Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/15/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/15/2009The big stories for the day should obviously be the ones about the tea parties, but I’m too tired to go out and collect any. Look for the video of the CNN newsbabe who verbally abused a father with a young child because he objected to high taxation. And he quoted Abraham Lincoln about liberty! The nerve of him.

In other news, lawyers have filed suit against the German government on behalf of two suspected pirates detained in Kenya.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CSP, El Inglés, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, REP, Steen, TB, The Frozen North, Tuan Jim, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Experts Urge Standards for Islamic Banks
Is America the New Russia?
Obamas Next Great Plan: “Super Global Tarp”
 
USA
Fiat Chief May Head Chrysler
Fiat CEO Warns Company Will Walk Unless Union Pact is Reached
Legion Objects to Vets as Terror Risk
US Treasury: Won’t Call China a Currency Manipulator
 
Canada
George Jonas: Want a Gun Permit? Tell US About Your Sex Life
Senator in Favour of Airport Employee Screening
Should Ottawa Rescue Canadian Mother in Saudi Arabia?
 
Europe and the EU
Austrian Al-Qaeda Cell Watched for 3 Years
Britain Must Act on ‘Spy’ Software or Face Legal Action, Warns Brussels
Czech Rep: Bursik Fears Klaus May Complicate EU Climate Talks
Denmark: Iraqis Waiting in Denmark for Many Years
G20 Protests: Police Officer in New ‘Brutality’ Video Identified and Suspended
Germany: ‘There Was No Reason to Accept the Risks of GM Corn’
Immigration Among Priorities for Swedish EU Presidency
Monnet’s Lessons for Global Governance
Netherlands: Tariq Ramadan Not Homophobic, City Rules
Netherlands: Justice Ministers Working on New Aliens Law
Netherlands: Inspectorate Casts Doubt on Private Schools
The Swedish Psyche — You Could Write a Book About it
UK: Cops Halt ‘Reclaim Our Streets’ Demo
UK: Mod Investigating British Taliban Bomber Claims
UK: Number of Women Under 25 Having Children Outstrips Those Getting Married for the First Time
UK: Teachers ‘Forced to Wear Dog Handler Armguards and Need Inoculations to Defend Against Biting Pupils’
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Ex-Guantanamo Inmates Reunited With Families
 
North Africa
Shoe at Bush: Algeria; Design Created With Journalist’s Name
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza Kids Art Proves Israeli War Crimes: Activist
Mitchell Confirms, U.S. Wants Two States
 
Middle East
In the Age of Pirates
Lebanon: Police Arrest Former General for Spying for Israel
Terrorism: Turkey; Al Qaeda Accused for US Consulate Attack
Turkey: Erdogan, I Do Not Support Apologies to Armenians
Turkey: First Draft of the ‘Basbug Doctrine’
Turkey Says Obama’s Messages to Muslim World Promote Greater Unity
 
Russia
Lenin’s Larceny and How Russian Gold Curbed Western Governments’ Scruples
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Mob Pelts Women Protesters With Stones
Mugabe Guard Roughs Up Riksdag Member
Pakistan: ANP Spurns American Reservations
Pakistan: Collective Wisdom?
Pakistan Red Mosque Cleric Granted Bail: Lawyer
Pakistan: Militants Enjoy Immunity From Law: TNSM
Singapore: ‘Very Firm’ With Protestors
 
Far East
China Calls Up Its First Black Athlete
China Bought More U.S. Securities Even Amid Concerns
 
Australia — Pacific
NZ: Father Beaten Over Parenting Skills
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Attorneys File Suit in Germany on Behalf of Alleged Pirates
Experts: How to Stop Piracy
Zimbabwe: E. Cross: the Propensity to Self Destruct
 
Immigration
Algeria: Ksentini, Prison is Not the Solution
Citizenship Program Needs to Focus on Canadian ‘Values’: Kenney
Italian Regions, 21,000 by Boat in Eight Months
Suspected Asylum Seekers Caught in Australian Waters
UK: Bogus Foreign Students Free to Flout New Laws
 
Culture Wars
Flag & General Officers for the Military: Gays and the Military, a Bad Fit

Financial Crisis

Experts Urge Standards for Islamic Banks

As investors pin their hopes on Islamic banking systems as safer models in times of crisis than the western banks hard hit by the economic crunch, Islamic banks need to improve level of supervision and deal with the looming threat of forced consolidation as the industry expands, experts said at a global summit Tuesday.

Islamic banking systems could become the new model for global banking if they take on the challenges of disclosure levels to improve the industry’s growth potential, said experts at Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit being held simultaneously in Dubai, Manama, London and Kuala Lumpur.

In demand but un-uniform

Western financial analysts are increasingly pointing to the failures of “old capitalism” and communism banking models. And Western banks have tapped into the Islamic banking system, setting up instruments that enable the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims to invest while still complying with their belief system.

Centers in Paris and London are competing to become the Islamic financial hubs for western markets especially since potential assets that comply with Islamic law are estimated at between $700 million and $1 trillion.

However lack of a standardized Islamic finance system and mismanagement of bonds because of lack of supervision are obstacles to the future of the industry. Currently, sharia banking systems are open to various interpretations because of the open-ended nature of Islamic law. This makes the standardization of the industry’s practices across jurisdictions — necessary to decrease risk, difficult without closer monitoring.

An example of this lack of uniform application is the bai bithaman ajil (deferred payment sale) which are approved by Malaysian regulators but rejected by those in the Middle East.

Sohail Zubairi, chief executive of Dar al-Sharia consultancy, a firm set up by Dubai Islamic Bank last year, said that Islamic banks have reported some $10 to 15 billion Islamic bond losses since the beginning of the financial crisis because the banks were structuring them incorrectly from the start.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Is America the New Russia?

By Martin Wolf

Is the US Russia? The question seems provocative, if not outrageous. Yet the person asking it is Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In an article in the May issue of the Atlantic Monthly, Prof Johnson compares the hold of the “financial oligarchy” over US policy with that of business elites in emerging countries. Do such comparisons make sense? The answer is Yes, but only up to a point.

“In its depth and suddenness,” argues Prof Johnson, “the US economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets.” The similarity is evident: large inflows of foreign capital; torrid credit growth; excessive leverage; bubbles in asset prices, particularly property; and, finally, asset-price collapses and financial catastrophe.

“But,” adds Prof Johnson, “there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests — financiers, in the case of the US — played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse.” Moreover, “the great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight.”

Now, argues Prof Johnson, the weight of the financial sector is preventing resolution of the crisis. Banks “do not want to recognise the full extent of their losses, because that would likely expose them as insolvent … This behaviour is corrosive: unhealthy banks either do not lend (hoarding money to shore up reserves) or they make desperate gambles on high-risk loans and investments that could pay off big, but probably won’t pay off at all. In either case, the economy suffers further, and, as it does, bank assets themselves continue to deteriorate — creating a highly destructive cycle.”

Does such an analysis make sense? This is a question I thought about during my recent three-month stay in New York and visits to Washington, DC, now capital of global finance. It is why Prof Johnson’s analysis is so important.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]


Obamas Next Great Plan: “Super Global Tarp”

My family has very close and significant ties to high ranking Senators, Congressman, lobbyists and various political aids in D.C. And the recent buzz on Capital Hill is the growing concern over whether the bailout programs being issued by our government will work or not. There’s considerable stress and debate among the inner circles of Washington, so much so, they are discussing the next great plan should all of the current plans fail to pull America out of a deflationary spiral.

It’s important to understand most high ranking politicians care greatly about there own legacy, power, and re-election, and the current team of politicians is no different. They can go down in history as the heroes or the goats in this financial mess, and currently, there is significant consternation about the direction of the USA in the highest political circles.

In essence, from what I’m hearing, the question is as follows: “If the bailout plans being issued do not work or only work temporarily, than what? Who or how do we bail out the current bail out programs and our government or economy? What strategies should be in place now to be implemented later should it be needed in the near future to stem further financial chaos?” I’ll admit that line of thinking seems logical so far given the current financial circumstances.

However, the latest idea is a wild one at best and quite scary. Our President is going to privately and secretly sit in front of global leaders and ask them to fund a new global coalition type bail out program larger than anything we’ve seen.. Think TARP on steroids! He’s going to make the argument that America is the AIG of the world, and we are too big to fail. That it’s in the best interest of all countries and their economies to support America, because we are a large portion of the global economy and they can’t afford the U.S. dragging them into the deflationary nightmare.

Furthermore, he’s going to artfully convince these global leaders to pool their capital resources into this new super global TARP like plan to support the American way, and to do so, our President will offer the proverbial carrot and stick as enticements to join our cause. The carrot will consist of various types of collateral or backing to sweeten the offering. The stick will come in the form of significant punitive damages.

There are a number of various items being discussed as potential collateral for this new plan. I’ve heard such things as offering rights to the Alaskan Pipeline, land owned by our government under the Bureau of Land Management, confiscating oil wells inland and offshore, elimination of import tariffs, gold owned by our government, issuing a special national real estate tax and a national sales tax, and even possibly allowing foreign governments to confiscate the assets of U.S. citizen’s and corporations held abroad.

These were just some of the more outrageous items being discussed in support of the next plan. This offering of collateral is designed to gain the appropriate level of financial interest and commitments from global leaders, while leveraging some the most important American assets…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

USA

Fiat Chief May Head Chrysler

Washington hopes Marchionne can repeat turnaround feat

(ANSA) — New York, April 14 — There is increasing speculation in the United States that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne may take over the same duties at Chrysler should Detroit’s No. 3 enter into a partnership with the Italian automaker.

Fiat and Chrysler are currently engaged in round-the-clock talks with the American company’s lenders and unions to back their plans to initially give Fiat a 20% stake in Chrysler in exchange for its cutting-edge green and small-car technology.

The Turin automaker would also have access to Chrysler’s plants and dealerships in order to allow it to return to the American market, initially with Alfa Romeo and the trendy Fiat 500 city car.

The plan calls for Fiat to expand its stake in Chrysler once its cars go into production in the US.

The Canadian-trained Marchionne took over the reins at Fiat in 2004 and orchestrated a textbook turnaround at the Italian automaker, returning it to profit the following year, cutting its debt and placing it in the forefront of advanced green technology.

In throwing his support behind a proposed Chrysler-Fiat alliance, US President Barack Omaba praised Marchionne for what he described as “an impressive turnaround” at Fiat and there are unconfirmed reports he wants him at the helm of the Detroit No.3.

The trade publication and website Automotive News has reported that the president’s task force dealing with the crisis in the US auto sector, dominated by the threat of bankruptcy for General Motors, may demand that Marchionne at least be named to the Chrysler board.

Automotive News added that the task force has envisioned a new, seven-member Chrysler board nominated by Fiat and the task force itself with an American in the chair and an Italian, Marchionne, serving as CEO. Obama has given the automakers until May 1 to strike a partnership if they want access to federal bail-out funds.

Problems have arisen, however, with Chrysler’s previous owner, Daimler of Germany, which is unhappy with the price offered for its remaining 19.9% stake by the company’s current majority stockholder, the equity fund Cerberus.

According to Automotive News, GM is on course for a piloted bankruptcy which would split the giant into a ‘good’ company with its profitable assets and a ‘bad’ company with its loss-making activities and debt.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Fiat CEO Warns Company Will Walk Unless Union Pact is Reached

ROME — Fiat SpA (F.MI) Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has warned that the Italian auto maker could walk away from a potential alliance with Chrysler LLC if American and Canadian unions do not agree to significant pay cuts at the ailing Detroit auto maker.

Mr. Marchionne’s comments, originally published Wednesday in an interview with the Toronto daily Globe and Mail, and confirmed by a Fiat spokesman, add yet another layer of uncertainty to Chrysler’s future. U.S. President Barack Obama has given Chrysler until the end of the month to find a partner, or else face bankruptcy proceedings. In the interview, Mr. Marchionne said Fiat was “prepared to walk” unless an agreement can be reached with unions. Cutting pay on the factory floor is a key part of Mr. Marchionne’s plans to aggressively revamp Chrysler.

If a final deal is reached, Marchionne is likely to seek broad authority over Chrysler’s operations either as Chief Executive or in some other capacity, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Marchionne wants to place Chrysler and Fiat under a single management structure to cut costs and achieve greater economies of scale when negotiating with suppliers, the person added. Marchionne told the Globe and Mail that it was “possible” that he would be appointed CEO of Chrysler, but added that the final job “title isn’t important.”

A week ago, talks between Chrysler, Fiat and U.S. and Canadian unions hit a wall after the parties failed to agree on potential pay cuts, according to the person familiar with the matter. Chrysler and Fiat want the UAW to bring American wages into line with the lower salaries paid by Japanese automakers that operate plants in the U.S. Chrysler and Fiat are having an even tougher time negotiating pay cuts with the CAW union in Canada, where Chrysler workers earn about $19 more in hourly wages than their American counterparts, the person said. The Obama administration has said it will consider granting Chrysler a loan to help the auto maker stave off bankruptcy if it can reach an agreement with Fiat by April 30. Under the terms of a potential alliance, Fiat would take a 20% stake in Chrysler with the option of increasing this stake to 49% once the government loans are paid off. Talks between the two companies, however, have been hampered in recent days by a standoff between the U.S. government and Chrysler’s main creditors. The U.S. wants banks and investors who control Chrysler’s debt to give up about 85% of the nearly $7 billion they are owed. The creditors, however, believe they can get most of their money back if Chrysler is forced to file for bankruptcy.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Legion Objects to Vets as Terror Risk

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Article contains link to full report.]John Raughter, the communications director for the American Legion, said the group’s commander was responding to a quick surge in sentiment from veterans.

Homeland Security told: ‘Americans are not the enemy’

The American Legion on Tuesday criticized a new Homeland Security report as unfairly stereotyping veterans by suggesting that some soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be recruited by right-wing extremists to participate in violent actions.

“I think it is important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are,” David K. Rehbein, national commander of the veterans organization, said in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about a security assessment titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence and Recruitment.”

The report, which prompted a storm of outrage Tuesday from conservatives, cited the example of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in warning that the return of disgruntled military veterans could lead to “terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

Mr. Rehbein also challenged the department on that score, speaking on behalf of the legion’s 2.6 million members. “To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical ‘disgruntled military veteran’ is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam,” he said.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Kuban said the department also has warned about the dangers from “leftwing extremists” in occasional reports to federal, state, local and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials. The Washington Times independently obtained and verified such a report from Jan. 26 titled, “Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade.”

Ms. Kuban said work on the “Rightwing Extremism” report, which was reported Tuesday by The Times, began more than a year ago, during the Bush administration.

However key findings in the report, which cited the economic downturn and the election of President Obama, indicate that much of the work was done in the past few months.

