Emirates Airline today reported a half year net profit of AED1.9 billion
($514 million), a year-on-year increase of 8 percent, despite issues such as
the disruption caused by the upgrading of the Dubai airport runway and the
cancellation of some flights to Africa due to the Ebola outbreak; although
the impact of the Ebola outbreak is primarily on travel since 1 October 2014
and could impact the second half of the year.
During the first half of the financial year 2014-15, Emirates reported
continued business growth, with revenue of AED44.2 billion, a rise of 11
Capacity measured in Available Seat Kilometres (ASKM), grew by 6.5 percent,
whilst passenger traffic carried measured in Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKM)
was up 9.8 percent. The airline carried 23 million passengers during the six
month period and Passenger Seat Factor (PSF) averaged 81.5 percent, compared
with 79.2 percent last year. The volume of cargo carried also increased by
has been a slow down in the rate of increase in passenger numbers from 13%
for the full year to 31 March 2014 to the 7% reported for this half year.
That can be attributed to the Dubai runway closures and a reduction of some
26% in Emirates flights; although larger aircraft were used where possible
to maintain capacity.
During the first six months period, Emirates received 13 wide-body aircraft
– 6 A380s, 7 Boeing 777s, with 11 more new aircraft scheduled to be
delivered before the end of the financial year in March 2015.
terms of destinations, Emirates expanded its global route network by
launching services to four new destinations – Abuja, Chicago, Oslo, and
Brussels - bringing its total number of destinations to 146 across 83
countries, up from 137 cities in 77 countries last year. There must have
been five new cargo destinations to generate this number.
Parent holding company, The Emirates Group, reported overall half-yearly
revenues reached AED47.5 billion ($12.9 billion) for the period, up 12
percent year-on-year. As a result, net profit rose 1 percent to AED2.2
Its travel services operation, dnata, reported revenue rose 24 percent to
AED4.6 billion, while overall profit dropped 26 percent to AED339 million,
mainly due to the impact of the runway works at Dubai International Airport
and the costs incurred to set up and launch handling operations at Dubai
Overall, The Emirates Group reported its employee base had increased 5
percent to over 79,000 in the six months.
Emirates Issues U.S. Challenge as Superjumbos Pour Over Atlantic
12 November 2014 via Bloomberg
Emirates, the biggest airline on international routes, said it will deploy
Airbus Group NV (AIR) A380s to more and more U.S. cities as it swells the
world’s biggest superjumbo fleet with 13 new planes through the end of 2015.
Dubai-based Emirates switched to A380s on its Dallas route on Oct. 1 and
will upgrade San Francisco and Houston flights in December, with further
U.S. destinations set to get the double-decker, Chief Commercial Officer
Thierry Antinori said today.
Emirates also added three wholly new U.S. routes in 2012, followed by
Milan-New York in 2013, and has opened Boston and Chicago this year. The
move to A380s on services established using smaller Boeing Co. (BA) 777s
will challenge U.S. and European carriers that have dominated trans-Atlantic
flying for decades while employing capacity constraint to keep prices
“In the future we will continue to open destinations and introduce A380s in
more cities because the market just wants and likes this airplane,” Antinori
said, adding that U.S. demand is increasing both for Gulf flights -- with
Dubai “developing strongly” -- and onward services to locations such as
Emirates will have 68 A380s in operation by the end of 2015 compared with 55
today, having boosted the fleet from 44 as of Jan. 8. The carrier has orders
for a total of 140 superjumbos after topping up an initial contract for 90
planes with a $20 billion deal for 50 more at the Dubai Air Show last
Antinori, who spoke in Dubai, said that it’s not simply the case that
Emirates has stripped traffic away from Western network carriers such as his
former employer Deutsche Lufthansa AG, but that the A380 has also stimulated
Whereas the top 20 European airlines carrying 400 million passengers a year
have 30 A380s between them -- in service with three carriers -- Emirates has
almost double that number.
“We did that by stimulating the market,” he said. “It’s not shifting
business from the competition, our competitors are not smaller than before.
But I think we give good reason for people to fly more.”
The wall came tumbling down
years ago today the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and the city and its
country were re-united as one.
Berlin Wall had gone up in August 1961. It was the ultimate symbol of the
cold war. Of distrust between people. Of different ideologies. Of the state
versus the individual.
wall divided families, a city, a nation and a Continent.
wall was meant to halt the tide of defectors from the repressive and
communist East Germany into West Berlin. Over the years, at least 138 people
would die trying to cross the no man’s land dividing the city.
horror of the wall is hardly imaginable for young people today,” said Frank
Ebert, a former East German dissident and one of the organizers of the
balloon event on Sunday, called the Lichtgrenze — or border of light. Ebert,
although only 19 at the time of the fall of the wall, had already been
arrested several times.
East German authorities, hit by massive protests and a resurgent flood of
defectors, ultimately agreed to allow crossings starting Nov. 10, 1989. But
an announcement a day earlier caused a flood of East Germans to rush the
wall on Nov. 9, with shocked guards watching on as scores of civilians
scaled its ramparts.
fall was not a triumph of western values or a victory for freedom. It was a
win for people who wanted to change the system from Russian Premier
Gorbachev to families in East Berlin.
Tonight 8,000 balloons were released into the night sky over Berlin. But 25
years after the fall of the wall that divided the city for three decades we
appear to still be mired in a new cold war.
Speaking at a symposium near the Brandenburg Gate yesterday morning Mikhail
Gorbachev strongly criticised the west for having sown the seeds of the
current crisis by mishandling the fallout from the collapse of the iron
“Instead of building new mechanisms and institutions of European security
and pursuing a major demilitarisation of European politics … the west, and
particularly the United States, declared victory in the cold war,” said the
man behind the Soviet Union’s glasnost and perestroika reforms.
“Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of western leaders. Taking
advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they
claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world.”
Remember Gorbachev has been a strong critic of Vladimir Putin so his views
are worth listening to and likely reflect the feelings of the majority of
his countrymen and women.
Such strong words of criticism, voiced by the man still affectionately known
as “Gorbi” to many in Germany, came at the end of a week which has seen the
value of the rouble tumbling dramatically as a result of western sanctions.
The celebrations in Berlin, attended by some 2 million Berliners on a
freezing cold night, mark the culmination of a remarkable chain of events
which resulted in the opening of border checkpoints in Berlin on the night
of 9 November 1989.
The centrepiece of the festivities was the installation of 8,000 white
balloons that had been pegged to the ground along the former border. After
sunset, they lit up to form a 15km-long “wall of light”. Tonght the balloons
were released into the air one by one, to the music of Beethoven’s Ode to
Something there is that does not love a wall...
Mr. Obama should speak up in support of Hong Kong
November 2014 - Washington Post editorial
More than five weeks after they blocked roads into three of Hong Kong’s most
prominent districts, pro-democracy protesters haven’t given up or gone away.
Hundreds are encamped in neat rows of tents on a highway in the Admiralty
district, near government offices, and any move by police to clear the site
would likely bring out thousands more. A recent poll showed that the Hong
Kong Federation of Students, a leader of the protests, has become the most
popular political organization in the city.
