August 31, 2014

Weimar: An absorbing history about the corruption of a once great artistic center

Weimar: Where Goethe and Schiller found a home, Liszt blossomed into a musical genius; Bauhaus became possible, and Nazism took hold. Below: Weimar, by Michael H. Kater. The book, an absorbing history about the corruption of a once great artistic center, and two reviews of the book.

Weimar: From Enlightenment to the Present, publshed by Yale University Press, September 2014, 480pp. ISBN: 9780300170566

Publisher’s description

Historian Michael H. Kater chronicles the rise and fall of one of Germany’s most iconic cities in this fascinating and surprisingly provocative history of Weimar. Weimar was a center of the arts during the Enlightenment and hence the cradle of German culture in modern times. Goethe and Schiller made their reputations here, as did Franz Liszt and the young Richard Strauss. In the early twentieth century, the Bauhaus school was founded in Weimar. But from the 1880s on, the city also nurtured a powerful right-wing reactionary movement, and fifty years later, a repressive National Socialist regime dimmed Weimar’s creative lights, transforming the onetime artists’ utopia into the capital of its first Nazified province and constructing the Buchenwald death camp on its doorstep.

Kater’s richly detailed volume offers the first complete history of Weimar in any language, from its meteoric eighteenth-century rise up from obscurity through its glory days of unbridled creative expression to its dark descent back into artistic insignificance under Nazi rule and, later, Soviet occupation and beyond.

Michael H. Kater is Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus at York University, Toronto, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the author of Hitler Youth.

Reviews: Weimar: From Enlightenment to the Present by Michael H Kater, book review
Marcus Tanner The Independent UK August 21, 2014

The little town of Weimar has long been seen as a symbol of the “other” Germany – the nice one, which Hitler buried but which rose again after the Second World War. Home to Goethe, Schiller and a brace of other big names from the Enlightenment, its name is still attached to Germany’s bittersweet experiment in liberal democracy after the end of the First World War.

Even those bruisers, the East German Communists, did not tamper with the myth of “enlightened” Weimar. When I visited in 1987, I was struck by the care that those notoriously hard men had bestowed on Goethe’s town. No Socialist makeover for Weimar. I wandered contentedly around the Liszt House, the Goethe House and the Wittumspalais – the last residence of Goethe’s patron, the Archduchess Anna Amalia – feeling struck by how well preserved it all was. The comparison to East Berlin, where the regime had simply dynamited the old Prussian royal palace, was evident.

I found leafy, mellow Weimar charming – not a word I would have applied to many other towns in East Germany. It reminded me of a cross between Bath and Cambridge. But was I just seduced? Kater would suggest the latter. He goes at Weimar’s iconic status as a temple to liberal virtues with a sledgehammer. Goethe emerges as a stuffed shirt who was miserly to his servants and helped put down a peasants’ rebellion. Not that enlightened, apparently. After his death, and perhaps before it, Weimar was little more than a museum, Kater writes. The author goes further, suggesting that Weimar’s iconic reputation eventually acted against the town’s own interests.

It became a form of curse, drawing a ragbag of anti-Semites, German ultra-nationalists and racial eugenicists to the one-time “Court of the Muses” on a mission to attach the Weimar tradition – the legacy of Goethe and the Enlightenment – to their own ends.

Chief among them, he says, was Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth, who ensconced herself in a villa, lived to the age of 90, and devoted herself to manipulating her late brother’s ideas and lending his name to unappealing ideas. When the Nazis seized power, Elisabeth was thrilled, sending Hitler an open invitation to come and have a vegetarian breakfast with her.

Germans see the best of their soul in Weimar. Everyone else, on the other hand..
Philip Hensher The Spectator UK August 30, 2014

Thuringia, a region of former East Germany, occupies a special place in the thoughts of Germans, who like to regard it as the origin of all their best virtues. It’s an alluring place, full of wonderfully untouched stretches of densely forested hills; the occasional small historic town seems hardly to have changed for decades, and the tourist can spend a happy week pottering from Schmalkalden to Ilmenau to Eisenach in the illusion that none of those unpleasant realities of the last century ever touched this place. I once asked the guide at the Wartburg, the magnificent medieval and mock-medieval castle on a snowy crop outside Eisenach, what this place meant to modern-day Germans. It was the castle where Luther holed up to translate the Bible, where the first idealistic students swore oaths to create a united Germany, and where Wagner set Tannhäuser. She had no doubt. ‘Tausend Jahre positive Deutsche Geschichte’: 1,000 years of positive German history.

The legal capital of Thuringia is actually Erfurt, an entrancing town of considerable grandeur. But no one can doubt that its spiritual heart — and perhaps of Germany’s idea of itself — is Weimar. Outside Germany, Weimar hardly suggests a town at all. When the Sunday Times once sent A.A.Gill to write about modern-day Germany, he confessed that ‘I had no idea that Weimar was a town. I thought it must be a district or piece of paper, the Weimar Republic and all that.’

For Germans, it is the court town that created Goethe and Schiller under the enlightened sponsorship of a great prince; where Wagner found refuge and understanding, and Liszt transformed himself from a shallow virtuoso into a great musical thinker; where the Bauhaus was made possible; where Cranach, Wieland and Busoni also walked. The association with the republic that was formed in a few months of constitutional assembly after the end of the first world war comes second. Primarily, this is the town that represents the best and noblest in the German spirit.

There is something in that, of course, and a few days in Weimar will display a town not just beautiful and wonderfully picturesque, but redolent of its greatest minds’ preoccupations. You can’t visit Goethe’s house on the Frauenplan without having a sense of being admitted to the full range of his preoccupations, from colour to minerals to the classics.

The problem is that over the last couple of centuries, as Michael H. Kater explains in a racy, detailed and absorbing history, there have been all sorts of people who liked to exalt what they saw as the best and noblest in the German spirit while not exactly wanting to continue that tradition. In 1938, a gathering of 250 German authors in Weimar paid homage to the ‘town of great German poetry’ in order to denigrate the ‘madness of so-called Expressionist poetry… the work of the Jewish world enemy.’ The Nazi period was not alone in manipulating the historic achievements of the great to its own ends, without showing any interest in contemporary writers.

Kater has written a fascinating account of this extraordinary city. It is highly readable, capable of great wryness and, considering the cultural and political ground it covers, mostly very convincing. He’s clearly out of his depth when it comes to music, especially in his account of Liszt’s innovations, but otherwise we’re on solid ground.

