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, December 17, 2017

Nigeria's Colossal Failure

"[Rain is a creation from god]. Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism."
Boko Haram spokesman

"I will not get killed until my time comes. You broadcast the news and published it in your media outlets that you injured me and killed me and here I am."
"Oh tyrants, I'm in a happy state, in good health and in safety."
"If you want your girls, [kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls] bring back our brethren."
Abubakar Sheka, leader, Boko Haram

"Boko Haram is once again committing war crimes on a huge scale, exemplified by the depravity of forcing young girls to carry explosives with the sole intention of killing as many people as they possibly can," 
"This wave of shocking Boko Haram violence, propelled by a sharp rise in suicide bombings, highlights the urgent need for protection and assistance for millions of civilians ... Governments in Nigeria, Cameroon and beyond must take swift action to protect them from this campaign of terror."
Alioune Tine, Amnesty International director, West and Central Africa

"[All praise to Nigerian troops for] finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at Camp Zero [located deep within  Sambisa Forest]."
"[The] long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave [has been achieved] the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide."
"Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity. May God be with them."
Nigerian President President Muhammadu Buhar, December 2016
A Nigerien soldier checks a building while on patrol in Duji
A Nigerian soldier checks a building while on patrol in Duji. Joe Penney, Reuters
According to the latest news out of Nigeria, its military has arrested over 400 people with Boko Haram, living on the islands of Lake Chad; among them jihadis, their wives and children in a two-week operation that wound up with the largest number of Boko Haram fighters arrested in northeast Nigeria in recent months. Yes, it's the very same Boko Haram, the Islamist hard-liners who proudly reject anything Western, from education to science. And no, it doesn't appear that Boko Haram was after all, entirely wiped out as Nigeria's president stated a year ago.

Boko Haram now associates itself with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, calling itself 'Islamic State West Africa Province'. In the Hausa language Boko Haram means 'Western culture is forbidden by Islam'. This does not reflect some new interpretation; it repeats in present-day language what the Koran itself forbids, so it is hardly surprising that Boko Haram's goal is the total Islamification of Nigeria, with the implementation of Sharia law. Nigeria is a hugely populous country in an extremely large geography.

It is comprised of a multitude of regions and various ethnic groups speaking 500 languages such as Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Urhobo. Sunni Muslims dominate the north of the country while Christians represent the majority in the south. From its colonialist past English remains the common language. The country's geology is one of those in which nature invested great oil wealth. While the current president is Muslim, his predecessor was Christian.

Boko Haram jihadis rampage through towns and villages, ransacking them, torching them, killing the inhabitants, kidnapping women and children. They're not too given to selecting only Christians for their atrocities; Muslims too fall under their marauding attacks. Teens and even younger children make excellent fodder for re-education the Boko Haram way; they are indoctrinated into jihad and persuaded to join; no doubt the examples made of those who protest encourage the others not to.

Women and teens are used unsparingly as suicide bomber fodder; instructed to seek out crowded venues and detonate the explosives belts they're equipped with.Women and girls who have been kidnapped, raped, borne children and who have escaped with those infants are shunned by Nigerian society, by their own families, by their villages; held in suspicion and unconcealed disgust as belonging to Boko Haram.

According to UNICEF, the first half of 2017 saw Boko Haram deploy 83 child suicide bombers, 55 who were girls mostly under fifteen, and one teen-age girl who had a baby strapped to her back, along with a suicide belt.

At 186-million population, the country represents the world's third most populous. It is a corrupt society, with the various appointed governors there to enrich themselves not to represent the best interests of those they govern. The military is traditionally ill equipped and inadequately trained. Funding to ensure that soldiers have the arms required to match those of Boko Haram is scarce; the military elite is known to habitually siphon off needed funds.

