Sunday, 27 May 2012

German National Side Has Some Soulsearching to Do

Germany's National Soccer team put in a disastrous performance during its test match against Switzerland in Basel.  During the debut of keeper, Marc-Andre ter Steger, who was a surprise starter for this match, could have had a better start.  He was defeated no less than five times, while the Germans only responded with two goals.  Thus Ottmar Hitzfelds side won convincingly 5-2.  Hitzfeld is the former coach of Bayern Muenchen.

What was missing from the game on the German side was imagination and concentration.  The lineup, although deficient of Bayern stalwarts like Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Gomez, Kroos, Thomas, had big talents like Mario Goetze, Reuss, Schurrle, Matt Hummels, Klose and the Bender brothers.  The team just lacked concentration and cohesiveness.   The Swiss side easily took the midfield and defence of the German side apart and on the front end the strikers were unable to finish the task.

Germany's strategy was to go full speed toward the Swiss side initially, but Switzerland defended well during the first 20 minutes.  After that it was pretty well all Switzerland.

Joachim Loew analyzed the game this way:

We would have never predicted this.  One can't be happy about the result.  It was a dangerous phase of the Euro 2012 preparations.  After many intense training units, the concentration was missing.  There were many mistakes made.

Needless to say Loew isn't happy about this result and he could expect more from a star studded side, even with the FC Bayern players missing. 

Miroslav Klose, who captained the team yesterday, expressed the sentiment of the players.

"Such a performance can't be explained.  We should not look for excuses. This is primarily a head thing. The whole team performed terribly."

Recognizing the problem and doing a proper self-critique is the road to discovery.  There are another two weeks prior to the game against Portugal on June 9th.  The Bayern players will join the team as of tomorrow and will be on the field in the match against Israel on Thursday.

No doubt there will be soul searching between now and Thursday, the key is to put this performance of the team behind them and come out swinging on Thursday.  A good performance against Israel should rebuild the confidence of the German side.  Of course the Bayern players, although key to the team, are dealing with the devastating defeat against Chelsea.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

DOD US Military Casualties in Afghanistan as of 25 May 2012

 Another six U.S. soldiers laid down their lives in Afghanistan this week, while 74 others were wounded in action.  Overal 137 young Americans have been killed in Afghanistan this year and another 796 wounded. 

 Last weekend's NATO summit, which primarily dealt with an exit strategy from Afghanistan, concluded that NATO troops would be out of Afghanistan by 2014 and that Afghan Security Forces would take the lead for operations against the Taliban by the middle of next year.  "The war in Afghanistan, as we know it, as we know it, is over."  Those were the words of President Obama at the conclusion of last week's NATO summit. 

The summit also dealt with the funding of Afghan Forces, which is expected to cost $4.2 Billion annually, with a NATO commitment for the next decade.  France's new President was steadfast that French soldier will leave Afghanistan by the end of this year.  Australia will depart a year earlier than anticipated, while Canada has announced that no Canadian troops would remain in Afghanistan, including a training role, beyond March 2013. 

Yes, the politicians have declared the war over and can't get to the exit fast enough.  Politicians and senior NATO commanders are reassuring the public that the Afghan National Army, expected to be at a strength of 352,000 by 2014 will be able to handle the task.  The rank and file is not so confident.  The ANA has high absenteeism, rampant drug use and of course is being infiltrated by the insurgents. 

At this stage it is not known how many NATO countries will remain in Afghanistan post 2014.  What is clear though, is that Afghanistan will require the support of NATO if it is to succeed, both in funding of its large security force and military support in the form of air support and drones. 

There is a "Strategic Partnership Agreement", but little detail has been released of its contents.

It would appear that gone is the concept, which based any withdrawal on the conditions on the ground.  The preparations are full speed ahead to facilitate the NATO withdrawal. Since Pakistan is key in success, there is little going well in the relations between Pakistan and the U.S. and NATO. 

Yes, the war in Afghanistan, as we know it, is over.  What has not been explained is what that means.  Suffice to say that U.S. and NATO soldiers are still dieing.  Lest We Forget.

Roll of Casualties

Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:

Op Enduring Freedom                  Total Deaths       KIA   Non Hostile              WIA

Afghanistan Only                                   1857               1540        317                     15024
Other Locations                                        113                   12        101
 DoD Civ Casualties                                     3                     1            2
Worldwide Total                                     1973               1553        420                    16024

Accumulated 2012 Casualties:

KIA            Non Combat Deaths             WIA

  88                            49                               796

Monday, 21 May 2012

Canada Will Withdraw All Troops at the end of 2014

Canada has decided that handing over responsibility for Afghanistan to Afghan Security Forces means just that.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced, as the NATO Summit wound up, that Canada would withdraw all of its troops by the end of 2014. 

The Prime Minister said that withdrawing the troops was not abandoning the war torn country, but a transfer of responsibility to the Afghan people.  While no Canadian troops will remain in Afghanistan, Harper said that Canada would continue to support the Afghan Army by pledging $110 Million for the next three years.

Canada had been asked earlier by the United States and NATO to extend its present training contingent.  There has also been discussion as to maintaining Joint Task Forces 2 special operations troops in Afghanistan.  While the Prime Minister did not address JTF 2, it is clear that the 950 strong contingent of trainers will be coming home at the end of 2014.

NATO issued a declaration overnight stating that it would responsibly draw down its combat troops by December 31st, 2014.

"We are gradually and responsibly drawing down our forces to complete the ISAF mission by 31 December 2014. By the end of 2014, when the Afghan Authorities will have full security responsibility, the NATO-led combat mission will end."

 The United Kingdom had 414 of its soldiers killed in action, Canada 158, France 82, Germany 53, Italy 46, Denmark 42, Poland 35, Spain 34 and Australia 32, just to name a few.  Overall 3006 NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.  Add to that those wounded and psychologically damaged, one must ask the question if the cost was worth it.  Read More here 

President Obama announced that US troops would end their combat mission by mid 2013 and during a press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that the war in Afghanistan, as we know it, has ended.

During the NATO summit it became clear that all 28 NATO leaders were looking for a way out of the war torn country and that the leaders have recognized that the war is at a stalemate.  You won't, of course, not hear any of the leaders say this.  According to them there has been enough progress that assures that Afghan Security forces can take over and keep the Taliban at bay.

According to the NATO leaders, the Afghan Forces will be in a position to take on much of that role next year, permitting the exit of NATO combat forces.  NATO, however is committed to support and training of Afghan forces.  The bill is estimated to be $4.2 Billion a year.

Canada has been in Afghanistan since 2002 and ended its combat mission in July of 2011, but maintained a contingent of 950 trainers, with a commitment to 2014.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes that Canada has carried enough of the load in Afghanistan.  158 Canadian soldier lost their life.  If the trainers leave in 2014, Canada will have done that mission for three years. 

One can only hope that no more Canadians die on that mission.  


Hillary Clinton's Remarks On NATO Open Door Policy

Thank you very much, Deputy Secretary General Vershbow, for chairing today’s meeting of the North Atlantic Council. I am delighted to be joined by my fellow foreign ministers from the NATO member-states and from the nations of Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. And let me again welcome you to Chicago, which happens also to be my birthplace and one of America’s great cities.

We’re meeting today to reaffirm our commitment to NATO’s open door policy. The possibility of NATO membership has proven to be a powerful motivation for countries to implement difficult but necessary reforms, resolve internal differences as well as differences with their neighbors, and contribute to security operations that benefit themselves and all of us. Our open door policy has produced some of our most active and committed allies, and it has helped produce stability and cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. And more broadly as NATO has grown, Europe has become more secure and more prosperous.

