Monday, August 17, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/17/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/17/2009The Swedish education minister asserts that children of “undocumented” immigrants have a right to state-funded education, and hopes that a law will be passed to codify this principle.

In other news, Canada is conducting a series of military exercises in the Arctic to demonstrate to Russia, the United States, and Denmark its power in that frigid zone where sovereignty is disputed.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, CSP, Diana West, Earl Cromer, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Obama Care Passed in Stimulus Bill; More Treachery in Sept.
 
USA
Dirty Secret No. 2 in Obamacare
Gates Foundation Sells Off Most Health-Care Holdings
Meet Your New Boss: Uncle Sam
More Lux Et Dhimmitude: Cherchez La Dough
Obama Foes Turn to ‘60s Radical for Tactical Tips
RFID Tags Get an Intelligence Upgrade
Yale Surrenders
 
Canada
Canada in Arctic Show of Strength
 
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Gallery Exhibits Controversial Muhammad Caricature
EU Directives Will Close Down Most of Britain’s Aluminium Industry
Extradition Threat to Hundreds as Britain Signs Up to EU Law
Germany: Chinese ‘Specialty Cook’ Trafficking Ring Raided
Ireland: White Paper on Lisbon Distorts Crucial Issues
Italy: Fiat Patriarch Agnelli’s Finances Probed
Italy: Tax Authority Eyes Offshore Accounts of Wealthy
Italy: Bertinotti: Dismantle Left and Found New Party
Prince of Liechtenstein Angers Jews With Holocaust Remark
Revealed: ‘Lord of the Flies’ Author Attacked Girl, 15
UK: A-Levels Are So Easy a Monkey Could be Trained to Do Them, Say Teachers
UK: Hundreds of Britons Will be Extradited for Minor Crimes Under New Rules
UK: Man Groped Teenage Girl’s Breast
UK: Pensioner ‘Battered to Death at Bus Stop in Broad Daylight… For Asking Thug to Move His Feet’
UK: Students Lie on University Application Forms to Meet ‘Social Engineering’
UK: Teenager Given ‘Council Certificate for Getting on Bus in Greater Manchester’
 
Balkans
Miroslav Tudjman Strongly Opposed to Removal of Crosses From State Offices
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Fatah; Losers Dispute Vote, But Abbas Goes Ahead
Gaza: Israel, HRW Report is Unreliable
New Fatah Leadership Harder on Hamas, Haaretz
Palestinian Politics and the Peace Process: The Looming Gigantic Danger
 
Middle East
Arabs Tour Istanbul in Search of TV Stars
Economy: Chinese Auto Giant Comes to Turkey Despite Crisis
Muslims Must Unite for Islam’s Savior: Iran
 
Russia
Problems Beset Russia Army Reform
 
South Asia
Czech Team Supports Election Training for Women in Afghanistan
Frank Gaffney: Snakes in the Grass
Pakistan ‘Extremist’ Is Shot Dead
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia Plans New Terror Laws
 
Immigration
EU Cities Want Bigger Say in Immigration Debate
Sweden: ‘Undocumented Kids Have a Right to School’
UK: Asylum Seeker Detained for Using Fake Passport Suing the Government for Causing Him Depression
 
Culture Wars
Obama’s Mad Science Adviser
 
General
Arab League Wants EU to Back Monitoring of Israeli Nukes
Interview With Ian Wishart
Micro-Blogging? Study Finds 40% of Twitter Posts Are ‘Pointless Babble’

Financial Crisis

Obama Care Passed in Stimulus Bill; More Treachery in Sept.

If you are not aware of it yet, ObamaCare as it’s being called — Part One was actually buried in the phony stimulus bill. That massive rape was signed into law by the usurper president in February. As Dr. Dave Janda writes, what is being debated now is Part Two. What, you say? Yes, your member of Congress (and mine) pulled another fast one and deceived all of us. Again.

[…]

“The underlying method of cutting costs throughout the plan is based on rationing and denying care, not preventing health care need. The plan’s method is the most inhumane and unethical approach in cutting costs. The rationing of care is implemented through a Council, equivalent to the National Health Care Board in the British Health Care System. The name given to this panel is The Federal Coordinating Council For Comparative Effectiveness Research (“Federal Council”). (Section 9201 H.R. 1 Version of the Stimulus Bill.)

“President Obama has already appointed the fifteen member Federal Council. According to the Stimulus Bill, p.152, all members of the Council must be “senior federal officers or employees.” Thus, medical treatment will be dispensed by a group of bureaucrats from their ivory towers, not by the hands-on practitioners in the presence of the patients. The council was funded with $1.1 BILLION from The Stimulus Bill.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

Dirty Secret No. 2 in Obamacare

In my last column I explained that dirty secret No. 1 in Obamacare is that the House bill grants government the authority to come into homes and usurp parental rights over child care development.

I have a few more secrets to share over these hot August political nights.

Dirty secret No. 2 in Obamacare is that Obama is not the leader of Obamacare. And neither is Congress. The one who has been spearheading the initiative behind the scenes is one who goes under the misnomer “adviser” to the Obama administration, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist and breast oncologist and brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And “his bible” for health care reform is his book, “Healthcare Guaranteed.”

[…]

If you want to know the future of America’s universal health care, then you must understand the health care principles and plans of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. I find it far more than coincidence how much Dr. Emanuel’s book parallels Obamacare’s philosophy, strategy and legislation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Gates Foundation Sells Off Most Health-Care Holdings

Includes 2.5 million shares in giant Johnson & Johnson

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private philanthropy fund, sold off almost all of its pharmaceutical, biotechnology and health-care investments in the quarter ended June 30, according to a regulatory filing published Friday.

The Seattle-based charity endowment, set up by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and his wife, sold its total holding of 2.5 million shares in health-care giant Johnson & Johnson in the quarter, according to the filing.

The foundation also sold millions of shares in major drug makers, including 14.9 million shares in Schering-Plough Corp., almost 1 million shares in Eli Lilly & Co., 8.1 million shares in Merck & Co. and 3.7 million shares in Wyeth, over the same time period. The foundation no longer holds shares in any of those companies.

[…]

The foundation’s decision to drastically reduce its exposure to health-related stocks is striking, as many of its charity grants have been disbursed to address developing country health issues. Its move comes against the background of anxiety among drugmakers and healthcare insurance firms about the potential impact of the Obama administration’s proposed overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, which could put pressure on prescription drug prices.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Meet Your New Boss: Uncle Sam

Do you like your boss?

Would you like a new boss?

If Congress passes the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), it might not matter — the government could make every important decision for your company.

The government would decide how much you’re paid, what health and retirement benefits you get, your work assignments, and how — and if — you get promoted. Government bureaucrats would have the power to dictate business operations. They would decide how much your company invests in what projects — even the machines you use for your job.

And you, as a worker? You would have no say. You must live with whatever the government gave you.

[…]

The EFCA, however, would radically change this for newly unionized companies. For workers who have just joined a union — probably under pressure from union organizers — negotiations would last four months.

After that, the union could ask the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to write the contract instead. At that point the FMCS steps in and imposes a two-year contract on both workers and management. Neither workers nor employers could appeal the verdict. Federal bureaucrats would dictate the contract, covering every major facet of business operations.

If you work for a company that unions organize and EFCA passes, the government will decide how much you earn and who gets promoted. The government will decide how many co-workers you have. The government will choose your health-care and retirement plans for you, and your work assignments. Government bureaucrats will set business operations for you and your employer. They have the power to decide how much your company invests in what projects. The government would control every major aspect of your work life and your employers’ business strategy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


More Lux Et Dhimmitude: Cherchez La Dough

by Diana West

Over the weekend, Roger Kimball reported two new facts related to the enforcement of sharia prohibitions at Yale University Press against publishing imagery of Mohammed — and especially imagery of Mohammed that illustrates the sacralized links between Mohammed and jihad violence.

Not only was Yale Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer in on the Motoon-censoring consulation with author Jytte Klausen, but also one of the “experts” advising Yale on whether to print, or not to print, Sheila Blair of Norma Jean Calderwood University, told Roger “she was contacted not by [Yale University Press] but by the “Office of the President of Yale University.” Roger writes:

Professor Blair declined to speculate about the significance of that fact. I will not be so chary. Yesterday, I wrote wondering whether John Donatich, the Director of the Yale University Press, was the “villain” or the “fall guy” in this sordid little drama. As I said in response to a comment from [author] Jytte Klausen, “I strongly suspect . . . that the threats-of-violence trope was a pretext, or at most a subsidiary concern” for Yale. What was the real reason that Yale was anxious to bowdlerize Professor Klausen’s book? Even now, I know, energetic investigative reporters are looking into Yale’s financial relationships with some of the spots where Linda Lorimer, Vice President and Secretary of the University, told Professor Klausen she has often traveled recently: Saudi Arabia, for example.

And that last bit was the second fact Roger uncovered: that Yale VP and Secretary Lorimer has been travelling around the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, often…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Obama Foes Turn to ‘60s Radical for Tactical Tips

Opponents of Barack Obama’s healthcare proposals are using the tactics of Saul Alinsky, the renowned leftwing activist who helped inspire the US president when he was a young community organiser, says Dick Armey, head of Freedom Works, a group fighting against universal healthcare.

