#Journey to Mars
Have yourself a very blue Christmas
not like Christmas records. I do not like the religious overtones. I do not
like what is almost a sense of self-righteousness that pervades so many of
them. And I do not like songs which sound really dumb when you play them in
my favourite band thinks differently and Blue Rodeo are realeasing a holiday
album "A Merrie Christmas to You" both physically and digitally on Tuesday
(November 4) through Warner.
Although the album includes a couple of well-known Christmas tunes — "Have
Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" — the rest
are a slightly more modern. There are covers of Joni Mitchell, Big Star,
Paul Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, the Band and more. There are also two Blue
Rodeo originals: Jim Cuddy's brand-new "Home to You This Christmas" and a
re-recording of Greg Keelor's "Glad to Be Alive."
The album was recorded in a week at their very own Woodshed Studio in
Toronto. Each song was captured live.
"The songs are as much about the season as they are about the actual day,"
Cuddy said in a statement about the selection of material. "The criteria for
choosing material were to find songs
that we could actually sing and make our own."
The cover art comes from an illustration by Keelor's great-uncle, who made
greeting cards back in the '20s. The tracklist is below, and the name of the
artist who wrote each song is in parentheses.
A Merrie Christmas to You:
1. Jesus Christ (Big Star)
2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane)
3. If We Make It Through December (Merle Haggard)
4. River (Joni Mitchell)
5. O Come All Ye Faithful (traditional)
6. Getting Ready for Christmas Day (Paul Simon)
7. Glad to Be Alive
8. Home to You This Christmas
9. Song for a Winter's Night (Gordon Lightfoot)
10. Christmas Must Be Tonight (The Band)
Hong Kong protests reach polite impasse
October 2014 from Reuters
The most surprising thing about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy campaigners is
that they are still there. A month after a small group of students stormed a
space outside the government’s head office, the protests now known as the
“umbrella movement” have confounded predictions of chaos, apathy or a
violent crackdown by China. Though a compromise on democratic reform remains
as distant as ever, Hong Kong’s mostly civil activists have changed the
city’s political geography for good.
In the months before what was originally known as Occupy Central got
underway, Hong Kong politicians and business leaders forecast that civil
disobedience would cause disruption and chaos. In fact, apart from the
clouds of tear gas at the start of the protests, and subsequent scuffles
between protesters, their opponents, and the police, the movement has been
The three-lane highway that passes in front of Hong Kong’s central
government buildings has been transformed into an impromptu city-centre
campsite. Wandering between the hundreds of numbered, multicoloured tents on
Harcourt Road feels more like attending a nerdy music festival than a hotbed
of political agitation. Each evening, scores of students diligently complete
their homework at specially-constructed desks, as protest leaders deliver
Not all enjoy the festivities – the blockade has disrupted traffic and made
it harder to move around what is normally an easy-to-navigate city, while
taxi drivers, retailers and restaurants in the protest areas have reported
lost revenue. Yet Hong Kong’s large financial district has mostly continued
to operate as normal. Stock market investors worry more about the slowing
Chinese economy than disruption in the former British colony. According to
the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, just one bank branch remained closed as of
The protesters have also defied predictions that they would quickly lose
interest. The government’s clumsy and sometimes heavy-handed attempts to end
the protests have helped. The use of tear gas; the decision to call and then
cancel talks with student leaders; the policemen caught on film beating up a
handcuffed protester – all have spurred crowds to return to the streets.
The other surprise is that China has not ordered a crackdown. The ruling
Communist Party’s harsh response to protest at home would suggest little
tolerance for pro-democracy activists waving banners, umbrellas and
smartphones in defiance of Bejing on Chinese soil. Yet while state media has
condemned the protests, and China’s leaders are clearly watching events
closely, their strategy so far appears to be to ignore rather than injure
Beijing’s relative tolerance does not mean it is prepared to meet the
movement’s requests, however. China has stuck to the proposed system for
selecting Hong Kong’s chief executive that ignited the protests in the first
place. Any candidate must win the support of at least half the members of a
1,200-strong nominating committee stuffed with loyalists before he or she
can contest the popular vote. The protesters’ main wish – that members of
the public be allowed to nominate the candidates – is as unlikely to be
granted today as a month ago.
Beijing has also continued to support Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s unpopular
chief executive, despite his hapless handling of the protests and
revelations that he received but did not disclose payments from an
Australian engineering firm.
The result is that Hong Kong is stuck in a kind of polite impasse. The
movement has little hope of achieving its aims, while the government has
little to offer by way of compromise. The protesters can stay in their tents
for a while – the weather in November is ideal for camping. But as the city
adapts and the global media turns its attention elsewhere, the protests risk
losing their sense of urgency.
However the standoff eventually ends, the umbrella movement will have
achieved a great deal. It has shown that significant chunks of Hong Kong’s
youth are articulate, organised and determined. Their willingness to defy
politicians and police to mount peaceful but disruptive protests will be
something that future Hong Kong leaders will have to consider, regardless of
how they are chosen.
Expert challenges MH370 story
27 October 2014
Aviation Business Magazine (An Australian pubication)
What happened in the first four hours when MH370 disappeared?
Answers to this simple question are confused or not in the public domain.
Why not? If proper protocols had been followed we would not be looking for
the aircraft today.
I am watching with some amazement, the amount of money being expended in the
search of the southern Indian Ocean for MH370. I am not convinced by the
official version of the final moments of MH370. Nor am I convinced that it
is anywhere near the southern Indian Ocean and I am quite familiar with
Doppler effect, satellite handshakes and all the other high tech stuff that
is being promulgated!
SBS TV aired an excellent program on 5th Oct, dealing with the disappearance
of MH370. It was a BBC documentary called Where is Flight MH370.
It is one of the best documentaries I have seen on the subject and it
covered most of the detail and circumstances known to the general public at
However, as with almost every other commentary made to date, the program
studiously avoided reference to that four-hour period immediately after the
aircraft disappeared. The omission of any reference to this period was
blindingly obvious and made me wonder again why it is being avoided in the
media and in any official commentary. Perhaps it is lack of understanding of
what should have happened.
Many facts are missing, but many are available and should be released. We
know that the initial period was filled with confusion and even
misinformation from the airline itself which, at one stage, told ATC that it
had contact with the aircraft in Cambodian airspace. This was found to be
completely incorrect and the flight had never entered Cambodian airspace. In
any case, it was not valid for the air traffic controllers to accept this
information if they had not been in contact with the aircraft and had not
given a clearance for it to deviate from its track.
The BBC documentary did refer, briefly, to the stunning inaction of the
Vietnamese controller, in Ho Chi Minh centre, who took 17 minutes to ask the
Malaysian controller why MH370 had not transferred to his radio frequency as
had been expected.
That should have happened within two to three minutes of the expected
transfer time when MH370 was instructed to establish contact with Ho Chi
Minh control at the boundary of their airspace.
There has not been any explanation as to why the Vietnamese controller took
so long to check on the aircraft for which he was then responsible. This is
a serious matter and needs to be explained!
An explanation is also needed as to why the controller in Kuala Lumpur did
not initiate a call to Ho Chi Minh centre when he saw the MH370 data block
disappear from his screen. Did he not want to know why that had occurred?
The BBC documentary made no further reference to that lack of coordination
and the program continued with diagrams and reference to the Malaysian
military having tracked the aircraft across the Malaysian peninsula, out to
the MalaccaStraits and then the AndamanSea.
The program reported the Malaysian authorities as saying that there had been
heavy security issues surrounding the tracking of the aircraft so they had
not been able to reveal this immediately.
We have also been told that the military determined that it was a civil
aircraft and, therefore, of no concern to them.
Frankly, that is absolute RUBBISH either way you look at it!
Every professional pilot and military person knows that EVERY country
maintains surveillance of its airspace to the best of its technical
capability. Everyone knows that Malaysia has a military radar system which
monitors ALL flights in its area of responsibility. The ex-Deputy PM, Anwar
Ibrahim, who the current authorities keep trying to silence, recently stated
on BBC TV that he had authorised a state of the art military surveillance
system to be installed whilst he was Deputy PM of Malaysia.
So, what secret was there and what were they so protective about? What
needed to be kept secret from the world even when 239 people were lost?
What should have happened, under international protocols that are well
established and published in various operational documents, was that the
Malaysian Air Force should have investigated the then unidentified aircraft
they were tracking to ensure that it was not a threat to Malaysia.
The first action would have been for the military air defence officer to
contact the civil air traffic controller and discuss the unidentified radar
target to try to establish its identity. In any case the civil controller
should have contacted his military counterpart to ask him to assist with
finding MH370. The military system does not need a transponder to be
operating on the aircraft and can identify a blip on its system without any
transmission from the aircraft.
This simple coordination between military and civil officers should have
solved the issue then and there. It is hard to believe that this did not
Did the military air defence officer make an assumption that he was tracking
a civil aircraft that posed no threat to Malaysia, or did he know?? If he
was certain, we need to ask how he knew? If he was making an assumption,
then he was prepared to risk the security of his nation.
Did the civil air traffic controller not think to ask the military for their
assistance in tracking his missing aircraft? It is very difficult to believe
that he would not have used all possible resources available to him to find
MH370 at that point. A blindingly obvious resource would be the military air
defence radar system. One of the civil ATC officer’s first actions should
have been a call to his military counterpart to ask if he had any
unidentified aircraft on radar.
The next action is that both military and civil personnel should have
attempted to establish radio contact with the unidentified aircraft. The
Vietnamese controller should also have been doing this on his own radio
frequency. They did ask another Malaysian Airlines flight to try to contact
MH370 but this was not successful.
If no communication was established, then the Malaysian Air Force should
have sent an interceptor aircraft to allow the military pilot to identify
and follow the unidentified aircraft to find out where it was headed. There
should not have been any consideration, at that point, of shooting the
intruder out of the sky, as was suggested by the Malaysian Defence Minister
on BBC TV. It was purely a matter of identification.
If they had done so, we would not be looking for the aircraft now, the
families would know what had happened and millions of dollars could have
There is absolutely no secret about the Malaysian Air Force ability to track
an aircraft in their airspace, so why did they withhold vital information
for several days? Why did they not assist in the search and reveal that they
tracked it on radar flying out to the AndamanSea?
What is the secret they were guarding??
What prevented them from tracking the aircraft and sending up an interceptor
aircraft to follow it and try to communicate with it?
Why is there still no information in the public domain about what happened
that night during the first four hours?
Some of the answers to this conundrum are readily available but are being
The Malaysians released the voice record and transcript of the conversations
between the aircraft and the KL air traffic controllers. I believe they
thought this would satisfy people, and it probably has in many cases.
However, what we all need to understand is that everything is recorded in
the operational environment.
That first four hours is all on official record and will explain much of
There are several recordings which have not been released and they are all
on separate recorders / hard disks.
1. There is the pilot / air traffic controller recording which we have all
heard and read in the media.
2. There is a separate recording of the voice coordination between the air
traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur and in Ho Chi Minh City. This
coordination is done via a voice / data link between the control centres and
the pilots do not hear it. This is fully recorded and kept for a minimum of
3. There is another recording of the communications between the military air
defence officer who was tracking the “unknown” aircraft and anyone else he
talked to. There would definitely be a recording of any conversation between
him and the civil air traffic controller in the KL control centre, if they
did in fact talk to each other. If they did not talk to each other in these
circumstances I would call it criminal negligence.
4. All telephone conversations into and out of the military centre and the
civil ATC centre are recorded also. So, any conversations between Malaysian
Airlines and the ATC centre would be recorded and available.
It is important to understand that all of this information is available and
should be carefully examined by the air safety investigators who are charged
with finding out what happened to MH370. However, it should, in these
circumstances, also be made available to the families or their independent
investigators to allow an assessment of what happened.
Given that the Australian tax payers are now funding a massive search in the
southern Indian Ocean, I believe that this information should also be made
available to improve our understanding of what happened.
Nobody can tell us that the recordings do not exist. The communications
technology used is very sophisticated and operates through an unbreakable,
system known as a Voice Switch. The recording is the ground-based equivalent
of the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder (black boxes) on
board the aircraft and the first thing that should have happened on the
morning after the disappearance of MH370 is that the hard disks containing
the recordings should have been taken out of the system and stored securely
for examination by the investigators. There should not be any possibility of
loss of data or of it being over recorded by later data.
There has been no reference to these ground-based systems and it seems that
the Malaysian authorities will have to be pushed into releasing those
Therein lies the issue. Neither Malaysia nor Australia seems to wish to make
this information public and could be accused of covering up vital
information which would help the families and independent investigators to
work out what happened.
Des Ross has been in the aviation industry for more than 35 years, as
a pilot and air traffic management specialist. In that time he has been at
the forefront of aircraft safety and security. Most recently he was an
aviation advisor with theEU in South Sudan. He has been a global commentator
on the MH370 mystery since the aircraft disappeared, appearing regularly on
Conspiracy Oracle Backs Beijing from Bangkok
27 October 2014 by
John Berthelsen for Asian Correspondent
For weeks, the China Daily and other top Chinese news organizations have
been reporting on “secret meetings” between Hong Kong democracy advocates
and US organizations such as the Washington, DC-based National Endowment for
Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary, the National Democratic Institute.
The “secret meetings,” which have actually been reported routinely in Hong
Kong’s press, supposedly have been uncovered by what is described as an
authoritative and respected Bangkok-based researcher named Tony Cartalucci.
The problem is that as nearly as can be told, there is no such person as
Tony Cartalucci. And what “Cartalucci” appears to have done is to have
created a chain of biased or bogus online stories that travel in a circle
from Bangkok to Moscow to Beijing to Hong Kong in an effort to discredit the
Occupy Central movement.
“Tony Cartalucci” is believed to be a pseudonym made up by Michael Pirsch,
who in an abbreviated biography on the website Truthout.com, describes
himself as a former “union activist and union organizer for more than 25
years and a DJ on Berkeley Liberation Radio, a pirate radio station” who now
lives “as an economic refugee from the United States in Thailand.”
Repeated efforts to contact Pirsch/Cartalucci by email at his Bangkok blog
“Land Destroyer” and to his personal email address failed to elicit a reply.
Land Destroyer is published not only in English but Arabic, Russian and
Thai, indicating a considerable amount of resources.
The leaders of Occupy Central have reacted to Cartalucci/Pirsch’s
allegations with irritation, saying they are perfectly capable of running
their own protest and they don’t need advice or funding from US agencies.
However, in recent days Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has picked
up the allegations, telling reporters that “it is not entirely a domestic
movement, for external forces are involved.” He will identify the “external
forces” when the time is right, he said. Pro-government politicians Regina
Ip and Starry Lee, both stalwarts of the Establishment, have made reference
to an “online source” for the rumors and Cartalucci’s allegations have been
widely circulation within Hong Kong’s police force and repeated by Lau
Nai-keung, a leader of the anti-Occupy movement and frequent commentator in
the South China Morning Post.
If indeed Leung and the others are depending on Cartalucci/Pirsch’s
reporting, there is plenty of it, a lot of it recycled to Moscow through a
website called New Eastern Outlook, a propaganda outlet of the Russian
Institute of Oriental Studies, a division of the Russian Academy of
Sciences. New Eastern Outlook, where Cartalucci is a prolific writer,
delivers a daily menu of reports charging the West with a long string of
terrible things. On Oct. 25, for instance, the site intimated that the
British SAS special forces are behind the ISIS beheadings of British and
American hostages, that the US is lying in various permutations about the
Ebola virus, that it is a “documented fact” (by Cartalucci) that the US is
behind ISIS, that the young Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai “was
set up…as a part of a propaganda ploy by British news network, the BBC.”
Other Cartalucci articles are cycled through GlobalResearch, a leftist
Canadian website that, for instance, reported on Oct. 1 that “as the US
admitted shortly after the so-called Arab Spring began spreading chaos
across the Middle East that it had fully funded, trained, and equipped both
mob leaders and heavily armed terrorists years in advance, it is now
admitted that the US State Department through a myriad of organizations and
NGOs is behind the so-called Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong.”
That is news to the US State Department, which as nearly as we can see has
never made any such assertions.
In Cartalucci’s eyes, as reported in Land Destroyer, GlobalResearch and New
Eastern Outlook, “The goal of the US in Hong Kong is clear – to turn [Hong
Kong] into an epicenter of foreign-funded subversion with which to infect
China’s mainland more directly.”
The Congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy, which assists a
myriad of civil society groups including some in Hong Kong, is a favorite
target of pro-Beijng and pro-Moscow conspiracy theorists but in fact its
budget is modest and it constantly battles to maintain its funding.
