Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Government Thugs Crack Down on Opposition

Looks like the dictatorship is cracking down on the last vestiges of representative government.

About 100 government supporters have burst into Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, where they beat up several lawmakers.

Witnesses said the confrontation came after an assembly session to mark the country’s Independence Day.

Military police guarding the site stood by as intruders brandishing sticks and pipes broke through the gate, AFP said. The government vowed to investigate.

Genderless Child

This is loony. Gender identity is not an issue for the vast majority of people, but, unfortunately, this parent is foisting his own issues onto a child that would have been perfectly fine being a boy or girl.

Parent Kori Doty – a non-binary transgender person who identifies as neither male nor female – aims to allow the child to discover their own gender.

The health card has been issued with a “U” in the space for “sex”, which could be for “undetermined” or “unassigned”.

Kori Doty is fighting to omit the gender from the birth certificate.

The parent gave birth to Searyl Atli in November at a friend’s home in British Columbia. Kori Doty, who prefers to use the pronoun they, argues that a visual inspection at birth is unable to determine what gender that person will have or identify with later in life.

They want to keep Searyl’s sex off all official records.

“I’m raising Searyl in in such a way that until they have the sense of self and command of vocabulary to tell me who they are, I’m recognising them as a baby and trying to give them all the love and support to be the most whole person that they can be outside of the restrictions that come with the boy box and the girl box,” the parent was quoted by CBC as saying

Kori Doty, a community educator who is part of the Gender-Free ID Coalition, said that those who feel different to the gender designation assigned at birth face several problems later in life trying to change their documents.

“When I was born, doctors looked at my genitals and made assumptions about who I would be, and those assignments followed me and followed my identification throughout my life,” Kori Doty said.

Fighting for Baby Charlie

This is socialized medicine. The parents have the will and the money to try to save their baby, but the UK and EU authorities say that the child must die.

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a hospital can discontinue life support to the baby, who has a rare genetic disease. His doctors wish to take him off life support, but his parents disagree. Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, wanted the hospital to release Charlie into their custody so they can take him to the United States for an experimental treatment.
[…]
Charlie’s parents appealed to the UK Supreme Court to decide the best interests of their child. After they lost that appeal, the 10-month-old was due to have his life support switched off at the end of the day June 13.
Gard and Yates then filed a request with the European Court of Human Rights, an international court based in Strasbourg, France, to consider the case, but the judges there also ruled in favor of his doctors.

Bias in the Classroom

Teachers are humans and subject to all of the same biases and flaws as anyone else. Most of them will be professionals, but even kids pick up on body language and tone.

As teachers, we are bound by the 1996 Education Act to present different political beliefs impartially and to not promote partisan political views. Yet, probably unintentionally, my school is often an echo-chamber for the leftwing views of its staff and its students’ parents.

Views that fall outside the accepted liberal-left spectrum get short shrift in my staffroom. I have watched teachers react incredulously – almost to the point of tears – when colleagues have tried floating a reasonable case for Brexit. This would be harmless enough if it did not put in doubt their ability empathise with views opposed to their own.

Unfortunately, I see that lack of empathy in the classroom. It worries me that few of my colleagues seem to understand why Conservatives think as they do. In lessons discussing the general election, I have seen teachers make half-hearted attempts to present a rightwing line of reasoning about the major issues. Their bored or frustrated tone of voice says it all.

In theory students are introduced to a range of ideologies through studying government and politics. But I have only heard Labour politicians being criticised by fellow teachers for being too rightwing. We have had assemblies celebrating feminists and the campaign for a living wage, which are excellent and informative, but with no attention given to right-of-centre subjects (none that weren’t heavily critical, anyway).

Lifeline

How sad.

Each day the bridge to Colombia sees a steady stream of people — a mix of young and old, alone and in family groups — cross back and forth looking for basic supplies. Most are carrying empty suitcases or a handful of plastic bags as they cross into Colombia. On the return trip, the bags brim with goods they can’t get at home.
The air is humid and dusty at the same time. The bridge is flanked by lush palm trees as it leads to a patch of land teeming with makeshift storefronts, mini supermarkets and currency conversion shops.
As the road opens into the border town of Cucuta, young women pass out yellow sale fliers to entering Venezuelans. A man raises his voice to yell into a microphone about goods on offer at a large supermarket. “Welcome, friends from Venezuela, we have chocolate milk and toilet paper for a good price,” he shouts.
Enrique Sanchez, wind beaten and darkened by the sun, is thankful to Colombia, he said, “Because they have enough for themselves and us.”
This time, he has come over to buy flour, oil, rice and sugar with his depreciating Venezuelan Bolivars. He makes the hour-long journey from
San Cristobal every two days to keep is family of eight fed during the crisis.
“Unfortunately, in Venezuela, there is no food. That’s the reality,” he said, before walking back towards the crossing.

Iraq Declares Defeat of IS

I sure hope so.

Iraqi troops have seized the ruins of Mosul’s grand mosque from Isis, the military said in an announcement, declaring the extremists’ reign in the country to be over.

