The many NGOs operating to rescue African refugees from their criminally liable smugglers on the western Mediterranean — the world’s deadliest migration route — got a quiet boost in the last months as the puckish, irrepressibly imaginative Banksy, thought to be Bristol, England’s own Robin Gunningham, dreamed up the idea that he would add to the rescue fleet by buying and funding a new boat for German NGO veteran skipper Pia Klemp. Banksy’s art is nothing if not political, and he has dealt consistently over the years with the themes of war and refugees.
As reported on August 28, the former French navy frigate refitted and re-christened as the Louise Michel is not exempt from all the problems facing every NGO rescue ship on the Mediterranean. Currently loaded down off the coast of Malta with some 219 rescued migrants from Libyan waters, one of whom is reported to have died, the Louise Michel seems to have made the overnight run from the Libyan coast to Malta on the 28-29 August, but is reported to be running out of water for the refugees it has picked up. The feverish, ongoing negotiations for the acceptance of this group of people appear to have stalled. It is the paradigmatic conundrum for the NGO operators and the refugees alike, and it one of the many reasons that this route out of North Africa is so deadly. Even if refugees are rescued, they are not safe until they have been accepted by a southern European country, none of which are wanting waves of migration, especially now.
The boat’s path toward Captain Klemp was a characteristically twisted Banksy-ish one. Ms. Klemp thought that Banksy’s first email, sent in September 2019, was a joke. It reads breezily, with his trademark mix of brio, understated earnestness, and a dash of high comedy:
Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass. I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.
It wasn’t a joke, rather, the announcement of a very special grant. We can fairly say that in this instance, the mercurial yet deadly serious Banksy is putting his money where his heart is: Some 19,000 refugees have died attempting to traverse the Mediterranean since 2014, not just refugees from the serial Libyan wars, but also from them.
The boat, named the Louise Michel, sails under German colors and is staffed by a largely female crew. With a blazing pink-and-white hull, its superstructure bears the Banksy mark: A portrait of a windswept girl attached to a heart-shaped rescue buoy has been stenciled along midships. Launched under a cloak of secrecy at midsummer out of Burriana, Spain, the Louise Michel has recently assisted the Medicins Sans Frontiers boat, rescuing some hundred-plus refugees and transferring them to the MSF’s Sea Watch 4. Captain Klemp is keeping her ship in the teeth of it: Presumably provisioning out of the relatively secure Tunisian port of Bizerte.
According to reports, by August 27-8, the Louise Michel had rescued 89 people whom it currently has onboard, including four children. Unclear is how many people were aboard before, or how many people were picked up, after that. By 11:00 a.m. on August 29 in Central Europe, the number of refugees reported onboard increased to 219, and apparently, the boat had made the crossing toward Malta. Clear is that the destination country for these refugees will be under the hottest form of negotiation, what with Spain’s and France’s SARS-CoV2 rates spiking.
It’s worth noting that — used or spanking new — seagoing expedition-kitted 90-plus-footers do not come cheap. The yachtsman’s unforgiving rule is one of ten percent: The annual maintenance for a $10 million yacht, of whatever dimension, is estimated at $1 million. Any $10 million ship purchase, or whatever multiple or fraction thereof Banksy has paid to put this significant rescue vessel on the water, is professionally regarded as the entry fee to the larger ongoing bonfire of expense that maintenance would demand. For a fast ninety-plus footer kitted out for medical and/or expeditionary action as the Louise Michel is, $10 million would be a low-to-mid-range price. Any way you look at the Louise Michel, it represents an admirably swift and wholehearted level of personal commitment that the presumed Mr. Gunningham has made.
For her part, as Banksy describes her, the “badass” Captain Klemp, who has rescued thousands, likes to work in critically close to the Libyan coast, thus sparing her clients the world’s deadliest crossing and possible re-capture by the Libyan Coast Guard, such as it is in the war-torn country. (When the Libyan Coast Guard apprehends the oft-failing or overloaded refugee craft, it returns the passengers to their uncertain fates in the refugee camps.) The top speed of the Louise Michel is 27 knots, which is very fast for a ninety-footer. Captain Klemp has stated that she hopes to be able to “outrun the Libyan Coast Guard” before they can capture the inflatables and other cobbled-together craft in which the smugglers send the unending stream of refugees and migrants off. It’s a very Banksy-ish notion: The Louise Michel’s mission is one of interdiction.
Bottom line: Ever-puckish as he may be on canvas and in his spectacular art-world pranks, such as shredding works as they are auctioned, in this area of philanthropic largesse, Banksy is absolutely no joke.
Kuwait's New Emir Takes Over an Economy Paralyzed by Politics – BNN
(Bloomberg) — Kuwait’s new leader, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, 83, will take the reins of one of the world’s wealthiest countries as it faces a financial crisis made worse by internal political wrangling.
Sheikh Nawaf succeeds his half brother, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91. Sheikh Nawaf, the crown prince since 2006, had been serving as acting head of state since July, when the emir was flown to the U.S. for medical treatment.
The new leader comes to power at a time when Kuwait is facing the highest budget deficit in its history, brought on by the drop in oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic. A potential solution to its brewing liquidity crisis has been blocked by parliamentary opposition to a law that would allow the government to borrow, as other Gulf nations have done in response to the dual crisis.
While Kuwait’s oil and foreign policy is unlikely to change, its domestic political landscape could be redrawn under the new leadership, particularly if Sheikh Nawaf makes a bid for national reconciliation. Such an initiative could help unblock Kuwait’s gridlocked politics and restore some balance among the different branches of the ruling family.
Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf where nationals have a genuine say in how they’re governed, but the resulting political paralysis means it’s been left behind by less democratic neighbors like the United Arabic Emirates. The emir appoints the prime minister and political parties are banned, so there’s no coherent opposition. The elected parliament is often filled with populist independents who butt heads with governments they accuse of being too soft on corruption.
