The ban had little practical effect as Catalonia had only one functioning bullring — in its capital, Barcelona — but neither is the court decision likely to greatly change things.
Spain’s top court on Thursday overruled a controversial local ban against bullfighting in the powerful northeastern region of Catalonia, saying it violated a national law protecting the much-disputed spectacle.
The Constitutional Court ruled that Catalan authorities generally could regulate such public spectacles, and even outlaw them, but in this case the national parliament’s ruling that bullfighting is part of Spain’s heritage must prevail.
Catalonia banned bullfighting in 2010. The decision was part of the growing movement against bullfighting, but it was also seen as another step in the Catalan government’s push to break away from Spain.
The ban had little practical effect as Catalonia had only one functioning bullring — in its capital, Barcelona — but neither is the court decision likely to greatly change things.
“There’ll be no bullfights in Catalonia regardless of what the Constitutional Court says,” Catalan Land Minister Josep Rulls said.
The World Animal Protection group described the decision as “outrageous,” adding that “cultural heritage does not justify an activity that relies on animal torture and indefensible levels of suffering.”
But the Fighting Bull Foundation of breeders, matadors, ring workers, aficionados and event organizers welcomed the news, warning that attempts to prevent bullfights in Catalonia would now be illegal…(read more)
This is a BBC2 documentary from 2003 and probably one of the best on Stalin. The archive footage is very good and it draws upon some excellent evidence from close witnesses, including Stalin’s own family.
Jamie Gregora reports: The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation released its first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism” Monday. The survey showed a distinct generation gap regarding beliefs about socialism and communism between older and younger Americans. For example, 80 percent of baby boomers and 91 percent of elderly Americans believe that communism was and still is a problem in the world today, while just 55 percent of millennials say the same.
Just 37 percent of millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of communism, compared to 57 percent of Americans overall. Close to half (45 percent) of Americans aged 16 to 20 said they would vote for a socialist, and 21 percent would vote for a communist.
CIA Prepping for Possible Cyber Strike Against Russia
William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Robert Windrem report: The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging “clandestine” cyber operation designed to harass and “embarrass” the Kremlin leadership.
The sources did not elaborate on the exact measures the CIA was considering, but said the agency had already begun opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation. Former intelligence officers told NBC News that the agency had gathered reams of documents that could expose unsavory tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Vice President Joe Biden told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd on Friday that “we’re sending a message” to Putin and that “it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact.”
When asked if the American public will know a message was sent, the vice president replied, “Hope not.”
Retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. should attack Russia’s ability to censor its internal internet traffic and expose the financial dealings of Putin and his associates.
“It’s well known that there’s great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs,” he said. “It would be very embarrassing if that was revealed, and that would be a proportional response to what we’ve seen” in Russia’s alleged hacks and leaks targeting U.S. public opinion.
Sean Kanuck, who was until this spring the senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for analyzing Russian cyber capabilities, said not mounting a response would carry a cost.
“If you publicly accuse someone,” he said, “and don’t follow it up with a responsive action, that may weaken the credible threat of your response capability.”
President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation. Officials told NBC News that for now there are divisions at the top of the administration about whether to proceed.
Two former CIA officers who worked on Russia told NBC News that there is a long history of the White House asking the CIA to come up with options for covert action against Russia, including cyber options — only to abandon the idea.
“We’ve always hesitated to use a lot of stuff we’ve had, but that’s a political decision,” one former officer said. “If someone has decided, `We’ve had enough of the Russians,’ there is a lot we can do. Step one is to remind them that two can play at this game and we have a lot of stuff. Step two, if you are looking to mess with their networks, we can do that, but then the issue becomes, they can do worse things to us in other places.”
How many deaths is too many? VOC’s #CommunismKills campaign begins with the premise that each individual life taken by communism is one too many. Communism has killed over 100,000,000 people over the last 100 years and continues to do so in the countries of China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Laos. This staggering number represents more than just an aggregate; it represents one hundred million individuals, each with his or her own history, dignity, and humanity.
In the last 100 years, since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, over 100 million people have been killed by communism. Many were executed directly by communist revolutionaries and functionaries who justified this murder as one more step toward an imagined communist utopia. Others were caught in the crossfire of civil wars, revolutions, and invasions as communist forces tried to expand their dominion by military force.
“21st century communist countries do not kill people by the millions anymore. But every year, communist countries disappear dissidents, silence journalists, and imprison innocent people. 100,000,000 deaths in 100 years is an astounding tally.”