Posted at: August 31, 2014 - 11:00 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Audio: Feature conversation with NATO’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen & International volunteers are fighting against attacking fascist forces in E. Ukraine—first a drip, now a trickle, next …? & Putin calls for ‘substantial’ talks on deescalating the crisis in eastern Ukraine

Feature conversation with NATO’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen
“The House” CBC Radio One Canada August 30, 2014

You can listen to the interview (13:50) from a pop-up link on this page.

Outgoing head of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, joins us for a feature conversation. How will the organization handle the unfolding crises in Russia, Syria, and Iraq? And what lessons does he think the world has to learn from the intervention in Libya?

Putin calls for talks between pro-Russian rebels and Kyiv
Euronews France August 31, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded video (1:33).

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for dialogue between pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and the government in Kyiv to protect people living near the conflict zone.

“Substantive, meaningful talks, concerning not only technical issues but also relating to the issues of the society’s political organisation and statehood in southeastern Ukraine, should begin immediately,” said Putin, “to protect legitimate interests of people living there.”

A Kremlin spokesman clarified Putin does not want a separate state in the region and called the conflict a domestic one inside Ukraine.

Putin said his meeting last week with President Petro Poroshenko was “good” and called the Ukrainian president a “partner with whom it is possible to have a dialogue.”

On Saturday the Lithuanian president called on Europe to supply military equipment to Kyiv.

“I think the situation is getting worse. Russia is in open and direct involvement, and is in a state of war against Ukraine,” said Dalia Grybauskaite.

“And, it is clear,” she continued. “This means – against a country which would like to be closer with Europe, which means that Russia is practically in a state of war against Europe.”

She added that an arms embargo on Russia should be stepped up by stopping sales under existing contracts.

EU officials who met in Brussels on Saturday are set to draw up proposals for fresh sanctions within a week.

Related: August 28 in a post (New front opened in Ukraine’s civil war? It seems likely and militarily logical) we commented: “Shades of the International Brigades? The International Brigades were military units made up of volunteers from different countries, who traveled to Spain to fight for the Second Spanish Republic against the fascist rebel forces in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.” Jim comment: It is stunning how this Ukraine Civil War is coming to resemble a mirror-image of the Spanish Civil War. Let’s not replay that brutal ‘small’ war in Europe again anymore than already has been done. Or do Western Axis leaders have as little morality as Nazi Germany’s? Does Petro Poroshenko have as little compassion for his own people as Francisco Franco?

‘United Continent’: European volunteers fighting Kiev troops in Eastern Ukraine
RT Russia August 30, 2014

European volunteers are streaming into Ukraine to join the fighting on both sides. While Kiev’s forces are beefed up with mercenaries from private military companies, Europeans have also come to defend the rebel Donbass region of their own free will.


Commander of the French team in Ukraine Victor Lenfa. Screenshot from RT video

“It’s our war. It’s everybody’s war, it’s every European’s war,” Guillaume, a French fighter in Ukraine defending the Donbass region, told RT’s Paula Slier.

Another volunteer, 25-year-old Nikola, used to be a professional soldier with the elite French mountain troops for five years. Now he’s putting his skills to good use in Ukraine. Alongside a contingent of other foreign volunteers, he’s training anti-Kiev forces in urban guerilla warfare.

“These are people’s militias, these are not mercenaries or professional soldiers, so they need instruction,” Nikola told RT.

“They really have the motivation, whereas the Kiev army, which is a kind of puppet of NATO, they don’t have any motivation whatsoever,” Nikola said. “We have seen them before. They are very much unmotivated and they do not really know why they are fighting, and against whom they are fighting, so that is our main strength.”

The French volunteer explained that the presence of European volunteers among Ukraine’s rebels carrying out what they call “a military operation for protecting civilians” in the country’s east is symbolic.

“For many of these people from the west, it’s their first time to come and defend what is considered by western governments a bad cause, or the bad guys’ cause. So it’s very important to show that people from the west are distinct from their governments and they are ready to come and fight and risk their lives to defend another world,” Nikola said.

And more and more overseas fighters are signing up and joining the anti-Kiev troops.

RT’s Paula Slier found out that volunteers are coming to the Donetsk frontline not just from France, but also from Spain, Poland, Israel and the United Kingdom.

Aleksey Mozgovoy, the commander of ‘Prizrak’ (Ghost) brigade from the Lugansk Region said in an interview to the MK.ru news outlet that in his 1,000-strong battalion there are fighters from Bulgaria, Slovakia and Germany.


Milutin Malisic, a member of a Serbian Chetnik paramilitary group. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters

One of the largest international forces fighting against Kiev’s troops is a unit of volunteers from Serbia, according to the interview. The ‘Jovan Shevich’ squadron allegedly consists of 250 fighters and is actively operating in the Lugansk Region.

Earlier this week, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, revealed in an interview to Russian media that up to 4,000 Russian citizens, many of them ex-servicemen, have joined anti-government fighters during Kiev’s crackdown in Ukraine’s east.

“Without them, it would hard for us to go on with our fighting,” Zakharchenko said, stressing that at the moment many of Russian citizens have already returned back home.

The latest developments in the warfare in Eastern Ukraine, where up to 7,000 Ukrainian troops and National Guards units have been entrapped in three separate encirclements, give hope to the rebel forces.

“We believe that the Ukrainian army will not be able to last until winter or even fall, because each day that goes by they lose money, they lose motivation, they lose manpower, they lose ammo. So each day that goes by, they grow weaker, while we grow stronger,” French fighter Guillaume told RT.

Europe now finds itself between a rock and a hard place: What to do as more of its young men sign up to fight against its ally?

And this mission is growing stronger as a brigade of Western volunteers is now being put together under the name “United Continent.”

Putin: Impossible to say when political crisis in Ukraine will end
RT Russia August 31, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on Kiev to start substantial talks on deescalating the crisis in eastern Ukraine. He added that it’s an illusion to expect that the rebels would calmly watch their homes being destroyed.

“We have agreed on a plan, so its realization must be pursued,” Putin told Channel 1 TV, adding that the Ukrainian government “must immediately start substantial talks – not a technical discussion – on the political organization of society and the state in southeast Ukraine so that the interests of people who live there are protected.”

The plan, according to Russia’s leader, puts negotiations at the center of the peace process. In a clear reference to the toppling of Viktor Yanukovich by the Maidan movement in February, Putin said that mistakes such as a power takeover should be avoided and called it the main cause of today’s crisis.

