador to Israel was accused recently by Israeli MK Danny Danon, of complacency in the face of growing anti-Semitism.

Violent anti-Semitic incidents occurring in France have come to a boiling point in the last five months; an increase of 53% over the same period in the year 2011.  Jews wearing distinguishing symbols of their Orthodox faith are fearful of appearing in public lest they become the target of violent attacks.  A meeting of the Knesset Aliyah Committee discussed the issue, having invited the French Ambassador to attend, fully discussed their alarm over the issue.

And if anyone was ever present at such a meeting with an unfortunate surname that simply served to amplify the issue, it is that of the French Ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot.  The name couldn't be more contextually absurd if someone with a wicked sense of humour had deliberately thought long and hard to produce such an unambiguous word-play on an issue of such grave and dangerous threats to the safety and security and reputation of Jewish citizens.

"You are responsible for anti-Semitism in your country.  Do not let the violence against Jews raise its head - stop the anti-Semitism before it is too late", Mr. Danon charged Mr. Bigot.  Who took the trouble to explain that, perplexingly enough, following the murders of a rabbi and three children on March 19 at a Jewish school in Toulouse, anti-Semitism appeared to rise steeply.  Sixty percent of attacks in the period in question occurred within the 20-day period that followed the Toulouse murders.

France, assured Ambassador Bigot, had invested half-a-million Euro for security in its battle against anti-Semitism.  MK Danon mentioned 275 incidents of anti-Semitism in the five-month period in question.  Over half of which were categorized as murder, attempted murder, and alternately, other types of atrocious violence meant to do physical harm to those identified by their attackers as being Jewish.

Labels: , , , , ,

 Who Rules The Drug Trade?

Ah, the drug trade.  Afghanistan, a fanatically Islamist country, with the prospect of a return to Taliban rule to bring the country back again to the position where it was in, mired in the stone age, when the U.S.-led invasion ousted them, is responsible for roughly 90% of the production of opioid-related drugs, thanks to the huge tracts of land given over to poppy production.

Yet a neighbour of Afghanistan, whose own country of Iran is overrun with drugs feeding the irresistible habit of Iranian addicts, claims that Israel, the declared scourge of nations in the Middle East, controls the world drug trade.  Jews, practising their Islam-accursed religion, and not war lords, Afghani parliamentarians, high-placed Afghan officials who rake in huge profits, yet nothing so much as do the Taliban themselves, those religious scholars intent on turning Afghanistan back to a pure Islamist state.

Iran's deputy vice-president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, stands and delivers his message of anti-Semitic slander with nary a murmur emitted from the human-rights-supporting lips of those attending a United Nations conference taking place in Tehran. The UN delegates politely hear out the accusations that slithered through the lips of Mr. Rahimi, that the Talmud teaches to "destroy everyone who opposes the Jews", and that Jews are in complete control of the international drug trade.

This event and the vehemently vituperative accusations levelled against Judaism and Israel by a diplomat of a country that has defied United Nations sanctions and IAEA denunciations over the country's nuclear plans caused none of the delegates present to lift an eyebrow much less protest the absurdly blemished enormity of an accusation that has no basis in reality.  Which led Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to condemn both the United Nations and European representatives present for giving anti-Semitism a pass.

"The fact that United Nations and European Union representatives still participate in conferences in Iran, where anti-Semitism is rampant, makes the Ayatollahs' regime look legitimate while it endangers the entire world", accused Israel's foreign minister.  The "fanatics" who "openly display their plan, which includes destroying the State of Israel", he further added, had reason to feel confident in their assertions; it seems clear enough that regardless of how threatening to the world order the Iranian theocracy is, it shares its benighted vision of Jew-hatred with many other countries of the world.

