3-Jan-17 World View — Syrian opposition groups suspend negotiations of peace talks

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Video emerges from Burma (Myanmar) showing police beating Rohingya Muslims
  • Syrian opposition groups suspend negotiations of peace talks

Video emerges from Burma (Myanmar) showing police beating Rohingya Muslims

Screen grab from video. Dozens of Rohingyas on the right are being forced to watch the beating
Screen grab from video. Dozens of Rohingyas on the right are being forced to watch the beating

For months, Burma (Myanmar) police and soldiers have been committing ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State by scorched earth attacks, burning down their villages, and committing massacres, rapes and other atrocities that have forced tens of thousands to flee for their lives across the border into Bangladesh.

Burma has forbidden any journalists or humanitarian groups from entering Rakhine State to investigate, which many people consider to be an implied admission of guilt by Burma’s government.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented the ethnic cleansing through a series of “before and after” satellite images. Burma’s government agrees that the satellite images show that Rohingya villages are being burned down, but they make the laughable claim that the Rohingyas are burning down the villages themselves in order to embarrass the government. There have also been dozens of videos showing Burma’s police beating and raping Rohingya civilians, but Burma’s government claims that all of these videos are phony and have been fabricated.

So now a new video has emerged showing police beating and kicking a civilian, and forcing dozens of other Rohingyas to watch as the beating takes place. The video was taken by a policeman smoking a cigarette. Other policemen obviously knew that he was taking the video, suggesting that taking videos of policemen beating, killing and raping Rohingyas is some kind of standard procedure.

The mystery is how this video became public. It’s thought that some dissident official with access to the video, and shocked by the behavior of his fellow policeman, published the video on the internet surreptitiously, where it has gone viral.

The second remarkable thing, beyond the fact of the video itself, is that Burma’s government is acknowledging that the video is portraying a real event. The policemen appearing the video have been arrested, and the government says that there will be an investigation for police brutality.

Nobody seriously believes that anything will change. The investigation may lead to the conviction of one or two policemen, but the Buddhist xenophobic hatred of Muslims in Burma goes very deep. The root of the violence is xenophobic attacks by Buddhists led by Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu and his “969 movement,” against the Rohingya Muslims, including rapes, torture and other atrocities committed by Buddhists, targeting the Rohingyas. The Rohingyas have a darker skin than Burmese, and they speak a Bengali dialect.

There are about a million Rohingyas living in Rakhine State, where they have lived for generations, but Burma’s government refuses to recognize them as citizens. They are, for all practical purposes, a stateless ethnic group, living on the Bangladesh-Burma border for generations, but rejected by both countries. In fact, Burma refuses to identify the Rohingya as a unique ethnic group, preferring to call them Bengali, and referring to them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. In the last few years, large mobs of Buddhists have massacred entire neighborhoods of Muslims in various regions of the country, mutilating, raping and killing hundreds, and displacing thousands from their homes. We’re used to hearing about atrocities committed by Muslim jihadists in the Mideast, but in Burma the situation is reversed — it’s the Buddhists who are committing the atrocities, while the Muslims are, for the most part, innocent victims. Russia Today and Bangkok Post and YouTube: Rohingya beating video

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Syrian opposition groups suspend negotiations of peace talks

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), a coalition of “moderate” groups opposing Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, have suspended peace talks because of repeated ceasefire violations by al-Assad’s warplanes and by al-Assad’s ally, the Iran-backed Lebanon militia Hezbollah.

The ceasefire was announced last week, brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, and was to lead to peace talks soon, taking place in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan. The United States, the United Nations, and the European Union were all excluded from negotiations about the ceasefire and peace talks, which presumably was supposed to make them more likely to succeed.

Al-Assad has always been the most volatile of the participants in any of these discussions. Al-Assad started the civil war in 2011, when his bombers started targeting innocent women and children, including Palestinians in a refugee camp near Latakia, which drew young jihadists from around the world to Syria to fight al-Assad, resulting in the formation of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

So the question that I’ve asked repeated for months and years is how can any “peace deal” ever succeed in view of al-Assad’s evident determination to exterminate as many Sunni women and children as he can?

The FSA has issued its statement suspending its participation in the peace talks because his warplanes have been bombing civilian targets in a region near Damascus in which the city’s water supply is located. Hezbollah and Syrian army troops are also headed for the same region. According to the FSA, “Any (advance) on the ground goes against the (ceasefire) agreement and if things don’t return to how they were before, the accord will be considered null and void.”

It’s been assumed that Russia and Iran would control al-Assad and force him by any means necessary to honor the ceasefire, but it appears that assumption is wrong. Unless Russia and Iran find a way to control al-Assad, then the “ceasefire” will collapse completely within a few days. France 24 and VOA

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Burma, Myanmar, Rohingyas, Rakhine state, Bangladesh, Syria, Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Free Syrian Army, FSA, Latakia, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

2-Jan-17 World View — Istanbul Turkey New Year’s terror attack compared to Paris and Orlando attacks

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Istanbul Turkey New Year’s terror attack compared to Paris and Orlando attacks
  • Terror attacks expose deep divisions in Turkey’s society

Istanbul Turkey New Year’s terror attack compared to Paris and Orlando attacks

Reina nightclub in Istanbul on Sunday morning, several hours after the attack (EPA)
Reina nightclub in Istanbul on Sunday morning, several hours after the attack (EPA)

The people of Turkey were once again traumatized by a new terror attack, this time on a well-known Reina night club in Istanbul, where crowds of 700 people, both Turks and foreigners, were celebrating the New Year. At around 1:15 am on January 1, a gunman opened fire on people in the packed nightclub, killing at 39 people and injuring 65 others. The gunman fled and is still at large.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it’s believed to be the work of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), because of the similarity to attacks in Paris and Orlando, where attackers killed civilians indiscriminately in entertainment venues.

In Paris on November 13, 2015, three suicide bombers detonated themselves at a football (soccer) game. Then terrorists targeted three cafes and restaurants with gunfire, and then attacked the Bataclan theatre, where three gunmen opened fire on a large crowd. In all, 130 people were killed. These attacks were planned and carried out by an ISIS terror cell in Brussels.

