Monday, March 13, 2017

Saint Patrick's Week: Trek Into Greenness

Lousy Smarch weather...

I'm sure that this is nothing to be concerned about:

Canada's government said on Monday that it shut down its website for filing federal taxes after hackers broke into a web server at the nation's statistics bureau last week by exploiting a newly disclosed software bug. 

Statistics Canada, which said it stopped the intrusion before hackers stole any data, is the first high-profile organization to say it was hacked due to a new security bug in software known as Apache Struts 2. The software is commonly used in websites of governments, banks, retailers and other large organizations.

Other victims have not yet come forth, although security firms said they expect more attacks to surface after details on the easy-to-exploit vulnerability were posted on security forums and hacking websites last week.

Who is running this zoo exactly?


Stoltenberg’s report said Canada saw a small bump in defence spending in 2016, which pushed the percentage of its GDP spent on defence to 1.02 from 0.98.

The increase helped Canada move up to 20th from 23rd in terms of spending among NATO’s 28 allies, putting it in a three-way tie with Hungary and Slovenia.

But it was still the smallest share of GDP that Canada has spent on defence since 2012, while only Belgium, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Luxembourg and Spain spent less.

The figures have taken on new importance following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has complained about NATO allies not spending enough on defence.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to all but dismiss the two per cent target during a visit to Germany last month, saying: “There are many ways of evaluating one’s contribution to NATO.”

Just like dad. Let the Americans do the heavy lifting.

Why? Because the logical dissonance of the electorate borders on complete brain removal. That's why:

People like to be stroked. Provincial leaders enjoy having Ottawa put on a show of respect, even while working feverishly to outflank them. It’s probably far too late in the game for Tories to start presenting themselves as boy scouts ever on the lookout for kittens to rescue. They’d probably never be able to maintain the sincere visage needed to put across the ruse in any case. The Liberals got there long before them, and are so skilled in the performance that most of them probably believe they really mean it. That’s the sort of deception that’s really hard to beat.

Trump to meet Merkel:

President Trump is set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week at the White House, marking the first face-to-face encounter between the new U.S. commander in chief and the woman known as “Europe’s decider.” When they meet, the two leaders with little in common will find themselves belatedly moving to forge a relationship that could determine the future of transatlantic ties.

Trust me - this will still be trotted out time and time again. When you have no theological, historical or academic leg to stand on, this is the go-to:

The news about the Houses of Life is only surprising because the truth about the Church and the Jewish people in the Second World War has been suppressed. Several aides of the wartime pope, Pius XII, acknowledged that they had worked to rescue Jews on his direct instructions. They included two future popes – Mgr Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII) and Mgr Giovanni Battista Montini (Paul VI). Pius XII himself sheltered Jews both in the Vatican itself and at Castel Gandolfo.

This is a good moment to mark the Church’s witness against Nazism. Eighty years ago, on March 14, 1937, Pope Pius XI issued Mit Brennender Sorge (“With Burning Anxiety”), an encyclical, pointedly written in German, condemning Nazism. “Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the state, and divinises them to an idolatrous level, perverts an order of the world created by God,” the pope wrote.

Many insisted that Putin was just there to help:

Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya in recent days, U.S., Egyptian and diplomatic sources say, a move that would add to U.S. concerns about Moscow's deepening role in Libya.

The U.S. and diplomatic officials said any such Russian deployment might be part of a bid to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who suffered a setback with an attack on March 3 by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) on oil ports controlled by his forces.

Rather, Putin is extending his reach.

Perhaps Turkey should be reminded that the Netherlands, despite its faults, feeds and houses many Turkish migrants and doesn't want Erdogan's g-d- opinion:

Turkey said on Monday it would suspend high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands after Dutch authorities prevented its ministers from speaking at rallies of expatriate Turks, deepening the row between the two NATO allies.

The sanctions - which include a ban on the Dutch ambassador and diplomatic flights from the Netherlands but do not appear to include economic measures or travel restrictions for ordinary citizens - mark another low point in relations between Turkey and the European Union, which it still officially aims to join.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking Turkish voters' support in an April 16 referendum on boosting his powers as head of state, has previously accused the Dutch government of acting like "Nazi remnants" for barring his ministers from addressing expatriate Turks to drum up votes. ...

On Sunday, Dutch police used dogs and water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some protesters threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Mounted police officers charged the crowd.

"The Turkish community and our citizens were subject to bad treatment, with inhumane and humiliating methods used in disproportionate intervention against people exercising their right to peaceful assembly," a statement attributed to ministry sources said.

The Dutch government barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam on Saturday and later stopped Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate there, before escorting her back to Germany.

Protests then erupted in Turkey and the Netherlands.

