Thursday, June 23, 2016

Trip Through Europe

Part of my summer vacation.

First stop after plane flight and layover in Ireland:


"In ‘Brexit’ vote, David Cameron faces problem of his own making" by Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle New York Times  June 21, 2016

LONDON — Britain’s prime minister has no one to blame but himself in what seemed then like a relatively low-risk ploy.

Why? I just found out the vote is non-binding!

As the nation prepares to vote on Thursday, the betting markets are signaling Britain will choose to remain in Europe, but polls suggest that the outcome is still too close to call.

This feels like distraction. No wonder it has been leading the World section.

David Cameron is famously lucky, having pulled out last-minute victories in numerous other scrapes. But in this case, many analysts say, he will be damaged goods even if he wins, with rivals circling to succeed him and with Conservatives more divided than ever.

If he loses, he will come under pressure to resign, and even if he hangs on for some portion of the four years left in his government’s term, whatever substantive legacy he might have built will be lost to what many consider to be a wholly unnecessary roll of the dice.

Martin Wolf, the economic columnist of the Financial Times, wrote that “this referendum is, arguably, the most irresponsible act by a British government in my lifetime.” Summarizing the nearly unanimous opinion of economists that a British exit — “Brexit” — would be followed by a major shock and permanent loss of growth, he concluded: “The outcome might well prove devastating.”

Cameron argues that the referendum had to be called to resolve the festering debate over Britain and the EU. As in the Scottish referendum on independence in 2014, he says, this vote represents a “great festival of democracy” on a very difficult and divisive topic.

The fix is in!

But if the Scottish referendum turned nasty, and kept the United Kingdom together, this one has become poisonous, with Cameron’s own Cabinet colleagues and supposed friends saying that he has eroded trust in politics, portraying him as a liar and acting like a government in waiting. It has been a campaign punctuated by numerous claims that have little relationship to the facts, with sharp tones of xenophobia, racism, nativism, and Islamophobia. And it was marked tragically last Thursday by the assassination of a Labour member of Parliament, Jo Cox, who fiercely supported remaining in the union.

“Who put Britain in this situation if we leave?” asked Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham. “Cameron has made the case against himself, and he’s damaged either way.” Cameron presumably thought it would be an easy win for the “Remain” forces, Fielding said.

If the Remain campaign loses, “the chances of him staying on are pretty remote,” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “He will go down as the person who miscalculated, taking us out of Europe almost by mistake, and then shuffled off the stage” in “a pretty ignominious exit.”

Even if Britain votes to stay in the bloc, Bale said, given Cameron’s small parliamentary majority, “the number of hard-line euroskeptics and Cameron-haters, he’ll be subject to defeats and blackmail until he steps down.” 

Do you really care what figurehead they throw up?

There are those who support the contention that Cameron had to call this referendum in the face of Tory division and the rise of the UK Independence Party, or UKIP, and its leader, Nigel Farage. UKIP was cutting into the Conservative vote by arguing, as the “Leave” campaign does now, that Britain could limit immigration and control its own borders only by leaving the European Union.

Cameron, who had repeatedly pledged to get immigration down to the “tens of thousands” — even though last year net migration was some 330,000 people — never had a persuasive answer to the immigration question. To pacify the growing number of anti-European Union Tories, keep his leadership position and undermine UKIP, he promised this referendum if he won the 2015 election, which he did by a larger margin than expected.


Even before the election, some, like Robin Niblett, the director of Chatham House and a supporter of the Remain movement, argued that a referendum would come at some point, and that it would be more easily won under Cameron and the Tories.

If the Remain side loses, both Cameron and his deputy, the chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, are likely to be gone within months, said Charles Lewington, a former director of communications for the Conservative Party.

While all deny any ambition to replace Cameron, the sharks are in the water, led by Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London and a prominent campaigner for leaving the EU. But the winner of such contests in the Tory party is rarely the one who wields the knife, and while Johnson would seem to lead the race, his success is far from assured.

Rather graphic terminology in light of what has happened over there.


"Bitter ‘Brexit’ campaign could turn on record number of voters" by Stephen Castle New York Times  June 23, 2016

LONDON — Reflecting the stakes and the tension about the outcome, the tone of the campaigning remained negative to the end, complete with invocations of economic ruin and an allusion to the Nazis.

Who ever spake it lost the argument. C'mon!

The issue of a British exit, or Brexit, has deeply divided the governing Conservative Party, split families and neighborhoods, underscored the shortcomings of the Brussels bureaucracy, and fueled the hopes of anti-EU populists across the Continent.

Hopes will again be dashed.

Prime Minister David Cameron closed out the campaign for remaining in the European Union with an argument that Britain will be more prosperous if it stays in the single European market of 500 million people — and he warned that there was no going back from a decision to leave.

“You can’t jump out the airplane and then clamber back through the cockpit hatch,” he told the BBC.

