Friday, June 12, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/12/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/12/2009There are four or five more news stories tonight about Muammar Gaddafi’s visit to Rome. Mr. Gaddafi called for the abolition of European political parties, dismissed the idea of democracy, and equated the United States with Al Qaeda. He received the kind of press attention usually reserved for Michael Jackson or Paris Hilton.

In other news, a fifteen-year-old Palestinian boy was hanged for collaborating with Israel. One of the alleged perpetrators was the boy’s father.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, Islam in Action, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, LN, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Leaders of Emerging Nations for an Alternative to the Dollar
Majority Now Cosponsors Ron Paul’s Fed Audit
 
USA
A Better-Dressed Soviet-Style Communism
Administration Speeds Overseas Detainee Relocation
Cloward-Piven Crisis Care
Darwin-Loving Museum Shooter Hates Bible, Christians
Drilling Might be Culprit Behind Texas Earthquakes
Egypt: Obama Speech Linked to F-16 Deal
Key Health Care Senators Have Industry Ties
Lying With Impunity
Miss Affirmative Action, 2009
More Scandals Haunt Sotomayor
Obama’s Deep Belief in Himself is No Match for Global Reality
Obama Nation’s Low View of Christianity
Obama: Where Have All His Records Gone?
Rabbi: Obama Breeds Climate of Hate Against Jews
Republicans: Debt Will Bring Barack Obama Down
Rev. Wright: I Meant to Say “Zionists” Are Keeping Me From Talking to President Obama — Not Jews
Tampa Mayor Declines to Honor CAIR
The Enemy Within
 
Canada
Handing Out the Vote
 
Europe and the EU
Britain Will ‘Obviously’ Join Euro Says Mandelson
Call Wilders What He is: A Racist
European Left More Dangerous for Jews Than European Right
Finland: Football Match Sparks Riots — Detainees Released by Police
French Shops Sue Saudi Princess
Gaddafi Compares USA to Bin Laden, Says Party System is “Democracy’s Abortion”
Greece: Thrace Row
Italy: Centre Right Hails Local Polls
Italy: Knox on the Witness Stand on Friday
Italy: Customs Finds $134 Billion in a Suitcase
Lario Breaks Silence on Marriage
Metternich 2 — the Lisbon Treaty
Schengen: Weapons and Women Smuggler’s Paradise
Spain: Arm Lost in Accident, Limb Thrown in Trash Bin
Sweden: Women in Custody for Beating of Far-Right Politician
Switzerland: Obama Picks Wealthy Donor as Ambassador
The German Passport is Losing Its Appeal
Tourism: Bye Bye Sun and Beaches, Spain Seeks New Model
UK: Ben Kinsella: Police Bugged Killers to Gather Crucial Evidence
UK: Classroom Assistant at Muslim Girls’ School Forced Out of Job by Parents Who Believed She Was a Man
UK: David Cameron Calls for Referendum on EU Constitution
UK: Free Speech and the Bacon and Eggs of Democracy
 
Balkans
Frattini in Belgrade: Don’t Exclude Them From EU
Kosovo: NATO Defence Ministers: Wind-Down of KFOR Begins
 
Mediterranean Union
Mediterranean Union: Low on Israeli Priorities
 
North Africa
Egypt: Furniture Imports Rise From USD 62 to 138 Million
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Barry Rubin: Israel and America: Neither Surrender Nor Confrontation
Netanyahu Speech, Premier Under Fire
Palestinian Boy ‘Hanged for Collaboration’
S. Craxi in Ramallah and Jerusalem Today
UNRWA on the Brink of Bankruptcy, Officials Say
 
Middle East
Iraq: WMD Slam Dunk Never Reported
Press: Brain Behind Madrid Attacks in Syrian Jail
Terrorism: Al-Qaeda Asks Turkish Muslims for Funds
The Age of Middle East Atonement
Turkey: Girl Tortured and Killed After Refusing Marriage
Turkey: Record in Dismissals of Unionized Workers, Report
Turkey: Pro-Kurdish Paper Silenced by Court
U.S. Sends 3 Guantanamo Detainees to Saudi Arabia
UAE-Turkey: Several Deals Are Back on the Front Burner
 
Russia
Putin ‘Turns Into Art Instructor’
 
South Asia
Bangladesh: Catholic Chef Has a “Really Rough Time in Dhaka’s Central Jail”
Indonesian Chopper Crashes
Italians Hurt in Afghan Firefight
Pakistan’s ‘Loose Nukes’
Singapore: Christians Jailed for ‘Sedition’
US Commander Vows to Cut Afghan Casualties
 
Far East
China Sub Collides With Array Towed by U.S. Ship: Report
Climate Pact in Jeopardy as China Refuses to Cut Carbon Emissions
N. Korea in Extortionate Demands for Kaesong Complex
NK Detention of S. Korean Worker Enters 74th Day
Problems for Marines in Korea
US Climate Envoy: China Seeks Top US Technology
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia: A Nation of Paupers
Chinese Muslims Trigger Public Backlash in Palau
Military ‘Meatheads’: Latham
The Suburb That Simmers
 
Immigration
America Losing Its Language and Culture Without a Whimper
Denmark: Confusion Grows Over Iraqi Repatriation
Finland: “Time Running Out on Immigrant Integration”
Finland: Qualified Immigrants to be Given Work to Match Their Educational Achievement
Greece: Focus on Immigration
Italy: Police Target Human Traffickers in 16 Cities
Netherlands: Putting ‘Import Brides’ to the Dutchness Test
Norway: Increased Number of Asylum Seekers
Southern Border: Massive Tunnel Found
Sweden’s EU Immigration Plans Facing Headwinds
 
Culture Wars
Homosexual Activists Frustrated With Obama’s Agenda
 
General
NASA Study Shows Sun Responsible for Planet Warming
Threat to Global-Warming Skeptics Retracted

Financial Crisis

Leaders of Emerging Nations for an Alternative to the Dollar

The leaders of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will meet next week in Russia to discuss the global crisis, currencies and climate change. They aim to find a common ground to bring greater weight to September summit of the world’s 20 largest economies in the USA.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) —Next week in Yekaterinburg (Russia) leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric) will meet to discuss the global crisis and development but also to discuss the possibility of finding an alternative to the US dollar in global currency. President Hu Jintao will represent China at the summit which the government in Beijing has already cautiously defined as being “very important”.

He Yafei, deputy foreign minister has stated that “The BRIC countries share very similar viewpoints on a lot of international issues” underlining that strengthening communication and co-operation “is beneficial towards the development of emerging markets and raising the overall voice and influence of the developing countries”. Food security, energy security, climate change and development aid will be discussed but top of the agenda will be seeking a way out of the financial crisis.

The issue of reserve currency will also be addressed. He has clarified that “the reserve currency should be relatively stable”, a characteristic of the Yuan given that Beijing blocks all uncontrolled fluctuations. Since December, China has signed currency swap agreements with at least five countries with a combined value of 650 billion Yuan” (circa 65 million Euros).

Experts maintain that the four countries aim to co-ordinate their positions for the third G20 meeting in the US in September. But they all want to promote their own currencies, and therefore it is not possible for them to agree to use the Yuan as a common reserve currency.

The 4 States represent 42% of the global population and according tot eh International Monetary Fund, in the last 2 years realised 10.7% of the global Gross Domestic Product and above all, count for a third of global economic development between 2006 and 2008.

After the summit the Russia, China and the 4 central Asian nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, will meet, once again in Russia.

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


Majority Now Cosponsors Ron Paul’s Fed Audit

Demand for transparency reaches ‘crucial benchmark’

Less than 24 hours after WND reported a proposal from U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, to audit the Federal Reserve was approaching majority support in the U.S. House, he is confirming the plan has reached that “crucial benchmark.”

“The tremendous grass-roots and bipartisan support in Congress for H.R. 1207 is an indicator of how mainstream America is fed up with Fed secrecy,” Paul said shortly after U.S. Rep Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, became the 218th cosponsor, giving the plan, technically, majority support in the 435-member House.

“I look forward to this issue receiving greater public exposure,” Paul said.

A spokeswoman in Paul’s office said by the end of the business day in Washington, D.C., the plan had attracted 221 cosponsors. She said hearings on the transparency of the Federal Reserve are expected over the next month as part of the Financial Services Committee’s series of hearings on regulatory reform.

WND reported only a day earlier on the list of consponsors reaching 213 for H.R. 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009.

Paul long has opposed the power held by the Federal Reserve and its ability to manipulate the nation’s economy and over the years has launched multiple proposals to get rid of the private banking powerhouse, without significant support.

But in light of the economic collapse in the United States — the government takeover of the banking industry, the government’s demands for various auto industry bankruptcies, the government’s appointment of a “pay czar” — change apparently is coming.

“To understand how unwise it is to have the Federal Reserve, one must first understand the magnitude of the privileges they have,” Paul wrote in a recent Straight Talk commentary. “They have been given the power to create money, by the trillions, and to give it to their friends, under any terms they wish, with little or no meaningful oversight or accountability.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

A Better-Dressed Soviet-Style Communism

By now many people not sold out to the Obama faction (including people carried along by deceitful media hype who voted for him) have realized its baneful intention to abandon our national heritage, our Constitutional republic, our free enterprise economy, indeed our entire way of life as a free people. People who not long ago shunned and even ridiculed people like me for clearly speaking out about this intention are now decrying the surrender to socialism and accepting descriptive terms like “neo-communist” that suggest the Obama faction’s ultimate goal: the establishment of a better-dressed, more astutely implemented version of Soviet-style communism in the United States.

The Obama faction’s agenda bankrupts the nation, while dangerously increasing the leverage China and other potentially hostile competitors can bring to bear against U.S. interests. It poses a grave threat to property rights and economic freedom, a threat that includes the mobilization of government-controlled distribution of economic goods (like the allocation of GM franchises to car dealers) to punish political opposition and enforce submission to their factional dictatorship. It undermines our military strength. It directly threatens Second Amendment rights, up to and including schemes to undermine the legitimacy and efficacy of private ownership of firearms.

On the international front, Obama’s appeasement policies encourage contempt for American resolve, while offering time for implacable enemies like Iran and North Korea to develop and produce nuclear weapons that will vastly increase the damaging potential of the terrorist infrastructure they support. At the same time, promotion of phony Middle East peace overtures, based on a consciously biased and deceitful mangling of the historical record, aim to force Israel onto a path of sure destruction while continuing to shield Arab despots from their responsibility for violence, poverty and economic stagnation in the region.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Administration Speeds Overseas Detainee Relocation

WASHINGTON — Despite fierce opposition in Congress, the White House insisted Friday it has not ruled out releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States. But with narrowing options, the administration has begun shipping newly cleared inmates abroad to regain momentum in its effort to close the Cuba-based prison camp.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration has not abandoned the possibility of releasing detainees in the U.S., but he added that national security considerations would govern any moves.

“We’re not going to make any decisions about transfer or release that threatens the security of the country,” Gibbs said at the end of a week in which nine detainees were transferred under high security to foreign nations, and one to the United States to face trial.

Gibbs said the release of those detainees showed “marked progress” and other decisions were being made on a case-by-case basis. President Barack Obama said last month that the cases of 50 detainees had been reviewed — and the administration said 48 of them were waiting for release to foreign nations.

But the prospects for any transfers of Guantanamo inmates to the mainland U.S. have dimmed in recent weeks as Congress acted to block funding to pay for the moves. And foreign countries have been hesitant to take even cleared detainees who were deemed not to pose security threats.

Authorities announced late Friday that three detainees had been sent home to Saudi Arabia.

The Justice Department said the trio will be subject to judicial review in Saudi Arabia before they participate in a “rehabilitation” program administered by the Saudi government.

With the latest transfer, the U.S. has removed 10 detainees from Guantanamo in the past week, sending four to Bermuda, one to Chad, one to Iraq, and one to face trial in New York City. That leaves 229 detainees still at the U.S. military detention center in Cuba.

The three men sent to Saudi Arabia are Khalid Saad Mohammed, Abdalaziz Kareem Salim Al Noofayaee, and Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair.

U.S. officials said they were close to a deal with Saudi Arabia and Yemen under which Saudi Arabia would take about 100 Yemeni detainees and place them in Saudi-run terrorist rehabilitation centers.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic contacts, would not say how many Yemenis might be transferred or when the agreement might be finalized.

Negotiations on the fate of the Yemeni inmates have been under way for months, stalled over a Saudi demand that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh publicly endorse the proposal, the officials said. Saleh had refused to do so fearing a backlash among his people, the officials said, and, as of late last month, he preferred for Yemen to set up its own centers.

Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo by early next year, and U.S. officials have been searching for places to resettle detainees, lobbying hard with foreign governments. The pace of those efforts picked up last month after Congress said it would prevent detainees, even those cleared of wrongdoing, from being brought to the U.S.

This week alone, the administration transferred 10 detainees out of Guantanamo. Two were sent to Chad and Iraq, one was brought to New York to stand trial in civilian court, four were sent to Bermuda, and three to Saudi Arabia. And a deal in principle has been reached with the Pacific island nation of Palau to accept some others.

Besides detainees who might be freed, tried or turned over to foreign governments, there are still others — highly dangerous — who the administration says can be neither freed nor tried. These prisoners — “people who in effect remain at war with the United States,” Obama has said — include detainees who may have received extensive al-Qaida training, commanded Taliban troops or sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

With clear movement this week on settling 17 Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, from Guantanamo, the Yemeni detainees are the largest national bloc at the Cuba-based prison.

Their transfer would put a significant dent in the facility’s population but still not set the stage for closing.

Numerous countries have balked at accepting detainees unless some are also resettled in the United States.

Despite Gibbs’ comments, a key House panel approved legislation Friday that would deny immigration benefits to any Guantanamo detainees who might be released in the U.S. after being brought here for trial.

The bill, to be voted on soon by Congress, would be in effect until the end of the budget year at the end of September. Lawmakers could then extend the ban.

Adoption of the legislation would deal another blow to the administration, which was taken aback by the vehemence of the resistance to a tentative earlier plan to resettle some of the Uighurs in Virginia.

The Uighurs were determined not to be enemy combatants by the Pentagon and ordered released by a federal judge.. But few nations have been willing to accept them, out of fear of angering China’s government, which accuses them of being terrorists and demands they be returned to China.

Intense opposition from both Republicans and Democrats forced the Obama administration to shelve the resettlement plan after a particularly embarrassing setback for Obama in which the Democratic-led Congress stripped funding to close Guantanamo.

Lawmakers of both parties denounced even the possibility of trials in the U.S. of detainees. And Republicans made clear they would use the issue as a linchpin in their opposition to other administration projects.

Determined to regain the upper hand, U.S. officials have been crisscrossing the globe in recent weeks to cajole other governments to take freed detainees.

“The White House came to the realization that it’s just too hard, that there were too many obstacles to this and is looking at other options,” said one senior official.

Earlier this week, after a visit from Obama’s special envoy for closing Guantanamo, Daniel Fried, the president of Palau, a remote island east of the Philippines, said his country was willing to accept some or all of the Uighurs.

Then on Thursday, four Uighurs were transferred from Guantanamo to the British territory of Bermuda. The move angered British officials, who have responsibility for the island’s foreign, defense and security affairs, but were not informed until shortly before it happened.

Hours later, the administration’s interest in completing those transfers was evident in the presence of Fried and White House counsel Greg Craig aboard a flight that carried four newly released Uighurs and their lawyers to Bermuda. White House officials said the officials were on the flight to ensure there were no last-minute hitches.

Officials had long believed that the Uighurs would be the easiest — and perhaps the only — Guantanamo detainees who could be released in the United States.

Now that Bermuda and Palau have stepped forward, the administration has for the time being given up on bringing any Uighurs to American soil.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Cloward-Piven Crisis Care

[Comments from JD: Understanding this tactic is important because Obama is using this tactic to foist Socialism on America.]

The president’s ability to exploit crises is reminiscent of the controversial teachings of Columbia University political scientists, Frances Fox Cloward and Richard Andrew Piven. Inspired by the Obama mentor — radical community organizer Saul Alinsky — these two sixties social revolutionaries taught that upheaval is something that should “never be wasted” and that political change can be fostered through “…orchestrated crisis.” Two skills Barack Obama proficiently exercises every chance he gets.

Cloward-Piven instructed activists that if a crisis did not exist, promote or manufacture one by exaggerating a benign or unthreatening predicament. In doing so, contrived commotion would serve as a tool to convince the masses of their urgent need for rescue. In order to achieve the ultimate goal, students were encouraged to stress the social system to the breaking point, which would quash capitalism and institute socialism through a massive infusion of government intervention

Cloward-Piven repeatedly cited Alinsky’s, Rules for Radicals, in all their work. Marxism advocates were taught by Cloward-Piven to, “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.” Never failing to remind their apprentices that, “…when pressed…human agencies inevitably fall short…the system’s failure to “live up” to its rule book can then is used to discredit it altogether.” The definitive goal: “… replace the capitalist “rule book” with a socialist one.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Darwin-Loving Museum Shooter Hates Bible, Christians

Suspect in death of security guard defies easy stereotyping

James von Brunn, the man who allegedly shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., was a Darwin-lover who hated the Bible and Christians, and defies media efforts to classify him as a stereotypical “right-winger,” according to report.

The Moonbattery blog revealed von Brunn advocated the socialist policies espoused by Adolf Hitler and used Darwinian theory to support his anti-Semitism.

And in statements that later were stripped from an anti-religion website, he wrote, “The Big Lie technique, employed by Paul to create the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, also was used to create the HOLOCAUST RELIGION … CHRISTIANITY AND THE HOLOCAUST are HOAXES.”

The blog had an answer to how to classify von Brunn, who remains hospitalized after being shot while attacking and shooting a guard at the museum: “If it barks like a moonbat, it’s a moonbat.”

[…]

“None of this will surprise readers of Jonah Goldberg’s bestseller ‘Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change,’ which clearly demonstrates that ‘fascism’ of the kind advocated by the British National Party (BNP) and the likes of James W. von Brunn is just as likely to reflect ‘leftwing’ views as ‘rightwing’ ones,” Shaidle wrote.

[…]

“In short, von Brunn’s connection with conservative thought and action today — be it talk radio or ‘tea parties’ — is tenuous. Those trying to puff up such ‘connections’ are acting in bad faith, out of blind partisanship — of the sort which is as corrosive to the health of the body politic as von Brunn’s own b[l]atherings,” Shaidle wrote.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Drilling Might be Culprit Behind Texas Earthquakes

CLEBURNE, Texas — The earth moved here on June 2. It was the first recorded earthquake in this Texas town’s 140-year history — but not the last. There have been four small earthquakes since, none with a magnitude greater than 2.8. The most recent ones came Tuesday night, just as the City Council was meeting in an emergency session to discuss what to do about the ground moving.

The council’s solution was to hire a geology consultant to try to answer the question on everyone’s mind: Is natural gas drilling — which began in earnest here in 2001 and has brought great prosperity to Cleburne and other towns across North Texas — causing the quakes?

“I think John Q. Public thinks there is a correlation with drilling,” Mayor Ted Reynolds said. “We haven’t had a quake in recorded history, and all the sudden you drill and there are earthquakes.”

At issue is a drilling practice called “fracking,” in which water is injected into the ground at high pressure to fracture the layers of shale and release natural gas trapped in the rock.

There is no consensus among scientists about whether the practice is contributing to the quakes. But such seismic activity was once rare in Texas and seems to be increasing lately, lending support to the theory that drilling is having a destabilizing effect.

On May 16, three small quakes shook Bedford, a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth. Two small earthquakes hit nearby Grand Prairie and Irving on Oct. 31, and again on Nov. 1.

The towns sit upon the Barnett Shale, a geologic formation that is perhaps the nation’s richest natural gas field. The area is estimated to have 30 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and provides about 7 percent of the country’s supply.

The drilling’s economic impact has been significant, because gas companies pay signing bonuses and royalties to property owners for the right to drill beneath their land. Signing bonuses climbed to around $25,000 an acre at the boom’s peak.

Cleburne agreed to lease the mineral rights in the earliest stages of the frenzy, receiving a modest $55 an acre for 3,500 acres of city land. There are about 200 drilling sites in Cleburne, and it is not unusual to see cattle chewing grass in the shadow of gas pipes.

Cleburne has collected between $20 million and $25 million in royalties since 2001, about $6 million in 2008 alone, Reynolds said. Such riches have allowed the building of parks and sports complexes in the city of 30,000, about 30 miles south of Fort Worth.

“That’s a lot of libraries and police cars,” the mayor said proudly. “It’s enabled us to escape the worst part of the recession, enables us to keep tax rates low and lowered unemployment.”

Landowners are also getting theirs. Locals call it “mailbox money,” occasional royalty checks that arrive from the gas companies. The mayor, a contractor who owns three quarters of an acre, said his most recent check, for three months’ worth of royalties, was nearly $850.

“It’s better than a poke in the eye,” he said.

Although many residents never felt the quakes, those who did have described them in different ways. When the first few hit, some ran outside to see if a house had exploded. The city manager said he thought his wife was closing the garage door. Picture frames and windows rattled.

None of the quakes caused any damage or injuries, though city officials said they are keeping a close eye on the earthen dam at Lake Pat Cleburne..

There seems to be little fear around town of any catastrophic damage, but the ground shaking is unnerving nonetheless. Townspeople want to find out at least what is causing it, even if it is unclear whether anything can be done about it.

The gas is extracted through a process known as horizontal drilling. A company will drill roughly 5,000 feet to 7,000 feet down and then go horizontally for as much as 4,000 feet or so. Then the fracking begins.

A spokeswoman for Chesapeake Energy, which owns most of the mineral rights leases in the Cleburne area, said the company is “eager to get to the facts” and is working with the government and local researchers to determine whether there is a link.

“Drilling has occurred for more than a hundred years,” Julie Wilson said in an e-mail. “Tens of thousands of wells have been drilled with no nearby earthquakes at all; hundreds of earthquakes have occurred with no drilling nearby.”

Cliff Frohlich, a scientist at the University of Texas and author of “Texas Earthquakes,” said he believes more than 20 Texas earthquakes in the past 100 years are related to drilling for petroleum and gas. But he added: “I would be surprised if a seriously damaging earthquake came out of this.”

John Breyer, a petroleum geologist and professor at Texas Christian University, said drilling is absolutely not causing the earthquakes.

“It’s like the Great Wall of China,” he said. “If you pull a brick out of the wall every half-mile, you are not going to affect the stability of the structure.”

The mayor said he is open to any answer the city’s geologist brings him.

“We are going to find out what’s causing them and if it is something that we can deal with, I promise we will deal with it,” Reynolds said. “But it’s like the dog that chases the car and catches the car: I don’t know what you do then.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Obama Speech Linked to F-16 Deal

Payoff was U.S. promise of Egyptian access to weapons

Egypt’s hosting of President Barack Obama’s “mutual respect” speech to the Muslim world came at the same time the Obama administration quietly was agreeing to Egypt’s longstanding request to purchase some 24 F-16 fighters, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

According to informed sources, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates relayed the commitment in his May 5 meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Key Health Care Senators Have Industry Ties

WASHINGTON — Influential senators working to overhaul the nation’s health care system have investments and family ties with some of the biggest names in the industry. The wife of Sen. Chris Dodd, the lawmaker in charge of writing the Senate’s bill, sits on the boards of four health care companies.

Members of both parties have industry connections, including Democrats Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin, in addition to Dodd, and Republicans Tom Coburn, Judd Gregg, John Kyl and Orrin Hatch, financial reports showed Friday.

Jackie Clegg Dodd, wife of the Connecticut Democrat, is on the boards of Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cardiome Pharma Corp., Brookdale Senior Living and Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals.

Dodd is filling in for ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will soon start work on a health care bill.

Other publicly available documents show Mrs. Dodd last year was one of the most highly compensated non-employee members of the Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc. board, on which she has served since 2004. She earned $32,000 in fees and $109,587 in stock option awards last year, according to the company’s SEC filings.

Mrs. Dodd earned $79,063 in fees from Cardiome in its last fiscal year, while Brookdale Senior Living gave her $122,231 in stock awards in 2008, their SEC filings show. She earned no income from her post as a director for Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals but holds up to $15,000 in stock in Pear Tree, which describes itself as a development-stage pharmaceutical company focused on the needs of aging women.

The annual financial disclosure reports for members of Congress are less precise. They only require that assets and liabilities be listed in ranges of values.

Dodd was granted a 90-day extension to file his report covering last year, but released it to The Associated Press.

