Category: International

Video Captures Frightening Encounter With Bear In Wild

Screen Shot 2020-05-25 at 6.54.51 AMI had to share this video from Italy.  As many of on the blog know, my primary recreation is backpacking and hiking. I have often shared photos of wild animals spotted on those trips but this video from the Brenta Mountains in the Italian Alps is quite unnerving.  To have a large bear moving toward such a small child is really dangerous but thankfully everyone (particularly this young boy) remained calm and cool.

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Ukraine Orders Investigation Into Biden Controversy After Release Of Tape

220px-Biden_2013Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that a formal criminal investigation has been launched into then-Vice President Joe Biden’s demand that Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko fire the country’s lead prosecutor in exchange for U.S. aid.  Critics, and President Donald Trump has long argued that Biden was seeking to end an investigation into Burisma, an oil company that gave his son, Hunter, highly suspicious payments as a board member.  The investigation will now go forward as the Senate issued the first subpoenas of its own on the Biden-Burisma scandal.

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GW Students Petition To Remove Interim Dean Due To BDS Support

BDS_Movement_logo424px-George_Washington_University_seal.svgWe have been discussing the rising intolerance for free speech and academic freedom at colleges and universities from course material to social media postings to political speech to jokes.  As speech codes and microaggression rules are enforced, various groups are calling for the silencing or removal of those with opposing views.  The latest is at my school where pro-Israeli students are calling on the university to reconsider the appointment of anthropology and history professor Ilana Feldman as the interim dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs. The sole reason is that they disagree with Feldman’s support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

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“Prison Doesn’t Kill, Loneliness Does”: Filmmaker Dies In Prison For Video Mocking Egyptian President Al Sisi

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 7.33.18 AMAs the United States has continued to give the regime billions and President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has been showered with praise from President Donald Trump, the Egyptian regime continues to wipe out free of speech, the free press, and other civil liberties.  The latest outrage is the death of Egyptian filmmaker Shady Habash, 24, who was incarcerated for two years without trial for a music video entitled “Balaha” mocking Sisi.  The American people has supported this lethally insecure authoritarian leader and a regime at war with the very founding principles of this country.  In a letter published by his supporters, Habash wrote “Prison doesn’t kill, loneliness does.”

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Pandemic Passport And The Danger Of Immuno Discrimination

1193px-SARS-CoV-2_without_backgroundBelow is a longer version of my column that ran in the Los Angeles Times on the danger of using antibody testing as a basis for discrimination.  The concept of a pandemic passport of course will only be plausible if such antibodies truly yield a form of immunity.  The WHO has declared that there is no evidence to support that claim.  Yet, plasma treatments are reportedly successful.

Here is the column: Continue reading “Pandemic Passport And The Danger Of Immuno Discrimination”

Citing Privacy Concerns, Israel Ends Cellphone Location Tracking For Enforcement of Quarantine

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

The government of Israel suspended a program enacted last month at the behest of the prime minister’s government granting the police the authority to track roaming and location data of those under quarantine order. A parliamentary oversight committee held that the loss of privacy was a greater cost to society than the proffered benefit of tracking those suspected of carrying or transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

The underlying technology used to track civilian COVID patients stems from that developed for Shin Bet (The Israeli General Security Service) for counter-terrorist tracking of cell phones carried by security risks to the state.  In this case the technology was co-opted for use against medical patients health officials suspected might violate quarantine orders.

While the reversal of policy is welcomed, it does provide a proof that any technology or power crafted under the promise of addressing a great and manifest danger to the people or the state usually finds a way to be used against ordinary citizens when politicians or government become tempted to broaden its application under “emergency” conditions.

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Violinist In Italy Gives A Gift To The World From The Top Of A Pandemic Hospital

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We have seen some truly moving moments of people bringing comfort and kindness to others in this pandemic.  Some of the most moving have come from Italy. This video of violinist Lena Yokoyama playing a piece by Ennio Moricone from the roof of a hospital in Cremona has brought tears to the eye of millions around the world, including health care workers in the hospital.

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China Revises Figures On Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

1193px-SARS-CoV-2_without_backgroundFor weeks, experts around the world have expressed open skepticism, if not mockery, over the claims of the death count in China.  While not as absurd as North Korea claiming no cases, China has been reporting a ridiculously low number.  News stories of crematoriums working around the clock and thousands of urns delivered just to Wuhan have added to the criticism.  Now China has increased its count by roughly fifty percent in Wuhan but it is still far below what experts believe is the true story.  China is widely believed to be covering up information on the origins and early outbreak of the virus.