The Russian president called on Kiev to consider the upcoming autumn and winter period and think about the heating season. The devastated infrastructure of the southeast requires full repair otherwise people might just freeze to death, he said.

Putin said that, while the resolution of the crisis now mostly depends on Kiev, it is impossible to say when it may end. He said it could be explained by the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary elections. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dismissed the country’s parliament on August 25 and called parliamentary elections for October 26.

At the same time, it is an illusion that the rebels would sit and patiently wait for the promised talks to start, Putin said, especially when they see “cities and towns in southeast Ukraine shelled to the ground with direct fire.”

Posted at: August 31, 2014 - 10:57 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Female fighters of the PKK may be the Islamic State’s worst nightmare & Sunni rebels ‘ready to turn on Islamic State’


Guerrilla, partisan. Zekia Karhan, 26, a female Kurdistan Workers’ Party guerrilla from Turkey says that she is treated as an equal by her male counterparts. Karhan and other members of the PKK are in northern Iraq, helping the peshmerga fight Islamic State militants. Photo: Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes

Female fighters of the PKK may be the Islamic State’s worst nightmare
Seth Robson Stars and Stripes USA August 27, 2014


Zekia Karhan, 26, front-left, and Felice Budak, 24, back-middle, speak with a journalist in Makhmur, Iraq, Aug. 23, 2014. Karhan and Budak are guerrillas in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Photo: Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes. Visit this page for its photo gallery.

MAKHMUR, Iraq — It’s an Islamic State fighter’s worst fear: to be killed by a woman.

In northern Iraq, where Kurdish forces are rapidly regaining territory held by the Islamic State, that’s becoming real risk for the extremists.

There are plenty of female Kurdish soldiers on the front lines. They’re smaller than their male comrades, but they talk just as tough as they prowl the battlefield clutching automatic rifles and vowing vengeance for those victimized by the Islamic State.

“We are equal with the men,” said Zekia Karhan, 26, a female guerrilla from Turkey who is with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. “Every responsibility for a man is the same for a woman. We are treated equally, and that is why we are fighting.”

The female PKK troops accessorize their olive drab uniforms with colorful scarfs, but they’re as thirsty for battle as anyone.

“I fired on this position from the mountain,” said Felice Budak, 24, another PKK fighter from Turkey, as she stood next to a window pierced by several bullet holes in Makhmur, a town that the PKK helped recapture from the Islamic State this month.

Budak said she wasn’t scared during the battle.

Islamic State fighters “are very scared of death because they are only here to kill people,” she said. “I don’t mind doing it over and over again. I’ve already fought in Turkey, Iran and Syria.”

The leftist PKK has been fighting the Turkish government for decades and is classed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. But its fighters have been going into battle alongside Kurdish peshmerga in recent weeks and are credited by some locals with turning the tide of battle in Iraq.

The female PKK troops get fired up when they talk about the mass rapes and sex slavery that has been a hallmark of the Islamic State.

“Everywhere they go they kill and do bad things in the name of Islam,” Karhan said. “They captured a lot of women and they are selling them in Syria for $100. They rape women and behead them in the name of Islam.”

Karhan said she’d heard stories about the extremists’ fear of being killed by the opposite sex. In northern Iraq, it is said that the Islamic State fighters, who are exclusively male, believe that they won’t be admitted to heaven if they are killed by a woman.

At Makhmur, that may have been the fate of several Sunni extremists gunned down by the PKK.

“Nobody knows if there is heaven or hell,” Karhan said. “How can they know they will get 27 virgins? To me Kurdistan is heaven and Kurdish women are angels. Heaven is no place for terrorists.”

Iraq crisis: Sunni rebels ‘ready to turn on Islamic State’
Jim Muir BBC News UK August 29, 2014


Sunni militants initially co-operated with IS in an uprising against the Iraqi government. Visit this page for its map of IS-led Sunni rebel activity and its related links.

Irbil – Stifled by the Islamic State (IS) militants in their own areas, Iraqi Sunni rebels who took up arms against the Shia-dominated government of Nouri Maliki are signalling for the first time that they are ready to turn against IS if Sunni rights are enshrined in a reformed political order in Baghdad.

The rebels, including tribal militants and former army personnel organised in military councils throughout the Sunni areas, see American and international guarantees as crucial to any such deal.

“We don’t want guns from the Americans, we want a real political solution, which the US should impose on those people it installed in the Green Zone,” said Abu Muhammad al-Zubaai, referring to the Iraqi political leaders who took over after the US-led occupation in 2003.

“The IS problem would end. If they guarantee us this solution, we’ll guarantee to get rid of IS,” said Mr al-Zubaai, a tribal leader from Anbar province speaking on behalf of the rebels, using a nom de guerre.

The tribal and military rebels, who had been fighting government forces since January, played a role in the spectacular advances scored after IS – in its previous guise as Isis – erupted into Iraq from Syria in June and captured the second city, Mosul, among other mainly Sunni areas.

But since then, the Sunni groups have been suppressed, with IS ordering them to join its own ranks or disarm.

“Living with IS is like holding burning coals in your hand,” said Mr al-Zubaai. “They do not tolerate any other flag to be raised. They control all Sunni areas now.”

He said tribal militants from the military councils clashed with IS at Garma, near Falluja recently, killing 16 of the Islamic radicals.

“We had to choose between a comprehensive confrontation with IS, or ceding control of that area and keeping a low profile,” he said.

“We decided to stand down, because we are not ready to fight IS in the current circumstances – who would we be fighting for?”

Events of the past three weeks have heightened the dilemma of the Sunni rebels.

The lightning IS strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan have drawn the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters into the fray in many areas, imposing economic blockades on Sunni townships because of the IS presence there.

With the Americans and other powers becoming involved, the rebels fear they will simply be tarred as IS terrorists and the Sunni areas reduced to rubble.

“The Sunnis feel that everybody is ganging up on them, that they are targeted by everybody,” said Mr al-Zubaai.

“The worst thing is to realise that you have nothing to lose any more. The situation is very bad and getting worse. It’s enough to make you blow yourself up. This is where the political process has taken us.

“Our biggest concern now is a political solution. A security solution will achieve nothing. The bombing has to stop.”

Posted at: August 31, 2014 - 10:53 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

,

What’s happening in Libya? Something new everyday

In 2011, NATO warplanes attacked Libya for eight months. But, as Paul Koring wrote last Friday, “the successful air war, commanded by Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, soured in the aftermath as Libya slid into a continuing civil war.”

