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.

Friday, April 20, 2018

China : Global Titan

"While virtually everyone agrees that a rules-based system is essential to managing security and trade, a power struggle is underway over who writes and enforces them. The spectacular rise of China over the past two decades and the relative decline of the US mean that sparks are bound to fly. Yet most westerns are only dimly aware of what’s occurring since the rug was so quickly pulled out from under them. The potential for catastrophic miscalculations - including US trade actions against China - are rising with potentially devastating cascading effects to the global economy."
"To get to grips with the seismic shifts underway, consider these five facts: First, China is in the process of surpassing the US economically. By one measure, 35 per cent of world growth from 2017 to 2019 will come from China, 18 per cent from the US, 9 percent from India, and 8 per cent from Europe. By 2050, the top five largest global economies are most likely to be China, India, the US, Brazil, and Indonesia. Is the west even remotely prepared for this kind of world?"
"Second, China is leading the largest urbanization and infrastructure development scheme on earth. Already in its fifth year, the $900 billion "One Belt and One Road" (OBOR) project includes new roads, shipping lanes and building projects stretching to over 65 countries. The idea is to literally rewire global trade from China throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. While details are hazy, OBOR is being financed by Chinese state banks, with a modest strategic contribution by a new Chinese-backed AsianInfrastructure Investment Bank in partnership with other institutions."
"Third, China is set to become a global green powerhouse. China signalled its intention to take the lead on climate change reduction after signing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. By 2025, most new cars in China will be fully electric vehicles. China is aggressively cutting coal usage. Already, over 60 per cent of high speed rail in the world is in China (10 times the length in Japan, for example). China also recently committed to achieving blue skies in all of its major cities within three years. The changes are already being felt: Beijing air is 30 per cent cleaner this winter than last winter."
"Fourth, China is also setting the global pace on a digital economy, including cashless payments. In major cities, up to 90 per cent of all commercial and retail transactions in convenience stores and cafes are occurring through Alipay and Wechat. E-commerce delivery in large Chinese cities through Alibaba is the currently the fastest in the world. One company, Alibaba, racked up sales of $25 billion in just one day - dwarfing the returns of so-called Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US."
"Finally, Chinese universities are also vaulting to the top of the international rankings. Two schools - Peking University and Tsinghua University - just leapfrogged from well below the top 200 to the top 30 within five years. There are anther 40 universities that are not far behind and set to enter the elite universities in the coming years. While Chinese are still seeking out educations in elite schools in North America and Western Europe, soon they won't have to."

Robert Muggah, Research Director,  Igarapé Institute
Yves Tiberghien, Associate Professor of Political Science, Director Emeritus, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, Founding Chair, Vision 20 
Flags of U.S. and China are placed for a meeting between Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and China's Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu at the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing, China June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee
How China's rise and the US's decline is expected to affect the global liberal order
Image: REUTERS/Jason Lee
The world's consumers wanted greater accessibility to cheaper goods and that seemed to put to bed forever the concept of self-sufficiency in production when nations of the world produced goods that their citizens bought in a conscious effort on the part of governments to grow their industries, taking advantage of the inaccessibility of market goods from other countries and putting up bulwarks against trade and imports through customs and excise duties charges. Then came the vaunted advance of free trade and open markets and China, which altered its politics to reflect the practicality of capitalism married to communism and everything changed.

China, in a relative few short decades hollowed out the industries and manufacturing capabilities that nations depended on to provide employment for their citizens and consumer goods as well. China locked up the markets in production of just about everything, from durable goods to foods. In the process it provided employment for its colossal population, sweeping poverty away. It is sweeping the seas of marketable fish, and building infrastructure throughout Africa, the Middle East and Europe in road, rail and bridges to enable low-cost shipping to all points of the geographic compass.
Over in the industrial hub of Shenzhen, Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has proposed the planet’s biggest waste to energy plant, designed to transform 5,000 tonnes of waste every day into power. The plant is due to open in 2020, and it will be almost a mile wide.

