Sunday, August 02, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/2/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/2/2009The Taliban in Pakistan have issued a new directive forbidding the targeting of civilians or the collection of ransom. Meanwhile, also in Pakistan, Christians have been burned alive, and their homes and churches are being torched.

In other news, U2 is asking fans to pay an extra fifty cents on concert tickets to offset their carbon footprint when traveling to see the group perform.

Thanks to Andrea Shea King, C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Italy: Govt Earmarks 4bln Euros to Boost Sicilian Economy
Turkish Invasion and Cyprus Occupation
US and China Planning New World Financial System to Save Themselves From Crisis
USA: Claims for Disability Benefits Surging, Driven by Recession and Aging Baby Boomers
Zombie Governments
 
USA
Apollo Conspiracy Theorist Arrested After Tirade
Boeing 787 Wing Flaw Extends Inside Plane
Court Says English-Only Tests OK in Schools
International Cap-and-Trade Regime Could Benefit Organized Crime by Creating Carbon Credit Black Market, Senator Warns
IRA Millionaire Faces 146 Years in Prison Over Fraud
Is This Really Smoking Gun of Obama’s Kenyan Birth?
U2 to Ask Fans to Pay for Greener Tour
White House Science Adviser Advocated ‘De-Development’ Of the United States
 
Canada
Jews Match Boycotts With Emails and Spending
 
Europe and the EU
Italy: Cipe: Berlusconi, Sicily First, Then the Rest
Italy: Berlusconi, South Party Would be Contradiction
Italy: Abortion Pill’s Approval Riles Vatican
RU486: Sky Tg24, 70% of Italians Approve the Pill
The Delayed Effects of Totalitarianism in Poland
UK: Fanatics’ Call to Prosecute Queen
UK: Prescott’s Fury After Harman Says Woman Should Always Have One of Top Two Jobs in Labour Because Men Can’t be Trusted
UK: Patients Forced to Live in Agony After NHS Refuses to Pay for Painkilling Injections
UK: They Shall Not Pass: At Former RAF Base, Locals Form a Human Shield to Halt an Invasion of Travellers
UK: Yet Another Mass Meeting to Demand a Caliphate
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Police ‘To Pursue’ Lieberman Case
 
Middle East
Iran State TV Confirms Arrest of 3 Americans
Obama Extends Sanctions Against Syria
Saudi Arabia Throws Cold Water on Obama’s Peace Plan
Saudi Anti-Smoking Campaign Offers Fabulous Wedding
Saudi TV Sex Boast Man Arrested
 
South Asia
Pakistan: Muslims Burn 75 Christian Homes and 2 Churches in Punjab
Pakistan: Eight Christians Burned Alive in Punjab
Pakistan: New Taliban Code: Don’t Kill Civilians, Don’t Take Ransom
 
Far East
Hunan: Police Arrest of Six Protesters Over Polluting Factory Almost Sets Off Riot
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
700 Die in Fighting in Northern Nigeria
 
Latin America
Lieberman Accuses Venezuelan President of Ties to Islamists
Venezuela Still Aids Colombia Rebels, New Material Shows
 
Immigration
Arizona: DPS Stops Refrigerated Truck With Produce and 97 Illegal Immigrants
Home Office: ‘Support Our Wars or You’ll be Denied a UK Passport’
Migrant Hid in Border Agency Bus to Reach UK…
Tracking Africa’s People Smugglers
 
Culture Wars
Invite to Deface Bible Withdrawn
Prez Honoring Jim Jones-Supporting Milk
UK: Teacher Who Complained About Training Day ‘Promoting Gay Rights’ Is Cleared
 
General
Pope Calls for Prayers for Refugees and Persecuted Christians
Revealed: Living Near a Wind Farm Could Seriously Damage Your Health
Warning: Oil Supplies Are Running Out Fast

Financial Crisis

Italy: Govt Earmarks 4bln Euros to Boost Sicilian Economy

Rome, 30 July (AKI) — The Italian government has approved four billion euros of funds to help boost the recession-hit southern Sicily region’s stumbling economy. Italy’s Inter-ministerial Committee for Economic planning (CIPE) will authorise the release of the funds on Thursday. “Sicily is our priority,” said prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

But he signalled that the Italian cabinet would on Thursday examine a more comprehensive plan for the various regions that make up the impoverished south of Italy, including Sicily.

“We will work out more detailed measures after the summer recess,” he said.

The president of the Italy’s regional conference, Vasco Errani, on Wednesday urged that all regions receive a fair share of government funds for economic development.

The government is expected next month to issue a decree containing a comprehensive set of measures to blunt the impact on Italy of the current global recession.

The Italian economy shrank by 2.4 percent from January to March, the fourth consecutive quarterly decline, and the biggest fall in gross domestic product since 1980, according to data released on 17 July by national statistics agency ISTAT.

Italy’s gross domestic product will shrink 5.3 percent in 2009 and will grow just 0.2 percent in 2010, economists have predicted.

Up to half a million jobs could be lost due to the recession this year and joblessness could reach 9 percent, according a report on the labour market published in mid-July by the Italian National Council for Economy and Labour (CNEL).

Up to half a million jobs could be lost due to the recession this year and joblessness could reach 9 percent, according a report on the labour market published on Tuesday by the Italian National Council for Economy and Labour (CNEL).

Unemployment is currently nudging towards 8 percent of the Italian workforce, but joblessless is far higher in the south, exceeding one-third of the workforce and over 50 percent amongst women.

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


Turkish Invasion and Cyprus Occupation

On 15 July 1974 the ruling military junta of Greece staged a coup to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Cyprus.

On 20 July Turkey, using the coup as a pretext, invaded Cyprus, purportedly to restore constitutional order. Instead, it seized 35% of the territory of Cyprus in the north, an act universally condemned as a gross infringement of international law and the UN Charter. Turkey, only 75 km away, had repeatedly claimed, for decades before the invasion and frequently afterwards, that Cyprus was of vital strategic importance to it. Ankara has defied a host of UN resolutions demanding the withdrawal of its occupation troops from the island.

On 1 November 1974, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 3212, the first of many resolutions calling for respect for the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus and for the speedy withdrawal of all foreign troops.

Furthermore, the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations as well as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organizations have demanded the urgent return of the refugees to their homes in safety and the full restoration of all the human rights of the population of Cyprus.

The invasion and occupation has had disastrous consequences. About 142.000 Greek Cypriots living in the north — nearly one quarter of the population of Cyprus — were forcibly expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where they constituted 80% of the population. These people are still deprived of the right to return to their homes and properties. A further 20.000 Greek Cypriots enslaved in the occupied area were gradually forced through intimidation and denial of their basic human rights to abandon their homes. Today there are fewer than 600 enslaved persons (Greek Cypriots and Maronites).

The invasion also had a disastrous impact on the Cyprus economy because 30% of the economically active population became unemployed and because of the loss of:

  • 70% of the gross output
  • 65% of the tourist accommodation capacity and 87% of hotel beds under construction
  • 83% of the general cargo handling at Famagusta port
  • 40% of school buildings
  • 56% of mining and quarrying output
  • 41% of livestock production
  • 8% of agricultural exports
  • 46% of industrial production
  • 20% of the state forests


Furthermore, Turkish forces occupied an area which accounted for 46% of crop production and much higher percentages of citrus fruit production (79%), cereals (68%), tobacco (100%), carobs (86%) and green fodder (65%).

About 1.500 Greek Cypriot civilians and soldiers disappeared during and after the invasion. Many had been arrested and some were seen in prisons in Turkey and Cyprus before their disappearance. The fate of all but a handful remains unknown. To resolve this humanitarian issue it is essential to have Turkey’s cooperation.

Turkey has also promoted the demographic change of the occupied territory through the implantation of Anatolian settlers. Since the invasion some 115.000 Turks from Turkey have been illegally imported in the occupied area. This large influx of settlers has negatively affected the living conditions of the Turkish Cypriots. Poverty and unemployment has forced over 55.000 to emigrate and they now make up only 11% of the native population.

35.000 Turkish soldiers equipped with the latest weapons and supported by the Turkish air force and navy, are still in the occupied area making it, according to the UN Secretary-General’s Report (December 1995), ”one of the most densely militarized areas in the world”.

The illegal regime in the occupied area has pursued a deliberate policy aimed at destroying and plundering the ancient cultural and historical heritage of the island, as part of a wider goal to ‘Turkify’ the island and erases all evidence of its Cypriot character. Abundant evidence gathered from foreign and Turkish Cypriot press, as well as evidence obtained from other authoritative sources (Jacques Deli bard’s UNESCO report); demonstrate the magnitude of the damage and destruction caused to the cultural heritage of Cyprus.

As a consequence of Turkey’s policy and illegal actions:

  • at least 55 churches have been converted into mosques
  • another 50 churches and monasteries have been converted into stables, stores, hostels, museums, or have been demolished
  • the cemeteries of at least 25 villages have been desecrated and destroyed
  • innumerable icons, religious artifacts and all kinds of archaeological treasures have been stolen and smuggled abroad
  • illegal excavations and smuggling of antiquities is openly taking place all the time with the involvement of the occupying forces
  • all Greek place names contrary to all historical and cultural reason were converted into Turkish ones.

In this respect, the Republic of Cyprus is making great efforts to recover stolen items which include invaluable icons, frescoes, mosaics, texts and artifacts. A successful case of repatriation involved the 6th century mosaics that were illegally removed from the church of Panayia Kanakaria in the occupied areas and sold to an art dealer in the USA. Following a legal battle that generated world attention, the US Courts ruled that the mosaics should be returned to their legal owner, the Church of Cyprus. Similar legal battles are now under way in the Federal Republic of Germany, where Cyprus is striving to repatriate hundreds of items stolen from churches in the occupied part of Cyprus.

In contrast to the total disrespect shown by the occupation regime, all Muslim sites in the area controlled by the Government of Cyprus are properly and respectfully kept, preserved and maintained by the competent authorities.

On 15 November 1983 the Turkish-occupied area was unilaterally declared an independent “state”. The international community, through UN Security Council Resolutions 541 of 1983 and 550 of 1984, condemned this unilateral declaration by the Turkish Cypriot regime, declared it both illegal and invalid, and called for its immediate revocation. To this day, no country in the world except Turkey has recognized this spurious entity. Negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem have been going on intermittently since 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations. The basis for the solution of the Cyprus problem are the UN Security Council resolutions and two high-level agreements concluded between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leaders in 1977 and 1979.