Ms. Kuban added that the report’s authors were not political appointees. “The people who wrote the April 7 report are career officials, the acting head of Intelligence and Analysis is a career official,” she said.

Regardless, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sent a Twitter message saying that “the person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired.”

“We have heard from our membership in e-mails and so forth. As soon as the national commander saw the report from Homeland Security, he had that letter sent. The letter went out yesterday,” Mr. Raughter said.

In his letter to Ms. Napolitano, Mr. Rehbein asked to meet with her “at a time of mutual convenience to discuss issues such as border security and the war on terrorism.”

Ms. Kuban said her boss would be open to meeting with Mr. Rehbein.

The nine-page security assessment was sent to local law enforcement officials nationwide and warned, though without numbers or contemporary examples, about a rise in “rightwing extremist activity.”

The “Leftwing Extremists” report, on the other hand, focuses on “animal rights, environmental, and anarchist extremist movements,” warning that such organizations will focus their attacks on economic targets and specifically cyberattacks such as overwhelming a corporation’s servers with spam e-mail or hacking into closed networks and deleting user accounts.

The report, however, limits its warnings to “animal rights and environmental extremists,” which it says “seek to end the perceived abuse and suffering of animals and the degradation of the natural environment perpetrated by humans”; and “anarchist extremists” who the report says “generally embrace a number of radical philosophical components of anticapitalist, antiglobalization, communist, socialist and other movements.”

That report does not lump such groups, though, with single-issue advocacy on broad topics and the stances of mainstream liberals. It also cites specific attacks by contemporary groups that fit the given descriptions, rather than draw analogies from the 1990s.

Regardless, Republicans on Capitol Hill were not buying Homeland Security’s explanations on the reports.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, questioned the purpose of the report, which says that people dedicated to single-issues such as “abortion or immigration” are defined as “rightwing extremism.”

“DHS offers no specific data or evidence to back up its claim that ‘rightwing extremism’ is resurgent,” Mr. Smith said.

“As far as I can tell, the only thing this report does do is attempt to stigmatize people who disagree with the president,” Mr. Smith said.

Rep. Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said that while terrorism can come from many quarters, Homeland Security “should spend less time focusing on ideology and the exercise of free speech and association, and instead focus on specific, actionable intelligence to counter the terrorist threats to our nation.”


Congress is in recess, with many members traveling overseas, and attempts to reach both several key Democrats and some Republicans were unsuccessful.

However, Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican whose presidential supporters were targeted in a March report by the Missouri Information Analysis Center as being linked to militia members, said the report signals government intrusion.

“This report is a sign of bad things to come: more profiling, more surveillance and more Big Brother government for the American people,” Mr. Paul said. “All Americans should be opposed to any sort of government profiling. If we don’t wake up to what is going on, our country stands to lose the liberties we hold so dear.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, denounced the report as a bid “to vilify mainstream conservatism” and also warned that such tactics could backfire and distract Homeland Security from counterterrorism activities.

“The last time a liberal left administration tried to increase public apprehension about alleged right-wing extremism, they ended up with tragedies like Waco while ignoring the increasing presence of radical Islamic terrorists on American soil that ended up with 9/11,” he said.


Mr. Rehbein also detected in the report something of the Obama administration political style and a double standard regarding terror threats.

“For an administration that uses word games to downplay the threat of foreign terrorists, and regularly accuses others of promoting the ‘politics of fear,’ they’re awfully willing to paint law-abiding Americans, including war veterans, as ‘extremists.’ “

The report said the federal government “will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months” to gather information on “rightwing extremist activity in the United States.”

The category of suspects also includes gun rights supporters, economic critics of China, India and Russia, and supporters of states’ rights.

Eric Odom, an organizer of the Tax Day Tea Party which is holding protests Wednesday against big government and federal taxation in more than 750 cities, said the report is “very disconcerting.”

“That is exactly our message, so based on this memo, this is a government funded and fueled attack on federalism,” Mr. Odom said. “The assertion here that these people are all extremists and for the Department of Homeland Security to put us on a list is absolutely outrageous and a direct attack on a great chunk of American society.”

Mr. Odom called the report “scary stuff,” because “it makes me wonder who is looking at me right now. Every single issue they state is what we support. So the federal government needs to keep an eye on me, because I am protesting their actions? That doesn’t sit right.”


Homeland Security spokesman Sean Smith said the department “is only interested in monitoring groups who have a nexus to criminal and violent activity. The peaceful protests of the tea parties is not that.”

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, denounced the report as a smear of Americans who believed in federalism and gun rights and opposed abortion by lumping them together with hate groups.

“They can’t possibly have had time to be fitted for their brown shirts and they are behaving like this,” Mr. Norquist said of the Department of Homeland Security. “This memo belongs in Paraguay circa 1957.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


US Treasury: Won’t Call China a Currency Manipulator

The U.S. Treasury Department again declined to name China as a currency manipulator, releasing a report Wednesday that maintains the Asian countryhasn’t met the legal definition to warrant such a label and isn’t using its currency to gain unfair trade advantages.

The report is the first released on the topic by the U.S. Treasury since President Barack Obama took office in January, and marks a sharp reversal in stance for Obama’s camp.

During his presidential campaign, Obama indicated on numerous occasions that he believed China indeed manipulated its currency, a point Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner mentioned during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Still, Wednesday’s report indicates the administration believes no country is manipulating its currency.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Canada

George Jonas: Want a Gun Permit? Tell US About Your Sex Life

‘What’s your topic?’ my editor wanted to know. “Guns once more, with feeling,” I replied, although I could have saved a syllable by saying simply “Guns more with feeling.” The late opera composer Tibor Polgar urged his librettists to save syllables. “To make the world a better place,” he used to say.

No doubt. Saving a syllable here, a question there, a requirement or prohibition somewhere else, to say nothing of a policy or law, might make the world more livable. Saving our breath is the best solution in the end — but in the interim it’s hard not to talk about guns once more.

Pierre Lemieux is an economist whose most recent book, Comprendre l’économie, just won the prestigious Prix Turgot in Paris. When it comes to guns, he’s a hobbyist, not a lobbyist, but in his spare time he has been trying to make the authorities comprehend something about the relationship between public safety and his love life. Not because he thinks there’s a nexus, but because the government does.

Before renewing his gun permit in 2007, the authorities decided to inquire into Lemieux’s bedroom history. Did he divorce anyone in the last two years? Did he break up with a girlfriend? If yes, use a separate sheet to explain.

Pardon me? Explain?

Well, it was nothing personal. Apparently, Canada’s government feels it ought to know the romantic status of all firearm owners. Hmm. Didn’t someone say the state had no business in the nation’s bedrooms? Who would say something so fuddy-duddy? Oh, the same fellow who actually said fuddy-duddy: Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Well, that was before the Flood.

It could be worse, I suppose. Canada’s gun clerks could ask applicants if they suffer from erectile dysfunction. Perhaps clerks don’t ask because they worry about a human rights tribunal finding the question discriminatory. Or maybe they haven’t thought of it yet.

Anyway, when the government’s minions popped their question in 2007, Prof. Lemieux made his reply directly to the Prime Minister: “You will note that, as a proud descendant of the disobedient French Canadian coureurs de bois,” he wrote, “I have not answered one of the [permit renewal] form’s indiscreet and obscene questions. I answered that my love affairs are none of your business.”

I doubt if Stephen Harper saw the letter — his office tries to shield him both from coureurs de bois and economists — but when I saw a copy, I wrote: “Atta boy, Pierre. It may not do much good, but cowering like mice before the insolence of office, as Shakespeare called it, won’t do much good either.”

Indeed, it didn’t. The authorities refused to renew the professor’s permit, and now he’s challenging them in court. But why are the authorities treating firearms owners like circus animals, making them jump through humiliating hoops? For public safety? Hell, for safety, gun ownership among professors should be encouraged, not discouraged.

The year Canada demanded to peek into Lemieux’s bedroom, a deranged young man named Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. The 23-year-old Korean nutcase might have claimed more victims if it hadn’t been for 76-year-old Liviu Librescu, a visiting professor from Israel who blocked Cho from entering his classroom while students escaped through the windows. Librescu may have stopped the killer for good had he been armed, but he wasn’t, and paid for his intervention with his life.

After the massacre, The Wall Street Journal quoted Professor Lemieux as saying that “mass killings were rare when guns were easily available, while they have been increasing as guns have become more controlled.”

A reverse trend in America supported the Canadian scholar’s observation. A national survey conducted in 1996 by the University of Chicago found a reduction of crime rates in states that permitted citizens to carry concealed weapons (homicide by 8.5%, aggravated assault 7% and rape 5%.) Not surprisingly, the number of “carrying” states grew from nine in 1988 to 31 in 1996.

Lemieux should win his court challenge in a sane world — but in a sane world there would be no government intrusions to challenge in the first place. The challenge arises because ours is an insane world, with temporary remissions during which we write constitutions and bills of rights — then lapse back into lunacy and plead with judges to abort whatever embryonic issues are left over from our one-night stands with liberty.

What’s Canada doing in Pierre Lemieux’s bedroom? Questioning citizens about their romantic lives as a condition of a firearm permit is so obviously removed from any legitimate consideration of public safety that I won’t dignify it with analysis. I’ll merely say that people likely to shoot their exes or spouses are also likely to (1) check the wrong box on government forms to keep their permits, or (2) shoot their significant others with guns whose permits have expired.

Such forms are good only for giving award-winning academics apoplexy and reminding the rest of us that Big Nanny is boss. Also, to demonstrate that Canada’s legacy is passing from the proud descendants of voyageurs to the leering descendants of voyeurs. For shame.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Senator in Favour of Airport Employee Screening

OTTAWA — The Harper government has taken a step forward to address security concerns at Canada’s airports and marine ports, but will need to invest significant resources to fight smuggling through these locations, said Liberal Senator Colin Kenny on Tuesday.

Kenny, who recently invited Transport Minister John Baird to tour Canada’s largest airport and test its security, said that an information-sharing agreement signed last week between the RCMP and Transport Canada will improve the monitoring of employees who are applying for passes in restricted areas.

Kenny and Baird were warned in a briefing during their visit in Toronto about large quantities of drugs and weapons going through Pearson International Airport, possibly due to the lack of security measures for employees.

They were told that airline employees who work in baggage and maintenance, as well as other workers in catering or cleaning, have access to airplanes without having to go through the same screening and searches as the passengers who board the planes, Kenny said.

The new measures give the RCMP the power to look into the criminal records of airport employees.

“As far as I’m concerned, doing the background checks are good things. The cops tell me one of their problems is they often don’t know who’s being employed,” said Kenny, the chairman of the Senate committee on national security and defence.

“I think it’s important that the minister have some followup steps on this and the one that I think he can’t miss is actually having people look in the bags of the people who are going to work on the tarmac.”

Kenny added that most Canadians who have taken flights in recent years believe that security is tight because of their experience of going through searches and screening as passengers.

“They’ve had their belt taken off, they might have had to take off their shoes, [or] they had to take out their computer,” Kenny said. “They don’t realized that there are thousands of people working around the aircraft who don’t go through that experience at all.”

Kenny said that the federal government would need to set aside dedicated funding for security measures such as enhanced searches on employees who work at airports. He also added that he had concerns that there could be civil liberties challenges to the agreement whenever employees get denied passes.

Chief Supt. Pierre Perron, the director of criminal intelligence for the RCMP, said it would be up to Transport Canada to make the decisions about issuing passes, based on the background checks done by the police force.

“Obviously we have to make sure that the information we share is the best possible information,” said Perron in an interview.

He added that the agreement would have an “immediate impact” on improving airport security, while balancing privacy rights.

“I’m glad to see that we’re making gains in enhancing public safety,” said Perron.

The government said it consulted its own legal experts in the Justice Department about the privacy concerns, but the federal Privacy Commissioner’s office said it was not consulted about the agreement and is hoping to learn more details about how it will be applied.

A spokeswoman for the commissioner said the office had general concerns about the privacy implications of programs where information can be collected and disclosed.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Should Ottawa Rescue Canadian Mother in Saudi Arabia?

Tell us what you think about this issue. E-mail responses to us at Fullcomment@nationalpost.com.

Nathalie Morin is Quebec woman who has been living with her Saudi husband, husband Samir Said Ramthi Al-Bishi, in Saudi Arabia for more than three years. Ms. Morin has a child born in Canada, who she took with her when she moved to Saudia Arabia in 2005. She has since had two more children, one of which she says was conceived through rape. She wants to leave Saudi Arabia with her children, but under Saudi law she is unable to leave without her husband’s permission.

Ms. Morin’s mother, Johanne Durocher, says it’s the federal government’s responsibility to bring her daughter home, and that Ottawa has breached its duty to protect Canadian citizens under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A foreign affairs spokesman says they have been trying to help Ms. Morin for more than two years and have been in contact with her more than 100 times and with her mother more than 220 times, but that she is subject to Saudi law.

Here are a number of links with details of the story, and a few questions: Is it Canada’s responsibility to rescue Canadian citizens who move to countries with laws that differ from those in Canada? How would Ottawa do that? What should Ottawa’s role be in a sovereign country like Saudi Arabia with laws most Canadians would not tolerate here?

www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=1496482

www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/618719

www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2009/04/14/mtl-quebecwoman-saudiarabia-cp-0414.html

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austrian Al-Qaeda Cell Watched for 3 Years

The Austrian public prosecutor’s office has reportedly been investigating an Austrian cell of worldwide terror network Al-Qaeda for three years.

The magazine News will have a report about that in its edition that goes on sale tomorrow (Thurs) based on documents allegedly in the possession of the Office for Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT).

The magazine claims US officials informed their Austrian counterparts at the end of 2005 that Austrian citizen Abdulrahmen H., born in Mödling, Lower Austria in 1983, and four others had trained as para-militaries at an Al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan from August to October 2005.

News said Abdulrahmen, the head of the Austrian Al-Qaeda cell, had been killed along the Afghan-Pakistani border and another cell member had died in Afghanistan. The magazine added three other cell members were abroad, one in prison in Tunisia.

News also reported BVT investigators had questioned a former Al-Qaeda member in October 2007 in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina about the training of Austrian cell members at Al-Qaeda camps.

The magazine added that, according to the charge against German terror suspect Aleem Nasir, Abdulrahman H. had trained at explosives expert Nasir’s “Mir Ali” camp in Pakistan.

BVT videotaped Nasir in February 2007 in Vienna as he was giving Abdulrahman H.’s mother something from her son, News said.

The Austrian Al-Qaeda cell apparently did not include Mohamed Mahmoud. His wife and he were sentenced to a combined five years in prison in February for online terror threats against targets in Germany and Austria.

