The Daily Visionary: Friday, January 25, 2019

Italy refuses to accept migrants on a human trafficking boat and Italian prosecutors investigate Minister Salvini


The Story


Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been placed under investigation for his decision not to let more than 170 migrants disembark from a coast guard ship. The office of the prosecutor of Agrigento, Sicily, registered Minister Salvini as a suspect for the alleged offenses of kidnapping, illegal arrest, and abuse of office, Italian newspapers Il Sole 24 Ore and La Repubblica reported. Responding to the news, Minister Salvini said, "They can arrest me but not the desire of 60 million Italians."


On Monday of last week, Italian coast guard ship Diciotti picked up 177 mainly Eritrean migrants in the Mediterranean from a non-governmental organization’s (NGO) ship. The Diciotti was given permission to dock at Catania after a standoff with Malta, which refused to let the vessel dock at its port. 27 migrant children, all between the ages of 14 and 16 years old, were allowed to disembark from the vessel at Catania. On Saturday, Minister Salvini gave permission for the remaining 137 to disembark. According to La Repubblica, 100 of them will be housed by the Catholic Church, and the rest will be hosted by Ireland and Albania.


Minister Salvini has said he wants to send the migrants back to Libya, the main departure point for boats often filled beyond capacity with asylum-seekers headed for Europe.


The Details


  • Italy recently released evidence that the NGO Open Borders is knowingly taking migrants from human traffickers.

  • The Italian secret service has warned that people-smugglers in the Mediterranean may seek to engineer a mass drowning in order to garner Western sympathy and resume the flow of migration.

  • In an effort to drastically reduce illegal migrant arrivals, Minister Salvini has blocked NGO, charity-run search-and-rescue vessels from docking in Italian ports, as these are being used by human traffickers to transport. As a result, migrant arrivals in Italy were down 80 percent in 2018 compared to the same period last year, with only 16,600 arrivals since the beginning of the year. Now, he wants to do the same to foreign navy ships.

  • This week, Minister Salvini told an NGO migrant rescue boat that it would be refused entry to Italy’s shores, and directed it to France instead. 5-Star Movement leader and Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said that the Sea Watch ship, which he said is currently sailing toward Sicily, will be given medical support from the Italian government, but the asylum seekers on board will not be allowed to disembark.




The Mediterranean countries of Italy and Greece have taken the brunt of migrant and asylum seeker arrivals to Europe in recent years. Most people seeking refuge arriving in Italy used to continue their journeys to northern Europe. However, the introduction of EU-backed processing centers to ensure migrants are identified at their first entry point in Europe, along with stricter border controls implemented by France, Switzerland and Austria, created barriers along this well-worn route. The situation has resulted in some 160,000 migrants, who would rather leave Italy, being stuck in the country.


According to Italian newspaper Il Giornale, the Italian secret services are warning of the possibility of people-smugglers purposely causing a disaster at sea in order to garner sympathy from the West and resume their illegal trade, which has been declining over the last year. This would be a repeat of other major humanitarian disasters such as a shipwreck which killed around 700 migrants on April 18th, 2015 and led to the commencement of Operation Sophia and an outpouring of support for migrant ferry NGOs operating in the Mediterranean Sea.


According to some of the few migrants who survived the incident, people-smugglers had forced the migrants to set sail knowing full well that the weather had been gale force winds, leading some to speculate the disaster was sought or even caused on purpose by the smugglers. The ship eventually sank, killing most of the migrants on board after colliding with the Portuguese container ship, the King Jacob. The Italian publication has also revealed inconsistencies in recent days from the ‘Alarm Phone’ organisation, which acts as a hotline for ships in distress in the Mediterranean, saying the NGO claimed a ship had been taking in water when other evidence proved it had not been in danger of sinking.


Key Quotes


I confess, I blocked illegal migrants. Now I risk 3-15 years in prison for defending borders. Am I scared? No,” said Minister Salvinia after the Catania court requested to proceed against him for blocking the Diciotti ship.


President Trump considers oil sanctions on Venezuela if Maduro harms the opposition


The Story


Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim President on Wednesday, winning the backing of Washington and many Latin American nations, and prompting socialist leader Nicolas Maduro, to break relations with the United States. US President Donald Trump formally recognized 35-year old head of the opposition-run congress Mr. Guaido as interim President shortly after his announcement and praised his plan to hold elections.


Multiple sources said the Trump administration could impose new U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry as soon as this week. The decision on whether to go ahead could depend on how harshly Mr. Maduro cracks down on protesters and how he responds to interim President Guaido’s swearing-in, several US sources said, and even then, the administration would likely hold further discussions that could delay any final move.