Despite their staying power and political success, the students are
understandably frustrated. In their sole negotiating meeting two weeks ago,
local authorities rejected demands that China’s Communist rulers be
petitioned to revise rules for the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive
that exclude candidates not approved by Beijing. Consequently, student
leaders are discussing whether to travel to the mainland in an attempt to
“have a direct dialogue with Beijing officials,” as student leader Alex Chow
told reporters last week. Mr. Chow and his fellow students are evidently
hoping to impress not just President Xi Jinping but also the leaders he will
host next week at an Asia-Pacific summit — including President Obama.
Most likely the pro-democracy students won’t be allowed anywhere near the
summit — or Beijing, for that matter. But Mr. Obama, who pledged in
September to step up support for pro-democracy movements, even when it
“causes friction,” ought to take a cue. Though he can’t oblige Mr. Xi to
listen to the students, he can make clear that the United States supports
their call for genuinely free elections.
Remarkably, the president and his administration so far have failed to do
that. On the contrary: A statement issued by the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong
in September declared that “we do not take sides in the discussion of Hong
Kong’s political development, nor do we support any particular individuals
or groups involved in it.” A subsequent State Department statement, intended
to correct that shameful dodge, was choked with convoluted wording. “The
legitimacy of the chief executive would be greatly enhanced,” it timidly
ventured, if the election “provides the people of Hong Kong a genuine choice
of candidates representative of the voters’ will.”
Mr. Obama and national security adviser Susan Rice were reported in another
statement to have raised “developments in Hong Kong” with Chinese Foreign
Minister Wang Yi at an Oct. 1 White House meeting. That communication, too,
was weak: The “universal suffrage” Mr. Obama was said to have called for is
already part of the regime’s controlled election plan.
U.S. officials flinch from raising the topic of Hong Kong democracy because
they believe it will bring a furious response from a regime that already
claims that the Hong Kong protests were instigated by the United States. But
as Mr. Obama put it in September, it is important to speak up even when
doing so is uncomfortable — and even when it may not bring immediate
results. Mr. Xi may not be moved by Mr. Obama, but the president’s support
for the students — spoken clearly and in public — would encourage and
inspire pro-democracy advocates all over Asia. Silence will do nothing for
U.S.-China relations — only embolden those who favor a crackdown in Hong
The Blair money machine in Thailand
Blair, once British PM and now available for hire, arrived in Bangkok last
week. Blair was in Thailand as keynote speaker of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
(Thailand). But the office of Prime Minister and coup-leader Prayut was quick
to take advantage of the visit for a handshake and some creative news report
Mr. Blair does not get out of bed unless he is being paid to do so. But what
on earth was he thinking by shaking hands with the Thai coup leader and
dictator. Prayut was shunned by western leaders at the ASEM meeting in
Milan. His only friends appear to be in Myanmar, Cambodia and possibly in
Blair's handshake gives Prayut some credibility. Or perhaps it was the other
news release the Thai government said that the two mostly discussed the Thai political
situation and the Thai government’s future plans. The report noted that
Blair wanted to introduce himself to the new Thai premier
and bolster the friendship between Thailand and the UK.
government report said that:
"On this occasion,
Gen Prayut gave Mr. Blair a warm welcome and lauded him for his roles in the
resolution of global conflicts.
The Thai Prime Minister then spoke of recent political happenings in
Thailand, saying the deep-rooted conflicts had long been an obstacle to
national development and economic growth. Therefore, he saw the need to take
action to urgently address the problem and restore national stability as
well as public safety.
response, the former British premier confirmed he understood the reasoning
behind Gen Prayut’s move to seize power and the urgency of resolving the
national conflicts. He expressed confidence in the government’s ability to
move the country forward in all dimensions while encouraging it to continue
clarifying its plans for future political and economic directions to the
this is a press release from the Thai military government so inevitably much
of it is make believe.
the Blair team was obviously concerned enough to issue its own statement on
the meeting suggesting that Mr Blair offered a less than ringing endorsement
of Prayuth's government.
"Statement by the Office of Tony Blair on the meeting with Thai Prime
Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
Tuesday, Nov 04, 2014 in Office of Tony Blair
Tony Blair met with the Thai Prime Minister during the course of his visit
to Thailand. In line with EU and UK Government policy, he stressed the need
for democratic elections in 2015 and a return to civilian rule; restoration
of the normal legal framework and the necessity for the government to abide
fully by its human rights standards under the ICCPR.
Tony Blair and the PM discussed the situation in Thailand, its political
complexity and the challenge of ensuring stability whilst returning to the
democratic path. The PM asked for understanding of the position of Thailand.
Mr Blair has visited Thailand several times since leaving office, he has
taken a keen interest in its political troubles and participated in the 2013
Conference in Bangkok convened by the then Government to try and find a way
to unify the country.
Tony Blair and the PM discussed the situation in Thailand, its political
complexity and the challenge of ensuring stability whilst returning to the
democratic path. The PM asked for understanding of the position of Thailand.
Mr Blair has visited Thailand several times since leaving office, he has
taken a keen interest in its political troubles and participated in the 2013
Conference in Bangkok convened by the then Government to try and find a way
to unify the country."
trouble is Blair may think he is helping. In fact he just finds himself
Blair jets around the world in a black and gold livery Global
Express BD-700 owned by an unnamed individual and hired out by
Hampshire-based leasing company Aravco. Blair is like damaged goods and is very unpopular
in the UK. But in his pomp he was the man who almost single-handedly rescued the Labour Party and lead
it to successive election victories.
disastrous support of GW Bush and the Iraq invasion may end up as his
legacy. For some years he embodied liberal hawkishness and democracy
promotion, now he is shilling for ugly dictatorships around the world. He
was a pious, moralistic leader who wagered his career on
bringing down Saddam Hussein through a war he portrayed as a humanitarian
imperative. Now the contrast with his public sector service is striking.
In 2008 Blair accepted an advisory post at the American investment bank JP
Morgan. According to the Financial Times in 2012, it "pays him about £2.5m a
year". In 2011, through a consulting firm he swiftly created after Downing
Street, Tony Blair Associates, he began advising oil-rich, authoritarian
Visiting Egypt, Blair defended the 2013 overthrow of the elected
government of Mohamed Morsi: "The fact is, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to
take the country away from its basic values … The army have intervened, at
the will of the people, but in order to take the country to the next stage
of its development.
is now shaking the hand of the Thai dictator.
In Blairland, there is a sense of: 'I have become
part of the Davos global elite. But I haven't been able to earn properly
Blair post politics career has certainly lined his pocket. Since moving out of Downing Street,
Blair's London home has been a capacious cream and dark brick terrace in Connaught
Square, near Hyde Park, with a substantial mews house behind and armed
policemen perpetually guarding both. His country residence, acquired in
2008, is even grander: a Queen Anne mansion in Buckinghamshire called South
Pavilion, with swimming pool and tennis court.