“Their fictitious state has fallen,” military spokesperson Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told state TV on Thursday – three years to the day since Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the so-called caliphate from the same spot.

SCOTUS Allows Part of Travel Ban to Go Into Effect

Boy… there’s a lot of SCOTUS news happening at the moment. Now there’s this:

The justices granted parts of his administration’s emergency request to put the March 6 executive order into effect immediately while the legal battle continues.

The court said that the travel ban is in effect “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The court also said it would allow a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the United States to go into effect on the same grounds.

Three of the court’s conservatives said they would have granted Trump’s request in full, including Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch.

While I think it is important that this issue be resolved by the courts to reaffirm the President’s authority in these matters, I am left wondering why the ban is still necessary. Remember that this was supposed to be a temporary ban while the administration firmed up its vetting procedures for foreigners traveling to the U.S. Those new vetting procedures should be in place now, thus rendering the temporary travel ban moot. If those procedures aren’t ready and in place, why not? That was, after all, the long-term goal.

California Assembly Shelves Socialized Healthcare

Even California can’t make the math work.

Speaker Anthony Rendon called the bill “woefully incomplete.”

“Even senators who voted for SB 562 noted there are potentially fatal flaws in the bill,” the Los Angeles-area Democrat said in a statement.

The bill, which has passed the Senate, lays out a plan for a government-run health system in California, but it doesn’t include a way to pay for it. Rendon said the bill also doesn’t adequately address delivery of care and cost.

The bill has an estimated price tag of $400 billion per year. Paying for it would require new taxes and cooperation from President Donald Trump’s administration to redirect existing federal money.

It would guarantee health care for all California residents and eliminate out-of-pocket costs for consumers, like copays and deductibles.

[…]

Rendon suggested the Senate draft a new version of the bill that addresses how to finance the plan and more clearly details how it would work. He also suggested the plan could be taken to voters in the form of a ballot measure. In the meantime, he said he would not advance the bill through the Assembly committee process.

EU Unhappy with UK Brexit Provision

I suspect we’re going to see this cycle over and over again in the next few years.

Efforts to reassure EU citizens in the UK about their future after Brexit are “a first step but not sufficient”, a top EU official has said.

Under plans announced by Theresa May, EU nationals living in the UK for five years would get “settled status”, with access to health and other benefits.

The PM said people deserved certainty but European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker said more was needed.

And campaigners said there were still “more questions than answers”.

Remember that EU folks are angry that Britain has decided to exit the EU in the first place, so they aren’t going to be happy with anything other than a reversal of that decision. So Britain is going to announce a Brexit policy, EU officials will say it is insufficient, rinse, repeat.

Queen Reported for No Seat Belt

Ha!

The Queen has been reported to West Yorkshire Police for not wearing a seat belt in the official car for the State Opening of Parliament.

A 999 call was made by someone saying the monarch was not strapped in while being driven through London.

The phone call was confirmed in a tweet by the West Yorkshire force, which added the hashtags #not999 #notevenwestyorkshire.

Civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Queen in UK law.

Yes, unlike America, there are people who are actually above the law in the UK.

North Koreans Kill Otto Warmbier

Make no mistake, the North Koreans detained this young American, scrambled his brain, and killed him. His alleged crime? He took a poster. Remember that they also have nukes.

The US student held in captivity for more than 15 months in North Korea has died a week after returning home.

Otto Warmbier, 22, was serving 15 years of hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

He was sent back to the US last Tuesday on humanitarian grounds – it emerged he had been in a coma for a year.

North Korea said he had contracted botulism but his family say North Korea subjected him to “awful torturous mistreatment” in detention.

A team of US doctors have also disputed North Korea’s version of events.

Escalating in Syria

See what I mean?

Russia has said it will treat US warplanes operating in parts of Syria where its air forces are present as “targets” amid a diplomatic row caused by the downing of a Syrian jet.

The country’s defence ministry said the change in position would apply to all aircraft, including those operating as part of the US-backed coalition.

It will also suspend a hotline between Russia and the US set up to prevent mid-air collisions.

U.S. Shoots Down Syrian Fighter

Boom.

The incident occurred in the town of Ja’Din, south of Tabqa, Syria, which had recently been retaken from ISIS by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish and Arab rebel forces supported by the U.S. in the fight against the militant group.

SDF came under attack from regime forces in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad around 4:30 p.m. Syria time. A number of SDF fighters were wounded in the assault, and the SDF soon left Ja’Din.

Coalition aircraft conducted a show of force overhead that stopped the initial pro-regime advance towards the town.

“Following the Pro-Syrian forces attack, the coalition contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established ‘de-confliction line’ to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” said a statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS.

“At 6:43 p.m., a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet,” said the statement.

The Syrian pilot is believed to have been able to eject from the aircraft, according to a U.S. official.

The whole situation is set up to escalate very quickly if we let it.

Opposition Arrested in Russia

Meanwhile, the Tsar is locking up the opposition.

A Moscow court has ruled that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny should be jailed for 30 days for staging an unsanctioned rally in Moscow.