At one time industrial espionage and theft of intellectual property consumed its interests in leap-frogging over other nations' research and development and taking it for their own in an unabashed stride to avail itself of the science pioneered elsewhere but ripe for plucking by a country that customarily flaunted international trade conventions in the interests of speeding along its enterprise. China, the colossus striding across the world of commerce and production in all venues of enterprise, has locked up production in essential construction materials. It undercuts its competitors and puts them out of business, then makes them dependent on what it produces.
In September this year, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope – FAST for short – is set to open its doors and become operational. First proposed in the early 90s, it will become the biggest single-aperture radio telescope on the planet, with 4,600 triangular panels. The telescope is situated in a natural basin in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, to protect the project from unwanted magnetic disruptions.

China has become the world's largest steel exporter, it controls 56 percent of the world's production of aluminum and controls 90 to 94 percent of world production of rare-earth elements. Materials required for military purposes like laser-guided missiles, the F-35 fighter jet, cellphones and similar consumer products are dependent on accessibility of rare-earth elements. A recent discovery of rare-earths deposits sufficiently plentiful to meet global demand for centuries has been discovered off Japanese waters; a rare event that gives Japan a position of superiority in that class of fundamental elements.
Although 3D printing is by no means new (nor is it emerging in China alone), in 2014 a Chinese company called WinSun Decoration Design Engineering managed to create a 10-house 3D-printed village in under one day.
After printing out each of the prefabricated modules, the components were lifted into place by a crane and were then ready to use. And in 2015, the same company created the world’s tallest 3D-printed building at the time

In renewable energy, the industries encompassing solar panels and wind turbines now are dominated by China, as well as the nuclear power industry, and China is now looking to control of the semiconductor industry for the ultimate control of electronics and telecom, and will likely in the near future reach a 60 percent control of the market with resulting problems arising in national security in the West. And unlike in the West, in China industries are state-dependent and controlled, significant outreach arms of the communist government but unlike that of the USSR, these are productive, efficient and reliable.
China is planning to build a solar expressway for self-driving cars and electric vehicles that will be able to charge them as they drive, according to the Chinese newspaper Hangzhou Daily

Its territorial disputes in a belligerent move to expand its geography puts it at odds with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Pakistan, Russia, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia and North Korea. Its claims to the waters of the East and South China Seas and the natural resources that lie beneath those seas make it a formidable, dedicated adversary to all who might wish to dispute China's self-perceived entitlements. It is not in the business of making friends, it is in the business of making business and growing its inalienable opportunities and territories.
The Tianhe-2 is a 33.86-petaflop supercomputer which has topped the world’s most powerful high powered computing lists for years. Developed as part of the Chinese government’s 863 High Technology Program, the monstrous computer was built by China’s National University of Defense Technology. It boasts 32,000 Intel Xeon E5-2692 12C processors and has more than 1,300 TiB of memory. Although it’s by far the most powerful in terms of calculation capacity, critics say that it’s not as functionally useful as other supercomputers in the US

China believes the future belongs to it, and who is there to dispute that? Its focus on Artificial Intelligence, on space exploration, on wringing all it can from places on Earth remote to its geography has seen it lay claim to Arctic resources, as a "near-Arctic" state. There is nowhere too remote under the sea, in geographic distance, in space where meteorites can be mined for raw resources, not to fall to China's attention, and potential grasp.

The world's largest floating solar power plant was completed and connected to the local power grid in China's Anhui province in May 2015.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Which Chemical Gas Attack Would That Be?

"I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived."
"People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a 'White Helmet', shouted 'Gas!', and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning."
Dr. Assim Rahaibani, Douma, Syria   report by Robert Fisk, The Independent
Rubble fills a street in Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus (AP)

So there we have the truth. No chemical attack over Douma, nothing but the active imaginations of France, Britain and the United States, just looking for the opportunity to react to false information. To make themselves look good, as though they're invested in doing what they can for the good people of Syria under constant attack from the Baathist Alawite Shiite regime of Bashar al-Assad who took up the mantle worn so proudly by Saddam Hussein's Baathist Sunni regime as the 'Butcher of Baghdad' for his infamous chemical attacks on Iraqi Kurds.

