World News

Canada to Be 80% Non-White “Within 100 Years”

Current immigration policies will turn Vancouver into a 70 percent non-white state within two generations, and all of Canada into an 80 percent nonwhite country within the next 100 years, one of that country’s foremost diplomats has warned.

(New Observer Online)

Writing in the Vancouver Sun, former ambassador to Asia and the Middle East Martin Collacott said that current Canadian immigration policy was “replacing its population” and was a “case of willful ignorance, greed, [and] excess political correctness.”

Quoting University of London professor Eric Kaufmann, Collacott said that “almost seven out of 10 Vancouver residents will be ‘visible minorities’ [politically correct Canadian code for nonwhite] within two generations and 80 per cent of the

Canadian population (compared to 20 per cent today) will be non-white in less than century.”

He went on to write:

Kaufmann notes that, with its continuing high immigration intake and the fact that four out of five newcomers are visible minorities, Canada is undergoing the fastest rate of ethnic change of any country in the Western world.

Questions must be asked about why such drastic population replacement is taking place and who is benefiting from it.

While Canada has been helped by large-scale immigration at various times in its history, the current high intake causes more problems than benefits for our current population.

Our economy grows because of the increasing population, but the average Canadian gets a smaller piece of the bigger pie.

The cost is huge — with latest estimates indicating taxpayers have to underwrite recent arrivals to the tune of around $30 billion annually. Young people in large cities such as Vancouver and Toronto are being crowded out of the housing market by sky-high prices caused largely by the ceaseless flow of new arrivals, and the quality of life of most residents is negatively affected by increased traffic and commute times, along with congestion and pressure on the health care and education systems.

Despite this, those who profit from mass immigration continue to laud its benefits. Their claims are not supported by the facts, however.

We are not facing looming labour shortages that we can’t meet with our existing workforce and educational infrastructure.

Immigration, moreover, does not provide a realistic means of dealing with the costs associated with the aging of our population.

Those who seek to benefit from continued high immigration include leaders of political parties bent on expanding their political base with policies designed to make it easier to come here from abroad and acquire the full benefits of citizenship. Also active are leaders of immigrant organizations eager to expand their support base and influence.

Another important influence has been contributions from developers who want an endless supply of new homebuyers and are major funders of politicians and parties — particularly at the municipal level.
In this regard, it is worth noting that not too long ago, leading politicians in Vancouver on both sides of the political aisle — such as former mayors Art Phillips and Mike Harcourt — were readily prepared to identify high immigration intake as one of the leading causes, if not the main cause, of rising house prices. Now, however, no Canadian politician has the guts or integrity to connect the two.

This is not only because they are so heavily indebted to the real estate industry in one way or another, but also since criticism of mass immigration is treated in many quarters as xenophobic, if not racist, since newcomers are overwhelmingly visible minorities.

While a moderate degree of diversity can make society more vibrant — and my own family is an example of this — it is quite a different matter when it develops to a level where it overwhelms and largely replaces the existing population, particularly when there is no good reason for allowing this to happen.

With current policies, we will have to find room for tens of millions of more newcomers, most of whom will settle in the already densely populated areas of the country where most of the employment opportunities as well as their relatives are located.

We will also have to contend with the fact that many will bring with them values and traditions that may differ in key respects from those of most Canadians, such as gender equality and concern for protection of the environment.

If Canada continues along its present path as described by Kaufmann, we will become one of the first and perhaps the only country in the world to voluntarily allow its population to be largely replaced by people from elsewhere.
Is this what Canadians want for their children and their descendants? Almost certainly not.

And yet we are letting it happen through a combination of willful ignorance, political and financial greed and an excess of political correctness.

Are we prepared to do something about it? Sadly, it appears that most Canadians are too supine or short-sighted to do so — at least at this juncture.

Canadians deserve a full and informed public debate on the extent to which immigration policy will determine the future of the country. This should form the basis for a sensible public policy based on the long-term interests of the existing population, rather than those of special interest groups.

Without this we cannot expect our descendants to inherit a country that is anything like the Canada of today.

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North Korea denies torturing Otto Warmbier

Otto Warmbier

(JTA) — North Korea denied torturing Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was detained in the country for over a year and died shortly after returning home in a coma.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday called itself the “biggest victim” of the incident, insisting that Warmbier’s death was a mystery.

“The fact that Warmbier died suddenly in less than a week after his return to the U.S. in his normal state of health indicators is a mystery to us as well,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency. “To make it clear, we are the biggest victim of this incident.”

The spokesman also said that the Obama administration never officially requested Warmbier’s release and refused to establish any kind of dialogue with North Korea. It is the first official comments by the country on the state in which it returned Warmbier to his family.

The 22-year-old was sentenced in the country to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster on what North Korea claimed were orders from an Ohio Methodist church.

Warmbier, whose mother is Jewish, became active in the Hillel after a Birthright trip to Israel, during which he received a Hebrew name. A spokesman for the family said this week that they chose not to disclose his Judaism during negotiations for his release so as not to antagonize North Korea, which believed he was affiliated with the church.

