Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/23/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/23/2009The variously-spelled Col. Moamar Ghedafi of Libya has been snubbed by the town of Bedford, New York. It is Col. Qadafi’s habit to pitch a Bedouin tent wherever he travels, and inhabit it in lieu of hotels or other buildings. The Colonel was in the area to rant at the UN, and had rented a piece of property in Bedford from Donald Trump for the occasion. His minions began to erect their leader’s abode, but the town authorities found the tent to be in violation of local ordinances, and issued a stop order to force it to be taken down.

There’s no word whether Col. Ghaddafi thereupon took advantage of the hospitality offered by one of Manhattan’s many homeless shelters.

In other news, female Swedish soldiers are complaining about inferior government-issued brassieres, which they allege have a tendency to catch fire. It’s understandable why this might be a concern, since Swedish women are reported to be quite hot.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, VH, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Italy: Crisis for Foreigners as Well
UK: Tobin Tax ‘Worth a Look’: Brown
 
USA
AA Cuts Insurance Coverage for Retirees
Are Communists (Or Neo-Communists) Dangerous?
CAIR: Penn. High School Drops Anti-Islam ‘Obsession’ Video
Catholic Church Funding ACORN
Different Discipline for Kids Based on Their Race
FCC Wants to Extend Net Neutrality to Wireless Networks, But AT&T and Others Are Opposed
FCC’s Diversity Czar: ‘White People’ Need to be Forced to ‘Step Down’ ‘So Someone Else Can Have Power’
Giuliani: Free Enterprise in America is ‘Under Assault’
Health Bill’s Deadly Fine Print
High School Class in Shock After Seeing Fitna
New Case to Demand Evidence of Hawaiian Birth
Obama Says U.S. ‘Determined’ To Combat Climate Change, Despite Senate Delay
Pork Loin Thief in OKC Stashes Stolen Meat Down Pants
Reid Threatens ‘Nuclear Option’ To Pass Health Care Reform as Panel Starts Work
Running the Numbers on Spreading the Wealth
Too Much Obama
US Town Bans Libyan Leader’s Tent
US, Switzerland Sign Treaty to Share Tax Info
 
Europe and the EU
Brown to Offer to Cut Nuclear Sub Fleet: Downing Street
Dell Wins EU OK to Get Euro54.5 Million Polish Aid
EU: US Views Europe as Little More Than a Trade Partner
Female Swedish Soldiers Complain About ‘Flammable’ Bras
France: Fashion: Emir of Ajman Bids to Take Over Maison Lacroix
France: 9 Bln Euros for Council Houses From Bank
Germany: Fresh Challenge to Lisbon Could be ‘Explosive’
Germany: Police Raid NPD Office for Sending Racist Hate Mail
Ireland: Banks Face Crackdown by EU Over Hidden Fees
Ireland: Archbishop Lashes Tiernan for Joking About Holocaust
Italy: Health Inquiry Reveals ‘Criminal System’ In Bari
Netherlands: Can Cousin Marriages be Banned?
Spain: Women’s Wages Are 34% Less Than Those of Men
Sweden: Helicopter Heist Causes Cash Flow Concerns
Sweden: Man Arrested in Helicopter Heist Probe
The Euro: Why Britain is Still Better Off Out
UK: Boy, 9, Told to Apologise for ‘Racist’ Taunt to Polish Classmate While Playing Soldiers in Lesson
UK: Judge Won’t Name Feral Youth Who Punched Artist Into Car That Killed Him
UK: Kent Attracts New Type of Tourist: Europeans Seeking Easy Bankruptcy
UK: Outrage and Hope in Today’s England
UK: Student Jailed Over Internet Guns
UK: Thousands of Young Children Are Buying Coloured Wristbands Every Week. But Parents Have No Idea of Their True Disturbing Meaning…
UK: Why David Cameron is Keeping Quiet About Europe
Welsh Steam Train Forced to Use Coal Shipped 3,000 Miles From Siberia When Local Coal Mine is Only Three Miles Away
‘Yes’ Camp’s Funding Under Fire as Second Irish Vote on Lisbon Treaty Looms
 
Balkans
Croatia-EU: Ambassador Hopes Entry Treaty Signed by July
EU Police Snatch Serb War Crimes Suspects
Kosovo: EU Police Arrest 4 Serb War Crime Suspects
Serbia: Former Policemen Cleared Over Murder of Three Ethnic Albanians
 
Mediterranean Union
Music: Maestro Briouel Awarded ‘Civilta’ Mediterranea’ Prize
 
North Africa
Italy: Algerian Terror Suspect Arrested in Rome
Morocco: After Rainfalls, Dams’ Levels Exceed 90%
Tunisia: Film Festival to Focus on Women
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Cast Lead: Gaza Pays the Price, 514 Mln Euros of Damages
 
Middle East
Barry Rubin: the Increasingly Obvious Failure of Obama’s Middle East Policy
Christian Tombs Desecrated in an Historic Istanbul Cemetery
Iran Bans “Curvy” Mannequins in Shop Windows
Iran Police ‘Target Mannequins’
Israel Won’t ‘Dignify’ Brzezinski With Response
Russian Links Iran Sanctions to US Missile Change
Russian Leader Open to New Iran Nukes Sanctions
Saudi Arabia to Send Troops to Iraq?
Tehran Dumps Dollar for Euro
Turkey: Shooting Stone Throwers Not a Crime
 
Caucasus
Chechen Leader Claims US, Britain Back Rebels
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Grief and Emotion at Funerals of Parachutists
Diana West: Surging for Nothing
Diana West: “The War in Washington”
Indonesia: Central Government to Deal With Provincial Adultery Stoning Law
Pakistani President Comes Out Against the Misuse of the Blasphemy Law
Russia Presses US to Destroy Afghan Poppy Crop
Swedish Officials Meet Suspects in Pakistan Terror Probe
UK’s Brown Seeks Fewer UK Troops in Afghanistan
 
Far East
Obama, Hu Vow to Forge Dynamic Ties
Policy Center Urges Deeper US-China Relationship
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
S. Africa: Murder Down; Rape, Robbery, Hijacking Up
U.S. To Keep South Africa Embassy Closed After Threat
 
Latin America
Dutch Pilot Held Over Argentine “Death Flights”
 
Immigration
Italy: 757 Migrants Pushed Back in 4 Months, Gov’t
Italy: Govt Rejects ‘Push- Back’ Criticism
Keep Out, Britain is Full Up
Netherlands: No New Research Into Cost of Immigration
Swedish Integration Policies ‘A Failure’
The Calais ‘Jungle’ Has Been Cleared — But This Tide of Despair Has Only Just Begun
Web Forums Help Iraqi Refugees Adapt to America
 
Culture Wars
Declaration of Independence Gets PC Revision for Kids
 
General
Rename UN Security Council the Terror Council: Gaddafi’s Bizarre Rant at General Assembly
The UN Loves Barack Obama Because He is Weak
U.N. Climate Summit Leaves Large Carbon Footprint

Financial Crisis

Italy: Crisis for Foreigners as Well

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 22 — The economic crisis is also being felt by foreign workers in Italy. Italian businesses have resized their hiring forecasts for immigrants: 92,500 new hirings for 2009, compared to the 171,900 foreseen for 2008. So emerged from the most recent ‘International Migration Outlook’ report, that every year Censis compiles for the OECD as a part of its role as Italian correspondent, presented to CNEL. A home has become an ever more pressing problem for immigrants: there has been an increase in evictions due to lack of payment caused by rent increases or loss of work (above all in the north, where immigrant families represent 22% of the total number of families evicted). At the same time the purchasing of homes has also come to a stop for immigrants: between 2007 and 2008 property purchases by immigrants decreased by 23.7% interrupting a four year growth cycle. The effects of the crisis has also been seen in remittances: the per capita figure that immigrants send home every month has decreased 10% (155 euros in 2008 compared to 171 in 2007) and the total amount of remittances has also decreased (6.4 billion in 2008). Difficulties connected to the crisis that Italians are feeling, the report revealed, can also have caused lower tolerance towards immigrants, as increasing episodes of discrimination show, 22.1% of which are suffered at work: 32.1% of reported cases regard access to the job market, 23.2% work conditions, 19.6% mobbing. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Tobin Tax ‘Worth a Look’: Brown

LONDON (AFP) — Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the introduction of a global tax to reduce risky behaviour by banks was “worth looking at”, as he prepares for a G20 summit next weekend.

But Brown said greater cooperation between countries to stop excessive risk taking was required before such a tax could be considered.

France has proposed introducing a tax to be levied on every financial transaction, known as a Tobin Tax, with the billions of euros raised to be used to support economic development.

Brown said such an idea was worth consideration, but global cooperation that is “cemented” and “action that is successful against tax havens” were required before taking any steps towards the measure.

The prime minister, briefing journalists on Monday before leaving for the UN General Assembly in New York and then the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, said the level of cooperation to prevent risky deals was still unsatisfactory.

“The first thing is to have the global coordination to involve every major country and we are not there yet,” he said.

“The second thing is to deal with tax havens. If one jurisdiction can fail to implement a proposal such as this it makes it difficult for other jurisdictions to follow.

“So I think what you will see this week and particularly next week is action against tax havens that are non-cooperative around the world.”

Most commentators expect Britain and the United States to oppose such a tax, fearing its impact on their major financial centres.

The Tobin Tax is named after the US economist James Tobin, who first suggested it in the 1970s.

The idea was revived in August by Adair Turner, the chairman of the financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), as a way of providing a safeguard against another economic slowdown.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

USA

AA Cuts Insurance Coverage for Retirees

This is a story that affects a lot of people, but they’re all former American Airlines employees and their families.

American Airlines has provided insurance coverage for its retirees to supplement their Medicare coverage. In fact, since 1990, many retirees contributed money while they were in the work force to pre-fund their insurance.

Now, American says the coverage costs too much. As of Jan. 1, retirees age 65 and older, those who didn’t belong to a union, will have to pay for supplemental insurance themselves.

For non-union retirees under age 65, they’ll still get American-provided insurance. But those who prefunded their benefits must begin paying 25 percent of the insurance premium.

American will refund any unused portion of the prefunding contributions made by retirees. But the retirees are mad because they thought there was a promise — if they did their job and helped pay for their retiree health coverage, American would provide the insurance. They did their part, and they want American to do its part.

American is seeking to make its unionized employees go under the same setup as well, just another item of disagreement between it and its unions.

For those affected, American has provided some background information. Keep reading if you’re interested…

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]


Are Communists (Or Neo-Communists) Dangerous?

Neo-communism is a view whose members consider themselves “citizens of the world,” not of America, and who therefore agitate for open borders and want the morally repulsive collection of autocracies, slaveocracies and kleptocracies called “the United Nations” to reign over us and the world.

A neo-communist is someone who believes that America is ruled by corporations who put “profit over people” — and thereby show that they don’t understand either profit or people. A neo-communist is someone who is convinced that race, class, and gender hierarchies make it not only legitimate but necessary to describe America as a “white supremacist” society. Neo-communists believe that a revolution is necessary (if not opportune at the moment), that the Consitution is a disposable document, and that America’s communist and Islamo-fascist enemies (Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Hizbollah, the PLO and Hamas), are freedom fighters or at least on the right side of the armageddon that faces us.

These are views shared by The Nation magazine, by Commonsense.org, by the Indymedia crowd, by the social justice movement, by the majority of the Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus on the Democratic side in Congress, and by tens of thousands of university professors who indoctrinate their students in these pernicious ideologies every day. They are the views held by the leaders of ACORN, the SEIU, AFCSME and other leftwing unions, by radical feminists, by organizations like MALDEF and La Raza, by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights who are working to support the Islamo-fascist agenda in America, by the major Muslim organizations including the Muslim Students Association, CAIR, and the Islamic Circle of North America. And I could continue, but why bother? (Those curious enough can pick up a copy of my book Unholy Alliance and read for themselves my views on “The Mind of the Left” and its global struggles.)

This coalition, which I have called the “unholy alliance,” presents a massive threat to America’s security and its individual freedoms and its free market system, and if someone who has been as gutsy in going after America’s enemies generally (and going after the ACLU in particular) as Bill O’Reilly has still doesn’t see this, we have a lot of consciousness raising left to do.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


CAIR: Penn. High School Drops Anti-Islam ‘Obsession’ Video

Civil rights group calls film ‘vehicle for promoting anti-Muslim bigotry’

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Pennsylvania chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-PA) announced today that a high school in that state has dropped an anti-Islam video listed for use in one of its classes.

Earlier this month, CAIR-PA sent a letter to the superintendent of the Council Rock School District expressing concerns about a hate-filled video, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” listed in the syllabus of a course at Council Rock High School in Newtown, Penn.

In her letter, CAIR-PA Director of Civil Rights Marwa El-Turky wrote in part:

“‘Obsession’ is a vehicle for promoting anti-Muslim bigotry that seeks to blur the distinction between violent extremism and mainstream Islam. The use of such an inaccurate and inflammatory film in a world history class would inevitably result in both the promotion of stereotypes and the creation of a hostile learning environment for Muslim students.

“The hate-filled agenda promoted by the film has been repudiated by the Hate Hurts America Multifaith Community Coalition (HHA), a group of religious and civic organizations seeking to challenge hate speech in our society… Those interviewed in Obsession constitute a veritable who’s who of Muslim-bashers. SEE: http://www.obsessionwithhate.com/

“. . .this film is obviously not suitable teaching material for a captive audience of impressionable youth. We therefore respectfully ask that ‘Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West’ be dropped from the curriculum and that representatives of the local Muslim community be invited to offer balanced and accurate information about Islam and the American Muslim experience.”

In his response to CAIR-PA’s concerns, Superintendent of Schools Mark J. Klein noted that the course was eliminated from the curriculum for the 2008-2009 school year and that, “Along with the elimination of this course, we will represent to you that this film will not be used in any other course in Council Rock.”

“We appreciate the school district’s prompt and appropriate response and hope that any future courses touching on Islam will use accurate and balanced educational materials,” said El-Turky.

She noted that a high school in Kentucky was recently involved in a controversy over a similarly anti-Islam video shown in a classroom. The producer of that video, an extremist Dutch politician, recently called for a “head rags tax” on Muslim women who choose to wear Islamic scarves.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Catholic Church Funding ACORN

While Obama has strong ties to ACORN, they were originally established through the U.S. Catholic Church, which has also funded ACORN and similar organizations to the tune of millions of dollars. This is another taboo topic for most of the media. Even conservative news organizations are afraid of raising the issue, apparently fearing being tagged with the “anti-Catholic” label.

But the truth has been seeping out in mysterious ways. In a Politico.com story about Barack Obama’s friendly meeting with the Pope, reporter Josh Gerstein featured information that made it clear that the President’s Catholic connection goes back to his days as a community organizer and that Obama’s associates understand and appreciate this fact.

[…]

Conservative Catholics concerned about this problem have documented that millions of dollars of Catholic money over the last four decades has gone into Saul Alinsky-style networks which pursue their own brand of socialist direct action. CCHD itself acknowledges funding ACORN projects with grants totaling more than $7.3 million during the last 10 years.

[…]

The grants are being used, however, not just to seize power, but to change the minds of traditional Catholics. Indeed, this is a necessary prerequisite for taking power.

Alinskyian training sessions in the religious context are designed not to develop or cultivate a personal relationship with Christ and promote traditional values and cultural institutions but to engage in Marxist political activity and radical change. Stephanie Block puts it this way: “Their worldview is marred by visions of class struggle and perpetual revolution. They are systematically trained to renounce moral truth in favor of consensus-based ‘values.’“

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Different Discipline for Kids Based on Their Race

Opponents call plan 2-tiered double standard, officials call it ‘restorative’

A school district in Arizona has come under fire after a newspaper columnist highlighted the district’s newly adopted racial policy and called it a “two-tiered form of student discipline: one for black and Hispanic students; one for everyone else.”