Mahmoud, then 23, was found guilty of involvement in a March 2007 video threatening Austria and Germany with attacks if they did not withdraw military personnel from Afghanistan. The video also endorsed jihad and called for attacks during the Euro 2008 football championships. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

His 22-year-old wife, identified as Mona S., was convicted of helping him, mostly by translating texts. She was sentenced to 22 months in prison. She was freed on 8 October 2008 after almost 14 months’ detention and may remain free.

The verdict by a Vienna court in February was the same as one handed down in March 2008. Austria’s High Court (OGH) had ordered a retrial at the end of August last year. Court spokesman Kurt Kirchbacher said at the time the court had ordered a retrial because the questions asked during the first proceedings had been “too abstract.”

The court also ruled both husband and wife had participated in a terrorist network and that Mahmoud, through his involvement in the online video, had pursued al-Qaeda’s goals.

Despite the possible presence of an Al-Qaeda cell in Austria, the interior ministry does not believe Al-Qaeda’s recent call for attacks on Western European cities poses a concrete threat to Austria.

Interior ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia said Austrian authorities were in contact with colleagues in other countries to discuss Al-Qaeda’s most-recent call for terrorist attacks on the West.

The US SITE Intelligence Group Monitoring Service, a for-profit firm that monitors the internet for intelligence on terrorist groups, had detected an Al-Qaeda video calling for attacks on Western European cities in response to Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.

The video mentioned the USA and the UK as targets of choice.

The interior ministry has not changed its outlook since last October, when it said there was “no noticeable, precise danger” of terrorist attacks against Austria.

           — Hat tip: The Frozen North[Return to headlines]


Britain Must Act on ‘Spy’ Software or Face Legal Action, Warns Brussels

The privacy of British internet users is so at risk from software that monitors every click that the EU has threatened legal action against ministers for failing to act.

Phorm software builds up a personal profile of each user’s interests and shopping habits. Broadband suppliers then sell this to advertisers, enabling them to target individuals more effectively.

The Government has backed the system in the face of repeated complaints, but Brussels officials are furious at what they see as a failure to follow EU rules.

Sending marketing or advertising material without an individual’s ‘prior consent’ is banned under a 2002 EU computer privacy directive, which the Government signed up to.

BT faced fierce criticism last year when it emerged that it had secretly tested the Phorm system on 36,000 broadband customers.

But police took the view that customers had given their ‘implied consent’ by clicking on to websites. Data protection laws in the UK also ban the interception of communications without consent.

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, said: ‘I call on the UK authorities to change their national laws and ensure that national authorities have proper sanctions at their disposal to enforce EU legislation on the confidentiality of communications.’

She warned that privacy was ‘being lost to the brave new world of intrusive technologies’, and said the commission had received ‘ hundreds of complaints’ from British citizens over the Phorm trials.

Ministers now have two months to prove that UK law protects customers’ personal data, or face legal action.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist generally credited with inventing the web, said recently that the technology threatened ‘the integrity of the internet as a communications medium’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Czech Rep: Bursik Fears Klaus May Complicate EU Climate Talks

Prague — Outgoing Czech Environment Minister fears that President Vaclav Klaus may complicate the EU talks on measures against climate change, Bursik told reporters after a two-day informal meeting of the EU environment ministers in Prague today.

The fall of the Czech coalition government, which lost a no-confidence vote in the lower house in late-March, in the middle of the Czech EU presidency may impair the Czech Republic’s position in the negotiations, Bursik, chairman of the junior ruling Greens (SZ), said.

The situation could by saved if not Klaus but the prime minister and other ministers led the talks, Bursik added.

Klaus, who is a well-known sharp opponent of the climate change theory and who repeatedly challenged the alleged “panicking” over it, should chair the EU-Russia summit, according to the previous agreement.

However, his spokesman Radim Ochvat told CTK today that Klaus might be involved in other events as well, which the Presidential Office would announce in time.

Ochvat has not yet commented on Bursik’s words since he accompanies Klaus on his visit to Tunisia.

Bursik said Czech negotiators would also meet Japanese representatives by June to discuss the system of carbon credits.

“The strategic goal is to keep Mr President as far as possible from this topic (climate change),” Bursik said.

Bursik announced today that he would convoke talks of the EU 27 finance and environment ministries’ representatives about the funding of measures to fight climate change during the Czech presidency.

A formal council of ministers might meet as well if need be, but only in mid-May after the current government is replaced by an interim cabinet of Jan Fischer, he added.

Bursik expressed fears of how the Czech Republic would manage the EU presidency with a new government.

He said he had felt certain doubts of his foreign partners during today’s talks already. He, however, added he was calmed down by the fact that the negotiating team on climate change would keep working even after the minister’s replacement.

The Greens along with the other junior ruling party, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), demanded that the current cabinet of Mirek Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS) complete the EU presidency in June.

However, the outgoing coalition and the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) agreed on the interim cabinet headed by Fischer, head of the Czech Statistical Office (CSU), to assume office as of May 9.

Bursik previously criticised Klaus for having weakened the Czech Republic’s position in the climate talks by his alleged “mendacious information and bizarre opinions.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Iraqis Waiting in Denmark for Many Years

Sweden sends Iraqis home, but Denmark has no agreement with Iraq and therefore can’t.

They won’t go home voluntarily and the authorities can’t force their repatriation. As a result there are currently 282 Iraqis who have been denied asylum in the Danish asylum centres — 184 of whom have been in the country for between six and 11 years.

No agreement Denmark has unsuccessfully tried to reach agreement with the Iraqi authorities for several years so that Iraqi nationals could be forcibly repatriated if necessary.

The Danish People’s Party’s Peter Skaarup says that the government must now put pressure on Iraq to reach an agreement — in the same way that Sweden has done so, allowing the Swedes to send Iraqis home.

Minister for Integration Birthe Rønn Hornbech (Lib) says discussions are ongoing with the Iraqi authorities, but declines to comment any further.

Police job The National Commissioner’s Office is responsible for sending the 282 Iraqis home.

“We would like to reduce numbers, but we cannot do so without an agreement. Experience shows that once agreement has been reached, most of those who have been refused asylum go home voluntarily,” says National Commissioner Foreigners Department Chief Hans-Viggo Jensen.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


G20 Protests: Police Officer in New ‘Brutality’ Video Identified and Suspended

A police officer has been suspended after video footage emerged showing a female protester being struck with a baton at the G20 protests in London.

The police watchdog is investigating the fresh claims of alleged police brutality.

The Metropolitan officer, who has his identification number covered up in the footage, appears to slap the woman across the face before taking out his baton and hitting her on the legs. He works as a Sergeant in the Territorial Support Group.

The incident happened a day after another officer pushed over newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, who died of a suspected heart attack shortly after. That officer also worked in the Territorial Support Group.

The new incident, which appeared on the website YouTube, is another blow for the Met which has already faced intense criticism over Mr Tomlinson.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has already received around 120 complaints about police actions during the G20 protests.

The fact the officer was not showing his police ID number in the footage is reminiscent of the Tomlinson incident where the officer in question also failed to have his number on show.

There was also an online appeal by activists to track down the woman involved.

It happened around 3.30 pm outside the Bank of England on April 2 — the second day of major protests. Witnesses on the day said police had used heavy handed tactics on those present.

The woman is heard saying “You cannot hit a ———- woman” moments before the officer is seen apparently hitting her.

Scotland Yard said the footage raised “immediate concerns” when it became aware of it on Tuesday afternoon and was referring the matter to the IPCC.

A spokesman said: “Every officer is accountable under law, and fully aware of the scrutiny that their actions can be held open to. The decision to use force is made by the individual police officer, and they must account for that.”

A spokeswoman for the IPCC said: “The IPCC has been made aware that the Metropolitan Police Service will be referring an incident to us following footage which has come to light this afternoon. As soon as we get the referral we will look into it and decide the best way to progress an investigation into the actions of the officer involved.”

It emerged earlier that CCTV footage of the moment Mr Tomlinson was hit and shoved to the ground by a police officer could exist after investigators admitted they were wrong to say there were no cameras in the area.

Mr Tomlinson, 47, died of a suspected heart attack shortly after a police officer appeared to hit him with a baton and push him to the ground.

Amateur footage later emerged of the incident from a member of the public but last week Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating, said there was no CCTV footage because there were no cameras in the location where he was assaulted.

But the IPCC yesterday issued a “clarification” that Mr Hardwick’s assertion “may not be accurate” and that there were indeed cameras covering the area.

A spokeswoman insisted the investigators knew that from the start and have been examining hours of footage.

The IPCC has already been criticised for initially asking the City of London Police to investigate Mr Tomlinson’s death and only took it up last week when the amateur footage emerged.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Germany: ‘There Was No Reason to Accept the Risks of GM Corn’

The German government’s decision to ban the cultivation of genetically modified corn has been welcomed by most media commentators in Germany as an overdue step in response to fears that it poses unforeseeable risks. One paper, however, scoffs that “progress has become a dirty word” in Germany.

The news Tuesday that Germany was joining five other European Union countries in banning the cultivation of genetically modified corn met with mixed reactions. Environmentalists were delighted, while supporters of GM foods warned it could lead to an exodus of research efforts from the country.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told reporters she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810, a GM corn produced by the American biotech giant Monsanto, posed “a danger to the environment,” a position which she said the Environment Ministry also supported. In taking the step, Aigner is taking advantage of a clause in EU law which allows individual countries to impose such bans.

German media commentators have broadly welcomed the decision, although they say political factors may well have played a part. Aigner is a member of the conservative Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, and the CSU is keen to tap popular opposition to genetically modified crops in the heavily agricultural Alpine region in the run-up to September’s German general election…

…The conservative Die Welt writes:

“Progress has become a dirty word, even with the Social Democrats who once defined themselves as a party of progress. Apart from a meek FDP (eds. note: the opposition liberal Free Democrats), no one dares to argue in favor of technical innovation if the activists shout ‘fear’ loud enough. Just think of all the innovations that have been blown up into bugaboos in recent years — mobile phones, PET bottles, PVC window frames, computers, the Internet, the Transrapid magnetic-levitation train, medical gene technology and much else. But in the case of green gene technology, the fearmongers are able to score their biggest triumph since the phase-out of nuclear power.

“They persuaded people that the food we currently eat is completely natural — and that nature is always a good thing. But ‘conventional’ agriculture involves exposing seeds to radioactive rays or making it mutate with the help of poisons. There’s nothing natural about these coarse and unfocussed methods. Genetic technology offers, for the first time, the possibility to precisely select a desired gene.”…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Immigration Among Priorities for Swedish EU Presidency

The Swedish Presidency of the European Union, which takes over from the Czech Republic in July, will be including immigration among its priorities focusing on trade with Africa to improve the situation in this continent.

Addressing a joint news conference with Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Björling acknowledged that illegal migration was a big problem for Malta but said that Sweden was one of the countries which had welcomed the biggest number of Iraqi refugees and it had turned the situation to one of unique opportunities for the country.

Giving an example, she said Sweden had utilised Iraqi expertise and language skills to train Swedish nationals and improve international trade.

Dr Björling said that other Swedish priorities were the handling of the financial crisis — stimulating trade to avoid protectionism and climate, energy and environmental issues.

Mr Fenech said that Malta’s input in stimulating development in Africa was political rather than financial — to convince the European countries to make this a priority.

Earlier in the day, Dr Björling also visited Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Monnet’s Lessons for Global Governance

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary ideas, like the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which later became the European Union. That idea transformed a continent of conflict and hatred into a haven of peace, stability and prosperity.

Jean Monnet conceived of it becoming even more. In his memoirs, he wrote that “the Community we have created is not an end in itself. The sovereign nations of the past can no longer solve the problems of the present; they cannot control their own future.” The European Community should only be a stage on the way to the organised world of tomorrow, he wrote.

The London G20 summit was a success in global crisis management, but it failed to show a direction for the climate crisis. These are extraordinary times that demand extraordinary ideas about how we can organise the world. Those grappling with global challenges such as climate change and globalised finance should learn three lessons from Monnet.

Firstly, Monnet and the other founding fathers seized on the yearning for a new order. Europeans pooled sovereignty only after having exhausted all other options and paid overwhelming costs. There is a growing understanding now that the forces that influence our daily well-being are not restricted to national borders. Securitisation practices in the US’s financial sector affect economies half-way around the world. Carbons released in China influence crop yields in Africa. An epidemic in Africa may well depress air travel in Europe. Something better is needed, an increasing number of people believe.

Secondly, big ideas need a pragmatic foundation. Monnet had a big vision for Europe but he started very pragmatically by pooling sovereignty over the issues of coal and steel. Might it be that a truly global emissions-trading system, which addresses the most fundamental global issue of today, climate change, could become this century’s equivalent of coal and steel?

Thirdly, the European project highlights the risk of overshooting. In 2005, two of the EU’s founding members — France and the Netherlands — voted down steps considered vital by their political elites. Decades after the pooling of sovereignty began, European societies continue to view the nation state as their primary medium of participation. Enthusiasts for global governance should accept that few people will opt for an abstract world government over nation states, that most of us feel allegiance primarily to others who are like us. That is no bad thing. Nor does that spell trouble for better global governance. One needs to be multilateralist to be patriotic precisely because you cannot achieve the outcomes desired by your nation state by acting alone..

Monnet had the wisdom to view the EU as a step towards better world co-operation; he also had the pragmatism needed to roll out his vision in manner that outlived him. Advocates of enhanced global governance should learn from Europe’s experiment.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Tariq Ramadan Not Homophobic, City Rules

The city of Rotterdam is extending its contract with Tariq Ramadan for another two years, dismissing claims that the Swiss philosopher made homophobic and misogynistic statements.

Last month, the Gay Krant, a newspaper for the homosexual community in the Netherlands, accused Tariq Ramadan of making homophobic and mysogenistic statements on tapes in Arabic destined for the immigrant communities in Europe.

Ramadan (46), a Swiss philosopher and theologist of Egyptian descent, was hired by the city of Rotterdam two years ago to “help lift the multicultural dialogue to a higher level”. He dismissed the Gay Krant’s accusations as slander.

The city of Rotterdam has since carried out its own investigation, the results of which were presented on Wednesday. The city had 54 Arabic-language cassette tapes translated and examined. According to council executive Rik Grasshof of the Green party GroenLinks, the Gay Krant’s reporting was incomplete en inaccurate.

As a result, Ramadan’s contract with the city will be extended for another two years, during which he will lead public debates in an effort to bring the various communities in Rotterdam closer together.

The right-wing liberal party VVD, one of four coalition parties in the city government, had demanded Ramadan’s resignation following the Gay Krant’s accusations. “He can think what he wants but he cannot spread homophobic ideas in the name of the city of Rotterdam,” VVD council member Bas van Tijn said.