In an effort to enhance the prospects for a settlement and safeguard the security of all Cypriots, the Government of Cyprus had formally proposed the total demilitarization of Cyprus. The proposal envisaged the withdrawal of the 35,000 Turkish occupying forces and the disbanding of the Cyprus National Guard and the “Turkish Cypriot Armed Forces” who would hand their weapons and military equipment to UN Peace-Keeping Force (UNFICYP). UNFICYP would have the right of inspection to ascertain compliance with these measures. Turkey refused to consider the proposal and continues to maintain its illegal military hold on the island.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


US and China Planning New World Financial System to Save Themselves From Crisis

In Washington the United states agrees to cut its deficit and maintain a stable dollar as China agrees to reduce its reliance on exports and open up its financial markets. According to experts, in view of their interdependence China and the US plan to grow together.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China and the United States want to strengthen their economic cooperation in order to deal jointly with the global financial crisis, this after two days of top-level consultations in Washington. Whether this will bear fruit or not, only time will tell.

The United States reiterated its commitment to lowering its burgeoning deficit by 2013. This year it is expected to reach US$ 1.85 trillion.

Excess US spending coupled with low personal savings have contributed to the current crisis, which in turn brought to light the structural problems of the US economy, weakening the US currency.

Beijing and many other countries hold vast reserves and securities in US dollars and want Washington to make sure the dollar remains stable. This is especially true for China whose investments in Treasuries reached US$ 801.5 billion in May of this year.

China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan (pictured with US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner) said that Washington must manage its finances in a more sustainable and balanced way. He added that the two countries “will strengthen cooperation to jointly build a strong financial system” to ensure “stability in the two countries and the world at large.”

China’s Finance Minister Xie Xuren is satisfied by US pledges. “Credible steps will be taken by the US to control the deficit,” he said at a press briefing today.

In exchange, China has committed itself to put its own economy in order by stimulating domestic consumption and reducing its reliance on exports.

For decades China’s economy has been based on the mass exports of low cost items. But this was achieved at the expense of workers and the environment. What is more, the United States has accused China of pegging its currency, the yuan, too low against the dollar with negative consequences for both foreign companies and Chinese consumers.

None the less, both sides are satisfied by the talks as evinced by their respective statements.

“The most important thing we achieved today was to agree on this broad framework for policies and reform . . . to help lay the foundation for a more sustainable, more balanced global recovery,” Secretary Geithner said.

Responding to critics who noted that these talks failed to produce any extensive new agreements, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “laying the groundwork [for closer ties] may not deliver a lot of concrete achievements immediately,” but it does mark an unprecedented level of cooperation.

For experts both the United States and China have come to recognise the interdependence of their respective economies and that both have an interest in making their relationship less combative and more collaborative.

The United States has recognised the need for tougher rules to regulate its financial system whilst China has stated its willingness to open up is domestic financial market, now under tight state control.

The two sides failed to find common ground on climate change; any concrete action will have to wait for the future. They did never the less agree to more bilateral talks before the United Nations meeting on climate scheduled for Copenhagen next December.

But Xie Zhenhua, vice-minister of China’s national development and reform commission, said developed countries had to take the lead in substantially reducing emissions and in committing to technology transfer and financing for industrialising countries to control their own carbon emissions.

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


USA: Claims for Disability Benefits Surging, Driven by Recession and Aging Baby Boomers

Social Security officials are bracing for a larger-than-expected spike in new disability claims than they had expected, as aging, injured baby boomers tumble out of the work force and need income.

Officials estimate they’ll receive 3.3 million new disability claims over the next year, up from their previous estimate of 3 million projected just five months ago.

The wave of new applications comes just as officials were making progress in curbing a massive backlog of disability appeals cases, which has plagued the agency for years. Also adding to the problem are recent moves in at least 10 states to furlough hundreds of employees that process initial benefit claims.

Agency officials say the extraordinary increase is driven by the recession and an aging baby boomer work force reaching their most injury-prone years. Long waits for the agency to process claims and resolve appeals can leave some claimants struggling to make ends meet.

Since October, the number of people waiting to have a claim processed has jumped a stunning 30 percent, from about 556,000 eight months ago to more than 736,000 in July.

“We’re going to be moving backwards this year, the question is how much,” Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said in an interview. “The trend line isn’t good.”

Social Security disability benefits are available to people who can no longer work due to injury or illness. The disability program has been the fastest rising part of Social Security, with spending on disability benefits growing at almost twice the rate of spending on retirement benefits.

Astrue said he is frustrated that some states coping with budget shortfalls have decided to furlough state employees that include workers who process claims. Although the workers are employed by the state, their salaries are paid by the federal government, so Astrue said the states save no money by requiring them to take unpaid furloughs.

“At a time when the case load is surging like that, it just makes the task that much more difficult,” Astrue said.

Last week, New Jersey became the latest state to furlough thousands of its employees, including 10 days off for more than 300 employees who review disability claims. California has furloughed more than 1,400 such workers for three days a month through June 2010…

[Return to headlines]


Zombie Governments

When trade expands because of fewer trade barriers and growing global demand, it is a win-win situation for both exporters and importers. The world’s consumers have access to more goods and services at lower prices (which means they have a rise in their real incomes), and the world’s producers have many more customers and thus are able to expand production and create jobs.

However, when trade declines sharply, as it is doing, the opposite happens. As exports decline, people lose their jobs, causing further declines in demand for both domestically produced and imported goods and services.

Governments cannot spend their way out of this problem. More spending leads to higher taxes or greater deficits. Higher taxes depress demand and the incentives to work, save and invest. Higher government deficits suck savings by individuals and businesses out of the productive sector into financing nonproductive government debt — leaving less money for investment in new plants and equipment and job creation.

One international financial expert who has a long record of correctly seeing things that others have missed, Criton M. Zoakos, notes:

“In Europe, the U.S. and Japan, massive financial bailout programs … have committed approximately $35 trillion of public funds to support financial asset prices at pre-crisis levels. … All of these governments won initial public approval for these stupendous bailout commitments by claiming that they were needed to restore credit flows to ‘businesses and households’ and save jobs.

“However, the fact is that nine months after approval of these plans, and the commitment of $35 trillion, lending to non-financial businesses and to households has declined in the United States (by 5.5 %), Britain (by 5.6%), Eurozone (by 0.4%) and Japan (by 3.4%).”

The political leadership in the major economic powers, failing to learn the lessons of history, has been pursuing policies that can only result in failure, and the leaders seem to have little idea of what to do next.

[Return to headlines]

USA

Apollo Conspiracy Theorist Arrested After Tirade

Read the arrest affidavit for conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel (.pdf)From Phil Williams:

The world just celebrated the 40th anniversary of America’s landing on the moon. But a local man has a problem with the official story — and now he’s also got a problem with the law.

Bart Sibrel is a well-known conspiracy theorist whose made a bit of a career out of ambushing America’s astronauts, trying to make them look like hot-headed fakes.

Sibrel, who calls himself an investigative journalist, has produced videos questioning whether the moon landing ever happened.

His 2001, widely discredited documentary called it “the greatest government coverup of all time.”

As part of his crusade, Sibrel has repeatedly ambushed the Apollo astronauts, demanding that they admit they had faked it all.

Video from 2002 shows the day that he repeatedly berated NASA legend Buzz Aldrin — eventually getting exactly what he wanted.

“Will you get away from me?” Aldrin demanded.

“You’re a coward and a liar,” Sibrel shouted, moving closer and closer to Aldrin.

At that point, the former astronaut punched Sibrel in the face.

Turning to his videographer, Sibrell asked, “Did you get that on camera? Did you get that on camera?”

And, indeed, that punch made national headlines.

But Sibrel, who moonlights as a Nashville cab driver, apparently lost control a few months back over his own landing of sorts.

Court documents show he was arrested after another driver refused to pull out of a parking space he wanted. She was waiting for her car engine to warm up.

The arresting officer wrote, “A few moments later, the parking space in front of the victim opened up and [Sibrel] drove into it and parked.”

Sibrel “then walked up to the victim’s car and jumped onto the hood, and then jumped up and down several times.”

The report says he caused about $1,431.33 in damage.

Last month, according to the court’s website, Sibrel pleaded guilty to vandalism and was placed on probation.

But, as you might have guessed, that’s one outburst you won’t see in his videos.

Sibrel did not respond to an email from NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

[Return to headlines]


Boeing 787 Wing Flaw Extends Inside Plane

The wing damage that grounded Boeing’s new composite 787 Dreamliner occurred under less stress than previously reported — and is more extensive.

An engineer familiar with the details said the damage happened when the stress on the wings was well below the load the wings must bear to be federally certified to carry passengers.

In addition, information obtained independently and confirmed by a second engineer familiar with the problem shows the damage occurred on both sides of the wing-body join — that is, on the outer wing as well as inside the fuselage.

[Comments from JD: The comments to the article make for excellent reading, especially the one from the retired Boeing engineer. He points out that the same managment that ran McDonald Douglas into the ground is now running Boeing.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Court Says English-Only Tests OK in Schools

California is entitled to administer school achievement tests and high school exit exams in English to all students, including the nearly 1.6 million who speak limited English, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected arguments by bilingual-education groups and nine school districts that English-only exams violate a federal law’s requirement that limited-English-speaking students “shall be assessed in a valid and reliable manner.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


International Cap-and-Trade Regime Could Benefit Organized Crime by Creating Carbon Credit Black Market, Senator Warns

by Penny Starr

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) said the cap-and-trade legislation passed by the House of Representatives could be a boon for organized crime in the United States by creating a carbon credit industry that could spawn fraud, money laundering and other criminal activities.

Barrasso spoke Thursday after a hearing by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that focused on climate change and national security.

“The hearing this morning was specifically about national security and climate change, and I view a big part of that is what Interpol is saying—187 different countries are involved—and they’re saying if you need carbon credits, the place to turn to is organized crime if we put in a cap-and-trade program.”

Barrasso asked that a May 30 article by Reuters News Service be entered into the record. The article features an interview with Peter Younger, an environmental crimes specialist with Interpol, the world’s largest international police agency.

In the article, Younger refers to the United Nations REDD program—Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation—that would generate billions of dollars by rewarding countries that conserve forests and allowing them to sell for profit “carbon credits” to developing countries, an idea similar to the cap-and-trade legislation being debated in the U.S. Senate.

“If you are going to trade any commodity on the open market, you are creating a profit- and-loss situation,” Younger told Reuters. “There will be fraudulent trading of carbon credits.”

“In future (sic), if you are running a factory and you desperately need credits to offset your emissions, there will be someone who can make that happen for you,” Younger said. “Absolutely, organized crime will be involved.”

At Thursday’s Senate hearing, Barrasso warned, “We should all be concerned because these groups are a threat to national security. … Some even operate within our own borders.”

