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To be mindful

We can have a go at President Macron and at this point, it seems more like kicking a man when he is down. His numbers are sliding and as the Guardian reported, they are now at: “Poll shows French president’s ‘dissatisfaction rating’ among voters rising to 57%, up from 43% in July“, labour reforms, housing assistance, it is all giving him a beating. The issue is not what he did wrong; the issue is what mess he inherited. Even as there was a chance that it could have fallen into the lap of Marine Le Pen, the people too scared gave it to Emmanuel Macron. There is clear realisation that France with a €2.1 trillion debt, its population in France would have to accept that hard times would be coming, no matter who had won. Francois Hollande had made THAT much a mess of things. So, France is dealing with a few things, the first is that the interest on the debt is per second more than a monthly income of a person on minimum wage, before taxation. The debt is growing that fast. To counter that labour reforms are essential to grow any level of economy. The UK has figured it out and is working on it, yet President Macron is unable to make any headway. Yet the article is not about that. It is merely the background for another matter that caught my eye. You see, the sad news is that RFI reported 12 hours ago that a French army volunteer took his own life. A young man dedicated to his nation and the security of the French people killed himself in his place of accommodation. This is about Operation Sentinelle!

You see, this event is more important than you might think. I know what he is going through; I get it (in part at least). The importance and the dangers is not because he volunteered, it is because he was not abroad. This is not some placement in West-Africa, Iraq or another Middle East placing. He was in France protecting the French. So this matters and if this is the beginning of a problem, it needs to be dealt with soon and fast. We often forget on the mental strain that any soldier of medical volunteer faces, even if there is merely the threat of danger. So when it is at the home base, it becomes a much larger issue as I see it. I agree with Colonel Brulon, who stated: “It is much too early to say anything about the reasons that led him to this extreme act“, whilst he added that an investigation had been entrusted to the gendarmerie, which is where it partially belongs.

I am stating partially, because the French Defence Health Service (Service de santé des armées) short named as SSA should and would be on top of this. It is important because the SSA findings would be important to other NATO nations. France might have been the most visible nation under attack, but it is not the only one and as such we need to know early on how isolated a case this is. I guess that Colonel Brulon would love to make a statement as soon as possible that it was an isolated case, but he can’t really, well can he? Operation Sentinelle involves 10,000 military troops and 4700 members of the Kepi Bleu (aka police or gendarmes). We know that the stress levels have been high for 2 years, which could explain part of it, yet there is little known of the soldier. Le Parisien gives us ‘a member of the 5th Combat Company of the 1st Regiment of Tirailleurs‘, yet not how long he served and how long he was on operation Sentinelle. We could normally wait for more information, but too many sides of any governmental operation are too often of hiding mental health issues and not deal with the problem face on immediately and that is where the problem lies. Colonel Benoît Brulon might overreact and give a larger side of Operation Sentinelle to the Kepi blanc (aka Légion Étrangère) yet that is equally a flawed plan as the cause of the stress is unknown and exposing the French population to the raw deadly power that is Légion Étrangère is equally not the best idea to go forward on, if only to consider the diplomatic escalated side of the matter. The second side is that there have been so far 6 attacks by French civilians on the deployed soldiers. Sky News gave us earlier this month: “Police have shot and arrested a man after he rammed his BMW into a group of French soldiers in western Paris before speeding off“, which is odd to some degree. My experience of the French people was quite different. Whilst in Orleans, in uniform I was suddenly hugged by two lovely French ladies, an always welcome salute to a summers day whilst admiring Orleans was quite the different experience, so I have seen on how friendly the French can be to their uniformed population, so for people to attack those who are actively protecting them is a bit of a weird situation. Yet, they are for the most either ‘extremist idiots’ or people with mental health issues, and there we get the issue in a little more clarity, we can dismiss the ‘idiot’ category. When a person comes to you with ‘I am here to die for Allah‘, he gets the short end of the stick because they are military units and those are not really there to arrest people, so when we get the quote “Man shot to death after grabbing the weapon of a soldier“, we can easily state that the man only had himself to blame. When it is a mental health case, in the issue of: “An Egyptian national visiting France on a tourist visa has attacked soldiers at the Louvre Museum in Paris with a machete, in what officials are describing as a suspected terror attack“, we have to wonder how sane the Egyptian was in the first place. The issue is now different. Any soldier, French or not has been (or should have been) trained to kill without reservation any enemy that threatens their life, yet when our brain tells us that this is not a real enemy, but a person with a mental health problem, are we still willing to kill just like that? For the most we are not monsters, we do not kill snakes because they are snakes, we optionally kill them because they are an immediate threat to our health and possible our lives. Now we get an entirely new situation, one that the army has never trained their soldiers on (read: never had to train them on), when placed in places of peace under non-wartime conditions dealing with non-combatants, how are they affected? Until directly attacked that person is not a soldier or a terrorist, but a person, that switch comes when the attack happens and the soldier under attack has now got to react as instructed, securing his life and protect the optional victims around him (or her). This is a muddy place where mental health issues could flourish, so the investigation into the soldier’s suicide will be a lot more important and a lot more essential than most people realise. France 24 gives us another side (at http://www.france24.com/en/20170810-operation-sentinelle-france-fight-counter-terrorism-working), with the quote ““It is essentially just posturing that has zero operational impact,” Jean-Charles Brisard of the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism told FRANCE 24. “Sentinelle has never stopped, prevented or hindered any terrorist attack in France since its creation in 2015.”“, yet he does not know that does he? Jean-Charles Brisard is a political player, one with extensive education and one who does know things, but how certain is he? Is a visual deterrent disproven? What evidence is there? It is possible (speculation on my side) that their presence has stopped several attacks, and attacks by mental health cases is all that remains, yet that is from my side and it is equally speculative. The question becomes can France take the chance of a busload of explosives getting parked next to the Louvre or the Notre Dame? Paris has a much too large dependence on tourism and its cultural heritage is packed together like a tin of sardines on a small area. It’s almost like assisting Dolly Parton to fit into a B-cup bra. It looks like a really nice exercise, but it is never going to work. Meaning that in the end, the risk factors will stack against the French military, because the extremists only need to get lucky once.