"Hitler said the same crazy things, and he succeeded in carrying out his program", Mr. Lieberman warned.  A warning that has great meaning and is of immense concern to Jews, but obviously enough, not to those assembled at the UN Tehran-locale conference.  It speaks volumes about the acceptability within the United Nations and at its conferences that a brutal, repressive regime like Iran's is confident of speaking with impunity, imputing to a free and democratic country the dreadful society-destroying activities that are routinely undertaken in countries like Iran, without a murmur of dissent from those present.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Prolonging The Agony

It's like a Shakespearean play.  "Will no one rid me of this (turbulent priest)?"  Only this is not a monarch groaning about the strait-laced theological demands of a God-ridden priest, but a modern-day government attempting to rid itself of the presence of a man whom their security agencies believe to be a past and perhaps future threat to the stability and security of the country.

It is now a decade since the Government of Canada first attempted to remove Mohamed Harkat from the country.  It used the instrument of the-then relatively new security certificate law for that purpose.  But Mohamed Harkat steadfastly appealed that if returned to his native Algeria his life would be in danger from Algerian authorities.  Why would Algeria be interested in this man if they too did not consider him a threat to their sovereign security?

Judge Simon Noel declared Mohamed Harkat an active and dangerous member of al-Qaeda, in December 2010, when eight years had elapsed between the government's initial attempts to deport the man after his arrest in Ottawa.  But the case has richoted between the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada for years, as Mohamed Harkat's lawyers have invoked protection under Canadian law.

Twice, judges have ordered him deported as a terrorist.  Twice, higher courts overturned their verdicts, finding that the legal process which reached that decision was placed into question.  The Federal Court of Appeal held that right to fair trial had been compromised, since CSIS had destroyed wire-tap recordings used as evidence to secure his guilt as a sleeper-member of al-Qaeda.

Now, Mohamed Harkat's lawyers have appealed to the Supreme Court to declare the security certificate unconstitutional, and to release Mohamed Harket from suspicion and detention through house arrest.  Equally federal lawyers have appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold the findings that the Algerian-born man constitutes a threat to the country, and to proceed finally, with his deportation.

Mr. Harkat views his deportation case an unending storm swirling threateningly around his head.  He wants a normal life.  "I live day by day", he says.  And it is excessively unfair, what has happened to their client, according to his lawyers.  On the other hand, has not the government of a free and fair democracy, one under threat by sinister and explosive forces that have struck their deadly blows elsewhere, the right to protect itself and its citizens?

It is amazing that a government is constrained through its own system of justice, unwilling to enable it to remove an identified threat, while the individual who has been implicated through membership in a violently destructive ideology committed to terrorism is able to manipulate the justice system to prolong an intolerable situation - both for himself, as testified by his lawyers - and the country itself.

Labels: , , , , ,

The Plague of Chrysotile Asbestos

"They've ignored the scientists.  They didn't just deny the science.  They acknowledged it but yet ignored it.  That is unforgivable, in my view.  They've put commercial and political interests, and in doing, compromised and undermined the whole purpose and intent of the convention."  NDP MP Pat Martin

He's a man who knows the reputation of the asbestos industry; one of his Parliamentary colleagues, Chuck Strahl, suffers from lung cancer, a legacy of having worked with asbestos in the logging industry years ago.  He understands the critically detrimental health effect of asbestos mining, asbestos manufacturing, asbestos use.  Yet the federal government has refused to sign on to the Rotterdam Convention to list chrysotile asbestos as a known carcinogen.  Even while it accepts the consensus of the scientific community that it poses a threat to human health.

And that, simply put, is intolerable.

As a hazardous material listed on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention exporting countries are required to inform importers of any and all risks and precautionary measures to be undertaken to ensure safe handling of a product.  Having informed the importers, the importers must give their consent that they understand the extent of their own responsibility in ensuring the safe use and handling of the product.  Canada has objected steadfastly to including chrysotile asbestos.

"Since 2002, chrysotile has been proposed four times for addition to the PIC Procedure of the Rotterdam Convention.  This decision requires the consensus of the Parties.  At previous meetings and again last June, Canada acknowledged that all criteria for the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the Convention have been met but opposed its addition", stated a briefing note that was forwarded to to Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment.

The federal government continues to protect a now-defunct, but still-aspirational mining resource in Quebec.  Plans continue, to secure loan guarantees to re-open underground mines in Thetford Mines and Asbestos, Quebec.  This is an industry that employs relatively few people, and it is an industry that has a wicked reputation for impairing human health.  It does not represent a huge trade resource, and it defies logic that the federal government continues to support it as an industry, when most developed nations do not.

