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.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Reporting an Assassination Attempt

"[Le Monde] wants to stress that none of its journalists are in Ukraine at the moment and that its staff does not include an Alex Werner."
"Le Monde firmly condemns any impersonation of its journalists or of its title, for whatever purpose."
Le Monde, French newspaper

"What is important is we have proof Russia is committing terrorist acts."
"His tongue [Alex Werner, aka Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev] may loosen to say who sent him here and why."
Anton Gerashenko, Ukrainian lawmaker

"He was elegant, calm and confident."
"Putin is personally interested in getting rid of us."
Amina Okuyeva, Ukrainian-Chechen fighter, sharpshooter
Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev of the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion. Kyiv, 2015. Photograph: Shaun Walker for the Guardian
Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev of the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion. Kyiv, 2015. Photograph: Shaun Walker for the Guardian

He had installed himself as a reputable journalist working for a well-respected French newspaper. And he had become a familiar figure in Kiev. He had made important contacts with politicians and with anti-Russian activists in the year he lived in the Ukrainian capital. Ms. Okuyeva, who was occasionally in his company noticed that though he carried a notebook when he interviewed her, nothing she ever said seemed to warrant his writing notes in that book for future reference as a reporter.

She and her husband with whom she served as a volunteer soldier in the Ukraine war against the eastern Ukrainian separatists, had been interviewed on a number of occasions by this tall, dapper man who spoke with a decided French accent. He always introduced himself as Alex Werner, reporting for the French newspaper Le Monde. Adam Osmayev, Ms. Okuyeva's husband, has been the commander of a unit of ethnic Chechen fighters since 2015. With that unit, Ms. Okuyeva is a sniper.

The Russian government accused Mr. Osmayev of having plotted to assassinate President Putin back in 2012 when he was then prime minister. Mr. Osmayev had been arrested but his extradition to Russia had been blocked by the European Court of Human Rights. He was released from custody after the Ukrainian revolution in 2014, when he joined the fight against the ethnic Russian Ukrainians living in eastern Ukraine.

Under his guise as a French reporter, Mr. Werner requested the couple to drive him over to the French embassy. On the way he asked that they stop the car, then aimed a gun and opened fire on Mr. Osmayev, whose wife just happened to have a concealed weapon on her person. She drew her pistol and shot the intended assassin who had shot her husband. In the melee, both men were seriously wounded, but both survived.

The wounded attacker who posed as "journalist Alex Werner", had a Ukrainian passport at the name of Oleksandr Dakar. His real name is allegedly Artur Kurmakaev, born Denisultanov. Photos: rbc.ua, fontanka.ru, rospress.com, rbc.ua
The wounded attacker who posed as “journalist Alex Werner,” had a Ukrainian passport at the name of Oleksandr Dakar. His real name is allegedly Artur Kurmakaev, born Denisultanov. Photos: rbc.ua, fontanka.ru, rospress.com, rbc.ua
And now the Ukrainian SBU intelligence agency is prepared to interrogate the man identified as Mr. Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, believing him to a Russian agent with the Russian intelligence services. Moscow authorized a campaign of targeted assassinations against those it identifies as "terrorists" threatening Russia. Ukrainian officials feel that this incident reflects Russian hybrid war actions, including assassinations.

This foiled attack represents the third high-profile killing or attempt at assassination taking place in Kiev that Ukrainian authorities attribute to Russian security services.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

African Tribal Violence

"The briefing [between the Canadian diplomat and South Sudan's foreign minister in 2011] was repeatedly interrupted just because of the noise from the gunfire. Tank rounds going off. And the minister was saying, 'Do not worry. Everything is perfectly normal."
"Those 20,000 people at the airport? It's always busy at Christmas. We wish them happy holidays."
"We'd park our vehicle [at the airport in Juba]. To be honest, it was a bit like a football tailgate party. The [foreign] embassies would park their vehicles and put their flag up. The Canadians [South Sudanese with Canadian passports] would come to us."
"I was constantly negotiating with the friendly countries -- do you have any seats on aircraft? Or they would come to us and say: 'We've got some Canadians [Sudanese-Canadians]. Can you check their documents?"
"Within two days you had 20,000 camped out at the UN compound at the airport and another 20,000 in town who didn't dare come out to the fence. And there was a 6:00 p.m. curfew. At six, the military would start shooting."
"Some [Nuers] we had to literally hold their hands to get them out of the airport. We'd be taking them out by the arm and the soldiers would come and I'd have to push them away and say, 'No, no, no. Diplomatic. Diplomatic'."
Nicholas Coghlan, (retired) Canadian diplomat with the Canadian Embassy in South Sudan
Families wait in line as the World Food Program prepares to deliver food aid at the Bidi Bidi refugee camp on Feb. 22 in Arua, Uganda. The continued flow of refugees from South Sudan has pushed the camp's population to more than 270,000.   Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