New Eastern Outlook’s current home page has a story saying, “Protesters of
the ‘Occupy Central' movement in Hong Kong shout familiar slogans and adopt
familiar tactics seen across the globe as part of the United States’ immense
political destabilization and regime change enterprise. Identifying the
leaders, following the money, and examining Western coverage of these events
reveal with certainty that yet again, Washington and Wall Street are busy at
work to make China’s island of Hong Kong as difficult to govern for Beijing
Cartalucci identifies all of Occupy Central’s leaders as stalking horses for
the US. Tackling one of the lead organizers of the movement, he writes,
“Benny Tai regularly attends US State Department, National Endowment for
Democracy [NED] and its subsidiary the National Democratic Institute [NDI]
funded and/or organized forums. Martin Lee, Jimmy Lai, and [Cardinal] Joseph
Zen are all confirmed as both leaders of the ‘Occupy Central’ movement and
collaborators with the US State Department.
“Martin Lee, founding chairman of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong, would
even travel to the United States this year to conspire directly with NED as
well as with politicians in Washington.”
Although Cartalucci describes the meetings by Lee and former Hong Kong Chief
Secretary Anson Chan as “secret,” they have been widely reported in Hong
Kong’s press including the South China Morning Post and Chinese-language
Cartalucci has other targets as well. He is a staunch defender of the Thai
army’s coup and In 2013, he excoriated Thomas Fuller of the New York Times
for allegedly showing bias towards the forces controlled by Thailand’s
fugitive billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, but adds: “I admit it is difficult
for a journalist employed by the NYT to write a story that doesn't conform
to the narrative of the US Empire… Thaksin allowed torture centers to be
operated by the Empire, and he sent Thai troops to fight in Iraq. Both
decisions are unpopular in Thailand. Therefore, the protestors must be
misrepresented and their goals ridiculed.”
On the Truthout website, he also took after former Reuters correspondent
Andrew MacGregor Marshall, the author of an authoritative new book on the
Thai kingdom, alleging he was too closely connected to Robert Amsterdam,
Thaksin’s London-based lawyer. Marshall forced him into a retraction.
Also listed on Land Destroyer’s website is Nile Bowie, described as “an
independent journalist and political analyst based in Kuala Lumpur” whose
articles “have appeared in numerous international publications, including
regular columns with Russia Today and newspapers such as the Global Times,
the Malaysian Reserve and the New Straits Times.” Bowie is also described as
a researcher with the International Movement for a Just World, an NGO based
in Kuala Lumpur and founded by activist professor Chandra Muzzafar.
But as with Cartalucci in Bangkok, few people in the small journalistic
community of Kuala Lumpur appear to have ever heard of Nile Bowie despite
his description of himself as a journalist, leading to questions whether
Bowie’s name is a nom de plume as well. His affiliation with Global Times,
however, puts him in company with the most virulently anti-western
English-language publication in China.
A Banner on a Hong Kong Landmark Speaks of Democracy and Identity
October 2014 reporting from the
New York Times
giant yellow banner hanging on Thursday from Lion Rock, a rugged granite
outcrop named for how it seems to crouch, lion-like, over the city of Hong
Kong, carried a clear message: “I Want True Universal Suffrage.” It also
conveyed an unmissable message about cultural identity.
In a video posted on YouTube, a group calling itself
“The Hong Kong Spidie” said it had hung the banner, which echoed the key
demand of the pro-democracy protests roiling Hong Kong. “Today we are
occupying Lion Rock,” it said. (The beginning is in Cantonese. The brief
English section starts at 1.33.) Its name appeared to be a hybrid of
“spider” and “kiddie.”
group said it wanted to show the world that Hong Kong was not about just
money, but also spirit:
"Through this action, “The Hong Kong Spidie” aims to redefine the beauty of
the “Spirit of Hong Kong people” — not merely shown in the city’s economic
growth but in the recent Umbrella Movement to demand for democracy and
The location of the banner was highly symbolic: Lion Rock Hill, one of the
hills that give Kowloon, the mainland part of Hong Kong, its name (Kowloon
means “Nine Dragons”), has come to stand for Hong Kong’s special identity,
one that is stirring deep loyalty among the young people who form the
backbone of the pro-democracy movement that has consumed the city since late
Starting in the early 1970s, a television series titled “Below the Lion
Rock” expressed that identity. It ran on and off for decades, exploring
daily life, migration, work and love. Its message was that life was
bittersweet, with its ups and downs, but that Hong Kong people, forged by
colonialism, economic struggle and the challenges of the approaching
handover to Chinese rule in 1997, were all “in the same boat below the Lion
Rock.” The theme song, sung by the late Roman Tam, became a Cantopop
The cultural meme of the lion is figuring elsewhere in the protests.
Hong Kong police moved quickly to remove the banner on Thursday.
here’s the written message on the “Spidie” video, explaining the group’s
"Up on the Lion Rock: Universal Suffrage for Hong Kong!
22 Oct 2014 Today, a group of climbing enthusiasts, namely, ‘The Hong Kong
Spidie’, unfurled a 6mX28m banner on the top of the Lion Rock. Symbolizing
the toughness and persistence spirit of Hong Kong people, the Lion Rock is a
famous Hong Kong hill located in Kowloon. Through this action, ‘The Hong
Kong Spidie’ aims to redefine the beauty of the ‘Spirit of Hong Kong people’
– not merely shown in the city’s economic growth but in the recent Umbrella
Movement to demand for democracy and universal suffrage.
Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying recently reiterated his position
that free elections were impossible, and said it would result in the city’s
many poor dominating politics. Andreas, one of the members of ‘The Hong Kong
Spidie’ said, ‘We were shock by C.Y. Leung’s view point that the poor should
not have equality in election, and hope this action would be able to call
public attention on the importance of universal suffrage.’
‘The Hong Kong Spidie’ planned this action a week ago, and spent a few hours
this morning to climb up the Lion Rock and unfurled the banner. ‘The Hong
Kong Spidie’ demands the Hong Kong SAR Government to listen to the voices of
the Hong Kong people, to stand up and negotiate with the Chinese government
on a true democratic universal suffrage for Hong Kong."
Here’s a classic
rendition of “Below the Lion Rock,” sung by Ruby Wong. The video
includes historic images of Hong Kong:
Leung lays bare the truth of Hong Kong elites'
October 2014 from the
(This is worth a read as it is essentially the same argument that is used
by thePDRC/yellow shirt movement in Thailand and that is now being
reinforced by the Thai junta)
last Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has done something really useful.
Everyone sort of knew what Hong Kong's elite really thought about democracy
but now Leung has actually voiced these thoughts in public and said out loud
that he does not like democracy and most certainly doesn't trust it.
Speaking to foreign media representatives, he said that if Hong Kong were to
have full-scale democracy, then the polls would be determined by people who
earn less than HK$14,000 per month and "you would end up with that kind of
politics and policies".
To put this as bluntly as it deserves putting, Leung is saying that if there
was anything like genuine democracy, instead of the current plans for a
mutant democratic system, it would mean that the great unwashed would call
the shots and end up supporting the kind of social welfare and pro-poor
policies that the ruling elite have managed to keep at bay.
We can try and disentangle the flawed logic that lies behind these remarks
later but, for the time being, let's focus on the cat that Leung has let out
of the bag.
He is reminding us that it was neither accident nor oversight that produced
the current plans for highly controlled universal suffrage.
Instead, it was a deliberate plan to ensure that Hong Kong-style democracy
would be stripped of the essential element of allowing the people to choose
Where does this leave the serried ranks of both well-meaning and
not-so-well-meaning people who are urging us "to pocket" the current
proposals, arguing that they are some sort of step forward?
The answer is now clear because, although the proposed system might well be
capable of highly marginal trimming around the edges, its essential
anti-democratic nature will, if Leung has anything to do with it, stay in
Some commentators are already seeking to minimise the damage wrought by
Leung's remarks, trying to present it as some kind of public relations
gaffe, but the reality is that Hong Kong's chief executive is quite capable
of saying what he means and, more importantly, of parroting the thinking of
the real bosses in Beijing.
So, let's have no more of this farcical bleating about how the
constitutional reform proposals represent some kind of progress: they do not
and are not designed to do so.
Meanwhile, let's consider the logic of Leung's remarks.
Clearly, he has never bothered to study the history of electoral politics,
otherwise he would know that some of the most conservative voters in
democratic systems are among the least well-off.
There is no such thing as an axiomatic relationship between poverty and
so-called "social welfarism".
Yet he is not entirely wrong because a genuinely democratic system does
exert pressure on the rulers to go beyond looking after the interests of the
elite. The question, as ever, is how far and how soon?
Leung adequately reflects the contempt he has for the ordinary people of
Hong Kong and fails to understand that in this community, largely composed
of immigrants and the offspring of immigrants, the work and self-help ethic
is very strong indeed.
The people he and his colleagues despise are pragmatic and sensible.
So why, then, does he believe that they would rush like sheep into an orgy
of emptying the public coffers?
Yet there is a group that greatly fears any change in government spending
and adjustment of policies that would drain their revenues and hit their
There are no prizes for guessing who they are and for understanding the
unholy alliance that exists between them and the rulers in Beijing.
But, for now, thank you Mr Leung for at least being honest.
Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's
October 2014 -
Contrary to what you might imagine, Ebola the physical disease has thus far
barely made an appearance in the US. But two mutant strains of the sickness,
Ebola, the panic virus and Ebola, the political virus, are rife. The
consequences for November's midterm elections now barely a fortnight off,
and for Barack Obama's place in history, could be momentous.
It's hard not to feel sorry for Obama right now. No president is perfect,
but for this one, misfortunes not of his making are arriving – like London
buses – in convoys. There's Islamic radicalism and Islamic State which have
drawn him into a new Middle East conflict that his foreign policy objective
was to avoid at all costs.
Then the economy finally starts yielding decent figures – on growth,
unemployment and the national finances – yet last week's news that the
budget deficit had fallen to its lowest since 2007, a meagre 2.8 per cent of
GDP (a figure most European governments would kill for) was obliterated by
the tumble in US and global stock markets. And now Ebola.
Yes, mistakes in handling the threatened pandemic have been made – by all
parties. The World Health Organisation was guilty of initially
underestimating the danger. Western governments were (and still are)
slothful in providing real help on the ground in West Africa. Here in the
US, the federal government and the Atlanta-based Centre for Disease Control,
similarly dropped the ball. "We're stopping it in its tracks in this
country," Thomas Frieden, CDC's chief, assured us only three weeks ago.
For its part, the Dallas hospital, which treated the only person who has so
far died from the disease on US soil, made egregious mistakes as well.
First, the patient's condition was misdiagnosed; then two nurses who tended
him were found to have the disease, despite the strictest theoretical
precautions. Unbelievably, the second of them, already showing early signs
of fever, was permitted by the CDC to take a commercial flight from
Cleveland to Dallas last week, along with 132 passengers who are now being
frantically sought by the authorities.
It could be that for all the criticism he now faces, Dr Frieden will be
proved right. Despite the saturation coverage, just one person (a Liberian
visiting relatives in America) has died, and only two people (the nurses)
have thus far been infected. As Frieden has warned, there will surely be
others. But if anybody has the capacity to stop Ebola in its tracks, it is
the US, boasting the most advanced medical technology on earth.
And even as a potential health scourge, the disease hardly rates. Every year
alcohol kills some 88,000 Americans and tobacco close on half a million.
Some 30,000 people are killed, or kill themselves, with firearms annually,
and thousands more die from the common flu. But that is to reckon without
the panic factor, born of fear of the unknown – be it IS, possible economic
collapse, and now Ebola.
Glance at the headlines and you'd think Dallas is a city about to fall to
the silent enemy within. Worst-case scenarios abound, The New York Times
quotes academic experts on "public hysteria", and a New York company reports
soaring sales of gasmasks and other "survival systems". On Doom and Bloom,
an online store, you can buy a "Deluxe Ebola Pandemic Kit" complete with
goggles, coveralls, masks, and biohazard bags for $59.99 (£37), according to
the Daily Beast news website.
In an election season, where there's potential panic, there's politics.
Anxious to be seen as "in control", the President last week cancelled
political trips outside Washington, to attend to the crisis with his top
advisers. On Friday, he appointed an "Ebola tsar" to co-ordinate the federal
government's response, and signed orders for national guardsmen to go to
West Africa to help fight the epidemic.
But this "drop-everything else" tactic by the President, whose approval
rating has sunk to a George W Bush-like 40 per cent – may backfire, creating
the very panic it seeks to avoid. And even if the Ebola menace is
extinguished in the US, Obama probably won't get any credit. If it isn't,
he'll certainly get the blame.
Indeed, Ebola is already being portrayed by the President's Republican foes
as a "Obama's Katrina", a failure to react to a disaster as fatal to his
reputation as was Bush's incompetence in handling the hurricane that
devastated New Orleans. That is nonsense, as is the counter-charge from the
Democrats that the crisis stems from CDC funding cuts (to which the
Democrats agreed during the recent budget showdowns in Washington).
On 4 November, Ebola may not sway votes directly. But indirectly, it surely
works to the Republicans advantage, feeding into a pervasive sense of
national unease, reinforcing a perception of drift and weakness.
If so, then we could be heading for a Democratic disaster that would weaken
Obama further. The party long since gave up all hope of making gains in the
House of Representatives, where Republicans are set to enlarge their
majority. The sole question of these midterms, a de facto referendum on the
man who is not on the ballot, is whether the Democrats can cling on to the
Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to have a majority, and a
fortnight ago it seemed they might come up short. Now the tide is running in
their favour. Three GOP gains are all but certain: West Virginia, Montana
and South Dakota. Add Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Colorado, where the Republican
is leading, and it's seven.
True, a couple of Republican-held seats in Kansas and Georgia look wobbly,
and the Democrats may cling on to Louisiana, another Republican target. But
consider this. Ebola's incubation period is around 21 days. If so, and new
cases do come to light, it could be right around the election day itself.
Cui bono? Surely the Republicans.
Stability will only return when Hong Kong ends its property tyranny
October 2014 South China Morning Post
Sky-high property prices are the root cause of the ongoing social
instability in Hong Kong. When the average household would have to put aside
all their salary for 10 years to afford to buy the space for a bed - never
mind eating and drinking, and other living expenses - or that incomes have
grown by only 10 per cent in a decade, where is the hope for ordinary
people, especially the young? Unless Hong Kong restructures its property
market to serve the people, instead of milking them to the last drop, the
city won't see stability again.
Hong Kong has been run like a medieval city state. A business elite at the
top has the dominant voice on how wealth and income are created and
distributed. Hong Kong's system encourages people to make money with maximum
economic freedom and low taxes.
Tight land supply adds to the problem - often a result of hoarding by a few
of the big boys. The banking system is structured to load people with a
mountain of debt, which means people must work even harder to keep their
The system worked when incomes were rising rapidly. When China was not fully
open up to the world, Hong Kong had plenty of opportunities as a bridge
between the two, and could charge a hefty premium for the service. After
China joined the World Trade Organisation, those opportunities as a
middleman vanished. Taxing people with ever higher property prices couldn't
work anymore. But Hong Kong's system didn't adjust to the new reality. The
ensuing instability is hurting everyone. The city's ruling elite, through
uncontrollable greed, have done themselves in.
In contrast, Singapore has been run like a proper dictatorship. The system
doesn't do stupid things to hurt its ruling class. It focuses its greed on
foreigners and distributes the spoils among the people through good public
housing, quality education and health care, and a nice pension. Most Hong
Kong people seem to like Singapore.
When you think about it, medieval city states like Florence and Venice
flourished using the same policies. They used strong militaries to protect
their trade monopolies and, sometimes, just looted others when opportunities
arose. Because their ruling elite had the wisdom to distribute the loot
among all contributors, their enterprises or scams lasted for centuries.
Their luck finally ran out when rising nation states built bigger
Both Hong Kong and Singapore are leftovers of the British colonial era. They
have enjoyed much higher incomes than their giant neighbours by arbitraging
their inefficiencies. The business model is not so different from Venice or
Florence centuries ago. As their neighbours change, they must adapt to
sustain their income premium. Instead of building ships or making
semiconductors, Singapore has switched to casinos and private banking. Maybe
these businesses don't smell so good, but they bring in the money to buy
Hong Kong hasn't adapted. When the old model doesn't work, the instinct here
is to squeeze supply further. When the price is too high, let's carve a flat
into several smaller ones. Wouldn't that make housing affordable? Hence,
mini-flats have now become popular for speculators. But, even mini-flats are
unaffordable. What's next? Should people learn to sleep standing up or
hanging upside down?
The usual excuse against change is that Hong Kong doesn't have land. This is
a big lie. Only 4 per cent of Hong Kong's land is given over to residential
use. There is the same amount of reserved development land, and big
developers hold a considerable chunk of it. Singapore has been developing
mainly on reclaimed land. It has a real physical shortage, but has kept
public housing cheap and spacious. Land isn't a constraint to Hong Kong's
What stands in the way is Hong Kong's ruling elite, a leftover from the
colonial era, hanging onto the old model no matter what. Since they don't
have other sources of competitiveness, changing would mean the end to their
privileged status. This is why meaningful change won't happen through
consultation among the elite. Some force has to impose the change. If
Beijing wants stability in Hong Kong, it must focus on property, which means
ditching its business friends.