It is exported to poor, developing nations of the world who haven't the resources or the inclination to ensure that those who work with it, in India, for example, are cognizant of how best to handle it for safety purposes.  There, workmen are exposed to all the carcinogenic fall-out of the material, used for its flame-retardant properties in the building trades, but avoided like the plague in Canada itself.

Labels: , ,


"Too long has the Ontario government been unwilling to flex some of its muscle as the payer for health-care services, which represents all of us, the public.  Governments need to be more demanding in terms of the contracts and the agreements they have with physicians about what is actually expected of them."  Colleen Flood, Health law, University of Toronto

The current Liberal-led government of Premier Dalton McGuinty opted for an agenda to keep the province's physicians through agreements with the Ontario Medical Association, happy and energized.  And nothing works quite as well as increasing their payments for inestimably important work done on behalf of those requiring their care.  Under this current government doctors have been recompensed handsomely.

Therefore, given the current financial difficulties facing the provincial treasury - in effect all taxpayers, from the medical community to those whom they serve - through a growing deficit and poor employment figures along with lost manufacturing and rising costs, one might think that those same doctors who have done so well in the past decade would be willing enough to be grateful for what they have.

They feel threatened, though, that their indispensable services are now going to be held to tighter account by a cash-strapped government, and that they cannot now contemplate another raise as has been their good fortune in the near past, but a belt-tightening which no one enjoys the prospect of, but in all fairness everyone must agree to share in.

The Ontario health insurance plan does not have limitless funds.  Annual fees that doctors can anticipate will shrink marginally, and affect mostly those on the high-end of physicians-specialist-incomes.  Those whose surgeries have become more efficiently expeditable thanks to newer technological advances, but who still charge the going rate for a service that takes far less of their precious time.

The doctors and the Ontario Medical Association have been huffing indignantly over the prospect of their being expected to tie in to the belt-tightening, and they warn that patients will suffer in the end.  They can indulge in stoppages in refusing to take on more patients, in a revolving protest that will see them continue to do their work, but in a constrained manner to emphasize their unwillingness to be taken for granted. Heaven forfend the health-needy public would take the medical professionals we so rely upon for granted. 

"We're wasting millions of dollars on some very unnecessary technologies.  We need the capacity to re-evaluate technologies that are in the market and that may be of questionable value", stated a health policy analyst at University of Toronto, a former senior health ministry official.  The public takes for granted that doctors would have the integrity and intelligence not to engage in treatments said to be of doubtful benefit to patients.

The University of Toronto health law expert explained also that in the United States that government too is taking a second look at fees paid through Medicare and Medicaid, as well as private insurers, weighing the intelligence of continuing to pay fees to doctors performing procedures that have become more expeditious thanks to new medical technologies.  The imprudently unnecessary ordering of diagnostic tests might also be intelligently curtailed.  

Medical experts claim scarce funding can be put to better use by delisting treatments that have a dubious record of usefulness.  Doctors tend to respond by threatening to cancel elective surgeries, by limiting their office hours, by indulging in general work slowdowns to demonstrate their disgruntlement, and at the same time how powerfully needful is their full attention to their patient load.  For which they must be well compensated.

And they most certainly are.  Scant few in the medical profession are prepared to be reasonable about the need to acknowledge the government's past generosity in raising their incomes when times were good, by now, when finances are constrained, agreeing to temporarily slow down their expectations.  The Ontario Medical Association has been running full-page advertisements in newspapers exhorting the public to support their dismissal of the government's attempt to work within current financial constraints.

It isn't all that likely that the majority of the public will feel too compassionate over doctors' financial plight, knowing how comfortably well off they are, while at the same time appreciating the work that doctors do on behalf of their healing profession and the patients they take on.  It is unfair for the OMA to try to manipulate public opinion to line up with them on this issue, prodding people to take a stand in fear of alienating those who look after their health needs.

