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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Condemning Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro

"I would like to see the states from the G7 agreeing to refer the matter of crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court for a prospective investigation and prosecution."
"We have a persistent and pervasive culture of impunity finding expression in a massive assault on the rule of law [in Venezuela]."
"There is no independent judiciary. There is no independent prosecutors. There is no independent justice system."
"This is the archtypical example of why a reference is needed, as to why the ICC [International Criminal Court] was created."
"The testimony that we heard in our public hearings, of the graphic examples of torture and rape and imprisonment, and then the humanitarian crisis -- we can't forget that behind all these findings of fact and conclusions of law are suffering human beings. They need justice. They need relief."
Irwin Cotler, former Canadian Liberal Cabinet Minister, human rights lawyer, activist

"We are appalled, though not surprised, by the evidence the panel found supporting the allegation that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela."
"...It is because of the Maduro regime's ongoing abuse of its people and attacks on democracy that Canada has taken a series of punitive actions, including imposing targeted sanctions."
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland
Hungry, sick and increasingly desperate, thousands of Venezuelans are pouring into Colombia
Venezuelans cross the Simon Bolivar International Bridge into Colombia. (Fernando Vergara / Associated Press)
The legacy of Hugo Chavez, he of the infamous 'Bolivarian Revolution' using the Cuban revolutionary political model for his guide in socializing Venezuela and in the process setting it on the road to wrack and ruination, has been nicely completed by his chosen successor and protege, Nicolas Maduro, who like his predecessor, is determined to make common cause with those other models of statescraft and superior executive administration of a nation's affairs, taking cues from Iran, Cuba and North Korea.

Venezuela, a once-moderately well-off nation with vast oil resources and related revenues which Chavez as its long-time president sprinkled generously among his neighbours, providing free oil to Cuba and neighbours like Bolivia, neglected to use some of that largesse to upgrade infrastructure in the country, including oil extraction facilities and to build refineries for that oil. Corruption and mismanagement in the extreme have resulted in a breakdown of all the normal parameters of civil administration resulting in critical medical and food and energy shortages.

Like Zimbabwe, under its long-time tyrant Robert Mugabe, now deposed, the country has soaring unemployment rates, violent crime, shortages of all consumer goods, and no hope for the future. Criticism of the government is viewed as a crime resulting in imprisonment. Inflation continues to soar, and desperate Venezuelans exit their country of birth, anxious to find haven anywhere else, crowding into neighbouring countries to escape Venezuela's violence and social breakdown.

Now, a report issued by the Organization of American States calls for the removal of the Maduro regime, accusing it of murder, extra-judicial executions, torture and allied human rights abuses. Canada, under its Liberal government, seeking as always to 'punch above its weight', has become the first country to 'take action' on this file on which Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS stated "nobody could do worse" in governing than the Maduro claque.
A Venezuelan woman is vaccinated against measles in Cucuta, Colombia, at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge on the border with Venezuela.
A Venezuelan woman is vaccinated against measles in Cucuta, Colombia, at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge on the border with Venezuela. (Schneyder Mendoza / AFP/Getty Images)
A specially assigned OAS panel of which Mr. Cotler was a member, heard from victims, witnesses and human rights crimes experts, to find Maduro responsible for murders, thousands of extra-judicial executions and tens of thousands of arbitrary detentions, cases of torture, of attacks against the judiciary and a "state-sanctioned humanitarian crisis", leading hundreds of thousands of people to become refugees.

Canada has decided -- to step up to the plate, jump the gun on others, call it what you will -- to impose sanctions on 14 Venezuelan elite with connections to the regime, inclusive of Maduro's wife, as part of larger efforts by the U.S. to bring the Maduro government to an end. Yet Canada made no effort to sponsor the OAS panel report to mount a formal investigation by the International Criminal Court. Which, years ago, in the wake of the Darfurian humanitarian outrage in Sudan, sat in judgement of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accusing him and others in his entourage of being war criminals.

A judgement that none of Bashir's Arab leader colleagues seemed to take seriously, since they all without exception ignored their responsibility as signatories to the ICC, to apprehend him while in their countries, and turn him over to the ICC for trial. Canada will be hosting a meeting of the G7 next week at Charlevoix, Quebec, where the issue of Venezuela's plight will be further discussed among the leaders of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

It will be their collective opportunity to round out the initial work of the 'little country that could' by imposing meaningful pressure on the Maduro government, including referring the OAS file to the ICC since they all together rejected Venezuela's presidential elections of the last week stating the obvious, that Maduro was solidifying an "authoritarian grip" causing great suffering to his unfortunate people.

Leonardo Albornoz, an unemployed heavy equipment mechanic from Venezuela, stands with his family as he tries to sell candy for coins to passing motorists. "I'm being forced to beg because there is no work," he said.
Leonardo Albornoz, an unemployed heavy equipment mechanic from Venezuela, stands with his family as he tries to sell candy for coins to passing motorists. "I'm being forced to beg because there is no work," he said. (Chris Kraul / For The Times)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Terrorism? Allahu Akbar!

"He then took their weapons. He used the weapons on the officers, who died."
"Liege police intervened. He came out firing at police, wounding a number of them, notably in the legs."
"He was shot dead."
Liege prosecutors' spokesman Philippe Dulieu

"At the moment there is very little consistent we can say about that [questions whether the attacker had been radicalized while in prison]."
"In any case, he is not a clear-cut case, on the contrary. He certainly was not someone who could  clearly be qualified as radicalized."
"Otherwise he would have been known as such by all services."
Justice Minister Keon Geens, Belgium
Oops, he would have been known as a radicalized Islamist-inspired threat to police and national intelligence; right! In an atmosphere where a man known to be a violent criminal imprisoned for a variety of crimes, exposed to a culture of religious extremism in prisons stuffed with Islamists recruiting for their brand of vicious terrorism, and who was heard by witnesses to his deadly attack to have shouted "Allahu Akbar!" as he lunged toward his victims to stab them and secure their arms to shoot them dead.
Soraya Belkacemi (left) and Lucile Garcia were shot dead in the attack in Liège.
Soraya Belkacemi (left) and Lucile Garcia were shot dead in the attack in Liège. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
All these circumstances standing out in bold relief, yet the authorities were hesitant-to-unwilling to characterize all the combined circumstances of the  stark event of psychopathic atrocity, a "terrorist" attack. So as not to inflame emotions from among the citizenry, both Belgian non-Muslims and Muslims alike, on either end of the passion spectrum.

