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rpannier's Journal
rpannier's Journal
April 16, 2024

April 16, 2024. The 10th Anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Disaster in Korea

On April 16, 2014, the Sewol Ferry sank off the southern coast of South Korea killing 304 of the 472 people on board (passengers and crew), 250 of which were High School students from Danwon High School going to Jeju for their class trip.

I was living in Korea when it happened. It was the worst tragedy in my two decades there, surpassing the subway fire in 2003. It was the worst act of corporate negligence in Korea since the mid-90s.
At the time, all my daughters were in elementary school or kindergarten. To this day, I don't know what I would have done had it been one of my children that were on that ship.
This disaster is what happens when you have almost zero oversight and rules regarding safety are blatantly ignored.

The ship was carrying 185 cars and over 2000 tons of cargo on a ship that had a maximum allowance of 987 tons capacity. The cars and other cargo were not properly secured
The Captain was not the regular captain. The regular captain, Shin, had warned the company on numerous occasions about the ship's deficiencies, and was warned by the company of repercussions if he didn't cease.
Captain Lee, the captain for this voyage, was in his mid-60s and had 40 years of sailing expertise. His crew ere 33, mostly irregular workers unfamiliar with the ship.
Modifications to the ship completed January 24, 2014, had been deemed to make the ship less stable.

At around just before 8:50 the boat began to list to the right. The crew tried to turn the ship left but it continued listing to the right and towards the water. The cargo all shifted toward the list and the ship continued to fall over in the water. There was no way to right the ship.
The captain called for everyone to stay put in their quarters. Never were there any instructions given by the Captain to abandon ship -- even when he abandoned he ship along with some of the crew: Captain Lee. the 1st Mate and 2nd Mates all were rescued.

The South Korean Coast Guard, in a very Keystone Cops like manner, had trouble locating the ship, gave conflicting orders, seemed uncertain what to do, as passengers jumped off the ship, local fishing boats rescued the bulk of them, not the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard never made any attempt to board the ship to save people.
The Coast Guard would eventually order the fishing boats to leave the area.
Scuba Divers from the Korean Army Special Warfare Command arrived, but they were not trained for dives like this.
A US Navy ship arrived in the area but was told they were not needed -- I guess a ship with highly trained divers are not needed to save passengers trapped in a sinking ship.
A little after 1 pm the ship was completely under water.
The Coast Guard's inadequacies was watched on television by an outraged public.

A private diving company sent divers to assist. As they were better trained than both the Navy and Coast Guard for this kind of dive. But, their efforts were delayed because President Park arrived and the Coast Guard wanted the space to pump in air to the ship which they knew would do no good, but they wanted to look good in front of her.
President Park was slow to react because she sought counsel with her spiritual advisor and was unavailable for several hours. When she did appear, she did not seem to have any idea about specifics -- almost as if she hadn't been briefed

250 students, 12 of their teachers, 3 crew members died saving others, a father and his seven year old son were among those who died.
The Vice-Principal at Danwon that arranged the rip was so grief stricken he hanged himself two days after the sinking.
It has had a sobering effect on Korean Society. In some cases, it has caused a split -- there are conservatives that resent the Sewol Ferry debacle brought down Park Geun-hye and are not shy about expressing their anger.
The government used many resources to shut down any criticism of it.

Some of the stories are heartbreaking:
One mother said she was on the phone with her sister when her son called. She decided to continue with her call and would call him back, not knowing he was on a sinking ship. She never got to speak to him.
One mother talked of how she wanted a new family photo because the most recent one was when her daughter was in elementary school. She decided to wait until her daughter returned from her class trip.

The first video is the Academy Award Nominated "In the Absence" If you want to see blithering incompetence. This is it. The documentary has the radio communications between the rescue parties with written commentary and some interviews

The 2nd Video is a short video of the parents of the students removing and boxing up the items from the Shrines for the Students that were made in their classrooms. It's hard to watch the grief. I don't know how they do it sometimes. Especially those that had only one child

The 3rd Video is of the Shrines made in each of the classrooms. The items on the desks were placed/chosen by their parents and classmates. It is a song that shows the desks and has the names of all that died

April 16, 2024

Conald is upset he won't be able to attend Barron's high school graduation on May 17th

Court is not in session on May 17th
So Conald could go
But, given he didn't attend any of his other four children's high school graduation, the odds of him having planned to attend was likely nil
Until he saw the opportunity to Wounded Martyr himself -- again

April 15, 2024

And another in a long line of dimwitted il douche supporters

This guy is especially gullible
I would say "stupid", but Jamie Dimon (the guy who helped tank the economy in the 2000s) has urged us to not say such things about his supporters

from electoral-vote.com:
But some people bought the shell company, DWAC, earlier. Tree-remover Jerry McLain of Oklahoma didn't want to miss out, so he bought DWAC at $90/share 2 years ago. He put his life savings into it, expecting that he would make a killing, thanks to his orange hero. McLain is not worried. He said: "I know good and well it's in Trump's hands, and he's got plans."