The Trump administration has been increasingly frustrated with existing sanctions on Venezuela, which have so far spared oil exports. Targeting oil shipments to the US could choke off significant revenue to the Venezuela, an OPEC member nation. The United States has held off on broad, oil-related measures, mindful of the potential not only for deepening the hardships of the Venezuelan people but also the risk of causing problems for US companies and consumers.


The Details


  • Venezuela has the largest crude reserves in the world and is a major supplier to US refiners.

  • US officials are considering a range of potential measures, including restricting US imports of Venezuelan oil or even a full ban.

  • The Trump administration has informed US energy companies of its deliberations.

  • Venezuelan crude exports to the United States last year fell 15 percent to the lowest annual average in nearly three decades, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

  • Some US refineries have equipment specifically designed for heavy grades of crude like those from Venezuela. They imported about 500,000 barrels per day last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.




As President, Mr. Maduro worked hard to keep the military on side, well aware of its crucial role. He put officers in charge of key posts in the government and state oil company PDVSA while offering lucrative oilfield services contracts for military-linked firms. Authorities have pursued military personnel suspected of plotting against the government, which human rights groups say has led to torture of suspected dissidents and abuse of family members.


The armed forces are cognizant of the lessons of the twentieth century, which saw promises of military quick fixes to political instability in Latin American countries including Brazil and Chile give rise to dictatorships that lasted for as long as 21 years and were later demonstrated to have abysmal records on human rights.


Therefore, the armed forces have remained silent as the economic collapse has left millions struggling to eat. Venezuelan opposition sympathizers had been urging Mr. Guaido to assume the presidency since Maduro was inaugurated for a second term on January 10, following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments characterized as fraudulent.


Key Quotes


A senior US official warned Mr. Maduro and his loyalists that Washington was ready to ramp up oil, gold, and other sanctions and take unspecified actions “if they choose to harm any of the National Assembly members or any of the other duly legitimate officials of the government of Venezuela.”


Australia sees highest temperature ever recorded in a major city with Adelaide reaching 46.6 degrees Celsius


The Story


On Thursday, Adelaide recorded the highest temperature ever in a major Australian city, peaking at 46.6 degrees Celsius, which sets the drought-stricken country for the hottest January on record. The South Australia state capital city of 1.3 million people beat its previous 80-year-old record of 46.1 C set on January 12, 1939, and records were also beat in smaller towns across the state. Melbourne is expected to suffer the hottest day since February 7, 2009, which at 46.4 degrees ignited catastrophic bushfires known as Black Saturday.


Heatwave conditions combined with a prolonged drought across much of Australia’s southeast have led to scores of major wildfires during the southern hemisphere summer. A third generator shut down in Victoria’s east overnight, adding further pressure on the state’s power supply. Power outages are already affecting parts of Melbourne, according to power company Jemena, with 1430 customers without power in Tullamarine.


Energy Minister Lily d’Ambrosio said the Yallourn generator was functioning to half its capacity, with the cause of the generator fault not yet known. Victorians have been asked not to use non-essentials such as dishwashers, washing machines and pool pumps during peak times, to ease the strain on the national grid through the extreme heat.


The Details


  • This time of year is summer for Australia and the southern hemisphere.

  • Adelaide beat the heat record set by Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, of 46.4 C set in 2009.

  • Last year was Australia’s third-warmest on record.

  • Australia’s highest recorded temperature: 50.7C, Oodnadatta, SA, 1960

  • Victoria’s hottest: 48.8C, Hopetoun, 2009

  • Melbourne: 47.2C (anecdotal), 1857 / 46.4C, 2009 (Black Saturday)

  • World: 56.7C, Furnace Creek, California, 1913




Australia switched to a national energy market in December 1998, with Victoria joining Queensland, NSW, SA, and the ACT through a series of interconnectors. The grid incorporates 40,000 kilometers of transmission lines and cables and supplies around 9 million business and domestic customers with about 200 terawatt hours of electricity each year.


Energy generation in any particular state is not necessarily reserved for that state’s needs and is regularly dispatched to states where the current highest consumption needs are. Peaking generators, such as gas-fired power stations or hydro-electricity, are often only called on when there is not enough energy being fed into the system.


The market uses sophisticated systems to send signals to generators, telling them how much energy to produce each five minutes, so production is matched to demand. Government meteorologists help the AEMO plan for extreme weather and its effect on power supplies.


Key Quotes


"We have now seen five days in a row when temperatures remained in the 40s, and probably the only event that's comparable on a statewide level was the January 1939 heatwave," said Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.

Researchers look at Papua New Guinea as the potential 'wreck site' of Amelia Earhart’s plane


The Story


Researchers say that a site in Papua New Guinea may contain the long-lost remains of Amelia Earhart’s plane. Wreckage off the coast of Buka Island may offer a vital clue in the decades-long mystery, according to investigators from Project Blue Angel. The project’s members have been studying the site for 13 years and say that wreckage off Buka Island could be from Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E.


