October 4, 2015 archive
Oct 04 2015
Oct 04 2015
Afghan conflict: US investigates Kunduz hospital bombing
President Barack Obama says the US has launched a “full investigation” into air strikes that killed 19 people at an MSF-run Afghan hospital on Saturday.
The US military says a strike targeting Taliban in the northern city of Kunduz may have caused “collateral damage”.
Offering his “deepest condolences”, Mr Obama said he expected a “full accounting of the facts” and would then make a definitive judgement.
At least 12 MSF staff members and seven patients were killed in the incident.
The UN called the strikes “inexcusable and possibly even criminal”, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling for a thorough and impartial investigation.
Oct 04 2015
Japanese high school teacher’s scathing, two-foot-long note to students is nothing short of epic
Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding yet difficult jobs one can do; on the one hand, you’re helping to shape the next generation, and you get to help kids learn and grow. On the other hand, though, kids will be kids, and you’ll always have those one or two students who really know how to get under your skin.
Even the most patient teacher has their limit-they’re still human after all. Like this Japanese high school teacher, who apparently had it “up to here” with students spitting their gum out on the floor. So what did he do? Wrote a scathing note of epic proportions and pinned it to the wall for all to see.
This is a picture I took of a manhole cover here in Japan
Oct 04 2015
Afghan official: Hospital in airstrike was ‘a Taliban base’
By Tim Craig, Правда
October 4 at 11:20 AM
The acting governor of Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province said Sunday that Taliban fighters had been routinely firing “small and heavy” weapons from the grounds of a local hospital before it was apparently hit by a U.S. airstrike over the weekend.
In an interview, Hamdullah Danishi said the Doctors Without Borders compound was “a Taliban base” that was being used to plot and carry out attacks across the provincial capital, Kunduz city.
“The hospital campus was 100 percent used by the Taliban,” Danishi said. “The hospital has a vast garden, and the Taliban were there. We tolerated their firing for some time” before responding.
Early Saturday, in an airstrike that outraged the United Nations and humanitarian groups across the world, at least 22 people were killed and 37 others critically wounded during sustained bombardment near the hospital.
On Sunday, Doctors Without Borders strongly refuted suggestions that any Taliban fighters were inside the hospital at the time of the attack.
“The gates of the hospital were all closed so no one that is not a staff, a patient or a caretaker was inside the hospital when the bombing happened,” the group said in a statement.
Danishi, who became acting governor last week when the former governor failed to return to Kunduz after the Taliban seized it Monday, said Taliban fighters had been firing rocket-propelled grenades from hospital grounds for days.
A longtime deputy governor, he defended the actions of coalition forces, saying the suspected airstrike had been aimed along the perimeter of hospital grounds. He said the main hospital building, where most of the causalities occurred, somehow caught fire during the airstrike but it was the not the main target.
Christopher Stokes, general director of Doctors Without Borders, is demanding an independent review of the incident.
“Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, [Doctors Without Borders] demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body,” Stokes said in a statement. “Relying on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.”
Stokes also pushed back against suggestions that U.S. or Afghan troops were fired on before the airstrike occurred. He said no Doctors Without Borders staff members heard any fighting inside the hospital compound prior to the airstrike.
“We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched,” Stokes said. “We condemn this attack, which constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law.”
U.S. officials said the airstrike occurred as U.S. Special Operations soldiers were accompanying Afghan troops near the hospital. Since at least mid-summer, there had been considerable tension between Afghan troops in Kunduz and hospital staff members.
In July, Doctors Without Borders issued a statement accusing Afghan troops of a “violent armed intrusion” at the now-destroyed Kunduz hospital. The group said Afghan special forces burst into the hospital July 1 and “began shooting into the air.” The soldiers then assaulted three hospital staff members before arresting three patients.
“One staff member was threatened at gunpoint by two armed men,” the group said in the July statement. “After approximately one hour, the armed men released the three patients and left the hospital compound.”
The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.
Why quote Goebbels? I think it appropriate for the current regime.
Oct 04 2015
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
October 4 is the 277th day of the year (278th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 88 days remaining until the end of the year.
The Orient Express is the name of a long-distance passenger train, the route for which has changed considerably in modern times. The first run of The Orient Express was on 4 October 1883. The train travelled from Paris to Giurgiu in Romania, via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Ruse in Bulgaria to pick up another train to Varna. From here they completed their journey to Istanbul by ferry.
The Orient Express was the name of a long-distance passenger train originally operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. Its route has changed many times, and several routes have in the past concurrently used the name, or slight variants thereof. Although the original Orient Express was simply a normal international railway service, the name has become synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel. The two city names most intimately associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Istanbul, the original endpoints of the service.