That king of civilian butchery is now dead, fading from memory except by those whose human rights he violated, and the new king has ascended the throne of tyrannical slaughter of his own population. Helicopter gunships, barrel bombs, starvation sieges, chemical weapons, it's all the same to Assad whose focus is on wiping out any threats to his entitled reign over a Syria that he has pounded into near oblivion. The viciousness of his reaction to Syrian Sunnis asking for equality citizenship rights acted as an invitation to Sunni terrorist groups to flood into Syria, a new battle front.

Assad speaks only with the utmost contempt of Syrian Sunnis, instantly transformed into terrorists rather than rebels against tyranny. It is a distinction that served him well, since there is no need to treat terrorists as opponents with a legitimate grievance, so no need to make an effort to resolve those grievances. Terrorists deserve death, and Assad has gone out of his way on any and all occasions to deliver mass death to those he views as his opponents/terrorists. And he has had ample assistance from Iran's Republican Guard Corps, from Hezbollah and from Shiite militias and finally, Russia.
A video image provided by the Syrian Civil Defense, an aid group, of toddlers being treated by medical workers after a suspected chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma on Sunday. Credit Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, via Associated Press

The latest chemical gas attack on the people of Douma and the routing of the Syrian resistance resulted in an abhorrent attack on helpless civilians; videos of children suffering the effects of chemical poisoning persuaded the U.S. British and French administrations to deliver a puny, but telling rebuke in the form of a 90-minute aerial bombing attack by warplanes and ships sitting offshore that targeted a number of chemical production and storage facilities.

The medics who responded to the asphyxiating dying people on April 7 are now in the position of being intimidated by the regime's police, warned not to speak to anyone about the attack and one doctor who was not even close to the hospital where scores were rushed exhibiting the classic symptoms of asphyxia by poison gas, denies that any such event occurred. It was, he claims, a dust storm that had blown through the area.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations of Syria has warned that threats have been issued by the regime against any who might wish to discuss the event.

Regime forces and Russian military personnel had prevented the UN's Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons from entrance to Douma to fact-check. And while the combined airstrikes have been supported by the 28-member EU, Canada, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Japan, Australia, Bahrain and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, they are opposed by Russia, Iran, China, Hamas, Hezbollah, Venezuela and Assad. Oh yes, of course, British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, too.

Ah, and the veteran Arabophile Robert Fisk, the British reporter who writes for the Independent, and who would swoon with delight if he could accuse Israel of having dropped those barrel bombs filled with chemical weapons over the two Douma sites on April 7. As it is, he has written a long article casting aspersions on the very thought that the Syrian regime was involved in gassing its own people. It was, he claims, the Islamist 'terrorist' groups that Assad is battling who were responsible; they don't have planes at their disposal, let alone barrel bombs, but they did it to convince the West that Assad needed to be bombed.

A picture said to show victims of the attack in a building in Douma. Credit Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, via Associated Press

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Happy 70th, Israel!

"Israel is a Jewish state, the only Jewish state in the world, and the only Jewish state that has existed for thousands of years. And as such, it carries the very difficult burden of the Jewish people, which is mostly unpleasant." 
"I am a realist. I think Israel will never be left alone. It will continue to carry the burden. So it’s not like people say, ‘OK, you will have peace with the Palestinians tomorrow, if you give them every last inch of the West Bank’ — it’s not going to resolve the problem. They’re going to continue to ask for more. And then you can give them the Galilee, and then they’ll ask for more. So I don’t think the Israeli-Palestinian problem will be resolved."
"On the other hand, Israel is so energetic, so successful in so many ways. Look at all the achievements in science, in culture, in music, in so many respects. So the stronger it becomes, the more sought-after it will be. So there are a lot of these dualities to being on the receiving end and being singled out for disproportionate criticism, while on the other hand you have all these people who want Israel to help them in many ways, whether it’s political, or militarily, or scientifically, or culture, technology — all the high-tech, the start-up nation – and so on."
"I think if Israel is left to its own devices it will continue to be a great success story, but then you have your enemies. We are left to continue to struggle. But on the whole, I think I am realistic, but mildly optimistic."
Efraim Karsh, director, Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, professor emeritus of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies, King’s College London
Culture Minister Miri Regev unveils the logo for Israel's 70th anniversary celebrations, during a press conference on January 15, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Culture Minister Miri Regev unveils the logo for Israel's 70th anniversary celebrations, during a press conference on January 15, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Tomorrow, Israel celebrates 70 years of its existence as a modern Jewish State established in the ancient heritage geography of Judea, marking three thousand years of continuous Jewish presence in the Middle East. Its presence as a Jewish state in the midst of Arab and Islamic neighbours has ensured its current history has been fraught with threats and violence. The nascent Jewish state had to defend itself from the onslaught of combined Arab armies before it could even assemble a national military in 1948.