Mr Armey, who was the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives for most of the 1990s, said his group, which is behind many of the “tea party” protests that have disrupted town-hall meetings in the past two weeks, draws consciously on the forms of agitation pioneered by Mr Alinsky.

Mr Obama, who worked as a community organiser among unemployed steel workers on Chicago’s South Side in the late 1980s, was heavily influenced by Mr Alinsky, who inspired a generation of radicals in the 1960s. Mr Alinsky believed that packing public meetings with highly vocal activists would sway their outcomes and give people a taste of the power they could exercise when they showed up in numbers.

“What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” said Mr Armey, who was one of the leaders of the “Contract with America” Republican landslide in 1994.

“What I think of Alinsky is that he was very good at what he did but what he did was not good,” Mr Armey said. “We don’t organise people to turn up at these town-hall meetings — we don’t provide buses to get them there. But we tell them about the meetings and we suggest good questions they could ask.”

Mr Armey, whose group works closely with the Tea Party Patriots and other conservative organisations, said he thought the anti-reform protests against Mr Obama’s healthcare proposals exceeded the temperature during the August 1994 congressional recess when the Clinton administration’s healthcare plans were shot to pieces.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


RFID Tags Get an Intelligence Upgrade

You might think being able to pay in shops with a wave of your bank card or open doors with your security pass is smart. But the RFID tags that make that possible are due for an intelligence upgrade.

Today’s RFID tags can only broadcast fixed data back to a reader device, whether that’s details of your passport or of an endangered bird. Researchers are now working to add brains to the tags in the form of microcomputers, opening the way for much smarter applications.

[…]

“Ten years ago we would have thought this was science fiction — doing programming without a battery,” says Kevin Fu, who works on CRFIDs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Fu and his colleagues are working on CRFIDs using hardware from Intel called WISP (Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform). Intel’s smarter tags use a 16-bit microcontroller and can store programs up to 32 kilobytes in size. They can also store small amounts of electricity picked up from a reader for short periods in a capacitor.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Yale Surrenders

Why did Yale University Press remove images of Mohammed from a book about the Danish cartoons?

The capitulation of Yale University Press to threats that hadn’t even been made yet is the latest and perhaps the worst episode in the steady surrender to religious extremism—particularly Muslim religious extremism—that is spreading across our culture. A book called The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Danish-born Jytte Klausen, who is a professor of politics at Brandeis University, tells the story of the lurid and preplanned campaign of “protest” and boycott that was orchestrated in late 2005 after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. (The competition was itself a response to the sudden refusal of a Danish publisher to release a book for children about the life of Mohammed, lest it, too, give offense.) By the time the hysteria had been called off by those who incited it, perhaps as many as 200 people around the world had been pointlessly killed.

Yale University Press announced last week that it would go ahead with the publication of the book, but it would remove from it the 12 caricatures that originated the controversy. Not content with this, it is also removing other historic illustrations of the likeness of the Prophet, including one by Gustave Doré of the passage in Dante’s Inferno that shows Mohammed being disemboweled in hell. (These same Dantean stanzas have also been depicted by William Blake, Sandro Botticelli, Salvador Dalö, and Auguste Rodin, so there’s a lot of artistic censorship in our future if this sort of thing is allowed to set a precedent.)

Now, the original intention of limiting the representation of Mohammed by Muslims (and Islamic fatwas, before we forget, have no force whatever when applied to people outside the faith) was the rather admirable one of preventing idolatry. It was feared that people might start to worship the man and not the god of whom he was believed to be the messenger. This is why it is crass to refer to Muslims as Mohammedans. Nonetheless, Islamic art contains many examples—especially in Iran—of paintings of the Prophet, and even though the Dante example is really quite an upsetting one, exemplifying a sort of Christian sadism and sectarianism, there has never been any Muslim protest about its pictorial representation in Western art.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Canada

Canada in Arctic Show of Strength

Canada is launching a series of military exercises in the Arctic far-north region of the country.

The so-called sovereignty operation is designed to show a visible presence in the resource-rich area, amid competing claims among other nations.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to join in some of the exercises later in the week.

Asserting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic has been a priority for Mr Harper’s conservative government.

‘Show of strength’

Operation Nanook will see the Canadian Armed Forces involved in sea, land and airforce operations in the country’s eastern Arctic territory.

Mr Harper is expected to join the operation midweek, when he will board both a navy frigate and a submarine during a warfare exercise.

The region was once considered barren, but a number of countries with competing claims — including Denmark and Russia — have been carefully mapping the area around the North Pole, thought to be rich in minerals and natural resources.

In a symbolic gesture that won attention around the world in 2007, Russian explorers planted their country’s flag on the seabed below the North Pole.

Canada is also concerned by the melting of ice each year through the fabled Northwest Passage, blamed by scientists on global warming.

The United States government has said that it does not recognise exclusive Canadian rights to the waterway, that could be a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Some military analysts say that despite this week’s show of strength, Canada does not have the resources to protect its vast Arctic territory full time.

There have been recent signs of closer co-operation in the region between Canada and Denmark.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark: Gallery Exhibits Controversial Muhammad Caricature

A Danish gallery has decided to exhibit a caricature of Muhammad that unleashed a wave of protests in the Muslim world against Denmark in 2006. Citing an article in magazine Sappho, Agence France-Presse reports that the controversial caricature will be part of a larger exhibition dedicated to the watercolor works of the artist-caricaturist Kurt Westergaard at the Galleri Draupner in Skanderborg. The caricature—one of twelve satiric drawings published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten—represents Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb with a lit fuse. Muslims found the drawing, which confounds the prophet with terrorism, offensive. The seventy-four-year-old Westergaard had words of praise for the gallery director, Erik Guldager. “[He] is the first to dare to exhibit my works, even if my watercolors are not political.” In May 2008, Westergaard received the Sappho Prize from the Society for the Protection of the Freedom of Expression of the Press and the Right to Criticize Religion. Westergaard had originally hoped to show his watercolors in an unnamed gallery in Hoejbjerg near Aarhus. But his participation was canceled when an unnamed Swedish artist invited to participate in the same exhibition threatened to pull out if Westergaard showed his works. The exhibition at Galleri Draupner begins August 29.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


EU Directives Will Close Down Most of Britain’s Aluminium Industry

More than 1,000 British jobs will be lost to Brussels regulations, writes Christopher Booker.

For years the largest employer on the island of Anglesey has been the large aluminium plant near Holyhead, providing 540 jobs. Because aluminium production is unusually energy-intensive, the plant is also the largest electricity user in Wales. It has only been kept viable by a mutually beneficial deal with the nearby Wylfa nuclear power station, which has long been supplying the massive 250 megawatts of electricity needed to keep its smelting process in operation at a discount price. Last week, however, it was confirmed that — as I predicted in January — the plant will close on September 30. The reason is that Wylfa recently passed into state ownership when it was acquired by the Government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The NDA’s lawyers therefore had to tell the aluminium plant’s owners that, under EU law, the discount deal now constituted “state aid”, and would no longer be legal.

This will leave Britain with just one large remaining aluminium plant at Lynemouth in Northumberland. This uses its own purpose-built coal-fired power station to produce even more aluminium than Anglesey. But in this case Brussels has ruled that the power plant fails to comply with its Large Combustion Plants directive. So it too will have to close, with the loss of 600 more jobs and almost all that remains of our aluminium production. In a neat double whammy for the EU, another efficient British industry passes into history.

Don’t expect any expressions of regret, however, from our industry minister and former EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson, or for that matter from his Conservative shadow Kenneth Clarke. Both are equally happy to see Britain ruled by our unelected government in Brussels.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Extradition Threat to Hundreds as Britain Signs Up to EU Law

Hundreds of Britons are expected to be extradited across Europe for trivial offences after Britain signed up to a new arrest warrant scheme.

The Home Office believes the number sent to face justice overseas is likely to treble when the draconian new agreement comes into force next April.

It means Britons in receipt of a European arrest warrant (EAW) could be sent for trial anywhere else in the EU for minor crimes such as drunkenness and driving offences.

The major extension of police powers comes as campaigners fight the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the U.S.

European arrest warrants are already issued by EU nations, and British police forces usually respond to those relating to serious offences such as terrorism and organised crime.

Under the controversial new rules, a key part of the so-called Schengen Information II system, the police will be forced to respond to all EAWs.

Anyone who has an EAW issued against him or her will be automatically taken into custody. British courts must then allow an extradition, even if there are concerns about the standards of justice in the country they are being sent to. For example, trials in Poland, Greece and Bulgaria are often held without an English translation.

Last month the Daily Mail highlighted how 20-year- old Briton Andrew Symeou was extradited to Greece under an EAW to face charges of killing a British teenager in a fight in a bar. He claims his friends were beaten by police into implicating him.

They’ve left my son to rot: This British student is languishing in a Greek prison accused of a crime he insists he didn’t commit

In 2007 — the latest figures available — a total of 504 people were sent abroad on EAWs.