South Sudan, after a long conflict with the government of Sudan, an Arab, Muslim hierarchy governing black Sudanese Christians and animists, as well as Black Muslim farming communities all of whom felt marginalized and ill-treated by Khartoum, became the newest nation in the world in 2011, after a referendum in the south resulted in Sudan finally agreeing to respect a breakaway portion of their geography in the creation of South Sudan.

For awhile competing political and ethnic and religious interests were set aside as the impoverished nation attempted to pull itself together. The rivalries that had been tamped down as the various interests cooperated in their greater struggle against the government in Khartoum didn't last long, however, and the majority Dinkas in South Sudan began to attack the minority Nuer people; their shared government fell apart. By 2013 the country was roiled by civil war.

Foreign embassies became frantically involved in trying to rescue South Sudanese refugees who had sought haven and achieved citizenship in the West, and then returned to South Sudan with the intention of helping the new nation become an independent, sovereign success. But things turned ugly and even their own ethnic group, the minority Nuer, rejected those that had left while the country was in its original turmoil: "They were told, 'Where were you? I was in the bush for 2 years while you were living the high life in Canada'." explained former diplomat Coghlan.

That was then; four years later nothing has been resolved, the ethnic conflict continues. About 1.8 million South Sudanese have fled the fighting in their new nation for haven abroad. Almost a million ended up in Uganda, with large numbers also finding haven in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, even though inner conflict and poverty strikes there as elsewhere in Africa. Aside from those leaving South Sudan, an additional two million forced from their homes remain within, living in camps, fending as best they can.
"We are managing but there is a severe shortage of funding. We are only getting about 15 percent of the funding we require. That is a serious gap that may drive us beyond the breaking point."
"This could force the government [of Uganda] to examine its generosity at some point."
"That [the $20 million of the $400-million required to operate refugee camps in Uganda for South Sudanese refugees] is a drop in the ocean. There are refugees suffering in a poor country that has given everything that it can. And the world is walking away from us."
Robert Baryamwesiga, commandant [mayor], Bidi Bidi, Uganda
The Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is home to about 274,000 people, making it the largest camp in the world.
The Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is home to about 274,000 people, making it the largest camp in the world. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Ugandan town of Bidi Bidi grew last August from a tiny enclave to become a refuge to 272,000 South Sudanese fleeing violence, starvation and death in their country. It has the distinction of representing the world's largest refugee camp. Masses of refugees registered with Ugandan authorities form long lineups daily for food, water and vaccinations. They have become the forgotten refugees; the world's attention focused on Syria and Iraq, with over a million refugees and migrants showing up in Europe.

As for China, with its deep interests in African investment and focus on furthering its presence there to gain influence and supply its own industries with food and minerals derived from African natural resources, its interests seem to stop short at the exploitation stage and feeding its own economy, not the refugee dregs of a desperately poor country. South Sudan and its violent upheaval has become a local event of disinterest to the global community fixated on the Middle East.

Famine stalks South Sudan. Partially because of a catastrophic drought. But then people were too frightened to plant, let alone harvest crops. And the issue of international aid with humanitarian shipments of food meant to stave off large-scale starvation has created a deadlock of another dimension when the competing sides often refuse to allow food aid through.

"They arrive, not having had food and water for weeks. That is what is mobilizing people to leave South Sudan", explains Elyas Mohammed, co-ordinator for the United Nations in Bidi Bidi for whom the focus is on the provision of food, water and shelter. Uganda requires at least $400-million for the operation of its network of refugee camps, but of that total, an insufficient $60-million was pledged, and merely $20 million received.

As Uganda struggles with its dedication to humanitarian aid offered to desperate refugees, though the country itself has experienced more than its share of conflict and desperation and is now yet another desperately poor African nation, it braces itself for a further influx of South Sudanese, with an anticipated additional 400,000 refugees expected to flood over the border in this year's remaining months.