Bryan DeAngelis, Dodd’s spokesman, said, “Jackie Clegg Dodd’s career is her own; absolutely independent of Senator Dodd, as it was when they married 10 years ago. The senator has worked to reform our health care system for decades, and nothing about his wife’s career is relevant at all to his leadership of that effort.”

DeAngelis said that Mrs. Dodd has hired a personal ethics lawyer to avoid any conflicts of interest and is not a lobbyist.

Other reports showed:

* Rockefeller, D-W.Va., reported $15,001 to $50,000 in capital gains for his wife from the sale of a stake in Athenahealth Inc., a business services company that helps medical providers with billing and clinical operations.

Rockefeller is honorary chairman of the Alliance for Health Reform, a Washington nonprofit whose board includes representatives from the UnitedHealth Group health insurance company; AFL-CIO labor union; the AARP, which sells health insurance; St. John Health, a nonprofit health system that includes seven hospitals and 125 medical facilities in southeast Michigan; CIGNA Corp., an employer-sponsored benefits company; and the United Hospital Fund of New York.

* Coburn, R-Okla., is a practicing physician. He reported slight business income, $268, from the Muskogee Allergy Clinic last year; $3,000 to $45,000 in stock in Affymetrix Inc., a biotechnology company and pioneer in genetic analysis; $1,000 to $15,000 in stock in Pfizer Inc., a pharmaceutical company; and a $1,000 to $15,000 interest in Thomas A. Coburn, MD, Inc.

Under Senate ethics rules, Coburn can’t accept money from his patients..

* Gregg, R-N.H., disclosed $250,001 to $500,000 in drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. stock and $1,000 to $15,000 each in stock in pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Pfizer, the Johnson & Johnson health care products company and Agilent Technologies, which is involved in the biomedical industry.

* Kyl, R-Ariz., the Senate minority whip, reported $15,001 to $50,000 in stock in Amgen Inc., which develops medical therapeutics. Kyl’s retirement account held stakes in several health care businesses, including the Wyeth, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and AstraZeneca pharmaceutical companies; medical provider Tenet Healthcare Corp.; CVS Caremark prescription and health services company; Genentech, a biotherapeutics manufacturer; and insurer MetLife Inc.

* Harkin, D-Iowa, has a joint ownership stake in health-related stocks. Harkin and his wife, Ruth Raduenz, own shares of drug makers Amgen and Genentech, Inc., each stake valued at $1,001 to $15,000; Their largest health care holding, Johnson & Johnson, was valued at $50,001 to $100,000.

* Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Finance and Health committees, reported owning between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of stock in drug maker Pfizer Inc. He spoke to two pharmaceutical industry conferences last year. Sponsors of the conferences donated $3,500 to charities instead of speaking fees, as required by Senate rules.

Like millions of Americans, several senators took a financial hit in 2008. A sampling:

_Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lost some $100,000 in equity in his home in Springfield and $35,000 in his Chicago condominium. Durbin, who released his tax returns, reported losing $32,259 in various investments last year, including more than $10,400 in Berkshire Hathaway and $5,535 in Fidelity stock.

_Kennedy in 2007 had four trusts each valued between $5,000,001-$25 million. In 2008, only one trust was still in that category while the rest had slipped in value to $1,000,001-$5 million.

_Hatch’s investments suffered from the banking crisis. In 2007, he reported assets of between $2,002 and $30,000 in Countrywide Credit Industries Inc. stock. His 2008 financial disclosure lists the value at less than $1,000.

One of Dodd’s investments showed a vast improvement.

A new appraisal more than doubled the value of his vacation cottage in Ireland, which has been subject of a Senate ethics complaint filed by a conservative group questioning if the undervalued property was really a gift.

The property is valued at 470,000 euros, or about $660,000, on Dodd’s disclosure report.

The previous year’s report valued the seaside home, located in County Galway, at between $100,001 and $250,000.

DeAngelis, the spokesman, said Dodd and his wife decided to have the property appraised because they felt it was time to update the information.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Lying With Impunity

The presidency of George W. Bush — his popularity, approval numbers and so forth — was razed to the ground on the basis of one invalid claim: “Bush lied” (regarding his accusation that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, this being the justification for invading Iraq).

Let’s assume, just for the sake of an amusing mental exercise, that President Bush’s charge was indeed a lie. If this lie was Hurricane Katrina (actually an amusing if ironic analogy in itself), it pales beside the Great Flood of omissions, rationalizations and outright fabrications to which Americans are subjected on a regular basis by President Obama.

But it just doesn’t matter.

One could enumerate the dozens of statements Obama woodenly delivered during the 2008 campaign that were assertions only a fool would believe, but could not be directly proven: His ignorance of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s racism, unawareness of William Ayers’ terrorist past, and non-involvement with the nefarious Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Yet, these are trifles compared to the counterfeit oratory he’s pulled off with impunity since becoming president.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Miss Affirmative Action, 2009

Having lost the Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008, Republicans are looking to redefine themselves for a nation that still leans conservative but is less Republican that it has been in decades.

The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court presents just such an opportunity. For, even if the party loses the battle and Sotomayor sits on the court, it can win the war, as Ronald Reagan won the Panama Canal debate, even as Senate Republicans committed collective suicide by voting to give away the canal.

What are the grounds for rejecting Sonia Sotomayor?

No one has brought forth the slightest evidence she has the intellectual candlepower to sit on the Roberts court. By her own admission, Sotomayor is an “affirmative action baby.”

Though the Obama media have been ballyhooing her brilliance — No. 1 in high school, No. 1 at Princeton, editor of Yale Law Review — her academic career appears to have been a fraud from beginning to end, a testament to Ivy League corruption.

Two weeks ago, the New York Times reported that, to get up to speed on her English skills at Princeton, Sotomayor was advised to read children’s classics and study basic grammar books during her summers. How do you graduate first in your class at Princeton if your summer reading consists of “Chicken Little” and “The Troll Under the Bridge”?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


More Scandals Haunt Sotomayor

Bill O’Reilly has declared, “I don’t think she’s a racist,” in regard to Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, even though it turns out that her comment about a Latina woman making better decisions than a white man was repeated on several occasions. O’Reilly turns a blind eye to her raw display of racism because he doesn’t want to be accused of being a racist himself. This is how cowardly the sponsor of the “No Spin Zone” has become in the face of a politically correct “debate” that has already forced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to retract his charge of racism against her.

False accusations against white people are tolerated by the media, even the conservative media. This is why Al Sharpton is a frequent guest on the O’Reilly show, despite his participation in the Tawana Brawley hoax, whereby he falsely accused a group of white men of raping a black woman.

But accurate accusations of racism against members of minority groups who make racist statements are not tolerated. That is why Gingrich backed away from his accurate comments, and why O’Reilly said he didn’t want to have anything to do with them.

[…]

In my previous column on this nomination, I noted that Sotomayor had delivered a speech entitled, “Being the Change We Need for Our Communities.” It sounded like something delivered by a political candidate or Obama himself. We now have a copy of that speech.

[…]

She added, “What is our challenge today: Our challenge as lawyers and court related professionals and staff, as citizens of the world is to keep the spirit of the common joy we shared on November 4 alive in our everyday existence. We have to continue to work together for our common goal of bringing the promise of America’s greatness and fairness to all members of our society.”

Notice how she referred to herself as a “citizen of the world,” not as a citizen of the United States. This takes on significance in her case because she wrote a foreword to a book called The International Judge. Does she believe in American sovereignty?

Calling for more “change,” she said, “It is the message of service that President Obama is trying to trumpet and it is a clarion call we are obligated to heed. We must devote ourselves to bettering the lives of all the needy of our society and we must do it together.”

She is openly advocating using the courts to push Obama’s political agenda.

Based on these comments, which violate the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Sotomayor should not only be forced to withdraw her nomination for the Supreme Court, she should be impeached.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Deep Belief in Himself is No Match for Global Reality

Despite his boldness, Barack Obama seems as fated to fail as were Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. And for the same reason: a belief in his own righteousness and moral superiority, and a belief that his ideals and his persona count mightily in the modern world.

[…]

As for Barack, he behaves on the world stage like some Ivy League kid ashamed of the people he came from, letting one and all on campus know that he is nothing like his benighted family with its sordid history.

In Cairo, he confessed that America had a hand in dumping over the regime in Iran in 1953. He did not mention that the United States forced the retreat of Joseph Stalin’s army from Iran in 1946.

For the 100th time, he declared, “I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.”

Is Obama unaware that Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia run prisons that make Guantanamo look like The Breakers at Palm Beach?

How many Guantanamo inmates plead to be sent home to Muslim countries?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Nation’s Low View of Christianity

President Obama’s comment to French television on June 1 that the United States is “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” plus his Islam-praising speech in Cairo, Egypt on June 4, raise anew questions about his own faith and how he views America.

Questions can also be asked about his math. The CIA Factbook estimates America’s Muslim population at 0.6 percent, or about 1.8 million, which puts it in 58th place among nations’ total Muslim populations. Even if you take the Islamic Information Center’s high estimate of 8 million, that still puts the U.S. at 29th out of 60 nations.

In Cairo, Obama quoted from the Koran, used his middle name of Hussein, and indicated that the United States and Muslim nations have the same commitment to tolerance and freedom. To fathom the absurdity, think about the possibility of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution springing from the pens of Islamic scholars Thomas al-Jefferson and James al-Madison.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama: Where Have All His Records Gone?

Footprints of president’s own history either vanish or remain covered up

While nearly 400,000 concerned citizens demand President Obama present his elusive “long-form” birth certificate, more than a dozen other documents remain unreleased or otherwise blocked from the public eye.

Numerous documents which have yet to be surrendered include the following.

Birth certificate Obama kindergarten records Punahou School records Occidental College records Columbia University records Columbia thesis “Soviet Nuclear Disarmament” Harvard Law School records Harvard Law Review articles University of Chicago scholarly articles Passport Medical records Other documents

* Complete files and schedules of his years as an Illinois state senator

from 1997 to 2004

* Obama’s client list from during his time in private practice with the

Chicago law firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill and Gallard

* Illinois State Bar Association records

* Baptism records

* Obama/Dunham marriage license

* Obama/Dunham divorce documents

* Soetoro/Dunham marriage license

* Adoption records

[Comments from JD: See article for details on each of these items.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Rabbi: Obama Breeds Climate of Hate Against Jews

Our new president did not tell a virulent anti-Semite to travel to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington to kill Jews, but he is most certainly creating a climate of hate against us.

It is no coincidence that we are witnessing this level of hatred toward Jews as President Barack Obama positions America against the Jewish state.

Just days ago Obama traveled to Cairo, Egypt. It was his second trip in a short time to visit Muslim countries. He sent a clear message by not visiting Israel.

But this was code.

In Cairo, Obama said things that pose a grave danger to Jews in Israel, in America and everywhere.

And if his views are not vigorously opposed they will help create a danger as great as that posed by the Nazis to the Jewish people.

Just last week, Obama told his worldwide audience — more than 100 million people — that the killing of six million Jews during the Holocaust was the equivalent of Israel’s actions in dealing with the Palestinians.

This remark is incredible on its face, an insult to the six million Jews who died as a result of Hitler’s genocide — and it is a form of revisionism that will bode evil for Jews for years to come.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Republicans: Debt Will Bring Barack Obama Down

Republicans on Capitol Hill think they’ve finally found Barack Obama’s Achilles’ heel: rising public concern about government spending and the federal deficit.

While Obama’s overall job-approval ratings are up over the past month, a Gallup Poll out this week has a 51 percent majority of Americans disapproving of the president’s efforts to control federal spending and a slim 48 percent to 46 percent disapproving of his handling of the federal deficit.

Those are the only areas where Obama has negative approval ratings — Americans approve, by double-digit margins, the way Obama is handling his overall job, foreign affairs, terrorism, the Middle East and North Korea. But the GOP will take what it can get.

“The president is still popular, but his policies are catching up with him,” said Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who, as the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, is in charge of messaging for his conference. “When that happens, it helps us make our points.”

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]


Rev. Wright: I Meant to Say “Zionists” Are Keeping Me From Talking to President Obama — Not Jews

In an interview on a liberal satellite radio show, Rev. Jeremiah Wright attempted to clarify his comments to the Newport News, Virginia. Daily-Press about “them Jews” preventing him from speaking to President Obama.

“Let me say like Hillary, I misspoke,” Wright said. “Let me just say: Zionists.”

Wright said “I’m not talking about all Jews, all people of the Jewish faith, I’m talking about Zionists.”

Wright then criticized Israel, saying, “I quote Jews when I say this,” and referencing books by Jewish authors such as “Judaism Does Not Equal Israel: The Rebirth of the Jewish Prophetic” by Marc Ellis and “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Ilan Pappe.

“I’m talking about facts, historical facts,” Wright said. “I’m not talking about emotionally charged words or the fact that like Jimmy Carter’s book, that because he used the word that Jews use, ‘apartheid,’ he gets labeled anti-Semitic.”

“They can jump on that one phrase if they want to,” Wright said, “but they can’t, they can’t undo history. They can’t undo the facts of Jewish historians and Jewish theologians who write about what’s going on, who write about the enormous influence that AIPAC has on our government and on United States policy and the United Nations.”

(Wright did not identify who “they” was.)

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Tampa Mayor Declines to Honor CAIR

Group says official ‘has succumbed to the pressure of an anti-Muslim extremist’

TAMPA — Mayor Pam Iorio has decided to halt proclamations of an annual day in Tampa for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization that says it seeks to defend the civil rights of Muslims in the U.S., but has been accused of terrorist links.

Iorio has proclaimed a “CAIR Day” each fall since 2005. The organization has an active chapter in Tampa.

Among other activities, the group has defended Youssef Megahed, a University of South Florida student arrested in 2007 on explosives charges along with another student who was accused of aiding terrorists. Megahed was acquitted but is now subject to deportation proceedings.

Iorio, who didn’t return calls for comment, said through a spokeswoman the mayor’s decision was based on her own research on the group. She made the decision after at least two interest groups contacted the city about the matter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Enemy Within

The horrifying news of an American soldier gunned down at a Little Rock Army recruitment center has left many asking why. The answer may be shocking to some: The prison made me do it.

In an outline of his defense strategy for accused murderer Carlos Bledsoe, attorney Jim Hensley told reporters that his client was “radicalized” by Islamic fundamentalists in a Yemeni prison, where he spent four months last year after overstaying his visa. It is a plausible scenario. But here’s the sad truth: Thousands of inmates are radicalized by Islam every year, and it is happening in prisons right here in the United States.

Most recently, the four men arrested in an alleged plot to blow up New York synagogues and military targets were radicalized Muslims who had spent time in the U.S. prison system. In fact, at least two of them converted to Islam during stretches in prison.

While about 1 in 100 Americans claims to be Muslim, six times as many American prisoners identify as Muslim. As many as 40,000 American prison inmates convert to Islam every year.

The problem isn’t so much that prisoners are converting to Islam, it’s the particular form of Islam they are embracing: one that preaches hatred of Jews, Christians and all infidels and violence against America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Handing Out the Vote

Toronto Mayor David Miller continues to flog his favourite bad idea: making non-citizens eligible to vote in the city’s municipal elections.

At a panel meeting held at City Hall on Wednesday, the English-born Mr. Miller played the pathos card, waxing nostalgic about the single mother who raised him — even though, according to the rules then prevailing, Mom was actually eligible to vote in Canada from the second her toe hit the tarmac. No matter. The point is, if you oppose Miller on this issue, you obviously hate immigrants. And if you hate immigrants, then darn it, David Miller has a problem with you.

Perhaps Mr. Miller has a point, though: Considering that our next prime minister may be a man for whom Canadian citizenship was no more than a totemistic afterthought for much of the last 30 years, can we reasonably object to letting non-citizens vote in Toronto elections if they do, in fact, live in Toronto?

We kid, partly, but the debate over non-citizen municipal voting may, in fact, break down along similar fault lines as does the debate over Michael Ignatieff’s felicitously timed return to Canada. Mayor Miller emphasized that newcomers who patronize city services and pay user fees and taxes should have a say in its government; and this is, in fact, a strong utilitarian argument, one which frames the city purely as a business, the mayor and council as managers and Torontonians as clients.

If, on the other hand, one takes a slightly more romanticized view — if one regards the city as more than just a business or a package of services, but a multi-generational co-operative project, and sees Torontonians as a particular, unique strain of Canadian humanity sharing a common destiny — then the argument that “non-citizens are customers too” won’t wash. Customers they may be, but it is entirely proper for us to make them wait a little while before receiving part-ownership of the enterprise and access to the attendant management privileges.

Mayor Miller made a curious argument at one point on Wednesday: “It’s my view,” he said, “that those people who have chosen to make Toronto their home and live here permanently should have the right to vote in municipal elections in exactly the same way as Canadian citizens.”

The obvious rejoinder would seem to be: What on Earth can be wrong with expecting immigrants to become citizens, precisely as a means of proving that they intend to make Canada their home and live here permanently? Isn’t that exactly what an immigrant is supposed to be signalling by applying for citizenship — “Here I am, I’m putting down roots”?

It seems to us that Mr. Miller’s real argument runs the other way: It is an appeal specifically for the benefit of Toronto residents who do not see the city as home, and may not want to live there permanently. In any city, at any moment, there are folks who are just passing through and may soon be on their way. But Mr. Miller refuses to observe any meaningful difference at all between “a person who happens to be living in Toronto” and “a Torontonian.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Britain Will ‘Obviously’ Join Euro Says Mandelson

The newly promoted First Secretary of State, speaking in Berlin, hailed the euro as a saviour that had brought stability to the European Union during financial turmoil.

“It is perfectly clear that the euro has been a great success in anchoring its eurozone members during this financial crisis,” he said.

“Imagine where all of us would have been if it hadn’t. I hope people will recognise that this represents a major vindication for the single currency.”

Asked if the British Government would consider joining the euro, Lord Mandelson replied: “Does it remain an important objective for Britain to find itself in the same currency as that single market in which it interacts? Obviously yes.”

He added: “That has to be a decision taken on the right terms in the right circumstances and conditions and therefore at a future time than we have now.”

The Conservatives accused Lord Mandelson of trying to bounce Britain into the single currency. “It is deeply disturbing that the man who now makes most of the government’s policies has declared that Britain should join the euro,” said William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary.

Mr Hague rejected the argument that the euro could have sheltered the British economy and pointed to the total loss of control over monetary policy that is required for membership. “The fact is that if we had scrapped the pound interest rates would have been lower in the boom and would now be higher. Under the euro, Gordon Brown’s boom and bust would have been even deeper,” he said.

“Lord Mandelson’s failure to learn this obvious lesson shows how bereft Labour are of fresh thinking.”

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


Call Wilders What He is: A Racist

Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom has all the hallmarks of an extreme-right party. Why then do the Dutch prefer to call it populist? asks René Danen.

By René Danen

The foreign media routinely describe Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom as an “extreme-right” party. Yet the Dutch media, including NRC, seem to be deadly afraid of calling the PVV by its name, preferring to describe it as “populist” or “anti-Islam”.

After Wilders released his [anti-Islam] film Fitna, for instance, the Dutch government was mostly worried about its effect on Dutch trade interests. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon went much further in denouncing Fitna. He said there was “there is no justification for the hate speech or incitement to violence” in the film and that taking legal action against the film was not a violation of the principle of freedom of speech.

Dutch politicians moved on as soon as the Fitna hype died down. Luckily, the Amsterdam appeals court later ordered Wilders to be prosecuted for “incitement to hatred and discrimination”. There was good reason to do so if you look at some of Wilders’ positions.

The PVV wants to close the borders to people who belong to one particular religion, and ban the houses of worship and schools for one population group. Wilders once told De Limburger newspaper that he wants to “tear down the mosques”. He told HP/De Tijd newsweekly that “it is okay for the Netherlands to have Jewish and Christian school but not Islamic schools”. In other words: pure discrimination…

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


European Left More Dangerous for Jews Than European Right

by Soeren Kern

Jewish groups in Europe and the United States have reacted with alarm to the gains made by far-right political parties in the recent elections for European Parliament. Right-wing and nationalist parties posted significant victories in Austria, Britain, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, and the Netherlands in four days of voting that ended on June 7.

The Paris-based [1] European Jewish Congress (EJC), an umbrella organization for Jewish communities in Europe, said: “As we assess the results of this week’s elections, one disturbing trend has already crystallized; the gains made by extreme-right groups is a Europe-wide phenomenon. The success of the far-right and nationalistic parties that won seats in the elections on the basis of racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic platforms points to a clear erosion of tolerance and a clarion call to European officials to immediately engage in intercultural dialogue. The success of such rabid groups as The Freedom Party in the Netherlands, the Freedom Party in Austria (FPO), the Danish People’s Party, the British National Party, and Jobbik in Hungary, among others, will sadly only serve to embolden those who espouse the dangerous concepts of extreme nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.”

The New York-based [2] Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it was “deeply distressing that the blatantly anti-Semitic parties received so many votes,” and called on European leaders to “ensure that anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry never again gain a foothold in Europe. … It is imperative that European leaders do not remain silent, but speak out and reject the hateful and bigoted worldview of parties of the far-right and their supporters.”

The Geneva-based [3] World Jewish Congress (WJC) said: “Far-right parties and extremists have made gains across Europe amid protest votes and low turnout for the European Parliament (EP) elections. The elections were held in all 27 EU member states from Thursday to Sunday last week. Support for centre-Left parties and governments collapsed across the EU as fringe parties, picked up protest votes.”

Although these and other Jewish groups are not alone in their concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Europe, their fear of the far right often obscures the indisputable fact that some of the greatest threats to Jews (and Israel) in contemporary Europe stem from the left side of the political aisle. Indeed, it is [4] no big secret that all across the European continent, left-wing intellectuals are playing a crucial role in making anti-Semitism seem respectable. Of course, they are (usually) careful to promote their hatred of Jews only indirectly. Instead, modern anti-Semitism is typically disguised as [5] anti-Zionism and an obsession with Palestinian victimhood.

European Judeophobia often takes on new life forms such as anti-Semitic boycott campaigns and anti-Israel demonstrations, the growing intensity of which the European left not only [6] overlooks or obscures but often actively supports. It is transmitted by Europe’s left-leaning mass media, which not only believes that the systematic demonization of Israel promotes the postmodern and postnational ideological worldview of Europe’s governing class, but also appeases the wrath of Europe’s Muslim immigrants, lest they expose the myth of European socialist multicultural utopia…

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


Finland: Police Acknowledge That Wednesday’s Football Scuffles Got Beyond Them

With the current resources it was an impossible task to preserve order

Police in Helsinki have admitted that things got seriously out of kilter on Wednesday evening, prior to the Finland-Russia World Cup qualifying match, when processions of rival fans clashed on Mannerheimintie, with bottles, bricks, and flares being thrown and individual scuffles breaking out.

The scenes of violence were unprecedented in the Finnish experience, and Seppo Kujala of the Helsinki Police Department acknowledged that the officers did not entirely succeed in keeping the peace.

“Our objective was to prevent these clashes in advance and fend off disturbances between the rival factions. In the main we succeeded, but when highly-motivated groups looking for a rumble were involved, some fights and incidents broke out.”

According to some estimates, there were between 8,000 and 10,000 Russian fans in town for the match, together with around 25,000 Finns, and several hundred police were deployed.

Over the evening and during the match itself police arrested around thirty Russian fans and a dozen or so Finns. Nearly all were released on Thursday morning.

The reasons for the arrests included bottle-throwing or carrying illegal flares.

There were also a number of assaults reported. However, there have been few actual reports submitted to police of a crime being committed, which would suggest that the fighting was a mutual affair.

The scuffles climaxed in a clash between large groups of fans marching along Mannerheimintie.

At one point, the vanguard of the Finnish procession caught up with the rear of the Russian fans’ march.

Kujala noted that it may well have been that the biggest troublemakers on the Russian side had not set out with the others from the Senate Square, and he implied that some of the trouble had been planned in advance.

Kujala pointed out that efforts were made to keep the two groups separate in order to avoid any volatile encounters, but said that with the resources available it was an impossible task.

Matters were not helped by the fact that the police had no prior information on the route of the Russian procession.

The Finnish march had on the other hand been arranged beforehand between the organisers and the police.

Kujala stated that Wednesday’s unfortunate events were unlikely to influence the tradition of marching en masse to matches that the Finnish National Team Supporters’ Club (SMJK) has fostered.

Aside from the throwing of flares and fireworks in the enclosure for travelling Russian fans on the South Bank, there was little trouble in the stadium itself, and after the match the crowds dispersed without undue incident.

