Tuesday, 6 August 2019

GUN VIOLENCE - DOMESTIC TERRORISM


In a country where too many are content to relax in the belief that it is the world’s best, it is outrageous to read, or tune into, news outlets, to learn, on a daily basis, of yet more killing and wounding of innocent humans by one or more deranged, usually white male, humans.
We can be grateful where in many cases our police, risking their own lives, rapidly rushed to the scenes to limit the slaughter – but this is not enough, nor the solution.
One example in a long string of crimes came on Sunday, 04 August, 2019, when headlines in the morning newspaper reported that 27 had been killed and 26 wounded yesterday in a busy shopping area in El Paso, Texas, by a lone gunman who was taken into custody. I had barely finished reading the paper, that also included details of another local murder, when I learned that 9 more had been killed and 27 wounded on Sunday, just 13 hours later, in Dayton, Ohio. This time the police arrived within a minute to kill the shooter whose victims included his own sister.
This makes 251 mass shootings in 216 days so far in 2019. 2016 also saw more than one mass shooting per day. All told there have been over 8,000 dead and 17,000 wounded in mass shootings, defined as 4 or more deaths per incident, not including the shooter. Sufferings are multiplied many times over by all the friends and relatives.
In the same time period Canada suffered one mass shooting and Mexico three.
Much of the blame is hurled at President Donald Trump whose rhetoric and actions are hostile to the environment, to immigrants, and to humans not of the wealthier classes.
The White race, dominant in Europe, Western Russia, North America, and Australasia, has contributed much it can brag about, but it does have its share of dangerous faults such as a history of massacres of and thefts from indigenous tribes plus slavery of humans considered inferior. Improvements have been impressive, but they remain a work in progress.
Blessed by geography, the United States has created a world-leading country, providing many benefits for humanity, Currently embracing other cultures, it can boast of millions of its citizens striving for a better world for all.
But it also shelters many thousands who worship Greed and are indifferent to the sufferings of other citizens, be they soldiers in far-off conflicts or poorly-rewarded common workers. Some fear their world of dominance is eroding and they must fight back. An easily-available assault rifle is the cheapest means of broadcasting their anger while presidential rhetoric convinces them they have backing at the highest level.
So, banning assault weapons is an obvious first, and popular, step. After each shooting there has been a fervent call for federal gun-control action. A poll of registered voters shows that 93% would support universal background checks for all gun buyers. Some states, impatient with federal lethargy, have imposed their own restrictions.
So far the gun industry has been successful in fighting meaningful lasting controls. Actually, mass shootings are profitable for them as gun sales increase after each.
And, we can extend this cancer to the world where an unscrupulous few employ Fear and Hate to surpass Love and enhance Profits.
Temporary as it might be, our species has evolved on a planet that offers beauty and contentment in exchange for Care and Co-operation. The failure of many of us to recognize, and react to, the many threats, especially global warming, leave us with a mere 12 years to take the actions vital to avoiding our demise.
While corrective actions on gun control are vital and long overdue, it is futile to concentrate on them without including the other threats to our survival. We do need to heed the cover-the-waterfront proposals of such presidential candidates as Berni Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Ye Olde Scribe












