Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mid-Week Post
On this, the last day of May. (sigh)

A suicide bomber has killed ninety people in Kabul:

A suicide attacker struck the fortified heart of the Afghan capital with a massive truck bomb Wednesday, killing 90 people, wounding 400 and raising new fears about the government's ability to protect its citizens nearly 16 years into a war with insurgents.

The bomber drove into Kabul's heavily guarded diplomatic quarter during the morning rush hour, leaving behind a bloody scene of chaos and destruction in one of the worst attacks since the drawdown of foreign forces from Afghanistan in 2014.

Most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children, said Ismail Kawasi, spokesman of the public health ministry. But the dead also included Afghan security guards at the facilities, including the U.S. Embassy, while 11 American contractors were wounded — none with life-threatening injuries, a U.S. State Department official said.

"I have been to many attacks, taken wounded people out of many blast sites, but I can say I have ever seen such a horrible attack as I saw this morning," ambulance driver Alef Ahmadzai told The Associated Press. "Everywhere was on fire and so many people were in critical condition."

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, which came in the first week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

(Sidebar: there is nothing holy about Ramadan. See the Ramadan body count here.)

The Indian, Japanese and Korean embassies were also damaged.

Look - all one has to do is burn the jungle:

A week-long assault by Islamist rebels in a southern Philippine city is being fuelled with stolen weapons and ammunition and fighters broken out of jails, the military said on Wednesday, as troops battled militants resisting ground and air attacks.

The pro-Islamic State Maute group has proven to be a fierce enemy, clinging on to the heart of Marawi City through days of air strikes on what the military called known rebel targets, defying expectations of a swift end to their occupation.

The military deployed for the first time SF-260 close air support planes to back attack helicopters and ground troops looking to box rebels into a downtown area. The army said the rebels hold about a tenth of the city.

The hardline Maute had kept up the fight with rifles and ammunition stolen from a police station, a prison, and an armoured police vehicle, and were using them to hold off the troops, said military spokesman Restituto Padilla.

The militants had freed jailed comrades to join the battle and opted to engage in urban warfare because the city had stocks of arms and ample supplies of food.

(Sidebar: and innocent civilians.) 

Councils and funeral directors in Manchester are reportedly refusing to handle the body of Salman Abedi – with his corpse being kept at a morgue outside of the city where he killed 22 people last week.

According to the Manchester Evening News, authorities are doing ‘everything in their power’ to prevent his being buried or cremated in Greater Manchester, after the 23-year-old blew himself up in the foyer of Manchester Arena.

Bury him in pig crap.

These people are pieces of crap:

A Melbourne autistic teenager who was allegedly bashed by five Sudanese teenagers on a bus last month has been targeted again.

As usual, these worthless gang-attack someone who cannot fight back.

Russian warships fire missiles onto ISIS positions in Syria:

Russians warships in the Mediterranean Sea have fired four cruise missiles at the Islamic State group's positions in Syria, the Russian defence ministry said on Wednesday.

The announcement came as Syrian government troops pushed ahead in their offensive against IS and militants in central and northern Syria.

Moscow said in a statement that the Admiral Essen frigate and the Krasnodar submarine launched the missiles at IS targets in the area of the ancient town of Palmyra. There was no information on when the missiles were launched.

ISIS holes itself up in a mosque in a last attempt to hold Mosul:

Islamic State militants have closed the streets around Mosul's Grand al-Nuri Mosque, residents said, apparently in preparation for a final showdown in the battle over their last major stronghold in Iraq.

Dozens of fighters were seen by residents taking up positions in the past 48 hours around the medieval mosque, the site where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared an Islamist caliphate in July 2014.

Islamic State's black flag has been flying from the mosque since the militants captured Mosul and seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014.

U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces retook eastern Mosul in January and began a new push on Saturday to capture the group's remaining enclave in western Mosul, comprising of the Old City center where the mosque is located, and three adjacent districts alongside the western bank of the River Tigris.