Refugees gather at a settlement in Palorinya, northern Uganda
Refugees gather at a settlement in Palorinya, northern Uganda. In March, 2,800 people arrived in Uganda every day from South Sudan. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Courting The Dreaded Appellation of Islamophobia

"Unfortunately, you cannot disconnect this type of event -- terrorism -- from Islam in general. [I share the position of French President Emmanuel Macron] He told them [Muslim community leaders], it's also your responsibility to act on the theological front, to explain to your people that this [terrorism] is not part of the religion, that it is contrary to the teachings of the religion."
"This is a dual responsibility."
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard

"[Authorities] have absolutely no indication that he [jihadist Amor Ftouhi] had any association with anyone in the Flint area or, thus far, in Michigan."
"[Ftouhi was] neither on the radar of Canadian authorities or FBI or United States authorities."
FBI field director David Gelios 

"With remarks like this, saying Islam cannot be disconnected from terrorism, Mr. Couillard is pouring oil on the fire."
"He is premier, and not only is he saying Islam and terrorism are inseparable, he says the responsibility for terrorism falls also on the Muslim community."
"It endangers communities that are already stigmatized."
Eve Torres, co-ordinator Muslim integration group

"This person [Montreal citizen Amor Ftouhi] had an understanding of his faith that allowed him to kill people."
"That is obviously the reality, and we cannot bring back the words of 'Allahu akbar' inside his mouth. He actually yelled that."
"But to link this fact and the responsibility of Muslim communities to play a special role more than any normal citizen is actually stigmatizing."
Haroun Bouazzi, co-president, Association of Muslims and Arabs for a Secular Quebec

"It is up to  you, religious leaders, to fight toe to toe on theological and religious terror, to expose the usurping of your values, the appropriation of your religion's history, the negation of 15 centuries of interpretation work done by your scholars."
"The battle of thought and faith must be fought on the ground, especially among the younger generations."
French President Emmanuel Macron, address to the French Council of the Muslim Faith
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Feb. 26, 2017. (photo by Reuters/Egyptian Presidency)

If Egypt's president -- after stating that Islam badly needed reform, that in the present day its major precepts constitute a threat to world peace and stability and that he hoped that the Islamic theologians at Al-Azhar University would see fit to undertaking that journey in theological scholarship and amendment of a religious text dating from the Medieval era to make it responsive to the realities of modernity -- was  unsuccessful in his overtures, how can the observations and pleas of a French president and a French premier make any inroads?
At least the two men, Macron and Couillard, exhibited the moral fortitude to call the situation what it is; a religion's call to terrorizing members of other religions and those who follow their own. Even if they skirted the reality that jihad does reflect Islam. Those who follow Islam fall into a number of categories; those that simply deny that violent jihad reflects Islamic values, and those who support jihad as a major tenet reflecting Islam's vital pillars of prosetylization. 
When Muslims are exposed at each of their Friday night mosque sermons to proscriptions against non-Muslims, to the Hadiths and Koranic scripts that emphasize the exceptionality and superiority of Islam over the beliefs and faiths of the non-believers, and curse their very existence as a blight meant to be expunged by the faithful, little wonder that a significant number among them support violent jihad carried out by a smaller and dedicated number of fundamentalists.
Muslims prefer to wrap themselves in the mantle of victimhood, clasping the claims that it is they whose human rights are being threatened, even while their co-religionists destabilize the world order from the Middle East to North Africa, East Asia to Oceania, Europe to North America. The triumphalism of shouting 'Allahu akbar!' while committing violence as emblematic of Islam's power becomes the common denominator among those whose clasp of terror reflects Islam.
For Muslims to feel not shame and regret, but indignant entitlement to denying that these malicious and harmful attacks against non-Muslims can be identified with Islam, and insisting that Islamophobia motivates those who link terror and Islam, engage in an effort to reverse the shame by labelling non-Muslims racists and bigots, representing the very height of mendacious sophistry. 

Premier Couillard errs toward appeasement when he claims that terrorism is not part of Islam for that statement is absurdly inaccurate. Jihad is an imperative that the faithful are expected to respond to, to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of advancing Islam's interests. And its interests lie in expanding its influence and command to achieve final control in a worldwide caliphate. To that end, Islamic State itself in its brutally malign atrocity-laden program is faithful to Islam.