In Orlando on June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed by a gunman at a local gay nightclub. The assailant had sworn allegiance to ISIS, but no concrete links were found.

Turkey has suffered dozens of terrorist attacks in the past 18 months, killing hundreds of people. The perpetrators have been both ISIS and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), including the PKK offshoot Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK). There have been four previous terrorist attacks in just the five weeks:

  • November 24: Car bomb targeting a government building in Adana kills two people and injures 33.
  • December 10 – TAK terrorist car bombing in Istanbul killed 44 people, wounding 155.
  • December 17 – Suicide car bombing of a public bus in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri, killing 14 soldiers and wounding 55 others.
  • December 19 — Assassination of Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, in Ankara by an officer in Turkey’s security forces.

The Turkish people have been traumatized not only by the endless stream of terrorist attacks, but also by the July 15 failed coup attempt. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Daily Sabah (Ankara) and AP

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Terror attacks expose deep divisions in Turkey’s society

Ever since the July 15 coup attempt, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been fired or jailed well over 100,000 people. Erdogan has particularly targeted journalists that write dissenting articles, but the targeted people also include members of parliament and other politicians, judges, police, and teachers.

Since many of the people targeted are from the political opposition or are dissenters from Erdogan’s policies, many people believe that Erdogan is using the coup attempt to eliminate his political enemies by force, including violence. This view is supported by the fact that Erdogan had already begun targeting the political opposition when he shut down the opposition newspaper Zaman several months before the coup attempt. These attacks have enormously polarized the Turkish people, with about half supporting Erdogan, and half despising him.

One analyst, Soner Cagaptay of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute says that Turkey’s population is sharply divided into two approximately equal groups:

  • About one-half of the country’s population comprise leftists, liberals, social democrats, Alevis (who are liberal Muslims), secularists and Kurds. Since taking office in 2003, Erdogan demonized, targeted, and brutally cracked down on these people, many of whom loathe him.
  • The other half is a loyal, right wing constituency, including Turkish nationalists, conservatives and Islamists. These people adore him.

Another analyst, Simon Waldman, notes that Erdogan’s reaction to the New Year’s attack was different from his reaction to other attacks in that, unlike other times, Erdogan did not refer to the people who were killed as “martyrs.” This word is almost always used by Erdogan with the death of a Turkish citizen in a terrorist attack or from military combat. But in this case, Erdogan said, “I offer my condolences to our citizens’, to our foreign guests’ and to our security officer’s families.”

Waldman speculates that the reason is that the attack was on a nightclub where alcohol was served, and the people were celebrating not only the New Year but also Christmas, as these two holidays are often conflated by Muslims. These are secular things that are strongly condemned by hardcore conservative Muslim clerics, and indeed it’s suspected that the terrorist attack was inspired by opposition to Christmas and New Year’s parties. Indeed, the attacker was wearing a Santa Claus hat.

In fact, Hurriyet columnist Murat Yetkin suggests that the “poisonous” atmosphere in Turkey is because by “rising nationalist and religious chauvinism”:

“Another question surrounds the political atmosphere in Turkey, which is getting more poisonous every day with rising nationalist and religious chauvinism. Religious Affairs Directorate head Mehmet Görmez was quick to make a statement after the attack, saying there was “no difference” between terror attacks targeting places of worship and attacks targeting entertainment sites, and they should be equally condemned. That statement followed cheering after the attack among certain social media users who believe that celebrating the New Year is un-Islamic and something to be despised.

Görmez’s statement was welcome. But just two days before, the Friday sermon prepared by Görmez’s Diyanet and read in more than 80,000 mosques across Turkey harshly criticized New Year celebrations as illegitimate and having no place in Islam or Turkey’s cultural traditions. Only a few days ago, members of an ultranationalist group made headlines by performing street theater in the Western province of Aydin by pointing a pistol at the forehead of another militant dressed in a Santa Claus costume. Unlike the cases frequently opened against critical media in Turkey, the police and the courts took no action against them for “praising crime” or “stirring hatred among the people.””

In fact, many commentators are pointing out that Turks are now fighting each other as much as they’re fighting ISIS and the PKK. CNN and Globe and Mail (Canada) and Hurriyet (Ankara)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Istanbul, Reina nightclub, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Paris, Bataclan, Orlando, Russia, Andrey Karlov, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, TAK, Soner Cagaptay, Simon Waldman, Murat Yetkin
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

1-Jan-17 World View — Taiwan’s president responds to military threats from China

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • In New Year’s address, Taiwan’s president responds to military threats from China
  • Did Taiwan’s president say that Taiwan is ‘an independent, sovereign country’?
  • Taiwan president’s planned US visit angers China even more

In New Year’s address, Taiwan’s president responds to military threats from China

Tsai Ing-wen at news conference on Saturday
Tsai Ing-wen at news conference on Saturday

In the aftermath of the 10-minute phone conversation with president-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, tensions between Taiwan and China have been substantially increasing.

Reports indicate that China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has become increasingly alarmed by this phone conversation, since they feel that it threatens additional steps towards attempts by Taiwan to become an independent nation, not a province of China.

Since then, China’s military has been stepping up military drills near Taiwan, in a show of military force. China sent its aircraft carrier and a naval fleet into waters near Taiwan, and also sent military jets to circle the airspace near Taiwan. Taiwan’s defense minister has warned that enemy threats were growing daily.

In a New Year press conference on Saturday, president Tsai addressed a range of issue, including relations with China. She accused China of threatening Taiwan, and said that “we will not bow to pressure”:

“Since [we took office on] May 20, we have endeavored to maintain peaceful and stable relations across the Taiwan Strait in accordance with the people’s will and consensus in Taiwan. Driven by our respect for history and the spirit of seeking common ground while setting aside differences, we have continuously expressed goodwill towards the other side across the strait. We hope that the two sides can gradually reduce confrontations and differences through positive interactions.