Some 2,000 people attended a funeral for Warmbier on Thursday at Wyoming High School in Warmbier’s hometown near Cincinnati.

The spokesman said that North Korea treated Warmbier appropriately during his imprisonment.

“Although we had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state, we provided him with medical treatments and care with all sincerity on humanitarian basis until his return to the U.S., considering that his health got worse,” the spokesman said.

The country said that Warmbier slipped into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill, and that he had to be resuscitated. The University of Cincinnati Medical Center said it found no signs of botulism, but that he may have suffered severe neurological damage, possibly as a result of cardiopulmonary arrest, according to the Washington Post.

ISRAEL BARS UNESCO TEAM FROM HEBRON FIELD VISIT

 

Israel has refused to allow a UNESCO investigatory team to make a field visit to Hebron in advance of pending July vote to register its Old City on the list of World Heritage in Danger under the “State of Palestine.”

This is a “principled and strategic” stand, Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris Carmel Shama HaCohen said on Saturday.

 

Hebron’s Old City, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs, is one of the 35 sites the World Heritage Committee plans to consider for inscription on the World Heritage List when it meets in Krakow, Poland from July 2-12.

The Palestinian Authority has fast tracked the inscription process by claiming that the site is endangered.

Since UNESCO recognized Palestine as a member state in 2011, the Palestinian Authority has similarly fast tracked inscription of two other sites on the list of World Heritage in Danger. This includes the Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route in Bethlehem in 2012 and the ancient terraces of Battir (2014).

The International Council on Monuments and Sites, a professional body, which investigates nomination requests and provides recommendations for inscription on the list of World Heritage in Danger had recommended that both nominations go through the normal process after making field visits to both sites.

This time Israel has rejected its request to make a field visit to Hebron, this includes a refusal to grant entry visas to Israel for the group, Shama HaCohen said.

The 21-member World Heritage Committee rejected the ICOMOS conclusions not to place the Church of the Nativity and the terrace of Battir on its endangered list, Shama HaCohen said.

Therefore, it’s “a shame to waste the time and money” of the ICOMOS committee whose recommendations are otherwise typically adhered to with regard to the inscription process, Shama HaCohen said.

“Israel won’t take part in and won’t legitimize any Palestinian political moves under the guise of culture and heritage,” Shama HaCohen said.

The only steps it will take is to wage a diplomatic campaign to organize a large majority to block a process filled with “lies that plots against the state of Israel as well as the history and the connection of the Jewish people to this important holy site,” Shama HaCohen said.

“We are in the midst of a campaign against the opening of an additional Palestinian front in the religious and cultural war they are trying to force on us,” Shama HaCohen said.

He added that he hoped that this time around Israel would succeed in blocking the move.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs is Judaism’s second most holy site, after the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Herodian Structure built around the tombs houses uniquely houses both Jewish prayer sanctuaries and the Ibrahimi Mosque.

The bulk of the Palestinian city of Hebron is located under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority. But the Tomb of the Patriarchs and some of its Old City, are located in a small area of the city under Israeli military control. Some 1,000 Jewish live in that section of the city.

The PA has warned that Israeli actions have placed the Herodian structure and Hebron’s historic Old City in danger. It has provided UNESCO with a list of complaints that includes placement of road blocks and checkpoints, the tear gas used to quell Palestinian demonstrations and failure to make necessary repairs. It has included in that list recent attempts by the Jewish residents of the city, to purchase property on Shuhadah Street.

Israel has rejected all claims that it has harmed the Tomb or the structures in the Old City.

It has further argued that Israel’s military control of that area of the city is based on a 1997 agreement with the PA. It has told UNESCO that any inscription of the site should be done at the request of both Israel and the Palestinians.

COUNCIL HEADS IN THE NORTH DEMAND NETANYAHU HALT MEDICAL AID TO SYRIAN REFUGEES

 

Council heads in the northern Israeli region of the Galilee demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu order the immediate freeze of medical aid the country provides to Syrian refugees at the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya.

The government-run hospital is the main medical center in that country that officially helps injured people and refugees from the war-addled country.

According to the council heads, the 600,000 residents of the Western Galilee did not have sufficient medical care available to them because the hospital was short on funds and was invested instead in the treatment of injured Syrians.

“We fully recognize the importance of the humanitarian mission of treating our Syrian neighbors,” the council heads explained, but charged that it was “inconceivable that rehabilitating war refugees would come at the cost of the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of residents of the Western Galilee.”

According to the letter they penned and that was obtained by The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Ma’ariv, the government has been withholding financial resources that the hospital is legible to receive by law but still tasked the medical center with the responsibility of treating the Syrian refugees “without allotting [specific] funds for that.”

Council heads representing regional councils such as Ma’ale Yosef, Kfar Vradim, Shlomi, Ma’alot-Tarshiha and Acre accused the government of overlooking the medical crisis the hospital was suffering from, saying that it was “on the verge of utter collapse due to the blatant discrimination” it was facing.

The also mentioned that the hospital was in a deficit of NIS 300 million.