The decisive Russian victory — they crushed Finland 3-0 — possibly contributed to the ultimately peaceful end to the evening.

As for the fireworks, they could lead to sanctions for Palloliitto, the Finnish FA.

A FIFA match observer will be reporting on the game to the international body, whose disciplinary committee will consider the matter.

As hosts, the Finnish FA were responsible for security, but their Russian counterparts may also face punishment from FIFA, as they sold the tickets to the fans in the areas of the stadium where the trouble took place.

Security officials pointed out the difficulty of checking for items such as fireworks as fans came in through the turnstiles.

Many of the items are very small, and hard to spot in anything but the most rigorous and time-consuming of inspections.

Some have suggested there might have been as many as 12,000 in the stadium supporting the Russian team, and particularly after the visitors had scored twice and effectively settled the outcome, the singing and flag-waving occasionally gave the impression this was a home match for Russia.

A few local fans have grumbled that the willingness of Finnish and other entrepreneurs to sell the visitors large Russian flags only added to the sense of imbalance, but business is business.

For the most part, the rivalry in the Olympic Stadium was friendly enough, and as always in these cases, the genuine supporters denounced the troublemakers as “not real football fans”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Finland: Football Match Sparks Riots — Detainees Released by Police

Wednesday’s World Cup qualifying football match between Finland and Russia sparked hooliganism and fights in downtown Helsinki. Police detained 35 football fans — 29 of whom were Russians.

They were all later released. Police had to take many of the hooligans into custody in the Olympic Stadium during the game itself, but some fights broke out downtown before Russia’s 3-0 victory over Finland.

The main clash occurred on the city’s main boulevard Mannerheimintie, when a parade of Finnish fans caught up to a parade of Russians marching their way to the match. According to police, both nationalities threw flares and bottles at each other.

“Both groups provoked each other, and someone always gets irate,” says Helsinki police spokesman Juha Hänninen.

Police were also targeted by the rioters. They estimate that around 4,000 people took part in the parades and that as many as 8,000 Russians may have attended the match — the largest contingent of foreign football fans ever to attend a match in Finland.

The afternoon before the match was mostly peaceful, with a busy carnival atmosphere. Russian fans hung flags out of their car windows and drove around town honking.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


French Shops Sue Saudi Princess

Luxury retailers in Paris are suing a Saudi princess who allegedly owes tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, a lawyer for two shops said.

Maha al-Sudairi, the wife of the Saudi interior minister, is accused of owing the two shops 117,000 euros ($164,000).

The lawyer, Jacky Benazerah, said a court order had been obtained for bailiffs to go to the George V hotel in Paris and seize her belongings.

Ms Sudairi has diplomatic immunity because of her husband’s status.

Reports say several upmarket shops are owed money, including the clothes retailer Key Largo, a lingerie shop and jewellers.

Some bills are alleged to have remained unpaid for more than a year.

Mr Benazerah told the BBC that a bailiff, accompanied by a locksmith, would go to the George V Hotel — partly owned by Ms Sudairi’s nephew, Prince Al-Walid bin Talal — later on Friday.

He said the hotel could refuse them entry, in which case the French interior ministry and senior police officials would be consulted to authorise a police escort.

But Mr Benazerah said he was confident the princess would agree to an “amicable” settlement.

The Paris court where Mr Benazerah has filed his case has refused to comment, and Ms Sudairi has not responded to calls from the media.

This is not the first time the Saudi princess has made headlines.

In 1995, she was accused of beating a servant in Florida whom she suspected of stealing $200,000 from her. No charges were filed.

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


Gaddafi in Rome: Warns Against Illegal Immigration

(ANSAmed) — ROME — On the second day of his visit to Rome, Muammar Gaddafi made some unyielding statements to those who defend immigrants on principle, the majority of whom do not meet the requirements to be recognised as refugees, but are simply “hungry Africans who are politically unaffiliated. They do not know who the political parties are, and they are not involved in the elections.” The Libyan leader did not abandon for an instant the cliche’s that have always characterised him, as he faced every potentially delicate issue with determination. On illegal immigration, Gaddafi used a crude, yet effective image to make his point: “let the Italian government stop defending you from immigration. Let millions of people enter the country” and then “you will need a dictator to protect you”. He then added ironically: “let the human rights organisations find them jobs, treat them medically, and do everything else they need”. Irony again was not lacking when he said: “would you accept a million political refugees? If you would, it would be a great thing, I would help you, if you want a million Africans, who would then turn into two, twenty, fifty million, then I am with you”. He took a very hard stance on colonialism. In Gaddafi’s view, former colonising countries must “acknowledge that they have stolen Africa’s resources, colonised the continent, and in the past, treated its people like animals”. “Apologies must be made for this and it must never be repeated again,” added the colonel in his speech at La Sapienza University in Rome. “We will tell the G8 that resources have been stolen and now it is necessary to negotiate compensation,” he explained. In this way only “can immigration be stopped, dealing with today’s greatest challenge”. The colonel did not miss out on the chance to attack the United States, which he compared to Bin Laden, for its attack on Libya in 1986, “What is the difference between America’s attack in 1986 on our homes,” he asked, “and Bin Laden’s terrorism?”. “If Bin Laden does not have a state, he is an outlaw,” he added, “America is a state with international regulations”. Thanks to the United States, continued Gaddafi, today Iraq has become “an open arena” for al Qaeda’s terrorism. “Iraq was a fortress against terrorism,” he explained. “With Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda could not enter the country, now, thanks to the US, it is an open arena for terrorism and benefits al Qaeda.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaddafi Hits Out at U. S. in Italy

Terrorism a ‘reaction’ to colonialism, Libyan leader says

(ANSA) — Rome, June 11 — Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi on Thursday took a swipe at the United States on two separate occasions during his three-day state visit to Rome, forcing the Italian government to take its distance.

Speaking to students at La Sapienza, Gadaffi said the US wanted to “colonise the globe”, was not interested in people’s freedom and fought against anyone who “got in its way”.

“The US wanted to kill Gaddafi because he did not want to be subjugated and wanted his country to remain free,” he said, referring to the US’s 1986 airstrikes on Libya.

Addressing terrorism, Gadaffi said terrorist actions were “to be condemned”, but that “the reason (behind it) is linked to the colonialism of the Islamic world by countries who profess Christianity”.

Terrorism was a “reaction” to this, he said.

Earlier on Thursday Gaddafi attacked the US in an address to the Italian senate, likening the US retaliatory bombing of his quarters in 1986, in which an adopted infant daughter was killed, to al-Qaeda’s attacks and claiming the invasion of Iraq had turned the country into “an arena for al-Qaeda”. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said following the session that the government “certainly didn’t agree on everything” with the Libyan leader.

Gaddafi is expected back in Italy next month to attend the Group of Eight nations summit in the quake-hit town of L’Aquila.

The Libyan leader will attend the part of the July 8-10 G8 summit devoted to Africa in his capacity as chairman of the 53-nation African Union and may meet United States President Barack Obama, diplomatic sources say.

AFRICAN MIGRANTS ‘KNOW NOTHING OF POLITICS’.

Recalling Italy’s colonial occupation of Libya — over which Italy and Libya signed a landmark $5 billion dollar friendship accord in August in a bid to address grievances — Gadaffi said Libyans had “drunk from a bitter cup, with every Libyan family affected by the consequences, with victims either deported or killed”.

“Our aim is to prevent the colonialism of the past from being repeated,” he told La Sapienza students.

Students questioned Gaddafi about immigrant rights in Libya, which has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention, in the wake of a new Italian policy to intercept and return to the North African country migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, leaving Libya to deal with asylum requests.

“I agree with the need to respect rights, but we need to know who the political refugees are and how they can be recognised because a lot of information is wrong,” Gaddafi said.

“Are the millions who march from Africa towards the European Union political refugees? The Africans are starving, not political, they don’t practice politics, they don’t know about parties or elections,” he said.

Gaddafi said immigrants headed for Europe to “chase after resources that they believe have been taken away from them” by colonialist countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaddafi in Rome: Terrorism, USA Like Bin Laden in ‘86

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 11 — “We are against terrorism and we condemn it” but “we must try to understand the real reasons behind this pernicious phenomenon”, said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during his speech to the Italian Senate. We need to “hold talks even with the devil, if that will help us understand terrorism”. “What is the difference between the US attack against our homes”, he then asked, during his speech in the Sala Zuccari at Palazzo Giustiniani, “and Bin Laden’s terror attacks?”. “While Bin Laden has no country and is an outlaw, the United States of America is a country abiding to international laws”. Due to the USA intervention, Gaddafi added, Iraq has become “an open arena” for al Qaeda terrorists. “Iraq was a fortress against terrorism”, he explained, “while Saddam Hussein was in charge, al Qaeda could not infiltrate the country. And now, thanks to the USA, Iraq is an open arena and al Qaeda can only benefit from it”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaddafi Compares USA to Bin Laden, Says Party System is “Democracy’s Abortion”

President claims United States in Libya is like Al Qaeda. Praise for Berlusconi: “Could be Libya’s premier”

ROME — Security in the capital was tight for the visit of Libyan leader Muammar Gheddafi. The Libyan leader arrived on Wednesday to a ceremonial welcome that was so heavily criticised it was decided to deny him the high-profile platform of the Senate chamber for his address. In the end, he spoke at Palazzo Giustiniani, the Senate leader’s office. In his speech, President Gheddafi attacked the United States, accusing the country of being “terrorists like Bin Laden”. The Libyan president Palazzo Giustiniani for La Sapienza university, where students from the Onda movement and other demonstrators protesting at his visit to the university chanted slogans, set off smoke bombs and waved placards, some in Arabic, as they booed his arrival. In the evening, Mr Gheddafi visited the Capitol. The Libyan president had “no objection if [his] friend Silvio Berlusconi were to put himself forward to be prime minister of the Libyan government”. “The Libyan people would certainly benefit”, added President Gheddafi, again referring to the Italian premier as his “friend” in the part of his address in which he proposed the Libyan Jamahriya as a valid alternative to the “party system”, which he called “democracy’s abortion”.

MEETING WITH SCHIFANI — President Gheddafi was greeted at Palazzo Giustiniani by the leader of the Senate, Renato Schifani, who called the meeting “historic”. He gave a lengthy speech in which he referred to Silvio Berlusconi, Giulio Andreotti, Francesco Cossiga and Lamberto Dini, calling it a meeting with “old friends”. In a reference to Italy’s colonial past, President Gheddafi said: “Today’s Italy is not the Italy of yesterday, but for many years there remained a psychological situation of frustration and pain with regard to Italy. I have worked to move forward from this state of affairs and reach a new stage in relations between the two countries”. He went on: “I have always maintained that Italy should apologise for what it did during the Fascist and pre-Fascist periods. We have always insisted on the need for compensation for the moral and material damages suffered by every family in Libya. We were not asking for anything material. But on the political level, yes. What was needed was condemnation of the past and acknowledgement of colonialism’s mistakes”. President Gheddafi said that if those wounds heal — “and they should heal, we do not want further hostilities” — then co-operation is a goal that can be reached. That, he said, is why the friendship treaty is important. President Gheddafi then referred to “God’s justice”, pointing out that Mussolini was executed in public.

DICTATORS AND TERRORISM — In an ambitious analogy with the days of the Roman empire, President Gheddafi went on to find justification for terrorism and dictatorships, launching a fierce attack on the United States. In short, he said that Saddam Hussein had been elected by the Iraqis. It was an internal matter so why had someone from outside decided to remove him from power? While claiming to firmly “condemn” terrorism, the president attempted to offer as an explanation for the phenomenon the need for “defence” against the encroachments of the western world. “They call people with guns and bombs terrorists but what can we call the powers that have intercontinental missiles? What is the difference between Bin Laden’s actions and Reagan’s attack on Libya in 1986? Wasn’t that terrorism?” This part of the speech was criticised by the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini: “It’s certainly a very strong statement but in any case we are not in agreement with Colonel Gheddafi about everything”. President Gheddafi continued: “If peace is desired, arrogance must be put to one side. The Earth was created by God for all humanity, not for one controlling power”. He also said that no one had given Libya credit for interrupting its nuclear programme, which justified other nations in not interrupting theirs.

BOGUS DEGREE FROM IDV — Some Italy of Values (IDV) senators with group leader Felice Belisario had been waiting for the Libyan president outside Palazzo Giustiniani with a facsimile degree certificate bearing the words “Laurea Horroris Causa”, a reference to human rights violations. Group leader Belisario and the other senators were wearing pinned to theirs jackets a photograph of the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft that exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland with the caption “270 dead”. The six IDV senators — Stefano Pedica, Pancho Pardi, Giuliana Carlino, Giuseppe Caforio and Elio Lannutti, as well as Mr Belisario — went into Palazzo Giustiniani but were prevented from entering the Sala Zuccari with the photo and fake degree certificate.

STUDENT PROTESTS — President Gheddafi’s visit to the university in Rome was contested by students of the Onda movement, who complained among other things about the massive army presence in the university area. When the motorcade drew up outside the university, scuffles broke out between students and Carabinieri. A short distance away, about 50 Kurds staged a rousing welcome for the Libyan president, waving flags bearing portraits of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Gaddafi Tells Italy to Scrap Political Parties

By Stephen Brown and Philip Pullella Stephen Brown And Philip Pullella Thu Jun 11, 5:02 pm ET

ROME (Reuters) — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, addressing Italians in a historic Rome square, embarrassed his hosts on Thursday by saying he would abolish political parties and give Italians direct power if it were up to him.

“There would be no right, left or center. The party system is the abortion of democracy,” Gaddafi said in a sunset address in the famous Campidoglio square designed by Michelangelo atop Capitoline hill.

“I would abolish political parties so as to give power to the people,” said the idiosyncratic Gaddafi, while some members of the crowd held up pictures of the Libyan leader and banners welcoming him.

His angry host, right-wing Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno — who had praised the Libyan leader an hour earlier — told reporters Gaddafi’s discourse on political parties was “unacceptable” and that “we don’t accept lessons on democracy from anyone.”

Gaddafi also praised Italy for condemning fascism after the colonial period. Alemanno, standing beside him, was once the youth leader of a neo-fascist party and sparked controversy last year by refusing to label fascism as evil.

Earlier in the day Gaddafi, making his first visit to the former colonial power, faced protests by students over his human rights record and over a bilateral agreement for Italy to send back boatloads of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

The students tried to stop him giving a lecture at a Rome university, hurling paint and scuffling with police.

He told the students terrorism was “the residue of colonialism.”

“Terrorism is to be condemned and most victims (of terrorism) are innocent and unarmed,” Gaddafi said. But the world community had to look at the root causes of terrorism, such as injustice, he added.

The North African nation, once a pariah accused of sponsoring terrorism, has seen a thaw in its relations with the West since Gaddafi promised to give up the quest for weapons of mass destruction. International sanctions were lifted in 2003.

Italy, which last year apologized for Italian atrocities during its 1911-1943 colonial rule, is at the forefront of the diplomatic thaw and now gets a quarter of its oil from Libya, and more recently Libyan capital injections into Italian firms.

But Gaddafi retains a defiant tone, arriving on Wednesday in Rome with a picture pinned to his uniform of Omar al-Mukhtar, a resistance hero hanged by Italian occupiers in 1931.

Italian television on Thursday screened “Lion of the Desert,” a 1981 film about al-Mukhtar which was banned in Italy until now.

Gaddafi, who as current chairman of the Africa Union will attend a G8 summit in Italy next month with U.S. President Barack Obama, also criticized the U.S-led war in Iraq during a speech earlier on Thursday to the Italian senate.

“Iraq was a fortress against terrorism, with Saddam Hussein al Qaeda could not get in, but now thanks to the United States it is an open arena and this benefits al Qaeda,” he said.

He also compared the U.S. air strike on Tripoli in 1986, in which one of his daughters was killed, to an al Qaeda attack.

“What difference is there between the American attack on our homes in 1986 and bin Laden’s terrorist actions?” he asked. “If bin Laden has no state and is an outlaw, America is a state with international rules.”

Arguing that the world should have room for “regimes of all kinds” including “revolutionary” Libya, he asked: “What’s wrong with North Korea wanting to be communist? Or Afghanistan being in the hands of the mullahs? Is not the Vatican a respectable theocratic state with embassies all over the world?”

Some senators from the opposition center-left managed to get Gaddafi blocked from speaking in the main chamber, forcing the speech to take place in a nearby annexe.

Gaddafi also complained that the world had not rewarded Libya for giving up its ambition of owning weapons of mass destruction.

“We cannot accept living in the shadow of intercontinental missiles and nuclear weapons, which is why we decided to change route,” he told the senators.

“We had hoped Libya would be an example to other countries,” Gaddafi said. “But we have not been rewarded by the world.”

On Wednesday, his host Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Libya agreed to supply more oil to Italy and the head of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund said he was eyeing investments in Italian electricity and infrastructure companies and joint ventures with Italy in Libya.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Greece: Thrace Row

Turk PM wants muftis accepted

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday told Turkish television that the reopening of the Halki Orthodox Seminary “could be discussed” if Greece cooperated by recognizing muftis in the northern region of Thrace, which has a large Muslim population. Just over a week before his scheduled visit to Athens for the inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum, Erdogan told Turkey’s NTV channel that he had broached the issue with Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. Bakoyannis said the two issues, that of the patriarchate and Thrace’s Muslim population, were “not comparable.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Italy: Centre Right Hails Local Polls

Provinces up from 12 to 26, rivals down from 50 to 14

(ANSA) — Rome, June 9 — The centre right led by Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday hailed local election results from the weekend where it made a much stronger showing than elections for the European Parliament.

“Berlusconi is in an excellent mood,” said Cabinet Secretary Paolo Bonaiuti after Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party (PdL) and its ally the Northern League more than doubled their tally of provinces from 12 to 26 and the centre left saw their total plummet from 50 to 14.

The PdL and League took 15 provinces away from the centre left, which now also faces 22 run-off elections in provinces it previously governed.

“This is proof that when voters vote on things that matter to them daily, and not Europe, the Left collapses,” Bonaiuti claimed.

“It is a great result,” he said, noting that the centre left had been forced into run-offs in many parts of the central Italian ‘Red Belt’ it has ruled since WWII.

There was no immediate comment Tuesday from Dario Franceschini, leader of the largest opposition party, the Democratic Left (PD).

But PD grandee and former premier Massimo D’Alema said he was “confident” about the run-offs. The biggest prizes for the centre right were taking the provinces of Naples and Piacenza away from the centre left and forcing it into run-off votes in the provinces of Milan, Venice, Turin, Ferrara and Arezzo.

Municipal elections in provincial capitals saw the centre right take Biella, Bergamo, Verbania, Pavia, Pescara and Campobasso away from the centre left and force run-off votes in such centre-left strongholds as Florence, Bologna, Prato, Ancona and Ascoli Piceno. The only city where the incumbent centre right was forced into a run-off was Brindisi.

Franceschini had been much more vocal on Monday, as the EP results came in.

He said the PD had defied recent polls in the EP vote, sinking only to 26% from 33% in last year’s general election. The PdL meanwhile saw its support drop from 37% to 35%, far from the 45% target set by Berlusconi.

Pundits said both of the major parties had been hit by ‘friendly fire’ from smaller but feistier allies.

Graftbuster Antonio Di Pietro’s Italy of Values, the PD’s unruly ally, rose to 8% from 4.4% last year.

The League, identified by many voters as the driving force behind a crackdown on crime and illegal immigration, increased its share from 8.3% to 10.2%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Knox on the Witness Stand on Friday

Kercher murder suspect plans to reply to questions, lawyer

(ANSA) — Perugia, June 11 — American student Amanda Knox, on trial here with her ex boyfriend for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, is prepared to talk freely when she takes the witness stand in her defence on Friday.

Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga told reporters on Thursday the 21-year-old student “planned to answer any questions she’s asked” when she goes on the stand on Friday and Saturday.

Knox and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, are on trial for the murder, on charges of sexual violence as well as for simulating a crime to make it look like an intruder had broken into the house.

The American must also answer charges of falsehood for having accused Perugia-based musician Patrick Lumumba of being the murderer.

Prosecutors have have cleared Lumumba of any involvement in the case and he is suing for damages. Exchange student Kercher, 22, was found semi-naked and with her throat slit on November 2, 2007 in the house she shared in Perugia with Seattle-born Knox and two Italian women.

A third defendant, Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede, 21, was sentenced to 30 years for sexually assaulting and murdering the British exchange student at a separate trial last October.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has told the court that Kercher, who was found semi-naked in her bedroom with her throat slashed on November 2, 2007 was killed when Guede, Knox and Sollecito tried to force her to participate in “a perverse group sex game”.

In Mignini’s reconstruction of events, Sollecito and Guede held Kercher’s arms while Knox slashed her throat with a kitchen knife.

The public prosecutor said Guede had also tried to rape Kercher.

But Guede’s lawyers claim that the crime was carried out by Knox and Sollecito alone.

Guede has always admitted to being in the house on the night of the murder but says he was in the bathroom when Kercher was murdered.

The defendants deny wrongdoing and their defence teams claim their clients were not in the house and that the crime was committed by a single attacker. Knox is taking the stand at the request of her lawyer and of Lumumba’s attorney, who is involved in the trial as a civil plaintiff.

As Knox prepared to take the stand, an article in the New York Times by Pulitzer-winning author Timothy Egan took issue with prosecutor Giuliano Mignini’s handling of the case, which has drawn widespread coverage here and abroad. In an article published on Thursday, An Innocent Abroad, Egan casts doubt on the strength of the case and the prosecution’s motives.

“The case against Knox has so many holes in it, and is so tied to the career of a powerful Italian prosecutor who is under indictment for professional misconduct, that any fair-minded jury would have thrown it out months ago,” says the author, who is a Seattle resident.

A number of other US and British papers have questioned the prosecutor’s case.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Customs Finds $134 Billion in a Suitcase

It is either the biggest smuggling operation in history — or a fraud of equally impressive proportions. Italian customs officials stopped two men at the Swiss border carrying bonds worth $134 billion (95.8 billion euros).

Italian customs officers on the Swiss border often stop smugglers — but not of this scale. Two Japanese citizens have been detained by Italian police in Chiasso on the Swiss-Italian border after being found with $134 billion of US bonds hidden in the base of their suitcase, according to a press statement by the Italian Guardia di Finanza.

The two men, reported to be more than 50 years old, were traveling by train from Italy to Switzerland on June 3. Financial police at a control on the border found the documents tucked inside a closed section at the bottom of their suitcase, separate from their personal items. According to their statement, the men’s luggage included 249 government bonds worth $500 million and 10 so-called Kennedy bonds, each worth a billion dollars.

But details of the case remain unclear: The Japanese embassy in Rome confirmed the arrest of the two men but the news agency Bloomberg reported on Friday that it was not yet established whether they were Japanese citizens.

It yet to be seen whether this is the biggest smuggling scandal in history — or a massive fraud. Italian officials said they were still checking the authenticity of the bonds.

But should the bonds, or at least some of them, turn out to be real, the men will face a significant penalty. In Europe it is illegal to transport more than €10,000 across borders without notifying customs.

Meanwhile, if they turn out to be authentic, Italy is set for a windfall. According to Italian law, the state could fine the men 40 percent of the seized money. Italy’s mountain of public debt, which is at 105 percent of GDP, could shrink.

And although details of the case are still murky, the Italian media is already mulling how the windfall would be best spent. Aside from shrinking the national debt, there are suggestions the funds could help rebuild the earthquake-wrecked Abruzzo region.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Lario Breaks Silence on Marriage

Truth ‘has not even been touched upon’, Mrs Berlusconi says

(ANSA) — Rome, June 11 — The wife of Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Veronica Lario, on Thursday broke her silence over their public divorce spat to say that the truth about their relationship had “not even been touched on”.

Lario, 52, asked for a divorce last month after Berlusconi attended the 18th birthday party of aspiring model Noemi Letizia, telling Italian daily La Repubblica that she “(could) not stay with a man who consorted with minors”.

In a statement issued to another daily, Corriere della Sera, and printed on its first page Thursday, Lario said she had spent the last few weeks “watching in silence, without reacting in the media, the brutal mudslinging against myself, my dignity and the history of my marriage”.

“It’s certain that the truth about the relationship between me and my husband has not even been touched upon, just like the reason why I had to turn to the press in order to communicate with him,” she said.

“Certainly, I have always loved him and I have built my life in terms of my marriage and my family”.