The Blair empire does have some high-minded elements. His website lists the Tony
Blair Faith Foundation ("to promote respect and understanding about the
world's major religions"); the Tony Blair Sports Foundation ("to increase
participation in sport … particularly by those who are currently socially
excluded"); work on "African governance" and "breaking the climate
deadlock"; and his role as representative of the international quartet, on
behalf of the UN, EU, the US and Russia, to try to find a peaceful
settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Blair is not paid for any of these roles, which generally receive less press
attention. He argues that his richly rewarded commercial work is undertaken
mainly to subsidise them.
The problem is, his credibility as a sort of freelance super-diplomat in the
Middle East and elsewhere is damaged already. His almost unqualified support
for Israel as prime minister, his crucial backing then for the invasion of
Iraq, his fundamental agreement with the bellicose foreign policy of George
Bush – all this historical baggage follows Blair around. "It would be hard
for him to move into working for more liberal international institutions,"
says a former ally, "because he's toxic."
Who are the Umbrella Movement protesters remaining on the streets of Hong
"I'm ready to stay for as long as the protests last," said the 20-year-old
pro-democracy protester Dicky Chu, expressing a commitment common among the
hundreds of resolute protesters who are driving Hong Kong's Umbrella
Movement well into its second month.
Chu volunteers with the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the key
groups spearheading the six-week-old massive sit-ins in the city, and he is
one of the few hundreds of long-term occupiers who sleep on the streets and
take care of daily operations on the ground. "I don't know what to expect
from occupying long-term," Chu said, "but we can't just leave before the
government responds to our demands for democracy."
"I have turned down five production project offers in order to be here,"
said 34-year-old assistant film director Nikki Lau. "I decided to spend a
year on the streets right at the beginning of the protests. I'm not going
anywhere until the government convinces me that it is sincere about
resolving the political crisis."
Since sovereignty of the former British colony transferred back to mainland
China in 1997, many Hong Kong residents fear what they see as Beijing's
gradual encroachment upon their relative political freedom. After Beijing
issued an edict in late August stipulating that candidates for Hong Kong's
chief executive position must first be vetted by a nominating committee
stacked with pro-Beijing interests, pro-democracy groups staged a mass
protest that continues to cripple key districts in the Asian financial
After the Oct. 21 talks between Hong Kong authorities and protest
representatives failed to reach any consensus, police have not attempted to
clear sites or escalate the conflicts. Authorities are likely trying to
avoid a repeat of Sept. 28, when Hong Kong police deployed tear gas against
protesters, triggering an outpouring of support and international media
This switch from aggressive clearance to defensive maintenance might also be
partly due to the resilience demonstrated by protesters -- described by
locals as "indefinite resurrection" -- when police or thugs with alleged
ties to pro-Beijing groups tried to remove them. On several occasions when
the police cleared the streets in Mong Kok, one of the three protest zones,
nonviolent demonstrators reclaimed the streets almost immediately. Previous
frontline clashes also exposed police abuse and mishandling, which
intensified public anger and boosted the bargaining power of the protesters.
The government's lack of response since Oct. 21 fuels the protesters'
anxiety. They are acutely aware of the delay tactic deployed by the
authorities to weaken public support but are determined to hold their
ground. "Hong Kong people have tried all possible ways to fight for
democracy over the last few decades, and we are resorting to civil
disobedience now because none of these have worked." said Alvin Wong, a high
school student who started a political reform concern chapter at his school
as part of the citywide students' strike in mid-September. "If we leave now,
it would have a demoralizing effect on the entire movement because
essentially it is saying that nonviolent resistance doesn't work."
Most protesters seem to share Wong's view, saying that they would only leave
if the government gives what some have called a "reasonable response" to
their demand for an unrestricted electoral system.
An informal survey conducted by Reuters in late October found that nearly 9
out of 10 protesters are prepared to stay on the streets for more than a
year. The preliminary data of a survey conducted at the protest sites by
Alex Tang, a doctoral candidate in journalism at the Chinese University of
Hong Kong, found that 79.5 percent of 755 protesters would only leave if the
new electoral system includes civil nomination -- meaning that candidates
can be nominated by any citizen rather than only by than Beijing's
stipulated method, the 1200-member nomination committee -- while 48.4
percent insisted that the Hong Kong government resubmit the current
political reform plan to Beijing. Only 6.2 percent of respondents agreed
that they would end the protests unconditionally.
But even many of those who insist on staying doubt that the Hong Kong and
Beijing governments will allow more public participation in the chief
executive nomination process. "I don't think Beijing will change its mind
over the political reform plan even if we continue occupying," said Alex
Kwok, a 48-year-old lifeguard union leader well known among protesters for
his active involvement as a crowd control volunteer. "But I'm staying,
because there's no alternative plan."
Some have quit their job in order to participate long term, while many of
those with regular jobs visit the protest sites after work and during the
weekend. Though Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man, co-organizers of Occupy Central
with Love and Peace, resumed their teaching work at their respective
universities on Oct. 31, Tai has asked protesters to adjust their lifestyle
accordingly in order to sustain long-term occupation. The two organizers
have stated that they will turn themselves into the police "at an
appropriate time," as a gesture to emphasize their support for rule of law
in Hong Kong.
Though prepared for long-term occupation, many protesters worry about waning
public support if the deadlock and anti-occupy smearing continue.
Hoping to move on to the next stage of the movement, protest leaders are
carefully weighing different options to reach a breakthrough. Pro-democracy
lawmakers are considering promoting by-elections and a de-facto referendum
to gather public opinion on political reform. Student leaders have announced
a plan to protest at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to be held
in Beijing from Nov. 5-11, to convey the protesters' demands directly to top
officials. World leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are attending the summit.
But Ming Sing, political science professor at Hong Kong University of
Science and Technology, said that the students would most likely be denied
entry to the mainland. Hong Kong citizens need to apply for a special travel
permit issued by mainland authorities in order to travel into China, and
Beijing can revoke the permit at any time. "Putting Beijing in an
embarrassing position will not help the movement," said Sing. "However,
perhaps the student leaders want to use Beijing's rejection to justify a
switch of tactics from ‘occupying main roads' to ‘occupying the community'
-- that is, public outreach to galvanize more support for democracy. " Sing,
like many local opinion leaders, believes educating locals about the
importance of democratic rights will be more effective than staying on the
The specter of imminent crackdown is never far from the protesters'
thoughts. "It is unlikely Beijing would react during the APEC summit," said
international relations scholar Simon Shen Xu-hui. "But the protests cannot
continue indefinitely either. If the authorities were to clamp down on the
protesters, they might do it after APEC."
Eugene Lai, a 28-year-old psychiatric nurse who returned from the United
States to Hong Kong in late September for the protests, shares similar
concerns. "I think a violent crackdown is possible after APEC because
occupiers are undecided on the next step," Lai said. "Public opinion might
eventually turn against them and police would be less concerned about losing
the public relations war." Lai, who goes to the protest sites almost every
day, added that the recent large-scale police rehearsal of site clearance
and introduction of pepper fog machines might indicate that authorities are
prepared to forcibly remove protesters within the next few weeks.