Tuesday, 23 July 2019

DAUGHTERS and NON-HUMAN WILDLIFE



Parents of daughters worry about navigating them through the dangers of human male wildlife, but my wife and I were to discover an also-dangerous form of wildlife that two of our 5 daughters were to embrace. They, Trish and Linda, our two youngest, were often flown, trucked, or hiked in, to remote, isolated areas in Canada, Sweden, and the United States to be left alone among the likes of eagles, elk, moose, reindeer, grizzly and brown bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions to conduct studies using their own ingenuity, surmounting storms, deep snow, and hostile terrains.   During her time in Sweden, Trish learned the language and worked with Swedish, Norwegian, Polish and Soviet biologists. During their 10-year study of mountain lions in New Mexico Linda earned her MA, MS and her husband, Ken, his Phd.          They published a 464-page definitive study "Desert Puma".
This blog continues my family’s love of animals, starting with Blog 194, published 21 January 2019, on Magna Terra Smoky, the high-spirited Arabian colt whom daughter Barbara rescued, trained, loved, and published a multi-award-winning book on his life, including 120 races, of which he won 50. 
Trish tells me:    "My career in wildlife ecology may seem of short duration to you since it didn’t start until you were 60. Yet, if time is measured in change, it began long ago, when black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct, and it continued as gray wolves came back to Yellowstone, and of course to Sweden as well. In Sweden, the reappearance of the wolf was not intentional, it was an invasion from the Soviet North. I remember photos in the Stockholm newspaper ‘Aftonbladet’ with front page photos of wolves being chased across the agricultural fields of southern Sweden by the Svensk Polis (Police). Many surprising events occurred during my time behind binoculars.   Black footed ferrets now roam in prairie dog colonies mere miles from my home, and individual gray wolves  have cautiously ventured south into Colorado seeking the opportunity to establish packs. There are now almost 500 wolves in Sweden and Norway, a big increase from zero when I arrived there in the 1980’s. There are also new threats like Climate Change and the associated wind turbines with blades slicing through the air, killing birds and bats and insects in a place that we never really categorized as habitat before, The sky. The sage-grouse that I banded on legs in the early morning darkness during college are now in danger of being listed as threatened with extinction across their vast range. The whitebark pine, growing in the high mountains in large expanses through Canada and the United States, has survived for millennium and individuals can live 1,000 years, but the species could become extinct in our lifetimes. This is the situation for too many species. I think a lot about loss these days, especially since the office of the Fish and Wildlife Service where I work, focuses on species threatened with extinction. There is a lot of work in the business of extinction these days. I have dabbled in many faucets of this strange profession. Perhaps I have mainly been an observer without much power to change the course of events. At first I spent many hours at night surveying for black-footed ferrets that weren’t there, and I spent many days surveying plant and bird species in areas destined to be transformed by oil exploration or coal mining. Later I spent hours recording the social dynamics of mustangs in the Pyror Mountains; even though my profession does not consider them wild, and more recently I have spent many days picking up eagles from the ground, often torn in pieces, as they are jettisoned off the blade of a wind turbine. Management of Wildlife is controversial. I didn’t know about that so much at the beginning of my career. I knew wildlife could be exploited by over hunting and consumption, but perhaps more importantly, I learned they compete with us for space and resources, and by their very presence limit ways we can make money. I spent some of my career working on projects involving ungulates that were hunted species. That work is popular and better supported. I worked with the National Park Service identifying locations to translocate bighorn sheep to the Rocky Mountains for 3 years, after I returned to Colorado mid-career. That lasted until I busted-up my leg in a ski accident and could no longer hike in rugged country. Before that, and before my son Lee was born, I worked in Sweden to study the burgeoning moose population. I watched and then I wrote articles published in International Science Journals. Including the Canadian Journal of Zoology, about what I saw. (Like nobody had watched moose before.  But it is surprising how much more there always seems to be left to see and understand.
I  saw their migration routes with telemetry, I saw how they competed for food in winter, I saw them during the rut in the  tundra and in the mountains of Sarek.   I also  saw the brown bear and d mountains of Sarek. I also saw the brown bear and reindeer the wolverine.  I spent a lot of time seeing but it is the feelings that have stayed with me the most. The entrancing clickity-clack of the reindeer hooves as the moved like a wave across the tundra, the ominous crunching sounds of the brown bear moving in the brush as it foraged on berries as it  traverses the slope above my observation tent, the adrenalin released by the crashing of vegetation from    the cow moose and her twin calves as they attempted to incapacitate me from ever getting so close again, and the sense of loss in the splash of my camera gear landing in the mud as I threw it at them.  I still hear the laughing of the Sámi helicopter pilot as he would clatter up a tree every time we landed to tag a bear or moose so that he would not be the one to face their revenge. I have experienced other fear too. Fear of the wolf tracker that was sent to keep me safe in my cabin in the roadless wilderness of Sarek; fear of the late night demonic rattling of my cabin that only in the morning did I find out was caused by reindeer licking and gnawing at the foundation to pull salt from the pee of the Sámi herders who use the cabins during the summer; and always the fear of the weather with storms that tear down a tent at midnight leaving me with a 10 mile hike,walk on a muddy trail leading up valley through whipping snow, and my desperate hopes of getting to a cabin. Sometimes I don’t know what my career has meant.  Perhaps I have been paid to simply be an observer.  I see myself in a continuum of people who attempt to resist or balance or compensate for the insatiable desires of humans to consume the Earth whole, while realizing that I am one of the insatiable. I participate in an unending duty to guard wild things, as an effort both driven and limited by the current values of our society. It was only a few years ago I worked to support the prosecution of an industry for indiscriminately killing eagles, and now that same industry has come back, under the rules of a new administration, to find out whether the guard still stands strong where we now stand. The guards in formation vacillate. My career will soon end but with this recurrence of a recent challenge, perhaps I will learn if I have done more than bear witness. "