What’s happening in Libya?
Mohannad Obeid Al Akhbar English Lebanon August 26, 2014


An Islamist fighter from the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) coalition flashes the V sign for victory at the entrance of Tripoli international airport on August 24, 2014, after capturing it from Zintan force, allies of rogue general Khalifa Haftar, following many days of clashes. Photo: Mohammed Turkia/ AFP

Nearly 2,500 years ago, famed Greek historian Herodotus proclaimed, in a book he wrote during his journey in Africa, “From Libya comes the new!” From that day on, the Libyan people have been using this saying, which became popular among young and old, boastfully. However, most people have used it in a negative context since the start of the era of Muammar Gaddafi and the calamities it brought upon the country.

When the uprising in Libya began in 2011, the main concern for the rebels was to acquire weapons and recruit fighters to battle Gaddafi’s forces. They ultimately found what they wanted in Gaddafi’s dungeons, where they stumbled upon large numbers of battle-ready Islamist fighters.

Today, all sides in that rebellion continue to play a role, whether militarily or politically. Indeed, groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), or Ansar al-Sharia in Libya had no intention to lay down their arms after Gaddafi was finished. For one thing, Qatar and its ally Turkey, who have long supplied such groups with weapons and money, realized that the most important part of the uprising was the post-Gaddafi phase, and that the only fruits worth picking are the ones that are ripe.

Qatar and Turkey had their way with the Islamist domination of the General National Congress that was elected in July 2012, after successfully turning their minority into a majority against Mahmoud Jibril’s faction. The fact of the matter was that “independent” MPs were actually supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood from day one.

Hence, the Islamists dominated the country. The militias affiliated to them were given official cover under the command of Abdelhakim Belhadj, who was a former LIFG leader. These militias consisted of jihadis who returned from Afghanistan, and are very close to Qatar and Turkey.

But Saudi Arabia would not tolerate the expansion led by its small neighbor in the Gulf into North Africa. Saudi Arabia could not tolerate for the Muslim Brotherhood, now its archenemy, to control an oil-rich country like Libya, and decided to press “the reset button” in regards to the situation there. Saudi and its ally the UAE thus began supplying the Zintan Brigades, which sporadically controlled Tripoli International Airport, with weapons and money.

Major General Khalifa Haftar was also eager to play a major role in Libya, and was waiting for any opportunity to be rehabilitated after having been forced to retire by the leadership of the new Libyan army. In Tobruk, a city on the border with Egypt, Haftar gathered former officers and soldiers, and proceeded to seize first his hometown, which contains a military airbase complete with old helicopters and fighter jets.

For its part, the Ansar al-Sharia extended its influence in the east of Libya, as Egypt, Saudi’s ally, began to sense the militant threat approaching its western border.

There were mutual grudges on both sides, and there was little need for a pretext to ignite this powder keg. At first, Haftar moved against Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, carrying out strikes against its bases using the military helicopters he had captured. The Libyan public rallied behind him in the east of Libya, and the echoes of the “battle of dignity” he launched reached all the way to the Libya’s west, where this transformed into further unrest. Though Haftar did not have considerable military weight in Tripoli, his allies in the Civil Movement, particularly the Zintan Brigades, already had their fingers on the trigger in anticipation for the battle to come.

The Islamists retreated under pressure from Haftar and the Zintan Brigades, and the momentum of the supporters of the “battle of dignity.” Haftar called for sacking the government and holding legislative elections as soon as possible. Haftar failed in his first bid, but succeeded in the second, and in July, the Civil Movement, which supports Mahmoud Jibril and Haftar, won by a landslide.

Yet all this has proven to be insufficient in defeating the Islamist movements, which do have powerful militias backing them. Thus, Tripoli caught fire, and the battle spread to every street and neighborhood, destroying Tripoli’s airport, which was under the control of the Zintan Brigades. There are rumors that this destruction was preconceived, however, with the contract for the airport’s reconstruction and the restoration of its fleet having been signed in Washington in advance.

There is no doubt that the Islamists are the most numerous and best organized. The Haftar-Zintan alliance, despite its strength, will not be able to withstand the Islamists for long. Sources say that as the militants of the first side was on the verge of a rout against the fighters of Abdelhakim Belhadj and the commander of the current battle Salah Badi, who hails from Misrata, a certain regional power intervened directly, was involved in the “mysterious” airstrikes reported in Tripoli recently (Editor’s note: A report has come in that Egypt and UAE were suspected to be behind the airstrikes in Libya).

To restore the balance of power on the ground as well, there are contacts underway between the Zintan Brigades and Gaddafi’s supporters in Europe and neighboring countries. The pro-Gaddafi elements want to return and want their prisoners to be released, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The Zintan Brigades accept these conditions, except for releasing Saif al-Islam, as they believe this could turn the Libyan public opinion against them.

Many pro-Gaddafi prisoners have indeed been released, before they joined the Zintan Brigades on the battlefronts. Pro-Gaddafi exiles have also been returning with the consent of the Zintan Brigades. This is no longer seen as a liability for the latter and its allies, because the real “revolution” has now started, and the past is now in the past.

In Libya as well, tribes play a pivotal role on the ground. Both sides know this very well. No side can prevail over the other without first controlling the tribes.

Related: As the situation in Libya is deteriorating and becoming more complicated by the day, the Egyptian government has already announced its support for the elected authorities, taking the side of General Khalifa Haftar. Meanwhile, it has been reported that Egyptian and Emirati jets have launched airstrikes against designated targets deep inside Libyan territory.

Egypt seeks a bigger role in the ‘new Libya’
Ahmad Jamaleddine Al Akhbar English Lebanon August 28, 2014

Cairo – According to a high level political source in Egypt, who spoke to Al-Akhbar, “Egypt is taking measures to reach common grounds with all Libyan factions without giving any party leverage over the other, especially since the political establishment is seeking an active role for Egypt in Libya.”

He reiterated the official Egyptian position, saying “the army has not taken any actual action until this moment but it will not hesitate to launch an airstrike if deemed necessary.”

The source stressed that “any discussion about military intervention will always be based on whether Egyptian interests are being threatened, and will not be related to anything else and will have nothing to do with other conflicts between military commanders, with some of them possessing sophisticated weapons.”

He also ruled out any military engagement in the near future “unless an Egyptian consulate or the Egyptian embassy is harmed,” assuring that “any military action will be public and targeted and in coordination with the Libyan authorities.”

