A Berkshire Journal: Memories of My Father

When I was five years old, my father taught me how to whistle. I felt pretty special, sitting on the bench seat of his Cadillac, in my favorite dress with the blue flowers. In that rare sliver of time I had him to myself I tried all the harder, though it took a while. Mimicking his lips as he whistled “Fly Me to the Moon,” I countlessly blew through mine, over and over, until at last, the tiniest whisper of sound came through. I felt a larger sun come out and shine at that moment, when he smiled on me.

He taught me the rudimentary method. The other, he reserved for himself. With pointer finger and thumb together up against his tongue, he’d push through one short resolute force of breath, releasing a sound that summoned us from all four corners of the earth where we were scattered. That whistle could pull us succinctly into the firm embrace of paternal authority like a powerful, accurate lasso.

Thus collected, the four of us would drop into a circle on the floor, panting from the run and smiling through our flushed and sweaty faces. Discipline was in order when Papa called a pow-wow, and we knew this meant he would produce the “Magic Bean.”

I don’t know when it started or where it came from. Our mother really didn’t cook beans all that often, if ever. My only guess is that perhaps it found its way into his pocket from the counter of his Italian Aunt Angie’s kitchen. With a tremendous capacity to improvise, which he often applied to the plumbing,  it was at some split second transformed and used like a magic wand.

In his deep voice, our father could lay down the law like no other. But with a charismatic fusion of humor and mystery so uniquely his, he would wave that powerful, white, little cannellini before our eyes, drawing solid lines of discipline while pulling quarters from behind our ears. Thus, our transgressions were forgiven and humility coaxed from the ashes of shame.

Oh, we searched for that little legume when he was out! Between the paired-up socks, and tidy stacks of folded papers held together with a rubber band in the upper right-hand corner of his dresser drawer. Through the pockets of slacks draped neatly over the back of a chair and jackets, orderly hung on wooden hangers in the closet. Amidst the neat pile of loose change gathered together with his St. Jude pendant and the odd golf-tee on the bedside table. As hard as we looked, we never found it, and so it retained tremendous leverage, appearing only when the time was right.

If a simple bean held magical powers, so also could an inexpensive bottle of wine. It was all in how you poured it. In a household that revolved around teenage schedules and those of two working parents, Sunday Supper gave over to Tuesday Pasta Night. With a soft spot for the underdog, the lost, the tired, the hurt, no matter how lean the times, our parents always made room at the table for another body or two. It just meant adding an extra pound of number 8 spaghetti to a larger pot of boiling water. And when that half-gallon bottle of Carlo Rossi was poured into a glass from over Papa’s shoulder, you could almost swear it was Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Our mother had drawn the topographical chart of what she wanted for her children, and set the direction she wanted us to go in. In his heart of hearts, our father understood, and navigated and captained it in the best way he could from the very different map of his childhood. There were stormy seas. We all had to improvise, as he had taught us. Attempting to carve one path from two different roads that nonetheless ran parallel, by individual codes of the same two constants: loyalty and love.

How time flies, I am thinking so many years later in these weeks preceding Father’s Day! One minute you’re sitting in the world of your father’s lap while he sings Sinatra in your ear, with your mother’s fresh-made coffee on his breath. The next he’s teaching you how to drive for the first time, calmly instructing from the passenger seat of the family station wagon while you white-knuckle the steering wheel on the Saw Mill River Parkway. A calculated risk, he called it.

Before you know it, you’re in the foreign lap of the larger world as you head out on your own, and he is suddenly human, and you have broken his heart for the first time.

Not too much later you suddenly have children of your own to guide, from one world to another. One day, they look up at you, and you understand the great responsibility of what it means to be a hero. And you hope they transcend your imperfections, as you now realize he hoped you did, his. “To err is human, to forgive is divine,” wrote the poet Alexander Pope.

Years later, while sweeping after putting my sons to bed one night, I found a little white bean lodged in a crack between the kitchen floorboards. As I pried it out with a knife and held it between my fingertips, memories flooded back. As a young mother, I finally understood the subtle, more powerful message of the magic bean of our childhood as a symbol of miracles manifest, when wrong was put to right.

These things I remember. And a simple metaphor to fatherhood and perhaps, life in general. Which lies in what he says is key to making a good pasta sauce: Let it simmer all day to give time for the flavors to deepen, and never to mess with the traditional ingredients; garlic, basil, oregano, a shot of red wine, and a large pinch of divine intervention.