The health budget, already accounting for a large chunk of the GDP and growing at an alarming rate, has to be reined in.  It can be done through efficiencies, through recognizing the need to be prudent in using those elements of health care diagnostics that are usefully needful only when they are usefully needful, without threatening the health care of patients through longer wait times. 

The prima donna profession of health care should be prepared to indulge in a little introspection.  The focus should remain on the goal; improving health care and access to it for all who require it.  The cost to do so cannot continue to be such a weightily cumbersome one; reasonableness can be found within the system and between bargaining partners; much depends on it.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Oh My, Another One

"Greed is a vice that makes normally rational people act irrationally.  It plays exceedingly well into the old maxim 'If it looks too good to be true it usually is'.  This case proves that both theories are alive and well."  Justice Harrison Arrell

The pastor/founder of Dominion World Outreach Ministries located in Toronto, and just incidentally also a founder of Fight for Justice, a group whose purpose is to improve the lives of the African-Canadian community has turned out not to be the fount of honest deliverance to his faithful followers he portayed himself as.  Pastor Marlon Gary Hibbert is obviously a man of many parts.

Held in very high esteem as a man of the cloth.  A man dedicated to battling racism and poverty of the spirit.  A busily involved man who looked to other avenues to support his passion for involvement in the lives of those who entrusted their spiritual well-being to him.  He obviously felt he could exploit their trust for the opportunity to manipulate their finances as well as their souls.  His ambitions encompassed both the spiritual and the material alike.

He hadn't, as it happened, to work too hard to persuade the faithful that as a "man of God", he would be good to his word.  And as his word would have it, he had the intellectual wherewithal and finance experience to wisely invest the savings of some of his notable parishioners.  Guaranteeing them a respectable return on their savings invested with him.  So from 2006 to 2008 millions of dollars were handed to him for investment.

Largely through word of mouth among the members of the church.  His own relatives were not spared, nor were fellow pastors, even one in his own church.  Who trusted him because he was a "man of God", like themselves.  All the victims, in fact, claimed they believed their money was in safe hands because Mr. Hibbert was a pastor.  Judge Arrell's response to that was a snort of "stupidity".

Those who were taken by Pastor Hibbert wept as they testified at the Ontario court and the Ontario Securities Commission, speaking movingly of the difficulties they now face as a result of their lost savings.  In total Mr. Hibbert bilked those investors out of over $8.2-million.  Gone now, without much of a trace.  A moral victory came through on the judge's order that Mr. Hibbert pay his victims $100,000 in legal fees.

The Ontario Superior Court judge declared the pastor to be a liar, fraudster and a cheat.  Not much comfort to those who were trusting of him and who are now bereft of their life savings.  He was ordered previously to pay back the money invested - along with the 5% monthly in guaranteed interest.  "As a result of his actions the plaintiffs lost all they invested with him", stated Judge Arrell.

The Ontario Securities Commission gave the total loss for over 200 investors as $8.2-million in principle, over $13-million in promised interest.  "The defendant testified that he was simply a bad bookkeeper and businessman; that he had sloppy business and accounting practices; and that he was the victim of world-wide financial markets gone awry.  I disagree", wrote Judge Arrell.

Scant comfort to the afflicted, unfortunately.  Adding to their misery the fact that the pastor's wife sold their palatial home, the only remaining asset: "It is significant to this court that it learned after the trial that during it she listed and sold the home in question.  Such conduct is outrageous and worthy of sanction.  The fraudulent conveyance was a significant and important part of this litigation as the only remaining asset of the defendants would appear to be this house."

The plaintiffs remain disconsolate and bereft, residing in a shared metaphorical House of Misery.

Labels: , , , ,

Hail Friends and Supporters

One wonders whether more recent photographs of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria would continue to portray him with the same happily smiling countenance.  He has been extremely busy of late.  Ordering intensified shelling of Sunni Muslim districts in Homs.  Mournfully declaring himself to be quite saddened by the departure of the UN monitors.

U.S. President Barack Obama has been speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Mexico.  It isn't anticipated that the deadlock in opinions will undergo any kind of meaningful change.  Russia has dug in her heels, China is supporting Russia, and there the matter stands.  Except that as matters continue to heat up Russia is becoming a little nervous about the security of its citizens and ships at the Tartus naval base.