Arizona Republic columnist Doug MacEachern drew attention to a decision made by the Tucson Unified School District’s board over the summer to adopt a “Post-Unitary Status Plan,” which includes the goal of reducing suspensions and expulsions of minority students to reflect “no ethnic/racial disparities.”

“TUSD principals and disciplinarians (assuming such creatures still exist) are being asked to set two standards of behavior for their students,” MacEachern commented. “Some behavior will be met with strict penalties; some will not. It all depends on the color of the student’s skin.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


FCC Wants to Extend Net Neutrality to Wireless Networks, But AT&T and Others Are Opposed

The FCC sure has a lot on its plate right now.

In addition to sorting out a definition of the term “broadband” and figuring out how to get broadband Internet access to every American, the federal agency is also now looking at whether it should impose net neutrality on the wireless data networks used by cellphone carriers.

But the carriers say that the rules, while they might make sense for traditional broadband, will have unintended consequences in the wireless world.

From AT&T’s statement:

“To paraphrase a recent analyst comment, net neutrality is rooted in an assumption that broadband networks are instantly expandable, to an infinite extent, at little or no cost. To base policy assumptions on such fallacies is to conduct a risky experiment with American broadband investment, nearly all of which is private investment on which our nation depends. This is especially so with U.S. wireless networks, which are facing incredible bandwidth strains, and which require continued private investment at very high levels, and pro-active network management, to ensure service quality for 270 million customers.”

But critics say the carriers are stifling innovation in wireless applications and net neutrality is required to change that situation. For example, this Cnet article points out that Skype — which lets you make free or low-cost phone calls over the Internet — is banned on many carriers, but net neutrality would force those carriers to allow it.

What do you think? Are the carriers right that throwing open wireless networks to any type of application would cripple everyone’s bandwidth? Or should they just suck it up, increase their capacity and embrace net neutrality? And if net neutrality does come to the wireless world and the carriers all raise the prices of their data plans by $10 or $20 a month to pay for the capacity expansion, would you still be in favor of wireless net neutrality?

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]


FCC’s Diversity Czar: ‘White People’ Need to be Forced to ‘Step Down’ ‘So Someone Else Can Have Power’

Mark Lloyd is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Chief Diversity Officer, a.k.a. the Diversity Czar. And he has in a recently discovered bit of archive audio goodness detailed his rather disturbing perspective on race, power and the American system.

This is of course in addition to Lloyd’s rather disturbing perspective on the First Amendment.

“It should be clear by now that my focus here is not freedom of speech or the press. This freedom is all too often an exaggeration. At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies.

“[T]he purpose of free speech is warped to protect global corporations and block rules that would promote democratic governance.”

And Lloyd’s rather disturbing perspective on Venezuelan Communist dictator Hugo Chavez’s “incredible…democratic revolution.” To go with Lloyd’s bizarre admiration for the thuggishly fascistic manner in which “Chavez began to take very seriously the media in his country.”

We have said repeatedly that Lloyd is a man myopically focused on race. What is revealed here is more than just that. Listening to excerpts of his offerings at a May 2005 Conference on Media Reform: Racial Justice reveals a man that finds great fault with our nation’s power structure — as he defines and sees it. And in his racially-warped, finite pie worldview, too many white people sit alone in the too few spots atop the heap. They’re “good white people,” mind you, but …

This… there’s nothing more difficult than this. Because we have really, truly good white people in important positions. And the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions. And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions we will not change the problem.

We’re in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Giuliani: Free Enterprise in America is ‘Under Assault’

Rudy Giuliani must have been a powerful narcotics prosecutor early in his career — singularly focused on swinging the verdict his way.

That’s the Giuliani I met at the downtown Dallas office of law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLP when the two-term New York mayor, 2008 presidential candidate and now vociferous Obama detractor swept through town earlier this week.

Giuliani was here to meet with partners and clients, which took place in a private box at the “spectacular” Cowboys Stadium.

He carved out a half hour for an interview that was Monday-morning quarterbacking of a different sort.

I set up my first question with a touch of humor, hoping for an icebreaker: “Since we’re limited on time, I thought we ought to narrow the focus: What do you see as the state of free enterprise in America?”

He didn’t blink, smile or miss a beat.

“The state of free enterprise in America is under assault,” he said, moving closer across the conference room table.

We spent the next 34 minutes eye-to-eye, discussing why he’s so concerned.

The Obama administration, he said, has spent the last eight months attempting to take command of the financial industry, banking, auto companies and health care — using crisis as an excuse to implement long-wanted philosophical changes.

“Those of us who disagree with this have to fight to maintain the core principle of private enterprise as the guiding force in America,” he said, tapping a pen to accentuate his point. “Government is not the guiding force in America; private enterprise is.”

Government is a guilty party for the morass we’re in, he said. “So the idea that one of the major players in the mistakes that were made can now bail everyone out is somewhat simplistic …What you’re seeing now with the American people is a reaction against the Obama administration going too far.”

He kept his voice steely calm, his face matter of fact and never relinquished a bipartisan inch.

“I used to run the second-largest hospital system in the country — the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation,” he said. “There’s never been a health care estimate that’s been accurate or accurate low…If he [Obama] says a trillion, I’m afraid you might have to say two trillion. You might have to say two and half.”

If he were president

Giuliani said things would be different if he were president:

He wouldn’t have added a second stimulus package — “pork legislation of massive proportions” — to the one initiated by President George W. Bush.

And he’d be tackling health care with malpractice reform and free-market competition.

He gave kudos to Texas’ malpractice legislation passed in 2003. “States that have not done malpractice reform have doctors leaving and coming to Texas because they can practice medicine here without going bankrupt.”

He’d let competition push down premiums by allowing consumers — you and me — to buy health care coverage across state lines with $15,000 in tax-free income. If we find coverage for less, we’d be able to accumulate the difference in a tax-free health savings account.

“We do not get to make decisions about our health care, which is why it is an out-of-control escalating market,” he said.

But are we really capable of picking out health care plans?

Of course, he said. We buy life and car insurance, don’t we?

Giuliani used plasma TVs to drive home his point: Once a $12,000 purchase, these high-definition flat-screens now run under $4,000 with better technology.

“Companies selling them realized, ‘We can sell 100,000 plasma TVs at the low price point, but we can only sell 10,000 at the high price point. At the high price point, we make a profit. But at the low price point, because of volume, we make a bigger profit.’ “

Still at risk

Giuliani said it’s unfair to classify Republicans as the just-say-no crowd. He and his political cohorts have ideas that have been summarily rejected. “President Obama said he was going to have a meeting with Republicans to discuss health care. He never held a meeting.”

As for banking, Giuliani did allow that a big mistake was made under the Republicans’ watch before the election. Bad assets should have been auctioned off instead of just forking over cash to troubled financial institutions.

By not getting rid of bad loans on balance sheets, banks held on to the money instead of lending it, Giuliani said. “We were hitting them from both ends. One end was saying, ‘Give out the money.’ The other end was saying, ‘You better watch your capital.’… I would have freed that up.”

Commercial real estate will be “the next transition,” he predicted, avoiding the crisis word. “We’re going to have big bumps rather than major catastrophes before we straighten out.”

His law firm was actively engaged in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. So what’s he telling clients today?

Be careful but stand ready, he said. Many investors have stockpiled cash. “They’re beginning to realize that they have to move their cash because there is an inevitable thing that’s going to happen…inflation.”

When does he expect buying distressed real estate to pick up?

Any day now, he said, but we’re not quite there yet. “Everybody wants to buy at the bottom. When they feel they’re at the bottom, you’re going to see a lot of money start to come out.”

Will he run?

So will Giuliani run for president in 2012?

“I’m keeping my options open is how I put it — meaning who knows?” said the 65-year-old, who pulled out of the 2008 race after being defeated by John McCain in the Florida primary. “Things outside yourself determine whether you can run for president and then whether you can win in running for president. Before I would decide to run for president again, I’d have to see those things outside myself lined up correctly.”

How did Sept.11 change his perspective?

“It allows me to accept almost anything that happens,” Giuliani said.

After losing his first New York mayoral race in 1989, Giuliani said he was depressed for four months — rehashing the campaign, feeling he’d let down so many people.

When he lost the primary in 2008, he was extremely disappointed but got over it in less than a week.

“I’d gone through things in life that tell you what is really important: life and death and the security of this country,” he said. “The thing that makes me feel bad about the election now is: I do not agree with the direction of this administration.”

Rudy Giuliani can pack a lot of punch into 34 minutes.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]


Health Bill’s Deadly Fine Print

I am postponing my second column on the direct complicity of doctors and psychologists during the CIA’s torturing of terrorism suspects because of the sudden disclosure that, in the influential Senate Finance Committee’s health-care bill, there is a dangerous provision that could deny crucial health treatments for Medicare patients.

This is the much-publicized and debated Baucus bill, named for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. In its news section, the Wall Street Journal reported (Sept. 17) that this bill “breaks a logjam and is likely to form the core of a bill in the full Senate.”

During the continuous, extensive coverage of this proposed legislation, there has been only very limited mention — and none I’ve seen in the mainstream press — of a section that penalizes doctors for Medicare patients who, for at least five years (from 2015 to 2020), authorize total treatments that wind up in the top 10 percent of national annual Medicare costs per patient.

The 1 in 10 Medicare doctors who spend beyond this limit will themselves lose 5 percent of their own total Medicare reimbursements. Considering the already low rates Medicare doctors get — and the president pledges they will get lower — this could be a heavy penalty.

As Burke Balch, director of the National Right to Life’s Center for Medical Ethics, says: “This (part of the Baucus bill) means that all doctors treating older people will constantly be driven to try to order the least-expensive tests and treatments for fear they will be caught in that top 10 percent. Note that this feature operates independently of any considerations of quality, efficiency or waste. If you authorize enough treatment for your patients, however necessary and appropriate it may be, you are in danger of being one of the 1 in 10 doctors who will be penalized each year.”

[…]

The bluntest assessment of this approach to health-care “reform” is by National Right to Life executive director David N. O’Steen:

“It takes the telltale fingerprints from the government: Instead of bureaucrats directly specifying the treatment denials that will mean death and poorer health for older people, it compels individual doctors to do the dirty work.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


High School Class in Shock After Seeing Fitna

[translated from the Dutch by VH]

“American parents are angry with a teacher from a secondary school, after Fitna was shown in class. One student -according to her father- needed psychological assistance after seeing the film of Geert Wilders.”

A teacher from the County High School in Pulaski (Kentucky), screened the film by Geert Wilders in class on September 11. Students came home so upset after having seen the sixteen-minute film that several parents demanded an apology from the teacher and the school.

“This movie should never have been screened in the classroom of my daughter,” said Bill Curey, one of the fathers. “There are so many violent scenes in Fitna. Since my daughter saw the film, she is no longer the same anymore. She does not go to school and needs professional help now”.

Click here for a video of one of the fathers.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


New Case to Demand Evidence of Hawaiian Birth

Health department chief has affirmed Obama’s records on file

The chief of Hawaii’s Department of Health twice has issued statements trying to convince doubters that President Obama was born in the state, and now those words may backfire if a new legal challenge comes to fruition.

Leo Donofrio, who brought one of the first legal challenges to Obama’s eligibility to be president and unsuccessfully tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved at the time of the election, is reporting on his website that Hawaiian state law requires “information collected and maintained for the purpose of making information available to the general public” be released.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Says U.S. ‘Determined’ To Combat Climate Change, Despite Senate Delay

A failure to address climate change could create an “irreversible catastrophe,” President Obama warns in a speech at the United Nations.

President Obama promised the United Nations Tuesday that his administration is “determined” to do more to address the nation’s climate change obligations.

But left out of the speech to the General Assembly special session on climate change was the political reality the president faces in trying to keep that promise.

While the House passed a sweeping climate change bill this year, it has stalled in the Senate as health care reform dominates the domestic agenda.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Pork Loin Thief in OKC Stashes Stolen Meat Down Pants

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — Police have arrested a man accused of stealing meat from an Oklahoma City Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.

According to police, a Wal-Mart security officer at the Wal-Mart located at 1500 S.W. 59th Street, witnessed 40-year-old Rojelio Martinez enter the store’s meat department and select eight pork loin ribs and put them down his pants.

Martinez attempted to exit the store without paying, and the security officer approached him and identified himself as security. Martinez attempted to run, and the security officer placed him on the ground and handcuffed him.

According to police, the security officer noticed Martinez had tied his shoelaces around his ankles to prevent the meat from falling out of the bottom of his pants.

Martinez was subsequently booked into the Oklahoma County jail on one count of larceny.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]


Reid Threatens ‘Nuclear Option’ To Pass Health Care Reform as Panel Starts Work

The Nevada senator threatened to use a budgetary tool called reconciliation — also known as the “nuclear option” — which would allow Democrats to pass key parts of health care legislation with a simple majority, as opposed to the 60 votes usually needed to avoid a filibuster.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Running the Numbers on Spreading the Wealth

When Barack Obama told Joe the Plumber he planned to “spread the wealth around,” many people didn’t realize he was not talking about spreading the wealth only of the super-rich. Now that Obama is elected, he is moving rapidly to expand welfare handouts for non-taxpayers, running up a tremendous national debt that will inevitably lead to higher taxes on the middle class.

The enormity of this transfer of money away from working, taxpaying Americans to non-taxpayers (who voted overwhelmingly for Obama for president in 2008) has just been detailed in a sensational 53-page report by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to adequately describe the colossal amounts of money involved in the Obama administration’s shocking cash transfers.

Most people don’t realize that the federal budget has become a vast machine for transferring wealth from the upper third of Americans (who pay 90 percent of federal income taxes) to the lowest third of people, who earn less than 200 percent of the government-stipulated “poverty” level and pay no income tax. The size of this massive annual transfer rose by 40 percent to $714 billion over the last 10 years and is projected to rise to $1 trillion per year by the end of Obama’s first term.

[…]

Under Obama’s budget, which has already been passed by Congress, federal welfare spending will increase by $88 billion in 2009, plus an additional $175 billion in 2010. This two-year increase of $263 billion will bring total federal and state welfare handouts to $890 billion a year, which is more than 6 percent of GDP.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Too Much Obama

In the projection of presidential authority, less is more

The President of the United States said that it was remarkable, and it was. He was on the set of Late Show with David Letterman, talking about a shrivelled heart-shaped potato presented to him by a member of the audience. He kept a straight face for a moment, then laughed, and the crowd laughed with him. The President is vulnerable in all the debates that currently fill his time and America’s airwaves, from healthcare to Afghanistan. But his gravest danger is that less friendly crowds will start to laugh at him.

Barack Obama still has an opportunity to change America and rebuild the status of his office. He is not tarnished by a record of philandering. He is in the White House on merit, not on the strength of name recognition. His ambitions match the challenges of the moment, and his instincts on the direction that US public policy needs to go on health, climate change, regulatory reform and international engagement, though abhorrent to his most conservative critics, are broadly sound. And yet his wheels are spinning.

Considering his energy, his oratory and the political capital that he brought to the Oval Office, his scorecard nine months into the job is disappointing. Not one Republican has yet broken ranks to back his preferred health insurance reform Bill. The climate change legislation that he promised last year is stalled in the Senate. His speech to the Arab world in Cairo in June was praised as pitch-perfect but Palestinian leaders mocked his aspirations for the Middle East peace process last week, and Israel has all but ignored his Administration’s pleas for an end to settlement building.