The original route, which first ran on October 4, 1883, was from Paris, Gare de l’Est, to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Rousse in Bulgaria to pick up another train to Varna, from where they completed their journey to Istanbul (then called Constantinople) by ferry. In 1885, another route began operations, this time reaching Istanbul via rail from Vienna to Belgrade and Nis, carriage to Plovdiv and rail again to Istanbul.
In 1889, the train’s eastern terminus became Varna in Bulgaria, where passengers could take a ship to Istanbul. On June 1, 1889, the first non-stop train to Istanbul left Paris (Gare de l’Est). Istanbul remained its easternmost stop until May 19, 1977. The eastern terminus was the Sirkeci Terminal by the Golden Horn. Ferry service from piers next to the terminal would take passengers across the Bosporus Strait to Haydarpasa Terminal, the terminus of the Asian lines of the Ottoman railways.
The onset of World War I in 1914 saw Orient Express services suspended. They resumed at the end of hostilities in 1918, and in 1919 the opening of the Simplon Tunnel allowed the introduction of a more southerly route via Milan, Venice and Trieste. The service on this route was known as the Simplon Orient Express, and it ran in addition to continuing services on the old route. The Treaty of Saint-Germain contained a clause requiring Austria to accept this train: formerly, Austria allowed international services to pass through Austrian territory (which included Trieste at the time) only if they ran via Vienna. The Simplon Orient Express soon became the most important rail route between Paris and Istanbul.
The 1930s saw the zenith of Orient Express services, with three parallel services running: the Orient Express, the Simplon Orient Express, and also the Arlberg Orient Express, which ran via Zürich and Innsbruck to Budapest, with sleeper cars running onwards from there to Bucharest and Athens. During this time, the Orient Express acquired its reputation for comfort and luxury, carrying sleeping-cars with permanent service and restaurant cars known for the quality of their cuisine. Royalty, nobles, diplomats, business people and the bourgeoisie in general patronized it. Each of the Orient Express services also incorporated sleeping cars which had run from Calais to Paris, thus extending the service right from one edge of continental Europe to the other.
The start of the Second World War in 1939 again interrupted the service, which did not resume until 1945. During the war, the German Mitropa company had run some services on the route through the Balkans, but partisans frequently sabotaged the track, forcing a stop to this service.
Following the end of the war, normal services resumed except on the Athens leg, where the closure of the border between Yugoslavia and Greece prevented services from running. That border re-opened in 1951, but the closure of the Bulgaria-Turkey border from 1951 to 1952 prevented services running to Istanbul during that time. As the Iron Curtain fell across Europe, the service continued to run, but the Communist nations increasingly replaced the Wagon-Lits cars with carriages run by their own railway services.
By 1962, the Orient Express and Arlberg Orient Express had stopped running, leaving only the Simplon Orient Express. This was replaced in 1962 by a slower service called the Direct Orient Express, which ran daily cars from Paris to Belgrade, and twice weekly services from Paris to Istanbul and Athens.
In 1971, the Wagon-Lits company stopped running carriages itself and making revenues from a ticket supplement. Instead, it sold or leased all its carriages to the various national railway companies, but continued to provide staff for the carriages. 1976 saw the withdrawal of the Paris-Athens direct service, and in 1977, the Direct Orient Express was withdrawn completely, with the last Paris-Istanbul service running on May 19 of that year.
The withdrawal of the Direct Orient Express was thought by many to signal the end of Orient Express as a whole, but in fact a service under this name continued to run from Paris to Budapest and Bucharest as before (via Strasbourg, Munich, and Budapest). This continued until 2001, when the service was cut back to just Paris-Vienna, the coaches for which were attached to the Paris-Strasbourg express. This service continued daily, listed in the timetables under the name Orient Express, until June 8, 2007. However, with the opening of the Paris-Strasbourg high speed rail line on June 10, 2007, the Orient Express service was further cut back to Strasbourg-Vienna, departing nightly at 22:20 from Strasbourg, and still bearing the name.
I still have my compartment key
Oct 04 2015
C’mon, feel the Colonel Potter luv.
Fierce split over next-generation drugs holds up Pacific Rim trade talks
By David Nakamura, Washington Post
October 3 at 4:48 PM
Negotiators from the United States and 11 other nations struggled Saturday to break an impasse on an expansive Pacific Rim trade accord backed by the Obama administration, setting up what could be a make-or-break final day of talks.
Trade ministers agreed to extend their stay for a fifth day here to give themselves another shot at reaching consensus Sunday on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The largest free-trade and regulatory pact in a generation has been beset by lingering disputes that have left officials fearful that they are running out of time if they don’t close out the pact this weekend.
A fierce divide between the United States and Australia over market exclusivity for the creators of next-generation biologic drugs has stalled the talks, which officials had hoped would be wrapped up already. Differences over market access for dairy exports also remained unresolved, though officials said they were hopeful that could be bridged once the other issue was settled.