Muslims respond every time an act of carnage takes place with attackers calling out "Allahu akbar!", that Islam is misunderstood, that it is a religion of peace. At the very same time, passages in the Koran belie that assertion, and do so clearly, with instructions to the faithful to dominate and destroy the Infidels and the Jews. Islam and terrorism are indeed inseparable, for the former sees the latter as integral to its success, a type of 'persuasion' entrapping people through fear.

Where Muslims view jihad as a legitimate tool authorized by Islam to propagate its message and enlarge its following to absorb the world in a final and all-encompassing ummah, as an ingathering of humankind to the bosom of Allah, the methods used by jihadists reflecting the ancient Medieval world of bloody conquest through the sword are viewed by the non-Muslim world as what they truly represent: terror.

French president Macron also sugar-coats the reality of Europe's dangerously churning episodes with deadly violence courtesy of Islamist jihadis, supporting the Muslim community's contention that Islamic values have been usurped by those choosing to interpret the 'values' inherent in Islam as being linked to bloody violence, in his own effort to appease his Islamic audience.

Amor Ftouhi
Undated Photo, CTV News,  Amor Ftouhi, Tunisian Montrealer

This latest debate in Quebec reflects the incident of a Tunisian-born immigrant to Canada who travelled to the United States where he made an effort to purchase a firearm, but succeeded only in buying a knife. With that knife he attacked a Michigan police officer, wounding him seriously. He was simply performing the bidding of the current premier jihadists who urge the use of any type of weapon with which to attack the kuffar. In choosing a knife, he chose the weapon of choice by Palestinian Arabs against Israeli Jews.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Hateful Crime, Likely Not A Hate Crime

"[CAIR is representing Nabra's family and] will monitor the development of the investigation to ensure a thorough examination of any possible bias aspects of the case."
Lena Masri, national litigation director, Council on American-Islamic Relations

"You can't just say, 'Oh, he didn't say anything against Islam, so no hate crime'."
"[This crime happened amid an] unprecedented rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes nationwide."
"We've been doing this for a lot of years, and there are not always overt statements of bias made during the crime."
"But we firmly believe that many of these crimes would not have occurred at all if the victims were not perceived as being Muslim."
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman, CAIR 

"Nothing indicates that the crime was motivated by hate or bias. Everyone looks at this crime and thinks that because the victims were participating in activities at a mosque, they assume that's what it was."
"It seems like a guy got enraged and just went after the victim who was closest to him."
Tawny Wright, spokeswoman, Fairfax Police Department

A motorist in Fairfax, Virginia has been accused and arrested and he will stand trial for the brutal murder of a young Muslim woman, 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen. She had been walking with a group of other young people when an enraged man driving a vehicle came across the group riding bicycles, walking, talking together companionably. The girls in the group were wearing traditional Muslim robes and head scarves.
Nabra Hassanen
Image via YouTube -- Nabra Hassanen
They were together in the early morning hours after attending the late-night Ramadan service at one of the largest mosques in the United States, the ADAMS Center. After their initial encounter, the motorist, a 22-year-old man from El Salvador whose presence in the United States is suspected as being illegal, came across the group again in a parking lot. An exchange of vituperative words took place, and the man began to chase the group of young people, holding a baseball bat.

They scattered and ran off rather than confront a man who was obviously in the throes of a psychotic rage. Nabra Hassanen appears to have been slower than her companions, and the man, now being held on a second-degree murder charge for whom no bail will be available, caught up to her, shoved her in his vehicle and drove off with her.

I wasn't  until later on Sunday that police discovered the girl's battered body beside a pond. An autopsy will determine whether she had been raped. Police are adamant to this point that they are investigating a crime of 'road rage'. No evidence exists that they can determine at this time that a hate crime was committed.

The accused, Darwin Martinez Torres, most certainly committed a heinous crime. His psychopathic rage was directed against the young people whose presence, for his own reasons, infuriated him. He was driven by his inner demons to pursue the young people with murderous intent. His intention bore atrocious fruit when he caught and abducted Nabra Hassanen. It was an odious crime.

A hate crime? Perhaps not so. In the latest statistics, the demographic most targeted for hate crimes is the LGBT community, followed by Jews, Blacks, Muslims, Latinos and Whites in descending order. There is, in addition, a sizeable gap between all of the demographics, but what is clear is that Jews, targeted mostly by Muslim incitement far more than by the far right, have been victimized by hate crimes in excess of Muslims.