A typical African country in so many ways. Since 2009, an estimated 20,000 Nigerians have met violent deaths at the hands of Boko Haram, with over 2.6 million left homeless. Over five million Nigerians are on the verge of starvation; once dependable crops growing on farmland now devastated by the conflict are a thing of the past. Conflict has left farmers unable to plant, let alone cultivate crops, for the last several years.

Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the town of Damasak, Nigeria in March 2015.
Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the town of Damasak, Nigeria in March 2015. (Emmanuel Braun/Reuters)

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christianity in the Middle East

"Despite all your suffering, stay! Be patient! Don’t emigrate! Stay for the church, your homeland, for Syria and its future!"
"[Europe, forbear and do not] encourage Syrian Christians to emigrate."
Syrian Catholic leader Melkite Patriarch Gregory III

"There will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and Nativity scenes."
"It’s all a charade."
 "We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace."
Pope Francis

"In Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was removed, we lost a million Christians."
"Why? Not because the regime fell, but because there was no more authority, there was a vacuum. In Syria, it’s the same thing, Christians do not back the regime [of Bashar al-Assad], but they are afraid of what may come next."
Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, Lebanon’s Maronite Christian Patriarch
In Bethlehem, fondly rgarded as the birthplace of Christ, there are few Christians left; they have migrated elsewhere, victims of persecution by their Arab Muslim brethren. But the quaint, colourful customs of Christmas continue in Bethlehem. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas makes it a point to attend Christmas church service as a gesture of solidarity with the Christians who are no longer there.

Bethlehem aspires toward attracting tourism as a world heritage site. But Christians are also wary of the lack of esteem in which they are held. They fail to appreciate the decorations faithful to the season meant to attract foreign visitors wishing to visit the site and are willing to act the temporary part of Christians. Less the violence where young Palestinians throw rocks at Israeli soldiers at the wall separating the West Bank from Israel.

The tear gas that the soldiers lob back at the Palestinians creates a fog of indifference by Muslims to the the hypocrisy of venerating one version of god while denigrating the other, earlier version as false. The despicable disregard for the minority religions around them which holds Christianity to be an insult to Islam and the violence that accompanies that venomous disrespect sees churches burned, Christians threatened and their right to the sanctity of life in abeyance.

In the very cradle of Christianity, there is a scant 4% existence of Christians remaining among the vast sea of Muslim detractors. The low-grade persecution throughout the Middle East of the indigenous Arab Christians has more recently witnessed the horrific spectacle of Islamic State jihadists inflicting atrocities on the despised Christians. In one incident whose vile butchery enervated Christians, a video showed three Assyrian Christians forced to kneel, then shot in the head by ISIL jihadists.

There is a variance in the birth rate between Christians and Muslims; Coptic Christians in Egypt have a fertility rate of 1.9, while that of Muslims is 2.7. In northern Iraq, Mosul was home to tens of thousands of Christians when a wave of killings took place in 2008, which included the murder of the Chaldean archbishop. When ISIL arrived in 2014 Christian homes had an "N" (for "Nazarene") placed on the exterior, their occupants given the choice to convert, pay the jizya or face death. The Christians fled.
The snow-covered golden Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine in the Old City is seen behind a detail from the glass-and-lead window of Dominus Flavit, a Catholic chapel on the Mt. of Olives, on January 31, 2008 in Jerusalem, Israel  Getty Images
A century ago, Christian Arabs represented 20 percent of the region's population, quite a downgrade to the current 4 percent and dwindling. Christians continue their migration in the face of persecution, threats that have drained the region of its diversity. The ancient presence of Jews living among their Arab neighbours in Muslim nations such as Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Algeria and Iran among others, predated the exodus of Arab Christians.

Arab Christians found protection when strong dictators ruled the land. Keeping the peace and maintaining order, although the situation was always tenuous and they suffered minor indignities, violence was kept at bay when Christians gave their support to the dictators. In Egypt, the late Pope Shenouda III, of the Coptic church, the largest in the Middle East, gave his trust to former dictator Hosni Mubarak, discouraging Copts from joining protests that succeeded in toppling his rule. When Tawadros II succeeded, he supported Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi who maintains a level of order protecting Copts.