So the United States remains deeply committed to the open door policy, and it is in that spirit that we welcome our aspirant nations here today. We support their aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration, and we will keep working with each of them, both bilaterally and through NATO, to help them implement finally the reforms needed to meet the standards for membership. As I said yesterday, I believe this summit should be the last summit that is not an enlargement summit.

To speak just briefly about each aspirant, Georgia will become the largest non-NATO contributor to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan this fall, and we are very grateful for its contributions. Georgia has made democratic reforms, and the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are additional opportunities for Georgia to show the world that it is committed to NATO’s democratic values. We stand firm in our support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We welcome Georgia’s non-use of force pledge, and we call on Russia to reciprocate with its own pledge. We stand by the Bucharest decision and all subsequent decisions on Georgia.

Macedonia has also made contributions to regional and global security, including significant and longstanding contributions to ISAF, and it has fulfilled the key criteria for NATO membership. We strongly support a resolution of the ongoing name dispute and urge the parties to reach an agreement so Macedonia can join the alliance as soon as possible.

Montenegro, too, has made contributions to ISAF and reforms in its military and security services, which we applaud. The U.S. plans to send an advisor from the Department of Defense, and we welcome similar initiatives by other allies to support Montenegro’s efforts to implement the remaining reforms for NATO membership. Support for NATO membership is growing among the Montenegrin people, and we encourage efforts to continue increasing public awareness and understanding.

Finally, regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina, we welcome the political agreement on defense properties and now we urge that it be implemented. And we encourage Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro to continue pursuing regional initiatives like the Balkan Regional Approach to Air Defense, as well as natural disaster preparedness and the joint ISAF deployment by the Adriatic-5 Group.

Regarding all these countries, as with any country that wishes to join NATO, we look to them to demonstrate that they share our values and they are willing and able to meet the standards for membership. And we promise to help them as they do so because this is in our interest. We know it can be a lengthy and challenging process, but we need to stick with it and remember our ultimate goal: a stronger, more durable, more effective NATO.

In 1949, we were 12 nations; now we’re 28. The result is an alliance that has proven over and over it can meet the threats and overcome the challenges of our time. And here in Chicago, let us reaffirm our commitment to enlargement done right as a core element of our purpose and our community. Thank you very much.

German Soccer Federation Rejects Hertha BSC Appeal

The German soccer federation, DFB, has rejected an appeal by Hertha BSC Berlin and will not require a replay of the match.  In their finding the sports court of the DFB said that the game was completed and that the referee took all measures and proceeded to resume playing,  without pressure by the arena's security. 

Last week's leg 2 of the relegation battle between Fortuna Duesseldorf and Hertha BSC Berlin ended ugly.  With approximately two minutes of extra time remaining. fans swarmed past security onto the pitch and lit flares.  The onslaught caused the referees and players of both teams to escape to the security of their dressing rooms.  The game was eventually restarted and ended 2-2, which gave Duesseldorf an aggregate win and promotion to the Bundesliga, while Berlin would be relegated to the 2nd flight.

The court's findings relegate Berlin to the 2nd Divsion while Duesseldorf will be promoted to the top flight for the 2012/2013 season for the first time in 15 years.

The courts said that the appeal was rejected since no grounds for an appeal was apparent.  Berlin has been charged with the costs of the proceedings.  Berlin can still make an additional appeal to the Federal DFB court.

Still outstanding are the allegations by the referee Wolfgang Stark.  According to the referee, Kobiashwilli hit the referee with his fist, players of the Berlin side stormed the referee's conference room, while other players of the team threw insults at the referee team.

Update:  The result of the game were under dispute and heard by the DFB Sports Court (DFB Sportsgericht) in the first instance, which found that the game ended properly and gave the win to Duesseldorf.  Berlin appealed that finding to the highest level of the DFB Court, which again ruled in favour of Duesseldorf on May 25th.   Duesseldorf will move into the Bundesliga, while Berlin is relegated.  

The are other options open to Berlin, but Berlin has not yet decided whether to appeal to higher levels yet, including FIFA.  

NATO Summit - Afghanistan - Rush to the Exit

When President Obama took office, almost three and a half years ago, he said that Afghanistan was the justified war, while he said he would end the war in Iraq.  One can argue about how the war in Iraq was ended and whether or not it created more security problems in the region, but as far as Afghanistan is concerned, there now appears to be a rush to the exit.  There seems to be no regard for the conditions on the ground.

France will have its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year.  Australia has already announced that it will leave a year early and the Canadian government has indicated that it has done more than its fair share and will not extend its training mission beyond 2014.

President Obama said yesterday that the war in Afghanistan is over as we know it.  Really?  1965 US soldiers have paid the ultimate price as of last Friday Read More, including just six last week.

NATO issued a declaration on Afghanistan overnight.

 "We are gradually and responsibly drawing down our forces to complete the ISAF mission by 31 December 2014. By the end of 2014, when the Afghan Authorities will have full security responsibility, the NATO-led combat mission will end."

The United Kingdom had 414 of its soldiers killed in action, Canada 158, France 82, Germany 53, Italy 46, Denmark 42, Poland 35, Spain 34 and Australia 32, just to name a few.  Overall 3006 NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.  Add to that those wounded and psychologically damaged, one must ask the question if the cost was worth it.

The Taliban is hardly defeated, despite the positive spin that the President is trying to put on the war.  The Karzai government is corrupt and yet it is the best partner NATO has in the devastated region.  It is anticipated that $4.2 Billion is required to fund Afghanistan's military post the NATO withdrawal, of which the US is expected to pay about half.

Let's be clear, the decisions being taken in regards to the NATO mission have nothing to do with the conditions on the ground but are merely being taken for political expediency.  It is no accident that those decisions are being announced during the President's re-election campaign.  They are all part of a check list for improving re-election efforts.

While the public is tired of war, more respect should be shown for the price that soldiers and their families have paid.  While most of them are volunteers, none of them asked to go to Afghanistan.  It is  not the soldier that starts wars. It is the politician.  Now the politician is turning his/her very back  on those they tasked to fight their war.  

At the very least politicians could be honest with the public and show respect for the soldiers, many way too young to realize what they are getting themselves into.

This travesty is amplified upon the soldiers return. The soldier has to fight for proper care and in most instances is unable to find employment.  Not only is the politician to blame, but also the media that has not done enough to highlight the plight of veterans. Does this look like Vietnam all over again?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

G8 Summit Camp David - Agreement on the Problem but No Consensus

 G8 Leaders seemed to agree on the problem, but reached no consensus on how to deal with it. 

President Obama hosted the G8 Summit at Camp David in Maryland.  The talks evolved for the most part on the situation in Greece and how to deal with Iran and Syria.  While the official communique attempted to show unity in the approach of G8 leaders, there is a sharp disagreement between those pushing debt and deficit reduction and those that would want to cut back on austerity and provide further stimulus. 

The socialist newly elected President of France, Francois Hollande is pushing stimulus, supported by President Obama and Italian Prime Minister Monti.  On the other side of the issue are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.  Merkel, who lost her major ally, former French President Sarkozy, now has to deal with Hollande on the Greek crisis. 

There is no doubt that President Obama and President Hollande are on the same page when it comes to stimulating the economy.   Merkel on the other hand has to deal with her German electorate, which is tired of bankrolling countries in Europe that have lower retirement ages and lucrative pensions.  One has to wonder if President Obama thinks this is fair? 

