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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about US$21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."  Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Israel

Then poking about further into the subject, and hoisting the book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, cited author David Landes's thesis: "He says if you can learn anything from the economic history of the world, it's this: Culture makes all the difference.  And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things ... including the hand of providence".

These sentiments, and these statements did not endear Mitt Romney to the Palestinians, but it did do so immensely, to the satisfaction of his first-hand Jewish audience who applauded wildly.  All groups like to have their accomplishments acknowledged by an outside source.  As though only from outsiders can the greatest satisfaction in achievements can be realized, through respected external validation.

That Mr. Romney also, at the same time, validated the bitter claims of the ordinary Palestinians that they are sick and tired of the incompetence, manipulation and utter callous corruption of their leaders is another thing entirely.  Wholesale corruption with the Palestinian leadership traditionally - starting with Yasser Arafat and beyond - using for their personal fortunes colossal funds given them by the international community.

For this by-product of his acknowledgement of Israeli devotion to hard work, enterprise and excellent performance in economics as in all other endeavours, Mr. Romey has been severely criticized. Hardly a surprise, albeit a circumstance whose fall-out neither he nor his advisers, unbelievably, might have considered prior to his speech. 

Mr. Romney was quite right in his assertions.  Israelis have, as a nation, understood quite well that it is up to their own initiative and striving that they must excel in all the endeavours to which they apply themselves.  This is a cultural attribute, that there are more Jewish Nobel Laureates than is represented by any other single ethnic group, in all disciplines.

The Palestinians have distinguished themselves by honing their victimhood status, by complaining loudly and incessantly to the world at large, excelling at slanderous accusations, and in excusing themselves from committing terrorist violence compelling their victim to arm, protect and defend itself, turning that on its head and asserting themselves to be the victims of a heartless occupying power.

How much more provident and honourable it would be to finally settle differences, absorb some disappointments in expectations, then carry on and begin to establish themselves as a responsible, independent source of prideful accomplishments, knowing that along the way their neighbour will be helpful in aiding in the achievement of their national and economic goals.

The Palestinians, on the contrary, have always seen it to their singular advantage to be known as, and behave as, the world's longest-lasting refugees.  Planning to be transformed from refugees to nationals only when Israel has been destroyed by whatever means necessary.  And basing their economy almost solely on hand-outs from international sources.

So when Saeb Erekat, a man who never found a Jewish proposal that he could agree with stated: "It is a racist statement, and this man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation", he was merely continuing a long tradition of denial and victimhood.

"It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.  He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves.  I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority."  Certainly not, not since Golda Meier stated her opinion that there would be peace between the Palestinians and the Jews when the former learned to love their children more than they hated the latter.

Should any Israeli or Jewish official state blank out a belief in racial or cultural superiority he would play right into the hands of the Palestinian marketing and public relations machine.  Now that is something at which they have excelled.  Perfecting the method of speaking one thing to one another, but conveying an entirely different message to the world at large.

 Mr. Romney was in error about his statistics, however: Israel's 2011 per capita GDP was around $31,000 in 2011; the West Bank's and Gaza's was by comparison just above $1,500.  The Palestinians spend so much time, passion and effort hating and decrying the Israelis they have little left to aid themselves materially.

Were they to re-direct their bile to the garbage heap and declare their intention to put a definite halt to violence against Israel, they could accomplish much for themselves.  The first impediment to their economic future to fall would be the 'occupation'.  On achieving a peaceful resolution to their intractable historical relationship the Palestinians could learn at first-hand how useful good relations with a neighbour can be.

But then, that would lead to a loss of honour, and their raison d'etre.  Everything else is commentary.

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Packing Up, Leaving...

"I am extremely concerned by the impact of shelling and use of tanks and other heavy weapons on people in Aleppo.  Many people have sought temporary shelter in schools and other public buildings in safer areas.  They urgently need food, mattresses and blankets, hygiene supplies and drinking water.  It is not known how many people remain trapped in places where fighting continues today"  Valerie Amos, UN humanitarian affairs
The alarm has been sounded from within the UN countless times.  It is like flogging a dead mule; many in the international diplomatic community and humanitarian rights groups wring their hands in despair, along with Kofi Annan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, while others sit placidly by, unwilling to become part of the response that might stop the carnage.

How to do that, in any event, other than to incite the regime to further violence, dragging into the general scheme of chaos and destruction Hezbollah and Iran, and likely some casual units from Iraq.  And that is precisely when the entire Middle East can erupt into a sectarian fireball of pent-up hatred that has been biding its time before flaming into the hellfire of revenge and mass murder.

The rebel forces deny that they have been infiltrated by terrorists.  But in fact, they have been.  They can find common cause with all militias whose purpose is akin to theirs, even those whose Islamist credentials are clearly meant to use the Syrian uprising as a springboard toward creating their own version of what Syria should represent.  So, arming and or/aiding the rebel cause, also arms and aids another cause.

"I was at work when I received the call that a shell had hit my house.  As soon as I returned, I found my wife and son dead on the floor.  Part of my son's skull was blown off, and Aya was wounded", said one resident of Aleppo.  The wound his daughter sustained will be with her for the rest of her life, blinding her right eye with shrapnel from the shell that killed her brother.

And they are assembling what they can, all those terrified residents of a city that no longer resembles its peacetime facade of sects living together in harmony under the strict rule of a tyrant.  They are loading themselves and their belongings onto whatever conveyances they can, looking for temporary asylum in towns and villages removed from the city.

"We always knew the regime's grave would be Aleppo. Damascus is the capital, but here we have a fourth of the country's population and the entire force of its economy.  Bashar's forces will be buried here", claimed a young fighter, with the confidence that only the young can muster in the face of impossible odds to their own survival.

"The situation in Aleppo is dreadful.  Had it been merely bearable I wouldn't have left my home", said a woman on arrival at the Bukulmez illegal border crossing, where she was waved through by Turkish soldiers.  Aleppo is surrounded by troops and tanks mobilized to take the city from the rebels, leaving other areas of the country vulnerable to rebel occupation. 

President Bashar al-Assad has a huge need to restore his military presence in Aleppo, and maintain both that city and his capital Damascus and the highway between to his control.  Without that at the very least, he cannot claim to be in control of Syria.  Even if, at the same time, the rebels establish themselves securely elsewhere in the country.

Khaled al-Ayoubi, the charge d'affaires official in Britain has joined his colleagues in refusing to any longer represent their country.  Three Aleppo medical university students who were attempting to aid the wounded were arrested by the military.  They were arrested, questioned, and murdered.  Their mutilated and charred bodies were later found in a burned-out vehicle.

Three Syrian rebels stand guard at a makeshift field hospital, as casualties mount from intense shelling on the first day of a Syrian government military offensive against rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), in the rebel held district of Salaheddin in Aleppo, Syria, on July 28.  Scott Peterson/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

This was an obvious attempt at deterrence.  To ensure that no other medical personnel would risk their own lives by treating the wounds of rebel fighters.  It's true that people were shocked and horrified when they saw the bodies of Basel Aslan and Musab Barad, fourth-year medical students, and Hazem Batikh, an English literature student and medic. 

