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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Photo Minute: Get lost-this is my patch








'Steve McQueen: The Man And Le Mans'


Who’s the biggest film star in the world right now? Well, imagine if any of them went to a studio and loudly announced he wanted to take a whole load of their cash, head off to Europe and produce his own passion project about a 24-hour endurance car race. And he wanted to star in it. And drive a car. As fond of any of these chaps as the studio bosses no doubt may be, they would surely busy themselves with a phone call, and disappear to the golf course to avoid further discussion.

But, bizarrely, in 1970, they said yes to Steve Mc Queen, flying high after hits including ‘Bullitt’ and ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’, and he channeled all the star wattage he’d consolidated into ‘Le Mans’, his personal Rosebud, and what many to this day consider a fool’s errand. Now, British filmmakers Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna tell the story of what ensued in 'Steve Mc Queen: The Man and Le Mans', in cinemas today.

“At that time, Hollywood would have signed him a blank cheque,” sighs McKenna “but all that pride was converted into hubris as the project threatened to swallow him. There’s something of the tragic hero about Steve. He’s not Theseus, but Icarus.”

Sure enough, the hundreds of boxes of film uncovered by McKenna and his team reveal a project that always threatened to have the wheels come off, from the moment Steve and his team touched down in France and started rolling.

Tempers were frayed, lifelong friendships soured, marriages wrecked during the course of production. As John McKenna says, this is by no means a sporting doc, this is the story of a man intent on making the ultimate racing film, at any cost. Perhaps he thought he was infallible due to his hardman Hollywood catalogue of surprising wins – after all, ‘Bullitt’ had gone well over budget and the studio had cancelled their contract with Steve before trying to woo him back when it scored big at the box office. Either way, he may have been Hollywood’s hero, but this was well beyond his comfort zone.

Steve McQueen and wife Neile, whose marriage unravelled during the course of making 'Le Mans'
It wasn’t just rocky, professionally, either. One of the richest accounts of that heady time comes from Steve’s wife at the time, Neile Adams McQueen, an indomitable lady still evidently fond of her leading man, despite all his infidelity that is explored in the film, including her own references to her loveable but errant spouse.

“She’s thoroughly mature about the whole thing,” says McKenna. “It’s 35 years since he died, and she’s not afraid to talk about him. Le Mans really served as the backdrop to their split. The marriage unraveled along with many of Steve’s strongest friendships.”
Of course, if this were a Hollywood tale, the curtain would close on Steve scoring another surprising triumph, pulling victory from the jaws of defeat, taking to the stage to collect his Oscar and counting his millions. But none of that happened. The film was ill-received, and has barely seen the light of day since.

So why would he take it on, when he could have just sat by his swimming pool and court the more promising offers still coming his way?

“It was a powerful obsession,” muses McKenna. “He was not a typical Hollywood star, and he wasn’t setting out to make the typical Hollywood film. But it overwhelmed him.”
Do we have a contemporary equivalent? McKenna shakes his head. “Nobody could get away with it now. Health and safety would prevent the world’s most valuable film star getting in cars and trying to film them moving at 250 miles per hour. In some respects, despite the disaster that ensued, you have to credit Steve for his focus. He really was a visionary.”


Citizens’ rights trampled on again


Pat Carey has been denied his entitlement to due process, writes Michael Clifford

THE last week or so has provided a searing insight into the issue of citizens’ rights. For some, their rights are a source of armoury against the might of the State.
These rights supercede any concept of the “public interest”, the observance of which is required in any functioning democracy.
For others, their rights can be trampled on at will, simply because they have not been lawyered up in a legal process.

Those who have found themselves caught up in the investigation into the sale of Siteserv by the IBRC to a Denis O’Brien company have had their right to confidentiality confirmed by the judge chairing the inquiry.
Judge Brian Cregan has ruled that this right of confidentiality overrides any competing right of the “public interest” to find out what happened in a transaction in which the State lost €105m at a time of living austerely.

But rights is rights. The citizen must be protected, particularly in a country where there is lingering suspicion of the power of the State.
Others are not so fortunate. Last week, Pat Carey had his rights trampled on in an appalling fashion.

His right to privacy; his right to a good name; his right to due process were all denied him.
He is reportedly the subject of a Garda investigation into an allegation of child sexual abuse dating back more than 20 years. He has not been contacted by the gardaí about any such matter.