In a last-minute controversy, Michael Gove, the justice secretary and a leader of the campaign to leave the bloc, likened economists who warned of the dire consequences of withdrawal to Nazi-financed researchers who once denounced Einstein. (Cameron said that Gove had “lost it,” and Gove apologized on Wednesday.)

Adds more petrol to the fire. Remain will win going away.

Some polls showed the Remain side with a slight edge and others showed the Leave side ahead, but a “poll of polls” compiled by The Financial Times found that the campaign was ending close to a dead heat.

The $tring-pullers are not going to let their project be destroyed by a few thousand voters, sorry.

Financial markets have been more confident that Britain will vote to stay in the bloc. Bettors, too, have been putting their money on the Remain camp’s winning. On Wednesday afternoon, the odds implied an 80 percent chance of Britain voting to stay with Europe.

The rig is set!

One sign of hope for the Remain campaign: Most polls before the September 2014 referendum on whether Scotland should secede from the United Kingdom showed that contest to be neck-and-neck, but voters broke fairly decisively — 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent — in favor of the status quo. Some analysts say the same tendency of late-deciding voters to break toward the safety of the status quo and away from the risk of change will be at play this time around.


That's the supporting narrative for a stolen vote?

In this campaign season of insurgents and with the right on the rise?

Scotland is also strong territory for the Remain camp, though there is some evidence of political fatigue there.

“My worry is turnout in Scotland and UK-wide,” said Alyn Smith, a member of the European Parliament for the Scottish National Party, who backs the Remain camp. “It is quite clear that the people who have committed themselves to leave will crawl across glass to get to the polling stations and on the Remain side it’s much more, ‘Why are we doing this?’”

Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, has written that the Remain camp was apparently more strategic in focusing its efforts on areas of strong support, while the Leave campaign had not done enough to lure votes in working-class areas of northern England where its message has resonated.

Rigged vote, read it here first.


Next stop....


"One-third of French public now supports torture of terror suspects, poll finds" Washington Post  June 21, 2016

WASHINGTON — More than one-third of French adults now support the use of torture in ‘‘exceptional circumstances’’ against terror suspects, according to a poll commissioned by the French human rights group Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture. 


The poll of 1,500 people, conducted by the private firm Institut Francais d’Opinion Publique in April, showed a significant rise in public acceptance of torture compared to a similar poll conducted by Amnesty International in France in 2000, when only 25 percent responded similarly.

The survey was taken several weeks after the March 22 terror attacks in Brussels that killed 32 people at an airport and train station and about six months after the massive, coordinated bombings and shootings in Paris in November killed 141 people and wounded hundreds more.

The survey was reported by Reuters Tuesday. An official at the human rights group in Paris said the poll was conducted via the Internet. Officials of the polling institute could not be immediately reached.

The poll found that more than half of respondents would accept electric shocks being administered to someone suspected of having planted a live bomb and 45 percent agreed that torture is an efficient method of obtaining reliable information that can prevent terror attacks. It also found that 18 percent could envision themselves torturing someone and that the level rose to 40 percent among respondents who identified themselves as supporting the far-right National Front party.

Not only are they wrong regarding the efficiency, the fact that they would want to do it themselves is sickening.

Even at 36 percent, the level of French public opinion endorsing torture remains typical of European countries and far lower than that of the United States and much of the world. According to a global survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center in February, 58 percent of Americans said they considered torture by their governments justifiable against suspected terrorists to gain information about possible terrorist attacks.

I don't consider it justifiable, ever, and especially when the torturers are the terrorists.


France's 21st-century reign of terror (made the pilots go back to work)! 

Who will be the next Robespierre, 'eh?

Man with fake suicide belt sparks alert at Belgian mall

Well that stinks.

"Proponents argued that a basic income would free people from meaningless toil and allow them to pursue more productive or creative goals in life. Critics said the plan would explode the state budget and encourage idleness, arguments that appear to have convinced voters, but the idea has won over some economists, who say it could replace traditional welfare payments and give everybody the same chances in life."

Dutch city handing money to residents.

On to....


"Authorities said the suspect, a 27-year-old German, had yelled comments suggesting ties to Islamist factions, including ‘‘infidel, you must die,’’ during the attacks in the Bavarian town of Grafing, about 25 miles southeast of Munich. Lothar Köhler, a spokesman for the Bavarian Office of Criminal Investigation, told reporters that there was no evidence linking the attacker to Islamist militant networks or suggesting that ‘‘he was radicalized or incited’’ by videos or other sources. The attacker has received psychiatric treatment in the past and told police he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the attack, investigators said. Köhler added, however, that the motive for the attack remains unclear. Prosecutor Ken Heidenreich said that the suspect was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday and that a psychological examination would be carried out to establish whether he could be held criminally responsible. Authorities would then decide whether to issue an arrest warrant or temporarily hospitalize him.... Knife attack at German train station leaves 1 dead, 3 wounded"

RelatedMan in German incident shot dead

"Germany nears new plans on migrant integration: more help but tougher rules" by Anthony Faiola Washington Post  May 25, 2016

BERLIN — Germany has become a key test as both the nation handling the largest number of refugees and a center for debates over how to balance the needs of the new arrivals while safeguarding Western traditions and culture.