But in the past few months, it has been the general feeling of the Taiwanese people that the rational and calm position that both sides have worked hard to maintain has seen certain changes. Step by step, Beijing is going back to the old path of dividing, coercing, and even threatening and intimidating Taiwan. We hope this does not reflect a policy choice by Beijing, but must say that such conduct has hurt the feelings of the Taiwanese people and destabilized cross-strait relations.

For the sake of safeguarding regional peace and prosperity, I want to once again reiterate that our commitments will not change, and our goodwill will not change. But we will not bow to pressure, and we will of course not revert to the old path of confrontation.

Whether cross-strait ties can take a turn for the better in the coming year will depend on our patience and resolve. But it will also depend on how Beijing sees the future of cross-strait relations, and whether it is willing to assume its share of the responsibility for building new models for cross-strait interactions. This is necessary to answer the collective hope for peace from the people on both sides of the strait, as well as the different parties in the region.”

Tsai added, “In 2017, our society is going to face some turbulence and face some uncertainties. It’s going to test our whole national security team, as well as the whole government’s ability to handle change. We need to face this matter calmly.”

Reports indicate that China is planning retaliatory measures against Taiwan, such as conducting war games near Taiwan or imposing trade sanctions.

It never ceases to amaze me that China gets away with illegally annexing huge regions in the South China Sea, in violation of international law by the international tribunal in the Hague, but then considers a ten-minute phone call an act of war. AFP and Office of Taiwan’s President and Reuters

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Did Taiwan’s president say that Taiwan is ‘an independent, sovereign country’?

The excerpt from Tsai’s press conference quoted above is the official translation of Tsai’s statement from a Taiwan government web site.

However, other news reports say that Tsai also said the following:

“The Republic of China is an independent, sovereign country.”

This is a highly inflammatory statement by the president of Taiwan, and so it’s not surprising if it was removed from the official text. (Republic of China is the full official name of Taiwan.)

In a press conference two weeks ago, President Obama said:

“China views Taiwan as part of China, but recognizes that it has to approach Taiwan as an entity that has its own ways of doing things.

Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they’re able to continue to function with some degree of autonomy, that they won’t charge forward and declare independence.”

Obama’s description of Taiwan as an “entity” has angered some Taiwanese activists, saying “Taiwan is an independent state, not an entity.”

Some activists claim that Taiwan is already a de facto independent state, because “Taiwan has already cut through the mire of its troubled history to become recognized by humanity, irrespective of official diplomatic relations.” In fact, these activists claim that calling Taiwan an “independent nation” does not contradict the One-China principle.

That may be the reason why President Tsai felt that it was OK to refer to Taiwan as “an independent, sovereign country.” Bloomberg and Reuters and Taipei Times and China Post (Taiwan)

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Taiwan president’s planned US visit angers China even more

Taiwan has confirmed that president Tsai Ing-wen will make a foreign visit to Central America, and will visit Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras between January 7-15.

The part of the trip that’s further infuriating the Chinese is that Tsai will make “transit stops” in the US before and after the trip to Central America. She will make a stopover in Houston en route to Central America and San Francisco on her return trip to Taiwan.

There has been media speculation that Tsai will meet with representatives of Donald Trump during one of the stopovers, but Tsai’s office has refused to confirm or deny these speculations.

China has repeatedly demanded that Washington not permit Tsai to visit the US during her trip. However, a Tsai spokesman says, “These transit stops are undertaken out of consideration for the safety, comfort, convenience and dignity of the traveler. President Tsai’s transits will be private and unofficial.” China Post (Taiwan)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, China, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

31-Dec-16 World View — Hacking of Democratic National Committee computers – I blame the victim

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Obama and Putin play bizarre diplomatic game after expulsion of Russian spies
  • It’s almost always the victim’s fault when computer networks are hacked

Obama and Putin play bizarre diplomatic game after expulsion of Russian spies

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin
Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin

So President Obama is pissed off because Russian hackers hacked into the Democratic National Committee, and so, just three weeks before he’s leaving office, he ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country.

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, who always permits his security people to threaten and harass American diplomats just for the fun of it, announced on Friday that Russia would not reciprocate. Instead, Putin invited the children of US diplomats in Moscow to a New Year’s party in the Kremlin.

In the back and forth between Obama and Putin, I sometimes feel as if I’m watching the psychodrama of delusional politicians — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched in one-sided peace negotiations over Ukraine and Syria over eight long years — played out on the international stage. Russia Direct (5-May) and Belfast Telegraph

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It’s almost always the victim’s fault when computer networks are hacked

As a Senior Software Engineer who has developed many web sites, I’m pretty much in the camp of “blame the victim” when a company’s networks get hacked. At one company where I worked several years ago, I told my managers that they needed to encrypt the social security numbers in their database, and I even told them how to do it easily. I reminded them again after one of their servers got hacked. But the problem is that protecting your networks doesn’t generate sales, and Gen-X managers think that when a Boomer software engineer tells them what to do, they’d rather eat mud than do it.

So that’s one reason there’s a news story almost every week about another company whose networks have been hacked. I write about these every now and then.

However, the real monster hack, the mother of all hacks, was announced last year. Chinese hackers stole the personal and security information of many millions of Americas from the servers at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Department of the Interior. That hack included the SF-86 forms that everyone fills out when applying for security clearances.

There is little doubt that the Chinese military is still sifting through this massive amount of data and using it in a variety of ways — from simple blackmail and extortion of individuals to the creation of sophisticated “spear phishing” e-mail messages used to hack into networks of other agencies and corporations. This massive collection of espionage data will be a powerful weapon in any future military confrontations.

OK, so the DNC hack hurt President Obama’s feelings, while the OPM hack is putting the survival of the country at risk. So which is more important? Why, the DNC hack is more important, because President Obama’s feelings are always more important than the survival of the country. That’s why there have been no expulsions of Chinese diplomats.

I was really appalled when I read the stories about Hillary Clinton’s home server and other flagrantly stupid violations of common sense. Apparently the same stupidity pervaded all of the networks of the Democratic National Committee, so it’s not surprising at all that they got hacked. The CIA and other intelligence agencies have concluded that the perpetrators were linked to Russia’s government, and I believe them, but the DNC servers were apparently so poorly protected that the hacker could have been from anywhere.