Cardinale Montano is a freelance writer living in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She shares her creativity with good friends, family, and eager learners, and celebrates daily the blessings of nature in the beautiful Berkshires. She is the founder and designer at LineflaxAndRoving.com

Go to Source
Author: Cardinale Montano


Increasing Number of Americans Say Trump Has Presidential Qualities: Poll

An increasing number of Americans believe President Donald Trump has both the personality and the leadership qualities a head of state should have, according to data from a new Gallup poll released on May 28.

Today, 40 percent of Americans (or 4 in 10) say Trump has such qualities, a 6-point increase from two years ago when 33 percent voted along those lines.

The growing support for Trump’s character came from votes across all political spectrums, including Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

In 2017 around the beginning of his administration, 74 percent of Republicans believed Trump had the qualities of a president. In the latest poll, however, the number of Republican support had risen by 7 percentage points, reaching a total of 81 percent.

The number of Democrats who think Trump had such qualities also increased from 6 percent in 2017 to 13 percent in the latest poll. For independents, a similar rise occurred, with 31 percent believing in Trump’s qualities, an increase of 4 percentage points from 2017.

According to Gallup, more Americans rate Trump positively for his issue positions than his character, with 47 percent saying that they agree with Trump “on the issues that matter most to them.”

Trump’s rating on issues was similar to his two predecessors, former president Barack Obama, and George W. Bush. His rating on these issues, like the one on his character, increased from when Gallup asked the question in 2017. At that time, 39 percent rated Trump favorably for his issue positions.

Gallup pollsters say Trump can increase his chances of re-election if he focuses more on key issues that matter to American voters.

“His [Trump’s] chances of winning re-election appear greater if the campaign is decided on issues rather than character,” the pollsters wrote in their analysis. “His two immediate predecessors were viewed similarly to him on issues but were rated far superior on character. Both ultimately won re-election.”

Data from the latest Gallup poll came from telephone interviews conducted from April 17 to 30 with a random sample of 1,024 adults. The poll has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.

Ratings Rise

Results from a separate Gallup poll released earlier in May found a record high percentage of Americans who approve of the job Trump is doing.

The approval rating hit 46 percent in the April 17–April 30 poll, coinciding with the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report, which established that the 2016 Trump campaign did not collude with Russia to influence the election.

The report contrasted with the incessant coverage in legacy media that was largely supportive of the collusion narrative and, at times, false. The public response to the news appears to be reflected in the poll.

Obama had an approval rating of 43 percent to 44 percent at the same point of his first term in the Gallup poll.

Several other polls recently also hit 46 percent, including The Hill/HarrisXNBC News/The Wall Street Journal, and Harvard-Harris (pdf). Other pollsters reported lower numbers, including Reuters/Ipsos at 39 percent, Economist/YouGov at 42 percent (pdf), Politico/Morning Consult at 42 percent (pdf), and Quinnipiac at 41 percent.

Trump has faced overwhelmingly negative coverage in the legacy media. Of statements marked positive or negative, 90 percent were negative in the Trump coverage on the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts, according to the Media Research Center (MRC), a right-leaning media watchdog.

Petr Svab contributed to this report.

Go to Source
Author: Bowen Xiao

Weather Network Forecasts Starkly Different Summer Conditions Across Canada

The weather this summer could be starkly different across the country, according to the latest long range forecast from The Weather Network.

Chief meteorologist Chris Scott predicts the wet weather that Ontario and Quebec have experienced in May will continue during the summer months and could lead to a heightened risk of flash flooding in some areas.

In sharp contrast, he’s forecasting more hot, dry weather for most of western Canada, raising the wildfire threat, which has already prompted evacuations in northwestern Alberta.

“We expect the wildfire risk to be heightened this summer,” said Scott, adding that there will be an “above normal season” for wildfires for most of B.C., western Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon.

But Scott said generally this summer won’t be remembered for its heat—except for B.C.—which he noted was expected to be “the king of the heat this summer.”

Setting sun. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Scott broke down the summer forecast region by region:

British Columbia

He said B.C. can expect a hotter and drier than normal summer which will bring a consistent threat of wildfires.

“We’ve already seen some warm days and we expect June overall will continue that trend,” he said.

He also the warned the heat and lack of rain could be particularly hard on urban residents because of the possibility of water restrictions.