For now, occupiers are enjoying a moment of peace. The "occupy villages"
continue to draw thousands of protesters every day, inspire artists, and
spark discussions over the political future of Hong Kong. Protesters
exchange ideas and share their democratic aspirations with one another.
Occasionally, encouraging stories emerge of protesters winning the
understanding of disapproving onlookers.
Uncertainty is inevitable, but a faint hope, perhaps paradoxically, prevails
in this battle of the mind.
Despite the pessimism over the government's next move, protesters are far
from losing hope. Their continued resistance takes a variety of forms: in
their slogans such as "reclaim our future" and "stand up against injustice;"
in the large volume of artwork produced throughout the protests; in vibrant
online discussions over local politics; and in the strong sense of community
developed at the occupy sites that symbolizes their vision of an empowered
civil society. A common local expression sums up their attitude: "It is not
because we believe there is hope that we persist, but because we persist
that there is hope."
Staying is settling - why you need to move at least 5 times in your life
Time to leave now, get out of this room, go somewhere, anywhere, sharpen
this feeling of happiness and freedom, stretch your limbs, fill your eyes,
be awake, wider awake, vividly awake in every sense and every pore. – Stefan
Turn around, look at your life and decide right now if this moment, this
place makes your pulse race and your heart bend. If there’s not a fluttering
feeling in the deepest part of your soul, questioning and absorbing
everything around you, get out right now.
If you feel comfortable, content and unchallenged… stand up and walk away.
Make plans or don’t make plans, but whatever you do, leave this place and
find somewhere new.
There’s a reason the word “leaving” sounds so nice. Like saying “see you
later” instead of “goodbye,” it puts you at ease. It signifies a fresh
start, a departure from the old and overrun. Because leaving is just the
precursor to arriving, and there’s nothing better than a fresh start.
Whether it’s a new apartment or a new city, starting over isn’t about
changing your scene, but the way you’re living in it. It’s about opening
your eyes again, walking to the ledge and looking up, down and across, once
again comprehending the vastness of life that sits openly waiting for you.
Life has a tendency to get stale. Like your favorite food, it loses its edge
after a while, that special quality that made you love it so much in the
first place. We, like the places we confine ourselves to, become as dull and
boring as our surroundings.
New experiences are the reason we live. They are the reason we get up every
day, the reason we carry on. While we enjoy comfort, we crave experience.
The point of living is not to resign yourself to one part of life, but to
continually redefine yourself. It’s to baptize yourself, over and over
again, in new waters and new experiences.
You have your entire life to be comfortable, to sit in your house and bask
in the familiarity of it. But right now, while you’re young and
uncomfortable, keep going, keep challenging yourself. Keep making yourself
uncomfortable. Because it’s only when we’re uncomfortable that we are
growing and learning.
To truly understand yourself, your purpose and those around you, you must
keep moving. You must move at least five times; five times to open your
heart and dip your toes into something new, fresh and life changing.
1. To get away from what you know
Your first move is like taking flight for the first time. Like learning to
fly, you realize the only thing stopping you from the world is yourself. You
don’t have wings, you have legs, airplanes and trains. You have buses, cars
and ocean liners. You have the world in front of you, with nothing but open
sky and limitless possibilities.
But first you must leave the nest. You must say goodbye to everything you
grew up with, the small world you once considered enough. You must unlatch
yourself from the comforts of the familiar and place yourself in the middle
This first move is the hardest. It’s the moment you willingly decide to be
uncomfortable, scared and alone. It’s making the decision to become a
foreigner, an outsider, a refugee. It’s abandoning everything you once
cherished for the idea that there’s something better out there.
2. To find new experiences
The second move you make should be one of restlessness. You should be tired
of the same flavors of your now comfortable surroundings. This move is about
feeling again. It’s about accepting that you can’t possibly know everything,
but you are going to try.
You are going to have experiences, adventures and an unforeseen future. You
don’t know who you’ll meet, what you’ll find or how you’ll get there, but
you will do it. You will jump into it blindly and openly.
You will make new friends, find new flavors and reignite that passion for
life that came with your first move. You will not rest until your hungry
soul is placated. You will leave your old friends for new ones, your first
language for another and that idea that you’re home for that invigorating
feeling of homesick.
3. To chase love
To chase love is to chase happinesses. It’s to decide that you will throw
yourself into the swirling, maddening and restless chase we’re all trying to
enter. Because love is the ultimate destination, is it not? It’s the reason
we move, every day.
It’s the reason we get up and fight through the bad. It’s the reason we keep
going, trudging on, meeting person after person. It’s the last goal, the
final frontier and the only thing worth moving for.
If you think you’ve found it… in a person, a city, a job, you must move for
it. If your dream job awaits in Spain, you must move there. If your heart
yearns for the pink beaches of Bermuda, you must go there.
If you fall in love on the dunes of the Cape with a man you barely know, you
must follow him. Chasing love is not irresponsible, it’s honest. It’s
admitting that there is no greater chase, nothing more important. Because if
you’re not chasing love, what are you running after?
4. To escape that love
Love isn’t infinite. It can be found in a moment, a single dose or a
fleeting romance. It can be a year of perfect love with someone who isn’t
supposed to stay in your life. It can be in beaches that bring you peace
until your heart years for something new. It can be in the first bite of
pasta and over with its last.
Love isn’t defined by its length but its capacity to touch you and change
you. Just because it doesn’t last doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. You must
leave for love but you also must realize when that love no longer remains.
You must be strong enough to walk away from finished love to find new love.
You must flee the suffocation that comes from stifled love and keep your
heart open for more.
You must never settle, never give in to the idea that you can’t have another
one. Because the world is full of things to throw your heart into, things to
make you weep and realize (yet again) why you’re alive.
5. To begin all over again
You must resist the confines of comfort. You must defy the idea of settled.
You must never resign yourself to the ordinary or the easy. You must
challenge tranquility for the promise of something greater.
To live is to be born and to continually live is to be reborn, again and
again. As a new person, new lover, new friend, you must willingly evolve and
transform into new versions of yourself.
You must never allow the new place you’ve created to become the final place.
You must consistently defy the idea of comfort for the idea that you’ll
never be fully satisfied unless you’re exploring, changing and moving.
Britain soft on China over Hong Kong crisis, says Chris
5 November 2014 The Guardian
Britain is not putting enough pressure on China to stick to its side of an
agreement on the transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty because it is worried
about damaging trade links, the former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten has
China took back control of the former British colony in 1997 through a “one
country, two systems” formula that allows wide-ranging autonomy and
specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal.
But Beijing said in August that it would effectively screen candidates who
want to run for city leader, a decision that has prompted weeks of street
protests by pro-democracy activists who said it rendered the notion of
David Cameron was criticised by China after saying it was important for the
people of Hong Kong to enjoy the freedoms promised to them. But the British
prime minister has not directly criticised China publicly and the Foreign
Office has not escalated the matter.
Patten told a British inquiry into Hong Kong’s democratic timetable: “When
China asserts that what is happening in Hong Kong is nothing to do with us
we should make it absolutely clear publicly and privately that that is not
“There has always been quite a strong group in government and the business
community which believes that you can only do business with China if you
carefully avoid in all circumstances treading on China’s toes or saying
anything the Chinese disagree with,” he said. “It encourages China to behave
badly that we go on doing that.”
Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong before the 1997 handover,
said China’s actions were “spit in the face” of the 1984 Joint Declaration
on the conditions under which Hong Kong would be handed over.
“It is amazing that when they say that sort of thing the [British] Foreign
Office doesn’t make a fuss – because the Joint Declaration provides
obligations on China to us for 50 years. [It] is the Joint Declaration, not
the Chinese declaration,” he said.
In September the British parliamentary committee rejected demands by the
Chinese ambassador to Britain and the National People’s Congress foreign
affairs committee to shelve their inquiry.
Patten criticised the government for not summoning the Chinese ambassador to
Britain over the situation and said the British government should have
spoken up in June when China issued a “white paper” policy document on Hong
Kong underscoring China’s sovereignty and ultimate authority over the city.
He said he believed China’s moves were in breach of Hong Kong’s
mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
“Without throwing verbal hand grenades we could actually have made it plain
that we thought what was happening in Hong Kong was, to put it blandly,
extremely unwise,” he said. “In some ways we may have made it more difficult
Britain should be doing more to help the governments of Hong Kong and China
settle the situation, he said, calling on Hong Kong’s leaders to offer more
concessions to the protesters to encourage them to back down.
Land - how to get rich quickly in Thailand
course ownership of land does not just help people to get rich in Thailand.
It is a global issue. But in Thailand the rules of land ownership, sale,
declaration and taxation are distinctly muddy.
the Thai Prime Minister and junta leader has found that these issues of
unusual wealth and land ownership are subject to scrutiny as soon as you put
yourself on a pedestal and start telling everyone that you are on some sort
or moral crusade and setting standards for everyone else to behave.
it appears that our so called "good men" running Thailand have a few
skeletons in their own cupboards.
disclosures by members of Thailand’s military-dominated post-coup Cabinet
reveal they are quite well-off, a trait shared with the civilian politicians
they accused of corruption.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission last Friday released the asset
declarations of the 33 Cabinet ministers, 25 of whom are millionaires in
Allegations of corruption and inappropriately gained wealth have played a
major role in the country’s fractious politics in the last decade. The
current government has made fighting corruption a priority, though its
critics believe the policy is being wielded mainly as a weapon against its
political rivals, particularly those connected to the elected government it
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army commander led a May coup
d’etat, listed 128.6 million baht ($3.9 million) in assets and 654,745 baht
($20,000) in liabilities. Under the disclosure laws, assets belonging to
spouses and children under 21 must be included. He also reported the
transfer of 466.5 million baht ($14.3 million) to other family members.
Before his retirement at the end of September, the general received a 1.4
million baht ($43,000) annual salary as army chief. His assets include a
Mercedes Benz S600L car, a BMW 740Li Series sedan, luxury watches, rings and
bad on a general's salary. Note the transfer to family members. We will come
back to that.
According to Isra News Centre, Gen Prayut’s asset declaration includes a
deposit of 540 million baht on May 10 last year. The money was transferred
to his bank account by his father, Col Prapat Chan-o-cha, after the sale of
Isra News Centre revealed Gen Prayut transferred certain amounts to his
father and brother and gave some of his portion to his children.
The land was sold to a company called 69 Property. It had been registered 7
days before the sale and was registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Nothing doubtful there then!
it was revealed that the company was connected with royalist tycoon Charoen
When a reporter asked Prayuth bravely asked about the land sale, The
Dictator “shot back that the media has no business questioning him on the
“The land has belonged to me since I was a kid, it belonged to my father. So
what’s the problem?…. Please stop criticising me already.”
Earlier, when asked about his wealth, Prayuth stated: “I don’t know. I don’t
remember,” Gen. Prayuth said on 1 November. “I am not a businessman. Please
don’t ask me about this.”
Prayut has said that the purchaser wanted the land for “investment”
purposes and asked: “The company wouldn’t have bought the land out of
foolishness, don’t you think? If they can’t invest in the land, why would
they buy it?”
remember back to 2008 when the Supreme Court ruled that Thaksin broke the law by giving his wife
official consent to buy state-owned land in Ratchadaphisek.
Some simple facts:
The court never found Thaksin guilty of any collusion on the bidding.
There was no injury to the state.
There was no criminal conspiracy to defraud the public.
MR Pridiyathorn Devakula signed off on the deal and testified in Thaksin's
Potjaman (Thaksin's wife) was never found guilty of any crime and didn't have the land
In fact, Thaksin was compelled under the then Thai law to sign the land transfer
documents because Thailand is a community property country.
Pojaman returned the land and was refunded the purchase price. The land was
then sold for a much lower price. So Pojaman had in fact overpaid, rather
than underpaid as the prosecution alleged.
just goes to show how dabbling in land deals can bring down a Prime Minister
especially one who appears to have wealth far beyond his means.
Hong Kong's umbrella movement and hope for the future
Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement is a call to be listened to and a call for
action. Where it will lead to is unknown. But the sense of opportunity,
civic awareness and purpose will not go away in a hurry.
Now in its 37th day the movement basically started as a call from Hong Kong’s
students for genuine participation in the future governance of Hong Kong. Beijing had used a very narrow interpretation of their commitment to
universal suffrage in Hong Kong that ensures that the next governor
will be handpicked by Beijing. Beijing's intent is to pick the candidates
and then let Hong Kong people vote for one of the chosen PRC loyalists.
Many people expected the student action to be short-lived. The use of tear
gas and pepper spray by the police in the early days of the protest appeared
to harden the student resolve and gained them a great deal of support from
other sections of Hong Kong society – well almost all. Maybe not the folks who
think they are already running Hong Kong and whose financial well-being, and
rule of the city, is dependent on Beijing’s goodwill.
Over a month later the protest camps are well developed into self-sufficient
villages in their own right.
The Causeway Bay site adjacent to the SOGO crossing is the smallest. It is a
strange site. Half the road is occupied. The other half is open to traffic
and buses. Their are a few tents. It cannot be comfortable. Polluted; noisy.
It seems unnecessary. It may be more effective to combine the protest resources at
The Mongkok site is also smaller, but it is symbolic, as it is the only site
on Kowloon side. In Mongkok it is also a site that attracts a great deal of
curiosity from mainland visitors. Their reaction is interesting. Some must
be upset that their leader is the subject of mockery. Some must wonder what
all the fuss is about. And some must wonder what would happen if there were
ever similar protests in mainland China.
The Mongkok site is confined by the limited available space in Nathan Road
and in part by an unwillingness to cause too much disruption in the most
populated part of Hong Kong. While Nathan Road is closed for a distance
around Mongkok the side and parallel roads are open and most businesses
appear be continuing largely unaffected and some maybe benefiting from the
The main protest site is at Admiralty on Hong Kong island adjacent to the
Legislative Building and ironically the PLA's Hong Kong base.
Here is a tented city. Here are students studying through the day. Classes
operating. Students studying. The site is surprisingly quiet. There is a
woodwork shop making furniture for the site's residents.