Setbacks go with the territory. As Mr Obama has told six interviewers in two days, all presidents who attempt to enact major social reforms involving a change in the role of the State face intense opposition. But he has also adopted flawed tactics for which he has only himself to blame.

One of these is to be everywhere, all the time. Five television interviews in one day, an unprecedented appearance on a late-night talk show and eight speeches in two weeks have guaranteed him blanket coverage since his summer holiday. But what is on show is the personality of the office holder, not the authority and mystique of the office, which dissipate with every soundbite.

Mr Obama’s advisers say that he is their most effective spokesman and that the fragmented media universe requires multiple appearances where in a earlier generation a single “fireside chat” or network interview would have sufficed.

They are right when the argument is broken down like this — but still wrong in the end. Until Watergate, the American presidency was without question the most powerful branch of the US Government; more powerful than the legislature and the judiciary, with the power concentrated, naturally, in one person. There had been nothing like it in the annals of democracy. It was a power that could validate a peace conference by its mere presence, and in the right hands could intimidate a Soviet prime minister with a simple invitation to Camp David. Mr Obama could have revived that power, but is diluting it instead. The perquisites of American celebrity — among them the indulgent ten-foot grin of David Letterman — are to certain A-type personalities immensely tempting. He is an A-type personality. He has to be. He is somewhat vain. So are most presidents. He must now rein in his vanity, and husband his authority.

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US Town Bans Libyan Leader’s Tent

US officials have ordered workers to stop the construction of a tent for Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi near New York, a local attorney says.

The erection of the tent “violated several codes and laws of the town of Bedford”, attorney Joel Sachs says.

It also emerged the Bedouin-style tent was being set up on property rented from real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Col Gaddafi had reportedly planned to use the tent for entertaining during the UN General Assembly in New York.

Libyan officials have so far not publicly commented on the issue.

Col Gaddafi — who arrived in New York on Tuesday — traditionally shuns official residences during his trips abroad.

Trump’s statement

Bedford town attorney Joel Sachs said officials had given “a stop work” order to teams pitching Col Gaddafi’s tent in the town, about 30 miles (48km) north of New York.

But he said the workers did not speak English and the order was then issued to the property caretaker.

“There is no such thing as diplomatic immunity when it comes to complying with local laws and ordinances,” Mr Sachs was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

“This is a private piece of property and they have to comply with the laws of this municipality.”

Mr Sachs said the authorities in Bedford had learned of Col Gaddafi’s plans from the US secret service.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump said in a statement that part of the estate “was leased on a short-term basis to Middle Eastern partners, who may or may not have a relationship to Mr Gaddafi”.

“We are looking into the matter,” the statement added.

Last week, Libyan officials agreed not to pitch Col Gaddafi’s tent in the grounds of a Libyan-owned property in the New Jersey town of Englewood because of opposition from local residents.

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


US, Switzerland Sign Treaty to Share Tax Info

BERN, Switzerland — Switzerland and the United States have signed a treaty to increase the amount of tax information they share to help crack down on tax evasion, Swiss officials said Wednesday.

The agreement follows a model set out by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development designed to make it harder for taxpayers to hide money in offshore tax havens.

U.S. tax authorities will be able to request information on Americans suspected of concealing Swiss bank accounts, the Swiss Finance Ministry said.

The treaty forbids so-called ‘fishing expeditions,’ meaning U.S. authorities have to provide specific details on the person they are seeking further information about and can’t simply ask for wholesale lists of Americans with Swiss accounts, the ministry said.

The agreement, which comes into force immediately, won’t be retroactive.

Washington has been aggressively pursuing suspected tax evaders in Switzerland, the world’s biggest offshore banking center.

In August, the U.S. and Switzerland resolved a court case in which Swiss banking giant UBS AG agreed to turn over details on 4,450 accounts suspected of holding undeclared assets from American customers.

The case against UBS, as well as pressure from other OECD countries such as France, Britain and Germany, prompted Switzerland earlier this year to agree to soften its stance on banking secrecy for foreigners.

Since March, Switzerland has signed 11 tax information exchange agreements, one short of the number required by OECD for it to be removed from a ‘gray list’ of uncooperative tax havens.

Switzerland has also signed agreements with Denmark, Luxembourg, France, Norway, Austria, Britain, Mexico, Finland, Faeroe Islands and Spain and the government has authorized the signing of a 12th with Qatar.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Brown to Offer to Cut Nuclear Sub Fleet: Downing Street

LONDON (AFP) — Prime Minister Gordon Brown will announce Britain is prepared to scale back its nuclear capability as part of global disarmament efforts, Downing Street confirmed Wednesday.

Brown will reveal Thursday plans to cut the number of planned replacement nuclear submarines from four to three, at a special session of the UN Security Council, a spokeswoman confirmed.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Dell Wins EU OK to Get Euro54.5 Million Polish Aid

BRUSSELS — Dell Inc. won EU approval Wednesday to receive a euro54.4 million ($80.4 million) subsidy from the Polish government to build a new plant there, replacing Ireland as the computer maker’s new European manufacturing hub.

The European Commission said it could allow the government aid the company because the new factory would create jobs in a disadvantaged part of Poland — Lodz, the country’s third-largest city — where there is an unusually low standard of living and high unemployment.

The state will pay just over a quarter of the total investment of euro189.58 million in the plant which will eventually employ up to 3,000 people to make desktops, notebooks and servers, including Latitude and Inspiron models.

Open since January 2008, the factory currently employs 1,700.

EU regulators said they investigated the subsidy carefully because they initially doubted that the plant needed state help and wanted to check that it didn’t enrich Dell or help it make more of a product that wasn’t selling.

When Dell announced plans to build the plant in Poland, it was hailed as a landmark project for bringing high-skilled work to the country where hundreds of thousands of young, educated people were leaving for higher-paid jobs in other parts of the EU.

Round Rock, Texas-based Dell said it had picked Poland as a manufacturing center because it was close to a large, growing customer base in central and eastern Europe where it expected sales to increase by nearly 14 percent a year.

It also helps the company cut manufacturing costs, as profits decline and it loses its status as the world’s No. 1 PC maker to rival Hewlett-Packard Co.

Dell said earlier this year that it would shift its European manufacturing center from Limerick, Ireland to lower-wage Poland with the loss of some 2,000 Irish jobs and another 840 in local supplier companies.

Dell was Ireland’s second-largest corporate employer, its biggest exporter and in recent years has contributed about 5 percent to the national gross domestic product. Economists warn that each Dell job underpins another four to five jobs in Ireland.

Some 1,000 Irish workers will remain in Limerick to coordinate manufacturing throughout Europe and research and develop new products. Dell also employs another 1,300 people in a Dublin-based marketing and sales center for Europe.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


EU: US Views Europe as Little More Than a Trade Partner

More than a generation ago, Henry Kissinger was asked what help the expanding European Communities would be in the event of a global crisis.

His reply — “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” — has been cited ever since by Euro-doubters and sceptics as the sharpest summary of the confusion caused by multilateral leadership.

But like it or not, Europe is, at least ostensibly, a great deal closer to providing an answer to the old statesman’s question. It has had a foreign minister of sorts for several years. If the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified, it will have a new President of the European Council, a newly empowered foreign minister and a diplomatic corps.

In Kissinger’s day, Britain, Denmark and Ireland had just expanded the EC membership to nine. Now the Americans face dealing with a 27-member mammoth and, from Washington’s perspective, the need for simpler lines of communication is greater than ever.

The Obama administration is audibly keen on European integration. Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, made her views clear to the voters of Ireland in an interview with the Irish Times this year. An EU interlocutor, she said, “wouldn’t in any way eliminate the bilateral relations which the United States pursues with individual countries, but on a number of matters, the EU being organised in that way could facilitate decisions”.

She continued: “I believe [political integration is] in Europe’s interest and I believe that is in the United States’ interest because we want a strong Europe.”

The new administration’s enthusiasm for integration may be stronger than that of predecessors, but successive White Houses, ever keen to simplify their European contacts book, have broadly supported a robust EU.

In some ways, the bloated, bureaucratic, slow-moving and increasingly centralised European project seems very un-American. Washington furthermore deals with Europe through a baffling array of diplomatic forums: the EU3 + 3 on Iran, the Quartet on the Middle East, the troika on the Balkans. Then there are informal policy coordination groups such as the “quad” — the US, Britain, France and Germany — and the “quint” — those four plus Italy — which often discusses south-east Europe.

“It can be very clunky, and the function of many groups seems to be to allow the Europeans to organise themselves,” says Kurt Volker, who was US ambassador to Nato in the latter stages of the Bush administration.

But then, perhaps a federally governed continent of several hundred million inhabitants, with a diversity of geography, ethnicity and cultures, sounds rather like the United States itself. Cooperation on a grand scale is a concept Americans understand. At a time when many Europeans are nervous about deeper integration, the American political establishment is happy with the idea of more of it. They just want it done better.

“Europe is a lot about process and Americans hate process,” says Mr Volker, who is now at the Centre for Transatlantic Relations at John Hopkins University. “But when you think what Europe stands for — democratic foundation, rule of law, free markets, secularism, standing up against radical Islam — these are things we are very passionate about.”

In Washington’s halls of power, few are under any illusions that dealing with Europe after Lisbon will become easy overnight. “If there could be a single interlocutor, who held the full balance of interests — economic, security, defence, political and intelligence — at the same time, then fine, it would be like dealing with a single state,” Mr Volker says. “But the EU still doesn’t have the full balance of things, which rest with member states, and I am not sure how far Lisbon would change that.”

Despite the dramatic growth of the European institutions, Washington still primarily regards the EU as a regional economic bloc. “Policy makers tend to see Europe as a benign trade partner and little more,” says Steven Hill, a European expert at the New America Foundation. “They are not used to thinking of Europe as a union but as individual countries that occasionally move in an aggregated way. As for the EU as a structure, debates on the constitution and so on, I don’t think most policy makers have any clue, and nor does the media.”

“The Americans are interested in power,” says Reginald Dale, a senior fellow in the Europe programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “When they look at the EU, they judge the extent of its power. Since Suez, to get the attention of Washington, Europeans have had to produce a good reason why Washington should listen. There is a certain giving up on Europe here, and it will take more than Lisbon to change that.”

A weaker Europe can be useful to the Americans when they want to deal directly with national governments on issues such as airline security, which would run into stiffer opposition at the European Commission.

But the main reason for that disappointment in Washington is the lack of European commitment to Afghanistan, with a few notable exceptions led by the British. It may be a Nato mission but the tepidness of the European effort has reflected poorly on the continent’s political establishment and its ability to act collectively.

The frustration has been shared by the Bush and Obama administrations. Mr Volker, who dealt directly with European governments, says: “Afghanistan affects our security and Europe’s security. You would think that after all the terror attacks and attempted attacks in Europe, there would be strong European interest in making sure this doesn’t happen in the future.”

Instead, two US presidents have been offered negligible increases in fighting forces, diluted commitments even to training the Afghan police and diminishing financial contributions.

“Strong and visionary leadership could bring Europe together, but a lot of politicians would rather cater to their domestic publics rather than challenge them on the basis of defining European values and interests,” Mr Volker says.

Speaking in 2008, Kissinger identified a “vacuum between Europe’s past and Europe’s future”. “Nation states have not just given up part of their sovereignty to the European Union but also part of their vision for their future. Their future is now tied to the European Union, and the EU has not yet achieved a vision and loyalty comparable to the nation state,” he said.

Unless that vision is achieved, Kissinger’s successors will be obliged to make more than one call when they want to speak to Europe for years to come.

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Female Swedish Soldiers Complain About ‘Flammable’ Bras

Swedish female soldiers have demanded that the army provide them with combat-tested bras, amid complaints that the garments issued to them easily catch fire and unhook too easily.

The Swedish Conscription Council, a rights group representing the country’s 500-odd women soldiers, said the poor quality of the standard-issue sports bras was unacceptable.

“Our opinion is that the Swedish Armed Forces should have ordered good, flame-proof underwear,” Paulina Rehbinder, a union spokeswoman, told The Local, Sweden’s English-language newspaper.

The bras unhook too easily during strenuous exercise, soldiers said, forcing women to interrupt their activities to remove their equipment in order to re-fasten the brassieres.

The bras are also highly flammable, according to a report in the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper.

Ms Rehbinder told AFP that women had been forced to buy their own undergarments, whereas men were given suitable underwear by the army.

She criticised the military for its lack of gender equality, in a country widely considered a pioneer in the field.

“This sends a signal to women. You should be able to come to your workplace and be provided with equipment that works and that is safe,” she said.

“There have been women in the Swedish military for more than 30 years, but bras have never been provided by the military,” she said, noting, however, that the military gave conscripts money to buy their bras.

But things look set for a change.

With between 800 and 1,000 women expected to become conscripts next year, the military is now developing a new battle-safe bra.

“It’s supposed to be ready either later this year or next year,” Ms Rehbinder said.

Sweden has allowed women conscripts since 1980. Four to five per cent of Sweden’s armed forces are women.

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France: Fashion: Emir of Ajman Bids to Take Over Maison Lacroix

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 22 — The reigning family of the smallest of the seven Arab Emirates, Ajman, is planning to take over the Maison Christian Lacroix, which is undergoing a judicial restructuring. According to Le Figaro, sheikh Hassan Ben Ali al-Naimi, nephew and business associate of the Emir, wrote a letter of intent, announcing the offer to Regis Valliot, legal administrator of the fashion house, whic has many faithful costumers and admirers of the designer’s haute couture. The Emir offered 50 million euros and would keep 119 of the current 125 employees. He also intends to collaborate with Lacroix, with whom is going to meet in the near future. The Emir is hoping to bring the Maison back into a favourable economic situation, after 22 years of losses (in 2008 alone the recorded loss was 10 million euros, with a 30 million euro yearly turnover). The recovery of the Maison, according to the Emir’s plan, should take place within the next three years, by creating synergies with other activities belonging to the royal family in the real estate and luxury yachting sectors. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: 9 Bln Euros for Council Houses From Bank

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 22 — French credit institute Caisse Des Depots has allocated loans destined to council houses (managed in France by the HLM — Habitations a ‘Loyere Modere’, for an overall 9 billion euros. According to the Italian Foreign Trade Commission (ICE) offices in Paris, this is an unprecedented amount, which should allow to finance construction and renovation works for over 90,000 homes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Germany: Fresh Challenge to Lisbon Could be ‘Explosive’

GERMAN COURT: A LEADING German constitutional lawyer has warned that Berlin’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty could have an “explosive” effect on its future relationship with the European Union.

Prof Dietrich Murswiek, of the University of Freiburg, was commenting on a fresh constitutional challenge to the treaty that could delay Berlin’s ratification until after Ireland’s referendum next month.

The challenge lodged on Monday says that laws created to allow ratification of the treaty in Germany leave the Bundestag ill-equipped on integration matters.

It maintains that the laws do not sufficiently guarantee the role of the constitutional court (BVG) as “guardian of the constitution”.

It asks the constitutional court in Karlsruhe to issue an injunction until they deliver their final verdict, halting ratification by president Horst Köhler.

A spokesman for the president’s office said yesterday that his legal experts were examining the new challenge and could not say if or when they would act.

Prof Murswiek, who led one of the original challenges to the Lisbon Treaty on behalf of Bavarian MP Peter Gauweiler, said he was doubtful the new challenge would be successful.