The fall of the city would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the self-styled caliphate. Meanwhile in Syria, Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-air strikes are beseiging Islamic State forces in the city of Raqqa, the militants' de facto capital in that country.

Once more, the Ontario Liberal government will cost Ontarian jobs. No one will pay a waitress fifteen dollars an hour to serve food. When this hypothetical waitress is fired, no one will be hired to take her place. This will put strain on other workers. All parties are victims of climbing taxes and government mismanagement:

Kathleen Wynne just bid the private sector adieu.

The premier’s approval of an extraordinary 32% hike in the minimum wage — to $15 dollars an hour by 2019 — has created a union-like dystopia that will leave employers looking for the nearest exit.
While many employment activist groups are applauding the announcement, most fail to see the unavoidable fallout this move will bring.

For one, few employers can afford the cost of entry and will close their doors.

That means fewer jobs and more employees collecting Employment Insurance. For those businesses that survive, expect a proliferation of wage freezes, even for those employees in higher positions to recoup the burgeoning labour costs in the lower ranks. Promotions with any real earning potential will become elusive for hard working, loyal employees.

With the wage hike, employees will assuredly be lumped in with their less impressive counterparts because the pie can only be cut so many ways. Welcome to the union of Ontario.

I'll believe it when I see it:

On Tuesday, Conservative Sen. Linda Frum introduced a bill in the Senate to get foreign money out of Canadian elections. ...

Frum’s Bill S-239 will change that. It will amend the Canada Elections Act to state, among other provisions, that: “No third party, as defined by section 348.01, shall, at any time, accept a contribution for any purposes related to an election if the contribution is from any foreign source”.
It’s a head-scratcher that this is even allowed in the first place.
I have a hard time believing that Trudeau will surrender the opportunity to take Chinese bribes.

Two perfectly good reasons to re-visit the issue of capital punishment:

Homolka, who lives in Châteauguay, has been sending her three children to the Seventh-day Adventist school in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood since September. On Wednesday morning, she parked her black Honda SUV in front of the photographers, and rushed her three children inside the school. On her way back to her car, she used her purse in an attempt to block the view of her face.

Homolka served 12 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the deaths of Ontario schoolgirls Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Her ex-husband, Paul Bernardo, is serving a life sentence for his role in multiple rapes and homicides.

Homolka reportedly supervised kindergarten children from the Greaves Adventist Academy on a field trip in March. Parents told the Montreal Gazette on Wednesday that Homolka has been seen in the schoolyard with her dog, and allowed the children to pet the dog. She was also permitted into school to show off her dog to the students. The school was aware of Homolka’s criminal past before she started volunteering there.

Several parents told the Montreal Gazette they only became aware of Homolka’s involvement with their school after a man, who called himself a concerned citizen, passed out leaflets to parents back in March. One parent, who tried to raise the issue with the school, was told he would not be welcome back when the new school year starts in September.

“The school has been here for a long time and we have never been involved in anything contrary to the proper norms of the students,” school superintendent Marc Bouzy said on May 17. “There is no reason for anyone to be concerned about the way we do things right now for the benefit of the students in our community.

(Sidebar: oh, really?)


The families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy are bracing themselves for what they know is going to be a difficult summer.

Round one for Doug French was hearing Karla Homolka has been volunteering at the school her kids attend. But round two is coming in a couple of months, when Homolka’s killer ex-husband Paul Bernardo makes his bid for parole — some 25 years after the murders of his daughter and Mahaffy.

French is not looking forward to it.

He can’t even understand why Bernardo’s getting one.

“I thought he was determined a dangerous offender? But everybody gets a parole hearing.”

French said he’s preparing for the worst.

“You mark my words, he will get a day pass or an afternoon pass or something,” he said. “I suspect it will happen.”

The thought of it makes him sick.