He does not know as a fact that he is the subject of any such investigation.
He has been denied his entitlement to due process in this regard.
He was forced to make a statement based on information he got through the media about allegations rather than through official channels.

If Mr Carey was a party to an inquiry into financial matters, he would be protected.
It is therefore ironic that because he may — and it has not been confirmed — be the subject of an untested claim, his reputation has been severely, and possibly irreparably damaged.
The media has questions to answer in this regard, particularly the Irish Independent.
The kernel of the issue is the “public interest” test of whether publication was justified in the public interest, or whether the imperative was entirely commercial and based on nothing more than public curiosity.

Even bigger questions arise for the gardaí.
What the whole affair illustrates more clearly than ever before is that the force has the unaccountable power to trample on a citizen’s rights.
Most members of the force would recoil at the idea of trampling on a citizen’s rights.
Form shows, however, that there are individuals who for various reasons abuse that power repeatedly.

As with an issue like corruption in Irish life, the abuse is compounded and even encouraged because it is perpetrated with impunity.
The Garda commissioner has ordered an inquiry into the leaking of the information in the Pat Carey case, but don’t hold your breath in awaiting a conclusive outcome to such an inquiry.
The abuse of citizens’ rights in this manner is bad enough when it is done for little more than titillation or the vicarious thrill of conveying the information into the public domain.
So far in Pat Carey’s case, it doesn’t appear that there is a darker motive involved.
This is not always the case.

Last August, RTÉ News reported that the Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy was going to be charged in relation to the detention of Tánaiste Joan Burton at a protest in November 2014.

A few days before the RTÉ report, a newspaper ran a story that Murphy wouldn’t be charged because of an administrative cock-up.
It might well be the case that the leak to RTÉ was designed to counter the bad publicity that accompanied the newspaper story.

On such matters, a citizen’s rights are relegated to a PR tool.
Far worse was the treatment of the Independent TD Clare Daly.
On January 28, 2013, she was arrested for drink driving, handcuffed, and brought to a Garda station. It turned out that she wasn’t over the drink driving limit. The arrest was leaked to a newspaper within hours.

It looked like an attempt to smear Daly, who, at the time, was prominent in highlighting the abuse of the penalty points system by senior gardaí.
There is an even worse case though, one that involves an attempt to smear a member of the force itself.

In 2011, an attempt was made to blame Sgt Maurice McCabe for the loss of a computer seized from a priest who was convicted of child sexual abuse offences.
By then, McCabe was a thorn in the side of Garda management through his complaints about incompetence in the force.

As first reported in this newspaper, the attempt to blame him for the loss of the computer had all the hallmarks of a scapegoating exercise.
A disciplinary process was initiated against him, but once McCabe became aware of what was afoot, he managed to defend himself entirely against what was described by his lawyer as a “sham exercise”.

Sgt Maurice McCabe

The point is that had the disciplinary process advanced and found against him, there is little doubt but that the result would have been leaked to the media.
Headlines would have followed combining the words “whistleblower” and “child porn computer”, which would have undoubtedly dealt a severe blow to McCabe’s credibility, not to mind smearing his character in the most nefarious manner.
That case is one of more than a dozen currently being examined by the Higgins Commission of Investigation.

It will be interesting to see what Kevin Higgins has to say on the matter when he reports, and whether he identifies any individual within the force as bearing responsibility for a shocking episode.

While motives behind leaks from the force can vary from titillation to destroying reputations on a false premise, the fact remains that the power involved is unaccountable.
Rights which are deemed sacred in other forums are trampled on without a second thought.
Tackling this will not be easy.

Since 2005, legislation has been in place to make it a criminal offence for members of the force to reveal confidential information.
However, as with many other laws, legislation is not matched with commensurate enforcement.

For those disposed to abuse the power vested in their position, there is no incentive to change irrespective of the consequences for the rights of citizens.
Michael Clifford

Friday, November 20, 2015

'This is for Paris'

'This is for Paris': Russian pilots write messages of support for terror victims on their bombs before launching latest air raids and cruise missile strikes against ISIS 
Russian pilots wrote messages of revenge for Paris victims on Syria bombs
They scrawled 'For Paris' and 'For ours' on missiles heading to Syria
Moscow fired 18 missiles from its ships in Caspian Sea at war-torn country
Targets included seven areas in Syria's Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces
Russian military are inscribing ‘For Paris’ on bombs destined for targets in Syria, in solidarity with the victims of the attacks in the French capital.
A video posted online today by the Defence Minister also shows a member of ground crew writing ‘For Ours’ on a bomb at Russia’s Hmeymim airbase.