The amphibious assault vessels Nikolai Filchenkov and Caesar Kunikov are scheduled to head from their home port in Sevastopol on the Black Sea to the Syrian port of Tartus, carrying additional Russian troops.  Ostensibly to protect and secure the safety of Russians, but to be present for another purpose, the possibility of evacuating al-Assad and family from Syria should the need arise in the near future; perhaps the very near future.

"Around 85% of Homs is now under shelling or bombardment with mortar rounds and heavy machine guns.  Dozens of wounded are without treatment because all the hospitals have fallen under the control of shabiha.  The dead are the lucky ones", reported an opposition campaigner by cellphone from the city north of Damascus.

Another opposition member claims that "Since the [UN] observers stopped working yesterday we have seen a clear escalation" of violence from the regime.  Chief UN monitor General Robert Mood cited that increased violence in his decision to withdraw his observers.  He blamed both President al-Assad's forces and the rebels for threatening and forcing the observers to leave their posts.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled Homs in the past year.  And the regime's opponents charge that the regime is intent on effecting an ethnic cleansing of Homs, to force Sunni Syrians to vacate the country.  The Arab Spring uprising that concluded so differently in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia has met up against an irresistible force of denial. 

With Syria's president deriding the presence of 'terrorists' in his country, insisting on the defence of Syria against al-Qaeda.

And at the present time, back of mind of the Western powers there is agreement that among other elements, that al-Qaeda presence most certainly is there, along with the Muslim Brotherhood and on the other side, Hezbollah and Iran.  All of them ready for a final confrontation, because they all consider the stakes to be high enough.

And Russia, despite insistence to the contrary, is still supplying the Syrian regime with arms.  While preparing to defend its citizens and its presence in the country, fiercely shielding the Alawite regime from international sanctions.

Labels: , , , ,

Israel's Irish Reputation

Now there's an interesting story that raises the possibility that die-hard Israel-bashers may be capable, after all, if they have been endowed with a healthy ration of intelligence, to experience an epiphany as Irish film maker Nicky Larkin obviously has done.  The result of his decision to embark on a trip to the Middle East to spend investigative, open-minded time both in Israel and the West Bank, was the production of a film, Forty Shades of Grey.

It is well enough known that the Irish have opted in to the general support of Palestinian rights, as opposing Israel in view of the accepted wisdom of the brutal Israeli occupation.  In the past, members of the Palestine Liberation Organization had training from the Irish Republican Army in guerrilla-type warfare.  And now, in Ireland, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign represents a more generalized support for the welfare and human rights entitlements of the Palestinians.

Israel recognized as a brutal, repressive foreign element in the geography.  So much so that only six months ago Dublin city council gave its agreement to the enactment of mock executions of "Israelis" at the hands of "Palestinians" in the city's main thoroughfare.  This was a public event organized by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  Surely a country could hardly be more maligned and held to a standard that bears no relation to reality than the indignities visited upon the reputation of the State of Israel.

As Mr. Larkin writes: "Being anti-Israel has somehow become part of our Irish national identity - the same way we are supposed to resent the English."  And resent the English they do, spitting out the very words in derisive disgust, considering themselves to have been occupied and ill done by, just, as a matter of fact, as have been the Palestinians.  The detestation of the English has primary place in the opinion of the Irish, and it seemed a natural enough progression that Israel would be recognized as a like abusive power.

Resentment, anger and hatred all go hand in hand in a nation that considers itself to have been historically oppressed.  The Irish wallow in their victimization.  Memories are long and unforgiving.  The Troubles take a pre-eminent role in the teaching of modern Irish history, alongside the dreadful potato famine.  Attitudes do not change lightly, people cling to their beliefs determined not to forget nor forgive their perspective of their history, for it is theirs and they clasp it fiercely.

Somewhat like the Palestinians who also treasure their status as refugees whom justice has overlooked, victims of an interloper who took their land by stealth and by force.  That version of history is enshrined in the bitter memory of Palestinians who recognize no other history than that.  And the Palestinians savour the friendship and support given them by the Irish.  Mr. Larkin speaks of his activism as a Palestinian supporter having been spurred by Operation Cast Lead, Israel's response to continued rocket attacks from Gaza.