Just in time for Canada Day:

A month before Canada Day, a private member’s bill to make the language of the national anthem gender-neutral is facing another roadblock.
A Conservative amendment that changes proposed language from “in all of us command” to “thou dost in us command” could inadvertently kill the bill when it goes back to the House of Commons, said Senate sponsor Sen. Frances Lankin, an independent who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The lyric in O Canada, sung daily at schools across the country (and at innumerable events), had been “true patriot love, in all thy sons command.” 

Because the bill’s original sponsor, Mauril Bélanger, died last year, the House would require unanimous consent for a new bill sponsor before being able to vote on the Senate’s amendment. In theory, any one of the 74 MPs who voted against the bill could block its progress by denying consent.

Thank God.

No one wanted this unilaterally decided change in the first place.

Let it die.

Was Maxime Bernier a victim of farmers?

Against such lunacy Maxime Bernier brought sanity. He proposed phasing out supply management over a period of years if not decades, compensating farmers for losses.

Close to half of the Conservative party members who voted Saturday supported Bernier and his relatively moderate libertarian agenda of less government and lower taxes. The official count, based on the ballot-point system, was Andrew Scheer 17,221 points (50.95 per cent) versus Maxime Bernier 16,578 (49.05 per cent).

That’s close. But if accounts from the frontline are accurate, Bernier would have won the leadership were it not for vote-rigging infiltrators from the farmers’ unions and associated backers of supply management.

That supposes that Andrew Scheer had no appeal at all.

I can believe Bernier's proposal was controversial but not that this leadership race was rigged somehow.

Cue the voters block-seeking MP now:

It was just a matter of time until an aslyum seeker died trying to illegally cross the border into Canada, the reeve of Emerson, Man., said Tuesday.

Greg Janzen was reacting to the death of Mavis Otuteye, a 57-year-old woman believed to be from the African country of Ghana, whose body was found late last week near Noyes, Minn.

“We were always expecting to find someone in the ditch when the snow melted, which we never did,” he said. “(Then) the Red River didn’t flood nearly as much as we expected so we thought it would be clear sailing, but now we have this.”

The Kittson County sheriff’s department said an initial autopsy concluded the cause of death was possible hypothermia, though a final autopsy is still pending.

The police said they believe Otuteye had been heading to Emerson, which is just across the border from Noyes.

Trump is reportedly withdraw from the Paris Accord:

President Trump will pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, according to several reports Wednesday.

Axios first reported that Trump is working with a group led by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt on the exact mechanism of pulling out before announcing his final decision. CBS News also reported that Trump is telling allies about his decision.

The move marks a dramatic departure from the Obama administration, which was instrumental in crafting the deal. It also makes the U.S. an outlier among the world’s nations, nearly all of whom support the climate change accord.

But Trump’s decision fulfills an original campaign promise he made just over a year ago to “cancel” the accord.

Why not be honest with one's citizens?

The Ministry of National Defense deliberately omitted information regarding four additional THAAD launchers brought into the country, the presidential office said Wednesday.

According to Cheong Wa Dae, its probe into the development revealed that the Defense Ministry deliberately excluded the information when briefing the de facto presidential transition committee Friday.

“Cheong Wa Dae’s probe has confirmed that the Ministry of National Defense deliberately omitted the fact that four additional launchers have been brought into the country,” said Yoon Young-chan, the chief presidential press secretary.

“(The Defense Ministry’s) draft report included the phrases “six launchers” and “stored at a camp” but they were deleted.”

North Korean death camps likened to Nazi death camps:

The UN Commission of Inquiry into North Korea’s human rights violations described the Kim dynasty’s totalitarian misrule -- which “seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within” -- as without parallel in the modern world. Crimes committed against innocents strikingly resemble those of the Nazis, specified the commission.

Atrocities perpetrated against guiltless victims within the Kwanliso political prison camps “resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian states established during the 20th century,” the commission indicated, while “public executions and enforced disappearances to political prison camps serve as the ultimate means to terrorize the population into submission.”

Even many among those fortunate to escape and resettle in South Korea or other countries continue to live in terror. The commission found that “most of the potential witnesses ... were afraid to testify, even on a confidential basis, because they feared for the safety of family members.”