But the result was that other health workers, still mourning their friends, are now motivated to offer their services to the rebel militias in field hospitals located in areas still firmly under Free Syrian Army control.

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Elderly Employability

Sometimes it's easy to feel sympathetic about older people losing their jobs because of their age.  Particularly when they are skilled at what they do, enjoy their jobs and do a very good day's work.  Older people may not have quite the physical energy of younger people, but they have over the years more than proven themselves often enough in positions where experience and the ability to match that with the required skills can produce an outcome far outdistancing younger counterparts minus experience.

There are some occupations, however, where it just seems to make common sense that there is a time to retire.  And that time is directly related to an ageing body and an ageing brain.  When reaction times are slower, when the brain is not as alert, and brain-hand co-ordination is lacking.  And when exhaustion due to long hours takes its toll.  Above all, when the occupation is one where the working operator's skills and knowledge are balanced against the fact that his/her decisions and reaction times will have repercussions beyond just his own well-being.

As, for example, for the responsible and knowledgeable position of an experienced airlines pilot.  Retired Air Canada pilots George Vilven and Robert Kelley had appealed to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that their human rights under the Constitution were harmed as a result of contractual provisions forcing Air Canada pilots into retirement at age 60.

Some individuals are relatively 'young' at sixty, others are not - that's part of what makes them individuals.  Those whose reaction time and physical response has been slowed by the years may not realize just how heavily they have been impacted by the years, so the general provision of retirement at age 60 seems reasonable enough.  That is, to the hordes of people who travel by air, and would appreciate doing it safely, in the hands of pilots who not only know their trade, but are capable of responding in an alert manner.

It's a tough one, to be sure.  This is an occupation where training and experience are vital, and where, the more flying hours attained, presumably the more skilled in experience and reaction one is.  Working against that is the creeping paralysis of age, when physical and mental assets are impaired in many people to some inconsiderable degree, but considerable enough, perhaps, to limit the usefulness of continuing to responsibly fly.

The Federal Court of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal both upheld rulings favouring the pilots' contention of unfairness in their employment codes.  The Federal Court of Appeal, however, citing a landmark 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding mandatory retirement for university teachers not being in violation of the Charter of Rights having set a precedent, turned down the pilots' appeal.

The federal government's omnibus bill striking down mandatory retirement for federal employees, following the example set by the provinces and territories will not apply to almost a million employees, and pilots are among them. It has been pointed out that the employment picture, with the aging of the country, and a looming shortage of workers, has altered circumstances, making employment of older people more attractive.

Highly skilled people will always be employable.  But in the case of airline pilots, of whom there appears to be an excess in the marketplace, it seems far wiser to recognize that skills deteriorate with age, and there are certain functions that are critical to the safe operation of a passenger jet that may increasingly be beyond the functional capability of older pilots.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

 A Stronger Syria

"Today I tell you, Syria is stronger ...   In less than a week they were defeated (in Damascus) and the battle failed.  So they moved on to Aleppo and I assure you, their plots will fail."  Foreign Minister Walid Moualem

Minister Walid Moualem made his statements from Tehran.  Where he doubtless conferred with his country's major supporter, likely Syria's only supporter, aside from Hezbollah.  There is China and there is Russia, of course, but their support lies in the strategic fact that neither of those countries is enamoured with the very idea of any outside force interfering with the legitimate sovereignty of a country's interior situation.

And both of those countries, as suppliers of armaments and jealous of their hegemonic placement in the Middle East with its vast stores of fossil fuels, have their interests to tend to.  Their self-interests, however, are nowhere near as impressively vital as is Iran's in the potential outcome of this civil war that is wracking Syria.  The current administration is as close to secular in its governance as possible without abandoning its Islamic identity.

Many of its opposition are also secular minded, while of the Sunni sectarian demographic.  But far many more are both Sunni and religiously orthodox, deploring the secular aspects of the Alawite regime as un-Islamic and unsupportable.  The Muslim Brotherhood is present and accounted for among the opposition, prepared because of their majority status and longtime presence, along with their association with other branches of the Brotherhood, to reflect in Syria what has occurred in Egypt.

They have been complemented by members of al-Qaeda, and other Islamist Salafist groups eager to bring down the government and install their version of Islamic precepts and values where none now exist to their satisfaction.  Little wonder that there is no cohesion and co-operation between the political and the military groups each insisting they represent the major rebel factions.

Meanwhile, with Bashar al-Assad's government declaring its victory in retaking Damascus entirely, pounding the rebels, forcing them to retreat, and going street by street to roust supporters out of their homes, looking for rebels shielding their presence, they have been successful in reimposing themselves within the capital.  Aleppo is where the rebel fighters claim to be holding off the regime.

"I don't think the [Syrian] Army will come here.  We killed it before" said one of the rebels.  Yet they are there to face the regime, to bring themselves to battle again for its removal.  "If someone from the Free Army dies, we don't get said.  For sure they are in Paradise."  "We will not let the Syrian Army get into Salaheddin before we die", claimed another.

It is Aleppo that the regime must retake.  Damascus is important, but Aleppo is equally important, as the economic heart of the country, and with its more populous numbers.  Several hundred thousand of whom have fled the deepening battles, for other parts of the country not as unsafe, or for border areas where they hope their families will gain shelter.
“Those whose intentions are not for God, they had better stay home, whereas if your intention is for God, then you go for jihad and you gain an afterlife and heaven.”

Analysts and activists see jihadi groups now emerging, standing apart from the Free Syrian Army of local militias, army defectors, civilian volunteers.  Funding flowing to the opposition is arriving from donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region, from religious donors impelled by their Salafist leanings.  Rebel commanders in the area claim a total of 50,000 fighters, with 1,000 representing foreigners.  Shrugging off their significance.

A larger Muslim cause has emerged, however, alerting and attracting fighters representing various degrees of Islamism.  Among the Sunnis the Alawites represent a heretical offshoot of Shiite Islam.  Those who fought previously in Libya have moved on to Syria, much as the Islamists battling the Russians in Afghanistan later moved on to create al-Qaeda, as guests of Pakistan, later sheltered by the Taliban in Afghanistan, both supported by Pakistan's military and Intelligence service.

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Arms And Consequences

According to statistics compiled in 2007 the United States has the distinction of representing the country with the highest gun ownership rate in the world.  Gun ownership is enshrined in the American Constitution, noted as the Second Amendment and purportedly reflecting the country's frontier heritage.  An average of 88 people per hundred in the United States can proudly boast gun ownership. And Americans are generally proud of the place gun ownership has in their country.

The United States does have a reputation of gun homicides, held largely to be attributable to the number of guns in circulation.  Those responding to criticism from within by that demographic that supports a movement to curtailing gun ownership under the law - currently a state proposition, not a federal one - insist, like the National Rifle Association - a sturdy lobbying group with huge influence - that gun ownership is a right and an answer to public safety.