Among the many Muslim community members that came out to pay their respects to Nabra Hassanen at her Wednesday funeral, her family and the Muslim community in mourning (understandably in shock) have been non-Muslims in the neighbourhood, among them members of the local Jewish community and synagogue-attendees.

CAIR's campaign to have this awful crime declared a hate crime against Muslims is yet another attempt on their part to portray the Muslim community as being under siege, to counter-weight the reality that Islamist fundamentalists are turning the world upside-down in their murderous rampage, with their declaration that Islam demands jihad.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Holocaust Skeletons Rattling in Europe

"I feel personally attacked, but this is for me a much more dangerous and general problem that has to be dealt with. It's a pure and simple attack on basic academic freedoms, which we take for granted here in Canada. I'm dismayed."
"[I will not allow the] campaign of hate [to distract from revealing a piece of history]."
"What I found is huge areas of human misery that have not been reported sufficiently or never. These things are not palatable to Polish nationalists who believe in myths."
"It's [the political climate in Eastern Europe] to an extent aligned with the wishes of the Polish state, which makes it all the more, I would say, appalling [the campaign to delegitimize his research]."
"They [Poles who killed Jews during the Holocaust years] were realizing their own dream of a Jew-free Poland."
"At the same time, they were very ardent opponents of the German occupation. Nothing is simple here."
Professor Jan Grabowski, historian, University of Ottawa
Prof. Jan Grabowski is seen in his office at the University of Ottawa on Thursday, May 21, 2015. The history professor has received death threats for his work on the Holocaust in Poland.
Prof. Jan Grabowski is seen in his office at the University of Ottawa on Thursday, May 21, 2015. The history professor has received death threats for his work on the Holocaust in Poland. (Jan Grabowski/The Canadian Press)
"He falsifies the history of Poland, proclaiming the thesis that Poles are complicit in the extermination of Jews."
"Grabowski fails to adhere to the fundamental rules of researchers' credibility. He uses vivid and exaggerated statements to create propagandistic constructions, rather than to provide an honest picture."
Polish League Against Defamation
German and Polish police, Poland, 1943. Yulia Krasnodembsky, from 'Hunt for the Jews.
"The current attack on Professor Grabowsky by the Polish League Against Defamation, as in a recent public letter signed by more than 100 academics who have no expertise in the subject, is baseless, putting forth a distorted and whitewashed version of the history of Poland during the Holocaust era."
"We are confident that your university [University of Ottawa], which is a bastion of learning and freedom of scholarly inquiry, will give its full support to Professor Grabowski against those who seek to besmirch his reputation and curtail his work, and by extension, ours as well."
"[Professor Grabowski is a scholar of] impeccable personal and professional integrity."
International Holocaust scholars

The Government of Poland is very sensitive about the fact that so many of the most efficient death camps like Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek were located by Nazi Germany in Polish territory. Their establishment as extermination camps in Poland was quite deliberate, with the knowledge that there would be few protests from among the occupied population, so many of whom approved of the Final Solution. But the government is indignant when these death camps are described as "Polish", issuing swift corrections to label them as "German"; simply placed in Poland.

It is indisputable, because it is in the historical record that after the liberation of the death camps, releasing Jewish survivors who had by some miracle of fate escaped death for their value as death camp slaves and because the extermination machinery of the gas chambers and ovens could only process so many at a time, that not much compassion could be found in the Polish population for Jews.

Those Jews incautious enough to return to their home villages to reclaim their property soon discovered that the Poles who had taken possession of that property would not release them to the proper owners. Not only was there a stony reception at the reappearance of former Jewish villagers but violence was directed against them and the aura of deadly hostility was so great that many were slaughtered by Poles furious at their return.

Professor Grabowski knows very well that Poles suffered deprivation during the Nazi occupation of Poland. He also knows of the prevalence of hatred against Jews, that pogroms were commonplace, that anti-Semitism was presented in lock-step with the German dehumanization of European Jewry. As an eminent historian he is determined to peer back into history to discern details that Poland would much prefer to obscure and bury.

He is, however, determined to unearth and reveal for posterity's sake, all the ugly scars on the face of humanity that took place in Poland during the Holocaust years. Through the 25 years he has devoted to studying the Holocaust years in Poland he has concluded from what he has discovered that many Poles were not forced to collaborate with the Nazis. Rather they chose to kill Jews because to do so expressed their deep hatred for these, their fellow Poles.