But, he said, it highlighted future difficulties Berlin may have in interpreting the Lisbon Treaty if and when it is ratified.

In its ruling, the BVG said the Lisbon Treaty was constitutional in Germany, but only within the court’s own limited interpretation.

“A citizen could, for instance, complain to the constitutional court that his freedom to operate his company is hindered by a German law originating in a specific EU regulation,” said Prof Murswiek.

“If, under the BVG’s interpretation of the treaty, the EU has no competence in this area, the court would agree with the complainant.”

To get around the potential clash with the European Court in Luxembourg, some legal watchers have suggested that Berlin note these limitations in a written proviso to be lodged alongside the ratification documents.

A German government spokesman said yesterday that there was no plan for this.

He said that Chancellor Merkel would inform her EU colleagues verbally of the limitations.

“The court ruling is explosive — even jurists who were for the treaty see it this way,” said Prof Murswiek.

“I think the court went so far because they saw a danger to their continued control of the limits of constitutionality and decided to strongly underline their own powers.”

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Germany: Police Raid NPD Office for Sending Racist Hate Mail

Police said on Wednesday they had raided the Berlin headquarters of Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD party after it sent racist letters to ethnic minority candidates in this weekend’s election, telling them to “go home.”

A spokesman for Berlin prosecutors confirmed they had launched an investigation over suspected incitement to racial hatred.

The letters, signed by an “officer for the deportation of foreigners,” were presented as a “notice” to candidates of Turkish origin ahead of elections on September 27.

According to one recipient, Green politician Ozcan Mutlu, the two-paged letter contained a “five-point plan” for “moving foreigners gradually back to their home countries.”

The letters sparked outrage from mainstream politicians who called for renewed efforts to outlaw the NPD, which has no seats in the national parliament but is represented in two of Germany’s powerful regional assemblies.

The NPD is on the verge of bankruptcy and has next to no chance of winning a seat in Sunday’s election, polls show.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Ireland: Banks Face Crackdown by EU Over Hidden Fees

THE European Commission yesterday condemned Irish banks for bamboozling customers with hidden charges and shoddy advice.

It said retail banks offered poor value to customers, and it warned bankers across Europe that it may begin a major crackdown on the sector.

The damning report will further enrage the public less than a week after Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced plans for a €54bn bailout for Irish banks.

EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, in charge of the EU single market, said the commission was ready to “set the ground rules” for the conduct of banks towards their customers, if the banks failed to tackle the issue themselves.

The Internal Market Commissioner said: “This consumer market monitoring shows the difficulties consumers face in their dealings with retail financial products and services. The commission is determined to combat those problems.

“That means imposing transparency with understandable and comparable information and setting the ground rules for the conduct of business.”

The hard-hitting commission report pointed out that complaints about bad financial advice had doubled in Ireland last year. This is based on a surge in complaints to Financial Services Ombudsman Joe Meade in 2008 compared with 2007. Almost three-quarters of the complaints were resolved in favour of the consumer.

Banks were castigated for having a conflict of interest when giving consumers advice. This was because they were more inclined to push the sale of products where bank staff got high commissions.

The report added that there was suspicion that many of those selling financial products did not have a good enough understanding of them. Irish banks were also criticised for having high charges for current accounts.

The commission said many banks appeared to try to hide charges with complex fee structures that many customers said they found difficult to understand. Information from the Financial Regulator in Dublin shows that:

• AIB charges €10 if a standing order is not paid because there is insufficient money in a bank account.

• Bank of Ireland charges €12.70 for a bounced cheque.

• Ulster Bank has an overdraft rate of 13.55pc.

• Permanent TSB charges €2.50 for a duplicate bank statement.

The commission referred to a 2008 Eurobarometer survey that revealed 30pc of Irish consumers had difficulties comparing current-account offers.

“Only 7pc of consumers have switched their current account in the previous two years, despite the fact that 71pc of those who did reported finding a cheaper provider,” the report points out. Banks were also accused of using legal and financial jargon in documents and of hiding important details in small print.

The sharp criticism of Irish banks comes a day ahead of Permanent TSB chief executive David Guinane being hauled in front of an Oireachtas committee to explain why his bank has increased mortgage rates for existing customers.

Increase

The chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, Michael Ahern, said the bank would be asked to explain why its standard variable rate would be going up by half a percentage point. This move would see monthly repayments on a €300,000 mortgage increase by €70 a month.

A spokesman for the Irish Banking Federation said recent European Central Bank statistics confirmed that average rates in Ireland for mortgages and consumer loans were among the lowest in the EU.

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Ireland: Archbishop Lashes Tiernan for Joking About Holocaust

Award-winning comedian Tommy Tiernan has been “floored by a belt of the crozier” for allegedly making offensive remarks about the Holocaust.

Departing from his prepared sermon at the end of a Mass last night for teachers in Bray, Co Wicklow — and without referring to Tiernan by name — Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said remarks attributed to an Irish comedian were “offensive to the Jewish community and offensive to all who feel revulsion concerning the Holocaust, one of the most horrific events in human history”.

Tiernan was reported to have said he would have killed twice as many of the six million Jews liquidated in the Nazi Holocaust. “F***ing Christ-killing bastards,” he reportedly added. “F*** six million? I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that. Two at a time they would have gone. Hold hands, get in there, leave us your teeth and your glasses.” But in a defiant statement placed on his website, the uncontrite comedian had hit back at accusations that he made “anti-semitic” comments during a public interview at the Electric Picnic festival earlier this month.

Upset

Tiernan confessed that he was “greatly upset” that his comments had caused hurt to others, as that was never his intention, but he insisted he was “quite bewildered” that his interview had been taken so far out of context.

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Italy: Health Inquiry Reveals ‘Criminal System’ In Bari

Bari, 16 Sept. (AKI) — Italian prosecutors investigating allegations of corruption in the southern region of Puglia have said the health system there was dominated by a “criminal system” that controlled the contracts, appointment of medical staff and finance.

Bari prosecutor Antonio Laudati spoke to the Italian media about the health system after a local councillor, Tommaso Fiore, said that the system was not run by a “mafia cell” but that there were signs of criminal “distortions” in the system.

Laudati said the inquiry currently underway was not a normal inquiry into public administration because what had emerged was “ a type of much more complex criminality, much more organised”.

“Obviously the mafia is another thing altogether,” he said. “But the level of danger of these crimes is different to what is committed by an individual or a criminal system.”

The inquiry’s brief includes an investigation into Bari businessman Giampaolo Tarantini who is at the centre of a sex scandal surrounding Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Tarantini, who is being investigated on allegations of corruption and abetting prostitution, has told prosecutors that he supplied 30 women for parties hosted by the prime minister, some of whom were paid to have sex with him.

The businessman, under investigation for allegedly paying Italian and foreign women to go to Berlusconi’s villas, said that he set out to get to know the Italian leader because of his power and influence.

Laudati said that there were several inquiries being conducted into the health system — and several of them involved Tarantini.

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


Netherlands: Can Cousin Marriages be Banned?

NRC HANDELSBLAD: The Dutch government wants to prohibit marriages between cousins, but experts wonder if that is possible.

What if two cousins sleep together, have a baby and then want to get married. Is that allowed? What about this situation: a young Moroccan Dutch man marries his female cousin in Morocco and then brings her to the Netherlands. Is that permitted? Or rather: will that still be permitted in future?

According to Ashley Terlouw, professor of sociology of law at Radboud University in Nijmegen, it is doubtful whether such cases can be prohibited. Aside from the question of whether it is a good idea.

“Everyone’s right to a family life is protected in section 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. If the Netherlands does not respect that, the Court in Strasbourg will have something to say about it.”

Experts have responded with surprise — and some with shock — to the plan that Deputy Minister for Justice Nebahat Albayrak announced last week to ban marriages between cousins. It is one of the measures aimed at reducing the number of so-called import brides (and grooms).

Increase in import marriages

Detailed information on the ban and its enforcement is expected in a few weeks, but it is already clear that the ban will apply to everyone, not just ethnic minorities among whom most marriages between cousins take place. The ban will not be imposed with retroactive effect.

“It does not seem right to me to apply family law to migration policy,” said Terlouw. “Moreover it is a measure that affects more people than you want it to.” Nor will the ban necessarily bring about any decline in marriage migration. “The Netherlands cannot ban marriages in other countries and will have to recognise most cases. Added to this is the fact that it is certainly not the case that all foreign marriages are between cousins.”

A driving force behind the measure is the increase in the number of Dutch residents who ‘import’ a spouse from the country of their parents.

After years of decline, the number went up last year by thirty percent to 15,000. But the municipal records do not keep track of how many of these marriages involved cousins marrying each other.

According to researchers from Leiden University, a quarter of Turks and Moroccans marry a relative. A European survey, which only looked at second-generation immigrants, indicated that just over eight percent of Turks and six percent of Moroccans reported they were married to a cousin.

Does Albayrak have her facts straight?

Albayrak said last week that marriage between cousins was prohibited in the past, but that is a stubborn misconception said Frans van Poppel of the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute. Only since 1970 has the law permitted an uncle or aunt to marry their nephew or niece, but there has never been a ban on marriage between cousins, according to Van Poppel.

It seems as if Albayrak does not yet have all her facts straight, said Han Entzinger, professor of integration and migration studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

“I see that Moroccans and Turks are in fact bringing partners from abroad less frequently.” That is also due to the income requirement that the Netherlands has introduced. The partner here must now earn at least 120 percent of the minimum wage before he can bring a partner from abroad.

“Which incidentally has an adverse effect in that many young people stopped their college education to try and earn as much money as possible,” said Entzinger.

Proponents of a ban on marriage between cousins stress that they hope this ban will put a stop to forced marriages. Entzinger has serious doubts whether this goal will be achieved. He responds with questions: “What is defined as a forced marriage? Is an arranged marriage also forced? How many forced marriages actually take place? And how would such a ban be enforced?”

Health risks not significant

It seems as if politicians are seeking a new way to ban marriage between cousins. From 2003 there have been efforts to introduce the ban on grounds of health risks. This has failed time and again. Last year health minister Ab Klink decided that a ban would be disproportionate. Research has shown that parents who are related, including cousins, have a four percent chance of a child with a genetic defect. That risk is two percent for parents who are not related.

If politicians are really concerned about stopping forced marriages and preventing health risks, Albayrak should instead concentrate on better information provision, said the researchers. And on a harsh approach to those who impose forced marriages.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Spain: Women’s Wages Are 34% Less Than Those of Men

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 22 — In the Spain of equal opportunity and the executive branch of Zapatero with a female majority, that instituted the Ministry of Equality, women continue to be discriminated against at work, receiving salaries that are lower than those of men. So emerged from data published today by the National Statistics Institute (INE), according to which in 2007, the average gross salary for men was 22,780 euros, compared to 16,943 euros for women, equal to 34% less than their male counterparts. The spread between ‘male’ and ‘female’ salaries has reduced over recent years, as demonstrated by the fact that in 2004 men earned 38% more than women and in 2006 35.7% more; but the differences are far from disappearing. On the other hand, the same INE warns that the gap reduces if “similar situations compared to variables like employment, type of work day or contract” are considered. In the case of full-time, men earn 21% more than women; in part-time work the difference is 14%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Helicopter Heist Causes Cash Flow Concerns

While police continue to gather evidence, traders and store owners in the Stockholm area are concerned over a possible shortage of cash following the spectacular robbery of a cash depot south of the city.

The helicopter used in the heist was later found near a lake in Arninge north of Stockholm and police continue to search the area for clues.

As the investigation unfolds, however, business owners are raising concerns about a possible shortage of cash due to the robbery.

“The depot provides a large share of the local cash reserves,” Dick Malmlund of the Swedish Federation of Trade (Svensk Handel) told the TT news agency.

“If a facility like this is taken out of the game…we don’t have a large reserve capacity. No one can afford to make that happen these days.”

He fears that Wednesday’s daring attack on a Västberga cash depot may lead to a cash shortage in Stockholm’s local teller machines and stores.

“It’s a bit like stopping traffic on an entry road, all of Stockholm will be affected. This is the same thing,” he said.

The heist comes just days before Swedes across the country are set to be paid their monthly salaries.

While most salary payments are transmitted by wire, the once-a-month occurrence usually prompts a flurry of cash withdrawals by Swedes who mark their paydays with a weekend spending binge on consumer goods, entertainment, and restaurant meals.

As a result, there may have been more cash on hand on the depot than usual.

While no official details have been released regarded the amount of money that may have been at the depot at the time of the heist, crime expert Leif G W Persson told TT there may have been as much as 1 billion kronor ($146 million).

Malmlund was also critical of the apparent ease with which police helicopters were grounded as a part of the caper due to fake bombs being placed in the hangar.

“If we at the Trade Federation are to put measures in place to prevent these sorts of occurrences, its critical that police resources shouldn’t be taken out of the game so easily,” he said.

“We know that the robbers were using caltraps [a spiked weapon laid out to puncture car tyres], so police vehicles were out of the game in no time. So we really needed helicopters to support us.”

Stefan Wikman, the head of production at Loomis, a competitor with G4S in the field of cash flow management, confirms that the robbery may result in local cash shortages.

“Sure, there is a small risk. In certain cases there may be short-term problems with automatic teller machines and so forth,” he told TT.

Aside from the cash depot hit in Wednesday’s robbery, two others exist in Stockholm. The largest is managed by Loomis.

“We’re working full out now trying to manage the situation and to ensure that there won’t be any significant money shortages.”

According to Wikman, much depends upon the length of time that police barricades remain in place at G4S locations. He compared the current situation with the attempted robbery of Loomis that took place earlier in the spring:

“The greatest damage for us occurred during the time that police had blocked off the premises. But, naturally, we completely understand that they need to carry out thorough investigations,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Man Arrested in Helicopter Heist Probe

Swedish police have one person into custody for suspected involvement in the Hollywood-esque helicopter-aided robbery which took place at a cash depot near Stockholm early Wednesday morning.

Stockholm police during a Wednesday afternoon police conference, according to the Aftonbladet newspaper.

The man has not been formally named as a suspect, but remains in police custody pending the outcome of an interrogation.

The spectacular robbery, which took place early Wednesday morning and targeted a cash depot in Västberga, involved a stolen helicopter and fake bombs in a highly orchestrated caper.

“The robbery was well-organized, well-planned, and technically well-equipped. Taken together, it can lead to a number of possible hypotheses about who could have been involved,” said Agdur.

Shortly after 5am, a white helicopter hovered over the depot, several explosions were heard, and several masked men climbed down onto the roof of the building.

According to eye-witness accounts, several objects were then loaded up into the helicopter before it left the scene.

It was later found abandoned in a field north of Stockholm.

Some experts have theorized that at least one of the robbers may have had a military background. Others marveled at the skill displayed by the pilot of the helicopter, which had been stolen from a heliport north of Stockholm overnight.

“It was very professionally done. Not even a police of ambulance helicopter would land in that way,” said Anders Jansson of the Stockholm police.

A high ranking official who wished to remain anonymous told TT he suspects the crime was an inside job.

“The robbers must have had access to drawings and other detailed information about how they could get in and how they should orient themselves once inside the cash depot,” the source told TT.

Police continue to come up with a list of possible assailants of which there like isn’t “all that many” according to the source.

He wouldn’t rule out that the robbers may have had military training, “perhaps somewhere outside of Sweden”.

According to the source, the perpetrators were armed with “weapons bigger than usual”, which he hinted referred to a specific type of automatic weapon, although he refused to be more specific.

The G4S cash transport company which operated the depot said in a statement on its website that the robbers made off with “an unconfirmed sum of money”.