Van Tijn also questioned what Ramadan brought to Rotterdam. “How can someone who doesn’t speak Dutch bring the communities in Rotterdam together? Especially if that someone is constantly accused of having a double discourse?” Van Tijn asked.

Ramadan’s principal message is that Islam and European culture do not have to be at odds. He is in favour of a “European Islam” that adapts to its surroundings. But his detractors claim that Ramadan propagates far more conservative ideas in his speeches in Arabic.

Ramadan is also a guest lecturer at the Erasmus university in Rotterdam, where he teaches a course on citizenship and identity.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Justice Ministers Working on New Aliens Law

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Deputy Minister of Justice Nebahat Albayrak are working on a proposal for a law that would permit the Aliens Police to search the houses of suspected aliens for identity papers without first gaining permission from the courts. The proposed law would also permit the officers, again without permission from the courts, to search a suspect’s computer and mobile telephone for proof of his or her identity.

The ministers hope the law will help in the detection and deportation of illegal aliens.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Inspectorate Casts Doubt on Private Schools

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Not too hard to read between the lines here.]

Deputy Minister for Education, Marja van Bijsterveldt, has given private schools until 15 May to clear up doubts about whether they actually have licences to teach. A spokesman for the minister said that all private schools must in any case meet their legal educational requirements in time for the 2010/11 school year, otherwise she may withdraw their right to hold examinations.

The minister’s remarks follow a report from the Education Inspectorate which calls into question the quality of education at private secondary schools. The Inspectorate found that students obtained extremely low scores for the national final exam, with 90 percent averaging 60 percent or less. It also discovered that some new private schools have been set up without a licence and that some of the staff do not have adequate teaching qualifications.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


The Swedish Psyche — You Could Write a Book About it

What to do when you’re sick of suffering in silence, frustrated with the reserve and basically bored with the lagom way of life? Try delving into one of the many books on getting to know the Swedes. It could make for a happy-ever-after ending to your story. The Local’s Christine Demsteader opens the page on some of these socio-cultural insights.

Never judge a book by its cover, so they say. And never judge a Swede on first impressions, so many of these books will tell you.

Be cautious. It’s a national trait explored on the first page of Modern-Day Vikings (2001). Labelled as “a practical guide to interacting with the Swedes” the opening lines quote the Hávamál, verses of Old Norse poetry dating back 1,000 years.

“Praise not day until evening, no wife until buried, no sword until tested, no maid until bedded, no ice until crossed, no ale until drunk.”

The words are poetic advice for living and survival. “Historically, being cautious has worked,” says Lisa Werner Carr, an American of Swedish descent and co—author of Modern-Day Vikings. “Swedes don’t have a very compulsive culture; you see that in everyday life today — just think about the way meetings are run.”

Those of you nodding your head have already experienced, come to terms with or remain infuriated with aspects of Swedish life. Werner Carr chose to write the book she wished she’d been given on moving to Malmo in the early 90s.

“I thought it was going to be very easy for me and sometimes it was,” she says. “But I fell into every single cultural trap.” Within months her hair started to fall out, she broke out in rashes and wasn’t sleeping.

“I was suffering from classic culture shock and it had a very physical manifestation,” she adds. “Had I been prepared for things I learned the hard way, I would have adjusted better.”

It took three months for anyone at work to invite her out socially and no one offered any help. “If I’d asked, three dozen would have jumped at the chance,” she says. “They didn’t want to presume I couldn’t manage myself. That would be insulting.”

Like many who came before her, and after, Werner Carr didn’t see anything extreme about Swedish culture. Indeed, the Swedes are pretty much perceived as being as normal as they think they are. Stereotypes suggest one awaits a northern nirvana of tall blondes who sing when they speak and get quite drunk when they drink. And they even like sex.

But the idiosyncrasies of this ordinary nation have inspired a wave of literature, from jovial banter to academic thought.

Professor Åke Daun is considered to be the godfather of the Swedish soul. The former Head of the Institute of Ethnology at Stockholm University, his 1989 book Svensk Mentalitet (Swedish Mentality) was the result of a decade of research. It concluded that the Swedes are in fact shy, conflict-avoiding and, in his own words, “dull”.

“Swedes are often serious when they get together,” Daun begins. “There’s little skill in conversation and we don’t raise our voice, we don’t interrupt. We just want to exchange the same ideas and tastes.”

Daun explains why neighbours may well avoid sharing an elevator. “With people they do not know, few Swedes feel moved to talk,” he writes. “Solitude offers ease and liberation. The satisfaction so many Swedes feel when they walk on their own in the woods…derives partly from an absence of social pressure to talk and adapt to others.”

He’s pretty harsh on his countrymen, which makes for an entertaining read. But, Daun adds, his country, seemingly lacking in cultural quirks, has been replaced by a nation with a surplus of stereotypes.

“It has become immensely popular to discuss Swedishness and Swedish identity,” he says. “By writing this book I have inevitably helped to establish or reinforce these stereotypes. Many think Sweden is a good subject to study.”

Indeed, while the 80s brought cross-cultural communication to the fore, the 90s saw more immigrants crossing Swedish shores. The cultural guard had to be protected more than ever before, says Gillis Herlitz, Doctor of Ethnology and author of “Svenskar: Hur vi är och varför” (2003) (Swedes: How we are and why)

“In the 90s there were more books on Swedish culture written by Swedes than had been produced in the previous century,” he says. “I think immigration and Sweden’s EU membership is the reason — it is in confrontation with others that you have to start trying to identify yourself.”

Herlitz wrote the book for teachers of immigrants. “I talk about our notion of being modern,” he says. “We didn’t suffer like many after World War II; we were well ahead in Europe. A lot of Swedes still believe this; we are a role model for every country and we view ourselves as being very good.”

When lecturing, Herlitz asks Swedes what they think are typical national characteristics. Shy, quiet and boring usually make the top list. You see, Swedes think they’re good but they’re not allowed to say it. “Swedes have a prohibition of bragging,” he says.

“It’s absolutely forbidden to speak or think too good of yourself.” And that’s a risk for foreigners. “We don’t want to be criticised; we want people to think we are absolutely brilliant,” he adds.

But Swedes on Swedes is only half of the story. As Daun admits: “To look at yourself, and people of your own kind, your own culture from the outside is exceedingly difficult.”

Which is why others have been inspired to write their perspective. Englishman Colin Moon has been living in Sweden since 1981. The cross-cultural speaker recently updated his 2000 book “Sweden: The Secret Files.”

“It helped me come to terms with some of my own frustrations,” he says. “Swedes tend not to look behind them when they’re going through doors — that breaks my cultural upbringing. But it’s about keeping yourself to yourself — live and let live. It’s quite a nice philosophy but non-Swedes don’t know where the grey zone is between that and I don’t give a damn.”

Through his work and own experience Moon says people don’t always find it easy assimilating. “Anything that can bridge this gap is good — a link between Swedes and the rest of us,” he says.

“If a Swede had given me my book when I arrived it would have proved they do have a sense of humour — many say they don’t.”

Humour or the lack of it is one of many likely chapter headings alongside lagom, nature, equality, the weather, the rule of shoes, conflict, neutrality, being punctual, jantelagen, alcohol, sex, tax, welfare, and suicide.

For Moon, some of these common themes have become a little too common. “I’m talking about the relationship to drink, how they bring up the kids, the summer, the winter and so on,” he says.

“Of course they are an integral part of living in this country but how much can you write about Systembolaget and keep being innovative? One has to be careful not to do it in absurdum.”

Cue the explosion of blogs, internet forums and guidebooks with the word ‘xenophobe’ in the title. “Swedes don’t see that they are different or interesting to write about,” Moon says. “And suddenly there’s a plethora of books and blogs about them. But I think they quite like it really, everyone likes to think they are special.”

On her return to the US, Lisa Werner Carr co-wrote Modern-Day Vikings with cross-cultural trainer Christina Johansson Robinowitz, a Swede living in the US. The book is another search into how and why the Swedes act and react. Yet it traces typical characteristics back to Viking times.

“When people move to another country they focus on etiquette — what to do and what not to do — and that’s fine,” she says. “But when you are exasperated with Swedish culture you might not realise things are rooted back thousands of years. “It doesn’t describe everyone,” she adds. “But explains common traits which shouldn’t come as a surprise.”

Indeed, like characteristic Swedes, all these authors err on the side of … err…caution. Daun points to a new anti-lagom generation, Herlitz presents a warning in his introduction and Moon doesn’t see the avoidance of conflict from his apartment window. “I see fights and people shouting at each other — that’s modern day Sweden,” he says.

Whether culture shock is an inevitable chapter in the story of living in Sweden is somewhat autobiographical. Writing aided Werner Carr through it and Sweden remains part of her life today.

“But I will always smile too much and be uncomfortable with silence. I really wanted to have a seamless cultural experience but that’s not always possible. I’m ok with that now. I’m ok with not being Swedish.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


UK: Cops Halt ‘Reclaim Our Streets’ Demo

POLICE broke up a march yesterday by British people wanting to “reclaim” their streets from Muslim fanatics.

Officers said it was illegal to stage the protest in Luton where extremists were allowed only last month to shout abuse at troops home from Iraq.

Riot police with horses and dogs sealed off the town centre before scuffles broke out and several of the 200 demonstrators were arrested.

Last night onlookers accused the police of “breathtaking double standards”.

Sean Smith, 32, said: “I saw one guy who shouted ‘let us march’ and a policeman whacked him with his truncheon and knocked two of his teeth out.”

Hate

Organisers of the rally claimed they had intended a peaceful protest march to object to the council and police’s failure to stop hate-filled Muslims ruining last month’s Army parade.

But they were confronted by lines of riot police and penned in for two hours.

When some burst through the police ring several were hit with truncheons as frightened shoppers ran for cover.

Upholsterer Rodney Fletcher, 37, said: “The police were far too heavy-handed. It seems if you’re Muslim you can do it, but not if you’re white.

“We didn’t come for violence and the police reaction is bang out of order.”

A police spokesman said: “Police will support anybody who wishes to hold a protest if it’s held in line with public safety.

“An individual applied for permission for last month’s Muslim protest and it was granted.

“But this was an illegal protest because no one had applied for permission.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Mod Investigating British Taliban Bomber Claims

The man was identified after his DNA was found on an unexploded roadside device defused by disposal experts in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, according to The Sun.

The newspaper reported that the trace was sent to the UK for analysis and fed into a database of criminals and terror suspects.

It proved an exact match for a known Muslim extremist naturalised in England after arriving from Pakistan.

It is believed that he became radicalised in the UK before leaving for Afghanistan two years ago. The DNA find is the first physical proof of the existence of British Taliban soldiers.

Surveillance operations from the warzone have previously picked up voices talking with West Midlands and Yorkshire accents, according to official briefing documents.

Christine Bonner, whose 31-year-old son Darren died in the conflict two years ago, told The Sun: “This man has double-crossed us all.”

The 52-year-old added: “Our soldiers are out there trying to help people get a decent life. To think people like Darren get attacked by their own countrymen is sickening.”

More than 50 British personnel have been killed and more than 200 seriously wounded in Helmand by a Taliban bombing campaign launched 18 months ago.

The Ministry of Defence refused to comment on the allegations.

But a spokeswoman said: “Improvised explosive devices pose a significant threat to the safety of our forces.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Number of Women Under 25 Having Children Outstrips Those Getting Married for the First Time

More young women are having children than getting married for the first time ever, according to new official figures. The marriage rate has plunged to its lowest level for more than a century as women choose a career and the single life over settling down and starting a family, data from the Office for National Statistics show. Their Social Trends analysis reveals a huge generational shift has occurred over the last 30 years.

Back in the 70s, the majority of young women would marry in their early 20s and have babies. But the latest figures available, which cover 2006, show a record low number of couples — 237,000 — married in England and Wales. This is the lowest yearly figure since 1895. Among the older women polled for the Social Trends analysis, 80 per cent had married by the age of 25 and just over half had had their first child.

But in 2006, just 20 per cent of those of the same age had walked up the aisle and only 30 per cent were already mothers.

Couples are now delaying when they have their first child with women on average 27.5 years old, compared to 23.7 in 1971.

A quarter of households last year were childless compared to nearly a fifth in 1971. And among couples who do have children, nearly a third use grandparents as informal childcare providers because the mother is working. The decline in marriage has seen the number of Britons living alone double in the past 30 years, the figures reveal. It has also risen because people are living longer.

In 1971, just six per cent of the population lived on their own but figures from 2008 show that has now risen to 12 per cent. This equates to just over seven million people.

The largest increase is among those below the state pension age, according to the data. It also reveals many more young people are still living with their parents as they pursue higher education and battle soaring unemployment. Nearly three million people — almost a third of men between 20 and 34 and 18 per cent of women — still live at home.

This compared with 27 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women of the same age group in 2001.

Young people struggle to move out because there is a lack of affordable housing, the figures indicate. The high cost of housing was the reason eight out of 10 gave for staying at home. One in 10 said they wanted home comforts ‘without the responsibilities’. The figures are up two per cent for men and three per cent for women compared to 2001.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Teachers ‘Forced to Wear Dog Handler Armguards and Need Inoculations to Defend Against Biting Pupils’

Special school teachers face daily physical and verbal abuse from pupils, union leaders said today. There is a culture in some schools that this is simply ‘part of the job’, according to the NASUWT teaching union. Kicking, punching and biting are commonplace and teachers regularly have to go to hospital to have injuries treated. Often, teachers are buying their own protective equipment such as armguards to protect against biting, delegates at the union’s annual conference in Bournemouth heard. Geoff Branner, of the union’s executive, recounted two cases of which he was aware. In the first, a teacher was removing a pupil from a classroom when he rushed at her, kicking her in the leg, punching her on the arm and in the face. She later discovered her thumb had been broken.

Mr Branner said: ‘The pupil was given a five-day exclusion.’ The teacher told her head she wanted the incident reported to the police due to the violence of the attack, but was discouraged. When she said being violently assaulted was not part of her job, her head replied ‘it is part of the job when working in a special school’, Mr Branner said. In the second case, a teacher was attacked by a pupil who had been reprimanded for hitting a fellow student on a school trip. Mr Branner said on their return to the school the pupil ‘leapt into the air, shouted ‘I’m going to kill you’, jumped on to her back, put her in a headlock and punched her in the face’…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bosnia: Ex-Guantanamo Inmates Reunited With Families

Sarajevo, 17 Dec. (AKI) — Three Algerian men returned to their adopted homeland of Bosnia late on Tuesday after seven years in detention without charges at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The move came one month after a US judge ordered the men’s release, after rejecting government claims the men were dangerous enemy combatants.

The three men, Mustafa Ait Idir, Mohamed Nechla and Hadj Boudella, were flown to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

“Try to imagine my joy,” Idir told the media after landing in Sarajevo. “I spent seven years at the end of the world, in the worst place in the world, it’s indescribable,” he said.