“If we endeavor to create a carbon trading scheme here in the U.S., we have to know the national security implications of such an approach,” Barrasso said. “But we need to know, is Interpol’s assessment shared by our intelligence community?”…

[Return to headlines]


IRA Millionaire Faces 146 Years in Prison Over Fraud

A man who had built up a multi-millionaire empire in America after emigrating from the North saw his life crashing down around him when detectives found a photograph of him standing next to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

They had come to the Philadelphia home of Sean O’Neill from Coalisland, Co Tyrone, after his son accidentally shot his friend in the face with a .45 calibre pistol after a party, killing him.

What the police found was that O’Neill had kept secrets for more then 30 years, including membership of the IRA’s youth wing.

He now faces a 146-year jail sentence and a $4m fine after admitting immigration fraud, tax evasion and gun offences. He had come to America in 1983, aged 23, and had amassed a construction and restaurant business worth millions of dollars.

O’Neill owned Maggie O’Neill’s, an Irish pub renowned for its authenticity, and also had property across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a holiday home in the countryside and another on a tiny island off the Jersey shore, plus several houses in Ireland.

He had been a respected member of the business community where he lived, with his wife and three children.

Things started to unravel in 2006 after he went on a weekend break with his wife Eileen. While they were away his son Sean threw a party and after drinking he began to play with his father’s gun which ended in the accidental shooting of his friend Scott Sheridan.

Police were called by Roisin O’Neill, 23, who found her brother clutching his friend’s body. While searching the home detectives unearthed paperwork that revealed O’Neill’s past.

In 1977 O’Neill had pleaded guilty to membership of Fianna Eireann, the IRA’s youth wing. In an attempt to build a new life he travelled to the US on a six-month visa, failing to disclose his conviction.

He had not informed the US authorities of his record, making his immigration status fraudulent. They discovered he had entered into a sham marriage with a US woman to gain permanent residency and had failed to get a divorce before marrying his wife, Eileen, technically rendering him a bigamist.

He had also acquired four guns under false pretences, giving a false date of birth and claiming he was from Texas.

In 1985, he even stated he was an American citizen in order to be able to vote in a Pennsylvania election. Officers also established O’Neill had failed to declare earnings between 2005 and 2007 and had been paying staff at Maggie O’Neill’s in cash to avoid paying up to $200,000 in tax.

At first, O’Neill made a vigorous defence through his lawyers who accused the police of showing a “strong and impermissible Irish-Catholic prejudice”, pointing to the way Gerry Adams had been dubbed an IRA leader when he was in fact “a man widely acclaimed for his crucial role in laying the groundwork for the peace process in Ireland”. But his troubles continued. His son, Sean, served nine months of a two-year sentence for the manslaughter of his friend but was then put back into juvenile detention after he violated the terms of his release.

Then O’Neill’s daughter, Roisin, allegedly drove the wrong way down a motorway, killing a 63-year-old grandmother. She is on bail awaiting trial for ‘vehicular homicide’.

In April, O’Neill pleaded guilty to immigration and tax fraud and the gun charges. Charges relating to bigamy and other gun offences were dropped.

He is at home on bail of $2.5m and will learn his fate on October 8 when he is due for sentencing.

[Return to headlines]


Is This Really Smoking Gun of Obama’s Kenyan Birth?

Attorney files motion for authentication of alleged 1960s certificate from Africa

WASHINGTON — California attorney Orly Taitz, who has filed a number of lawsuits demanding proof of Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as president, has released a copy of what purports to be a Kenyan certification of birth and has filed a new motion in U.S. District Court for its authentication.

           — Hat tip: Andrea Shea King[Return to headlines]


U2 to Ask Fans to Pay for Greener Tour

The Dublin rockers may request 50 cents extra from Americans to offset impact of trip

U2 may ask American fans to volunteer an extra 50 cents on top of ticket prices in an effort to help further reduce pollution when they take their 360o Tour to the United States.

The Dublin rockers, who recently played Croke Park, are considering replicating a concert model used in America by Jack Johnson, the US singer-songwriter.

Johnson, Billboard music magazine’s green musician of 2008, offered fans the option of offsetting their journeys or any plane travel they undertook while travelling to his gigs.

Once the 18-month 360o Tour reaches America this autumn, U2 will urge fans to reduce their carbon emissions by car pooling and using public transport, according to Michael Martin, director of MusicMatters, a Minneapolis-based, eco-friendly marketing company. It was hired as the 360o Tour’s environmental adviser by Live Nation, the concert promoter.

“They are looking at the Johnson model of encouraging people to buy credits with their tickets because they understand that their fans care about the environment as well,” said Martin.

“Even with all the charges and surcharges fans face when they buy tickets, 30% of Jack Johnson fans still opted to buy carbon offsets during the tour.”

MusicMatters attended the first date of the U2 tour in Barcelona in June, and will follow the band to calculate how much they will have to spend to offset their own carbon footprint. Martin declined to provide an estimate but said offsets for the largest tours typically cost $40 (€28) a tonne.

Consultants from Carbonfootprint.com, a British company that helps businesses offset unavoidable emissions, calculated the carbon footprint of U2’s 44 concerts this year would be equivalent to sending them to Mars and back in a plane.

Mass events require huge amounts of energy to power stages and lights, and produce landfills of waste. The 360o Tour features three 390-ton stages crisscrossing the globe, along with 120 trucks, and 200 staff.

To offset the emissions from this year’s concerts, Carbonfootprint.com says U2 would need to plant 20,118 trees.

However, the biggest impact of such shows comes from the carbon created by fans, according to John Buckley,managing director of Carbonfootprint.com.

Experts says U2’s fans will create 3,600 tons of rubbish, with every fan producing on average almost 1kg of waste, mostly in packaging.

“It’s usually the fans that are responsible — by quite some way,” Buckley said. “A lot of that is usually down to fans flying from all over the world for one event. You’d hope that because U2 are doing lots of events, people would go to the closest one.”

[Return to headlines]


White House Science Adviser Advocated ‘De-Development’ Of the United States

President Obama’s top science adviser, John P. Holdren, advocated the “de-development” of the United States in books he published in the 1970s.

“A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States,” Holdren wrote in a 1973 book he co-authored with Paul R. Ehrlch and Anne H. Ehrlich. “De-development means bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation.”

“The need for de-development presents our economists with a major challenge,” they wrote. “They must design a stable, low-consumption economy in which there is a much more equitable distribution of wealth than in the present one. Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential, if a decent life is to be provided to every human being.”

Holdren, who is director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, made these comments in the 1973 book “Human Ecology,” which he co-authored with the Ehrlichs, long-time advocates of curtailing population growth.

Over the years, Holdren has co-authored or co-edited a number of books and articles with Paul Ehrlich.

In the 1977 science textbook, “Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment,” which Holdren also co-authored with the Ehrlichs, the authors again presented their idea for “de-development.”

The 1973 book, “Human Ecology,” argued that humanity would face environmental calamity if population growth was not curbed.

The authors’ call “to de-develop the United States” came in the book’s final chapter, under the heading, “Synthesis and Recommendations.”

In “Ecoscience,” which was used as a college textbook, Holdren and his coauthors expanded on the notion of de-development.

[…]

In a chapter entitled “Rich Nations, Poor Nations, and International Conflict,” Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote: “The most critical change of all must be a change in goals; all people, rich and poor alike, must come to recognize that being a citizen of a giant, smoggy, freeway-strangled industrial state is not necessary to being a happy, healthy, fulfilled human being.”

[…]

“It is therefore apparent,” they said, “that one key to saving world society lies in a measured and orderly retreat from overdevelopment in today’s ODCs (overdeveloped countries)—a process we will label, for want of a better word, de-development.”

“As we see it, de-development of the ODCs should be given top priority,” they wrote on page 926.

“Only when that course is firmly established, will there be any real hope for all of humanity to generate a worldwide spirit of cooperation rather than competition and to plan the development of our (planet) with the holistic perspective that is so essential to the survival of civilization,” they wrote. “Only then can consumption in the (less developed countries) be linked both psychologically and physically to production in the ODCs and a substantial transfer of wealth accomplished.”

[…]

In addition to being director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Holdren is also President Obama’s top science adviser. He is a major voice in the administration on both climate-change policy and health care reform…

[Return to headlines]

Canada

Jews Match Boycotts With Emails and Spending

Israeli kosher wine was hard to find on liquor store shelves after members of the Jewish community turned up in the hundreds to counter a boycott by a group that opposes Israel’s Palestinian policies, shortly before Passover.

Sales of kosher wine and Dead Sea Scrolls tickets soar after blasting message to community

A liquor store sells out of Israeli kosher wine. The Royal Ontario Museum sees a sudden surge in online ticket sales to its Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. Not the outcome one would expect from two recent boycotts meant to protest Israel’s handling of the Palestine situation, but that’s what happened — thanks to the power of the Internet and a change in course by the Jewish community.

Rather than react to the boycotts with counter-arguments and more rhetoric, the United Jewish Appeal and other groups such as the Jewish Defense League have begun responding to boycotts by urging supporters to buy more of whatever is being boycotted.

“The community feels really empowered by it,” says Sally Szuster, a spokeswoman for the UJA Federation of Toronto.

It all began rather innocently.

A call was put out by the Jewish group Not In Our Name, which opposes Israel’s Palestinian policies, to boycott Israeli kosher wines in the lead-up to Passover. A protest was organized for outside the Summerhill liquor store the afternoon of April 5 to enlist shoppers.

Before long, emails began circulating among a few members of the Jewish community suggesting that they respond to the boycott by buying their wine at Summerhill.

Canadian Jewish News publisher Donald Carr and his wife, Judy Feld Carr, an Order of Canada member for her work to rescue more than 3,200 Jews from Syria, were among the earliest recipients of the emails, which they forwarded to all of their contacts.

“It became a very big, unstructured email blasting, to the point that it came back to us eight or nine times,” says Donald.

By then, the UJA was on board, sending emails to 25,000 of its supporters calling on them to go to the store at the time of the protest specifically to buy Israeli kosher wine.

“Hundreds and hundreds came,” says Szuster.

Many of those going to the store to buy wine took part in a counterprotest by pro-Israeli supporters that soon overwhelmed the relatively small original demonstration.

By mid-afternoon, the store had sold out of the 1,500 bottles of Israeli wine it had in stock.

“The community came en masse. Some walked away empty-handed,” says Szuster.

The one-time event has now become a favourite response to any boycott call, including an appeal to boycott the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit due to allegations that Israel stole the scrolls — the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible — from the Palestinians.

“It’s the most positive way to make a statement,” Szuster says.

Carr says he would rather see people respond to boycotts by opening their wallets than by taking part in noisy counterprotests, which he fears just gives more publicity to Israel’s critics.

“That approach is infinitely more positive and infinitely more successful than any sort of counterprotest,” he says.

The Scrolls email blast was sent April 10, the same day members of Palestine House and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid picketed outside the ROM to encourage people to boycott the exhibit.