"The goal of the attacker was to target the police", explained Police Chief Christian Beaupre who identified two murdered police officers, aged 45 and 53, both female. Another four police officers were wounded, one seriously, suffering a severed femoral artery. As for the "suspect", born in 1982, he had a criminal record for theft, assault and drug offences. And he was on a two-day leave from prison. A repeat offender, imprisoned since 2003; his release date in two years' time.

He had used premeditated stealth to creep up behind the two women police officers. Taking them completely by surprise, he stabbed them, took possession of their service weapons, using them to shoot the two officers dead. A 22-year-old man seated in a parked car was also shot dead outside a nearby high school. Two women were then taken hostage by the murderer, inside the school.

According to Belgian Prime Minister Michel the man identified as Benjamin Herman, a Belgian national, was mentioned in state security reports on radicalization: "...In notes that did not primarily target him, but others or other situations..." So much for no connection to forewarn officials that this man represented the potential to act out his violent tendencies, and this time for a cause he could identify with.

And finally -- yet again -- a senior official at the office of the federal prosecutor allowed as how "there are indications it could be a terror attack".  And just incidentally and for good measure, "He also committed a murder the night before [the attack]", added Interior Minister Jan Jambon, when he attacked a fellow prison inmate with a hammer, bashing his brains; perhaps someone who challenged his assertion that "God is Greatest"?

An armed policeman stands guard at the scene following a shooting in Liege, Belgium, 29 May 2018

Image copyright EPA 
  An armed policeman stands guard at the scene on Tuesday

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Irreconcilably Dedicated to Death and Destruction

"[The rockets represent a] severe, dangerous, and orchestrated act of terror, aimed at Israeli civilians and children."
"[Islamic Jihad] follows the ideology of Iran, is funded by Iran, and in today's attack, used munition made by Iran."
"[The IDF continues to hold Hamas accountable for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip.] Hamas has the ability to escalate or de-escalate the situation."
IDF statement

"[The] indiscriminate firing [by Gaza militants [terrorists] toward communities in southern Israel is unconscionable.]
"Such attacks are unacceptable and undermine the serious efforts by the international community to improve the situation in Gaza. All parties must exercise restraint, avoid escalation and prevent incidents that jeopardize the lives of Palestinians and Israelis."
UN chief Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov
"[The Al-Qassam Brigades and the Al-Quds Brigades blamed Israel for starting the latest round of aggression, claiming they had cooperated in launching the attacks because Israel's] crimes could not be tolerated in any way."
"[If Israel continued to attack Gaza then] all resistance options remain open no matter what the cost."
Joint statement
Israeli tanks take up positions along the border with the Gaza strip, on Israel-Gaza Border, Tuesday, May 29, 2018. The Israeli military said three soldiers were wounded by fire from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Tensions have soared over the past two months as the Palestinians have held mass protests...   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Border communities as always, are in the direct line of rocket fire from Gaza. Sderot, always the first to be targeted and hit was both this time around, with one rocket that the defence system hadn't intercepted, landing in a kindergarten playground just shortly before the arrival of the children for their day's activity. Residents of Sderot have all of 15 seconds from the time they hear the attack alert, to find themselves in a shelter and remain there for the duration, until the attacks conclude.

The world's attention has been turned in the last month, to the border between Israel and Gaza, where tens of thousands of Palestinians were encouraged to congregate en masse to demand entry through the border with the view of returning to their 'ancestral' villages and towns. These would most certainly not be the original inhabitants of those towns and villages but their succeeding generations, all of whom to a total of approximately six million from the original approximately 700,000 who fled, are recognized by UNHCR as 'refugees'.

Understandably, their living situation in Gaza is sub-par by any measure. But this is not the responsibility of Israel, since Israel long since withdrew all its settlers and military from Gaza unilaterally, leaving the Strip to Palestinians to govern for themselves. Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority led to the border being closed to free entry and exit in reflection of the Hamas charter outlining its intention to destroy Israel and slaughter Jews.

What nation would allow itself to be readily infiltrated by those dedicated to its destruction?

Hamas has been so single-mindedly absorbed and dedicated to its promise to eradicate Israel from the Middle East that it devised a plan to manipulate the West's reactions to the plight of Palestinians living a constricted life of isolation and privation all of which has been the result of the terrorist group's deliberate actions in provoking Israel by rocket bombardment of its citizens, and habitually using international funding for the purpose of building underground tunnels into Israel for terrorist purposes.

A complete underground city exists beneath Gaza City, where Hamas operatives and leaders are able to shield themselves from the effects of the IDF's return volleys when Hamas targets Israel from populated areas. The greater the number of Palestinian casualties and deaths, the better the public relations accusations against a heartless Israel resonates with the West, swift to condemn the country that is attacked and seeks to protect its people, preferring to sympathize with the Palestinians who allow themselves to be manipulated into threatening Israel's survival.
Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip
Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza, May 29, 2018. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Palestinians have been so indoctrinated into a pathology of hatred for Israel and Jews it would take a miracle for them to profess they would far prefer to reach a peace agreement and live alongside Israel in their own sovereign state with no interest in attacking a neighbour state, one that provides them, in fact, with potable water and energy, opening the border crossings to transport trucks that daily bring in medicines, food and fundamental necessities.

When there are shortages of electricity in Gaza, it is because the Palestinian Authority whose relations with Hamas is toxic, seeks to punish Gazans.

The critical shortage of infrastructure and housing in Gaza, is entirely attributable to Hamas's use of building materials and cement in the construction of its costly, invasive and threatening tunnels. The dire necessity to build and operationally maintain sewage treatment plants is ignored, leaving Gaza to dump 100 million liters of raw sewage directly into the Mediterranean on a daily basis. The prevailing current ushers most of the sewage in a northward flow to the beach town of Ashkelon.

Israel's second-largest desalination plant in Ashkelon produces fifteen percent of the country's drinking water from that source which must struggle to clean out the Gaza sewage from its filters in the desalination plant. Gaza itself, drawing water from its underground aquifer is heading for water shortages: "So the aquifer has gotten drained and seawater has seeped into it, and many people are now drinking water that is both salty and polluted with sewage", pointed out Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East.