After being greeted by their families, the three men were held in policy custody. Their lawyers claimed this was a formality because there was no reason for their further detention.

Sarajevo daily Dnevni avaz on Wednesday blasted former prime minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, who handed over the Algerians to the US, saying their return showed his “moral and political bankruptcy”.

Lagumdzija was an “unscrupulous” man, who should pay the financial and legal consequences of the “illegal” arrest of the Algerians, the paper said.

Some reader comments sent to the websites of Sarajevo newspapers hailed the return of the Algerians as “our heroes”, saying that “Allah’s will had won”. But others questioned what the Algerians were doing in Bosnia in the first place.

The US State Department has reportedly been negotiating with the Bosnian government over the transfer of two other Algerians freed by last month’s court ruling. They are Saber Lahmar, a former legal resident of Bosnia, and Lakhdar Boumediene, who was stripped of his citizenship during a court proceeding in Sarajevo.

Idir, Nechla, Boudella, and Boumediene were granted Bosnian citizenship after fighting on the side of local Muslims in the 1992-19985 civil war but remained in Bosnia afterwards, and married local women.

The Algerians were arrested in 2001 on suspicion that they were linked to Al-Qaeda terrorist network and were plotting terrorist attacks, including a planned bombing of the US embassy in Sarajevo.

Last month’s ruling said the US authorities could continue to detain a sixth Algerian, Belkacem Bensayah, at Guantanamo.

US president-elect Barrack Obama has said that after he takes office in January he will close down the controversial prison camp.

Guantanamo (photo) was set up in January 2002 to hold terrorism suspects captured after Al-Qaeda’s deadly 11 September 2001 attacks against US cities.

The US currently holds about 250 prisoners at Guantanamo and has released or transferred to other governments about 520 other men and teenagers previously held there.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Shoe at Bush: Algeria; Design Created With Journalist’s Name

(by Laura De Santi) (ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 17 — Gestures of solidarity for Muntazer Al Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who has now gone into the history books as the man who threw his shoe at Bush, have grown in Algeria and all over the Arab world. Some people have even ironically dedicated a model of shoe to him, or are thinking of creating a dessert for the end of the year. While Saudi prince Hasan Mhohammad Makhaffa, of the Aseer tribe, has offered 10 million dollars for the famous pair of shoes, according to Algerian newspaper Liberté, a new model of shoe has been given the name of the journalist who works for satellite channel al-Baghdadyia. The idea came from one of the many shoe factories in the small village of Toulmout in Boumerdes (60 km east of Algiers), one of the Berber regions most hit in the last year by attacks from Al Qaida for the Islamic Maghreb (formerly the Salafite group for prayer and combat), and famous for its leather goods. The news spread instantly all over Algeria where “the missed thrower” as some people call him, or the “Cinderella” of the Arab world, as he has been nicknamed in today’s cartoon by Dilem, the most well-known cartoonist in Algeria, is the main topic of conversation. Tens of blogs dedicated to the saga have mushroomed on the web while internet users in Algeria are going crazy over ‘Sock and Awe’, the latest video game where you can throw a virtual shoe at the American president. And a challenge to Algeria’s cake makers has also been launched via a blog: to make a ‘Bushausse’, the typical French new year dessert, but obviously in the shape of a shoe. Yesterday, even the President of the Commission for the promotion and protection of human rights (Cncppdh), Farouk Ksentini, and lawyer Miloud Brahimi were lining up with the “brave journalist”, inviting Algerian journalists to show their solidarity, and asking journalists to join the 200 ready to defend Al Zaidi for no fee. The young journalist has been in prison since last Monday and according to Iraqi law, risks up to seven years in prison for “aggression against a foreign head of state”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza Kids Art Proves Israeli War Crimes: Activist

A Gaza child draws a picture showing the Arab world, U.S. and UN watch as Israel kills Palestine

A picture speaks louder than a thousands words, says a U.K. peace campaigner trapped in Gaza for helping its children express the horrors they experienced in the latest Israeli offensive through artistic drawings that he plans to take global as evidence of war crimes through children’s eyes.

For 63-year-old peace campaigner Rod Cox, what started as a small project to collect samples of children’s drawings depicting Israeli war crimes in Gaza has ballooned into a cultural and artistic exchange project linking Palestinian school children with their British counterparts.

Dramatic new evidence of Israeli attacks on the people of Gaza emerged when Cox handed children in Gaza paper, pencils and crayons and asked them to express themselves and speak their minds.

Rod Cox is set to present these portraits among others as evidence of war crimes committed against Gaza civilians to the International Criminal Court, which in a ground-breaking move in the case of Darfur, used children’s art as credible proof to start proceedings against Sudanese government officials accused of committing war crimes.

“Children’s witness statements and explanations of what they went through is a significant and important source in a case like Gaza,” said Cox.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Mitchell Confirms, U.S. Wants Two States

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The United States believes that the solution to the problems in the Middle East must be found with the principle of the “two states”, confirmed George Mitchell today in his meetings with the leaders of Algeria and Morocco. Mitchell is Barack Obama’s personally chosen envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell is scheduled to visit Jerusalem on Thursday. He told Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika today that the two state solution is the only solution that can guarantee Israelis and Palestinians the possibility to “live side by side in peace and prosperity”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

In the Age of Pirates

I’ve been thinking lately of starting a new school of foreign service to train U.S. diplomats. My school, though, would be very simple. It would consist of a single classroom with a desk and a chair. At the desk would be a teacher, pretending to be a foreign leader. The student would come in and have to persuade the foreign leader to do something — to pull this or that lever. At one point, the foreign leader would nod vigorously in agreement and then reach behind him and pull the lever — and it would come off the wall in his hands. Or, he would nod vigorously and say, “Yes, yes, of course, I will pull that lever,” but then would only pretend to do so.

The student would then have to figure out what to do next. …

I’m wondering if President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aren’t those students, trying to deal with the leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. I say that not to criticize but to sympathize. “Mama, don’t let your children grow up to be diplomats.”

This is not the great age of diplomacy.

A secretary of state can broker deals only when other states or parties are ready or able to make them. In the cold war, an age of great powers, grand bargains and reasonably solid client states, there were ample opportunities for that — whether in arms control with the Soviet Union or peacemaking between our respective client states around the globe. But this is increasingly an age of pirates, failed states, nonstate actors and nation-building — the stuff of snipers, drones and generals, not diplomats.

Hence the déjà vu all over again quality of U.S. foreign policy right now — the sense that when it comes to our major problems (Afghanistan and Pakistan and North Korea and Iran), we just go around and around, buying the same carpets from the same people, over and over, but nothing changes.

“We are dealing with states and leaders who either cannot deliver or will not deliver,” notes the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy professor Michael Mandelbaum. “The issues we have with them look less like problems that can be solved and more like conditions that we have to manage.”

The ones who can’t deliver — the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan — are the ones who promise to do all sorts of good things, and pull all sorts of levers, but at the end of the day the levers come off the wall because the governments in these countries have only limited powers. The ones who won’t deliver — Iran and North Korea — time and again tell us: “Yes, we need to talk.” But at the end of the day, their hostile relationships with America or the West are so central to the survival strategy of their regimes, so much at the core of their justifications for remaining in power, that it is not in their interest to deliver real reconciliation, but just to pretend to deliver it.

The only thing that could change this is a greater exercise of U.S. and allied power. In the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan, that power would have to be used to actually rebuild these states from the inside into modern nations. We would literally have to build the institutions — the pulleys and wheels — so that when the leaders of these states pulled a lever something actually happened, and the lever wouldn’t just break off in their hands.

And in the case of the strong states — Iran and North Korea — we would have to generate much more effective leverage from the outside to get them to change their behavior along the lines we seek. In both cases, though, success surely would require a bigger and longer U.S. investment of money and power, not to mention allies.

Instead, I fear that we are adopting a middle-ground strategy — doing just enough to avoid collapse but not enough to solve the problems. If our goal in Afghanistan and Pakistan is nation-building, so they will have self-sustaining moderate governments, we surely don’t have enough troops or resources inside devoted to either. If our goal is changing regime behavior in Iran and North Korea, we surely have not generated enough leverage from outside. North Korea’s defiant missile launch and Iran’s continued development of its nuclear capability testify to that.

So, in sum, we have four problem countries at the heart of U.S. foreign policy today that we don’t have the will or ability to ignore but seem to lack the leverage or the allies to decisively change. The big wild card — a critical mass of people who share our aspirations inside these countries, rising up and leading the fight, which is ultimately what tipped Iraq for the better — I don’t see. As such, I fear we are sliding into commitments in Afghanistan and Pakistan without a real national debate about the ends or the means or the exits. That is a recipe for trouble.

Given all that is on his plate, you cannot blame President Obama for looking for a middle ground — not wanting to abandon progressives and women in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not wanting to get in too deeply. But history teaches that the middle ground can be a perilous place. Think of Iraq before the surge — not enough to win or lose, but just enough to be stuck.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Police Arrest Former General for Spying for Israel

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 14 — Lebanese police have arrested a retired general of the security services over suspected espionage for Israel, Lebanese media reported today Quoting anonymous security sources, Beirut’s al Akhbar daily said that the top official from the Lebanese General Surete, who was arrested last Saturday, and identified only as Adib A., served until 1998. He confessed during interrogations to having “collaborated with enemy intelligence services (Israel) for over ten years” after his retirement. Sources added that general Adib A., who is from the Christian village of Rmeish close to the Blue Line demarcation between Israel and Lebanon, also revealed that he met his Israeli contacts “regularly in Europe”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terrorism: Turkey; Al Qaeda Accused for US Consulate Attack

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 17 — Two Turkish men, detained since July for carrying out a deadly attack on the US consulate in Istanbul, will stand trial on charges of alleged membership to al Qaeda, Dogan news agency reported. Court documents showed the two could face jail terms between 7.5 and 15 years. It is not clear what role the two suspects have allegedly played or what kind of relationship they might have with al Qaeda. Three attackers and three Turkish policemen were killed on July 9th in an attack on a police guard post at the main entrance of the well-fortified US consulate in Istanbul. Officials labeled the attack as an “act of terrorism” but the charges signal the investigation led to al Qaeda as the organization that carried out the attack. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Erdogan, I Do Not Support Apologies to Armenians

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 17 — Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan said today that he did not accept or support the campaign recently launched by a group of Turkish intellectuals and academicians aiming to apologize to Armenians for the incidents of 1915. “They might have committed such a crime themselves, as they are apologizing now. Republic of Turkey does not have such a concern. One can apologize if there is a crime necessitating such an apology. Neither my country, nor my nation has such concerns,” Erdogan said adding that it was unacceptable to support such a campaign just because it was launched by intellectuals. “I personally do not accept, support or participate in this campaign,” he said. Erdogan also said that he could not understand the approach of the intellectuals, adding that such kind of initiatives could only create chaos and destroy peace. “I find it unreasonable to apologize when there is no reason,” he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: First Draft of the ‘Basbug Doctrine’

ISTANBUL — In a rare speech yesterday, Turkey’s top general outlined the renewed doctrine of the Turkish Armed Forces, including various “firsts” dealing with some of the most sensitive issues in the country.

ISTANBUL — In a rare speech yesterday, Turkey’s top general outlined the renewed doctrine of the Turkish Armed Forces, including various “firsts” dealing with some of the most sensitive issues in the country.

lker Basbug suggested ways

First draft of the ‘Basbug doctrine’ Speaking yesterday at the War Academy in Istanbul, Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug suggested ways to build healthy relations between the military and the government, used the phrase “the people of Turkey” instead of “Turks,” stated that cultural identities should be protected and emphasized that the military has never been opposed to religion, only its abuse by politicians.

Contrary to expectations, Basbug’s speech did not address the Ergenekon investigation, which has seen dozens of officers and retired generals arrested due to their alleged links with an organization aiming to topple the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government between the years 2003 and 2004. Basbug said, however, he would publicize his opinions on current issues in another press conference next week in Ankara..

“I will try to look into the issues of civil-military ties, the fight against terrorism, democracy and secularism from an academic perspective,” Basbug said at the beginning of his speech, in which he referred to prominent international philosophers and writers including Samuel Huntington, Max Weber and Montesquieu.

After explaining that being a soldier is a profession and constitutes a way of life for officers, Basbug touched on the importance of confidence and reliability between civilian and military leaders.

“In each country, the decision-making mechanisms and the sharing of authority and responsibility between the military and civilians are executed in line with the country’s constitution and rules,” he said. “The political and institutional culture, the security environment and social perception determine this process. That is why the military-civilian ties in a specific country should be analyzed in accordance with the country’s specific conditions.”

The civilian-military relationship in Turkey is often problematic, with the powerful military frequently interfering in politics, staging coups in 1961, 1972 and 1980. The European Union has pressed Turkey to harmonize its rules with those of the EU, finding unsatisfactory the steps the government has taken thus far to decrease the military’s influence in politics.

“The responsibilities of the military leaders are important,” Basbug said, emphasizing that “the concerns and recommendations of the military should be taken into consideration by the civilian authority.”

“This is the key point in maintaining healthy relations between military and civilian leaders,” he said. “Of course, the final decision belongs to the civilian authority. However, politicians would be responsible for any outcomes that may emerge from a failure to consider sincere and realistic recommendations made by the military.”

Most trusted institution

Noting that the military always ranks atop the most trusted institutions in Turkey, Basbug drew attention to the efforts of two groups that are trying to undermine the military’s credibility. According to Basbug, ill-intentioned groups are carrying out smear campaigns against the military to try and paint the army as anti-democratic and anti-religion.

“The pious parts of our country love their army and trust it,” he said. “The army of the Turkish people is the nation itself. It comes from the nation and is for the nation.”

In the second part of his speech, Basbug looked into the fight against terrorism and emphasized that the struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, was not an ethnic conflict. Underlining that the Kurds of this country live together with the rest of the nation and share a common future, Basbug also denied that the state was implementing an assimilation policy.

“Let’s remember what Atatürk said: ‘It’s the people of Turkey that founded the Republic of Turkey.’ If you say, ‘the Turks’ the whole meaning will fade away. Who founded the Republic of Turkey? The people of Turkey. Atatürk is pointing at all parts of the nation. No ethnic and religious distinction. If he had used the word ‘Turk’ instead of the people of Turkey than it would be an ethnic definition,” he said.

There is nothing wrong with Kurds asking to enjoy their cultural rights but the appeal of the secondary identity should not dominate the common and upper identity, Basbug said. “You cannot get a solution if you just embrace your secondary identity,” he said.

“If we have some integration problems today, we have to ask ourselves about them. To what extent can we be successful in the integration process? Without barring them, the process should allow integrating all cultural identities.”