Berlusconi, 72, has categorically denied any “steamy or more than steamy” involvement with teenagers, explaining there was nothing “spicy” about his attendance at the birthday party of the 18-year-old because he had a long friendship with her family.

He also criticised his wife for slamming alleged plans to field pretty young women in the European Parliament elections, which Lario described as “shamelessly trashy”, saying all the women were qualified for the job.

As a direct result of the Letizia flap, the premier found himself mired further after paparazzo photographs of topless women at his villa in Sardinia emerged, and a scandal broke over allegedly improper use of publicly funded state flights to ferry guests to the villa.

Right-wing politician Daniela Santanche’ meanwhile alleged that Lario herself had a long relationship with her 47-year-old bodyguard, Alberto Orlandi.

The allegations were published by right-wing daily Libero, which labelled actress Lario the “ungrateful showgirl” and published topless photos of her from early in her career.

Lario has not commented on the allegations but friends have denied them.

DIVORCE SPAT INFLUENCED PdL ELECTION SETBACK.

Last month Berlusconi told Corriere he might file a counter-suit if Lario went ahead with plans to divorce him.

Asked if his 19-year marriage to Lario could survive, he replied: “I don’t think so, and I don’t know if I want it this time. Veronica will have to publicly apologise to me, and I don’t know if that will be enough”.

“It’s the third time she’s played a trick like this during an election campaign. It’s really too much’.

Lario’s statement Thursday came after observers fingered the divorce spat as one of the reasons Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party suffered a slight setback in the EP elections.

The PdL won 35.3% of the vote which was an improvement over the 32.4% won by its two main components — Forza Italia and the National Alliance — in the last European elections but below the 37.4% of the vote which brought it to power last year and much less than Berlusconi’s optimistic prediction of 45%.

Berlusconi fell in love with actress Lario, his second wife, when he saw her performing topless in 1980 at a theatre he owned and divorced his first wife to marry her in 1990.

The Berlusconis had another highly publicised spat two years ago when Lario demanded, and obtained, a public apology after he reportedly flirted with young women, one of whom is now his equal opportunities minister.

In the latest incident, Lario accused him of insulting womens’ dignity and making “victims” of his family.

The premier has three children by Lario, aged 20, 22 and 24.

His two children by his first wife play top roles in his business empire.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Metternich 2 — the Lisbon Treaty

One hundred and fifty years after his death, the Austrian Empire’s ambassador in chief remains politically incorrect. With the Lisbon treaty, however, the twenty-seven member states are recreating 1814’s Congress of Vienna that gave rise to modern Europe, argues Czech daily Lidové Noviny.

Do you fear that once they ratify the Lisbon Treaty, the big nations will get along well amongst themselves and discount the small ones? That under their baton Europe will be reduced to a “concert of great powers”? Today we remember Prince Metternich, the man who demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of such a policy.

It is quite astonishing that we do not celebrate a Metternich year, although 2009 was proclaimed the Year of Darwin. We celebrate Darwin for two reasons: he was born in 1809 and published its magnum opus, On the Origin of Species, in 1859. Those two years were watersheds in Metternich’s career: he became Austria’s Foreign Minister in 1809 (de facto, executive head, and later State Chancellor), and he died on June 11, 1859. He was lain to rest in the family tomb at Plasy, in western Bohemia..

Prince Metternich is remembered as the father of the post-Napoleonic Europe that emerged from the Congress of Vienna, the inspiration behind the idea of the “Concert of Great Powers”, the founder of Realpolitik that puts the balance of interests and the stability of power above morality. Even if, when they hear the term “Realpolitik”, modern-day Europeans “stop up their noses and close their ears”, there is no denying that Metternich’s Europe worked for nearly 100 years running, from the Napoleonic Wars to World War I. And even if its author died 150 years ago, Metternich’s political thought survives to this day today and, in many cases, remains avant-garde.

Last September, when ex-Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek launched the campaign for the Czech presidency of the European Council, he drew an apt comparison: “In varietate concordia — unity in diversity. This is the motto of the European Union, but also my vision of the Czech Republic’s action in Europe. The United States has roughly the same motto: E pluribus unum — out of many, one.” This motto was also de facto that of Metternich, who rejected the centrifugal ambitions of nations for the sake of supranational balance and stability. So why not pay tribute to that inspiration, why not honour its author by name?

150 years after his death, Metternich remains the symbol of reactionary thought and obscurantism. It is true that Metternich abhorred change, revolutionaries and liberals. But we should not attribute this aversion to an unconditional attachment to all things relating to the past. Quite simply, Metternich was afraid — and history was to prove him right — that modernism would be accompanied by other “isms”: nationalism, socialism etc..

The Metternichian face of Europe held for half a century, before being overthrown by the nationalisms born of war: viz. the Crimean, Prusso-Austrian and Franco-Prussian wars. World War I gave it the coup de grâce. Seeing as Metternich fashioned the face of the Old Continent for four generations, while the Versailles system only held for one, his was no small feat in the grand scheme of things.

The opponents of the Lisbon Treaty may see themselves as reincarnating the naysayers of the Age of Metternich and its penchant for riding roughshod over the weak. In the final analysis, what counts most is how our current situation will be judged in, say, the year 2050. In other words, when we have gained sufficient perspective to weigh up the pros and cons of Realpolitik.

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


Schengen: Weapons and Women Smuggler’s Paradise

Open EU borders are a paradise for weapons and human smugglers, senior Danish police officers say.

Senior Danish police officers are complaining that the EU’s open borders under the Schengen agreement have made it simple for criminal groups to smuggle weapons and women into Denmark.

“The Schengen agreement has made it much easier to move weapons around Europe and to get them into Denmark. This is a problem as crime becomes much more serious when weapons are involved,” says Henrik Svindt of the Copenhagen Special Unit for Gang Crime and Women Traficking.

The issue of how to stop weapons and women smuggling into Denmark has risen on the Danish political agenda after the Social Democratic Party recently suggested stricter border controls. The Danish People’s Party has demanded for some time that border controls should be introduced.

DOCUMENTATION: What is the Schengen area? (External link)

Weapons Svindt is not prepared to say whether border controls should be re-introduced, but notes that the parties to the current gang warfare in Denmark are able to get hold of AK47 and Uzi automatic weapons with ease. The weapons are often smuggled to Denmark from the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

The National Commissioner’s Office has confiscated more than 170 weapons over the past two months, although it is not clear how they got into the country.

Svindt says the current situation cannot be compared to the situation before borders were opened in 2001.

“Criminals used to bash each other up. Now there is a tendency that criminals are more willing to use firearms,” Svindt says.

Woman The Head of Copenhagen Police Women’s Trafficking Unit René Hansen says human traffickers hardly need to speculate on how to get women into Denmark.

“Once the prostitutes are in the Schengen area, it’s easy to send them up here — and that is, of course, a problem,” Hansen says, adding that Denmark has many trafficked women from Eastern Europe and Africa.

ALSO SEE: Sex slaves seek freedom

“We should increase searches of buses from Eastern Europe — then we can find the girls who don’t have the necessary papers. Traffickers will always try to send women to Denmark — so we try to catch the traffickers. But in principle it would be better to try to prevent the women from coming here, rather than letting them come in and then investigating them to stop the traffic,” Hansen says.

Police decision The National Commissioner’s Office policy, however, is not to increase border controls, but rather to try to catch those behind the traffic in women and weapons.

“But if senior police officers feel that it would be an idea to increase controls buses from Eastern Europe, then they can do so. It’s their decision,” says Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Spain: Arm Lost in Accident, Limb Thrown in Trash Bin

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 11 — A non-EU immigrant lost an arm in the gears of a kneading machine and his employers, instead of taking the limb with them to seek medical care, through it into a trash bin on the way to a Valencian hospital. The horrible tale of a young Bolivian, 33, without a stay permit or a job and still under medical treatment has led to indignation and sympathy across Spain. Today, the prosecutor’s office in Valencia that investigates work related accidents asked for a report from the Guardia Civile and the intervention of a workplace inspector at the bakery in Real di Gandia (Valencia), where the incident took place on May 28. At the moment it took place, according to what was reconstructed by the authorities on the basis of what the man’s sister saw, he was pouring 40 kilos of flour into an automatic kneader when the plastic protection which he was wearing on his left arm got caught in the gears, which crushed the mans arm and ripped it off. In spite of copious haemorrhaging, the young man was loaded into a car and taken for medical treatment, but just 50 metres from the hospital, he was forced to get out of the car and go to the Emergency Room on foot, and — according to the man — his employers got rid of the arm throwing it into a trash bin. The young man, in shock, was treated in the hospital in Gandia, where doctors were unable to attempt to put the man’s arm back on, it being found some hours later in deteriorated condition. According to the report presented by the sister of the victim, the employers “cleaned the entire bakery”, so that there would be no evidence of the illegal worker. The authorities arrested the owners of the bakery last week, two brothers, for violating workers’ rights, because they employed people without any type of contract. But the charges could potentially turn criminal for manslaughter. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Women in Custody for Beating of Far-Right Politician

Two young women suspected of beating up the spokesperson of the far right Sweden Democrats and his girlfriend were remanded in custody on Wednesday by the Södertörn District Court.

Prosecutor Jens Nilsson requested the women be remanded on suspicions of aggravated assault for their attack against Martin Kinnunen.

One of the women, who is 25-years-old, was also held for her suspected role in two other assaults which took place on Folkungagatan on Södermalm in southern Stockholm in February.

During the remand hearing, the women denied the assault allegations against them.

Prosecutors believe the attack on Kinnunen and his girlfriend, who were targeted by a group of five to ten people, was politically motivated.

Police may arrest more people suspected of participating in the incident, which took place early Sunday morning when Kinnunen and his girlfriend were walking near Gullmarsplan south of Stockholm.

The couple were punched and kicked repeatedly, and forced to seek treatment at a nearby hospital for their injuries.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Switzerland: Obama Picks Wealthy Donor as Ambassador

Donald Beyer, the former lieutenant governor of Virginia, has been pegged to be the next United States ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Beyer, who became wealthy as a car dealer, is one of several big money donors from the Democratic Party to receive diplomatic postings. He raised more than $500,000 (SFr541,000) for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid and contributed $4,600 of his own money to the campaign.

Beyer replaces Peter Coneway, a Texas Republican appointed by George W. Bush. He held the post for roughly two years before stepping down on December 7, 2008.

Leigh Carter, a career diplomat, will continue to act as the embassy’s chargé d’affaires in Bern until the Senate confirms Beyer’s appointment and Switzerland approves his credentials.

Making the trip across the Atlantic with Beyer will be Washington lawyer Howard Gutman, who has been dispatched to Belgium. Gutman also raised more than $500,000 for the Democratic president.

About one third of US ambassadors are non-career appointees — friends of politicians or party donors — who often receive plum assignments to places like Bern or London. Career diplomats are assigned to more sensitive posts.

Career diplomats were nominated on Thursday to be envoys to Burundi, Tunisia, the Marshall Islands, Oman and Suriname. Obama also chose retired Army General Alfonso Lenhardt to be ambassador to Tanzania.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


The German Passport is Losing Its Appeal

Fewer foreign residents of Germany chose to become naturalised German citizens last year than in any previous year since reunification in 1990.

Last year 94,500 foreigners applied for and received German citizenship, a drop of 16 percent from 2997, according to the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden.

Analysts point to the entry of formerly communist eastern neighbors into the European Union in 2004 as well as a rule limiting dual nationality as likely causes for the continuing drop in naturalizations.

There was a surge in foreigners becoming Germans in 2000 when laws on becoming German were loosened, but a clause pushed through by conservative politicians makes it impossible for new Germans to keep their old citizenships.

Of those who did successfully become German last year, 24,500 were of Turkish origin; nearly 7,000 were from Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and the former Serbia-Montenegro; and roughly 4,200 each from Poland and Iraq. Naturalizations from most countries dropped in 2008, with the exception of those from Iraq.

The drop may also have been partially caused by the implementation of a new naturalization test, for which some authorities and schools were not prepared, according to the Federal Integration Commissioner Maria Boehmer.

“I am already calculating a significant increase for 2009,” she said.

There are about two million foreigners who have lived in Germany long enough to apply for citizenship, she said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Tourism: Bye Bye Sun and Beaches, Spain Seeks New Model

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 11 — It’s not just the economic slump, but the failure of the ‘sol y playa’ model for tourism. Following a peak in 2007 with a record 59 million arrivals, Spain has witnessed a progressive decline in the number of tourist visitors to its sun-kissed beaches, with 2 million fewer heading their way in 2008 than during 2007. The trend seems to be getting worse: the downward trend was confirmed by the 12% drop in numbers in the first quarter of this year. This failure of competitiveness, says an enquiry sponsored by Pais, has led the government to hit the subsidy button, doubling the budget set aside for this sector to 778 million this year. It is a sector which, alone, makes up 11% of the country’s GDP and employment. Having been overtaken by the USA as the world’s second-favourite tourist destination, Spain is trying to repair some of the damage done by years of systemic destruction of the natural attractions of its coastline, especially in areas such as Alicante and Almeria, to try and freshen up a product which was already losing its competitive edge compared to eastern destinations or the eastern Mediterranean, such as Istanbul or Egypt. The big sector operators, in a meeting of the Exceltur association, have decided on “a paradigm shift”, capable of offering “a tailor-made experience for each visitor”, as tourism lobby spokesperson, José Luis Zoreda, put it. The new package is not based on tourist numbers but on their average disbursements pro capita. Having plumped for “intensive brickwork”, says Josep Oliver, professor at Barcelona University, “implies that one single generation has used up a resource that could have lasted centuries or millennia”. A paradigm shift is an objective which entails not aiming at the lower to medium tourist market, such as those of eastern Europe, but of aiming “to compete with some of the regions of southern Italy or of France”. Positive examples of a change in this direction are the transformation of the Costa Brava, where for years now licences for tourist operators have only been granted to the highest quality organisations, or the virtuous development undertaken in the sector in Bilbao, with its construction of the Guggenheim museum. There has also been significant progress made over the past years in business and cultural tourism. To save Palma de Majorca a plan has been presented “for a complete renovation of the area, capable of boosting a new round of innovation and sustainability for the future,” Zoreda explains. This is a public-private initiative, promoted by the Spanish government and that of the Balearics, for the renovation of 1,000 hectares, with 40,000 tourist posts and for 1.5 million visitors per year, in order to revitalise a destination which appears in terminal decline. The project entails the demolition of half of accommodation for 40,000 tourists, two-thirds of which consists of hotels of fewer than three stars. The estimated cost is between 2 and 3 billion euros, 70% of which will come from the private sector; even though only 8 million euros have so far arrived from the Industry Ministry for works to be offered for tender in the course of next week. In the medium term, the government is aiming at providing incentives for investment by businesses in the sector, above all by SMEs, through its Renew Tourism Plan, which has one billion euros in funding. A large amount of the financing will be dedicated to renovating hotels. But the outlook for the future remains hazy, under the black clouds of the economic recession. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Ben Kinsella: Police Bugged Killers to Gather Crucial Evidence

Handcuffed in the back of the police van, Ben Kinsella’s killers wasted no time in plotting ways to avoid being convicted.

Speaking in hushed tones and using the language of the street to try to conceal their intentions, the men set about targeting witnesses and getting their stories straight. Jade Braithwaite, Michael Alleyne and Juress Kika were unaware, however, that detectives had obtained a licence secretly to record their every word during the journey.

While police in the early stages of the investigation had obtained other intelligence that the defendants were Ben’s attackers, they lacked vital proof. The hunt for the knife or knives that had delivered the fatal blows had also been fruitless.

As officers waited for blood and DNA results to be processed, engineers fitted the van with bugging equipment. The recordings, made as they travelled to Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court and then an identity parade, give a rare insight into the mindset of three young men involved in street drug crime, immersed in American rap music and believing that the slightest loss of face should provoke revenge of the utmost severity.

In one tape the men can be heard gloating about how little evidence the police had. In another, sometimes laughing and joking, they compared notes about the investigation.

In one excerpt Kika appears to recall the moment that he attacked Ben. Referring to it as “the madness”, he said: “See when it happened, yeah. Like boom, it was like a kinda quick ting. Like boom. Went down the road, come back up. Boom, boom. Finished. Boom. Ghost. You get what I’m saying?”

He then added that he believed that the only witnesses to the attack could have been “the people from the houses that were watching on the road. Know what I’m saying?”

They then try to identify the “snitch” (informant) from their “endz” (neighbourhood) who had named them as the killers. Meanwhile Kika claimed that “someone should sort out” a man who ran the council’s CCTV cameras that filmed them running from the murder scene.

Braithwaite, who used the nickname J-Man, later told Kika that if he took all the blame for the stabbing he would receive “Gs” — thousands of pounds.

At one point Kika pondered whether it was possible that they were being secretly recorded: “Blood, they sure these tings ain’t got no f***ing recording s*** cuz?” Alleyne, who used the nickname Tigger, replied confidently: “Suck your recording.”

It was those recordings, though, that led to the defendants’ initial confidence collapsing into a desperate clamour to accuse each other of delivering the fatal blow. Detective Chief Inspector John Macdonald, who led the investigation, said the type of language the men used was often peculiar to a small group of friends. When Braithwaite gave evidence he dropped the “street” tones and was well spoken. “He said he was speaking that way in the police van to keep face with the other defendants.”

Approval of bugging — what the Home Office calls “intrusive surveillance” — is given by an independent surveillance commissioner. It must also then be approved by the Home Secretary, who must believe that the surveillance is either in the interest of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime, or for safeguarding the UK economy.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Ben Kinsella’s Murderers ‘Face Retribution’ During Life Jail Term

Three men who stabbed the schoolboy Ben Kinsella to death were jailed for life today after being warned that they face retribution in prison for the murder.

Jade Braithwaite, 20, Juress Kika, 19, and Michael Alleyne, 18, have all received letters from prison authorities alerting them that they are marked men.

Each will spend at least 19 years in jail for the murder of the 16-year-old brother of the former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella.

Applause erupted from the public gallery of the Old Bailey as the killers were led down to the cells in handcuffs. Police had to intervene as friends of the defendants clashed with friends of Ben as they shouted out “Bye” and “Enjoy your porridge”.

Miss Kinsella, who played Kelly Taylor in the BBC soap, clapped once but otherwise kept silent with the rest of her family in the well of court.

Speaking outside court after the hearing she said of the 19-year minimum tariff: “It’s just little more than Ben lived, so it really is not good enough.”

Sentencing the killers, Brian Barker QC, the Common Serjeant of London, said: “Ben Kinsella was 16 when he died. Your blind and heartless anger that night defies belief. He had in front of him a lifetime of promise. You have taken all that away from him in a brutal, cowardly and totally unjustified attack.”

“It reflects yet again the futility of carrying and use of knives by some people. Crimes like these generate outrage in all like minded people.”

Earlier, lawyers for the three killers confirmed that they had received letters warning them they may be under threat from members of a notorious crime family.

Nerida Harford-Bell, for Braithwaite, said: “Jade understands he is a marked man. His mother, grandmother and aunt are in process of moving from their addresses to an entirely different area.”

Sallie Bennett-Jenkins, for Alleyne, said: “He has received a letter that will have an impact for more than many years. It is an unusual step but one he is going to take very, very seriously.”

James Nichol, solicitor advocate for Kika, said of his letter: “It is being taken seriously.”

Ben, who wanted to become a graphic designer, was stabbed 11 times after becoming the innocent victim of an argument. He had been celebrating the end of his exams at Shillibeers bar in Holloway, north London, when he was attacked in the early hours of June 29 last year.

After a mass brawl that had not involved Ben, Braithwaite recruited Kika and Alleyne to get revenge for being “disrespected”. They chased the rival group of youths down the street and picked on Ben when he failed to run away.

The straight-A student was kicked to the floor and stabbed eleven times in five seconds as he pleaded: “I’ve not done anything wrong.”

He was the 17th teenager to be murdered in London last year.

Kika was wanted by police for a stabbing and robbery in Islington days earlier but was only tracked down when he was arrested for the murder on June 30.

Alleyne was on licence after being released from an 18 month prison sentence for drug dealing. Braithwaite had served a 12-month sentence for attempted robbery in 2006. He later blamed Alleyne and Kika for the stabbing, sparking ugly scenes in court as the defendants turned on each other.

Kika and Alleyne, both from Holloway, north London, and Braithwaite from Bow, east London, all denied murder.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Classroom Assistant at Muslim Girls’ School Forced Out of Job by Parents Who Believed She Was a Man

A classroom assistant has quit her job at a strict Muslim girls’ school after parents launched an email campaign claiming she was a man. Shifa Patel, who dressed traditionally in a hijab and full-length robe while at work, had to submit herself to a humiliating medical examination after the petition demanded she prove her gender. The headteacher at Al-Islah Muslim Girls’ School in Blackburn, Lancashire, even sent a letter to parents reassuring them that Ms Patel was female in an attempt to quash the growing discontent.

But police had to be called in when an angry mob of parents gathered at the school gates demanding that she be sacked. The assistant then took the decision to save the school and herself from any more grief and tendered her resignation.

The hate campaign is believed to have begun when photographs of Ms Patel with short hair and wearing a shirt and trousers were copied from internet site Facebook. These were then circulated by email. A distraught Ms Patel, whose age is not known, said: ‘I have irrefutable medical evidence that I’m a woman. ‘The people who have done this to me have hurt me so badly. I will never forgive those who did this to me and spread these lies.’ In some of the photographs circulated, Ms Patel is pictured next to acting head teacher Fatima Patel.

Fatima Patel said: ‘When some parents approached me I told them I will take the Quran in my hand and swear to tell the truth. But they were more concerned about obtaining a GP’s certificate for Shifa.’ She added: ‘What does that say about some people? Some of the parents have been very supportive.’ The school’s governing body also backed Ms Patel, saying her ‘unquestionable work ethic and professionalism had never been in doubt.’ Sgt John Rigby, of Lancashire Constabulary’s minority team, said: ‘This is an entirely internal school matter and police attended simply to calm the situation down.’

Al-Islah Muslim Girls’ School is privately-run and has nearly 200 students. It occupies the first floor of a red-brick mosque in Blackburn. While it is a girls’ school it takes a handful of boys at primary level each year. All students must adhere to a strict uniform code. Music is viewed as un-Islamic and girls studying for the GCSEs are taught Islamic studies rather than religious education and Arabic and Urdu instead of modern European languages.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Sounds like a first-rate way to achieve integration!]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: David Cameron Calls for Referendum on EU Constitution

David Cameron, the Tory leader, has called for a referendum on the European constitution to restore trust in the political system following the MPs’ expenses scandal.

Mr Cameron warned that voting for the minor parties would be “letting the Government off the hook” over the issue of a referendum on the European constitution.

“In terms of rebuilding trust, I think this issue of when you make a promise, sticking to that promise, like the promise we have all made about having a referendum on the constitution, is as important as anything else,” he told GMTV.

He said he was publishing a Bill today which would allow for a referendum to be passed through Parliament with a vote on the same day in the autumn as the Irish.

The Conservative Bill would require the support of substantial numbers of Labour rebels to get through the House of Commons, and is thought extremely unlikely to succeed.

But Mr Cameron said that Thursday’s elections to the European Parliament gave voters a chance to put pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to grant a referendum by voting Conservative.

Britain ratified the Treaty by a parliamentary vote in June last year, but it cannot come into force until all 27 member states have ratified. As well as the hurdle of the Irish referendum this autumn, the Treaty must also gain the assent of the Czech President and Poland must deposit its documents confirming ratification.

Mr Cameron has promised a referendum in the UK if the ratification process has not been completed across the Union by the time a Conservative administration comes to power, but today he declined to say what he would do if ratification is complete and the Treaty is in effect by that time.

The Tory leader has said that he “would not let matters rest” in that case, leading Labour to claim that he would attempt to renegotiate the agreement in the face of opposition from all the other EU states, potentially miring Britain in years of constitutional wrangling.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Cameron resisted several requests to spell out exactly what his plans were, but indicated that he may seek to use a forthcoming renegotiation of the EU’s budget to seek reforms to bring powers back from Brussels to Westminster.

“I don’t want to go into every last detail of what happens if a series of things happen — if there isn’t an early election, if the Irish vote yes in a second referendum, if the Poles decide to ratify this treaty, if the Czechs decide to ratify,” said Mr Cameron.

“I know that, of course, my opponents would love me to focus on what happens if all these things happen, but I am not going to do that. I am going to focus on the here and now, because on Thursday people can go into these voting booths, vote Conservative and pile pressure on Gordon Brown to hold a referendum. I don’t want to let him off the hook.”