In the most piquant of ironies it is in the Gulf States where there was always a paucity of Christians that their number has accelerated. They come from the Asia-Pacific as labourers. As migrants they will never be anything but migrant labourers, citizenship will always be denied them. They have no roots in the Gulf, where the most conservative Islam is practised. By no means do these migrants lead a particularly pleasant life; they have few workers' human rights, but the allure of steady work, sending their wages back home keeps them there.

Christians now live in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, though their Christianity must be maintained at a low, inconspicuous level. While Saudi Arabia bans Christian practise, leaving the Asian Christians to worship in private, the UAE permits churches to be erected. Nonetheless, states Father Paul Karam, president of a Catholic charity in Lebanon, once a majority-Christian country, now in the minority: "Christians are not guests in the Middle East.We are the original owners of the land."

Much good that will do them. (Guess he forgot Judaism, predating Christianity.)

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Jerusalem, y’-ru-sha-LA-yim, יְרוּשָׁלִָיִם

That area of Jerusalem called the City of David was settled in the 4th millennium BCE. In Biblical tradition King David conquered the city from the Jebusites, establishing it as the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel. His son, King Solomon, commissioned the building of the First Temple, events  which took place at the dawn of the 1st millennium BCE. This is history. This is the history of Judaism as much as it is the history of the tribes of Israelites that came together to form a single ethnic, religious, social group.

The deliberately distorted history adopted by UNESCO under the influence of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the sanctimoniously entitled Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem which contains Judaism's most sacred relic, that of the site of the Temple of Solomon in its first and second incarnations, along with installations sacred to both Christians and Muslims, both of which followed Judaism long afterward, is safeguarded for all of humanity by the State of Israel. As steward of the Holy City, Jerusalem is also once again recognized as the capital of Israel.
When U.S. President Donald Trump fulfilled an election promise to have the United States formally recognize the reality that Jerusalem is in fact and purpose and in reflection of heritage and antiquity, the capital city of Israel, the enemies of the Jewish state which are by conviction anti-Semite Jew-loathers, were compelled to warn of the dangers inherent in the move, giving once again impetus to the virulence of Arab violent rejection of Israel, much less its reaction to the restoration of its capital.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, alongside Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Ayatollahs of the Islamic Republic of Iran have revved their hysterical passions to overdrive in an effort to mobilize the 57-member OIC and the Arab League  to come to the defense of the Palestinians who claim entitlement to Jerusalem -- and, for that matter to all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, minus Israel, to constitute the State of Palestine.

Map of JerusalemImage result for jerusalem Jerusalem, Capital of Israel

Palestinians, fed a steady diet of propaganda of their obligation to 'resist the occupation' by employing lethal means to disrupt Israeli society and in the process become martyrs to be honoured and revered, answer the call to incitement they have been taught as their birthright. From the teen years upward isolated attacks with whatever comes to hand to kill and to maim, and with groups lobbing rocks at the police and military to demonstrate the extent of their defiance, there is no peace-loving entity for Israel to discuss peace with.

The Gaza-located terrorist Hamas Palestinians have called for mass protests, along with the governing PA's Fatah party, while leaving it to Islamic Jihad in Gaza to blast rockets over the border into Israel, forcing Israel to self-protectively shut down the border crossings where food and medical and building supplies are trucked into Gaza daily. A new Palestinian uprising against Israel has been called for in reaction to the Jerusalem announcement.

Turkey's emergency call for a conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul saw a handful of leaders of the 57 member-states present themselves. Hateful rhetoric, however, threats and slanders were, as usual, not in short supply. The Arab and Muslim leaders who see nothing particularly amiss in their roles urging their militaries to engage in sectarian bloodshed are themselves responsible for the deaths of immense numbers of Muslims. Yet they falsely accuse Israel of plotting genocide even as they themselves persecute religious and ethnic minorities.

