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More ‘modest proposals’ to resolve Donald Trump’s border problem | US-Mexico border





“This is a humanitarian crisis – a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.” These beautiful words penned by President Donald Trump’s speechwriter brought tears to my eyes. “Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States – a dramatic increase” – the heartfelt emotion, the truth, the elegance, the care and deeply humanitarian consideration of the man who wrote them, Stephen Miller, were so beautifully evident.

“These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.” Both Trump and Miller, along with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, should all be nominated for the next Nobel Peace Prize, to stand shoulder to shoulder with other political luminaries, such as Aung San Suu Kyi and Henry Kissinger.

While watching President Trump’s historic message to the American people from his august seat at the Oval Office, I was reminded of Jonathan Swift’s classic, a masterpiece of English literature – “A modest proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burthen on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick” (1729). The recommendations of this landmark essay by the towering English literary giant have never been so timely.

In his “proposal”, Swift makes a number of modest suggestions regarding the increasing number of poor Irish children in public sight, which leader of the Free World President Donald J Trump could certainly benefit from reading. 

First, Swift explains how the cost of providing a livelihood for these poor children is an unbearable burden on the taxpayers’ generosities. “I am assured by our merchants that a boy or a girl before twelve years old, is no saleable commodity, and even when they come to this age, they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half a crown at most, on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value,” he observes.

Then he makes a much simpler and less expensive proposition – and you, oh gentle reader, need to keep your liberal bourgeois sentiments at bay when reading the following: “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie [fricassee], or a ragoust [ragout].” 

Swift then assures his readers such a delicatessen would be of immediate interest to “the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom” – and, I daresay, across the ocean.

Time to update Mr Swift

I, the hitherto little known distant Oriental cousin of Mr Swift, would like to make a few similar (but not identical to be sure) suggestions regarding another flock of children menacing the southern borders of the kingdom of these United States of America which we are told to make great again.

The first is informed by a compelling statistic released by charity organisation Save the Children: “In 2016, 23.5 percent of America’s children in rural areas were impoverished as compared with 18.8 percent in urban areas. On the county level, between 2012 and 2016, 41 counties in the United States had child poverty rates of 50 percent or higher, 93 percent of which (38 out of 41) were rural.”

In other words, depending on where bona fide US children are located (mind you, we are talking about blue-blooded, American born and raised children, living on this side of Trump’s yet fictitious wall), they have a 20 to 50 percent chance of starving.  

Hence, the simplest solution seems to be just letting these children from the southern borders join their American counterparts with the reliable assurance that they will soon starve away without the slightest burden on the honest Christian evangelical taxpayers who voted to make America great again. And if we put them up in schools, there is also a high chance they would fall victim to a school shooting (we’ve already counted 200 of those since Sandy Hook in 2012).

Alternatively, these children running away from violence and poverty, which the US is at least partially responsible, could be used as the seed for reviving the practice of slavery. We know for a fact currently “more than 400,000 people could be living in ‘modern slavery’ in the US, a condition of servitude broadly defined in a new study as forced and state-imposed labor, sexual servitude and forced marriage”. 

These children from Latin America could be easily added to these numbers without much consequence for the rich and powerful Americans running the country. Surely, Ms Kirstjen Nielsen, our loving caring and competent US Secretary of Homeland Security, would agree.

If we decide not to go for that option, a good substitute solution could be to add these children to the already sizeable child labour force, which includesapproximately 500,000 child farm workers in the US. Many of these children start working as young as age 8, and 72-hour work weeks (more than 10 hours a day) are not uncommon.” 

So before we come to the rather dire proposal that these poor kids from Latin America be “stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled”, as our Mr Swift would say, they could be put to good use to make America great again by doing 10-15 hours backbreaking shifts for nothing. Why waste such a precious source of cheap labour?

A wide range of global options

In the age of globalisation, I can, of course, imagine a number of international solutions to the border children crisis. One is to put them on a boat and send over to Europe. The latter would surely let them sink close to its coast to preserve the racial purity of its Aryan people and culture and to give the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei an opportunity do another artwork about refugee kids and become even more famous. If any of them miraculously survive, another Anders Breivik might come around and shoot them. 

Alternatively, these children can be shipped over to Yemen. Part of them can join Yemeni children dying from starvation under Saudi and Emirati siege and from Saudi-led, US-backed coalition bombs; another part can join the Darfurian children currently being sent by Khartoum and Riyadh to fight the war in Yemen or their sworn enemies, the child recruits of the Houthis.

If Yemen is too difficult to ship to, the children can surely be sent to Palestine to accompany their Palestinian peers in facing mass imprisonment and torture in Israeli jails and mass death by Israeli bombs in Gaza. 

Let us not forget that Iran is also an option. There, they can be part of the mass recruitment campaign preying on poor Afghan and Pakistani refugee children. They can also be indoctrinated and swiftly dispatched to Syria, Lebanon or Iraq to fight for the obscure causes of the ruling Iranian clergy. After all, it was they who during the Iran-Iraq war perfected the art of child soldiering; even Ayatollah Khomeini praised the 13-year-old Hossein Fahmideh who strapped grenades to his own body and threw himself under an Iraqi tank in 1980. 

Our Good Honourable Gentleman Mr Swift writes towards the end of his learned essay, that he is “not so violently bent upon [his] own opinion, as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual”.

All of my above suggestions are offered in that spirit of collegiality and common purpose. But in my humble opinion, before we make “stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled” food out of these children, as Mr Swift suggested, there is much use to which they can be put – to the delight of Mr Trump and other world leaders concerned about the wellbeing of children crowding up at their borders.  

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 


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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic





TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed





On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon





When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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