The potential for typhoid and cholera erupting and spreading as a result of the fetid water is yet another crisis situation waiting to happen. "Then you could see two million [Gazans] coming to the border fence with Israel with empty buckets, begging for clean water. We're heading in that direction", promised Bromberg.

The irony here is that should those Gazans plead with the Palestinian Authority to rescue them from their lack of potable water bind, the response could be less than forthcoming, reflecting the disabling hatred between it and Hamas.

Palestinian children play in raw sewage on Gaza's beaches
Children and old people are most at risk of dangerous pathogens on Gaza beaches and water. (Picture: EPA/MOHAMMED SABER)

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Reforming Iraq, Resisting Iran, Deposing United States

"[Sadr] insists that he is independent, [and] is sending messages to both the United States and Iran that he will not adopt policies that threaten their interests inside Iraq."
"In the past years, Sadr’s political behavior has varied. He has toned down the critical voice he once used against the United States. He has criticized the United States occasionally, but he hasn’t threatened the U.S. presence in Iraq as part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State." "Sadr did not even hint at the possible formation of a military force outside the state to resist the United States, as he did in 2004 and 2008. The Mahdi Army has been completely disbanded."
"Sadr does not have a military force fighting in Syria, unlike most Iraqi military factions loyal to Iran. The latter have been fighting inside Syria alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for years now. Sadr, for his part, has opposed the presence of any Iraqi force outside of the country and criticized those defending Assad’s regime, calling on the Syrian president to step down to pave the way for a democracy in Syria."
Ali Marmouri, Iraqi economist

"We have a steady relationship with Iran. [The] Sadrist movement and its partners will not yield to the U.S. will."
"[Iranian Ambassador Iraj Masjedi said] The relations between Iranian officials and Sadr are friendly and brotherly. Many of those officials, including Qasem Soleimani, [head of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps] harbor great feelings of friendship for Sadr."
Dhiaa al-Asadi, director, Sadr's political office
In this photo provided by the Iraqi government, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (right) and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr hold a press conference in Baghdad on May 20. Sadr's coalition won the largest number of seats in Iraq's parliamentary elections. AP

The immediate after-effect of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was the cleansing of the Iraqi military of all Sunni Baathist officers. The Iraqi Sunni minority was dismissed as the Shiite majority oppressed under Saddam Hussein was favoured by the leaders of the international forces. It was the embittered Sunni military officers, voided of their authority and positions who ended up as leaders of the Islamic State. Long before that, however, the hateful enmity between the sects was unleashed and death squads of Shiites entered Sunni enclaves in Baghdad to conduct bloody cleansing exercises.

The Sunnis whose hatred for Shiites as 'apostates' was as vehemently deadly in their counter-attacks by their own death squads in Shiite neighbourhoods and blood spilled freely in an orgy of vicious vengeance. Moktada al-Sadr as an influential cleric who had been exiled by Saddam to the Islamic Republic of Iran where relations between the ruling Ayatollahs and the al-Sadrs, father and son were warm,  returned to Iraq to foment violence among his followers against the foreign presence, particularly that of the U.S.

But it was the mass slaughter that took place in Baghdad of Sunnis that al-Sadr engineered through his sermons when he incited followers to embrace their holy duty to attack both Iraqi Sunnis and American forces. His militia was entirely reliant on Iran to supply weapons, his alliance with Teheran's leaders was firm; his dependence on their help and their aspirations to enter Iraq and influence and control its future consolidated an alliance of symbiotic fulfillment.

That was then. Perhaps al-Sadr's revenge exercise satiated his thirst for blood. He has become an anti-corruption campaigner with an "Iraq First" campaign behind him, appealing to most Iraqis sufficiently so to have voted his bloc 54 seats in the recent Iraqi elections, giving him influence though not a majority in the 329-seat Iraqi Parliament. He plans to be the eminence gris behind whoever becomes the prime minister; preferably for him, Haider al-Abadi, the Shiite leader viewed as a moderate, content to partner with the U.S. in its battle against ISIL.

His hatred for the United States is somewhat abated, but not his intention to have it entirely vacate any positions it still maintains in Iraq. His Mahdi militia has been dismissed; he is no longer in the business of terrorism. And nor will he plan to express violence against the American presence given that honour is involved in that official Iraq had invited the U.S. to remain. He will exercise patience until the time is right to excise American presence from Iraq. And while his relations with Iran remain amicable, he will brook no interference in Iraq's official affairs from that source either, it seems.

This, from a theocratic figure of great repute and fiery oration who convened a rogue Shariah court to pass sentence on Iraqi Shiites scorned for their submissiveness toward the American presence in Iraq. Memories remain sharp as well of the slaughter that took place between the security forces and the Mahdi militia. "We have tried the Islamists and they failed terribly", a seasoned al-Sadr noted, dismissing his former militia as an remedy whose time had passed.

This is the man now being recognized by Iraqi communists, social democrats and anarchists who view him now as symbolic of achieving the kind of reform they champion. "Let me be honest: We had a lot of apprehensions, a lot of suspicions. So what if Moktada al-Sadr is now the face of reform? What should I care as long as the reforms happen? He's a man who can motivate millions", declared Raad Fahmi, a leader of the Communist Party of Iraq, now part of Sadr's alliance. "But actions speak louder than words. He's not the same Moktada al--Sadr" (as previously).

So then, if Sadr's plans are carried through successfully with a coalition that will express his intentions, Iraq will not be controlled by Iran, as has been feared would be the outcome of this protracted exercise in removing a totalitarian murderer from power and replacing him with a sectarian power-sharing administration. The deadly enmity between Iran and Iraq is no more; the devastating war of attrition they fought, history now. 
On the other hand, warm relations will continue between the two Shiite-led nations, and Iraq will remain in Iran's orbit of supporters in its Shiite axis.