The worst firearm murder rates are in Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica.  The United States has a gun-murder rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people, despite its reputation as gun-unsafe.  In Guatemala, for example, where 13.1 per 100 citizens own guns, five thousand lost their lives, representing 34.81 gun-murder rate.  In South Africa where gun ownership is 12.7 per 100,000, 8,319 people were murdered by firearms.  Venezuela, with 10.7 per 100,000 ownership listed had 11,115 people killed by guns in 2007.

Countries like Cyprus, Norway, Austria, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Qatar, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Slovenia, Armenia, Estonia, Slovakia, Israel, Moldova, Maldives, Hungary, Turkmenistan, Mongolia, Lithuania, Romania, Japan and Singapore hardly rate a blip on the gun-murder scale.  Brazilians reflect an awfully large murder rate bouncing off their 8 per 100,000 gun ownership rate.  Venezuela is just as bad and Mexico is rated high along with Colombia.  The Philippines has a high gun-homicide rate as well.

People use gun ownership for a sense of personal protection in countries where self-defence is rated highly, where law and order and general population security is lacking.  When public security is at an ebb and people feel they must create their own defences, they insist on arming themselves.  Surprisingly enough, civilized countries like Italy and Argentina have quite high rates of gun homicide.  Turkey, where 12.5 out of 100 own guns, had 535 gun deaths in 2007, Armenia with the same rate of gun ownership had 9.

Gun ownership and the concomitant death by gunplay is a fairly accurate reflection of society, its customs and values and respect for human dignity and life.

Estonia had three gun deaths in reflection of the 9.2 per 100 gun ownership, while Costa Rica with 9.9 guns per 100 population had 201 deaths attributable to gunplay.  Egypt, with 3.5 guns per 100 people, registered 453 gun deaths, while the West Bank & Gaza with almost the very same gun ownership rate (3.4) had 105 deaths from guns.  Sierra Leone, with a 0.5 rate of ownership had 128 deaths, while Nepal with a 0.8 gun ownership rate had 84 deaths.

There are, simply put, parts of the world where violence is part of everyday life, and irrespective of the number of people who are armed, deaths result in alarmingly large numbers, while in other places where governments are represented at both ends of the scale - liberal democracies as opposed to strictly authoritarian - tells the tale in and of itself in the fact that firm government control and the social contract mitigate against gun violence.

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In solidarity with Israel, Italy holds Munich Olympics memorial

Over 30 members of the Italian delegation hold ceremony near the Israelis' quarters.

By Haaretz Sports Staff | Jul.30, 2012 | 4:50 AM

A member of the Italian team, fencer Diego Occhiuzzi.
A member of the Italian team, fencer Diego Occhiuzzi, after beating Romania's Rares Dumitrescu. Photo by AP

This story is by
Haaretz Sports Staff
Memorializing the Munich 11. Photo by AP

The Italian delegation to the 2012 London Olympiad made an emotional gesture at the Olympic village on Sunday by holding a minute of silence together with a number of Israeli representatives for the 11 victims of the 1972 Munich massacre.

Over 30 members of the Italian delegation - headed by Sports Minister Piero Gnudi, Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci and International Olympic Committee member Franco Carraro - held the ceremony near the Israelis' quarters.

Israel was represented by Zvi Varshaviak, chairman of the Olympic Committee of Israel; Efraim Zinger, head of the Olympic delegation; shooter Sergey Richter on behalf of the athletes; and Guy Strik on behalf of the coaches.

Varshaviak said the gesture was beautiful and moving. "It's a brave sign of solidarity and friendship between the Olympic family of Italy and that of Israel, which has continued for many years," he said.
Zinger thanked the Italians and explained to them that his committee is doing everything to memorialize the 11 Munich victims as Israelis. However, he said, it is important to remember that they were also Olympic athletes, coaches and judges who were murdered during at the Olympics.

"Therefore they are children of the Olympic movement and in our opinion it is the moral obligation of the International Olympic Committee to find a suitable way to perpetuate their memory," Zinger added.

As published online at Haaretz, 30 July 2012

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Syrian Web

Hamas is no longer in the Iran/Syria/Hezbollah fold.  Its leadership has taken umbrage against the Shia/Alawite-led attacks on the Syrian-Sunni population.  Hamas is now cut off from Iranian funding.  No problem, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is prepared to take up the slack.  Hamas, after all, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, they make a more natural fit of affinity.

And Hamas has other, additional allies in Turkey and Qatar, both of which have begun funding Hamas.  Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan feels Hamas represents a sterling Islamic government, worthy of support.  All this support may just go to Hamas's head, encouraging it to embark on a new wave of 'resistance' against the Israeli 'occupiers' of Palestine.

On the other hand, Syria's allies in Lebanon have soulfully dedicated their well-armed and -trained militias to the ongoing support and control of Syria by President Bashar al-Assad.  Hezbollah is grateful to Syria for its faithful support and provision of arms, enabling it to assume control of Lebanon, in place of the occupation and control once exerted overtly by Syria.

The pairing of Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon effectively created a puppet state with the Lebanese occupied by a foreign presence, overseen by Iran.  Iran would find itself in a strategically awkward position with the loss of Syrian support in the case of a successful Sunni-led revolution removing the Alawite regime from power. 

"Hezbollah is at a point of enormous strategic uncertainty.  [Syria's uprising] is not an existential threat, they are too well armed.  But now they face a threat from two sides", a Western diplomat in Lebanon informed Reuters, in reference to a potentially hostile post-Assad Syria and Israel.  "What is happening now is fateful for them.  They do not have a choice; they are with the regime until the last minute.  This is a strategic alliance between Iran and Syria and they are part of it."

For its part, Turkey sees Iranian influnce waning in Iraq and is determined to move in, following the departure of President al-Assad. "Thus, just as the Iranians are in retreat, the Turks have an interest in, if not supplanting them, certainly supplementing them", with plans for pipelines in Iraq's oil fields in the south and in the north.

But all is not prospective sweetness and light for Turkey with the issues now broiling away in Syria.  Turkey's fears with the rise of Syrian Kurds and the prospect for them to involve themselves with the Kurdistan Workers Party terror group may yet prove destabilizing within Turkey. "The Turks will play a very key role in what type of post-Assad state exists in Syria ..."

Iran's concerns remain with its power of balance in maintaining its sphere of influence from Western Afghanistan to Lebanon.  "First, the wide-reaching sphere of influence they were creating clearly won't happen now. Second, Iran will rapidly move from being an ascendant power to a power on the defensive", according to an analyst with Stratfor, the U.S. global intelligence firm.

Iran's decline as a waning power would impact on Iraqi politicians to deflect Iranian influence in the country.  Iran's investment of troops, weapons and resources in the Alawite Assad regime will have been a well-planned and dependably-organized opportunity lost.

As for Israel, as fraught as its relationship has been with Syria rumbling its determination to launch another war with Israel if the Golan Heights are not returned, there was a standoff between the two; despite the belligerence, there was no matching action and an uneasy truce prevailed. 

"But the possibility of either an Islamist regime in Damascus or, more likely, Lebanese-style instability cannot please the Israelis", according to Stratfor's George Friedman.