An all-night negotiating session at the Westin hotel, where the ministers are meeting, failed to produce significant progress on the thorniest issues. The main dispute centers on how long pharmaceutical companies will maintain exclusive marketing rights to genetically engineered medicines.
I want to stop right here and point out I’ve stayed in Westin Hotels and they’re not all that. For these guys it’s like staying in a cockroach infested America’s Best Value Inn. In fact, upon reflection, I’ve actually stayed in that very hotel and while it’s not a rotting pile of bedbugs and filth it’s not the Plaza or Waldorf either. To continue-
“TPP partners continue to work on creative solutions toward agreement,” said a U.S. official, who was not authorized to talk on the record and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “TPP partners are committed to finding a solution that ensures life-saving medicines are more widely available, while also creating incentives for the development of new treatments and cures.”
Congress members have warned the Obama administration not to rush the deal to completion over fears that the pact could lose crucial support on Capitol Hill if negotiators capitulate at the last moment to break the remaining impasses.
But U.S. officials are concerned that if the talks break up without a final deal, it could become more difficult to conclude negotiations in the face of pending political elections in several countries, including Canada, Japan, Peru and the United States.
Oct 04 2015
I apologize to readers who expect a certain kind of detachment and objectivity. There are times I find myself unable to provide that.
This deprives you of the customary content you’ve come to expect and I regret it.
Currently I am in therapy for many reasons, none of which are expressed anger resulting in physical violence or verbal abuse, but a big issue is my consistent sense of failure at living up to my own expectations of performance of which I am entirely and completely guilty.
I should have been able to overcome my outrage and kept consistency.
Oh, and fuck Obama and everyone else involved with the attack on the MSF Hospital in Kunduz. Rot in Spandau you War Criminals.
Good Germans indeed.
Oct 04 2015
Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when
we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.
Today in History: October 4th
Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, is launched into orbit; U.S. Blackhawk helicopters shot down in Somalia; Silent movie comedy star Buster Keaton born; Rock singer Janis Joplin dies of drug overdose. (Oct. 4)
Something to Think about, Breakfast News & Blogs Below
Oct 04 2015
Trans-Pacific Partnership talks at ‘take it or leave it’ stage
By Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press
Oct 03, 2015 8:54 PM ET
Ministerial meetings in Atlanta have dragged on three days longer than scheduled and it appears this might be the make-or-break moment for concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership here, and now, before the Canadian election.
A few final irritants have pushed negotiations into the take-it-or-leave-it phase, after which some ministers have a G20 meeting in Turkey including Japan’s envoy, who has made it clear he’s gone after Sunday.
Countries face the following dilemma: Accept the deal now, warts and all. Or wait, and risk that this decade-long project dies a slow, politically driven death.
It became clear relatively early Saturday that all-night negotiations had failed to conclude agreements on those few issues, delaying yet another day the planned celebratory news conference announcing the deal.
“Ministers have agreed to stay (until Sunday),” one source said, as hopes for a deal Saturday faded.
So what began as a two-day ministerial meeting in an Atlanta convention centre will have wound up lasting five days, amid widespread desire from deal proponents to get it done now before elections in Canada, the U.S., Peru and Japan.
The United States and Australia are involved in a staredown over cutting-edge, cell-based pharmaceuticals. At stake in their scuffle is not only the deal, but also how 800 million people in the TPP region would access revolutionary new medicines.
The Americans face political pressure to keep those medicines more expensive, for longer. Because the pact already faces uncertain prospects in the U.S. Congress, the American side must keep every possible vote onside – including from those lawmakers whose campaigns are generously funded by pharmaceutical companies.
They have already agreed to whittle down their patent-style protections on these treatments, from the 12 years that is current U.S. policy down to a new TPP rule of eight years. After that period, cheaper, generic-like biosimilar versions of the product could come to market.
The Australian government faces pressure from its public. That country allows five years’ exclusivity. It doesn’t want to budge upward, despite industry insistence that a too-small exclusivity period could hurt the very companies discovering these treatments.
The last big sticking point involving Canada is dairy. As negotiators worked until at least 4 a.m. Saturday, sources say Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and others were involved in a multi-sided talks about providing more access to each other’s milk, cheese and butter.
Canada’s dairy sector is 90-per-cent closed to foreign competition and the government is under political pressure – especially in Quebec and Ontario – to keep foreign products off Canadian grocery shelves. With an election weeks away, the NDP has made the issue a centrepiece of its campaign.
The hallways at the convention centre hosting the talks were suddenly filled Saturday with nervous chatter about what the delays meant for the TPP, which some backers believe could be drowned in politics if it doesn’t get to shore this weekend.
Critics of the deal fear that any gains in trade would be offset by the loss of good-paying jobs at auto plants and dairy farms, with greater foreign competition. They also warn that the deal, which was crafted with heavy input from U.S. businesses but far less from labour and civil-society groups, could transfer power from people and governments to corporations.