Merkel has insisted that the course of the Eurozone remain on debt and deficit reduction.  Merkel said that the the G8 wants send out a unified signal that solid finacing and growth go hand in hand and should not be played against each other.  She said that there were three efforts that can achieve success.  First by consolidating budgets, second through structural reform and in investments for the future.  She said all were united that stimulus programs should not be repeated for the time being.

Prime Minister Harper summed it up this way:

"Fiscal discipline and economic growth go hand and hand. All of our discussions recognize that," Harper said. "Fiscal discipline is not sufficient for economic growth, but it is absolutely necessary."

The joined communique read in part,  "The global economic recovery shows signs of promise, but significant headwinds persist," the G8 leaders said, underlining an imperative "to promote growth and jobs," and affirming their interest in Greece remaining in the eurozone while "respecting its commitments."
What that means is that all the leaders had grave concern over the crisis in Europe, especially Greece, but there was really no consensus on how to move ahead.  

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Chelsea wins Champions League with Penalty Kicks

Bayern was clearly the dominant team in the first half.  Chelsea did what many expected, they defended.  Regardless Bayern missed several great opportunities.  What was missing in the first half were the concentration to put the ball into the net. Bayern had 15-2 shots on goal and 8-0 corners in the first half and the ball possession was 60 to 40%. There has to be some credit to Chelsea's keeper Cech, who often came out of his goal further than one would expect. It was scoreless after one half.

 Bayern dominated for the most part of the second half, but again missed too many opportunities to move ahead.  Finally in the 85th minute Mueller headed the ball into the net when Toni Kroos passed a ball from the left corner.  1-0 Bayern.

Celtic reacted by taken Kaloun off and replacing him with Torres.  Bayern followed shortly thereafter by pulling Mueller and putting Van Buyten in, showing the shift of strategy of the two teams.

The strategy fell apart for Bayern when Drogba scored after the very first corner for Chelsea.  Lampard took the corner and placed it near the close goal post, where Drogba headed the ball just under the crosspost in the right corner of the net.  1-1.  At that point Chelsea had the momentum.  It remained a draw through 90  minutes and on it went into overtime.

As overtime started Chelsea dominated initially, before Bayern composed itself again.  In the 94th minute Ribery took a run at the goal and was brought down from behind by Drogba, which resulted in a penalty kick.  Robben missed the shot.

Ribery was replaced by Olic in the 97th minute.  The steam seemed to have gone out of Bayern, although shots on goal were 39-9.  There were equal opportunities for both teams.  After the first half of overtime it was still 1-1.  Despite a good effort by either side in the last 15 minutes of overtime, the game remained a draw and went to penalty kicks.

Chelsea wins after defeating Bayern in penalty kicks 5-4.  Congratulations to Chelsea, which will now competing next year in the Champions League, while Tottenham is out. 

FC Bayern:  Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Timoschtschuk, Contento - Schweinsteiger, Kroos - Robben, Müller (Van Buyten 86th), Ribery (Olic 97th) - Gomez.

FC Chelsea: Cech – Bosingwa, Cahill, Luiz, Cole – Mikel, Lampard – Bertrand(Malouda 73rd), Mata, Kalou (Torres 85th) – Drogba

DOD US Military Casualties in Afghanistan as of 18 May 2012

With the NATO and G8 Summits underway in Camp David and the windy city underway this weekend, another six U.S. soldiers have paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan.  High on the priority this weekend will be the future of Afghanistan and the recently signed Strategic Partnership Agreement on Afghanistan.

France's new socialist President Francois Hollande has given notice that French troops will depart Afghanistan by the end of 2012.  There may be some flexibility to leave a contingent of French troops to help train Afghan Security Forces.  Training an maintaining Afghanistan's forces is expected to cost $4.2 Billion, of which the United States is expected to cover $2Billion.

Also high on the G8 agenda will be the global economy, especially with the emphasis on Greece and its inability to form a government that can agree on much of anything.  France rejected Nicolas Sarkozy, who was of common mind with Germany's Angela Merkel, electing a socialist, who wants less authority and more emphasis on growth with stimulus.  It is no surprise that Hollande's first visit was to Berlin to visit the German chancellor.

Hollande also had a meeting with President Obama ahead of the Summit, where Afghanistan and the Eurozone debt crisis were discussed.  President Obama and President Hollande, who both advocate stimulus, will likely pressure their more conservative counterparts, David Cameron of the UK, Angela Merkel of Germany and Stephen Harper of Canada to support more stimulus.  Although the leaders will end up with a non-committal joint communique, there will be some friction involving the two opposing views. 

The United States has its own problems with the debt ceiling approaching $16 Trillion and is facing another fight in Congress to raise the debt ceiling.  The summit, which should have been a positive in an election year, with the news of an orderly withdrawal and and end of he war in Afghanistan, has the potential to be a detractor for President Obama's bid for re-election.  The summit results will be managed with kid gloves.

On the good news front and perhaps a plus for U.S./Chinese relations, Chen Guangchen has left a Chinese hospital and is apparently on his way back to the United States later on today.  He is in the process of getting a valid passport, which his wife and children have already been issued with. 

The Afghanistan war is often skipped over by the main stream media, after all there is so much election 2012 fodder, ranging from Mitt Romney's alleged bullying 50 years ago, President Obama's association with Reverend Wright, all issues that don't deal with the real problems in the United States or the globe. 

The sooner the media deals with the U.S. and global economic problems, concentrates on the way forward in Afghanistan and issues like Syria, Iran, North Korea and the Middle East, the sooner there might be solutions to solve the world's problems.  Petty trash around on the sidelines does not deserve time and it shows disrespect to the soldiers that have so valiantly given their lives in a far away country.

Let's not forget that those soldiers are still confronting the enemy daily and take some time to think of their sacrifice.  Lest We Forget.

Roll of Casualties

Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:

Op Enduring Freedom                  Total Deaths       KIA   Non Hostile              WIA

Afghanistan Only                                   1851               1534        317                     15950
Other Locations                                        111                   12          99
DoD Civ Casualties                                      3                     1            2
Worldwide Total                                     1965               1547        418                    15950

Accumulated 2012 Casualties:

KIA            Non Combat Deaths             WIA

  82                            49                               722

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Srbenica Massacre - The Trial of Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic is the Serb Commander that has been charged with slaughtering up to 7,000 Muslim men in the town of Srbenica in July 1995.  After escaping capture for some 15 years, Mladic was arrested  on May 26th 2011 in Lazarevo, near Zrenjanin in the Banat region in northern Serbia. His arrest was carried out by two dozen Serbian special police officers wearing black uniforms and masks, and sporting no insignia. The police were accompanied by Security Information Agency and War Crimes Prosecutor's Office agents.

He was asked to identify himself after the arrest and was taken to Belgrade to appear in front of the Belgrade High Court.  Although his defence lawyer tried to persuade the court that he was unable to confirm his personal data, the prosecutor succeeded in convincing the court to rule on having him extradited to The Hague on May 27th.  His trial in The Hague opened yesterday, May 16th, and was suspended on May 17th.

Mladic faces 11 charges, including genocide.  A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.  Since the genocide in Srbenica have never been in dispute, the prosecutors said that they would focus on Mladic's individual responsibility.  Peter McClosky said that the Serbian Army was not an army out of control and that Mladic was on the ground and in command.