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Deadly Missile Strike Source: Russian Federation

"State responsibility comes into play when states fail to uphold provisions of international law and that's clearly the case [where the Russian military involved itself in the ethnic Russian Ukrainian revolt, supplying the rebels with guidance, military irregulars, and deadly equipment]."
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, The Hague

"If military weapons can be deployed and then used to bring down civilian aircraft in what was essentially a war zone, then international security is at risk and we call on all countries to inform the Russian Federation that its conduct [in this  very grave incident] is unacceptable."
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

"It is time for Russia to acknowledge its role in the shooting down of MH17 and to cease its callous disinformation campaign."
"As the findings of the joint investigative team made clear, the BUK missile launcher used to bring down the passenger aircraft is owned by the Russian Federation and was assigned to the Russian 53rd anti-aircraft brigade near Kursk."
"It was brought into sovereign Ukrainian territory from Russia, was fired from territory controlled by Russia and Russia-led forces in eastern Ukraine, and was then returned to Russian territory."
Heather Nauert, spokeswoman, U.S. State Department

"The Kremlin believes it can act with impunity. The Russian government must now answer for its actions in relation to the downing of MH17." "This is an egregious example of the Kremlin’s disregard for innocent life."
"The UK will continue to offer its full support to the efforts of the joint investigation team, the Dutch and Australian authorities and other grieving nations to deliver accountability for this terrible act and justice for all those who died."
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
FILE - In this July 17, 2014. file photo, people walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine. An international team of investigators says that detailed analysis of video images has established t
In this July 17, 2014. file photo, people walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine. . (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)

Nothing new about the conclusion reached by international prosecutors  holding Russia fully to account for the downing in 2014 of Malaysian passenger jet MH17, flying some 10,000 metres over eastern Ukraine, to be torn apart by a Buk missile known to have been fired from a geographic area then in control of pro-Russian rebels. A reporter had seen the Buk missile in transit and had photographed it.

That evidence was available from day one. And a radio conversation that took place between a Russian-Ukrainian rebel leader and a Russian military officer whose transcript had the rebel leader revealing to the Russian that they had shot down the passenger jet was additional undeniable confirmation of the source of the disaster. The shredding of the lives of 298 passengers and crew of the airliner was clearly the responsibility of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin for whom the rebel cause was their cause.
Plane image showing impact location of missile and area of damage

So, now that the Netherlands and Australia have finally zeroed in on holding Moscow to legal responsibility for its undeniable role in the missile attack, how will they enforce their accusation and demand for accountability? Relations between the Russian Federation and the West are already beyond strained. Mutual hostility between NATO countries and a Russia that is bellicose in a way that harks back to the bad old days of the Cold War when the Soviet Union was a world power cannot conceivably become any more bitter.

Vladimir Putin has thrown around casual and not-so-casual nuclear threats, from his address a year ago to graduating students of a military academy in Russia to his video showcasing of technologically advanced, powerful stealth missiles, nuclear submarines and doomsday weapons Mr. Putin declares places his nation in the military driver's seat, are not exactly empty of warning that he feels the West is pushing Russia around and he won't stand for it.
A damaged missile is displayed during a news conference by members of the Joint Investigation Team, comprising the authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine who present interim results in the ongoing investigation of the 2014 MH17
A damaged missile is shown by the joint investigators at a press conference on Thursday  Reuters
Russia, on the other hand, really has resorted to pushing and shoving on the international scene, in the air, on the ground, in the waters adjoining the near-abroad and the globally distant nations who continue to note actions meant to alarm Russia's adversaries and instill caution in dealing with its eruptions of provocations. Putin's foray into Syria, his support for a ruthless slaughterer of Syrian civilians, his ability not to bat an eyelash at chemical weapons targeting unarmed civilians does him no credit.

But as long as he can continue persuading the Russian population that once again, it is their proudly honourable nation against a hostile world jealous of Russia's prowess in military technology, its progress in establishing itself as a country to be reckoned with, the internal blinkers work to his advantage, while those who advocate against his rule have succumbed to lethal accidents or are arrested, charged with espionage or corruption and incarcerated, politically neutralizing challengers.

The Thursday announcement of the international investigators of evidence that the Buk missile system that shattered the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight was the responsibility of a Russia-based military unit, the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade in Kursk is old news in a new package. There are no shiny new revelations, so why has it taken four years for the official accusation to be aired?

At the time of the air disaster, Putin had said Russia would be fully compliant in the investigation; his dour sense of puckish humour. The shooting down of the the Boeing 777, Putin said at the time was done by Ukraine, targeting the aircraft and counting on world condemnation pointing at innocent Russia, as an elaborate smear job. Nor much has changed there; from St.Petersburg President Putin suggests the Ukrainian military might have been responsible; a replay of an old theme.

Besides which, since Russia was not invited to take part in the international investigation, how could it trust any conclusions brought to bear by an investigation undertaken by countries with a clear bias?

In this file photo taken on September 09, 2014 shows part of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site in the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The remains of the Boeing 777, photographed at its crash site in 2014

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Canada: Overrun by Illegal 'Refugees'

"We believe it will send a very strong message to those who assume that coming to Canada through irregular means will result in them waiting for a long period of time, for years, in Canada and then forming an attachment here."
"That's not going to happen."
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen
Ahmed Hussen weaves his way through a crowd with Zubair Patel, his director of outreach and communication
How typically 'progressively' touchy-feely of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to appoint a 40-year-old Somali-Canadian who entered Canada as a refugee at age 16, in 1993. Mr. Hussen, as a former refugee who arrived in Canada with his family, did not enter illegally -- or as the Liberal government in Ottawa prefers -- irregularly -- but entered through legally approved means by applying while abroad and receiving the acknowledgement through Canadian Immigration that they qualified to enter Canada as refugees and to become permanent residents.

As a Minister of the Crown in the Trudeau government he was appointed after being elected as a Member of Parliament, for the optics of a 'progressive' government whose leader has stated baldly and in high profile measure through social media that under his rule, Canada 'welcomes' all and sundry with open arms. Failing to add that this entry must be under approved, legal measures, to protect the country from infiltration from potentially trouble-prone entrants. Refugee claimants must undergo due process and scrutiny to verify their qualifications.

It is a slow and long process which typically takes up to a year under normal circumstances, but now that the system has been encumbered by far more illegal entrants than those who go through official channels, the process takes infinitely longer. Which means that those welcomed into Canada who enter through unofficial corridors which are actually forest paths in the boundary between the United States and Canada, could have their files awaiting scrutiny for years.

During that waiting period, Canada offers to these illegals all the benefits of its universal social programs, from medical/hospital, and then some, since it is assumed they arrive without their own financial independence, additional legal services, as well as access to social housing and welfare.

Nigerians enter the United States first acquiring U.S. visitor visas, as a pretext for entering the U.S., but with the intention of expediting their illegal dash toward the border from New York State to Quebec, to end up in temporary refugee camps briefly before moving on to Montreal and Toronto, in the process vacuuming up social services, crowding emergency shelters and forcing municipalities to expend vast sums of treasury on supporting their material needs, including psychiatric counselling, housing, education and dentistry for the young.