One attempt after another by its neighbours plotting to destroy the state and either slaughter its Jewish inhabitants or create another diaspora which has served Jews ill, living as a minority group despised for its ethnicity, culture and religion among majority Christian nations where incessant threats, pogroms and expulsions roiled Jewish life in its accustomed role as the world's preeminent castoffs, until the final, devastating climax of the Holocaust led Jews to conclude that they would be safe nowhere in the world but in a land re-consecrated to Jewish life.

Israel began the struggle to establish itself as a democratically functioning state, respecting the rights of others to live in peace and security, while struggling all the while to defend itself from violent assaults from Palestinian Arabs who were outraged that land they considered their own was partitioned by the United Nations to be dispersed between Jews and Arabs, each with their own autonomous, sovereign state. Israel grasped the opportunity with gratitude, the Palestinians spurned it with rage that has never subsided.

Israel's 'friends' and 'supporters' among the Western nations of the democratic world appear uncertain whether they can or will commit themselves to celebrating Israel's 70 years of success. So Israel is prepared to celebrate alone. It does so with the knowledge that it can do nothing, particularly no steps to defend the security of its people, among whom are Druze, Christians, Kurds, Arabs living in political and lawful equality among the majority Jewish population, that will not elicit criticism from its friends, much less its enemies.
Image result for israeli 70 birthday celebrations
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

Israel endures as Jews have endured over the millennia. The slights and slurs, the slanders and propaganda that the Organization for Islamic Cooperation and the Palestinian Authority cast on Israel, bringing one sanction after another against the Jewish state for 'crimes against humanity' and 'human rights abuses'; their efforts at persuading the various arms of the United Nations, from UNESCO to the UN's Human Rights body to condemn Israel and to deny its heritage and cultural rights only serve to further convince Israel that it can depend on no source other than its own determined right to exist, to survive a presence in a hostile world.

HAPPY 70th Birthday, Israel, all 8,842-million of you! Image result for israeli 70 birthday celebrations

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Canada's Asylum Seeker Woes

"Even the numbers we're getting from the federal government show us that the situation is different, there's going to be more asylum seekers, so we need a new plan."
"This is not about money, this is about saying that Quebec can do its part, but our resources are completely saturated and we can't do more."
Quebec Immigration Minister David Heurtel
More than 25,000 asylum seekers crossed into Quebec from the U.S. in 2017, according to the Quebec government. Their projections show that number could grow in 2018. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

"The current provisions on medical inadmissibility are over 40 years old and are clearly not in line with Canadian values or our government's vision of inclusion."
"These newcomers can contribute and are not a burden to Canada. These newcomers have the ability to help grow our economy and enrich our social fabric."
Canadian federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen

"We at committee could not get good cost data."
"Right now [Hussen] is going to have to look at this, the minister of health will have to look at this, the provinces and territories are going to have to look at this and hopefully in a year or two they are going to recognize that this is not a significant cost."
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, chair, Common citizenship and immigration committee

"My concern is that the federal government is downloading costs to the provinces without a real plan to deal with that and that seems like something they should have done and considered before they made this announcement."
Michelle Rempel, Conservative immigration critic
An RCMP officer escorts a woman and a child claiming to be from Yemen as they cross the U.S.-Canada border in Hemmingford, Que. on Sunday, March 5, 2017. (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The government of Quebec feels the federal government must invest in a plan to help deal with the influx of migrants pouring across the border from the United States to Canada, a number that has tripled from 2017 and is being forecast to increase to even greater numbers with better weather. Quebec's immigration minister speaks of the potential of seeing up to 400 crossings daily in the summer months, in comparison to the 250 seen last year.