"I had definite opinions on Israeli foreign policy.  The Irish papers were full of stories of Israeli aggression every day that summer - between flotillas and bombings it didn't look good.  You can't polish a turd", he commented dryly.  Still, he wanted definitive proof, to see for himself how "nasty" Israelis were; proof that his attitude mirroring the prevailing Irish opinion on the matter was a true reflection of the situation. 

In Israel, the Irish filmmaker and his crew were understandably viewed with suspicion.  Israelis are well versed on the hostile attitudes of the Irish against them.  On the West Bank, they were welcomed with open arms.  And there his eyes were opened; not only to the IRA graffiti he saw on the wall of separation, putting a welcome halt to martyr-inflicted mass butchery of Israelis, but neon crucifixes and posters of martyrs.  Martyrs, of course, are suicide bombers, and they were being glorified.
"I was confused by the constant Palestinian repetition of the mantra of "non-violent resistance".  Why put up all the posters of martyrs, if you advocate non-violent resistance?  I was supposed to understand all this somehow because I'm Irish.  But even the IRA didn't below themselves up ... at least not on purpose.  I was also frustrated by the unquestioning attitude of the foreign activists.

"Anything seemed acceptable in the name of the Palestinian cause.  No questions asked.  But would these war-tourists apply this same liberal attitude if it was happening at home in their own country?  If buses were exploding in their own home cities?  If they weren't out here on holidays in their summer playground?"
He pondered these questions and more; introspection his purpose to reveal the truth in all those curious details.  Spent several months interviewing all kinds of people in the geography: "...everyone from Ultra-Orthodox settlers to Marxist Palestinians.  Everybody had an opinion, and everybody was sure that their opinion was right."  He discovered there were no black-and-white issues; there were, instead many shades of grey and many issues involved, a completely complex situation.

Back in Ireland when he published a series of articles in Ireland's most widely circulated Sunday paper, his political shift was obvious and the reaction was swift and mostly condemning.  Descriptive epithets painted him variously, a "Protestant", and a "Mossad agent".  But, he claims, he also was made aware that in the background there existed a hitherto silent group of people who supported his change of perspective.

And he says he is proud that the Irish are beginning to consider the issue of Israel versus the Palestinians in an entirely new light.  He claims that a sea-change in opinion is gradually taking place.  Of course, seeing is believing, and that shift is yet to be seen beyond what Mr. Larkin has experienced.  He takes pride, he says, that outside the front of a Dublin city centre pub, an Israeli flag now flies.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Murder, They Said

"It was been determined that [a stabbing victim whom Pickton allegedly attempted to murder] is an East Hastings area hooker and Pickton is known to frequent that area weekly.  Given the violence shown by Pickton towards prostitutes and women in general, this information is being forwarded to your attention..."

If that informational assessment was not incriminating, or at the very least, good enough reason to carefully follow the trail on, it's hard to imagine what might be.  Yet that bit of boring lead to the identity of a mass murderer seemed of little interest to the investigators who were tasked to discover where all those women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside ended up.

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry held in downtown Vancouver and led by Commissioner Wally Oppal, has now been concluded.  And it has uncovered issues of lax and disinterested fumbling on the part of two municipal police forces, and the federal force, the RCMP.  All of whom were ostensibly involved in the issue of missing women and a rather lackadaisical investigation process.  But nothing of substance has been revealed to conclude the investigation properly.

The purpose of the enquiry was to examine witnesses, documents, anything that might help to understand how it could be that from 1997 to 2002 the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP were unable to come to the conclusion based on the information at their disposal and what was uncovered by some of their agents, that Willy Pickton was involved in serial murder.  Perhaps to conclude with some message about accountability.

Because they failed to take their task seriously, to follow up on credible leads, to mount a proper and determined, dedicated investigation, this dreadful man was able to entice women to his squalid pig farm, murder them, cut their corpses into pieces to feed to his pigs, and retain for his later amusement articles of the women's clothing, jewellery and other personal possessions.