"A change of regime, and certainly to a militant one, would not be to Israel's advantage, especially if the new Syrian regime would try to 'warm up' the border with Israel in order to divert public opinion from domestic problems", explained Jacques Neriah, former foreign policy advisor to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

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New Inspirational Thrills

"It's a new sort of variable in our trying to understand young people and criminal behaviours and violent behaviours."  Raymond Corrado, criminologist, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

Home made clips playing out on YouTube, popular with the younger set.  A new Canadian study suggests an already serious arson problem in society among young people is becoming a popular new past time for bored youth.  The report states a growing number of kids in the arson prevention program for children at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health report having watched videos.

They're being compared, these short and graphic videos of kids spraying accelerants on one another, then lighting matches, to the phenomenon of online recordings of fights and other types of violence that have also been finding large audiences among young people. Causing those who work with problem kids to be concerned about a "contamination" effect.

Scientists have recently published a paper in the Journal of Adolescent Health.  Juvenile fire settings and arson are becoming a growing problem in society.  Little reported on, but the results causing great harm to those involved and by extension society at large.  Fires deliberately set in places of residence that cause injury and death.

These, apart from the fires set by young and curious kids under age six playing with matches and lighters, unobserved by care-tenders, and representing in part 'normal' dangerous types of activities that curious young children have always engaged in.  These are different.

American authorities claim child fire starters to be behind 56,300 of blazes reported to American fire departments from 2005 to 2009.  Those fires resulted in 110 civilian deaths, 880 injuries and $268-million in property damage.  Half of the children were five years old or younger, as reported by the Juvenile Fire Starter Intervention Program located in Illinois.

Children over five years of age often act out as a result of emotional or mental disturbances.  These are children who are often deleteriously impacted in their lives as a result of parental divorce, death or innumerable crises disrupting their lives.  The Toronto authors of the article published in the Journal of Adolescent Health conducted an on-line search.

"Fire, fun" turned up 27,200 clips for them to peruse, 50 of which they examined closely.  Three quarters of those were comprised of "completely inappropriate" fire-related behaviours.  Such as a video with boys spraying an aerosol accelerant on their clothing; the crotch of one boy; and then setting their clothing afire. 

In 16% of the clips, someone was set on fire; 10% resulting in suspected injuries.

The popularity of the videos speak for themselves; one third viewed over ten thousand times, 8% with over 100,000 hits.  So, where is parental oversight?  "It's just brought it more out in the open, more people share it whereas when I was a kid, if someone did something bad, it was a very small group that saw it", explained chief of the Langley Township fire department in B.C.

"You worry about the ones who are on the borderline.  Does this inspire them?"

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That Nation's Capital

During elections politicians focused on their potential to win, will say almost anything to influence their listeners that they represent the right person at the right time for the job.  The incumbent had his chance and as chance had it, solutions to problems that this candidate sees clear, simply eluded the current holder of the position in question.  All too often some of the promises represent a kind of political dynamite, far easier to enunciate than to implement.

Two days after Joe Clark was sworn in as prime minister of Canada in 1979 he announced his government's plans to move Canada's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  This was in fulfilment of a promise he had made during the election.  Quite the national and international fuss erupted; Canadian diplomats at what was then the Department of External Affairs anticipated a disaster in the making as Arab and Muslim countries' reaction.

Which would harm Canada's international reputation, since no country in the world other than Israel recognizes Jerusalem as the nation's capital, due to similar claims over "al Quds" by the Arab and Islamic world.  This is one of the most disputed territories in the world.  As far as Joe Clark was concerned, he felt it a legitimate move in recognition of the recent peace accord signed between Israel and Egypt.

He was soon enough brought up short in his perception when the Egyptian ambassador to Canada stated: "This move by Canada is going to put lots of obstacles and spill gas on the existing flames, which is not going to help the peace settlement in the area", according to Hassan Fahmy.  The Government of Canada realized, belatedly, the penalties involved in proceeding: the loss of oil imports, international contracts and credibility.

If the United States were indeed to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a different kind of reaction would result.  It has much less to lose than Canada did thirty years ago.  It has the kind of international authority that Canada has never had.  Although the United Nations does not recognize and will not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital thanks to the influence of the Arab/Muslim bloc, the United States could act unilaterally. 

In doing so, it could move its support for and relationship with Israel beyond dispute.

It would also have the effect of encouraging other countries - although they would likely represent a handful of the international community - of finally recognizing Israel's heritage and place in the Middle East.  All other Arab and Muslim countries have their capitals, and no one disputes them or challenges them for that right to declare their capitals. 

The current Conservative-led Government of Canada has been refreshingly forthright in its support for the State of Israel and the people of Israel.  It has defended its right to exist in the Middle East, and its right to respond to forceful violence to protect itself and its people.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Cabinet have all stated their support for Israel, despite claims of alienating its neighbours.

Canada has traditionally, conventionally, followed in the footsteps of the United States in the international arena, as a neighbour, a trading partner, and an ally.  Perhaps it hadn't yet occurred to Prime Minister Harper to make the leap, and initiate a focus within the international community on Israel's right to declare its capital.  It's possible that were the United States to do so, Canada would follow, in solidarity with both the U.S. and Israel.

When Jerusalem was under the control of other Middle East countries not all people representing different ethnicities and religions were permitted to access their historical, treasured places of worship; Jews were forbidden to approach what the Arabs claim to be their third-most-sacred place, and what Jews declare to represent the most sacred and treasured symbol of their heritage: The Temple Mount.

In 1995 the United States passed a law acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, paving the way for the U.S. embassy to move there from Tel Aviv.  Since then a succession of presidents has side-lined the issue by signing waivers in suspension of that law.  On his current visit to Israel, challenger for the presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney spoke of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, pledging to move the U.S. embassy if he became president.

"A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel's capital.  I think it's long been the policy to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital of Jerusalem", he said in an interview with CNN.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life - and - Death

"When people are well they tend to choose death over disability.  But when people get sicker, they adapt to disability and they still find quality in life, and they have trouble then saying, 'No, I'm not prepared to die'."  Dr. Romayne Gallagher, palliative care expert

None of us, actually, is prepared to die.  We trust in what we know so well.  We know life.  We have no idea what lies beyond life.  It is death, of course, the animate become inanimate.  Decay.  The corporeal essence becoming the dust of which it was created. And, of course, the illusion that the soul, the human mind, struggles on without the body encasing it.  Ascending to heaven.  Where the Heavenly Father gathers His flock.

Or, of course, not.  Or, in the case of nothing, nothing.  Bleak, black, vast, nothing.  A chasm of non-existence.  Unfathomable to the human mind.  It is rejected.  It is the realm of which we know nothing at all.  But of which we hazard many a suspicion.  Knowing nothing, we seek to forestall the inevitability of death, striving to forget it is inevitable.

Longevity is desired.  Life without end.  The purpose of life then becomes to endure.  Quality of life which we strive to achieve throughout the years of our lives becomes a quality that loses its own endurance, but not its appeal.  Quality of life most certainly is not demonstrated when the body has succumbed to the years that have worn out its practical existence.