The top general said the secondary identities, what he calls cultural freedoms, should be protected. “But we cannot create new upper identities or minorities. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves in the position of Iraq, Lebanon and some Balkan countries,” he said.

Basbug’s remarks came a week after U.S. President Barack Obama called Kurds minorities in his address to Parliament. But Basbug also said the state should work more in East and Southeast Anatolia to create a window of opportunity for Kurds.

In the last part of his speech, Basbug talked about the secularism principle of the state and its importance for democracy. He recalled Obama’s address to Parliament where he praised Atatürk and said: “His greatest legacy is Turkey’s strong and secular democracy, and that is the work that this assembly carries on today.”

Describing Obama’s praise for the Turkish model as something more than an effort to be sympathetic to Turks, he said it was actually an attempt to solve the problems of the United States in the international arena. “Turkey’s power is its democratic and secular structure,” he said. “Secularism is the fundamental pillar of the founding philosophy [of Turkey]. A modern republic can only be possible with democracy,” he said.

Responding to the claims by religious groups, Basbug said: “The military has never been against religion. What we oppose is the abuse of religion for personal and political interests,” he said. “Arguing that secularism is against religion and saying the military is an anti-religion institution is the gravest unfairness against Atatürk and his military.”

Basbug also affirmed that the military would forever protect the Republic’s main pillars of secularism and democracy. “We would have no single problem if we would all embrace Article 24 of our Constitution,” he said. This article bars the abuse of religion for political gains.

Religious-based communities gain power

Basbug repeated his views on the growing impacts of the religious-based communities on the social and economic life. “Today some of these religious-based communities consider themselves as political actors and think they can strengthen their positions. This is wrong. These sorts of communities are targeting the military to reach their goals,” he said.

Basbug informed the audience about the current situation in the fight against the PKK. “The PKK is no longer able to operate freely in northern Iraq and are struggling with internal conflict,” he said. “The separatist terror group is now losing blood.”

The PKK can no longer move about in large groups in Turkey or in the largely autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and is experiencing command and control problems, Basbug said, adding that the PKK was also being hampered by measures to cut off financial resources in Europe. “There are problems in the leadership of the group. The group’s morale is low. Its recruiting level is not at the level sought by the group and people continue to abandon it,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Turkey Says Obama’s Messages to Muslim World Promote Greater Unity

ISTANBUL — The Turkish president said Wednesday that messages delivered by U.S. President Barack Obama in Turkey create a positive atmosphere that pave the way for unity among Muslim and Arab countries.

Obama’s messages to the Muslim world created a positive atmosphere in the world, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said in a speech to Bahrain’s parliament.

“In this respect, the time is right for the entire world, especially the Muslim world and Arab countries, to voice their opinions in unity,” Gul, the first foreign statesman to address the Bahraini parliament, was quoted by Anatolian Agency as saying.

Trying to repair America’s damaged image abroad, Obama said on a visit to Turkey earlier this month that the United States was not at war with Islam.

Gul said that changes in U.S. foreign policy, initiated by the Obama administration, were valuable and that it was now right time to openly voice their opinions to the world.

The Turkish president said the Muslim world should remove divisions and differences of opinion as soon as possible, and added that Turkey, as a European Union candidate country, could express the concerns and views of the Muslim world in the EU.

Nuclear arms-free Mideast

Gul also called for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, hoping that a U.S.-Russian pledge to join forces to eradicate nuclear weapons will encourage the region.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have pledged to seek a deal by July on cutting their nuclear arsenals, work for a nuclear-free world and coordinate policy on Iran and North Korea.

“The Middle East should be a zone free of weapons of mass destruction,” Reuters quoted Gul as telling the Bahrain’s parliament.

“We are going through times where hopes for multilateral diplomacy to weigh in once again are on the rise. That is why I take the new U.S. administration’s statements on disarmament and the joint statement by presidents Obama and Medvedev early this month very seriously,” he added.

Gul called on all countries in the Middle East to sign up to international arrangements for the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea also have declared nuclear weapons. Israel is widely understood to have a nuclear arsenal but maintains a policy of ambiguity.

Iran is suspected by Western powers of wanting to join the club. Tehran however says its nuclear program is only for the generation of electricity. There is concern that Iran’s nuclear power program will spur a proliferation drive in the Middle East.

Turkey has relaunched a push to help solve regional conflicts ranging from Iran to the Israel-Syria peace talks. It has also offered to help end the standoff between the West and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“Turkey has always pointed out that any solution to the issue of the Iranian nuclear program should be found through diplomacy and peaceful means,” Gul said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Russia

Lenin’s Larceny and How Russian Gold Curbed Western Governments’ Scruples

BOOK OF THE DAY: MAURICE EARLS reviews History’s Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks By Sean McMeekin

UNLIKE BRIAN Lenihan [Irish Minister for Finance — io’p], Vladimir Ilyich Lenin didn’t flinch when it came to nationalising the banks. He did it straight away. He had deposed the Romanovs and was about to descend on the hated bourgeoisie but he still had to pay his bills, particularly the wages of those handy Latvian riflemen who made the whole thing possible.

It is hardly surprising that quite soon he found it necessary to send down to the Russian State Bank for 10 million roubles.

It turned out the old Tsarist bankers were tougher than our lot. The messengers were turned away after being told they hadn’t filled out the right forms. Shortly afterwards, they all went on strike. This left VI scratching his head. It was not what he had in mind when he seized absolute power.

Bolsheviks who didn’t know how banks worked went in and tried to find the money. They found some, but not enough.

Lenin needed lots and lots of money to buy weapons in the West to kill those misguided Russians who failed to appreciate the simple fact that the wheel of history had been speeded up.

It was time to turn on the rich. All valuables were declared forfeit. The homes of the wealthy were raided and an enormous mountain of jewellery, antiques, painting, rugs and ornaments was collected. It was not possible to impose income tax as no one had an income. Following nationalisation, the economy ground to a halt. The Leninists had put a great deal of energy into revolutionary theory, but had omitted to address the question of establishing a functioning economy overnight.

The financial needs of the Bolsheviks were growing. If they didn’t get vital military equipment from the West, the revolution might collapse. They also needed chocolate and Rolls-Royce parts for the new elite. The only source was the wealth already in Russia, owned by the aristocracy, the middle classes, the church and the comfortable peasantry. Sean McMeekin’s valuable book tells the story of how these groups were robbed and how Russian gold overcame — with impressive speed — the scruples of western governments who, in exchange for the valuable metal, provided the soviets with the means to consolidate Leninist power.

The attack on the church involved the appropriation of icons, crosses and other sacred items made of precious stones and metals. Jewels were pulled from thousands of icons executed in the exquisite Orthodox Byzantine tradition; the surrounding metal was then hammered into blocks.

Of all the property stolen by the Bolsheviks, the crushed icons proved least valuable. The stones and metals used in their construction were of a fairly low grade. Those who, in their lamentable ignorance, sought to defend their churches and icons incensed Trotsky and were met with Red Army violence.

In addition to nationalising property and declaring all domestic debt void, Lenin repudiated Russia’s foreign loans.

Capitalist ethics forbade trade under those circumstances and required that if the Russians sent gold abroad it had to be seized and turned over to the owners of Tsarist debt. This moral bulwark proved short-lived. The Swedes immediately offered themselves as a clearing house for Russian gold. Others quickly followed including, in due course, Britain.

Whereas Lloyd George had no difficulty, Churchill was initially horrified at the idea of doing business with the Bolsheviks.

Furiously searching for words to convey his feelings he declared: “You might as well legalise sodomy.” A little later he relented (on Bolshevism), perhaps feeling in the words of Brian Lenihan senior that his was now “the party of practical socialism”.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Mob Pelts Women Protesters With Stones

Kabul, 15 April (AKI) — A thousand-strong Afghan mob on Wednesday pelted with stones some 300 women protesting against a new conservative marriage law which critics say legalises rape. The women were pelted with small stones as police struggled to keep the mob apart from the demonstrators, reports said.

The demonstrators were mostly young women but the mob was made up of men and women, who also shouted counter-chants, including: “Death to the slaves of the Christians!”

The law was passed last month, sparking international outrage. It allows a husband to demand sex with his wife every four days unless she is ill or would be harmed by intercourse.

It regulates the personal status of the country’s minority Shia community members, including relations between men and women, divorce and property rights.

The law denies Afghan Shia women the right to leave their homes except for ‘legitimate’ purposes, and forbids them from working or receiving education without their husbands’ express permission.

It weakens mothers’ rights in the event of a divorce. And it makes it impossible for wives to inherit houses and land from their husbands, although husbands can inherit property from their wives.

Governments and rights groups from around the world have decried the law as a backward step for Afghanistan, although it would only apply the country’s Shias, who make up 10-20 pecent of its 30 million population.

The government of Afghan president Hamid Karzai has said the law is being reviewed by the country’s justice department and will not be implemented in its current form.

It has has sparked uproar among human rights activists, who say it marks a return to the oppression women experienced under the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001.

Shia supporters of the law say that foreigners are interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and that its controversial articles have been misinterpreted by foreigners.

Amid an increasingly violent Taliban-led insurgency, gunmen on Sunday shot dead Afghanistan’s leading women’s rights activist, Sitara Achikzai, in the southeast province of Kandahar.

In September 2006, the leading Afghan official working on women’s rights, Safia Amajan, was also shot dead in Kandahar.

During their brutal rule of Afghanistan, the Taliban required women to wear burqas (photo), garments that entirely cover the face and body. They banned women from leaving home unaccompanied by a male relative and from working outside their homes. Girls were not allowed to go to school.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Mugabe Guard Roughs Up Riksdag Member

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Reminds me of those incidents in Hong Kong just a couple months back.]

A Swedish parliamentarian’s decision to snap a couple of pictures of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe did not sit well with the president’s bodyguards.

Riksdag member Fredrik Schulte of the Moderate Party was visiting a bookstore in Singapore when Mugabe’s entourage entered the shop.

The 27-year-old Swedish politician managed to take two pictures from a distance of about five metres before a woman near Mugabe reacted.

Someone who Schulte believed to be one of Mugabe’s bodyguards threw the Swede up against a bookshelf and forced him to erase the pictures.

Upon returning to Sweden on Tuesday, Schulte turned over his camera’s memory card to Riksdag IT-support staff for examination.

As he didn’t take any more pictures following the incident, the images can most likely be recovered.

When reached by the TT news agency, Schulte was at a loss to explain why he decided to take a picture of a man considered to be one of Africa’s most brutal dictators.

“I really don’t know why [I photographed him]. It’s just one of those things that happens,” Schulte said.

“When you realize you’re standing next to the Hitler of our time, the camera comes out.”

Schulte added that he would “bet his life” that the man he photographed was Mugabe.

The 85-year-old president of Zimbabwe leads a country suffering from a severe economic crisis. Nevertheless, last winter it became known that Mugabe had purchased a luxury home in Hong Kong for around 50 million kronor ($6 million).

He owns several expensive homes throughout Asia and his wife Grace has taken a number of shopping trips to the region in recent years, including visits to Hong Kong and Bangkok.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: ANP Spurns American Reservations

Adeel asks US not to interfere in Pakistan’s internal affairs

PESHAWAR: The Awami National Party (ANP) has rejected any foreign concern against the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in Malakand Division and said that the step was purely aimed at bringing peace to the region.

“We don’t care about any outside concern. Our people are killed and we suffered great losses. We have made serious endeavours to restore peace in Swat. It is our problem and we will never allow the US to interfere in our internal affairs,” said Senator Haji Mohammad Adeel, acting ANP president, in an interview with The News here Tuesday.

He said those expressing concerns and reservations over the Swat peace agreement and Nizam-e-Adl Regulation should realise the gravity of the situation. “Our children were killed. The government had lost its writ. Schools burnt and infrastructure destroyed,” he said.

The prolonged military operation had failed to deliver desired results. It was necessary to bring peace back to the region and talks were the best way for the purpose, he said. “Let me make it clear we have not made any agreement with Taliban. We reached an agreement with Sufi Mohammad-led Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) that worked as middleman in the entire peace deal,” Adeel remarked.

He urged the media not to intermix the previous peace deal that had been reached with the Taliban and the fresh one inked with the TNSM. “The TNSM assured us that they would disarm the militants when Nizam-e-Adl Regulation is implemented. It also assured the militants of ensuring implementation of the regulation,” he said.

He said it was a blessing of Almighty Allah that the ANP, a known nationalist and progressive political force, is implementing a system that was the longstanding demand of the people. “We have not introduced something new. It is the same regulation drafted by Iqbal Haider when he was the federal law minister in 1994, which were reintroduced in 1999. And now we have implemented that system with slight amendments,” he said.

The ANP leader was quite optimistic about the success of the agreement, saying that it would certainly help restore peace in the region. The agreement would also control the creeping of militancy into other districts, he added.

He avoided casting doubts on the role of the army, saying that there might be some problems with the security forces due to which they could not succeed in maintenance of the writ of the government despite two-year long operation. “I think our army is not properly trained for guerrilla warfare. I think they are specifically trained against India for fighting in the plain areas,” he argued.

Adeel condemned the growing drone attacks in the tribal areas. “It is a blatant violation of our sovereignty. We condemn it. Innocent people are being killed in these attacks and collateral damages are suffered,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Collective Wisdom?

The Nizam-e-Adl, establishing Qazi courts and enforcing Sharia, is now the law in Malakand Division. A region making up the state of Pakistan has moved beyond the established law of the land, as laid down in the Constitution. The extremist militants who threaten every aspect of our way of life have succeeded in having their demands fully met. The tactics of blackmail and coercion, and the open threat to MNAs who opposed the regulation from the Taliban, have paid off. There was almost no opposition; the ‘liberals’ voted with the right-wing representatives of religious parties. Who knows what impact this precedent will have in the future and how it will shape our destiny. In what seems to have been a savvy political move on the part of the president to parry pressure from the ANP to sign the resolution and from the US not to do so, the issue was placed before parliament. The ANP’s objection to this seeking of collective wisdom seems illogical. On major issues the representatives of people should decide.

As it were, the fears of the party from NWFP that the PPP may block the move proved unfounded. In a clear cut verdict, all major parties voted for the resolution; the PPP and the PML-N vocally supported it. Only the MQM made its opposition to the resolution known as a party, walking out of the NA proceeding. One brave MNA from Chakwal alone placed conscience over party loyalty or personal safety and opposed an accord signed under the shadow of guns. So, we have the majority verdict. The NA indeed went so far as to recommend the president sign the resolution. This he has done, glad no doubt that the sole responsibility for so controversial a piece of legislature was taken out of his hands.