“We’re doing all we can to help the police with their investigation,” writes the company, promising “a large reward” for information which helps solve the crime.

Public prosecutor Leif Görtz of the international section of the Stockholm prosecutor’s office has been chosen to lead the preliminary investigation in the case.

“Just because I work in the international section doesn’t automatically mean that the crime has any international connections. We also deal with other cases involving serious organized crime,” he told the TT news agency.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


The Euro: Why Britain is Still Better Off Out

When the historical dust clears, Gordon Brown may find that his greatest achievement was to keep Britain out of the euro and preserve the fire-fighting powers of the Bank of England.

Had we joined monetary union in 1999, interest rates set by the European Central Bank would have been near 2 per cent during the mid-years of this decade. This would have been like pouring petrol on the housing fire. The credit bubble would have been even worse.

Once the bubble burst, the UK authorities would have been left with few instruments to cushion the downturn and manage the highest household debt burden in history. Britain would now be facing the sort of debt-deflation spiral under way in Ireland and Spain.

By keeping its freedom of action, Britain has been able to launch “quantitative easing” (printing money) the most radical monetary experiment tried in a modern industrial nation. We do not know yet how this will end. Yet what is clear is that Bank of England was able to act with stunning speed after the debacles of Northern Rock, Lehman Brothers, and AIG, slashing rates to 0.5 per cent. It is buying almost a third of all UK government gilts in order to prevent a repeat of the early 1930s when the money supply was allowed to contract.

The European Central Bank was slower to ease monetary policy, and has largely held back from QE — in part because Frankfurt views such action as unnecessary, but also because any move to buy bonds is viewed by German hawks as the start of a slippery slope towards a bail-out of the Club Med bloc.

The point for Britain is that the steady-as-you-go strategy of the ECB would have left Britain in a very serious position as the crisis unfolded, given the particular circumstances of the UK as a banking hub.

The Bank of England’s emergency policies have stabilised the UK economy. The 20 per cent plunge in sterling has in this instance been a life-saver, prompting a tourist mini-boom in London. Scores of companies survived which would otherwise have gone bankrupt, saved by the boost in profit margins on exports.

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UK: Boy, 9, Told to Apologise for ‘Racist’ Taunt to Polish Classmate While Playing Soldiers in Lesson

A nine-year-old schoolboy was branded racist by teachers after playing a game of soldiers with a Polish friend, his parents have claimed.

Steven Cheek was reprimanded for pointing a finger at the Eastern European classmate and said: ‘We’ve got to shoot the German army’.

His teacher immediately sent him to see the deputy head, who forced him to stand in front of the class and make a humiliating apology.

Steven’s mother Jane Hennessey, 37, of Harlow, Essex, slammed teachers for ‘over-reacting to kids playing games’.

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UK: Judge Won’t Name Feral Youth Who Punched Artist Into Car That Killed Him

The family of an artist killed by a teenage thug spoke of their anger yesterday after the attacker was jailed for only two years and allowed to remain anonymous.

Jonathan Harper, 47, was set upon by a ‘feral youth’ after he refused to give one of the teenager’s friends a cigarette.

The 15-year-old punched him in the face with such force that he fell on to the road into the path of a car.

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UK: Kent Attracts New Type of Tourist: Europeans Seeking Easy Bankruptcy

Tourists have come to Kent for its castles, where widowed queens lived out their days and kings organised the defence of the realm of England. They have come to see Canterbury Cathedral, founded by St Augustine at the end of the 6th century, site of the murder of Thomas à Becket.

Then there is the stately retreat where Winston Churchill brooded, the house where Joseph Conrad wrote, the chalky white cliffs. There are the oast houses, the ancient pubs, the crumbling Cinque Ports and a ragged coastline of beach and marsh and “knolls where Norman churches stand”.

To that formidable list of attractions may now be added another, which is pulling in a different type of tourist from countries across Europe. Kent is increasingly considered one of the finest places in Europe to declare oneself bankrupt.

Among the indebted of Germany, Austria, France and Ireland, the English insolvency laws look beautifully lenient. Insolvency experts say that the number of foreign debtors seeking bankruptcy in Britain has risen by 20 per cent, with Kent being a popular destination because of its easy access to continental Europe.

Crippling insolvency laws in Germany mean that it takes between six and nine years to escape debts after being made bankrupt. A bankrupt in Ireland will normally remain an “undischarged bankrupt” for 12 years, maybe longer. However, in this country a bankruptcy can end in as little as 12 months.

So to Kent, to pay a restorative visit to an insolvency agency and make another trip to a court to file bankruptcy papers.

Observers are calling the phenomenon “bankruptcy tourism”. The Insolvency Service confirmed that it had identified dozens of cases of people from Europe filing for bankruptcy after appearing to have been resident here for less than 12 months with all or most of the debts being owed to creditors outside Britain.

One German debt expert based in Kent said that he was helping management consultants, doctors, accountants, dentists and lawyers to discharge their bankruptcy.

Marcus Kray, a director of the Erith-based Insolvenz Agentur, which advises German and Austrians how best to take advantage of British bankruptcy laws, said: “They come from all over the European Union. They like the tax laws here as they are better than the ones in their country.”

Mike Gerrard, a partner specialising in personal insolvency at Grant Thornton, the chartered accountants, said: “As far as the law is concerned, this [debt tourism] is a legitimate thing to do. However, you could have a long and difficult argument about the ethics of it.”

In 2002, new European insolvency legislation came into force that made cross-border bankruptcies between member states easier to complete. The regulation covers personal as well as corporate insolvencies and, in theory, allows individuals saddled with debt to “shop around” for the most lenient bankruptcy jurisdiction within the Union.

Many foreign debtors live in Tunbridge Wells, a spa town with its fair share of historic castles. Others go to Greenhithe, whose nearby attractions include the not particularly historic Bluewater Shopping Centre. Some have paid insolvency agencies up to £7,000 for their resettlement.

Mr Kray, whose company promises to “get rid of the rest of your debts in England after just 12 months”, said that he had helped a management consultant with debts of £16 million to complete the bankruptcy process. Many of his clients opted to stay in Britain after their names had been cleared, he added.

“They come to us with problems. They may not have enough money to pay their income tax, sometimes they are self-employed and their clients haven’t paid their bills. They come from all over the EU. Given the economic climate, we have 20 per cent more than normal. We now have about 150 clients a year.”

Under the current system, there is no minimum time limit for a foreign national to be resident and “economically active” in England and Wales before petitioning for bankruptcy. However, the Government closely scrutinises applications from people who have been resident for less than 12 months. Being economically active includes being employed or having a source of income, owning a bank account, having a national insurance number or paying rent.

More than 60,000 people in England and Wales were made bankrupt in the past financial year. The Insolvency Service says that foreign nationals account for only a small percentage of this figure.

A spokeswoman said: “The service examines the affairs of recently relocated foreign nationals very closely, and, if there is evidence that the order ought not to have been made in the courts of England and Wales, will report the matter back to the court with a view to having the bankruptcy order cancelled.”

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UK: Outrage and Hope in Today’s England

The United States of America has many problems. Regardless of the party in the presidency, the government becomes more socialistic. Immigration is out of control and multiculturalism is dismantling traditional America. Plus, there’s the general all-around decadence of our society.

But it’s not just our country — such problems affect the Western world in general.

Our fellow English-speaking countries have these same problems and politically speaking, have slid farther downhill than we have.

In England, significant restrictions have been put on free speech, gun rights have been taken away and the UK is losing its sovereignty to the European Union. Not only that, but mass immigration combined with multiculturalism is leading to the Islamization of Britain. Mohammed is now the third-most popular name for newborn baby boys in England, and the most popular in the city of London. The Muslim population is growing 10 times faster than the general population.

Here’s one recent outrage in the formerly-Great Britain. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, a Liverpool couple who operate a hotel, have been charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act for “causing harassment, alarm or distress.”

[…]

The future of England looks bleak. But there are signs of life in the old Mother Country yet. I read recently of a mayor in an English town who has a lot of spunk.

The mayor’s name is Peter Davies, who was recently elected mayor Doncaster (approximate population 70,000) and took office in June. Davies belongs to the small English Democrats party (not to be confused with the American Democratic party).

Here’s a description of what Davies has done as mayor. I quote from Gerald Warner writing in the Telegraph, The Beginning of the End for Political Correctness: The Counter-Revolution Has Begun in Doncaster:

“In his first week in office [Davies] cut his own salary from £73,000 to £30,000, which is putting one’s money where one’s mouth is. He also scrapped the mayoral limousine. He is ending Doncaster’s twinning with five towns around the world, an arrangement which he describes as ‘just for people to fly off and have a binge at the council’s expense’. He intends now to reduce (that’s right, reduce) council tax by 3 per cent this year.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Student Jailed Over Internet Guns

A student found with 200 weapon parts in his East Lothian home has been jailed for almost four years.

Ramsay Scott, 21, bought £20,000 worth of gun components on the internet using his mother’s credit card.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard how the former public schoolboy was interested in extreme violence and had trawled websites linked to massacres.

Scott, who was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail, earlier admitted breaches of the Firearms Act.

Passing sentence at the High Court in Edinburgh, judge Lord Uist said: “It is probably impossible to say what, if anything, you would have done with the weapons had the police not intervened.

“But there must have been at least the possibility you would have used them to cause injury to others — particularly in view of the websites you had accessed on your computer dealing with extreme violence and shooting massacres at Hungerford and Dunblane.”

The court heard that Scott claimed his only interest had been in solving the mechanical problems involved in assembling the weapons from the parts he bought — using an elaborate scam to avoid import restrictions.

But later the bio-medical sciences student admitted he planned to shoot himself if he failed his exams at Durham University.

By the time police staged a dawn raid on his home in Longniddry, Scott had two fully-assembled pistols, sub-machine gun parts and dum dum bullets scattered about his bedroom floor.

He also had a collection of Rambo-style knives.

First offender Scott had faced the possibility of a sentence which would keep him under strict supervision for the rest of his life.

But Lord Uist said because background reports assessed Scott as only a “medium” risk to the public he could not impose such a sentence.

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


UK: Thousands of Young Children Are Buying Coloured Wristbands Every Week. But Parents Have No Idea of Their True Disturbing Meaning…

They are thin, plastic bracelets, the kind of innocent-looking friendship bands that schoolgirls like to wear.

Available in a variety of colours and cheap enough to be bought with pocket money, they have become an overnight sensation in primary school playgrounds across the country.

But it is their name that causes alarm bells to ring: Shag-bands. And they are worn by children far too young to truly understand what that crude term means.

[Return to headlines]


UK: Why David Cameron is Keeping Quiet About Europe

‘I will do such things. What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be the terrors of the earth.” King Lear’s incoherent threat could be the inspiration for David Cameron’s policy on the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty.

The Tory leader has promised a referendum on the document, but only if it has not been ratified by all 27 EU members. If he comes to power and the Treaty is in force, the Tories “will not let matters rest”.

In effect, Mr Cameron’s policy is one of prevarication: we’re not telling you, yet. But the moment of clarity may be drawing closer. On October 2, the Irish vote for a second time on the treaty, with polls predicting a narrow Yes vote. By baleful coincidence for Mr Cameron, the Irish vote comes barely 48 hours before the Conservatives’ annual conference in Bournemouth.

Publicly, Tory frontbenchers insist that all is still to play for, that the result remains in doubt and until the last Irish vote is counted, their policy remains unchanged. Privately, however, there is real anxiety among senior Conservatives. People close to Mr Cameron fear that an Irish Yes will refocus attention on his non-policy over the referendum and stir up trouble among the grassroots and on the backbenches.

An outbreak of Tory infighting over Europe in Bournemouth is very much not part of the Cameron script, which describes a party united in preparation for Government. Mark Francois, the shadow Europe minister, accepts that the current position cannot last. “We will not go into the general election simply with a policy that we shall not let matters rest,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “We will have more to say between now and then.”

But what? That remains studiously unclear. Kenneth Clarke, the last remaining pro-European Tory heavyweight, has suggested that after ratification the party would abandon all hope of a referendum and focus instead on a pledge, first made in 2005, to return some legal powers over social and employment law from Brussels to Westminster.

Such dry, technocratic fare would hardly satisfy the majority of Tories, who crave red meat on Europe. Yet Mr Cameron is painfully aware that a referendum on a ratified treaty would be the nuclear option: many in Brussels would argue that the vote would effectively be a decision on Britain’s continued membership of the EU. And while some Tories (and not a few voters) might relish the prospect, leaving the EU is not on the Cameron agenda. Nor is any major institutional European battle, at least not in the early years of a Cameron government. The Tory leader knows that he will need all his political capital to enact the deep cuts in public spending that will be required.

So, for as long as possible, Mr Cameron hopes to keep his European intentions hidden, and pray that the subject stays out of the headlines. The good news for Mr Cameron is that some of his party are prepared to go on giving him the benefit of the doubt. His decision in June to honour a promise to withdraw Tory MEPs from the European People’s Party bloc in the European Parliament has led to Labour accusations of extremism and riled pro-EU Tories.

But, just as he intended, it has given Mr Cameron credibility in the eyes of Eurosceptics. In the words of one heavyweight Eurosceptic: “He has a lot of credit in the bank from the EPP withdrawal. A lot of people didn’t think he would ever do it. The fact that he did is very reassuring.”

The imminent election also weighs in Mr Cameron’s favour. After more than a decade in opposition, Tory MPs are hungry for power. For many, getting back into Government is even more important than airing their European grievances. They are prepared to hold their tongues, at least until after an election victory.

One strong sceptic on the Tory frontbench is frank: “Is our current policy satisfactory? Of course not. But if you think I’m going to jeopardise an election victory by starting to speak out about that in public, you’ve got another think coming.”

Assuming the Irish vote Yes, Mr Cameron will reach for one last figleaf to conceal the absence of a clear plan on the treaty. His last hope lies in Prague, where Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, is dragging his feet over ratifying the treaty. The Czech constitutional court is currently considering one appeal relating to the Treaty, and Mr Klaus says he won’t sign it while the court is deliberating. A court appeal will soon be launched by Czech senators from the ODS party, part of the same European Parliament bloc as the Conservatives.

Geoffrey van Orden, a Tory MEP, is clear about his party’s message to the Czechs: “Our hope is they will not ratify this treaty until the general election in the UK.” If the Czechs are able to hold up ratification until after a UK election, a new Tory government could then quickly move to a UK referendum.

Few in Brussels doubt the outcome of such a vote, and the European establishment is putting intense pressure on Mr Klaus. Mr Cameron’s team know that there is only a faint hope that Mr Klaus will be able to hold out until next summer. So they are fearfully preparing to come to power with the Treaty set in stone.

The likely arrival of a staunchly sceptical generation of new Tory MPs only sharpens that anxiety. Given the pent-up feeling within his party and the (domestic and international) political stakes, it is perhaps understandable that William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, has privately advised Mr Cameron that Europe is a “ticking timebomb” under his leadership.

A few optimistic Tories believe that Mr Cameron will ultimately be able to defuse that bomb. But most think that the best he can hope for is to keep resetting the clock and delay the eventual explosion.

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Welsh Steam Train Forced to Use Coal Shipped 3,000 Miles From Siberia When Local Coal Mine is Only Three Miles Away

Regulations are forcing a Welsh steam train to use coal shipped 3,000 miles from Siberia rather than from a mine three miles away.

Planning conditions on the Ffos-y-Fran mine in South Wales mean that coal has to be transported by rail rather than via local roads.

However there is no rail link between the mine and the Brecon Mountain Railway, so the local coal cannot be used.