In addition to artificially controlled land supply, interest rates play a
role in the price cycle. But this confuses the debate. The interest rate
cycle introduces volatility. So, if the US Federal Reserve raises rates to 3
per cent within three years, Hong Kong's property prices may fall by 50 per
cent over that time.
Yet housing still wouldn't be affordable. When the price begins to fall
suddenly, the debate will surely shift, and political support for limiting
supply will return. Hong Kong could repeat the cycle.
Ruling Hong Kong requires a long-term vision, not the zig-zagging we've seen
since the handover. During the Asian financial crisis, Hong Kong abandoned
its expanded, but still modest, public housing programme, laying the seeds
for today's instability. Policy responses now should focus not only on
Andy Xie is an independent economist
Tim Clark is totally dissatisfied with the MH370 investigation
fate of MH370 is "downright suspicious" and the Malyasia Airlines jumbo may
not even be in the Southern Indian Ocean, according to Emirates chief Sir
interview with Der Spiegel seven months after the Malaysian Airlines Boeing
777 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, Sir Tim has cast doubt
on the official version of events.
In an extraordinary interview with the German magazine he challenges the
Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s conclusion this week that MH370 flew
south over the Indian Ocean on autopilot for five hours until it ran out of
fuel and fell out of the sky, forcing 239 passengers into a watery grave.
Clark called for every "fact" about the tragedy to be challenged as
investigators comb an area of the southern Indian Ocean seabed. He also
voiced concern that efforts to get the truth might slacken, leading MH370 to
become an unsolved mystery.
Clark said: "My own view is that probably control was taken of that
airplane. It's anybody's guess who did what. We need to know who was on the
plane in the detail that obviously some people do know.
"We need to know what was in the hold of the aircraft. And we need to
continue to press all those who were involved in the analysis of what
happened for more information."
Revealing he feels "totally dissatisfied" with the progress of the
investigation, Clark said he remains to be convinced that MH370 was even to
be found in the southern Indian Ocean.
"I am saying that all the "facts" of this particular incident must be
challenged and examined with full transparency. We are nowhere near that.
There is plenty of information out there, which we need to be far more
forthright, transparent and candid about.
"Every single second of that flight needs to be examined up until it,
theoretically, ended up in the Indian Ocean — for which they still haven't
found a trace, not even a seat cushion. Our experience tells us that in
water incidents, where the aircraft has gone down, there is always
"We have not seen a single thing that suggests categorically that this
aircraft is where they say it is."
Two hundred and thirty nine passangers died when MH370 vanished in March,
en-route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpar.
Leading the search for the Malaysia Airlines craft is the Australian
Transport Safety Bureau.
Emirates Head Critical of MH 370 Investigation
10 October 2010 Der Spiegel interview conducted by Andreas Spaeth
Why is there still no trace of flight MH 370? In an interview, Sir Tim
Clark, head of Emirates Airline, is sharply critical of the investigation
thus far. He believes someone took control of the plane and maintained it
until the very end.
Tim Clark has been a senior manager at the airline Emirates since 1985 and
has been instrumental in developing it into one of the world's largest
airlines. Today, the 64-year-old is seen as a knowledgeable expert and
critic of the aviation industry. His view of the vanished Malaysian Airlines
flight MH 370 is a provocative one. The plane that disappeared was a Boeing
777 and Emirates operates 127 such aircraft, more than any other airline in
SPIEGEL ONLINE: It's now October, seven months after the disappearance of
Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370, and we still don't know what happened.
What can still be done to gain some degree of clarity?
Clark: MH 370 remains one of the great aviation mysteries. Personally, I
have the concern that we will treat it as such and move on. At the most, it
might then make an appearance on National Geographic as one of aviation's
great mysteries. We mustn't allow this to happen. We must know what caused
that airplane to disappear.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: And what do you think happened?
Clark: My own view is that probably control was taken of that airplane.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: By whom? What do you think happened?
Clark: It's anybody's guess who did what. We need to know who was on the
plane in the detail that obviously some people do know. We need to know what
was in the hold of the aircraft. And we need to continue to press all those
who were involved in the analysis of what happened for more information. I
do not subscribe to the view that the Boeing 777, which is one of the most
advanced in the world and has the most advanced communication platforms,
needs to be improved with the introduction of some kind of additional
tracking system. MH 370 should never have been allowed to enter a non-trackable
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you mean by that?
Clark: The transponders are under the control of the flight deck. These are
tracking devices, aircraft identifiers that work in the secondary radar
regime. If you turn off that transponder in a secondary radar regime, that
particular airplane disappears from the radar screen. That should never be
allowed to happen. Irrespective of when the pilot decides to disable the
transponder, the aircraft should be able to be tracked.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What about other monitoring methods?
Clark: The other means of constantly monitoring the progress of an aircraft
is ACARS (Eds. Note: Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting
System). It is designed primarily for companies to monitor what its planes
are doing. We use it to monitor aircraft systems and engine performance. At
Emirates, we track every single aircraft from the ground, every component
and engine of the aircraft at any point on the planet. Very often, we are
able to track systemic faults before the pilots do.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How might it have been possible to disable that tracking
Clark: Disabling it is no simple thing and our pilots are not trained to do
so. But on flight MH 370, this thing was somehow disabled, to the degree
that the ground tracking capability was eliminated. We must find systems to
allow ACARS to continue uninterrupted, irrespective of who is controlling
the aircraft. If you have that, with the satellite constellations that we
have today even in remote ocean regions, we still have monitoring
capability. So you don't have to introduce additional tracking systems.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What, then, are you proposing?
Clark: My recommendation to aircraft manufacturers that they find a way to
make it impossible to disable ACARS from the flight deck. And the
transponder as well. I'm still struggling to come up with a reason why a
pilot should be able to put the transponder into standby or to switch it
off. MH 370 was, in my opinion, under control, probably until the very end.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If that is the case, then why would the pilots spend five
hours heading straight towards Antarctica?
Clark: If they did! I am saying that all the "facts" of this particular
incident must be challenged and examined with full transparency. We are
nowhere near that. There is plenty of information out there, which we need
to be far more forthright, transparent and candid about. Every single second
of that flight needs to be examined up until it, theoretically, ended up in
the Indian Ocean -- for which they still haven't found a trace, not even a
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does that surprise you? The possible crash area west of
Australia is vast and the search there only began following considerable
Clark: Our experience tells us that in water incidents, where the aircraft
has gone down, there is always something. We have not seen a single thing
that suggests categorically that this aircraft is where they say it is,
apart from this so-called electronic satellite "handshake," which I question
SPIEGEL ONLINE: At what point on the presumed flight path of MH 370 do your
Clark: There hasn't been one overwater incident in the history of civil
aviation -- apart from Amelia Earhart in 1939 -- that has not been at least
5 or 10 percent trackable. But MH 370 has simply disappeared. For me, that
raises a degree of suspicion. I'm totally dissatisfied with what has been
coming out of all of this.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What can be done to improve the investigation's
Clark: I'm not in a position to do it; I'm essentially an airline manager.
But I will continue to ask questions and make a nuisance of myself, even as
others would like to bury it. We have an obligation to the passengers and
crew of MH 370 and their families. We have an obligation to not sweep this
under the carpet, but to sort it out and do better than we have done.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Malaysia Airlines has experienced two tragic catastrophes
this year, the disappearance of MH 370 and the apparent shooting down of MH
17 over eastern Ukraine in July. If you led the company, what would you do?
Clark: Very difficult one. None of us has been in such a situation before,
having to deal with two tragedies within a few months of each other. It will
be very difficult for Malaysia Airlines to deal with the stigma. They need
to take a fresh look at what they do, revisit their business model, possibly
(consider) a rebranding. We as an industry need to find a way to help these
guys sort out their problems. But with that kind of brand damage, it's
Shambles at the Vic
managers last on average around a year nowadays but Watford FC have
remarkably appointed Slavisa Jokanovic as their 4th manager of the season
after just 11 League Games and 7 weeks into the new season.
They started off the season with Giuseppe Sannino who had been in charge
since December 2013 but after just 3 weeks of the new season he left
Vicarage Road with The Hornets sitting in 2nd after an impressive start,
stating there was conflict between him and the players. He is now managing
in Italy’s Serie B with Catania.
After him it was the turn of Spaniard and former Brighton Manager Oscar
Garcia who only on the touchline in one game because of ongoing health
problems, and in the end this forced him to leave the Hertfordshire based
side after just 27 days.
The last man who exited the revolving door was Billy Mckinlay who
managed just 2 games with 8 days in charge before leaving the
club. The former coach at Fulham and Assistant at Northern Ireland said he
had been waiting 10 years for his chance in management; sadly his first job
didn't last as long as his wait. He did though leave the club with an
unbeaten record with 4 points from his 2 games in charge. It is as of yet
unclear why he left, there are though rumors linking him with the Fulham job
The latest man to enter Vicarage Road is Slavisa Jokanovic who comes in from
Spanish 3rd division side Hercules.
Jokanović started his managerial career at Partizan Belgrade in 2008. He won
the league and cup with them in the same year, and was selected as 'Best
Coach in Serbia', but refused to receive the award
because Partizan fared poorly in the UEFA Cup.
In the following season, his first full season, Jokanović again won the
league and cup, this time winning the league by 19 points. He was the first
coach in the club's history to successfully defend both league and cup.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, he then left the club by mutual consent at
the start of the following season.
Since then, Jokanović has managed in Thailand, winning the league and going
unbeaten with Muangthong United F.C. in 2012-13. He had a short spell as
manager of Bulgarian team PFC Levski Sofia following this, but was sacked
due to poor results after a few months, and is currently in charge at
Spanish third-tier side Hércules CF, whom the Pozzos have had dealings with
in the past through loaning out players from Granada.
Despite all the behind the scene changes at the club Watford sit in 3rd place in the Championship, level on points with the top two.
The players appear to have handled all the changes calmly but now they must be hoping for a bit of consistency with Jokanovic
main question is what is going on behind the scenes at Watford why all these
October 6 remembered
is the 38th anniversary of the October 6, 1976 massacre of students at
Bangkok's Thammasat University. Details on Wikipedia.
Commemorations of that event have been banned by the ruling junta this year.
The massacre took place at Thammasat University when right-wing militia and
border police attacked a peaceful gathering of student activists and
protesters who had been protesting against the return of Field Marshall
Thanom Kittikajorn, a military dictator, who returned to Thailand in
disguise as a Buddhist monk.
Thanom, who ruled Thailand from 1958-1973, was ousted in a popular uprising
that took place three years before the massacre.
Students were set on fire with petrol and a lifeless body was hung from a
tree in Sanam Luang while being beaten by a chair with the right-wing crowd
looking extremely happy.
Officially the day took the lives of at least 46 protesters and pulled the
country back to years of military rule. Unofficially the death count is much
The massacre which ended with the military coup d’état brought the political
division to another level. Hundreds of books were banned. Student activists
were hunted down, forcing many who were not even Communists to join the
People’s Liberation Army of Thailand (PLAT), the armed wing of the Communist
Party of Thailand. The conflict between the PLAT and the military government
lasted for a decade until the amnesty programme in late 1980s.
Student activism and involvement in politics has also been largely passive
since that date.
As shown again in 2010 the Thai establishment is ready to use violence on
Thai citizens if they perceive a threat to their control.
In doing so they readily justify state violence as a necessary response to
opposition that they brand as being un-Thai.
In seeking comparisons between Thailand and events in Hong Kong this last
week it is reasonable to compare 1976 Bangkok to 2014 Hong Kong....hopefully
with a very different outcome.
the Oregon Trail with Blue Rodeo
Oregon Trail is a 2,200-mile (3,500 km) historic east-west wagon route and
emigrant trail that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. It
was one of those great romantic western adventures that in reality must have
been terrifying and dangerous.
eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of the future state of Kansas
and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The
western half of the trail spanned most of the future states of Idaho and
The Oregon Trail was laid by fur trappers and traders from about 1811 to
1840 and was only passable on foot or by horseback. By 1836, when the first
migrant wagon train was organized in Independence, Missouri, a wagon trail
had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho. Wagon trails were cleared further and
further west, eventually reaching all the way to the Willamette Valley in
Oregon. What came to be called the Oregon Trail was complete, even as
improved roads, "cutouts", ferries and bridges made the trip faster and
safer almost every year. From various "jumping off points" branched in
Missouri, Iowa or Nebraska Territory, the routes converged along the lower
Platte River Valley near Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory and led to rich
farmlands west of the Rocky Mountains.
From the early to mid-1830s (and particularly through the epoch years,
1846–1869) the Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by about
400,000 settlers, ranchers, farmers, miners, and businessmen and their
families. The eastern half of the trail was also used by travelers on the
California Trail (from 1843), Bozeman Trail (from 1863), and Mormon Trail
(from 1847) before turning off to their separate destinations. Use of the
trail declined as the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869,
making the trip west substantially faster, cheaper, and safer. Today, modern
highways such as Interstate 80 follow the same course westward and pass
through towns originally established to service the Oregon Trail.
Rodeo did not follow the Oregon Trail but for two nights last week they were
in the American Northwest playing in Seattle and Portland.
Picture - Rob Babcock on twitter
In Seattle, on 1st October, Blue Rodeo played the Nordstrom
Recital Hall at the home of the Seattle Symphony orchestra. The venue set
the tone. It is the smaller venue at the symphony's home seating 500. Blue
Rodeo welcomed about 450 concert-goers - ageing, well-dressed and polite.
Uniformed ushers on crowd control. Cinema style seating. No interval. It all
felt very professional. A bit sterile. And rather muted.
This is the Seattle set list:
Head over Heels
What am I doing here?
New morning sun
Tell Me Again
Rose Coloured Glasses
To Love Somebody
After the Rain
My Dark Angel
5 Days in July
Hasn't Hit me Yet
Till I am Myself Again
Then onto Portland on 2nd October. First up - what a nice
town this is. It genuinely seems to work. Modern, efficient; good public
transit. Vibrant arts scene. A downtown university keeps the city young.
Great food culture. Multinational food trucks. The only thing missing is
better and more affordable downtown hotel accommodation.
The Aladdin Theatre in Portland is a 600 seat music venue and
was originally the Geller’s Theatre when it opened in 1928. It became the
Aladdin in 1930 starting as a vaudeville house, then a family cinema and in
the 70′s and 80′s served as an adult movie theater.
The Aladdin was purchased and renovated by Paul Shuback, of Shuback’s violin
shop, and from late 1993) it has been a concert and comedy venue.
It has character. It also has a bar and basic food. The good
news is that you can take your food and drinks into the concert.
The room was about half full for Blue Rodeo. But it was a
lively and noisy crowd. Fun people. And therefore a more enjoyable concert
than in Seattle. I also prefered the sound at the Aladdin. Simply more
vibrant than the muffled sound of the recital hall.
Perhaps reflecting the venue the set list was a little more
upbeat as well.
Head over Heels
What am I doing here?
New morning sun
Tell me again
Rose Coloured Glasses
Jesus Christ was born today (from BR's upcoming Christmas Album) - as a side
note JC has the same initials
It could happen to you
5 days in July
After the Rain
To love somebody
Hasn't hit me yet
Till I am myself again
So I got my fix of Blue Rodeo. My first concerts since two years ago in
Spain. Greg Keelor was in good and strong voice. Colin Cripps seems part of
the furniture and I would pay good money to watch a Mike Boguski solo
concert. Jim Cuddy is still the guy that the girls want to be seen with.
My only wish is that the shows were a little less predictable. There are
some great Blue Rodeo songs that simply never make it to the concert stage.
In the USA Blue Rodeo are a bit like Chocolate Turtles. Both
are great Canadian products yet appear little known south of the border
other than to a devoted, often expatriate Canadian following. But it is also
a great opportunity to see the band in smaller, more personal, venues.
The Party v the people
October 2014 The Economist
the ten bloodiest conflicts in world history, two were world wars. Five of
the other eight took place or originated in China. The scale of the
slaughter within a single country, and the frequency with which the place
has been bathed in blood, is hard for other nations to comprehend. The
Taiping revolt in the mid-19th century led to the deaths of more than 20m,
and a decade later conflict between Han Chinese and Muslims killed another
8m-12m. In the 20th century 20m-30m died under Mao Zedong: some murdered,
most as a result of a famine caused by brutality and incompetence.
China’s Communist Party leaders are no doubt keen to hold on to power for
its own sake. But the country’s grim history also helps explain why they are
so determined not to give ground to the demonstrators in Hong Kong who want
to replace the territory’s fake democracy with the real thing (see article).
Xi Jinping, China’s president, and his colleagues believe that the party’s
control over the country is the only way of guaranteeing its stability. They
fear that if the party loosens its grip, the country will slip towards
disorder and disaster.