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UN Secretary General Warns Of Hundreds of Thousands Of Children Dying From . . . A Bad Economy

downloadWhile I have disagreed with President Donald Trump on a number of constitutional issues, I agree with his push to reopen the economy and his argument that tanking an economy will cost not just the dreams of a generation but actual lives. He is now getting support from an unlikely source: the United Nations.  U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that hundreds of thousands of children could die from the global economy crashing under the pandemic.

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Red Flags: Chinese Laboratory in Wuhan Cited Two Years Ago For Dangerous Research On Bats and Coronavirus

1600px-Coronaviruses_004_loresWhen the coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, many people immediately raised the concern that it might have been the result of a lab release from a controversial Chinese Lab: the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The lab was working on coronavirus and had raised concerns over its containment protocols.  Then there was the fact that China hid the outbreak, arrested top doctors, and buried research on its origins.  However, a narrative quickly emerged in countering President Donald Trump’s references to the “China virus.”  People, including members of Congress, who referred to the lab were ridiculed on CNN and other outlets as conspiracy theorists.  For some of us, the overwhelming media narrative seemed odd and artificial. It would seem obvious that a lab working on viruses in this area would be an obvious possible source.  Now, after weeks of chastising those who mentioned the lab theory, another cache of documents and information shows that there are ample reasons to be suspicious and that concerns were raised two years ago within the State Department.

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Media Organization Rejects Sexual Orientation Claim By Woman Who Fell In Love With Chandelier

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If you are ready for a break from pandemic news and favor of the purely bizarre, I give you the ruling on the complaint brought by Amanda Liberty.  The British woman brought complaint after she alleged that she was mocked after declaring her love for a 92-year-old German chandelier.  According to news reports, Liberty targeted an article in the Sun as violating protections for sexual orientation for mocking her love for Lumiere  Liberty identifies as an “objectum sexual” – an individual who is attracted to objects.  The complaint was rejected by the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO), the largest independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry in the United Kingdom. The decision however raises an interesting legal question going forward, as discussed below

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“How Hard Can It Be?”: Ohio Democratic Representative Pledges To File Referral For Charges Of Crimes Against Humanity By Trump

Ohio House of Representatives

Ohio state Rep. Tavia Galonski (D) continues to garner extensive national coverage over her pledge to file a referral with the Hague for charges of crimes against humanity by President Donald Trump over his handling of the pandemic. Yesterday, she reaffirmed with NBC News that she would be making a referral “tomorrow.” Galonski is specifically citing Trump’s promotion of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment despite the absence of conclusive studies on its benefits. While Galonski originally said that she had “no idea” how to file such a referral, she has asked “how hard can it be?” The answer is extremely hard if you have, as here, an entirely frivolous basis for a referral.

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Stay Calm and Pasty On: How A Small Virginia Shop Is Keeping The Lifeline Of Cornish Pasties Flowing

Below is my column in BBC.com on The Pure Pasty, a lifeline for many of us who love the Cornish pasty and English items like Digestives. When this column ran, I heard from many readers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan noting that they also have a tradition of pasties. I have personal knowledge of those Michigan pasties from my youth. They were in fact the first pasties that I ever tasted. I would regularly go backpacking at Isle Royale in the Upper Peninsula and I would stop in Hancock for pasties on the way to the island. I believe the establishment was called Jean Kays. The embracing of pasties in the Upper Peninsula was no accident. In Cornwall, pasties were developed by miners as an easy way to bring lunch meats into the mines. The notes from folks in Michigan brought back a flood of crusty but still warm memories.

Here is the column:

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Scottish Man Sentenced To Five Years After Killing Armed Burglar In His Home

We have previously discussed the use of lethal force to protect one’s home or business both in terms of the common law and “castle doctrine” laws. It is rare for jurors to convict homeowners who wound or kill armed robbers or burglar. However, in Glasgow, Patrick Phinn, 49, has been sentenced to five years for stabbing to death Ronald Pattison, who broke into his home and threatened Phinn and his partner.

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“Peace and All Good”: Italian Priest Dies After Giving His Ventilator To Young Patient

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We have seen the worst of religious opportunists in this crisis. There are also stories of amazing selflessness from religious groups and individuals. One such person is Rev. Giuseppe Berardelli, 72. Many of you may already have heard of this man but his story is as inspiring as it is tragic. According to Vatican News, Berardelli greeted everyone with the phrase: “Pace e bene” (“Peace and All Good”)

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