The carrot-and-stick approach creates new economic opportunities for migrants to find work, while robbing benefits from those who fail to comply.

As if they were entitled to those benefits. Let's you know the self-internalized opinion of the WaPo reporter at least.

In big cities across Germany, such as Berlin and Hamburg, waves of guest workers from Turkey settled down in the 1960s and 1970s, with many them living and working in largely Muslim neighborhoods that critics say became isolated from mainstream German life.

Under the new plan, refugees would be compelled to stay at least three years in the municipalities they were first assigned to when arriving in Germany unless they have a concrete job offer elsewhere. That could leave many migrants stranded in small towns and villages far away from the urban neighborhoods where refugees have tended to find easier prospects for jobs and community ties.

Critics say the measure fails to recognize that such communities offer a ‘‘soft landing’’ for migrants, providing the chance to socialize with people who speak their own language and share their religious faith.

But the government counters that the new law will create employment for migrants in places across Germany by subsidizing the creation of 100,000 new jobs.

At the same time, the new law will make it easier for private employers across Germany to hire refugees, meaning the newcomers could enjoy more economic prospects even in small- and medium-sized communities offering a better chance to assimilate into mainstream German life....

While German citizens get thrown out of work. We've seen that over here in AmeriKa. 

And they wonder why there is a rise of the right?


Also seeGerman president won’t seek second term

Problems for Merkel on the response to the more than 1 million migrants. Her coalition’s approval rating had fallen below 50 percent for the first time.

Now you can either go north....


"Sweden toughens rules for refugees seeking asylum" by Dan Bilefsky New York Times  June 22, 2016

NEW YORK — Sweden, once one of the most welcoming countries for refugees, on Tuesday introduced tough new restrictions on asylum seekers.

The government said the legislation, proposed by the Social Democrat minority government and enacted by a vote of 240-45, was necessary to prevent the country from becoming overstretched by the surge of migration to Europe that began last year.

As elsewhere in Europe, the far right in Sweden has been railing against immigration, a stance that is increasingly resonating with voters. The Sweden Democrats, a far-right anti-immigrant party, won almost 13 percent of the vote in a 2014 general election, and recent polls show it gaining in strength.

Wealthy countries across Northern Europe are increasingly pushing back against calls to accept more refugees amid fears that it could undermine stretched welfare systems, national integration, and quality of life.

Who knew Swedes were racists?

The issue has become particularly acute ahead of Britain’s vote this week on whether to leave the European Union, with those in favor of an exit from the bloc arguing that membership has left the country unable to control its borders and defend itself against an immigrant influx.

The proposed legislation in Sweden quickly came under criticism from human rights groups, which accused the country of passing rules harmful to children.

It's always about dead/injured children isn't it

The United Nations said Monday that more people are on the run than ever before in recorded history, buffeted by war and conflict from Africa to the Middle East.

That's where my print cop ended.


"Turkey was the top host country for the second year running, with 2.5 million refugees — nearly all from neighboring Syria. Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan had 1.6 million, while Lebanon, next to Syria, hosted 1.1 million. ‘‘The scale of this human suffering is almost unimaginable; the need for the world to respond is beyond question,’’ said President Obama, adding that he planned to convene a summit on refugees in September, when world leaders meet for the UN General Assembly.... UN urges solutions as refugee population hits record high."

65 million and counting, and all because of him and his wars. 

Web added this:

Sweden introduced new identity checks for travelers arriving from Denmark, prompting the Danes, who were concerned about the potential for a bottleneck of migrants seeking to travel through their country, to impose new controls on migrants traveling via its border with Germany.

Denmark also passed a law requiring newly arrived asylum seekers to hand over valuables, including jewelry and gold, to help pay for their stay in the country.

The UN refugee agency has warned that restrictions on residency permits in Sweden could undermine unaccompanied migrant children in the country and that separating families for extended periods could also have a “detrimental effect.”

Resentment toward migrants in Sweden was heightened last summer when a woman and her son were stabbed to death at an Ikea in Vasteras. An Eritrean who had been denied asylum was charged with the crime.


Must be why Sweden is seeing a historic gender shift and why M&Ms for sale are plummeting.

Or south....


"Absentee ballot count to decide Austrian election" by George Jahn Associated Press  May 23, 2016

VIENNA —  Sunday’s voting reflects disillusionment with the status quo that revealed a profound split over which direction the nation should now take, particularly over migration and the future of the European Union.

Not what the pre$$ told me regrading Britain!