In the five decades that have passed since the 1967 Six-Day War when once again and for the last time, assembled Arab armies failed to succeed in destroying Israel, Jerusalem has been administered by Israel. All the faiths whose sacred sites are located within Israel, from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque are safeguarded by Israel ensuring that those for whom those places are holy can access them in safety.

Only Israel alone, and Jews cannot have access to the most sacred of sites, the Temple Mount, to pray lest their doing so enrage Muslims who deny the pre-existence of Judaic places of worship on the Mount. To keep the peace, Israel must disallow Jews access to their most sacred of sites. Israel agreed to allow Jordan's Hashemite Monarchy to administer the Temple Mount through its ministry of religious affairs. An accommodation of great sacrifice which has never seen reciprocation but which has occasioned threats and accusations of Jewish presence on the Mount sullying and blaspheming a site sacred to Islam.

And from mosques all over the world, including in Jerusalem, Friday prayers include injunctions to the faithful to proceed directly from worship to take part in protests against the 'occupation' by Israel of Jerusalem. These are by no means peaceful, civil 'protests', but vehemently violent demonstrations of just how victimized the 1.2-billion Muslims in the world are by the presence of 14-million Jews in the world.

Israeli forces confront Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday.
Israeli forces confront Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Grave Misunderstanding on an Outrage Scale of Ten

"Some Arab countries have shown very weak responses [on Jerusalem]. It seems some countries are very timid of the United States."
"If we don’t defend Jerusalem today, when will we defend it?. If we don’t defend Jerusalem, one of the three most sacred places of Islam, what will we defend?"
"We will make a call for countries that have so far not recognized Palestine to do so now. We want the United States to turn back from its mistake."

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

"Erdogan is playing to the audience and he has done this for many years,. And while he pleases the audience, he has expanded economic and military cooperation with Israel, despite what he tells his followers here in Turkey."
"Of course, Israel will insist on its current position. But I believe Palestinians are right in their calls to remain on their land and I hope, some day, that this territory will not be overseen by one group, but will be managed by a coalition of Jewish, Christian and Muslim representatives who all have a shared history there."
Ihsan Eliacik, progressive Islamic scholar in Turkey

"The United States has chosen to lose its qualification as a mediator -- We will no longer accept that it has a role in the political process from now."
"We call that the [peace] process in its entirety be transferred to the United Nations."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Türkei Sondergipfel der Organisation für Islamische Kooperation (OIC) (picture-alliance/AP Photo/L. Pitarakis)
Roster of Western-hostile, Jew-hating Muslim degenerates
With his manic frothing at the perfidy and murderous intent of Israel against Palestinians, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's volcanic-psyched autocrat-Islamist imperiously called an urgent conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the earth-shattering pronouncement by the President of the United States in outrageous agreement that Israel's de facto capital is indeed the nation's capital city, verifying that Jerusalem which history and ancient scripture verify as the eternal undivided capital of ancient Israel is also the capital of reborn Israel. Agreeing to recognize reality is, in Erdogan's fevered mind, a capital offence for which Israel must pay dearly.

The man whose mind goes off on febrile forays of vengeance whenever Israel is named has threatened war; inciting those present at the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's member-states to assemble an army to march on Jerusalem and release it from the clutches of the Jews, that unregenerate tribe of murderers of Palestinian children whom the much-admired Hamas protects by installing rocket launchers in mosques and schools and apartment complexes, brilliant tacticians that they are, calling the world's attention to the IDF's return fire, deliberately harming those Hamas has placed in harm's way.

Snarling and bellowing, Erdogan works himself into a foaming lather of violent indignation at the very thought that a nation of Jews has re-established itself in the Middle East, a geography once in thrall to the dictates of the Ottoman Empire and as such sacred to Islam, making it intolerable that Jewish feet trample upon that very land, claiming it as their own. The Islamic hatred for any tribe or minority ethnic group that fails to keep faith with Islam has become legendary. The religion of peace whose faithful slaughter one another in variations on jihad, reaching out beyond Muslim countries to send jihadis emissaries abroad to become martyrs there, will brook no question of Islam's divine purpose in jihad from Islamophobes.