He added: “Every treaty is an effective renegotiation and if we had a Conservative government we would be going into that renegotiation with a list of powers we want returned to the UK, because we believe in being members of the EU but we want it to be more about trade and co-operation rather than this endless process of building a superstate…

“There’s an important negotiation coming up on the future funding of the EU and I don’t want to see us increasing the funding at all, but it gives us enormous leverage in terms of making sure we get a good deal for Britain and we build the sort of EU that not just the Conservatives but other parties in Europe want to see.”

Mr Cameron said he could not foresee circumstances in which he would want to call a referendum on Britain remaining in the EU, adding: “If I thought that being a member of the EU was against the national interest, I would argue for us to come out, but I don’t.”

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


UK: Free Speech and the Bacon and Eggs of Democracy

So, do you believe in democracy? Or do you prefer, instead of engaging in the political process, to walk around shouting ‘no free speech for fascists’ like some mantra for morons whenever someone says something you disagree with?

That’s about the extent of subtlety you can expect from the Irish Left these days, as their contempt for democracy becomes even stronger.

We have seen this manifest itself in near riots outside a university campus when Israeli ambassador Zion Evrony tried to speak; the disgraceful cancellation of a debate featuring discredited historian David Irving; and on one rather amusing occasion the mantra for morons was directed towards your humble columnist by some mad people.

We also see this disdain for democracy in the Shell To Sea campaign where spokesweirdo Maura Harrington is quite open in her contempt for mere mortals.

She blithely admits that she doesn’t care if the majority of the Irish people are opposed to her actions, she is going to do what she is going to do, tough.

The very fact that someone as obviously unhinged as Harrington can come to the fore of any campaign and actually be seen, as some sort of heroic martyr as opposed to just being a crank with too much time on her hands, is indicative of the current Irish situation.

The inherent self-contradiction in the phrase ‘no free speech for fascists’ shows the blatant, bovine stupidity of the mobs who like to chant it with orgasmic glee at anyone they don’t like.

After all, free speech has always been in rather short supply in fascist countries and the fact that these blathering morons can’t appreciate the irony in using fascist tactics to suppress people they regard as fascists is quite delightful.

The best example this week came with the treatment of the odious BNP leader, Nick Griffin.

Now, a quick perusal of the policies of the British National Party will show you that while some make perfect sense — an end to untrammelled immigration, the restoration of British culture at the heart of civic society and putting a stop to multiculturalism, a further look will show that it is also a party of utterly racist nutters, Holocaust-deniers and the kind of sad bastard whose biggest worry in life is inter-racial marriage.

But while he may be many things, Nick Griffin is no nutter, and he is particularly hated by the Left because he routinely trounces them in debates.

In fact, New Labour made the BNP and now the far Left are propping them up.

This is because the debate on immigration and assimilation has been stifled and hijacked to the extent where anyone who questions the wisdom of untrammelled immigration is automatically branded a racist.

And so, the average working class Brit, whose family would have voted Labour for generations, turns to a party that he would have traditionally despised.

After all, when you have a situation where someone like Yasmin Alibhai Brown, a Ugandan Muslim immigrant who was given asylum in Britain, can blithely condemn the white working class with statements such as: “Criticise them and, they who detest PC, bring down the wrath of Alf Garnett on your head. Their culture is proud; they are noble; what they believe — however stupid or vicious — must be awesome.”

If you said that about any other ethnic group, the fascists of liberalism would have you up in front of the beak in a minute for incitement to racial hatred.

And could you imagine her saying that to the face of the “stupid or vicious” white working class, who volunteered for the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, or their counterparts in east London who took to the streets of the East End and fought hand-to-hand with Moseley’s fascist Blackshirts in the famous Battle Of Cable Street?

So, how did the grandchildren of the veterans of Cable Street end up turning to the inheritors of Moseley’s beliefs?

Well, it’s actually quite simple.

People are simply pissed off being treated like third-class citizens in their own country.

One of the most pernicious aspects of multiculturalism is the fact that the only culture it won’t respect is indigenous British culture, which it condemns as imperialist, colonial and racist.

Which is why London has a giant Paddy’s Day parade and festival but no celebration of their own patron saint, George, because that would be “offensive” to other cultures.

One of the particularly nauseating aspects of the egg-throwing incident is the fact that the police simply stood by and did nothing while a baying mob did their best to get at him.

Compare that to the police reaction to the recent anti-military march in Luton.

On that occasion, a bunch of Muslims turned up to greet the returning Royal Anglian Regiment from Basra.

As they held placards with such charming sentiments as “Anglian soldiers go to hell” and “UK you will pay”, nine people were arrested.

None of them was Muslim, of course.

They were locals who were outraged at the insults and threats hurled at British soldiers who had risked their lives.

And, despite the fact that the protest was organised by Muslim extremists like Anjem Choudhry, Gordon Brown spoke about “a tiny minority” — as if extremists had somehow infiltrated an extremist protest.

It was a typical example of the kind of appeasement which has driven ordinary people, who can clearly see the reality and not the politically approved myth, into the arms of the BNP.

One of the men was arrested in Luton because he threw a packet of rashers into the protest. Yet Nick Griffin was pelted with eggs and nobody is apprehended.

So, it’s okay to throw eggs. But not bacon.

And are there any lessons to be learned?

Yes there are.

Namely — that was a waste of a good breakfast.

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

Balkans

Frattini in Belgrade: Don’t Exclude Them From EU

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JUNE 9 — It is not possible to keep the Western Balkans out of Europe. The day after the European elections, Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini flew to Sofia and Belgrade on a mission sending a clear message to all parties after having met with the highest authorities from the two countries. “We must fight for more Europe and not less Europe,” the Foreign Minister said, observing that “all European political families” should be “worried” about the amount of Euro-scepticism that emerged from the recent elections. For the vision of a stronger union and a larger and more stable regional landscape, Italy will continue to support closer relations between Serbia in the first place, but also other countries like Bosnia and Montenegro, and the EU. “A Balkan and not a European enclave,” reflected the Italian Foreign Minister, “would not be in the interest of Europe.” It is an objective that is entirely “political” and not simply “technical”, Frattini stated, because “it still makes sense to talk about enlargement and there is just as much to gain for Europe as for the Balkans.” On the issue of closer relations to Belgrade, two issues must necessarily be left out of the process, as was highlighted by the statement released after the trilateral meeting between Frattini and his Serbian and Romanian counterparts, Vuk Jeremic and Cristian Diaconescu, in Belgrade. On one hand the position Belgrade holds on the status of Kosovo “cannot be connected to prospects for the adhesion to the EU.” On the other, there is the issue of the collaboration of Serbia with the International Criminal Court at the Hague for the arrest of the war criminals still at large like the ex-general Ratko Mladic. Some European countries, like the Netherlands, consider it to be insufficient. Frattini however made it clear, as well as the historic Serbian radio station B92 which broadcast the comments immediately, that Serbia fully collaborates with the International Criminal Court. At this point there are two immediate objectives for the Italian Foreign Minister: resolve the issue of visas by year’s end — Serbia considers this step particularly important, as President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Jeremic noted — and to give the go-ahead for the ratification of ASA, the partnership agreement between Serbia and the EU by the end of June. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: NATO Defence Ministers: Wind-Down of KFOR Begins

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 10 — The defence ministries of NATO-member countries have agreed on a gradual reduction of KFOR troops in Kosovo, 10 years on from their deployment, report sources within the alliance at the end of the first session of its Defence Council. The reduction of the force should happen in stages, with three successive phases, while keeping an eye on developments on the ground. The first stage envisages a reduction by 10 thousand troops (of the theoretical current total of 15 thousand), then down to 5,700 and finally down to 2,300 soldiers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Mediterranean Union: Low on Israeli Priorities

(by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV/ROME, JUNE 10 — The Union for the Mediterranean? It still is not a priority for the Israeli government. This notion has been confirmed by Eran Lerman, Israel’s Deputy for Policy to the National Security Advisor. Questioned by ANSAmed on the issue, Lerman explained that “The troubling truth is that the new Israeli government, overburdened as it is by huge issues (the peace process and Obama; the Iranian challenge; the economy; Israeli Arabs) has hardly been free to give this issue a proper thought”. Lerman, a former military intelligence analyst and director of the American Jewish Committee for the Middle East, added that “Hopefully, as the ‘regional dimension of the peace process takes hold, there will also be a revival of interest. In my own capacity I will do my best to push this forward”. But in any case there will be the weight thrown around by “an influential politician, sidelined by Netanyahu but still with some clout within the party — former FM Silvan Shalom — who is now the Minister for regional cooperation, and may find the Med an important area for activity”. But one of Israel’s most pressing challenges is the one posed by Iran, which has stolen the limelight of Middle Eastern politics. In a recent meeting with Mediterranean journalists, Lerman pointed out that “By now the region is divided between Iran and its allies on one side, and the rest of the area on the other”. Speaking of Iran’s allies, he explicitly pointed to Hezbollah, the Shiite ‘party of God’, as an “occupying force” in Lebanon that “acts with Syrian approval”. He added that Syrian president Bashar al Assad nonetheless “does not control Hezbollah, which is instead led by Iran”. However, Iran does not fully control Hamas, which is simply its “client and ally”. He emphasised that “if Iran is the problem, Syria is part of it and Israel is part of the solution”. Because if Iran acquires a nuclear capability, for which “the true bottleneck is the availability of fissile material”, Turkey and Algeria will acquire it as well. In his opinion, the fact that the threat posed by Teheran is Israel’s top priority derives from the fact that “even if the Palestinians gain their own State, Iran is the one that does not recognise Israel”. He concludes that since this is the danger, it is a mistake to look to Iran (as Italy is doing by inviting Teheran to the G8 meeting) as a potential partner in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. Lerman emphasised that “Whatever tactical advantages they can gain, these would be crushed by the damage done through their treating Teheran as a legitimate partner”. But other issues apart from Iran were distracting Israel’s attention from the Euro-Mediterranean process that was initiated in Barcelona and then revived last year by Sarkozy. Another major hurdle is given by the Palestinian issue which (as pointed out by a source within Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs which asked to remain anonymous) lead to ‘politicisation’ and a ‘deadlock’ of the still desirable inter-Mediterranean cooperation processes. In other words, the Union for the Mediterranean is not viewed as the framework within which to find a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, nor (as confirmed by the same sources) something to which “Israel can sacrifice its political interests”. In short, as far as Israel is concerned the Mediterranean can wait. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Furniture Imports Rise From USD 62 to 138 Million

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 10 — Figures from the Egyptian national statistics institute, reported by the Italian foreign trade commission (ICE), show that furniture imports have undergone a notable increase in the last year, moving from USD 62 million in 2007 to USD 138 million in 2008. Import volumes have also increased. Chair imports were up by more than 38%, with 35% of those coming from Italy. Other wooden furniture items saw an import increase of roughly 50%, of which 40% came from Italy. EU countries (above all Italy and Germany) and Asian countries (particularly China) are the biggest furniture suppliers to the Egyptian market, followed by the USA and Turkey. Italy is the fourth-biggest supplier country in the sector, with a total export value of around USD 8 million. China, however, exports USD 44 million worth of furniture, and Italy also trails Germany (19 million) and the USA (9 million). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Barry Rubin: Israel and America: Neither Surrender Nor Confrontation

The United States demands that Israel stop construction on settlements. If this doesn’t happen, it hints at dire retaliation.

If Israel agrees to this step, President Barack Obama promises great things. First, he claims this will bring dramatic progress toward Israel-Palestinian peace.

That’s rubbish. We know that yielding would be followed by Palestinian Authority (PA) demands for more unilateral Israeli concessions. PA leaders openly say their strategy is to let the West force Israel to give them everything they want without any change by them. We know the current PA leadership is both disinterested and incapable of making real peace.

In addition, the U.S. initiative is absurdly one-sided, without hint of reciprocity by the other side. Equally, the administration’s brutal-style rhetoric denies previous U.S. commitments to Israel have been made on this issue. This approach seems almost designed to convince Israelis that further unilateral concessions will continue to be unrewarded and Western commitments continue to be forgotten.

Second, we are promised that if Israel gives in, Arab states will change their policies, becoming more conciliatory toward Israel and more helpful on pressing Iran.

This, too, is rubbish. Arab regimes have their own interests. They need the conflict; they view its solution to be an American problem. They’ve already make it clear that the United States will get nothing from them for pressuring Israel into concessions except demands to press Israel for more concessions.

Third, we’re promised that if Israel stops construction on settlements, the West can act more effectively on Iran. But they’ve already chosen a policy of engagement and concessions to Iran. There’s no will or ability to increase sanctions, not to mention continuing opposition by Russia and China.

So this, equally, is rubbish. Iran will make no deal, is stall for time, and correctly assess Western willpower as low. Of course, Iran wants to be regional hegemon. It sees having nuclear weapons as a plus whose political and economic costs are low.

Most disgusting of all are honeyed claims by American and European officials—be they cynical or foolish—that such concessions are good for Israel, as it will help it make peace and greater security. In truth, they want Israel to make concessions for their own selfish interests. They believe it will make the radical Islamist threat go away at Israel’s expense.

What then is the reality? If Israel ceases construction on settlements it will get nothing. Arab states, the PA, and West won’t change policies. Iran will go merrily on toward nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, there’s still a strong case for Israel making a gesture to the U.S. administration for several reasons…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Netanyahu Speech, Premier Under Fire

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 11 — Benyamin Netanyahu is under siege. On Sunday at the University of Bar Ilan (Tel Aviv) he will make a highly anticipated speech in response to American President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo on the new Middle East. Lately in the press, reports of varying credibility on Netanyahu’s position have been circulating. Haaretz reports that he will confirm Israel’s support of the Peace Treaty (published by the Quartet in 2003) and that he will push for a “demilitarised Palestinian state”, if Palestinians acknowledge the Jewish state. In the Likud party, there are growing fears that the Prime Minister may yield on certain points due to pressure by the US, EU, and Israeli head of state Shimon Peres. In recent weeks, meeting with Obama and Mitchell, and today in a meeting with Solana, Peres has taken a stance that may not be compatible with that of the government. Yesterday a Likud ideologist (Benny Begin, the son of Premier Menachem Begin) warned that a Palestinian state would be a threat to Israel. Similar fears were confirmed today by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud). Some right-wing parties have already voiced their displeasure about Peres’ meddling, who “has perhaps forgotten that his role is only symbolic”. From Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas’ (Abu Mazen) advisor has already clarified that Palestinians are not interested in a makeshift state. Netanyahu is currently not making any statements and has limited himself to consulting his party members. “He has clear political stances, a well-rooted vision,” assured Rivlin today during a visit to two settlements in the West Bank. To the settlers who were worried after Sunday’s speech, Rivlin responded: “Stay calm. I’ll come back and visit in 20 years.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Palestinian Boy ‘Hanged for Collaboration’

Palestinian police say a 15-year-old boy has been found hanged near the town of Qalqilya in the West Bank.

They said several family members had confessed to involvement in the killing, accusing the boy of collaborating with the Israeli army.

Collaboration is viewed as a serious offence in Palestinian society. Suspects are often summarily killed.

However, police said it was unlikely that such a young boy would have been recruited as an informer.

He has been named in the Palestinian press as Raed Sawalha.

Palestinian police spokesman Adnan Damiri said those responsible for the boy’s death would be brought to justice.

He said the boy’s father, uncle and cousin confessed to the killing, but that police were also investigating other motives for the killing, the Associated Press reported.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


S. Craxi in Ramallah and Jerusalem Today

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JUNE 10 — Italian Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Stefania Craxi, who last night arrived in the Middle East, will be visiting Ramallah (the West Bank) this morning to take part in the opening of the business conference on “economic opportunities in Palestine and the Gaza Strip”, together with around 40 Italian entrepreneurs. Craxi will have a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the conference with Palestinian Economy Minister Basem Khoury. After that, the undersecretary will meet Foreign Minster Riad al Malki and Palestinian National Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad. This afternoon Craxi will be in Jerusalem, where she is to meet with the Israeli deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Daniel Ayalon. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UNRWA on the Brink of Bankruptcy, Officials Say

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JUNE 11 — Officials from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA warned today that the 6-decades-old relief organization is on the verge of banckrupsy as funds expected to dry up before year end amid dwindling aid from international donors. The agency, created after the 1948 war with Israel to provide shelter, food and medical assistance to millions of Palestinian refugees who fled t neighbouring countries, has been suffering from a sever financial crisis since last year. During a meeting in Amman with donors from Arab and foreign countries, officials from UNRW said the budget deficit is close to the $32 million. This cash is needed to pay salaries of staff, let alone operational costs, they said. If the agency does not receive urgent help, thousands of employees will be left without pay in its five areas of operation: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, said UNRWA commissioner Karin Abu Zaid, during a meeting with representatives of donor countries. Figures from UNRWA show that there is at least, a $100 million deficit is forecast for the agency’s 2010 budget. Nearly 4.7 million Palestinian refugees receive some sort of aid from UNRWA including residents of refugee camps. The USA, one of the biggest donors to the group, announced a contribution of USD 55.3 million to the UNRWA general fund, bringing its total contribution in 2009 to $154.5 million. Meanwhile, UNRWA staff in Jordan are threatening an open ended work stoppage if the agency does not offer them pay hike. The general strike is expected to take place next September with the start of school year, when 124.000 refugee students are expected to start a new year. But AbuZayd said ruled out any salary increases this year due to financial difficulties. “It is good that staff unions decided to postpone planned strikes till September,” she noted, indicating that this move would allow more time for discussions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraq: WMD Slam Dunk Never Reported

I may have linked to the following article before and have simply forgotten, but it summarizes the true story behind Saddam’s WMD program and how it was hidden from U.S. inspectors.

This is old news, but I remain incredibly frustrated by it. It is worth reviewing today if only as a defiant stick in the eye to remind the Left that we weren’t all fooled.

With the complicity of allies in the bureaucracy, the mass media/Leftist/Democrat alliance relentlessly promoted the myth that no weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological or chemical) existed in Iraq to justify invasion, to the point where today it is accepted as fact.

But it is a patent fraud made all the more infuriating because these same people who promoted it knew the truth. Indeed many of them publicly demanded Saddam divest himself of WMD right up to the moment we invaded, and had we not done so, would have certainly accused Bush and the Republicans of weakness.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Press: Brain Behind Madrid Attacks in Syrian Jail

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JUNE 11 — Wanted in Spain for having taken part in the 2004 terrorist attacks on Madrid, Abu Mussab as Suri (a.k.a. the Syrian), a suspected member of Al-Qaeda and notorious as ideologue of the “electronic Jihad”, is now in a Syrian prison, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat reports. The London-based newspaper, edited by Clive Stafford Smith, the British lawyer who defended As Suri and other detainees in the US Guantanamo prison writes: “Mustafa Nassar, also known as Abu Mussab as Suri, is under arrested in Syria, his country of birth’. Nassar is known as one of the “main strategic minds behind Al-Qaeda”: with the publication of around 1,600 web pages attributed to him, such as “attacking the enemies of Islam”. Already arrested in Pakistan in 2005, he is currently wanted by the Spanish authorities for the attacks in Madrid in 2004. Resident for many years in the United Kingdom, Nassar has double Syrian and Spanish citizenship, the latter obtained through marriage to a Spanish woman who converted to Islam. According to his defence lawyer, Nassar may have already been in prisons in Syria “for many years now”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terrorism: Al-Qaeda Asks Turkish Muslims for Funds

Kabul, 11 June (AKI) — Al-Qaeda has appealed for financial donations, particularly from Muslims in Turkey, to fund its military operations in Afghanistan. The terror network made its appeal in a new audio message posted on jihadi Internet forums on Thursday.

The message is entitled ‘Our advice to the Turkish population’ and made by Al-Qaeda spokesman, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid.

“There are no differences between Arab Muslims and Muslims in other countries because Islam has taught us to support each other and our brotherhood,” he said.

Abu al-Yazid discussed several speeches by Al-Qaeda leaders, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, and said those who were not directly involved in jihad, or holy war, could contribute to the cause of Al-Qaeda.

“You all know that jihad needs a lot of money,” he said. “Without money, the mujahadeen cannot buy food and weapons, so how can we accomplish jihad?

“Many verses of the Koran discuss the obligation to fund the jihad. We are in Afghanistan and we need money for our operations. Unfortunately, we are being forced to cut back our operations and attacks because of inadequate funds.”

“There are many brothers who cannot participate in jihad because they do not have enough money and many aspiring suicide attackers, who would like to sacrifice themselves on the way to god, cannot be recruited because of the lack of funds.”

Abu Al-Yazid spoke generally about Al-Qaeda victories against NATO troops in Afghanistan in the audio message. It is believed, however, that the message was recorded several months ago because former president George W. Bush is still referred to as the president of the United States.

Several days ago the Arab news channel, Al-Jazeera, aired an interview with Abu al-Yazid, carried out by a correspondent in Afghanistan.

The militant proclaimed that Al-Qaeda would defeat NATO troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2010.

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


The Age of Middle East Atonement

by Victor Davis Hanson

Therapeutic efforts to disguise the truth never really work.

President Obama made an earnest effort — as is his way in matters of discord — to split the difference with the Islamic world. His speech essentially amounted to: “We did that, you did this, tit-for-tat, now we’re even, and can’t we all just get along?” He should be congratulated for expressing a desire for peace and for gently reminding the Muslim world of the way to reform, even if he did so while inflating Western sins.

But the problem with such moral equivalence is that it equates things that are, well, not equal — and therefore ends up not being moral at all.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Shades of Chesterton!]

To pull it off, one must distort both the past and the present for the presumed higher good of getting along. In the 1930s, British intellectuals performed feats of intellectual gymnastics in trying to contextualize Hitler’s complaints against the Versailles Treaty, assignment of guilt for the First World War, and French bellicosity — straining to overlook the intrinsic dangers of National Socialism for the higher good of avoiding another Somme. Over the short term, such revisionism worked; over the longer term, it ensured a highly destructive war.

Whatever a well-meaning President Obama thinks, occasional American outbursts against Muslims are not analogous with the terrorism directed at Westerners or the hostility toward Christianity shown in most of the Muslim world. Try flying into Saudi Arabia with a Bible, as compared to traveling to San Francisco with a Koran. One can easily forsake Christianity; one can never safely leave Islam. European worries about headscarves are not the equivalent of the Gulf states’ harassment of practicing Christians. Sorry, they’re just not.

Pace Obama, Arab learning in the Middle Ages, while impressive, did not really fuel either the Renaissance or the Enlightenment. If anything, the arrival in Europe of the learned of Byzantium fleeing Islam over two centuries was a far stronger catalyst for rediscovery of classical values, while enlightened European sympathy for Balkan peoples enslaved by the Ottomans rekindled romantic interest in Hellenism in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Colonialism and the Cold War — both of which have now been over for decades — do not account for present Arab pathologies. The far more pernicious Baathism, Nasserism, Pan-Arabism, and Islamism were all efforts, in varying degrees, to graft ideas of European socialism and Communism onto indigenous Arab and Muslim roots.

Today, Russia and China are much harder on Muslims than is the West. (Consider Russia’s actions in Chechnya and China’s treatment of the Uighurs.) Neither country pays any attention to Muslims’ grievances, and therefore Muslims respect and fear Russia and China far more than they do the United States.

There are no Arab coffeehouse discussions today about the nearly 1 million Muslims killed over two decades by the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Russian government in Chechnya, yet there is constant haranguing over Abu Ghraib, where not a single inmate was killed by rogue American guards. In short, neither logic nor morality is in abundance on the Arab Street, and conjuring up American felonies will not change that.


“On the one hand, on the other hand” — what Greek rhetoricians knew as men/de — when delivered in mellifluous tones, can suggest a path to reconciliation. But denial of fundamental differences leads nowhere. Our problems with the Middle East will dissipate, as have to varying degrees our problems with Japan, Southeast Asia, South Korea, and South America, when the region adopts, in part or in toto, open markets, consensual government, and human rights. Until then, we are in an uneasy and dangerous waiting period.

Conflating Western misdemeanors with Middle Eastern felonies is classical conflict-resolution theory, and laudably magnanimous. But privately the world knows that Muslims are treated better in the West than Christians are in Muslim countries. That Muslims migrate to the lands of Westerners, and not vice versa. That disputes over a border between Palestinians and Israelis do not explain the unhappiness of the Arab masses, suffering from state-caused poverty and wretchedness. That American military assistance to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia, direct aid to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians, and moral condemnation of Chinese, Russian, and Balkan treatment of Muslims, coupled with a generous U.S. immigration policy, are not really cause for apology or atonement.

