Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Post

Wrapping up your humidity-filled work-week....

Four people are killed in terrorist attacks in Thailand:

Attackers using firebombs and homemade explosives struck a series of popular resort cities and beach towns across Thailand in some of the worst violence to hit the country since a military coup two years ago. At least four people were killed and dozens wounded, including 11 foreigners.

Manbij, a town in northern Syria, has been liberated from ISIS domination:

U.S.-backed forces have seized full control of the northern Syrian city of Manbij near the Turkish border after the last remaining Islamic State fighters, who had been using civilians as human shields, left, a spokesman for the group said Friday.

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) were now sweeping the city after the departure of a last remaining group of militants who had been holed up in the city. They had freed over 2,000 civilian hostages who had been held by the militants, Sharfan Darwish of the SDF allied Manbij Military Council told Reuters.

"The city is now fully under our control but we are undertaking sweeping operations," Darwish said, adding militant sleeper cells in the city were still a threat.

A man who interviewed would-be terrorist Aaron Driver shares his impressions:

On March 27, I was surprised to receive an email from Aaron Driver. I hadn’t heard from him in a while, but he wanted to get something off his chest. Kevin Omar Mohamed, from Waterloo, Ont., had just been arrested on a terror offence. “The security services are increasingly terrified of Muslims and every arrest only contributes to the elimination of the grey zone, to the advantage of Dawlah Islamiyyah,” he wrote. He ended the email with, “So how are things?”

I co-direct a study at the University of Waterloo on Western foreign fighters and domestic radicalization, and had been in touch with Aaron Driver, on and off, for some time. His online activity as part of the so-called “baqiya family” — a loose network of ISIL supporters from around the world — was overwhelming. He answered questions on his page, was on Facebook, and maintained several Twitter accounts, where he was not shy about his deep support for the Islamic State.

Under his Islamic name, Harun Abdurahman, he was popular online, and Aaron got a deep sense of meaning and purpose from this online community, who looked up to him, asked him for religious advice, and admired how brave he was in his defence of the “caliphate” even as he was clearly on the radar of law enforcement. It was the only real community he had ever had. ...

When I ask about how those closest to him reacted to his conversion, he becomes quiet and opens up about several tragedies in his life.

On the day that Driver was supposed to say his shahada at the mosque, his girlfriend went into labour. The baby died during delivery. “I ended up going to the mosque the week after to say my shahada, and the relationship with my girlfriend basically deteriorated. It didn’t have anything to do with Islam though,” he says.

I ask how the death of his child affected him. He looks down at the table, and I notice his eyes getting teary. “Next question,” he says.
While the stock in the excuse industry must be pretty high, I still don't care and no one else should, either.

Millions of people have tragic things happen to them all the time. It is the human condition to have loss. But these people don't go out and make others suffer. They are not exceptions to the rule. By excusing or deflecting blame from Mr. Driver, we essentially permit him and people like him to force tragedies on others simply because they feel bad.

How do we progress as a society when we do that?

The Liberal government in Nova Scotia now refuses to give Irving Ship Building  a $200 million loan that previously promised in 2012:

Nova Scotia's Liberal government revealed Thursday it refused to honour a $200-million loan guarantee offered to Irving Shipbuilding in a secret 2012 provincial government letter to the company.

The $200-million loan guarantee was in addition to the $304 million in provincial government loans and grants pledged to the Halifax Shipyard as part of its winning effort to secure the contract to build vessels for the Canadian navy under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

Yes, about that

Nova Scotia committed up to $304 million in loans as part of Irving Shipbuilding's successful bid for the $25 billion federal combat vessel shipbuilding program, Premier Darrell Dexter revealed today, March 30.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Stompin' Tom Connors.

Oh, dear. This must be embarrassing:

The Clintons donated $1,042,000 to two charities, and $1 million of that was given to their own foundation ...

Those poor millionaires. Whatever will they do?

Abandoned workers in Saudi Arabia:

As Saudi authorities slash spending and delay payments to contractors to cope with the plunge in oil prices, the austerity is exacerbating the woes of private businesses that have, for decades, relied on government spending for growth. Casualties include the thousands of foreign laborers who helped to keep the economy humming with low-paying jobs in construction.

Abandoned laborers, including nearly 16,000 from India and Pakistan alone, according to their governments, haven’t seen a paycheck in about eight months. Under a system of sponsorship known as kafala that leaves many workers at their employers’ mercy, they’re also not being given the exit visas they need to leave the world’s largest oil exporter. In Saudi Arabia, it’s up to employers to arrange such visas, but before doing so they’d have to pay back wages and end-of-service benefits.

The Middle East has quite the history of exploiting cheap labour, oil downturn or not.

Class is not an Olympic sport in Egypt:

In a gesture that flies in the face of everything the Olympic spirit is meant to represent, Egyptian judo fighter Islam El Shehaby refused to bow or shake the hand of his opponent, Israeli judoka Or Sasson. 


The top-ranked Americans had gotten past the quarterfinals in seven World Cups and five previous Olympics. But on this day, Sweden, guided by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, prevailed in the tiebreaker to claim a semifinal berth against Brazil or Australia Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro.

The United States (unbeaten in 18 prior matches this season) was attempting to become the first team to win World Cup and Olympic titles in consecutive years.

“We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today,” goalkeeper Hope Solo told reporters after the game. 

Sweden’s response?

“I don’t give a crap. I’m going to Rio, she’s going home,” Sundhage said to Swedish reporters.

Yes, the Swedes pile on the excuses for a bunch of thuggish Jew-hating rapists but the game isn't about "courage" or some other dissimilar platitude, is it? It's about strategy.

And being good sports means learning to lose graciously.

How's that for "courage", Hope?

A study concludes that paraplegics regain some feeling in their legs after using exo-skeletons:

Paralyzed patients have regained feeling in their legs after training to control robotics with their brains.

The one-year program was intended to teach patients how to walk inside a robotic exoskeleton. It included using their thoughts to control the legs of an avatar, a virtual version of themselves generated on a computer. 

Their brainwaves were picked up by electrodes held against their heads by a skull cap. But scientists believe the treatment also revived the brain’s control over surviving nerves in the spine.
Among the eight people who took part in the Walk Again Project in Sao Paulo, Brazil, five had been paralyzed for at least five years and two for more than a decade.

Sensations and muscle control reported by four of the participants after training were so strong that their doctors revised their diagnoses from complete to partial paralysis.

Most patients said they had better control of their bodily functions, allowing them to cut back their use of laxatives and catheters. Miguel Nicolelis, of Duke University, North Carolina, who led the team, said: “We couldn’t have predicted this surprising clinical outcome. 

“Patients who used a brain-machine interface for a long period experienced improvements in motor behaviour, tactile sensations and visceral functions below the level of the spinal cord injury. Until now, nobody has seen recovery of these functions in a patient so many years after being diagnosed with complete paralysis.”

And now, a vineyard in South Africa has employed a surprise method to combat pests:

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