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, former Egyptian Chief of Staff General Abdel Menhem Said dismissed the idea of UAE planes carrying out airstrikes in Libya from Egyptian territory.
“Egypt does not need to use UAE jets to take military measures in Libya, especially since the Egyptian air forces own enough military jets which would enable them to conduct such operations if they choose to.”

Said explained that for UAE aircrafts to reach Egypt, they will have to pass over a number of countries first, adding “the excellent political relations between the two countries do not necessary mean allowing (the UAE) to use Egyptian airports,” to carry out military strikes.

The general stressed that “the Egyptian army has a well-established doctrine regarding conflicts in neighboring countries, and Cairo will not resort to military actions unless there were Egyptian targets that should be protected and secured.”

“Military commanders in Libya have already issued statements welcoming the Egyptian army’s assistance to maintain security; it was the Egyptian side that has refused. Therefore, if the army had indeed carried out the airstrikes, it would not have had to deny it,” he added.

For Said, “conducting the airstrikes, in the way it has been reported, makes no sense and does not fit with any military theory. It, however, has political and regional dimensions, involving the position of Western states regarding the events in Libya.”

He further explained that “Egypt is supporting the legitimate authorities in Libya and will provide them with all assistance to rebuild their collapsed state.” He also described the series of meetings held between the Egyptian and Libyan military leaderships as “reasonable” since Libya is very important to Egypt’s national security, and the chaos in the country is threatening Egypt’s stability.

Also speaking to Al-Akhbar, former Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Arabi said “the position regarding Libyan factions and tribes is rather complicated, and Egyptian foreign policy usually refrains from interfering in the internal affairs of other states.”

He, however, pointed out that the Egyptian interest in Libya is normal, since the two countries have a special relationship and share long borders. In addition, Libya is a large importer of Egyptian labor. Therefore, any military action should be well-calculated in order not to harm the jobs of many Egyptians still living in the country, despite the mass returns that took place in the last few weeks.

According to the Egyptian diplomat, Egypt’s vision for disarming and training Libya’s army and police forces is linked to Cairo’s wish to restore peace and security to the country.

Posted at: August 31, 2014 - 10:49 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

‘Thanks’, Vlad? Why Stephen Harper should thank Vladimir Putin & How Vladimir Putin reinvigorated NATO

Why Stephen Harper should thank Vladimir Putin
Thomas Walkom Toronto Star Ontario Canada August 29, 2014


Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with Brig. Gen. Greg Loos of the Joint Task Force North as they make there way to speak to troops on Tuesday. Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Stephen Harper denounces Vladimir Putin. In his secret heart, he should thank the Russian president.

For Canada’s Conservatives, the reappearance of the Russian bear and the subsequent resurrection of the Cold War are politically most useful. They give new clarity to Ottawa’s often confusing approach to foreign affairs.

Harper took power eight years ago promising a clear moral direction in Canadian foreign policy.

Yet almost immediately, things became murky.

Under the Conservative government, Canada ramped up its support for the war in Afghanistan. The prime minister promised not to cut and run.

Then he did exactly that.

He made much of supporting democratic values, sending Canadian warplanes to help overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

But shortly after that adventure, he threw Canada’s tacit support behind a military putsch against Egypt’s democratically-elected government.

On Syria, Canada has been all over the place.

First, Ottawa pronounced a pox on all sides in that country’s civil war. Then, when it looked as if the U.S. might intervene against dictator Bashar Assad, the Conservative government insisted that Assad must be removed.

Now Canada is calling for a political compromise among the various sides.

Even Harper’s approach to Israel is not as cut and dried as it seems. Rhetorically, he has presented himself as Israel’s firmest friend.

Yet Canada and Israel still differ on key issues. Ottawa does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. Canada also insists that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank violate the Geneva Conventions.

China? At times, the Harper government has wooed Chinese investment. At times, it has rebuffed it.

Such flexibility does not necessarily translate into bad policy (Harper was wise to change his mind on Afghanistan).

But for a government that does best when it can present the world in stark black and white terms, it can make for bad politics.

Which is where the Russian bear comes in.

Russia makes an ideal enemy. It is big, remote and vaguely menacing. Since the time of the czars, the West has viewed it as a dangerous Asiatic despotism.

Related: How Vladimir Putin reinvigorated NATO
Paul Koring Globe and Mail Canada August 29, 2014

Visit this page for its related links.

WASHINGTON — For decades, as the world perched on the brink of nuclear Armageddon, NATO had more than a million troops pressed against the Iron Curtain, ready and capable of waging war against the Soviet Union.

Until the 1970s, pairs of Canadian Starfighter warplanes, armed with nuclear bombs, were on 15-minute readiness, part of the North Atlantic Treat Organization’s “quick reaction” strike force that was ready to obliterate Russian tank columns in the Fulda Gap before they could reach the Rhine. More than 6,000 Canadian troops were permanently stationed in Germany. It was an era when the stark reality of NATO’s mutual defence pact meant Canadians and Americans were poised – not just pledged – to fight and die to keep Communist legions out of Western Europe.

Now, as NATO leaders gather for what was originally billed as an “Out of Afghanistan” summit, they face the worst military crisis in decades in Europe. Finding a response to Moscow’s incursions in Ukraine – and finding the money to make it credible – poses a grave test for the alliance.

“We take our Article 5 commitments to defend each other very seriously, and that includes the smallest NATO member,” U.S. President Barack Obama vowed as he headed for Estonia and then on to the summit. But whether Russian President Vladimir Putin believes NATO has the political will to back its tough talk with action remains uncertain.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO spent most of the next quarter-century seeking new roles in far-off conflicts and nearly doubling in membership – from 16 to 28 nations – while dwindling in combat capability and overall defence spending. The alliance, still the world’s most powerful, fought its first “hot” war over Balkan skies in 1999 as warplanes from a dozen nations, including Canada, pounded Serb targets for months, setting the stage for an independent Kosovo.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, NATO nations collectively waged a long-running counter-insurgency campaign against the Taliban while attempting to prop up the Afghan government in Kabul. Almost all NATO nations, and a dozen non-members, were involved – with the number of foreign troops peaking at more than 150,000. But after more than a decade in Afghanistan, the outcome of NATO’s biggest war remains murky and most nations, including Canada, have packed up and left.

In 2011, NATO warplanes were back in action for eight months of air strikes that eventually toppled Libya’s ruthless dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But the successful air war, commanded by Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, soured in the aftermath as Libya slid into a continuing civil war.