 "We have radio intercepts of VRS [Bosnian Serb] soldiers and officers discussing murders. We have video of two of the actual executions themselves. So let me be perfectly clear, the crime will not be the main focus of this prosecution. This case will be primarily about one issue. The individual criminal responsibility of Ratko Mladic," McClosky said.

The prosecution has now completed its opening statements.  Due to a prosecution error, which did not disclose all evidence available, the proceedings have been suspended indefinitely.

Judge Orie said: "In light of the prosecution's significant disclosure errors... the chamber hereby informs the parties that it has decided to suspend the start of the presentation of evidence.

The chamber is still in the process of gathering information as to the scope and the full impact of this error. The chamber aims to announce the start date of the prosecutions evidence as soon as possible."

Needless to say, this is a highly charged trial.  Mladic is obviously not the robust general he was 17 years ago, having suffered several strokes in the interim.  He is 70 years old. 

Timeline:  Siege of Srbenica

Mulcair's Divisive Comments Not Ready for Prime Time

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair demonstrates with his divisive comments that he is not prepared to lead Canada.  His so-called analysis of loss in the manufacturing sector is flawed.  Most of those losses have come through globalization and cheap wages in Asia, particular in the troubled textile industry.  If Mulcair looked to Ohio and Pennsylania he would see the same phenomena.  Does Walmart come to mind?  Could it be that the public demands cheap products that are available at Walmart?  Just a thought.

The Premiers of the three Western provinces rejected Mulcair's remarks that Canada is suffering from "Dutch disease" due to the resource industry, especially the Alberta Oilsands.

Mulcair dismisses the criticism by the Premiers and told the National Post that they were simply acting as the Prime Minister's messengers.

This provoked more retaliation from the Premiers.  The Premier of Saskatchewan, quoting a StatsCan report, said the report proved that the NDP and Mulcair are wrong.

“The stats out today put a lie to some of these theories that Mr. Mulcair has been espousing, I think, or certainly stand in stark contradiction to them because we see in Canada, where there is a strong resource sector and an attendant strong dollar, manufacturing is moving in the right direction,” Wall told reporters.

“We have one more message for Mr. Mulcair and that is that his facts are wrong and what he’s doing is very divisive for the country.”

On the comment by Mulcair that the Premiers were messengers for the Prime Minister, Wall said,  “I work for the people of Saskatchewan and if Mr. Mulcair is wondering for whom I am a messenger, I am a messenger for the people of Saskatchewan and for the economic interests of this province.”

Alison Redford took to twitter and said, “Is this national leadership? @Thomas Mulcair continues to make divisive, ill-informed and false comments.”

It is hard to comprehend why the NDP leader would take on the Western provinces.  All this does is divide the country into regions.  One has to wonder where he and the NDP think they are going with this approach.

On her facebook page, Alison Redford said that Mulcair's remarks "do not display national leadership."

"Alberta has strict environmental laws that support the responsible development of the oilsands. His claims about unregulated development and disregard for the environment are false," she said.

"I would also like to make it clear to Mr. Mulcair that as Premier of Alberta I expect that someone would have the courtesy to properly inform themselves rather than making disparaging comments about Alberta."

If Mr. Mulcair has an issue with the oilsands or any other resource industry, because he perceives that environmental concerns are not being addressed, then he should do just that.  For a start he can visit the oilsands and find out what has been done about the environmental concerns, instead of listening to the spouting off outdated information provided  by environmentalists.  By the way he does have an open invitation by Alberta's Premier Alison Redford to take the tour.  What's he waiting for?

One can only conclude that the NDP and their leader Thomas Mulcair are not ready for prime time.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

No Admission to NATO For Macedonia During Chicago Summit

Macedonia will not get the go ahead for NATO admission during this year NATO Summit to be held in Chicago during May 20th and 21st.  NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen said that the NATO position remains unchanged during an appearance on Radio Free Europe.

"The Alliance's position remains unchanged and is still based on the decision taken at the 2008 Bucharest summit, when NATO deemed Macedonia ready to join once it concludes the long-standing name dispute with Greece.  Unfortunately, there has not been progress in this direction. Nevertheless, the decision we took four years ago continues to apply."

The issue evolves around a name dispute between Greece and Macedonia.  Greece objects to the use of the name, citing territorial and historical concerns, as it applies to  its northern historical region and the ancient kingdom of Macedon which falls within Greek Macedonia. 

Greece further objects to the use of the term "Macedonian" for the neighboring country's largest ethnic group and its language. The Republic of Macedonia is accused of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered parts of Greece's culture (such as Vergina Sun and Alexander the Great), and of promoting the irredentist concept of a United Macedonia, which would include territories of Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and Serbia.  Wikepedia

Just as the dispute affects Macedonia's admission to NATO, the United Nations ran into difficulties admitting the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name, namely with Greece providing the roadblock.   Finally a provisional name was adopted for the purposes of UN entry.  The UN Security Council endorsed the admission and recommended "that the State whose application is contained in document S/25147 be admitted to membership in the United Nations, this State being provisionally referred to for all purposes within the United Nations as 'the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' pending settlement of the difference that has arisen over the name of the State."

The council made clear in its recommendation that:

The appellation "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" was purely a provisional term to be used only until the dispute was resolved.

The term was a reference, not a name; as a neutral party in the dispute, the United Nations had not sought to determine the name of the state.

More on the Background of the Name Dispute 

To date the name dispute has not been resolved and thus the rejection by NATO, which is also backed by the United States.

 “In view of Macedonia, the country has met the key membership criteria. The United States remains engaged and supports negotiations aimed at solving the name row."

One would think that NATO could use the same approach as the United Nations did in dealing with Macedonia.  After all Macedonia has been involved in several NATO peacekeeping missions, including the deployment of 244 soldiers in Afghanistan.

Greece of course is a member of NATO and the Eurozone and obviously yields some political influence in those organizations.

The International Court of Justice ruled that Greece had breached an interim deal, brokered by the UN in 1995 (provisional name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), when it blocked Macedonia’s attempt to join NATO in 2008.  Under the terms of the UN deal, Greece was obliged not to prevent Macedonia from joining international organizations as long it used a provisional UN reference, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The Hague court broadly upheld Macedonia's case, but did not accept other demands, made by Macedonia, that Greece be ordered to stop blocking Macedonia from joining the EU and NATO.

Obviously the name is important to both countries and has caused ethnic strife in Macedonia, pitching one part of the population on another.  While it took a long time to get to this point, Macedonia also has a right to have its name issue resolved.   At the very least it should not be the stumbling block for it to join NATO.  After all the country is good enough to contribute to NATO missions.

Socialist French President Visits Conservative German Chancellor

Shortly after taking his oath as the new President of France and a short motorcade in the rain, the new President of France, Francois Hollande wasted no time visiting his German counterpart, Angela Merkel.  While the new President was enroute his plane was struck by lightening and he had to return to France to change aircraft. 

Merkel and Sarkozy had an excellent relationship and the agreement reached to sort out Greece's debt crisis was developed between Merkel and he former French president.  Hollande campaigned on less austerity and more growth. 

Hollande arrived in Berlin to be greeted to with full honours for a state visit, with a military honour guard and all the trimmings.  Hollande's firs official  state visit shortly after he was  sworn in demonstrated the significance of the German/French relationship. 

The media, hungry for results, from the private meeting of these two European heavyweights, assembled in the foyer of the Chancellors office, demonstrating the importance of this relationship and the way forward for Europe. 

While no specific details were discussed, the two leaders attempted to put a positive light on their meeting. 