I'm certain he does have plans. And it doesn't involve what McLame thinks

April 13, 2024

April 13th. Happy Songkran to everyone here in Asia

Songkran is the Thai New Year.
My understanding is that Songkran is comes from the Sanskrit and means movement.
Songkran happens when the sun moves from Pisces to Aries in the solar system.
Songkran technically happens every month, but this event is the High Songkran
Though Thailand officially celebrates new Year on January 1st. The country also celebrates Songkran for 3 days.
There are lots of water fights (super soakers are a must), which represent a ritual cleansing.

I live in Japan, not Thailand. I have never been to the Songkran celebrations. Though I imagine it is a lot of fun -- especially for children.

And happy Songkran to those not in Asia when April 13th comes to your region

March 23, 2024

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

5. To Some In Belgrade, Serbia Risks Loss Of 'Crown Jewel' In Kushner Deal

BELGRADE -- Serbs in Belgrade and close followers of their memorialization of the Balkan wars of the 1990s are responding coolly to word that Serbian officials are surprisingly advanced in talks for Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to redevelop one of the most recognizable symbols of Western military might targeting Serbs.

The abandoned headquarters of the Yugoslav General Staff in downtown Belgrade was struck by two overnight bombing raids in April and May 1999, midway through NATO’s 79-day bombardment to force an end to violence and charges of ethnic cleansing between mostly Serb troops and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, then an autonomous province of rump Yugoslavia.

Despite decades of sporadic debate about transforming the site, the old General Staff buildings have remained mostly unchanged as a crumbling reminder to many Serbs of perceived bias against their national cause at a dark historical juncture.

"Why should it be given away?” Belgrade retiree Zivko Nedeljkovic told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service this week, following news of the potential Kushner deal.


4. Kurti Says Won't Change Suspension Of Serbian Dinar Use In Kosovo

PRISTINA -- Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti says he will not suspend a move by the central bank to ban the circulation of the Serbian dinar in parts of the country with Serbian majorities but will accept the forming of an Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities once Belgrade agrees to sign a basic agreement on bilateral relations.

The basic agreement for the normalization of relations with Serbia was reached in February 2023, and includes the formation of the association, which is expected to more adequately represent predominantly ethnic Serb areas in Kosovo.

Kosovo is not a member of the European Union or its common currency area, the eurozone, but it unilaterally adopted the euro in 2002 to help bring monetary stability and to simplify and reduce transaction costs inside and outside the country.

Serbia, which has never acknowledged its former province's 2008 declaration of independence, still pays many ethnic Serbs at institutions in Serb-dominated parts of Kosovo in dinars. Many also hold their pensions and get child allowances in dinars.


3. Senior Labour figures seeking to water down plans to decriminalise abortion

Senior Labour figures want to water down proposed legislation to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales ahead of a historic Commons debate on the issue.

Later this spring, MPs are due to have a free vote on a proposal by the Labour MP Diana Johnson to abolish the criminal offence associated with a woman ending her own pregnancy.

The proposal from Johnson, who chairs the home affairs select committee, has support from MPs on both sides of the house and senior doctors’ groups. There has been a widespread expectation it will pass, in a major change to abortion law.


Some senior Labour figures have privately expressed concern that Johnson’s proposal goes too far because of the provision of telemedicine in England and Wales, whereby a woman seeking an early-stage abortion can be prescribed tablets at home without seeing a doctor.


2. Rising prices and social inequality could decide the European elections: Exclusive poll

The fight against rising prices and social inequalities are the most important issues for European voters ahead of the European Parliament elections in June, according to an exclusive poll by Ipsos for Euronews.

Beating out topics like climate change and immigration, economic issues represent four out of the top five topics that Europeans think should be the highest priorities for incoming decision-makers.