Most, however, died as a result of massive famines caused by communist economic policies. In the Soviet Union and China, where most of communism’s victims lie, the famines were not incidental or accidental. Stalin directly targeted ethnic Ukrainians by seizing their property and food in the name of common ownership. Mao Zedong, upon hearing that his people were starving due to his communist economic policies, famously said, “Educate peasants to eat less.”
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States Congress worried that the “heroic sacrifices of the victims of communism may be forgotten as international communism and its imperial bases continue to collapse and crumble.”
In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed Public Law 103-199, establishing the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and reminding the world that “Congress finds that, since 1917, the rulers of empires and international communism led by Vladimir I. Lenin and Mao Tse-tung have been responsible for the deaths of over 100,000,000 victims.”
A veiled Muslim Uyghur woman walks past a statue of Mao Zedong in Kashgar in Xinjiang province. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
The 100,000,000 number is made all the more upsetting by the fact that it’s inexact and growing. Unlike the Nazis, communists did not keep accurate records of the amount of people they killed. In places like China and Ukraine, government archives have only opened in the last decade, revealing that there are tragically more and more victims to be discovered, counted, and memorialized. Over the course of the past decades, many scholars have attempted to establish solid numbers for communism’s victims, some of which can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »
Mason launched two Standard Missile-2s (SM-2s) and a single Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) to intercept the two missiles that were launched about 7 P.M. local time. In addition to the missiles, the ship used its Nulka anti-ship missile decoy
Sam LaGrone reports: The crew of a guided-missile destroyer fired three missiles to defend themselves and another ship after being attacked on Sunday in the Red Sea by two presumed cruise missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthi-forces, USNI News has learned.
During the attack against USS Mason (DDG-87), the ship’s crew fired the missiles to defend the guided-missile destroyer and nearby USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) from two suspected cruise missiles fired from the Yemini shore, two defense officials told USNI News.
Mason launched two Standard Missile-2s (SM-2s) and a single Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) to intercept the two missiles that were launched about 7 P.M. local time. In addition to the missiles, the ship used its Nulka anti-ship missile decoy, the sources confirmed. Mason was operating in international waters north of the strait of Bab el-Mandeb at the time of the attack.
Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) on April 11, 2016. US Navy Photo
According to a defense official on Monday, Mason “employed onboard defensive measures” against the first suspected cruise missile, “although it is unclear whether this led to the missile striking the water or whether it would have struck the water anyway.” The official did not specify that the defensive measure was a missile fired from the ship.
USNI News understands, as of Monday, the crew of the ship was uncertain if the suspected cruise missile was taken out by an SM-2 or went into the water on its own. In the Monday statement, the Pentagon said an investigation was ongoing.
The second missile launched from Yemen hit the water without being struck by a U.S. interceptor, the Pentagon said. Read the rest of this entry »
“This exercise is yet another example of the strength and resolve of the combined U.S. and the ROK naval force. The U.S. and the Republic of Korea share one of the strongest alliances in the world, and we grow stronger as an alliance because of our routine exercises here in South Korea and the close relationship and ties that we forge from operating at sea together.”
— Rear Admiral Charles Williams
The six-day joint exercise, dubbed Invincible Spirit, “will consist of a routine bilateral training, subject matter expert exchanges, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare drills, communication drills, air defense exercises, counter-mine planning and distinguished visitor embarkations,” the USN notes.
According to South Korean media reports, the exercise also involved long-range strike exercises against North Korea’s nuclear facilities, testing the concept of “Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation” (KMPR) and improving the strike capabilities of USN and ROKN ship-to-ground missiles. Read the rest of this entry »
In Europe, when it gets serious, you have to lie… at least if you are an unelected bureaucrat like Jean-Claude Juncker. In Russia, however, when it gets serious, attention immediately turns to the children.
“On the one hand, this is all part of a package of measures to prepare the elites for some ‘big war’ even if it is rather conditional, on the other hand – this is another blow to the unity of President Putin with his own elite”
Which is why we read a report in Russian website Znak published Tuesday, according to which Russian state officials and government workers were told to bring back their children studying abroad immediately, even if means cutting their education short and not waiting until the end of the school year, and re-enroll them in Russian schools, with some concern.
The article adds that if the parents of these same officials also live abroad “for some reason”, and have not lost their Russian citizenship, should also be returned to the motherland. Znak cited five administration officials as the source of the report.