On Sunday, Norbert Hofer, leader of the right-wing Freedom Party, sought to soothe international fears that he is a radical far-righter. The Austria Press Agency cited him as telling foreign reporters Sunday that he is ‘‘really OK,’’ and ‘‘not a dangerous person.’’

So much for change.

But the result could upend decades of business-as-usual politics, with the two candidates serving notice they are not satisfied with the ceremonial role for which most predecessors have settled.

Alexander Van der Bellen, a Greens politician running as an independent, says he would not swear in a Freedom Party chancellor even if that party wins the next parliamentary elections, scheduled within the next two years.

Hofer has threatened to dismiss Austria’s government coalition of the Social Democrats and the People’s Party if it fails to heed his repeated admonitions to do a better job — and is casting himself as the final arbiter of how the government is performing.

The constitution gives the president the right not only to sack the government but also to dissolve Parliament....


"Austrian far-right candidate narrowly loses presidential vote" by Alison Smale New York Times   May 23, 2016

VIENNA — Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economics professor and former Green Party leader, won Austria’s cliffhanger presidential election on Monday, defeating his far-right rival by the slimmest of margins and pledging to unite his divided country.

Austria had to wait almost 24 hours after polls closed on Sunday for the authorities to count almost 700,000 valid mail-in ballots. In the end, Van der Bellen won 50.3 percent of the vote, and his far-right rival, Norbert Hofer, 49.7 percent, a difference of just over 30,000 votes, the Interior Ministry said.

Hofer conceded defeat on his Facebook page, writing: “Of course I am sad today. I would so gladly have taken care of our wonderful country for you as president.” He added, “The effort for this campaign is not lost, but an investment in the future.”

The result averted the prospect of the first right-wing populist head of state in post-Nazi Europe taking office in a democratic election.


But the close result illustrated how deeply divided Austria is between left and right, and how thoroughly the centrist elites who have run the country since 1945 have fallen from public grace.

The narrowness of the victory also reflected the big strides into the mainstream the far right has made not only in Austria, but in much of Europe — from neighboring Hungary and Poland, where it already holds sway, to France and Germany, where rightist movements are polling strongly ahead of national elections next year.

Doesn't mean a thing.

In Britain, voters are scheduled to decide next month whether their country will stay in the European Union. That vote could turn on issues like migrants and a rejection of European unity and the continent’s centrist elites — issues that also played significantly into Austria’s vote. 

Or on a shooting(?!).

In his first speech as president-elect, Van der Bellen emphasized his pro-European stance, welcoming foreign reporters in English, and promised Hofer’s voters that their grievances and views would be heard.

Polling experts said Van der Bellen won the election on support from city dwellers — particularly in Vienna, which voted 61 percent for him — women and the highly educated. He promised Sunday night that he would try to heal the rifts that had opened up along these and other lines as establishment politics stagnated.

Hofer’s showing is the first time the Freedom Party, which has its roots in the 1950s, when it was founded by former Nazis and Teutonic nationalists, has gained close to 50 percent of the popular vote.

That alone signals that it is a factor to be reckoned with as Austria, a generally prosperous country of 8.4 million, grapples to find its place in a globalized world, and in a Europe whose unity is under question.

The disruptions of globalization and last year’s wave of 1 million migrants — most of whom only passed through Austria en route to Germany or Sweden — were central themes of the election.

I did a whole series in April regarding all of them.

Despite Austria’s outward prosperity, wrote Rainer Nowak, editor of Die Presse, the leading center-right daily, “people fear that it won’t go so well for much longer.” Besides, he added, “we have indeed become a somewhat saturated society, which suppresses or simply overlooks the real problems, and is unwilling to accept the slightest sacrifice when it comes to reforms or changes.”

The parties of the center-left and center-right that governed for most of the past 30 years in ever-duller grand coalitions were trounced in the first round of the presidential elections last month, when Hofer stunned rivals by reaping 35.1 percent, well ahead of Van der Bellen with 21 percent.

Sunday’s runoff turned into a cliffhanger as the vote was counted and showed an ever-narrowing lead for Hofer. Doron Rabinovici, a writer who was among several prominent intellectuals supporting Van der Bellen, noted that “the 50-50 vote is not in itself a split; that’s democracy.” But how one proceeds is what matters.

“We do have a problem in this country, that politics has been conducted not in discussing substance but at the level of the tabloid press,” he said....

Sounds like the coverage off the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.


"Defeated right-wing Austrian president hopeful urges unity" Associated Press  May 25, 2016

VIENNA — The right-wing candidate who narrowly lost to a left-leaning rival in the Austrian presidential election urged his supporters Tuesday to respect the result and show tolerance to those with different political views.

With only a little more than 30,000 votes determining who won, however, his Freedom Party held open the option of asking for a recount.