The first-of-its-kind survey, conducted in 18 countries representing 96% of the EU's population, found that rising prices remain the leading electoral issue for Europeans, followed closely by social concerns such as preserving healthcare and pension systems.


1. Ex-Prime Minister Of Bosniak-Croat Federation Begins Jail Term

Fadil Novalic, the former prime minister of the Bosniak-Croat federation, one of Bosnia's two entities, has started serving a four-year prison sentence for corruption in a case regarding the purchase and importing of Chinese ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fahrudin Zolak, the head of the entity's civil protection service, and entrepreneur Fikret Hodzic were also found guilty on April 5, 2023, and were sentenced to six years and five years in prison, respectively.

Jelka Milicevic, the entity's finance minister, was found not guilty.

The trial regarding the procurement of 5.4 million euros ($5.9 million) worth of ventilators earmarked for the entity's health-care system began in February 2021.


The Sarajevo Prosecutor's Office opened an investigation after it emerged that 100 ventilators had been purchased without following the legal public-procurement procedure via direct negotiations with Hodzic's private company F.H. Srebrena Malina (Silver Raspberry), which deals in fresh produce.

March 16, 2024

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

5. Aya Nakamura, the pop superstar at the centre of a Paris Olympic racism storm

She is the most listened-to French singer in the world, whose relentlessly catchy hits about love and betrayal have been streamed 7bn times and who made history last year when she sold out three Paris gigs in 15 minutes.

But Aya Nakamura, France’s biggest pop superstar who is known for her unique French style influenced by Afrobeats and Caribbean zouk, called out racism and ignorance this week after far-right politicians expressed outrage over the possibility that she could sing at the Paris Olympics.


Emmanuel Macron is yet to confirm that he wanted Nakamura to headline the Olympic opening ceremony, singing hits by the 1950s cabaret legend Édith Piaf. But complaints by rightwing politicians and TV pundits that Nakamura was somehow not French enough have exposed deep faultlines of racism and class prejudice that threaten to cast a shadow over the Games.


4. Orban Calls For Hungarians To 'Occupy Brussels' In Upcoming Elections

BUDAPEST -- Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a nationalist who has held power in Hungary for the past 14 years, has issued a stinging rebuke of the European Union and called on his countrymen to help "occupy Brussels" in elections set for the bloc this summer.

In a speech during a national holiday to commemorate Hungary’s failed 1848 revolution against Habsburg rule, the right-wing populist, who has often clashed with the EU during his time in power, said Hungary had to choose between "Brussels and Hungarian freedom" in the vote.

"They start wars, destroy worlds, redraw countries' borders and graze on everything like locusts," Orban told the crowd from the steps of the National Museum.

“We Hungarians live differently and want to live differently.”


3. Mushrooms swapped for tampons among bizarre UK supermarket substitutions

Mushrooms in place of tampons, a frozen pizza substituted for tinned peaches, and cream crackers instead of Christmas crackers. These are among the “bizarre” supermarket substitutions reported by online shoppers in a new poll.

Just over a third of online grocery shoppers (34%) reported having received a substitution in their most recent grocery delivery, the survey for consumer group Which? found.

Asda was the worst offender with more than half (56%) of customers receiving a replacement product in their last order. When asked about the strangest substitution of the past year, one of its shoppers recounted their bemusement at having ordered washing powder only to unpack 10 cans of beer.


Ocado customers were the least likely to have received a substitution, at 17%, but it still managed the occasional doozy, with one customer telling Which? they ordered tampons but got mushrooms instead.


2. U.S. Imposes Sanctions On 3 Individuals For Organizing Republika Srpska Day

The U.S. Treasury Department on March 13 unveiled sanctions against three individuals in Republika Srpska for undermining the peace and stability of Bosnia-Herzegovina by helping to organize an "unconstitutional" celebration of Bosnian Serb identity.

The three individuals -- Branislav Okuka, Jelena Pajic-Bastinac, and Srebrenka Golic -- were involved in "organizing and executing the commemoration of Republika Srpska Day on January 9, 2024, an activity determined to be unconstitutional" in Bosnia, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Okuka, Pajic-Bastinac, and Golic were added to the Treasury Department’s sanctions list for contributing to the efforts of Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik “to undermine the peace and stability” of Bosnia by organizing the event.


Dodik appointed the committee and demanded it plan the celebration, which included events taking place over three days beginning on January 8.


1. EU to revise Agricultural Policy in response to farmers protests

The European Commission proposed to review certain provisions of the Common Agricultural Policy in response to the farmers protests across Europe.