Formerly, his work in uncovering these inconvenient historical realities had garnered the attention of Polish groups in Poland. What's new, he says, is that the campaign to discredit his professionalism has been imported to Canada. The Polish League Against Defamation has written two collective letters to the University of Ottawa denouncing the quality and veracity of his scholarship. He is being unmercifully hounded in his place of residence and his place of academic scholarship by foreign sources.

His publication Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland was awarded the Yad Vashem International Book Prize in 2014, appalling the league which named it "disturbing". One of the two letters sent to the University of Ottawa, had 130 Polish scholars signatures, none of whom have any connection to Holocaust studies. Professor Grabowski identifies some of the league's founders as ranking members of Poland's government, or ministerial senior advisers.

An estimated 5.5-million Poles were killed during the war. Of that total three million were Jewish Poles. Poland, and its collaboration with the Nazi regime is not alone. Other Eastern European and Western European countries also occupied by Nazi Germany saw fit to aid the Third Reich in its plan to destroy European Jewry, from Lithuania to France.

Canada's current Minister of Foreign (Global) Affairs has an unsavoury link in her own background as an ethnic Ukraine. Her Ukrainian grandfather, situated in Poland throughout the war years, operated a Ukrainian news outlet in complete collaboration with and support of  the Nazis

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Some Return Alive, Others Dead

"I'm relieved to know that it was  him. On the other hand I was pretty depressed to find out from the autopsy that was done in Iraq what had happened to his body."
"Knowing that he was coming home, a different feeling came over me, that it's time to get back to work."
"All my questions have been answered."
Tina Martino, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Nazzareno Tassone (right) with YPG unit, December 2016, wpmedia.nationalpost.com
"The cause of their death is rather nebulous. They seemed to be on an advanced post on the frontline when they were attacked at night."
"The Islamic State would have taken the position, which would explain why they were in possession of the bodies. Everything seems to indicate that the YPG have paid to get the bodies back."
Guillaume Corneau, Laval University, Québec 
"I spoke to him regularly while he was there and I can tell you that he was motivated by a desire to do something about the scourge of ISIS and was inspired by other Canadians who had done so."
"[He was] basically functioning as a infantryman. He was equipped with an AK type of rifle and MARPAT (Marine pattern) cammo gear. He was involved in the fight for Manbij and spoke of losing several friends to suicide bombers."
"He expressed great pride in becoming a sniper and, as of when we last spoke, had 20 confirmed kills."
"As far as I understand it there was a large Daesh (ISIL) attack, he fought, and was killed."
Webster, Tassone acquaintance

A number of Canadians, some of them former military, have over the past few years, left Canada to join the fight against Islamic State, fighting alongside Kurdish forces. One of them was 24-year-old Nazzareno Tassone, who informed his family that he meant to travel to Iraq from Calgary in June of 2016 to teach English there. Instead he furtively slipped into Syria to fight with the YPG.

He was there, fighting alongside his Kurdish friends for six months before he and another Westerner were killed on December 21 near Raqqa, the proclaimed 'capital' of the Islamic State in Syria. But his body was retained by the Islamic State forces for six months. Eventually his body was released and ended up with the Kurdish unit he fought with, who mourned his death as one of their own.

It was arranged to send his body back to Canada. The Kurdish Peoples Protection Unit spoke of Nazzareno Tassone who fought with them as a martyr, a hero. And they were pleased to know that on his return to Canada he would be honoured when his casket was driven along the Highway of Heroes.

That ritual of honouring Canadian soldiers began spontaneously during the time that Canada had its military stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan as part of the NATO and UN coalition forces fighting the Taliban. It has since formally become a recognized and worthy ritual of respect and recognition of the sacrifice for freedom made by Canadian soldiers.

It is supremely fitting that this man who sacrificed himself in the international conflict against the Islamist jihadists who have roiled the Middle East and east Asia to North Africa and on into Europe and North America be recognized as a soldier of courage and determination in his personal decision to defend against the dark forces of violent savagery.

Now Tina Martino is preparing to give her son a funeral and to bury him at home. Her son had left a year earlier. She had been informed six months later by the YPG unit with which he was embedded and volunteered to fight on the front lines that ISIL terrorists had possession of her son's body. Six months later, in May of 2017, they managed to recover Nazzareno Tassone's body to make arrangements to transport him home.