“People note the hypocrisy of having a centralized state and cultivating patriotism and anti-Western sentiment, while children of government workers study abroad. You can not serve two gods, one must choose.”
The “recommendation” applies to all: from the administration staff, to regional administratiors, to lawmakers of all levels. Employees of public corporations are also subject to the ordinance. One of the sources said that anyone who fails to act, will find such non-compliance to be a “complicating factor in the furtherance of their public sector career.” He added that he was aware of several such cases in recent months. Read the rest of this entry »
The creepy clown phenomenon started in the U.S. in August with reports of clowns trying to lure children into the woods in South Carolina. Now dozens of incidents are being reported in England and Australia. Mark Kelly reports.
This is as serious as you say it is, and it tells you how far we have fallen in the region. We were the ones, before the evacuation in Iraq, we were the ones — for all the blood and the toil and the waste of the initial invasion — who controlled that area. We controlled the airspace. We had airbases in Iraq — we controlled everything. No country would ever have said to us, and nobody was in a position to say to us, ‘You can’t have a no-fly zone, or we will patrol and shoot you down.’”
“The Russians are now in Syria, they have the approval of the government, so they have international law — I think it is ridiculous to worry about that, but the administration does — on their side, and they are telling the United States, which were the dominant power for half a century here: ‘If you go up in the air we’ll shoot you down.’ They have just installed in Tartus — which is a naval base, the Russian naval base — S-300 missiles which can do that, meaning they actually have not only a threat, but they have the capacity to shoot American airplanes down. Its probably a bluff because it could trigger a war, it could trigger something extremely serious. But it means we are excluded and the Russians are in charge. Think about the reversal of fortunes, of a place where we were the dominant power since the 1970s.”
“Unfortunately, in today’s China under President Xi, seeking the truth about the past can be a dangerous endeavor if anyone dares to dissent from the government’s official versions.”
I was born in China, and finished my undergraduate education before coming to the United States to pursue a master’s degree. So I was typical of the output of China’s government-sanctioned education system. When I first came to the United States, although I had some doubts here and there about certain historical events I had been taught in China, I spent very little time questioning them. Instead, I focused on working hard to better myself economically, like many other immigrants have.
My parents rarely mentioned to me anything that had happened in the past. One thing they did tell me was that our family’ genealogy book, which covered many generations of our clan, was destroyed in China’s Cultural Revolution. As a writer, I always wanted to write a family history book. So when my parents turned 70 several years ago, I realized I’d better get my parents talking about the past.
What My Parents Remembered
What I learned from my parents was shockingly different from what I had been taught in China. Allow me to present two historical events to illustrate my point.
The first historical event is the “land reform.” The Chinese Communist Party pushed for nationwide “land reform” from 1950 to 1953. In our high school history book, there were only a few sentences about land reform. The movement was depicted as a popular and necessary measure to distribute land back to poor Chinese peasants, who were supposed to be the rightful owner of the land.
“Napoleon Bonaparte once said ‘history is a set of lies agreed upon.’ In China, it’s probably more accurate to say the government-sanctioned history is a set of lies forced upon its people.”
Our Chinese literature class reinforced this notion. One of the required readings was an excerpt from a novel titled “Hurricane” (Baofeng Zhouyu, or 暴风骤雨) by a Chinese novelist, Zhou Libo. The novel supposedly presented the most realistic picture of land reform. It showed how the righteous landless peasants fought and won land reform despite sabotage by the evil landowners.
I especially remember the excerpt we were required to memorize. It illustrated what a joyful event it was armies took land and farm animals from land owners and redistributed them to poor peasants. This novel was so popular in China that it was later adapted into a movie and stage play. Read the rest of this entry »
Wikileaks has abruptly canceled a much-anticipated announcement on Tuesday, according to NBC News. The announcement had been expected to be founder Julian Assange’s long-promised document dump on Hillary Clinton. NBC’s Jesse Rodriguez reported that the Tuesday announcement — which was to come from the balcony of London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, where Assange has sought sanctuary for years – was canceled due to “security concerns”.
Wikileaks has not said when it will now make its “announcement”.
Assange appeared on Fox News last month, repeating his assertion that Wikileaks has damaging documents on Clinton and suggested…(read more)
“Security concerns”? In the middle of London? Assange may be deliberately stoking anticipation about the announcement. Or, he may fear for his life..(read more)
The dictator is enjoying a surge of popularity. But the rise of this neo-Maoist movement could upend China’s stability.