The atmosphere is relaxed but purposeful. There is a small main stage that
is used primarily for press briefings and there are tv crews waiting
throughout the day. There are a few gathering points around the site where
impromptu speeches are made and small crowds gather.
The lack of a main stage and platform seems to me a problem. There really is
no place for speeches and large audiences. No place for a rallying call.
Maybe with the use of social media a large central meeting place is less
Policing is very unobtrusive. It is more visible in Mongkok. It is in
Mongkok where there have been confrontations with anti-protest protestors.
Most of these appear to be hired thugs bought to cause disruption.
Meanwhile in Admiralty people are talking to eachother who would never
otherwise do so. New friendships are being made. Values are shared. Hope is
You access the protest zone via jerry-rigged stairs crossing over the
highway divider. It is like entering an art fair or a music festival.
Protesters sit on the pavement cross-legged, strumming guitars and checking
their smartphones. Others rest in their own tents or tents that are
available for free use on a first some basis. Hong Kong residents and many tourists amble through the crowd, lots
of pictures are taken; at night the crowd changes and many supporters gather
to hear speeches.
Many protesters have homes nearby and full-time jobs; they come and go as
they please. Others spend their days at the site, contributing to a vast
collection of sculptures, posters and banners reiterating the protesters’
demands for a more democratic electoral system. Almost everyone leaves a
"post-it" note with a message on the Lennon wall.
But what is fascinating is that the protest site feels so normal. There are
people in suits. There are families walking. There are older people walking
together and looking at the messages and artwork. There are dozens of
students hunched over textbooks and tablets in their “study corner” beneath
a makeshift tent running along the highway divider. Rows of lamps burn into
the night, powered by a donated generator. Volunteer tutors offer help with
English and maths. WiFi is available. The nearby washrooms are cleaned and
heavily stocked with a range of toiletries. Everything is carefully recycled
and/or composted. Volunteers hand out donated biscuits, coffee, toilet
paper, face masks and bottled water from well-stocked supply stands.
is a civic pride at the protest sites. Recycling is important. There are
health and sanitary guidelines. There are regular organised cleaning
There may be more protest site visitors than there are true protestors
during the daytime. But that is OK. Anyone visiting the site can only be
impressed by its organization and the determination of those present. And
almost everyone visiting the site is doing so because they have some
interest in and in many cases support for the objectives.
What also struck me is that this is not an anti China protest. This is a pro
Hong Kong protest. No one at the site is expressing anti-mainland sentiment;
the focus is simply on electoral reform, their
demands for democracy, and an emerging sense of Hong Kong identity.
An older Hong Kong resident came up to me and asked if I spoke English and
where I am from. We had a lovely conversation. Did he ever expect to see
anything like this in Hong Kong. Never. How did he feel about what was
He has two adult daughters – one in England, one in Los Angeles in the USA.
But he stays in Hong Kong with his wife. He could leave any time but this is
home. His wish is that that Hong Kong retains it's own identity, it's laws,
it's decency. He was
proud of the demonstrators though concerned about what might happen next.
Of course not everyone is supportive. Another lady said that it was wrong
for the roads to be closed - for the streets to be occupied. But at the same
time she said she comes to the site every day after lunch. She likes to walk
around the site and see what has changed. And she was willing to listen.
That in itself sets her apart. There is a sense that people are willing
to talk - an acceptance that the protestors have a genuine cause and
accepting that may be the beginning of compromise.
Inevitably it is easy to draw comparisons with the red shirt protests in
Bangkok. What comes through is the calmness in Hong Kong and the quiet. No
constant noise and haranguing speeches. And the remarkable lack of
commercial activity. There is no one trying to sell t-shirts; clappers;
whistles. There are no commercial activities of any description.
It is also clear that protestors can come and go. No one is paid to be
there. There is no organised transportation to the site. No one is being
shipped in from other provinces. These are Hong Kong people protesting for
However, a reality check is still needed. 98% of Hong Kong’s population are not at
the protest sites. Many are either unaffected or uninterested or simply
concerned with day-to-day living. Are the protestors speaking for Hong Kong?
Are the protestors representative of Hong Kong? That is hard to answer. But
my quick and limited poll of working people that I talked to shared the
protestors objectives. The receptionist at my hotel said "we need to be
doing something." At the airport check-in I was told "I wish I could join
Despite media hype about the affects of the protests it is also very clear
that most of Hong Kong’s businesses continue without being in any way affected by
the protests. There is some disruption to traffic; but the city copes
The hotels are still busy and expensive. Try getting a room for later this
week. Tourists have not been put off. Maybe some mainland tour groups are
being discouraged from coming to Hong Kong but that may have more to do with
what they might see and hear rather than any potential threat.
Following a visit to Hong Kong, Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale
University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and a former Morgan
Stanley Asia economist, said that while the protests were still causing a
little inconvenience, they were “not a big deal” in terms of economic
impact. He added that as long as the confrontation did not lead to “extreme”
police action, “the reputational impact will be minimal”.
These are parts of Hong Kong that have been reclaimed by the people. You can walk
on Connaught Road through Admiralty. It is a wonderful freedom. That maybe one of the legacies of the
protests. At some point the protests will end. But returning the city to the
people; maybe just every Sunday would be a strong legacy. Let the MTR and
the other roads handle the traffic. Give Admiralty, Nathan Road and Causeway
Bay back to the people.
other legacy of the protests will be the artwork; from the Lennon Wall to the
work of Mark Chui. How this is preserved I do not know. Maybe through the
Hong Kong Museum or Gallery of Art or through corporate support.
trouble is what happens next? There is a stand-off at the moment. A calm
before a potential storm. At some time the authorities will want to clear
the protest sites. Chief
Executive CY Leung said yesterday that social order and the rule of law should be restored
in Hong Kong as soon as possible.
He said Hong Kong has been troubled with a social order problem recently, as
some people have been damaging the rule of law by breaching the law and
ignoring court injunctions requiring Occupy Central protesters to clear the
threat is there - and to be honest clearing the Mongkok and Causeway Bay
sites would require harsh determination but could probably be doe relatively
quickly. The Admiralty site is far too large and well established to be
cleared in any way other than by a negotiated agreement.
Business has lined up with the government - including a rare from Li Ka-shing,
Asia’s richest man, who urged the students to return home. “We understand
student passion, but your pursuit needs to be guided by wisdom,” the Hong
Kong tycoon said recently. “It would be Hong Kong’s greatest sorrow if the
rule of law breaks down.”
So far, few protesters appear to have listened, partly because one of their
main concerns is that the Chinese plan allows the elites who wield power in
Hong Kong to retain far too much influence at the expense of the public.
How this plays out over the next few months is far from clear. There is a
fear among protestors that the government will wait to take action after the
November APEC meeting in Beijing.
