Wednesday Night #1690

Written by  //  July 22, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

For those who have been entertained by our various trials and tribulations caused by Bell and Videotron, there is a postscript.
On Sunday afternoon we were greeted by a a bright yellow doorknob notice (like the Do Not Disturb ones) subtitled “Interruption of your Videotron Services” announcing that our services will be interrupted between 3am and 5pm, which “will cause your telephone, cable, TV and Internet services too be temporarily down”. The beauty of this particular announcement is that there is no date specified, so we live in fear.

The Malaysia Airlines MH17 tragedy increasingly apprears to unite world opinion in pretty universal condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s support of the rebels in Eastern Ukraine. This Angus Roxburgh analysis in The Guardian makes sense to us, although we deplore the fact that the world should accommodate Mr. Putin’s need to save face.
As the author points out:
Putin could well be president for the next 10 years, and we cannot afford a decade of cold war. It’s time to swallow hard, and bring the region’s dominant power broker inside the tent, to help ensure the integrity of Ukraine – and peace in Europe.
Spiegel offers a slightly hopeful note: The Tragedy of MH17: Attack Could Mark Turning Point in Ukraine Conflict, but what a price to pay.
Kyle Matthews‘ interview with Global on the Malaysian Airlines crash and its political implications
In the latest development, Bodies leave Ukraine crash site for return to Netherlands after the Malaysian Prime Minister reached a deal with the leader of pro-Russian separatists controlling the area. Reaching a deal to return the bodies?? Surely the population of eastern Ukraine must be disgusted by the barbaric behaviour of the rebels.
Meanwhile, according to the New Republic, the mother of all conspiracy theories prevails in Russia.  The Russian Public Has a Totally Different Understanding of What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
Did you know Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was full of corpses when it took off from Amsterdam? Did you know that, for some darkly inexplicable reason, on July 17, MH17 moved off the standard flight path that it had taken every time before, and moved north, toward rebel-held areas outside Donetsk? Or that the dispatchers summoned the plane lower just before the crash? Or that the plane had been recently reinsured? Or that the Ukrainian army has air defense systems in the area? Or that it was the result of the Ukrainian military mistaking MH17 for Putin’s presidential plane, which looks strangely similar?
Did you know that the crash of MH17 was all part of an American conspiracy to provoke a big war with Russia?
Well, it’s all trueat least if you live in Russia, because this is the Malaysia Airlines crash story that you’d be seeing.”

Opinions are so deeply entrenched on all sides of the Israel/Palestine question that it is difficult to espouse even a mildly neutral policy suggestion without antagonizing someone. We can only hope that somehow, against all odds, common sense – if not morality – will prevail, but the top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip signalled Monday that the Islamic militant group will not agree to an unconditional ceasefire with Israel, while Israel’s defence minister pledged to keep fighting “as long as necessary” — raising new doubt about the highest-level mediation mission in two weeks.
John Jonas forwarded The tragic self-delusion behind the Hamas war — In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, weakness is power, and power — well, it’s complicated
It is an excellent, long analysis, well worth reading.
Chantal Beaubien has forwarded a link to A Decade of Illegality a short video UNRWA did for a recent event held to commemorate the 10th Anniversay of the legal opinion issued by the International Court of Justice which declared construction of the Wall in the occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal, and adds “The Wall remains the largest obstacle to freedom of movement within the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its on-going construction continues to dispossess Palestinians of their lands.” Chantal is returning on leave at the end of next week and we look forward to hearing more from her.