They are right that autocracy can keep a country stable in the short run. In
the long run, though, as China’s own history shows, it cannot. The only
guarantor of a stable country is a people that is satisfied with its
government. And in China, dissatisfaction with the Communist Party is on the
Hong Kong’s “Umbrella revolution”, named after the protection the
demonstrators carry against police pepper-spray (as well as the sun and the
rain), was triggered by a decision by China in late August that candidates
for the post of the territory’s chief executive should be selected by a
committee stacked with Communist Party supporters. Protesters are calling
for the party to honour the promise of democracy that was made when the
British transferred the territory to China in 1997. Like so much in the
territory, the protests are startlingly orderly. After a night of battles
with police, students collected the plastic bottles that littered the
streets for recycling.
For some of the protesters, democracy is a matter of principle. Others, like
middle-class people across mainland China, are worried about housing,
education and their own job prospects. They want representation because they
are unhappy with how they are governed. Whatever their motivation, the
protests present a troubling challenge for the Communist Party. They are
reminiscent not just of uprisings that have toppled dictators in recent
years from Cairo to Kiev, but also of the student protests in Tiananmen
Square 25 years ago. The decision to shoot those protesters succeeded in
restoring order, but generated mistrust that still pervades the world’s
dealings with China, and China’s with its own citizens.
In Hong Kong, the party is using a combination of communist and colonial
tactics. Spokesmen have accused the protesters of being “political
extremists” and “black hands” manipulated by “foreign anti-China forces”;
demonstrators will “reap what they have sown”. Such language is straight out
of the party’s well-thumbed lexicon of calumnies; similar words were used to
denigrate the protesters in Tiananmen. It reflects a long-standing
unwillingness to engage with democrats, whether in Hong Kong or anywhere
else in China, and suggests that party leaders see Hong Kong, an
international city that has retained a remarkable degree of freedom since
the British handed it back to China, as just another part of China where
critics can be intimidated by accusing them of having shadowy ties with
foreigners. Mr Xi, who has long been closely involved with the party’s Hong
Kong policy, should know better.
At the same time, the party is resorting to the colonialists’ methods of
managing little local difficulties. Much as the British—excoriated by the
Communist Party—used to buy the support of tycoons to keep activism under
wraps, Mr Xi held a meeting in Beijing with 70 of Hong Kong’s super-rich to
ensure their support for his stance on democracy. The party’s supporters in
Hong Kong argue that bringing business onside is good for stability, though
the resentment towards the tycoons on display in Hong Kong’s streets
suggests the opposite.
Yet the combination of exhortation, co-option and tear gas have so far
failed to clear the streets. Now the government is trying to wait the
protesters out. But if Mr Xi believes that the only way of ensuring
stability is for the party to reassert its control, it remains possible that
he will authorise force. That would be a disaster for Hong Kong, and it
would not solve Mr Xi’s problem. For mainland China, too, is becoming
Party leaders are doing their best to prevent mainlanders from finding out
about the events in Hong Kong (see article). Even so, the latest news from
Hong Kong’s streets will find ways of getting to the mainland, and the way
this drama plays out will shape the government’s relations with its people.
The difficulty for the Communist Party is that while there are few signs
that people on the mainland are hungering for full-blown democracy, frequent
protests against local authorities and widespread expressions of anger on
social media suggest that there, too, many people are dissatisfied with the
way they are governed. Repression, co-option and force may succeed in
silencing the protesters in Hong Kong today, but there will be other
demonstrations, in other cities, soon enough.
A different sort of order
As Mr Xi has accumulated power, he has made it clear that he will not
tolerate Western-style democracy. Yet suppressing popular demands produces
temporary stability at the cost of occasional devastating upheavals. China
needs to find a way of allowing its citizens to shape their governance
without resorting to protests that risk turning into a struggle for the
nation’s soul. Hong Kong, with its history of free expression and
semi-detached relationship to the mainland, is an ideal place for that
experiment to begin. If Mr Xi were to grasp the chance, he could do more for
his country than all the emperors and party chiefs who have struggled to
maintain stability in that vast and violent country before him.
Hong Kong Is Ready For Democracy, But China Isn’t Ready for a Free Hong Kong
Anson Chan for Time magazine
China is not ready
for a democratically governed Hong Kong it fears it cannot totally control
For me the most
heart-breaking aspect of the current unrest in Hong Kong has been to see our
police force, kitted out in full riot gear like Star Wars
Stormtroopers with gas masks donned, firing pepper spray and tear gas
indiscriminately into the faces of crowds of very young unarmed student
protesters, most of whom had their arms in the air to show that they were
not holding any weapon. These pictures have shamed our city and its
government in front of the whole world.
Hong Kong has a long
tradition of peaceful protest, dating back to the outpouring of grief
following the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, and now including annual June 4
candlelight vigils, and pro-democracy marches that take place each year on
the July 1 anniversary of the return of sovereignty to China. Hong Kong
protesters don’t hurl rocks and Molotov cocktails, they don’t burn tires or
set fire to police vehicles, they don’t smash windows and loot shops.
Fulfilling their side of the bargain, they have trusted that the police will
fulfill theirs by managing the demonstration with a light touch and
supporting their right to peaceful demonstration.
In a few short hours
last Sunday, our police sacrificed decades of goodwill; their mandate having
clearly changed from one of supporting freedom of expression to acting as a
tool of an increasingly repressive and authoritarian government that seems
committed to rule by law, rather than the rule of law. These sorts of
tactics may be par for the course in Mainland China; they are totally
unacceptable under the policy of “one country, two systems” laid down by the
terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration — the treaty signed by China and
Britain that paved the way for Hong Kong to be handed back to Chinese rule
write, the protest is ongoing. This is no longer just about the Occupy
Central movement, which planned to block roads in Hong Kong Island’s main
business district. Peaceful sit-ins have spread up-town and across Hong Kong
Harbor to Kowloon. The numbers of students are being swelled by supporters
of all ages and walks of life.
For the time being, our government seems to have recognized the error of its
ways. Riot police have withdrawn and the mood of the crowds is more relaxed.
The question now is can trust be repaired? What will it take to defuse the
First, the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing must acknowledge that Hong
Kong’s people have a right to be angry. Our constitution, the Basic Law,
promises that we will have the right to elect our head of government and all
members of our legislature by universal suffrage. Yet, 17 years after the
return of sovereignty to China, we are still being told that we are not
really ready for full democracy. We can have one person, one vote — to elect
our next head of government in 2017 — but the two or three candidates
allowed to stand for election must all be pre-screened by a nominating
committee loaded with pro-Beijing sympathizers.
Having waited so long, Hong Kong people are outraged at this insult to their
intelligence. Not surprisingly, it is young people, the students, who are
most incensed. They can see that Hong Kong is slipping down a perilous slope
toward becoming just another Chinese city. This is about their future, the
preservation of their way of life and the core values and freedoms they want
to be able to pass on to their children and grandchildren.
truth is Hong Kong is more than ready for democracy; it is China that is not
ready for a democratically governed Hong Kong it fears it cannot totally
Hong Kong’s Government has paved the way for the current crisis by
acquiescing in a phoney process of public consultation on constitutional
reform, the results of which were completely ignored by Beijing. The vast
majority of protesters want nothing less than for our current head of
government, C.Y. Leung, and his senior ministers, to step down.
Realistically, this won’t happen — at least anytime soon. In the meantime,
he and his team must come up with something that will give the protesters a
reason to pack up and go home. And they must come up with it soon.
Anson Maria Elizabeth Chan Fang On-sang, GBM, GCMG, CBE, JP (born 17
January 1940) is the former Chief Secretary in both the British colonial
government of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
government under the Chinese rule. She was also an elected member of the
Legislative Council of Hong Kong for Hong Kong Island between 2007 and 2008
ANA - another night awake
thoughts on two flights yesterday long haul in Economy with ANA.
flew on NH806 - the 06.50am departure from Bangkok to Narita and then on
NH1078 from Narita to Seattle.
first flight was an older 777-200 and the second flight a new 787-800.
only thing consistent between the flights were the friendly and very
efficient cabin crews. They are also quiet and unobtrusive. Very different
from too many Emirates crews who seeem to have a party in the galley on many
777-200 had an old style 3-3-3 configuration with good legroom but a first
generation small-screen IFE that was pretty well useless for anything other
than the flight map.
despite the 06.50 departure the only breakfast served was a very small
lunch was then served 2 hours out of Narita - about 4 hours into the flight.
If you have been awake since 3.45am and have not eaten at the airport you
will be hungry.
to clear immigration at Narita to change planes - just a function of the
ticket I was using. Arrivals was very speedy; departure immigration a bit of
a shambles with just 5 of 14 desks working and 20 to 30 minute queues.
Online check in was available for the flight from Narita but not from
787 may be the most over-hyped plane in modern aviation. Yes it has bigger
windows. But the cabin is not quiet - certainly not at quiet as the A380.
is it. ANA used a 3-3-3 configuration for this airplane. The seats are
small, short, limited in legroom and have the smallest of armrests. They are
very like the Emirates 777 seats but without the extra legroom that EK
offers which compensates in part for the lack of seat width. These are not
seats that you sleep in.
aisles are narrow adding to the sense of claustrophobia.
new airplane ANA's IFE is very disappointing. A small choice of
international films; no boxed set dramas and no wi-fi.
job the crew are as capable and unobtrusive as they are.
Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry
29 September 2014 - The New York Times
This weekend, the singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen is celebrating his
80th birthday — with a cigarette. Last year he announced that he would
resume smoking when he turned 80. “It’s the right age to recommence,” he
At any age, taking up smoking is not sensible. Both the smoker and those who
breathe his secondhand smoke can suffer not only long-term but acute health
problems, including infections and asthma. And yet, Mr. Cohen’s plan
presents a provocative question: When should we set aside a life lived for
the future and, instead, embrace the pleasures of the present?
At the start of the 20th century, only one-half of 1 percent of the United
States population was over the age of 80. Industrialized nations were
preoccupied with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and polio. Many of
the common diseases of aging, such as osteoporosis, were not even thought of
Today, 3.6 percent of the population is over 80, and life is heavily
prescribed not only with the behaviors we should avoid, but the medications
we ought to take. More than half of adults age 65 and older are taking five
or more prescription medications, over-the-counter medications or dietary
supplements, many of them designed not to treat acute suffering, but
instead, to reduce the chances of future suffering. Stroke, heart attacks,
heart failure, kidney failure, hip fracture — the list is long, and with the
United States Department of Health and Human Services’ plan to prevent
Alzheimer’s disease by 2025, it grows ever more ambitious.
Aging in the 21st century is all about risk and its reduction. Insurers
reward customers for regular attendance at a gym or punish them if they
smoke. Physicians are warned by pharmaceutical companies that even after
they have prescribed drugs to reduce their patients’ risk of heart disease,
a “residual risk” remains — more drugs are often prescribed. One fitness
product tagline captures the zeitgeist: “Your health account is your wealth
account! Long live living long!”
But when is it time to stop saving and spend some of our principal? If you
thought you were going to die soon, you just might light up, as well as stop
taking your daily aspirin, statin and blood pressure pill. You would spend
more time and money on present pleasures, like a dinner out with friends,
than on future anxieties.
When it comes to prevention, there can be too much of a good thing. Groups
like the United States Preventive Services Task Force regularly review the
evidence that supports prevention guidelines, and find that after certain
ages, the benefits of prevention are not worth the risks and hassles of
testing, surgeries and medications. Recent guidelines for cholesterol
treatment from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart
Association, for example, set 79 years as the upper limit for calculating
the 10-year risk of developing or dying from heart attack, stroke or heart
disease. They also suggest that, after 75, it may not be beneficial for a
person without heart disease to start taking statins. But that doesn’t mean
everyone follows this advice.
Besides, isn’t 75 the new 65? Age seems a blunt criterion to decide when to
stop. Is Mr. Cohen at 80 really 80? In his mid-70s, he maintained a rigorous
touring schedule, often skipping off the stage. Maybe 80 is too young for
him to start smoking again.
Advances in the science of forecasting are held out as the answers to these
questions. Physician researchers at the University of California, San
Francisco, and at Harvard, have developed ePrognosis, a website that
collates 19 risk calculators that an older adult can use to calculate her
likelihood of dying in the next six months to 10 years. The developers of
ePrognosis report that frail older adults want to know their life expectancy
so they can not only plan their health care but also make financial choices,
such as giving away some of their savings.
Even more revolutionary is RealAge, a product of Sharecare Inc. that has
quantified our impression that as we age, some of us are really older, while
others are younger than the count of their years. It uses an algorithm that
assesses a variety of habits and medical data to calculate how old you
Websites like these can be a convenient vehicle to disseminate information
(and marketing materials) to patients. But complex actuarial data —
including its uncertainties and limitations — is best conveyed during a
face-to-face, doctor-patient conversation.
We are becoming a nation of planners living quantified lives. But life
accumulates competing risks. By preventing heart disease and cancer, we live
longer and so increase our risk of suffering cognitive losses so disabling
that our caregivers then have to decide not just how, but how long, we will
live. The bioethicist Dena Davis has argued that emerging biomarkers that
may someday predict whether one is developing the earliest pathology of
Alzheimer’s disease (like brain amyloid, measured with a PET scan) are an
opportunity for people to schedule their suicide. Or at least start smoking.
Our culture of aging is one of extremes. You are either healthy and
executing vigorous efforts to build your health account, or you are dying.
And yet, as we start to “ache in the places where [we] used to play,” as one
of Mr. Cohen’s songs puts it, we want to focus on the present. Many of my
older patients and their caregivers complain that they spend their days
going from one doctor visit to the next, and data from the National Health
Interview Survey suggests one reason. Among older adults whose nine-year
mortality risk is 75 percent or greater, from one-third to as many as
one-half are still receiving cancer-screening tests that are no longer
I don’t plan to celebrate my 80th birthday with a cigarette or a
colonoscopy, and I don’t want my aging experience reduced to an online,
actuarial accounting exercise. I recently gave a talk about Alzheimer’s
disease to a community group. During the question and answer session, one
man exclaimed, “Why doesn’t Medicare pay us all to have dinner and two
glasses of wine once a week with friends?” What he was getting at is that we
desire not simply to pursue life, but happiness, and that medicine is
important, but it’s not the only means to this happiness. A national
investment in communities and services that improve the quality of our aging
lives might help us to achieve this. Perhaps, instead of Death Panels, we
can start talking about Pleasure Panels.
Jason Karlawish is a professor of medicine, medical ethics and health
policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Flying High - The Improbable Rise of the Gulf Airlines
23 September 2014 -
By Jim Krane for Foreign Affairs magazine
“Shiraz or Chardonnay?” the stewardess asked, brandishing a bottle of each.
Our London-bound Emirates Airline flight had recently left Dubai. I glanced
out the window and noted a sprawling city amid the jagged landscape below.
The seat back map told me we were flying over Shiraz, Iran.
“Shiraz, please,” I responded, in sympathy for those inhabiting the city
below, not many of whom were being offered a similar choice.
The socially conservative Persian Gulf is not a region generally associated
with free-flowing wine or, at least until recently, the finer side of air
travel. The relentless rise of its state-owned airlines thus comes as a
surprise, especially given the region’s tendency toward political unrest.
Indeed, one might have been forgiven for thinking that a rise in air piracy
was a more likely outcome. But for the executives of legacy carriers across
the developed world -- think British Airways, Lufthansa, and Qantas -- the
competition from airlines flying out of the Persian Gulf is already causing
a good deal of indigestion, and probably ulcers. Gulf airlines have steadily
added routes, grabbed passengers, and poached crews, while leveraging their
buying power to successfully demand discounts and impose design preferences
on the latest Boeing and Airbus planes.
In the United Arab Emirates, homeland of two of the September 11 hijackers,
two state-owned airlines are amassing huge fleets unabashedly adorned with
Arabic calligraphy. Next month, they will fly tens of thousands of pilgrims
in their white ihram robes to Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage -- hajj
-- to Mecca, steering around Syrian airspace along the way. But they will
also carry on with hundreds of flights outside the region, on schedule as
usual. These carriers, the so-called Big Three -- Abu Dhabi’s Etihad
Airways, Dubai’s Emirates Airline, and neighboring Qatar Airways -- have
already become major global brands associated with hospitality, convenience,
and safety. Their arrival has been to the airline business what the
dreadnought battleship was to naval supremacy: a game changer.
The Gulf carriers owe their recent success to a host of factors, including
geography, state involvement, new aircraft technology, and economic forces
that are tilting the market their way.