When we are hospitalized through the emergency of no longer being capable of performing normal bodily functions.  When we are connected to an artificial ventilator, unable to swallow, to talk or breathe on our own.  Tube-fed then.  Resuscitated if the heart stops.  Existing in a medicated, sedated state.  The body, frail and insubstantial, manually turned in the hospital bed for relief, and fed for sustenance.

If consciousness prevails then so too does pain and suffering and acute depression.  Anxiety and guilt about our loved family members.  The knowledge that how we are suffering, the extent to which we are being manipulated and forced to endure the unendurable in the name of 'extending life' has become an intolerable torment for our families.

Who, later, when that body has been laid to rest, will recall the horror of those end days, and not the miracle of life enjoyed when everyone was in good health and loving one another, appreciating each other's presence, despite the exigencies of life and relations that sometimes become strained.

Patients suffering from severe health decline whether due to agedness or recurrent bouts of implacable disease or chronic ill health, are suddenly faced with the intolerable thought of what next?  Confused and upset they are in no state to be questioned by the attending medical professionals.  Asked what their preferences are under those circumstances they are incapable of responding. 

Willing to leave such decisions in the hands of the medical professionals whom they trust.  And those medical practitioners, embracing the 'do no harm' principle that guides their profession, look to the solutions that have been established through the mediums of advances in medical science and the huge leaps in medical technology - all of them geared to prolonging life.

The code that nature has written into the destiny blueprint of all living things, from gigantic powerful suns revolving in the galaxies of the firmament, to the merest minuscule amoeba, is the will to survive and to continue existing.  Until choice is removed and other forces make the decision that define their ends.  Fighting death, battling the natural evolution of life, the primeval drama of defeating death when the final chapter is part of life.

Heroic means are taken to maintain life.  Cardiopulmonary resuscitation at end-of-life scenarios is not benign, but violent.  It can lead to broken ribs, punctured lungs and a resulting high rate of stroke and serious brain injuries, with slim survival odds.  "The chance of being resuscitated when you're terminally ill with cancer is like one in 100,000.  The chance of making it out of hospital is zero", says Dr. Larry Librach, director of the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto.

"We're going to have to come to terms with the notion that death is inevitable.  Clearly, for all of us, there is ultimately going to be something that can't be cured", says Dr. Robert Fowler, associate professor in the departments of medicine and critical care medicine at the University of Toronto, critical care doctor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

These health professionals have experience, and expert knowledge in their profession.  They know that they, just as all the others that they see and they examine and they treat, are vulnerable to the very same unavoidable end-of-life scenarios, and that they will have to deal with them on their own behalf, just as surely as they do for their patients.

And then there are those health professionals whose concerns are the amelioration of pain and suffering, the guidance toward acceptance, and even forestalling the inevitable to eke out a few more months of life.  Like Dr. Romayne Gallagher who still sees value in holding out hope, because nothing is instant and inevitably immediate; there are reversals that obtain time for those willing to hold out a little and continue savouring life.

"From the physician's point of view, if you're advocating a treatment plan and then start talking about death and dying, a lot of physicians have felt in the past that they may actually be depressing the patient, or influencing them, or making them upset needlessly - because it's not a topic that can be discussed when people are unwell without a considerable amount of emotion", explains CMA president Dr. John Haggie.

People are obliged to themselves and to their families to discuss these uncomfortable and emotion-draining topics. With all the uncertainties involved. When they are well.  When they can be rational and not pressed for time, or in pain and feeling desperate for a solution.  To give instructions to be followed under certain circumstances.  Whether to commence, continue or withhold extraordinary life-prolonging treatments.

It takes the wisdom of Solomon to be able to judge oneself and one's tolerance: life or death is not the issue; it is life and death that is.

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As The World Turns....

And so it was that on the 27th day of the 7th month of the year 2012 a spectacular was staged in the great, historic city of London, England, bringing once again to that world-famed stage the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Fireworks ignite over the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27 at Olympic Park. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Fireworks ignite over the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics

The grandeur of tradition prevailed as opening ceremonies introduced the world audience of an estimated three billion people watching via satellite television, with 80,000 present on site, as, among other introductions to the event, William Blake's historic poem, "Jerusalem", transcribed to music by Hubert Penny was played to great acclaim. 

Jerusalem, the world's most famous religious crucible, is symbolic in so many ways at this 2012 Olympics.  The BBC, the official broadcaster for the London Olympics overlooked history, heritage and tradition, to gratuitously link it to the Palestinians as their capital, totally ignoring its reality as the capital of the State of Israel, later altering their fanciful alteration of fact and history, clumsily and shamefully.

IOC President Jacques Rogge on July 21, warned, ahead of the opening of this 30th of the Olympic Summer Games that athletes may face the prospect of punishment should they refuse to compete against a rival on the basis of nationality.  This warning was initiated in the wake of rumours that some Egyptians were giving consideration to the option of refusing to compete against Israelis.

Jordan's Prince Feisal Bin Al-Hussein, a member of the International Olympic Committee, has stated that any kind of boycott would be most unhelpful.  This is, after all, an international in-gathering of the cream of athletic prowess, represented by 203 nations of the world sending their elite athletes to compete in hopes of garnering the crown of achievement in their sport. 

This represents an event meant to bring nations together in a universal celebration of athletic excellence.  And the common humanity of mankind.

Paradoxically, while both Jordan and Egypt have historically signed peace treaties with Israel, Egypt now under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood is abrogating many aspects of their treaty with Israel, while Jordan which has threatened to do so in the past, continues to uphold at least the letter of the peace-treaty expectations.

"I appreciate for some people it will be (boycott as an instrument of rejection of Israel, as an option among Arab/Muslim countries) but I don't think boycotts do anything or any good for anybody", said Prince Feisal from his accommodation at London's Grosvenor House hotel.  Morally he is quite correct, but his reaction does not reflect reality.

Reality is represented by what happens on the ground.  And reality is that Olympics officials were placed in the awkward position of having to erect a screen between Lebanon's and Israel's judo fighters.  The Lebanese athletes, when they sighted their Jewish counterparts stated unequivocally that they would not train beside the Israelis.

It cannot have but helped Arab truculence and aversion to appearing publicly beside Israelis when the IOC and Jacques Rogge refused up to the very last moment and beyond, to acknowledge and defer to public demands from a huge variety of sources - not the least the State of Israel whose athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists during 1972's Munich game, nor the wives of the murdered Israelis, nor the numerous international heads of state who sought to intervene, nor the hundred-thousand signatories.

The one minute of respectful silence during opening ceremonies to mark that horrendous event was not forthcoming. Fear of offending any of the 50 participating Arab or Muslim-majority nations proved more powerful an incentive not to accede, than the moral decency that might have inclined them to agree that a moment of silence was a requirement to expunge the stench of atrocity from Olympics tolerance.

Tolerance is not a word that can be usefully or truthfully applied to the world of Islam.  Which is intolerant, institutionally, of other religions, and most specifically of Judaism's existence within the Middle East.  The rage within the Islamic world at Israel's perch within a geography held to be consecrated to Islam is unappeasable. 