With its expeditionary wars at best a mixed success, NATO was still struggling to find a 21st-century reason to exist. “In some ways, NATO should thank Vladimir Putin because it was really searching for its purpose,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “[It] was having a fairly significant identity crisis and now has now not only been repurposed, it’s been reinvigorated.”

Noted: Euronews (a multilingual news television channel, headquartered in Lyon-Écully, France) reports today: Putin said his meeting last week with President Petro Poroshenko was “good” and called the Ukrainian president a “partner with whom it is possible to have a dialogue.”

Putin: Impossible to say when political crisis in Ukraine will end
RT Russia August 31, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on Kiev to start substantial talks on deescalating the crisis in eastern Ukraine. He added that it’s an illusion to expect that the rebels would calmly watch their homes being destroyed.

“We have agreed on a plan, so its realization must be pursued,” Putin told Channel 1 TV, adding that the Ukrainian government “must immediately start substantial talks – not a technical discussion – on the political organization of society and the state in southeast Ukraine so that the interests of people who live there are protected.”

Commenting on the new batch of sanctions against Russia threatened by western countries, Putin advised his counterparts to think again about what they are advocating.

“What are the so-called European values then? Support for an armed coup, suppression of opponents with armed forces – so these are ‘European values’? I believe our colleagues should be reminded of their own ideals,” the president said.

As for the countermeasures Russia has taken, imposing a ban on certain food imports from the US, EU and several other countries, Putin believes the sanctioned European countries might find it hard to return to the Russian market. He expects new importers from Latin America, China and Russia’s eastern neighbors to secure the market during the year, and then it would [be] “very difficult, almost impossible to budge them.”

Posted at: August 31, 2014 - 10:46 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

August 30, 2014

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Friday, August 29, 2014

World News

UN: Ukraine conflict death toll hits 2,600; civilians ‘trapped inside conflict zones’ and targeted & As EU and North American farmers suffer, Russia continues to seek new food sources

Commentary

You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

Commentary

British Columbia’s morally bankrupt government: Commentary on resource exploitation and (insincere, weak) regulation & The province is deeply divided between those who see education as the publicly subsidized means to personal advancement (read private schools), and those who see it as the way to advance us all as a society (read public schools)

Regional News

If they can’t protect Grace Islet, what can they protect? It is a legal and moral imperative that BC’s provincial leaders move away from old prejudices that First Nation burial sites containing human remains are less worthy of protection than settler cemeteries

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sovereignty

Business leaders (including financial sector CEOs) and crony capitalist, David Cameron, tell Scots to vote no in independence referendum; even more business leaders tell Scots to vote yes & Better Together campaign video patronizes female Scots nationalists

World News

New front opened in Ukraine’s civil war? It seems likely and militarily logical

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Commentary

In the offing? Maybe, but a Saudi-Iranian thaw will take time

Commentary

US flags China as a maritime outlaw

National News

Harper again raises spectre of Russian threat in speech to troops & NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Commentary

Extractivism – B.C. as third world economy. The end result of extractivism is “high levels of underemployment, unemployment and poverty, while the distribution of income and wealth [becomes] even more unequal”

World News

Old grudges never die. Celebrating the White House burning; trying to stifle Scotland’s differing vision of what a society should be

Monday, August 25, 2014

Commentary

Employing both military art and science: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the theory and practice of jihad

Commentary

The disease of North American democracy: We have to establish a new countervailing power. Our own jihad?

Agriculture

Behind the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Ukraine are the economic interests of giant US corporations which see Ukraine as a potential “gold mine” of profits from agricultural and energy exploitation

National News

Prime Minister Harper on wrong side of history in opposition to aboriginal inquiry: Premiers to press Ottawa on inquiry into missing, murdered aboriginal women & Canada’s premiers will attempt this week to tackle the unacceptably high rate of aboriginal kids in government care

Commentary

When First Nations burial sites and development collide: Grace Islet dispute is harbinger of many more, unless BC makes changes

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Commentary

Paranoia vs Pragmatism: Stephen Harper and Sergei Glaziev

Posted at: August 30, 2014 - 7:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

August 29, 2014

UN: Ukraine conflict death toll hits 2,600; civilians ‘trapped inside conflict zones’ and targeted & As EU and North American farmers suffer, Russia continues to seek new food sources

UN: Ukraine conflict death toll hits 2,600, civilians ‘trapped inside conflict zones’
RT Russia August 29, 2014


A woman and the body of a person killed in an artillery attack on Lugansk. Photo: Valeriy Melnikov/RIA Novosti

At least 2,593 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the start of the Kiev’s military operation against anti-government forces there started in mid-April, according to a new estimate by the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

The death toll includes civilians, members of the Ukrainian troops and also fighters in the anti-government forces.

“The trend is clear and alarming. There is a significant increase in the death toll in the east,” Ivan Simonovic, U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, told journalists.

“The current number of killed is 2,593 – close to 3,000 if we include the 298 victims of the MH17 (Malaysian airliner) plane crash,” he said.

The report, issued on Friday, August 29, 2014, and covering the period July 16 to August 17, condemns the killing and wounding of civilians in urban areas, which have lately turned into battlefields.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on both sides of the conflict to lay down their arms.

“There is an urgent need to end the fighting and violence in the eastern regions, before more civilians are harmed or forced to flee, or face intolerable hardships trapped inside the conflict zones,” she said.

Pillay has urged all of the military units fighting in eastern Ukraine against “deliberately targeting civilians.”

“All those involved in the hostilities in the affected areas of the east must at all times comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. This is particularly important in densely-populated areas,” she said.

The report says half the population of the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, have now left. However, evacuation has not been easy and not all of those wanting to flee were able to do so.

Some civilians lost their lives while trying to escape the violence, as the report says refugees were targeted and killed on their way out of conflict zones.

Russia is on the receiving end of the crisis, handling over 814,000 refugees. Ukrainian servicemen that cross over into Russia are also being fed and taken care of.

Related: Jim comment: I watched the UN Security Council debate listening to the Russian, UK and US ambassadors in full. The Russian danced around some specifics like a butterfly but on the gist of the issue he stung like a bee. The American and the Brit just stood flat-footed in the center of the ring, swinging wildly and hurling their propaganda canards and epithets. It would seem the Axis has no intention of trying to stop the bloody, ruinous tragedy we have set in motion. US President Barack Obama in the meantime joined the chorus of anti-Russian rhetoric heard at the UN and threatened further sanctions to intensify the restrictions previously imposed against Moscow. In a recent response, Russia has urged 10 Asian countries to boost their agricultural exports to Russia amid a Kremlin ban on products from many Western countries. Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev made his call at a meeting of Russian and Association of Southeast Asian Nations officials in Myanmar. EU farmers continue to suffer.