Norbert Hofer was ahead after polls closed Sunday. But a count of more than 700,000 absentee ballots completed Monday swung the result and the final count showed Alexander Van der Bellen as the winner with 50.3 percent, compared with 49.7 percent for Hofer.

Hofer’s party had not ruled out calling for a recount of the absentee votes going into a meeting Tuesday. Sunday’s voting was viewed Europe-wide as a proxy fight pitting the continent’s political center against its growingly strong populist and Eurosceptic movements. The outcome was cheered by the continent’s established parties, while Europe’s right hailed what it cast as a major political surge by one of its own.

Mindful of the international consternation over his strong showing, Hofer on Tuesday sought to dispel worries....


You can either take the tunnel to Switzerland or head south to the Balkans on your way to Greece:

 ‘Islam has no place in my country,’ says next EU president

Opposition to Islam growing in Europe


"Greece’s Parliament on Sunday approved a bill to reform the debt-ridden country’s pension and tax systems. The bill, introduced as part of requirements the country must meet under its third international bailout, is set to increase individuals’ social security and pension contributions and raise taxes for most people. The measure was approved by the 153 lawmakers of the ruling Syriza/Independent Greeks government coalition; all opposition parties in the 300-member Parliament voted against. The vote took place amid a crippling general strike and protests that briefly turned violent Sunday."

Why would that be?

"Greek lawmakers narrowly approve austerity legislation" by Niki Kitsantonis New York Times  May 22, 2016

ATHENS — After days of heated debate, Greek lawmakers voted narrowly Sunday to approve a fresh set of financial measures aimed at ensuring that eurozone finance ministers will decide this week to unlock billions of euros in badly needed rescue loans from the country’s third bailout.

The legislation passed 153-145, with all of the government coalition members in Parliament voting in favor. It includes a 1 percentage point increase in the highest rate of sales tax to 24 percent, higher taxes on coffee, alcohol, fuel, and other goods and new rules liberalizing the market for nonperforming bank loans. There is also a measure creating a privatization fund to sell off state assets and utilities, including public transport companies, the post office, and the state power corporation.

Thus the strike and protests.

The legislation also introduces a contingency mechanism that would cut state spending if Greece misses budget targets set by its creditors for the next three years.

Addressing Parliament before the vote, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he had “negotiated hard to secure the chance for the country to stand on its own two feet.” He later added: “Today, European leaders get the message that Greece is keeping its promises. Now, it’s their turn to do the same.”

F*** him! He was elected to prevent this kind of thing and has totally sold out!

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the main opposition party, the conservative New Democracy, accused the leftist-led governing coalition — which first came to power on a pledge to reverse austerity — of “organized political fraud.” Mitsotakis, whose party is leading in polls, said the new taxes would “annihilate everyone” and accused the government of “plebifying the middle class.”

Outside the Parliament building, protesters gathered to express their exasperation at yet another round of austerity measures. The ones approved on Sunday came on top of pension cuts and increases to income tax adopted this month.

All to $erve bankers that set up the rotten deals.

The vote came two days before eurozone finance ministers are to meet in Brussels to sign off on rescue loans for Greece and decide what kind of debt relief to offer.

Greece and its European creditors have been locked in talks on how to reduce the country’s debt burden, which the International Monetary Fund is insisting on before it joins Greece’s third international bailout. The bailout agreement, signed last summer, is worth 86 billion euros ($96.5 billion). It follows two bailouts worth a total of 240 billion euros ($269 billion) that Greece’s eurozone partners and the IMF granted in 2010 and 2012 in exchange for a barrage of measures that have slashed the economy by a quarter and pushed the unemployment rate to 25 percent.

Last week, the IMF said that Greece would need a lengthy period free from debt repayments to put its finances on a stable footing. But eurozone nations, led by Germany, are reluctant to offer debt relief to Greece, fearing the political effect of obliging the taxpayers bailing out Greece to bear an even bigger burden for the country’s past profligacy.

Unless the IMF and eurozone officials find a compromise — or agree to further postpone a decision on the IMF’s participation in the third bailout — a new crisis is likely.

Greece needs fresh bailout loans to pay down debt, and the prospect of new upheaval in Greece is of particular concern as Europe faces other potentially destabilizing challenges, including a migrant crisis — with Greece a major transit country for thousands of desperate people — and a crucial vote in June on Britain’s continued membership in the European Union....

They used to call that robbing Peter to pay Paul.


RelatedIMF pushes for Greece debt relief

They got it:

"Greece gets new funds approved by eurozone creditors" by Raf Casert Associated Press  May 25, 2016

BRUSSELS — Greece has won an essential batch of bailout funds from international creditors following agreement among the 19 eurozone finance ministers and can start looking forward to debt relief in the future.

Considering the bad blood between Athens and its creditors over the past years, Wednesday’s deal was seen as a major step forward.

A representative of the International Monetary Fund welcomed the deal, but the next step for creditors would be to find a way to lighten the country’s debt load, which mainly consists of past rescue loans from eurozone states.