LINDA:   My story follows my sister’s, just as I followed her path to a career in wildlife sciences. Dad had thought I might go into Art – another field sure to secure my future- but I had no gift for it and my heart was where the wild things are. My initial goal was simple, or so it seemed at first. To try to give back, if even just a little, to the world that inspired and gave such joy.    I fumbled a lot, trying to learn and find my way. A seasonal job with Wyoming Game and Fish, counting big game, getting my truck stuck in a slick snot of clay, the snowmobile broken and buried in snow far from the nearest road, realizing how much I’d rather trust in my own two feet or my cross-country skis than in the “past due date” mechanical beasts that temporary employees were usually provided. Had my first real experience with controversy and competition… when I was asked to use a snowmobile to haze pronghorn from a rancher’s field during one of the worst winters on record. There was a stint in California, during a spell when I couldn’t find wildlife work, fighting wildland fires – cutting line, hauling hose, breathing smoke, and once even helping carry out a severely burned civilian. I lived in the barracks with a couple of the men on our engine crew. They looked out for me. I remember Bill filling a sock with marbles the night that the Hot Shots came to party at the barracks… in case anyone got the wrong idea (guess those are the human wildlife Dad was talking about). 
Then my lucky break. A friend mentioning a possible job helping with a bighorn study in the Absorokas near Yellowstone – I should apply. It was physically demanding work, but I was in my element.  Backpacking trips, often solo, into the wilderness to find, count and watch bighorn sheep. I have a selfie I took (yes, back in 1983!) while sitting atop a boulder on Jim Mountain, wearing my puffy blue down coat (July mornings were still very cold). That was before wolves had returned, and the void was palpable – making the land feel a little more lonely and empty. But there were bears!  Grizzlies weren’t doing all that great then – the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee had just formed to assist with the bear’s recovery – but there were enough around to make solo pack trips a little extra special, though admittedly spine-tingling.  The Absorokas rewarded me with a second gift – it’s where I met Ken.  My path changed course. Although accepted at the University of Wyoming to potentially study pine marten for my MS…
I decided to back out and join Ken in New Mexico, instead. He was to start a mountain lion study on a long, skinny mountain range surrounded by deserts, one with a name that made you take notice: Jornada del Muerto –  Journey of Death. It was one of my best decisions, choosing to go to those desert mountains to learn about lions. 
     The study area was large, encompassing about 800 square miles, and it required a small team of us, working long days out of different camps, to capture and track the cats that lived there. When we started our research, only a handful of studies had been done on the lion (the first being landmark work in Idaho by the man who hired us – Maurice Hornocker). Maurice’s work likely helped with a pendulum shift in attitudes towards this big predator; most Western states began giving the cat some protection in the form of hunting seasons and bag limits. Before that, they were typically considered “varmints” and could be shot, poisoned and trapped ad libitum.  There were still concerns about how to best “manage” lions (for example, how many do we kill, how many do we protect?) to ensure there are enough prey (such as deer and elk) for both the cat and the human predator, that lions aren’t threatening vulnerable prey populations such as desert bighorn sheep, and that the lion is still a vital component of the ecosystem. There is something about predators, cats especially, that I find appealing. Some of it is the desire to stand up for an animal whose reputation is often unjustly maligned. Then there’s the desire to know more about such a secret, solitary beast, one that is capable of pulling down an animal 6 times its own size using only stealth, claws and teeth. Rocky was my first lion. I mean, he’s the first wild lion I got to see up close and personal. We caught him in a padded leg-hold trap and he wasn’t happy about it. At 125 pounds, he wasn’t exceptionally large for a male, (our largest cat during the study weighed 158 pounds), but he made an impression on me. 
We went on to capture cats hundreds of times after that first time, and on some occasions I handled the cat on my own. In most cases, the only fear I experienced was for the cat. We were responsible for the animal’s safety and captures with leg-hold traps or snares involve risks – possible cuts or broken bones from the cable holding its foot, adverse effects from the immobilizing drugs we administered, heat stress from the mix of being captured and drugged (it gets hot in those desert mountains!). Just because I wasn’t often afraid doesn’t mean I threw common sense out the window. Knowing you were alone in lion country…. And rattlesnake country for that matter – the mountains supported 3 species and on some days I encountered all of them – helped to keep your mind sharp. And you do little things to make yourself feel safer, such as placing your trap basket behind you for “protection” while you set snares around a fresh mule deer kill. We also learned as we went. No one before had found a lion’s nursery and then gone in to mark the kittens. We did this close to 80 times. At first, we hazed the mom from the nursery so as to get to the cubs. After a few instances of encountering very protective mothers, we rethought our technique (see, learning!). Subsequently, we’d locate a nursery, try to get a head count, and then quietly leave. We’d come back every day after that (sometimes this meant hiking MILES in and out) in hopes mom would be away hunting so that we could sneak into the nursery and round up the kittens. We broke this rule with one particular female, aptly named “Spitfire”.  She was on to us. Every time Ken and I would find her nursery, she would move the cubs.  They were approaching the age of being too fast to catch, so when we found her and the kittens again, we made the decision to try to haze her from them. Short story, it worked and we marked the cubs. Longer story was she came (at a run) to within 12 feet of Ken before finally veering off and vanishing over the hill. In all instances of aggression, we instigated it…. Oh, and the only inflicted injury I can recall is when a 3-month-old cub, cornered by our hound, Spotty, bit Maurice… and that was because Maurice was trying to extract a prickly pear pad from her mouth.  I  think that says a lot for an animal that could easily kill us. 
We faced much greater dangers from the weather and the other wildlife inhabitants.    I  remember many times during the monsoon season, reaching the ridgeline with my telemetry gear and metal antenna (captured cats were fitted with radio-collars for tracking) just as a storm hit.  Lightning would be crackling all around as I dashed downhill, trying to become the lowest thing on the landscape .  Then there was the time we caught a collared peccary in a snare by accident.  What did it weigh – 50 pounds maybe?  It had me more flustered than any lion, especially when it “popped” its teeth at me.   SCARY! 
And there were incidents of being butted off a ledge by a snared buck deer before we could wrangle and release it, driving off the edge of the road with the back tires spinning in space….
Was it all worth it? I like to think so.   We know so much more about mountain lions now than we did when we started that study – 34 years ago!   Our biggest challenge now may be applying this information to improve the mountain lion’s management and conservation. There are signs that the pendulum is swinging back, with predators (lions, bears, wolves) once again becoming less tolerated or accepted, and sometimes branded as the bad guy for doing something they evolved to do.