“We want to create a sellout situation at the ROM in the same way we did last spring at the LCBO,” the email said. “If they experience a surge in ticket sales today we will have made a strong public statement.”

Some 500 tickets to the exhibit were sold that day to UJA supporters.

Szuster says any future email blasts will depend on whether more boycotts are called, but says the Jewish community seems to like the idea.

“It’s proven to be a good way to engage the community in a positive way.”

Boycott organizers could not be reached for comment.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Cipe: Berlusconi, Sicily First, Then the Rest

(AGI) — Rome, 31 July — The government starts with Sicily and its Regional Plan (PAR). If other regions present their Plans in time, the government will discuss them already this summer, said Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to the Interdepartmental Committee for Economic Planning (CIPE). Berlusconi announced that talks with Apulia have already started. “The CIPE has approved the Sicilian PAR. Sicily was the first region to present the Plan. Other regions have presented it later or haven’t presented it at all” explained Italian Economy Minster Giulio Tremonti after the CIPE meeting.

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


Italy: Berlusconi, South Party Would be Contradiction

(AGI) — L’Aquila, 30 Jul. — A party of the South? “There’s no chance of success, there can be no new party sourced out of the PDL. It would be a contradiction”. The quote is from Silvio Berlusconi regarding the possibility of a new party. During a press conference in Coppito, the premier cited a famous latin proverb, noting “nulla salus extra ecclesiam”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Abortion Pill’s Approval Riles Vatican

Rome, 31 July (AKI) — Italy’s health and drugs authorities’ recent approval of abortion drug mifepristone (Ru486) has drawn protests from the Catholic Church. It has threatened to excommunicate doctors who administer the drug, which is already available in almost all other European Union countries.

The Italian drug agency ruled after a meeting that ended late Thursday that the drug cannot be sold in drug stores but can only be administered by doctors in a hospital. The agency said the pill can only be taken up to the seventh week of pregnancy.

“Whoever practises abortion with the drug and prescribes it will be excommunicated, like those who perform surgical abortions,” the former head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, told Adnkronos.

“We are talking about chemical abortion, which deserves censure. What is worse is that the drug is encouraging abortion by making it easier and faster,” Sgreccia added.

“The whole moral responsibility falls upon the woman who is forced to ‘handle’ a tragic moment alone.”

Women who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies needed to be helped, Sgreccia said, urging greater “respect for life”.

It remains to be seen how many Italian doctors will administer the abortion drug. About 70 percent describe themselves as ‘conscientious objectors’ who refuse to carry out abortions in their clinics or hospitals, according to Italy’s health ministry.

The abortion drug was developed in France in the early 1980s and introduced there almost two decades ago. But approval in Italy has been held up by the Catholic Church, which opposes abortion and contraception.

Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978 in the first 90 days of pregnancy and until the 24th week if the life of the mother is at risk or the fetus is malformed.

Italy allows surgical abortions in hospitals and the use of the morning-after pill. Critics of the abortion drug say some women are bound to use it at home without medical assistance.

Women’s rights groups and Italy’s Association for Demographic Education (AIED) welcomed the drugs’ approval.

“We are coming in line with other European countries and making up for a delay that has penalised Italian women,” AIED said in a statement.

The ruling was also welcomed by Silvio Viale, the Italian doctor who first used the drug experimentally in a hospital in the northern Italian city of Turin and has campaigned for the pill to be authorised.

“It’s a victory for Italian women who today are freer,” he said.

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


RU486: Sky Tg24, 70% of Italians Approve the Pill

(AGI) — Rome, 31 July — According to a Sky Tg24 survey, seven Italians out of every 10 (to be specific, 69% of the sample) agree with the introduction in Italy of the RU486 abortion pill. The other 31% of the sample do not agree to the pill being available on the market.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


The Delayed Effects of Totalitarianism in Poland

Salon.eu.sk 16.06.2009 (Slovakia)

Zygmunt Bauman continues his thoughts about the delayed effects of totalitarianism in Poland (first part here). He notes a key difference between National Socialism and Communism: the Nazi occupation left behind many wounds, but not the loss of self-respect that results from the years of mass-produced hypocrisy that characterised Stalinism. “The idea that the Soviet empire might implode and self-destruct had not occurred either to the domestic intelligentsia with its factual and sober reasoning nor to any of the highly respected and authoritative ‘sovietological’ institutes around the world, flush with funding and brains of the highest calibre; such a thought was not mooted even many years later, when the colossus’s feet of clay began to visibly waste away. In these circumstances living a lie became a condition of survival more for those who lived the lie than for the regime that demanded their hypocrisy.”

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


UK: Fanatics’ Call to Prosecute Queen

FANATICS led by a sponging Islamic extremist enraged MPs yesterday by publicly demanding the Queen is prosecuted — for GENOCIDE.

Rabble-rouser Anjem Choudary’s cohorts accused British troops of wiping out the civilian population in Afghanistan and said it was Her Majesty’s fault because she is “the head of this country”.

In an internet rant to fellow extremist Muslims, they declare: “She is the one who applauds her sons and daughters to go out and massacre hundreds and thousands of innocent people.

“Shouldn’t she be tried for genocide and the extermination of a nation?” The fanatics insist: “Yes.” Labour MP Andrew Dismore said of the shameful attack that appeared on a website linked to Choudary: “Never mind calling for the prosecution of the Queen.

“The Queen should prosecute HIM. It’s about time he was busted.”

Fellow MP Patrick Mercer — chairman of the Commons counter- terrorism sub-committee — branded it an “insult to our monarch.”

The ex-soldier stormed: “We must recognise Mr Choudary’s words for what they are — weapons being wielded by al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

“This is the next phase of an enemy operation in our country.”

Cops are currently investigating Choudary, 42 — who is on benefits and is a pal of hate preacher Omar Bakri — for demanding gays be stoned to death.

Douglas Murray, of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said of the latest outrage: “It’s especially offensive because the people behind it are living off handouts from the British taxpayer.”

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


UK: Prescott’s Fury After Harman Says Woman Should Always Have One of Top Two Jobs in Labour Because Men Can’t be Trusted

John Prescott has launched a stinging attack on Harriet Harman for demanding that one of Labour’s two top jobs should always go to a woman.

The former deputy prime minister lambasted the scheme as undemocratic, and rebuked her for stoking up leadership speculation.

In an open letter to her on his blog, Mr Prescott said she should ‘stop complaining and get campaigning’ — and implied her failures had contributed to the party’s disastrous showing during June’s local and European elections.

The intervention came after Ms Harman — dubbed Harriet Harperson for her strident views on gender equality — said in an interview that men could not be trusted with power on their own.

Soon after she was appointed Labour’s deputy leader two years ago, she tried to change the rules to ensure that the party is never again led by an all-male team. But the plan did not attract support.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, she said: ‘I don’t agree with all-male leaderships. Men cannot be left to run things on their own. I think it’s a thoroughly bad thing to have a men-only leadership.’

Tory opponents branded her campaign as ‘politically correct garbage’, saying talented women can climb to the top of the greasy pole without help, just as Margaret Thatcher did.

Mr Prescott said he had read her comments on all-male leaderships with ‘sadness’.

‘Quotes like this just raise leadership issues once again, just at a time when we should all be pulling together and defending our record,’ he said.

‘Why take away from the party the right to choose its leaders on the basis of ability? You can’t dictate equality in leadership elections. You must let the party decide.

‘I was beaten fair and square in the 1992 deputy leadership election by Margaret Beckett. You yourself beat four men to become deputy leader in 2007.

‘In theory you were elected on merit, not your gender. The system works and I think we should keep it that way.’

He also attacked her running of the local and European election campaign in June.

Saying Ms Harman should be concentrating on trying to win the next election, he said: ‘This is crucial, now more than ever, after a disastrous June election campaign you were supposed to be running, and with a poll today saying we’re 24 per cent behind the Tories in the key marginals that you’re supposed to be in charge of campaigning in.’

Ms Harman is currently nominally in charge of the country while Gordon Brown is away on holiday, and opponents see her plan as little more than a power grab.

As equalities minister, a role she holds on top of being her party’s deputy leader, Ms Harman has pushed through controversial legislation under which employers will be given a legal right to employ female candidates in favour of equally qualified male applicants.

In her interview, she said: In a country where women regard themselves as equal, they are not prepared to see men running the show themselves.

‘I think a balanced team of men and women makes better decisions. That’s one of the reasons why I was prepared to run for deputy leader.’

Ms Harman said Labour ‘owed it to women’ to have a female in one of the two top jobs — to ensure the concerns of women were taken into account.

‘Actually, I don’t ever think there will be a men-only team of leadership in the Labour party ever again,’ she said. ‘People would look at it and say: “What? Are there no women in the party to be part of the leadership? Do men want to do it all themselves?”. It just won’t happen again.’

She admitted that her feminist agenda had caused ‘creative tension’ in Government, and would not be drawn on her leadership ambitions — saying she believed Gordon Brown would win the next election, and remain in the top job.

Ms Harman’s drastic plan was discussed by only a select few at the top of the party.

One insider said: ‘There was amazement when Harriet suggested it. It was seen as a naked attempt to position herself for the leadership. We didn’t think it was the right step.’

Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said: ‘This is the kind of politically correct garbage that so infuriates people and has led Labour to be where they are in the opinion polls.

‘All people want is that everyone should get their job based on merit alone, just as Margaret Thatcher did in the Conservative party.

‘It is a shame that Harriet Harman doesn’t have enough faith in women, and believes that things always need to be rigged to give them a lift up.’

Until Ms Harman was elected Labour’s deputy leader two years ago, only one woman — Margaret Beckett — had been in that post.

She was also the only woman to lead labour — although it was only in an acting capacity after the death of John Smith.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Patients Forced to Live in Agony After NHS Refuses to Pay for Painkilling Injections

Tens of thousands with chronic back pain will be forced to live in agony after a decision to slash the number of painkilling injections issued on the NHS, doctors have warned.

The Government’s drug rationing watchdog says “therapeutic” injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known.

Instead the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is ordering doctors to offer patients remedies like acupuncture and osteopathy.

Specialists fear tens of thousands of people, mainly the elderly and frail, will be left to suffer excruciating levels of pain or pay as much as £500 each for private treatment.

The NHS currently issues more than 60,000 treatments of steroid injections every year. NICE said in its guidance it wants to cut this to just 3,000 treatments a year, a move which would save the NHS £33 million.

But the British Pain Society, which represents specialists in the field, has written to NICE calling for the guidelines to be withdrawn after its members warned that they would lead to many patients having to undergo unnecessary and high-risk spinal surgery…

[Return to headlines]


UK: They Shall Not Pass: At Former RAF Base, Locals Form a Human Shield to Halt an Invasion of Travellers

All through the night they stood at the gates, ready to repel the invasion.

