Wednesday Night #1733

Written by  //  May 20, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The week’s news ranges from the deadly serious to a  particularly eclectic if not downright bizarre collection that we have chosen to ponder rather than the gloomy all-inclusive thoughts put forward in George Friedman’s A Net Assessment of the World for Stratfor:

“a vast swath of the Eurasian landmass (understood to be Europe and Asia together) is in political, military and economic disarray. Europe and China are struggling with the consequences of the 2008 crisis, which left not only economic but institutional challenges. Russia is undergoing a geopolitical crisis in Ukraine and an economic problem at home. The Arab world, from the Levant to Iran, from the Turkish border through the Arabian Peninsula, is embroiled in politically destabilizing warfare. The Western Hemisphere is relatively stable, as is the Asian Archipelago. But Eurasia is destabilizing in multiple dimensions.”

In no particular order:
The news of the fall of  Ramadi to ISIS forces and the subsequent rallying of Shi’ite militiamen (backed by Iran) has elicited countless opinion pieces and analyses. As best we can judge, the BBC’s  Fears of Shia muscle in Iraq’s Sunni heartland is as good a summary of the issues as we will find.  The only good news comes from Syria where ISIS withdrew from the UNSCO World Heritage site of Palmyra whose imminent destruction was feared last week. [Correction: On Wednesday afternoon (DST) the BBC reported IS ‘in control’ of Syria’s Palmyra — Government troops have almost entirely withdrawn from the city following an IS advance, an eyewitness told the BBC. IS militants have demolished several ancient sites that pre-date Islam in Iraq, including Hatra and Nimru]

The plight of the refugees/migrants attempting to reach Europe from Libya remains unresolved as EU members argue. An EU plan to impose migrant quotas on member states – stipulating how many refugees each country should accept – appeared close to collapse on Tuesday after France and Spain withdrew their support.
The UK said last week it would opt out of the scheme, saying it opposed compulsory quotas for immigrants on principle, but insisting it would continue to accept asylum seekers.
Now the future of the plan, part of a package of proposals for addressing the Mediterranean migrant crisis drawn up by the European commission, is in doubt.
The package also includes potential military action against smuggling networks, including the destruction of smugglers’ boats. The EU is awaiting approval from the UN security council for such action, because Libya has rejected the idea of intervention. And still, there appears to be little if any attempt to address the root causes, beyond the requisite wringing of hands.  Further complicating the situation is the suspicion that ISIS is smuggling militants among the migrants.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, there is at least temporary relief for the Rohingya and Bangladeshis stranded at sea.

Without doubt, the most horrific employment opportunity announcement has to be Saudi Arabia Is Hiring 8 New Executioners Saudi Arabia is advertising for eight new executioners, recruiting extra staff to carry out an increasing number of death sentences, usually done by public beheading.The position also entails carrying out amputations on those convicted of lesser crimes. The gallows humour that has pervaded comments on the ether masks the incredulity and horror of western observers.

We often wonder about the efficacy of the on-line petitions run by Avaaz, change.org and other similar organizations, however it appears that in the case of Maldives rape victim spared the lash after global anger, Avaaz was able to deliver. Will this be a one-off reprieve, or is here hope for lasting change?

Which brings us to a related question that we have been thinking about for some time – crowd funding. Crowdfunding and the downside of helping needy strangersDue to publicity, some campaigns become overfunded, experts say addresses (but does not answer) a number of troubling points about this relatively recent phenomenon. Yes, you have a friend with a start-up who needs a modest amount of seed money – you know the project, believe in it and have full confidence in the probity of your friend. Would you do the same for a stranger? Hong Kong to get new crowdfunded independent newspaperA group of journalists concerned at lack of press freedom secured launch funding after just two days Would you have donated?
There are many accountability and ethical issues raised by often well-intentioned efforts to raise money for a perceived need. If the stated goal is exceeded, what happens to the surplus? If crowd funding is regulated, will it die away? Should it? How to define ‘appropriate’ oversight of funds raised? How does participation in crowd funding affect donations to established charities? Or to appeals for disaster relief from established organizations like Médecins sans frontières?  We welcome your thoughts.

On the other hand, as the Conservatives relentlessly pursue the balanced budget, perhaps we need a concerted crowd-funding effort on behalf of our military. Three recent items suggest that there may not be much hope otherwise: Documents show navy mechanics had to use eBay to find ship parts ; Delayed trucks now due in 2017Canada’s army expects to receive new trucks almost a decade after they were promised by the Conservative government ; Company to be chosen by 2017 to design new navy ships

For those who have missed it, we encourage you to read Liberal Senator, Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer’s  speech in the Senate on Bill C-51  It is in stark contrast to the disappointing boilerplate text posted by our MP Marc Garneau The Liberal position on C-51
“From the outset, Liberals raised concerns with Bill C-51 regarding accountability and oversight. This is why our support of this legislation was paired with a commitment that a Liberal government would create safeguards to ensure the powers in this legislation are not abused.”

Good news from the White House, at last official attention is being paid to the critical collapse of honey bee colonies. How the White House plans to help the humble bee maintain its buzz Who knew that the president was fascinated by honey bees and would introduce the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a bureaucratic title for a plan to save the bee, other small winged animals and their breeding grounds. The initiative may feel like the kind of niche interest a second-term president devotes his time to, but scientists say his attention to the busy workforce that sustains many American crops is critical.

That’s about the only good news from Washington where the president’s request for fast-track authority over TPP has met with fierce opposition from Senator Elizabeth Warren and others who fear the ISDS provision. Until/unless our foreign trade experts convince us otherwise, we agree with Senator Warren and the Washington Post  The Trans-Pacific Partnership clause everyone should opposeGuy Stanley, Kimon, Tony?  Or should we save this until next week – the 27th – when David and Terry Jones will be with us from Washington?

The Guardian is running a wonderful series on A history of cities in 50 buildings which includes our beloved Habitat 67.
On the 15th it featured Yamoussoukro’s Notre-Dame de la Paix, the world’s largest basilica. “In the Ivory Coast’s small and remote capital city stands a church as tall as St Peter’s in Rome, with personal air-conditioning for every seat. It is a bewildering legacy of the country’s ‘founding father’, Félix Houphouët-Boigny.” Diana visited the basilica with Sam Stein in the 1990s – an unforgettable experience!

Cannes Film Festival Won’t Admit Women Wearing Flat Shoes – we look forward to comments from Joumane Chahine, Wednesday Night’s delegate to Cannes. Best response to this decree was a beautiful picture of Givenchy-clad Audrey Hepburn wearing ‘flats’ on the red carpet.

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