The anti-corruption rallies called for by Navalny were held in more than 100 Russian towns and cities on Monday. In Moscow, thousands of angry protesters held an unsanctioned rally on Tverskaya, the capital’s main street. More than 1,000 people have been arrested across Russia.

The judge at the Simonovsky district court ruled after midnight Monday that Navalny should be jailed for repeated violations of the law on public gatherings.

Nationalism v. Globalism

True for the UK. True for the US.

Our two main political parties were founded and evolved to deal with the social and economic challenges of the industrial revolution.

Conservative and Labour, left and right, capitalism and socialism – these ideological movements were a response to the economic and cultural challenges of power moving from the field to the factory.

But power is moving again, from the national to the multinational.

How citizens think we should respond to that shift is the new divide in our politics.

It is less about left v right and more about nationalism v globalism.

The 9.5% increase in the vote share for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party and the 6% increase in Theresa May’s Conservative support might be held up as evidence that the British electorate is once again becoming more “tribal” in left-right terms.

But I suspect old-fashioned political tribalism is actually on the wane.

Frustrated by the profound limitations of a first-past-the-post electoral system, voters are striving to get their voice heard as best they can.

Ukrainians Begin Visa-Free Travel in the EU

Happy day for them. Note the requirements.

Kiev (AFP) – Ukrainians were on Sunday celebrating the first day of visa-free access to the European Union, with thousands crossing the border as President Petro Poroshenko proclaimed a dramatic “exit” from Moscow’s grip.

The move is symbolic for Kiev, where a pro-EU revolt in 2014 toppled the previous Russia-backed government and was followed by Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula sparking a protracted ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“The visa-free regime for Ukraine has started! Glory to Europe! Glory to Ukraine!” Poroshenko tweeted early Sunday as many travellers started crossing the border and posting selfies.

Only those with biometric passports — containing a microchip with personal data, including fingerprints — can take advantage of the visa-free travel for the time being, for stays of up to 90 days every six months that don’t include work.

Puerto Ricans Head to Polls

No thanks.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Ricans are getting the chance to tell the U.S. Congress on Sunday which political status they believe best benefits the U.S. territory as it remains mired in a deep economic crisis that has triggered an exodus of islanders to the mainland.

Congress ultimately has to approve the outcome of Sunday’s referendum that offers voters three choices: statehood, free association/independence or the current territorial status.

Many expect statehood supporters to crowd voting centers because three of Puerto Rico’s political parties are boycotting the referendum, including the island’s main opposition party. Among those hoping Puerto Rico will become the 51st state is Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s former congressional representative.

“Let’s send a loud and clear message to the United States and the entire world,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “And that message is that we Puerto Ricans not only want our U.S. citizenship, but we want equal treatment.”

It seems to me that if Puerto Rico wants to be a state, then it should bring something of value to the table. Massive debt, a struggling economy, and a few nice beaches isn’t exactly attractive.

These Were Not the Intended Results

Fascinating and hilarious all the same.

The ruling Conservative Party (nicknamed the Tories) thought it was going to increase its numbers in Parliament, but has instead lost seats – and its slim majority; it held 330 seats before the election (326 is the magic number for a majority).

Instead, the opposition Labour Party has won back many seats.

A graphic showing, after 649 out of 650 seats, Conservatives being largest party, but Labour having making a 9.5% gain

To cap it all off, Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t need to call this election – she did so because she thought she’d win a landslide. The result is being seen as a major defeat for her.

Fellow Muslim Countries Cut Ties with Qatar

Yikes.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain have broken off diplomatic relations and all land sea and air contacts with fellow Gulf Arab state Qatar on Monday.

Saudi Arabia said the move was necessary to protect the kingdom from what it described as terrorism and extremism. The kingdom also pulled all Qatari troops from the ongoing war in Yemen.

The official state news agency, citing an official source, said Saudi Arabia had decided to sever diplomatic and consular relations with Qatar “proceeding from the exercise of its sovereign right guaranteed by international law and the protection of national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”.

Saudi Arabia cut all land air and sea contacts with Qatar “and urges all brotherly countries and companies to do the same.”

Perhaps Trump’s forceful speech during his Middle East trip urging Muslim nations to combat extremism had some effect.

German Auto Makers Worry About Staying Competitive

Huh. You mean that the Paris Accord would have imposed massive extra costs on U.S. auto makers, thus making them less competitive?

Germany’s powerful car industry said Europe would need to reassess its environmental standards to remain competitive after the United States said it would withdraw from the Paris climate pact.

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 global agreement to fight climate change, drawing anger and condemnation from world leaders and heads of industry.

“The regrettable announcement by the USA makes it inevitable that Europe must facilitate a cost efficient and economically feasible climate policy to remain internationally competitive,” Matthias Wissmann, president of the German auto industry lobby group VDA, said in a statement on Friday.

“The preservation of our competitive position is the precondition for successful climate protection. This correlation is often underestimated,” Wissmann said, adding that the decision by the Unites States was disappointing.

The VDA said electricity and energy prices are already higher in Germany than in the United States, putting Germany at a disadvantage.