The slaughter of eleven Israeli athletes represented a symbolic action on a world stage to annihilate all of Israel.

In the end, Israel's Mossad hunted down and extinguished the lives of all those held to have been involved in the atrocity.  That, to the Arab world, represents the true tragedy, the dedication of Israel to look after its own in the full knowledge that no one else will.  That, to the Arab world, is the issue that should be memorialized, the elimination bu the State of Israel of her tormentors.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

 A Difficult Coup From Inside

 "Every day some more fighters come from the villages...  We just want to defend these places [in Aleppo], so let God bless us.  The regime does a lot of shelling at night to make people afraid, to destroy buildings and kill more people - to make people curse the FSA... they say: 'You come here, and now the bombs come' - so we try to protect people. But we need weapons, more weapons, from any country."

And in anticipation of a bloodbath in Aleppo, with the regime forces determined to wipe out the rebels entirely and restore Aleppo to its former status, people are leaving, taking with them as many of their possessions as they can, filling trucks with refrigerators, televisions, whatever they can stuff into them.  Planning to cross the border to Turkey, or to stop at villages in northern Syria where conflict doesn't rage.

Aleppo hasn't always supported the uprising.  Its neighbourhoods of two and a half million people are split between government supporters and those who support the opposition.  Because of the anticipation of a huge defining confrontation looming on the near horizon between rebels and beefed-up government troops, more rebels are entering the city.

From outside the country it looks increasingly like a massacre will take place in Aleppo. Tank columns are moving on the city, air strikes by helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft represent an escalation in the battle to crush a rebellion with rebels armed with the most elemental of weapons in contrast to a military equipped with heavy artillery.

Because of its position close to the Turkish border where foreign fighters are claimed to be joining the opposition, Aleppo is seen to be of strategic importance to both antagonists.  Hezbollah has stated that it is prepared to send thousands of its men to Syria to aid President al-Assad, should the conflict become enlarged with the entry of foreign forces.

Former Brig.-Gen. Manaf Tlas, a former member of al-Assad's trusted inner circle who defected weeks earlier has informed the Asharq Al-Awsat daily in Saudi Arabia that he sees no future for al-Assad in Syria.  He blames the president's intransigence and brutality on close advisers whom he warned al-Assad against, to little avail.

He is in Saudi Arabia to ask for assistance in the creation of a new Syria.  "The structure and system of the regime makes a coup from inside very difficult", he explained.  And perhaps that is his way of claiming that he had no option but to flee, that although he made an effort to stop President al-Assad from his current destructive course, it useless.

Strange thing about all these high-level defections, of Sunni generals and diplomats and former confidants of the Alawite president; they supported and were part of his elite entourage to their great benefit, and only abandoned him, despite the divide between Alawite/Shia and Sunni, when it looked increasingly as though the regime would falter and fall.

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Option Them Out

"The Monitoring Group has confirmed that the collection of such taxes routinely involves threats, harassment and intimidation against the individual concerned or relatives in Eritrea.  Eritrea has failed to comply with Security Council resolutions and remains a destabilizing influence throughout much of the region." 

Eritrea represents one of the world's least developed of countries, it is a one-party state with a population of six million people, ranked last by the group Reporters Without Borders for press freedom.  The country has no formal economy and remains dependent on 'taxation' of its diaspora population living abroad for income.

This informal kind of 'taxation', of Eritreans living outside the country, having escaped the repressive regime that oppressed and circumscribed their lives, infuriates Eritreans who sometimes find they have little option but to submit to the extortion, under threat of reprisals from the government, visiting harm on family members still living in Eritrea.

The country has a consulate operating out of Toronto.  It is through that office, operated by Semere Ghebremariam Micael, that contact with Eritrean-Canadians is made and the 'taxation' overtures are made.  The UN report outlining the way in which Eritrea has continued to violate a UN Security Council embargo on Eritrea and Somalia points to the regime continuing to "harbor, train and equip" armed groups.

Military officials have been found to be trafficking migrants and weapons into Sudan and the Middle East.  Eritrea has given assistance to Somalian jihadists, Al Shabaab, linked to al-Qaeda.  "Eritrea has failed to comply with Security Council resolutions and remains a destabilizing influence throughout much of the region", according to the UN report.

An Eritrean activist, Ghezae Hagos along with other rights campaigners has written to the Canada Border Service Agency with the complaint that members of the Eritrean military are planning to visit Toronto and Calgary to raise funds.  The funds ostensibly to be used for social programs, but funding arms purchases for the military.

UN investigators who visited Canada discovered that the consulate in Toronto was busily collecting taxes for the specific purpose of the Eritrean military.  One can only wonder what CSIS and the RCMP have been so busy doing that they appear to have missed this one. 

That it takes UN 'investigators' to uncover this kind of extreme irregularity and not Canada's security establishment.... Even if the lead investigator is a Canadian, Matt Bryden.

"The answer is clear: Close the Eritrean consulate in Toronto.  That is the sponsor of extortion, fraudulent fundraisers and violator of Canadian laws and international obligations", says Ghezae Hagos.

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The IOC's Shame

Jacques Rogge and the International Olympic Committee had their opportunity to prove to the world that they do indeed care for the memory of those who died forty years ago in an atrocity that in 1972 they failed to give adequate concern toward.  The IOC's determination not to let any irritating little event interfere with the Munich games ensured that they continued despite the violent tragedy that took eleven Israeli Olympians from the competition and from life.

Mr. Rogge bent so far as to make a concession a week ago, in a well-thought-out and -expressed memorial statement at the Athletes Village in London where a relative handful of people witnessed the event.  Yet he steadfastly has refused to do the same, along with a 60-second moment of silence in respect of the Israeli athletes whom Palestinian terrorists targeted and slaughtered in Munich for the London opening ceremonies.

The Olympics are meant to represent disparate countries coming together in peace and goodwill, respecting the physical, athletic attributes of fine athletic performers representing the cream of each nation's young peoples' endeavours to succeed in their ultimate sport of choice.  That standard of human decency was irremediably soiled when Black September stormed the Munich Olympics.

One might think that Mr. Rogge and the other members of the IOC would be anxious to finally put the dread memory of the event to rest with respect and profound regret at the carnage.  They have consistently refused, despite the weight of public opinion, the entreaties of the widows of the murdered athletes, the heads of numberless countries and petition signatories insisting on a brief one-minute memorial.

Missing from the roster of those around the world hoping for the IOC to finally see reason has been the Arab League, and most notably the Palestinians.  An Israeli-Arab MK, Hanin Zoabo in fact, insists that there should be a minute of silence for Palestinian Authority Arabs, killed by Israel; to balance the appeal for a minute of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered in Munich.

"If Israel would say that it recognizes the injustice it has done to the Palestinians, then it would also make sense to demand that the world remember all sides.  But it is hypocritical to keep mentioning the victims of 40 years ago while Israel is trying to hide the [Arab] victims of recent years."  Palestinians have completely politicized and poisoned the atmosphere, indicting Israel irrespective of the matter at hand.