Quebec's resources are being strained; in addition to front-line services, health care and education requirements are stretching its budget. Through both legal and illegal means last year 25,000 asylum seekers entered Quebec, representing 50 percent of all asylum cases in Canada. The province's 1,840 places for asylum seekers in Montreal is 70 percent occupied, leaving scant place for additional illegal crossers in the temporary shelters in the city, much less for those who enter the province by legal means.

Anecdotal stories of Canada's generous welcome, fuelled by Prime Minister Trudeau's stirring Twitter rejoinder in virtual signalling, responding to President Trump's threat to rid the U.S. of its millions of illegal residents has resulted in people arriving in the U.S. then immediately heading for a popular irregular crossing between the New York-Quebec border. Of the 50,000 people who entered Canada last year as migrants, 20,000 crossed irregularly. They enter Quebec but plan to go on further to other areas of the country.

A reflection of what has been seen occurring in Europe, where Greece and Italy have become the entry points with the intention of migrants to spurt on further to Germany or Sweden where they are assured of a welcome and sturdy social services supports. All of what is happening in Canada reflects the 'progressive' values of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. Which is now busy overturning decades of restricted entry to Canada for those with intellectual or physical disabilities.

According to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, himself a former immigrant to Canada from Somalia, Canada will no longer reject permanent resident applications from anyone with serious health conditions or disabilities. Previously, these rejections were built upon the acknowledgement that the country's universal health care system was under strain as it was, and needed no additional extraordinary burdens.

Of 177,000 economic immigrants that Canada admits yearly, roughly 1,000 have been affected by the policy of medical inadmissibility. The total number of immigrants that Canada has accepted in the last several years has risen to 300,000.

An asylum seeker is questioned by an RCMP officer as he crosses the border into Canada from the United States on Aug. 21, 2017 near Champlain, N.Y.    The Canadian Press

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Supporting Immigrants : Spurning Nationalists

"I was born in '58, and both of my parents were marked by the Nazi period. The older I get, the more I understand how traumatized my father, in particular, was."
"Today, seventy years later, you have the feeling for the first time that history could repeat itself. That's not out of the question."
Raif Teepe, German foreign service, bookstore client

"I think in the next few years we are going to need to not just 'protest' against, but really come up with a 'for'. What do we want in our society?"
"We wanted to take back the public space. At a certain point, you just have to do something."
Jorg Braunsdorf, proprietor, independent bookshop, Tucholsky Bookstore
Tucholsky Bookstore helped organize protests against right-wing extremists last month. Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times
Mr. Braunsdorf's bookstore is a neighbourhood installation, much frequented by the people living there. The area in Berlin is known as the old Jewish quarter. The street the bookshop is located on is named after a German-Jewish writer of some renown who in the 1930s wrote critically of the new fascist movement in Germany. His name was Kurt Tucholsky and the street was named in his honour. When Mr. Braunsdorf opened his bookshop he thought it appropriate to name the shop after Mr. Tucholsky and he maintains a section in his shop dedicated to the author's work.

Mr. Braunsdorf was offended and angered when in 2016 a group of 'right-wing extremists' marched through his neighbourhood in a free-speech expression of nationalism. In speaking with his customers who were also his neighbours a general consensus of anger against the entitlement of the fascist movement to express its rancid message of hatred through the old Jewish quarter gripped them. And Mr. Braunsdorf went into consultation with his neighbours and they conceived of a counter-march plan.

Meant to inform the marchers in no uncertain terms that their loathsome message was not appreciated, and they had no business littering their street with their hate propaganda and their wretched presence so reminiscent of the dreadful past. They looked elsewhere also for support and linked with "Berlin Against Nazis" group targeting racism and anti-Semitism.
One customer said that he visits Tucholsky Bookstore once a week, in lieu of church, for spiritual enrichment. Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times

Posters were designed along with fliers and three protest stations were set up along the route the marchers were taking, to be manned by some among the 200 to 300 people who showed up to demonstrate solidarity. They brought spoons to bang on pots and pans. The rise of groups such as the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West and Alternatives for Germany (AfD) has convinced ordinary Germans that the far right is making inroads they would prefer they not do.