Patricia Sweanor                                                                                              Linda Sweanor

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS

Long with us, numerous, mysterious, intriguing, yet ridiculed, UFOs deserve the increasing attention they are now getting.  With us for at least 5,000 years, they, as far as we know, have never harmed us.  Our fighter jets have fired on them to no known effect.  They refrain from harmful retaliation.
This blog is sparked by one of my daughters, Trish, who used the current renewal of interest in UFOs to admit she has kept to herself since 1966 the fact that, while returning home from school, was terrified by seeing a large flying saucer hovering over the hills just north of us as though trying to land.  She ran home, becoming quite embarrassed because the saucer had vanished, there was no panic, and everything was normal.  Today, she describes it as having a solid round simmering-blue deck with  a lower  deck shining yellow-orange lights.
In my own flying career, with much night flying, I have only two incidents of unexplained phenomena.  One was in 1943 over the North Sea en route to bomb Germany. I watched numerous large spherical rotating blobs of orange fire swarming up at us.  I had graduated from a month-long course that described all known varieties of enemy flak but these were strange and unique.  Coils of rotating wire?  My second mystery was in 1948 when on a 20-hour flight over the Northwest Territories in northern Canada we saw, about 30 nautical miles west of us, a large area brightly lit amid the surrounding dark sparsely-populated expanse, an area usually all dark.
While serving at NORAD, Colorado Springs, 1963-1966, as a controller working shifts at a long communications counter facing a wall screen depicting current activities, one of my tasks was to record and forward on UFO-sightings calls to the Blue Book Project.   Interpretations in both locations ranged from deep skepticism to deep interest.  Personally, I was intrigued, I was also surprised that many who took these calls lacked curiosity and that responses to our reports were few and inadequate.  Explanations even included  that the visual and radar sightings we reported were merely reflections from snow melting on the mountains.  It was easy to infer a cover-up, especially when I learned the good 1952 criteria of Captain Ruppelt had lapsed.   Our military is paid to detect and protect us from genuine threats.   Too often investigative findings are restricted to a select few thus hindering further research and readiness.  It results in dangerous ignorance among the rank and file and those who get to do the suffering and dying because of mistakes made by a dominant few.   
In our tiny and lonely speck of intelligent life, we can marvel at the staggering amount of knowledge we have acquired, more than enough to support seeking more with open minds.  Skeptics argue that UFOs must have terrestrial explanations.  We have found no other home base for intelligent life.  If any does exist in our time frame, it must be so many light years away that, even with worm holes, it would be impractical for them to expend the effort to study us, Or, are they actually in our space and time but on different vibration frequencies?
     Reported aliens and their ships come in different forms.  Different origins?  Multiverses in the same space?
     Through recent decades reported sightings are increasing.  At least ten countries have set up official organizations to investigate.  One of these is the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), formed in 1969 in California, now with over 4,000 members worldwide.
       Wikipedia details 242 sightings from 23 countries plus outer space.
Are Abductions real?  Why are reported aliens so concerned with our sexual organs, human and cattle?  Perhaps, a search for DNA that could help their own species?   The number of those involved in investigating and helping abductees  is awesome. Their abductee counts range from a few thousand to 6% of our population. Australia, Canada, and the USA have set up facilities to ease return to normal life those suffering from symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The stories of numerous humans admitting to have been abducted include many similarities: lack of power to resist, a medical examination of those at reproductive ages, with emphasis on sexual organs, intercourse, nervousness and business-only attitudes of aliens until examinations are finished, then a tour of the alien ship, return to, or near to, their homes where they describe the aliens as humanoid but smaller with large heads and eyes.  Two  incidents report metre-tall aliens of  praying mantis build. 
      The UFO study is too vast and complicated for one blog, but here is a very brief summary:
China:    2,300 years ago (ya), texts recorded a ‘moon boat’ that returned to hover every 12 years.
Lower Egypt: 3,440 ya, the Tulli Papyrus of Pharaoh Thutmose III recorded fiery discs floating across the skies.
Rome:      2,200 ya, Livy recorded phantom ships gleaming in the sky.    2,080 ya, Pliny the Elder told of a spark that fell from a star, became the size of the moon, then shot back to be a small light.
Phrygia, Roman Republic: 66 AD, Plutarch reported that, at the start of a battle, the sky burst asunder, and a huge, flame-like body was seen to fall between the two armies. It was shaped like a silver wine-jar, 
Jerusalem, Roman Empire:   66 AD:   Tacitus and others reported that, as Romans attacked Jerusalem,  chariots with armed angels filled the sky.
World War 2 "Foo Fighters": Many aircrews reported strange objects infiltrating their formations. 
Current worldwide, wide-scale interest was sparked with several incidents three of which were:
Canada:  04 October 1957: Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia: Many people saw 4 orange lights off shore, moving at tremendous speed, then plunging into the ocean just offshore.  They alerted the coast guard who found no wreckage or bodies.  Nor could the crews of 3 RCN ships that searched the area for 3 days.  No known aircraft were in the area at the time.  Meanwhile, a sonar submarine-detecting station had tracked underwater movement from the crash site to 25 miles NE followed by a second underwater object.  Both sat motionless for a week when a Soviet submarine was detected in the area, so naval attention increased.  The underwater objects then moved off faster than they could be followed by investigating ships.  They then shot into the air and vanished.
Brazil:   16 October, 1957:   Near São Francisco de Sales, Minas Geraisms, farmer Antonio Boas, working in his fields at night, claims an egg-shaped vehicle landed and aliens took him aboard where he was examined then had sex with  a female alien.
United States: September 1961: Betty and Barney Hill claimed that, in a late evening, driving home near Lancaster, New Hampshire, they were abducted and medically examined by small aliens from a landed large flying disk.  Wide publicity spawned interest but the story was later shown to be fabricated.