That is where one factor lies. 10,000 soldiers being aware that it is not that they win, but the fact that one failure could impact lives in France in an incomprehensible way. That is where the hidden stress lies. You see this is not an unknown. When we accept that ‘Setting goals too high – unrealistic goals can lead to stress, or lead to demoralisation‘ is giving us mental health issues. We might need to face that France has indeed been lucky that this is merely the first case and that it happened after 2 years. Again, this is speculative, but there is enough evidence to warrant this train of thought. If such levels of demoralisation leads to people giving up, and knowing that giving up is not an option for soldiers and perhaps even less so for volunteers (due to internal peer pressure), it is my personal believe that Colonel Benoît Brulon could be in much deeper waters than he has currently considered to be. He is facing a larger issue and the SSA would need to step up towards actual treatments and rotation schemes to deal with the growing pressures. Even if this is already happening, this suicide shows that there is a partial failure in place. In addition we have seen that in mental health, especially under the guise of goal setting that ‘excessively focusing on certain types of business goals can lead to competitive or unethical behaviour, or conflict in the workplace‘, so we can accept competitiveness to some degree, but when it comes to soldiers and armed individuals, when we get issues of ‘unethical behaviour, or conflict in the workplace’ we end up with an entirely different can of worms, those who are intelligent enough to see these signs, how will they react, perhaps their brooding and their inner conflict could potentially lead to depression and suicide. Again, this is partially academic speculation, yet there has been enough evidence in the past on several levels in several nations that it is a realistic danger.

This now gets us back to President Macron, not because of his approval ratings, but the issue that he faces (which got him the sliding approval ratings). The two elements that do impact the soldiers is one, to a lesser extent labour reform, because their setting is different, but the rotation approach could be seen as labour reform, and the second is housing assistance. You see, no matter which country you are in, housing tends to be an issue for everyone in the lower incomes and soldiers were never heralded with large pay cheques so that issue would still remain. We have seen how a homely place can help alleviate the pressure and stress. Having soldiers in barracks is one thing, but in such a place privacy becomes rare and the essential need to dissect peer pressure within the military is a much larger factor than most consider. Even as the peers accept such stress levels, we have seen too often that mental health issues are too scary an issue to deal with, people are too scared to deal with things they do not understand and fear that it will happen to them. Soldiers are no different here, so no matter what we can expect to read or be informed on, the focus will move towards the French Defence Health Services sooner rather than later, because it might be one suicide, yet history has shown where on acts, a dozen have at least contemplated the issue, so there is a growing concern, one that the French press seems to ignore for now.