“It is unheard of that the government” places the singular responsibility of treating the Syrian refugees “without allocating a budget to their treatment,” the letter continued.

“And all that without fulfilling its [the government’s] obligations and legal duties to the people of the Western Galilee, who are starving and dying, day after day, because of [the government’s] helplessness,” they added.

The council heads concluded their letter by asking that the prime minister immediately get involved in the financial crisis the hospital is undergoing. “Your immediate intervention as prime minister is requested, including ordering right away that the health minister redirect the burden of treating the Syrian injured to other medical institutions in Israel- [such as] those that have more funding and those that did not fall victim to discrimination.”

Their letter comes amid an escalation on Israel’s border with its northern neighbor, as errant fire from the internal fighting in Syria struck the north twice within 24 hours. Speaking about the projectiles that hit Israel’s north, Netanyahu said in a stern warning to Syria that “We will not accept any kind of ‘drizzle, not of mortars, rockets, or spillover fire [from the Syrian Civil War]. We respond with force to every attack on our territory and against our citizens.”

A Jewish American who immigrated to Israel asks why refugees can’t

http://www.timesofisrael.com/a-jewish-american-who-immigrated-to-israel-asks-why-refugees-cant/

 

Journalist and author of 'The Unchosen,' Mya Guarnieri Jaradat. (Courtesy)

 

When Mya Guarnieri Jaradat arrived in Israel 10 years ago from the United States, she was supposed to have come on a one-year trip to complete her master’s thesis. Like so many others, she prolonged her stay. But what made her expatriation in the Jewish state unique were the motivations behind it.

There were two issues that caused her to prolong her initial educational and cultural sojourn: a love of Hebrew and commitment to learning it fluently, and the desire to work with the state’s marginalized communities in south Tel Aviv.

Jaradat began her work primarily with migrant workers from southeast Asian countries such as Thailand or the Philippines, as well as African asylum seekers from countries including Eritrea and South Sudan. Her initial observation was that there was massive poverty among these communities. But Jaradat also began to witness how most of the people she spoke with also had few legal, civic or labor rights.

What started off as volunteer work soon transitioned into journalism, which led Jaradat on the path to eventually becoming an Israeli citizen.

“As soon as I took on Israeli citizenship, I felt a strong sense of responsibility for what the Jewish state was doing in my name,” says Jaradat.

African asylum seekers protest on on January 26, 2017 near Jerusalem's Supreme Court against the new 'Rwanda or Saharonim' policy of the Israeli government. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jaradat has continued working as a journalist, covering Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in a wide host of publications around the globe, including The Nation, The New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, the far-left Israeli blog +972, and Al Jazeera.

The outspoken Jewish-American reporter claims that Israel’s policy on migrant workers and asylum seekers is shaped by what she calls a paradoxical double-sided contradiction “to maintain a particular demographic balance necessary for the state to be both ‘Jewish and democratic.’”

'The Unchosen.' (Courtesy)

“What you see in Israel is this attempt to uphold hegemony of a particular group,” Jaradat says from her home in Florida, where she is currently based.

“And so if you are not in that group — if you are not Jewish — then the state is going to be in conflict with you on some level, ” she adds.

This topic is the main theme of “The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others,” which Jaradat recently published via the self-described “radical” Pluto Press, in both the US and the UK.

Avoiding jargon and academic theory on the subject, the book focuses instead on giving voices to the migrants and asylum seekers themselves through in-depth interviews that take the reader into a seldom-seen world — one even most Israelis don’t know exists.

She visits, for instance, overcrowded black-market kindergartens in south Tel Aviv, where she describes how toddlers are left crying for hours on their own in unhygienic conditions. In another chapter we get descriptions of middle-of-the-night raids by Israeli immigration police — whom she accuses of intimidating members of the Filipino community — to deport them with quick succession.

A Tel Aviv kindergarten used by children of migrants and foreign workers suffered damage from a Molotov cocktail Friday (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Jaradat says a recent reading of Israeli history is required to understand why the state — in regard to both African asylum seekers and migrant workers — currently operates the labor and migration policies it does.

Primarily, she says, this issue ties in with the fate of the Palestinians.

Palestinians once constituted nearly 10 percent of the Israeli work force. When the First Intifada began in 1987, for example, almost half of Israel’s construction workers were Palestinian, as were 45% of agricultural laborers. But with increased distrust between the two peoples in the aftermath of the intifada, the 1990s saw Israel make a transition to foreign workers instead.

Palestinians laboPalestinian laborers ride a Palestinian-only bus en route to the West Bank from working in Tel Aviv area, Israel, Monday, March 4, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalitrers ride a Palestinian-only bus on route to the West Bank from working in Tel Aviv area, Israel, Monday, March 4, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)

“Israel was once dependent on Palestinian day laborers,” Jaradat says.

As Israel implemented and tightened movement restrictions on Palestinians, it needed to find a group to substitute for these people that were crucial to different sectors of the economy. So the state began to bring migrant workers to replace Palestinians, claims Jaradat.