The Home Office estimates that between 1,050 and 1,700 a year will be extradited when Schengen Information II comes into effect.

Many of the offences will be minor drugs crimes, drunkenness, driving offences and petty theft.

Tory justice spokesman Dominic Grieve said: ‘The European Arrest Warrant was introduced to fast track extradition of terrorist suspects, but has expanded well beyond that.

It allows British citizens to be whisked away to face trial for things that are not criminal in this country, on limited evidence, and in countries with lower standards of justice.’

Jago Russell, of Fair Trials International, said: ‘Unless Europe’s fast-track extradition system is improved, a threefold increase in the number of European arrest warrants could lead to three times as many cases of injustice.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Germany: Chinese ‘Specialty Cook’ Trafficking Ring Raided

Law enforcement officers staged nationwide raids on Monday as part of an investigation into a Chinese human trafficking ring providing “specialty cooks” to restaurants across Germany.

Some 1,330 customs officials, as well as state and federal police, collaborated to search 180 apartments and restaurants. The operation, headed by the Lower Saxony state prosecutor’s office in Hannover, is working on evidence that more than 1,000 “specialty cooks” have been brought to Germany in the last several years to work gruelling hours for meagre pay.

The raids were meant to gather evidence against three Hannover-based Chinese ringleaders, a statement from the state prosecutor said. The two men and one woman have been imprisoned on remand since March and are believed to have earned millions in euros by bringing the cooks to Germany and then faking their employment records while paying them well below the legal limit.

Among computer data and other evidence gathered, police collected assets that could be used to compensate the underpaid cooks for their damages.

The investigation focused on the Hannover region but also included the states of Hessen, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saarland.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Ireland: White Paper on Lisbon Distorts Crucial Issues

The Government’s Lisbon Treaty White Paper is a flawed document, containing some serious distortion of fact. It is unbalanced and heavily politicised, presenting a case that favours the defeated minority in the referendum of last year. It meets only limited and selective reasons behind the emphatic rejection of the referendum on June 12, 2008.

The White Paper questions are not simply for ordinary voters. They are important for all political parties, notably the two main opposition parties — Labour and Fine Gael. Though both of them are in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote, they owe a duty to the electorate to defend the democratic rights of all people not to be the victims of distortion of vital national questions.

The issue is serious enough to be a matter for the Referendum Commission. When I listened, earlier this month to Pat Kenny’s interview with the new chairman of that commission, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, I was reassured by his approach. I had been seriously critical of the performance of the Referendum Commission during the 2008 referendum campaign, when it demonstrated ignorance over certain issues.

There was no White Paper to contend with. Now there is. Also to be noted: a new Act of the Oireachtas, the 28th Amendment to the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Act 2009, contains a curious addition not present in the 2007 act. This reads: “Ireland affirms its commitment to the European Union within which the member states work together to promote peace, shared values and the well-being of their peoples.”

My, oh My! How nice it is to be reminded of the good things that have derived from membership over 35 years.

This is not at issue. One of the fundamentals facing us is that none of these eloquently argued benefits is either at risk or threatened by what the White Paper presents.

The most serious and deliberate misrepresentation concerns the allegedly ‘new’ double-majority voting system. This voting system is not new. It already exists. But in its altered version, under Lisbon, it is disadvantageous to Ireland. Ireland’s vote, on a population count, is significantly reduced, from 2pc to 0.8pc, while at the same time the German vote is doubled.

The importance of the system can be gauged from the fact that it lies at the heart of our influence in making or blocking laws in the EU. It is, therefore, clearly a matter for comment by the Referendum Commission.

A second significant misrepresentation concerns the constitutional changes that derive from the Lisbon Treaty. The very basis on which the genuine benefits of EEC and then EU membership to Ireland were founded was the community which Ireland joined in an optimistic mood under Jack Lynch.

This is being constitutionally replaced, post-Lisbon, by a new European Union with a new legal personality of which, instead of having a ‘complementary’ relationship, Irish citizens will have an ‘additional’ European citizenship. The Irish people may wish to surrender the unique and valued nature of their citizenship for a duality of rights and duties. But if so, they should do it with their eyes having been properly opened by a conscientious government.

There are several other areas of uncertainty not clarified by the White Paper. These include taxation, where the White Paper is both contradictory and superficial. For many people, this issue is threatening to livelihoods, even survival. It should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Italy: Fiat Patriarch Agnelli’s Finances Probed

Rome, 13 August (AKI) — The Italian tax authority has launched an inquiry into allegations that members of late Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli’s family have illegally stashed between one and two billion euros of assets in Switzerland. “The inquiry has been opened after various reports by the heirs on the existence of undeclared assets abroad,” said tax authority director Attilio Befera on Thursday in response to a report by the Italian news programme, TG5.

The TG5 report said that the Agnelli family could face an even larger fine than the value of the alleged undeclared assets, under tighter rules on assets held in tax havens approved by the Italian parliament at the end of June.

The tax authority’s probe was opened in June and was triggered by information provided by Agnelli’s heirs, Befera said.

Over a year after the Agnelli patriarch died in January 2003, his eleven heirs reached an agreement over the division of his estate.

But Agnelli’s only surviving daughter of Margherita Agnelli De Pahlen, has since been involved in a bitter legal dispute with her mother, Agnelli’s widow, Marella Caracciolo Agnelli, over the inheritance.

De Pahen claims she has not received what is due to her.

The tax authority’s inquiry began after statements made by De Pahlen during a legal case she brought against her mother and three Agnelli family advisors.

A Turin court in July said it would not hear De Pahlen’s case. It is due on 12 November to issue details about its decision.

Under the agreement reached by Agnelli’s heirs in February 2004, De Pahlen, who has eight children, inherited most of his properties, his collection of paintings, his offshore assets, and his stocks and shares. Her mother was to receive an unspecified monthly income from her.

The very public rift has has caused embarrassment to the Agnelli family members, who are often described as Italy’s uncrowned royalty.

De Paheln is reported to be estranged from her sons, current Fiat vice-chairman John Elkann, and his brother Lapo.

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


Italy: Tax Authority Eyes Offshore Accounts of Wealthy

Rome, 14 August (AKI) — Italy’s tax authority is poised to probe the offshore accounts of up to 170,000 wealthy Italians suspected of hoarding billions of euros abroad, much of it in neighbouring Switzerland. The authority’s head, Attilio Befera, said the investigation began after the authority launched an inquiry into claims that members of late Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli’s family had illegally hidden between one and two billion euros of assets in Switzerland.

“We will begin investigating a list of 500 people that was seized from a lawyer who has been arrested,” Befera told Italian television news networks on Thursday.

The lawyer is Swiss citizen Fabrizio Pessina, who was arrested at Malpensa airport on 18 February, on the orders of prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Milan.

Police found in his luggage the list of 500 clients whose offshore accounts he managed from his office in the southern Swiss city of Chiasso. The clients’ names have not been released.

“We aren’t just persecuting billionaires. We and the government have decided to step up action against all individuals holding assets illegally in offshore tax-havens,” Befera said.

He also mentioned accounts held in Leichenstein by 110 Italians, including pop star Milva and several Milan-based managers and businessmen being probed for tax evasion.

The Italian parliament in late June approved tighter rules on assets held in tax havens and stiffer penalties for undeclared assets held in offshore accounts.

The tax crackdown coincides with a fierce international backlash against tax havens used by wealthy individuals to evade taxes at home as the global economic downturn is costing millions of jobs and forcing governments to run big budget deficits.

Italy’s tax authority in June began a probe into Agnelli’s estate following allegations made by the late industrialist’s daughter Margherita Agnelli De Pahlen that she had been denied part of her inheritance because undeclared assets had been held abroad.

The allegations, denied by De Pahlen’s mother, Marella, Agnelli’s widow, have caused a bitter and embarrassingly public feud within the family, which is often described as Italy’s uncrowned royalty.

The family made its fortune from Italian car giant Fiat and also controls Juventus football club in its home town of Turin in northern Italy.

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


Italy: Bertinotti: Dismantle Left and Found New Party

(AGI) — Rome, 14 Aug. — “Dismantle” the left as it stands and found a new, “unitary and pluralistic” party on the pattern of the old PSI at the end of the 1800s is the suggestion made by Fausto Bertinotti speaking about the future of the left in Italy after the last few defeats at the ballot boxes. First, said the former Chamber of Deputies speaker, “we had two left parties” and now “we don’t have any. We must build one, an Italian and European one. We must do so, since what is objectively mature (change, transformation), can become so subjectively, meaning politically. At the end of the 1800s the birth of the socialist party was thought of as something for the entire workers’ movement, and now there is the need for something which is equally as foundational.” However, the situation is truly difficult: “It is clear that if we look statistically at the political geography of the left,” said Bertinotti, “this seems daring, utopian, simply an abstract idea. But if we look at social processes, at the dramatic nature of the crisis and the persistent, widespread openness to conflict and transformation, the outlook can change to a great extent.” The former secretary of Rifondazione Comunista said that “it is not a case of uniting everything which currently falls under the umbrella of ‘the left’, but of giving life to something else completely different. A sort of subjectivity which at the moment is non-existent.” And so, as Bertinotti concluded in an editorial published in the latest issue of Alternative per il Socialismo, “a transformational process for the entire political scene of the left. The opposite of the uniting that we have already tried, and which led to clear failure. There is the need for a renewal of the European left of the XXI. Italy has the need of a unitary and pluralistic left and its party, a reformed party. Let’s discuss the matter.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Prince of Liechtenstein Angers Jews With Holocaust Remark

(IsraelNN.com) The Prince of Liechtenstein Hans-Adam II offended European Jews on Monday with an interview crediting his principality’s banks with saving Jewish lives. Hans-Adam claimed that the secrecy afforded to bank clients allowed Jews to buy their freedom during the Holocaust.