The topic of Food security is never far from our thoughts – three very different items of particular interest:
The National Geographic (July 2014) The Next Breadbasket examines ” the biggest story in global agriculture: the unlikely quest to turn sub-Saharan Africa, historically one of the hungriest places on the planet, into a major new breadbasket for the world.” Human rights advocates consider corporate land deals neocolonialism and agri-imperialism. Yet veterans of agricultural development say the massive infusion of private cash, infrastructure, and technology that such deals may bring to poor rural areas could be a catalyst for desperately needed development—if big projects and small farmers can work together. Wonderful photographs of the people and the land accompany the examination of cases in Mozambique illustrating the good, the bad and the ugly aspects.
At the same time, one of the authors of the Chatham House Report, On Trial: Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa writes in Genetic modification scaremongering in Africa is disarming the fight against poverty that “opponents have waged effective campaigns against GM technology based on misinformation and scaremongering.
“Unsurprisingly, public support for GM is low and politicians see only downsides in promoting the technology. Consequently, a proposed biosafety law to regulate and control the release of GM varieties has been suspended. … But what typically determines whether a GM crop is approved for release in Africa is not a balanced, independent assessment of risks and benefits, but a political judgment shaped by distrust and suspicion of the technology. Politicians are reluctant to progress biosafety legislation or take decisions towards the release of GM varieties. Even when a functioning biosafety regime exists, regulatory decisions may be unpredictable and subject to political interference.” (Thanks to Bert Revenaz for pointing us to this piece.)
On a much happier note: French supermarket chain Intermarché launched this promotional campaign to help reduce food waste of “undesirable” fruits and vegetables. Rather than throw out ugly, deformed, or damaged produce, Intermarché instead sells them with a unique twist. Brilliant — why aren’t more companies following their lead?

Making the transition from ugly produce to bad apples, we remind everyone that the Mike Duffy story has not gone away, but is growing as the RCMP served his lawyer with the official charge sheet on Monday. We predict that there will be more public outrage over items like charging taxpayers for personal trips to funerals than much bigger ticket items. The pundits appear to be in full agreement that, as John Ivison writes, “Depending on what emerges from the trial, it may well be the tipping point for many Canadians, already uncomfortable with the Conservatives’ modus operandi but who have, to this point, held their noses and supported Stephen Harper.” But of all the news surrounding l’affaire Duffy what mystifies us completely is WHY anyone would want to claim him as their father – Mike Duffy is my father, Peruvian woman claims in a lawsuit.

As life-long devotees of The New Yorker, we present a good news/bad news story. The bad news is that the New Yorker will go behind a paywall in September. The good news is that it Is Temporarily Making All Of Its Archives Free. Business Insider suggests 8 Stories You Should Definitely Read – a powerful selection.

We know that you rely on us for off-beat stories. John Evdokias sent along this fascinating one: What Did the Byzantine Empire Smell Like?
The founder of the Institute for Art and Olfaction sniffs out the scents of medieval Constantinople
By the time the Emperor Constantine rechristened the town of Byzantium as Constantinople in A.D. 330, human use of aroma was sophisticated, intentional, and above all, well established. Moreover, thanks to great trade routes such as the Silk Road and the Spice Route, rare materials could be obtained from far away, though often at a fairly high price. In the earliest years of Constantinople, the new emperor Constantine actually provided instructions about how perfume was to be used in his realm. As an example, take the book known as the Vita Silvestri of the Liber Pontificalis, which records his directions and budgets for the new Christian basilicas he had built throughout the Empire. Plans were customized to each basilica, but most often included a budget for spikenard oil to perfume the chandeliers, balsam oil for the Baptistries, and enough spices and incense to fill the holy days with holy smoke. For worship, scent mattered. Further evidence for the smells of early Byzantium comes from another unexpected source, a book of commercial law attributed to Emperor Leo VI. His Book of the Eparch lists rules for perfumers—many quite specific, limiting their wares to “pepper, spikenard, cinnamon, aloeswood, ambergris, musk, frankincense, myrrh, balsam, indigo, dyers’ herbs, lapis lazuli, fustic, storax,” and determining the location of their shop stalls as “placed in a row between the milestone and the revered icon of Christ that stands above the Bronze Arcade, so that aroma may waft upwards to the icon and at the same time fill the vestibule of the Royal Palace.”

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