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by R.J. de Silva, Attorney-at-law

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There were many ways to run civilizations in the distant past. Cruel and ruthless dictators committed crimes against human rights with impunity. Among these tyrants are ATTILA THE HUN (AD 434-453 in present-day Hungary), GENGHISKHAN ( 1206-1227 Central Asia, China ), TIMUR( 1370-1405 modern Syria Iran, Afghanistan ) and QUEEN Mary alias ‘Bloody Mary’(1553-1558 in England

Dictators or Autocrats were both terrifying and fascinating because of their combination of absolute power, divine or divine, and a lack of contact. It is not known if these characters had mental illness as per current standards or if they were affected by ruthless incidents.

Hadenius (2007 ) identified distinct dictatorships within monarchies, military regimes or restricted multiparty systems. Many dictatorial regimes have democratic facades or functioning democratic institutions. Some hold regular elections, while others have operational political parties and legislatures.

Dictatorships refer to a form government in which all power is retained in the hands one person. They can obtain unlimited governmental power by force or fraudulent means through sham election. Dictatorships often result in the deaths or killings of people because they are greedy, hateful, proud, and yearn for power. Hitler, for example, caused millions of deaths among Jews, Pol Pot murdered millions of Cambodians to force them to change their culture, and Idi Amin was responsible in Uganda for the killing of hundreds of thousands Indians.

A dictatorship is very similar to an autocracy. The supreme power is also in the hands of an individual supported by a slavish party. Autocrats are independent and have no recourse to others when making decisions. Their decisions are free from legal restraints. The system suppresses public discussion and makes criticism of government a criminal offense.

Like in dictatorships, autocracies also use force and punishments to those who disobey the leader’s commands. Autocrats manifest themselves in many ways: despotism; oligarchy; fascism.

A number of changes were made in political institutions and governance under the benevolent or educated despotism ideology, which was popular in 18th century Europe. Most despots started out as a soldier. “freedom fighters”. Many of them accumulated wealth abroad while the rest of the world was in denial.

An oligarchy refers to a form government in which power is held by a small number of elite people who have wealth, military or family connections. Oligarchies, where a small group of people controls the government and exercise their power in corrupt ways, are called oligarchies. Such governments are frequently ruled by prominent families whose children are raised and coached as oligarchy’s heirs.

Fascism advocates a political ideology that elevates the nation, race and nation above the individual. ‘Consolidated Autocratic government’A dictator ruled the country under strict economic and social regulation, while suppressing the opposition. Fascist administrations were seen in Italy’s Fascist Party under Mussolini ( 1925-1945 )and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party ( Nazi Party ) under Adolf Hitler ( 1925-1943). Surprisingly, most modern dictatorial governments refer to their leaders with a variety of titles like President, King, Prime Minster, etc.

The autocrats and dictators of the 20th century ruled with tyrannical power, and never tolerated dissent. Among them were VALDIMIR LENIN (19 1917-1924 Russia ), JOSEPH STALIN (19 1924-1953 Russia ), BENITO MUSSOLINI (19 1925-1945 Italy ), ADOLF HITLER (1933-1945 Germany ), FRANCISCO FRANCO (191975 Spain ), MAO ZEDONG ( 1973-1979 Uganda ), IDI AMIN (1971-1979 Uganda ), AUGUSTO PINOCHET (1973-1990 Chile ), COL MUAMMER GADAFI (1969-2011 Libya COL MUAMMER GADAFI

Dictator-led nations are also associated with severe poverty and repression, decreasing life expectancy and health, famine, poor education, and rising mental illness. Eight of these brutal and repressive autocracies which caused poverty in their countries were : KIM JONG UN since 2011 ( North Korea- 40% poverty ), NICOLAS MANDURO since 2013 with his Presidency in dispute ( Venezuela – 82% poverty ) , BASHA AL ASSAD since 2020 ( Syria -82% poverty ), PAUL KAGME since March 2000 (Rwanda -39.1% poverty ), RECEP ERDOGAN since 2014 ( an elected President in Turkey- 21.9% poverty ), and NGUEMA MBASOSGO longest standing President in the world since 1979 for 40 years to date ( Equatorial Guinea -76. 8% poverty). Two of them – PIERRE NKURUNZIZA ( Burundi ) and IDRIS DEBBY ( Chad ) died in June 2020 April 2021 leaving 64.6% and 46.7% poverty respectively, in their impoverished countries. VADIMIR PUTIN since 2000 Russia and XIJING PING from 2013 China are both economic leaders, but they have never tolerated dissent.

It is not uncommon for dictators and autocrats to appoint prominent members of the armed forces in civilian positions. They also show disrespect for the independence of the judiciary, and freedom of the media. These systems and their rulers have no regard for human rights or dissent. For instance in China, when a popular national movement for democracy was precipitated by Chinese youth and students calling for greater accountability, constitutional due process, freedom of the Press, speech and association drawing about one million people to the Tiananman Square and about 400 other cities, China’s Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping violently suppressed the movement in one day on June 4, 1986, similar to what happened in Rathupaswela in Sri Lanka, subsequently.