There were people who contacted police and who insisted they had irrefutable proof of the man's guilt, and they were simply ignored.  The man is now in prison for life for six murder convictions, while at least twenty others have been stayed.  Those who are relatives of the dead women, those who are interested in justice, claim the inquiry to have been a prolonged and costly sham.

Had he been arrested before 2002 many lives would have been saved.  His involvement with skid-row prostitutes was well known and documented, and he was known to be threatening and violent.  His reputation went before him; the illegal booze outlet, his acquaintances among Hells Angels, and street people, the pig farm and its reputation for illegal cockfights.

There seemed to be a bubble of official disinterest around him that protected him from even the revelations that were brought before the higher security officials by their subordinates uncovering proof of his involvement in the women's disappearances.  "Discussed Pickton again.  If he turns out to be responsible - inquiry! - Deal with that if the time comes", reads an RCMP 2000 notebook.

During those hearings none of the police came away looking very professional nor dedicated to the security and preservation of society's well-being.  The several that were the exception were stifled by their superiors. The Vancouver Police Department revealed it had contempt for the RCMP, and the RCMP  returned the compliment.  No one was interested in believing that women were being abducted and never seen again.

One man, Frank Henley, a former homicide investigator based in Vancouver, testified at the inquiry that he had made a trip on his own recognizance to the Pickton farm where he met with Pickton a year prior to the man's arrest.  Mr. Henley said his secret visit was "like really, very much a social visit", where he spent an hour wandering about, looking at the old cars littering the grounds.

And while there, he casually, unauthorized, informed Pickton about a confidential police informant who had incriminating knowledge, about another individual who was an informant, a woman who did eventually testify against him at his murder trial.  "I just wanted to meet [Pickton] and see him", said the former investigator, and Mr. Oppal left it at that.

A RCMP civilian employee who had long personally known Pickton through family connections had photographs of a social event where Pickton had appeared with a woman who was later proven to be missing.  She saw a photo of the same woman in a newspaper of a missing woman, weeks later.  Determined to have been murdered.  She offered police the photos.

But they denied ever having been approached by her. 

Labels: , , , , ,

Sovereign Privilege/Diplomatic Immunity

Members of the international diplomatic community have immunity from prosecution in the countries to which they are assigned as diplomatic delegates of their country.  Usually diplomatic staff pick up nasty little citations for traffic offences, mostly for parking where they should not.  Sometimes the embassies to which they are attached pay the fines, and often enough they do not.  And the municipalities where the embassies are located really can do nothing about it, since they have diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic immunity, by and large, is a good thing.  Remember that old adage: don't shoot the messenger?  Well, that 'messenger' referred to was usually a foreign national representing his/her country abroad.  And, in long-gone days, royalty was known to commit to death emissaries of a foreign country with which they might have become right royally displeased.  For example, at times of conflict. Until such time as a code was invoked to spare the lives of such emissaries.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations ensures the safety and well-bring of foreign emissaries.  Those foreign emissaries, on the other hand, are expected to obey the laws of any country they happen to be posted to.  Very serious crimes merit special attention; usually the host country looks to the foreign country of which the diplomat is a citizen for guidance in prosecuting their own.  Breaking off relations usually results in an expulsion of a diplomat.

People with diplomatic immunity as a result of their appointed political position as an emissary are expected by their country to behave in an exemplary manner following the customs of the country they are posted to, respecting their laws, and furthering the interests of their own country within the alien one. Given human nature it is natural enough for people to occasionally overlook their obligations and feel themselves to be entitled to behaviour otherwise not acceptable.

As a Commonwealth country it is customary for Canada to appoint a state representative to act in lieu of the English Monarch who is Canada's formal head of state.  There are appointments made on the federal and provincial levels for those individuals to act in ceremonial roles on behalf of the Queen of England who happens also to be Queen of Canada and all other Commonwealth countries.

In Quebec a lieutenant-governor was appointed who has been identified post-appointment as having illegally claimed expenses to the tune of $700,000 entirely unrelated to her posting mandate.  Former lieutenant-governor for Quebec, Lise Thibault, has been found guilty on two counts each of breach of trust, fraud and creating false or counterfeit documents.

