Farewell to 2015

1915, Christmas Day: fighting the Senussi in Libya
1945: the end of World War II
1945: the United Nations
1945: the IMF
2015: the United Nations
2015: Oxford International Model United Nations
2015, December: non-UK front page headlines … fighting ISIS in Libya
Debate: ‘ISIS’ or ‘Daesh’?
Chess Puzzle: ‘Winning Move’ – I wonder if that is correct
Universal time … local time… Farewell to 2015

1915, Christmas Day: fighting the Senussi in Libya

‘The Western desert campaigns in the First World War arose after Germany and Turkey attempted to raise Islamic communities against the Entente powers.’ One such community was the Senussi in Libya who rose up against the Allies.

‘The Senussi Campaign took place in north Africa, from November 1915 to February 1917, during the First World War between the British Empire, the Kingdom of Italy and the Senussi. The Senussi were a religious sect resident in Libya and Egypt, who were courted by the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire. In the summer of 1915, the Ottomans persuaded the Grand Senussi Ahmed Sharif es Senussi to raise jihad, attack British-occupied Egypt from the west and encourage insurrection in Egypt, to divert British forces from an Ottoman Raid on the Suez Canal from Palestine.

The Senussi crossed the Libyan-Egyptian border in November 1915 and fought a campaign along the Egyptian coast, where British Empire forces withdrew, then defeated the Senussi in several engagements, culminating in the Action of Agagia and the re-capture of the coast in March 1916. In the interior, the band of oases campaign continued until February 1917, after which a peace was negotiated and the area became quiet for the rest of the war, except for British patrols by aircraft and armoured cars.’

… The Royal Bucks Hussars held a Christmas Eve service and the next day they attacked the Senussi. Private William Bowyer wrote that it was ‘very strange singing ‘Peace on Earth’ and off to kill as many as we can early next morning’.
Low, Valentine. (2015) “How troops sang Peace on earth, then next day went off to kill”. The Times, Monday December 21, pp. 26-27.

Olusaga, David. (2014) The World’s War. [Chapter 5, ‘Inflame the whole Mohammedan world’, The Kaiser’s Jihad]. London: Head of Zeus.

1945: the end of World War II

Victory in Europe – losing empires in the 20th century:
17A; 5; 20-24

Victory in the Pacific:
Philippines: April1945
Borneo: May 1945
Burma: May 1945
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: August 1945
Manchuria: August 1945
Japan: 2 September 1945

For the first time, on September 3rd, 2015, China held a military parade to celebrate its victory over Japan. The following links point to a lack of knowledge about China’s role in World War II.

1945: the United Nations

The notion of ‘united nations’ can refer to all the nations in the world or to an alliance of nations in conflict with another nation or set of nations.

In 1941 Roosevelt suggested the term to refer to the Allies in World War II and Churchill noted Byron’s use of the phrase to refer to the Allies at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This resulted in the ‘Declaration of United Nations’ which was signed by 26 countries (group A in Table 1 below) in January 1942. These consisted of the USA, UK, USSR and China together with certain countries of the British Empire, certain European countries and certain Central American or Caribbean countries.

A number of conferences were held amongst the Allies throughout the war. One of them, the Dumbarton Oaks Conference or, more formally, the Washington Conversations on International Peace and Security Organization was an international conference at which the United Nations was formulated and negotiated among international leaders. The conference was held at Dumbarton Oaks from August 21, 1944 through October 7, 1944.

International Organization (UNCIO) was a convention of delegates from 50 Allied nations that took place from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, United States. At the end of the war, during August to December 46 countries signed the United Nations Charter. In addition to the 26 Group A countries there were 20 other countries from Europe, from South and Central America, Arab countries and one or two others – see Group B in Table 1.

Table 1 The 26 Allies and the additional 20 countries who also signed the UN Charter in 1945

Group A
USA, UK, USSR, China;
Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa;
Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia;
Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama,

Group B
France, Denmark, Luxembourg,
Byelorussia, Ukraine,
Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Ecuador,
Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Liberia, Ethiopia, Iraq

1945: the IMF

The Bretton Woods Conference, formally known as the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, was the gathering of 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations at the Mount Washington Hotel, situated in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the conclusion of World War II.

The conference was held in July 1944. Agreements were executed that later established the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF was established on 29th December 1945. IMF member states have different quotas and voting rights (1). These were determined by the Mikesell equation. There is an interesting account of how the equation was established (2). See (3) for some general principles for allocation formulae.

2015: the United Nations

‘The United Nations Security Council put aside four years of division to endorse unanimously a resolution calling for countries to take ‘all necessary measures’ to wipe out Isis.’