Scott said his network is predicting slightly below average precipitation for the Prairies, but not to the point where farmers should be concerned about drought conditions.

“Alberta’s always the swing province in terms of weather,” he said. “We expect that to be the case again this summer with it really flipping between warm and cool depending on the week.”

The network is predicting near normal temperatures in general for the Edmonton to Calgary corridor, with precipitation also close to normal.

“We’ll get our normal share of active summer weather—thunderstorms, hail storms,” Scott said, adding “it’s part of living in that part of the country.”

The forecast for Saskatchewan and Manitoba calls for slightly lower than normal summer temperatures, with close to average precipitation.

Ontario and Quebec

Scott expects seasonally cooler conditions in northern Ontario and Quebec, and “near normal” temperatures in the southern parts of the provinces, which together will increase the chance of rain.

He said southern Ontario and Quebec will get their hot days, but there won’t be as many as last summer.

“Last summer was a deadly one,” Scott said, referencing the heat-related deaths in Quebec. “We don’t expect this summer to be as hot.”

He said there will be some heavy periods of rain in the southern part of the region which will exceed average precipitation levels for the area.

“But we don’t want to convey that this is a washout of a summer—it does not look that way,” he added. “It just means that when it rains it pours.”

Scott suggests the wet weather that characterized much of the spring will persist into the summer months, leading to a “heightened threat for flash flooding.”

He pointed to extreme weather conditions, such as the Toronto flood in July 2013 and the Burlington, ON., flooding a year later, as examples of what could recur this year.

A woman gets back in her car in flood water on Lakeshore West during a storm in Toronto on Monday, July 8, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Atlantic Canada

Scott said the Atlantic provinces can expect “generally near normal temperatures,” with some above average temps also forecast for the southern Maritimes due to humid air moving into the region from the Great Lakes.

He said not to expect a lot of heat in June, but to prepare for more humidity across the region in July and August.

Northern Canada

As for northern Canada, Scott said “expect an above normal fire season as you head west of Yellowknife, especially, and then into the Yukon.”

The network is predicting normal to slightly warmer than average temperatures extending to the Alaska border, while near normal temperatures and precipitation are forecast for Nunavut.

Go to Source
Author: The Canadian Press

Video: Man Jumps Out of Car and Stops Runaway Semi-Truck

A driver’s dash-camera caught footage of him running up to a runaway semi-truck, climbing up its cabin while it was still rolling down the road, and bringing the truck to a full stop.

The man, named Liu Wenzhong, caught the truck rolling down what appears to be a mountain road in the coastal city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province, China on May 22, according to Chinese state-sponsored media The Beijing Times.

A translation of the interview with Liu are provided below. The video has been edited to not show the original events as they happened in order.

Only the truck driver, surnamed Du, suffered injuries to his leg when his truck lost control. The report vaguely described him as being under the truck, but did not explain why. He was sent to the hospital, but no other details were given. No one else was injured in the process.

Stopping a Runaway Truck

Video footage from Liu’s dash-camera in his car shows him rounding a downward sloping mountain road towards a bridge. The semi-truck, which was parked on the right side of the road, starts moving. The driver can not be seen in the video. Liu swerves into the on-coming traffic lane, around the left side of the truck.

“At that time, I had no time to think about anything,” Liu told reporters, according to The Beijing News. “I was thinking about how to stop the truck.”

Liu said he was concerned that there were a lot of cars at the bottom of the bridge, and there would be an awful accident if nothing was done to stop the truck, according to The Beijing News.

Footage from the dash-camera shows that after Liu passes the truck, he slows down, only to see the truck grinding along the left side guard rail. He pulls ahead of the truck once more, and this time comes to a stop on the ride side.

“Did you think about your own safety?” a reporter from The Beijing News asks Liu in the video. “At that time, I didn’t think about it,” Liu said.

Liu’s dash-camera then captures the shocking moment when he runs alongside the semi-truck, grabs hold of it with both hands while running along, and pulls himself up into the cabin.

“At the bottom of the trestle bridge, there is a village, right?” a reporter asks Liu.

“If the truck kept going down ….Then the result would be difficult to imagine,” Liu said. “There’d be nothing I could do—if the brakes stopped working again, I’d only be able to turn the steering wheel to crash the truck and stop it.”

The footage shows that Liu was able to bring the truck to a complete stop in the middle of the road, preventing an accident.