Skepticism: Some roots lie in the Battle of Los Angeles 24-25 Feb 1942 when nervous anti-aircraft artillery crews fired on a lost weather balloon.  Fragments caused 5 deaths and extensive damage to Los Angeles buildings.  Later, in December 1953, Joint Army-Navy-Air Force Regulation number 146 made it a crime for military personnel to discuss classified UFO reports with unauthorized persons. Violators faced up to two years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.  This increased suspicions of government cover-up. And the world became more interested in UFO research:
Russia: Billionaire Yuri Milner has invested $100 million in searching for extraterrestrial life.
Canada:   In 1950 a UFO investigation unit, Project Magnet, was established in Shirley Bay near Ottawa by Transport Canada under the direction of Wilbert Brockhouse Smith, senior radio engineer. It was formally active until mid-1954 and informally active (without government funding) until Smith's death in 1962. He had concluded that UFOs were probably extraterrestrial in origin and likely operated by manipulation of magnetism.  A parallel study of scientists and military, Project Second Storey was initiated in 1952
Smith believed UFOs were linked to psychic phenomena and believed himself to be in contact with extraterrestrial beings who communicated to him through telepathy. Smith wrote a number of articles for Topside, the publication of the Ottawa New Sciences Club which he founded, outlining the philosophy of the "Space Brothers" with whom he claimed to be in contact.  The articles were later published posthumously in 1969 under the title The Boys from Topside.
In 1952-61 Avro Canada built, and experimented with, a  Top Secret Flying Saucer, sharing the technology with the United States.
The United States:   In 1947 numerous published UFO sightings prompted Gen Nathan Twining, Chief of the USAF Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, to form Project Sign, the first of a long line at that base.  Sign’s 1948 report was sent to the Pentagon. Its initial intelligence estimate concluded that the flying saucers were real craft, were not made by either the Soviet Union or United States, and were likely extraterrestrial in origin.  This was destroyed by Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, USAF Chief of Staff, citing a lack of physical proof.  Project Sign was succeeded at the end of 1948 by Project Grudge which was criticized as having a debunking mandate.  Captain Edward Ruppelt referred to the era of Project Grudge as the "dark ages" of early USAF UFO investigation. Grudge concluded that all UFOs were natural phenomena or other misinterpretations, although it also stated that 23% of the reports could not be explained.
In 1952 high-ranking, influential USAF generals were so dissatisfied with the state of UFO investigations that they replaced Grudge with Project Blue Book headed up by Ruppelt, a decorated WWII airman with an aeronautics degree.  He coined the term "Unidentified Flying Object" to replace the many terms such as flying saucer and  flying disk.  He designed a standard witness questionnaire that eliminated stigma and ridicule.
It also included questions to serve scientific and statistical studies.  Ruppelt left Blue Book in February 1953 for a temporary reassignment, returning a few months later to find his staff reduced from more than ten, to two. Frustrated, he resigned from the USAF, then wrote the book “The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects”  which described the USAF study from 1947 to 1955.  Scientist Michael D. Swords wrote that "Ruppelt would lead the last genuine military effort to analyse UFOs"
Knowing that factionalism had harmed Project Sign, Ruppelt sought the advice of many scientists and experts, and issued regular press releases along with classified monthly reports for military intelligence.  Each U.S. Air Force Base had a Blue Book officer to collect UFO reports and forward them to Ruppelt. He and his team were authorized to interview all personnel who witnessed UFOs, and were not required to follow the chain of command. This unprecedented authority underlined the seriousness of Blue Book's investigation.
Under Ruppelt, Blue Book investigated a number of well-known UFO cases, Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek was the scientific consultant, as he had been with Sign and Grudge. He worked for the project up to its 1969 termination and created the categorization “Close encounters”. He was a pronounced skeptic when he started, but  his feelings changed to a more wavering skepticism during the research, after encountering a minority of UFO reports he thought were unexplainable.
     In July 1952, after a build-up of hundreds of sightings over a few months, a new series of radar and visual sightings were observed near the National Airport in Washington, D.C.  Senator John McCain saw one.  The Central Intelligence Agency set up a panel of scientists headed by Dr. H. P. Robertson, a physicist of the California Institute of Technology, which included various physicists, meteorologists, and engineers, and one astronomer (Hynek). The Robertson Panel first met on January 14, 1953 to formulate a response.
Blue Book's critics erupted on learning its reactions to the 17 Apr 1966 report of two Ohio police officers, who reported they were able to follow for 30 minutes and 85 miles a disc-shaped, silvery object with a bright light emanating from its underside, at about 1,000 feet in altitude. Police cars from several other jurisdictions joined the pursuit. The chase ended in Pennsylvania, some 85 miles away.  This made national news,  Five days later, following brief interviews with only one of the police officers (but none of the ground witnesses), Blue Book's director, announced their conclusions: The police (one of them an Air Force gunner during the Korean War) had first chased a communications satellite, then the planet Venus.  This conclusion was widely derided, and police officers strenuously rejected it. Trust in government plummeted.  This lack of trust is compounded when scientists from other fields are denied support for projects counter to government interests.
  But, world UFO interest had been aroused, prompting the growth of a jungle of fact and fiction articles, books,  movies and organizations pursuing the mystery, fertilized by continued strange sightings.
    Among many serious UFO investigators is Nicholas (Nick) Redfern, a British best-selling author of 124 books and numerous articles,   He urges government disclosure of UFO information, and has found thousands of pages of previously classified files on UFOs dating from the WWII.  He is an editor for Phenomena magazine.  His 2005 book, Body Snatchers in the Desert: The Horrible Truth at the Heart of the Roswell Story, purports to show that the Roswell crash may have been military aircraft tests using Japanese POWs, suffering from progeria or radiation effects.
Between 1996 and 2000 Redfern published: “The British Government’s UFO Top Secrets  Exposed”,  “The FBI’s UFO Top Secrets Exposed”, and “Cosmic Crashes: The Incredible Story of the UFOs  That Fell to Earth”. They were published in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, and the UK.
Redfern’s appearances on the History Channel, National Geographic, lecture circuits, and the like  keep the human worldwide quest for answers current and alive.
Could all these ongoing UFO investigations help us to uncover a link to the Quantum World to give us more understanding of what we are, where we are, and why we are?
Stay curious.
Ye Olde Scribe
                                                                     