‘Pilots and technicians of Hmeymim airbase have sent their message to terrorists by priority airmail,’ said a caption accompanying the post. 

Russia also unleashed cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea at targets across Syria, as Moscow kept up its intensified bombardments in the already war-torn country.  
Moscow fired 18 missiles from ships in its Caspian Sea fleet at seven targets in the Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces, according to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

It was the second time that warships have been used since the start of the bombing campaign on September 30.
Moscow has stepped up its strikes in Syria with long-distance bombers after confirming for the first time on Tuesday that a bomb downed a Russian airliner in Egypt last month, killing all 224 people on board. 


Russian crews draw messages of support for Paris on missiles


President Vladimir Putin was told in a briefing by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu  that cruise missile strikes against one target near the ISIS-controlled city of Deir Ezzor had killed 'more than 600 fighters'. 
But it was not specified when the strike had taken place. 

Minister Shoigu also told President Putin that Russian planes destroyed 15 oil refining and storage facilities in Syria and 525 trucks carrying oil during this week’s bombing blitz.
He said this deprived ISIS of $1.5million (£990,000) in daily income from oil sales.  

At least eight people were killed in at least 50 air strikes in the eastern Deir Ezzor province today, during which dozens of oil tankers were destroyed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 

Russia is bombing in Syria at the request of its longstanding ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while a US-led coalition is conducting its own air campaign against ISIS.
Russian politicians have said the Paris attack underscores the need for the West and the Kremlin to bury their differences and join forces to take on militants in Syria.  
President Putin has discussed cooperating on fighting ISIS during his meetings with President Barack Obama and other Western leaders at the sidelines of the Group of 20 rich and developing nations in Turkey this week.  

French President Francois Hollande is set to travel to Washington and Moscow next week for talks on joint military action against ISIS, and Mr Putin has already ordered the military to cooperate with the French. 

Russia’s now four-day bombing blitz against the terror group has been relentless.
Moscow flew more than 100 combat sorties on Thursday, following 126 the day before.
Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov said that Russian warplanes were focusing their strikes on the ISIS oil production and refining facilities as well as oil trucks. 


Paris also launched air strikes against ISIS’s Syrian stronghold in Raqqa this week, following attacks that killed 130 people in the French capital.  
But France was forced to dismiss Russian suggestions today that the air strikes were illegal, insisting they were ‘an appropriate and necessary riposte’ to attacks by ISIS.  
France has called for Assad to step down after a political transition, and its Western allies have criticised Moscow for mostly focusing its raids in Syria against Western-backed rebel groups. 

Imogen Calderwood

Thursday, November 19, 2015

ISIS is on the run


Russian jets flew more than 100 combat sorties in Syria on Thursday 
Followed on from 126 sorties flown by Russian military on Wednesday 
Bombs targeted headquarters in Idlib, fuel depot and a factory 
Putin ordered an escalation of bombing against ISIS after it was confirmed Russian passenger plane was brought down by an affiliated group


ISIS has suffered a third day of heavy losses as the Russians  continued their bombing blitz against the terror group.
Russian jets flew more than 100 combat sorties on Thursday, following 126 the day before, after President Vladimir Putin ordered the military to escalate their campaign in Syria.
His order came after it was confirmed the Russian plane crash in Egypt that killed all 224 people on board was downed in a terror attack, which ISIS-affiliated groups claimed responsibility for.
Scroll down for video 

Russia's Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov said a squadron of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers struck six facilities in the provinces of Raqqa and Deir el Zour, hitting ISIS oil refineries, an ammunition depot and a facility manufacturing and repairing mortars.
Meanwhile, Tu-95 strategic bombers launched 12 long-range cruise missiles on targets, including its headquarters in the province of Idlib, fuel depots and a factory making explosives.  