The proposals would "reduce the burden related to controls for EU farmers" and give them more "flexibility for complying with certain environmental conditionalities," the European Commission said.

The provisions are in response to the dozens of farmers protests that have been taking place in several countries in Europe, including Spain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. They are against EU regulation, aimed at combating climate change, unrestricted imports from countries outside the bloc, and production costs, among other things.

March 12, 2024

Club of MAGA

March 9, 2024

Five Stories From Europe You May Have Missed

5. Religious And Social Conservatives In Kosovo Block Controversial IVF Bill


"Secular state, where?" one of the signs read, signaling the demonstrators' fear that public policy is falling prey to outsized religious influence in the Balkans' newest state. "Does IVF in private hospitals destroy the family?" read another at the February 29 protest in front of Kosovo's parliament, organized by the We March, We Don't Celebrate collective and joined by other groups.

The protest was part of an emerging legislative and regulatory battle over in vitro fertilization (IVF) -- a medical procedure where an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body, typically in a laboratory dish -- and other fertility treatments in Kosovo, a male-dominated, mostly Muslim country of around 2.2 million people.


But a smattering of lawmakers, including those from Prime Minister Albin Kurti's ruling Self-Determination party, are leading opposition to the bill in its current form. They want IVF and other assisted pregnancies restricted to couples in order to safeguard the institutions of marriage and family. They say they fear "accidental incest" -- where people who were conceived with the assistance of sperm or egg donors unintentionally enter into sexual relationships with their biological relatives -- and have argued that children conceived outside the womb should have the right to know their father.

The opponents of the reproductive-health bill, in its more inclusive wording, have so far successfully fended off a plenary vote that would likely result in passage. Long-running efforts at passage failed again last week and once more on March 7, when parliament failed to muster a quorum each time.


4. MoD paid millions into Saudi account amid BAE corruption scandal

Britain’s Ministry of Defence moved questionable payments through its own bank account amid one of the biggest corruption scandals in history, despite concerns the money could be pocketed by the Saudi royal family.

Previously confidential documents show how the MoD agreed to make the payments to a Saudi bank account after the transactions came under scrutiny following an investigation by the UK anti-corruption agency, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The documents reveal a senior MoD official expressing concern that turning down the Saudi requests for payments could risk “displeasing key Saudis” and emphasising the need to “keep the Saudis on side at this critical time”.

The new payment system, detailed in the documents, was set up after the SFO began investigating allegations that BAE, Britain’s biggest arms company, had paid large bribes to the Saudi royal family to land the notorious UK-Saudi al-Yamamah contract.


3. Theresa May to step down as MP at general election

The former prime minister Theresa May will step down as an MP at the next general election after 27 years in parliament, becoming one of the most high-profile Conservatives to join a wave of departures from the House of Commons.

In a statement to the Maidenhead Advertiser, the Maidenhead MP said she wanted to focus on causes close to her heart, including her work on the Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

She also criticised the current political climate, saying in an article for the Times that she had “seen a coarsening of our debates and less respect for others’ views”.

“Democracy depends on us being able to debate key issues that affect people’s everyday lives seriously and respectfully. It needs politicians who put those they represent first and themselves second. It needs MPs who are there to serve,” she said.


2. Chinese-Made Surveillance Cameras At Romanian Military Sites Raise Security Concerns


For less than $1,000, a Romanian Defense Ministry employee ordered an eight-port switch and two surveillance cameras for the security network at a military base in the sleepy southern village of Deveselu that is home to NATO's Aegis Ashore, land-based, missile-defense system.

The cameras were made by Hikvision, a partly state-owned Chinese company with alleged links to the country's military whose equipment has been blacklisted by the United States and Britain due to data and security vulnerabilities.

While there's no evidence the cameras at Deveselu have resulted in any breaches, a monthslong investigation by RFE/RL's Romanian Service shows that surveillance equipment made by Hikvision and Dahua -- another company that is partly owned by the Chinese government -- is used by at least 28 military facilities in the country. The equipment is also used by hundreds of other public institutions involved in national security, ranging from the coast guard to sites operated by the intelligence service.

Unlike the United States, Britain, or some other NATO partners, there is no prohibition on the use of Hikvision or Dahua equipment in Romania and the country's Defense Ministry and other national-security institutions using the brands told RFE/RL they were on closed-circuit systems that do not have cloud or Internet connections and that strict security protocols are followed.


