U.S. presidential election (27): could Trump really become President?

May 25th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Can Donald Trump really win the White House? All the serious pundits who look at the data, say that he can’t and several come to the same prediction for the Electoral College vote. In this piece for the “Huffington Post”, Richard North Patterson points out:

“A look at the electoral college map pretty much tells us all we need to know. However absurd it may be as an institution, the electoral college neatly captures our political polarization. A few pertinent facts from recent elections:

19 states and the District of Columbia have voted for a Democrat in the last six presidential contests. These alone account for 242 electoral votes — a mere 28 short of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

By comparison, the 13 states which voted Republican in the last six elections contain 102 electoral votes. You can take it to the bank that the GOP would carry these states were its nominee Charles Manson or Benito Mussolini — or even Donald Trump. But even were the GOP to draft Jesus Christ himself, upon resurrection he would have to round up another 168 electoral votes.

This effort did not work out terribly well for another man of faith, Willard Romney. In 2012, Romney received an additional 104 electoral votes. That left him at 206 compared to Barack Obama’s 332. In electoral college terms, a landslide.”

For the forthcoming 2016 election, Patterson’s prediction is as follows:

“Like the Times and Larry Sabato, I give Clinton every swing state and throw in North Carolina. The result? Clinton 347; Trump 191.”

Let’s hope he’s right.

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Visit to Sark (5)

May 25th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Regular readers of NightHawk will know that I spent last weekend on the Channel Island of Sark in order to attend the launch of a book by my good friend Eric Lee. The work is called “Operation Basalt: The British Raid On Sark And Hitler’s Commando Order” and I’ve reviewed it here.

As I reported in this posting, at the launch event, it was standing room only in a crowded room as Eric signed copies of his book and then spoke about the experience of writing the work. You can now read the text of Eric’s speech here.

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What is Kurdistan and who are the Kurds?

May 24th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

I’m reading a fascinating book called “The Kurdish Spring: A New Map Of The Middle East” by the American author David L Phillips. He explains just how differentiated are the Kurds – “the largest stateless people in the world” – geographically, linguistically and religiously.

The total area of Kurdistan is about 600,000 square kilometres, roughly equal to the size of France, and the total number of Kurds is an estimated 32 million. But there are four major geographic sectors.

  • North Kurdistan is in Turkey. An estimated 22.5 million Kurds live there. The main language is Kurmanji.
  • South Kurdistan is in Iraq. Around 8-10 million live there. The main language is Sorani.
  • West Kurdistan is in Syria. Some 2.5 million live there. The main language is Kurmanji.
  • East Kurdistan is in Iran. around 4.5 million live there. The main language is Sorani.

Around 75% of Kurds are Sunni Muslims. Most of the rest are Shia Muslims but there are significant pockets of Alevi, Sufis, Yazidi and Christian.

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Visit to Sark (4)

May 22nd, 2016 by Roger Darlington

There’s not much that is smaller than Sark – but there is Little Sark. Actually Little Sark is not an island in its own right but an extension of the main island connected by a narrow causeway called La Coupee with some breathtaking views.

Our walk out to Little Sark started in even more rain. We arrived somewhat bedraggled at an establishment called “La Sablonnerie” where we had refreshments in the Tea Garden before being offered sloe gin in the Restaurant by the eccentric owner.

As we left “La Sablonnerie”, we discovered that the rain had stopped, the sun had come out and the temperature was warmer – which really added to the appreciation of this special island.

Sunday before the season is in full swing is a quiet time on this quite island and Sunday evening is dead. We ate at a pub called the “Bel Air Inn” where the menu was decidely limited and the service remarkably slow (there were no desserts at all).

A consolation might have been the night sky since this is a Dark Island with no street lights and I was hoping to catch my first sight in the Northern Hemisphere of the Milky Way. But all the previous nights were too overcast and tonight was dull with a full moon so there were few stars to be seen let alone the Milky Way.

This weekend has cetainly been an experience but, as someone who has only ever lived in Manchester and London and loves the cosmopolitan metropolis, I’m rather looking forward to the return tomorrow to the big city.