“With a large pool of inexpensive laborers in the country, Israel doesn’t need Palestinian day laborers anymore. The state can effectively lock the Palestinians behind the wall without feeling the economic consequences they would have felt when they were dependent on Palestinian day laborers, before they had migrant workers,” she says.

Chinese foreign workers cook in a Tel Aviv restaurant, 2008. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“Now, there are no economic consequences to shutting Palestinians out and, further, granting work permits to Palestinians can function as a reward — a carrot and stick, if you will — rather than as something crucial that meets the Israeli need for laborers,” Jaradat adds.

Jaradat says it’s also worth noting that “it’s easier for a Palestinian day laborer to obtain a permit to work in a settlement than it is inside of Israel proper, so the presence of migrant workers inside the Green Line helped the state channel the Palestinian day laborers towards the settlements.”

Palestinian laborers work at a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, February 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The journalist claims the treatment of asylum seekers also bears a resemblance to that experienced by Palestinians — notably in subjecting both groups to detention without trial.

“I guess [one of the main concerns of this book] is about that contradiction between trying to maintain a certain demographic and being democratic at the same time,” says Jaradat.

‘This isn’t exclusive to Israel, but I’m using Israel as a case study’

“This isn’t exclusive to Israel,” Jaradat says. “But I’m using Israel as a case study of what happens when a nation is trying to uphold hegemony of a particular group. Looking at those two groups [migrant workers and African asylum seekers] is a way of getting at the question: Can the state maintain hegemony of a certain group and be democratic at the same time?”

And with regards to possible security concerns influencing Israel’s policy towards migrant workers and African asylum seekers, Jaradat claims “ there are none.”

“The state’s concern is about maintaining Jewish demographic and cultural hegemony,” she insists.

Jaradat’s book also spends a chapter looking at how loose labor laws in the Knesset are inextricably linked to a culture of companies — across Israel — making an easy buck.

A spectrum of Israeli society including Israelis, refugees, and migrant workers, stand at a bus stop in South Tel Aviv. May 12 2011. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/Flash90)

The journalist points out, for instance, that while Israel’s treatment of non-Jews is rooted primarily in demographic concerns, there are business interests representing the construction and agricultural sectors that affects public policy on this issue, too. Israeli manpower agencies have huge sway especially, Jaradat says.

“The workers pay a fee to the manpower agencies,” she explains. “And therefore a worker who stays on in the state and who doesn’t change jobs isn’t going to pay a fee. So it’s more profitable for the manpower agency to be always bringing in new workers.”

These agencies have aggressively lobbied for the Israeli government to set higher quotas of migrant workers, using bribes to officials in key ministries as one major means of achieving this, Jaradat claims.

Referencing a term used by anthropologist Barak Kalir, who has also written on labor migration in Israel, Jaradat refers to what is known as “the revolving door.” The Israeli government brings in new workers with one hand, and deports existing and older workers with the other.

The two big winners here are the state and the manpower agencies. The state doesn’t have to worry about legislating new laws on migration, and the manpower agencies make huge profits in return.

“Where this issue gets really interesting is when you bring the asylum seekers into that conversation,” Jaradat says. “Because here is a group of people — currently 40,000 in Israel — who cannot be deported legally.”

‘Where this issue gets really interesting is when you bring the asylum seekers into that conversation’

A lot of these asylum seekers are not willing to voluntarily repatriate because they cannot go back to their home countries, says Jaradat.

“These African asylum seekers are stuck in this legal limbo, so why not give a job to them rather than bringing in workers from overseas? That’s where you see the role that profit plays in all of this,” she says.

The reason that both asylum seekers and migrant workers are being exploited so consistently by both the Israeli state and by private business groups, is primarily because there is no legislation protecting them, Jaradat says.

Any laws that do deal with migration in Israel, she says, are “centered on privileging Jewish immigration, while stopping other groups from coming into the country.”

African refugees sit behind a border fence after they attempted to cross illegally from Egypt into Israel as Israeli soldiers stand guard near the border with Egypt, in southern Israel, on September 4, 2012. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit, File)

The journalist cites two examples. One is the Law of Return, passed in 1950, which ensures that any Jew in the world has the right to return and live in Israel as an oleh, a new immigrant. The second is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law — a temporary law passed in 2003, and amended several times since — which prohibits, among other ethnic groups and nationalities, the granting of any residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from over the Green Line who are married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents.

“Israel cannot pretend that non-Jews don’t exist, and that they won’t come to the country,” says Jaradat.

“It’s not sustainable to bring migrant workers, then to open one-time windows to their children while deporting some and naturalizing others. Israel needs to deal with this issue in a more humane and practical way,” she adds.

Asylum seeker Jacob Barry seen together with other representatives of the African refugee debate, seen at a discussion regarding the Immigration Authority policy towards asylum seekers and the impact on the business sector, at a meeting of the Committee on Foreign Workers, in the Israeli parliament on January 15, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Another way that Israel has tried to legally deal with the issue of migrants and asylum seekers is through a government initiative called voluntary departure. This is a voluntary scheme which encourages mainly Eritreans and Sudanese asylum seekers from Israel to head to other so-called “third countries.”