 

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Awaiting next week

Whatever happens, will happen. You see, the E3 is on next week and in this it will be the week of gamers. We will see presentations from the big makers and they will either wow or BS us. The interesting part is that this is the one week in the year where we either do not care or we cannot tell the difference. You could tell a little better if you are actually there, but that is not for all to do, unless you live in California that is.

The big players will give us on Saturday the 10th the EA press conference, the day after it will be for Microsoft and Bethesda to ‘wow’ its public. Monday will be Ubisoft and Sony, followed that day after by Nintendo and several small presentations with two unannounced AAA games. There is a chance that the new GTA expansion Gunrunners will take one of them. Tuesday till Thursday, from 19:30 (LA time), we will get the Giant Bomb Live (whatever that is). During those days we will get additional presentations some like Shadow of War (Shadow of Mordor 2) is set, and we will see demonstrations of games (titles not given, other than the platform they are on) and the rest is about seeing the stands and watching what wealthy gamers can enjoy in person. It is the chaos all gamers desire. There are already games in place, games by marketeers. You see Ubisoft is in a difficult position. When we see: ‘New Assassin’s Creed: Origins Leak Shows Main Character, Pyramid, And Bonus Content‘ we see a title that implies that either the issue of Ubisoft not knowing how to deal with security, which is a problem. Or, what is more likely is that its marketing department is dipping its toes in the water trying to see the feedback. The second is more likely as this is pretty much the last chance Ubisoft has to recapture the audience it lost from this franchise and that is a large audience. The fact that it is safer nowadays to just wait 8 weeks and buy the limited editions with 50% discount gives you the idea of their loss. In the old days those boxes would be sold out even before the first day of release was even close to happening, Ubisoft lost that much. The EA presentation is a hard one. When we consider what is confirmed, than they do have an issue, however, they might have surprises for us, which most tend to have. For EA it is a hard one, because they are kicking off E3 2017. Bethesda did such an amazing overwhelming job last year that EA is in a tough position, I am not writing them off, but until we see a gossip part of something truly amazing, EA might not rock-da-house so to speak. Bethesda comes the next day with several titles that will capture the minds of gamers. Several of them are all about shooting; at least one will be about shooting, stabbing and killing Nazi’s, so Blazkowitz is expected to be nearby. The Evil within 2 is announced through rumour, which is a nice surprise. After giving us a different kind of nightmare a few years ago, we will get to see what will make us fear what is under the bed this year. In addition Elder Scrolls online players will get to see more, so there is that to look forward to. The latest rumour is that there is a small chance that we will get a first glimpse of the new Elder Scrolls game, and a smaller chance that a tease for the next Fallout will hit our eyes in roughly 3 days 4 hours and a few minutes. We got a fistful of teaser last year with the upcoming god of War last year from Sony. The title is still not out, so we should expect to see more of that game, hopefully updated with an actual date of release. For the PS4pro fans, we should be hopeful to see David Braben show off the PS4 edition of Elite Dangerous, as this version is out on June 27th, which is less than 2 weeks after the E3. This E3 will be a lot more about DLC’s, so the Blizzard fans will get to see loads of upcoming stuff. The list of people awaiting the Diablo 3 addition is larger than the LA White pages, so this is something we hope to see the official release date on. Another reason to seek YouTube on the E3 events is to see the floors. When you realise that the booths of Ubisoft, Bethesda, Microsoft and Activision are the size of a department store, you know you will get to see unique things that the non-visitors will envy you for; especially, when you start forwarding the ‘selfies’ with a larger than life Butcher (Evil within, 2013). This is just one of several halls described, so when I say that the E3 is the gamers place to be, I am understating the need to be there by a fair amount. It gets even wilder when you realise that in another hall, the Sony stand is larger than the Bethesda and Microsoft combined, so we will very likely get to see a few more things regarding all things PS4pro.

In the end, do not just take my word, find the E3 events and watch the presentations. Those will show you for one what you missed out on and it will also be a first step in creating your upcoming Christmas wish list. So far the last three years have shown me what was coming and how much I was unaware of the games I really wanted. One presentation is unknown to be there, but the Subnautica early release on Xbox One was overwhelming. Not just as a game, but as the game grew and as we got more and more, the game will become an absolute must on the PS4, which is expected to be released in September 2017. Oh, and the E3 is not just software, hardware players like NVidia will also be present, so any new hardware development for PC graphics will be visible too.