This is the purpose of the 57-member OIC, to come together as one whenever and wherever the presumed plight of Muslims calls out for their brethren in Islam to come to their rescue. As revolving head of the OIC Erdogan has chosen the issue of Israel's capital Jerusalem to call an emergency meeting; no one in the OIC evidently felt a requirement to meet to discuss whatever could be done to give aid to Bangladesh to succour the fleeing Rohingya from Buddhist-majority Myanmar, whose condition is inhumanely dire, just as no meeting took place when Darfur was being mutilated by Sudan's Arab president.

Anti-Israel protest in Istanbul (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/E. Oprukcu)
The US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital sparked protests around the world, including in Turkey
Needless to say, the call to all and sundry to attend this meeting in Istanbul at Erdogan's fiery behest was intended to host all the important players of the Middle East, presumably aghast that the third most sacred site in Islam [never once mentioned in the Koran] was hideously monopolized by Israel. A strange thing happened on the way to Istanbul; many of the invitees somehow got waylaid, forget the date or the route, and simply failed to appear. Of the 57 heads of state a paltry 16 appeared, according to Quds Press. Most tasked lower-level ministers and officials to attend, mother of all shocks! "We can understand the absence of Egypt due to the position of the Turkish president regarding the Egyptian military coup [Turkey supporting the Muslim Brotherhood] but the absence of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE is not understood", stated Kuwaiti political analyst Ayed Al-Manaa

The extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul on 13 December 2017.

Well now, a blisteringly irate Mahmoud Abbas has the solution to the problem. To call upon the United Nations to administer any further possible dialogues between Israel and the PA, in negotiating a settlement for 'peace' agreeable to the Palestinians. The absolute neutrality and honourable discharge of the United Nations' arms have already displayed the reliability of their judgement, given the positions of the Human Rights Council repeatedly charging Israel with crimes ad nauseum, and UNESCO declaring all of Jerusalem's Hebraic historical sites to represent Palestinian heritage. That, according to Mahmoud Abbas, is a reflection of reality, of justice, of decency and non-partisanship.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Allocating Blame as California Burns

"With climate change, some scientists are saying California is literally burning up."
"[The immense blazes represent] the new normal [California has been introduced to] the new reality."
California Governor Jerry Brown

"[Usually, winds in the area] flow from the west, carrying cool, humid air from the [Pacific Ocean] onshore."
"[But the hot, dry Diablos [winds] reversed course. It now blows from the northeast toward the ocean at 65 km/hr, with gusts up to 120 km/hr, giving massive impetus to the fires]."
"These hot, dry winds develop from an unusual pattern of high and low pressure cells, and are most prominent in autumn. They follow the normal summer and fall drought that occurs in this Mediterranean-type climate, leading to severe fire weather conditions."
"The speed of these fires is a major factor leading to the loss of human lives."
"Nearly all fires in Sonoma County are caused directly or indirectly by people, such as intentional ignitions or power lines igniting fires. Population growth raises the probability of fire igniting under severe weather conditions."
Jon Keeley, research geologist, U.S. Geological Survey
California wildfires FBN AP
Officials are currently unsure what sparked the wildfires in Southern California.  (The Associated Press)

And so, California, which every year without fail, suffers catastrophic wildfires difficult to control much less extinguish, exacting a great cost in human lives, firefighting, and destroyed property, is now facing the seeming potential of much exacerbated conditions leading to ever greater such natural phenomena. Raging infernos have struck around Los Angeles, convincing people living there that what they are witnessing and have ample cause to fear, are events much worse than those experienced in the past.