The report gave very few details about the truck driver, surnamed Du. He suffered leg injuries when his truck lost control, and was sent to the hospital. The report vaguely described him as being under the truck, but did not explain why. No one else was injured in the incident.

Go to Source
Author: Daniel Holl

Bill Moving Through California Legislature That Would Keep President Trump Off Primary Ballot Unless He Releases Tax Returns

After passing the California Senate in a 27-10 vote, a bill that would require all presidential candidates to publicly release the past five years of their income tax returns in order to appear on all future presidential primary ballots has moved to the state Assembly.

On May 28, the bill’s authors, State Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), announced that amendments were added to SB 27 that would require gubernatorial candidates to release their tax returns.

The legislation, also known by its formal name the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, would make the returns public on the California secretary of state’s website.

While not stating President Trump by name in the legislation, the authors of the bill have made it clear that they are mainly targeting the President with the bill.

“This President continues to make decisions that undermine our national security interests,” said Senator Wiener in a statement. “We deserve to know what is compelling him to take these bizarre actions. Requiring presidential candidates to disclose basic financial information is a common sense step that builds trust between the American people and our elected leader.”

The legislation also includes an urgency clause so that it would take effect immediately upon being signed into law, so that it could become law in time for the 2020 elections.

In at least 20 other states, bills have been introduced that would require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to be on the presidential primary ballot, although none have yet become law.

California’s bill is expected to pass in the state Assembly, which has a 61-19 Democratic supermajority.

Governor Gavin Newsom has not indicated whether he will sign the legislation or not. His predecessor, Jerry Brown, who didn’t release his own tax returns, vetoed similar legislation in 2017.

Jim Stanley, a spokesman from the office of California Assembly Minority Leader Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) told The Epoch Times, “Jerry Brown didn’t release his tax returns and the Democrats didn’t have a problem with that,” he added.

When asked about how the votes would look on the Assembly floor and whether it would fall along party lines, Stanley responded, “There [are] potentially some Assembly Democrats that aren’t planning on releasing their tax returns. This might put them in a tricky situation.”

As to whether Gov. Newsom would sign the legislation into law or veto like his predecessor, he said that it’s difficult to know. “Newsom plays his cards close to his chest,” he said.

Questions of the bill’s constitutionality have been raised, since no stipulations requiring a candidate’s financial information are in the Constitution.

However, states are allowed to regulate the manner of elections, such as requiring a minimum number of signatures for candidates to appear on the state ballot. This leaves SB 27 in a legal gray area.

The bill has been referred to the state Assembly and is currently under review by the Elections and Redistricting Committee pending a vote. If passed by the committee, it will go the Assembly floor for a full vote, then to Gov. Newsom’s desk.

Go to Source
Author: Ian Henderson

Justice Thomas: Supreme Court Needs to Confront Abortion Being Used as a ‘Tool of Eugenic Manipulation’

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas believes the nation’s top court will soon need to consider the constitutionality of laws which prohibit abortions in cases where mothers are basing their decision to abort solely on unwanted characteristics in the child, such as race, gender, or disability.

Thomas penned an extensive commentary (pdf) on the link between eugenic manipulation and abortion in an opinion concurring with the court’s decision to not hear a case concerning an Indiana law which prohibited abortions in cases where mothers chose to abort on the basis of a child’s race, gender, disability, a diagnosis for Down Syndrome, and other characteristics.

The Seventh Court of Appeals struck down the Indiana law and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal because the seventh circuit was the only federal appellate court to hear a case concerning such a question.

“Given the potential for abortion to become a tool of eugenic manipulation, the Court will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana’s,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas traces back the roots of the legalization of abortion to the American birth-control movement which developed alongside eugenics. He points out that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenist who saw birth control as a useful tool for her cause. Sanger  saw birth control as “really the greatest and most truly eugenic method.”

Thomas acknowledges that Sanger was not directly referring to abortion, but adds that abortion is a much more effective tool for eugenics by Sanger’s own argument.

“Whereas Sanger believed that birth control could prevent ‘unfit’ people from reproducing, abortion can prevent them from being born in the first place,” Thomas wrote. “Many eugenicists therefore supported legalizing abortion, and abortion advocates—including future Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher—endorsed the use of abortion for eugenic reasons.”

The eugenics movement was prominent in the United States for decades, especially on the campuses of elite universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. In 1927, the Supreme Court affirmed eugenics in a ruling legitimizing the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck, who the court determined to be “a feeble-minded white woman” with a “feeble-minded” mother and a “feeble-minded” child.

“Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote in an opinion joined by seven other justices.

The question of abortion being used as a eugenics tool has become more relevant over time because medical imaging technology can now detect a variety of characteristics in pre-born children which were previously impossible to determine.

Thomas argues that the use of abortion for eugenics purposes is “not merely hypothetical.” He cites examples from around the world where the goals of eugenics are being achieved through abortion.

The abortion rate for children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in Iceland is near 100 percent. Many European countries have similarly high rates. In the United States, about 66 percent of children with Down Syndrome are aborted.

In Asia, preference for boys has resulted in 160 million abortions of girls. In India alone, there are 50 million more men than women.

Chinese and Asian-Indian families in the United States appear to tend toward the same pattern, with abortion data showing a preference for boys over girls. Meanwhile, black women in the United States have an abortion at a rate three-and-a-half times higher than white women.

“And there are areas of New York City in which black children are more likely to be aborted than they are to be born alive—and are up to eight times more likely to be aborted than white children in the same area,” Thomas wrote.

“Whatever the reasons for these disparities, they suggest that, insofar as abortion is viewed as a method of ‘family planning,’ black people do indeed ‘tak[e] the brunt of the ‘planning,’” the justice added.

There are those who already argue that abortion is achieving the goals of eugenics. Thomas point to a book titled Freakonomics, the author of which wrote that the legalization of abortion led to the biggest crime drop in the history of the United States. The author argued that crime dropped because the children with the most propensity for crimes were no longer being born.

Support for the eugenics movement wound down in the United States in the 1940s. In Indiana, the state legislature passed a resolution in 2007 condemning eugenics. In 2017, the state enacted the Sex-Selective and Disability Abortion Ban at issue in the Supreme Court ruling on May 28.

Planned Parenthood promptly sued the state to prevent the law from going into effect. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law. Thomas opposed the court’s decision.

“Enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement,” Thomas wrote.

Go to Source
Author: Ivan Pentchoukov

ICYMI: Boy Passes Away After Saving Sister’s Life in Tragic Hit-and-Run

The story of a boy who was killed as he attempted to push his sister out of the way of an oncoming car has touched the hearts of many over the years. It’s also has served as a remember for drivers to be extra cautious around bus stops and stopped school buses.

La’Darious Wylie, 11, was waiting at a bus stop with his 7-year-old sister, Sha’Vonta, in Chester, South Carolina.

The boy noticed an oncoming vehicle that had swerved toward the children at the bus stop.

“He knew to look out for her,” mother Elizabeth McCrorey told the Charlotte Observer.

His aunt Felicia Mobley told WBTV: “We [are] just dealing with it on a daily basis because when it’s a tragedy like this we just have to deal with it day by day.”

“He saved his sister. And he ended up being the one that’s where he is now.”

La’Darious’ cousin, Kimberly Robinson, told HuffPost that witnesses saw the car driving toward the children, noting La’Darious’ split-second bravery.

“His little sister was standing at the bus stop when the car come,” she said. “He pushed her out of the way, but he was unable to move in time. The impact of the car threw him but, my God, I can’t talk about that.”

The boy was taken to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was rushed to the intensive care unit.

“He survived, but he was brain dead,” Robinson said. “His mom stayed by his side and they kept him on life support until the following day, when she finally decided to let him go.”

The vehicle’s driver, Michelle Johnson, got probation over the incident, the Herald Online reported. Family members of La’Darious were upset that she didn’t get a harsher sentence.

“I don’t hate you, but you didn’t stop. I don’t judge you, that’s for God to decide. … (La’Darious) had dreams. … Now I have to wear him on my shirt,” Liz McCrorey, the boy’s mother, told the woman.

Johnson had claimed that she hit a deer and went to drop her grandchildren off a school, the report noted.

Carlos Wylie, La’Darious’ father, told a judge that he didn’t believe her claims about a deer.

“She should have gotten at least five years, community service, something,” Wylie said. “My son was a hero. My son saved his sister that day.”

Johnson cried during her court hearing.

A school bus stops, preparing to unload students. (commons.wikimedia.org)

She said, “To the McCrorey and Wylie families, I am so, so sorry. I wanted to tell you for a long time. I cry myself to sleep every night. Forgive me. I am trying to forgive myself.”