"We are very pleased, that on the day of his day he official became President, tha the (Hollande) came to us in Germany.  It pleases us even more that he did it, despite lighting striking his aircraft, perhaps this is a good omen for our cooperation,"said Merkel.

"I was very pleased with the official reception, because I wanted to pain a picture of trust, surpassing our diffenrece.  Trust in the work that we want to do together.  I also wanted to convey a picture of co-operation and continuity,  I hope that we will be able to convince Europeans that Germany and France together have the will to work on our relationship and the relationship in Europe overall," said Hollande.

Needless to say, the German and French public have different expectations from their leaders.  Greece is in turmoil and will be having new elections next month, since no coalition could be formed.  The current solution has been austerity, which no doubt hurt the ordinary person on the street. 

Years of neglect and politicians trying to garner votes have brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy.  Those European leaders that attempt to get their spending under control, with entitlement and pension reform are being punished.  It is no different with Sarkozy and even in Merkel's Germany, where a state election in Nord Rhein Westfalen, showed the door to her Christian Democratic Union this past weekend.

In the United States the election this November is taking on the question of two different ideologies, one of entitlements and more spending, while the other bases its policies on the market place and deficit reduction.

Hollande and Merkel also differ in their approach to Afghanistan.  While Merkel supports the NATO plan to exit the country in 2014, Hollande wants to accomplish this a lot sooner.

The G8 meets later on this month in the United States.  President Obama has invited Hollande to a private meeting prior to the G8 discussions.  Hopefully, by then, the Germans and French will be using the same playbook and sing the same tune.  

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fortuna Duesseldorf Moves to Top Flight After Aggregate Win Over Berlin

 Duesseldorf joins Greuther Furth and Eintracht Frankfurt to be promoted to the Bundesliga.  A 4-3 aggregate win over Hertha BSC Berlin assured the promotion.  Berlin will be playing in the 2. Bundesliga next year.

Fortuna Duesseldorf started the relegation battle with a 2-1 victory in Berlin.  This made it difficult for Berlin to win the second leg by aggregate in Duesseldorf.

It took less than a minute for Fortuna Duesseldorf's Maximillian Beistner to score the first goal after a low pass from Ilsoe. He took the pass went around Roman Hubnik and fired a shot from 23 meters in the lower right corner of the net.  1-0 Duesseldorf (aggregate 3-1).

Berlin gained in composure as the game went on and it finally paid off for the Berliners in the 23rd minute, when Ronny took a freekick from the left side perfectly into the box and Ben-Hatira went up to put a header into the right corner of the net.  1-1 (3-2 Duesseldorf aggregate).

After one half of play, Duesseldorf initially put on the pressure which resulted in the first goal in just 25 seconds, however Berlin got better as the game went on.  It eventually got Berlin the equalizer.  With the pressure placed on Duesseldorf the result could have been much more in favour of the Berliners.

As the second half started Berlin continued to control much of the game.  However a Yellow/Red card,  in the 54th minute, given to Ben Hatira, he fouled Lambertz, gave Duesseldorf a one man advantage.

Just five minutes later Jovanovic's goal in the 59th minute gave Duesseldorf a 2-1 lead, 4-2 aggregate.  Thomas Broeker delivered a pass into the six meter box, where Jovanovic put it away with a header just inside the post. 

Duesseldorf kept the pressure on Berlin and missed a couple of excellent chances.  A lapse in Duesseldorf's defence gave Berlin the opportunity to equalize the the match, when Raffael snatched up the ball from Ramos and placed it in the lower right corner. 2-2.

After an extensive delay, when fans thought the game was over, the game continued for the last 90 seconds.  Duesseldorf managed to hang on for a 4-3 aggregate win and is promoted to the top flight.

Hertha BSC Berlin:  Thomas Kraft - Holland, Hubnik, Janker(Patrick Ebert 72nd( , Lell (Rukavytsya 72nd) - Kobiasshvili, Niedermeyer - Ben Hatira, Raffael, Ebert - Ramos

Fortuna Duesseldorf:   Ratajczak - Van den Bergh, Langeneke, Lukimya-Mulongo, Levels - Lambertz (Juanan 89th), Fink, Bodzek, Broeker - Beister (Matushyk 77th), Ilsoe (Ivanovic 46th)

US State Department Reports on New START Treaty

Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
May 3, 2012


Basic Components

The Central Limits of the New START Treaty
  • Deployed Warheads: 1,550 warheads emplaced on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, and counted for deployed heavy bombers.
  • Deployed Ballistic Missiles and Heavy Bombers: 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers.
  • Deployed and Non-Deployed Launchers and Heavy Bombers: 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, deployed and non-deployed SLBM launchers, deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers.
  • Timetable for Limitations: Parties must meet central limits within seven years after the Treaty enters into force.
  • Duration of Agreement: Ten years with an option to extend for no more than five years, if both sides agree.

Verification Regime

  • National Technical Means (NTM) – Treaty provides for the use of, and non-interference with, NTM, which are satellites and other national means of verification and monitoring.
  • On-site Inspections – 18 on-site inspections per year. Ten Type One inspections focus on sites with deployed and non-deployed strategic systems; Eight Type Two inspections focus on sites with only non-deployed strategic systems.
  • Unique Identifiers (UIDs) – Each ICBM, SLBM, and heavy bomber will be assigned a unique identifier.
  • Telemetric Information –To enhance transparency and supplement verification provisions.
  • Compliance – Establishment of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC).

Data Exchange

  • Data Exchange and Notifications – Ongoing exchanges of data on numbers, locations, and technical characteristics of weapons systems and facilities, with regular notifications and updates.

Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms

Category of Data
United States of America
Russian Federation
Deployed ICBMs, Deployed SLBMs, and Deployed Heavy Bombers
Warheads on Deployed ICBMs, on Deployed SLBMs, and Nuclear Warheads Counted for Deployed Heavy Bombers
Deployed and Non-deployed Launchers of ICBMs, Deployed and Non-deployed Launchers of SLBMs, and Deployed and Non-deployed Heavy Bombers
(As of March 2012, as drawn from the six-month data update provided by the Parties)

Implementation Thus Far

  • Notifications: Over 2,200 notifications exchanged through the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers (movements, launches, data changes).
  • Exhibitions: Four exhibitions required by the Treaty have been completed (Russian RS-24 road-mobile ICBM and launcher; U.S. B-1B heavy bomber; U.S. B-2A heavy bomber; U.S. SSGN).
  • Type One and Type Two Inspections: During the first year of Treaty implementation, both sides completed their annual allocation of 18 on-site inspections. For this Treaty Year, the U.S. has conducted 4 inspections and Russia has conducted 4 inspections.
-- These inspections have taken place at ICBM, SLBM, and heavy bomber bases; storage facilities; conversion or elimination facilities; and test ranges
  • Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC): Has met three times and signed two non-legally binding Joint Statements and two legally-binding Agreements, memorializing shared understandings of technical issues related to implementation activities.
  • Telemetry Exchange: Both Parties have conducted demonstrations of telemetric information playback equipment and recording media to be used during telemetry exchanges. During the third session of the BCC, agreement was reached between the Parties to exchange telemetric information of one ICBM or SLBM launch conducted in 2011. Telemetric information was exchanged among the Parties on April 6, 2012.


  • The implementation of the New START Treaty has been successful and is progressing smoothly.
  • The outstanding working relationship that developed during negotiations has carried over into implementation.
  • Both sides have worked cooperatively to resolve implementation questions as they have arisen.
  • We look forward to reporting further success and additional updates as New START implementation continues.