The story starts nearly two decades ago, in 1985, with Dubai’s frustrated
crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Unable to attract
enough international traffic to Dubai’s modest airport, he decided to launch
his own airline. Sheikh Mohammed, now Dubai’s ruler, leased a plane from
Pakistan International Airlines, and donated a Boeing 727 from his own
family’s private fleet. He tasked his chain-smoking uncle, Sheikh Ahmed bin
Saeed al-Maktoum, with running the operation and hired Maurice Flanagan, a
retired British airline executive, to advise him. He gave the two men $10
million in seed capital, and they succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest
Emirates’ maiden flight linked Dubai to Karachi. By 1990, the airline was
flying to 21 cities, including Frankfurt, London, and Singapore. A year
later, Sheikh Ahmed made the first of what would become a series of dramatic
gestures, slapping down $64.5 million for seven Boeing 777s. In 2001, he
capitalized on the panic following September 11 to secure big discounts on
58 aircraft, including Airbus’ double-decker A380, the world’s largest
Now Emirates is the world’s fourth-biggest international airline. It has 227
planes flying 143 routes, most of them of the lucrative long-haul variety.
In terms of passengers flown it ranks ahead of British Airways, but behind
Lufthansa and budget carriers Ryanair and EasyJet. Last year, Emirates was
the top-ranked airline in terms of passenger-kilometers flown.
How could an upstart in what is portrayed as a low-margin business take such
a commanding position?
The region’s geographical advantage is undeniable, an analogue to the
providential geology that allowed an underdeveloped backwater in the 1950s
to quickly became the crucible of global energy. The Big Three Gulf carriers
are located in a sweet spot for air traffic, astride the most direct pathway
connecting the major population centers of Europe and Asia. Two-thirds of
the world’s population lives within an eight-hour flight, and nearly 90
percent of humanity resides within the range of an A380 or 777 departing
from the Gulf. By this measure, the skyscrapers of Doha and Dubai stand at
the center of the world.
Studies show that flights of around seven hours are the most profitable for
large carriers. Much shorter and the market favors budget airlines with
stripped-down services. Much longer and the weight of additional fuel
impinges on efficiency. As it happens, all of Europe and much of Asia lies
within that ideal five-to-nine-hour range from the Gulf.
A route map comparison underscores the Gulf’s competitive advantage.
Frankfurt and London are to the north, at the far end of the prevailing
southeast–northwest traffic flow. Hong Kong and Singapore sit at the far
southeastern end of that flow. The U.S. hubs are simply on the wrong side of
For Americans flying to Asia, it makes more sense to layover in Abu Dhabi,
Doha, or Dubai than to make a northerly detour to Europe. Given the
increasing numbers of U.S. cities served by Gulf carriers, analysts such as
London-based Chris Tarry expect North America–Asia routes to shift from
layovers in Europe to those in the Gulf. For similar reasons, Gulf carriers
are capturing passengers flying from Europe to Australia and Southeast Asia.
They are also poised to vacuum up traffic on the “commodity” routes from
Northeast Asia to Africa and South America. The hubs of legacy carriers are
simply in the wrong spots. “It’s tough to siphon away others’ traffic when
you’re at the far end of everybody’s route map,” says Richard Aboulafia, an
industry analyst with the Teal Group in Washington.
What’s more, the parts of the world the Gulf airlines serve best, such as
Africa, northeast Asia, and India, also happen to be those experiencing the
world’s fastest economic growth. It’s not just air traffic, but trade,
investment, and political attention that are shifting toward emerging
markets. By comparison, developed countries and their carriers look
stagnant, with aging infrastructure built for a previous era, and high
legacy costs in the form of health benefits and pensions.
IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL
Geography and demographics don’t tell the entire story. Other countries with
the same locational advantage, such as Iran and Yemen, are not vying for the
rich world’s air traffic. And some of the Gulf airlines, such as those in
Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and probably Oman, are unlikely to make the
same leap. Given the proliferation of competing carriers, some may not even
survive. Money-losing Gulf Air, once owned by a consortium of regional
governments, has been left to cash-strapped Bahrain.
Part of what has distinguished the Big Three has been well-timed
infrastructure investments. A few decades ago, Dubai’s airport was a
flyblown strip next to an open shed where sweaty officials hand-stamped
passports. The airport now processes 66 million passengers a year, vying
with London’s Heathrow as the busiest international hub. Dubai bet big on
the double-decker A380, designing an entire terminal around the lumbering
plane that causes traffic tie-ups at older airports. Dubai handles nearly
300 A380 departures per week, far more than anywhere else.
Doha, meanwhile, has attempted to woo elite travelers by building separate
infrastructure for business class and economy passengers -- including
separate terminals and shops -- so that the two groups need not mingle at
all. Abu Dhabi has ingratiated itself to U.S.-bound passengers by offering
pre-clearance through U.S. immigration, while Etihad is training 500 of its
personnel as “flying nannies” to entertain children.
Bosses of competing airlines allege that Gulf carriers’ advantage is built
on unfair subsidies on fuel or other perks. In the case of Emirates, it’s
probably safe to conclude that the airline gets no state subsidy beyond the
cash, planes, and facilities Sheikh Mohammed handed over in its early days.
In fact, money more often flows the other way: Emirates makes periodic
contributions to the government budget. Other Gulf carriers, however, have
sometimes counted on state financial support to cover losses; this past May,
reports surfaced that Etihad had received an interest-free $3 billion loan
from the Abu Dhabi ruling family.
The state provides more crucial support in other ways, however. The Gulf
airlines benefit from favorable labor migration policies, which cut costs in
ways unavailable to their competitors. Since there is no minimum wage in the
Gulf, the airlines recruit cabin and ground crew from such countries as
Ethiopia and India, paying wages based on prevailing rates in their home
countries. Gulf airlines also benefit from the lack of taxation in their
High oil prices help Gulf carriers in two ways: they increase cash flow into
the region, which, in turn, allows the state to invest in airport
infrastructure; and they translate into higher fuel costs, which intensifies
the efficiency advantages of the well-placed Gulf carriers over their
Another factor driving the airlines’ 15–20 percent yearly growth has been
the ability to gain coveted landing rights in some of the world’s busiest
airports, which Aboulafia credits to their huge purchases of Boeing and
Airbus jets. The Gulf carriers have taken full advantage of favorable
financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which provided $8.3 billion in
loan guarantees last year that Boeing used to ease its sales to overseas
customers. If congressional Republicans succeed in their effort to block the
bank’s reauthorization, Gulf airlines and other Boeing customers will have
to turn elsewhere for their financing. In Europe, Emirates’ purchases of
Airbus A380s in particular are said to be keeping production of that
money-losing aircraft afloat, and authorities there have rewarded Gulf
carriers with landing slots. Aboulafia argues that these benefits have
enabled Emirates to siphon away passengers from the likes of Air France/KLM,
Lufthansa, and British Airways. The seamlessness of the process carries an
air of inevitability.
“Europe is subsidizing the aeronautical rope that Emirates is using to hang
European airlines,” he writes.
At the same time, Gulf states, and especially Dubai -- the only post-oil
state in the Mideast -- have more at stake than their counterparts
elsewhere. The aviation sector is a key piece of their economic strategies.
Dubai’s tourism- and investment-driven economy would collapse without its
air hub. That is why Emirates is managed directly by Sheikh Ahmed, a member
of the ruling family who also controls Dubai’s civil aviation authority. He
makes sure both get what they need.
Can the airlines keep up the pace? Two factors could dampen the trend. A
drop in world oil prices could undercut their cost advantage. This factor is
compounded by the arrival of long-range planes like the Boeing 787 that link
far-flung markets -- such as London and Sydney -- without a stopover.
However, most signs point to the Gulf carriers' continued and improbable
FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS
There are, of course, broader issues behind what looks like a synchronized
launch of Arab business competition with the West. Aside from less tangible
gains in prestige and influence, strong air links to the world are crucial
to the Gulf states’ development strategies. As post-oil Dubai has
demonstrated, airlines are the bedrock elements of the monarchies’ larger
plans to diversify their economies and reduce their dependence on fossil
Without its shiny new fleets, the UAE would be unable to host real estate
conferences, fill its beach resorts, or attract players in its growing
financial services sector. Abu Dhabi would struggle to host its Formula 1
races or bring visitors to its Ferrari World theme park. Qatar would have
trouble hosting its diplomatic summits involving Hamas and the Taliban,
while crews from Doha-based Al Jazeera might find it more difficult to
gather news in regional conflict zones.
Further, air travel is a greater necessity in the Gulf than elsewhere. The
same geography that provides an advantage for long-haul flights is hostile
to overland travel. The Gulf monarchies lie on a long peninsula, hemmed in
by sea and sand. Travel is made more difficult by tetchy borders, civil
strife, and a lack of rail networks and other land-based options.
Travelers bring their wallets with them, and Dubai, especially, has
leveraged its airline to create lucrative side businesses that are anathema
to certain Arab sensibilities. It dabbles in the diamond trade, which
inevitably links it to Israel. It engages in sea-and-sand tourism, which
forces it to host drunken and promiscuous Europeans. And it maintains
friendly and extremely profitable trade relations with Iran, despite
attracting the umbrage of neighbors and allies. Nearly 10,000 Iranian
companies are registered in Dubai, and more than 300 flights a week flow
between Dubai and Iran, many of them on Emirates. Outside Tehran, Dubai is
arguably the most important city to the Islamic Republic. The U.S. State
Department has placed its so-called Iran Regional Presence Office, a mission
focused exclusively on the Islamic Republic, in Dubai to capitalize on its
role as a regional hub.
Imagine, for a moment, that the state-owned airlines of the Gulf allowed
foreign investors to buy shares. One of the first questions a potential
investor might ask would relate to the business effects of regional unrest.
Does civil war in Iraq and Syria, revolution in Egypt and Libya, or Arab
Spring disorder in Bahrain impinge on business? From outside the region,
such events certainly appear threatening. But from within the region, they
take on a different hue. Nearby unrest has long been a boon to the more
stable political economies of the Gulf. When tourism in Egypt is off limits,
hotels in the UAE and Oman are overbooked. When Iran falls prey to
revolution or sanctions, its businessmen move their operations across the
Gulf. Saddam Hussein’s misadventures in Iran and Kuwait made millionaires in
Dubai, exiling educated refugees and their businesses. And when the Pentagon
sends not just one but two carrier battle groups to the Gulf, the U.S. Navy
makes twice as many resupply calls at Dubai’s Jebel Ali port. In other
words, political stability in the Gulf monarchies has created safe havens
for foreign investment.
A few years ago, I asked Essa Kazim, the chair of Dubai’s stock exchange,
how the country’s business climate might be affected by a terrorist attack.
It wasn’t one of his top worries. “We’ve never had sustainable periods of
peace and tranquility in the region. But Dubai is still here and we’re
growing. So what’s the worst that can happen?” he said.
A Dubaian looks at regional unrest in the same way that a Floridian looks at
an alligator in his yard. What might be alarming in one context is part of
the landscape in another. But things could get more complicated as travelers
grow more dependent on the Gulf’s carriers and airports. Conflicts that
affect their performance or viability could drag down the global economy.
For now, the Gulf carriers are enhancing the efficiency of international
travel, thereby providing an increase in global productivity. At the same
time, the world economy is growing even more exposed to the Middle East,
relying on not only energy commodities, but also travel and logistics
services. In the long run, it is probably a good thing for everyone if the
Middle East becomes more integrated with the global economy. Over the short
term, however, there could be hiccups. After all, the Gulf monarchies have
not always been responsible stewards of oil. But if the inevitable patches
of turbulence subside, there’s all the more reason to hope for a
How Victory in the Scottish Vote is Tearing the UK Apart
22 September 2014
the end of the movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, when it looks like
our hero has the upper hand, he lets his adversary Moriarty get a
stranglehold on him. This causes both men to fall to their doom in the
That, more or less, is what David Cameron just tried to do to Ed Miliband
and the opposition Labour Party.
To recap the plot: Scotland voted “No” to independence, but not by a massive
margin. To help win the referendum, the British Conservatives, led by
Cameron, had to promise major tax devolution powers, which they had opposed
until the eve of the vote.
So instead of stability, we have constitutional chaos. Like a family in a
soap opera, politicians are now bickering over issues that were previously
The UK’s faultlines exist because one of its four nations –- Scotland –- has
oil, a left-leaning electorate, but little real power. Meanwhile the biggest
nation, England, has more power and is showing disturbing signs of veering
towards nationalist, anti-European politics.
That the argument broke out over Scotland was only due to the timing. Now it
has moved to this core issue: who does Westminster really represent?
All three main parties in the Westminster parliament –- Conservatives,
Liberals and Labour –- opposed Scottish independence. But because the
Conservatives have weak support in Scotland, they left it to Labour to run
The campaign was a disaster. Labour, its activists partly bussed in from
other parts of the UK, could not really hear what young, tech-savvy Scottish
people were saying to them. They mobilized the over 65s with scare stories
of lost pensions and economic doom, but still only managed to get a 55% no
vote in the referendum.
To win, they had to promise further devolution of tax powers. Now, as a
price for that, David Cameron wants Scottish MPs in the British parliament
to be shorn of the right to vote on issues that only affect England.
To understand why this is emotive, think: healthcare, welfare, student
tuition fees and criminal justice. All these areas of government are
devolved to Scotland.
With 85% of the UK population living in England, English MPs have long asked
–- why do the Scottish lawmakers get a say on English-only stuff?
So now there is big political pressure in England to make “English votes” a
precondition for extra Scottish tax powers. You get more power in Scotland,
but you lose the power to swing votes in Westminster, goes the argument.
This is a curveball for Labour leader Ed Miliband. Scotland is one of
Labour’s heartlands, and barring 59 Scottish lawmakers from voting on the
English law, healthcare and education system is a big deal. It fragments
British sovereignty into the four separate nations of the UK and makes it
more difficult for Labour to form a government.
Suppose Labour wins a national election, including Scotland, but then can’t
get its programme for England through the English-only process in
Westminster. If that happens, you have split power with the national
parliament being in charge in name only. This is not some theoretical
scenario: it is highly likely.
By proposing “English votes in Westminster”, Cameron gained the initiative
-– but it’s not clear if he will win.
On another level, he is weakened. Cameron has been quietly vilified by
English Tories for a) nearly losing Scotland and b) failing to make
English-only votes a precondition for giving Scotland more powers.
And here’s the biggest challenge for Cameron. At the European elections in
May, which people tend to use for protest votes, the United Kingdom
Independence Party won with 27%. UKIP stands for leaving the EU, a crackdown
on migration and numerous other right-wing, anti-globalisation policies.
Up to now, UKIP has been an insurgent party of the hard right. But this
month one of Cameron’s MPs crossed over to UKIP, resigned from parliament,
and is standing in a by-election he is tipped to win. So from October UKIP
may have a member of parliament going in to the 2015 election, potentially
splitting the Conservative vote.
Overshadowing the whole spat about Scotland and English parliamentary votes
is Cameron’s plan to hold an in-or-out referendum on the EU in 2017. He
wants to stay in Europe; many of his voters want to leave, as do many of his
MPs and ministers.
This is why Cameron has emerged victorious, but weaker, in the wake of the
Scottish vote. He has lost an MP to a party he described as “fruitcakes”; he
nearly lost a territory containing 1/3 of Britain’s land and all its nuclear
weapons. He had to offer in haste -– almost scrawled on the back of an
envelope -– a level of tax devolution to Scotland he had previously opposed.
So like Sherlock Holmes, Cameron gets Miliband in a chokehold on the issue
of English-only votes in parliament, and they plunge together into the
foaming torrent to see who comes up alive. As in Sherlock Holmes, this is
all done with decorum and politeness. But just as in the movie, it is life
Ultimately, the people who will decide how weakened Cameron is are the
electorate. Right now, many are simply confused, deluged in detail erupting
from a question they were told was no big thing until it exploded two weeks
If the British vote Cameron in for a second term, they get –- probably –- a
fragmentation of the powers of the Westminster parliament and then a
referendum on leaving Europe.
So maybe the best strategy for the Tories is just to pull their enemies over
the balustrade, into the waterfall, where a constitutional crisis can drown
the weakest and leave the strongest alive.
That’s what happened in Sherlock Holmes. Except in the movie, the hero had a
secret oxygen supply. In British politics, it's anyone's guess who has one
of those, or what it even looks like.
Paul Mason is Economics Editor at Channel 4 News in London. Follow him
on Twitter at @PaulMasonNews.
Scotland's missed opportunity
Scotland voted to retain its umbilical cord to England and the union.
have been thinking a lot about this over the last few weeks and I still fear
that the Scottish people have missed a glorious opportunity to build a
better future for their country and its people; a future where they control
their own destiny.
the links to Britain would always be there - as a member of the Commonwealth
of nations - and linked by trade, language, and a shared history.
weeks before the referendum a poll suddenly suggested that the "yes"
supporters had maybe just enough momentum for an independent nation.
Suddenly Westminster sprung into action. Political leaders of all parties
flooded over the border in a last-ditch, stoic defence of the union. Two
weeks of sudden interest after a "no" campaign that was both confused and weak.