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‘Yes’ Camp’s Funding Under Fire as Second Irish Vote on Lisbon Treaty Looms

With ten days to go before the Irish Republic votes again on the Lisbon treaty, questions are being asked about the funding of the “yes” campaign.

Joe Higgins, a Socialist Party MEP, claimed that the “yes” side was spending “obscene” amounts of money compared with the meagre resources of the “no” camp. “The role of big business in this referendum has ensured that the relatively slim resources on the ‘no’ side are absolutely dwarfed by the obscene amounts of money the Ryanairs and Intels are putting into the ‘yes’ side,” he said.

His accusations mark a turnaround from last year when the “yes’ camp, led by the Fianna Fáil Government, cast aspersions on the origins of the finances behind Libertas, founded by the multimillionaire businessman Declan Ganley. After the Republic rejected the treaty, which seeks to repackage the European constitution, Mr Ganley was cleared of any wrongdoing by a government watchdog. Now the source and scale of the “yes” camp’s finances are under scrutiny.

Michael O’Leary, the head of Ryanair, announced that the low-cost airline would spend €500,000 (£455,000) on promoting a “yes” vote. Ryanair paid for a full-page advertisement in the biggest-selling Irish daily newspaper yesterday that proclaimed: “1 million reasons to vote ‘Yes to Europe’. 1 million FREE seats. Vote Yes to Europe.”

Last October Mr O’Leary attacked the idea of forcing the Republic to vote again on the treaty. “It seems that only in the European Union, Ireland and Zimbabwe are you forced to vote twice,” he said.

Intel, which employs about 4,000 people at its microchip plant in Leixlip, west of Dublin, announced that it was spending €200,000 on advertisements and posters urging a “yes” vote. The company was given a €1 billion antitrust fine by the European Union in May.

The role of lobbyists in raising funds in Brussels for the “yes” campaign has also been exposed. One, Eamonn Bates, sent e-mails to fellow EU lobbying firms seeking donations of up to €30,000 to help a pro-Lisbon campaign.

Mr Bates said in his e-mail: “Personally, I do not think it was right to ask the Irish to vote again. However, now there is a rerun, I am convinced it would be wrong to allow a second ‘no’ vote to occur.”

He was seeking funds on behalf of Europe for Ireland, an organisation established by Irish people working in Brussels who want a “yes” result. The group plans to spend €500,000 on advertisements.

An e-mail sent on behalf of the group to companies in the European Public Affairs Consultancy Association last week called the situation in the Irish Republic “truly an emergency” and warned that the future of Europe was at stake.

Mr Bates said in his e-mail: “Powerful and misleading campaigning against the Lisbon treaty is under way and making inroads once again. Declan Ganley, who was so destructive in the first campaign, has re-entered the public debate bringing considerable financial resources to bear.

“If your company believes in a strong EU, then now is definitely the time to contribute financially.”

The appeal was passed to The Irish Times by another lobbyist, who commented: “The Irish electorate are likely to take a very dim view of commercial lobbyists entering the debate simply to protect their own profits, derived in part from lobbying the very institutions that would benefit most from a ‘yes’ vote.”

Mr Ganley told The Times yesterday: “The fact that this money trough is being tapped to overturn the democratic decision of the Irish people adds to the insult to democracy that is central to the Lisbon treaty process and content.

“The lobbyists win, the people lose. It epitomises what is going so very wrong in Brussels and why it needs to be fixed now. The European Union is a great idea, being rent asunder by unaccountable greed for money, influence and power underpinned by a quite stunning contempt for democracy.”

José Manuel Barroso, the newly re-elected European Commission President, used a visit to Limerick at the weekend to announce €14.8 million funding for 2,400 Dell workers in the city who have lost their jobs. Dell is moving its production facilities to Poland. The announcement of the money, under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, was criticised by “no” campaigners as an “opportunistic stunt … clearly designed to influence the outcome of the referendum”.

Niamh Uí Bhriain, a spokeswoman for Cóir, which supports a “no” vote, said the money was a “drop in the ocean in terms of what will be lost in jobs and revenue if the EU goes ahead with plans to attack Ireland’s low corporate tax rate following the passage of the Lisbon treaty”.

Mr Barroso also used his visit to dispense reminders of a bankrupt Iceland, where “people went to the ATM machine and there was no money”.

He also reminded voters that Irish banks had received €120 billion in loans from the European Central Bank.

[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Croatia-EU: Ambassador Hopes Entry Treaty Signed by July

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, SEPTEMBER 21 — “We hope to close negotiations by the end of next summer and to sign the EU Entry Treaty with the Spanish presidency,” by the end of June 2010, said the Croatian ambassador to Brussels, Branko Baricevic, following the meeting of the workgroup of the EU regions Committee on Croatia, today in Brussels. After the agreement on the border dispute with Slovenia, which has vetoed the Croatian entry process since December 2008, “we hope we will be able to open all negotiation chapters, and to close half of them, by the end of 2009”. On a long term forecast, according to the Croatian ambassador, “taking into consideration the vote of the European Parliament and the ratification by all 27 member countries, the EU entry should take place between the second half of 2011 and early 2012”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU Police Snatch Serb War Crimes Suspects

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — EU police in Kosovo arrested a group of war crimes suspects in a dawn raid on Wednesday (23 September). But the top Serb fugitive, Ratko Mladic, remains at large.

The EU police mission in Kosovo, EULEX, captured four ethnic-Serb men and a woman during an operation in Novo Brdo in north eastern Kosovo at 06.00 am local time. Kosovo police and Nato soldiers also took part.

Four of the detainees are suspected of killing two ethnic-Albanians in 1999 while the fifth person stands accused of obstruction of justice.

The action comes in the context of the EU mission’s rising unpopularity among ethnic Albanians, following the signing of a EULEX agreement with Serbia on cross-border policing earlier this month.

“It will improve our public image among Kosovo Albanians. There are a lot of expectations about EULEX and what we will achieve in terms of fighting serious crimes, such as organised crime, corruption and war crimes,” EULEX spokesman Christophe Lamfalussy told EUobserver.

“[But] our prosecutors work independently of any public image concerns,” he added.

The five suspects are likely to be tried under local jurisdiction as the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague, the ICTY, is slowly winding up its mandate.

ICTY is expected to shut down in 2012 after the trial of Radovan Karadzic. It is keen to try two more ethnic-Serb war crimes suspects, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, before ending its work. But the men remain at large.

Serbia is planning to submit a formal application for EU membership before the end of this year.

Its legal relationship with the EU is currently on hold after the Netherlands and Belgium in 2008 blocked ratification of Serbia’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement, saying that it was not co-operating fully with the Hague.

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


Kosovo: EU Police Arrest 4 Serb War Crime Suspects

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Four Serbs were arrested Wednesday under suspicion of committing war crimes against ethnic Albanian civilians during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, EU police said.

NATO peacekeepers and Kosovo police also took part in the arrests in eastern Kosovo, said Karin Limdal, spokesman for the EU’s 2,000-strong police and justice mission in Kosovo.

Limdal said the charges relate to “alleged inhuman treatment, violation of bodily integrity or health, intimidation and terror, and illegal arrest and detention.” The three men and one woman were not identified.

The crimes were allegedly committed in April 1999 during NATO’s 78-day airstrikes on Serb forces that halted the war.

A fifth person also was arrested for allegedly obstructing the authorities during the arrests in the village of Novo Brdo, 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of the capital Pristina. Several dozen Serb villagers protested the police action.

About 10,000 people were killed during the Kosovo war as Serbia’s forces cracked down on ethnic Albanian separatists, and more than 1,000 people remain missing.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia last year, but is still under loose international supervision while European Union police are in charge of sensitive cases such as war crimes.

The U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague tried the late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for carrying out a campaign of murder, rape and deportations that forced nearly 800,000 ethnic Albanians to flee Kosovo before the NATO airstrikes. The court also has convicted five other senior former Serbian officials.

Two senior ethnic Albanian leaders of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army were tried but were freed of the charges.

Local courts have focused on lower-level subordinates suspected of war crimes, but the process has faced difficulties due to challenges on gathering evidence and arresting the suspects.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Former Policemen Cleared Over Murder of Three Ethnic Albanians

Serbia, 22 Sept. (AKI) — A special Belgrade war crimes court on Tuesday acquitted two former Serb policemen accused of complicity in the murder of three Albanian Americans during the 1999 rebellion in Kosovo. Prosecutors said they would appeal the sentence.

The ex-policemen, Sreten Popovic and Milos Stojanovic, were accused of handing over the three brothers — Illy, Mehmet and Agron Bytyqi — to members of a special Serbian police unit who shot and killed them in their training camp in eastern Serbia.

Explaining the verdict, the judge, Vesko Krstajic, said it was sad that three young lives had been lost, adding: “It is completely unclear why it happened and for what purpose.”

Krstajic said that after hearing fifty witnesses and experts, the charges against Popovic and Stojanovic had not been proven before the court.

The Bytyqi brothers had left their New York pizza business to join Kosovar rebels fighting for secession from Serbia. They were arrested by Serbian authorities after illegally crossing border into Serbia in July 1999 and were released after two weeks detention in the central town of Prokuplje.

Popovic and Stojanovic handed the brothers over to other unidentified policemen. Their bodies were found in 2001 in a trash-filled mass grave on a police training ground in eastern Serbia, their hands tied with wire.

Popovic and Stojanovic were initially charged with aiding the killing, but prosecutors later charged them with depriving the Bytyqi brothers of a fair trial.

Kosovo was put under United Nations control after NATO airstrikes drove Serbian forces out of Serbia’s former province in June 1999. Kosovo Albanians declared independence from Serbia last year.

Although prosecutors announced they would appeal the sentence, defence lawyer Bozo Prelevic said he was satisfied with the verdict.

“The murder of the Bytyqi brothers is a horrible crime, but it wasn’t determined in the process who killed them and for what motive,” he said.

Prelevic said police need to explain what happened to the brothers after their release from Prokuplje jail.

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

Mediterranean Union

Music: Maestro Briouel Awarded ‘Civilta’ Mediterranea’ Prize

(ANSAmed) — CROTONE, SEPTEMBER 22 — The “Civiltà Mediterranea” (Mediterranean Civilisation) award has been given to Mohammed Briouel, director of the Ensemble de Fez (Morocco) at the Festival of the Arab World currently underway in Crotone. The award was given at the Charles V castle by the councillor for Identity from the Crotone Town Council, Silvano Cavarretta, and the artistic director of the festival, Gianfranco Labrosciano. The explanation for giving the award to Briouel was “for his work of safeguarding and spreading Arab-Andalusian musical heritage. Over the last 25 years, the Ensemble de Fez has distinguished itself as the most important ensemble in Morocco and the Arab world for its interpretational quality of a repertory dating back to medieval times and which represents a cultural bridge and dialogue between the western and Arab civilisations. In the exchange, the Mediterranean is a symbol and a concrete place in the form of a crossroads of common heritage.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Italy: Algerian Terror Suspect Arrested in Rome

Rome, 22 Sept. (AKI) — A 41 year-old Algerian man with alleged links to a terror organisation has been arrested in the Italian capital, Rome. The man is wanted by Algerian authorities for forming and participating in the Islamist organisation, the Armed Islamic Group or GIA.

Police said the man had been on the run since 2003, after an extradition order was issued against him.

The man, who at the time of his arrest held an Irish passport, was arrested by anti-terrorism police or DIGOS, at a hotel in Rome.

He was detained after he matched aspects of a fugitive profile issued by international authorities.

Italian police and anti-terrorism authorities, in conjunction with Interpol allege the man had obtained Irish citizenship after he provided slightly different data and this had enabled him to evade capture.

Anti-terrorism police said the man was passing through Rome and was arrested before he was due to return to Ireland.

According to the US think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Armed Islamic Group waged a violent war against Algeria’s secular military regime in the 1990’s.

It developed after its members appeared to “trace their radicalization to Afghanistan, where they fought as mujahadeen, or Islamic guerillas, against the Soviet army from 1979 to 1989,” the council said on its website.

“In its most active period in the 1990s the GIA established a presence in France, Belgium, Britain, and Italy. While the GIA is now largely defunct, (carrying out its latest attack in 2001) it remains designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US state department.”

The council also said most of the GIA’s members may have defected in recent years and joined Al-Qaeda or its sister organisation, the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The Algerian man was being held at Rome’s Regina Coeli jail while he awaited extradition to his native country.

Authorities there have been informed of his arrest.

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


Morocco: After Rainfalls, Dams’ Levels Exceed 90%

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, SEPTEMBER 22 — A fortnight of rain over the whole country has brought Morocco’s dams to their full capacity. The news was announced by the State secretary for Water and Environment, whom also added that, between September 1 and 16, rainfalls added another 500 million cubic meters to the water reservoirs, taking their overall volume to 15.6 billion cubic meters. “It is an historic record for Morocco,” Rabat authorities declared, “all dams have exceeded 90% capacity and this opens up great prospects for the 2009-2010 agricultural seasons, following a great harvest recorded this year for fruit, cereal and vegetables”. According to the online edition of newspaper L’Economiste, the water reserves will guarantee drinking water supplies for cities and villages for a period varying between two and four years and the production of electricity may exceed the current 10%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Film Festival to Focus on Women

Tunis, 22 Sept. (AKI) — Women are the main focus of the third annual Tunisian Film Festival which begins on Thursday. The theme of the festival is “Women, I love you”, will feature special guests such as Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, Bosnian filmmaker Emir Kusturica, the French writer Frédéric Beigbeder and presenter Jean Pierre Foucault.

During the festival, 20 films from 15 Arab and foreign countries will be presented, but only eight of them will be in competition.

The third festival “will celebrate women’s creative side in cinema, to support dialogue among civilisations, tolerance and cultural diversity”, said Nicolas Brochet, founder and director of the festival in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

The jury will consist only of women — Mouna Nouredine, Mireille Darc, Natacha Amal, Catherine Jacob and several other women filmmakers who will assess the entries.

Countries participating in this year’s festival are Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, France, the Netherlands, Mexico, Germany and Bosnia, the United States, Chile, Canada, China and South Korea.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Cast Lead: Gaza Pays the Price, 514 Mln Euros of Damages

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, SEPTEMBER 22 — Damage of 514.3 million euros: this is the estimate of the consequences of the last war in the Gaza Strip, the one that the Israelis called operation ‘Cast Lead’. Tallying the count was the report from an EU mission charged with the task of evaluating the situation, according to which the sustenance of the inhabitants of Gaza is gravely compromised: 84% of the damage regarded three key areas, that is homes, agriculture and the private sector, vital for food safety, economic development and employment for the Palestinian people. The report, underlines the ENPI website (www.enpi-info.eu) edited by EUNIDA (European Network of Implementing Development Agencies) for the cooperation office of EuropeAid, focused on diverse sectors. The northern governorates where those hardest hit by the conflict (37%), then Gaza (27%) and Rafah (17%). The data shows that the In Gaza, half of the active population is unemployed today, 80% depend on aid, 90% of companies have closed, public health needs and risks have increased, while due to the deterioration of water and sewage systems is causing an environmental crisis. What are the EU’s proposals? Activate 41 plans in seven sectors, firstly for the removal of debris, the private sector and the environmental crisis, with a price tag of some 514.2 million euros. The following is a toll of the damage: — HOMES: Over 15,000 damaged homes, of which 4,036 are completely destroyed and 11,512 partially destroyed, creating about 100,000 homeless; — AGRICULTURE: More than 46% of agricultural terrain has been damaged or made inaccessible. An important socio-economic impact in terms of employment and food safety. At least 30% of farm workers have lost their jobs (11,600 people), while prices increase and wages decrease; — PRIVATE SECTOR: Over 700 companies engaged in commerce, industry and services have experienced direct consequences: about 268 have been completely destroyed. The industrial sector was the hardest hit, especially construction, food production and metals. Already seriously damaged in 2007, due to the blockade, nine businesses out of ten closed down, leaving 94% of workers at home, with a direct impact on the banking sector; — PUBLIC BUILDINGS: The last conflict brought the situation to worsen even further. During the last war, over a third of public structures were damaged, with an impact on schools for half of students and on healthcare structures for a third of the population of Gaza; — ENERGY: The electric power grid is in need of permanent repairs after the temporary work to restore the service; — TRANSPORT: Road infrastructure in the cities in the north (Jabalya, Izbet Abed Rabo and Al Montar) were the hardest hit and must be rebuilt, while other roads are in need of maintenance. The international airport was hit in spite of the fact that it has been closed since 2001; — WASTE: Everyday thousands of cubic metres of sewage is dumped into the sea, creating pollution and a risk for public health. The damage to the gathering of solid waste was not so heavy as it was for the water and sewage systems, but the impact is significant. About a million inhabitants in Gaza during the war did not have access to water and 300,000 to the solid waste collection service. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Barry Rubin: the Increasingly Obvious Failure of Obama’s Middle East Policy

It’s a development of shocking proportions if properly noticed and evaluated. President Barack Obama’s entire Arab-Israeli and Iranian policies are miserably failing, though partly concealed by theatrical events and media protection.