His mother received autopsy results conducted in Iraq. That report came to the conclusion that her son hadn't died of a gunshot wound as she had been informed, but from a blow to the head. His body also had suffered broken bones.There were cigarette burns to his body and face, and it was clear that he had been bound, from the marks on his body.

But that same autopsy report described her son with a different colour of hair, taller than he was and a decade older. Only when another autopsy was conducted in Canada, when the coroner's office confirmed the body to be that of her son was she convinced that he had finally returned home.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

State Terrorism in North Korea

"His neurological condition can be best described as a state of unresponsive wakefulness."
"He showed no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands or awareness of his surroundings. He had not spoken ... or engaged in any purposeful movements or behaviours."
"...This study showed extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of the brain."
Dr. Daniel Kanter, neurologist, University of Cincinnati Medical Center

"Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea..."
"The use of torture is an established feature of the interrogation process in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Starvation and other inhumane conditions of detention are deliberately imposed on suspects. Persons who are found to have engaged in major political crimes are 'disappeared', without trial or judicial order, to political prison camps [kwanliso] ... Their families are not even informed of their fate if they die."
"The inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide. The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades. The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian states established during the twentieth century."
United Nations commission report, 2014
The launch was condemned by Japan
The May launch followed two successful tests of medium- to long-range missiles in as many weeks by Pyongyang Credit: Korean Central News Agency

The family of American university student Otto Warmbier was well aware that their son was in a North Korean prison. What they did not know was that their 22-year-old son, who had briefly visited North Korea along with a group of other 'tourists' through an arranged tour group and was detained as they all were in the process of returning home -- had been in a deep, unresponsive coma for the year he was held incommunicado, accused of being a spy.

Otto Warmbier's parents were briefly reunited with their son when the U.S. administration somehow managed to convince North Korean authorities to release the  young man, to allow him to return home on compassionate grounds. That reunion was brief because the young man, despite the best medical care available in the United States, was on a trajectory to death that was unstoppable. Mere days after returning home his life ebbed away, and his parents were left to arrange for his funeral.

While travelling in China in 2015 he had decided with the curiosity of the young to have a different kind of adventure, to sign on to a four-day tour to North Korea to celebrate the New Year of 2016. As the tour group prepared to depart from Pyongyang International Airport on January 2nd, one of their number, Otto Warmbier, alone among the group was detained. He appeared again in public filmed on North Korean television two months afterward, to 'confess' to having attempted to take a propaganda poster home with him.

He was sentenced, for that dread offence, to 15 years of hard labour at one of North Korea's notoriously brutal political labour camps. Clearly, he was interrogated. And obviously during his interrogation he was subjected to torture; at the very least the kind of manhandling that resulted in bringing him perilously close to death. The after-effect of that interrogation and brutalization was a young man in a state of suspended animation for a full year. In which state he remained to the end.

In totalitarian, brutal governments control of the population is absolute. Citizens have no recourse to justice, to the law, to state protection. Anyone unfortunate enough as a foreign visitor or resident in the country can be assured that the treatment meted out to them if they arouse suspicion regarding their motivation to peruse an embattled population out of curiosity, and come away with a memento will be similar to that of a resident-citizen. Once in the clutches of the military and the prison guards there is no exit.

This reality represents one of the reasons why the International Criminal Court exists; to bring to justice those leaders of nations whose administration of their country's affairs is beyond doubt brutal, violent and unjust. Recently there was a gathering at the United Nations to activate the international crime of aggression as a prosecutable crime. Like the earlier "responsibility to protect" United Nations internationally recognized law approved by all, but allowed to languish without a response when a country like Syria saw its president horrifically abusing his population, this law too will make everyone feel good, but produce no results.

The International Criminal Court, after all, sat in judgement of Sudan's president, declaring him a war criminal for his planned and executed atrocities against black Sudanese Darfurians. Yet Omar al-Bashir remains in his post as Sudan's leader, travels with impunity to Arab League meetings, where he is untouchable; there are none who will arrest  him and deliver him to the ICC. In the case of North Korea, China sees its current leadership as a nuisance and worrisome, but preferable as a bulwark against Western interests moving snugly beyond South Korea.

As for reunification, South Korea itself is fairly well at odds with itself; on the one hand valuing the prospect of reunification, on the other shying away from its wealthy 50 million population having to absorb an impoverished 25 million North Koreans. Germany took on a heavy burden when the Berlin Wall fell, and reunification between East and West took place; the current and long-serving Chancellor of Germany is a product of Sovietized East Germany.