After the use of the army to suppress the Pro-Democracy movement, foreign journalists were deported and arrested all over the world. The Press was also tightly controlled. VADIMIR PUTIN in Russia described his rule as a system of corruption and imprisonments, intimidation of media freedom, and free and fair elections. Putin ordered the arrests of thousands of Ukranian citizens who protested against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Tsarist minded Putin decreed that the independent media and journalists will be will be given 15 year jail terms if the cruel destruction of Ukrain’s infrastructure, historical monuments, hospitals and bombing civilian targets are reported to the Russian people.

Autocrats, dictators, and autocrats are more likely than not to create personality-based autocracies that are surrounded with family members. After 2005, Sri Lankan State infrastructure was severely damaged by family bandyism. The Rajapaksa family-based autocracy weakened the State, democratic practices, and institutionalized corruption. The State apparatus of Libya and Iraq was weakened by the families and leaders of Libya and Iraq. The weakened States of Iraq, Libya, and Libya meant that the country could not produce nuclear weapons to counter the threat of Israeli expansion. Saddam Hussain ( Iraq), appointed Hussein Kamil ( his son-in law), to speed up the production nuclear weapons. This caused scientists in Iraq to deliberately slow down the programme and give it the nickname the “unclear power”.

Contrary to this, Gadaffi ( Libyan tyrant) was surrounded by ‘yes men’and female bodyguards and an emotional trip as a consequence. There was no desire to produce scientists and engineers capable of handling complex technicalities related to the production of nuclear energy.

Dictators and autocrats are more likely to invade the sovereignty of other nations. Despite being an economic power, XI JING PING, the Chinese dictator, is accused of using subtle debt trap diplomacy in countries throughout Asia and Africa where corrupt and mismanaging leaders rule. PUTIN faces credible allegations of gross violations of human rights in Ukraine. There are many calls for an investigation that could lead to a trial for war crime.

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The demands of citizens tired of being oppressed, controlled and ruled made it easy to demand democracy and the creation independent Nation States in Europe. These revolutions are popularly known as “the” ‘Peoples Spring’1848 saw upheavals across Europe, primarily due to dissatisfaction towards monarchies, who ruled each country. The revolution began in Sicily and spread throughout France, Italy, Hungary and Austria, as well as the entire European continent. Republics replaced the Monarchies. Old leaders were forced by the law to grant liberal constitutions.

Aristocracy, their allies, and they were caught off guard, plotted to regain power. Many revolution leaders went into exile. Little had changed in the decades that followed 1848. Many historians consider the “People’s Spring”A failure due to the apparent inability to make structural changes permanent. Karl Marx, dissatisfied with the bourgeois character revolution, proposed a permanent revolution according which the proletariat would strengthen democratic bourgeois revolutionary powers until the proletariat was ready to take power.

Between 1981 and 1991, the Autumn of Nations (143 years after the political upheavals across Europe) brought down the former Soviet Union. This was a country that was plagued by economic stagnation and mismanagement as well as excessive dogmatism of its Communist Party. It disintegrated USSR with minimal bloodshed, and supported democratic reforms within their countries. After nearly a decade of struggle, Poland became the first country to abandon communism in 1989. It was followed closely by Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.

In 2010/2011, another wave pro-democracy protests began in Muslim nations like Egypt, Libyan, Libya, Egypt, and Morocco. It was called the “Arab Spring”The campaign began in December 2010 from Tunisia. Not all nations that experienced such social and political turmoil were able to change for the better. Some of the leaders who fought to make democracy a reality in the Muslim world and other parts of the globe presided over the gradual declines in democratic rule in their own countries.

For example, Egypt saw authoritarian rule return in spite of President Hosni Moubarak’s ouster in 2012 following the controversial election of Morsi. This led to a coup in 2013 by Abdel Fatah El-Sisi as Defence Minister. He is still in power today. Since Col Muammar Gadaffi was violently overthrown in October 2011, Libya has been in civil war with two opposing governments governing different parts of the country. The civil war in Syria that began with the Arab Spring lasted several years because ISIS declared a CALIPHATE governed under Islamic Law in North East Syria. Although the ISIS has been defeated, the oppressive regime of BASHAR AL ASSAD continues to be supported by Russia.


Modern times have seen generations rebel against dictatorships, autocracy, and fight for human rights and the rule of law. DEMOCRACY is the form of government that most countries have accepted. Democracies are fragile, but they are very resilient. Mahatma Gandhi stated: “Democracy and violence go ill together. States that are today minimally democratic have either to become frankly totalitarian or if they must become fully democratic, they must become courageously nonviolent” and Langstone Hughes ( 1902 – 1967 ) wrote “Democracy will not come today, this year, not ever through compromise and fear. I tire so of hearing people say, let’s things take its own course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need any freedom when I am dead. I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.”

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