Alberta Town is Burning - One Year Later

One year ago, the small Alberta town of Slave Lake, was overcome by a devastating fire.   Twelve months later, although there has been a lot of construction activity, many are still living in temporary trailers, but the town is making progress. 

The town will hold a special ceremony this morning marking the anniversary.  The whole community has been invited to attend.  The Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford will be in attendance.  

Ironically its wildfire season again, conditions have been extremely dry, and the Province of Alberta has imposed a province wide fire ban. 

More than 400 homes were destroyed a year ago.  People were forced to live in temporary shelters or campgrounds.  Athabasca opened a community center to temporarily house people and even the University Alberta made student accommodation available.  The community came together and did what it had to to support its neighbors.

The rebuilding process has started, but of course its slow.  Before anyone could be permitted back into the town, the rubble had to be removed, services restored and of the sites had to be safe. 

Some rebuild homes are close to completion.  There is a new community centere and the town hall is expected to be ready for occupancy by next summer.  It's a slow process, but the town's attitude is positive and the community is determined to get back on its feet.  What seemed to be an impossible task, is a sense of pride by the town administration.  Many people have moved into new homes and over 200 development permits have been issued and is growing weekly.

"It's impressive, all the new houses," says Brian Vance, chief administrative officer for Slave Lake. "Of course, last June the challenge was overwhelming and a lot of experts were saying we wouldn't be able to start until this spring.
"Certainly there was a sense of confusion and hopelessness. People just didn't know where to start. But I think over the year (that) people, in many cases, had a chance to stop dwelling so much on the loss and start more so on the recovery."  Edmonton Journal

The mayor of Slave Lake, Karina Pillay-Kinnee says that the day will be bitter sweet for many residents. 

"I think it's important to acknowledge the day and to recognize how far we've come, and the help we've received, but it is definitely a day of mixed emotions, I'd say."

One can only be proud of the accomplishments of the community.  The human spirit is well and alive.  While much still needs to be done, the people of Slave Lake have come a long way.

Below is my account of last year's fire:

Alberta Town is Burning

 Slave Lake, a community of about 7000 people is dealing with the devastation of wildfires tonight. The town's website, earlier tonight read, “Fire has breached the Town of Slave Lake Boundary along the southern portion, Please move toward large green areas, beaches or large parking lots like Walmart, Canadian Tire, or the Sawridge Mall Parking Lot.”

With 200 firefighters and 100 pieces of equipment on scene, firefighters attempted to set up firebreaks around the town overnight. The fire took up an area of about 1000 heactares. On Saturday a second fire broke out and continued to burn east of town.

At least 10 buildings and several vehicles burned east of town. Premier Ed Stelmach said on Twitter that he was watching the situation closely, while Sustainable Resources and Development Minister Mel Knight spend part of today in Slave Lake.

According to a tweet from CTV Edmonton, main street in Slave Lake is on fire and the town hall is ablaze. CTVs Sean Amato has reported that Slave Lake Hospital has been evacuated but is not on fire.

It goes without saying that people in the town were frightened and there was havoc on local highways as people tried to escape. The Walmart Parking lot was acting as a makeshift refugee camp.

As of 10:45 pm MST Sean Amato of CTV reported that almost the complete SE portion of town has been engulfed by flames. The hospital has been evacuated and the town hall and the mall are engulfed by flames. About 30% of the town has been consumed by flames, including the northern portion of town. People don't believe that this town will be standing by morning.

The Red Cross has pleaded for donations for the people of Slave Lake. Donations can be made 1-800-418-111 or the Red Cross Website

A full evacuation of the town of Slave Lake has been ordered, including media. Those concerned about loved ones can call the Red Cross at 1-780-523-3388.
The Multiplex in Athabasca has set up a blanket drop of centre.

Slave Lake is approximately 250 km (150 miles) north of Edmonton, Alberta.

You can follow the news of the fire on twitter under Trends Canada Slave Lake.

Alberta Sustainable Resources and Development reports that some 1000 fire fighters are on the ground this morning, along with 100 helicopters. Whether or not the town can be rebuild is not known at this time. A spokekesperson for the Alberta government said that they will do everything possible to save what.s possible. 200 additional fire fighters are expected to come from British Columbia and Ontario to assists with the fire fighting. Three Evacuation Centres have been set up in Athabasca, Westlock and Edmonton. No injuries have been reported.
Update as of 6 p.m MST:
The Premier of Alberta, Ed Stelmach toured the town of Slave Lake on Monday May 16th. He said he had never seen anything like this in his life. One of the priorities will to restore water, which means that valves have to be turned off to those homes destroyed to ensure only homes intact are supplied with water. Before that the safety of the water supply must be ensured.

Water tankers were able to take to the air again today and the Premier said that we could all sleep tonight. When he toured the area he said that the hospital was intact, as was the Seniors Centre. He also talked to Prime Minister Harper earlier today and assured residents of Slave Lake that they would not be forgotten. Some 10,000 people have been evacuated to nearby towns with major shelters in Athabasca, Westlock and Edmonton. The communities have come together and the Province has send all available resources to help with fighting the fire.

The Premier stated that although emergency responses are exercised, you never think that you will need them.

The Slave Lake fire is one of 36 wildfires in the Province, making this one of the worst fire seasons ever.

Alberta Government Wildfire Update In Slave Lake area

Monday, 14 May 2012

Skopje, Macedonia has its Own Ground Zero Controversy

With ethnic tensions still high in Macedonia, the construction of a controversial church will start this month.  The government funded project is part of the Skopje 2014 Urban Renewal project.

Ethnic tensions erupted in Macedonia after the slaying of four men between 18 and 22 and a middle aged man that were fishing.  The police has arrested 20 individuals and charged three claiming that they have links with radical Islam.   The arrests have prompted protests over the weekend, where confrontation with police erupted in violence, with windows broken and rocks hurled at the police.  Ethnic Alabians claim that the men are being framed and demanded their release. 

To add a little fuel to the fire, the construction of the church, dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helena, which will be complemented by a 50 metre high bell tower, will start this  month.

The project, first announced in 2009, caused an ethnic uproar, especially by ethnic Albanians represented by the Islamic Religious Community, IVZ,  sought to build a mosque in the same square.  This caused friction between the Christian commununity, mainly Orthodox Macedonians.  Others objected to public funds being utilized, stating that it violated the separation between church and state guaranteed in the constitution.

Students objected to the construction of the church, since it was to be built in the  busiest pedestrian precinct in the city.  This eventually caused violence to erupt between students and religious militants. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sided with the militants, accusing students of having been prompted by the opposition to protest. The Prime Minister insisted that the church would be built no matter what.

Last year a compromise decision was reached and the church was moved several hundred metres from the main square.  The government is no longer officially funding the project, however, it has given substantial funds to the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC).

Nothing becomes easy in Macedonia, not unlike New York, houses of worship can become extremely controversial.  In this case, it was the location of a Christian church in a town square, where Ground Zero had more to do with the sacred ground of the 911 terrorist attacks.

Operational Missile Defense System - The Way Ahead

NATO's Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen said that the Western Alliance is determined to move ahead with an operational missile defense system.  The statement follows what Rasmussen called a comprehensive test.

 "We will continue to expand the system toward full operational capability.  The alliance has already developed an initial command-and-control system to link the US assets with sensors and interceptors provided by European allies.   I expect more announcements in the months and years ahead."