Sheikh Nawaf has split from his predecessor in meeting with two of Kuwait’s veteran opposition politicians, Ahmed Khateeb and Ahmed Al-Saadoun, amid calls to allow the return of self-exiled opposition leaders. The new leader also recently received proposals for political and economic reforms from two opposition politicians. The meetings came ahead of crucial parliamentary elections later this year.
The opposition has boycotted parliamentary polls since December 2012, when the electoral law was amended at the order of the former emir. The boycott followed one of the biggest opposition rallies in the nation’s history, as critics called for the government to share more power with elected politicians.
The opposition claimed at the time that the changes to voting rules were aimed at reducing its chances of winning and made it easier for candidates to buy votes. The government said the amendments were intended to ensure stability and boost democracy.
According to the constitution, the crown prince ascends to power upon an emir’s death. That would leave Sheikh Nawaf with the duty of appointing a new crown prince, which he has one year to do. The new emir needs the endorsement of parliament for his crown prince nominee. In theory, parliament could reject the emir’s choice, forcing him to submit three fresh nominees for the house to vote on.
Sheikh Nawaf, born in Kuwait on June 25, 1937, is the sixth son of Kuwait’s tenth ruler, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. He was first appointed to the cabinet in 1978 as interior minister, and thereafter held the defense and social affairs portfolios. Sheikh Nawaf has also served as deputy chief of the national guard. He was educated in Kuwait and is married with four sons and one daughter.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
16 MLAs retiring from BC politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation
As a number of provincial politicians have bowed out of running for re-election ahead of Oct. 24, a national tax reform advocacy group is highlighting the cost of political retirement– to the tune of $20 million – with taxpayers footing the bill.
“While we thank these retiring politicians for their work, taxpayers need to know the huge cost of these gold-plated pensions,” said Kris Sims, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“These pensions simply aren’t affordable for taxpayers. MLAs need to reform their pension plan.”
According to the government, MLA pensions are calculated by taking the highest earning years of the retiring MLAs and factoring in their years of work. The annual pension payments are capped at 70 per cent of the highest earning years.
That means that for every $1 the politicians contribute to their own pension plans, taxpayers pay $4, Sims said.
“It’s time to end these rich pension schemes,” said Sims, adding that MLAs not seeking re-election are allowed to collect the equivalent of their salaries for up to 15 months while they look for new jobs, and they get up to $9,000 if they need skills training.
The federation calculated the expected pensions for 16 retiring MLAs, and determined that former house speaker and BC Liberal MLA Linda Reid is expected to collect the highest per-year amount, roughly $107,000 annually when she turns 65 years old.
Reid, who represented the Richmond South Centre since 1991, is the longest-serving woman in B.C.’s government history.
Other estimated pension totals for MLAs include:
- Tracy Redies, B.C. Liberal MLA – ineligible due to less than six years in office.
- Claire Trevena, NDP cabinet minister – estimated $80,000 per year, $1.9 million lifetime.
- Shane Simpson, NDP cabinet minister – estimated $80,000 per year, $1.9 million lifetime.
- Scott Fraser, NDP cabinet minister – estimated $80,000 per year, $1.9 million lifetime.
- Carole James, NDP cabinet minister – estimated $82,000 per year, $2 million lifetime.
- Michelle Mungall, NDP cabinet minister – estimated $58,000 per year, $1.4 million lifetime.
- Judy Darcy, NDP cabinet minister – estimated $37,000 per year, $647,000 lifetime.
- Doug Donaldson, NDP cabinet minister – estimated $58,000 per year, $1.4 million lifetime.
- Rich Coleman, former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister – estimated $109,000 per year, $2.6 million lifetime.
- John Yap, former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister – estimated $65,000 per year, $1.5 million lifetime
- Darryl Plecas, Independent Speaker – estimated $38,000 per year, $714,000 lifetime.
- Andrew Weaver, former Green Party Leader – estimated $31,000 per year, $764,000 lifetime.
- Donna Barnett, B.C. Liberal MLA – estimated $46,000 per year, $400,000 lifetime.
- Linda Larson – B.C. Liberal MLA – estimated $29,000 per year, $469,000 lifetime.
- Ralph Sultan, former B.C. Liberal MLA – estimated $74,000 per year.
- Linda Reid, former B.C. Liberal Speaker – estimated $107,000 per year, $2.6 million lifetime.
Source: – Victoria News
The Only "Black Issue" In American Politics Is Opposition to Racial Inequality
We’re about a month away from the November Elections.
One of the voting blocs that could decide the presidential race this year is the African American vote. Both candidates have talked quite a bit about what a vote for them would mean for Black Americans. But both of them have mischaracterized African American political views and loyalties in recent months.
“The existence of the Black electoral monolith is evidence of a critical defect not in Black America, but in the American practice of democracy.” — Theodore Johnson, Brennan Center for Justice
That’s nothing new, writes Theodore Johnson in the New York Times. He joins Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today and says that Americans have viewed Black voters as a monolith without really taking the time to understand the diversity of political thoughts and views that exists among Black voters.
Listen: Theodore Johnson on the African American vote that could decide the 2020 election.
Theodore Johnson is a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Johnson writes, “An enduring unity at the ballot box is not confirmation that Black voters hold the same views on every contested issue, but rather that they hold the same view on the one most consequential issue: racial equality. The existence of the Black electoral monolith is evidence of a critical defect not in Black America, but in the American practice of democracy. That defect is the space our two-party system makes for racial intolerance and the appetite our electoral politics has for the exploitation of racial polarization — to which the electoral solidarity of Black voters is an immune response.”
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