Russia urges ASEAN to boost agriculture exports
Bernama News Agency/Malay Mail Malaysia August 28, 2014


People shop for tomatoes in the family owned farm ‘Kligeni’ in Cesis, Latvia, August 22, 2014. After Russia declared a one-year embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the West, local markets are now over-flooded with imported vegetables from other EU countries. This farm has been forced to sell its produce at a price below costs. The price tag shows €0.30 ($0.39) for a kilo of tomatoes. Photo: Reuters

NAYPYIDAW, Aug 28 — Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has called for increased agricultural product exports from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in view of Moscow’s ban on food imports from western countries.

The one-year embargo announced on August 7 bans imports of meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the US, European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway in retaliation for sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reports.

“I would like to draw your attention to the opportunities opening up for Asean countries to supply agricultural products to Russia particularly fresh vegetables and fruit,” Ulyukayev said at the Asean-Russia senior economic officials’ consultations in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw today

“We are familiar with the high quality standards of agricultural produce in your countries and we will welcome products such as nuts, beef, pork and poultry,” he said. Russia-Asean trade turnover topped US$17.5 billion (RM55 billion) last year.

“We have topped that figure (US$17.5 billion) this year and we expect a six-per cent increase year-on-year at the end of 2014,” said Ulyukayev.

The minister also called on Russia and Asean countries to develop investment co-operation.

“Russia’s total investments in Asean countries stand at US$1.6 billion today and they can be much higher,” Ulyukayev said.

Posted at: August 29, 2014 - 3:59 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

Intro: Public pronouncements by Saudi officials against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), now renamed the Islamic State (IS, for short), notwithstanding, the fact is, this monster is a Saudi creation. And it did not emerge last week or month; the House of Saud has nurtured it for nearly a decade as part of a long-term strategy to contain the growing influence of Islamic Iran in the region. - See Saudi Arabia: Bandar, the godfather of takfirism is back & Far from supporting the Palestinians, the Saudi regime has opened its big guns against the people of Gaza & On Gaza, Israel is losing the Obama coalition. In that same August 4 post (four links), we wrote

It was premature to write off Bandar when he was relieved of his duties as the Saudi spy chief in May. He has re-emerged as special advisor to the king. Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (born March 2, 1949) is a member of the House of Saud and was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. In 2005, he was named as secretary general of the National Security Council. He was director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014. On July 1 he was appointed King Abdullah’s special envoy.

And we asked: If Bandar is the CEO of IS, who is its COO? Another link in the post seeks to answer that question: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, so-called ”Caliph,” the head of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) is, according to sources reputed to originate from Edward Snowden, an actor named Elliot Shimon, a Mossad trained operative.”

Item: You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia
Alistair Crooke The World Post International August 27, 2014

Visit this page for its related links, embedded video (5:15) and photo gallery.

BEIRUT — The dramatic arrival of Da’ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed — and horrified — by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia’s ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, “Don’t the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?”

It appears — even now — that Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite “fire” with Sunni “fire”; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da’ish’s strict Salafist ideology.

Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan — please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s.

Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da’ish (ISIS) — and are beginning to question some aspects of Saudi Arabia’s direction and discourse.

Saudi Arabia’s internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom’s doctrinal makeup and its historical origins.

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)

The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz’s subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse — and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export — by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.

But this “cultural revolution” was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him — hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.

But the Saudi Ikhwan approach to Islam did not die in the 1930s. It retreated, but it maintained its hold over parts of the system — hence the duality that we observe today in the Saudi attitude towards ISIS.

On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.

ISIS is a “post-Medina” movement: it looks to the actions of the first two Caliphs, rather than the Prophet Muhammad himself, as a source of emulation, and it forcefully denies the Saudis’ claim of authority to rule.

As the Saudi monarchy blossomed in the oil age into an ever more inflated institution, the appeal of the Ikhwan message gained ground (despite King Faisal’s modernization campaign). The “Ikhwan approach” enjoyed — and still enjoys — the support of many prominent men and women and sheikhs. In a sense, Osama bin Laden was precisely the representative of a late flowering of this Ikhwani approach.

Today, ISIS’ undermining of the legitimacy of the King’s legitimacy is not seen to be problematic, but rather a return to the true origins of the Saudi-Wahhab project.

In the collaborative management of the region by the Saudis and the West in pursuit of the many western projects (countering socialism, Ba’athism, Nasserism, Soviet and Iranian influence), western politicians have highlighted their chosen reading of Saudi Arabia (wealth, modernization and influence), but they chose to ignore the Wahhabist impulse.

After all, the more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan — and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.

Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar’s Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS? And why should we be surprised — knowing a little about Wahhabism — that “moderate” insurgents in Syria would become rarer than a mythical unicorn? Why should we have imagined that radical Wahhabism would create moderates? Or why could we imagine that a doctrine of “One leader, One authority, One mosque: submit to it, or be killed” could ever ultimately lead to moderation or tolerance?

Or, perhaps, we never imagined.

Posted at: August 29, 2014 - 3:14 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

,

British Columbia’s morally bankrupt government: Commentary on resource exploitation and (insincere, weak) regulation & The province is deeply divided between those who see education as the publicly subsidized means to personal advancement (read private schools), and those who see it as the way to advance us all as a society (read public schools)

Yes, red tape may interfere with business
Norman Farrell Northern Insight British Columbia Canada August 16, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded link.

Mount Polley operator was raising height of tailings dam at time of breach, Wendy Stueck, Globe & Mail, August 15 2014

“Crews were working to raise the tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine by up to four metres before the structure failed and sent a torrent of waste and debris into surrounding waterways.

“Imperial Metals Corp., the Vancouver-based company that operates the mine, had also asked the Ministry of Environment for a permit to release more treated effluent from its tailings pond. That permit was pending when the dam gave way on Aug. 4.”

Mining people are complaining that, if BC had allowed changes to the tailings dam without inconvenient and costly engineering studies, the breach could have been delayed well beyond August 4. Alternatively, had millions of litres of toxic waste water and sludge been withheld, or released quietly, there would have been no public concerns about poisonous effluents and no need for taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions on cleanup.

The industry is disappointed, because it expected an absence of regulation after BC’s Minister of Graft and Corruption promised to,

“conduct business more efficiently and eliminate red tape and unnecessary administration.”

Miners say that had government lived up to its promises, contamination of soils and water could have continued without public notice or interruption.