The creditors are likely to examine a possible lowering in the interest rates and possibly an extension of the rescue loans’ maturity dates, as called for by the International Monetary Fund.

There are fears the IMF may even pull out of the bailout program if Greece’s debt burden is not lightened.

‘‘An actual haircut of the loans will not happen,’’ Dijsselboem said. ‘‘What we can look at is the annual debt burden, so Greece can on an annual basis pay its debts. If not, we are ready to help them in the coming years.’’

Senior EU officials believe the plans being drawn up by experts to address Greece’s short-, mid- and longer-term debt needs will be enough to keep the IMF on board....

All those plans have failed in the past, but you know.


Also see:

Officials question Greek reports on last minutes EgyptAir flight
Forensic expert suggests explosion downed EgyptAir jet
Egypt Air EA804: Baffle 'em with Bull$h!t

It looks like a war game knockdown.

EgyptAir mystery spurs calls for real-time access to flight data
Egypt says search for crashed EgyptAir plane narrows
Ship detects signals from crashed EgyptAir plane’s black box
Egypt says it has found plane wreckage
Cockpit recorder of crashed EgyptAir jet recovered from sea
EgyptAir black boxes badly damaged, likely to prolong probe


 "Passenger gets probation for placing fake bomb on plane" Associated Press  May 13, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. — A US passenger who placed a fake bomb in a restroom during an international flight, then reported it to look like a hero has avoided a prison term.

Instead, US District Judge Michael Mosman sentenced Sean Davies to five years on probation and ordered him to pay restitution to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Prosecutors recommended the sentence because the 23-year-old from coastal Oregon has no prior arrests, has been receiving treatment for alcoholism, and has landed a steady job as a salesman at a jewelry store in a Portland suburb.

KLM Flight 569 was 3½ hours into a flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, when Davies told a member of the cabin crew there was a wire coming out of a cabinet in the restroom, leading to an electrical socket.

The flight captain inspected the miniature wine bottle with some cables attached to it and figured it was a prank, but the plane was diverted to Cairo."

Also see:

"An EgyptAir plane that made an emergency landing Wednesday in Uzbekistan following a bomb threat, Egyptian officials said, the latest in a series of deadly or damaging air travel incidents involving Egypt. The officials said no bomb was found. The incident came nearly three weeks after an EgyptAir flight crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, most likely downed by an act of terror. Last October, a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. A local affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility."

Oh, right, the migrants:

"Buses and bulldozers: Migrants are removed from Greek camp" by Costas Kantouris Associated Press  May 25, 2016

IDOMENI, Greece — It grew to the size of a small town, becoming a symbol of Europe’s closed border policy for migrants. On Tuesday, Greek authorities began to dismantle the sprawling makeshift camp.

Starting at dawn, police moved more than 2,000 people out of the area, sending in bulldozers to begin erasing the tent city.

The move definitively dashed the dreams of the thousands who had camped there for months in the hope of eventually being able to reach the continent’s wealthy heartland.

The migrants — many of them refugees from Syria and Iraq — had stubbornly resisted government efforts to leave the site voluntarily, braving torrential rainfall and winter weather.

On Tuesday, they were placed on buses and taken to newly built shelters set up by the army and local authorities. Most were living in small tents pitched in fields and along railroad tracks, or in large marquee-style tents set up by aid agencies to help house people. Greek authorities regularly sent in cleaning crews and provided portable toilets, but conditions were precarious at best, with heavy rain creating muddy ponds.

Recently the camp had begun taking on an image of semi-permanence, with refugees setting up small makeshift shops selling everything from cooking utensils to falafel....

Like the Palestinian refugee camps that have existed for 70 years or so.



"Police detained 34 volunteers in northern Greece on Monday while clearing makeshift migrant camps along the border with Macedonia. Scores of riot police were deployed as nearly 600 Syrians and Iraqis were ordered out of a camp."

To go where? 


Italy saves 500 after migrant ship flips
More than 4,000 migrants rescued in single day
Italian, Irish, German ships save over 650 migrants at sea

Saved them from a watery grave.

At least 117 bodies found off Libya as smuggling boat sinks

Emma Morano may be the last person alive who was born in the 1800s

113-year-old Worcester woman is now oldest person in US

Seven 100-year-olds inducted into Centenarian Society

Rome is hungry for more corporate generosity


"Romans are impatient for improvement, especially in their strike-plagued mass transit service and undependable trash collection agency. "

An antiestablishment female candidate has capitalized on anger. 

After winning Italy mayoral races, opposition eyes national power

It's called the 5-Star Movement, and we know who they have to get past to run Italy.