Bank secrecy saved lives among those living in communist countries as well, he said, “and continues to save lives today.”

The prince told Germany, which has been critical of banking secrecy, to “think about its own past” before criticizing Liechtenstein. Last year Hans-Adam angered German leaders by referring to the country as a “fourth Reich” in an argument over banking laws.

Following the interview, European Jewish leaders accused Hans-Adam of making light of the Holocaust, according to Reuters. “These comments make a mockery of the Holocaust and those that survived it,” said Stephan Kramer, general secretary of Germany’s Central Council of Jews.

Liechtenstein was neutral during the Second World War. “Portraying Liechtenstein as a merciful helper of the Jews does not chime with the historical facts,” Kramer said.

Several European leaders have accused Liechtenstein’s banks of making money off of tax evasion. Liechtenstein officials have denied the accusations, and say their banks draw clients from other countries due to their high standards of service.

Earlier this year Liechtenstein agreed to ease its secrecy rules somewhat, adopting OECD standards in order to nab tax evaders. Banking clients will be allowed to maintain their confidentiality, officials said at the time, but the new rules will ensure that said confidentiality is not abused by criminals.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Revealed: ‘Lord of the Flies’ Author Attacked Girl, 15

William Golding confessed to rape attempt in unpublished memoir

WILLIAM GOLDING, the author of Lord of the Flies, the allegorical novel about childhood, admitted that he had once tried to rape a girl.

He confessed to the incident in an unpublished memoir which he wrote for his wife in an effort to explain how his own “monstrous” character had developed.

The attack, on a 15-year-old named Dora, is among the revelations about the Nobel prize-winning novelist in a new biography. It also turns out that when he was a school-teacher, Golding would pitch the boys in his care against each other in a real-life forerunner of his famous work.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: A-Levels Are So Easy a Monkey Could be Trained to Do Them, Say Teachers

A survey found no teachers believe the rise in A grades is down to more able students and only 4 per cent say the reason is better teaching.

In the poll for the think-tank Civitas, 150 A-level teachers were interviewed this summer.

Their consensus, said Civitas, was that the system allows the same calibre of students to achieve higher grades.

A director of A-levels from a school in the North West said: ‘The A-level is not aimed at the same people as it was 30 years ago; a larger cohort must have easier exams or too many would fail.

‘You could train a monkey to do the questions today!’

The head of a sixth-form in the East Midlands said: ‘This is Mickey Mouse stuff — what they learn at A-level today is not sufficient for GCSE.’

One teacher explained: ‘Very explicit guidance is given to students about what will be in the exams.’

How top A-level grades are being inflated by resits

A-level grades are being vastly inflated because so many pupils are resitting exams, a testing expert has warned.

The proportion of exams awarded As would drop from a quarter to a fifth if resits were banned, according to Lord Sutherland, who led an inquiry into the SATs marking crisis.

He demanded strict rules on retaking and for A-level certificates to state whether resits were needed.

On Thursday 350,000 A-level candidates will receive their results and pass rates are expected to rise again.

The proportion achieving three straight As has doubled under Labour to 12.1 per cent and could edge towards 13 per cent this week.

Lord Sutherland, chairman of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors, which represents examiners, warned that ‘unfair’ rules on resits risked damaging the credibility of A-levels.

He also suggested next year’s reforms to A-levels do not go far enough.

From next summer, pupils answering more stretching questions will be rewarded

Sutherland said A-levels should once again require candidates to write a two to three-hour essay.

Under Labour’s shake-up in 2000, A-levels were split into six separately tested modules.

The three so- called AS units taken in the first year of courses are easier than the three A2s studied in the second. But they carry the same weight in marks.

Pupils can retake units an unlimited number of times and tens of thousands do so each year.

Lord Sutherland said research by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees exam boards, showed some students were taking units up to six times.

The report said most candidates did better on their second attempt.

If resitting were banned just over a fifth of exams would be given an A — compared with a quarter now.

‘There should be much clearer and firmer rules about resitting,’ Lord Sutherland said.

‘It does seem unfair to the pupils taking exams without resits. Maybe they got a B and if their school had pushed them they would have got an A. So much seems to hang on resits.’

He said pupils should only be able to take resits in limited circumstances — for example, if they were ill on the day of the exam.

The improvement in grades was more marked in some subjects, such as modern languages, than others, he added.

There was also evidence that resitting practices varied across schools.

‘If you go to a school that knows how to play all the angles, that’s bound to help,’ Lord Sutherland said.

Commenting on the new A* grade, he said: ‘The bringing in of an A* is an indication of the fact that A does not discriminate at the top end as it did before.

‘There are pupils whose quality is not being recognised because of the way in which grades are being awarded.’

But he stressed: ‘When people comment on this it’s thought there is a criticism of pupils, that they are not as good as they think they are. But it’s not pupils who design and run the system.

‘If there is a flaw in the system, it is because of us. We impose the system and pupils respond.’

Asked whether good grades had become easier to come by, he replied: ‘No comment.’

Exams officials pointed out the introduction of AS-levels had led to pupils becoming ‘focused from the outset of their A-level course’, leading to improved performance.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker insisted there were ‘very low’ levels of AS resits.

‘There is nothing wrong with having a second chance to do an exam of exactly the same standard — and students’ achievement is no less valid,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Hundreds of Britons Will be Extradited for Minor Crimes Under New Rules

Hundreds of Britons will be extradited for minor misdemeanours ranging from driving offences and drunkenness to more bizarre crimes such as stealing chickens, under new rules which come into force next year.

Home Office officials have admitted that the number of people likely to be sent to face justice overseas is likely to treble once Britain signs up to a new EU agreement in April.

The new rules will ensure that anyone who has a European Arrest Warrant issued against them will be automatically taken into custody.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow justice secretary, warned that the adoption of the Schengen Information II system would lead to thousands of people being sent abroad, often for minor offences.

Under the terms of the treaty, British courts must allow an extradition if a European Arrest Warrant has been issued, even if there are concerns about the standards of justice in the country that they are being sent to.

Campaigners say that Britons are already being exported to countries such as Poland, Greece and Bulgaria where trials are often held without an English translation allowing them to follow proceedings.

[…]

From April, however, once Britain officially joins the system, officials estimate that between 1,050 and 1,700 people a year will be extradited, many for lesser offences, such as minor drugs crimes, drunkenness, driving offences and petty theft.

Mr Grieve said: “The European Arrest Warrant was introduced to fast-tack extradition of terrorist suspects, but has expanded well beyond that. “It allows British citizens to be whisked away to face trial for things that are not criminal in this country, on limited evidence, and in countries with lower standards of justice than in Britain.

“If the Government is signing up to plans to increase the use of the warrant, it will only magnify the risk of British citizens falling victim of miscarriages of justice.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Man Groped Teenage Girl’s Breast

A DEWSBURY man squeezed a teenage girl’s breast at Leeds railway station.

Yasser Hussain chatted to the girl on a bus, followed her into the train station then squeezed her breast at the ticket barrier.

But he escaped a jail sentence after his barrister said he was sexually inexperienced.

Leeds Crown Court heard Hussain, 25, of Leamington Terrace, Savile Town, approached the girl after the bus journey on January 25, asking for directions and then her phone number.

She gave him her number, believing he was interested in her business.

They then walked together to the train station, where Hussain asked for a hug at the ticket machines.

But he used the hug to grope her breast, then bombarded her with texts and followed her around the station, only leaving when the girl alerted a staff member at WH Smith.

Hussain pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

Judge Christopher Batty said: “That you felt it was acceptable to touch this young girl …on her breast is beyond comprehension. The arrogance and selfishness of your attitude is quite astounding.”

Defending, Allan Armbrister told the court that Hussain was immature and sexually inexperienced.

Hussain was given a three-year supervision order, put on a sex offenders course and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.

           — Hat tip: Earl Cromer[Return to headlines]


UK: Pensioner ‘Battered to Death at Bus Stop in Broad Daylight… For Asking Thug to Move His Feet’

A pensioner was battered to death in broad daylight after he asked a man sitting at a bus stop to move, a court heard today.

Peter Seaman, 66, was walking his dog when he came across 20-year-old Alec Pearn sitting with his feet stretched into the pavement.

The pair had an argument which led to Pearn’s bag being thrown over a hedge.

A jury heard how the furious 20-year-old labourer then picked up a fallen tree branch and beat Mr Seaman to death.