He said earlier that Russian warplanes were focusing their strikes on the ISIS' oil production and refining facilities as well as oil trucks. 
He said that they destroyed about 500 trucks carrying oil in several days of strikes.
Last month it was revealed ISIS is still making more than £320million a year from oil, despite the US-led bombing campaign which was meant to break up the insurgency. 

On Thursday, the chief of the Russian military General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, had a phone call with his French counterpart to discuss cooperation in the fight against the ISIS. The call followed Putin's order to the military to cooperate with the French 'like with allies.'
Gerasimov said the Paris attacks and the downing of the Russian plane in Egypt are 'links of the same chain,' adding that 'our anger and our grief should help Russia and France unite their efforts in the fight against international terrorism'.
French President Francois Hollande will visit Washington and Moscow next week for talks on pooling U.S., Russian and French efforts against IS. 
Flora Drury

Islamic State’s actions are rooted in religion

Kurdish forces announced last Friday that they had driven Islamic State out of Sinjar, a town of some 40,000 citizens on the Syria-Iraq border which had been held by the fundamentalist group since August last year.

Had IS not launched its attack on Paris a few hours later, Sinjar would surely have made headlines in western media again.

The plight of the Yazidi people of Sinjar distressed and angered millions across the world last year. As IS militants stormed the city, tens of thousands fled. Footage of up to 50,000 Yazidis huddled on the surrounding hills, waving in supplication to clattering helicopters overhead, led news bulletins for days. Food drops and the opening of channels towards the relative safety of Kurdish-held territory eventually eased the urgency of the situation.

Since last Friday, we know more of what befell those who didn’t escape. Many of the reports remain to be confirmed. But the picture consistently painted is as appalling as any can have imagined.

Slaughtered
Many hundreds of men and boys were rounded up and slaughtered, some by point-blank shots to the head, others pushed off cliffs.

More than a thousand women and girls were kidnapped. Younger girls were shared out among fighters, older women murdered. One mass grave held the bodies of around 80 women, all apparently over the age of 40.
What phenomenal malignity could prompt such evil?

Perhaps a clue can be found in Numbers 25, wherein Moses gives the Israelites a tongue-lashing for failing to obey the will of God after crushing the Midianites. All captured Midianite men had been put to death, right enough, but, Moses noticed, many women, girls and boys had merely been taken as booty, which was a sin.
At his instruction, all the boys and those women who were not virgins or who had passed their sexual sell-by date were slain forthwith. The younger female virgins were distributed among the fighters.

Like the Israelites then, the IS now is doing God’s will.
It isn’t only in Islam that orders from the Almighty can still sanction murder in modern times. In 2011, the (British) Independent reported on Israeli planning for that year’s killing spree in Gaza: “One soldier said an army rabbi had [used] ‘expressions such as no pity, God protects you, Everything you do is sanctified’.
“Leaflets distributed at military synagogues had stated that ‘the Palestinians are like the Philistines of old, newcomers who do not belong in the land, aliens planted on the soil which should clearly return to us.”

Religion
IS broke with al-Qaeda over religion. AQ doesn’t hold that the end of the world is at hand. Bill Laden felt no need to prepare for the end by conquering and holding territory on which a caliphate could be declared and cleansed of the stains of worldliness though the application of undiluted Sharia law. For IS, though, the beheadings, crucifixions and ruthless eradication of people and practices deemed unIslamic are required preparatory rituals for the second coming of Jesus. They are video-taped and broadcast to proclaim that the caliphate is here and the end coming soon.

IS has a detailed running-order for the countdown, based on the apocalyptic texts of Islam. The infidel armies will come from the West and set up camp at Dabiq, near Aleppo. Here, the armies of Islam will meet and defeat them.

However, an anti-Messiah will come at the head of a huge army from Iran and lay waste to the caliphate’s forces, until only 5,000 remain, corralled in Jerusalem with no means of escape. At which point Jesus will appear in the nick of time, drive a spear through the anti-Messiah and lead the Muslims to final victory.
No great imaginative effort is needed to relate this scenario to contemporary events.

Imminence of End Days
Anyone doubting the genuinely religious nature of IS might ponder a conversation reported in a brilliant article, "What ISIS really wants", by Graeme Wood, published in The Atlantic magazine last March. Woods put it to one of IS’s most erudite intellectuals, the Canberra-based Irish-Italian Musa Cerantonio, that not many others, including other Muslims, seemed seized by the imminence of the End Days.