I last wrote about the hack of the DNC’s computers in July. At that time, I made the following points:

  • No self-respecting hacker would attack the Democratic party servers without also attacking the Republican party servers. However, there have been no leaks of Republican party e-mails.
  • If the hacker’s intent was to help Trump beat Hillary, then releasing the e-mails was risky because it might have backfired, and created sympathy for Hillary.

So my personal conclusion is that most likely explanation of what happened was that the hacker tried to hack both parties’ servers, but succeeded only with the Democratic party servers, and then released the e-mails because that’s what hackers do, and probably didn’t care who won the election.

It’s not always the victim’s fault when computers are hacked, of course. Hacking is a huge worldwide industry, and hackers are always finding new ways to get around firewalls or to install malware or ransomware. A good idea is to keep separate backups of all your data, so that if you’re hacked then you still have the backup. All you can do is reduce the probability that you’ll be hacked, and for that you need to be totally paranoid. Lawfare (11-Mar-2016)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Russia, Vladimir Putin, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM, Department of the Interior, SF-86, China
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30-Dec-16 World View — Russia and Turkey announce a new ceasefire in Syria

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Russia and Turkey announce a new ceasefire in Syria
  • Damascus Syria is without water after reservoirs were poisoned

Russia and Turkey announce a new ceasefire in Syria

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan

There have been two major ceasefire announcements so far this years, plus a few smaller ones. None lasted more than a few days.

But Russia and Syria have previously declared that a victory in Aleppo would mean victory in the entire war, and an end to the fighting. The rebel groups would be so decimated, despondent and dispirited that they’d lose the will to fight. So Russia’s president Vladimir Putin had to make good on that promise.

So even though the rebel groups fighting against Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad are nowhere near defeated, Russia and Turkey on Thursday declared that there would be a nationwide ceasefire. Let’s point out a few things.

  • “This time it’s different.” That’s because, this time the U.S. was completely excluded, and the negotiations took place in Moscow rather than Geneva. I guess the Putin decided that it wasn’t that much fun anymore to make a fool of John Kerry again and again. This agreement was reached between Russia, Turkey and Iran.
  • Seven “moderate” rebel militias signed on to the deal, but a number of others did not.
  • There will be no ceasefire for jihadist groups, against whom military action will continue. These include al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front, now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham or JFS), and the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).
  • In September, Bashar al-Assad said with respect to a ceasefire ceasefire deal:

    “We as a nation … are delivering a message that the Syrian state is determined to recover all regions from the terrorists and restore security, infrastructure, and everything else that was destroyed in both human and material aspects.”

    In fact, rebel groups control vast regions of Syria, and al-Assad is left in control of a small part of country mockingly called “Alawite-istan,” named for al-Assad’s ethnic group, Alawite.

  • Al-Assad has signed on to the deal and promised not to target moderate rebel groups or civilians, all of whom al-Assad considers to be “terrorists.” This means that Russia is controlling al-Assad, at least for the time being.
  • Turkey has troops in northern Syria, preventing the Kurds from achieving their goal of taking control of much of northern Syria, creating an independent Kurdish state called “Rojava.” Turkey considers the Syrian Kurds to be a major security threat to Turkey. The Syrian Kurds have not signed on to the deal.

Why would the Syrian rebel groups sign on to the agreement? A representative gave the answer in an interview on RFI on Thursday (my transcription):

“Obviously after Aleppo I think everyone realizes that there is no limit to the level of violence and barbarism that can be exercised against any target, including hospitals and civilians, to reach some object. And therefore if one get that to stop, the military solution should absolutely be stopped.”

In other words, some of the “moderate” rebel groups signed on, but only to stop the bombing.

And that’s the problem with the whole deal. There’s no compelling force behind the ceasefire. It’s all transitory. As soon as any one of a number of factors on the ground changes, the whole ceasefire will unravel, as previous ones have done.

I consider Bashar al-Assad to be the most volatile of the participants. His air force is going to continue bombing al-Nusra and ISIS forces, many of whole will be indistinguishable from the “moderate” rebels that he’s promised not to target. He considers all of these rebels to be like cockroaches to be exterminated, and he seems likely to be unable to control his impulses and target any of them. As soon as another barrel bomb hits a hospital or a marketplace or a hospital, it will be clear that there’s no ceasefire.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also very volatile. He used to get along with al-Assad until 2011, when al-Assad’s bombers started targeting innocent women and children, including Palestinians in a refugee camp near Latakia. Erdogan must have had to swallow hard to sign this deal, as he’s watch Syrian and Russian bombers target Turkmens and other ethnic groups related to Turks, as well as Palestinians, whom Erdogan supports.

Iran could be pretty volatile as well. They’re known to be strongly against any Turkish presence in Syria, and Erdogan has no intention of withdrawing from northern Syria. Also, there are pockets of Shias living in regions controlled by rebels, and Iran will feel compelled to protect them.

The only thing that’s really changed on the ground in the last few weeks is that the Russians have taken control of Aleppo. The rest of Syria is still an uncontrolled scattered collection of militias, armies and jihadists of various ethnicities and religious sects.

Peace talks are scheduled to be held within a month in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, assuming that the ceasefire is still holding. The choice of Kazakhstan makes it clear that this is deal involving Turkey, Russia and Iran, and not including the United States, the United Nations, or the European Union. BBC and Russia Today and Gulf News (Dubai) and Vice News

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Damascus Syria is without water after reservoirs were poisoned

Four million people in Damascus, Syria’s capital city, have been without water for five days after water reservoirs were poisoned with diesel. It’s not clear who was responsible for the poisoning, but it’s believed that the perpetrators are some of the same militias that signed on to the peace agreement on Thursday. However, they claim that they’re not responsible, since they would be harmed more than anyone else.