Here’s the latest development. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arriving at the UN General Assembly session, stated that he doesn’t favor blocking the export of refined oil products to Iran, the keystone of the new sanctions proposed by Obama.

The New York Times reported this story but grossly underplayed its implications:

“But if France is to come out against fuel sanctions analysts said, they will most likely be off the table as an option for increasing the pressure on Iran.”

Ha! If France does so it will be the end of Obama’s whole strategy against Iran. For Tehran, it will be a straight, largely untroubled stroll to nuclear weapons, unless derailed by an Israeli attack.

“I think this is a bit dangerous,” Kouchner said about the proposed sanctions. Would that be more dangerous than Iran getting nuclear weapons? But Kouchner didn’t make clear to whom or in what way it’s dangerous. He did say, however, that it would mostly harm “poor people” in Iran.

[An aside: This is the kind of phony “humanitarian” considerations that paralyze Western policy today. Sure, there is some patriotic reaction against foreign pressures in places like Iran, but do the millions opposing that regime as a repressive dictatorship really want the West to coddle and court their oppressors? Do Gazans favor Western actions ensuring Hamas remains in power? Do Iraqis retrospectively curse Western sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime?

[Can the West fight no war because there will be civilian casualties; can it not preserve its freedoms because Muslims or others might be offended? Is the “zero-harm” approach an effective way for policy to be conducted, or even for democracies to survive at all?]

Of course, French President Francois Sarkozy may reverse his foreign minister’s stance. Yet it is extraordinarily significant that a major ally supposedly wowed by Obama’s charisma and popularity, can publicly do the equivalent of throwing a pie into the president’s face with no consequences.

And there’s a virtual parade of pie-throwers…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Christian Tombs Desecrated in an Historic Istanbul Cemetery

About 90 tombstones are broken. Incidents of this nature are not rate in the city but the local press failed to report it. Only recently and through a movie, have young Turks begun to learn about past anti-Christian pogroms. Ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew visits the cemetery in question.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — A Christian cemetery was desecrated in Istanbul. Unknown person or persons broke 90 tombstones that bore the sign of the cross and the name of the deceased. The incident occurred a few days ago in the historic cemetery of Valukli near the ancient Valukli Monastery, the only monastery dedicated to Our Lady still open in Istanbul, located outside the ancient walls of Theodosius, and which five non-resident nuns care for.

Istanbul’s Christian cemeteries have been desecrated on a number of occasions in the past 20 years. The latest outrage brought back memories of the tragic events of September 1955 when churches, cemeteries and properties owned by Istanbul’s Orthodox community were desecrated and destroyed in a pogrom. Eventually dubbed the September pogrom, the event was the brainchild of Turkey’s political-bureaucratic-military establishment, known here as Derin Devlet or ‘deep state’.

The pogrom has remained engraved in the memories of Istanbul’s Christians who at that moment realised that their survival in the city would be difficult, if not impossible.

Young Turks have learnt about such tragic episodes only recently, when Guz Sancisi, a movie by young Turkish woman director Tomris Giritlioglu, was screened in local theatres to great review and box office success.

It is also important to keep in mind that Christian cemeteries are very large and serve as a reminder of the small Christian presence in this country.

Given Istanbul’s huge urban development, Christian cemeteries have become surrounded by human habitation and are coveted by developers.

A law adopted in the 1930s transferred title to cemeteries to municipalities; hitherto, they had belonged to religious foundations

Outraged and grieved by what happened, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (pictured) went to see the desecrated cemetery, asking why such acts continue to strike Christian graveyards.

Despite the seriousness of the incident, the local press did not report it.

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


Iran Bans “Curvy” Mannequins in Shop Windows

“Using unusual mannequins exposing the body curves and with the heads without Hijab (Muslim veil) are prohibited to be used in the shops,” Iran’s moral security police in charge of Islamic dress codes said in a statement carried by IRNA.

Iranian police have stepped up a crackdown on both women and men, boutiques and small companies which fail to enforce strict religious dress codes since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to office in 2005.

The measures are the latest in a country-wide campaign against Western cultural influences in the Islamic Republic, where strict dress codes are enforced.

“Both showing necktie and bowtie behind the windows … and (the) selling (of) women’s underwear by men are prohibited,” said the police statement.

In the past, crackdowns tended to be launched at the start of Iran’s hot summers and petered out soon after. But last year they extended into winter and included a drive against tight women’s trousers and even men with spiky “Western” hairstyles.

Those who violate dress codes are usually cautioned on a first offence, sometimes after a brief visit to a police station. But they can be detained for longer, taken to court and required to have “guidance classes” after repeat offences.

Dress codes are most often flouted in wealthier, urban areas. Conservative dress is the norm in poorer, rural areas.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Iran Police ‘Target Mannequins’

Iranian police have warned shopkeepers not to display female mannequins without a hijab, or showing bodily curves, Irna news agency reports.

Display of bow ties and neckties, and the sale of women’s underwear by men are also banned, the police said.

The move is part of a crackdown on Western influences and enforcement of dress codes in recent years.

“Un-Islamic behaviour” has been targeted since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first election in 2005.

“Using unusual mannequins exposing body curves and with heads without hijabs [Muslim veils] are prohibited to be used in the shops,” police said in a statement carried by Irna.

Correspondents say that in the past such campaigns usually only lasted throughout the summer, but last year’s crackdown, including on tight trousers for women, was still continuing in the winter.

Iranians who violate dress codes for the first time are generally cautioned, but repeat offenders can face court action and “guidance classes”.

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


Israel Won’t ‘Dignify’ Brzezinski With Response

Carter adviser suggested U.S. shoot down Jewish state’s aircraft if they attack Iran

Both the Israeli government and the military here refused to respond to comments by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, who said the U.S. should confront Israeli jets if that nation chooses to take military action against Iran’s nuclear installations.

“We will not dignify Brzezinski with a response,” a source in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told WND.

Netanyahu’s spokesmen and the Israel Defense Forces refused to provide an official reply.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Russian Links Iran Sanctions to US Missile Change

NEW YORK — With a diplomatic wink and nod, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev opened the door Wednesday to backing potential sanctions against Iran as a reward to President Barack Obama’s decision to scale back a U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe.

While U.S. and Russian officials denied a flat-out quid pro quo, Medvedev told the U.N. General Assembly that Obama’s pivot on a missile defense plan long loathed by Moscow “deserves a positive response.” Obama himself has said his missile decision may have spurred Russian good will as a “bonus.”

“We believe we need to help Iran to take a right decision,” Medvedev said after the two leaders met on the sidelines of the U.N. assembly.

The prospect of a unified U.S.-Russian stance on new sanctions would put Iran under added pressure to yield some ground on its nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken a softer tone on many matters since arriving in New York for the U.N. meetings, emphasizing his interest in improving relations with the United States and expressing an openness to include nuclear matters on the negotiations agenda.

He has given no sign, however, that his country is willing to bargain away its nuclear program, which he insists is for peaceful purposes only.

In his speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday night, Ahmadinejad made no explicit reference to nuclear matters or prospective sanctions.

Obama’s chief Russia adviser, Mike McFaul, told reporters after the meeting with Medvedev that there was no deal with Moscow on missile defense and Iran. Pressed further, he said: “Is it the case that it changes the climate? That’s true, of course. But it’s not cause-and-effect.”

A member of the Russian delegation, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Russians, said Moscow’s final position on the question of imposing further sanctions would be determined, to a large extent, by Medvedev’s consultations here.

The U.S. and Russia are among six countries that will hold talks in Europe next week with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. Obama wants to reserve the possibility of pursuing tougher sanctions if those meetings lead to no restraint by Iran in the weeks ahead. And yet Russia, which has strong economic ties with Tehran, has stood in the way of stronger action against Iran in the past.

In remarks to reporters with Medvedev at his side, Obama said both agree that negotiations with Iran are still the best approach.

“We also both agree that if Iran does not respond to serious negotiations and resolve this issue in a way that assures the international community that it’s meeting its commitments, and is not developing nuclear weapons, then we will have to take additional actions and that sanctions, serious additional sanctions, remain a possibility,” Obama said.

Medvedev told reporters that the intent is to move Iran in the right direction and to ensure that it does not obtain nuclear weapons.

“Sanctions rarely lead to productive results but in some cases are inevitable,” he said through an interpreter.

Medvedev also mentioned that his government welcomed Obama’s decision last week to scrap a Bush administration plan for a missile defense system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic. He gave no indication that his remark about the sanctions on Iran was a diplomatic payoff for Obama’s missile defense move.

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly earlier Wednesday, Obama stuck to his two-pronged approach to Iran — acknowledging its right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy while warning of unspecified penalties if it veers onto the weapons path.

“We must insist that the future not belong to fear,” he said.

Ahmadinejad was speaking Wednesday evening.

The public rhetoric Wednesday suggested little improvement in the long-shot outlook for a diplomatic breakthrough next week when the U.S. will, for the first time, fully participate in European-led talks with Iran.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Wednesday with her counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to prepare for the Oct. 1 meeting in Geneva. Afterward British Foreign Secretary David Miliband read a statement on behalf of all six countries saying they expect a “serious response” from Iran at the meeting. What happens after that, Miliband said, will be determined by the outcome of the meeting.

Ahmadinejad told The Associated Press on Tuesday that in Geneva he would ask to purchase enriched uranium for a research reactor. That could put the U.S. and its five negotiating partners in a bind. Until now, Iran has produced only low-enriched uranium not suitable for a research reactor. But it could use refusal of its request as a pretext to start producing highly enriched material.

In his speech Obama did not mention the Geneva talks, which fulfill a campaign pledge to engage adversaries. He framed the Iran issue as central to his broader push to strengthen international limits on the spread of nuclear weapons.

Obama singled both Iran and North Korea, which has made more progress than Iran in becoming a nuclear power, as countries that now are at a crossroads.

“Those nations that refuse to live up to their obligations must face consequences,” Obama said.

The risk for Obama, in the case of Iran, is that the government will use the new talks to stall for time even as international patience wears thin. That is essentially what has happened with North Korea, which agreed at one stage to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities but then balked and has since defied the will of the U.N. by conducting underground nuclear tests and test-launching missiles.

Obama came into office promising a more vigorous diplomatic effort with Iran, which also stands accused by the U.S. of supporting international terrorism, undermining Mideast peace efforts and secretly supplying arms to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama has not ruled out the eventual use of military force to stop Iran, but his focus now is on diplomacy.

In the meantime, Iran is expected to continue expanding its capacity for enriching uranium, the building block of a nuclear weapon. Still, Ahmadinejad said Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons and favors a push for global nuclear disarmament.

“We are not pursuing a nuclear weapons program,” he said in the AP interview.

The Iranian leader insisted that it is the United States that bears the greatest burden in nuclear disarmament. The U.S., he noted, possesses thousands of weapons, is the only country in history to have used them in war and refuses to promise never to initiate another nuclear attack.

Iran, he said, is “the wrong address” for delivering international pressure to pull back.

Obama, however, indicated that Iran needs to clarify its intentions and the nature of its nuclear work by cooperating more fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. agency that is supposed to monitor nuclear programs to ensure they are not used to make weapons.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Russian Leader Open to New Iran Nukes Sanctions

NEW YORK — Giving some ground on a top priority of President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that sanctions are rarely productive but he opened the door to tougher ones to halt Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

“In some cases, sanctions are inevitable,” the Russian leader said after he and Obama held talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings.

Negotiations are scheduled for Oct. 1 between Iran and a group of six nations, including the U.S. and Russia, over its nuclear ambitions. Obama wants to pursue tougher sanctions if those meetings yield nothing. And yet Russia, which has close economic ties with Tehran, has stood in the way of stronger action against Iran in the past.

That made Medvedev’s admittedly muted support for sanctions bigger news, and something that pleased the White House.

“Unfortunately, Iran has been violating too many of its international commitments,” Obama said. “What we’ve discussed is how we can move in a positive direction that can resolve a potential crisis.”

He and Medvedev share the goal of allowing Iran to pursue peaceful nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons, Obama said. “This should be resolved diplomatically and I am on record as being committed to negotiate with Iran in a serious fashion to resolve this issue.”

However, if Iran does not respond during negotiations, “serious additional sanctions remain a possibility,” Obama said.

Medvedev said Russia and the U.S. could help ensure success by providing incentives for Iran to comply. He did not elaborate.

Before the meetings, Russian news agencies had cited an official in Medvedev’s delegation in New York as saying Russia does not rule out new sanctions.

For its part, Russia got some good news last week when Obama announced his decision to scrap a plan for a new U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe that deeply angered the Kremlin. Obama has emphatically denied that the missile defense change had anything to do with trying to get better cooperation from Russia on Iran, and Moscow had not until now appeared to be moving closer to the U.S. position on Iran in response.

To reporters, Medvedev called Obama’s missile defense decision “reasonable” and that it took into account Moscow’s concerns.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was meeting Wednesday with her counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to prepare for the Oct. 1 meeting in Geneva with Iran. And White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama as well as aides were spending considerable time this week, in New York and later in Pittsburgh at another international meeting, on the issue of Iran.

“This is a topic that comes up in virtually every conversation that he has,” Gibbs said.

On Thursday, as his last act at the U.N., Obama was to chair a Security Council meeting on curbing the spread of nuclear weapons that is largely aimed at Iran.

In his speech Wednesday to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama singled out both Iran and North Korea, which has made more progress than Iran in becoming a nuclear power, as countries that now are at a crossroads.

“Those nations that refuse to live up to their obligations must face consequences,” Obama said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Saudi Arabia to Send Troops to Iraq?

Alarms raised over Iran’s increasing agitation of Shiites

A key Saudi Arabia leader is organizing a pushback against Iran’s plans to agitate Shiite Muslims across Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations, an effort that may even involve introducing Saudi Arabian troops into Iraq to protect the Sunni Arab minority there, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Saudi Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz has become the point man in the efforts to defuse Iran’s planning.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Tehran Dumps Dollar for Euro

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered the replacement of the US dollar by the euro in calculating the value of the country’s Oil Stabilisation Fund (OSF).