Yesterday we received our August email newletter from Friends of Clayoquot Sound. (Friends of Clayoquot Sound is a Canadian grassroots non-profit environmental organization, based in Tofino, British Columbia. It focuses on protecting Clayoquot Sound’s globally rare ecosystem of temperate rainforest and ocean (designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), and on building a local, conservation-based economy. There are currently two mining projects at exploration stage in Clayoquot Sound: an open-pit copper mine on Catface Mountain, and the Fandora gold mine. The mining company would use massive excavation (mountain-top removal) to extract the low-grade ore (0.4% copper) from Catface. Friends of Clayoquot Sound opposes mining in Clayoquot because it is inherently unsustainable and causes long-lasting environmental damage. FOCS is working with local communities to stop these projects and to have Clayoquot Sound legislated as a mine-free area.) The newsletter included this item.

Mount Polley in Clayoquot Sound?

On August 4th the retaining wall for the tailings pond at the Mount Polley open pit copper mine failed. There has been a lot of speculation about what “caused” the dam to fail and why the largest toxic breach in Canadian history happened. For us here in Clayoquot Sound it is clear that any one of the potential causes, – faulty engineering, lack of government oversight, corporations cutting corners, or even (as was initially suggested) human error – could cause a tailings breach and irrevocable damage in any ecosystem surrounding a mining operation. 
        
Imperial Metals, the company that owns and operates Mount Polley also owns two claims here in Clayoquot Sound, a copper deposit in Catface Mountain and the Fandora gold deposit in Tranquil Valley. Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS) oppose developing these deposits and the Mount Polley disaster has served as a dramatic reminder of how important our work is. FOCS has been working alongside the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to get a mining ban on Tla-o-qui-aht traditional territory and prevent the risk of a Mount Polley-style event happening here. FOCS campaigner Emery Hartley and Tla-o-qui-aht councilor Terry Dorward were recently interviewed about their position on mining in Clayoquot Sound; you can hear that interview at this link (the segment starts at 14:48). Please consider making a contribution to help our campaign for a mining ban on Tla-o-qui-aht territories.

Related: Fassbender’s three steps to a settlement, translated
Crawford Kilian TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada August 28, 2014

Wednesday’s meeting of Education Minister Peter Fassbender, BCTF president Jim Iker, and BCPSEA negotiator Peter Cameron, ended inconclusively, though mediator-in-waiting Vince Ready later said he will meet with the two sides Thursday. Fassbender was first out of the gate with a news release that set out the government’s thoughts for getting schools open on time next week. Clearly composed before the meeting, it deserves study and translation:

“I proposed three specific steps to reach a settlement and clear the way for students to go back to school on schedule.

“First, I asked the parties to set aside the matter of potential grievances stemming from Justice Griffin’s decision.

“The demand on potential grievances is nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year. This matter is before the courts and will be addressed through the appeals process.”

Translation: We burgled the teachers’ contract back in 2002 when my boss Christy Clark was education minister, and we’ve been busted twice for it. Third time lucky — we’ve been living well on the proceeds of our heist, and we can’t afford to pay it all back.

“I’m not asking the BCTF to do anything prejudicial to their court case, but setting this issue aside as the appeals process takes place gives mediation a chance to succeed.”

Translation: The Court of Appeal will nail us again, but sometime next year. And a year is a long time in politics. Even if we can’t get proposal E.81 into the next contract, so we can blow the deal up if the court rules against us, we can always resign and leave the problem for whoever inherits it.

“Second, I urged the parties to get into mediation as soon as possible. I made it clear that setting aside the grievances is not a precondition for mediation but I stated my belief that doing so would allow negotiations to focus squarely on the key issues at hand: teachers’ wages and class size and composition.”

Translation: Class size and composition are precisely the issues we stripped out of the teachers’ contract in 2002, and we’ve saved the taxpayers a bundle for 12 years by passing on the costs to the special-needs kids and their parents. We’d rather not deal with them now.

“My hope is that it would move the parties into a zone where mediator Vince Ready sees an opportunity to start productive mediation. We expect Mr. Ready will explore this development but — as it was agreed to by the parties — it remains up to Mr. Ready to decide when to start full mediation.”

Translation: We’re throwing a Hail Mary passing of the buck to Mr. Ready.

“And third, I asked the BCTF and BCPSEA to suspend all strike or lockout activities for two weeks when Mr. Ready starts mediation. Government has no plans to legislate an end to this dispute and we are not asking either the BCTF or BCPSEA to give up their right to strike or lockout. We are just asking them to voluntarily stand down and let classes start while the parties are in mediation.”

Translation: No government “just asks” people to do things. We know perfectly well the teachers will go back to work if serious mediation is possible, but we’re not going to kill ourselves to make it possible. If mediation happens, we take the credit. If it doesn’t, the teachers take the blame. And by the way, saying we have “no plans” to legislate an end to the dispute (right now) leaves it wide open that we can suddenly have plans and then legislate an end to the dispute (later on).

“British Columbia has a world-class public education system and our students consistently rank among the best in the world. That is in large measure due to our great teachers. We need to resolve this dispute and work together to build on our success and prepare our students for the future.”

Translation: Since our students are good enough already, why pay more to make them tops in the world? If it’s the small proportion of special needs students who suffer most from our insistence on underfunding their support and placing them in large classes where teachers despair of doing right by them, well, those losers statistically disappear when averaged into the whole of our generally well-performing student population. In other words, hey, let’s not get bogged down in specifics.

Petition calling on the BC Government and the BCTF to reach a labour settlement before the start of the school year
Green Party of BC British Columbia Canada August 29, 2014

To the Honourable the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, in Legislature Assembled and the British Columbia Teachers Federation:

The petition of the undersigned states that:

Whereas a stable and robust public education system is essential for the social, economic and environmental future of the province;

and Whereas over BC’s 142-year educational history, officials have faced – and overcome – many challenges concerning the delivery of public education;

and Whereas there is much to be proud of in our public schools including well-educated, hard-working teachers; parents who advocate passionately for their children; and students who consistently perform extremely well in the Programme for International Student Assessment;

and Whereas BC children, their parents and their teachers are the ones affected by the current inability of the government and the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) to reach a negotiated settlement to the ongoing labour dispute;

Therefore, be it resolved that the BC government and the BCTF set aside their political differences and ensure that a labour settlement is reached prior to the commencement of the 2014-2015 school year.

Posted at: August 29, 2014 - 2:20 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post