Over forty people were left dead from the Sonoma County fires north of San Francisco where the Thomas Fire has succeeded in destroying 800 structures, damaging or threatening over 18,00 more in the Santa Barbara area. Another unprecedented phenomena emerged when California underwent a five-year drought, concluding only last year. There's a misguided belief that even in ordinary circumstances California never receives rain, but that is a misconception that reality proves otherwise.
A fire truck drives up Romero Canyon to a house surrounded by smoke from the Thomas Fire in Montecito as California battles against a devastating blaze 
A fire truck drives up Romero Canyon to a house surrounded by smoke from the Thomas Fire in Montecito as California battles against a devastating blaze

In the winter months it rains in the southern portion of the state. In the northern and central mountains there is ample snow, and come spring snow melts, irrigating the valleys below. Where foliage blooms everywhere thanks to that moisture all over the state. Famously, California artists paint entrancing landscapes of California in seasonal bloom, vast seas of colour. But when summer arrives, the hot sun bakes the atmosphere and the landscape becomes dry when moisture is scarce.
"Plants are happy and growing well in the winter time, and when summer proceeds to the fall they get drier and drier."
"The amount of water in the plants get lower and lower and lower; it means that they are very dry. When it gets to critical threshold level and a fire comes through, they're very flammable. It happens every year."
"The intensity of the Santa Ana winds is about as extreme as they get [driving the Thomas Fire into legend]."
Marti Witter, fire ecologist, National Park Service, Santa Monica National Recreation Area
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, California
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve / Rennett Stowe,

And then there is the simple, obvious, and quite discomfiting fact that county planners and housing developers are directly responsible for much of the destruction that takes place when multitudes of buildings are consumed in these implacable fire situations. Right contiguous with wildlands in the West, two million homes went up in both Washington and California, according to Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit independent group studying wildfire prevention.

These scenic areas are in high demand. When houses are built where they are vulnerable to such natural outcomes as seasonal fires reacting from weather and climate conditions, peoples' homes are heartbreakingly destroyed, and the residents themselves are placed in mortal danger. Residents treasure their access to the natural beauty in such remote locations, despite the moderate to high risk of experiencing wildfires and the fire-torching of their homes. An estimated $500-billion-worth of property destruction results, figures from CoreLogic, a company specializing in real estate economics.

"It's a witch's brew. The risk keeps increasing. I'm putting firefighters in harm's way", says Tom Harbour, former national fire and aviation director for the Forest Service.

The Thomas Fire is southern California spread 50,000 acres in just one day making it the fifth largest wildfire in modern California history.
The Thomas Fire is southern California spread 50,000 acres in just one day making it the fifth largest wildfire in modern California history.  Fox News

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cold and Dark, But It's Home

"Norilsk is a unique city. It was put here by force."
"It is like a survivor. If it had not been for Norilsk, there would have been another principle of life in the Arctic: You came, you worked, you froze = and you left."
Alexander Kharitonov, owner, printing house

"Everything else [beyond the city] is a vast wild land with a wild nature and no people."
"This is where the last wild mammoths died. When they dug the foundations of the buildings, they found the bones of mammoths."
Vladimir Larin, scientist, Norilsk
Due to its location, Norilsk might appear even more isolated than other arctic cities, without ground connections with the rest of the world. The air is the only way to reach it, together with seaway and river boats when the navigation is possible
Due to its location, Norilsk might appear even more isolated than other arctic cities, without ground connections with the rest of the world. The air is the only way to reach it, together with seaway and river boats when the navigation is possible

It was once a dark, frozen, isolated gulag. That was during Soviet times, when Stalin had subversives, enemies of the state and just pure unfortunates sent to this remote city in northern Siberia to work as slave labourers. It was a vast slave prison, part of Stalin's infamous Gulag, where harsh punishment was meted out to people enslaved in a harsh landscape between 1925 and 1956. At its height, an estimated 650,000 prisoners were sent to the camp known as Norillag.