The flight home leaves from Spain:

Solar plane begins trans-Atlantic stretch of global journey

"A sick worker from a remote US science station. A daring 1,500-mile, nine-hour trip. A second worker is also ill, but officials will not identify the workers, who are employees of Lockheed Martin, which handles logistics at the station. There conditions were not released. There have been three emergency evacuations from the Amundsen-Scott station since 1999. Workers at the South Pole station are isolated from February through October, the coldest and darkest months when it’s too risky for routine flights."

Rescue flight lands at South Pole to evacuate sick worker

What got lost in the fog:

"Desperation rising at home, Africans increasingly turn to risky seas" by Dionne Searcey New York Times  June 16, 2016

DAKAR, Senegal — The global debate over migration often focuses on the desperate treks of Syrians fleeing a horrible civil war. But the latest deaths at sea are a powerful reminder that the journey Africans take to escape the hardships of daily life in their countries is significantly more dangerous — and increasingly common, the United Nations says.

On Thursday, the government of Niger reported that the bodies of 34 migrants, including 20 children, had been discovered in the Sahara near the Algerian border.

Getting to Europe from places such as Senegal often requires crossing hundreds of miles of barren desert patrolled by thieves and the most fearsome of terrorist groups — offshoots of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Those who make it that far then step aboard overcrowded, shoddy boats that head out across the Mediterranean from Libya or Algeria. The odds of dying at sea on the way to Italy are grim: Despite the risks, three to four times as many migrants as usual have been streaming into Libya from Niger, a popular place to cross the Sahara, in recent weeks, according to Giuseppe Loprete, chief of mission in Niger for the International Organization for Migration.

For West Africans, just getting to Niger on the arduous trek to Europe costs about $400, a sum often gathered from relatives who sell their livestock or personal belongings. Then to carry on from Niamey, the capital, they must pay another, bigger fee, which catches many people off guard. They often get trapped, scrambling for more cash to push on....

Time for me to push on.


"Latest sinkings raise fears that migrant crisis is deepening" by Jim Yardley and Gaia Pianigiani New York Times   May 29, 2016

ROME —The latest drownings — which would push the death toll for the year to more than 2,000 people — are a reminder of the cruel paradox of the Mediterranean calendar: As summer approaches with blue skies, warm weather, and tranquil waters prized by tourists, human trafficking along the North African coastline traditionally kicks into a higher gear.

Taking advantage of calm conditions, smugglers in Libya send out more migrants toward Italy, often on unseaworthy vessels.

Drowning deaths are inevitable, even as Italian coast guard and navy ships race to answer distress calls. Last year, more than 3,700 migrants died in the Mediterranean, a figure that could be surpassed this year.

In a statement Sunday, the UN Children’s Fund said many of the migrants who drowned in the past week were believed to be unaccompanied adolescents.

The grisly week also underscored the complex problem that the refugee crisis poses for Europe. The continent’s leaders, facing an anti-immigrant backlash in many countries, have signed a controversial deal with Turkey that has sharply reduced the migrant flow into Greece; last year, about 1 million people marched through the Balkans toward Germany.

Yet closing the Greek route has shifted attention to the longer, more dangerous sea route from Libya to Italy.

As of Wednesday, about 41,000 migrants had been rescued at sea after leaving Libya, nearly the same number from the same period last year, according to the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration.

The potential for a sudden increase in traffic is clear: An additional 4,000 migrants were rescued Thursday alone, the same day that as many as 550 people died on the second migrant boat that sank.

“This was a very intense and exceptional week for the number of fatalities,” said Federico Fossi, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The deaths also point to the lack of solutions to the migrant crisis, which has been exacerbated by the violent chaos in Libya and fueled by the conflict in Syria....

Obama's wars.


RelatedUN envoy blasts EU’s ‘lack of vision’ on migration

"Humanitarian summit aims high amid refugee rights concerns" Associated Press  May 23, 2016

ISTANBUL — An ambitious two-day summit to revamp humanitarian aid and global responses to modern-day crises opened in Turkey on Monday with lofty goals overshadowed by concerns that key participants are violating refugee rights and humanitarian law.

The World Humanitarian Summit was convened in an attempt to tackle what the UN calls the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

An estimated 125 million people worldwide require humanitarian assistance, among them 60 million displaced by conflict, natural disasters, and climate change. The gathering was conceived by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Doctors Without Borders pulled out of the event, calling it “a fig-leaf of good intentions’’ at a time when ‘‘shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights’’ go unchecked.



"UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday criticized the leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries for not attending a pivotal humanitarian summit. At the closing of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which aimed to boost humanitarian responses to global crisis, top UN officials unveiled a new ‘‘Global Preparedness’’ partnership."

"Vermont city prepares for Syrian refugees with welcome, wariness" by Brian MacQuarrie Globe Staff  May 13, 2016

RUTLAND, Vt. — A simple quest for peace is beckoning, a plan developed in near-secrecy.

The influx would be a jolt of instant cultural diversity for Rutland, where there are no mosques and no other Syrian immigrants. Most residents appear ready to welcome the refugees, mindful of the harrowing images of Syrians desperately seeking refuge outside their ravaged country.