Meanwhile, in court, his sister, Sha’Vonta, wore a T-shirt with her brother’s photo on it.

“My hero,” Sha’Vonta said of her brother.

“La’Darious loved his family,” Robinson added to HuffPost. “He was the apple of his momma’s eye. He was well-behaved, he got good grades and he played football. He liked the Baltimore Ravens. The school was supposed to take him to the Bank of America Stadium this week to meet the [Carolina] Panthers and, even though it wasn’t his team, he was so excited because he loved football.”

According to Schoolbusfleet.com, between six of eight school bus stop fatalities were caused by other drivers in 2016 and 2017.

Go to Source
Author: Jack Phillips

N.L. Climber Says Crowding on Mount Everest Is Just One Factor in Death Count

A climber from Newfoundland and Labrador who made it to the top of Mount Everest during a season marked by multiple deaths says he feels that crowding at the final ascent is just one among several safety problems.

Mark Ballard said Monday that when he came to the last portion of the climb there was a chaotic scene of lineups as a number of expedition companies attempted to reach the summit under last week’s bright and clear skies in the Himalayas.

Ballard says his Sherpa guide was instrumental in navigating his way through the crowds, especially on the final Hillary Step, swiftly taking him around slower groups and reducing his waiting time in the frigid, thin air.

Still, he said there was a 1.5-hour wait on the way down from the summit due to the queues of climbers lining the route on May 22.

An aerial view of Mount Everest (center R) on April 27, 2019. (Sarah Lai/AFP/Getty Images)

Ballard says he believes there needs to be “work on qualification of climbers” attempting the summit, as he noticed some continued to climb despite difficulties adjusting to the altitude.

He also says some climbers lacked knowledge, such as the protocols when two climbers meet as one is ascending and the other descending on the same rope.

“It was chaos coming down for sure,” the Canadian climber said in an emailed comment.

“That (the descent) was all about staying warm, my right foot was freezing.”

A photo he provided shows a line of dozens of climbers making their way up and down on May 22.

“I think that part of what happened came down to the smaller weather window this year, which required many companies to push into a small amount of days,” Ballard said.

Trevor Day, an associate professor of physiology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, says high altitudes can cause all climbers to lose strength and can lead to sickness—but inexperienced climbers may not have a strong sense of their own limits.

“If you have experience getting sick and being up there, you have a sense of what you can do and what you cannot do,” he said.

The Associated Press has reported a number of May deaths on the world’s highest peak, which is about 8,850 metres high and commonly requires about two months of trekking to summit.

Indian climber Ravi Thakar, 28, died during the third week of May while sleeping in his tent at Mount Everest’s highest camp site.

An Irish climber, Seamus Lawless, was missing after falling while returning from Everest’s summit.

CNN reported that Robin Haynes Fisher died at about 8,600 metres while descending from the summit on May 25, noting he had commented on the overcrowding in his final social media post.

The body of Indian climber Ravi Kumar was spotted on May 20, but it was impossible to retrieve the body, after the climber fell some 200 metres.

A trekker stands in front of Mount Everest, which is 8,850 meters high (C), at Kala Patthar in Solukhumbu District May 7, 2014. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

Climbers from the United States, Slovakia, and Australia also died on the mountain over the May 18-19 weekend.

Everest claims multiple victims each year, often in the “death zone” above 8,000 metres, where the air is too thin to sustain human life.

For example, in 2017, 648 people summited Everest, according to the non-profit Himalayan Database. Six people were confirmed to have died on the mountain that year, one of them on the north side.

Eric Simonson, a partner in International Mountain Guides, said in a telephone interview that his company takes safety measures that include multiple Sherpas carrying additional oxygen tanks when there’s a lineup on the final ascent.

“It’s just the way the cards got dealt this year …. Unfortunately the weather didn’t come good until the very end (of May) and everybody had to go,” he said in a telephone interview from the firm’s headquarters in Ashford, Wash.

In this photograph taken on April 20, 2015, a Nepalese porter carries goods along a pathway in the Himalayas, with Mount Everest on the left, in the village of Tembuche in the Khumbu region of northeastern Nepal (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

He said on May 22 his company had eight climbers and 11 Sherpas going up to the summit.

“We went up with abundant extra oxygen and manpower …. It wasn’t optimal, but I’d rather have people standing in line on a nice day than battling a whiteout.”