The 58-year-old Mr. Braunsdorf is an agreeable man who considers himself and his shop to be something more than merely a purveyor of books. He hosts readings at his shop and has done so for refugee children with German-Arabic reading events. As well as moderating meetings on subjects as diverse as gentrification, the economy, politics, saying he "can't imagine running a bookstore just as a selling point".
Neighbors gather at Tucholsky Bookstore to discuss topics such as gentrification and how to respond to neo-Nazi marches. Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times
For hundreds of years German Jews prided themselves on how seamlessly they integrated into German society. They considered themselves German first, Jews after. They felt secure in Germany, it was a country they loved and considered themselves an integral part of. Until the National Socialist Party took it all away, bit by bit and then entirely, including their lives. None of which could have happened without the compliance of the German public.

So it is very nice to see now that Germany is willing to be so inclusive as to introduce another ethnic and religious group to be given free reign to prosper and to multiply in numbers that Jews never achieved. And whereas Jews were content to be Germans, the new immigrants, refugees and migrants seek to achieve a milestone of their own, the Islamification of Germany, stifling its native culture with their own.
Related image
File:Hitler with Catholic dignitaries.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

But there are those like the good Germans living in what was once the Jewish quarter who are swift to come to the defense of the immigrants, the refugees and the migrants, willing and eager to aid them in any way conceivable, and to counter the ill intentions of the nationalist Germans who unaccountably press for a Germany for Germans. It is, of course, the Jews remaining in Germany who are now increasingly targeted with anti-Semitism by Islam. As they are throughout Europe.

Where Nazi Germany once occupied Europe and succeeded in exterminating six million Jews, millions of Muslims now occupy Europe and many among them promise that they are more than capable of aspiring to finish what Nazi Germany never quite completed. And that would be the ambition to conquer Europe and to rid it entirely of any Jewish presence.
Kristallnacht survivors share their recollections of the day the Holocaust began Centropa.org, dedicated to preserving the memory of Jewish life in Central Europe Nazis
The Night of Broken Glass
On November 9, 1938, Jewish people in Germany and German-controlled territories were beaten, arrested and killed. Synagogues were burned and Jewish businesses were vandalized. In most cases, the police made no effort to control the mobs that carried out these crimes. Bettmann / Corbis
“I think in the next years we are going to need to not just protest ‘against,’ but really come up with a ‘for,’” he said. “What do we want, in our society?”Read more: https://forward.com/culture/398534/berlin-bookstore-owner-anti-nazi-protest-organizer/
“I think in the next years we are going to need to not just protest ‘against,’ but really come up with a ‘for,’” he said. “What do we want, in our society?”Read more: https://forward.com/culture/398534/berlin-bookstore-owner-anti-nazi-protest-organizer/

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Bark That Warned, The Bite That Followed

"This was more about the western allies making sure their red lines were addressed rather than trying to seriously damage the Assad regime."
"From Assad's perspective, this was a big win. He must be thinking, this is good, I came out on top. I gained much more than I lost."
Amr al-Azm, professor of History, Shawnee University, Ohio
What exactly happened with the Syria strikes?
Still from video of strikes over Syria   CNN

"These limited strikes may serve to deter future chemical weapons use, but assuming they don't trigger escalation or a retaliation, they won't dramatically alter the course of the conflict."
Emma Beals, war monitoring expert, Beirut
After all the tantalizing bluster that tripped out over the Internet and news reports of President Trump's irrepressible little thumb-twitchings on Twitter, the United States, France and United Kingdom organized themselves to deliver a hind-slap to Bashar al-Assad, hiding behind the chemical-weapons-denials of the Kremlin, with the Republic of Iran lurking in the background.

Three targets chosen, three targets hit. And a reprieve.

Launched by air and from naval platforms in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean, it could have been a formidable force delivering a powerful message. But the trio satisfied itself by the delivery of a slap, meaningful in its messaging, but tolerable by the standards of those the message was forwarded to. The firecracker hissed, sparked and fizzled out.

Nothing more to see here, folks; move along.

The Barzah Research and Development Centre outside Damascus was hit with 76 missiles, the facility destroyed. According to the American military, Syria's chemical weapons capacities have been set back "for years". This, of an industry whose purpose is internationally outlawed and completely 'destroyed' not all that long ago under agreement between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.