www.yeoldescribe.com georgesweanor@comcast.net
                                                                                                                                                                    

Monday, 3 June 2019

THE UNIVERSITY OF SAGAN FOR WW2 AIRCREW

Now, well into my hundredth tour around the sun, I am one of the few living graduates of the University of Sagan.  Of the schools I have attended in Canada, England, Germany, Scotland, and the United States, one stands out above all the rest. The University of Sagan may never had existed in name, but I consider it my Alma Mater.
Its values were not lauded at the time.  Both faculty and students were aircrew officers, all  discovering unrealized and untapped talents, revealed by a mix of danger, uncertainty, privation, dreams, determination, spirit, dignity, comradeship. mutual respect, and deep nostalgia.  We had that proper mix in Sagan, Silesia.
Like many universities this one was approached through an arbor of trees.  Some would call it a forest as the pine trees did stretch as far as the eye could see.  When the wind blew through them we could smell the sea - strange because the Baltic Sea was 150 miles (241 km) north of us.  Wind and sea were among the forces that had brought us to Sagan. Then they taunted our plight, but whispered that, someday, they could return us.
I was among the first group of new prisoners to pass the two gates to enter this new campus which had just opened in April 1943. We were individually interrogated by a panel of 3 Allied Aircrew officers to ensure we were genuine Allied aircrew and not enemy implants, then divided into groups of 5 and assigned rooms.
It impressed me at how quickly our new compound, with the help of older kriegies from other compounds, became quietly so well organised.  We called ourselves kriegies, short for kriegsgefangenen (prisoner of war)
Management had been discouraged with the high absentee rate that our social group had achieved on previous campuses, so extreme care was taken in the construction of this new campus to eliminate absenteeism.  Two tall wire fences that surrounded us were separated by coils of well-woven wire containing countless pointed reminders of management’s concern.  Instruments that could detect tunnelling to a depth of 30 feet hung on the wire wall.
Universities are proud of their towers.  Ours had eight, all manned by curious men highly interested, day and night, in our conduct.  Their concern was such that, at night, they left on campus handsome large dogs with dazzling teeth.  To enhance their inquisitive view of us, our hosts sacrificed most of the trees in the enclosure. 
Although knowing it was a strong possibility, I had no plans to enroll in this school.   But flak and fighters so disfigured my RCAF Halifax bomber that, after impolitely dropping my calling cards on Berlin I had to drop my aircraft on Hamburg, I was surprised that the well-bombed civilians who captured me treated me well as did the police and Luftwaffe they escorted me to.  The week-long interrogation in solitary confinement on a bowl of sauerkraut a day was uncomfortable but always polite as was the train journey to Sagan for my group of new prisoners.  I had encountered no SS or Gestapo so began to admire these long-suffering, yet tolerant, Germans.    At Stalag Luft III, Sagan, the new North Compound was designed to hold 2,000 guests.  As intake averaged 30 every two weeks, assimilation was gradual and effective.  When our population met its capacity, it was made up of 1,200 British RAF, 300 from occupied Europe who had escaped to fly with us, 250 Canadians RCAF, 150 Australians and New Zealanders RAAF & RNZAF, 50 South Africans SAAF, and 50 Americans USAAF. A black USAAF major was assigned to a room of 4 USAAF who refused to accept him.  An RAF room happily took him.   When our population grew beyond 2,000 we had to convert our double bunks into triple bunks.
Germany endured immense shortages during the war so was ill equipped to care for the millions of captives they housed in about 1,000 camps,  So they allowed the International Red Cross to send parcels.  British and Canadian parcels numbered over 9 million food and 800,000 clothing parcels.  New Zealand contributed a million parcels before financing a share of Canadian parcels.  The USA was to end up with some 27 million.
The Canadian food parcels included powdered milk in large ‘Klim’ cans, excellent for our ‘tin bashers’ to learn to turn empty cans into tools and, for the plays we enacted, artifacts such as telephones and Roman armour,   Long lines of joined Klim cans provided conduits to pump air down to workers in our 4 deep tunnels.  
When, in spite of our bombing and strafing, the Red Cross was able to stack and store parcels at our camps we often ate better than our captors, permitting us to bribe some Luftwaffe to smuggle in to us such items as cameras and radios.  As we also got German magazines we were able to be better informed about the war than those still fighting it.  New kriegies were amazed at what we could teach them.  
Contact with the outside world was maintained via the allowance of 2 letter forms and 4 post cards per person per month.  Incoming mail was not rationed but all mail was censored.  I was able to enroll in a University of  Saskatchewan political science course and receive 3 large books free of charge.  Parents and friends sent us books that slowly built up an impressive library in a room provided by our hosts.
  Among our ethnically-varied kriegies we had many experts in numerous fields so lectures were common.
The Luftwaffe also provided materials for us to build a theatre for our plays, musical concerts, and lectures.  We were able to rent costumes and musical instruments with money which, by mutual agreement, our governments, friend and foe, deducted from our continuing pay.    German POWs in Canada, the UK and US could buy from canteens.  Germany had no canteens for us, only costumes and musical instruments to rent to us. 
Viewpoints varied widely and friendly discussions were numerous and very educational.  However, I was frightened by the indifference of many to our precarious position.  The SS and Gestapo were highly critical of the Luftwaffe’s pampered treatment of POWs under Hermann Wilhelm Göring a World War I fighter pilot ace who earned the Pour le Mérite, established in 1740 by King Frederick II of Prussia. 
Those intent on escaping and damaging the enemy war effort prevailed to dominate executive positions. Compound possessions and energies were organized mainly into building 4  tunnels, Tom, Dick, Harry, and George.  George was designed for post-war Soviet occupation which we knew was inevitable but we wondered whether they would consider us friend or foe, From captured Soviet soldiers who spoke English I had learned they feared our capitalism more than our military might.  I was asked to command a platoon to train as commandos to use George to steal German or Soviet arms to defend ourselves if needed.
Tom was just days short of completion when it was discovered after intensive Luftwaffe searches during the 1943 summer.  To discourage future use it was filled with wagon loads of deterrent from our outdoor toilets.
A new West compound was built in the field we had meant for Tom and reserved for USAAF only.  A new South Compound, also for USAAF only, had been built and our USAAF were moved there in August, thus missing the Great Escape.  A new compound for Commonwealth kriegies was opened in Belaria, 4 km west.
Days after our North Compound opened, Harry was started 11 Apr 43 and finished 24 Mar 1944, We got 76 out with 3 (a Dutchman and 2 Norwegians) making it back to Britain.  73 were recaptured of whom 50 were shot (24 Britons, 6 Canadian, 5 Poles, 4 Australians, 3 South Africans, 2 New Zealanders, 2 Norwegians, plus 1 each from Greece, France, Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania).  I knew, and had worked with, all of them, often trying to convince them it was too early in the season to steal food from farmers, and too late in the war, so escaping was suicidal and counter-productive.  Our carpet bombing was intensifying so much civilian misery that escaped aircrew kriegies would be targets for revenge.  How much better to cultivate our captors into world citizens for a peaceful post-war world.  Nevertheless I did contribute much time to permit those so anxious to escape our barbed wire, if only for a few hours, to do so.  
Sadly, my fears became fact.  We did harm the German war effort in that 5 million people spent weeks hunting down kriegies ranging far and wide.  Hitler ordered that  all 73 caught be shot.  Hermann Goring fought shooting any but had to compromise on 50 as he lost control of us to Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and a main architect of the Holocaust. Our excellent commandant, Colonel von Lindeiner, was disgraced and fired.  He never handcuffed a prisoner but was handcuffed himself and ill treated when later captured by the Allies, and kept in jail in the UK for 2 years unable to help his impoverished wife who lost homes in Berlin to our bombing. In reprisal for getting back to Britain, Bram Van der Stok’s brother in Holland was shot by the Gestapo and his father tortured to death, Himmler gave control of us to SS general Gottlob Berger who, along with Eva Braun, failed to carry out Hitler’s harshest orders.  They saved my life. 
Using RAAF kriegie Paul Brickhill’s book, Hollywood grossed $12 million in its good 1963 film about our escape, but erred in inventing a motorcycle chase to please Steve McQueen who played a role making up for our valued USAAF missing their earned part in the Great Escape.  He acted as a key USAAF kriegie hero in a role that was actually a composite of 3 Canadians.   In 2009 I published my first blog. It answered this film.
In Sagan we had an unique situation where our individual latent talents could flourish.  We lacked the diversions of  cars, generation gaps, girls, grades, money, parties, and excess calories, We did have a worthy cause - the defeat of human failings so dominant in Nazi actions.
And, we had an inspiring motto, inherited from the RAF: “Per Ardua Ad Astra” (Through Difficulties to the Stars), so appropriate today. 