Despite the ceasefire, Syrian warplanes have been bombing a valley northwest of Damascus to recapture the region that provides most of the water to Damascus. Reuters and Middle East Eye and Russia Today

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Bashar al-Assad, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, JFS, Front for the Conquest of Syria, Alawite-istan, Rojava, Kazakhstan, Damascus
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29-Dec-16 World View — China punishes Mongolia for Dalai Lama visit during financial crisis

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Mongolia’s herders faces a ‘dzud’ weather catastrophe
  • China punishes Mongolia for Dalai Lama visit during financial crisis

Mongolia’s herders faces a ‘dzud’ weather catastrophe

During a Mongolian 'dzud', animals starve because they cannot dig through a thick, solid layer of ice to reach food
During a Mongolian ‘dzud’, animals starve because they cannot dig through a thick, solid layer of ice to reach food

An extremely harsh winter in Mongolia is sending temperatures to -50°C (-70°F), causing a humanitarian disaster, and threatening both lives and livelihoods.

Mongolia appears to be headed for another winter “dzud.” The word “dzud” refers to a phenomenon that appears to be somewhat unique to Mongolia.

It usually occurs after a dry summer combines with heavy snowstorms creating an ice crust that makes it difficult for livestock, mostly cows, sheep and goats, to dig through to reach grass. This year, the dry summer in the northeast and late autumn rains means the dzud risk is high. Heavy snowfall from October has refrozen after more heavy snow in November.

A third of Mongolia’s population rely directly on livestock — milk, cheese and meat for food, dung for heating, fur for clothing, and income from selling these items. Over 1.2 million livestock died in last winter’s dzud, leaving tens of thousands of herders in poverty. The worst dzud in memory occurred in 2010, killing 8 million animals. UB Post (Mongolia) and Deutsche Welle

China punishes Mongolia for Dalai Lama visit during financial crisis

In 2011, Mongolia economy grew by an astronomical 17.5%, thanks to its huge reserves of copper, coal and gold, making the economy seem invincible. Instead of saving some of that money, Mongolia borrowed billions of dollars more to invest in huge road and infrastructure projects. Now Mongolia is in a major economic crisis, thanks to reduced purchases by China and falling commodity prices, at a time when it’s being hit hard by a new harsh winter “dzud.”

In the midst of this economic and financial crisis, the Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar in November for a six-day visit. More than half of Mongolia’s population are Buddhist, and tens of thousands of them flocked to see the Dalai Lama, with some traveling hundreds of miles.

China does not like the Dalai Lama, as he is worshipped by millions of Tibetan Buddhists in China. So China punished Mongolia by closing part of the border, leaving hundreds of trucks carrying copper and coal backed up on the highway in sub-zero temperatures.

Mongolian officials quickly saw the error of their ways. Foreign minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil made what is apparently an official apology to China:

“You can understand that during the full term of this government, the Dalai Lama will not be allowed to visit Mongolia even for religious purposes.”

According to a Chinese analyst: “China shall accept Mongolia’s apology because China doesn’t want to create friction in Northeast Asia either, particularly at a time when it is facing tensions with other nations, such as Japan and South Korea.” Shanghaiist and Global Times (Beijing) and Al-Jazeera

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Mongolia, dzud, China, Tibet, Dalai Lama, Tsend Munkh-Orgil
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28-Dec-16 World View — Bank run worsens Italy’s banking crisis

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Bank run worsens Italy’s banking crisis
  • Following the money, Sao Tome and Principe switches allegiance from Taiwan to China

Bank run worsens Italy’s banking crisis

A horse-drawn carriage passes a branch of Banca Monte dei Paschi bank in Rome.
A horse-drawn carriage passes a branch of Banca Monte dei Paschi bank in Rome.

A week after Italy’s government announced that it would bail out the failing the Banco Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) bank, with a “bail-in” that would put the life savings of tens of thousands of depositors at risk, the European Central Bank said on Tuesday that MPS’s financial situation is deteriorating far more rapidly than expected.

MPS has €55.2 billion in bad loans. Three weeks ago, MPS said that it had enough funds to stay afloat for 11 months. Then last week, MPS said that it would run out of money within four months.

According to one financial analyst:

“It’s a national tragedy. Monte Paschi survived the Inquisition, the unification of Italy, fascism and two world wars. But it couldn’t survive the mismanagement and corruption of bankers and politicians in the 21st century.”

The government of Italy announced last week that the size of the bailout would be €5 billion, the amount needed to allow MPS to meet its immediate obligations and avoid bankruptcy. However, the ECB said that MPS’s financial position has suffered a “rapid deterioration” during the period from November 30 to December 21, now the €5 billion figure is too small. €8.8 billion will be required to get past the immediate emergency.

It’s believed that the “rapid deterioration” is being caused by run on the bank. It’s known that from June to September of this year, customers removed deposits of €6.7 billion, and it’s believed that this run on deposits is continuing, or even accelerating and spiraling out of control.

ECB rules require that if any government bails out the country’s banks, then a percentage of the bailout must come from the assets of investors who had invested in the shares and bonds issued by the bank. In most countries, that would “bail in” sophisticated investors, who would then “take a haircut.” But Italy has a special problem that many ordinary savers have invested their life savings in bonds, so that would put their life savings at risk. This situation has been the subject of intense public debate in Italy at least since June, and that would explain why depositors have been rushing to move their funds out of the bank.

Italy’s government is looking for a way under ECB rules to avoid having to “bail in” bond holders. Since MPS is still technically solvent, the plan is to take advantage of a loophole in the ECB rules by calling the cash injection a “precautionary recapitalization” rather than a bailout. However, this path limits the amount of money that the government can inject into the bank, so it’s far from clear that it will work.

Jens Weidmann, the president of Deutsche Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, says that Italy’s bailout plan requires careful scrutiny:

“For the measures planned by the Italian government [to work], the bank must be economically healthy at its core. The money cannot be used to cover losses [that are] already expected. All this must be carefully examined. …

These [rules] aim to protect taxpayers in particular and keep responsibility on investors. Government bailout is only meant to be a last resort, that’s why the bar is high.”

Italy’s rescue plan requires approval by both the EU and the ECB.

Banco Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) was founded in 1472, and is the world’s oldest operating bank. Seeking Alpha and MarketWatch and Financial Post

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Following the money, Sao Tome and Principe switches allegiance from Taiwan to China

China scored a victory over Taiwan on Monday, when the nation Sao Tome and Principe officially resumed diplomatic relations with China after breaking relations with Taiwan. The former Portuguese colony Sao Tome and Principe is an impoverished island nation off the coast of west-central Africa with a population of almost 200,000.