In short, few Arab leaders wish to give a “speech to the West.” They would have to take responsibility, directly or indirectly, for either fostering or appeasing radical Islam, while denying their culpability for its decades of mass murdering. They would also have to lament the global economic havoc caused in part by oil cartels and energy price-fixing.

President Obama’s intent is noble, but therapeutic efforts to disguise the truth never really work. We will see how the short-term good created by his therapeutic speechmaking compares to the long-term harm caused by telling the Muslim world, once again, that its problems were largely created by us — and, therefore, that we are largely responsible for providing the remedies.

Neither is true.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Girl Tortured and Killed After Refusing Marriage

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 11 — In Turkey a young woman who had refused to marry a man was kidnapped by members of his family — who then tortured her, broke her arms and legs and killed her with blows to the head. The tragic incident occurred in Afyon in central Anatolia, around a 3-hour drive from Ankara. The victim, 19-year-old Nimet Gurbunar, was “guilty” of turning down the marriage proposal of 24-year-old Tayfun Sahin. His sister Fadime and one of his brothers, Sayfi, kidnapped the girl to convince her to accept the wedding. They started torturing her and, when the girl still refused, they started breaking her limbs one by one. Despite the injuries the girl had already sustained — a newspaper writes — her suitor wanted to rape her as final act, but only abandoned the idea when he saw her bloodstained legs. Then, several blows to the head, probably with a bat, smashed the victim’s skull. The woman and her brothers have been arrested. A survey carried out in 35 provinces in the country showed that in Turkey, one out of every three women are the victim of domestic violence. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Record in Dismissals of Unionized Workers, Report

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 11 — Turkey has the worst record for the dismissal of workers involved in trade union activity among 68 countries, daily Hurriyet reported, quoting a report released by an international trade union group. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported 7,500 cases of the dismissal of workers involved in trade union activity in 68 countries around the world. “The country with the worst record of dismissals was Turkey, where more than 2,000 cases were documented”, the report said. The next to come are Indonesia, Malawi, Pakistan, Tanzania and Argentina. The report also highlighted that the recession has led some governments to crack down on workers demanding higher wages to cope with the recession and high food prices. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Pro-Kurdish Paper Silenced by Court

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 11 — The pro-Kurdish daily Gunluk was slapped with a publishing ban by an Istanbul court, which issued two rulings on teh same day pertaining to the newspaper, Hurriet reports today. The editors-in-chief of Gunluk, Ayhan Bilgen and Filiz Kocali, said one of the rulings was in regard to the paper’s June 1 edition that had focused on a banner unfurled during a party rally. They said the court ruled that in a photo used in that edition to show members of the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, attending a concert in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, a banner portraying a picture of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, was visible in the corner of the frame and that the paper had “focused” on the Ocalan banner. Bilgen and Kacali said the second ruling was in regard to two opinion columns the paper ran in its June 2 edition, which the court judged the two columns as “engaging in terrorist propaganda”. They reiterated that similar columns had appeared in other publications. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


U.S. Sends 3 Guantanamo Detainees to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Three detainees from Guantanamo Bay were transferred to Saudi Arabia “under appropriate security measures,” the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday, in another step toward President Barack Obama’s goal of closing the prison for terrorism suspects.

“All individuals transferred to Saudi Arabia are subject to judicial review in Saudi Arabia before they undergo a rehabilitation program,” the Justice Department said in announcing the transfer of Khalid Saad Mohammed, Abdalaziz Kareem Salim Al Noofayaee and Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair.

All three men are from Saudi Arabia.

Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a visit to Riyadh he was impressed with the Saudi program to rehabilitate militants and the United States had raised the idea of also sending Yemeni detainees to the kingdom.

The Saudi transfers followed the transfer of six other detainees this week — four Chinese members of the Uighur ethnic group were released in Bermuda, and one detainee from Iraq and another from Chad were sent to their home countries.

Obama has ordered the closing of the prison on a U.S. naval base in Cuba, which now holds 229 detainees, by the end of January.

Guantanamo Bay, opened under former President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks, drew international criticism for holding prisoners indefinitely, many without charges.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UAE-Turkey: Several Deals Are Back on the Front Burner

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 10 — Deals involving heavy investment between Turkey and the UAE are once again being reviewed with several of them beginning to materialise, said a senior executive of Turkish firm Ata Invest, an investment banking and capital market advisory group as reported by local press. “A lot of deals were put on hold due to the global financial crisis; not because they were bad opportunities but because people were expecting the worst. We are seeing that changing now. People are thinking they may be reaching towards the end of the crisis,” said Ata Invest Dubai Chairman Hakan Ferhatoglu. “So we are seeing a lot of deals, especially from Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, being more seriously examined again. More transactions have started to take place,” said Ferhatoglu, who is also the Finance Committee Chairman of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board and an Executive Committee Member of the UAE-Turkey Business Council. Turkey-UAE trade has increased to about USD 9 billion (Dh33bn) while it was much lower in the past five years or so. “On trade side, it has already picked up, while on investment side, it is picking up and is estimated to be between $1.5bn and $3bn. Turkey has expressed its interest to invest about $40bn in the UAE in next five years.” Sectors such as food, healthcare, agriculture, energy and logistics have been attracting high interest from UAE investors. Among the sectors in Turkey where UAE investors can seek opportunities include energy, retail, food and logistics. He said with a large proportion of young population and skilled human resource, Turkey presented attractive opportunities in terms of investment. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Russia

Putin ‘Turns Into Art Instructor’

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been raising eyebrows by telling one of the country’s most famous artists how to paint better.

Visiting 79-year-old artist Ilya Glazunov, Mr Putin stopped in front of a large painting of a medieval knight.

“The sword is too short,” he is reputed to have said. “It’s only good enough for cutting sausage.”

Not wishing to displease his powerful guest, Mr Glazunov immediately agreed to correct his mistake.

Oligarch humiliated

In North Korea, they call it “on the spot guidance”.

It is when an all powerful-ruler drops by to give soldiers, scientists, farmers even artists advice on how to do their jobs properly.

However, it is not only artists that have been getting a tongue-lashing from Mr Putin.

Last week, he humiliated one of Russia’s richest men on live television. He forced the billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska to reopen an aluminium plant after protests by laid-off workers.

As the cameras rolled, Mr Putin threw his pen on the table and ordered Mr Deripaska to sign the paperwork.

It was a brilliant piece of political theatre, which went down extremely well with Russia’s public who were delighted to see Mr Putin bringing the hated oligarch to heel..

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

South Asia

Bangladesh: Catholic Chef Has a “Really Rough Time in Dhaka’s Central Jail”

Now out on bail, the chef at the Castel Inn was initially arrested for allegedly possessing illegal alcoholic beverages. He spend two weeks in prison in a cell built for 20 inmates but housing around 240. Now local Catholics are waiting for the trial, demanding justice.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Sapon D Costa, a hotel chef arrested during the night of 25 May for allegedly possessing illegal alcoholic beverages, was recently released on bail to wait for trial. For two weeks the Catholic man was imprisoned in Dhaka, locked up in a cell originally built for 20 inmates but currently holding about 240 men. In this short period of time he got sick because of poor hygiene and inadequate food, “not even sufficient for a child.”

“I had a really rough time in the central jail,” Costa said, “locked up with 240 people in a cell built for 20. I got a skin disease that covered by whole body and whatever food we got it was not even sufficient for a child. It is really inhumane in Dhaka’s central jail.”

Fortunately for him Sapon D Costa was released on bail last Saturday. As soon as he got out he and his entire family went to church to attend Mass and thank God.

His wife Onima Corraya said that she “prayed to Our Lady”, grateful to the priests and the Catholic community who showed solidarity and support. She said she hoped her husband can go back to work.

After Sapon D Costa’s arrest a number of Christian associations and human rights activists mobilised on his behalf, calling for a fair trial and an impartial investigation.

Fr Edmond Cruze, a local Holy Cross priest, said that Costa’s release was not enough; instead, “we want justice.”

Indeed for days the Catholic chef was locked up in his crowded cell not knowing what charges had been brought against him.

The initial warrant said that he was in possession of banned alcoholic beverages that had been served at a party held on the evening of 24 May at the Castel Inn, the luxury resort where Costa works.

“A bunch of young men and women were released after paying the agents. I am poor and could give them nothing,” Costa said.

Eventually he found about the charges against him after a few days in prison.

“Customers brought alcoholic drinks in from the outside. Only those who were at the party and the hotel manager could have known about the bottles’ content,” he explained.

The manager perhaps tried to get him into a compromising situation in order to get him fired and have his relatives and friends hired instead.

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


Indonesian Chopper Crashes

JAKARTA — TWO military personnel were killed and five others seriously injured on Friday in the second crash of an Indonesian military aircraft this week, the air force spokesman said. The Puma helicopter went down at a military base in Bogor, West Java, at around 2pm (0700 GMT, 3pm Singapore time) during a test flight, spokesman Bambang Sulistio said.

‘The helicopter had just undergone repairs and was being tested to see if it was fit to fly. Seven personnel were in it and two were killed in the crash,’ he added.

It was not immediately known what caused the crash. The dead servicemen were technicians from the air force.

‘Planes and helicopters must be checked before they are allowed to fly,’ Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said.

Two special forces troops were killed Monday when an army helicopter crashed in South Cianjur, West Java.

An Indonesian military Hercules transport plane crashed last month as it prepared to land at a base in East Java, killing 101 people.

In April, 24 military personnel were killed when their training aircraft slammed into a hangar at an air base in West Java. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Italians Hurt in Afghan Firefight

Three soldiers wounded, one seriously

(ANSA) — Rome, June 11 — Three Italian soldiers were wounded, one seriously, in a firefight Thursday in western Afghanistan, defense ministry sources said.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said the soldier in the most serious condition had suffered wounds to the arm pit and shoulder, areas not fully protected by bullet-proof vests, but was not in any mortal danger. The clash with Taliban insurgents took place in the province of Farah, located in the southern part of the western region where international ISAF forces are under Italian command.

According to La Russa, Farah “is an area which has always been marred by violence and thus is one of the most dangerous for our forces”.

The firefight followed a nighttime attack on an Italian patrol, which returned fire and did not suffer any injuries.

These latest in a series of attacks, the defense minister said, will not have any effect on Italy’s mission in Afghanistan.

“Neither this government nor the previous one ever hid the fact that this mission is not just one focused on reconstruction but entails the use of force, when necessary,” La Russa said. The use of force, he added, “is part of our soldiers’ mission there. They know this and are well aware of the risks involved”. “Our men are doing their job with their usual dedication and professionalism. They are there to reconstruct but they also know that dangers exist and that, if necessary, they may have to use force, in accordance with the rules of engagement,” the defense minister said.

Violence has been increasing in Afghanistan ahead of this summer’s presidential elections there and Italy has sent in additional troops to deal with the situation.

On Wednesday, Italian and Afghan government forces killed two local Taliban leaders in the western Afghanistan province of Baghdis in an operation in which two Italian helicopters suffered minor damage.

An Italian military patrol came under attack during the night between Monday and Tuesday in the Mushai Valley, some 30km from the Afghan capital Kabul.

Paratroopers from the Folgore Brigade were said to have returned fire and “neutralised the threat” without suffering casualties or injuries. Insurgents were said to have used light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in their attack on the Italian patrol. Last week Italian helicopters were employed in a joint Italian-Afghan military operation to destroy a number of Taliban positions in western Afghanistan.

The action took place in the area of Bala Morgab, where a week before a joint Italian-Afghan patrol engaged in a firefight which left 25 insurgents and three Afghan soldiers dead, while four Italian paratroopers from the Folgore Brigade suffered minor injuries. The clash came not far from where an Italian military helicopter, carrying General Rosario Castellano, the commander of allied forces in western Afghanistan, came under machine-gun fire the day before.

Because of the expected surge in pre-election violence, Italy this year boosted its troop strength in Afghanistan from 2,270 to 2,800, with most of the additional forces sent to reinforce its contingent deployed in the turbulent province of Farah.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Pakistan’s ‘Loose Nukes’

Every now and then in this business someone in a position to know some enthralling secret passes information on to you, but you have no means of backing it up from other sources.

A few years ago, I was told about extraordinary US contingency plans to recover Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, in the event of a collapse of law and order or an extremist coup in that country.

My informant gave me considerable detail. A super-secret agreement had been put in place early this decade following confrontations between India and Pakistan, two nuclear armed nations, over the disputed Kashmir region.

In order to stabilise an otherwise potentially highly volatile situation, Pakistan would tell the US where its nuclear weapons were.

India had been promised, that in the event of some Pakistani national cataclysm, the Americans would move in to remove the nuclear weapons.

The “loose nukes” nightmare would thus be avoided, and India would not be tempted into a first strike on Pakistan’s atomic arsenal.

Sometimes stories, even from people who have held senior positions in Western governments, are a little too good to be true.

This one seemed to smack of Tom Clancy. Nobody would ever confirm it, and indeed some of those I checked it out with were openly sceptical. So I never ran the story.

Perhaps, after all, my original informant had been trying to plant it.

Now that the Obama administration is openly voicing its concern about the threat to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from rising militancy in that country, some aspects of that original tip off have come back into sharp focus.

In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a US senate committee, that the US spent a lot of time worrying about Iran getting nuclear weapons, but that Pakistan already had them, and that, “they’ve adopted a policy of dispersing their nuclear weapons and facilities”.

In this phrase, “adopted a policy” I detected a possible inference that Pakistan had moved away from an earlier procedure of keeping their bombs in a small number of locations.

My further inquiries suggested this inference was deliberate.

So here at last was a measure of confirmation for something I had heard years earlier.

As to what exactly Pakistan had told the US in the time of president (and former army chief) Pervez Musharraf, we are once again in hazier territory.

We do know however that Mr Musharraf knew far more about the country’s nuclear complex than any civilian leader has ever been allowed to learn.

We also know that in the first years after 9/11, there was intimate strategic co-operation with the US.

Of course any suggestion that the US might, in the past, have had plans to sweep up these weapons is politically sensitive in Pakistan.

The country revels in the status that its arsenal has given it. Any suggestion that there were plans to “secure” the bombs, even in a state of anarchy, would strike many Pakistanis as a US plot to emasculate an Islamic nuclear power.

Some feel the nuclear danger is being exaggerated in Washington in order to build support for the Obama administration’s Af-Pak policy.

There may be something in this, given that the chance of Taliban storming some nuclear weapon storage point is remote.

But the real danger at present lies in subversion.

Pakistan’s nuclear establishment produced the unhappy example of AQ Khan, who sold nuclear weapons technology to Libya, North Korea and Iran.

He is said to have acted from a combination of ideological and financial motives.

The chance currently is less of a complete collapse of order, the kind of circumstance under which possible secret plans of yesteryear would have come into play, but of one or more individuals working inside the system providing Islamic militants with nuclear materials or, sum of all nightmares, an entire atomic weapon.

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


Singapore: Christians Jailed for ‘Sedition’

Singapore, 10 June (AKI) — A Christian couple were jailed for eight weeks in Singapore on Wednesday for distributing evangelical publications considered “seditious”. A district court judge earlier had found Ong Kian Cheong, 50, and Dorothy Chan, 46, guilty of sedition for “distributing seditious or objectionable publications”.

In sentencing them, district judge Roy Neighbour said the couple’s offences affected the foundation of Singaporean society and public policy required the court to apply the principle of deterrence in punishing them, according to local daily, The Straits Times.

But the prison terms the couple received were at the lower end of what the prosecution had urged the court to impose.

It had sought a sentence of between two and six months.

The couple were found guilty on four charges late last month in the first full trial under the Sedition Act to be heard in Singapore.

Neighbour noted that Ong, a technical officer and Chan, an associate director with financial firm UBS, said that neither had realised they were doing anything wrong.

“They have the capacity to undermine and erode the delicate fabric of racial and religious harmony in Singapore,” said Neighbour, cited in The Straits Times.

He added that as Singaporeans, the husband and wife cannot claim to be ignorant of the sensitivity of race and religion in Singapore’s multi-racial and religious society.

“Common sense dictates that religious fervour to spread the faith, in our society, must be constrained by sensitivity, tolerance and mutual respect for another’s faith and religious beliefs,” said the judge.

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


US Commander Vows to Cut Afghan Casualties

LONDON — The commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan has said he will review military strategy in an effort to reduce civilian casualties.

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in an interview broadcast Friday that troops had a duty to protect Afghan civilians.

He told the BBC that he would review troops’ rules of engagement and instructions, “with the emphasis that we are fighting for the population, and that involves protecting them both from the enemy and from unintended consequences of our operation.”

“Because we know that although an operation may be conducted for the right reason, if it has negative effects it can have a negative outcome for everyone,” he said.

“Sometimes there’s winning a tactical fight and losing a strategic event.”

Civilian deaths, particularly in U.S. airstrikes, have angered many Afghans and undermined support for foreign intervention in the country. The U..S. is currently investigating airstrikes in western Afghanistan’s Farah province that killed at least 30 civilians last month.

There are about 70,000 U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama is sending 21,000 more American troops there to fight a resurgent Taliban, and has shaken up the U.S. military command in a bid to break the stalemate there.

McChrystal, a former special forces officer, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate this week as commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. He replaces Gen. David McKiernan, who was forced out by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Taliban insurgents are ramping up attacks on foreign forces. On Thursday, the head of U.S. Central Command, David Petraeus, said the number of insurgent attacks had hit the highest level since the December 2001 fall of the Taliban.

McChrystal said U.S. troops would be in Afghanistan for a long time to come.

“I think it will go on until we achieve the kind of progress we want to achieve,” he said. “It won’t be short.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Sub Collides With Array Towed by U.S. Ship: Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A Chinese submarine accidentally collided with an underwater sonar array being towed by a U.S. military ship, CNN reported on Friday, quoting an unnamed military official.

The incident occurred on Thursday near Subic Bay off the coast of the Philippines, according to the CNN report.

The destroyer USS John S. McCain was towing the array, deployed to track underwater sounds.

“The John S. McCain did have a problem with its towed array sonar. It was damaged” on Thursday in Subic Bay, a Pentagon spokesman told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, would not confirm other details of the CNN report, including whether the array collided with a Chinese submarine. He said the U.S. destroyer was not damaged and was not hit by another vessel.

The U.S. Navy does not view the incident as a deliberate move by Beijing to harass military ships operating in the region, CNN reported.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Climate Pact in Jeopardy as China Refuses to Cut Carbon Emissions

China will not make a binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions, putting in jeopardy the prospects for a global pact on climate change.

Officials from Beijing told a UN conference in Bonn yesterday that China would increase its emissions to develop its economy rather than sign up to mandatory cuts.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


N. Korea in Extortionate Demands for Kaesong Complex

North Korea wants South Korea to quadruple wages for North Korean workers and pay 31 times the rent at the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex. The North made the new demand in a second round of inter-Korean talks at the industrial park Thursday. That dims prospects for the project even further, but the two Koreas agreed to meet again on June 19 to continue talks.

The Unification Ministry said North Korea demanded that workers’ wages are raised from the current US$75, including social insurance, to $300 per month. Most of the wages already go to the regime, not the workers.

It also demanded $500 million in rent for 3.3 million sq. m land put aside for the first phase of the industrial park, for which Hyundai Asan and the Korea Land Corporation in 2004 already paid in $16 million for a 50-year lease. In addition, the North wants another $10 per 3.3 sq. m for 1.98 million sq. m land currently allotted to the industrial park a year from 2010.

An intelligence officer said, “If we pay $500 million in rent and increase the per capita wage to $300 per month, North Korea will earn $600 million to $700 million in cash this year alone. That’s nearly 70 percent of North Korea’s annual export volume of $900 million” as of 2007.

The South Korean side called on Pyongyang to release a Hyundai Asan staffer identified as Yu who has been held incommunicado in Kaesong for some 70 days. It wants the two sides establish a committee on travel between the two Koreas, which will serve as a forum to discuss the safety of South Koreans traveling to the North. Seoul also urged Pyongyang to stop conducting nuclear tests and creating military tension, resume inter-Korean talks and return to the six-party nuclear talks.

Prof. Nam Ju-hong of Kyonggi University commented, “North Korea may want to close the Kaesong industrial park unilaterally, but it also has to be mindful of Chinese and other foreign investors who have money in the North. It is apparently attempting to choke off South Korean firms to make them leave of their own accord.”

But some feel there still is room for negotiations with the North. Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said, “If it had decided to close down the industrial park, the North would have unilaterally told Seoul that it would do so, without setting a date for the next round of talks. It seems that Pyongyang is trying to see how Seoul would respond to a maximum demand.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


NK Detention of S. Korean Worker Enters 74th Day

South Korea yesterday made no progress in the release of a Hyundai Asan Corp. employee detained by North Korea for the 74th day.

Both Koreas spoke on the detainee in working-level talks at the inter-Korean business park in Kaesong, but the North just listened to the complaints raised by the South.

North Korean officials simply repeated, “This does not fall under our jurisdiction.”

Seoul failed to determine where he is being held, and Pyongyang denied him his basic human rights.

On April 24, the 39th day of their detention, the North announced its prosecution of two American journalists arrested March 17 near the border between North Korea and China near the Duman River. On June 4, the 80th day of their detention, it began the trial of the journalists and announced their sentence four days later.

Pyongyang, however, has said nothing about the South Korean detainee except a statement May 1, the 33rd day of his detention, that it would conduct an in-depth investigation. If he is put on trial, the North is required to consult with the South under a 2004 bilateral agreement, but has said nothing yet.

Moreover, North Korea is apparently taking advantage of the case to raise its offensive against South Korea despite failing to state the charges against him or present evidence.

The North said March 30, “He tried to corrupt and deviate [sic] a female worker at the Kaesong industrial park and encouraged her to flee our country,” but released no details on evidence or circumstances.

It said May 1, “He criticized our regime with malicious intent, infringed on our republic’s sovereignty, and committed a serious violation of related law.”

The North also aroused suspicion by saying May 15 that he wore a Hyundai Asan cap.

The two detained Americans have been allowed to meet the Swedish ambassador to Pyongyang three times, and write letters and phone their families in the United States. The Hyundai Asan employee, however, has had no chance to meet South Korean officials, not to mention his family.

North Korean officials said in the middle of last month that he was doing well. South Korea sent underwear to him and the North often sent back the clothes he wore, but this was stopped May 15.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Problems for Marines in Korea

WASHINGTON — THE United States would be hard pressed to launch an amphibious landing in Korea if called to do so, US Marine Corps commandant said on Thursday, warning against a decline in the military’s capability to fight from the sea.

In discussing tensions with North Korea over its nuclear test last month, General James Conway told reporters that only between 10 to 15 per cent of US Marine forces are trained in the type of amphibious warfare that could be required.

‘It concerns me greatly that there is always the possibility that we could be asked to do something like that that we’re not trained to do,’ he said at the National Press Club.

‘Today we have the capacity to put two Marine expeditionary brigades to sea. That’s two regiments across the beach. That’s not a lot of people when you’re talking about invading another nation,’ he added.

A Marine expeditionary brigade amounts to about 15,000 men, according to the Defence Department. By contrast, Pyongyang’s highly militarised regime has a one million man army at its disposal.

The Marine Corps last major amphibious invasion was during the 1950-53 Korean war when the 1st Marine Division landed at Inchon in 1950 to spearhead a counter-offensive against a North Korean invasion of South Korea.

Gen Conway warned against the Pentagon’s budget cuts — which has focused on reducing its conventional weaponry — slashing Marine training in this arena, noting the United States ‘could lose its amphibious capability.’ — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


US Climate Envoy: China Seeks Top US Technology

BONN, Germany — China wants the United States to deliver top of the line technology as part of a new global warming agreement, the chief U.S. climate negotiator said Thursday.

Jonathan Pershing, who was part of a U.S. delegation that returned this week from Beijing, said the Chinese are looking to the U.S. for ideas and technology to retool its high-carbon industry.

“They want from us technology, and we want from them action,” Pershing said on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks. “There’s room for agreement there.”

But the Chinese “don’t want any technology. They want some of the advanced technologies which are part of our own intellectual capital,” Pershing told Public Radio International’s Living on Earth program.

The mission to Beijing by Pershing and Todd Stern, President Barack Obama’s climate envoy, underscored the paramount role of quiet diplomacy in reaching critical political deals — outside the conference halls of the 192-nation U.N. negotiations, where delegations tend to repeat entrenched positions.