Coates, Sam and Will Pavia. (2015) “The world unites to wipe Isis from map. UN resolution calls leading nations to action.” The Times, November 21, 2015, p. 1.

‘The culmination of more than 20 years of fraught UN climate talks has seen all countries agree to reduce emissions, promise to raise $100 bn. a year by 2020 to help poor countries adapt their economies, and accept a new goal of net zero emissions by later this century.’

Vidal, John, Adam Vaughan, Suzanne Goldenberg, Lenore Taylor and Daniel Boffey. “‘A major leap for mankind’: world leaders hail Paris deal on climate.” The Observer. Sunday 13 December 2015, p. 1

2015: Oxford International Model United Nations

Visit the website: http://www.oximun.org/index.php

This is a long weekend simulation exercise with participants involved in a variety of groups (see list below). Each group addresses a couple of specific issues. For example the IMF group considered adapting the quota system (see earlier section).


Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC)
International Court of Justice (ICJ)
United Nationals Security Council (UNSC)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
World health Organisation (WHO)
United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
Human Rights Council (HCR)
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
United nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women)
Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34)

Regional Bodies
African Union (AU)
Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Arab League (AL)

Non-UN Bodies
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
World Trade Organisation (WTO)
League of Nations (LoN)
Historical Crisis 1 (HC1) Manchurian Crisis
Historical Crisis 2 (HC2) Napoleon I in Egypt and Syria (1798-1801)
OxIMUN Reform Committee (Reform)

December 2015: non-UK front page headlines … fighting ISIS in Libya

Airstrikes in days after Corbyn concedes defeat, 1st
Less than half of voters back airstrikes on Syria, 2nd
PM wins huge backing for war, 3rd
Massacre at disabled day centre, 3rd
Army chiefs warned PM over 70,000 rebels claim, 4th
Isis invades Afghanistan, 5th
Fresh bombing raids hit Syrian oilfields, 6th
Trump attacked after he claims British police fear Muslims, 9th
EU buckles as Merkel’s migrants hit 1 million, 10th
French voters reject far right, 14th
EU army to protect borders, 16th
British troops on standby as Isis extends control in Libya, 17th
Markets braced as Spain turns left, 21st
SAS fight to stop Taliban in Helmand, 22nd
Isis suffers worst defeat as Iraqis take Ramadi, 28th
IMF chief predicts a year of gloom for global economy, 31st

Debate: ‘ISIS’ or ‘Daesh’?

Ibrahim Natil is a regular attender at our CRS conference and recently he sent me a piece he had written:

‘Calling Daesh "Islamic State", "ISIS" or "ISIL" serves the policy of this radical organisation and its intention to spread its ideology and promote its existence, writes Dr Ibrahim Natil in Independent Australia "The Journal of Democracy and Independent Thought".’


I too have been following the Daesh, "Islamic State", "ISIS" or "ISIL" debate and have been interested in the various arguments. My own thinking has led me to come down on the opposite side from Ibrahim. Here’s why.

.(1) I don’t like spending time on names and words – what is important is the object or concept being referred to. (To some extent this is a scientist’s routine response to prose!?)
.(2) I don’t like the practice of name-calling. It is a way of being negative without providing any informational content.
.(3) I don’t like the concept of the ‘true’ or ‘real’ version of a social organisation or belief system. I prefer the starting point that there may be various manifestations of any social organisation or belief system. All systems can exhibit extremely positive or extremely negative behaviour.

… so I think it is misplaced to feel under pressure to stop saying ‘ISIS’ … misplaced to claim ISIS is not Islamic or is not a state. Just as it would be misplaced to claim that slavery was not a Christian practice.

Capital punishment is a good example. Cultures differ in terms of the acceptability of capital punishment. Disapproval of capital punishment is quite a modern idea. Cultures also differ in terms of the type of capital punishment used. In the UK of the 1950s, hanging was the accepted method. The USA is associated with the use of the electric chair.

‘During the development of Islamic Law or Sharia, the majority of scholars supported beheading as a valid form of punishment within Islam. Influential medieval Muslim scholars such as Al-Zamakhshari andMuhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari considered beheading to be sanctioned by God as the punishment for unbelievers and blasphemous Muslims.[4][5]

Currently, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which uses decapitation within its Islamic legal system, although it is also a legal form of punishment in Iran, Qatar and Yemen. Numerous non-state actors, including Islamic organisations such as ISIL, Al Qaeda, and other Jihadist groups use or have used beheading as a punishment.