Jaradat points out that many of these voluntary departures — where the Israeli government sometimes offers a cash incentive of $3,500 up front — have resulted in African asylum seekers ending up in countries like Uganda, Rwanda and Libya. Often facing considerable risk and danger.

‘I take issue with the term voluntary departure… you can either go to jail, or back to a third country’

“I take issue with the term ‘voluntary departure,’” says Jaradat. “What is really happening is that you are in a state that is depriving you of your rights and that is keeping you in legal limbo. So the state says, you can either go to jail, or we will send you back to a third country.”

“I think when Israel began deporting South Sudanese citizens, they were trying to make an example of this group and using it as a threat to the other groups, saying, ‘You have two choices: you can deport yourself voluntarily, and take the little cash incentive. Or, we are just going to deport you anyway.’ So that naturally put pressure on other groups watching the South Sundanese being deported,” Jaradat says.

While most of her book focuses almost exclusively on the rights of migrant workers and asylum seekers, the narrative is a personal journey of sorts, too — Jaradat fell in love and married a Palestinian man while living in Israel.

Illustrative: a social experiment in which actors dressed up as a Jewish/Muslim couple. (YouTube screen cap)

The journalist says Israel’s varied political and social policies, and attitudes towards Arabs — on both sides of the Green Line — in general, eventually led her and her husband to leave the country. Both chose to settle in the United States instead, where they currently reside.

“I do feel there is something incorrect about having to get married outside of Israel. My husband is a native, an indigenous Palestinian,” says Jaradat, “and according to the State of Israel, I am a returnee.”

“We had to leave Israel to live together. He is a native of the land. And then there is me who is supposed to have all of this privilege under the Jewish state,” she says.

“Well, if you step out of line and marry a non-Jew, there goes your privilege,” she says.

Erdogan says ultimatum on Qatar ‘against international law’

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AFP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday welcomed Qatar’s dismissal of a sweeping list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies in an escalating crisis and said the ultimatum was “against international law.”

“We welcome (Qatar’s position) because we consider the 13-point list against international law,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Erdogan, who spoke to reporters after morning prayers at an Istanbul mosque, said the demands on its embattled regional ally Qatar had gone “too far.”

“What we are talking about here is an attack on the sovereign rights of a state,” he said. “There cannot be such an attack on countries’ sovereignty rights in international law.”

Qatar on Saturday denounced the ultimatum as unreasonable and an impingement on the emirate’s sovereignty.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt want Qatar to meet the 13-point ultimatum in return for an end to a nearly three-week-old diplomatic and trade “blockade” of the emirate.

The four Arab governments delivered the demands to Qatar through mediator Kuwait on Thursday, more than two weeks after severing all ties with the emirate and imposing an embargo.

The document which has not been published but has been widely leaked includes the closure of Al-Jazeera television, a long-standing source of conflict between Doha and neighboring countries which accuse it of fomenting regional strife.

Notably, Doha has also been asked to shut a Turkish military base in the emirate.

‘Disrespect’

The Turkish parliament passed a bill this month allowing Ankara to send up to several thousand troops to the Turkish base in Qatar.

Almost two dozen Turkish troops also arrived in Qatar as Ankara boosts military support for Doha.

Erdogan on Sunday said demanding the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Qatar was a “disrespect to Turkey.”

The Turkish president also repeated an offer to Saudi Arabia to build a military base in the Muslim kingdom, similar to that built in neighboring Qatar.

That offer was rejected by Riyadh which said a Turkish military base would not be welcome and “not needed.”

“If Saudi Arabia wants us to build a base there, we can take a step in that direction,” Erdogan said, adding that Riyadh had not responded to the latest proposal.

He also stood by the defense agreement with Qatar.

“Will we take permission from others when we cooperate on defense with a country? No offence but Turkey is not an ordinary country, it is not an ordinary state,” he said.

Since the crisis erupted between Doha and its Gulf neighbors, Erdogan has vowed to back Qatar and rejected the accusations that it supports terrorism.

But Ankara has stopped short of directly criticizing Saudi Arabia’s actions, merely calling on Riyadh to take a lead role in solving the crisis.

Number of drug addicts in Iran doubles in six years

TEHRAN, Iran — The number of drug addicts in Iran has more than doubled in six years, with opium the country’s most popular narcotic, local media reported Sunday.

“There are about 2.8 million people regularly consuming drugs” in the country of 80 million people, Drug Control Organization spokesman Parviz Afshar told the ISNA news agency.

Citing experts from the health ministry, Iran’s Welfare Organization and his own agency, Afshar said the number of drug users was up from 1.3 million six years ago.

He said opium made up 67 percent of consumption, with marijuana and its derivatives accounting for 12 percent and methamphetamine around 8 percent of the total.

“Opium is still the most popular (drug) and methamphetamine use has dropped significantly,” he said.

In this Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 photo, drug addicts sleep in their chairs at drop in center and shelter, south of Tehran, Iran. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s neighbor Afghanistan produces some 90 percent of the world’s opium, which is extracted from poppy resin and refined to make heroin.