Pearn had been waiting for his father, Andrew, to arrive when the confrontation took place.

In a grim coincidence, Mr Pearn — an off-duty paramedic — was the first to arrive on the scene and treated the man his son is accused of murdering.

[…]

‘He completely lost his temper and started attacking Mr Seaman.

‘You might have expected the attack to be with his hands or feet but instead he deliberately crossed the road to pick up a piece of wood.

‘He then marched purposefully back across the road where he began using it as a weapon. His blows were so severe Mr Seaman suffered defensive injuries to the back of both hands and wrists.

‘These were not soft blows, not warning blows, not keep-away-from-me blows. This was a full-on attack.

‘Alec Pearn did not stop, he raised this weapon up and he brought it down hard on Mr Seaman’s skull. It caved in, the consequences were fatal.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Students Lie on University Application Forms to Meet ‘Social Engineering’

Students are lying to universities about their family backgrounds to meet ‘social engineering’ admissions criteria, new figures suggest.

Up to 15 per cent of candidates who claimed on their application forms they had been in care later admitted the statements were not correct.

The revelation suggests middle-class applicants are lying to win favourable treatment from universities who are under increasing pressure to make allowances for under-privileged circumstances.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Teenager Given ‘Council Certificate for Getting on Bus in Greater Manchester’

A teenage boy, Bobby McHale, has been awarded a certificate from a holiday scheme in Bury, Greater Manchester — for getting the bus.

The 15 year-old got the certificate from exam board AQA after attending a three week holiday scheme run by Bury Youth Services earlier in the summer.

Some of Bobby’s friends also received the qualification although others, including Bobby’s younger brother Joe, 13, missed out it.

The teenager, from Bury, Greater Manchester, wasn’t even aware he had sat the test and admitted he was surprised to be awarded the certificate.

Entitled “Using Public Transport (Unit 1)” it recognised, amongst other skills, his ability to:

*Walk to the local bus stop.

*Stand or sit at a bus stop and wait for the arrival of a public bus.

*Sit on the bus and observe through the windows.

“It just seems really silly to me,” said Bobby, who is set for A grades at GCSE.

“At first I thought I’d got some sort of GCSE early. When I read out the details to the family we all fell about laughing.

“The Bury Youth Scheme is excellent and we get the chance to a lot of different activities but I can’t see the point of the certificate at all.”

He added: “I haven’t bothered framing it.”

His father, Andy, 44, who runs his own marketing company, said the family were bemused by the episode.

“Bobby’s face was a picture when he saw the certificate,” he said.

“To be honest we are all a little bemused.

“I can only suppose this comes from some box they have to tick in order to get funding.”

He added: “As part of it Bobby certainly travelled by bus. Maybe it’s boosted his confidence because he was nominated as head boy.”

“He was particularly surprised because he doesn’t look out the window.

“He listens to his music instead.”

A Bury Council spokesman said: “For several years, young people in Bury have taken part in a summer activities scheme called BRAG (Bury and Rochdale Active Generation). This is a two-week programme of sports, dance, and arts events, run through Bury Youth Service, with events taking place at several venues across Bury and Heywood.

“Participants receive a BRAG pass, details of the activities taking place, and a free bus pass. This is designed to encourage young people to be self-reliant — they have to plan their own schedule and ensure they get to the different activities on time.

“Youngsters receive a sticker after completing each different activity: if they collect eight, they can take part in a Golden Week of bonus events, such as trips to Blackpool or activity centres.

“The AQA certificate does not go into all the details of the package, but mentions purely the public transport element. It’s not just about sitting on a bus, it’s about reading timetables properly and planning the best route, which is behind the whole idea of encouraging self-reliance.

“The certificate gives young people credit for their achievements as part of the whole BRAG programme. It supports their school portfolio, and many go on to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

“The annual cost of running the BRAG programme of events is £20,000, paid for through a Government grant.”

* The full AQA certificate reads: Bobby McHale (date of birth 22.5.94) a student at Bury Youth Service has completed the following unit of work.

Using Public Transport (Unit 1)

In completing the unit the student has demonstrated the ability to:

1. Walk to the local bus stop.

2. Stand or sit at the bus stop and wait for the arrival of a public bus.

3. Enter the bus in a calm and safe manner.

4. Be directed to a downstairs seat by a member of staff

5. Sit on the bus and observe through the windows.

6. Wait until the bus has stopped, stand on request and exit the bus.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Miroslav Tudjman Strongly Opposed to Removal of Crosses From State Offices

Presidential candidate Miroslav Tudjman strongly opposes the latest proposal of President Stjepan Mesic for removal of all Catholic crosses from state offices.

Mesic believes there is no place for religious symbols in state offices in a secular country.

Tudjman, however, considers Mesic’s proposal as an attack on the Catholic Church and the religious feelings of most Croats.

If elected president, Tudjman said today (Fri), he would allow historical and religious symbols in all state offices, including those of the military.

Tudjman, a candidate for president in the election scheduled for January 2010, is the son of the late Dr. Franjo Tudjman, the first president of Croatia.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Fatah; Losers Dispute Vote, But Abbas Goes Ahead

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, AUGUST 13 — The poisonous attacks by the old guard have failed to stop Al-Fatah, the party of President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). He defended the democratic nature of the election of the Central committee by the Congress in Bethlehem today, then focused on prospects for a resumption of the peace process with Israel: conditional upon a freeze in the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in east Jerusalem which Barack Obama’s administration is also calling for. The meeting of the new Central Committee in Ramallah (West Bank) took place in the shadow of suspicions raised by one of the big names which lost at Bethlehem: former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qrea (Abu Ala), 72, was left out of the Fatah committee along with other veterans in a surprise move — they are at the centre of corruption allegations — part of the generation of founder Yasser Arafat, to make room for a majority of new candidates and colonels’ in their fifties. Ahmed Qrea is contesting the result, saying that he was the victim of strategic voting, comparing it to the controversial elections in Iran and condemning the inclusion of Tayyeb Abdel Rahim as ‘shameful”. The head of the PNA cabinet had earlier been thrown out. The former premier also accused three of the winners — Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajub and Tawfik Tirawi, all former heads of the security services — of being in some obscure way ‘linked with the occupier (Israel)”. In addition to this are the accusations by Faruk Kaddumi, who has been marginalised by Abbas for some time, which could be the overture to an attempt to create a parallel body of defeated candidates. Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed this eventuality, saying that he is sure that ‘there will be no schism”. What counts at the moment for the President and the new Fatah chiefs is to give the image of a re-energised movement. This is what Abbas tried to do by turning to Israel to reconfirm his commitment to proceeding down the road ‘of peace”, but also ‘the right to legitimate resistance” in the case of obstruction in the negotiations. And above all to warn that the resumption of talks — sponsored by Obama and the international community — cannot happen unless ‘on the basis of the commitments made by the sides previously” and set out in the road map: starting with ‘a halt to settlements in all their forms and without exception, in Jerusalem and the whole of the occupied territories”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaza: Israel, HRW Report is Unreliable

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 13 — It is an unreliable report based on unreliable witnesses and has not been confirmed. This was the response of the Israeli military spokesman to the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) report which asked Israel to investigate the killing of 11 Palestinian civilians, who were waving a white flag in a sign of surrender, by Israeli soldiers during the military offensive against Hamas in Gaza last January. The Israeli troops, the spokesman affirmed, were operating under strict orders to respect anyone waving the white flag as a sign of surrender. In any case, the reality of the war in Gaza was that Hamas “used civilians with white flags as cover for military actions and to protect themselves from return fire”. The spokesman stressed that the armed forces are committed to investigating every report of violation of the behavioural norms imposed on the troops. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


New Fatah Leadership Harder on Hamas, Haaretz

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 14 — Signs of a tougher stance against radical-Islamist Hamas came out at the first meeting of the new Fatah Central Committee, the historic lay and nationalistic party for the Palestinian cause, which after the congress in Bethlehem, the first in 20 years, restructured the leadership body, reported today Haaretz daily after first hand declarations. Gathering for the first time yesterday in Ramallah (West Bank), the committee presented its new structure, with the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), surrounded by a few veteran survivors and a majority of newly elected leaders, more or less in their fifties. A majority which appears to reinforce the wing (led by men from security forces already open to operative cooperation with Israeli and American currents, like Mohammed Dahlan, Hussien al-Sheikh or Tawfik Tirawi and the head negotiator of the PNA, Saeb Erekat) that wants to assume a tougher stance against Hamas and maybe a plan to win back the Gaza Strip, the area of the Palestinian Territories that passed under Hamas’ control in 2007 after a break with the Fatah controlled West Bank. Among the components entering the CC, only Jibril Rajub, another PNA ex-security force leader, but brother to a Hamas member imprisoned in Israel, seems intent on accelerating reconciliation between the two rival factions through Egyptian mediation. While re-echoing hostile tones towards Hamas, one cannot exclude another newly elected leader like Zaid Abu Ayin, representative of the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon that is already committed to contrasting infiltration from radical groups inspired by Al Qaida in the refugee camps. “We must warn Hamas that negotiations cannot continue without end”, Ayin said to Haaretz. “Hamas”, he added, “transformed the million and a half Palestinians that live in the Gaza Strip into hostages and Fatah’s leadership will look at how to set them free, either through negotiations or fighting”. “Hamas”, he recognised, “beat Fatah in the elections (2006) because Fatah was in chaos at the time, but now we have created a new Fatah. The old one is no more and now Hamas can be defeated”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Palestinian Politics and the Peace Process: The Looming Gigantic Danger

by Barry Rubin

What happened at the Fatah Congress? It was pretty successful as far as maintaining the status quo goes, but very bad for any chance at making progress toward a comprehensive peace. And there’s one terribly dangerous issue—the next Fatah leader—which could blow up everything.