Well, it could be IS had gotten it wrong, Cerantonio conceded. But, “the Prophet said that one sign of the imminent arrival of the End of Days is that people will for a long time stop talking about the End of Days”.
Even the most sceptical will admit that, as proofs go, that has the authentic ring of religion about it.

The point is not that religious ideas cause war, or have caused this particular war. It is to say that to refuse to acknowledge the religious basis of the beliefs of those who attacked Paris last week is to refuse to face facts. The evil of IS is rooted in religion.
Eamon McCann

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Russia is not the enemy for the enemy is already here


Not since 9/11/2001 did something knock me off my perch so strongly as to what happened in Paris last Friday. I belong to that growing club where a good deal less than 9 degrees of separation separated me from my brother- law, Martin Coughlan, who was murdered in the twin towers by  terrorists that carried the banner of their actions under a form of Jihad war.  The word itself means to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to persevere. That is what we must do, always, and it is how we will beat the terrorists.

My only faith system is to doubt what others are so sure of, and that doubt strives me to accept that life is a fantastic journey to be enjoyed and not endured within the spirit of endurance itself. Enjoy the journey because you may not make the destination. 

This growing conflict of countries, characters and religions in this latest spat brings to the surface more dominant players. The historical suspicion of Russia’s involvement in any war, at any time and now in Syria is one thing, but Russia, I believe, has very practical intentions in the main of this fight. They are not the enemy and beyond Stalin’s historical blood lust, turned the tide against Hitler during the Second World War. I believe they would have beaten Hitler with or without the west’s help and with the ally of a Russian winter, they brought the fight back to Adolf  and won. It is a story and narrative often obscured in western objective reporting and within it lies the heart of the Russian himself. It is also Jihad in action. 

In the west we laud and cloak ourselves in an idealised moral fiction for in effect it leaves us very vulnerable to exploitation and attack. Free speech and religion is one thing but it is the latter that is the danger. For most of Ireland’s history one religion dominated and I was caught in its cross hairs after spending ten years in one of their religious prisons. I suffered a stroke at five years old and lost my brother at a young age because of what we both went through in that system. Over a quarter of a million children languished in the same way at one time or another and all under the yoke of one religious point of view. Free speech could not be found anywhere and Canon law ruled if not by legal definition, but by a skewed moral interpretation of it. It was the Sharia law of its day against the more benign version of what we have now for the people were forced to show them the error of their ways and they just happened to be Catholics.

By a practical nature I am very suspect of any religion and more so of the one called Islam today as it grows in Europe. Its commandments are not compatible with free speech or the remotest veneer of democracy and freedom; but the extremists among them will use our own laws to attack us as they have already done for our kindness is our weakness. 

By the definition of Muslim law you can be murdered legally for denying the Quran or Muhammad, or leaving the religion itself. In fact paedophillia is legal too as you can have sex with an 9 year old child; of course only after marrying her.  A non- Muslim cannot marry a Muslim woman and she will always be in a bad place as she can be beaten, mutilated and so on, but you get the picture. There are over 65,000 people in Ireland that believe in Sharia law, or some version of it and rising. The tide of those figures is in the millions in Britain and France, and pretty much everywhere else. 

The more positive aspects of this religion is that they are in the main moderates by majority just as Catholics are today.  And like the extremism of Catholicism in Ireland that had to be faced down, so too must the more brutal extremism of Islam interpretation be faced down by Muslims in a Muslim world and by those they seek to destroy.

The good news is that the dominant force of law,  for now,  within Britain, the United States,  Russia and to a lesser degree China, is that all religions have a right to practice but that they must yield to the laws of the land.

In the end it is about numbers and if the Muslim extremists or any other,  get their numbers high enough they will be the law of the land, and by Muslim tradition and law, we are the infidels and can be lied to to advance Islam. Look at the carnage the extremists have already carried out and there lies the lesson. 

Russia is not the enemy for the enemy is already among us and it is the religion and cult of extremism itself. Cause we must examine with a more jaundiced eye for we already know the effect. We must too close our borders so we can know our enemy well and decide what to do next for what we are doing is simply not working. We can handle the posturing and hand wringing by politicians but we cannot eat cake any longer. Viva la France!!


Barry Clifford