China will not have diplomatic relations with any nation that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan. There are now about 20 countries that still have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

It’s often a question of money. China would like Taiwan to be recognized by as few countries as possible, and so China will offer financial aid and investments to a country willing to switch. It sometimes gets into a bidding war, but China is much wealthier and always wins such battles.

Other countries, including The Gambia, Malawi, and Senegal, have in recent years broken off relations with Taiwan, in the hope of enjoying financial largesse from China. China has not always been willing to establish relations with these countries because of a long-standing “diplomatic truce” between China and Taiwan, designed to prevent countries from playing China and Taiwan against each other. However, China abandoned the diplomatic truce after this year’s election as president of Tsai Ing-wen, who is lukewarm to the “One-China Policy” that makes Taiwan a province of China.

The United States officially recognizes the One-China Policy and does not officially recognize Taiwan, but has a close relationship with Taiwan anyway. President-elect Donald Trump has said that he’ll review the US position.

It’s not just China who is playing this diplomatic game. After Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, it declared two Georgia territories, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, to be independent nations until Moscow’s protection. Only five countries sided with Russia in recognizing at least one of the two territories as independent. In 2011, Tuvalu recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia in return for “promising areas for bilateral cooperation [with Russia], including trade, fisheries and education.” However, Tuvalu switched sides in 2013, for a reason that was not explained. Med Africa Times (Switzerland) and China Post (Taiwan) and New Republic (2-Apr-2014)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Italy, Banco Monte dei Paschi di Siena, MPS, European Central Bank, ECB, Jens Weidmann, Deutsche Bundesbank, China, Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, One-China policy, Sao Tome and Principe, The Gambia, Malawi, Senegal, Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Tuvalu
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27-Dec-16 World View — Furious Israel retaliates against UN for condemning West Bank settlements

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Palestinians declare a defeat for the forces of darkness
  • Statements by diplomats show they live in fantasyland
  • Israel’s Netanyahu orders retaliation against the United Nations

Palestinians declare a defeat for the forces of darkness

When Netanyahu and Obama met in Washington on May 20 2011, it didn't go too well.
When Netanyahu and Obama met in Washington on May 20 2011, it didn’t go too well.

The United States Security Council on Friday passed Resolution 2334, which says that Israel’s West Bank settlements constitute “flagrant violation of international law.” Similar resolutions in the passed have failed because of a United States veto, but in a major reversal of policy by the Barack Obama administration, the United States abstained on Friday’s vote, allowing the resolution to pass.

The Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, interviewed on the BBC, was ebullient, and said that the resolution was a major victory for Palestinians and the “two-state solution, and a defeat for the forces of darkness (my transcription):

“This is a day for peace. This is a day for hope. This is a day when the international community stood tall. To tell the Palestinians and Israelis that peace is possible. Through the establishment of a two-state where the state of Palestine can live side by side with the state of Israel in peace and security on the 1967 line.

This is a day where the international community unanimously have told the Israeli government stop the settlements. Stop the dictation. Stop the occupation. This is a day when the international community have told the Israeli people if you want to live in peace and security, it’s not going to be through dictation and occupation and settlements. It’s going to be through fairness, through neighborly relations, through the freedom of the Palestinian people, through international law. I hope this clearcut message to the Israeli government will be understood. I think that this is a major defeat for the forces of darkness and extremism and dictation. [Inaudible] for Palestinians and Israelis in peace. So today, it’s really a day of hope not only for Palestinians and Israelis, but for the whole region as a whole, for the people of this region as a whole.”

Resolution 2334 contains the following text:

“Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention …,

Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,

Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines …

1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard. …”

In another interview, Saeb Erekat said that the Palestinians will pull membership in the United States for the State of Palestine. United Nations and WAFA (Palestine News & Information Agency)

Statements by diplomats show they live in fantasyland

One can’t help but laugh at the statement by Saeb Erekat quoted above, and his victory over the forces of darkness, but statements by other diplomats were equally idiotic.

The problem is this “two-state solution” fantasy. The very first Generational Dynamics prediction that I wrote was in May 2003, when President George Bush announced his “Mideast Roadmap to Peace.” President Bush called for a Palestinian State by 2005, to live in peace and security side by side with Israel. It provided a series of steps for both sides to follow, mostly having to do with eliminating violence against both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.

As I wrote at that time, the Jews and Arabs were headed not for a two-state solution, but for a full-scale war, as the generations of survivors of the 1949 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel died off. Since I wrote that analysis, there are certainly no signs of a two-state solution, as there have been numerous Mideast wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza and Libya, with skirmishes in other countries. The Mideast is still headed for full-scale war, pitting Jews against Arabs, Sunnis against Shias, and various ethnic groups against each other.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see all that. Talking about a two-state solution today is nothing more than political posturing in order to gain power and votes. Any politician who actually believes what he’s saying is living in fantasyland.

Here’s what Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, said after the Security Council vote:

“One cannot simultaneously champion Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution that would end the conflict. One has to make a choice between settlements and separation. In 2011, the United States vetoed a resolution that focused exclusively on settlements, as if settlements were the only factor harming the prospects of a two-state solution. The circumstances have changed dramatically. Since 2011, settlement growth has only accelerated. Since 2011, multiple efforts to pursue peace through negotiations have failed. And since 2011, president Obama and secretary Kerry have repeatedly warned publicly and privately that the absences of progress toward peace and continued settlement expansion was going to put the two-state solution at risk and threaten Israel’s stated objective to remain both a Jewish state and a democracy.”

This statement, which attempts to explain the Obama administration’s complete reversal of policy, makes no sense at all. There are no prospects for a two-state solution, or Power would have been more specific. Instead, Power uses her statement to blame, by implication, Israel for the failure of the two-state solution.

Even under the most benign interpretation of Obama’s policy reversal, I cannot see how it improves chances for any peaceful solution, or for how it benefits the Israelis, the Palestinians, the UN, or anyone else. Under any reasonable interpretations, all of those groups are hurt by the policy reversal.