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Visit to Sark (3)

May 21st, 2016 by Roger Darlington

It rained literally ALL day for the official launch here on the island of Sark of Eric Lee’s new book on the 1942 commando raid on the island. It kind of added to the atmosphere, since one could not help thinking, if trudging along narrow paths and through heavy gorse in wet and slippery conditions was tough for us, it must have been much worse for heavily-loaded commandos in pitch blackness in what was then enemy territory.

In the morning, Eric’s group and many locals joined a conducted tour of some two and a half hours which traversed the route followed by the British commandos 74 years ago. The walk was led by Jeremy La Trobe-Bateman whose family authored the book of Sark walking trails used as a guide by the British soldiers that night. Eric explained to us how the commandos scaled the steep cliff to the Hogsback where we looked down on the waves. He then led us to “La Jaspellerie”, where Frances Pittard gave them such valuable information, and on to the Dixcart Hotel, where the commandos killed three Germans and took one back to Britain for intelligence.

In the evening, it was standing room only in a crowded room as Eric signed copies of his book (until he ran out of copies) and then spoke about the experience of writing the work. There were two special guests: Graham Robinson, who spoke about his father ‘Tim’ Robinson who was one of the 12 commandos on the raid, and – through a video recording made Australia – James Edgar, who is the last surviving member of the commando team celebrating his 96th birthday that very day.

It was a very special occasion.

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Visit to Sark (2)

May 21st, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Our journey started with a 6.30 am pick-up by a cab to take us all the way round the North Circular Road from Wembley to London City Airport. There we boarded an ATR 42 turboprop aircraft for the one hour flight to Guernsey. We had a few hours before our ferry, so Vee and I strolled around the cobbled streets and had lunch at a place called “Cafe Emilia” where we met the first two of many Latvian staff that we would come across on this weekend.

The trip from Guernsey to Sark was a relatively smooth sailing of 50 minutes. There are no cars,, buses, trains or trams on the island.  The only means of getting around are tractors, bicycles, horse and cart, or foot.  Even the fire engine and the ambulance are pulled along by a tractor. So, once on the island, a tractor took us up the hill while a cart transported our luggage.

Our group of 23 is spread over five accommodation locations.  Vee and I plus two others are in a bed and breakfast called “La Marguerite”. The ‘programme’ – organised by Eric and Cindy – started with pre-dinner drinks at a hotel called “Stocks” where we celebrated the 24th birthday of Eric ‘s son Yonatan (nine years ago, Vee and I spent a week travelling round Israel with Eric and Yonatan).

Dinner was at a place called “Nicole’s Restaurant” which is just off The Avenue – effectively the High Street (all the lanes are without tarmac or pavements). Most of the group had seafood which is very popular here. It was too cloudy to see stars but hopefully we are going to see a spectacular display.

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Visit to Sark (1)

May 20th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

In my near 68 years of travel to 69 countries, I’ve only been to the Channel Islands (which I don’t count as a country for my list) once when I attended a trade union conference on Jersey. Today though, I travel to the tiny island of Sark (population just 550), which is located next to Guernsey, for a special occasion.

Some 23 of us – from Britain, Israel and the United States – are travelling to the island for the launch of a book by my good friend Eric Lee.  The work is called “Operation Basalt: The British Raid On Sark And Hitler’s Commando Order” and I’ve reviewed it here.

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A review of the film “Son Of Saul”

May 19th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

There have been so many films about the Holocaust you would wonder whether anything new was possible, but this Hungarian film is something special. You might find it difficult to locate at the cinema, but look it out on television or for rental or purchase. You can read my review here.

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A review of the Film “Florence Foster Jenkins”

May 19th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Who would have thought that one could make such a charming film about a singer who cannot sing. Yet, American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins was for real – as tragic as she was comedic. I’ve reviewed the film here.

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Does the Internet of Things mean we’ll never be left to our own devices?

May 18th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Following very interesting discussions about the Internet of Things (IoT) at both the Essential Services Access Network (ESAN) and the Consumer Forum for Communications (CFC), both of which I chair, my colleague Claire Milne organised a small seminar at the London School of Economics (LSE) for a group of us especially concerned about the impact of IoT on consumers and citizens, notably with regard to issues of control and privacy.

One of the speakers at the event was Liz Coll who works for Citizens Advice and has recently co-authored a report for Consumers International (CI). She has just written a blog posting about the CI report which you can read here.

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