Simonson said ensuring safety—whether it be additional Sherpa guides or training of the mountaineers—costs money.

“The teams that spend the money can create greater safety margins for their customers, and the teams that are bare-boned, they don’t have those resources,” he said.

The Associated Press reported that the Nepalese Tourism Department issued a record 371 permits this year to people to scale the mountain. The increased number of climbers this year is likely because many people were unable to climb in 2014 and 2015, when deadly avalanches disrupted the climbing seasons.

Go to Source
Author: The Canadian Press

US Officials Walk out of UN Forum in Protest as Maduro’s Ambassador Takes Chair

U.S. officials walked out of a U.N. arms forum on May 28 in a protest against Venezuela assuming the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which is decided on a rotating basis.

The Trump administration, in the meantime, has continued to step up sanctions against illegitimate dictator Nicolás Maduro. The United States has not ruled out military action to remove what it and dozens of other nations believe was a rigged 2018 election.

As Venezuela took up the one-month presidency of the Geneva talks, U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood left the session and announced a “boycott” while Maduro ambassador Jorge Valero chairs it. One year ago the United States did a similar protest when Syria took the chair.

“We have to try to do what we can to prevent these types of states from presiding over international bodies,” Wood told reporters.

Venezuela’s legitimate interim president Juan Guaidó, recognized by many members of the international community as the country’s rightful interim ruler, speaks during a rally in Barquisimeto, Venezuela on May 26, 2019. (Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images)

“Clearly, when you have regimes like the (Bashar) Assad regime (of Syria) and the Maduro regime presiding over this body, there is something fundamentally wrong with how we are conducting our business. And we need to examine that,” he said.

A representative of Venezuela’s legitimate interim president Juan Guaidó—who is recognized internationally and has the backing of more than 50 nations—should assume the seat, said Wood. On Twitter, he noted the regime is already “dead; it just doesn’t want to lay down.”

A photo posted on Twitter by Wood’s showed the seat meant for the United States was left unoccupied. He said the seat will remain vacant for the entire four-week long presidency.

Latin American delegations which recognize Guaidó, including Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, stayed away from the conference as well. Syria and Russia denounced what they claimed was politicization.

Maduro’s ambassador also condemned the move at a news briefing. In the meantime, Maduro maintains control over Venezuela’s state institutions.

“We regret that the representative of the United States and its docile allies continue to bring to this forum matters that are outside the mandate of the CD,” Valero told reporters. “It is not a forum for coup-mongering.”

Weeks ago, President Donald Trump said America will continue to stand with the people of Venezuela “for however long it takes.” U.S. officials have also continued to offer their support to Guaidó.

Despite U.S. sanctions, Venezuela’s military top brass have largely ignored entreaties from Guaidó and Washington to go against Maduro. A little over 1,000 troops have defected, mostly to Colombia and Brazil.

National security adviser John Bolton recently posted on Twitter a photo of Guaidó speaking to a crowd of Venezuelans.

“Juan Guaido and the people of Venezuela continue to overcome Maduro’s efforts to halt the march towards prosperity and democracy,” Bolton said on May 27. “Maduro’s dependency on foreign security services to block the internet has not changed the determination of the people.”

Last week Brazil’s foreign ministry said Maduro will be unable to reverse the democratic transition happening now inside Venezuela, but noted that the military will need to support that change as well.

“The process that is in place since January … is irreversible with all the international support for a democratic transition. There’s no way back to the Maduro regime staying in power indefinitely,” Ernesto Araujo said on May 24.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Go to Source
Author: Bowen Xiao

Beijing Is Targeting Taiwanese College Students with All-Expenses-Paid Tours to China

TAIPEI, Taiwan—Beijing’s infiltration efforts on the Taiwan island are now targeting local students leaders at top colleges and universities.

Hsu Rui-fu, president of the graduate student association at National Taiwan University (NTU), one of Taiwan’s best universities, recently spoke to local daily The Liberty Times and broadcaster Formosa Television, about his experience while taking part in a cross-strait youth-learning tour last year.

The seven-day tour, was all-expenses-paid and advertised as a cultural exchange for Taiwanese and mainland Chinese students to understand each other better. The tour was hosted by the Personal Exchanges and Cooperation Across the Taiwan Straits in Fujian Province Association, an organization run by the provincial government located right across the water from Taiwan.

China claims Taiwan as a renegade province, despite the latter being a de facto independent country with a democratically-elected government and a separate constitution, military, and currency.