They must have thought they were in Hell, in a place that was perpetually dark throughout the long winter months from late November to June where the sun is never seen and the polar winter is brutal and they worked until they dropped. It was thought that during the two decades of its use, 250,000 of the prisoners died of overwork, of starvation of the effects on the human body of continual exposure to misery and cold, where the temperature was known to drop to minus 62 Celsius.

The place was closed by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, when human rights became a recognized issue and the-then President dismantled Stalin's slave labour camps. Even so, no foreign visitors may even now access the city without a permit issued by Russia's Federal Security Service. What any foreigner would see if he ventured there now would be a thriving city of 174,000 people living there year-round; a population comprised of descendants of some of the labourers and of the majority who came voluntarily, lured by the prospect of high salaries and the stark beauty of the place.

The city is well populated but the wilderness extending beyond it is uninhabited wilderness for the most part. When winter breaks, and the two months of darkness relent, melting snow brings buried remains of the prisoners to the surface. The city is so remote only plane or boat on the Arctic Ocean offer passage out.

Those who came for the steady work on offer do hard, well-remunerated labour in Norilsk's metallurgical industry, a large complex of mines and smelters representing Norilsk Nickel a former state company since privatized, the world's largest producer of the rare metal palladium as well as a supplier of nickel copper and other metals. In recognition of difficult living and working conditions there are 90 days of paid holiday time, and retirement age is set at 45.
Every year, more than 2 million tons of gas (mainly dioxide sulfur, but also nitrogen oxides, carbon and phenols) are expelled into the atmosphere
Every year, more than 2 million tons of gas (mainly dioxide sulfur, but also nitrogen oxides, carbon and phenols) are expelled into the atmosphere
Move than 6,000 square kilometers have been turned into a dead zone characterized by dead trees, by mud and snow. More sulfur dioxide is belched out of the company's chimneys that what all of France produces in a year. Its residents, however, are proud of their city and their ability to survive in a harsh environment. Lake Dolgoye even has its dedicated contingent of swimmers eager for the bracing experience when they dip into its icy waters in a lake that only partially freezes; where hot water pipes from a power plant warms it to below freezing.
The Norilsk’s citizens suffer ‘the polar night syndrome’, resulting in anxiety, nervousness, drowsiness or insomnia, depending of the seasons, while the psychological discomfort and poor emotional stimuli also generate many cases of depression. Pictured in January locals celebrate Epiphany by swimming in Lake Norilsk 
The Norilsk’s citizens suffer ‘the polar night syndrome’, resulting in anxiety, nervousness, drowsiness or insomnia, depending of the seasons, while the psychological discomfort and poor emotional stimuli also generate many cases of depression. Pictured in January locals celebrate Epiphany by swimming in Lake Norilsk

There are some newly-introduced social amenities in the city, such as Internet service, and the presence of the Norilsk College of Arts, as well as the Norilsk Greenhouse growing fresh product in heated greenhouses. There is home brew available and live music at the Zaboi Bar whose owner claims to struggle with the climate, dreading returning to the city after being away, yet never failing to return to the city he "really do[es] not want to go back" to.
This huge pollution has a strong influence on the people’s health. Life expectancy is 10 years less than in other regions of Russia, the risk of cancer is two time higher and respiratory diseases are widespread 
This huge pollution has a strong influence on the people’s health. Life expectancy is 10 years less than in other regions of Russia, the risk of cancer is two time higher and respiratory diseases are widespread

“It is really impossible to emphasize just how otherworldly this place was. Most people, including the city's nuns and head doctors, claim that those from Norilsk have better health. And this is without mentioning that all nature in a radius almost the size of Germany is dead from severe air pollution. I already knew that the people of Norilsk loved their hometown, but I didn't expect them to so openly contradict medical findings [of cancer ten times the rate elsewhere in Russia].”
Victoria Fiore, filmmaker
In the winter, children are allowed for a walk outside only under certain conditions. Sometimes children have to spend several months indoors
Many buildings have been gradually abandoned 