An understanding between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest polluters, is essential for the talks to succeed in crafting a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. That agreement, which expires in 2012, calls on 37 industrial countries to cut emissions by a total of 5 percent from 1990 levels but made no demands on developing countries.

The U.S. has made it clear that China must be part of a new climate package, and that without China there’s no deal.

But Stern was quoted as saying in Beijing on Thursday the U.S. was not demanding that China accept mandatory emissions targets. “We don’t expect China to take a national cap at this stage,” Stern was quoted as telling the China Daily.

China, India and other developing countries say targets would constrain their economic growth, and their first priority is to fight poverty.

“We have 400 million people who don’t have access to electricity,” said Shyam Saran, the chief delegate from India, which is another key player. India’s population is about 1.2 billion.

At a rare news conference in Bonn, Saran held fast to India’s insistence that industrialized countries deepen their emissions cuts to a total of 40 percent below 1990 levels within the next decade, while at the same time rejecting emissions targets for developing countries.

Saran said developing countries would consider measures to curb the growth of emissions, but only in exchange for technology and funding from the rich countries. Funding could reach $250 billion a year, he said.

Delegations in Bonn have been working on a draft text of an agreement, due to be completed in December at a major conference in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

The draft, which began with 53 pages, has ballooned to some 200 pages as delegations inserted language to be negotiated later. The second draft was expected to be whittled down to a more manageable size at the next round of talks in August.

Saran said the U.N. talks were mandated only to build on existing agreements, not negotiate a new treaty. “The Kyoto Protocol remains a valid legal document,” he said. India and the developing countries face no obligations under the Kyoto pact as it stands.

Veteran India watchers said Saran’s line, virtually unchanged from last year, appeared to be a negotiating tactic.

“India is holding the line,” said Richie Ahuja, the India Policy Coordinator for the Washington-based Environmental Defense Fund.

But in the end India will likely have to sign on to a new climate deal because it would translate into a flow of funds from the rich countries and the chance to take part in a lucrative new carbon market.

Environmentalists said they saw little movement on major issues from any of the negotiators, and that the gap between rich and poor countries was increasing.

“It’s clear they are building up their fortresses,” said Tasneem Essop of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: A Nation of Paupers

IT’S no great surprise that the ACTU congress last week called on the Rudd government to back a wealth tax on high-income earners.

The common orthodoxy, even among a large section of the economic commentariat, is that the wealthy should be the last to get tax cuts in good times and the first to be hit with tax rises in bad times.

Take Geoffrey Barker, writing in The Australian Financial Review after the May budget. He complained Wayne Swan’s budget was “plainly flawed in moral terms” because it did not slug the rich enough. “An ethical budget should … seek impartiality to make benefits granted and sacrifices demanded commensurate with the needs and abilities of citizens.” There was no attempt to claw back revenue by progressively increasing the taxes paid by the wealthiest citizens, Barker complained.

When pundits start framing tax reform in moral terms, you know something’s awry. Their belief in taxing the wealthy has become an article of faith, not a matter for rational analysis. Just as with climate change, those who treat tax as the greatest moral issue of our time will necessarily regard arguments for any limits as immoral. Thus, if you regard progressive tax as a moral imperative, then you can never hit the rich hard enough with higher taxes because every hike makes the system more progressive and, therefore, more morally right. On the flipside, any tax cut or tax break for the rich must necessarily be derided as immoral.

And the sorts of flat tax rates apparently suggested by economist Henry Ergas in his review for the Liberal Party represent the ultimate in moral turpitude. Never mind that flat taxes have helped former communist countries such as Russia and the Baltic states stage a Lazarus-like economic recovery.

Laurie Oakes boarded the same moral indignation train when Malcolm Turnbull committed the political sin of appearing on BRW’s rich list a few weeks back. Oakes thought he had found the ultimate “gotcha” moment when he asked the Opposition Leader how he could possibly support maintaining the private health insurance rebate for high-income earners when he was so rich. In other words, the rich never deserve tax breaks of any kind.

To be sure, it must be politically tempting to run this line. After all, how many votes are you going to lose by soaking the rich? Hence, governments weighed down by deficits and debts are doing just that. Gordon Brown’s Labour government in Britain has raised its top tax rate, overturning Labour Party policy not to raise taxes. In the US, the Obama administration may do the same, following a swath of US states that have raised income taxes on the rich in recent years.

However, clothing these arguments in moral terms is designed to give some respectability to what is in truth little more than an infantile cri de coeur, a barely disguised envy yelp. Rational analysis requires consideration of two questions. First, who pays what proportion of tax? And, second, if you raise the taxes of the wealthy, at what point will they start to change their behaviour, depleting tax revenues?

As to who pays the most, a report commissioned by the Howard government in 2006 cited Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures that revealed Australia had the most progressive tax system after Ireland. In other words, the relative tax burden falls more heavily on those with the highest incomes. Many will say that, too, is as it should be. Indeed, the Barkers of this world will say the wealthy should bear higher taxes, as sacrifices must be commensurate with means. It’s a nice pollyanna kind of idea.

Alas, in the brutish real world, you cannot avoid the second issue. If you raise the taxes of the wealthy, you can expect tax revenues to fall as the wealthy change their behaviour. It is hardly novel to point out that raising the tax on a packet of cigarettes will change behaviour. That’s why governments tax cigarettes. People may smoke less or even give up. Same with taxes on alcohol. Why, then, doesn’t the same logic apply to raising income taxes? In other words, the disincentives from paying higher taxes may mean that those we rely on most to fill up the tax coffers may stop doing so.

Evidence of that abounds. In the 1960s, Britain’s 95 per cent top tax rate turned the Rolling Stones into tax exiles and contributed to the devastation of the British economy, reversed ultimately by Margaret Thatcher. The Beatles song Taxman and the title of the Stones album Exile on Main Street should stand as a potent reminder that progressive taxation has its devastating limits.

For more detail on that, take a look at a recent study for the American Legislative Exchange Council by Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore. They found that from 1998 to 2007, every day more than 1100 people hightailed it out of the nine highest income tax states in the US, such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, and relocated mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax, such as Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas.

They also found that during “these same years, the no-income tax states created 89 per cent more jobs and had 32 per cent faster personal income growth than their high tax counterparts”. Laffer and Moore, authors of Rich States, Poor States, found that because people, investment capital and businesses were mobile, there was no coincidence that the two highest tax-rate states — California and New York — also were those in the deepest fiscal hole. In other words, if you soak the rich, you end up sinking the rest.

There are logical reasons hitting the rich, while satisfying the envy gene, does nothing for the economy. The wealthy can, and do, migrate. Those who stay may be more determined to avoid tax (including by working less). And remember, too, that you won’t find rich people locating to a high-taxing country.

This is as true in Australia as anywhere else. As the Rudd government confronts the question of how to pay off decades of debt, inevitably there are calls for tax rises for the rich. That would be a grave mistake. Arguing against tax rises for the rich is not about defending the rich. They can look after themselves. This is about looking after the rest. The smarter approach is to aim for that level of progressivity that maximises the overall tax take, including from the rich. I don’t pretend to know precisely where that point is, but I do know that going beyond that point — although politically tempting — would revive the Beatles’ cry: “Yeah, I’m the taxman. And you’re working for no one but me.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Chinese Muslims Trigger Public Backlash in Palau

KOROR, Palau (AP) — The tiny Pacific nation of Palau’s decision to allow 13 Chinese Muslims from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to resettle there has sparked anger among islanders who fear for the safety of the tranquil tourist haven.

The U.S. government determined last year that the Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, were not enemy combatants and should be released from the U.S. military prison in Cuba. China has objected to their resettlement, calling the men “terrorist suspects” and demanding they be sent home.

The U.S. has said it fears the men would be executed if they were returned to China.

Palau President Johnson Toribiong explained his decision to grant the Uighurs entry as traditional hospitality, but public opinion has appeared overwhelmingly negative. Some complained Friday that the government failed to consult the people.

“I totally disagree” with allowing the Uighurs onto Palau, Natalia Baulis, a 30-year-old mother of two, told The Associated Press by telephone.

“It’s good to be humanitarian and all, but still these people … to me are scary,” she said.

The Uighurs (pronounced WEE’-gurs) have been in custody since they were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001.

Fermin Nariang, editor of the Palau newspaper Island Times, said he had been stopped in the streets of the capital, Koror, by residents venting their anger.

“This is a very small country … and some are saying if the whole world doesn’t want these folks, why are we taking them?” Nariang said.

The newspaper quoted islander Debedebk Mongami as saying, “I’m also afraid this news is going to scare the tourists who plan to come to Palau.”

The Palau Chamber of Commerce, which represents the country’s multimillion dollar hotel industry, did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

Toribiong has denied the move was influenced by any massive aid package from Washington, saying instead that the Uighurs had become “international vagabonds” who deserved a fresh start.

“Palau’s people are always on the side of the U.S. government,” Toribiong said.

He said Palau would send a delegation to Guantanamo to assess the Uighur detainees. It was unclear when this would happen or when the Uighurs would arrive in the island nation.

Four other Uighurs left Guantanamo Bay for a new home in Bermuda on Thursday. Some residents of the North Atlantic island were also unhappy, with dozens unleashing their anger on the Facebook page of a local newspaper, The Royal Gazette.

Even Britain, which handles Bermuda’s defense, security and foreign affairs, expressed displeasure at the deal.

The British Foreign Office complained that Bermuda’s leaders failed to consult “whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue for which the Bermuda government do not have delegated responsibility.”

Although the Pentagon said the 17 Uighurs were not enemy combatants, the Obama administration has faced fierce congressional opposition to allowing them into the U.S. as free men. China says no other country should take them.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference that the U.S. should “stop handing over terrorist suspects to any third country, so as to expatriate them to China at an early date.” He did not say if China would take any action in response.

Toribiong said Palau did not consider China’s reaction when it accepted the U.S. request to temporarily resettle the detainees.

Palau has eight main islands and more than 250 islets, and is a former U.S. trust territory that has retained close ties with the United States since independence in 1994.

Some 20,000 people live in Palau, a predominantly Christian nation.

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action[Return to headlines]


Military ‘Meatheads’: Latham

DEPUTY Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended the members of the Australian Defence Force after former Labor leader Mark Latham called them “meatheads”.

Ms Gillard says the men and women of the ADF do a first-class job.

Mr Latham accused the nation’s soldiers of having “limited intelligence and primeval interests in life”, in a column in today’s edition of The Australian Financial Review.

He said former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon was better off out of the portfolio, with even the most tedious of public duties “better than knocking around with the meatheads of the Australian Defence Force”.

When asked about the comments, Ms Gillard said in Sydney that Australian soldiers were respected around the world.

“I, as Deputy Prime Minister, deal with many men and women in our defence forces and as Deputy Prime Minister I’d certainly want to say that the men and women of the Australian Defence Force do a first-class job, a fantastic job,” she said.

“Their skills and abilities are recognised around the world.

“Our soldiers, our defence personnel, join with those in other nations for operations around the world, and around the world they are known as highly trained, highly professional, highly skilled personnel who get on with doing dangerous work in the interests of this country.”

In a wide-ranging assault Mr Latham wrote that when he worked for Gough Whitlam the iconic Labor leader had told him the one of the purposes of his office as an ex-prime minister was “to milk the system” and take full advantage of publicly funded entitlements.

“Regrettably, milking the system has become a regular part of Labor’s culture,” Mr Latham wrote.

Mr Latham contrasted the frugality of former Labor leaders John Curtin and Ben Chifley with the modern ALP breed.

“Labor talks a lot about working families but most of its Mps are working hard for the high life,” Mr Latham wrote.

“Their favoured form of infrastructure is the gravy train.”

He said Labor has “jettisoned its traditional values” and ALP figures viewed power as an “entree card to the social establishment rather than a forum for radically attacking elites and social inequality.”

“Labor’s ministers have been duchessed in the establishment, crippling the credibility of their social democratic beliefs.”

Mr Latham wrote Mr Fitzgibbon should be relieved to be out of the Rudd ministry because he privately had held the Prime Minister in contempt and could now regain pride and self-respect.

“For most of his time in opposition Fitzgibbon despised Rudd, remorselessly ridiculing every detail of the man’s existence, form his gawky ways and peculiar hairstyle to his wife’s less-than-glamourous-looks.”

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


The Suburb That Simmers

Newcomer students pursue an education, intent on gaining permanent residency. Erik Jensen, Jonathan Pearlman and Hamish McDonald report on the explosive result when the students clash with their neighbours in an ethnic hothouse.

Three weeks ago a crude Molotov cocktail smashed through the front window of a house in Harris Park, near Parramatta. The five men inside were young Indians here on a combination of student and bridging visas. Rajesh Kumar, 25, a hospitality graduate, suffered burns to a third of his body.

This was not the first violence against Indians in the suburb. There had been robberies — as many as 100 in the past year, according to some community leaders. But this was the first serious attack to come without theft as a motive.

Kumar remains in a critical condition and has had multiple skin grafts.. His flatmates cannot think of a motive. Nor can police. There is no gang connection. Chander Mohan, who was inside at the time of the attack, says Kumar had no enemies.

“We don’t know why.”

On Monday night Indian leaders met to discuss the attack at Billu’s Indian Eatery and Sweet House, three blocks from the firebombed house, still boarded up with police crime-scene tape. Outside the restaurant, as leaders discussed getting money to the victim’s family, the assault of two more Indian men ignited a fire that would burn for three nights.

A rumour circulated that the perpetrators were Lebanese. Police later confirmed this. A group of 150 Indian men, mainly students, gathered in Harris Park. They later beat up three Middle Eastern men with bars and hockey sticks. About 2am a group of the protesters marched on Parramatta police station to complain of police inaction.

“Our people don’t say nothing until water goes up over the top,” said Jindi Singh, a Harris Park taxi driver who joined the protest when it regrouped on Tuesday night. “Police won’t do anything but we’ve got to do something. I’m not saying all of them are bad, but most of them. The police know. The Government knows. The Government in India knows. If nothing’s going to happen, then it comes into our own hands.”

The flare-up in Harris Park, matched by similar attacks and protests in Melbourne, have turned what seemed a success story — the huge growth in the number of Indian students coming to Australia — into a diplomatic crisis..

For the past three weeks the second-biggest news story on the 120million television sets of the world’s second-most populous country has been Australia — and the pictures have not been pretty. Virtually every night Indian television has played clips, mainly captured by Australian television channels, of student victims, claims of racism and the subsequent community protests. Only India’s own recent elections gained greater prominence in the media of the world’s biggest democracy.

The result, for Australia, has been a highly damaging airing of claims — frequently exaggerated — of racially motivated violence towards Indians. Australia’s high commissioner to India, John McCarthy, has been doing dozens of damage-control interviews, including appearances on popular panel debate shows such as The Big Fight and We The People.

“Clearly the television coverage has altered some people’s perceptions of Australia,” he says. “I think the relationship is repairable, but it has been a rough patch … There was a huge reaction here. I don’t think we can kid ourselves that perceptions of Australia have not been affected..”

It all seems a long way from the vision of foreign students pursuing higher degrees, working in lecture halls and laboratories, spending quiet hours over books, taking their leisure on the sports fields or in noisy cafes, eventually returning to their home countries with valuable qualifications and fond memories.

Instead, it reflects a milieu where study is secondary to the main purpose — getting migrant status in Australia. Study is mostly irrelevant to the cause of making money; long hours of work at petrol stations, convenience stores and the car-wash for below-award pay are tough but essential.

Until 2004 higher education was the main aim of Indian students here. They made up 8 per cent of total university enrolments that year, and fewer than 4000 Indians were enrolled in the sort of vocational courses — cooking, hairdressing and so on — that now dominate.

Vocational courses now account for about 52,000 Indians and English language schools for 16,000 — a twelvefold increase in five years.

Under immigration changes in 2001 applications for permanent residency can be made within Australia, with specified university degrees enhancing chances. The first great wave of Indian students came four years later, when trades courses joined the process and could be completed in a fraction of the time taken doing a university degree.

Between 2005-08 the enrolment of overseas students in trade courses trebled to 173,432. Indians are the biggest group in this category.

It gave Australia a crucial advantage over rivals such as Britain and the US in the foreign student market, adding to advantages of cheapness and perceived safety.

Yadu Singh, a Sydney cardiologist who has been leading Indian community efforts to resolve student safety and other concerns, says: “Australia has been very smart in marketing itself as the place for education, and has one extra advantage: if we have degrees from here it is easier to get immigration also.”

The expanding Indian middle class was quick to seize on the opportunity.

“They are willing to [mortgage their homes] to send their children here,” Singh says.

Catering for the demand are a proliferation of private schools spreading out from the longstanding student quarters such as Kingsford to the raw suburbia of Australia’s battlers and newcomers.

In 1991 there were five times more Lebanese-born residents in Harris Park than there were Indian-born. At the last census, in 2006, Indians were Harris Park’s largest ethnic group, outnumbering the Lebanese two to one. Half of Harris Park’s residents are students.

In 1978 Our Lady of Lebanon opened on the hill above Harris Park’s main street: the largest Maronite church in Sydney, a huge structure whose lit roof cast shadows over this week’s violence. The names involved in the church’s formation were uniformly Lebanese: Ziade began the project; Saad owned the land; Abood, Samia and Wehbe negotiated the sale. There were 1800 seats, full every week. They will be full again this weekend, but the congregation comes from further west — from Liverpool and Granville, where Harris Park’s Lebanese community moved.

Indian restaurants have opened in steady numbers. Seven years ago the suburb’s’s mixed business was owned by a Lebanese family. Now the owners are Bangladeshi. There are Indian sweets near the counter, where roasted nuts used to be.

Mustafa Karim, a Bangladeshi migrant who bought the shop from his uncle three years ago, says: “Indian people, Bangladeshi, subcontinent people, we know how to behave but [the students] don’t absorb. After six months there is still a culture gap.”

Hitesh Jotani moved to Harris Park a year ago to begin a masters of civil engineering course at the University of Technology, Sydney. His parents are well-off — they own a diamond polishing business in Gujarat — but he is living with five men in a three-bedroom apartment. He works odd shifts for an employment agency, often taking the train home after midnight.

Jotani says he was robbed two months ago but did not report the attack.. Many do not. He says the robbers — four men in a car — were Lebanese. “They are doing this because I am Indian. This happened because I am Indian, because I am a student. I didn’t want to call the police because they don’t do anything. That might affect my PR.”

PR is a much used abbreviation in Harris Park, binding and isolating the community of Indian students there. It stands for permanent residency, the great goal of a migrant middle class, the reason many are studying here, and the reason they choose certain courses that are favoured for skilled migration. It is because of those ambitions that many students do not report crimes — they fear that in doing so they will prejudice their applications, a police clearance being needed before permanent residency is granted.

“If you bash me up and I go to the police, what prevents you from saying it was the Indian who hit first?” says the cardiologist Singh.

Indian students turn to a familiar way of public protest. Most learned about Gandhi’s non-violent protests, says Robin Jeffrey of the Australian National University.

“These people come from a tradition where you go to the streets if things appear to be intolerable.”

Police steadfastly denied the clashes of the past week were race-linked. Commander Robert Redfern, who oversaw policing for the Cronulla riots and is now superintendent at Parramatta, sticks to a single line: “I don’t think there’s any suggestion that they are racially motivated.”

That may have been true, initially. Attacks such as the fire bombing and Monday night’s assault had no clear motive. Others seemed opportunist, as police were keen to point out: students with money, walking alone, made vulnerable by the shifts they work. It was coincidence, perhaps, that the perpetrators seemed often to be Lebanese. There is a large Lebanese community here.

“The Cronulla riots were not racially motivated,” says Sean Comello, of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin’s Parramatta chapter.

“It became racially motivated because of who got involved.”

As the week’s protest divided on ethnic lines, as carloads of Lebanese men from Merrylands and Dundas arrived, the issue took on a racial dimension — a particularly nuanced one that does not pit a single culture against another, but in which a thin band of young men in each culture is present, a group of supposed victims pitted against what seemed to be their attackers.

On Tuesday, when news trickled through of another violent robbery — an Indian cleaner, beaten unconscious by Middle Eastern men near Warwick Farm station — the belief seemed to be confirmed. “It is racially motivated,” said Jay Singh, a friend of the cleaner.

Each night the rally gathered in front of a Lebanese market that has operated in Harris Park for 30 years, but the business was not attacked. On Wednesday police directed the Lebanese coffee house across the street to close early, though the older Lebanese men drinking there were ignored by the crowd.

On Tuesday night a carload of young Middle Eastern men tore up Marion Street, chased by a hundred young Indians. “F—-ing Lebs,” the group’s apparent leader yelled. “You want to kill me, kill me. You are f—-ing racist.”

Later, a text message told the crowd there was a car of Lebanese men on neighbouring Weston Street. Twenty protesters broke away from the police cordon and ran up the street into a wall of white tracksuits. Two were beaten with poles, one was hit by a car. “Maybe tonight someone will be killed,” an Indian hospitality student said. “What will police do?”

What Australian governments do is more the question.

The ANU’s Jeffrey sees rising student numbers as a chance to broaden contacts with India. “These students have the potential to give us a real flesh and blood link with India. A good bilateral relationship, like that with the US or UK or Canada, involves a flow of people back and forth.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Immigration

America Losing Its Language and Culture Without a Whimper

Twenty years ago, Americans enjoyed walking into their supermarkets, banks, recreation halls and hardware stores with confidence knowing that cashiers, clerks and managers spoke English—America’s national language for 233 years.

Every immigrant that attained citizenship learned to speak English. But today, millions of illegal criminal aliens along with legal immigrants drive America’s language and culture into a fragmented polyglot pile of mush.

Without the ability to speak to ourselves, we fracture at the core of our national foundation. Without a common language, we cannot and do not communicate. You may witness other countries fracturing today because they let their immigrants displace their languages and cultures. Unhappy and unhealthy examples abound: France, United Kingdom, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Quebec, Malaysia, Lebanon and Belgium. Cyprus and Pakistan split. They all face major upheavals. You wonder why the leaders of those countries allowed the degradation of their own cultures and languages.

The great scholar Seymour Lipset said, “The histories of bilingual and bicultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension and tragedy.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Confusion Grows Over Iraqi Repatriation

The Danish government says its agreement with its Iraqi counterpart allows the forced repatriation of Iraqi citizens, but now Iraq says it doesn’t want anyone forced home

A new statement from the Iraqi government regarding the forced repatriation of its citizens has thrown doubt on the future of 282 failed asylum seekers currently in Denmark.

The asylum seekers’ applications were rejected, but they remained in Denmark as it was judged too dangerous to return them home to their country.

However, two months ago the Danish government signed an agreement with the Iraqi authorities that allowed them to forcibly repatriate the failed asylum seekers — some of whom have lived in Denmark for up to 12 years. A statement on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry website said that the government wished to address the rumours that its citizens living abroad would be forced to return home.

‘The Republic of Iraq has signed number of Memorandums of understanding with friendly countries to regulate the presence of Iraqis outside and facilitate their return to their country voluntarily and not forced to return to,’ read the statement, adding that the agreements include ‘appropriate insurance for human rights and not to interfere in personal freedoms’.

The Foreign Ministry continued by saying, ‘Memorandums of understanding stated that whether citizens leave or return to their country is a basic human right and the state will assist the voluntarily , dignified , safe and regular return for the Iraqis living outside Iraq.’

The statement, written in broken English, repeatedly refers to voluntary repatriation, which has left some in doubt about the Danish government’s plans.

The Danish Integration Ministry said they were aware of the Iraqi statement, but stated that the new interpretation of the agreement had not yet been sent to the Danish authorities on an official level.

‘We are relying on the repatriation agreement we made with Iraq…that says there is the possibility to use force as a last resort. That’s why we made the agreement, if it hadn’t said force we would have had no reason to make such an agreement because they could have just returned home voluntarily,’ said Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech to Politiken newspaper.

News of the Iraqi statement has also reached the 60 rejected asylum seekers who have taken refuge in Brorsons Church in Copenhagen to highlight their plight.

‘There were parts of the agreement I didn’t really understand and now I don’t know who’s telling the truth. If Iraq is incorrect then Denmark has made an agreement with a country that deceives people,’ said Hazhar Jaaf who is currently living in the church.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Finland: “Time Running Out on Immigrant Integration”

Heads of Security Police and Immigration Service warn that failure of assimilation into Finnish society lays the groundwork for radicalisation of immigrants

In Finland several ethnic minority groups are growing rapidly. In 2008, 4,035 people sought asylum or other protection in Finland. This is 2,500 more than in the previous year. The growth has continued this year, and the Finnish Immigration Service estimates that by the end of December there will have been about 6,000 applicants.