www.yeoldescribe.com              georgesweanor@comcast.net

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE MIDDLE EAST - PART 2

The term ‘Middle East’ can be confusing.  It was coined about 1900 by a British civil servant and today numbers between 15 and 19 countries, including: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia. Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
North African countries also become associated.
The Arab World consists of 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
In 1948 Egypt, Iran and Pakistan signed the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights .  In 1990, 45 Islamic nations signed the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights based on Sharia Law.  It does not include a complaints mechanism.  In 2009 the Arab Human Rights Committee was formed to oversee compliance.  But, by 2012 only 15 Islamic states have ratified it.  Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
My previous blog dwelt briefly with Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Israel-Palestine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen with mention of Daesh, Hamas, and Hezbollah.  Shall we carry on?:
AFGHANISTAN The current untapped mineral wealth has been assessed at $3 trillion yet there is extreme poverty. Progress has been hampered by numerous war lords, 5 years, 1996-2001, of Taliban rule, drug profiteering, suicide bombings, a resurgent Taliban, and abuses by occupying troops sent to help, 
The country now has a strong human rights framework within its current constitution, none of which is enforced.  Afghan security forces and its intelligence agency have been accused of committing grave human rights violations like disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture of suspects. Afghanistan is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries and Afghans name the Ministry of Education the third most corrupt of 13 ministries.  Teaching is discouraged with many salaries below $100 a month and 41% of schools have no buildings.  Under Taliban rule, women were denied any schooling. Since then impressive starts at female education were made by Afghan women and organizations plus foreign countries and organizations.  Adult literacy rate of Afghans increased from 18 to 38% from 1979 to 2015 yet female literacy is 17%.  The most common ages for girls to marry are 15 and 16 thus denying further education.   Afghanistan has one of the world’s lowest literacy rates. 
Civilization began here some 5,000 years ago.  The earliest documents date from the  Iranian Achaemenian Dynasty, in control from 550 to 331 BC when Alexander the Great defeated the Achaemenian emperor Darius III and squashed resistance. Alexander and his successors, the Seleucids, brought Greek culture. Then the Mauryan Empire of India gained control bringing Buddhism. Nomadic Kushans established an empire with Afghanistan a cultural and commercial center (30–375 AD). They took Buddhism as far as China.  From the end of the Kushan Empire the area was fragmented under the Iranian Sassanian Empire untl  642 when Arabs invaded bringing Islam. Arab rule gave way to the Persians, who controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998.  Various princes ruled sections until the Mongol invasion of 1219, led by Genghis Khan. A descendant, Tamerlane, made Afghanistan part of his vast empire.
In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani unified the Pashtun tribes and created the Durrani Empire, which is considered the beginning of modern Afghanistan. In the late 1800s Afghanistan became a buffer state between the British Indian Empire and the Russian Empire.
Prior to WWI my wife’s father earned several citations as a member of the Royal Horse Artillery, with the responsibility to prevent Afghan hill tribes using the 53-mile Kyber Pass to raid Pakistan then part of India. 
On August 19, 1919, after the 3rd Anglo-Afghan war, the country regained full independence from the UK.
From the 1930s to the 1970s, Afghanistan had the essence of a national government and Kabul was known as the “Paris of Central Asia.” A brief foray into democracy ended in a 1973 coup and a 1978 Communist counter-coup. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 to support the frail Afghan Communist regime, sparking a long and destructive war. The USSR withdrew in 1989 under relentless pressure from internationally supported anti-Communist mujahedin rebels.  In 1996, after a subsequent series of civil wars, Kabul fell to the Taliban, a hard-line, Pakistani-sponsored, movement that emerged in 1994 to end the country's civil war and anarchy. 
     After the 11 Sept 2001 New York tower attacks, a US, Allied, and Afghan anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action toppled the Taliban for sheltering involved Osama Bin Laden. The UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for political reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution.
In December 2004, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan. The Nati
presidency came to an end in 20onal Assembly was inaugurated the following December. After winning a second term in 2009, Karzai's 14. The Afghanistan election of 2014 was controversial, and despite UN supervision there were many allegations of fraud. After a second round of voting, the two front runners, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah, came to a power-sharing agreement. Ghani serves as the president. 
Despite gains toward building a stable central government, a resurgent Taliban and continuing provincial instability — particularly in the south and the east — remain serious challenges.
BAHRAIN:  A kingdom with 1.6 million people, Bahrain has the 9th-highest military expenditure per capita ($936) in the world. The USA and UK have naval bases there.
The Human Rights Watch describes Bahrain’s record as "dismal", and having "deteriorated sharply in the latter half of 2010". The government has marginalized the native Shia Muslim population. Torture and forced disappearances are common.  Its penal code is barbaric with stoning for minor offenses.
IRAQ - KUWAIT: perhaps named after influential Uruk, Sumer, founded 6,500 years ago, Iraq has both suffered from, and been guilty of, gross violations of human rights.  In 1638 it was taken by the Ottoman Turks from the Persian Empire, remaining as a backward and neglected province.
In 1798 Britain set up an office in Baghdad to keep an eye on Napoleonic threats to India.  In 1858 Britons explored the Tigris and Euphrates areas seeking commercial avenues and did make Basra a thriving port.  In 1908 the first discovery of oil in the Middle East in Persia (Iran) set off many searches. 
In March 1917, during WWI, Britain with Indian troops captured Iraq where oil was also found that by 1929 became the Iraq Petroleum Company, headquartered in London and is still controlled by British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, Oil was found in Kuwait in 1938   In the 1970's Kuwait negotiated control of its oil from Chevron, a successor to Standard Oil, headquartered in California and active in over 180 countries.