It was clear from the start that this policy reversal would have consequences that would have to be dealt with. If Obama had made the policy reversal a year or two ago, then he would have had to deal with the consequences, and Power’s statement might be more credible. Instead, Obama waited until three weeks before leaving office, so that other people will have to deal with the consequences, while he sits on the sidelines and probably provides commentary.

Barack Obama and Israel’s president Benjamin Netanyahu have always had a visceral dislike for each other. President Obama comes from an activist community of black leaders many of whom are openly anti-Semitic (google the words “anti-semitic black leaders” for plenty of examples). This doesn’t mean that Obama himself is anti-Semitic, but the company he keeps certainly inflames the situation. Netanyahu has returned the favor by being openly hostile to Obama, including open support for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. So it’s possible that Obama may simply have been looking for a way to get revenge against Netanyahu before leaving office.

Anti-Semitism has always been prevalent in America, as I wrote in 2006. In the Catholic Church, it was official policy for centuries that Jews were responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ, and that all Jews must be punished for it. A Papal bull issued by Pope Paul IV on July 14, 1555, began:

“As it is completely absurd and improper in the utmost that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal servitude, can under the pretext that pious Christians must accept them and sustain their habitation, are so ungrateful to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return contumely, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve, they manage to claim superiority.”

This teaching, which goes on to justify forcing Jews to live in ghettos, was never withdrawn and was certainly known to Hitler. It was only reversed on April 13, 1986, when Pope John Paul II gave a major speech at the Great Synagogue of Rome.

In this generational Crisis period, it appears that anti-Semitism is reviving, just as all forms of racism, xenophobia and nationalism are increasing in countries around the world. This is undoubtedly part of the scenario that will lead the Mideast to full-scale war as described above.

Dennis Ross, a Mideast diplomat who served under both Presidents Clinton and Bush, said in a BBC interview that the UN Security Council resolution was the wrong way to go (my transcription):

The language in the resolution equates all settlement activity beyond the June 4 1967 lines, and yet the position of the US as stated by the president in the two speeches he gave in 2011 was that the final border should be determined by settlement blocks and swaps. …

What I’m suggesting – if you turn this into a legal question, then you’re not going to find a simple way, or any way, of actually resolving this through negotiations. When you turn this conflict into a legal conflict, when in fact it is a historic conflict between two national movements, then you move away from being able to come up with compromises that would be able to resolve the issues. I think what we want to do is find a way to have negotiations, not find a way try to try to impose things from an international perspective, meaning from a UN perspective, or even from a legal
perspective, because that isn’t going to produce an outcome.”

Of all the statements from politicians that I heard, this is probably the closest to making sense. None of the politicians that I heard who praised the UNSC resolution explained how the resolution in any way promoted peace. Ross’s statement that it’s a “historic conflict between two national movement” comes closest to the Generational Dynamics analysis.

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Israel’s Netanyahu orders retaliation against the United Nations

After the UNSC vote, a furious Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that steps be taken to respond:

“I share ministers’ feelings, anger and frustration vis-à-vis the unbalanced resolution that is very hostile to the State of Israel, and which the [UN] Security Council passed in an unworthy manner. From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed.”

Reports indicate that Israel has suspended working ties with 12 of the Security Council countries that supported the resolution: Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand.

Even if these suspensions are only temporary, what this shows is that this reversal of US policy has not only harmed the Palestinians and Israels, it’s harmed the United Nations itself. Israeli Prime Minister and The Hill and Jerusalem Post

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, UN Security Council, Resolution 2334, Saeb Erekat, Palestinians, Mideast Roadmap to Peace, Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Samantha Power
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26-Dec-16 World View — Greece calls its European lenders ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’ from A Christmas Carol

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Greece evokes Dickens’ Christmas Carol, calling its lenders ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’
  • European lenders relent and unblock the frozen bailout loan

Greece evokes Dickens’ Christmas Carol, calling its lenders ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’

Ebenezer Scrooge meets Jacob Marley's ghost -- by John Leech, from the 1843 edition of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Greece used this picture to accuse European officials of being Scrooges. (Gutenberg)
Ebenezer Scrooge meets Jacob Marley’s ghost — by John Leech, from the 1843 edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Greece used this picture to accuse European officials of being Scrooges. (Gutenberg)

Greece’s finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos has sent a Christmas card to journalists, apparently mocking Greece’s bailout lenders, and accusing them of being as stingy and hard-hearted as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1843 book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Greece’s Christmas card displays the picture shown above of Ebenezer Scrooge meeting the ghost of his dead partner Jacob Marley. The picture was an illustration by John Leech in the original 1843 edition. The picture in Tsakalotos’s card was accompanied by the following caption:

“Perhaps in all of our Christmas tales there is a terrifying character like Ebenezer who receives the season’s spirit in an immense solitude, and closed like an oyster. And maybe our Christmas tale is no exception.

But, dear friends and colleagues, our wishes go beyond all the Ebenezers of this world. We don’t give up on our wishes.”

Greece is undoubtedly alluding to the decision by Greece’s creditors to cancel a planned bailout loan, after Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras announced new social spending — a one-time pre-Christmas bonus to poor pensioners, and a reduction in taxes for Greece’s Aegean Sea islands whose tourist industry had suffered because of the refugee crisis. Greece needs the bailout loan to meet its debts and avoid bankruptcy.

Charles Dickens describes Ebenezer Scrooge as follows:

“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, “My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?” No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call “nuts” to Scrooge.”

So that’s what Alexis Tsipras and other Greek ministers think of Greece’s creditors. Tsipras may particularly be thinking of Germany’s cranky finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who would undoubtedly be quite effective playing the part of Scrooge in a new production of A Christmas Carol.

In 1843, an elderly man like Scrooge would have been of the same generational archetype of today’s Silent Generation, the generation that grew up during World War II.

Scrooge would have grown up during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Many people in Scrooge’s generation had died in wars or in poverty. Dickens talks about prisons, Union workhouses, the Treadmill and the Poor Law. London’s Panic of 1825 had been financially devastating.