Haitians and Nigerians comprise the vast bulk of the thousands of illegals crossing into Canada, from Manitoba to Quebec. Canada has dispatched the RCMP to helpfully guide these illegals toward intake points where their immediate needs will be met, and where Immigration officers will be present to accept refugee applications from the illegal influx who represent mostly economic migrants anxious to find a source of aspirational futures full of opportunities they feel await them in North America.

"The U.S.A. is not an attractive place to most Nigerians right now. It used to be the most attractive place, but with the Trump factor – the old-style immigration climate in the U.S. compared to Canada – most people are going to find their way to Canada", explained Kehinde Olalere, a Canadian immigration lawyer who grew up in Nigeria and regularly travels to the country.

Fleeing insecurity in their home country of Nigeria, they find it easier to obtain travel visas from the U.S. compared to Canada, while viewing the U.S. as a transit point on their way to Canada, noted Mr. Olarere.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer informs a migrant couple of the location of a legal border station, shortly before they illegally crossing from Champlain, N.Y., to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer informs a migrant couple of the location of a legal border station, shortly before they illegally crossing from Champlain, N.Y., to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The new initiative announced by Minister Hussen that more Immigration and Refugee Board staff meant to be dedicated to processing illegal claims exclusively will solve much of the immense back-log of cases awaiting determination is a pathetic measure of a response to the illegal migrants crossing at non-official ports of entry. In 2017 a response team was set up to manage the increased workload and long wait times, which only seemed to encourage greater numbers of migrants to cross the border.They were soon swamped by the increases in people flooding over.

The solution? Because these people knowingly and deliberately cross illegally into Canada, they should be turned around directly and denied entry altogether, with the advice that once outside Canada, they have the complete freedom to apply for refugee status at official border points, or alternately from their countries of origin at Canadian visa offices operating within embassies and consulates abroad.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

On Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds

"He came to me in 2012 saying that, you know, he wanted to change his life and all this stuff. He wants to kind of ... find a better environment for his family."
"I had no indication that he had a background of violence. He was very soft-spoken -- like he was not a very loud person."
"He was quiet, to himself."
Chris Franco, owner, Franco Kickboxing/Pankration, Vancouver, British Columbia

"At this time the federal government is not willing to let us bring him here because he's a Cuban national."
"If the defendant is found not guilty, the question then becomes what does he do. If he was an Italian national, we would send him back to Italy."
"We can't send this man back to Cuba."
Gail Levine, Miami-Dade prosecutor
Kelly Giraldo (right), owner of a Burnaby hair salon, and her husband Ariel Gandulla. Gandulla 
is wanted on murder charges in Florida. The couple and their three kids came to Canada in June 
2012. They have been living in the Lower Mainland. (Facebook photo) PNG
The man in question here has a family, a wife and three young children. His wife established a hair salon in Burnaby, after the family arrived in Canada in 2012, where they now live in that suburb of Vancouver. The 50-year-old Ariel Gandulla, a Cuban who lived legally in the United States, is wanted in the U.S. on charges of a particularly grim murder. Charged with him are three other men; one of whom is the owner of a chain of groceries who hired the three to murder a man who had been sleeping with his wife.

An arrest warrant had been issued by American prosecutors for the 2011 murder of Camilo Salazar. The man's mutilated corpse had been set on fire, and the remains were found on a South Florida dirt road. His hands had been tied behind his back, his throat slashed, his pelvic section burned. A most particularly grisly murder. And one of the murderers is living, as a fugitive from justice, in Vancouver.

The charges laid by U.S. prosecutors include murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder. Yet scruples are expressed on moral grounds that both Canada and the U.S. are squeamish about returning the man to his country of birth and citizenship?

Two of Mr. Gandulla's companions-in-murder are incarcerated in Miami while the man who recruited and paid them has fled the U.S. and is believed to be in hiding in Spain. Gandulla had permanent residency status in the U.S. though a Cuban national. Gandulla, at age 50, 5-foot-11, is a Mixed Martial Arts middleweight. He trained at Franco Kickboxing, where he pursued judo and Muay Thai. Gandulla worked as a welder and he has been attempting to obtain Canadian citizenship.

The little matter of his application for refugee status however, is an issue that has held him back. There were a number of attempts to obtain permanent residence status dating back to 2014. That Gandulla is known to have a record of criminal activity, including allegations of involvement with a violent street gang, charges of battery on law enforcement, a conviction for cocaine possession while living in the U.S., hardly makes him an ideal candidate for Canadian citizenship.

Understandably, the family's 2014 application for refugee status and permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds was denied -- with the documentation presented outlining his illegal and criminal U.S. activities. The family made another similar attempt a year later, and it too was turned down. And since neither Cuba or the United States is prepared to authorize his re-entry, the Canadian government has few options to deal with this man other than to grant a judicial review to be considered by a different immigration officer.

The reason that the U.S. Miami-based prosecutor knew where the man wanted for involvement in a nasty murder is that his location was posted on his Facebook page, since deleted. Obviously, this man is no genius; as a fugitive from justice incapable of keeping a low profile because social media beckoned. A violent criminal and a cretin but for the time being he's living in Canada and feels entitled to having his refugee claim considered on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

MMA fighters Alexis Vila (left) and Ariel Gandulla (right) at the Young Tigers Gym in Miami in 2008. Vila and Gandulla are now accused of taking part in a murder plot. Gaston De Cardenas / PNG

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

One Belt, One Road for International Harmony

"SOEs form an integral part of China's national strategy for global expansion."
"That is a major reason why China has created monstrous SOEs through internal mergers in the first place."
Duanjie Chen, senior fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

"[Canada is being too] sensitive [about Chinese capital flows into Canada. The national security review represents] looney [behaviour on the part of Canada]."
"We just hope the Canadian side could adopt the same standard for Chinese companies compared with other foreign companies [investing in Canada]."
"Chinese state-owned enterprises — they are not guilty. They have made great contributions to safeguard the welfare of the Chinese people. We feel it is really a pity that we couldn’t make such kind of good deal to happen."
"I think it will definitely send negative signals to the market, especially it will attack the confidence of the Chinese investors who want to invest in Canada."
"My first impression, to tell you the truth, [is] that I think the Canadian media or the Canadian public is too sensitive about the Aecon case because Aecon is just a construction company."
"From your side, you have your rules and regulations on the foreign companies overtaking Canadian companies. I think for the national security issue it is your internal affairs. The Chinese side does not want to interfere [with] it."Chinese Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye
An Aecon Construction scissor lift operator. CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Tobin Grimshaw
An Aecon Construction scissor lift operator. CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Tobin Grimshaw

If Canadian authorities react with more caution to Chinese investment in Canada than they would to investment by any other country, there is a good reason for it. China is an omnivorous predator, eager to gobble up wherever and whenever it can, sensitive proprietary technologies to benefit its own industries. It has created state-owned enterprises that act as independent corporations purportedly with no interest other than profit, and while the profit motive is writ large, so is the looting of industrial and governmental intellectual property.