But is the majority always right? Has it in this case acted wisely? Or has the herd instinct and fear overtaken the capacity to think rationally and sensibly. Much like the fable involving the emperor and his invisible ‘new clothes’, it seems no one is ready to call a spade a spade and remove the veneer of religion from the accord which has been cleverly used by the Taliban to render it apparently sacrosanct. This is a familiar tactic used on many occasions particularly since the time of the late General Ziaul Haq. We need to ask questions as to what the Shariah law will achieve. Will it in any way help to tackle militancy or will it encourage the elements who promote it? In Swat recruitment by the militants has been stepped up. Boys who no longer have schools to go to, and are not permitted to play cricket or hear music, are being brought in to madressahs run by the men of Maulana Fazalullah to wage ‘jihad’. The reign of the extremists continues. Whose ends will this process serve? Where will it take us? It also seems likely that the overwhelming success of the Swat militants will encourage others to follow their lead. In the past the militants have extracted the maximum possible advantage from any concession granted to them. It seems likely they will do so again. Already, calls to impose Shariah have been heard from Bajaur. The same demand will, no doubt, come in from other places too — and one day our parliament, as it attempts to legislate for a state spinning out of central control, may have to face up to the consequences of what their action has led to.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Pakistan Red Mosque Cleric Granted Bail: Lawyer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistan’s supreme court on Wednesday granted bail to the deposed chief cleric of Islamabad’s radical Red Mosque, who was captured two years ago during a bloody siege, his lawyer said.

“A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court granted bail to Maulana Abdul Aziz. He will be released on a surety bond worth 200,000 rupees (2,482 US dollars),” lawyer Shaukat Siddiqui told reporters.

Aziz is being detained in a house in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, having been earlier moved out of prison.

He was accused of abetting the seizure of a children’s library near the Red Mosque.

The lawyer said that it was the last case pending against him and that the court observed that “bail cannot be withheld on mere charges of abetment”.

“It observed that there is no such material which should deprive him bail,” he added.

His bail pleas on a number of other cases had already been accepted and Aziz would be released after the bail bond was furnished, Siddiqui said.

The cleric was arrested after government forces besieged and stormed the mosque in July 2007, killing more than 100 people because Al-Qaeda militants were allegedly holed up inside the building and an adjacent girls’ school.

He was captured trying to flee the building dressed in a woman’s burka.

The mosque was reopened on the supreme court’s order three months after the bloody raid in which Aziz’s brother Abdul Rashid Ghazi was also killed.

The mosque operation unleashed a wave of revenge suicide attacks across Pakistan that have left more than 1,700 people dead. Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network also called on Pakistani Muslims last year to avenge the military raid.

Militants said to be loyal to the Red Mosque have been blamed for some of those attacks, especially a number of blasts in Islamabad, although most have been attributed to Pakistani Taliban rebels.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Militants Enjoy Immunity From Law: TNSM

ISLAMABAD: The chief of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi came up with an audacious interpretation of the Nizam-i-Adl regulation on Tuesday, asserting that the law would protect militants accused of brutal killings from prosecution.

The assertion highlights the dilemma facing the government as it seeks to halt 18 months of bloodletting in the Swat Valley while convincing the nation, and the West, that it is not capitulating to militants.

Asked on Tuesday in a television interview whether the new courts would hear complaints from Swat residents about Mullah Fazlullah or his followers, Sufi Mohammad said they could not.

‘We intend to bury the past,’ the TNSM chief told a private television channel, sitting off-screen. ‘Past things will be left behind and we will go for a new life in peace.’

Asked if the Taliban would enjoy such immunity, an NWFP minister only pleaded for calm so that peace could take hold.

‘Everyone should understand what we have gone through and what kind of hardship people in Swat have suffered,’ Wajid Ali Khan said. ‘We can look into any disputes and controversy at some later stage.’

A spokesman for the Taliban said the militants would cooperate if the law was quickly implemented. ‘The world will see how much peace and prosperity comes to this region,’ Muslim Khan said.

Sufi Mohammad said his followers would tour all districts of Malakand, including Buner, to ‘ensure peace.’ He also said the courts would interpret civil rights according to Islamic strictures.

‘Women will have full protection and rights under Sharia. They will live a better life, but behind the veil,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Swat Taliban have ‘banned’ display of weapons in bazaars, urban areas and even their Imamdheri centre, saying there is no need of taking up arms if ‘Shariat’ is enforced in letter and spirit.

The decision was taken on an appeal of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi chief Sufi Mohammad, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told journalists.

He said the Taliban had achieved their goal and they were ready to cooperate for quick implementation of the Nizam-i-Adl regulation. The spokesman praised President Asif Ali Zardari and members of the National Assembly for their quick decision about the regulation.

He expressed the hope that the law would soon be implemented in letter and spirit.

Talking to Dawn at the TNSM headquarters in Amandara, Sufi Mohammad said there was no justification of Taliban activities in Malakand region after the ‘enforcement of Shariat.’

He said the Taliban should stop their activities and all decisions would now be taken by qazi courts.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Singapore: ‘Very Firm’ With Protestors

SINGAPORE will be ‘very firm’ in dealing with those who engage in civil disobedience during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit here. Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng gave this warning on Wednesday night when he explained the need for a strong approach during the November meetings.

‘As many important heads of state and government will be here for the Apec Summit, we have to anticipate that it may attract terrorist interest,’ said Mr Wong, who is also the Home Affairs Minister.

‘This is why we have to be very firm with protestors and anarchists who may engage in acts of violence, or deliberately cause law and order problems.

‘We cannot afford to be distracted from our graver mission of ensuring the security of the event, the delegates and Singaporeans against terrorists.’

US President Barack Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao are among the leaders expected at the Summit.

Mr Wong’s speech, at the promotion ceremony for Internal Security Department (ISD) officers, comes two days after Parliament passed the Public Order Act.

The new Act will give the police more effective powers in dealing with public order problems.

On Wednesday night, Mr Wong stressed that these laws would be implemented firmly.

His remarks put on notice foreigners intending to cause a scene here during Apec or to instigate Singaporeans to break the law through acts like staging street protests, as well as what he called a group of ‘irresponsible and selfish’ people here.

Said Mr Wong: ‘In Singapore, it is only a tiny group of irresponsible and selfish individuals who have been pushing this line of civil disobedience.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Calls Up Its First Black Athlete

A 19-year-old volleyball player from the eastern city of Hangzhou has become the first black athlete to be called up to represent China, triggering fierce curiosity among his compatriots.

Ding Hui, who is affectionately nicknamed Xiao Hei, or Little Black, by his team mates, was included in the national team’s new 18-man training squad.

The son of a South African father and a Chinese mother, Ding is expected to play a key role in China’s push for gold at the London Olympics in 2012.

However, despite the fact that he was born in China and only speaks Mandarin and his city’s local dialect, his elevation has stirred up some racial prejudices among his countrymen.

Commentators have noted that he has a “pleasant and perky nature” and is talented at “singing and dancing”. On Chinese internet forums, he has been lauded for the “whiteness” of his teeth and the “athleticism of his genes”.

China’s black population is tiny, and attitudes remain relatively unsophisticated. One predominately African suburb in the southern city of Guangzhou is cheerfully referred to as “Chocolate City”.

In the run-up to last year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, large numbers of blacks were rounded up by police on suspicion of being drug dealers.

However, the black population is growing rapidly. Since 2003, when China started pouring investments into Africa, there has been a significant movement of Africans in the opposite direction. Guangzhou authorities believe there are now 100,000 Africans from Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Liberia and Mali in the city, and the flow is growing by 30 to 40 per cent annually.

Mr Ding told the Shanghai Wenhui newspaper that “people seem to care more about my heritage and appearance, but all I want to do is to play good volleyball”. Referring to China’s policy of drafting foreigners to boost its teams, he added: “I am not a foreign aid. I want to be included.”

Li Shiping, the captain of the volleyball team, said the players had been irritated by the gawping of the Chinese media. “I had hoped the press would not dig out the boy’s African heritage or his family details but instead focus on his skills and performance,” he said, adding that there would be no chance to see Ding until a press conference next week.

           — Hat tip: El Inglés[Return to headlines]


China Bought More U.S. Securities Even Amid Concerns

Still, the governor of thePeople’s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, last month urged the establishment of a “super- sovereign reserve currency” after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said he’s “worried” a weaker U.S. dollar may hurt China’s investment. The U.S. needs China to sustain its purchases to fund billions’ worth of programs aimed at reviving the economy, about 70 percent of which reflects consumer spending.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

NZ: Father Beaten Over Parenting Skills

A solo father beaten unconscious and hit with an axe in front of his children was attacked by three people who took issue with his “parenting skills”.

Police say the 50-year-old was having dinner on Monday at his home in Waihi with his three daughters, aged 12, 13 and 14, when two men and a woman allegedly barged in. One was carrying the axe.

Detective Glenn Tinsley of Waihi police said the group confronted the solo father about his “parenting skills” before he was assaulted.

The offenders were not known to the man and nothing was taken from the house.

The man was left with a broken jaw and injured ribs after being hit with the blunt end of the axe, punched in the head and kicked several times.

“All this occurred in full view of his obviously distraught daughters,” Mr Tinsley said.

The father was taken to Waikato Hospital but has since been released.

Police did not know what prompted the attack but the offenders had been identified.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Attorneys File Suit in Germany on Behalf of Alleged Pirates

In the latest dispute over the European Union’s anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, lawyers representing two suspects being detained in Kenya have filed suits against the German government. They want Berlin to foot the bill for the suspects’ defense and ensure they are given a fair trial.

Two suspected pirates detained by German naval forces in a mission off the coast of Somalia on March 3, who were later turned over to Kenyan officials for prosecution, are now suing the government in Berlin for a fair trial.

Attorneys for the men filed a suit on Tuesday demanding that the German government pay for the men’s defense and provide support to a group of suspected pirates currently being held in the Shimo La Tewa prison in Mombasa.

In two separate cases filed in two Berlin courts, lawyers representing the defendants are arguing that the German government is responsible for ensuring that the men receive a fair trial. After their capture by German armed forces, the two suspected pirates were handed over to Kenya for prosecution. The lawyers are also demanding they be provided with support from the German embassy in Kenya for two of the nine suspects in custody.

The two detainees belong to a group of nine suspected pirates who attempted to hijack the MV Courier cargo ship, which is operated by a Hamburg-based shipping company that flies under the flags of Antigua and Barbuda and has a mostly Filipino crew. As they were intercepted by a German navy frigate on March 3, the men allegedly fired at the ship using Kalashnikovs and a rocket propelled grenade. After a chase, the men were captured and turned over to Kenyan authorities.

The Kenyans were given jurisdiction for prosecuting the men as the result of a hastily negotiated treaty between Kenya and the European Union. The countries involved in the Atalanta anti-piracy mission knew the arrests could lead to very complicated legal procedures in Europe because of murky jurisdiction in cases that occur in international waters, so they convinced the Kenyans to take responsibility for suspects. In exchange, the EU agreed to give the Kenyans speed boats, helicopters and two modern fire trucks.

But it’s precisely that agreement that prompted this week’s lawsuit. The EU-Kenya deal stipulates that Nairobi guarantee the proceedings agains the suspects “observe the right to a fair trial.” Concretely, the deal also stipulates that suspects have the right to an attorney. If they can’t afford this on their own, they are to be provided with a lawyer “free of charge.” The problem though, the suspect pirates’ attorneys argue, is that this isn’t automatically guaranteed by the Kenyan legal system. Germany, they claim, must step in and make sure that this happens.

The lawyers claim that during a recent visit to Kenya, they were provided with only minimal support by the German embassy and that Kenyan authorities refused to provide them with access to their clients or court documents pertaining to the case.

Attorney Schulz said the prisoners were the German government’s responsibility, even if Kenya has taken custody of them. “An unfair trial in Kenya would spoil promises made by the German government that rule of law would be adhered to,” he said.

The German Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on the suits. However, a diplomatic source within the ministry said there was concern about the case. “By creating a distraction with their show to try to get famous,” the diplomat said, “these lawyers are endangering an orderly trial.” The source also indicated the suspects would be represented by a Kenya-based defense lawyer. The source said there wasn’t much more that Germany could do and that the cases in the Berlin courts had little chance of succeeding.

The first major trial of pirates captured by Europeans could create significant problems for the German Foreign Ministry. Kenyan justice officials are already criticizing the fact that German naval officials sank all of the suspected pirates weapons after capturing them, meaning that key evidence is now missing. It’s also unclear whether all of the men were pirates. Several are claiming they were only on board the pirate vessel so that they could hitch a ride to Yemen.

Politically, the trial will also be closely observed. “It’s going to be a litmus test for the entire anti-piracy operation,” said lawyer Schulz. Jürgen Trittin, Germany’s former environment minister and a senior politician with the Green Party, has said he will travel to Mombasa to attend the trial and report back to the German parliament about it. The politician has said that if Kenya is unable to provide a clean trial that adheres to rule of law, that it would endanger the deal with the country.

The commotion over the case, one diplomat with the German Foreign Ministry said, could considerably dampen Kenya’s willingness to detain and prosecute pirate suspects.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Experts: How to Stop Piracy

A new Danish report provides a recipe on how to stop piracy off Somalia. The method has worked in Southeast Asia.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Nice idea, but let’s keep in mind here — the navies of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are actually fairly capable…and far more cooperative when it comes to security matters — than anything around the gulf or the E. coast of Africa.]

The Danish Institute for Military Studies (DIMS) concludes in a new report that the way to stop piracy off the coast of Somalia is to introduce a regional coastguard from Egypt in the north to Tanzania in the south.

The report, which is to be presented at an international conference in London on April 27, suggests that the countries around the Horn of Africa cooperate in a regional coastguard.

“This coastguard service should address piracy, rescue operations, fishing inspection and environmental protection,” DIMS Researcher Lars Bangert Struwe tells politiken.dk.

“We find that by giving a coastguard more and important tasks, involved nations are more motivated to take part,” Struwe says.

Own interest “Local participation should not be confined to Somalia, but to the entire region defined as the ‘Greater Horn of Africa’. This will mean that the coastguard is not just associated with Africa or the Arab world but to both sides of the Gulf of Aden,” the report says.

The report proposes that Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt, Yemen and Saudi-Arabia take part in the project.

Although these states may have diverging interests, they all have a direct interest in keeping the sailing routes around the Horn of Africa free of pirates. They all have major economic and security interests in stemming the tide of piracy, the report says.

Somalia The Danish researchers also believe, however, that Somalia — or some provinces of Somalia — should as far as possible be included in the coastguard operations. At the same time it is vital for Egypt and Saudi Arabia to take part as they are the only countries with frigates.

Symptoms Struwe says that the current anti-piracy operations in the region simply address the symptoms, and it will be necessary to introduce other measures in the long-term.

“Part of the problem is that the many naval vessels off Somalia are not a unified international unit coordinating operations. There are two task forces, but, for example, Russia, China and India are not part of the coordinated operation,” he says.