The old RAF camp had never seen an army like this, not in all its years of proud service.

There was a nurse, a lorry driver, a shopkeeper and ambulanceman, several young mothers with children at their side — and a Staffordshire bull terrier called Kandie.

It might not have looked like a task force assembling for action. But yesterday, in the drenching rain of a West Country morning, it became the front line in a war against a formidable new enemy — the traveller.

In a landmark action to stop the blight that has hit so many communities, residents of a housing estate that now occupies the former RAF Locking have barricaded themselves into the 100-acre site and mounted a 24-hour guard. Every car coming in or out of the estate near Weston-super-Mare was checked.

Anyone lingering outside the perimeter fence was stopped and politely questioned. At random intervals, the unlikely figure of an elderly man in a high-visibility jacket patrolled the grounds in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, checking for breaches of security.

To anyone who has never experienced a traveller invasion, all this may seem a little over the top.

But last weekend, after 15 or 20 caravans were evicted from a nearby field, some of the ‘gipsies’ drove around the Locking site and took photographs.

One of them let it be known they had targeted the privately-owned estate and intended to set up camp on some of the open, grassy landscape where children play and people walk their dogs. He reportedly warned residents not to resist, adding: ‘We’ve got guns.’

What happened next is a depressingly familiar saga that has unfolded in countless towns and villages, where travellers have used human rights legislation to ride roughshod over any laws that apply to ordinary folk.

The police were sympathetic but said they had only limited powers to act, primarily if a breach of the peace was threatened.

The local council — which has a legal duty anyway to provide formal sites for travellers — said it could not intervene at this stage.

That left only one option — people power. And so, the estate’s residents banded together to man the barricades and put RAF Locking back on active service again.

They bought ten tons of rubble and hardcore to block emergency exits around the perimeter of the former camp, which closed in 1999 but still has walls and barbed wire fences. A rota was drawn up to ensure the main gate was guarded around the clock.

‘Traveller Watch’ volunteers were assigned to look out for suspicious vehicles and call for reinforcements if needed. A website and Facebook page were set up to co-ordinate resources — a facility never available to Locking during its service history, which included training aircrew and radio operators for the Second World War and the Falklands.

Yesterday — in scenes resembling a miners’ picket line — shifts of volunteers gave up time to protect an estate one described as the kind of place where no one ever worried about leaving their doors unlocked. Until last Saturday, that is.

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


UK: Yet Another Mass Meeting to Demand a Caliphate

By TITVS ADVXAS — Following last weeks event, highlighted on The British National Party website here, where thousands of Muslims gathered at a central London venue supporting Jihad and demanding the creation of a caliphate, the website of Hizb ut Tahrir is announcing a similar event in Birmingham on Sunday, August 2nd 2009.

What is a caliphate and how does it fit in with sharia law and more poignantly, how does it fit in with UK law and democracy ?

Caliphate is a form of government inspired by Islam. The Qur’an basis for caliphate is made clear from the holy book.

Sharia law is again inspired by The Qur’an.

The simple answer, in my opinion, is that caliphate and sharia have no place whatsoever in the realms of The United Kingdom, within her shores or within her democracy. In fact placing either of the two terms with democracy would create an oxymoron.

The proposed meeting will take place at ‘Bethel Community Centre, Kelvin Way, West Bromwich, B70 7JW’, starting at 11am and the cost of admission will be £8.

Their website goes on to say “In our global conferences this summer, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain will highlight how we, as Muslims in the west, need to be at the forefront of the struggle that counters these policies; carrying the real message of Islam, showing how the future Khilafah State will stand with the oppressed people of the world against the exploitation of global capitalism”

Being unable to comment on the first meeting, I can mention the agenda for Sunday’s meeting.

My comment of the whole situation is simple. Our forefathers, my grandfather, my father, Harry Patch, Henry Allingham, struggled and fought for our country’s values, for freedom of speech and democracy. They didn’t fight for the freedom to openly discuss the overthrow of their values.

(Didn’t Guy Fawkes discuss the overthrow of his Government? And wasn’t he hung for those discussions, also known as Treason?)

They certainly didn’t struggle to have Britain become a third world Islamic republic.

Lets also hope that Sundays meeting will draw some attention from the mainstream press!


           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Police ‘To Pursue’ Lieberman Case

Israeli police have recommended that the country’s ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should face corruption charges, media reports say.

The police say that Mr Lieberman should be charged with offences including corruption, embezzlement and money-laundering, sources say.

The police probe has been under way for the past 13 years.

Mr Lieberman has consistently denied any wrong-doing and says the inquiry is politically motivated.

A final decision on whether to press charges will now be taken by Israel’s most senior legal official, the attorney general.

In a statement, Mr Lieberman said: “The police have been chasing me for 13 years now.

“If they have real evidence, the investigation would not have taken more than 10 years. There is no basis for this indictment.”

The accusations are believed to relate to a company run by Mr Lieberman’s daughter.

In April — days after being sworn in as foreign minister — Mr Lieberman faced more than seven hours of police questioning over the allegations against him.

Outspoken

The appointment of the outspoken Mr Lieberman had already been seen as controversial.

He has previously said that Israel is not bound by a US-sponsored agreement from 2007 to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, and that Israeli-Arab MPs who met Hamas should be executed like Nazi collaborators after the Nuremburg trials.

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

Middle East

Iran State TV Confirms Arrest of 3 Americans

Iran state TV confirmed Saturday that it has detained three Americans who crossed the border from northern Iraq, saying they failed to heed warnings from Iranian guards.

Kurdish officials from the self-ruled region in northern Iraq said the three — two men and a woman — were tourists who had mistakenly crossed into Iranian territory Friday while hiking in a mountainous area near the resort town of Ahmed Awaa.

“The Iranians said they have arrested them because they entered their land without legal permission,” said Qubad Talabani, the Kurdish regional government’s envoy to Washington.

Iran’s state owned Arabic-language al-Alam TV station cited a “well-informed source” in the Interior Ministry that the three Americans were detained Friday after crossing into Iran’s Kurdistan province.

The report said the Americans were arrested after they did not heed warnings from Iranian border guards.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Saturday that Washington had asked the Swiss, who represent U.S. interests in Tehran, “to confirm these reports with Iranian authorities and, if true, to seek consular access” to the detained Americans.

The detentions were the latest irritant in relations between Iran and the United States, which have had no diplomatic ties since 1979 when militant students stormed the U.S Embassy in Tehran and took Americans there hostage for 444 days. The two countries also are locked in a bitter dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.

They also came at a sensitive time for the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government as it seeks to balance delicate ties between its U.S. and Iranian allies. Iraqi security forces recently staged a deadly raid on a camp housing an Iranian opposition group that was protected by the American military for years. The raid was applauded by Tehran.

Kurds occupy an area that sprawls across southwestern Turkey, northern Iraq and eastern Iran. The borders are mountainous and not clearly marked, making them popular smuggling routes for centuries.

Iraq’s Kurdish region has been relatively free of the violence that plagues the rest of Iraq. Foreigners often feel freer to move around without security guards in the area, and it’s relatively easy to enter the region from Turkey, particularly by plane. The Kurdish government generally grants visitors visas valid for one week when they arrive at the airport…

[Return to headlines]


Obama Extends Sanctions Against Syria

The White House confirms the Bush line on Damascus, accusing Syria of continuing the “political and economic instability in Lebanon” and constituting “a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The United States has decided to continue economic-diplomatic sanctions against Syria. US President Barack Obama decided to extend for one year sanctions imposed on 1 August 2007 by his predecessor, former president George W. Bush. Obama said that Syria continues “to contribute to political and economic instability in Lebanon [. . .] and constitute a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

In spite of “some positive developments in the past year” between the United States and Syria, “the actions of certain persons” with regards to Lebanon tipped the balance against lifting the sanctions.

The decision dampens hopes in a gradual normalisation of relations between the two countries. On 24 June the United States had announced in fact that it would send an ambassador to Syria after an absence of four years.

However, a few days ago State Department spokesman Ian Kelly had said that no “decision to lift the sanctions” imposed under President George W. Bush had been taken, explaining that “any changes to US sanctions require[d] close coordination with Congress”.

This answered questions raised following the second meeting on 26 July between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and US Mideast envoy George Mitchell. The latter had said that the United States would ease sanctions in response to requests from Damascus.

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


Saudi Arabia Throws Cold Water on Obama’s Peace Plan

Saudi Arabia has thoroughly rejected appeals by U.S. President Barack Obama that the Arab world make modest gestures to Israel to show that is interested in advancing a regional peace that would include the establishment of a Palestinian Authority state within Israel’s current borders.

“The question is not what the Arab world will offer,” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said at a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday. “The question really is: What will Israel give in exchange for this comprehensive offer.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Saudi Anti-Smoking Campaign Offers Fabulous Wedding

Hundreds of young men are interested in the initiative. Winner gets an all-expenses paid wedding, including party, dowry and furnished house. Women complain that the campaign objectifies women’s bodies. Others doubt it conforms to clerics’ rulings.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Quit smoking and you get a fabulous wedding, including an expensive party, a dowry and a fully furnished house. This is the offer of a Saudi charity, Purity, which wants to promote a smoke-free family life.

With the catchy slogan, “Kicking the habit is on you, and marriage is on us,” Purity wants to entice young grooms to give up smoking. And indeed hundreds have expressed interest in what is the first anti-smoking drive of its kind in the kingdom.

One interested man said that he wouldn’t have attempted to quit without the new incentive to win the all-expenses paid wedding.

At a time of economic crisis incentives are very attractive, especially for weddings because in this Arab country the groom alone bears the cost of getting married and paying for the ceremony, the dowry and the home. In fact, more and more young men are having to delay their marriage until they have enough money.

Many women are not that pleased though, upset that such a campaign objectifies women’s body.

Maha al-Hujailan, and editorial writer for al-Watan, said that the concept is sexist. “The campaign stems from an idea directed at male smokers: ‘Give up having fun with a cigarette and take a woman instead’.”

One commentator noted that Arabs have criticised the West for using women to promote merchandise. “Today, we’re using …. the same two-in-one method”.

Organisers have rejected such criticism, arguing that they are not providing women or wives to would-be grooms, but only paying for the wedding and the house.

“In any case, the fact that people are discussing the campaign means we have fulfilled our goal of spreading the word about it,” said a marketing savvy spokesman for the charity.

According to a recent survey, about one quarter of Saudi Arabia’s 27.6 million residents indulge in smoking. One school-age child in three lives in a family in which at least one member is a smoker.

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


Saudi TV Sex Boast Man Arrested

A Saudi Arabian man who went on an Arabic television talk show to boast about his sex life has been arrested.

The man, named as Mazen Abdul Jawad, prompted more than 200 complaints from Saudi viewers.