"We deployed 105 weapons against three targets that will impact the Syrian regime's ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future", announced Marine Corps Lt.-Gen.Kenneth McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff. The destroyed facilities were "fundamental components of the regime's chemical warfare infrastructure". 

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons visited the facility in 2017. Part of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre, it was characterized by the U.S. Treasury as "the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them." With a little help from his friends, Assad won't have any problems re-establishing this vital part of his military infrastructure.

It is not, after all, the structure and its purpose in and of itself that should be the target, but the man whose values of death-by-any-and-all-means-conceivable that destruction should have fallen upon. In the previous strike by the U.S. after a murderous sarin attack on civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, it was a military airfield that was attacked, and two days later warplanes were once again flying out of the base.
"[Syrians need a strategy leading to a political solution to] save them from the brutality of the Syrian regime."
Nasr al-Hariri, senior opposition leader

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Saturday, April 14, 2018


"To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith."
"Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada".
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Twitter

"Public support often aided by a diversity of prominent stakeholders] is indispensable."
"But there could be a tipping point that, once reached, undermines the history of relative Canadian consensus."
"Engagement with the Canadian public is necessary, however, any high-profile debate will have to be carefully managed."
Immigration Department internal data briefing

"About 30 percent of Canadians think immigration levels are too high ... There's a cluster of people who are simply opposed."
"At the other extreme, there's another group who are super-keen."
"In the middle are what we call the conditional multiculturalists. They are, in principle, comfortable with [immigration], but subject to a whole set of qualifications which really turn on whether it is working."
Keith Banting, research chair, public policy, Queen's University

The briefing notes were prepared to enable a committee of deputy ministers in the federal government to fully comprehend that among usually compliant and amenable Canadians there are limits to the numbers of immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers they feel can be absorbed and assimilated into the Canadian population, taking into account all manner of important details; whether the culture might be compatible with Canada's, the economic cost of absorbing them, and the potential of destabilization in the process, among them.

These are all issues that politicians are normally very sensitive to, for longevity purposes of their own governance, in reflecting the public pulse on any given issue, much less one as vital to Canada's future in its population make-up and the numbers that can be safely integrated. A majority of Canadians, the briefing clearly pointed out, do support immigration levels -- but at a level they are comfortable with. When those supporters are informed of increasing numbers their comfort level drops in lock-step with the rise of the incoming.

Polling data reveals that slightly over 50 percent of Canadians feel that the number of immigrants permitted to arrive in Canada annually is "about right", a number that has bee consistent since 2012. On the  other hand, most of that slight majority believe the immigrant number arriving yearly  to be under 150,000. Once informed that the true number had been 260,000 for the past number of years, those who claimed it to be "too many" increased to 32 percent from 23 percent.

Hardening attitudes caused by events taking place in other countries where immigration and refugee numbers have swamped Europe, for example, causing unrest and fears for the future, alongside attitudes of empathy for the plight of refugees fleeing violence and conflict arise and clash with one another in public opinion. Economic downturns and feelings of disenfranchisement auger ill, however, for support of greater numbers.

The current Liberal government released its three-year immigration strategy late in 2017, planning for incremental increases to levels of immigration over the next three years. Advocates for increasing immigration  levels urge that greater numbers be allowed to enter Canada for more significant increases. The government's more 'measured' approach, pointed out Dr. Banting, reflects fears of a public "backlash".

One horrific event that took place in Quebec a year and a half ago was a violent assault on a mosque in which six worshippers were shot to death and others severely injured, when a perturbed and unstable young man in the throes of a mental crisis interpreted rising immigration levels as an existential threat to himself and his family personally, and sought to minimize it by terrorizing and killing Muslims as he had noted Muslims to have done  to those like himself, in Europe.
"When I saw that [an announcement that Canada was preparing to accept refugees the U.S. was turning away] I lost it. I was like, sure that they were going to come and kill my parents also, and my family. I was sure about that ... that's why, that's why I had to do something."
Alexandre Bissonnette, 29, mass killer, Quebec
The shadow of Norway's Anders Behring Breivik

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