Several European countries have stopped Turkish politicians holding rallies, due to fears that tensions in Turkey might spill over into their expatriate communities.

Some 400,000 Turkish citizens live in the Netherlands and an estimated 1.5 million Turkish voters live in Germany.

On Monday evening Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said he would try to prohibit Turkish ministers from campaigning in his country too for "reasons of public security".

The Dutch government said the visits were untimely ahead of a national election on Wednesday, in which polls suggest it may lose about half its seats due to expected big gains by the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders.

Speaking of whom:

Even if Wilders is barred from power by the wide range of parties that are refusing to cooperate with him, he already has tugged his nation’s political discourse toward a far harder line on immigrants. Anxious to capture Wilders voters, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said this year that immigrants needed to work harder to fit into Dutch society or they should leave — a stark departure from a centuries-old Dutch tradition of acceptance.

The article might as well have been written by Wilders' opponents for all of its negativity towards the wildly popular Dutch politician whose major faux pas has been the audacity to insist that those who immigrate to the Netherlands blend in, something that has caught on in Canada but far too late:

Three Canadians out of four believe immigrants to this country should be tested for “anti-Canadian” values, a survey conducted for Radio-Canada suggests.

The findings of the survey, carried by the CROP polling for the French-language service of the CBC, indicate that despite criticism from the media and within political circles, the controversial position taken by Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch that immigrants be tested for an appreciation of “Canadian” values has traction with 74 per cent of Canadians. Inside Quebec, support for testing immigrants stood at 75 per cent.

The poll also suggests that 60 per cent of Canadians — and 67 per cent of those polled in Quebec — believe immigrants should put aside their own cultures and adopt that of Canada once they settle here.

In case people are still wondering why any of this is a discussion, it must be said simply: culture matters. Political multiculturalism might hold that all cultures are equally wonderful but that is demonstrably false. Nor does it bear away the simple fact that cohesion though language, custom and law create stable and prosperous environments. No one cares what food one makes at home; one does care when one believes some members of society deserve to be second-class citizens because some archaic belief says so.


The RCMP does keep track of the people intercepted crossing the border irregularly, but not all of them necessarily are asylum-seekers. With that caveat, here are the number of irregular border crossers caught by the RCMP this year:

290 in Quebec (Feb 1 – Feb. 21)
202 in Manitoba (Jan. 1 – March 8)
51 in B.C. (Feb. 1 – Feb. 21)

Just return them.

If he does, I do not blame him:

Trump’s immigration policies appear to be working. That’s great for the majority of Americans who are opposed to open immigration, and for Trump’s re-election prospects, which depend on his delivering on his campaign promise to control illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. border.

But that isn’t great for Canada. Trump’s immigration policies — and our government’s response to them — point to peril for us. The peril includes harm to our trading relationship, ill will towards Canadians by Americans and the prospect of a wall on America’s northern border.

But... but... the polar bears!

Over the past year or so, First Nations residents living along the James Bay coast in northern Ontario have reported an alarming rise in polar bear sightings. Experts suspect climate change and the related change in ice flows and currents are likely driving the phenomenon.

Uh, weren't they all supposed to be drowning and dying off?


Great white sharks are discovering what tourists have known for years: Cape Cod is a great place to spend the summer.

The latest data from a multiyear study of the ocean predators found that the number of sharks in waters off the vacation haven appears to be on the rise, said Greg Skomal, a senior scientist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and the state’s top shark expert.

But that’s no reason to cancel vacation. The sharks are after seals, not humans, and towns are using the information from the study to keep it that way.

But sharks often confuse bathers with seals, so, you know - caution.

And now, a place where each day is Valentine's Day even on Saint Patrick's Day:

John Sprat was an Irish Carmelite that was known for both his abilities as a preacher and dedicated work with the destitute in the city of Dublin. While visiting Rome, his fame had apparently preceded him, and he became hot on the Jesuit circuit, giving sermons and receiving tokens of esteem from his peers.

One of the more impressive tokens he was gifted was the remains of Saint Valentine by Pope Gregory XVI, which had recently been uncovered during grave restorations. Sprat brought the Reliquary containing the relics to his Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, where they remained popular until the death of their popular procurer. With the death of Sprat, the relics went into storage and were not venerated until the church went through restorations in the 1950’s/1960’s. Both an altar and shrine were created and are now watched over by a statue depicting the saint holding a crocus (carved by Irene Broe).

Today the shrine is popular with couples who come to pray for St. Valentine to watch over their lives together, and to celebrate the feast day of February 14th which includes the Blessings of the Rings for those about to marry. The reliquary is placed on the high altar and venerated at the Masses.


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