He was arrested for “publicising vice”, police said, after he spoke about his experiences and displayed sex toys and a sex guide at his home in Jeddah.

Mr Abdul Jawad had publicly apologised, saying producers at the TV station had tricked him into some of his accounts.

During the show on Lebanon’s LBC, the father-of-four told how he first had sex with a neighbour when he was 14.

He also described how he used the Bluetooth function on his mobile phone to pick up women in the kingdom.

A police spokesman in Jeddah said Mr Abdul Jawad’s appearance had violated Saudi Arabia’s Islamic sharia law code and was against Saudi customs.

He was detained at his apartment at the Red Sea port city before being fingerprinted and turned over to criminal investigators, according to media reports.

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

South Asia

Pakistan: Muslims Burn 75 Christian Homes and 2 Churches in Punjab

An alleged accusation of blasphemy sparks violence. The Pakistani president Zardari assures compensation for damages to the victims and sent the Minister for Minorities and Human Rights to express the government’s solidarity with the Christian community attacked.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — A crowd of Muslims looted and set on fire 75 houses of Christians and burned two churches in the village of Korian, Toba Tek Singh District in Punjab. Charges of alleged blasphemy against Mukhtar Masih, Talib Masih and the latter’s son, Imran Maseeh unleashed the violent attack. The three hare accused of having desecrated the Koran during a wedding ceremony.

According to local sources, the attackers came from a village near Korian. On July 30 they raided the homes of Christians and a group of them tried to stage a sort of public trial to extort apologies from Talib Masih for the act of which he was accused. The crowd then blocked the road connecting Faisalabad to Gojra and the entrance to the barracks of the village firemen, hampering rescue efforts to extinguish fires.

The Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, has expressed serious concern over the incident: “It is a fact that goes against the spirit of Islam and the rules of civil society where laws are manipulated and the members of a minority are subjected to violence on the basis of real or alleged crimes”.

Zardari has asked the local authorities for a detailed report of the July 31 incident and sent the minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, as well as the minister for human rights, Kamran Michael, to express the closeness of the government to the attacked Christian community. They have ensured that victims will receive compensation for damage suffered.

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


Pakistan: Eight Christians Burned Alive in Punjab

One of them is a child of 7 years. Among the dead there are 4 women. Religious and militant Islamic fundamentalists were inciting the crowd. The fuel is the same as that used in the destruction of Shanti Nagar (1997); Sangla Hill (2005) and Koriyan, a day before. The police accused of negligence.

Gojra (AsiaNews) — Pakistani special forces have taken control of the town of Gojra (Punjab) after yesterday’s bloody episode in which at least 8 people — including 4 women and a child of 7 years — were burned alive and 20 others wounded. At least 50 houses of Christians were burned and destroyed and thousands of faithful fled to escape execution. Relatives of the victims refuse to take care of dead bodies and do not want funerals until the culprits are arrested. Some of the killed have been identified: Hamed Masih, 50, Asia Bibi, 20; Asifa Bibi, 19, Imam Bibi, 22; Musa 7; Akhlas Masih, 40, Parveen, 50.

At least 3 thousand Muslims, after they have were incited by local religious authorities, marched to the Christian village Gojra founded 50 years ago. Groups of young Muslims — perhaps from the Sunni group Sipah-e-Sahabaha — with their faces covered started to shoot wildly. The villagers fled, but some were trapped and were killed by the uncontrollable fire unleashed by the mob.

To burn the houses, the militants used a particular fuel, that is difficult to extinguish. According to witnesses, the same fuel was used in the village of Shanti Nagar, burned in February 2007, in the destruction of the village of Sangla Hill (2005); in the burning of the 50 houses of Christians and the two churches on the evening of July 30 in Koriyan near Gojra.

It all started weeks ago with charges of blasphemy against Talib Masih, who is accused of having burned pages of the Koran during a wedding ceremony on July 29 at Koriyan.

On July 30 hundreds of Islamic militants attacked and set on fire the houses of Christians in Koriyan and two Protestant churches, the Church of Pakistan and the New Apostolic Church. According to police, some Christians fired shots against the militants, further fuelling their violent response.

The minister for minorities, Beat Shahbaz, a Catholic, has accused the police of negligence. The local Christians say they have been requesting the protection of law enforcement officers for days because the situation was tense, but have been ignored.

Some Christians argue that although the police were present during the attack at Gojra, the thugs were not apprehended. Other witnesses say that after a while the police tried to stop them, but the militants also attacked the police injuring some.

Yesterday, as the news of attacks against Christians spread, in Lahore there was a demonstration to demand guarantees of freedom for Christians.

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


Pakistan: New Taliban Code: Don’t Kill Civilians, Don’t Take Ransom

Islamabad, Pakistan — US commanders in Afghanistan aren’t the only ones worried that civilian deaths are costing them hearts and minds. The Taliban, which has planted bombs in schools and occasionally burned its opponents alive, has put out a new code of conduct for militants that appears to be an attempt to project a softer image to the Afghan people.

The little blue booklet, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Rules for Mujahideen,” is sort of a Scouts codee for the Taliban. Approved by Mullah Omar, titular head of the Afghan Taliban. Mujahideen or “holy warriors” are urged not to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity and to always behave “properly” with civilians. Suicide-bombing should only be used on high-value targets, and avoiding civilian casualties is paramount, the booklet says.

“Every member of the Mujahideen must do their best to avoid civilian deaths, civilian injuries and damage to civilian property. Great care must be taken,” the booklet urges Taliban fighters. “Suicide attacks should only be used on high and important targets. A brave son of Islam should not be used for lower and useless targets.”

Yet on Friday, the United Nations reported surging civilian casualties in Afghanistan and said that in the first six months of the year Taliban fighters were responsible for 595 civilian deaths (as opposed to 309 civilians killed by US and allied forces), up from 495 in the same period last year.

Taliban factions hard to control

Analysts say that Mullah Omar is legitimately concerned about the impact of civilian deaths on his group’s image, but that the book also appears to represent an effort to stamp his authority on an increasingly factionalized movement.

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

Far East

Hunan: Police Arrest of Six Protesters Over Polluting Factory Almost Sets Off Riot

The chemical plant involved has been contaminating the local soil with heavy metals for years, causing a number of deaths. Now residents want free medical check-ups and treatment as well as compensation. Police arrest protesters but comes close to provoking a violent reaction in the population which is now laying siege to the local government office and police station.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — More than 1,000 villagers laid siege to a government office and police station in Hunan yesterday in protest against the arrest of six people demonstrating against alleged pollution from a chemical factory. At least four people have died from pollution-related illnesses and many more have been made ill.

Residents in Shuangqiao village, in Zhentou Township, demonstrated on Wednesday calling for free medical check-ups and treatment, as well as compensation for ruined crops and land. They blame the Xianghe Chemical Co which has a plant that is located very close to the village and its farmland. Residents have accused it of contaminating the area with cadmium and indium, heavy metals respectively used in the production of batteries and liquid crystal displays, but which if ingested can cause digestive system failure and other health problems.

Until last May residents in Shuangqiao regularly ate local products. Since then they have had to live on food and water trucked in from elsewhere. Two months ago laboratory tests on soil samples from the village showed that it was poisoned and that it would not be safe for farming for another 60 years.

In the meantime people are dying. A 70-year-old neighbour, Tang Haisheng, died from cadmium poisoning this month. The local government offered 400,000 yuan to the victim’s family to cover up the scandal.

Last week another villager died. Tests found that Xiong Shusheng had 8.9 times the acceptable level of cadmium in his body.

Medical check-ups also found that 181 people working at the chemical plant were ill, a figure probably higher because the area’s actual population is unknown.

The action by residents in Shuangqiao is not unique. Some 87,000 incidents of social unrest were recorded in the country last year, largely due to clashes over land and water pollution.

Throughout the country local authorities have tended to side with industrial groups, convinced that factories bring wealth despite the pollution they cause, and are prepared to use the long arm of the law to defend corporate interests against farmers’ protests.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

700 Die in Fighting in Northern Nigeria

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) — Some 700 people have been killed in clashes with Islamic militants in Nigeria, a military commander told CNN.

The fighting in the northeast Nigerian town of Maiduguri began with attacks by the Muslim militants on police and government targets, starting a week ago.

Col. Ben Ahonotu, commander of the operation to combat Islamic militants, gave the new total.

Previous reports said at least 400 rebels, troops and civilians had died in the region, including Borno, Yobe, Kano and Katsina states. Maiduguri is in Borno state. Ahonotu did not elaborate or provide further information, and it was unclear whether the 700 was in addition to the previous death toll.

Attacks on police and government targets have been reported throughout the region.

Boko Haram, an Islamist sect, wants the government to impose Islamic law, known as sharia, in the entire Muslim-dominated northern half of Nigeria. Sharia is already practiced in some northern states, but the sect wants even tougher religious laws and also opposes Western education.

The southern half of Nigeria is predominantly Christian.

A Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was reported captured Thursday by the military, but was found dead after he was turned over to police. Human rights groups are seeking more information on his death, and have also expressed concern about civilian casualties.

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

Latin America

Lieberman Accuses Venezuelan President of Ties to Islamists

Bogota, 31 July (AKI) — Israel’s hard-line foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has accused Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez of cooperating with Islamic extremists and anti-Semites. He made the remarks as he concluded a 10-day South American visit which included stops in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Colombia.

“I will not speak about intelligence specifics, but we have enough to be concerned about the collaboration between radical branches of Islam and Hugo Chavez,” said Lieberman in an interview with Bogota-based newspaper El Tiempo published on Friday.

“Israel had a bad experience when attacks occurred in Buenos Aires. Today we see the closeness between Chavez and the Iranians, and of course we want to prevent further attacks against Israelis,” Lieberman said when answering questions seeking evidence to support Israel’s claim that the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia militant movement Hezbollah has cells in Venezuela.

Israel’s claims of Venezuela’s links to Hezbollah — made to a Jewish News Agency of Argentina by an Israeli diplomat accompanying Lieberman — were vehemently denied by Venezuela’s foreign ministry.

Lieberman also accused Chavez of anti-Semitism after the Venezuelan president said the United States has turned neighbouring Colombia into a Latin American version of Israel by setting up a military platform there.

The allegations by Chavez show “xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Israelism. It is not a new phenomenon, and it is regrettable that it exists in the 21st century after the Holocaust: terrorism against the people of Israel, and the use of such anti-Semitic language.”

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has expressed explicit support for Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment programme, which the US and other powers fear is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

Iran has recently sought to expand its interests and make new allies in the Latin American region, specifically with Bolivia and Venezuela, both considered ‘hostile’ by the United States.