The issue of the China Communications Construction Co., Ltd. financial holding division making a bid to the value of $1.5-billion to buy into Aecon Group Inc. has been fiercely resisted by the opposition in Parliament. Finally, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains announced Ottawa has committed to blocking the controversial sale. Canada, he stated, is "open to international investment that creates jobs and increases prosperity, but not at the expense of national security".
Ottawa announced a full national security review of the Aecon deal in February.
Ottawa announced a full national security review of the Aecon deal in February.  (David Kawai / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Opposition Members of Parliament, business groups and domestic construction companies can all now breathe a sigh of relief that their criticism and warning that China would gain access to sensitive Canadian intellectual property and that local construction firms would become less competitive in future project bids, has borne fruit. The simple fact is, Aecon's contracts include the refurbishment and maintenance of nuclear facilities, along with the building and maintenance of sensitive telecommunications lines.

For Canada-China trade talks this represents an awkward juxtaposition of events, at a time when Justin Trudeau is anxious that under his watch an elusive free trade deal with China be gained, at a time when the North American Free Trade deal, encompassing Canadian, Mexican and American industry and trade is on shaky grounds with current revision of the NAFTA talks underway and faltering. On his recent disastrous Beijing trip, Trudeau made the mistake of demanding that China accede to his personal inclusion of social, environmental and gender stipulations.

Chinese authorities and negotiators were sufficiently taken aback to have pushed the Canada-China talks into some obscure cubicle from which it may never emerge, after recommending that Canada adhere to economic, trade-based discussions, rejecting the Trudeauian trade-talk stipulations. Coming hard on the heels of Trudeau's pathetic comic-impersonation shtick in India when similar free trade opportunities were bungled, it seems that Trudeau's inability to interact seriously with other leaders places him as a symbol of arrested juvenile development.

Permitting the Aecon sale to proceed would most certainly have impacted Canada's defence capabilities, and impact on its shared defence relations with the United States whose own sensitive intelligence and defence as well as intellectual properties would be affected. Not that the U.S. doesn't have ample examples on its own soil of American international conglomerates anxious to do business in China signing over delicate trade intelligence for the opportunity to invest in China.

As it is, American officials look with disfavour on Trudeau's approval of Canadian technology companies bought out by Chinese SOEs, as when Norsat International Inc. was acquired by the Chinese firm Hytera Communications Corp., Ltd., in view of the fact that Norsat had contracts with the U.S. Department of Defence, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army, aircraft manufacturer Boeing, NATO, Ireland's Department of Defence along with others.

The approval by Trudeau of the takeover of ITF Technologies -- a fibre-laser technology company -- by Hong Kong-based O-Net Communications, reversed a decision by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper to block the deal. Aecon itself possesses contracts to install and maintain telecommunications lines with Bell Canada, with some of those lines traversing the Canada-U.S. border. "We do have shared infrastructure that needs to be looked at", commented Michael Wessell, commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

A worker passes in front of a truck displaying Aecon Group Inc. signage at a construction site in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Islamist Refugees Littering Canada

"In those posts, there are many of them that I saw resemble clear support of the Islamic State."
"Furthermore, this support crossed the threshold where he's providing advice. He's providing material support. He's providing how-to information."
"When I come to the conclusion at the end, it's not just because I think it and I feel it. No, it's based on evidence. You gotta ask yourself, what's going on here?"
"[The use of social media — and particularly Facebook — is crucial to ISIS. It's important to distinguish between] couch jihadists [who] talk big [and real threats]."
"Are they going to cross the threshold? Or are they just basically a big mouth, so to speak."
RCMP Constable Tarek Mokdad, terrorism expert 
Othman Hamdan, who was acquitted of terrorism-related charges, shields his face from the media on his way into a bail hearing in Fort St. John after he was charged in 2016. (Brett Hyde/CBC)
"I was found innocent from all of these false accusations but I'm still being incarcerated. Please forgive me if I show some of these symptoms [trauma of prosecution], like agitation."
"While I was writing these [Facebook] pages I thought I was engaged in a political debate and I thought freedom of expression meant I didn’t have to explain every single word."
"I went from a nobody to a somebody who had thousands of followers [on social media, responding to his posts]."
"[In a May 2014 post]: #Islamic State. I am one of them. [At a May 2018 Immigration and Refugee Board hearing] It doesn’t mean I a member of ISIL."
"I was just reacting, angry at them [Facebook deleting his accounts over graphic violence postings] and saying], 'Look, you really didn’t have a reason to ban my account'." [And then a threat to Facebook] You’ll see us in your nightmares."
Othman Ayed Hamdan
Facing deportation, the Jordanian-born Palestinian, a refugee claimant and Canadian resident, claims to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by a barrage of official Canadian accusations, all of which are false, according to his account. A British Columbia Supreme Court judge acquitted him of terrorism-related charges last fall, but that hasn't stopped immigration authorities from re-arresting him, with a number of detention reviews all pointing to the fact that he poses a danger to the public.

Before a hearing of the Immigration and Refugee Board, this man was accused of calling for lone wolf attacks through a Facebook account. Authorities were alarmed and arrested him in 2015 and he has since been re-arrested, despite the acquittal. He noted he has been taking therapy from a psychologist for the past eight months to deal with his persecution complex caused by the initial accusations and arrest. This man, who moved to Canada in July 2002 from the United States where he was studying electrical engineering, explained his Facebook accounts was where he published poetry.