In Dickens’ story, the three ghosts that visit him convince him to forget all that, and start being generous with his time and money. Tsipras is hoping the Schäuble and Europe’s other finance ministers turn out the same way. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843 edition (Gutenberg) and Kathimerini and Deutsche Welle and AFP

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European lenders relent and unblock the frozen bailout loan

There’s no word about whether Greece’s Christmas card played any part in the European officials’ Christmas eve change of heart, but Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Saturday that negotiations would restart for the debt bailout loan to be unfrozen in January.

The softening the Eurogroup’s hearts came about not because of visits by three ghosts, but because Greece’s finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos had sent a letter saying that the pension bonus was a one-time thing, and reaffirming the government’s commit to financial reforms. According to Eurogroup officials and Dijsselbloem:

“We have received a letter by the Greek authorities in response to the concerns raised by the institutions as well as the Euro Working Group on the recently legislated fiscal measures.

We have been reassured by the accompanying assessment of the institutions indicating that their initial significant concerns, both on process and on substance, are alleviated by this letter as regards MoU commitments, especially regarding pension. …

I’m happy to conclude that we have cleared the way … to go ahead with the decision-making procedures for the short-term debt measures, which will be conducted in January.”

As Scrooge said to Bob Cratchit:

“A merry Christmas, Bob! A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless Us, Every One!” Reuters and Reuters

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, John Leech, Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, Greece, Euclid Tsakalotos, Alexis Tsipras, Wolfgang Schäuble, Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim
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25-Dec-16 World View — Tunisia fears more terrorism after Berlin attack by Tunisian national

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Bartella Iraq celebrates Christmas after liberation from ISIS
  • Tunisia arrests three people over the Berlin terror attack
  • Hundreds of Tunisians rally against jihadism at Bardo Museum in Tunis

Bartella Iraq celebrates Christmas after liberation from ISIS

Christmas eve mass held in Bartella on Saturday (Agora Magazine)
Christmas eve mass held in Bartella on Saturday (Agora Magazine)

Christians from around the region are flocking to Bartella, Iraq, to join in the celebration of Christmas, the first since Bartella was liberated.

Bartella, just 24 km from Mosul, used to be home to thousands of Assyrian Christians. They were forced to flee in August 2014, when the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) overran Mosul and neighboring villages. Bartella was liberated from ISIS two months ago, on October 20, by the Iraqi army operation to recapture Mosul. Rudaw (Iraq, Kurdistan) and Agora Magazine (Italy)

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Tunisia arrests three people over the Berlin terror attack

After Anis Amri, the 24 year old perpetrator of Monday’s terror attack in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring dozens by ramming a large, hijacked truck into a crowd at a Christmas market, was shot to death in Milan Italy by police on Friday, there have been hundreds of investigators all over Europe trying to determine whether Amri had help from other jihadists.

Amri himself was a Tunisian national who sought asylum in several European country, including Germany, but was refused. He had a criminal record in Italy and Tunisia, and spent four years in an Italian prison before traveling to Germany.

Tunisian authorities have arrested three people on suspicion of being part of a “terrorist cell… connected to the terrorist Anis Amri.” Two of the three were arrested in the capital city Tunis.

The third arrest was Amri’s own 18-year-old nephew, Fedi, his sister’s son, arrested in Amri’s home town of Oueslatia. During initial questioning, Fedi said that he had been in contact with uncle Anis through the mobile app Telegram, which provides for encrypted communications that can’t be traced. He also said that uncle Anis had sent him money to come to Germany, and asked him to pledge allegiance to ISIS. Sky News and AP

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Hundreds of Tunisians rally against jihadism at Bardo Museum in Tunis

Hundreds of people rallied at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia’s capital city, on Saturday, protesting the lack of government action to prevent jihadists who fought overseas from returning to the country without facing punishment.

The news that Anis Amri, a Tunisian, was the perpetrator of last week’s terror act in Berlin has embarrassed and infuriated the Tunisian people.

Tunisians are proud that their country launched the “Arab Spring” that began in 2011, and the resulting transition of power was largely peaceful. The Arab Spring uprisings were triggered on December 17, 2010, when a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia, in protest of the police confiscation of his vegetable cart. After days of clashes between protesters and the police, long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee the country to exile in Saudi Arabia.

However, that peaceful transition has come at a price. Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has faced repeated jihadist attacks, killing more than 100 soldiers and policemen, as well as about 20 civilians and 59 foreign tourists, according to official figures.

In March of last year, two terrorist gunmen infiltrated security at the well-known Bardo Museum in Tunis, right next door to the parliament building. They took and killed 22 hostages, with 50 people injured. Almost all of the casualties were foreign tourists.

Tunisians were still in shock from that attack, when another attack occurred in June. A gunman disguised as a tourist opened fire at a Tunisian hotel in Sousse on Friday, killing 37 people.

Perhaps the most significant fact about Tunisia is that it’s been the number one source of foreign fighters who have gone to Syria to join ISIS. Some 5,500 Tunisian citizens have left the country and are now fighting in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and to a lesser extent Mali, far more than the citizens of any other country.

It’s believed that about 800 of these jihadists have returned to Tunisia in the last year. It’s always been feared that Tunisian nationals returning would form terror cells in Tunisia and conduct more terror attacks, like the ones that have occurred frequently since 2011, but the actions of a Tunisian national in the Berlin attack has heightened those fears and created new anxieties. In fact, with ISIS losing territory in Syria, Iraq and Libya, it’s feared that these jihadists are going to be flooding back into the country.

The purpose of Saturday’s rally was to demand that further action be taken. In particular, they demanded that the government to bring home all Tunisian nationals living abroad who have links to extremist organizations, so they could face trial in their home country. Deutsche Welle and ITV

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Bartella, Iraq, Mosul, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Germany, Berlin, Anis Amri, Fedi, Tunisia, Milan, Italy, Oueslatia, Tunis, Bardo Museum, Mohamed Bouazizi, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Sousse, Syria, Iraq, Libya
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Nonfiction for the Nonplussed