I’ve analyzed this event in great detail on my blog, RubinReports (see particularly http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2009/08/updated-fatah-congress-election-results.html>. But briefly here are my conclusions:

Once Abbas appoints four more to make a Fatah Central Committee of 22 people, at least two-thirds will be old-style Fatah bureaucrats, with almost all the rest younger Fatah bureaucrats. Of the 18 elected, at least 5 are hardliners who don’t even accept the peace process and Oslo agreement and the rest are Abbas’s allies or lieutenants.

The latter are not extremists by Palestinian standards. They are happy to negotiate with Israel and don’t want to go to war, for now at least. But they will insist on having all Palestinian refugees who want to do so being able to live in Israel, the 1967 borders, no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, perhaps won’t support a formal ending of the conflict, and will give very little if anything on security arrangements.

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arabs Tour Istanbul in Search of TV Stars

If the increasing popularity of Turkish TV shows in the Arab world continues to inspire people to travel to Turkey, then soon those who hawk maps of celebrity homes in Los Angeles might turn up on the street corners of Istanbul. ‘After they watched the soaps and saw images of the Bosphorus, they wanted to come. It has been a real explosion,’ says one travel agent

With their favorite television shows in mind, tourists from Arab countries are journeying to Istanbul in ever-greater numbers to see the homes and sites they know so well thanks to satellite broadcasting. Bookings for tours are taking off.

Cem Polatoglu has a hard time believing it, but in a period of just one year, Baracuda, his travel agency that targets the Arab world, has doubled its number of clients. And for Polatoglu, there is no other explanation than the popular TV series, and in particular “Noor” (Gümüs in Turkish, Silver in English) and its main character, a blue-eyed, dashing Kivanç Tatlitug, are part of the origins of this flux.

“Before, we used to take Arab tourists to mosques in Istanbul. We used to go to hot water springs in Bursa. Now no one wants to go to the springs,” he told Agence France Presse. “Everyone wants to visit the houses where the TV series were filmed and eat in restaurants that appeared on the series.”

The series “Noor,” aired by Saudi-owned MBC satellite television, focuses on the relationship between Mehmet, whose name in the Arabic version is Mohannad and his wife Noor. From Saudi Arabia to Morocco the series has drawn millions of people to their TV sets, with 24-year-old Tatlitug bewitching female viewers across the Arab world. In Saudi Arabia a large-scale farmer reportedly sold her herds of sheep so she could spend her evenings in front of the television, undisturbed.

The final episode of the series attracted nearly 85 million viewers across the Arab world, a record for Arab television. Noor is one of about a dozen Turkish TV series shown in the Arab world, which include the historical drama “Broken Wings.”

According to Polatoglu, more than a dozen travel agencies in Istanbul have included tours of the areas in which the series take place. Some tourists are even ready to pay up to 60 Turkish Liras to visit the villa that is home to Noor and Mohannad.

One aspect of many

Turkey has become a shining star in the eyes of Arab countries and for more than just its performance on television.

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, efforts to boost ties with Muslim countries and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “one minute” showdown in Davos against Israel have contributed greatly, and even though the number of Israeli tourists in Turkey has seen a sharp drop this year, the interest from Arab tourists is gaining momentum.

Statistics show that the popular TV series are boosting Turkey’s tourism industry. While the global economic crisis has brought the number of tourists down 1 percent in Turkey over the first six months of 2009, the number of Arab tourists has increased from between 21 percent (the rise in visitors from the United Arab Emirates) to 50 percent (rise in visitors from Morocco), according to official tourism data.

Seeking Noor in Istanbul

A short boat trip on the Bosphorus with Arab tourists on board reveals the effects of the TV series. In front of the Dolmabahçe and Beylerbeyi Palaces, passengers display polite interest. Yet, once the guide announces a break in front of the villa where Noor was filmed, the boat starts rocking with excited shouts and the sound of clicking cameras fills the air.

“Every Jordanian watches Noor and Mohannad, everybody. When people learned that I was going to Turkey, they told me to go see Mrs. Noor and Mr. Mohannad and tell them to come to Jordan,” Bacher Ali Madjali said.

“The soap opera is one of the reasons that made me come to Turkey. My family members had previously encouraged me to visit this country. Yet it is the images in the soap opera that have given me an idea of Istanbul,” said Fadih Ferrah, a Palestinian who lives in Kuwait.

For Ayman Maslamani, president of the travel agency Heysem, it is the beautiful backgrounds that reveal the charms of the city, rather than the sentimental relationships between the television heroes that attract the tourists.

“Previously, Arabs did not know much about Turkey. They thought it was a backward country, filthy, and not too advanced compared to some Arab countries. But after they watched the series and saw images of the Bosphorus, they wanted to come. It has been a real explosion,” Maslamani said.

The surge in the Arab world’s interest in Turkish popular culture reflects cultural and religious similarities between the Arabs and the predominantly Muslim yet secular Turkey that is trying to join the European Union. Still, the soaps sometimes depict social phenomena unseen in some Arab countries. Mohannad is a man that treats his wife as an equal, who supports her in her professional career as a fashion designer, and is loving and understanding. He brings her flowers after a quarrel, surprises her with presents and a romantic vacation. Before marrying Noor he had premarital sex, lost his girlfriend in a traffic accident only to find out later that she was carrying his child. A cousin has an abortion and alcohol is consumed during dinner.

The Ottoman Empire ruled the Arab world for centuries. But the recent history of the Turkish Republic, its close ties to the Western world, its high level of women’s emancipation and its secular system used to bring out wariness in the Arab world against Turkey. But it seems some aspects of modern Turkey are no longer sources of contempt for Arab viewers, even though Noor has courted some controversy. Prominent Saudi cleric Sheikh al Luhaidan denounced the series as evil, saying it was permissible to kill satellite TV executives for broadcasting “indecent material.” But the fatwa has not dented the series’ popularity, nor dissuaded Arabs from heeding their growing interest in Turkey and paying a visit to the former imperial capital, Istanbul.

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


Economy: Chinese Auto Giant Comes to Turkey Despite Crisis

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 13 — DongFeng Motors (DFM), a leading Chinese automotive company, has decided to invest $250 million in Turkey despite the volatile atmosphere in markets due to the ongoing global financial crisis, daily Today’s Zaman reports. The company is expected to start manufacturing commercial vehicles in Turkey by the end of the year. Although the locations of the factories have yet to be determined, there is a high possibility that they may be built in Konya, Gebze and Izmir. Officials from the Foreign Trade Undersecretariat pointed out that China, which managed to report economic growth despite the financial crisis, was focusing on investment projects and said plans with the DFM have almost reached the final stages. The company plans to reach markets in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa through Turkey. While investors haven’t shown much interest in many countries around the world in recent years, several international companies have come knocking on Turkey’s door. Among the companies that have decided to invest in Turkey in the past year are giants such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, ENPAY, CRH, Vision, Oschatz, Gates, Tafe and Areva, and the Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey (ISPAT) reached an agreement with Pfizer on engaging in research and development in Turkey just a month and a half ago. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Muslims Must Unite for Islam’s Savior: Iran

The spokesman of Iran’s Supreme Leader called on neighboring countries to mobilize their forces in preparation for the coming of the savior of Islam and to unite with the Islamic Republic in paving the way for his arrival, an Iranian news agency reported Sunday.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s spokesman, Ali Saeedi, said countries like Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan should gather together all their forces in order to make drastic changes to prepare for the coming of al-Mahdi al-Montazar, Arabic for “the awaited guided one.”“We still have a long way to go in order to achieve this. We have to train honest forces that can stop the obstacles that may hinder the coming of the Mahdi like the United States and Israel,” Saeedi said in statement posted by the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).

Saeedi also said that the supreme leader of Iran is the direct representative of the Mahdi and that obeying him is like obeying the “guided one,” who is the prophesized savior of Islam.

“Since the armed forces are commanded by the Supreme Leader, they are thus obeying the orders of the awaited Mahdi,” Saeedi said, adding “the Revolutionary Guards and the armed forces in Iran hold religious authority to prepare for the appearance of the Mahdi.”

The Mahdi is believed by Muslims to be arriving before Judgment Day to rid the world of injustice. Although present in both major Islamic schools of thought, the Mahdi is more prominent in the Shiite doctrine than the Sunni one.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Russia

Problems Beset Russia Army Reform

Richer, stronger, prouder: in May 2008, Russia revived its tradition of parading military hardware across Red Square.