Beheading is a legal form of execution in Iran, Qatar and Yemen, but the punishment has been suspended in those countries. The majority of executions carried out by the Wahhabi government of Saudi Arabia are public beheadings, which usually cause mass gatherings but are not allowed to be photographed or filmed. Since 2002, however, jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have been mass circulating beheading videos as a form of terror and propaganda.[6]






Chess Puzzle: ‘Winning Move’ – ‘I wonder if that is correct’

Raymond Keene has a daily Chess column in The Times. ‘Winning Move’ is one section. Sometimes I can find the winning move and sometimes not. Once I know the winning move I often find myself thinking ‘I wonder if that is correct’. I try to find moves that defeat the winning move. I am moderately good at chess but not good enough for it to be likely that I am right!

(1) The puzzle which appeared on Tuesday 10th November 2015. (Times 2, p. 15)
(2) The solution given – look away if you don’t want to know
(3) My challenge to you
(4) Possible moves – look away if you don’t want to know
(5) Festive competition – your chance to win a fabulous prize!

(1) The puzzle which appeared on Tuesday 10th November 2015. (Times 2, p. 15):
‘Winning Move. Black to play. This position is from Karpov-Fressinet, Karpov Trophy Cap d’Agde 2015. White’s position is riddled with weaknesses and Black now found a way to wreck his position. What was the key move?’


.           .           .           .           .           R         K         .

P          P          Q         B         P          P          B         P

.           .           .           P          .           .           P          .

.           .           .           p          .           .           .           .

.           p          R         .           p          .           N         .

.           q          n          .           .           .           p          .

p          b          .           .           .           p          b          p

r           .           r           .           .           .           k          .


(2) The solution given – look away if you don’t want to know
Black plays ‘1 ... Nxf2! crippling White since 2 Kxf2 Qb6+ 3 Kf1 Rxb4 wins the bishop on b2.’

(3) Your challenge
Assuming Black plays 1 ... Nxf2!, does White have a better move than 2 Kxf2?

(4) Possible moves – look away if you don’t want to know.
In reply to 1 ... Nxf2, I looked at the following White replies: 2 Bf1, 2 Na4, 2 Nd1 and 2 Ne2. Lines produced a variety of outcomes: a win for White, a draw, and a win for Black. I am unsure what is the best-play result. Note that I do not use a computer for any of this.

(5) Festive competition – your chance to win a fabulous prize!
I would be very interested to hear your conclusions. Send me an email at gordonjburt@gmail.com. The author of the best reply will receive a copy of my 2010 book, Conflict Complexity and Mathematical Social Science. My decision is final!

Universal time … local time… Farewell to 2015

Time is universal, but locally experienced.

Here in the UK it will soon be 10am on Thursday 31st December 2015. At that point in time the people of Samoa and Christmas Island/Kiribati will be welcoming in the New Year. I shall have to wait another 14 hours before I can welcome in the New Year and those in Baker Island and Howland Island will have to wait a further 12 hours. The conventional boundary is the International Date Line.


The same theme arises in Jules Verne’s ‘Around the world in 80 days’. Our family went to see an excellent performance of this by The New International Encounter at The Stables. Phileas Fogg has a wager with his London friends that he can go around the world in eighty days. Travelling east he sets off and returns to England from the west, calculating just as he lands in Liverpool that he has spent eighty days, too late to reach London and win the wager. Then his servant Passepartout points to that day’s newspaper. The date is a day earlier than Fogg had calculated.  In his travels Fogg had seen 80 sunsets but had spent only 79 periods of 24 hours. To see this, imagine going round the world in just one second – you will still manage to see one sunset.

http://www.nie-theatre.com/ ; http://www.stables.org/Whats_on/Event/Around_The_World_in_80_Days

‘Coordinated Universal Time (French: temps universel coordonné), abbreviated as UTC, is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is, within about 1 second, mean solar time at 0° longitude;[1] it does not observe daylight saving time. It is one of several closely related successors to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). For most purposes, UTC is considered interchangeable with GMT, but GMT is no longer precisely defined by the scientific community.

UTC was officially formalized in 1960 by the International Radio Consultative Committee in Recommendation 374,[2] having been initiated by several national time laboratories. The system was adjusted several times until leap secondswere adopted in 1972 to simplify future adjustments. A number of proposals have been made to replace UTC with a new system that would eliminate leap seconds but no consensus has yet been reached.

The current version of UTC is defined byInternational Telecommunications UnionRecommendation (ITU-R TF.460-6), Standard-frequency and time-signal emissions[3] and is based on International Atomic Time (TAI) with leap seconds added at irregular intervals to compensate for the slowing of Earth's rotation.[4]Leap seconds are inserted as necessary to keep UTC within 0.9 seconds of universal time, UT1.[5]See the "Current number of leap seconds" section for the number of leap seconds inserted to date.’