Overall I fear that the objectives of the protestors will not be met. That
in time the sites will be cleared. Some small concessions will be made but
there may also be harsher laws that restrict public demonstrations to
certain locations such as Victoria Park. There is simply too much at stake
for Hong Kong’s elite, not to mention China as a whole, to ever risk letting
Hong Kong slip out Beijing’s firm grasp. A hardline pursuit of full-fledged
democracy will ultimately be a losing battle.
the diversity of business and political interests in Hong Kong, some form of
compromise stands as the most logical outcome—one that will ensure that
protestor’s efforts will not have been in vain while allowing Beijing to
save face and still get a Chief Executive that has Beijing's support.
final note do note be surprised if CY Leung is quietly replaced as part of
Another stroll around Admiralty
Here is another commentary on the Admiralty protest site from a long-term
November 2014 From The Big
Another week, another round of calls from the Hong Kong establishment for
pro-democracy protesters to leave the streets. Some of the pleas come from
hand-wringing moderates like Executive Council member WK Lam, desperately
trying to convince the students – and probably themselves – that some sort
of dialogue and push-button-for-instant-harmony solution is feasible. Some
come from usually-apolitical business leaders like Swire Pacific’s John
Slosar, dutifully trotting out the official line with little obvious
The Hong Kong government, meanwhile, helplessly bats away pro-dem proposals
totally unacceptable to Beijing while promising vague progress if only the
demonstrators pack their tents. To keep things on the boil, the Chinese
Communist Party’s United Front continues its orchestrated mouth-frothing,
claiming to have collected what market analysts would style an ‘aggressive’
figure of 1.5 million signatures against the Occupy Central/Umbrella
The government’s tactic (or default position in the absence of one) is to
wait it out and hope the tent-dwelling occupiers of the streets will finally
overstay their welcome and bow to growing community hostility. As well as
the hired thugs and bussed-in anti-Occupy losers, some of the great Hong
Kong public are sincerely pissed off at the protestors. At the same time,
many share the students’ anger at the cronyism and bad governance and are
supportive. (A pure guess: maybe 30-40% of the population would clearly
declare themselves pro-Occupy versus 20-30% who are anti.)
Some people’s opinion of the movement might not simply reflect their views
of the political and socio-economic factors, but of the methods and style of
the protest. A stroll around the Admiralty encampment yesterday underlined
how a genuine community with its own quirky culture has evolved in the last
few weeks. Today’s South China Morning Post examines the tent management,
carpentry, supplies, first-aid and other facilities that keep the settlement
going and forge a sense of neighbourliness among recent strangers that is
all but unknown in Hong Kong.
No residential or other urban area of the city is like this. It is extremely
low-rise, with most dwellings being no more than 4ft tall. It is
traffic-free, so you can walk and sit where you want. Most bizarrely: there
is space to do things, and you don’t have to pay any rent. It is this latter
unique feature that largely enables the villagers young and old to express
their feelings and hopes through various educational, artistic and other
cultural activities. It’s a fascinating experiment: what happens to a bit of
Hong Kong when you take the bureaucrats and landlords (and cars) away?
Answer: the flowering of a happy, creative and relaxed ambience, without a
Burberry or Louis Vuitton outlet in sight, and locals and tourists love it.
Well, some locals and tourists. Not everyone gets it. To some, the fun and
the novelty are an affront because of the underlying political aims, which
oppose the national authorities and smack of foreign ways. Some middle-class
types whose self-identity as establishment material feel a need to parrot
official disapproval. Many others, I suspect, view the gentle anarchy and
youthfulness of the tent village with distaste and loathing simply for what
it is. They are miserable (probably old, probably little-educated) wretches
who ate bitterness without complaint their whole lives and resent the idea
that the next generation is able and willing to demand better. And this
rather pitiful demographic could be the government’s prime source of support
as it tries to increase public contempt for the protesters. Sad or what?
The lie of the populism scare
back in fashion in the business community, and now in the writings of
members of China's Communist Party, that democracy leads to welfarism, debt
and decline. Leung Chun-ying has the same opinion, as revealed in his recent
It is a self-interested assertion that, if repeated often enough, comes to
be believed by those who want to believe it. It is amazing coming from a
party which purports to be Marxist but now represents profits and monopoly
capitalism against the interests of the workers.
The United States, for all its social and other ills, stands as the primary
example of a nation that has had nearly universal suffrage for 200 years and
is still going strong, with relatively low tax rates and a debt burden which
is hardly unsupportable and anyway owes more to defence spending than
Other developed Western countries with long histories of votes for all show
very varied levels of welfare spending. Australia's, for example, is quite
high but the public debt is miniscule. Australian debt is almost all in the
private sector, corporate and household.
Take the poster child of welfarism in northern Europe, Scandinavia. Sweden
has remained near the top of global income league for decades, despite
taxation to pay for income transfers currently equal to 53 per cent of gross
domestic product. Its public debt to GDP is a mere 40 per cent. It once hit
73 per cent, at which point the voters decided to cut spending and tighten
up on welfare. Much the same happened in other democratic countries, such as
Those who cite southern Europe as indicating the link between welfare and
debt also talk nonsense. Welfare standards in Greece were always low. Its
troubles stemmed from a bloated, self-promoting civil service similar to
those found in Communist Party-run states, and a ubiquity of tax evasion by
the rich. Debt in the likes of the UK and Ireland arose from financial
crises caused by poor regulation, not populism.
So what about Asia? Japan spends relatively little on welfare. Its public
debt, by far the biggest as a percentage of GDP among rich countries, is a
direct consequence of the banking crisis created by excessive private sector
investment and poor banking regulation, and by the need for massive
infrastructure spending to offset a collapse in consumer demand and private
Or South Korea? It democratisation, far from causing economic instability,
helped rescue the country from massive debts caused by excessive,
foreign-funded private investment. A push for higher wages and welfare
spending created a much more balanced economy and spurred industry to the
greater efficiency and inventiveness we see today.
Taiwan has popularly elected governments at national and local levels for
more than 20 years and has seen gradual increases in welfare spending, but
public debt is only 40 per cent of GDP and Taiwan has long had one of the
world's most stable floating currencies and lowest inflation rates. As in
Korea, democracy led to big advances in health, education and clean air -
public interest gains at the cost of some private profit.
In all these advanced economies, consumer spending generally and welfare
spending in particular have risen over time while investment has fallen. But
that is mostly a natural consequence of ageing populations and low
A bigger problem for the democratic developed world at present is the
hoarding of corporate profits, now at very high levels in Japan, Europe and
the US, often used for share buy-backs, which reward the few, rather than in
new investment or employee wages. This acts as a major drag on the economy.
It has nothing to do with democratic populism and a lot to do with
self-serving board interests.
Nor does the developing world show any particular general trend to populism.
In Asia, Indonesia under popular rule has seen constant reductions in public
debt despite the burden of a fuel subsidy which mainly benefits the
In Thailand, populist Thaksin Shinawatra spent a lot on health and help for
farmers, but the government debt ratio declined significantly during his
terms in office. The Philippines, likewise, despite a reputation for slow
growth and weak government, has run very conservative fiscal policies for
more than a decade.