An announcement by NATO leaders of an "interim capability" is expected to be announced during the Chicago Summit on May 20-21st.

The missile defense shield has caused frictions in the relationship between the U.S. and Russia and newly elected Russian President Vladimir Puttin is skipping the G8 Summit.  While Putin said that his attendance was cancelled due to the work he needs to do on his Cabinet, it is widely believed that it is as a protest against missile defense.

While there have been high level negotiations between Russia, NATO and the U.S., Russia was seeking a binding agreement to ensure the system was not being used against Russia.  The U.S. and NATO are only prepared to give political assurances.

 "We have not been able to find mutually-acceptable solutions at this point and the situation is practically at a dead end," said Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. 

 The U.S. and Europeans are ready to go ahead with the deployment of the first elements of the missile defence system next month.  The United States says it is installing the system to protect European allies from an attack by Iran, which the Western allies fear is on the brink of developing a nuclear weapon.

Russia has been opposed to the missile shield from the outset and fears that the deployment would harm its own nuclear deterrence.  Russia has warned that if the United States proceeds, it would be forced to unleash its own massive armament system if the U.S. did not address its concerns.

Rasmussen announced that NATO conducted a comprehensive test last month, which included  US ships, radar and satellites, as well as interceptor batteries from Germany and the Netherlands.

According to Rasmussen the test was successful and that first elements of the US network of satellites, sensors and sea-based interceptors are already deployed to Europe.

Turkey, Romania, Poland and Spain have all agreed to host US assets, Rasmussen pointed out.  Russia is particularly concerned about deployment of missile defense assets in former Warsaw Pact satellites.  This should be a hot issue during the Chicago Summit, which former Russian President Dimitry Medvednev will attend.

Canadian Politics this Week (7-13 May 2012)

You have to love Canadian politics if you're a political junky.  Since the Harper Conservatives won a majority just over a year ago, the attacks by the opposition parties have been relentless.  This week a poll revealed for the first time that the NDP has a slight lead over the Conservatives, 34% to 30%, while the Liberal party's popularity remained steady  at 20%.

The Robocalls, omnibus crime bill and the current bill before government, the budget bill, F35 spending estimates, which have turned out higher than the governments estimates and the latest report on the cost of the Libyan conflict, have all contributed to the decline of popularity for the Conservatives. 

Mulcair's Take on Manufacturing and the Resource Industry

Leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, has slammed the resource industry for being responsible of the decline of the manufacturing sector in Quebec and Ontario.  This has prompted a strong response from the Premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. 

Although Mulcair said in March that he would never be heard speaking against oilsands development,  he has jumped fully into condemning Harper's resource based policies on the economy as the "Dutch disease," referencing the Netherlands find of natural gas, which caused a decline in that countries economy.

Brad Wall, Alison Redford and Christy Clark have condemned Mulcair's remarks.  Brad Wall's response was the strongest, questioning Mulcair's comments by asking if Mulcair thinks the oilsands are a disease, he would like to know what the NDP leader's cure is.

 "It's a concern for people out West.  I think his economics are wrong. And there's a lack of recognition there that the resource strength for Western Canada is a strength for the whole country,"  Wall said.

British Columbia's Premier Christy Clark called Mulcair's remarks goofy.

 "I really thought that type of thinking was discredited and it had been discredited for a long time. It's so backwards," Clark said. "I think that's just goofy." She continued, "The NDP talk their gobbledygook, but really they want less economic development," she said. "We all know it's a recipe for disaster."

Alison Redford also reacted stating that she is not sure if Mulcair's comments were well informed or just his opinion. She continued that she hopes he explains his motivation because she says someone looking to lead the country one day needs to understand just how important the oilsands are to the entire country.

Gun Registry and Budget Bill

A very public fight has broken out between the Justice Minister and the Governments of Ontario and Quebec over  the legality of collecting information on long guns.  The federal gouvernment scrapped the gun registry earlier this year but the Chief Firearms Officer vowed to continue with the collection of information of gun purchases.  While he was told to cease and desist, the response was in defiance, stating that his authority stems from the Firearms act and he encouraged the federal government to either change he act or take it to the Supreme Court.  More to follow on that.

The Opposition has used parliamentary procedures to delay the budget bill.  About one third of the 400 page bill contains changes to the environmental protection act, including streamlining of procedures for environmental assessments.  The bill would limit hearings to two years, which also includes the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  It would stop exemptions for charities that use their funds for advocating.

Lybian Conflict

The government has also come under fire for the cost of the Libyan mission.  Last year, Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, reported the costs to be just under $50 million.  Not unlike the F35 procurement costs, it seems the governments report was flawed.  The cost is apparently closer to $100 Million, almost double the reported cost.

The Minister defended his reports stating that those were the figures he had received from the Department of National Defence.

 "What I said was that, as of Oct. 13, the figures that I received from the department were under $50 million,"

Prime Minister Harper  noted the total figure of $347 million includes the ongoing costs of operating the Canadian military, and he defended the earlier estimates.

"We always give the most up-to-date figures and it's important also to know ... that these figures include normal operations of the Canadian military, of those assets over that period," Harper said.

Expect to hear more on Mulcair's rhetoric this week.   Unfortunately, although Mulcair slams the Western resource based economy, he has not presented his won vision on how he would pay for all the social programs he seems to want.  It would be prudent for him to present an alternate economic plan.

Canada's economy is doing much better than most G8 countries.  The last jobs report has shown positive growth in the manufacturing sector, including Ontario and Quebec.  Mulcair has to present a vision and convince Canadians that his plans would not kill the fragile economy.

One only needs to look at Greece, Italy and Spain to realize what excessive spending and living beyond the means can do.  Unfortunately the situation in  Europe can drag down the global economy. 

Most of the changes being made by the Conservative government were well advertised on its agenda.   Only the changes to Old Age Security came out of the blue.  Those changes, i.e. raising the eligibility age from 65-67 do not affect anyone 55 or older. 

Look forward to another lively week in Parliament and more doom and gloom regarding the environment from the opposition. 

By the way there is an open invitation for Thomas Mulcair to visit the Oilsands. 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Violent Protests in Skopje, Macedonia After Arrest of Muslim Suspects

In early April five Macedonians were massacred by summary execution of four Macedonians, aged 18-22 and one mid-aged Macedonian while they were fishing on Good Friday this year.   Macedonian police arrested 20 men on May 2nd, linking them to radical Muslim group. The arrests have prompted outrage by Muslims, who object to the term radical Muslim.

To make their point, there have been violent protests in Skopje, Tetovo, Kumanovo and Gostivar and other cities around Macedonia.  The suspects are all Muslims and the protesters are demanding a fair trial.   The background on Macedonia and the killing of the five men fishing can be found at Macedonia and Radical Islamism - Ethnic Thrive

During the protests, protesters shouted "Muslims are not terrorists!"  Several youths threw rocks and smashed windows in government offices and court buildings.  There were no reports of any arrests, although police reported that six policeman, one reporter and one cameraman was injured.  The extend of the injuries are not known.

Ethnic Albanians make up about one quarter of the population in Macedonia, while  Orthodox Christians are the dominant majority.  Ethnic groups  composition as of 2002: Macedonian 64.18%, Albanian 25.17%, Turkish 3.85%, Roma 2.66%, Serb 1.78%. 

