Showing posts from December 23, 2015

Cartoon: Year in review, part one


Israeli ambassador to US sends festive presents from occupied territories

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[His astounding gall is part of an established pattern; I wonder if anyone who receives them will return them? Ron Dermer sends holiday gifts sourced in the occupied territories in order to combat the boycott, divestments and sanctions (BDS) campaign. *RON*]
Michael Safi, The Guardian, 23 December
Holiday gifts from the Israeli embassy in the United States this year will be deliberately sourced from settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Golan Heights, the country’s US ambassador has announced.

Ron Dermer said in a letter posted to social media on Tuesday that the gesture was intended to combat the boycott, divestments and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which he described as “the latest effort by Israel’s enemies to destroy the one and only Jewish state”.
BDS, modelled on the campaign to isolate apartheid-era South Africa, calls for an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories and a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees…

Thailand's junta releases poll showing 99.3% of citizens happy with its performance

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[Coup leaders have promised to return country to democracy in 2017 but continue to use powers to stifle dissent. Funniest reader comment: "In other news, prison population increases by 0.7% of the population." *RON*]
Oliver Holmes, The Guardian, 23 December 2015
Thailand’s military junta, which took power in a coup last year and has smothered public criticism of its rule, has conducted a poll that found more than 99% of Thais are happy with its performance.

The National Statistics Office released the results of the poll, which questioned 2,700 people nationwide, one day before the government was due to present its one-year performance review.

Thailand’s rulers, who toppled the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup in May 2014, have stifled the media and banned political gatherings. They have promised to bring stability to a country that suffered months of bloody protests.

B.C.'s Economy Doesn't Stack Up To The Rest Of Canada

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[Keep a print-out of this article on hand for the next election. A sad litany. I wish all British Columbians would read this. *RON*]
Dermod Travis, Executive Director, IntegrityBC, Huffington Post, 22 December 2015

'Tis the season of lists and stocking stuffers of economic forecasts.

But instead of soothsaying over what could happen in 2016, a look back at B.C.'s economic performance over the past few years might be more illuminating.

Deciphering economic forecasts is a murky task anyways, not that interpreting statistics is any less risky.

Consider the reaction of Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman to a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: "There's two things I don't believe anymore. Polls, and anything written by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives."

So, to avoid the "my stat is better than your stat" taunt, we'll default to some of the B.C. government's prefe…

Nigeria's Boko Haram 'forces one million out of school'

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[Sometimes I forget what Boko Haram means: "Western education is forbidden." Aside from all the murder and mayhem, they are also destroying west Africa by ensuring that one million children and counting will grow up even more ignorant and poor than they already would have. *RON*]

BBC World News, 22 December 2015
An Islamist insurgency has kept about one million children out of school in Nigeria and three neighbouring states, the UN children's agency has said.

More than 2,000 schools were shut, while hundreds had been attacked, looted or set ablaze, Unicef said.

Boko Haram's six-year insurgency has devastated north-eastern Nigeria, and has spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari gave the military a deadline of the end of the month to defeat the group.

It's All Relative: Everyone on Earth is actually your cousin

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[This is just darned interesting. Since everyone has two parents by simple powers of two math it shouldn't take many generations before you were related to more people than have ever lived ("You can see why it’s not really that impressive when someone tells you they are descended from famous royalty who lived a few hundred years ago. Look how many people you’re descended from...!"). This is explained by a simple concept called pedigree collapse, a.k.a. inbreeding. *RON*]
By Tim Urban, Quartz, 17 December 2015. This post originally appeared on Wait But Why.

I have one living grandparent—my father’s mother, who’s 89: Nana.

I visited Nana recently and went through the usual activities—talking about myself in a loud voice, fixing her “broken machine” by unminimizing the internet browser window, being told to slow down Timothy and get in the left lane, even though the turn is still a half mile ahead. But I also used the visit as an opport…

Everything You Know About Martin Shkreli Is Wrong—or Is It?

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[Corporatocracy = psychopathy. Part of me just loves to hate the many, many photographs that he obviously loves to have taken of himself. *RON*]

By Bethany McLean, Vanity Fair, 31 January 2016 (print issue).
Even before his arrest this week on securities fraud allegations, Wall Street’s most visible villain was infamous for gouging AIDS patients and pregnant women, buying a very overpriced Wu-Tang Clan album, and trolling the world on Twitter. He says his real friends know he is “not that guy.” In a series of revealing interviews, BETHANY MCLEAN gets the inside story.

“I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I liken myself to the robber barons.” So says Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old hedge-fund manager turned pharmaceutical-company C.E.O., who achieved instantaneous notoriety last fall when he acquired the U.S. rights to a lifesaving drug and promptly boosted its price over 5,000 percent, from $13.50 a tablet to $750. The tsunami of rage (the BBC as…

Moldova's Drama on the Dniester

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[Subheading: "Europe's poorest country is torn between Brussels and Moscow." The comments to the original article are as interesting as the article itself - plainly, revisionist history is one of the most thriving industries in this region. The article itself is about the two Vlads who between them run Moldova. *RON*]
Alexander Clapp, National Interest, 18 December 2015
Half the size of Scotland, tucked between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is the least-visited and poorest country on the European continent. Life centers on the sat, the “village.” The road into each is marked by a Soviet-era sign that spells out its name in cement block letters of red or grey. Many lack piped water. Steel buckets are chained to communal wells, shielded from crop dust by pitched roofs of bark. Ribbed horses bring in the harvest, still often the work of scythe and cart. At major intersections you are likely to confront a bony Christ hanging off a cross;…

Italy approves austerity-easing budget

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[Spreading... Despite risks of breaking EU fiscal rules, the Italian parliament has passed the nation's budget for 2016 offering tax breaks for companies and households, thus raising the government's previous deficit targets. *RON*]
Deutsche Welle, 22 December 2015

The upper house of the parliament in Rome on Tuesday gave its green light to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's 2016 budget that eases deficit and debt reduction goals previously agreed with the European Commission. The Senate approved the so-called Stability Law with a 162-125 vote, after the measure had passed the lower house on Sunday.

Measures in the budget law include the scrapping of an unpopular housing tax, a pay bonus for police forces engaged in anti-terrorism duties, and a 500-euro (around $544) voucher for 18-year-olds to be spent on books or cultural activities.

It also eliminates levies on agricultural and industrial equipment, offers tax breaks to companies that inv…