He gained thousands of followers, he explained, to debate religion and politics with, all responding to his criticism of Islamic clergy whom he sardonically invests with hypocrisy, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and non-Muslim governments leaders. They were all representative of political satire, he insists. During his trial, eighty-five posts were questioned, the judge concluding they failed to represent terrorism. Given the evidence, this is a real head-spinner.
Police say Hamdan praised the action of radicalised Muslim convert Zehaf-Bibeau who shot and killed a Reservist soldier on honorary guard duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa in 2014. Photo shows people just reacting to the shooting before para-medics arrive: Radio Canada

He placed blame on former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the October 2014 lone-wolf attack that killed a military reservist standing guard at the National Cenotaph in 2014, and resulted in the attacker storming the House of Commons and a resulting shooting stand-off before the intruder was shot to death. "Arrogant" policies of the government had led to Canadian bloodshed, he claimed.

The funeral of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, killed in an October 2014 terrorist attack in Quebec. On social media, Othman Hamdan allegedly called Vincent's killer a "hero." THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes

The funeral of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, killed in an October 2014 terrorist attack in Quebec. On social media, Othman Hamdan allegedly called Vincent's killer a "hero." THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes
In a March 2015 post he promoted "killing methods such as slitting their throats or shooting using a silencer and killing using poison and killing by choking", among other posts all describing methods for lone wolf attacks including the use of vehicles to shoot from, then drive off, or to commit vehicular homicide with. All of these posts evidently, grossly and unfairly misunderstood. His interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms leading to his right to free expression.

Born in the UAE of Palestinian parents, this man has learned well the vulnerabilities of the Canadian system of justice and how to play to his audience, whether that of his fellow Islamists through Facebook, or Canadian authorities determined to rid the country of his terrorist-supporting and -aspiring presence. When he arrived in Canada he was granted refugee status. He doesn't have Canadian citizenship, and it should be a simple enough matter to escort him out of the country, but a clever lawyer and a sympathetic Liberal government under Justin Trudeau may just reverse that.

He is suing the government for wrongful accusations and arrest, and under Justin Trudeau he may just end up with millions to show for his hurt feelings and get to remain in Canada as a virtuous man who has been unjustly accused of actions he had no intention of committing, to become a symbol of wrongfully accused, a hero in the pantheon of similarly misunderstood Palestinians ensconced in Canada promoting 'resistance' to 'Islamophobia' and slandering the West.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

C'Mon Over!

"Aided and abetted by similarly inclined municipal and provincial politicians, official Ottawa's averting of its gaze from border breaching, is only one facet of a much larger political impulse."
"The impulse? To import, through legal and perhaps illegal immigration and refugee intakes, large numbers of future, grateful prospective voting blocs, contrary to Canadians' national interest."
Julie Taub, former member, Immigration and Refugee Board
David B. Harris, director of intelligence program, INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc.

A family from Haiti approach a tent in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, stationed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as they haul their luggage down Roxham Rd. in Champlain, N.Y., Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. Charles Krupa
Canada's smiley-face Prime Minster Justin Trudeau started the ball rolling when he tweeted, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's message that under his administration the United States was prepared to police illegal migration and rid the country of millions of undocumented migrants living and working in the U.S. With his usual smug righteousness, Trudeau did some virtue-signalling that Canada loves migrants and would welcome them all, for Canada does not discriminate and irrespective of ethnicity, religion or ideology all are welcome to enter Canada.

They've been entering ever since. To claim refugee status. Not only those who have lived in the U.S. on special permits set to end, but those smuggled into the country and living there illegally for years. Even many from African countries who obtain visitors' visas for the especial purpose of entering the U.S. only to exit it forthwith at the closest illegal crossing they can reach and that's usually from New York State directly into the Province of Quebec.

To expedite matters and be viewed as especially kind and helpful, the federal government has stationed RCMP officers at those illegal crossings to greet the migrants wishing to declare themselves refugees, and escort them to inland Canada Border Services Agency offices where they are then invited to make their asylum claims. Right at the illegal crossings, while official Ottawa claims it intends to stop these crossings from happening, welcome tents have been set up, along with washrooms, chairs, and food.
Refugees who crossed the Canada-U.S. border near Hemmingford, Quebec, are processed in a tent after being detained in August. The flow of asylum seekers that began this past summer has resumed this spring. Most of the new arrivals are Nigerians. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Since early 2017, 20,000 people from Haiti and Nigeria and El Salvador among other countries have penetrated Canada's border illegally. Over the course of the summer, 400 such migrants claiming refugee status are expected to come across on a daily basis. And now, for the first time in Canada's refugee intake history, there are more entering illegally than the number who make application legally a trend expected to continue and swell. The total refugee-claimant numbers have risen from 18,644 a year earlier to the current 48,974.

There is an initial cost to be reckoned with for each of these asylum seekers, of between $15,000 to $20,000, but that is just the beginning of the financial burden to the Canadian taxpayer. Despite that these migrants are not legally genuine refugees until a formal hearing takes place, they are entitled to a social assistance package rivalling those of Canadian citizen entitlements with benefits such as medical care, children's dental and eye care, prescription drug care, and housing, along with legal aid support. All this, at a time when the province is struggling to provide Canadians with the level of care they need.
Mostly Haitian migrants about to cross illegally into Canada in August 2017. Approximately 25,000 people crossed illegally into Canada to claim asylum last year, about 18,000 at the Quebec- US border. Photo Reuters/Christinne Muschi

The cost to Canadians for the 20,000 illegal crossers thus far is estimated between $300 to $400 million. But it doesn't stop there, since tax-funded immigration reviews and appeals, along with the potential need of years of social-welfare support during the process swells the cost exponentially.
The system is now so overwhelmed by history-breaking numbers that legal applicants' hearings are sometimes cancelled in an effort to deal with claims by illegal arrivals. In so doing, in effect rewarding illegal migration.

Jean-Pierre Fortin, Union leader for the Canadian Border Services Agency remarks that Canada has been left with a "Swiss cheese" border. Canada has the option of creating temporary CBSA ofices at illegal border entry points. When migrants declare their refugee intentions at such offices transiting through the U.S. they would be refused in recognition of the agreement signed between the U.S. and Canada reflecting the 'safe first country' entrance where if entry is either Canada or the U.S. the other turns away entrants to the second safe country.

Mr. Fortin recommends setting up hundreds of CBSA members to work on plugging border gaps. To do so the agency would have to hire more officers and be better funded, with their technological tools upgraded. Instead, Canada welcomes illegal entrants with trailers, tents and bathrooms, and where food is available to the weary cross-border infiltrators where the most popular crossing from Champlain, N.Y. to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec means a crossing of about ten metres.

