Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Post


Eighteen people are dead after the still-operational Taliban laid siege to a hotel in Kabul:

Security forces said Sunday they had killed the last of six Taliban militants to end an overnight siege at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel that left at least 18 people dead, including 14 foreigners. Some of the 150 guests fled the gunbattle and fire sparked by the assault by shimmying down bedsheets from the upper floors.

The militants, who wore suicide vests, pinned security forces down for more than 13 hours after the attack began about 9 p.m. Saturday. The gunmen roamed the hallways and targeted foreigners and Afghan officials inside the luxury, hilltop hotel.

The more than 150 people who were rescued or managed to escape included 41 foreigners, said Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish. Of those, 10 people were injured, including six security forces, he said.

Eleven of the 14 foreigners killed were employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline, Danish said. KamAir put out a statement saying some of its flights were disrupted because of the attack.

Six of those killed were Ukrainians, said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who added that his office was working with Afghan law enforcement agencies “to clarify the circumstances of this terrorist act.”

A citizen from Kazakhstan also was among the dead at the hotel, according to Anuar Zhainakov, a spokesman for the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.

Afghan security officials confirmed that 34 provincial officials were at the hotel for a conference organized by the Telecommunication Ministry.

Trump switches gear and now focuses on China and Russia as geopolitical threats to American security:

Countering China and Russia is a bigger focus for US national security than defeating terrorism, the American administration announced yesterday (Friday).

Donald Trump’s new national defence strategy named “inter-state strategic competition” as its primary concern, rather than jihadist attacks.

It marks a tipping point after almost two decades when the US has focused on countering terrorism following the September 11 attacks. China, Russia, North Korea and Iran were all mentioned as powers that were threatening the international order.

Despite appearing walking back on bluster, this makes sense.

China backs North Korea. Russia has several interests in the Middle East. Someone has to keep an eye on them both.

If I were an Israeli, I wouldn't give a first or second thought to any leftist pet project (SEE: Hamas).

But Canadians are awfully good at being irrelevant:

Haskel, 33, is now a rookie politician in her adopted homeland of Israel, where she was elected in 2015. Though she may have left Canada as a child, she’s found herself in the middle of some distinctly Canadian political issues in Israel -— she’s a proponent of legalized pot and LGBT rights.

But ... but ... this was supposed to be good for us!

In 2017, there were 8,200 removals of failed refugee claimants, people who had outstayed their travel, work or student visa or were considered a risk to public safety.

While 3,639 of them voluntarily complied with their removal order, the others were forced to leave with escorts or had transportation costs paid by the government.

A U.S. government report says a Toronto-area mall is among the most notorious sources of pirated and counterfeit goods in the world.

Pacific Mall, a predominantly Chinese-Canadian shopping centre in Markham, Ont., is one of 18 brick-and-mortar locations and 25 online retailers named by the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative in its annual review of so-called "notorious markets."

The U.S. government says sales of counterfeit goods at Pacific Mall are "sprawling and pervasive" and that vendors "operate largely with impunity (as) requests for assistance from local law enforcement have reportedly gone unanswered."

The new report says some of the counterfeit items available at the mall, including cosmetics, sunglasses and perfumes, can pose a risk to public health and safety.

Pacific Mall is the only Canadian market included on the list, though the report notes that one of the fastest-growing advertising networks that cater to online sellers of counterfeit goods is based in Canada.

Things are only as divisive as the willingness to tolerate them. If, let's say, voters were to show up outside of their MP's offices and declare that they won't vote for any MP or party that forces people to sign away their beliefs, well, then the smugness might decline:

(Sidebar: peaceful grassroots action is always respectable.)

What exactly do applicants need to sign?
The attestation in full says: “Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

The government says it will not even process an application that does not include the attestation. The online version of the application can’t be submitted unless the box on the attestation is checked off.
There is also an Applicant Guide that further spells out the rationale behind the attestation. “The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights,” the guide says. “This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies.”

Why is the government telling religious groups they can still sign?
Both Hajdu and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have insisted the attestation does not affect religious groups because of the key phrase “core mandate.” They say a church’s core mandate is not focused on anti-abortion activism, so churches should have no problem signing it.

However, faith-based organizations say it’s wrong to think their religious beliefs are separate from their core mandate. Some groups who don’t have a stance on abortion feel it’s wrong to be forced to take a side by signing the attestation. Others are also opposing the attestation on the principle that it violates the Charter’s right to religious freedom.

It is not just Christian groups who are expressing concerns. Earlier this week, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish and other organizations gathered in Mississauga (at the initiative of a Conservative MP) to discuss the attestation and consider potential next steps in speaking out against it.

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