The tradition of blaming Israel for the Palestinian leaders' own inability to come to terms with a situation they they have themselves created completely blind-sides them to any issues in which they are culpable, refusing to admit even to themselves that they have failed their own futures abysmally.  The incendiary hatred and blame targeting Israel for all the ills of the Arab world will never abate.

In this issue of the Olympics Games and the relationship between nations and their athletes, pressure placed upon the IOC by Arab bloc influence, power, outreach and wealth dominates the agenda.  The IOC, completely immersed in its commercial legacy, focused on its trademark ability to make money, is far less concerned with the honour and the courage of its conviction.

A statement by the Palestinian representative to the IOC delineates quite neatly the position of the IOC itself, while encapsulating the corrupt hypocrisy of the Palestinian/Arab position, reflecting that of the IOC itself.

“Sports are a bridge for love, communication and the spreading of peace between nations and should not be used for divisiveness and the spread of racism”
Jibril Rajoub, Palestinian Olympic Committee head & ex-Fatah senior official's outrageous denunciation of calls for a minute of silence for the Munich 11

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Oh, And By The Way . . . 

Don't we trust our federal agencies, and why should we not? 

They work under strict guidelines for safety and security, when they are entrusted with the safe-keeping of radioactive nuclear substances, for example, like the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.  And then some news hound discovers that through an instance of rather disconcerting inattention, this very agency overlooked securing a potentially dangerous radioactive material, and simply forgot it.

It was 'mislaid'.  Attention was obviously elsewhere.  How does one forget to maintain control over a substance well known to be dangerous to human health?  A substance, moreover, that malign forces would be only too glad to obligingly take out of the casual hands of those tasked to ensure its safe-keeping. 

We are informed, the reading public, that through a rather egregious instance of forgetfulness a supply of cesium was misplaced.
"The CNSC takes safety seriously.  We will continue to investigate this event to identify and correct the gaps that led to this lapse in inventory control.  ...at no time was there a risk to the health or safety of CNSC staff or the general public...."

CNSC officials happened to be in the process of conducting a routine demonstration using a radioactive material, cesium-137 on the 14th floor of 280 Slater Street in Ottawa.  Summer students were being taught how to locate hidden radioactive material with the use of radiation detection equipment.  Demonstration over, the material remained in the meeting room.

Until it was discovered three weeks later by people setting up the meeting room for another purpose.  Radiation protection staff were called in to secure the substance, and to remove it.  Under other circumstances, CNSC refers to cesium-137 as a "high risk radioactive nuclear substance", governed by the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.

CNSC refers to cesium-137 in this safety-first manner when it disciplines companies for slip-ups in the handling of the substance, and when embarking upon a disciplinary ruling, in respect of the IAEA's code of conduct requiring CNSC to track the location and possession of all high-risk sealed sources, such as the substance that they had themselves mislaid.

"The CNSC holds itself to the same high safety standard as it would for its licensees.  CNSC is currently reviewing its internal procedures to prevent a similar situation."  This is not to be considered a serious breach of safety guidelines; the agency stressed that the Cesium-137 in question represented a very low-risk quantity of nuclear substance.

An independent energy consultant explained that the substance is highly controlled: "One of the safety requirements for licensees using this stuff is that people who are potentially exposed to it must wear disometers, which are devices that measure their exposure", for without the use of such a meter it is difficult to determine whether an unhealthy dose of radiation may have affected someone.

Good thing Canadians can rely on the sobriety and efficiency of such a professional organization as the CNSC, to keep us safe and secure when it comes to the use of such dangerous substances.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Again And Again

The world watches, aghast, as Syria's President Bashar al-Assad sticks to his helicopter gunships, his artillery, his tanks, with strict instruction to his generals to wipe out the opposition that has entrenched itself within Aleppo.  And once there are enough corpses to satisfy the need to believe that the insurrection has been halted, the Shabiha can do their part, as they've done elsewhere, going door to door in enclaves believed to shelter the rebels, rooting them out; the armed and unarmed civilians alike.

As for the rebels, proud of what they have accomplished, most particularly their amazingly daring coup, having been capable of penetrating the very innermost secure areas of Damascus, to set explosives to eliminate President al-Assad's military inner circle (presumably saving his brother for another opportunity), they have withdrawn, wisely under the circumstances of superior firepower and troops, to reassemble in Aleppo.

The rebels are spoken of as a united opposition and they are not, representing instead an assortment of disaffected ideological cabals all of whom share a hatred for the Alawite regime, most of whom share little else but a wish to rid the country of President al-Assad and his ruling entourage.  Infiltrated among the disparate groups the largest of which appears to be the Muslim Brotherhood, are also Salafists, rabid Islamists of all types, including members of al-Qaeda.

So, what will be accomplished with the ouster of President al-Assad, other than chaos and a settling of scores when the fanatical Sunni gain the upper hand and look for revenge?  The result will be a mass slaughter of those who fear the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and his protection of the Kurds, the Druze, the Christian Syrians.  Their support for the regime alone will mark them as enemies of the opposition.

Their ethnic, religious, tribal differentiation in addition will mark them for elimination by the advancing Sunni religious extremists for whom deviations from what they consider the only acceptable religious norm represents an abomination to Islam.  They have not, even though they all aspire to remove the regime, seen fit to co-ordinate their efforts, their resources, their aspirations.  They suspect one another's motivations and possibly for good reason.

Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, once a close friend of President al-Assad, part of his trusted inner circle, and one of the most senior defectors, claims to be determined to unite the fragmented opposition within and without Syria to prepare a roadmap for the transfer of power.  "I am discussing with ... people outside Syria to reach a consensus with those inside", he confided to the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
"I left [Syria] ... to try to help the best I can to unite the honourable people inside and outside Syria to set out a road map to get Syria out of this crisis.  I realize this is a difficult phase...  It's difficult for one person to bear the responsibility of such a phase.  A group (including opposition) from inside and outside Syria should co-operate to accomplish this phase."
Thus far squabbles between the various ideologies represented in the Syrian National Council have demonstrated they are unable to agree between themselves, much less have much of an impact on the militias calling themselves the Free Syrian Army, themselves incapable of co-ordinating.  The need for a transitional administration as a stopgap government if Bashar al-Assad is toppled is paramount.

But the international community no longer looks to the presumed legitimacy of the Syrian National Council.  The factions within have been unable to agree on leadership goals and priorities.  They have made little effort to reach out to minorities in an inclusive in-gathering.  The various Syrian opposition groups quite simply feel no compulsion to cohesion as a practical first step.

As the international face of the revolution, it has failed to garner even the respect of the Free Syrian Army. The SNC has disillusioned their international interlocutors by their inability to demonstrate "altruism, reaching out to others, broadening the base....  They've not been able to" demonstrate those qualities.  "...it's all about egos, who gets to shine, who gets the senior position", according to one European diplomat.

"If you ask the question, 'Is there more they could have done to be effective, the answer should be an emphatic yes'."  Meanwhile, the practical measures undertaken within the war zone that Syria has become, with the rebels exploiting the "narrow streets of the old city, where the regime cannot use its tanks, and industrial areas, where we can find many places of shelter", describes the new strategy on the ground.