1. Serbian LGBT Activists, Supporters Protest Alleged Police Brutality In Belgrade

BELGRADE -- Several hundred Serbian LGBT activists and their supporters protested in central Belgrade against alleged police brutality on March 6 following reports of abuse against two LGBT persons and what demonstrators say was official inaction in the incident.

Participants in the protest -- dubbed We Will Not Be Silent! -- called for the criminal prosecution of police officers for what they say was abuse, torture, and sexual harassment in the February 26 incident, as well as quicker sanctioning of police officers who commit violence.

Organizers from the Da se zna! (To Be Clear!) rights group also called on authorities in Serbia to condemn violence against the LGBT community.


Activists charge that police officers abused two LGBT persons during a search of an apartment in Belgrade that was suspected of having drugs in it.

March 5, 2024

Japan issues more transparent guidelines for foreigners who overstay their visa

According to NHK news and the Japan Times, special permission is granted to foreigners who are in Japan illegally, and those who request special permission to stay in Japan
1. Those who are considered stateless. There is no country they can be deported to.
2. Someone who is under medical care, especially if there is a serious threat to their lives if their medical care was not continued in Japan.
Interestingly, NHK News mentioned Americans without any caveat attached. American medical care... gotta love it.
3. Whether or not they have sufficient support from an employer or third party.
4. The necessity to protect the interests of children living with their families in Japan and the relationships they have built within Japanese communities, especially if they are Japanese minors, and if they are living under guardianship and care.

Justice Minister Koizumi has said these are necessarily new guidelines, but issues in the name of greater transparency.
We have been living in Japan, and while we knew them, am surprised at how many people did not know them, especially #4
Also, that a positive, or negative finding on a single point is necessarily the deciding factor
Example: If you enter Japan under a false passport you are ineligible to stay. But if, for example, the government discovered you were stateless, you would probably be allowed to stay.

If you are receiving medical care for a heart condition, they would probably let you stay. But, if you came from some place that had facilities that would provide same-level care that was not outrageous cost (ahem... USA) then maybe the government might make you leave. Unlikely, but maybe.

New guidelines will be issued in June, which will add greater transparency to the process, and benefit those with visa issues


March 2, 2024

The Rochdale Byelection in the UK. (And you thought your area's election was weird)

George Galloway won the Rochdale byelection, garnering almost 40% of the vote (39.7) and taking the seat away from Labour for the British Worker's Party.

The election was necessary because Labour MP Tony Lloyd dies from Leukemia in January.

For the record: The British Worker's Party describes itself as a leftist political party whose ideology is Socialism, Leftist economics, British Unionism, Eurosceptic, and Social Conservatism.

Galloway is a bit of a gadfly, and a somewhat "unique" personality. His victory surprised some people, though I'm not sure why; he has been a rather successful candidate over the years (he's won in four different constituencies in 37 years), he is good at retail politics (the anti-DeSantis), a good orator, and excellent in verbal sparring. Some may remember him from when he made a fool out of Minn Senator Norm Coleman (Repub-Moron) in the mid-2000s when he gave testimony before the US Senate and Coleman (it appears) did no preparation and got embarrassed by Galloway.

His opponents were

From Labour: Azhar Ali, who finished 4th, his campaign imploding after he accused Israel of allowing the attack in October to happen so they could invade Gaza. (7.7%)
From Tories: Paul Ellison who went on vacation during the campaign, and was seldom ever seen by many people (12%)
Independent candidate David Tully finished 2nd at a little over 21%, his campaign centered around "It's not about me" (I know, soooooo original)
Simon Danczuk, the Reform UK Party candidate (Nigel Farage). A former Labour Party MP, he was kicked out of Labour after he was caught exchanging text messages with a 15-year old girl. I guess being anti-immigrant is all that matters to Reform UK.
He got 6% of the vote.
Way to go, stay class you 6%. Maybe those supporters brought up Joseph and Ruth from the Bible, like Roy Moore's supporters did.
Lib Dems ran a rather uninspiring campaign, capturing 7%. But, I've read in places, they expected to finish 4th or 5th, even after the Ali fiasco.
The Greens took about 1.5% of the vote.

My guess is, with the exception of BWP and (probably) Reform UK, most of the parties sent their B or C Team.
But, who could have foreseen the Labour candidate (the favourite) saying something that stupid so close to the election that they had to keep him on the ballot?

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