The regime of Kim Jong-un has no credible opponents for whom the possibility of mounting a rebellion might become reality. The state apparatus of a maliciously powerful military might aligned against the plight of the oppressed ensures that no insurrection could possibly take place without the insurgents being mercilessly slaughtered, leaving the Republic with fewer enemies-of-the-state to incarcerate, torture and kill.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Restore Honorifics : Ignore Entitled Pronouns

"Refusing to refer to a trans person by their chosen name and a personal pronoun that matches their gender identity ... will likely be discrimination when it takes place in a social area covered by the Code, including employment, housing and services like education."
Ontario Human Rights Commission

"Some senators [Senate of Canada, Parliament] expressed the view that forcing the use of non-gendered pronouns was reasonable because calling someone by their preferred pronoun is a reasonable thing to do. That position reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role of expression in a free society. The question is not whether required speech is 'reasonable' speech. If a statute required people to say 'hello', 'please', and 'thank you', that statute would be tyrannical, not because 'hello', 'please' and 'thank you' aren't reasonable things to say, but because the state has dictated the content of private conversation."
Dr. Bruce Pardy, professor of law, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
(Image: Marta Iwanek) : Dr.Jordan Peterson

The Senate of Canada a week ago saw fit to support the elected Members of Parliament in passing Bill C-16, reflecting the Liberal government's legislation adding "gender identity or expression" to discriminatory grounds in the Canadian Human Rights Act. It has already been enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Which translates to no longer using pronouns society has long been familiar with, simple ones that distinguish between the genders, male and female. He and she have always been recognized as references to male and female individuals.

Free society, however, has transited toward recognizing a cornucopia of new and for many puzzling genders; from being free of any association with any gender, to a confusion of a combination of genders and alternately a transfer of birth gender identity to a completely 'other' gender, one traditionally familiar and many conceived of in the feverish minds of those dissatisfied with the choices nature has given humankind. But then, nature is herself sometimes confused in her assignments.

It is no longer to be viewed as optional if one is informed that a completely new and nonsensical (to the traditionalist) identification is to be used in everyday speech designating an individual in a wide array of personal and intimate choices for recognition. Some of the choices appear to the uninitiated silly and fanciful, like "ze", "zir", or "they", grammatically incorrect, but insisted upon lest someone's feelings be hurt and the negligent speaker is deemed to be a churlish lout.

Academic Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, took personal offence at this strangulation of language and identity and in a rebellious move causing great consternation to students at University of Toronto where he is a -- or was -- a highly respected lecturer and teacher and posted several YouTube videos explaining his perfectly reasonable refusal to join the non-gendered pronoun bandwagon. He must have known there would be a backlash; immediate, vociferous and damning. From students, and from his own academic community.

It has become a human right to declare oneself neither male nor female, or both if the designation appears to fit the individual's view of self. It is a human right to call oneself whatever one wishes, in fact. But it stretches matters somewhat to insist that all of society must accede to the same recognition at the behest of the entitled and perhaps somewhat confused individual who views their gender with disgruntlement and confusion. Feeling perhaps that everyone should share that confusion in a spirit of support, leaving the condescension at home.

Perhaps no one has yet approached the Human Rights Commission, nor tabled a private member's bill in Parliament to make it a legal offence to flout convention and polite societal interaction by taking such liberties as speaking to and of the elderly as though they are children. Take, for example, the common occurrence of a receptionist in a medical centre or hospital calling an elderly patient by his/her first name; no salutation of "Mr." or "Mrs."; eschewing the courtesy of using the last name for the convenience of calling out the given name.

Now that is offensive to the meek and forgiving elderly who simply do a mental shrug bemoaning what has become of society that a social courtesy has been trashed in favour of treating the elderly with the disdain of ill-manners. Elderly women may not think much of "Ms." but even that might be preferable to having callow, perfect strangers address them as familiars. And elderly men who may be struggling with feelings of disempowerment in the thrall of agedness don't really relish young whippersnappers' entitlement to addressing them by their given names.

But the young and the genderless do feel entitled to being addressed in their ridiculous choices. Which is fine, their choice, but it is beyond absurd that the entire society must enter into a contract with them to support their choices.

I reckon 100-150 people out on the Hill for rally. Dylan Robertson, Twitter 17 May 2017


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