Suddenly Westminster was promising the one thing that was not on the
referendum ballot - the so-called devo-max - giving much greater
self-government to Scotland. There were no clear plans - just a promise that
something would be done. Meanwhile the rest of the establishment provided
enough fear mongering over currency, passports and the migration south of
business to persuade a small majority to give Westminster a chance.
At the start of the campaign
the no campaign expected a rout. In the end PM Cameron had to rush north, in realisation that
his abiding political legacy might be the end of the union.
The vibrant and euphoric yes movement, which, during the debate, evolved
from a small base to come within a whisker of a sensational victory, will be
massively disappointed that they didn't manage to get it done.
supporters of independence will wait for some time but anybody
believing they'll stop now is indulging in wishful thinking. Why would they?
Support for independence rose during the campaign from around 30% to 45%.
And the no votes were dominated only in a declining constituency of elderly voters. Yes
may have lost this battle, but the war is being won.
taken after the vote indicate that had voting been restricted only to the
under 55s the yes vote would have won. Remarkably Scotland's future was
decided by those people who have the least vested in the future.
Without a major change in the way Britain is governed Scottish independence
has been postponed only - maybe 10 years - maybe 20 years. But the time will
Forty-five percent of the Scottish people still voted to leave the union.
That is an astonishingly high figure. This union is more than 300 years’
old. If just five voters in a hundred had voted the other way, the
independence campaign would have won.
As part of the same Westminster panic, politicians promised that if Scotland
voted ‘no’ to independence the country would get substantial and continued
subsidies from the rest of Great Britain. It is a sweetheart deal. Yet 45%
of voters in Scotland still rejected it. And that deal is now,
understandably, causing resentment and a backlash in England. Politicians in
Westminster may even renege on the pledge. It would not be the first time.
could be a disaster for Westminster's politicians. The Tories, at least had enough self-awareness to realise how detested they
are in Scotland, stood aside to let Labour run the no campaign. But for Labour, the outcome
may be costly; when the dust settles they will be seen, probably on both sides of
the border, to have used their power and influence against the aspiration
towards democracy. Labour voters moved from the no to the yes tea in large
numbers and it may be that the Labour leadership has acted as recruiters for
simple fact that Labour was acting as a proxy for the Conservative
government will alienate voters. It provided more (and probably decisive)
evidence of just how the party has been co-opted by the establishment.
Worryingly at the 2015 election the main benefactors in England of the
failure of the Tory and Labour parties could be the fringe groups such as
UKIP. Xenophobia at its worst.
Cameron was at first absent and uninterested, then finally fearful. Miliband
looked just as ineffective and totally lost during this campaign.
Others dancing the no tune included senior officials of banks and supermarkets dancing
and of course the London press. They will have few friends among the yes
The problem for the establishment is that the narrow no decision and the
promises they were compelled to make now demand and require action. The referendum galvanised and excited Scots in a way that no
UK-wide election has done. Like it or not, unless they come up with a
winning devo-max settlement, every general election in Scotland will now be
dominated by the independence issue.
devo-max for Scotland means what for Wales, Northern Ireland and England?
And there lies just one of the problems - and one of the major stumbling
blocks to taking any action.
yes campaigners see independence as a process, not an event. And they are
right. The referendum is a beginning only. a permission to proceed. A
rematch is almost inevitable.
The biggest problem for the Westminster elites now is not just to decide
what to do about Scotland but, crucially, to do it without antagonising
English people – who might justly feel that the 10% no majority (5
votes in every 100) is now starting
to wag the dog of the rest of the UK.
Some of my friends will no doubt think differently but the yes campaign excited Scots to the possibilities of people power;
the no campaign showed the political classes at their worst with a campaign
based on negativity and manipulative celebrity "love-bombing."
Last week the Scots struck a blow for
democracy, with an unprecedented 97% voter registration for an election the
establishment had wearily declared nobody wanted. One way or another the old
empire is broken.
no campaign found enough momentum to win the day; but for Scotland this was
their day on the world stage. There will be more ahead.
final thought - having campaigned so actively for Scotland to remain in the
Union it is not without irony that Cameron will campaign in 2015 on a
promise for a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union -
where it is likely that the politicians in Westminster will be less active
in their attempts to save the Union. And to be honest the Europeans are
unlikely to miss us and will happily go on led by the French and Germans.)
The Guardian view on the Scottish referendum: a big moment that demands a
Scotland’s historic verdict was clear and decisive. So much so that, within
hours, it toppled the man who has dominated Scottish politics for a decade.
By 55% to 45%, a larger margin than polls had implied, Scots looked
independence squarely in the eye on Thursday and said no. Most parts of
Scotland voted no. The no side won 28 out of the 32 local government areas,
with the majorities particularly strong in the Borders and in the northern
islands. The vote sliced dramatically across electoral lines. SNP electoral
strongholds in the north-east overwhelmingly rejected independence, while
Labour’s deepest heartlands in the west equally emphatically embraced it.
The fact that Scotland’s largest and traditionally reddest city, Glasgow,
should have voted to leave the United Kingdom is particularly resonant, even
though the conclusive votes for the union in so much else of Scotland –
including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the Highlands – delivered an
incontrovertible final result.
That was a welcome outcome. It should settle the issue beyond argument. A
narrow win for either side would have hung over Scotland for years to come,
perhaps dooming the Scots to have to revisit the issue too soon. That is now
unlikely, and was surely one of the reasons why Alex Salmond announced his
exit from the political stage Friday afternoon. Second, the whole process
was so positive. The energy and commitment of the campaign has dazzled not
just Scots themselves, but the rest of Britain too. Turnout on Thursday, at
85%, was awesome, a reprimand to fashionable political fatalism. The opening
of the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds has also been thoroughly
vindicated. Third, Britain can indeed confront its many defects better
together than apart. The yes side may have run the better and certainly the
noisier campaign, but the no side had the more solidly based arguments.
Finally, the result, while decisive, was close enough to mean the minority
cannot be brushed aside. When 45% of your citizens tell you they want out,
they are saying that the system needs changing, as it must be and will be.
A new Scottish settlement
In April 1865, when General Grant met General Lee at Appomattox to bring the
American civil war to an end, the Union commander told his Confederate
counterpart that he wanted Lee’s men to keep their horses, because they
would need them for the spring ploughing. An equivalent reaching out and
healing spirit was required from Britain’s politicians on Friday after the
union’s near-death experience – and in many cases they rose to the occasion.
Mr Salmond was right to say that the SNP government would work with the UK
government to deliver promised new powers. Alistair Darling, who has had a
rollercoaster campaign, was right to stress what Scots have in common in a
victory speech which scrupulously avoided any triumphalism. And even David
Cameron, who has got many things wrong over Scotland, was right to make it
clear that he too was in the business of honouring campaign commitments on
the new powers. This is a good start.
Mr Cameron is one of many UK politicians who has promises to keep to
Scotland. It would always have been unforgivable if a no victory in the
referendum had led the UK government to pull up the duvet and forget about
Scotland. As it turned out, that option disappeared two weeks ago when an
opinion poll put the yes campaign briefly in front, triggering a furious
campaign fightback from the no side. The commitments to further powers that
were then set out by Gordon Brown were clearly influential with many voters.
They must now be honoured. But they need to be honoured in the same spirit
that the campaigners brought to the Scottish referendum – openly, generously
To the extent that Mr Cameron recognised this in his Downing Street
statement on Friday morning, he has done the first part of what he ought to
do. Scotland will now get further taxing and governing powers, he confirmed,
in addition to the new powers that are due to come into force in 2016. The
parties differ on important details of these powers, including the
proportion of revenue to be raised by the devolved parliament and the policy
areas to be brought under Holyrood’s control. Compromise on these
differences is surely achievable. What is crucial, in the Guardian’s view,
is that the new plans give greater control to Holyrood in as many areas as
practicable while continuing to give the UK government a meaningful role in
defending the things that bind the people of these islands together. That
means retaining at least some ties of social and tax policy as well as those
in defence and foreign affairs. Mr Brown’s ideas on this are a good basis on
which to begin detailed discussions.
The English question
The political parties are also committed to coming up with a wider set of
constitutional reforms affecting the rest of the UK. Reforms of this kind
are undoubtedly needed. But they must not be stitched up in private between
the parties. Most of all, they should not be driven through the Commons for
partisan advantage. This is now a real danger. Too many Conservative
politicians are far more interested in the politics of England than in those
of Scotland or the UK as a whole. This would be a terrible response to a
contest in Scotland which has again exposed the disconnect between the
political parties and the people – a problem that is particularly stark for
Labour, and that may get worse if the leftwing and popular Nicola Sturgeon
replaces Mr Salmond. It would be much better for parliament to embrace the
McKay commission’s sensible proposals on the handling of English affairs at
Westminster – proposals which involve no major legislation – while taking
time to get the bigger, possibly federal, approach right.
Characteristically, however, Mr Cameron seems to have decided to take the
partisan route, in the hope that he can calm his rightwing English
backbenchers and seize an initiative from Ukip. This is in every way the
wrong and short-sighted approach. The political parties should open up this
process not close it down. They should embrace proposals from the Institute
for Public Policy Research, the Green party and others for a constitutional
convention. The Scottish model from the 1990s, involving civil society
groups as well as parties, with the purpose of reaching a settled and shared
proposal, is a good pattern. This one could also draw, as IPPR has
suggested, on Irish citizens’ jury experience. It should not be rushed. The
better balanced the process, the better balanced the outcome.
In the end, though, we should not kid ourselves. The grievances that
animated this campaign were above all material rather than constitutional.
The economic model which dominates the lives of Scots is broken. Nationalism
offered an escape, but it was one with too many risks. Yet the economic
model is still broken and is still at the root of discontents that should
unite England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, not force them apart.
Guardian says no to Scottish independence
is the editorial headline - "The Guardian view on the Scottish referendum:
Britain deserves another chance - Nationalism is not the answer to social
injustice. For that fundamental reason, we urge Scots to vote no to
independence next week."
link to the editorial.
trouble with the Guardian's position is that it promises jam tomorrow - with
no evidence of any real change being forthcoming from Westminster's cosy
establishment. The Guardian argues that "in Britain, in Europe and even in
the world as a whole, we are indeed better together not better apart"
arguing that "voting no cannot be a vote against change, and there is now at
last the real hope that it can be a vote for reform and decentralisation in
Guardian suggests that we are better together - yet the Tories have promised
a referendum on Europe in 2017. The connection between these two events is
already intriguing. If Scotland votes yes, it’s possible that Scotland will
be knocking on Brussels’ door, asking to join the EEC, just as the residual
UK is heading out.
much for better together - the Tories argue that Britain is better together
but that Britain is better outside the European community. How does that
There is no plan for reform and decentralization in Britain. I am surprised
by the Guardian's position - but then this was the newspaper that in 2010
endorsed the LibDems as a way of keeping the Tories out of power. So their
finger is not exactly on the political pulse.
comments following on from the editorial are worth quoting:
Guardian is singing from the Establishment hymn sheet
Time and again the press, media and the UK establishment fail to understand
what this referendum is about. It's about self determination. It's about a
people getting the representation it votes for. It's about striving for
democracy. It's not about nationalism.
am disappointed that a paper which recognises the great social injustices in
this country would not support Scotland breaking away from the Westminster
elite who propagate and worsen them
From the paper that urged us to vote liberal to keep the Tories out....
Scottish vote isn't about nationalism. It is about freeing themselves from
the neo-liberal consensus in westminster, a consensus that this paper has
done very little to hold to account.
- I am from England, but the Yes camp has my moral support. I look forward
to the positive example they will provide to English political parties after
basically, the UK needs two major reforms (a political system which targets
inequality, rather than running for London and the City; and
federalism/localism), neither of which is realistically going to happen. And
Scotland should vote to stay in it ... why? There's nothing approaching a
case for the union from Scotland's perspective here, only a hint of why EWNI
might be worse off without Scotland
Our obligation to the memory of the victims of 9/11
11 September 2014 - Jon Snow (Channel 4 news)
Thirteen years on have we learned from 9/11? Could any of us have imagined
that the attack on America by mainly Saudi-born radicals on this very day
thirteen years ago, would represent one of the most defining events of
From my own experience reporting sporadically across the region for over
three decades, my fear is that we have not learned.
For most of the years since the second world war the contract has been
clear: Gulf oil for the west in exchange for Western weapons, security,
banking and commerce – no questions asked. Across the west our generous
gates have allowed the most radical Muslim preachers to criss-cross the
globe carrying their Wahabi messages of extremism.
Pakistan, once so recognisable a legacy of Empire, now represents the most
unstable nuclear power in the world – its landscape dotted with radical
Madrassas and Mosques. A whole generation of Muslim children far beyond
Saudi borders, from Birmingham to Bombay, know no other view of the world
than the Saudi-spawned Wahabi view of their faith.
11 US r w Our obligation to the memory of the victims of 9/11
Thirteen years after 9/11, an English speaking voice articulates the
beheading of an American hostage. There are hundreds of western Muslims in
the ranks of Islamic State (IS).
In waging unwise and horrific war themselves in Iraq, western powers have
forfeited their capacity overtly to bolster moderate regional forces in
Syria and Iraq.
In spite of the warrior pose President Obama deployed on Wednesday night,
his instinct is still for the regional powers around Syria and Iraq to
resolve the Islamic State madness themselves.
One is tempted to ask how many of the 1,700 military jets that the
collective west has sold to Saudi and Gulf states down the years, have yet
left the ground in anger against IS. How many of the Sandhurst trained
officers from the region have yet been spotted in the field?
We may be part of IS’s target, just as New York and Washington were the
targets of other regional radicals on 9/11.
But this time those same regional states from which the 9/11 gang sprang,
know that they are now the targets too.
Watching regional events from Iran in the last week, I observed a quiet
acceptance that the Shia forces in Iraq needed leadership, strategy, and
gumption that only Iran’s revolutionary guard and ancillary resources could
provide – and providing it they are.
And let us not forget what a top Iranian Foreign Ministry official told me
which I reported several years ago; “you think we sit here in Iran fearing
Israel, or America. We don’t, our fear is the radical implosion of Pakistan
and nuclear implications of radical Sunni Muslims with their hands on
nuclear weapons firing them at Shia Iran”.
There is a fire raging in Arabia today, which we in the west are not
competent to extinguish. There is regional power to do the job, and we
should not interfere with them getting on with it.
But those same regional powers should know, should even be told, that they
cannot enjoy our friendship, our open gates, our Mayfair Hotels, our city
finance unconditionally. Our condition must surely be that they distinguish
themselves from the extremist forces that some of them knowingly, or
unknowingly, have spawned, and deal with the effluent that is IS.
If the 3,000 dead of 9/11 are to be remembered with honour, we have an
obligation to get this crisis right this time.
the interests of balance this is today's better together editorial in the
Scotland’s fateful choice. The case for union is overwhelming. The path of
separation is a fool’s errand
Today has felt like the beast awakening - London politicians and media
suddenly realizing that they are about to preside over potentially the
biggest event in the history of the British Isles since WW2. Sky News has
Kay McBurley on the streets of Edinburgh; the three stooges came for a
photo-op; MacPrescott talked about a combined Scotland-England football team
beating the Germans (he is delusional). The FT reminds us of our shared
history and hints at the potential economic issues ahead. Mark Carney, a
Canadian, tells Scotland, it cannot have the pound basically saying that
currency union is not possible. Yet despite is flaws (mainly due to poor
oversight and weak rules enforcement) the Euro works well for a much larger
ad disparate group of nations.
It all feels a bit desperate; after years/decades of being taken for granted
the rallying cry from an embarrassed and complacent Westminster is please
don't leave me and we promise (though we do not know how) to make it up to
Even if the vote next week is "no" the cause of independence has found its
voice and I am not sure that can be calmed by any form of devo-max. It has
also sent a message across the rest of Britain that the current political
system is unsustainable....
Better together keeps reminding me of a Rick Astley song - another reason to
Brits, booze and airplanes can be a toxic mix
Dubai court today heard that an airline passenger threatened to kill an
Emirates Airline flight attendant after she refused to serve him more
Briton AM, 40, assaulted the attendant before telling her he would chop her
into pieces, Dubai Criminal Court was told on Wednesday.
The incident on June 2 took place on board a Dubai-bound Emirates flight
The defendant ordered alcohol before take off, and then again 20 minutes
into the journey, said prosecutors.
“He was eating and throwing away food on the floor, then eating off the
floor,” said BS, 30, an Indian flight attendant.
“I went to him and asked him to return to his seat and have his meal there.
I then brought a garbage bag and started picking up the food he threw away.
“He also threw food on passengers around him and jumped from his seat to the
aisle and started making a mess. Some passengers asked to change seats from
near him,” she said.