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


Venezuela Still Aids Colombia Rebels, New Material Shows

CARACAS, Venezuela — Despite repeated denials by President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan officials have continued to assist commanders of Colombia’s largest rebel group, helping them arrange weapons deals in Venezuela and even obtain identity cards to move with ease on Venezuelan soil, according to computer material captured from the rebels in recent months and under review by Western intelligence agencies.

The materials point to detailed collaborations between the guerrillas and high-ranking military and intelligence officials in Mr. Chávez’s government as recently as several weeks ago, countering the president’s frequent statements that his administration does not assist the rebels. “We do not protect them,” he said in late July.

The new evidence — drawn from computer material captured from the rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC — comes at a low point for ties between Venezuela and Colombia. Mr. Chávez froze diplomatic relations in late July, chafing at assertions by Colombia’s government that Swedish rocket launchers sold to Venezuela ended up in the hands of the FARC. Venezuela’s reaction was also fueled by Colombia’s plans to increase American troop levels there.

“Colombia’s government is trying to build a case in the media against our country that serves its own political agenda,” said Bernardo Álvarez, Venezuela’s ambassador in Washington, describing the latest intelligence information as “noncorroborated.”

Mr. Chávez has disputed claims of his government’s collaboration with the rebels since Colombian forces raided a FARC encampment in Ecuador last year. During the raid, Colombian commandos obtained the computers of a FARC commander with encrypted e-mail messages that described a history of close ties between Mr. Chávez’s government and the rebel group, which has long crossed over into Venezuelan territory for refuge.

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

Immigration

Arizona: DPS Stops Refrigerated Truck With Produce and 97 Illegal Immigrants

Chilling in 34 Degrees

Arizona authorities stopped a refrigerated truck hauling fruit and found almost 100 illegal immigrants — some as young as 9 — crammed inside the trailer in near-freezing temperatures, officials said Thursday.

A tip from federal agents led an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer to make the stop for an equipment violation Wednesday night on Interstate 19, north of the border city of Nogales.

During a search of the trailer, the officer discovered 96 immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala in the trailer, which had an inside temperature of 34 degrees and was also carrying 17 pallets of mangoes, authorities said. But the immigrants hadn’t been in the trailer very long and no one was injured, the department said.

Another undocumented immigrant was discovered in the truck’s cab. A breakdown of the number and children and adults was not immediately available. The children ranged in age from 9 to 12.

The undocumented immigrants will be sent back to their home countries, officials said.

Authorities said the driver of the trailer — Luis Antonio Mendoza, 26, of Fresno, Calif. — was arrested and charged Thursday with conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants for profit.

[Return to headlines]


Home Office: ‘Support Our Wars or You’ll be Denied a UK Passport’

New rules on citizenship could bar immigrants who use the ancient British right to protest

Immigrants who take part in protests against British troops could be denied citizenship of this country under controversial new Home Office rules.

The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, will launch a consultation tomorrow on a new points-based system for would-be migrants according to their behaviour, as well as skills and qualifications.

Mr Johnson, writing in the News of the World, said: “Bad behaviour will be penalised, and only those with enough points will earn the right to a British passport.”

While he did not explicitly point to those who take part in anti-war demonstrations, the newspaper reported that this would be included in examples of “bad behaviour”.

But there was confusion over the policy last night, as the Home Office appeared to backtrack on whether protesters would be penalised.

An aide to Mr Johnson said the Home Office was consulting on what constituted bad behaviour, but refused to comment on the issue of protesters.

Earlier this year, troops on a homecoming march in Luton were jeered by Muslim protesters carrying placards that read “Butchers” and “Animals”. However, there was no suggestion that the protesters were, in fact, immigrants, so the alleged rules would not apply in any case.

While inciting hatred is a crime, the suggestion that taking part in an anti-war protest could be a bar to a British passport would be highly controversial and draw accusations of pandering to the right.

The new rules would also see the period for which foreigners have to work in the UK before becoming eligible for citizenship doubling from five to 10 years. Applicants from outside the EU are already subject to a points-based system that covers skills, but the tougher rules would sever the “link between temporary work and becoming a permanent UK citizen”, Mr Johnson wrote.

“Already we require that people earn the right to become citizens by paying taxes, speaking English and obeying the law,” Mr Johnson added. “Tomorrow I will go even further, unveiling my new citizenship proposals which will require that people earn points for, among other things, their skills, their job and their qualifications.”

As Mr Johnson risked charges of playing tough on immigration, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, stoked the row over the Conservative Party’s new alliance with the far right in Europe. Mr Miliband issued a thinly veiled attack on a Polish politician accused of anti-Semitism.

The Foreign Secretary said David Cameron’s decision to support Michal Kaminski as leader of the Tories’ new Euro-grouping had provoked “real cause for concern” among Britain’s Jewish community. Mr Kaminski, a member of the far-right Polish Law and Justice Party, has denied claims that he opposed an apology by his countrymen in 2001 for the massacre of hundreds of Jews in Jedwabne in July 1941.

The Foreign Secretary, the son of Jewish refugees of the Holocaust, said: “David Cameron has shown little appetite for tough decisions in his career to date. On this rare occasion, he has decided to expend some serious political capital. And on what? On supporting a man like Michal Kaminski for a position of influence in the European Parliament over a moderate and loyal member of his own party.

“It has given key communities in Britain real cause for concern. Against the best advice of foreign leaders and British business, he drove the Tories out of the mainstream and into the right-wing margins of Europe. This reversion to the right-wing extremes of his own party should give people a strong sense of what both he and his party believe in, and it has nothing to do with the best interests of Britain.”

Mr Kaminksi has insisted he is not anti-Semitic, and claims he has spent “a lifetime of work supporting Israel and the Jewish community in Poland”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Migrant Hid in Border Agency Bus to Reach UK…

…and twenty immigration officers failed to spot him

An illegal immigrant is on the run after smuggling himself into Britain underneath a coach full of Border Agency officers returning from France.

The immigration officers — whose job is to stop illegal immigrants entering the country — were oblivious to the stowaway hiding between the fuel tank and the chassis of the coach bringing them through the Channel Tunnel until they arrived at their depot in Folkestone.

The man then made his break for freedom, to join the estimated 725,000 other illegal immigrants living here.

The coach driver, a contractor who does not work for the government agency, gave chase but failed to catch him.

If he is caught, it could take years to deport him, largely as a result of human-rights laws.

The humiliating incident comes after repeated complaints that Labour has failed to put a stop to the vast numbers of illegal immigrants who pour across the UK’s borders every year.

New figures published last week revealed that the number of migrants arrested after hiding in the backs of lorries and vans nearly doubled in the first half of this year — up to 13,715 compared to 7,760 in the same period last year.

It is the first time an illegal migrant has been known to use Border Agency transport to gain entry to Britain from Calais, where at least 2,000 people are sleeping rough, hoping to make it across the Channel.

A political row has now erupted because no action will be taken against the coach driver hired by the Border Agency — unlike hundreds of other lorry drivers who have been prosecuted for unwittingly allowing an illegal immigrant into Britain.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘It’s absolutely astonishing that this could happen under the very noses of the UK Border Agency.

‘It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. It highlights what a shambles our border controls have become.

‘There will be hauliers up and down the country who will be absolutely furious that they have incurred huge fines when they have had people who have stowed away on their lorries. Yet the UK Border Agency’s driver doesn’t appear to be receiving the same treatment.’

The stowaway clambered under the coach on Wednesday when it was parked at the Eurotunnel shuttle terminal at Calais, waiting to bring back immigration officials after a day spent working to stop illegal immigrants coming into the UK.

The man hung on to the coach inches from its rear wheels during the 35-minute journey on a train carriage through the Channel Tunnel.

The coach — hired from a sub-contractor — was carrying at least 20 agency staff.

After being whisked through Customs and immigration checkpoints at the Eurotunnel terminal near Folkestone, the coach continued to the agency’s depot at the nearby Shearway Business Park, to drop off the officers so they could drive home.

A few moments later, the man dropped down from the coach on to the ground and fled. The coach driver, who was still in the vehicle, ran after him, but was unable to catch up.

By last night, neither Kent Police nor immigration officials had been able to find the man.

Border Agency officials insisted the driver had carried out a full list of checks on his vehicle. These included ensuring it was locked securely while parked in Folkestone and Calais, checking underneath the vehicle at various times during the trip and inspecting the engine and luggage compartments for stowaways.

However, the decision not to take legal action may anger other commercial drivers who have not been treated so leniently.

Some British haulage firms have been fined up to £300,000 after illegal immigrants were found hidden in their vehicles. Individual drivers have been handed mandatory £2,000 fines for each illegal migrant they carried.

Many have claimed they had no idea they were carrying unwanted passengers.

Under Carriers’ Liability legislation, drivers can face fines if they fail to make adequate checks of their vehicle for stowaways — which is why the coach driver in this case is unlikely to face further action.

A Home Office spokesperson confirmed: ‘An illegal entrant entered the UK by hiding underneath a coach returning from France.

‘The coach was contracted by the UK Border Agency. This is further evidence of the extreme and dangerous illegal measures that are being taken to enter the UK.

‘We will continue to work closely with the French authorities, travel industry and port operators to protect the UK borders to combat illegal immigration.

‘The man is still at large. He was able to abscond. Local police are carrying out an intensive search and we are continuing to try to identify him and hope to apprehend him as soon as possible.

‘Further security improvements will now be put in place and a full investigation is being conducted.’

A source added: ‘On this occasion, it is unlikely that civil action will be taken against the coach driver.’

When the UK Border Agency was launched in April 2008, to replace the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, the Home Secretary at the time, Jacqui Smith, claimed it would boost the fight against illegal immigration.

She said: ‘We have brought together customs officers and immigration officers to give us a stronger force at the border — more protection against organised crime, illegal immigration and terrorism.

‘The staff are keen and enthusiastic to work to make sure that we can really put that protection for our borders in place.’

The 16,000 agency staff wear smart blue suits while carrying out frontline duties at ports and airports. Three months ago, it was revealed that the agency is spending nearly £8million a year on advertising and public relations out of its annual budget of £3billion.

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are believed to be in Britain working in casual jobs beyond the reach of the authorities.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Tracking Africa’s People Smugglers

Human smugglers are running a complex multi-million dollar network, fleecing distressed Somalis seeking a way out of their war-torn country and desperate Ethiopians caught up in vicious cycles of hunger, floods and political repression.

Thousands of people leave their countries every year, trekking thousands of miles through eight countries from the Horn of Africa, via East Africa down to South Africa.

Bribes oil their journeys across the region by air, overland and sea.

And immigration and police are complicit. The state of the airports and the corruption that goes on there mirrors the body politic of the countries involved. And this has security implications for the countries involved.

In a recent report on smuggling in the region, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) noted that “guardians of national border integrity… are deeply compromised, creating a threat to national security”.