Three months later, its forces rolled into Georgia. The fighting lasted less than a week. It seemed to be a swift and stunning victory for the Russian army.

Doubts soon emerged.

“There were some failures which I don’t think were expected, in the way that Russian forces performed,” said Christopher Langton, the senior fellow for conflict at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London.

“Particularly in the air force: they lost seven aircraft to not a particularly well developed air defence system in Georgia, and I think that surprised a lot of people.”

Communication problems

There were other, even more basic, shortcomings.

Alexander Golts, a military correspondent since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan 30 years ago, picked out the example of a senior officer unable to communicate orders.

This general asked some journalist who was near him to borrow his mobile phone, just to give command to his officers,” he said.

“Russian military radio stations are more or less useless in mountains.”

It is now clear that this was not the straightforwardly successful campaign which the Russian army initially described.

[…]

At the same time, the reform programme that was speeded up after last August’s campaign in South Ossetia actually foresees a massive reduction in troop numbers.

“We have 355,000 officers’ positions,” explained Mr Golts. “The defence ministry wants to cut this number to 150,000.”

In that context, he was dismissive of frequent pronouncements from Russian leaders that the country faces a threat from Nato.

“It means that all this militarist rhetoric which [President Dmitry] Medvedev and [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin like so much, about Nato that moves towards our borders, about all global adversaries, is just militarist rhetoric,” said Mr Golts.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Czech Team Supports Election Training for Women in Afghanistan

The Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan has financially supported an election training for Afghani women in the Logar province, the PRT spokesman told CTK yesterday.

Puli Alam, Afghanistan, Aug 13 (CTK) — Dozens of women attended the one-day training on the election process that the Afghani Ministry of Women’s Affairs organised in Logar’s capital Puli Alam with the aim to motivate women to use their right to vote.

The presidential elections in Afghanistan are scheduled for August 20. All citizens over 18 have the right to vote, but they must be registered beforehand.

The Czech PRT backed up women in Logar in the past by other projects as well. It, for instance, distributed small household equipment for poor widows. PRT also regularly supports exhibitions of products made by women and promotes women’s rights in the media.

According to the U.N., the situation of Afghani women is one of the worst in the world. They have restricted access to education and minimal chances to decide on their families’ budget.

Quotas for women’s representation in politics have been introduced over women’s unequal position in society in Afghanistan.

The Czech PRT has been serving in Logar since March 2008. It comprises 10 civilian employees and 275 soldiers.

The team is mainly to support education, agriculture and health care in the country and help build up infrastructure and the Afghani police forces.

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


Frank Gaffney: Snakes in the Grass

The Florida Everglades are reeling from an explosion in the number of deadly Burmese pythons. By some estimates, there may be as many as 140,000 of them slithering around in a place they don’t belong. These particular snakes are believed to have gotten their start in the Everglades through the well-intentioned, but ill-considered, action of a few Americans who thought they were doing the humane thing by turning their pet pythons loose in the swampy wilderness.

This story of the Burmese pythons seems like an appropriate metaphor for our time. After all, another sort of snake in the grass from Burma is currently making its presence known on the world stage for the first time in years, thanks to the Obama administration and its emissary in fact, if not in name: U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. The motivating good intentions notwithstanding, our global neighborhood is about to get considerably more dangerous…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Pakistan ‘Extremist’ Is Shot Dead

The head of Pakistan’s largest extremist organization has been shot dead by armed militants in the southern province of Sindh, police say.

Maulana Ali Sher Hyderi, chief of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) group, was travelling in his car in Khairpur district when it was attacked.

The SSP is an Islamic extremist organisation whose goal is to convert Pakistan into a “pure” Sunni state.

It is also said to have close links to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), is believed to have splintered from the SSP and is accused of being involved in hundreds of terror attacks across Pakistan.

Aerial firing

“It was a targeted attack on Maulana Hyderi,” the head of the local police in Khairpur district told the BBC.

“Both he and his driver were killed, while another man who was travelling with them was injured.”

Maulana Hyderi was driving back to the southern city of Hyderabad, 200km (124 miles) east of the port city of Karachi, at the time of the attack.

According to police, he had just finished delivering a speech at an SSP public gathering.

As news of his killing spread, riots and demonstrations broke out across the country, especially in Karachi.

There were reports of aerial firing and shops being forced to close by armed activists.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia Plans New Terror Laws

Australia has announced plans to amend its anti-terrorism legislation to give more power to the police.

It will also change the definition of terrorism to include psychological as well as physical harm.

The Australian government says the alterations are necessary because the country faces a “significant threat” of attacks by extremists.

Australia has gradually extended laws on detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects since 2001.

Safeguards

The government wants to toughen the legislation by allowing police to search property without a warrant.

Australia also plans to broaden the definition of a terrorist to include individuals planning to inflict psychological damage as well as those intending to cause physical injury.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland outlined the changes to the federal parliament in Canberra.

Critics have insisted the planned changes would sweep away fundamental legal safeguards, notably the need for the judiciary to approve a police request to search a suspect’s home.

Australia’s Labor government has pointed out that among its amendments are elements that will soften existing anti-terror legislation.

These include plans to limit the amount of time that detainees can be held without charge to eight days.

Civil libertarians have argued, however, that 72 hours should be sufficient.

The plans were announced after five men were arrested this month in Melbourne for allegedly planning a suicide attack on an Australian army base.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Immigration

EU Cities Want Bigger Say in Immigration Debate

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Some 130 major cities in Europe have called on the EU institutions to give local municipal authorities a bigger say in the immigration debate and recognise the economic benefits of migration.

Since the impact of EU and national policies regarding migration is mostly felt in urban areas, local authorities should have a “clearly defined role as partners” for developing and monitoring the implementation of these strategies, Eurocities, a network of 130 European cities, says in a policy paper.

The document comes in response to the “Stockholm Programme” tabled by the European Commission earlier this summer — a common framework for the coming five years on how member states should deal with immigration, asylum and integration. The bloc’s justice and home affairs ministers have yet to agree on the plan later this autumn, with disagreements between EU member states are likely to alter some of the proposals.

Eurocities stressed that the debate on immigration needs to move beyond the security aspects and “recognise the benefits of migration.”

“If the current demographic and migration trends persist, by the mid-21st century, the EU will have lost some 65 million inhabitants. This will have effects in particular on the workforce: The ratio of persons of working age to persons of non-working age will have risen from four to two to more than four to three,” Eurocities argued, citing a 2007 commission EU social indicators report.

Migrants from EU countries also need to be included in the community aid schemes, for instance, for language training or access to services.

“The current restrictions on integration support represent a considerable risk that mobile EU citizens fall between the cracks of the European framework for integration and the mainstream support systems in member states,” Eurocities points out.

For instance, the EU’s Integration Fund worth €825 million can only be tapped for integration measures relating to non-EU citizens.

[…]

With unemployment skyrocketing in countries like Spain and Ireland, east-west migration flows are shrinking, a study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows.

In the United Kingdom, statistics from the Home Office indicated a dramatic fall in work applications from nationals of the new EU member states, especially Poland. Numbers decreased from 53,000 over a three-month period in 2007 to 29,000 over the same period in 2008.

However, massive returns of migrants have not been registered, the ILO study notes.

“Voluntary return programmes implemented by destination countries have fallen far short of the targeted numbers. Migrant workers often choose to remain despite deteriorating labour market conditions in order to preserve social security benefits. The adverse economic and employment situation in the origin country also discourages them from returning,” the ILO study shows.

Back in June, Spanish and Romanian authorities had considered measures to provide incentives for umployed Romanian migrants to return home to fill public sector vacancies. With the recent austerity measures announced by Bucharest, however, including the slashing of 10,000 jobs in the public administration, such plans seem now off the table.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Sweden: ‘Undocumented Kids Have a Right to School’

The Swedish government has appointed a commission with the task of establishing the right of children of illegal immigrants to attend school.

Education minister Jan Björklund is confident that the proposal will eventually become law, Sveriges Radio reports.

“It is maybe a question of several hundred, or perhaps thousand, children who are in Sweden but currently have no right to go to school,” Björklund said to Ekot.

“We reason that all children in the world, regardless of where they live and regardless of their parents rights or wrongs, have a right to a school education.”

The commission of inquiry will consider the rights of children whose parents have come to Sweden illegally and may not have applied for residence permits, or may have had their applications rejected. There are no figures as to how many children there are, Sveriges Radio reports.

Jan Björklund categorically promises that if the Alliance government remains in power after the next general election (in September 2010) then legislation will be passed to enable all children in Sweden, regardless of status, access to schooling.

The plans were welcomed by Christina Heilborn, a lawyer at Unicef.

“We are very happy and welcome this decision. This is also something that we have previously demanded,” she said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: Asylum Seeker Detained for Using Fake Passport Suing the Government for Causing Him Depression

A failed asylum seeker who entered the country using a fake passport is suing the Government for £150,000 claiming his detention caused him depression.

Fridoon Sadiqi says he started having mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder, after he was held for three weeks while his case was investigated.