Beijing has thus continually attempted to influence public opinion in Taiwan, often with “soft power” and propaganda tactics aimed at persuading Taiwanese citizens into embracing the idea of unification with the mainland.

According to Hsu, many of the Taiwanese participants were student leaders from other top schools, such as National Tsinghua University (NTHU), National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), and National Chengchi University (NCCU).

The mainland Chinese students also came from prestigious schools such as Peking University and the Renmin University of China.

Hsu stated that the tour took the participants to Beijing, northwestern China’s Shaanxi Province, and the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

Propaganda Tour

What troubled Hsu was the running theme that ran through all the lectures and seminars that the students attended, which he described as: “agreeing with [Chinese leader] Xi Jinping.” More specifically, Hsu said the seminars were titled, “Xi Jinping Talks About Governing the Country,” “Xi Jinping’s New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” and “The Strategic Framework of One Belt, One Road.”

Hsu added that the person who gave a lecture on “One Belt, One Road” was Zhao Lei, a professor at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School, an institution for training young cadres.

One Belt, One Road is the Chinese regime’s flagship foreign policy project for building up geopolitical influence via investments across Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

After each lecture, Hsu stated that all participants were required to share and present what they had learned.

Hsu explained that he decided to take part in the China tour because he wanted to learn about China’s politics and economy, and how Chinese people think.

“I think some of the content [in these lectures and seminars] made sense. But most of the content was more along the lines of talking about the [Chinese Communist] Party’s values, and values being promoted by Xi Jinping. I find this content harder to accept,” Hsu said in a May 27 interview with Formosa Television.

Hsu added that as the tour continued, the mainland Chinese students began to keep a distance from him, believing him to be a “Taiwan separatist” due to the opinions he shared.

The Chinese regime refers to those who voice support for Taiwanese identity, or those who advocate for the island to formally declare independence, as part of “Taiwan’s separatist forces.”

Information about a similar such cross-strait tour in 2017 can still be found on the website of Taiwan’s National Tsinghua University (NTHU). A “talent exchange” center run by the Fujian government issued the invitation, specifically seeking 10 to 12 participants who are “outstanding student leaders” from top Taiwanese schools such as NTU, NTHU, and NCKU, to join a tour from August 8 to September 2, 2017. The invitation stated that the tour was free of charge.

According to the tour itinerary, the students would travel to Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. On the second day in Beijing, students would attend two seminars, titled “The Concepts Behind Governing a Powerful Country’s Rise” and “The Development Program for the 13th Five-Year Plan,” referring to Beijing’s economic plan for the years 2016 to 2020.

Deeper Motive

Beijing has an ulterior motive in recruiting Taiwanese college student leaders to participate in its tours, according to Tseng Chien-yuan, assistant professor at the Department of Public Administration at Taiwan’s Chuang Hua University.

In an interview with the Liberty Times, Tseng said that the Chinese regime seeks to influence these students because of the high possibility of these academically-excelling youth to become  Taiwanese politicians in the future. If they do become politicians, Beijing hopes that they can become China’s “agents” in Taiwan, to sway public opinion and influence local government policies to become more favorable toward Beijing.

Hsu is not the only student who has publicly spoken about their experiences while on Beijing-sponsored tours. Chen Gu-hsiung, president of NCKU’s student union, told the Liberty Times that he took part in a similar tour to China last summer.

Chen said he paid a little over 10,000 New Taiwan Dollars (about $317) to take part in a 10-day tour, which took him to Macau, Beijing, and Inner Mongolia.

In Beijing, Chen said he was taken to visit the Taiwan affairs office, the united front work department, and political agencies under Beijing’s municipal government.

The United Front Work Department is a Party organ that carries out operations around the world to fulfill Beijing’s agenda.

In Macau, Chen said the group attended a presentation about the greatness of the “One Country, Two Systems” model.

Currently, the model is used in both Macau and Hong Kong, after the two former European colonies were handed back to Chinese sovereignty in the late 1990s. The model was purportedly to preserve their autonomy and freedoms while under mainland Chinese rule. However, both cities have seen Beijing’s encroaching influence in recent years.

In a January speech, Xi suggested the model as a way to bring Taiwan under the reign of Beijing. However, Xi’s proposal angered many in Taiwan, which eventually led to a street protest attended by about 3,000 locals in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung in early April.

Go to Source
Author: Frank Fang