For sure, India spends too much on subsidies for the poor and too little on
infrastructure, but China is the opposite and has a much higher overall debt
For Hong Kong, the danger is not excessive spending on welfare for an ageing
population. It is spending on uneconomic boondoggles for certain sectors -
for example, the HK$75 billion high-speed railway - and the failure to spend
a fraction of that on pollution reduction. The long-term health of the
population counts for little compared with the more immediate interests of
tycoons and top officials.
Meanwhile, too, the very high profit-to-turnover of the local oligarchies is
partly the result of wage suppression. Some profits go to shareholders in
dividends but much is invested in the low-growth, mature democracies that
the likes of Leung deride for welfarism. What hypocrisy!
Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator
The city on the hill - democracy, human rights and all that take a back seat
in America’s Asia policy
Banyan in the Economist
When Barack Obama ducked out of two summits in Indonesia and Brunei a year
ago, the credibility of the “pivot to Asia” he had proclaimed, giving the
region greater importance in American foreign policy, took a big knock. This
month he is due to show up at back-to-back gatherings in Beijing, Naypyidaw,
the capital of Myanmar, and Brisbane in Australia, giving him a chance to
hammer out the dent. It will be a struggle. The centrepiece of the economic
aspect of the pivot, a regional free-trade agreement called the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is still not a done deal. Some Asians
remain unsure about whether the strategic, military pivot really amounts to
much. And there is yet another difficulty: the perception in Asia that
America’s faith in the universality of its ideals of freedom and democracy
American leaders used to raise the issues of human rights and democracy in
Asia at almost every opportunity, especially where China was concerned, but
also in Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and elsewhere. That they no longer
hector so loudly is welcome to many governments. But it seems to jar with
American professions of continued leadership.
The reticence reflects two trends. One is that the world seems to be in
flames elsewhere. The rise of Islamic State (IS), the spread of Ebola and
the forced partition of Ukraine: all have hijacked America’s attention. When
American leaders have microphones thrust in their faces, questions about
Asia are not the first they have to answer, and when they look at Asia it is
through the prism of other global problems.
The other is that America’s strategic and economic ambitions in Asia have a
higher priority than promoting American political values. Take America’s
muted reaction to a number of recent political developments around Asia. In
Hong Kong, where student-led protesters this week marked a month of sit-ins
on big thoroughfares, American officials have voiced support for their main
demand of genuine universal suffrage in the election for the territory’s
chief executive in 2017, rather than the sham version offered by China.Yet
Mr Obama has held his tongue on the protests. To speak out might encourage
the paranoid tendency in China that sees the unrest as part of an
American-led plot to weaken and ultimately topple Communist Party rule. To
stay silent, however, suggests that Mr Obama does not see Hong Kong as
important enough to risk adding yet another complication to a fraught
relationship with China.
America’s president will also have to think hard what to say about Myanmar
when he goes to the East Asia Summit held there. Liberalising reforms since
2011 have been held out as the great success of his “unclenched-fist” policy
towards the country, with the strategic benefit of forging a partnership
with a place that had been stuck in China’s orbit. But the mood has soured.
Hopes have faded of amending a constitution that guarantees the army a
blocking minority in parliament and bars the opposition leader, Aung San Suu
Kyi, from the presidency. Some now doubt that the general election due next
year will even take place. To emphasise the many positive changes in Myanmar
may look starry-eyed; to harp on about the setbacks would blur a rare
foreign-policy bright spot.
Even in Thailand, where the army staged its latest coup in May, America’s
position has not been entirely clear. It has condemned the putsch, called
for the restoration of democracy and suspended a modest amount of military
aid to its old ally. But it has stepped back from a threat to move the
annual “Cobra Gold” joint Thai-American military exercises out of the
country next year. America’s links with Thailand have withstood countless
changes of government. It would not want to jeopardise them entirely, and
push Thailand deeper into China’s embrace.
Similarly, American policy toward Malaysia has been coloured by realpolitik.
Opposition politicians and others identify a worrying repressive tendency in
the government, with an archaic sedition law used to hound its opponents.
And this week saw the culmination of a ludicrous trial on charges of sodomy
of the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim (whose coalition won the popular
vote, though not a majority of seats, in last year’s general election).
America, however, has been largely silent about all this, and, in Malaysia
in April, Mr Obama did not even find time to meet Mr Anwar. Najib Razak, the
prime minister, is an important regional ally—an elected, moderate Muslim
ready to speak out against IS, and to take on domestic lobbies to bring
Malaysia into the TPP. Moreover, Mr Obama and he are said to get on.
A more natural partner might be another moderate Muslim democrat, Joko
Widodo, known as Jokowi, the new president of Indonesia, whose ascension to
power as an outsider buoyed by grassroots support recalls Mr Obama’s own.
America’s secretary of state, John Kerry, did attend the inauguration last
month, and held a 30-minute meeting. But it seems he concentrated on
America’s agenda—climate change, IS and Ebola—rather than Jokowi’s, or on
how America might assist his shaky new administration.
Playing down contentious issues of domestic politics in favour of
international co-operation seems to make sense at a time of shifting global
power and heightened tension. But it has a cost: it squanders part of
America’s “soft power”, a great asset. Many in Asia believe that China is
the waxing power and America the waning one. But America remains the place
that far more young people want to visit and hope their own country can
emulate. For all its flaws and mis-steps, it represents not just economic
and military might, but an ideal to aspire to, in a way that China does not.
And when American leaders appear to give less weight to that ideal, they not
only diminish America’s attractions, they also lend more credence to the
idea of its relative economic and military decline.
Virgin Galactic has serious long-term setback
suborbital passenger spaceship being developed by Richard Branson’s Virgin
Galactic crashed during a test flight today at the Mojave Air and Space Port
in California, officials said.
Two pilots were aboard the spaceship, which was undergoing its first powered
test flight since January. It was not immediately known if they were able to
parachute to safety.
More than 800 people have paid or put down deposits to fly aboard the
spaceship, which is carried to an altitude of about 45,000 feet and
released. The spaceship then fires its rocket motor to catapult it to about
62 miles (100 km) high, giving passengers a view of the planet set against
the blackness of space and a few minutes of weightlessness.
The spaceship is based on a prototype, called SpaceShipOne, which 10 years
ago won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for the first privately developed
manned spacecraft to fly in space.
Friday’s test was to be the spaceship’s first powered test flight since
January. In May, Virgin Galactic and spaceship developer Scaled Composites,
a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp, switched to an alternative
plastic-type of fuel grain for the hybrid rocket motor.
The accident is the second this week by a U.S. space company. On Tuesday, an
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded 15 seconds after liftoff from
Wallops Island, Virginia, destroying a cargo ship bound for the
International Space Station.
must bring into question the whole Virgin Galactic venture. The first
passenger flights were due to start in 2015. The crash is a major setback
for Virgin Galactic, a U.S. offshoot of billionaire Branson's London-based
Virgin Group. SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot spacecraft is aiming
to make the world's first commercial suborbital space flights.
Other companies developing passenger suborbital spacecraft include privately
owned XCOR Aerospace, which is building a two-person spaceplane called Lynx,
and Blue Origin, a startup space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Virgin Galactic also plans to use its White Knight Two carrier jets to
launch small satellites and payloads into orbit.
#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.