As she cleaned up after him, said B S, A M pulled her shirt so hard she felt
pain. When she asked him to stop touching her, he got up from his seat and
began insulting her.
“He stood up and told me I was trash and a sex slave,” she said, adding AM
also insulted some of her colleagues.
The verbal abuse continued, with AM threatening to slap BS, kill her and
chop her up if she did not provide more alcohol. Fellow attendant EM, 26,
from Egypt said: “I was ordered to attend to the problem and, when I did, I
saw him jumping on his seat and pulling BS from her shirt, then insulting
her with very bad words.”
After the other members of the crew tried and failed to calm AM down, the
court heard, he proceeded to the toilet where he lit a cigarette, setting
off the fire alarm and alarming his fellow passengers.
AM fell asleep shortly before the plane landed in Dubai, though not before
making further insults when told he would be met by police upon his arrival,
court records showed.
He denies all the charges, including one of illegal consumption of alcohol.
is it always the Brits - there is something toxic about the British, alcohol
why do airlines even serve alcohol? Drunk passengers are a hazard in an
emergency and regularly cause unnecessary unpleasantness for crew and other
passengers. Airlines banned smoking. Now ban alcohol. It really is not so
hard to travel for 8 hours without a drink.
finally why is he being charged for illegal consumption of alcohol. That
makes no sense at all. Emirates serves alcohol; indeed almost encourages its
use. It is also unlikely that the passenger ever expected to enter Dubai as
he was presumably seeking to transit to another destination.
consuming alcohol is illegal on a flight to Dubai then Emirates is an
accessory to a crime that is committed tens of thousands of times every day.
The case was adjourned until September 24.
Preliminary Dutch report offers nothing new
first official report on the fatal 17 July 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines
Flight 17 near the Ukraine-Russia border concludes what many already
suspected: It was struck in mid-air by "high-energy objects from outside the
But the preliminary report released by the Dutch Safety Board on Tuesday did
not say that the plane was hit by a missile, and it did not point the finger
Dutch Safety Board's report will offer little consolation to the families of
the victims. Dutch investigators have not been able to access the crash
site. They have not been able to examine significant parts of the wreckage.
report is based on evidence from photographs; discussions with Ukrainian and
Malaysian investigators who have accessed the site and on analysisi of the
flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
likely explanation of the crash near the village of Hrabove, which killed
298 people, remains that the plane was shot down by a Buk missile fired by
rebel forces with or without Russian support.
report says quite simply that "flight MH17 ... broke up in the air probably
as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy
objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside ... There are no
indications that the MH17 crash was caused by a technical fault or by
actions of the crew."
"The cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder and data from air
traffic control all suggest that flight MH17 proceeded as normal until
13:20:03 (UTC), after which it ended abruptly. A full listening of the
communications among the crew members in the cockpit recorded on the cockpit
voice recorder revealed no signs of any technical faults or an emergency
situation. Neither were any warning tones heard in the cockpit that might
have pointed to technical problems. The flight data recorder registered no
aircraft system warnings, and aircraft engine parameters were consistent
with normal operation during the flight. The radio communications with
Ukrainian air traffic control confirm that no emergency call was made by the
cockpit crew. The final calls by Ukrainian air traffic control made between
13.20:00 and 13.22:02 (UTC) remained unanswered."
CVR transcript is the saddest part of the report.
"The pattern of wreckage on the ground suggests that the aircraft split into
pieces during flight (an in-flight break up). Based on the available
maintenance history the airplane was airworthy when it took off from
Amsterdam and there were no known technical problems. The aircraft was
manned by a qualified and experienced crew."
"As yet it has not been possible to conduct a detailed study of the
wreckage. However, the available images show that the pieces of wreckage
were pierced in numerous places. The pattern of damage to the aircraft
fuselage and the cockpit is consistent with that which may be expected from
a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from
outside. It’s likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural
integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up. This also
explains the abrupt end to the data registration on the recorders, the
simultaneous loss of contact with air traffic control and the aircraft’s
disappearance from radar."
board's report is the first one coming out of the official investigation
into the crash, and its cautious assessment is also due to the fact that the
Dutch aviation investigators who made the report have yet to gain full
access to the site where MH17 crashed to the ground, due to the ongoing
conflict in the region.
report, while not fully conclusive in establishing the cause of the crash,
should but will not end some misleading, and in some cases offensive,
The report is clear... there was no pilot error. No aircraft problems. No
warnings. No issue with flight route.
Reality - 298 people were murdered. Probably not intentionally. Mistaken
identity and a trigger happy, untrained, missile crew. But the families
deserve to know what really happened. Someone or some group does know. If
they had any respect for the bereaved the truth would be known.
The initial report is here:
Dutch Safety Board Preliminary Report on MH17 Crash
Spiritual spruce-up for Thai PM’s compound
9 September 2014 The Financial Times
Thailand’s ruling junta has pledged to wage war on government waste – but
that hasn’t stopped it setting aside a little money to make sure it can
rule in suitable style.
As General Prayuth Chan-ocha, coup leader and prime minister, prepares to
host his first cabinet meeting on Tuesday in an office in the midst of a
near-$8m revamp, officials are playing down reports that the changes are
driven by feng shui.
Perhaps as revealing as the disclosures is the muted public reaction to
them in a country where a military that has long portrayed itself as the
guardian of the nation does more or less as it pleases, including
forbidding criticism of the four and a half month old junta’s actions.
Reverence for the supernatural in the everyday has also long loomed large
in Thai society and politics, making even Gen Prayuth’s assertion last
week that his opponents were now targeting him with black magic an
unremarkable addition to a long tradition.
“No matter which administration is in power, one constant seems to be
their belief in superstition,” tweeted Pravit Rojanaphruk, a journalist
detained for almost a week by the junta after May’s coup, on Monday. “Not
a good sign for Thailand.”
The makeover of the prime minister’s vast Bangkok canalside offices and
residence, whose large grounds host state occasions such as the king’s
birthday, comes courtesy of a $7.9m provision in a junta budget that saw
funding slashed for departments including tourism and finance. The refurb
had already caused some raised eyebrows late last week, when government
officials unveiled the installation of almost 200 multimedia conference
units, complete with anti-snooping software, at a cost of as much as
Now fresh claims have emerged from a reporter historically close to the
military of feng shui masters offering to oversee a modernisation spree
that has included the replacement of the prime ministerial chair and the
building of a Buddhist shrine. Red flowers have allegedly been replaced
with yellow blooms, the colour of Thailand’s monarchy and of a
pro-military conservative political movement that has long battled “red
shirt” supporters of the ousted civilian government.
A government spokeswoman played down the reports, saying the compound’s
refurbishment was planned under the toppled administration and was needed
because the building was old. While some of the claimed alterations were
“beyond the truth”, she said a new chair had been designed by the prime
minister’s secretariat “to be more unique and suitable for the leader” and
that the main building was being repainted yellow only because it had
always been that colour. However, she said she had not yet spotted any
yellow flowers and there was “no sign of feng shui as now”.
What is undeniable is that Gen Prayuth has in the past shown a taste for
auspicious symbols, such as being acclaimed as prime minister by the
country’s puppet parliament on August 21 – a good number for a man who
served in the 21st Infantry and was born on March 21.
And the sprucing up of the premier’s offices also adds to the weight of
opinion that the army chief turned premier plans to stick around, as he
himself hinted in his latest weekly television broadcast to the nation
“You do not have to love us a lot,” he signed off, echoing the words of a
famous Thai folk singer. “But please love us for a long time.”
Burj Al Mars
9 September 2014
A law formally establishing the UAE Space Agency has been
signed by Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE.
The agency was announced in July with the goal of sending an unmanned
mission to Mars by 2021.
The law, which was published in the Official Gazette, stated that the
agency would have its headquarters in Abu Dhabi and have a branch in
The first meeting of the UAE Space Agency was held in July and was led by
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who
directed all government institutions to provide maximum support.
The unmanned probe will travel more than 60 million kilometres in nine
months and will be launched to coincide with the UAE’s 50th anniversary.
“We aim for the UAE to be among the top countries in aerospace by 2021,”
Sheikh Khalifa has said. “We have a great belief in the talents of our
young people and the strongest determination, the greatest ambitions and a
clear plan to reach our targets.”
DWC plans announced
8 September 2014
It is late - by about 10 years - but at last there is some
direction about the expansion of and future for the AED120bn (US$ 32bn)
expansion of Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) which
will ultimately accommodate more than 200 million passengers a year.
Originally planned for initial completion by around
2015/2016 the build out of the new airport was delayed dramatically by the
2008/2009 financial crisis. Instead the existing Dubai international
airport has been expanded well beyond its original capacity with a view to
generating cashflow to fund future construction at DWC.
Al-Maktoum International airport was launched before the
global financial crisis hit Dubai in 2009, with plans to build the world's
largest airport, featuring a 160-million-passenger capacity and six
The ambitious plan appeared to have been put on the back burner due to the
crisis, and the airport instead opened operations for cargo only in 2010,
while small passenger operations began in October 2013 after repeated
The development is anticipated to be the biggest airport project in the
world and will be built in two phases. The first phase includes two
satellite buildings with a collectively capacity of 120 million passengers
annually, accommodate 100 A380 aircraft at any one time and will take
between six and eight years to complete. The entire development will cover
an area of 56 square kilometres.
For what its worth I do not like the design. Every
passenger will need to take a train to a remote gate. Inevitably this
means escalators and elevators, waits for over-crowded trains that are
standing room only and at busy times some healthy pushing and shoving -
together with a longer walk than the designers suggest.
It is not just the airport build that is critical and will
need to commence at the earliest date. There are also plans for rapid rail
transit from the city and surrounding area to the airport that are under
preparation with the Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority.
The rail connections are critical given the airport's
remote location from downtown Dubai - being some 60kms away from DXB.
At the moment DWC has a single runway and a temporary
terminal with hard stands only and a capacity of about 5 million
passengers a year. There are only a handful of passenger flights each day.
The airport authorities suggest that the new airport’s uniqueness lies in a radically new
approach to ensure that the latest technology and efficient processes will
cut the time spent completing travel formalities and reduce walking
distances, enabling passengers to make fast and efficient connections
between hundreds of destinations worldwide.
The decision follows months of planning by the key stakeholders in the
aviation sector, including Dubai Airports, Dubai Airports Engineering
Projects, Emirates airline and dnata, to ensure that a design was selected
that facilitates the future growth of Dubai’s aviation industry.
The expectation is that Emirates would relocate their intercontinental hub operations to DWC by the
mid-2020s. Today's announcement makes no mention of the future plans for
the existing airfield at DXB.
Timing will be critical. DXB has seen capacity maximised
with the construction of Concourse A (completed in January 2013), the
doubling of capacity at Terminal 2 (by the end 2014), the construction of
Concourse D (2015), Concourse C upgrade (after completion of Concourse D)
to accommodate Emirates as the sole user, combined with associated stand
upgrades, enhancements to airfield and air traffic control capacity, as
well as the upgrading of existing facilities to improve the passenger
The trouble is there is no room for a third runway and the
existing runways are too close to allow simultaneous operations. So DXB
will reach a limit of around 100 million passengers a year.
Dubai Airports expects passenger numbers at DXB and DWC to
exceed 100m passengers a year in 2017. Therefore passenger facilities will
also continue to be expanded at Dubai World Central (DWC) to accommodate
traffic that cannot be accommodated at DXB. Dubai airports is forecasting
126 million passengers in 2020 which means DWC will need to accommodate
over 20 million a year by that date. That becomes a signficant operation.
It does not take much maths to realise that at 120m
passengers a year when opened DWC will not be able to handle all passenger
traffic into Dubai which will require DXB to remain open. The logical move
is for Emirates and flyDubai to operate from one airport and all other
carriers from the other airport. Since EK's business is substantially
about taking passengers from A to B via a change at its Dubai hub it will
make more sense for EK and flyDubai to occupy the new airport.
Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, thanked Sheikh Mohammed for his
visionary support of the project, and described the new airport as a vital
investment in the future of Dubai. He confirmed that the aviation sector
was projected to remain a cornerstone of Dubai’s economy, and was expected
to support more than 322,000 jobs and contribute 28 per cent of Dubai’s
GDP by 2020.
“Our future lies at DWC. The announcement of this AED120bn development of
DWC is both timely and a strong endorsement of Dubai’s aviation industry.
With limited options for further growth at Dubai International, we are
taking that next step to securing our future by building a brand new
airport that will not only create the capacity we will need in the coming
decades but also provide state of the art facilities that revolutionise
the airport experience on an unprecedented scale,” said Griffiths.
Dubai Airports have launches a new website giving more
details of the planning for DWC.
The Dubai Airports
Future of Aviation PDF
Ultimate Airport Dubai is back and hopefully better
8 September 2014
Well the first series looked more like an advertisement for
Emirates Airline. There was barely a mention of Terminals 1 and 2 and who
would have known that flyDubai is a hometown airline.
Like it or not it did appear that there was a very heavy
hand controlling what we were allowed to see in Ultimate Airport Dubai
season 1. But here we go again. National Geographic Channels International (NGCI) has
selected Arrow Media to produce a second series of Ultimate Airport Dubai,
following outstanding ratings for the show’s first season across
territories in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
Ultimate Airport Dubai will air its new 10-part season later this year on
National Geographic Channel in 170 countries and 45 languages.
In Ultimate Airport Dubai, NGCI goes behind-the-scenes of Dubai
International, the world’s second busiest airport for international
With unprecedented access to all facets of the airport season two follows the renovation of both the airport’s runways
– a tricky enterprise that has the airport operating using only one runway
for several months with huge pressure to finish the build on time. The
series will be at the heart of passenger operations, customs, the control
tower and flight services to see how the teams cope during a particularly
stressful and demanding time.
Actually the airport fared rather well with a significant
reduction in flight delays.
“Ultimate Airport Dubai is a great hit for us, which rated in all markets.
The show offers a fantastic blend of airport docu-soap and mega
engineering show – all set against the backdrop of a highly modern, 21st
century city filled with exciting innovation. The high level of access,
which the production team secured makes this show different and we are
delighted to have it back in our schedules,” said Hamish Mykura, executive
vice president and head of international content.
A President among the fossils
6 September 2014
The struggle for Hong Kong
The territory’s citizens must not give up demanding full democracy—for
their sake and for China’s
6 September 2014 - The Economist
Chinese officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong
Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the
first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has
met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously absent. This is not
because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but
because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong
Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates
allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing,
half a continent away.
At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot
want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will
join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful
campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police,
mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation
Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly
economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such
a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not
just for Hong Kong but also for the mainland. A chance to experiment with
the sort of local democracy that might have benefited all of China has
China’s announcement marks the end of an era. No longer is it possible to
argue that the development of democracy in Hong Kong can forge ahead even
in the absence of political reform in Beijing. The arrangements, set out
by China’s party-controlled parliament, the National People’s Congress,
were needed because of a pledge to grant the territory a “high degree of
autonomy” and eventually “universal suffrage” when it took over from
Britain in 1997. To most people, that meant having the right to choose
their leader themselves.
China has stuck to the letter of its promise, but not the spirit. In 2012
the chief executive was appointed by a 1,200-strong committee stacked with
the party’s yes-men from among Hong Kong’s business and political elite.
The proposal for 2017 is that a similar committee will select candidates
who will then be presented to all Hong Kong’s voters for election. In
theory the committee could allow through candidates of many political
stripes. In practice, pessimism is more than justified. Only two or three
candidates will be allowed, and each must win the support of at least half
of the committee. Under this arrangement, democracy will mean little more
in Hong Kong than it does elsewhere in China, where every adult citizen
can vote for local legislators—as long as the party approves.
This is bad for Hong Kong. The territory’s four leaders since the handover
in 1997 were all chosen in Beijing and rubber-stamped into office. All of
them, including the incumbent Leung Chun-ying, proved highly unpopular.
Under a government in thrall to Beijing, the press has been subdued by
intimidation and by pressure from advertisers. The judiciary fears that it
may face a test of loyalty to the mainland. Some Hong Kongers complain
that even the postal service is compromised—it refused to deliver leaflets
urging civil disobedience.
The story may not be over. Activists in Hong Kong have vowed to launch a
campaign of civil disobedience which they call, disarmingly, “Occupy
Central with Love and Peace”, but whose declared mission is to paralyse
the territory’s main financial district with sit-ins. This would be the
first large-scale flouting of the law by the pro-democracy camp.
The activists’ aim is correct and their courage impressive, but their
tactics may be mistaken. If the unrest gets out of control and troops are
deployed, it would be a calamity for Hong Kong—and would probably set back
the activists’ cause. Better to stick to what the democrats have always
done best: staging the kind of peaceful protests that have made the
territory a model of rational political discourse in a part of the world
where it is often sorely lacking. And there is another form of peaceful
protest available: Hong Kong’s legislators can reject China’s proposals,
even though that would mean reverting to the equally undemocratic system
used in 2012. Only a few dozen democrats now sit in the electoral college.