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Monday, December 11, 2017

The EU Outlier

"There is a growing feeling in Brussels that solidarity cannot be a one-way street, and that it becomes difficult to justify the ten billion-euro per year net transfers for a country that is increasingly at odds with the bloc's values."
"It is high time the EU reacted, or it risks losing its soul."
Bruno Dethomas, senior policy adviser, GPLUS consultancy, Brussels

"[It's up to Poles to show] the sick Europe of today the path back to health, to fundamental values, to true freedom and to the strengthening of our civilization based on Christianity."
Jaroslaw Kaczynsky, leader, Law & Justice party, Warsaw

"Hostility towards the EU is part of Law & Justice's DNA, and if it was up to the party, Poland would leave the bloc."
"But Kaczynski knows he can't do that because Poles are benefiting from EU membership. Hence, the party slowly builds a negative attitude towards EU -- while declaring that Poland has no intention of leaving."
Marcin Matczak, law professor, Warsaw University
A couple hold flares as as thousands gather for the nationalist march of Poland´s Independence Day.
Photographer: SOPA Images/LightRocket

Leaders of the European Union in Brussels are resentful of the fact that the EU member receiving the greatest aid from the EU of its 28-member group appears to be slighting and bypassing the intention that all members must accede to the demands imposed upon them to accept the dictates of the European Parliament and European Commission in all matters directed toward the membership, inclusive of accepting their allocated share of the flood of refugees reaching Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Poland has been defying the EU's mandate to order its members' obligations.

Poland receives $270-billion in aid through to 2022 which it absorbs into general revenues to be used for everything and anything it sees fit in infrastructure improvement. The country benefits hugely by its inclusion in the European Union. Polish workers have the right to match their inclination to migrate wherever they wish to other EU member-states for employment; they represent the largest migratory worker group in Great Britain. And, like Britain, they have become a headache to the EU.

Poland's defiance -- under the leadership of Jaroslaw Kaczynski of the increasingly authoritarian Law & Justice party -- against knuckling under the directives of the European Parliament are increasingly worrying. To the EU. The EU is flirting with the imperative of exacting a penalty on any such member countries who flout EU disrespect for the EU's democratic rule of law. Germany, France and the Nordic states in particular would like to see some penalties imposed upon Poland for its refusal, among other things, to absorb refugees.

But of course, Poland is not alone in eastern European EU members refusing to take in Muslim migrants.

Poles are fundamentally nationalist in character, mostly agreeing with their new government's encouragement to remain so, and seeing validation in the statements of intent issuing from the U.S. Trump administration. Neither Poland's government nor its people feel compelled to absorb Muslim refugees. That the EU lacks unanimity to pressure Poland for its stance to strip it of its voting rights at EU summits, leaves the EU leadership fuming  and Poland beyond punishment. For the present.

French President Emmanuel Macron warns that Poland could yet face consequences for defying the EU. The Dutch coalition government signed an agreement in October that specifies "subsidies should be reduced for member states that do not fulfill their obligations". The European Union prides itself on coercing all its members to fall into line from the most insignificant of market rules to the most urgent initiatives relating to the refugee-and-migrant invasion emergency of recent years.

That the Polish government additionally is in the process of finalizing legislation that would alter its Supreme Court and Judicial Council along lines more reflective of the current government's views, risks the basics of democratic convention, according to Poland's commissioner for human rights. "I will vote in line with my party. But this measure is a glaring contradiction to the constitution", commented a parliamentarian of the legality of court changes.

Kaczynski, who in the first place was a critic of Poland's 2004 entry into the European Union, lost when 78 percent of Poles were in support of EU membership. Entry on the conditions negotiated by Poland, he warned at the time, represented a "threat to fundamental values including independence and democracy." Certainly he was right on the issue of 'independence'.

Protesters hold a banner which reads, "Stop the Islamization of Europe" during their protest against refugees in Krakow (Image: Reuters)

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