Iran is a major transit point for Afghan-produced opiates heading to Europe and beyond.

Opium production surged significantly after the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and overthrew the ruling Taliban.

By its last year in power, the Taliban had slashed opium output to just 185 tons a year, according to United Nations estimates.

But the UN says Afghan production has since rocketed, hitting between 4,800 and 6,000 tons in 2016.

Last year’s bumper crop, aided by better weather, pushed world opium output up by a third on the previous year and helped fund an intensifying Taliban insurgency.

That is despite a decade of international efforts to stabilize the country and billions of dollars spent on persuading Afghan farmers to grow other crops.

The UN’s crime and drugs agency said Thursday that the global narcotics market is “thriving” with opiates causing tens of thousands of avoidable deaths a year.

Commando Raids on ISIS Yield Vital Data in Shadowy War

WASHINGTON — One late afternoon in April, helicopter-borne American commandos intercepted a vehicle in southeastern Syria carrying a close associate of the Islamic State’s supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The associate, Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, was a rare prize whom United States Special Operations forces had been tracking for months: a midlevel but highly trusted operative skilled in raising money; spiriting insurgent leaders out of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s besieged capital in Syria; and plotting attacks against the West. Captured alive, Mr. Uzbeki could be an intelligence bonanza. Federal prosecutors had already begun preparing criminal charges against him for possible prosecution in the United States.

As the commandos swooped in, however, a firefight broke out. Mr. Uzbeki, a combat-hardened veteran of shadow wars in Syria and Pakistan, died in the gun battle, thwarting the military’s hopes of extracting from him any information about Islamic State operations, leaders and strategy.

New details about the operation, and a similar episode in January that sought to seize another midlevel Islamic State operative, offer a rare glimpse into the handful of secret and increasingly risky commando raids of the secretive, nearly three-year American ground war against the Islamic State. Cellphones and other material swept up by Special Operations forces proved valuable for future raids, though the missions fell short of their goal to capture, not kill, terrorist leaders in order to obtain fresh, firsthand information about the inner circle and war council of the group, also known as ISIS.

“If we can scoop somebody up alive, with their cellphones and diaries, it really can help speed up the demise of a terrorist group like ISIS,” said Dell L. Dailey, a retired commander of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command and the chairman of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

American military and intelligence officials caution that the Islamic State is far from defeated, particularly with a sophisticated propaganda apparatus that continues to inspire and, in some cases, enable its global following to carry out attacks. But in the self-proclaimed caliphate across swaths of Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group’s last two major strongholds are under siege, many senior leaders have fled south to the Euphrates River Valley, and its legions of foreign fighters are battling to the death or slipping away, possibly to wreak havoc in Europe.

The race to drive the jihadists out of eastern Syria, where they have held sway for three years, has gained new urgency as rival forces converge on ungoverned parts of the region. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are advancing east, closer to American-backed fighters battling to reclaim Raqqa. Russia threatened on Monday to target American and allied aircraft the day after the United States military brought down a Syrian warplane.

This highly volatile environment puts an increasing premium on the Special Operations missions.

Despite his nom de guerre, Mr. Uzbeki, 39, was a native of Tajikistan, not Uzbekistan, and honed his fighting skills with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a Taliban-allied jihadist group, according to an American military official. About 10 years ago, he moved to Pakistan, where he had extensive contacts with Al Qaeda, the official said. In recent years, he had moved to Syria and joined the Islamic State’s fighting ranks.

Mr. Uzbeki was close to Mr. Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s leader, and helped plot a deadly attack on a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year’s Day. He was targeted for his role in the Islamic State’s plotting of attacks around the world, said Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command. “He facilitated the movement of ISIS foreign terror fighters and funds,” Colonel Thomas told reporters in April.

After months of waiting for an opportunity to seize Mr. Uzbeki without putting civilians at risk, one arose on April 6 for the so-called expeditionary targeting force, a group of commandos from the secretive Joint Special Operations Command who hunt Islamic State leaders in Iraq and Syria.

About 3 p.m., Mr. Uzbeki was driving from Mayadeen, a city in southeastern Syria that has become an enclave for Islamic State leaders fleeing Raqqa. (The Central Command said this past week that it had killed Turki al-Bin’ali, a senior recruiter and propagandist, in an airstrike on May 31 in Mayadeen.)

“As Mosul and Raqqa come under increasing pressure, we’ve seen ISIS elements moving into the Euphrates River Valley over the past few months,” said Cmdr. William Marks, a spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Uzbeki had just dropped off a higher-ranking Islamic State leader in Mayadeen and was returning to Raqqa when the commandos ambushed him. Though he died, the soldiers were able to recover cellphones and other materials, a military official said.

In a similar raid in early January, American commandos killed another midlevel Islamic State leader they had been trying to capture and interrogate in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zour, which is largely under Islamic State control. The insurgent, whom the military did not identify, was also killed when he resisted capture. Important information was also collected from this raid, military officials said.