The Kim dynasty represents a ruthless and all-encompassing despotism like no other, with origins unlike any other. Often characterized as one massive concentration camp, the UN-appointed investigation attests the inherent rights many of us take for granted, such as the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion, expression, information and association and freedom of movement -- both within the territory and abroad -- are nonexistent inside the North.

“Surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens. ... Citizens are punished for any ... expressions of dissent,” it affirmed.

Kim Jong-un and his predecessors utilized “food as a means of control over the population,” prioritizing those deemed useful “over those deemed expendable.”

The Commission of Inquiry pronounced that the domineering Kims had even “failed to feed the ordinary soldiers of its disproportionately large army,” while all resources are “directly controlled by the Supreme Leader.” As the populace conspicuously starved to death, lavish funds were allocated without interruption toward “luxury goods and the advancement of his personality cult.”

Appealing to China will not change this.

Japan should withdraw from the UN. Let the average Japanese  deal with censorship:

A U.N. rights expert who visited Japan last year noted “significant worrying signals” for the country’s freedom of expression and opinion in a report released Tuesday in Geneva.

The lack of debate over historical events, restrictions on access to information justified on national security grounds and government pressure on media “require attention lest they undermine Japan’s democratic foundations,” said David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The report, to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June, is the result of the first research ever on freedom of expression in Japan conducted by a U.N. special rapporteur.

The Japanese government voiced regret over the report, which is nonbinding, and pledged to continue with dialogue with the United Nations to clear up the misunderstanding.

Kaye aired concerns about the contentious secrecy law for the prevention of leaks of state secrets that took effect in 2014.

Under the law, civil servants or others who leak designated secrets could face up to 10 years in prison, and those who instigate leaks, including journalists, could be subject to prison terms of up to five years.

While welcoming government efforts to clarify the four specific categories under which information may be designated as secret — defense, diplomacy, prevention of specified harmful activities and prevention of terrorist activities — Kaye warned that “specific subcategories remain overly broad” and thus involve the risk of being arbitrarily applied.

This is one of my biggest fears:

A 73-year-old Australian fisherman said Monday that he caught a far bigger fish than he hoped for when a 2.7-meter (9-foot) great white shark leapt into his boat, knocking him off his feet.

Terry Selwood was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the airborne shark struck him with a pectoral fin as it landed on him on the deck of the 4.5-meter (15-foot) power boat Saturday off Evans Head, 725 kilometres (450 miles) north of Sydney.

Selwood sprung up on the gunnel at the bow of the boat to avoid the thrashing shark and steadied himself by clinging to the tubular metal frame of the sun shelter, known as a bimini.

"I didn't give it a chance to look me in the eyes. I wanted to get up and get on top of the gunnel because it was thrashing around madly," Selwood told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"Flash Gordon wouldn't have caught me," he said, referring to the athletic science fiction comic book hero of the 1930s.

Selwood used a hand-held radio to call the Evans Head coast guard and stayed on the gunnel until a rescue boat arrived.

Coast guard skipper Bill Bates said he misread the danger when Selwood reported his predicament.
"He said, 'I'm injured, I've broken my arm, I've got lacerations and there's a shark in my boat,'" Bates said.

"Often a fisherman will bring a small shark on board — maybe 2 or 3 feet (up to 1 metre ) — and they're still ferocious. That's what I was expecting, but I was totally wrong," he added.

The coast guard crew rescued Selwood, but left the shark alone. The shark was estimated to weigh 200 kilograms (440 pounds).

"The shark was thrashing inside the boat, taking up the entire deck area — there was no way you'd put a foot in there," Bates said.

The coast guard took Selwood to paramedics at Evans Head, where his badly swollen arm was cleared of any fracture.

The coast guard later towed Selwood's boat with the shark into Evans Head just before nightfall.

"We think it was already dead at that stage, but no one was game to put their finger in to find out," Bates said.

Why the shark flung itself over the motor and into the anchored boat is a mystery.

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