The Free Syrian Army rebels are battling in several areas of Aleppo, including the world heritage site of the Old City.  A defector from the regular army, now fighting with the rebels, Gen. Manaf al-Filistini, has predicted a months-long guerrilla war in Aleppo.  "Aleppo is very strategic for the regime and they will not give it up.  We have to fight rolling battles with shifting targets.  They will send additional forces again and again."

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Tempest In An OilPatch

"My basic request is for Alberta and Canada to come to the table and sit down with British Columbia and work to figure out how we can resolve this.  If that's going to cause such a big problem that there are trade barriers, there is a very easy way to solve that - no pipeline."  B.C. Premier Christy Clark

"Royalties from Alberta citizens are off the table.  It doesn't mean we're not going to talk...  We're very happy to talk but we're not going to talk about Alberta royalties.  The premier of Alberta is not going to blink on royalties."  Alberta Premier Alison Redford

Is it a female thing?  Each setting out to prove she is capable of muscular disturbance of the family compact?  Talking tough.  Throwing their electoral weight around.  While the men sit back and goggle. 

Alberta's good fortune in the oil patch is in fact, Canada's good fortune in economic advantage to all the provinces.  Especially those provinces that garner equalization payments, and largely from Alberta.  Other than which there is also trickle-down in other provinces whose industries are advantaged by Alberta energy sources.

The Northern Gateway pipeline itself?  It doesn't truly await Premier Clark's approval.  This is federal territory.  The National Energy Board is in the process of hearings, after which it will pronounce whether or not to proceed, subject to cabinet input.  Of course the current Conservative-led federal government sources electoral support from British Columbia.

There's enough friendly blackmail to go around, here.  Premier Clark is playing to her own electorate, however, viewing an election on the near horizon.  Pushing aside the not-inconsiderable sum of nearly $7-billion her province is set to garner for the pipeline to the British Columbia coastline, any expense entailed in building it is not B.C.'s.

Nor would potential clean-up of spills be an economic disaster to the province.  Since the federal government calls for raising the limit on liability for damages to ensure that industry has in its kitty set aside sufficient funds "to fully cover a major response without requiring public money."  Industry must be prepared also to fund land-based spill management.

"...Those sectors [the oil and gas industry] must be responsible for all related mitigation and response costs."  Sounds fairly airtight.  So, not to worry.  The risks will all be supported by industry through federal legislation.

Premier Clark is adamant; no pay, no go.  "I'm only trying to get B.C.'s fair share.  If Alberta doesn't decide they want to sit down and engage, the project stops."  

Section 109 of the Constitution through the federal-provincial Natural Resources Transfer Agreements of 1930 grants the provinces jurisdiction over "Lands, Mines, Minerals, and Royalties", but it also permits provincial governments to make their own deals.

Premier Clark is prepared to deal, Premier Redford is not.  It's a classical tempest in an oilpatch.  Whose oil is it, anyway?

"To characterize this entire discussion as being about the royalties that flow to Alberta, I don't think is constructive and I don't think it's in the best interests of Canada.  It's not for Alberta to enhance British Columbia's economic benefit", complains Premier Redford.

So the $5.5-billion Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to carry oilsands crude from northern Alberta to the port of Kitimat  to enable shipment to Asia once environmental and fiscal considerations are dealt with has had a spanner tossed into the works.

Premier Clark isn't happy that Alberta, where that precious natural resource resides, will generate $81-billion in provincial and federal tax revenue over 30 years.  And British Columbia, the step-sister in the family, receiving a mere $6.7-billion (8.2%) for land-lease.


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Egypt's President Insulted Over Video: 'The Children are Ready'

by Hana Levi Julian Egyptian President Upset 'The Children are Ready'

Arab media are expressing the view that an innocent video prepared to mark a holy Jewish fast day was actually secretly intended as an insult to newly-elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

The video produced by the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, was featured by Arutz Sheva in an article about the somber day of Tisha B'Av, the ninth day in the Hebrew month of Av, when both the First and Second Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Although the day this year falls on Saturday, because it is the Sabbath, the fast is delayed and does not begin until sundown. It continues through the next day, Sunday.

The dramatic video has gone viral in just a few days. It depicts children on the beach building a beautiful model of the still-to-come and hoped-for Third Holy Temple out of sand, and calling their father to come look. It concludes with a message to adults, “The children are ready.”

Morsi has allegedly complained over a brief segment in which the father, seeing the edifice his children have built, drops his newspaper in surprise. The paper falls and folds to show a blurred image of Morsi’s face, which the Egyptians obviously felt was intended to symbolize Jewish attempts to curb Islamist aspirations for complete dominance of the Temple Mount - a central theme of Morsi's campaign. Morsi was backed by his Muslim Brotherhood party, which dominated both houses of the Egyptian parliament before it was dissolved by a constitutional order of the High Court.

The Temple Institute denies that the picture was intentional, saying that Morsi figured in many articles during the time the video was filmed and that the picture of his face on that page of the newspaper was entirely coincidental. The Institute added that neither Morsi nor Egypt is part of the story line of the video. The appearance of an article about him on the page that day was not by intent.

The video, released six days ago, has drawn almost 200,000 views, as well as the attention of several Arabic language news outlets.

The Islamic Waqf Authority, the Muslim organization to which authority over the Temple Mount was given by then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan after the 1967 Six Day War, has been systematically attempting to destroy all vestiges of Jewish presence on the holy site.

Radical Islamists -- and particularly those preaching from the Temple Mount in recent years -- have claimed that a Jewish Holy Temple never existed on the Mount, the site of the Holy of Holies where by Torah Law Jewish High Priests are the only ones allowed to enter.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 26 July 2012

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In Response to BBC's Map: Olympic Team Salutes Jerusalem

by Elad Benari In Response to BBC: Olympic Team Salutes Jerusalem

Israel’s Olympic team has decided to respond to the BBC’s assertion that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital, by preparing a video in which Israeli athletes are seen saying they are proud to represent Israel “and its capital Jerusalem.”

The British broadcast authority, which has often been charged with bias against Israel, has come under fire for listing “East Jerusalem” as the capital for the “Palestinian Olympic team" while leaving Israel listed without a capital.

After Israel and Jews around the world complained, the BBC partly corrected its mistake and stated that Israel’s "seat of government is Jerusalem" while still omitting Jerusalem as the capital. Just to get its point across, it added, "Most foreign embassies reside in Tel Aviv." 

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai has also come to the rescue in a YouTube video, in which he says that although his city is “one of the coolest cities in the world and Israel’s financial and cultural center, we are not Israel’s capital. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”

Huldai invited Britain’s Jews to visit Tel Aviv and enjoy its beaches and tourist sites. Putting aside the longtime contest  between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv residents over which is the better city, he stated categorically that after  tourists finish visiting all of the city’s attractions, “you are welcome to visit the historical and religious sites of the capital of Israel – Jerusalem."

As published online at ArutzSheva, 26 July 2012

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