Egypt Struwe says that East Africa states are not particularly interested in anti-piracy and are reluctant to become involved in the Somali wasp’s nest — despite the fact that it would be in their interests to do so.

“A country like Egypt is highly dependent on anti-piracy measures and that the traffic through the Suez Canal becomes normalized. In March alone, Egypt lost 25 percent of its regular income from canal passages,” Struwe says.

Southeast Asia In its report, DIMS says that anti-piracy measures are effective if several countries cooperate.

While piracy is on the upsurge in East and West Africa, it has fallen dramatically in Southeast Asia, including the Malacca and Singapore Straits where the number of piracy attacks have been halved from 170 in 2003 to 54 in 2008.

“This dramatic drop is a result of a transnational effort,” the report says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Zimbabwe: E. Cross: the Propensity to Self Destruct

I looked through a list of one of the more recent line-ups of the Zanu PF government and found that in the list of 58 or so Ministers were 17 PhD graduates, many from prestigious Universities in Europe and the USA. Mugabe himself is no slouch, he works out, drinks very little and eats sparingly. He has 6 University degrees in valuable skills such as law and economics and is clearly above average in intelligence. Why then the propensity to self-destruct?

They know what is required to run a modern economy; we have lots of examples of economic reform programmes adopted with great fanfare and then fudged and abandoned. They did a lot of good things in the early 80’s and yet they have these blind spots. How could they ever have imagined they would get away with Gukurahundi? Murambatsvina? How could they expect to be able to destroy the commercial agricultural system and still feed the country and keep the economy on its feet? But they did, clearly, because that is just what they have done and have expected to be absolved of all wrongdoing, if not by the deluded West then by their colleagues on the African Continent.

Now, in front of the whole world they sign up to an African brokered deal after 18 months of tortuous negotiations and then, even before the ink is dry, they are violating the agreement in fundamental ways and expecting to get away with these violations. The list of violations grows every day. Farm invasions, theft of private property, illegal detentions, false allegations against neighboring States and agreement partners, abductions, murder, torture, illegal appointments, failure to implement agreed reforms and now manipulation of ministerial mandates.

Last winter, 95 per cent of the wheat crop was grown by the traditional large-scale commercial farmers, 5 per cent by the so-called “new” farmers. Last summer 97 per cent of the tobacco crop was grown by a handful of remaining large-scale growers, the same can be said of milk, pigs, poultry and fruit. Yet the secretive cabal that runs the security and legal apparatus of the transitional government under Zanu PF tutelage is, as I write, destroying every last vestige of what was a decade ago, the most productive agricultural community in Africa. In doing so they are using violence, theft and extra legal methods that defy logic and any sense of justice.

We are now just 30 days from the date by which winter crops of wheat and barley should be planted. I can predict now, with absolute certainty, that the winter crops will be half or less of those planted last winter. April is the start of the new crop cycle for tobacco and if things remain as they are, this country, which at one time ranked with Brazil and the United States as a producer and exporter of quality flue cured tobacco, will cease to be a significant player. The industry is about to collapse totally. Tobacco firms will close their processing plants and the largest auctions floors in the world will become warehouses for food aid.

Our economy which just ten years ago sustained a population of 15 million and supported an education system that was the pride of Africa together with a health system that was able to deal with all but the most complex cases, is down to being unable to support even the most basic of services. In January total tax collections were equal to US$4 million, less than 2 per cent of what we needed to run the country. Yet the men and women who did this to us give no sign that they acknowledge their failures or even that they were in any way responsible for our total collapse. The irony of the fact that they have participated in the past in forums that have yielded principled statements on human and political rights, signed up to agreements guaranteeing those rights and giving verbal accent to them on many occasions, then violated those same principles with impunity in the pursuit of power, seems to be lost on them. They spent most of their lives demanding democracy and equal rights only to brush both principles aside when challenged at the ballot box. When faced with limited and targeted sanctions by the very people who supported their struggle for justice in the 60’s and 70’s with mandatory UN sanctions against Smith, they cry foul.

They had become one of the most corrupt and greedy administrations in the world and yet they demand to be trusted with others funds and allowed to do as they please with aid. They flaunt their wealth before an impoverished nation where just a month ago, 75 per cent of the entire population had to be fed by foreign donors because the government could not do so or be trusted to do so if empowered. Yet these people, show no shame, no understanding or even awareness of what damage they have done, not just to the people and nation of Zimbabwe, but to the entire continent as we all bear the consequences of the failures of leadership in Africa. Especially when that leadership should know better, because of their own history, their education and experience and the relative sophistication of the society they managed.

I am afraid this propensity to self-destruct is a mystery to me. Many would assign a racial connotation to the failure — certainly Ian Smith would crow that he had been right about “them” not being “ready” to run their own affairs. Who could argue with him? That is the real tragedy of this situation; do they understand that? I see no sign that they do at present yet it is so painfully obvious to any informed observer.

I know that countries only learn from mistakes and that if you read European history about 500 years ago you will see the same failures, the same shortcomings and destruction. Nevertheless we live in hope that education, culture and communications together with centuries of experience and reform would enable us to avoid these pitfalls. To stand on others shoulders instead of falling into the same holes in the road they left behind. But somehow Zanu PF seems incapable of this and seems incapable of reform itself.

Hundreds of people are writing and calling me every day to say that MDC is being sucked into the Zanu PF morass and will suffer the same fate if it does “nothing”. I will admit that if we do not make progress on rectifying the many transgressions of the GPA and very soon, that the whole caboodle could come tumbling down. Right now this failure is holding back progress on all fronts and even though international donors have doubled their aid to the country in the first quarter of this year, both patience and time is running out.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Algeria: Ksentini, Prison is Not the Solution

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 17 — Prison is certainly not a “solution” to the ‘harraga’ (those who burn the borders in Arabic) phenomenon of young migrants who board ships on the Algerian coast in an attempt to reach Europe, particularly Spain and Italy. This was stated by the President of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH, Algerian government), Farouk Ksentini, during a forum organised by the El Moudjahid newspaper. “Prosecuting illegal migrants does not represent a solution”, said Ksentini, cited by Aps, underlining that instead, it is necessary to “create jobs” and consolidate the social rights of citizens”. A lawyer involved in the defence of human rights who was present at the forum, Miloud Brahimi, said that he was “scandalised and humiliated” seeing young harraga sentenced to jail time. Under a new bill, those who attempt to illegally leave Algerian territory risk up to 6 months in prison while those who succeed in leaving could face up to 10 years in prison. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Citizenship Program Needs to Focus on Canadian ‘Values’: Kenney

CALGARY — The federal government is revamping Canada’s citizenship program to include greater emphasis on the country’s “values,” federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Tuesday.

Mr. Kenney said his department is conducting a complete review of the citizenship program to improve its content, “with a focus on Canadian values.”

He made the comments in a luncheon speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

The government wants to ensure that people becoming Canadian citizens have a full appreciation of the country’s values — such as rule of law and equality of men and women — as well as its symbols and institutions, he said. He said there would, for instance, be more Canadian history on applicants’ exams.

“There’s a growing acknowledgment that we need to put more focus on integration in our immigration policy,” Mr. Kenney said.

The minister said the information booklet that leads to the citizenship test has a page on recycling, but he said he doesn’t recall seeing one paragraph on Confederation.

Canada’s citizenship exam is “outdated,” he said, explaining it hasn’t been revised for more than a decade.

He said changes to the program are to be finalized this summer.

“We want to make sure that when people become Canadians, they totally understand that Canadian history becomes their history, Canadian values become their values,” Mr. Kenney, MP for Calgary Southeast, told reporters.

He reiterated his belief that immigrants to Canada [other than youth and seniors] must be able to speak one of the country’s two official languages — a policy already in place, but one that hasn’t been fully enforced.

The minister also said he’s disappointed that only 25% of newcomers to Canada have been enrolling in language classes.

“I want to make sure that we’re keeping the bar at reasonable levels,” he added.

Fariborz Birjandian, executive director of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, said adding more reading material to the citizenship exam will likely do little to improve immigrants’ civic literacy. What’s needed, he said, is more funding for government and community programs to help newcomers integrate more fully into Canadian society.

“We need to start creating the environment to grow their social capital,” Mr. Birjandian said.

On a separate matter, Kenney said he’s concerned about a growing trend of illegal immigration from Mexico that saw nearly 10,000 refugee applications from Mexican nationals in 2008, with about 90% of those applications rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Reports have suggested there’s been a spike in the refugee claims since Mexican airlines started direct flights to Canadian cities. Much of the increase in refugee claims has been linked by government officials to deadly drug wars plaguing Mexico.

“It’s just not fair. It’s not right for people to jump on a plane, come here, and make a refugee application, even if they don’t meet the definition of a refugee,” Mr. Kenney said.

“The vast majority . . . are actually trying to immigrate to Canada through the back door of the refugee system. I think that’s unacceptable; that’s basically queue-jumping.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Italian Regions, 21,000 by Boat in Eight Months

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 17 — In 2008, from January to August, 20.967 foreign citizens arrived in Italia via sea, 55pct more than the previous year. Most of them arrive in Sicily (19.323), followed by Sardinia (1.247), Calabria (379) and Apulia (18). The Ministry of the Interior reported this during the presentation of the Annual Report of Sprar, the Protection system for those who claim for asylum and refugees, a network of local institutes which have access to the National fund for asylum politics and services (Fnpsa) to carry out local projects of reception and integration. At the start of October, according to the figures reported to the Schengen Commission by Minister Maroni, 27.417 people had already arrived by boat. Those who arrive, according to the Sprar report, come mainly from Somalia (19,36%), Nigeria (17,62%), Eritrea (11,76%), Tunisia (9,05%); Ghana (7,13%), Algeria (6,73%), Egypt (5,68%), Morocco (4,46%), Ivory Coast (2,12%) and India (1,76%). Forty more States complete the list, making up a world map of famine and poverty, but also natural disasters, conflicts, violations of human rights and violence in general. The Report underlines that the routes of traffickers in human beings have drastically changed: in ten years Apulia seems to have disappeared as important destination due to the fact that the interested countries are mainly African, followed by Asian countries. In the first eight months of 2008 there have been 17.490 at Lampedusa (+87% from 2007), justifying the presence of bodies that protect the migrants and their rights at arrival. The Interior Minister has sponsored a European project — together with UNHCR, OIM, Save the Children and the Red Cross — Praesidium which reached its third edition in 2008 and involves Sicily and three other regions where many immigrants arrive. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Suspected Asylum Seekers Caught in Australian Waters

A BOAT carrying 49 people has been intercepted off the West Australian coastline.

A Customs spokeswoman said no children or babies were on board the boat intercepted two nautical miles west of Ashmore reef late this morning.

“They’re being taken to Christmas Island — that will take eight or nine days,” the spokeswoman said.

It is believed the people on board were from Afghanistan.

The latest interception comes a week after a boat carrying 45 people sailed past a naval vessel to dock at Christmas Island.

In late March, 63 suspected illegal immigrants were detained off Ashmore Island.

In the past year, 13 boats carrying 428 asylum seekers, have reached Australia’s northern waters. Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus in a statement said the latest group of suspected asylum seekers to arrive in Australian waters would undergo health, security and identity checks at Christmas Island.

He said the successful interception demonstrated the effectiveness of Border Protection Commands surveillance program.

“Border Protection Commands surveillance operates every day of the year to protect Australia’s mainland and includes aerial, sea and land patrols to detect and respond to maritime threats,” he said.

“The group will now be transferred to Christmas Island where they will be detained and undergo health, security and other checks to establish their identity and reasons for their voyage.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Bogus Foreign Students Free to Flout New Laws

Home Office fails to vet hundreds of colleges

Thousands of bogus students remain free to enter Britain despite new laws aimed at tightening controls on immigration. The Times has learnt that hundreds of colleges recently approved by the Home Office to accept non-EU students have not been inspected by its officers.

Weaknesses in the student visa system have emerged following the arrest of 12 terror suspects last week. Ten of the men entered this country from Pakistan on student visas.

It has also emerged that the vast majority of non-EU students will not be interviewed by the Home Office but admitted on the basis of written applications and evidence of sponsorship, educational qualifications and bank statements.

Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “The more we learn about the way the Government has managed our student visa system, the more question marks there are.”

John Tincey, the chairman of the Immigration Service Union, said that the failure to include interviews could be exploited by terrorists.

Under the system, universities, colleges and schools must register with the Home Office to accept students from outside the EU. They must agree to alert the Home Office if a student fails to register, stops attending classes or if a course is shortened and keep copies of the students’ passports as well as up-to-date contact addresses.

The new regime came in two weeks ago and is intended to end a scam in which thousands of foreigners enrolled at bogus colleges to work here. So far, 2,100 establishments have been registered and 400 rejected. There are 14,000 establishments on an earlier database that need to register.

Today The Times highlights the abuses under the old regime, described by the Immigration Minister as the Achilles’ heel of the system.

At one college in Manchester that claims to have more than 100 students — most of them from North West Frontier Province in Pakistan — only two turned up for classes yesterday.

An international college in London with links to Pakistani businessmen was raided by the police and the UK Border Agency in December. It was alleged that individuals attached to the college earned £5 million processing up to 2,500 fraudulent visa applications.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Flag & General Officers for the Military: Gays and the Military, a Bad Fit

With the nation engaged in two wars and facing a number of potential adversaries, this is no time to weaken our military. Yet if gay rights activists and their allies have their way, grave harm will soon be inflicted on our all-volunteer force.

The administration and some in Congress have pledged to repeal Section 654 of U.S. Code Title 10, which states that homosexuals are not eligible for military service. Often confused with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulations issued by President Bill Clinton, this statute establishes several reasons that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.

Section 654 recognizes that the military is a “specialized society” that is “fundamentally different from civilian life.” It requires a unique code of personal conduct and demands “extraordinary sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, in order to provide for the common defense.” The law appreciates military personnel who, unlike civilians who go home after work, must accept living conditions that are often “characterized by forced intimacy with little or no privacy.”…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

3 comments:

Zenster said...

Experts Urge Standards for Islamic Banks.

Western banks have tapped into the Islamic banking system, setting up instruments that enable the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims to invest while still complying with their belief system. [emphasis added]

S'wunerful, now what those Islamic banking systems "complying" with our belief system of transparency, accountability and legality? As in, where is all that shari'a mandated zakat going?

Does anyone who is firing one more than one cylinder actually believe that shari'a compliant banks will give a flying fark if their zakat ends up in the hands of jihadi terrorists?

[crickets]

Snouck said...

Geert Wilders announced making a new "Fitna" movie with American filmmakers. The focus will be on immigration as a form of Islamic conquest.

Harry Hook said...

Copy and paste if Susan Boyle brought you here.