So as we are awaiting the arrival of next week, for those who are a little over the bulk promises from political parties, the escalations in France and Germany’s move from Turkey, there is the option to just get into gaming and see where that leaves your sanity. In addition, as you get deeper into Call of Duty, you might find yourself more and more imagining these Nazi’s to be ISIS fighters; there is no war like the present I say. So as I leave Activision with the idea of a free DLC, so that we can practice. I also leave you with the comment of Josh Hutcherson in Red Dawn, where he states: “Dude, we are living Call of Duty and it sucks!

That is to make you aware of the difference between gaming in a lazy chair and an actual theatre of war. Because as we seek a little escapism from reality, which is good for the soul at times. We should not forget that the deadly reality is on several doorsteps; in addition, the implied changes I suggested yesterday were partially implemented by France less than 24 hours later. What were the chances of me predicting that? I offer the thought that this was not a game and the changes required in Europe seem to be adopted in France, which is good as they lack a level of security that the UK has due to the fact that it is an island. In addition, the BBC (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40195212) gives us more on Youssef Zaghba and more important, the fact that Italy placed Youssef on the SIS2 list, which now beckons the call on how Youssef actually entered the UK. If it was though the Netherlands (Ferry) or the smaller airfields like Rotterdam or Eindhoven, the question becomes how diligent are these checks? There are a few unknowns, but it seems that within Schengen, certain unchecked issues are now an actual security concern. So as we see certain implied accusations, we need to wonder whether Youssef was on SIS2, and if so when was he added?

These are all issues awaiting us for next week, one is all about recreation, one is about anything but recreations and the rest falls in the middle. We can argue, or have a conversation how the terror curve is an inverted recreation curve, yet in all this; the one element that I raised yesterday is now coming to the forefront. I mentioned that we need to think in new ways, we need a new approach to tackle intelligence solutions. The one part they all ignore, or philosophise around it, is that the better game designers have been developing at the edge of hardware possibilities and software creativity for years, a few literally for decades. It is not the worst idea for some of the larger players in the field of security find a way to have a serious conversation with some developers in regards to how creative solutions in data parsing could be found. Some of the larger developers have been doing just that for a decade or more.

As I stated, and I stand by that ‘we need to stop looking in the same direction and regard any box to be obsolete, we need to start being creative to the application of data and technology‘, it is that approach that got me to solve the NHS IT issue. The foundation took a mere hour to ‘solve’.

To those doubting me (always a valid option), I now have a few dozen I told you so articles where what I stated and those following learned came with a difference of weeks, not hours. So I reckon I have made my point a few times. When it comes to the upcoming elections, my larger fear is that Corbyn succeeds by swaying the people to dive the UK in a deeper debt, one that it cannot overcome for decades, it leaves the UK too vulnerable. So consider your choice, and also consider the bleeding hearts of Amnesty International. As they proclaim on loss of rights in Paris, they seem to leave the people in the dark on the dangers that France has faced a few times and how these dangers for now persist. There is a time and a place for everything, and for the most I have never opposed peaceful protests, yet these tend to escalate fast, and it only takes a few people to escalate it beyond proportions. In a time when a man attacking people with a hammer near Notre Dame is just another moment of extremism, is the question, should we protest now, at a time when groups get targeted by extremists? There is nothing stopping them to do this online, via Facebook or Twitter. As stated, it is not about the protest it is about the timing in the light of events as they are happening in Europe. Perhaps my thoughts are wrong on this, and you are welcome to oppose that. Yet with the amount of attacks, with the dangers as the flood of extremists is not known, do you want to be the person starting a peaceful protest, only to guide those who agree to a dangerous life threatening situation?

I do not proclaim to be wise enough to have the answer here; I am merely going on common sense here. So as we get towards and through next week. Perhaps at that point will the information be shown that I was right or wrong? I am happy to be wrong, I am less happy that me, myself and I setting the wrong stage costing the lives of others. That is fair too, is it not?

So as we see the throne of games evolve over the next week on the stages of politics, policies and PlayStation, we need to try and identify, what is marketing and what is BS marketing. The difference will impact the lives of many. It is easy to shrug it off when it is a $100 video game; it is less entertaining when it causes 15 years of austerity. I’ll let you decide on how fair that is, when in doubt, see austerity in action by watching the news on Greece!

 

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