They should, in future, boycott it. There is no point in propagating a
If Hong Kong’s people keep marching without damaging the territory’s
economy, China may well simply shrug. But not necessarily. It was thanks
in part to a huge and orderly protest in 2003 that Hong Kong’s puppet
government shelved plans to introduce an anti-subversion bill and that the
hapless chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, stepped down. Rather than break
the law, Hong Kong’s democrats would do better to wield the weapon of
But it is not only in Hong Kong that China’s decision to strangle the
territory’s democratic aspirations will be felt. China’s government has
alienated opinion in Taiwan, which it dreams of bringing under its
umbrella in the same way. The party appears to have concluded that the
damage done to the prospects of union with Taiwan is less important than
the threat that one of its opponents might win an election in Hong Kong
and stoke demands across China for political reform. The territory would
also become independent in all but name. That, the government worries,
would encourage separatists around China’s periphery, from Tibet to
But discontent is growing all over China, and Beijing cannot just sit on
it. The huge new middle class is becoming increasingly frustrated with its
powerlessness over issues such as education, health care, the environment
and property rights. In terms of their day-to-day worries, mainlanders
have a lot in common with Hong Kong’s citizens. China’s government is
going to have to work out a way of satisfying their aspirations for more
control over their lives. Hong Kong would have been a good place to start.
Xi Jinping, the party chief and president, had the opportunity to use Hong
Kong as a test-bed for political change in China. Had he taken this
opportunity, he might have gone down in history as a true reformer.
Instead, he has squandered it.
NATO's Welsh invasion
5 September 2014
So the two day NATO summit in Cardiff is over. There are 28
NATO member countries though the meeting was attended by leaders from 60
countries. Seven warships, including the destroyer HMS Duncan. An army of
10,000 assorted police and guards. A twelve kilometer ring of steel around
the Celtic Manor venue and Cardiff Castle.
A city under lock down.
A banquet in Cardiff castle.
This summit was originally called to discuss the withdrawal
of NATO forces from Afghanistan after 13 years of fighting Taliban
militants there. There are questions over how many, if any, foreign
soldiers will remain after the 2014 deadline. There are even bigger
questions about Afghanistan's future.
Instead the conference saw statesmen making empty threats at Russia and
Islamic State, who are currently dismembering Ukraine and Iraq, two
nations the west claimed only recently to have “liberated”.
The Russian intrusion into Eastern Ukraine may have
re-enforced NATO and re-established its purpose. Article five of Nato's
constitution says an attack on one member country is an attack on all
member countries. Ukraine of course is a partner rather than a member of
Nato; a convenience for Nato.
But Nato's defence forces have been stimulated by a recent
article by Russian strategist Andrey Piontkovsky which argues that Mr
Putin's aims were "the maximum extension of the Russian world, the
destruction of Nato, and the discrediting and humiliation of the US".
It added that Nato countries such as the US and Germany would not stand by
the Baltic republics, and that, if necessary, the Kremlin would carry out
a limited nuclear strike in Europe in order to break apart the two sides
of the Atlantic alliance.
While Mr Piontkovsky was not writing in any official role - far from it -
his pronouncements were considered a sufficiently accurate assessment of
some of the more extreme thinking in the Kremlin.
Meanwhile Ukraine and Russia have negotiated a ceasefire;
agreed by Russia on the very day of the Nato summit just as Nato was
announcing new sanctions. There will be no ceasefire. Neither side is
going to back down now.
Meanwhile delegates ploughed on with discussions on the
Middle Easat but without the presence of any Arab leaders who could
provide support or balance. After all the west's incursions into Libya and
Iraq have not exactly provided for stability or peace. Instead they appear
to have fermented extremism.
Obama's in his closing statment said that "we are going to
achieve our goal. We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat [Isis],
the same way that we have gone after al Qaeda. You initially push them
back, you systematically degrade their capabilities, you narrow their
scope of action, you slowly shrink the space, the territory that they may
control, you take out their leadership, and over time they are not able to
conduct the same kinds of terrorist attacks as they once could."
Mark Urban for the BBC noted on twitter an "interesting
rumour on margin of #NATOSummitUK No UK bombing in Iraq until after
Scotland votes. Seen as possible gift to Salmond."
Somehow it feels like more talk in a world that in 2014
appears to be more dangerous than at any time since the cold war.
So our leaders stopped talking and had a dinner instead.
Thursday night's three-course meal kicked off with smoked salmon from the
Black Mountain Smokery and Cardigan Bay Crab served with avocado and lemon
For their main, the world leaders enjoyed roast saddle of Brecon Beacon
lamb with Welsh new potatoes, heirloom tomato and Wye Valley asparagus.
The meal was finished off with a jar of Welsh fruit summer pudding and
Neal Yard’s Creamery creme fraiche.
As a reward for attending heads of state and government
were also given bumper willow baskets packed full to the brim of gifts.
They include Welsh cakes, whiskey, Welsh rugby balls, a book of selected
poems, woollen journals and even socks.
There really was little time to discuss anything of
substance let alone agree anything decisive. Next time try Skype.
Playing down the pomp and dealing with the circumstances would do so much
more to impress the people of Europe and the Americas.
New statement on fight against ISIS from UAE
5 September 2014
This is a just released statement from the United Arab Emirates (UAE)..
about the fight against ISIS.. and Islamic extremism overall. (statement
comes from the UAE Ambassador to the USA)
This is strong language from the UAE which is the first Arab country to
issue such a statement.
FROM UAE: Statement of Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba On Challenging Regional
Islamic extremism is a Middle East problem but it is quickly becoming the
world's problem too. It is a transnational challenge, the most
destabilizing and dangerous global force since fascism.
For certain, the United States and the West have a big interest in this
battle. But no one has more at stake than the UAE and other moderate
countries in the region that have rejected the regressive Islamist creed
and embraced a different, forward-looking path.
Now is the time to act. The UAE is ready to join the international
community in an urgent, coordinated and sustained effort to confront a
threat that will, if unchecked, have global ramifications for decades to
Any action must begin with a clear plan for direct intervention against
ISIS but must address the other dangerous extremist groups in the region.
It is also critical to tackle the support networks, the entire militant
ideological and financial complex that is the lifeblood of extremism.”
Something incredible is happening in Scotland
1 September 2014
You could tell it was getting serious when Gordon Brown made friends with
Alistair Darling; and when the Scottish Daily Mail began running doom
headlines about the future of the Union. I don't know whether the
narrowing of the poll lead for the no campaign was just a blip, but it
doesn't feel like it.
Something incredible is happening in Scotland. The little pin badges – Yes
or No – that people wear are sparking open conversation: in the pub, the
swimming baths, the post office queue. An entire country of 5 million
people is asking itself, sometimes quite vociferously, what it wants to
It's even more incredible if you consider the possible outcome. If enough
people tick the yes box, then come 2016 the flag of Great Britain will
have to go minus a whole colour.
It probably won't happen. But few south of the border realise how volatile
the outcome is. Yes, the polls reflect bookie William Hill's confidence
that there's just a one in five chance of a majority for independence –
but the variables are bigger than for most political events.
Having spent last week in Glasgow, I would say the biggest variable is
going to be turnout. When political enthusiasm reaches the relatively
apolitical world of the council estate, the pub, the nightclub and
energises people, turnout can do weird things to poll predictions. Alex
Salmond claimed there would be 80% turnout. I think the chances are even
higher – and if the polls actually cope with such volume, every percentage
point above normal introduces volatility not captured by normal polling.
At the Sub Club, a world-famous nightspot in Glasgow, the debate was
remarkably coherent, even at 2am among the intoxicated smokers huddled
outside. If I could distil the vox pops among those under-30s to a single
thought it would be: "We want to run our own country."
They have heard all the dire macro-economic warnings – about the pound,
the banks, the debt, the non-reliability of oil money. Set against the
idea of making a clean break with Westminster politics and neoliberal
economics, these are risks many of them are prepared to take.
One reason the political class is not hearing the debate properly is that,
on each side, there are mismatched political leaderships and tin-eared
campaign groups. On the yes side, many of the young people I spoke to
despise Alex Salmond. On the no side, it's fair to say Alistair Darling is
not hugely representative of a coalition that includes people from the
Orange lodges and the Scottish Tories, and the gay clubbers I met who were
firm no voters.
If, on the morning of 19 September, we wake up and that 4/1 horse of
independence has come in, the levels of shock in official circles will be
extreme. The Conservatives will have presided over the breakup of the
Union. Even compared with handing Zimbabwe to Zanu-PF, and Hong Kong to
the Chinese Communist party, that will be a major psychological moment.
Even more traumatised will be Labour. The prospect of a majority Labour
government at Westminster after 2016 will be remote. The party in Scotland
will likely go into meltdown, with a Podemos-style left emerging among the
pro-independence Labour camp, the Greens and the progressives around
groups like Common Weal.
There will be immediate ramifications beyond the UK: in Madrid and
Brussels there will be outcry; in Barcelona public joy; in Moscow quiet
But the official narrative does not allow us to consider the possibility
of a yes victory. The political class – and I include Salmond's SNP in
this – is like the tightroper wobbling on a wire between two skyscrapers.
Its members can't allow themselves to think of the consequence of falling
off. The old certainties will be so dead anyway that it will scarcely
What we can say, already, is that the no campaign – for all its resilience
in the opinion polls – failed in its plan to turn the referendum into an
issue of macro-economic risk. If it has worked, it is among the older
population and not the majority of the young.
The most coherent of the young people I spoke to understood the
macro-economic risk. But they weighed it against two increasingly
intolerable burdens: the inability of Scotland's relatively left-leaning
electorate to influence Westminster; and the inability to budge Scottish
Labour away from the free-market and pro-austerity policies associated
with Brown and Darling.
What this means is, even if the yes vote fails on 18 September, scoring
somewhere in the mid 40s, the pattern of all future Scottish independence
debates is set.
Independence has become a narrative of the people against big government;
about an energised Scottish street, bar and nightclub versus the sleazy
elite of official politics.
And in response, the left part of the pro-union camp has had to develop
its own, "more radical than Darling" rationales. It's not something you
hear from the Westminster parties, but via social media I have picked up a
strong meme among Scottish trade union members that independence under the
SNP is "not radical enough to bother".
Once established, political psychologies like this do not go away. History
shows they intensify until something gives, and at some point it is
usually the borders of a nation state.
What we know already is that a significant number of Scottish people have
a dream: where statehood, social justice and cultural self-confidence fit
together into a clear and popular project.
The rest of Britain may be stunned, but should not be surprised if the
enthusiasm for this dream propels enough people into the voting booths to
give the yes camp a narrow victory.
If it happens there'll be a lot of finger pointing, but it's obvious in
advance where the biggest problem lies: it's become impossible to express
opposition to free market economics via the main Westminster parties.
Some English and Welsh voters think they're doing it by voting Ukip. But
the referendum offered Scottish voters a way to do it by destroying the
union. Whether you think that's illusory or mistaken, it's formed the
narrative on the streets.
That's where we should be watching now; the high-camp shouting match of
men in suits is a diversion.
Paul Mason is economics editor at Channel 4 News. Follow him @paulmasonnews
Grumpy, green, yellow, old and male...and unelected
1 September 2014
Grumpy, unelected. old men. It is hard to find a better
description of Thailand's junta appointed cabinet.
The new cabinet is dominated by the military junta who have
13 Ministers including the PM and control over most of the key positions
ranging from PM, Defence, Education, Transport, Interior, Justice, Foreign
Affairs and Commerce (only key ones they don’t have are Public Health,
Finance, and Agriculture). Essentially, Prayuth and his clique dominate.
Prayuth’s former superior General Prawit Wongsuwan is deputy PM and
Defence Minister, while another of his ex-superiors, General Anupong
Paochinda, is Interior Minister.
Four of the premier’s former classmates have portfolios. General Dapong
Ratanasuwan was appointed Natural Resources and Environment Minister,
General Tanasak Patimapragorn is deputy PM and Foreign Minister, Gen
Chatchai Sarikalya was named Commerce Minister, and permanent secretary
for defence General Surasak Kanjanarat is the Labour Minister.
Prayuth’s ‘junior’ friends from pre-cadet school days, Navy chief ADM
Narong Pipatanasai and Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, were appointed
Education Minister and Transport Minister respectively.
The Navy Chief as Education Minister will oversee a
curriculum that goes back to traditional Thai values - ie know your place;
rather than develops critical talents for a globalised world.
The premier’s subordinates from the armed forces who will help him
administer the country include deputy Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr,
the Deputy Defence Minister, and assistant Army chief General Paiboon
Koomchaya, the Justice Minister.
Other posts are taken up by former bureaucrats mostly with
strong yellow shirt credentials"
Don Pramudwinai (Deputy Foreign Minister) He was a career civil servant
with the Foreign Ministry. His final posting was as Thai Ambassador to the
UN. An experience diplomat but still number two to General Tanasak
Patimapragorn; appointing a general as the Foreign Minister is hardly
going to help the junta's credibility with the international community
though no dount Burma and China will approve.
Sommai Phasee (Finance Minister) Was Deputy Finance Minister in the amt
appointed post 2006 coup Surayud government.
In each of the Education, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Transport and
Commerce ministries the junta controls the main minister position, but a
current/former civil servant is the deputy.
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul is Tourism and Sports Minister and was previously.
She was Chairperson of Toshiba Thailand. Strange appointment as she
appears to have no relevant experience.
Wissanu Krea-Ngam is Deputy Prime Minister and was a NLA member and
Constitutional Drafter of the 2007 Constitution .
MR Pridiyathorn Devakula is Deputy Prime Minister; he was spokesperson for
PM’s Office under Chatchai, Deputy Minister of Commerce under the Anand
and Suchina governments, BOT Governor under Thaksin, and Finance Minister
in Surayud government.
There are noticeably few people from the business world. The cabinet are
almost all 60+ years old and are current and former bureaucrats and those
who have been in the sphere of the bureaucracy and periphery of politics.
It is a very Bangkok-centric cabinet. There is no room for alternative
It is basically a rubber stamp cabinet - the NCPO is in
charge and that is where decisions will be made.
Thailand's military run government
31 August 2014
So Thailand has a new government with the King's
endorsement of junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s new cabinet.
Military men are in charge of almost every key ministry.
Not one of them has been elected.
Prayuth, who took power in a May 22 coup, placed 11 military officers in
the 32-member cabinet, including as defense minister, foreign minister,
interior minister, commerce minister, education minister and justice
minister. The new finance minister is a civilian, Sommai Phasee, who was
part of the government installed by the Thai army following Thailand’s
last coup in 2006.
The appointments, which include two former army chiefs from Prayuth’s
faction of the military, indicate that Prayuth will continue to rely on
those close to his junta.
Even those not from the military are “at least people who are devoted to
one side of the political divide and see themselves as more righteous
leaders,” said Andrew Stotz, chief executive officer of A. Stotz
Investment Research in Bangkok. “These people may see a rebalancing of
power as a higher priority” than a rush to elections, he said.
There will be no rush to elections. Let us be clear here.
There will be no election until after the next succession. And the
electoral map will be rewritten such that there can only be one winner of
the election....and that will not be the red shirts, Thaksin or anyone
affiliated to them.
The junta and its appointed bodies have to write a new
constitution and enact unspecified measures to “reform” Thai politics and
Several members of Prayuth’s new cabinet were also members of the
government appointed after the 2006 coup. Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former
Bank of Thailand governor who will serve as Prayuth’s deputy premier for
the economy, was finance minister after that coup. Sommai, the new finance
minister, served as Pridiyathorn’s deputy before resigning in 2007 after a
court convicted him of abuse of power over suspension of state agency
official three years earlier.
“Recently, Sommai Phasee has said he would focus on tax reforms and
boosting the economy,” said Tim Leelahaphan, an economist at Maybank Kim
Eng. “We believe it is hard to see exciting policies from him or this
interim cabinet that focuses on economic reforms rather than populist
From the military, Prawit Wongsuwan, a former army chief and defense
minister, will be a deputy prime minister and defense minister, Thanasak
Patimaprakorn, the supreme commander of the armed forces, will be a deputy
prime minister and foreign minister and Anupong Paochinda, a former army
chief, will be interior minister.
Prajin Juntong, the air force chief who has overseen the economy for the
junta since the coup, will be transport minister, Chatchai Sarikulya, the
assistant army chief, will be commerce minister, Paibool Khumchaya, the
army assistant commander-in-chief, will be justice minster, and Narong
Pipathanasai, the head of the navy, will be education minister, for which
he is clearly well - qualified!
The NCPO has control over the ministires that have always
been considered the wealthiest for the people in power - transport,
interior and finance.
The new cabinet has only two female members, Tourism and Sports Minister
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul and Deputy Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.