And directly opposite, four kilometres east, stands the official Lacolle crossing, studiously avoided by the migrants who opt for the illegal over the legal means of entry to Canada. Just west of the popular illegal crossing and another six kilometres leads you to the official Hemmingford crossing, another option for legal entry to Canada, but spurned in favour of the opportunistic illegal crossings guaranteed to eventually lead to a hearing but with the current and anticipated future backlogs the burden of housing, feeding and health services to the teeming hordes can go on for years.

Rows of tents had been set up in 2017 near the illegal border crossing point in Quebec to house the influx of illegally crossing asylum claimants before they're sent on to Montreal and Toronto, etc. Photo- Radio-Canada

Ontario is currently undergoing a prelude to a provincial election with the leader of the New Democratic Party, high in the polls, promising to turn Ontario into a "sanctuary province" for illegal migrants, where public services would be open to everyone irrespective of citizenship status, including voting privileges. The three-month waiting period for public health coverage would be waived. "It's a basic humanitarian piece. It's a basic value that I think the vast majority of Canadians hold that human beings are human beings and we shouldn't withhold the necessities of life from anybody."

How do you argue with that logic? Justin Trudeau certainly wouldn't.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Cause and Effect

Dr. Thomas Pollard, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Knoxville, Tenn., and his team working to replace heart valves that had been damaged from endocarditis, an infection the patient developed from injecting drugs.   CreditShawn Poynter for The New York Times

Cause and Effect

"We've literally had some continue using drugs while in the hospital. That's like trying to do a liver transplant on someone who's drinking a fifth of vodka on the stretcher."
Dr. Thomas Pollard, cardiothoracic surgeon, Knoxville, Tennessee

"It's just a lot of anecdote -- surgeons talking to each other, trying to determine when we should and when we shouldn't [conduct open-heart surgery on hearts damaged from infections patients develop from injecting drugs]."
"Everybody has sympathy for babies and children. No one wants to help the adult drug addict because the thought is they did this to themselves."
Dr. Carlo Martinez, cardiac surgeon, Methodist Medical Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

"He said once someone's been shooting up, you go through all this money and surgery and they go right back to shooting up again, so it's not worth it [life-saving heart surgery]."
"I was just dumbfounded."
Brian Mignogna, stepfather, Jerika Whitefield, Olive Springs, Tennessee

"I know next time God might not save me. They will not treat me for a second time if I have track marks or anything like that."
"Nobody will see me because of my drug use history."
"I'm trying to think of ways to get myself more hope here."
Jerika Whitefield, 28, mother of three
A spike in the number of patients coming in with infected heart valves has surgeons speaking up -- because even if the expensive and involved surgery is successful, most of these patients will still die young. Wochit

A serious new health hazard has surfaced linked to methamphetamine use and the opioid crisis, both of which pose as dire threats to people's health and longevity in a culture where drug use has become distressingly commonplace. Both because doctors and dentists as well have been over-prescribing the use of painkillers, and because the looser availability of street drugs has captured the minds and perceived emotional needs of people as never before.

With the proliferation of drug use, users are increasingly becoming ill with endocarditis as a result of injecting drugs, often repeatedly going through these bouts of ill health resulting from continuing to shoot up even after first-time recovery of endocarditis. Jerika Whitefield was one of the countless people developing endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves. Bacteria entering her blood after methamphetamine injections caused the endocarditis, a now-commonplace-occurrence among drug users.

Before undergoing surgery, the very ill woman was informed by the attending cardiologists that should she continue shooting up, and should she become reinfected, the surgeons would not again operate to save her life. While drug users' habits are responsible for damaging their hearts, surgery is able to salvage the damaged organ, but if the addiction is unaddressed the result will simply be repeats of the situation.

Dr. Pollard had an experience that unnerved  him when he replaced a 25-year-old man's heart valve, the result of injecting drugs. Several months on, the man returned with the very same injury to his heart repeated due to continued drug injection. Because Dr. Pollard would not repeat the surgery on the basis that this self-harm was needlessly repeated, the man died not long afterward at a  hospice. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

Doctors in the United States are increasingly encountering patients developing endocarditis from injecting drugs. At two Boston hospitals, a recent study revealed, seven percent of endocarditis patients, intravenous drug users, survived for ten years without reinfection or other complications, while 41 percent of patients who were not IV drug users survived. Dr. Pollard now lobbies hospital systems for the provision of addiction treatment for those endocarditis patients willing to be involved.

A billboard warning of the dangers of painkillers near Oak Ridge, Tenn.  CreditShawn Poynter for The New York Times

Rural east Tennessee is particularly afflicted by addictions. Poverty-stricken small towns and poor health conspire to leave people with little hope for their futures. Opioid prescriptions remain high, with death rates from overdose three times that of the national average. Most doctors operate on patients with a first-time endocarditis presentation resulting from drug injections, but repeat infections mean the damage can be more extensive and more difficult to remediate.

Ms. Whitefield suffered from endometriosis as a teen, a disorder of the uterine tissue, as well as interstitial cystitis, a painful bladder condition, leading her to prescription opioid use for years. After her third child was born, she suffered postpartum depression and began injecting crushed opioid pills and meth. She shared a needle with one of her brothers in 2016 which resulted in initiating organ shut-down and was rushed to hospital.

"She was a young mother and her family was involved; her father was there [at the hospital]", explained Dr. Martinez, the on-call heart surgeon. "To me, it seemed she had that social support that patients need once they recover from this." The initial infection was cleared with the use of antibiotics. Two months later she required surgery, her mitral valve so damaged signs of heart failure were evinced.

Before Dr. Martinez operated, he warned that the surgery would be "a one-time deal", recalled her stepfather. Since her surgery, she has felt weak, suffered occasional chest pains, had problems sleeping, felt cold continually. She also had hepatitis C, common among people who inject drugs. Her cardiologist, Dr. Larry Justice, informed her that "One of your other valves is leaking a a fair amount. I can't guarantee you won't need another valve surgery",  he informed her.

"I just want to live to see my kids grow up", she responded.

Left, a heart-lung machine used during an endocarditis valve-replacement operation. Right, Dr. Pollard working on a patient.  CreditShawn Poynter for The New York Times

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