Macedonia is a Parliamentary Democracy, which gets its authority from the 1991 constitution, which was amended in November 2001 by a series of constitutional amendments strengthening minority rights, in 2005 with amendments related to the judiciary, in 2009 related to the census for the election of president, and in 2010 with amendments allowing extradition of Macedonian citizens to third countries.  The Prime Minister is the head of gouvernment. The legal system is based on civil law; judicial review of legislative acts.  Macedonia became independent from the Former Yugoslavia in 1991.  

Live Blog of the Protest from Balkan Insight

More on Macedonia Wikileaks

Timeline Former Yugoslavia 1918 - 2006

White Book PDF - Background on Macedonia  

Manchester City is Premier League Champion in Dramatic Season End

Manchester City has won the Premier League Championship.  After Matchday 37 the championship was Manchester City's to lose.  All that was required was a win today.  A reduced QPR team managed to move ahead on the City side.  During injury time City managed a draw and just a few minutes later scored their third goal.  This is an amazing end to the Premier League season. 

When the game ended at Sunderland, United was all but sure that they had taken the championship.  It wasn't to be. 

 "Manchester City won the Premier League in the most incredible circumstances imaginable after scoring TWO injury time goals against QPR. The Blues knew a victory would give them a first title since 1968 and went ahead when Paddy Kenny could only parry Pablo Zabaleta's shot into the net. But Joleon Lescott gifted QPR an equaliser when his header allowed Djibril Cisse in to score. Joey Barton was then sent off for a clash with Carlos Tevez, the former City player lashing out at Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany on his way off. But even with their reduced numbers, QPR scored a second when Jamie Mackie headed in after a counter attack. Substitute Edin Dzeko scored an injury-time leveller before Sergio Aguero smashed in the shot that will go down in history.  Manchester Evening News"

There could not have been a more exciting finish to the Premier League.  Will this be one of many to be won by City? 

Below are the remaining results for Matchday 38: 
Manchester City won the Premier League in the most incredible circumstances imaginable after scoring TWO injury time goals against QPR. The Blues knew a victory would give them a first title since 1968 and went ahead when Paddy Kenny could only parry Pablo Zabaleta's shot into the net. But Joleon Lescott gifted QPR an equaliser when his header allowed Djibril Cisse in to score. Joey Barton was then sent off for a clash with Carlos Tevez, the former City player lashing out at Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany on his way off. But even with their reduced numbers, QPR scored a second when Jamie Mackie headed in after a counter attack. Substitute Edin Dzeko scored an injury-time leveller before Sergio Aguero smashed in the shot that will go down in history.

Read more at:
Manchester City won the Premier League in the most incredible circumstances imaginable after scoring TWO injury time goals against QPR. The Blues knew a victory would give them a first title since 1968 and went ahead when Paddy Kenny could only parry Pablo Zabaleta's shot into the net. But Joleon Lescott gifted QPR an equaliser when his header allowed Djibril Cisse in to score. Joey Barton was then sent off for a clash with Carlos Tevez, the former City player lashing out at Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany on his way off. But even with their reduced numbers, QPR scored a second when Jamie Mackie headed in after a counter attack. Substitute Edin Dzeko scored an injury-time leveller before Sergio Aguero smashed in the shot that will go down in history.

Read more at:
Manchester City won the Premier League in the most incredible circumstances imaginable after scoring TWO injury time goals against QPR. The Blues knew a victory would give them a first title since 1968 and went ahead when Paddy Kenny could only parry Pablo Zabaleta's shot into the net. But Joleon Lescott gifted QPR an equaliser when his header allowed Djibril Cisse in to score. Joey Barton was then sent off for a clash with Carlos Tevez, the former City player lashing out at Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany on his way off. But even with their reduced numbers, QPR scored a second when Jamie Mackie headed in after a counter attack. Substitute Edin Dzeko scored an injury-time leveller before Sergio Aguero smashed in the shot that will go down in history.

Read more at:
Manchester City won the Premier League in the most incredible circumstances imaginable after scoring TWO injury time goals against QPR. The Blues knew a victory would give them a first title since 1968 and went ahead when Paddy Kenny could only parry Pablo Zabaleta's shot into the net. But Joleon Lescott gifted QPR an equaliser when his header allowed Djibril Cisse in to score. Joey Barton was then sent off for a clash with Carlos Tevez, the former City player lashing out at Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany on his way off. But even with their reduced numbers, QPR scored a second when Jamie Mackie headed in after a counter attack. Substitute Edin Dzeko scored an injury-time leveller before Sergio Aguero smashed in the shot that will go down in history.

Read more at:

Manchester City won the Premier League in the most incredible circumstances imaginable after scoring TWO injury time goals against QPR. The Blues knew a victory would give them a first title since 1968 and went ahead when Paddy Kenny could only parry Pablo Zabaleta's shot into the net. But Joleon Lescott gifted QPR an equaliser when his header allowed Djibril Cisse in to score. Joey Barton was then sent off for a clash with Carlos Tevez, the former City player lashing out at Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany on his way off. But even with their reduced numbers, QPR scored a second when Jamie Mackie headed in after a counter attack. Substitute Edin Dzeko scored an injury-time leveller before Sergio Aguero smashed in the shot that will go down in history.

Read more at:
CHELSEA vs BLACKBURN                                Stamford Bridge, London                 2-1
EVERTON vs NEWCASTLE                                Goodison Park, Liverpool                 3-1
MANCHESTER CITY vs Q.P.R.                           Etihad Stadium, Manchester             3-2
NORWICH CITY vs ASTON VILLA                   Carrow Road, Norwich                     2-0
STOKE CITY vs BOLTON                                   Britannia Stadium, Stoke on Trent    2-2
SUNDERLAND vs MANCHESTER UNITED    Stadium of the Light, Sunderland     0-1
SWANSEA CITYvs LIVERPOOL                        Liberty Stadium, Swansea                1-0
TOTTENHAM vs FULHAM                                White Hart Lane, London                 2-0
W.B.A. vs ARSENAL                                           The Hawthorns, West Bromwich      2-3
WIGAN Wigan vs WOLVES                                DW Stadium, Wigan                         3-2

                                                       GP     W     D     L    GF   GA   GD  Pts  
1     MANCHESTER CITY           38     28      5     5      93     29     64    89
2     MANCHESTER UNITED      38     28      5      5     89     33     56    89
3     ARSENAL F.C.                       38     21      7     10    74     49     25    70
4     TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS   38     20      9      9     66     41     25    69
5     NEWCASTLE UNITED         37     19      8     10    55     48       7     65
6     CHELSEA F.C.                        38     18    10     10    65     46     19     64
7     FULHAM F.C.                         38     14    10     14    51     52      -1     55
8     EVERTON F.C.                        38     15     11     12    47     39      8     53
9     LIVERPOOL F.C.                    38     14     10     14    47     40      7     52
10    SWANSEA CITY                     38     12     11     15    44     51   -7     47
11     NORWICH CITY                    38     12     11     15     52    66  -16    47
12     W.B.A.                                     38    13       7     18    44     52    -8     46
11     SUNDERLAND F.C.               38    11    12     15    45     46     -1     45
12     STOKE CITY                          38    11     13     14    36     52  -16     45
13     WIGAN ATHLETIC                38    11    10      17    42     62  -20    43
14     BOLTON WANDERERS         38    11      4      23    47     77  -30    38
15     ASTON VILLA                        38      7     17     14     37    53  -16    38
18     Q.P.R.                                        38     9       9      22      43    66  -14    35
19     BLACKBURN ROVERS         38      8      7      23      44    78  -29    31
20     WOLVERHAMPTON              38      5    10      23      40    82  -42    25