Jamil Anderlini writes: A heavy pall of pollution hangs over Tiananmen Square and from a distance the giant portrait of Mao Zedong above the entrance to the Forbidden City looks a little smudged. It is 8am and the temperature in central Beijing is already approaching 30C.
But the heat and smog are no deterrent to the thousands of people waiting in hour-long queues to pay respects to the preserved body of the “great helmsman”. Since his death 40 years ago, Chairman Mao’s corpse — or, more likely, a wax replica — has been on display in a purpose-built mausoleum in the geographic and figurative heart of the Chinese capital. Well over 200 million people have visited.
In the west, Mao is understood chiefly as China’s “Red Emperor” — a vicious dictator who fostered an extreme personality cult, launched the disastrous Cultural Revolution and masterminded a “Great Leap Forward” that resulted in the worst famine in history. Experts estimate that Mao was responsible for between 40 million and 70 million deaths in peacetime — more than Hitler and Stalin combined.
However, while Hitler, Stalin and most of the other totalitarian dictators of the 20th century were repudiated after their deaths, Mao remains a central figure in modern China. The Communist party he helped found in 1921 and the authoritarian Leninist political system he established in 1949 still run the country. “Mao Zedong Thought” is enshrined in the party’s constitution and, since 1999, his face has adorned most banknotes (something he refused to allow during his lifetime).
But this whitewashing of Mao’s legacy is a risky strategy. Thanks to the party’s tight control over education, media and all public discourse, most people in China know very little of Mao’s terrible mistakes. Indeed, the dictator is more popular today than at any time since his death. Last year nearly 17 million people made pilgrimages to his home town — Shaoshan — in rural central China. In the mid-1980s, barely 60,000 undertook the journey.
China has also seen the rise of a vocal political movement of “neo-Maoists” — militant leftists who espouse many of the utopian egalitarian ideas that China’s current leaders have largely abandoned. These neo-Maoists are by definition an underground movement, which makes it very difficult to estimate their numbers, but public petitions sympathetic to their cause have garnered tens of thousands of signatures in recent years.
Several experts believe a neo-Maoist candidate would probably win a general election in China today, should free elections ever be allowed. This means the movement could enjoy the sympathy of hundreds of millions of China’s 1.4 billion people. As such, it poses one of the biggest threats facing the authoritarian system in the world’s most populous nation today.
Mao in modern China
“Speed up comrades, walk forward,” a young man in a clean white shirt with a bullhorn yells at the tourists lined up in Tiananmen Square, many of whom bow three times before a large Mao statue as they enter the mausoleum. Visitors are not allowed to take photos and tall paramilitary officers shoo people along, ensuring nobody gets more than a quick glimpse of the figure wrapped in the hammer and sickle flag and laid out in a crystal coffin behind a glass wall. Just a kilometre away is the heavily guarded compound where China’s current leaders work and live.
“Chairman Mao was a truly great man but this is not the country he dreamt of, this is not real communism.”
Many of the people visiting Mao’s remains have been left behind by China’s economic boom in recent decades. They see Mao as a symbol of a simpler, fairer society — a time when everyone was poorer but at least they were equally poor. Those who have studied the resurgence in Mao’s popularity in China see it as part of a broader global phenomenon that encompasses the appeal of Donald Trump in the US, Brexit in the UK and populist politicians on the left and right in Europe. At a time of sharp dislocation and intense resentment towards elites, people in many countries are attracted by nostalgia and tradition. For ordinary people in China, that means Mao and the classless society he envisioned. Read the rest of this entry »
A top South Korean defense official admitted this week that Seoul has a plan in place to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
The Asia Times reported that Defense Minister Han Min-koo made the remarks Wednesday during a parliamentary meeting in the country’s capital. He was asked about rumors circulating about such a plan.
“If it becomes clear the enemy is moving to attack the South with nuclear missiles, in order to suppress its aims, the concept is to destroy key figures and areas that include the North Korean leadership.”
— Defense Minister Han Min-koo
“If it becomes clear the enemy is moving to attack the South with nuclear missiles, in order to suppress its aims, the concept is to destroy key figures and areas that include the North Korean leadership,” Han said. He said Seoul is “considering launching a Special Forces unit to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.”
Film and Writing Festival for Comedy. Showcasing best of comedy short films at the FEEDBACK Film Festival. Plus, showcasing best of comedy novels, short stories, poems, screenplays (TV, short, feature) at the festival performed by professional actors.