It says their complicity is keeping the smuggling business afloat and that they “should be considered part of the illegal and abusive enterprise” where “cupidity appears to be the foremost and only visible motivation”.

Huge sums

IOM’s Tal Raviv, based in Nairobi, acknowledges that the smuggling ring is “sophisticated.”

“Tens of thousands of people are able to move from Somalia and Ethiopia, all the way down to South Africa, and they arrive successfully,” she said.

“All the borders are porous, it’s just that,” points out Mokotedi Mpshe, who heads South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority.

Mr Mpshe knows the extent to which corruption has permeated his society.

“Some government officials can let you down. We may try to fight human trafficking, but at the same time there may be elements amongst ourselves that are working against us,” he said.

Cash-strapped governments can’t match the huge sums smugglers pay immigration and police officers to ease the path of illegal immigrants en route to South Africa.

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

Culture Wars

Invite to Deface Bible Withdrawn

“Visitors were encouraged to “write themselves back in to the Bible”

An artist who created an artwork in which visitors were encouraged to deface a copy of the Bible has asked for it to be put in a glass case.

Jane Clarke, herself a Christian, had said she wanted people who felt marginalised to be able to write their stories back into the Bible.

But the exhibit, part of an exhibition about sexuality at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art, was the subject of protest.

Christian groups complained visitors were writing obscene messages.

The Bible will remain on display in a glass case and the public will be able to write their comments in another book alongside.

Sheets from this book will be inserted in the Bible by curatorial staff.

Ms Clarke, who devised the exhibit, is a minister with the Metropolitan Community Church, which has a specific outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

A statement from Culture and Sport Glasgow, which runs the gallery, said she had requested the changes.

Ms Clarke said: “Writing our names in the margins of a Bible was to show how we have been marginalised by many Christian churches, and also our desire to be included in God’s love.

“As a young Christian I was encouraged by my church to write my own insights in the margins of the Bible I used for my daily devotions — this was an extension of that idea. I still have that Bible, although it’s rather tatty now.”

She added: “It was never my intention to offend anyone — believers and non-believers alike. I had hoped that people would show respect for the Bible, for Christianity and indeed for the Gallery of Modern Art. I am saddened that some people have chosen to write offensive messages.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Prez Honoring Jim Jones-Supporting Milk

Names ‘gay’ activist Medal of Freedom winner

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says he’s uncertain if the briefing material given to President Obama when he decided to award Harvey Milk a presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously included Milk’s well-documented advocacy for the late Jim Jones, the leader of the massacred hundreds in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978.

The issue came up during a White House press briefing the day after President Obama included Milk, a homosexual leader in San Francisco who was victim of a murder, among those listed for the president’s Medal of Freedom awards.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Teacher Who Complained About Training Day ‘Promoting Gay Rights’ Is Cleared

A senior teacher who was suspended after complaining that a training day for staff was used to promote gay rights has been reinstated.

Kwabena Peat, 54, is to return to his £50,000-a-year job at a North London school next term after his plight was highlighted by The Mail on Sunday in April.

Mr Peat was one of several Christian staff who walked out of the compulsory training session in January after an invited speaker questioned why heterosexuality was assumed to be natural.

Mr Peat, a history teacher who is also a head of year, said he had expected the session on child protection issues merely to provide information to help teachers tackle homophobic bullying.

He sent a written complaint to three staff members involved in organising the session and was then suspended because they said they felt harassed by the letter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Pope Calls for Prayers for Refugees and Persecuted Christians

This is Benedict XVI’s prayer intention for the month of August. The pope hopes that “ public opinion more is informed by the problem of millions of displaced persons and refugees” and calls for “equality” and “religious freedom” for “those Christians who are discriminated against and persecuted in many countries in the name of Christ” .

Vatican City (AsiaNews) — The Pope calls on Catholics worldwide to pray for refugees and persecuted Christians. In his prayer intentions for August, Benedict XVI invites the faithful to invoke the Lord “so that public opinion may be more aware of the problem of millions of displaced persons and refugees and find solutions to their often tragic situation.”

Along with concern for the refugees, the Pope also recalled “those Christians who are discriminated against and persecuted in many countries because of the name of Christ” and invites us to pray so that “human rights, equality and religious freedom are recognized so that they can live and profess their faith freely.” According to recent statistics, about 42 million refugees are living around the world. Most of them come from so-called developing countries. 2009 saw 700 thousand cases less than in 2008, but also the emergence of new emergencies.

Asia significantly reflects the extension of the phenomenon. Almost every country in the continent has to deal with displaced persons and so-called internally displaced persons (IDPs). There are persistent situations such as those of the Philippines, where the ten-year war in Mindanao with the Muslim separatists MILF has caused more than 200 thousand refugees. Added to these are new areas such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka. At the end of the conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the military, there were 300 thousand IDPs. In May, Pakistan registered a mass exodus, with 834 thousand civilians abandoning their homes in the Swat valley to escape the Taliban.

War is the main cause of the 42 million refugees worldwide. And very often conflicts and violence are rooted in hatred against religion. Even in this tragic combination Asia offers dramatic examples. The end of August marks the one year anniversary since the anti-Christian pogrom of Orissa, when rampaging Hindu fundamentalists caused thousands of refugees and hundreds of deaths. In the Pakistanis districts of North-West Frontier Provincethe violence of the Taliban and imposition of Sharia have forced the non-Muslim minorities to flee.

Asia also registers numerous cases of discrimination on the basis of religion. Currently, out of over 52 Asian countries, at least 32 to some degree limit the mission of Christians: Islamic nations (from the Middle East to Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia) make it difficult for those who want to convert; India and Sri Lanka are increasingly pushing for anti-conversion laws; the Central Asian countries — excluding to some extent Kazakhstan — restrict religious freedom, the communist countries (China, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea) stifle or even persecute the Church. Often religious discrimination does not result in open conflict, but remains a latent phenomenon that permeates society and only emerges from time to time in open cruelty. One of the most recent cases is that of Vietnam where in recent days priests and faithful of the diocese of Vinh are suffering violence and arrests.

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


Revealed: Living Near a Wind Farm Could Seriously Damage Your Health

Living too close to wind turbines can cause heart disease, tinnitus, vertigo, panic attacks, migraines and sleep deprivation, according to new research by a leading American doctor.

Dr Nina Pierpont, a top New York paediatrician, has been studying the effects of living near wind turbines in the UK, US, Canada, Ireland and Italy for more than five years.

She has identified a new health risk — wind turbine syndrome (WTS) — causing a wide range of problems ranging from internal pulsation, quivering, nervousness, fear, chest tightness and tachycardia — increased heart rate.

Turbine noise can also cause nightmares and other disorders in children as well as harm development in the young, she claims, but points out that not all people living near turbines are at a high risk of developing problems.

Dr Pierpont’s studies indicate that humans are affected by low-frequency noise and vibrations from wind turbines through their ear bones, similar to fish and other amphibians.

‘It has been gospel among acousticians for years that if a person can’t hear a sound, it’s too weak for it to be detected or registered by any other part of the body,’ she said. ‘But this is no longer true. Humans can hear through the bones. This is amazing. It would be heretical if it hadn’t been shown in a well-conducted experiment.’

In the UK, Dr Christopher Hanning, founder of the British Sleep Society, who has also backed her research, said: ‘Dr Pierpont’s detailed recording of the harm caused by wind turbine noise will lay firm foundations for future research. It should be required reading for all planners considering wind farms.

[…]

The American added that the wind turbine companies constantly argue that the health problems are “imaginary, psychosomatic or malingering”. But she said their claims are “rubbish” and that medical evidence supports that the reported symptoms are real.

‘The wind industry will try to discredit me and disparage me, but I can cope with that. she added. ‘This is not unlike the tobacco industry dismissing health issues from smoking. The wind industry, however, is not composed of clinicians, nor is it made up of people suffering from wind turbines.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Warning: Oil Supplies Are Running Out Fast

Catastrophic shortfalls threaten economic recovery, says world’s top energy economist

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

The world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production, a leading energy economist has warned.

Higher oil prices brought on by a rapid increase in demand and a stagnation, or even decline, in supply could blow any recovery off course, said Dr Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the respected International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, which is charged with the task of assessing future energy supplies by OECD countries.

the first detailed assessment of more than 800 oil fields in the world, covering three quarters of global reserves, has found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now running at nearly twice the pace as calculated just two years ago. On top of this, there is a problem of chronic under-investment by oil-producing countries, a feature that is set to result in an “oil crunch” within the next five years which will jeopardise any hope of a recovery from the present global economic recession, he said.

In a stark warning to Britain and the other Western powers, Dr Birol said that the market power of the very few oil-producing countries that hold substantial reserves of oil — mostly in the Middle East — would increase rapidly as the oil crisis begins to grip after 2010.

[…]

“One day we will run out of oil, it is not today or tomorrow, but one day we will run out of oil and we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day,” Dr Birol said. “The earlier we start, the better, because all of our economic and social system is based on oil, so to change from that will take a lot of time and a lot of money and we should take this issue very seriously,” he said.

“The market power of the very few oil-producing countries, mainly in the Middle East, will increase very quickly. They already have about 40 per cent share of the oil market and this will increase much more strongly in the future,” he said.

There is now a real risk of a crunch in the oil supply after next year when demand picks up because not enough is being done to build up new supplies of oil to compensate for the rapid decline in existing fields.

The IEA estimates that the decline in oil production in existing fields is now running at 6.7 per cent a year compared to the 3.7 per cent decline it had estimated in 2007, which it now acknowledges to be wrong.

“If we see a tightness of the markets, people in the street will see it in terms of higher prices, much higher than we see now. It will have an impact on the economy, definitely, especially if we see this tightness in the markets in the next few years,” Dr Birol said…

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4 comments:

Rick Darby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Baron Bodissey said...

Rick Darby --

Gates of Vienna's rules about comments require that they be civil, temperate, on-topic, and show decorum. Your comment violated the last of these rules. We keep a PG-13 blog, and exclude foul language, explicit descriptions, and epithets. This is why I deleted your comment.

Use of asterisks is an appropriate alternative.

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Rick Darby said...

In other news, U2 is asking fans to pay an extra fifty cents on concert tickets to offset their carbon footprint when traveling to see the group perform.

U2's lead singer and moral exhibitionist Bono once asked the concert audience for dead silence.

He then proceeded to clap every few seconds.

"Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies," he said.

A voice burst from the audience: "Well then, stop f***in' doin' it!"

Rick Darby said...

Okay, Baron. Sorry.

DP111 said...

"In principle, Jihad is an offensive Jihad, which was instated in order to spread Islam throughout the world"

LINK

Links to MEMRI, which includes the transcript, on the above site.