As a result, the number of immigrants coming into Finland will increase many times over on the basis of family unification. This especially applies to asylum-seekers from Iraq and Somalia. They are being driven to Finland especially by the tighter immigration policies of our neighbouring countries, and by the good level of Finnish social welfare.

From the point of view of security officials, there are risks inherent to a strong increase in immigration, which could lead to serious problems for security.

Risk factors include increases in crime, gang formation, violence, and disturbances of the peace.

Such events have been seen in Europe — in Sweden and France, for instance.

To prevent the risks from coming to pass, the integration of immigrants requires significantly more input from Finland.

According to the prevailing opinion of European security officials, another danger in immigration is the infiltration of terrorists into the flows of immigrants.

This threat ties down a significant amount of resources of security services.

An additional challenge stems from the fact that asylum-seekers who constitute a threat cannot always be sent back to their countries of origin; their security situations can be so bad that sending them back is impossible for humanitarian reasons.

In certain suburbs of Helsinki and Turku, the proportion of foreigners in the population has risen as high as 30 per cent. According to some studies, such a large concentration of immigrants can lead to uncontrolled ethnic isolation of the communities.

To prevent such problems there have even been proposals of enacting a partial curfew, which would be truly exceptional in the Nordic countries. These suggestions underscore the seriousness of the problem. The unrest caused by an atmosphere of marginalisation, rootlessness and anger are compounded, and spread to other similar suburbs.

The risk of radicalisation of immigrants is increased by the rootlessness that they experience in their new home countries. This, in turn, is fed by the problems of integration. Second-generation immigrants often find it hard to identify with their parents’ culture and home country. They lack the kinds of anchor points of life that normally create security and balance.

Failures in integration establish a foundation for radicalisation, and in extreme cases, for terrorism. At the same time, concern increases over confrontations between the native population and immigrants, and over the disappearance of the values that are a part of democracy.

This can result in increased racism, and an increase in the number of mutually hostile groups. For that reason, the importance of the ability of officials to react quickly is underscored.

The Security Police (SUPO) is not currently aware of any individuals in Finland who would be actively involved in terrorist activities. On the other hand, there are strong indications that groups and networks involved in conflicts in Muslim countries get support from Finland.

Practical responsibility for integration efforts is with local authorities. Contrary to what is claimed on the basis of isolated cases, local authorities have succeeded well in their task so far.

The illiteracy, ignorance of Finnish society, and large families of many immigrants pose challenges to local authorities.

Language skills and adapting to Finnish society and its rules are central factors in successful integration. Only in that way can immigrants eventually get work.

The challenges of integration will increase in the coming years as numbers of immigrants grow. For that reason, language teaching for immigrants should be increased significantly. If immigrants are to have a realistic and correct image of Finland, assimilation should start already in the country of origin, by coaching them in advance on the rules and mores of Finnish society.

Increasing the efficiency of assimilation requires considerably more personnel in the social affairs and health sector, in interpreter services, and in education, especially in language teaching. The availability of rental housing also needs to be increased significantly.

There are also positive sides to the increase in immigration. Work-based immigration is an important additional resource for Finland and its future.

Finland also has to take care of its international humanitarian obligations, and to offer protection for the persecuted.

If integration is successful, the native Finnish majority of our population will accept a growing foreign minority.

However, there is no time to wait in increasing the efficiency of how immigrants can become “new Finns”: the window of opportunity will only remain open for a few years.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Finland: Qualified Immigrants to be Given Work to Match Their Educational Achievement

Outdated Act on the Integration of Immigrants is to be amended in order to improve employment

It has been suggested that immigrants should be given work to match their skills and their educational achievement, as a majority of immigrants have been forced to change their profession in order to get work.

As professional degrees from other countries are not necessarily recognised here, many university-qualified immigrants in Finland are forced into low-paid jobs, as supplementary training is not available in all sectors.

The main reason for the problem is the Finnish Act on the Integration of Immigrants that came into force in May 1999.

“It has become outdated”, says Mervi Virtanen, the director of the immigration policy department of the MInistry of the Interior.

Now the act is finally being amended. A report on the act will be debated by Parliament in its plenary session on Thursday. The actual bill for an amendment to the legislation is to be brought before Parliament next spring.

Mervi Virtanen and Annika Forsander, the manager of immigration affairs at the City of Helsinki, believe that an amendment to legislation would improve the integration and employment of immigrants.

“It is imperative that the Act on the Integration of Immigrants be amended”, Forsander notes.

Helsingin Sanomat reported on June 8th that in spite of education, immigrants are not easily employed.

In 2008, only one in six immigrants participating in integration training found a job in the general labour market in the Helsinki capital region.

A total of 15,611 immigrants participated in the training.

In general, immigrants study the Finnish language as well as working-life skills.

According to Forsander, for example language training has to be improved, while immigrants should also gain access to training faster.

“The goals are high and the schedule is tight”, Virtanen admits.

Those immigrants who have been granted asylum have obtained training even under the current Act. However, they form just a fraction of all immigrants.

“Those who have arrived in Finland for some other reasons, for example in search for work or as members of a family, will be left outside the integration programme and without training. The scope of application of the act will have to be enlarged”, Virtanen continues.

In order to be admitted to the integration programme, foreigners will have to register as jobseekers at the nearest employment office.

“The number of paths offering supplementary training is not adequate, which is why we will have to invest more in this kind of education”, Virtanen notes.

“For example foreign physicians can take part in certain adaptation training in order to achieve the qualifications required before they can practice their profession in Finland. However, such training programmes do not exist in certain other fields, for example in the humanities and social sciences”, Forsander reports.

When it comes to the employment of immigrants, time is the decisive factor. As the integration process takes several years, the newcomers should have an access to the right training sooner than happens today.

According to the current law, immigrants are entitled to training for a period of three years. In certain cases it can be prolonged to five years.

“This period is not long enough”, comments Forsander.

Language training and cooperation between authorities should also be improved. Today’s bidding contests are bound to make the problem worse.

“The integration of immigrants has already long been regarded as a short-term project”, Forsander notes.

“For example language training often consists of short periods, which is why the teachers will not be able to develop their activities. While it is true that a large number of quite good and competent players are involved, the fact is that passing from one place to another is not acceptable”, Forsander argues.

In 2008, the total number of foreigners living in Finland was 142,256, with half of them resident in the Greater Helsinki area.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Greece: Focus on Immigration

Government heralds heavy terms for smugglers, seeks EU help with repatriations

Responding to growing pressure to tackle a burgeoning problem with illegal immigration, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos yesterday heralded the imposition of tougher sentences to discourage human smugglers and the creation of reception centers where undocumented migrants would be held for up to 12 months until their fate is decided.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sent a letter to Jan Fischer, his counterpart in the Czech Republic, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, asking for the union’s full support in curbing the migration flows that have hit countries like Greece, Italy and Spain particularly hard.

“The big issue that Greece and other EU countries face is the uncontrolled entry of illegal immigrants at Europe’s borders, mainly through people smugglers,” Pavlopoulos said after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, noting that traffickers would face felony rather than misdemeanor charges which carry heavy jail terms.

The minister added that he would press EU officials at a summit next week for the signing of repatriation agreements with migrants’ countries of origin and urge Turkey to honor a bilateral pact with Greece for migrants’ repatriation.

Pavlopoulos added that the government would push ahead with stalled plans to build a mosque for the capital’s Muslims in the central Votanikos area and a Muslim cemetery in Schisto, western Attica.

The government’s proposals attracted strong opposition criticism. George Papandreou, the leader of Socialist PASOK, described the measures as “sketchy and inadequate” and proposed instead an eight-point plan foreseeing the boosting of border controls and a drive to upgrade parts of the capital that have turned into ghettos for migrants. The Communist Party accused the government of seeking to imprison migrants in “concentration camps.”

Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Pavlopoulos insisted that the new measures were not a reaction to the government’s losses in last Sunday’s European Parliament elections and to the gains made by the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS).

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Italy: Police Target Human Traffickers in 16 Cities

Rome, 9 June (AKI) — Italian police conducted nationwide raids on Tuesday in a major operation targeting an international human trafficking network alleged to have brought thousands of illegal immigrants to Europe. The police operation called ‘Ticket to Ride’ targeted traffickers and their colleagues in 16 Italian cities and seven European countries.

Dozens of people were arrested by police in Venice and other cities in relation to the network which police believe has brought thousands of illegal immigrants to Europe in the past three years.

Police claim an international criminal organisation based in Iraqi Kurdistan is behind the trafficking network. It has alleged links in Turkey, Greece and in Italy.

According to police investigations, more than 2,500 people, mainly of Iraqi-Kurdish origin, were transported on 180 trips.

Police also estimated that between December 2006 and May 2009 the organisation earned millions of dollars from several other voyages.

The organisation was structured around operative ‘cells’ everywhere it operated.

In Rome there were allegedly three cells — the ‘Erbil group’, the ‘Chamchamali group’ and the ‘Badini group’ — that managed prospective immigrants from Iraqi cities including, Erbil, Kirkuk, Mosul and Dohuk.

The other main ‘cells’ police identified in Italy were located in the northern cities of Milan and Como as well as the cities of Rimini and Ancona on the Adriatic coast.

The immigrants began their journey overland from Iraq and when the immigrants reached Turkey, they were moved by vans, ships or on foot to Greece, police said.

From Greece they travelled by sea to Italian ports on the Adriatic Sea — Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi.

Police also had evidence that other immigrants landed on the Calabrian coast.

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


Netherlands: Putting ‘Import Brides’ to the Dutchness Test

More women are coming to the Netherlands as ‘import brides’. Helping them pass the Dutch integration exam has become a business.

Sander Bons looks at Marina Yeranosyan and says in Dutch: “Pretty blouse.” Yeranosyan (29) looks nonplussed and asks: “Pretty blouse?” Bons points to her garment and says: “Pretty blouse.” Yeranosyan looks down at the blouse and relaxes. “Pretty blouse,” she says and smiles.

Yeranosyan is one of six women present in Bons’ class on the first floor of a town house in Utrecht. They all want to marry their lovers in the Netherlands. But that isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Integration test

Since the Integration law was adopted in 2006 potential immigrants are required to take an integration test in their country of origin. Already in 2004, the financial and age criteria were tightened: the Dutch partner has to make at least 120 percent of minimum wage and be over 21-years old. Every month some 650 integration test are taken across the world. Immigrants from European countries, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan are exempt.

One reason for the integration law was to better prepare so-called ‘import brides’ for their new lives in the Netherlands. Turkish-Dutch and Moroccan-Dutch men often choose a bride in the country of origin. Without a good knowledge of the Dutch language these women could jeopardise their children’s education, was the thinking.

After the rules were tightened in 2004 family-related immigration dropped by more than a third. The introduction of the integration exam led to a further decline. Until last year. This week integration minister Eberhard Van der Laan told parliament that the number of applications for family-related immigration went up from 11,000 in 2007 to 15,330 in 2008. Seventy percent of the applicants in 2008 were women.

The statistics don’t distinguish between new families or family reunification, but Van der Laan admitted that many of the women are ‘import brides’. He worried about the arrival of more uneducated marriage partners, not just from Morocco and Turkey but more and more from places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.

The integration exam tests the knowledge of Dutch society in thirty questions. Which country is bigger: the Netherlands or Morocco? Where is princess Máxima from? Or the student will be shown a Rembrandt painting and asked who painted it.

The second part is a language exam consisting of sentences spoken by a computer voice which the applicant has to repeat, as well as simple questions. Which is more: 15 or 20 euros? Is a ball for eating or playing? Is a bench for sitting or driving?

With or without topless pictures

The applicant is supposed to prepare for the exam in the country of origin. There is an integration package which the partner in the Netherlands can mail. The cultural questions are in a booklet and on a DVD. There is a censored version (without the topless sunbathing pictures) and an uncensored one. The Dutch government organises classes in some countries, like Morocco and Turkey, but in most countries the applicants are on their own.

The women in Utrecht have chosen a different approach. They came to the Netherlands on a tourist visa to take an integration course with Sander Bons. Sixty hours of classes cost 840 euros. Afterwards, they will fly back to their countries of origin — Colombia, Armenia, Venezuela, Sudan, Indonesia and Brazil — where they will take the exam at the Dutch consulate, or over the phone with the Netherlands. Once they pass the test, they can apply for the necessary paperwork and fly back to the Netherlands. Business is good for Bons, and he is not the only one who saw there was a profit to be made with the integration exams.

“My boyfriend is paying for the course and the trip,” says 29-year-old Margarita Ariza. She is slim and her long black hair falls on the scarf around her neck. Summers are too cold in the Netherlands, she says, but other than that she thinks it’s a wonderful country. “You can have everything here: a job, a good salary. You can even buy a house.” In Colombia she works as a secretary; she lives with her mother in Baranquilla. She doesn’t make enough money to rent her own apartment.

But not everybody has the luxury of hiring Bons’ services. A 45-year-old man from Iraq sits in the Lelystad office of Vluchtelingenwerk, an aid group for asylum seekers. He doesn’t want to see his name in print. He fled from Iraq to the Netherlands thirteen years ago, leaving his wife and three-month-old daughter behind. After years of red tape he finally got his residence permit in the 2007 regularisation. He wants to bring his wife and children to the Netherlands, but first his wife has to pass the integration exam.

Learning Dutch in Iraq

How do you study Dutch abroad without the help of someone who speaks the language? His wife has no computer or internet. Her husband bought a bunch of phone cards and, in his broken Dutch, shouted the sentences to his wife over the phone.

Taking the exam proved almost impossible. There is no Dutch embassy or consulate in Iraq. The wife had to travel to Turkey where she stayed in a hostel as she waited to take the exam. Just applying for the paperwork costs several hundred euros. The husband, who lives on disabled benefits, is having trouble keeping up with all the costs, which run in the thousands of euros. But in the end it paid off: his wife passed the exam.

Vluchtelingenwerk wants people like the Iraqi couple to be exempt from the integration exam. Family reunification makes up only five percent of all family-related applications; the remaining 95 percent are mostly import brides. It is reasonable to make demands of these new partners, says Erna Lensink. “If a man looks for a partner in the country of origin, he know there are rules you have to abide to in the Netherlands,” says Lensink.

But family reunification often applies to people from countries like Afghanistan, Somalia or Iraq. Lensink: “These are places where it is extremely difficult to prepare for the exam, especially if the wife is illiterate. But we’re talking about reunifying families that have been separated for years.”

Marina Yeranosyan, who is a photographer in Armenia, thinks she can teach the Dutch women a thing or two. “Some of them will wear an orange blouse with a pink shirt,” she whispers. Marina is always in high heels and make-up. “You have to show that you’re a woman. Dutch men like that.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Norway: Increased Number of Asylum Seekers

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Norway is again on the increase. In the first five months of this year 6595 persons applied for asylum, compared with 4324 in the same period last year. In May alone, 1490 applications for asylum were registered, according to the Immigration Directorate. This compares with 996 applications in May last year.

The largest group of asylum seekers in May this year (30 per cent) came from Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Southern Border: Massive Tunnel Found

We got tipped off late Wednesday evening and within a few hours we were on a plane and then on the road arriving in Nogales just as the sun peaked over the Sonoran Desert. Our contacts had told us of an elaborate tunnel, one of the best they’ve ever found, running 45 feet or so on the Mexican side of the border, then extending another 38 feet into the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Sweden’s EU Immigration Plans Facing Headwinds

The renewal of the EU’s justice and home affairs priorities will be a key challenge for the forthcoming Swedish EU Presidency. But despite the country’s legislative credentials, Sweden’s ‘Stockholm Programme’ is likely to fall short of its ambitions, sources told EurActiv.

Sweden has one of Europe’s most liberal asylum policies, and intends to push for a comprehensive Common Asylum System when it takes the EU’s helm on 1 July (EurActiv 10/06/09).

The Swedish government has outlined its progressive ambitions on immigration, arguing for a “humane refugee policy,” and emphasising that “the current trend in Europe to close more borders must be opposed”.

However, the government is also issuing a clear warning to its EU partners, stating that “if Sweden has to shoulder a disproportionate share of the responsibility for refugee situations […] this will eventually raise questions about the sustainability of our asylum system”.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: No…Really? Color me shocked!]

The solution, argues Sweden, is obvious: “All EU member states must share the responsibility for offering protection for refugees.” This, says the presidency, is why common rules for EU countries will be its goal.

Sweden has considerable “moral authority” on this issue, according to Bjarte Vandvik, secretary-general of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), an NGO. Speaking to EurActiv, Vandvik noted that “if you look at numbers, Sweden takes the same number of asylum seekers per capita as Malta, or even more”.

Indeed, the European Commission yesterday called for a JHA programme which moves “towards a common asylum system” and insists on “burden-sharing and solidarity between member states”.

Political will not there, say experts

However, while the Swedish Presidency has lofty ambitions, there is very little chance of these targets being met, according to an immigration expert contacted by EurActiv.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said that the Stockholm Programme “encapsulates all the good intentions” about harmonising and working together on protection issues for refugees, migration, and so on.

“At the same time, however, we know that there is no real political will, let alone consensus, in the Council to make this happen,” they added.

All previous efforts to harmonise EU immigration and asylum systems have failed and are reflected in “the fact that the Commission is currently so eager to show off” the new European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the source continued.

“This is actually a red herring, basically giving the message that ‘well, we didn’t succeed in actually getting where we wanted with the Common Asylum System, but look at this wonderful office we created instead’.”

Bjarte Vandvik agrees. “With the best of intentions for the Swedes, I think they’re in a difficult position. They have a brand new Parliament which has yet to grasp the importance of these issues in a procedural way. And this Parliament is far more right-wing and conservative, and is likely to be more sceptical on these questions of harmonisation,” the ECRE boss told EurActiv.

He did, however, think that “something manageable like the question of resettlement — taking refugees out of camps, for instance, or deciding on the size of quotas for refugees — that has a chance to succeed”.

A right-wing Europe

The current political reality in the EU may also be a constraint for Sweden’s ambitions. The centre-right currently leads 20 of 27 member states, and won a majority in last week’s European Parliament elections (EurActiv 08/06/09).

Traditionally, the centre-right has been more hardline on immigration and asylum issues, and a number of EU countries are likely to be vehemently opposed to the Swedish plans.

“My greatest worry,” said Bjarte Vandvik, is that the EU “will continue with this policy of just shutting the borders, as has been the case so far”.

“Making border controls efficient, making security measures efficient, and then not taking any steps on the other issues” would be a mistake, he argues.

“I think a truly harmonised Common European Asylum System will not happen. It’s still a pipe dream,” Vandvik concluded.

Positions: The Swedish EU Presidency “will take its share of the responsibility for the international protection of refugees, but if Sweden has to shoulder a disproportionate share of the responsibility for refugee situations around the world in relation to comparable countries, this will eventually raise questions about the sustainability of our asylum system,” according to the presidency website.

“All EU member states must share the responsibility for offering protection for refugees. This is why common rules for the countries in the EU are one of the government’s main objectives in the area of migration,” the statement concludes.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that “in future, EU action must aim above all at delivering the best possible service to the citizen in an area of freedom, security and justice more tangible for the citizens”.

“We want to promote citizens’ rights, make their daily lives easier and provide protection, and this calls for effective and responsible European action in these areas. In this context, I consider immigration policy particularly important. This is the vision the Commission is presenting to the Council and Parliament for debate, with a view to the adoption of the new Stockholm Programme by the European Council in December 2009,” he said.

Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE (European Council on Refugees and Exiles) secretary-general, told EurActiv that “the old JHA divide between the north and south of Europe is less evident today than in previous years. If you look at numbers, Sweden takes the same number of asylum seekers per capita as Malta, or even more”.

He added that “the smaller states in the south, certainly, are calling for greater support from their wealthier neighbours”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Homosexual Activists Frustrated With Obama’s Agenda

Impatient homosexual activists say Barack Obama should be moving more quickly to enact their social agenda, but he’s running into a political reality that they want him to ignore.

President Obama — in his proclamation declaring June as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month” — reaffirmed his support for enhancing “hate crimes” laws, homosexual civil unions, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, homosexual adoption, and the repeal of the military’s ban on openly homosexual service-members.

However, in the proclamation he did not repeat his campaign promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. In fact, his call for the repeal of DOMA has also been stripped from the White House website.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

NASA Study Shows Sun Responsible for Planet Warming

From DailyTech, we have still more evidence that any warming occurring on planet earth is coming from natural sources and is cyclic in nature—NOT from the evil capitalism that Al Gore, the UN politicians at the IPCC and other socialists love to blame.

From the article:

Now, a new research report from a surprising source may help to lay this skepticism to rest. A study from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland looking at climate data over the past century has concluded that solar variation has made a significant impact on the Earth’s climate. The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution.

Past research has shown that the sun goes through eleven year cycles. At the cycle’s peak, solar activity occurring near sunspots is particularly intense, basking the Earth in solar heat. According to Robert Cahalan, a climatologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, “Right now, we are in between major ice ages, in a period that has been called the Holocene.”


If our media, culture and a large portion of the “scientific” community were really honest, it would be the worshippers of the religion of anthropogenic global warming who are called “skeptics,” wouldn’t it?

Because it is those pushing this silly theory that our puny SUVs and power plants are causing earth to warm up when the most obvious source of heat hangs over their head every single day.

AGW simply doesn’t pass the smell test. Nor does it line up with the objective data…

[Return to headlines]


Threat to Global-Warming Skeptics Retracted

Editor’s Note: The author of the subject article on TalkingPointsMemo.com has formally retracted the article and apologizes for what he describes as his “extremist global warming” blog post. “The whole post was ill-conceived, poorly written — and not representative of who I am,” the author says. “But I did write it, and I take full responsibility for it. My intention was not to wish imprisonment or execution of global warming skeptics.” (Full retraction is available at TalkingPointsMemo.com)

Original story:

A popular left-leaning website recently published some harsh rhetoric concerning deniers of alleged global warming.

According to Marc Morano of ClimateDepot.com, the left-leaning website TalkingPointsMemo.com recently published an article that issued this public appeal: “At what point do we jail or execute global warming deniers?” The article accused “right-wingers” of blocking fixes to the problem of supposed “climate change” and stated that when “end of the world”-type events start to take place, “how will we punish those responsible?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

5 comments:

Robin Shadowes said...

Gaddaffi has not been famous for his sanity. Seems like journalists likes to swarm around him like flies around a... *cough* you know what...

IoshkaFutz said...

He's leaving today... Apparently he did not sleep in the tent, but at a Hotel.

The meeting with the leaders of Rome's Jewish community (ostensibly to talk about compensation for the Jews kicked out of Libya) will not take place because Gheddafi scheduled it for today - SATURDAY - probably as a slight.

Members of the IDV party (Italia dei Valori) pinned pictures of Lockerbie on their chest. GianFranco Fini, ex MSI, ex AN, now part of Berlusconi's party PDL, cancelled Gheddafi's cameo at the Senate after the Libyan Dictator was two hours late. The ex-Fascist (by Charles Johnson standards)received a bi-partisan applause.

The papers talk about RealPolitik and Burlesque in the same paragraphs. There was some mention (Corriere della Sera) that Italian Colonialism was bad, but wasn't ONLY bad. Lots of talk of the vital interests at stake. Oil, gas, and blocking illegal immigration, 50 Gigs of contracts and a special rapport with Italian companies (tax breaks and whatnot).

Rome, a city that through the ages has seen it all, is mostly amused, at least judging by the wonderful racist and politically incorrect and uncorrectable comments exchanged at the bar-caffès about this "Beduino, clown, pazzo furioso, with his army of female guards."

Italy's favorite commedian, Fiorello, working on Murdoch's Sky TV has already done skits about Gheddafi.

Homophobic Horse said...

"Mr. Gaddafi called for the abolition of European political parties, dismissed the idea of democracy, and equated the United States with Al Qaeda. "

All this is already the case anyway.

laine said...

Guess the father was "cleansing his family's honor" by helping to hang his son.

Palestinians will never love their children in any way that a westerner can remotely understand.

Daily they demonstrate less interest in building a better life for them on this earth with real schools, hospitals and civil life than in inciting them to blow themselves up for the glory of a wicked god and perverted prophet to attain a bordello heaven.

There is no reasoning with hatred imbibed with mother's milk.

Zenster said...

laine: Guess the father was "cleansing his family's honor" by helping to hang his son.

There's nothing like a self-chlorinating gene pool.