As part of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after WWI the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq was organized under a mandate of British protection which lasted until 1921 when it was granted independence.  Adjacent Kuwait had to wait until 1961.   In establishing boundaries among Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, little thought was given to the Arabs and Kurds who were resentful of hundred of year of colonial rule and forgotten British and French promises of independence.  Even Winston Churchill considered them uncivilized and needing the use of gruesome killing weapons to make them behave.   Tiring of military devastation, the UK formed puppet regimes.  In 1925 the UK set up the first, but supervised, parliamentary elections under puppet-King Feisal with full independence with a Leaque of Nations seat planned for 1932.  Feisal died in 1933, followed by his son, then 7 coups by 1941.  The UK sent forces to defeat the pro-Nazi regime in Bagdad.  There was turmoil until 1958 when a military coup overthrew King Feisal II, ending Hashemite rule that survives in Jordan.  A pro-British regent was killed, dragged through the streets, and run over by a fleet of busses. There was yet another coup after which thousands of Iraqis were massacred, Saddam Husein’s Baath party, in which he worked with the US CIA, rose to control.  It is believed that both the CIA and Husein supplied names for execution.  Husein thought his anti-communism would endear himself to the USA.
When the UK granted Kuwait independence in 1961, Iraq revived an old claim that Kuwait had been governed as part of an Ottoman province in southern Iraq and was therefore rightfully Iraq's. After intense global pressure, Iraq recognized Kuwait in 1963. Yet, there were occasional clashes along the Iraqi-Kuwait border, and relations between the two countries were sometimes tense.   Relations  improved during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), when Kuwait assisted Iraq with loans and diplomatic backing. After the war the Iraqi government launched a costly program of reconstruction.
By 1990 Iraq was $80 billion in debt so demanded that Kuwait forgive its share  and help with other payments. It also complained that Kuwait was pumping oil from a field that straddled the border and was not sharing the revenue. Iraq also accused Kuwait of producing more oil than allowed under OPEC quotas. Iraq's complaints grew increasingly harsh.
Kuwait had an army of 16,000 men, an airforce of 2,200, and a navy of 1,800, compared to Iraq’s 950,000 men, 4,500 tanks, and hundreds of fighter jets and helicopters., In spite of weeks of Iraqi military build-up along the border, Kuwait was caught off-guard when, 02 Aug 1990, Saddam Husein invaded Kuwait. The invasion took 2 days to defeat a strongly-resisting Kuwait that suffered 420 killed, 362 wounded, 120 tanks and armoured vehicles, 39 aircraft and 4 ships destroyed, and 12,000 POWs,   Kuwait’s king, Jaber III, and the government fled to Taif, Saudi Arabia.  About half of the Kuwaiti population, including 400,000 Kuwaitis and several thousand foreign nationals, fled the country. The Indian government evacuated over 170,000 overseas Indians by flying almost 488 flights over 59 days.   Organized resistance to Iraqi annexation and rule was immediate, causing a breakdown of Kuwait social restrictions but an increase in Iraqi arrests, tortures, and executions. 
World condemnations failed to eject Iraq, so 39 countries, with 28 contributing troops, followed the US lead in ousting Iraq, permitting the Kuwait government to return by 15 March 1991.  More than 600 Kuwaiti oil wells were set on fire by retreating Iraqi forces, causing massive environmental and economic damage to Kuwait.
Content with rescuing Kuwait, hostilities ceased, but the US led a long propaganda war accusing Iraq of various violations especially the false one of amassing weapons of mass destruction,  
On 19 Mar 2003, the US led a coalition that sent into Iraq 177,194 troops, about 130,000 US, 45,000 UK, 2,000 Australia, 200 Poland. Complete victory was claimed 01 May.  36 other countries were involved in its aftermath which included the disbandment of the Iraq Sunni army causing unemployment, resentment, and recruits for Al Qaida, prisons such as Abu Ghraib where the CIA and US troops were guilty of  torture, rape, and the murder of about 1,000 prisoners.  
Actually, it did seem an impossible task for the Coalition to inject democracy into a country long ruled by Sunni dictators.  The Shi’a were more moderate but still not up to the task even though there were only 100 revenge killings against Sunni oppressors.
Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shi’a cleric, whose father and two brothers were murdered by Saddam, rose to major importance in opposing US influence.  He supports the poor, the 2 million displaced Iraqis, fights corruption, and control from both the US and Iran.
  Corruption is pervasive at all levels of government in Iraq, ranking it 168th among countries freer of it.  It also rates near the bottom in human rights.  Numerous laws have been passed that lack enforcement.  Lack of empathy is enormous. 
QATAR:  Qatar’s 2.6 million people have the fourth-highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita (36.82 tonnes) in the world, along with the world’s highest per-capita income ($130,000) assisted by the abuse and low wages of  hundreds of thousands of mainly migrant south Asians, according to Human Rights Watch.
Qatar is rated the 16th safest country, Its Qatar Airways earns top ratings.  It forbids pork, pornography, an unmarried man and woman sharing the same dwelling, and controls the use of alcohol.  Flogging and stoning are legal under Sharia Law.  Qatar claims it does not use it but it is used in  the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, northern Nigeria, Afghanistan, Brunei, and tribal parts of Pakistan, including northwest Kurram Valley and the northwest Khwezai-Baezai region.
Qatar has issued dress and alcohol restrictions for tourists.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: A constitutional monarchy of 8 million people, rated #10 among world countries in economic freedoms, it consists of seven emirates, which are:  Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, Fujairah, and Umm al-Quwain.
Basically authoritarian and conservative, the UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, with other cultures and beliefs generally tolerated.  It quarrels with Iran over ownership of some Gulf islands.  It did recognize Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Its economy boomed and diversified when it started to export oil in 1962.  It is now a tourist and trading hub with large foreign investments. 
ENHANCING HUMAN RIGHTS:   I extend my gratitude to the billions still striving to ensure empathy to the less fortunate, but much more light is needed to reveal the flaws of the country that considers itself the greatest ever, and in many respects is, even though it ranks 38th in human rights.  It is so frightening when its vice president tells the West Point graduating class that they are certain to see combat, thus implying that elements within the country will continue to be guilty of numerous violations of human, animal, and environmental rights, such as allowing the God of Greed to rule in disregard for foreigners, minorities, equal opportunities, the persecution of whistle blowers, ignoring science, and unbeneficial interference in other countries.  Improving the Middle East should be easier if we first eliminate our own flaws.
                                                                                   Ye Olde Scribe