The model for these kinds of operations in Syria emerged in May 2015 when two dozen Delta Force commandos entered Syria aboard Black Hawk helicopters and V-22 Ospreys from Iraq and killed Abu Sayyaf, whom American officials described as the Islamic State’s “emir of oil and gas.”

The information harvested from the laptops, cellphones and other materials recovered in the raid yielded the first important insights about the Islamic State’s leadership structure, financial operations and security measures.

Equally important, Abu Sayyaf’s wife, Umm, who was captured in the operation, provided information to investigators for weeks, American officials said, before she was turned over to the Iraqi authorities.

So successful was that raid that seven months later, Ashton B. Carter, then the defense secretary, disclosed at a House hearing that he was creating a “specialized expeditionary targeting force.”

The commandos — initially numbering about 100 troops, including support personnel — would have a mission similar to, but smaller than, the one they carried out in tandem with President George W. Bush’s surge of American troops in Iraq in 2007. There, commandos conducted a series of high-tempo, nightly raids to capture or kill fighters from Al Qaeda and other former Baathist groups in Iraq.

In recent months, the targeting force has intensified its drone strikes and raids in Syria against the Islamic State’s external operations planners, who have inspired, supported and directed attacks beyond their declared caliphate and into the West. A small number of capture missions are in the works, tracking insurgent leaders, military officials said.

“When the target is indeed captured alive, then we often can get even more valuable information through interrogations, immediate and continuing over time,” said William Wechsler, a former top counterterrorism official at the Pentagon. “All of this helps us better understand the enemy network, prioritize new targets, and identify external terrorist plots.”

Huge Alzheimer’s breakthrough stuns scientists

Huge Alzheimer’s breakthrough stuns scientists

Scientists have just made a massive discovery that could have major implications for fighting dementia in old age.

Scientists have just made what could be the most important discovery about brains in a very long time, as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a report released this past week that exercise, controlling blood pressure, and some brain training may be the magic formula to preventing mental decline, Alzheimer’s or dementia in old age.

While there are no proven ways to keep this mental deterioration from happening, this new report is an exciting indication that we may have more power to stop cognitive decline than we think. However, the government will need to do more research before such strategies are pushed as a viable method for ordinary citizens.

At the very least, these three strategies appear to do no harm, and at least two are really good for you even if they ultimately don’t work for preventing dementia. The report is based on a belief that changes in the brain begin long before symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other diseases, and it’s possible to catch the disease early on.

Cognitive training, blood pressure management for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity all show modest but inconclusive evidence that they can help prevent cognitive decline and dementia, but there is insufficient evidence to support a public health campaign encouraging their adoption, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Additional research is needed to further understand and gain confidence in their effectiveness, said the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report.

“There is good cause for hope that in the next several years much more will be known about how to prevent cognitive decline and dementia, as more clinical trial results become available and more evidence emerges,” said Alan I. Leshner, chair of the committee and CEO emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Even though clinical trials have not conclusively supported the three interventions discussed in our report, the evidence is strong enough to suggest the public should at least have access to these results to help inform their decisions about how they can invest their time and resources to maintain brain health with aging.”

An earlier systematic review published in 2010 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and an associated “state of the science” conference at the National Institutes of Health had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to make recommendations about any interventions to prevent cognitive decline and dementia. Since then, understanding of the pathological processes that result in dementia has advanced significantly, and a number of clinical trials of potential preventive interventions have been completed and published. In 2015, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) contracted with AHRQ to conduct another systematic review of the current evidence. NIA also asked the National Academies to convene an expert committee to help inform the design of the AHRQ review and then use the results to make recommendations to inform the development of public health messaging, as well as recommendations for future research. This report examines the most recent evidence on steps that can be taken to prevent, slow, or delay the onset of mild cognitive impairment and clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia as well as steps that can delay or slow age-related cognitive decline.

Overall, the committee determined that despite an array of advances in understanding cognitive decline and dementia, the available evidence on interventions derived from randomized controlled trials – considered the gold standard of evidence – remains relatively limited and has significant shortcomings. Based on the totality of available evidence, however, the committee concluded that three classes of interventions can be described as supported by encouraging but inconclusive evidence. These interventions are:

cognitive training – which includes programs aimed at enhancing reasoning and problem solving, memory, and speed of processing – to delay or slow age-related cognitive decline. Such structured training exercises may or may not be computer-based. blood pressure management for people with hypertension – to prevent, delay, or slow clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia. increased physical activity – to delay or slow age-related cognitive decline.

Cognitive training has been the object of considerable interest and debate in both the academic and commercial sectors, particularly within the last 15 years. Good evidence shows that cognitive training can improve performance on a trained task, at least in the short term. However, debate has centered on evidence for long-term benefits and whether training in one domain, such as processing speed, yields benefits in others, such as in memory and reasoning, and if this can translate to maintaining independence in instrumental activities of daily living, such as driving and remembering to take medications. Evidence from one randomized controlled trial suggests that cognitive training delivered over time and in an interactive context can improve long-term cognitive function as well as help maintain independence in instrumental activities of daily living for adults with normal cognition. However, results from other randomized controlled trials that tested cognitive training were mixed.