Using false documents, he entered the country from Afghanistan in 1999, but later claimed he was fleeing persecution from the then ruling Taliban regime.#

He argues that a civil service re-prioritising scheme in January 2001 had the effect of ‘putting on hold’ old applications and he was forced to wait five years to hear whether he could stay in the UK.

Sadiqi was eventually told his asylum application had been refused after he was interviewed by immigration officers in March 2004.

In June 2004 an appeal was dismissed by an adjudicator who deemed he was no longer at risk even though he accepted that he had been persecuted by the Taliban.

He applied for discretionary leave to remain in the UK in October that year, but permission to appeal was refused by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal a month later.

Sadiqi was held at an immigration detention centre for three weeks while a further appeal was being held. When released he had to regularly report to a police station to confirm his whereabouts.

The Home Office rejected his application for leave to remain in November 2005, stating that he could apply for clearance once back in Afghanistan .

Since then he has remained in the UK while seeking a judicial review to remain in the country.

Sadiqi, who lives in a flat above a Chinese restaurant Canley, Coventry, started legal proceedings against the Government claiming they breached his human rights and damaged his health.

A High Court writ was issued against the Home Secretary Alan Johnson at the end of June.

He claims he has had the help of his British girlfriend, who he met in London in 2002, and says he intends to eventually marry her.

Sadiqi says he first refused to mention the woman to immigration officials because he didn’t want people to think he was using her to get a visa.

He arrived at his home yesterday in a blue hatchback car before getting out clutching a bundle of official documents.

He said: ‘I have nothing to say. The matter is out of my hands now and I do not wish to comment.’

A neighbour added: ‘I know him to say a quick hello to. I don’t have any idea what he does for a living but he is quite flash. He is always talking into his mobile phone and arrives home at all hours.

‘He is always very well turned out and considering the neighbourhood looks like he has plenty of money.’

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said: ‘This means that we’ve allowed him to remain in the country for 10 years and go through every legal challenge possible.

‘Frankly I think we deserve a gold star and he should publicly thank us for our stance rather than sue us.

‘If his treatment has been so bad here, then why doesn’t he find another country to go claim asylum in?’

The UK Border Agency dismissed Sadiqi’s claim of being detained as ‘ridiculous’.

A spokesman said: ‘We do not detain people lightly. Detention is a last resort but plays a vital role in maintaining effective immigration control.

‘When people are detained they are given a letter explaining in full the reasons for detention.

‘All detainees are treated with dignity and compassion and any report or allegation of inappropriate treatment against detainees is taken seriously.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Obama’s Mad Science Adviser

Compulsory abortion and sterilization aren’t youthful indiscretions

In case compulsory abortion wasn’t enough to diffuse his imaginary population bomb, Mr. Holdren and the Erlichs considered other extremist measures. “A program of sterilizing women after their second or third child, despite the relatively greater difficulty of the operation than vasectomy, might be easier to implement than trying to sterilize men,” they wrote. “The development of a long-term sterilizing capsule that could be implanted under the skin and removed when pregnancy is desired opens additional possibilities for coercive fertility control.”

It gets worse. The Holdren-Erlich book also promotes “Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods.” After noting that, well, yes, there were “very difficult political, legal and social questions, to say nothing of the technical problems,” Mr. Holdren and his co-authors express hope that their idea may still be viable. “To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet some rather stiff requirements,” they wrote. “It must be uniformly effective, despite widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals; it must be free of dangerous or unpleasant side effects; and it must have no effect on members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets or livestock.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Arab League Wants EU to Back Monitoring of Israeli Nukes

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The Arab League has requested that the European Union back its resolution calling on Israel to submit to international monitoring of its alleged nuclear capability at next month’s general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

According to a report in Ha’aretz, the centre-left Israeli daily, the secretary-general of the League of Arab States, Amr Moussa, sent a letter to Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently chairs the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, urging the bloc to back the resolution, which would request that Israel join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and open itself up to inspection by IAEA personnel.

Though Israel is widely assumed to be a nuclear power, with IAEA director-general Mohamed El Baradi categorising the country as such, Tel Aviv has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons, preferring instead to maintain a policy known as “nuclear ambiguity.”

Arab states perennially attempt to have similar resolutions passed at the global nuclear energy watchdog’s 150-member general assembly, but have up to now not succeeded in winning over other delegations, including European representatives, to their point of view.

Meanwhile, since the 2003 discovery of nuclear activities undisclosed by the Iranian authorities to the IAEA, the European Union has been at the forefront of efforts to have Tehran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and heavy water-related projects.

In 2005, in June 2006, and again in May 2008, the EU presented proposals to the Iranian authorities that would offer Iran help in the development of a civil nuclear power programme in return for meeting international concerns about its peaceful nature.

The EU has not issued similar concerns about Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons, but unlike Iran, Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is thus not bound by its reporting requirements.

In the wake of US president Barack Obama’s stated desire to push forward with nuclear disarmament and frustration by even some of Israel’s closest allies at its devastating assault on the Gaza Strip in January, the Arab League believes it may have a chance this time.

The Arab League’s letter also comes at the same time that the White House is finalising plans for an international summit on nuclear disarmament.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Interview With Ian Wishart

(Editor’s note: Vox Day interviewed Ian Wishart, author of “Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming,” on Aug. 9, 2009. This column is an abridged version.)

How did you end up deciding to write a book about the science of global warming? You’re in New Zealand, after all, which few would consider to be at the forefront of the debate.

New Zealand is a perfect example for Americans of where this global warming issue is headed. The U.N. lobbyists pushing for a comprehensive emissions cap-and-trade scheme desperately want agriculture included in the mix, which is why the IPCC announced last year that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture outweighed all of the industrial CO2 emissions caused by humans. However, the lobby groups know that they’ll never get American farmers herded into that particular pen unless the rest of the world is lined up first, and unless America first surrenders its national sovereignty to an overarching international governance organization like the U.N. … Now, in New Zealand’s case we’ve been a U.N. guinea pig for the last two decades, in the sense that we have strongly globalist political parties and a strongly globalist bureaucracy. We’re often the first to stick our hands up to endorse various U.N. initiatives or ratify daft treaties. In fact, our last prime minister, Helen Clark, is now the No. 3 leader at the U.N., tasked with overhauling the agency for a bold new global mission. Helen Clark was a key figure in the leftist global organization Socialist International, alongside one or two people who are now President Obama’s advisers. The fact that she’s now running the U.N. Development Program and is tipped as a future U.N. secretary general should be sounding alarm bells. If the U.N. says “jump,” our government’s usual response is “how high?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Micro-Blogging? Study Finds 40% of Twitter Posts Are ‘Pointless Babble’

It became an internet sensation overnight as millions of people logged on to update the world on their lives.

But a new study has concluded that almost half of Twitter addicts are just trading ‘pointless babble’.

Pear Analytics, a U.S. market research agency, looked at the typical ‘tweets’ sent using the service over a fortnight.

Rather than finding that most users were passing on information of any value, 40 per cent tapped into the micro-blogging site to send apparently futile messages like: ‘I’m eating a sandwich’.

Almost as many tweets were purely ‘conversational’ — like a text message.

And just 8.7 per cent of all tweets were deemed of ‘value’ with worthwhile news content.

The remaining 9.6 per cent of tweets were classed as self promotion and spam.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

2 comments:

K'thardin said...

Meet Your New Boss: Uncle Sam

I just read this article.

Interesting. Looks like Directive 10-289 proceeds apace.

Robert Marchenoir said...

"The Swedish education minister asserts that children of 'undocumented' immigrants have a right to state-funded education, and hopes that a law will be passed to codify this principle."

This is already law in France. And the hordes of Leftists on the government payroll make sure that this particular rule is enforced.

Ironically, they often do so through physical confrontation with the police, by street demonstrations aimed at preventing the arrest of illegal immigrants with children.

Naturally, the law, which forbids school principals from asking immigrant parents for a residency permit, is in direct contradiction with other laws, notably the one which makes illegals, well, illegal ; and with another one, which threatens with severe punishment those who help immigrants to stay illegally in France.

In theory, even allowing an illegal to recharge his phone battery in one's home or premises is forbidden, and activists have indeed been arrested for such acts.

However, the Minister for immigration himself (Eric Besson, an ex-socialist rallied to Sarkozy) has recently gone to great lengths to persuade Leftist organisations, specialised in providing support to immigrants (including illegals, of course), that they were immune from this legislation, and that no volunteer has ever been convicted (as opposed to merely arrested) for such an act.

He went so far as to define "sanctuaries" where, he said, the police was not allowed to arrest illegals. They include the following places, and even their surroundings : schools, charities and... police headquarters, where illegal immigrants frequently go to try and get a residency permit.

That's right : the French government officially neuters its own police within their own headquarters, and their vicinity.

Of course, that's still not enough for French Leftists, who won't let such grovelling submission prevent them from tainting the government with the Nazi brush. Eric Besson has had to promise an official ruling, making in effect those areas no-go zones for the police, as far as illegal immigrants are concerned.

The full transcript of his July 27interview on Europe 1 radio is dutifully published on the site of the Documentation française, a government agency which collects and distributes official information.

http://tinyurl.com/kp6amg
(in French)