“They have nowhere to live,” said Jerry Dubeau, a 59-year-old who supports the move. “That’s what this country is all about. We’re all from somewhere else.”

But mingled with good wishes has been a touch of fear, and simmering anger that the decision was made behind closed doors. Some residents have asked whether the refugees would be inoculated, others have wondered whether a terrorist could infiltrate the group, and still more have questioned what the dollars-and-cents costs will be for caring for people arriving with little but their clothes.

But the Globe isn't going to push that angle.

As for the inoculations....

Months-long discussions about whether to invite the Syrians were limited to the mayor, a small circle of city and business leaders, and a nonprofit resettlement agency. The president of the Board of Aldermen, who knew about the effort, did not tell his colleagues until a day or two before Louras announced the plans at an April 26 news conference.

“There was no benefit to anyone to spread the knowledge,” William Notte, the aldermen president, said in an interview.

The fact that they did it in secret shows how unpopular they knew this was.

Louras made no apologies for excluding the public from the planning. If the proposal had been floated earlier, the mayor said, the debate would have become “about them” — meaning the Syrians, their culture, and possible links to terrorism — instead of whether the city had the means to accommodate the refugees.

What arrogance.

Once the logistical questions were quietly answered, Louras said, the timing was right for an announcement in this city of 16,500 people, which is 95 percent white and overwhelmingly of Eurpoean ancestry.

“I own it. I took the hits, and I’ll continue to take the hits,” Louras said recently at a downtown pig roast, where he helped dish out the pork to benefit a children’s museum. 

I hope they are all staying at your house.

Giving the refugees a home here will put Rutland on the right side of history, the mayor and Notte said.

OMG! That's when you know they are hurling the propaganda!

“The benefits, economically and culturally, that we will recognize is exactly what the community needs at this time,” said Louras, the grandson of a Greek immigrant who fled the Ottoman Turks a century ago. “As much as I want to say it’s for compassionate reasons, I realize that there is not a vibrant, growing, successful community in the country right now that is not embracing new Americans.”

A big embrace would come from Rutland Regional Medical Center, where president Thomas Huebner said he has 120 job openings. Many of those jobs — including housekeepers, food-service workers, nurses, and technicians — might be a match for the Syrians, he said.

While the adult American labor participation rate is at a 50 year low. 

I'm sure those were jobs American citizens didn't want.

Other pieces of the puzzle appear to be in place, city officials said.

A 30-year decline in population has left Rutland with plenty of affordable housing. School officials have said they can absorb refugee children who do not speak English. And the federal government’s vetting of the refugees will be exhaustive, Louras said.

Oh, that makes me feel real safe considering their track record and the budget crunches are in right now.

“I wouldn’t do this unless I knew and could speak with conviction that we are not putting the community at risk,” Louras said.

The effort is being shepherded by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a nonprofit organization that has helped bring 8,000 refugees to Vermont since 1989 — a number that includes families from Bosnia, Bhutan, Vietnam, and Somalia. 

Another hidden cost of all the wars for empire.

The committee is one of nine agencies that work with the State Department to find homes for refugees across the country. The Rutland proposal faces a May 20 deadline to be submitted for federal review, and a decision is expected by July.

In the interim, volunteer and church groups are preparing to help with furnishings, clothing, and other needs. 

SeeSouthern Baptist Convention urges churches to welcome refugees

“I know there is a good-heartedness to this city,” said Huebner, the hospital president, whose paternal grandparents fled Nazi Germany in 1939. “If you come here and want to help and make the community better, Rutlanders will welcome you with open arms.” 

I was wondering how long it would be until they brought that up.

The mayor’s strategy of keeping the plan quiet is supported by the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, which is a field office of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. The program’s executive director, Amila Merdzanovic, called the hidden talks “the right thing to do — to move slowly, keep it to a small circle of people, and then expand.” 

Maybe in some third-rate dictatorship.

Merdzanovic, in e-mails obtained by the Rutland Herald, had stressed the importance of secrecy all along.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not sharing the information, even if it is confidentially,” she wrote April 10 to the director of the State Refugee Office.

In an April 14 e-mail to the mayor, Merdzanovic said that her headquarters was worried about scheduling a public forum.

“If we open it up to anybody and everybody, all sorts of people will come out of [the] woodwork,” she wrote. “Anti-immigrant, anti-anything. They suggest that the forum be invite-only but make it as wide as possible.”

Yeah, God forbid the American voter and citizen should be informed regarding what his/her government is doing.

Now that the plan is in the open, public sentiment appears solidly positive. At a recent hearing at City Hall, supporters outnumbered opponents, 2 to 1.

And for the foes? “Those concerns are based in fear,” Louras said. “When educated, those fears will be abated.” 

Of course, this was all before Orlando.