She has invoked the privilege of immunity as an ex-viceroy.  Claiming that as the Queen's former representative in Canada she should be immune from prosecution on fraud charges, through sovereign privilege.  The Monarchist League of Canada has decided not to intervene, but to remain neutral, believing that no one is above the law, including royalty and its representatives.

Rather a refreshing take on the matter.  Clearly, the provincial appointment hardly anticipated that this would result in someone taking criminal advantage of a royally privileged role.  And clearly, the queen, were she to hear of this, would certainly not be amused.

Labels: , , , ,

The Unexpected

They usually are 'nice guys'.  Those whom society might never anticipate would turn out to be starkly otherwise.  People who are sought and then arrested on suspicion of having committed dreadful criminal acts are often cited by those who have been taken by surprise by the reality that the nice, normal person they have long been acquainted with, behaved in a manner that was decidedly not nice, and utterly abnormal.
"When the police came in about ten minutes, they ended up busting down the door [of the ATM room] and pulling out all the bodies that were in there.  Another couple of moments after that [they] pulled the man who was still alive out of the room."
According to a friend, Travis Brandon Baumgartner was excited about the work he had with the armoured car company.  He hoped it would lead to a job at some future date as a police officer.  And yes, his friend was amazed at what this young man has been accused of doing.  The Travis Baumgarnter he knew was 'nice'.

Most university campuses, like the University of Alberta, have volunteer groups of university students going out on nightly patrols, and offering to help accompany other students to various points of the campus, to ensure safety.  Crime is loathe to commit when there are witnesses, and the more people there are around, the less likely it is that anti-social acts will be committed.

No one likes to have witnesses around when they commit themselves to doing things that their mother would be ashamed of.  The only witnesses that were present when Travis Baumgartner decided to use his weapon on his colleagues were the unfortunate colleagues themselves.  One of whom had been employees of the G4S Security company for far longer than him; others new recruits.

For reasons of his own, this young man of 21 whom the armoured car company had been training for three months in the use of a firearm, decided he would do otherwise than was expected of him.  He killed the woman who was a senior employee of four years' standing, who was training the four others present.  She was just recently married and now she is dead, along with two others.

One of the G4S Security guards was not killed outright, but lay screaming in agony for help, behind the locked, impenetrable door of the area that held the TD Canada Trust ATM machines they were in the process of filling with cash.  "He was screaming, he was moaning, he was groaning - it just didn't sound good", said one witness on the campus of University of Alberta.

It took some while for the police to batter down the locked door.  They had been alerted by a volunteer with University of Alberta Safewalk who had been on a round with others at the campus HUB; student residences and shops, about a city block-worth of area.  She had peered through the window of the room where the security guards were locked in; two dead, one in agony.  Another lay outside the room, dead.

After making good use of a battering ram and an axe the door was opened and paramedics were allowed to enter, to do what they could for the victims.  But the assailant had long since left the scene, driving a dark-blue Ford F-150 truck on which he had appended his mother's license plates from her vehicle.  Police alerted the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. customs.

And it was U.S. customs at the Aldergrove/Lynden border crossing southwest of Abbotsford, B.C. that apprehended the man driving that truck as an escaped fugitive and alerted police.  Travis Baumgartner is charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Michelle Shegelski 26, Brian Ilesic 35, and Eddie Rejani, 39.  Charged as well with attempted murder of guard Matthew Schuman, in critical condition in hospital.

"I'm sorry that we had an argument (Thursday) night and had bad words between us.  But I want you to come home and do the right thing.  Let's work this out together", his mother appealed to her son through police, before he was identified at the U.S. border, with a backpack holding $330,000 cash.

Image: US Border Agents assist the Canadian Border Agency with Travis Baumgartner
Carmine Marinelli  /  QMI via Reuters
U.S. and Canadian border agents handle Travis Baumgartner at the Aldergrove/Lynden border crossing on Saturday.

Labels: , ,

() Follow @rheytah Tweet