Managing blood pressure for people with hypertension, particularly during midlife – generally ages 35 to 65 years – is supported by encouraging but inconclusive evidence for preventing, delaying, and slowing clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia, the committee said. The available evidence, together with the strong evidence for blood pressure management in preventing stroke and cardiovascular disease and the relative benefit/risk ratio of antihypertensive medications and lifestyle interventions, is sufficient to justify communication with the public regarding the use of blood pressure management, particularly during midlife, for preventing, delaying, and slowing clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia, the report says.

It is well-documented that physical activity has many health benefits, and some of these benefits – such as stroke prevention – are causally related to brain health. The AHRQ systematic review found that the pattern of randomized controlled trials results across different types of physical activity interventions provides an indication of the effectiveness of increased physical activity in delaying or slowing age-related cognitive decline, although these results were not consistently positive. However, several other considerations led the committee to conclude that the evidence is sufficient to justify communicating to the public that increased physical activity for delaying or slowing age-related cognitive decline is supported by encouraging but inconclusive evidence.

None of the interventions evaluated in the AHRQ systematic review met the criteria for being supported by high-strength evidence, based on the quality of randomized controlled trials and the lack of consistently positive results across independent studies. This limitation suggests the need for additional research as well as methodological improvements in the future research. The National Institutes of Health and other interested organizations should support further research to strengthen the evidence base on cognitive training, blood pressure management, and increased physical activity, the committee said. Examples of research priorities for these three classes of interventions include evaluating the comparative effectiveness of different forms of cognitive training interventions; determining whether there are optimal blood pressure targets and approaches across different age ranges; and comparing the effects of different forms of physical activity.

When funding research on preventing cognitive decline and dementia, the National Institutes of Health and other interested organizations should identify individuals who are at higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia; increase participation of underrepresented populations; begin more interventions at younger ages and have longer follow-up periods; use consistent cognitive outcome measures across trials to enable pooling; integrate robust cognitive outcome measures into trials with other primary purposes; include biomarkers as intermediate outcomes; and conduct large trials designed to test the effectiveness of an intervention in broad, routine clinical practices or community settings.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The National Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

Saudi Arabia, Waging War in Yemen, Gives It $66.7 Million in Cholera Relief (LOL….)

The newly elevated crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who as defense minister has led the country’s bombing and blockades of Yemen, showed his charitable side on Friday with a $66.7 million donation to fight the cholera outbreak in that country.

The donation authorized by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was announced by the ruling family’s charity, the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid, which said the money would go to Unicef and the World Health Organization in response to their urgent pleas.

Accounts in the state-guided Saudi news media said “the donation is an initiative of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and accelerates the Kingdom’s substantial humanitarian efforts in Yemen.”

In a statement, Unicef said that it welcomed the infusion of Saudi money and that “we look forward to discussing this contribution” with the kingdom’s royal charity.

Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said in an email: “W.H.O. welcomes all offers of support that would alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. As with all funding we receive, these funds will be used in line with the humanitarian principles of neutrality, humanity and independence.”

The donation was among the first prominent actions of the crown prince, the 31-year-old son of King Salman, since he was abruptly promoted to first in the line of succession on Wednesday, bypassing his older rival, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and upending decades of royal custom.

It was unclear whether the money was a direct donation from the personal fortune of the crown prince, who like other members of the royal family is enormously wealthy. But $66.7 million would not necessarily be considered an onerous sum for the crown prince, who as deputy crown prince spent $550 million in 2015 to buy a yacht from a Russian vodka tycoon.

Unicef and other humanitarian groups have expressed growing alarm about the rapid spread of cholera in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, where the health care system has collapsed because of the war. A Saudi-led coalition began bombing the country more than two years ago after Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized the capital and evicted the Saudi-backed government.

The bombing campaign, which Crown Prince Mohammed has overseen as defense minister, has made only limited progress.

At the same time, the Saudis have faced growing criticism from human rights groups, which have accused them of indiscriminate bombings and air and sea blockades that have destroyed what is left of Yemen’s economy and worsened the humanitarian disaster there.

As many as 300,000 Yemenis could be infected with cholera in the coming weeks, half of them children, Unicef officials have said. Since the outbreak was declared two months ago, more than 1,265 people have died, Unicef’s resident representative in Yemen, Meritxell Relaño, told reporters in a conference call on Friday.

The Middle East regional director of Unicef, Geert Cappelaere, said last week that the agency had been so desperate to contain the cholera crisis in Yemen that it had taken the unusual step of paying the country’s doctors and nurses, who have not been paid in months.

Mr. Cappelaere said it was the worst cholera outbreak he had seen in Yemen and “just comes on top of what already was an incredibly daunting situation.”

Yemen is also facing a famine and a growing population of young children with severe malnutrition problems.

Cholera, once a common scourge of poor countries, is a bacterial disease spread by contaminated water that can cause fatal dehydration if left untreated.