William Snavely, Project Blue Angel director has traced Earhart’s route from Lae in Papua New Guinea and thinks that, low on fuel, she may have decided to turn back during her journey to Howland Island. “The Buka Island wreck site was directly on Amelia and Fred’s flight path, and it is an area never searched following their disappearance,” he said in a statement, “What we’ve found so far is consistent with the plane she flew.”


Amelia’s Electra had specific modifications done to it for this specific journey, and some of those unique modifications appear to be verified in the wreckage that’s been found,” added pilot and aerospace engineer Jill Meyers, Blue Angel’s public relations manager. Project Blue Angel is planning another expedition to Buka in the spring that will harness advanced imaging technologies.


The Details


  • Divers from Papua New Guinea have surveyed the site on a number of occasions for Mr. Snavely. Last year, US members of Project Blue Angel also investigated the site, which is about 100 feet below the ocean’s surface.

  • The project notes that the wreckage has been gradually eroded by years of rough water and earthquakes.




Ms. Earhart famously disappeared while attempting to fly around the world. The aviator and her navigator, Fred Noonan, went missing on July 2, 1937 during a flight from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island in the Pacific. Their fate became one of the great mysteries of the twentieth century and is still hotly debated.


There are a number of competing theories about what ultimately happened to Earhart. One well-publicized theory is that she died a castaway after landing her plane on the remote island of Nikumaroro, a coral atoll 1,200 miles from the Marshall Islands. 13 human bones were found on Nikumaroro, also known as Gardner Island, three years after Earhart’s disappearance.


Key Quotes


While there is no way to be certain yet that this is definitively Amelia Earhart’s Electra, the crash site may hold the clues to solving one of the world’s greatest mysteries,” Mr. Snavely said in the statement.


Canadian Stronach family feud escalates as Belinda countersues father Frank for CAD $33 million


The Story


Frank Stronach, who founded Magna International Inc., sued his daughter and others last year for more than CAD $500 million over alleged mismanagement of the family’s assets and trust funds. Mr. Stronach had accused his daughter and former business partner Alon Ossip of appropriating family funds for their personal benefit. The dispute focuses on control of The Stronach Group, the centre of a number of businesses focused on thoroughbred horse racing and gaming that Mr. Stronach expanded to farming and golf course development.


Belinda Stronach has countersued her father for millions of dollars in a statement of defence that alleges he lost vast sums of money on pet projects and had to intervene to stem losses from the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on a cattle ranch, golf course, and other projects. She claims in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice filing that she is owed about CAD $33 million from her father Frank Stronach from funds she gave him for a run at politics in Austria and to settle unpaid taxes in the country.


The Details


  • Ms. Stronach and Mr. Ossip estimate that Mr. Stronach’s spending and “unsound business decisions” have reduced the family net worth by around CAD $800 million.

  • Mr. Stronach and his wife, Elfriede, spell out in an Ontario Superior Court lawsuit seeking compensation and damages from daughter Belinda, her two children, and others, in what has been a two-year old fight for control of the family firm, The Stronach Group.

  • Mr. Stronach alleges Belinda appointed friends to jobs at “exorbitant” salaries; showed up for scheduled meetings late, or not at all; used the business kitty for parties, vacations with her children, limousine rides and expensive meals, “none of which related to legitimate business expense;” instructed employees to sell off the company jet; and, starved of funds, closed an exclusive 420-acre golf course and listing it for sale at a discounted price.




Mr. Stronach took Magna, which he founded in 1957 in his Toronto garage, and built it into a billion-dollar global company. The Stronach family walked away from Magna in 2010 with more than CAD $850-million, a lucrative consulting contract for Mr. Stronach, a stake in an electric car venture, and a new business model, centered around making several marquee thoroughbred racetracks around the United States cool again.


Mr. Stronach’s most passionate gambit over the past eight years has been the organic, grass-fed beef cattle of Adena Farm, which, according to the court filing, Belinda hated — and did everything possible to “impair, undermine and dismantle.” While the father has been dreaming of cows and electric bikes, Belinda has been doing some dabbling of her own, including in the cosmetics sector, with Age Quencher, an anti-aging, beauty enhancing elixir she became a partner in in 2016. She also co-founded Acasta Enterprises, a special investment vehicle that bought up companies with the aim of selling them at a profit, an end goal that has unravelled to the tune of millions in losses and led to Stronach’s departure from a company directorship in 2017.


Key Quotes


This is what Frank is like. He has an inquisitive mind and tremendous youthful energy. It annoys people at times. But we never know when he’s going to invent another light bulb,” said Jim Nicol, a former president of Magna, in 1999 who once compared Mr. Stronach to Thomas Edison.

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