The edict, issued on Sept 12, follows a recommendation by the trustees of the country’s foreign reserves, Iran’s English-language daily The Tehran Times said on Monday, citing Iran’s semi-official Mehr News Agency.

The move was taken because the government wishes to protect itself from the fragility of the US economy and the weak dollar.

The OSF, which forms part of Iran’s foreign exchange reserves, is a contingency fund set aside to cushion the economy against fluctuating international oil prices.

It is also used to help both the public and private sectors with their hard currency needs by extending loans.

Press TV meanwhile reported that following the switch the interest rate for facilities provided from the foreign exchange reserves is to be cut to 5 percent from 12 percent.

Since its introduction in 1999 by the EU the euro has gained popularity internationally and there are now more euros in circulation than the dollar.

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


Turkey: Shooting Stone Throwers Not a Crime

The top appeals court decided a soldier who shot at a group of protesters throwing stones and killing one in Turkey’s Southeast could not be punished because of the “special circumstances of the region.”

In a decision that is expected to set a legal precedent, the top board of the Supreme Court of Appeals decided the noncommissioned officer who shot seven bullets at protesters throwing stones at his military vehicle in the southeastern province of Siirt in 2005 was not guilty, dismissing the prosecutor’s office’s argument that the officer should have fired in the air.

The officer, traveling in a military jeep with two conscripts, suddenly found himself among a 150-200-strong group of protesters clashing with the police in the city center. Some people from the group threw stones at his car, slightly injuring the two conscripts.

Despite his repeated warnings, the crowd continued to throw stones, with the officer eventually firing on the crowd, killing a person.

The local court in Siirt found the officer not guilty, a decision that was appealed. Supreme Court of Appeals prosecutor Ömer Faruk Eminagaoglu, who is also the head of the Union of Turkish Judges and Prosecutors, or YARSAV, asked the appeals court to annul the not-guilty verdict arguing for a conviction.

Eminagaoglu said the individual who was killed was not part of the crowd of protesters, adding that the three bullet holes found on the car next to the individual showed that the officer had chosen to shoot not at the feet or the air, but in a lethal way. Eminagaoglu said the criminal investigation against those who threw stones resulted in 37 people being charged. He said the crowd was much smaller than the 150 to 200 cited in the report and the claim that the crowd surrounded the gendarmerie vehicle was untrue.

The prosecutor asked the officer to be punished for negligent homicide.

A lower appeals court rejected the prosecutor’s arguments, backing the not-guilty verdict.

The Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor’s Office appealed the not-guilty verdict again, resulting in the case being sent to the top board of the appeals court.

The top board on March 18 rejected the prosecutor’s office’s arguments. In the written verdict sent to relevant sides on the case last week, the board argued that the crowd, which was shouting “Kurdish will be the death of fascism,” and “This is Kurdistan, not Turkey,” had seriously damaged the military vehicle and injured two conscripts.

The accused, after the attacks, had the right to defend himself but had exceeded its bounds. The excessive reaction based on excitement or fear could be tolerated, the board said.

The written verdict also argued that the incident, which it described as an assault with verbal threats, had occurred in the Southeast and that the crowd had failed to move away despite repeated warnings. Coupled with the special circumstances of the region, the officer’s reaction was within legal bounds, the board decided.

The board’s decision was based on the assumption that the man killed was part of the crowd even though the local prosecutor’s office and the local court, the appeals court and the Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor’s Office all noted that the man was a bystander.

According to the decision, if a security official facing a crowd of stone throwers fears for his or her safety and fires on the crowd to kill, he or she will not be seen as criminally culpable.

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

Caucasus

Chechen Leader Claims US, Britain Back Rebels

MOSCOW — The controversial Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya claims that militants in the violence-plagued Russian province are backed by U.S. and British intelligence agencies.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s remark was probably the bluntest claim by a Russian official that insurgents in the restive North Caucasus have Western support. Western officials have dismissed such assertions as nonsense.

A statement from Kadyrov’s office Wednesday quoted him as suggesting that Western-backed mercenaries are fighting the government in Chechnya. It quotes him as saying, “We are fighting in the mountains with the American and English special services.”

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested during his presidency that the West was encouraging unrest in the North Caucasus.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Grief and Emotion at Funerals of Parachutists

(ANSAmed) — ROME — United by the same emotions, politicians and ordinary people took part in the State funerals of the six parachutists who died during the attack in Kabul: Lieutenant Antonio Fortunato, Corporal Matteo Mureddu, Corporal Davide Ricchiuto, Sergeant-Major Roberto Valente, Corporal Gian Domenico Pistonami, and Corporal Massimiliano Randino. At the basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome to pay their respects to the brave men who died in Afghanistan were President Giorgio Napolitano, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Presidents of the House and the Senate, Gianfranco Fini and Renato Schifani, the whole Government, and all the heads of the armed forces. Before the start of the service, Napolitano and Berlusconi greeted and comforted the families of the victims, and the four soldiers wounded during the attack (Air Force Field Marshall Felice Calandriello, and Corporals from the Special Forces (Folgore) Rocco Leo, Sergio Agostinelli and Ferdinando Buono), who returned to Italy yesterday night to pay their last respects to their comrades. The arrival of the coffins, draped in the Italian flag, was greeted by applause. The ceremony was led by military Archbishop of Italy, mons. Vincenzo Pelvi, who read a message from Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, with condolences from Pope Benedict XVI, who was “deeply saddened by the tragic attack”. In his homily, monsignor Pelvi remembered the victims one by one, calling them by name and exalting their lives, devoted “to the service of peace”. At the end of the funeral mass former parachutist Gianfranco Paglia, a PDL member of parliament, who is wheelchair-bond after being wounded in Somalia, read the prayer of the parachutists. Beside him was the son of Antonio Fortunato, seven-year-old Martin, wearing the maroon Special Forces beret, and who touched the whole congregation before the ceremony by getting up from his seat and going to caress his father’s photo, which was placed on his coffin. Immediately after the prayer, a trumpeter played the Silenzio, which heralded the blessing of the coffins and the hymn ‘Risorgero” (I will rise again), which concluded the service. The Frecce Tricolori made two fly-pasts over the Basilica, in a final salute to the six parachutists, who were greeted by a long round of applause as they exited the Basilica, along with the cry ‘Folgore’, and by the waving of the Italian tricolour. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Diana West: Surging for Nothing

Now that all eyes are on Afghanistan, it is more important than ever that we keep our experience in Iraq in view. We must now assess the net effect of the Iraqi “surge” strategy, however shocking that may be, before we recommit to that same disastrous strategy in Afghanistan. The simple lesson of Iraq is that nation-building in Islam builds a nation that is Islamic, and, therefore, constitutionally, legally, religiously, and culturally incapable of standing as an ally against global jihad.

The fact is, we don’t “get” anything from our heavy investment in Iraq, just as we won’t “get” anything out of our heavy investment in Afghanistan. We urgently need a new line of battle drawn around the West served by a multilevel strategy organized and coordinated around a simple principle: opposition to the spread of Islamic law. (While our leaders NEVER point this out, the spread of Islamic law is the inspiration of jihad violence, more delicately known as “violent extremism” or “terrorism.”) Such a multilevel strategy would include not just military means (lily pads), but, for example, an energy policy designed for energy independence, immigration policy designed to halt the creation of sharia demographics in the West, economic policy to bar sharia-compliant finance and purchase of our educational institutions, and travel restrictions on sharia nations to prevent the physical movement of jihadis to their battle stations. After all, pre-9/11 Afghanistan provided a base for al Qaeda, but al Qaeda didn’t launch its WTC attack from an Afghan hilltop. It had to get from the Islamic world into the Western world. In this time of war (jihad), we would need to restrict such access acordingly.

When you take this global view, our current focus on Afghanistan appears hopelessly, mindlessly narrow. But it remains the focus of debate today. Do we surge, or do we not?

Let’s get something clear: The US military aquitted its “surge” mission in Iraq successfully and professionally. But that was only one half of the surge strategy as conceived by its authors — and the only part of that strategy under US control. The US military surge was ordered specifically to trigger actions and behaviors in the Iraqi body politic that would justify all that US investment and sacrifice. These have not happened and will not happen, again, because an infidel nation cannot fight for the soul of an Islamic nation and come away having won its heart and mind. We set up a sharia-supreme state, and we will leave behind a sharia-supreme state (and the sooner, the better, I would add.)

What follows is a reprise of an August column which takes a look at conditions in post-surge Iraq…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Diana West: “The War in Washington”

The title of this post was the title of a panel this week sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the same group that sponsored a conference last spring I wrote up as “What Do You Mean ‘If We Ever Want to Leave’ Afghanistan?” The group includes many of the conservative/neoconservative champions and theorists of the Bush war strategies, including the vaunted “surge” in Iraq, and now supports a similar strategy for Afghanistan as specifically laid out in what I consider to be the appalling terms of population protection by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. GIven softening Democratic support for the war, this largely Republican/conservative group seems to be Obama’s core Washington think-tank ally in advocating and securing continued backing for the war — if, given Obama’s own reversing intentions, he even wants such an ally.

Almost six months after the first conference, there was a very different feel to this week’s affair. Whereas the last gathering conveyed an almost triumphal pre-triumphalism vis a vis the Obama administration’s then-apparent committment to democratization and nation-building in Afghanistan, today’s discussion much less ebulliently focused on the need to stay Gen. McChrystal”s COIN course. Talk of “good government” as the key to ending the insurgency had given way to talk of “population protection,” which seems to be the term of art for what McChrystal has called protecting the Afghan people from “everything that can hurt them.” There was not one single solitary mention of Islam (nothing new there) and just one reference in passing to the unconscionable burden McChrystal has placed on troops by restricting already restricted ROE in the unicorn-like pursuit of Afghan hearts and minds.

This whole policy of COIN population protection started in Iraq, of course. Remember back in May 2007 Gen Petraeus wrote: “This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we — not our enemies — occupy the moral high ground.” More on Petraeus’ “hearts and minds” here.

Back to the conference. That single glancing reference to our troops came when Rep. Mark Kirk noted that when he served in Afghanistan (the first congressman since 1942 to serve in a war zone), “force protection was everything.” That’s all changed under McChrystal’s COIN strategy, which places Afghan protection above all, and that’s “the right way to go,” said Kirk.

Do these people know what they’re saying?…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Indonesia: Central Government to Deal With Provincial Adultery Stoning Law

Most people in Aceh are against the law, and so is the national government. Usually adulterers are paraded in public to be shamed or reprimanded in private. For Commission on Violence against Women, the law violates the constitution. However, Islamic scholars argue the law is rooted in centuries-old practices that go back to prophet Muhammad. For Aceh’s rulers, Sharia is counterproductive.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Aceh’s recently adopted anti-adultery law could be suspended or repealed because of legal flaws, Indonesia’s Home Minister, former General Mardiyanto, said.

The law, which imposes the death penalty by stoning, was approved by the provincial legislature. It has not yet come into force because it was signed only by the governor and not by the speaker of the local parliament.

Mardiyanto noted that the law is controversial among ordinary Indonesians because it runs contrary the country’s traditional customs, and is creating security and unity problems.

Law and Human Rights Minister Andi Mattalatta said, “The issue should be solved on the basis of the national interest.” In his view, Aceh’s stoning law could dry up investments for the strongly Muslim Aceh.

Even though Muslims constitute a majority of Indonesia’s population (86 per cent), stoning (rajam) is not a common practice. Adulterers are usually paraded in public to be shamed or made to feel guilty. Even this is quite rare. Most Indonesians today prefer re-educating the guilty parties behind closed doors, where the latter are urged not to commit “moral crimes”.

Under Aceh’s new law, married offenders would be pelted with 100 stones, even onto death if that should pass. Unmarried offenders would get 100 lashes with a cane. Also, the law would punish homosexuals and pedophiles with caning and impose penalties on the venues where such acts are performed, namely (hotels, bungalows, rented houses and entertainment sites). It would apply to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The controversial law was approved just a few weeks before the end of the current legislature. It was adopted thanks to the votes of the Golkar and the Islamic United Development Party.

In October, a new legislature is set to be sworn in and changes to the law are likely. Most of the new provincial lawmakers were elected under the banner of the Aceh Party, once known as the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM), the guerrilla group that for decades fought for local autonomy and reached a peace deal in 2005 with the central government.

Under the terms of this deal, the province was granted substantial legislative and financial autonomy, including the right to implement Sharia. However, many GAM leaders believe that certain violent forms of punishment mandated under Islamic law are too counterproductive.

Aceh’s Deputy Governor Nazar said that the “provincial government would prefer education over stoning. Even cutting off the hand of a thief must be reviewed. If too many people lose their hands to amputation, they are sentenced to a life of poverty and to stealing again.” Sharia must be moderated; otherwise people will think that the “government is cruel and against its population.”

The national Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan or KP) is also against the law. KP’s director, Kamala Chandrakirana, said that “rajam is against our constitution.”

Some Islamic legal experts disagree. As far as they are concerned, “stoning is part of Islamic law since the time of the prophet Muhammad, even if its implementation should meet stringent criteria.”

Asmawi MA, who heads Islamic Criminal Law and State Administration of Islamic Studies at Syarif Hidayatullah University in Jakarta, said that in order to stone an offender, it must be “determined whether the punishment fits the crime, and this must be done in a trial where charges are backed by four witnesses.”

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


Pakistani President Comes Out Against the Misuse of the Blasphemy Law

In London President Zardari says his government will make sure that the law is not misused against religious minorities and dissenters. Some Islamic circles organise protests against possible changes to the law, even if many media are in favour.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said that his government would ensure that the blasphemy law is not misused by anyone. He made the important statement last Saturday, after a series of very serious episodes of religious intolerance and persecution and after a number of prominent political leaders asked for changes to the law. Eventually, these were met with protests by Islamic extremists.

Mr Zardari discussed the issue in London, where he met Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and acknowledged that extremists were misusing the law.

The law punishes any offense against religion and anyone trying to convert others. Muslim extremists, often with the complicity of police and local authorities, have used it to persecute and jail non-Muslims, especially Christians, and moderate Muslims.

At least 33 people accused of proselytising have been massacred by enraged mobs or killed by individual fanatics.

The problem re-emerged recently when a young Christian man was found dead on 15 September in Sailkot Prison where he was held on blasphemy charges.

Last Friday during a visit to Washington, Pakistan’s Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, said that the Pakistani government would change the law that extremists “are using [. . .] to victimise [religious] minorities as well as Muslims of Pakistan. [. . .] The stand of the Pakistani government is to review, revisit and amend blasphemy law so it will not remain a tool in the hands of extremists.”

Shahbaz Bhatti was in Washington at the invitation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which gave him an award for championing the rights of minorities in Pakistan.

Last Saturday the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer said that the law must be repealed to protect minorities, especially Christians, against violence and persecution, a position he had asserted already two days earlier.

Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), told AsiaNews that the “statement from the governor of Punjab’ was “important and welcome”, adding that he hoped the central government would take the same view.

Various Islamic-based opposition parties slammed Salman Taseer’s statement, demanding his resignation and accusing him of trying to use a few violent anti-minority incidents for his own purpose. They also announced that they would take to the streets to oppose any changes to the law.

Taseer responded on Saturday to his critics, asking what clerics and politicians did to prevent Christians from being burnt alive in the name of this law.

A wind of change appears to blowing across the country and even a sizable section of the press has come out against the law.

In an editorial article, the Daily Times wrote on 17 September that “Christians killed in the name of Islam never get justice. The only way an accused can be saved is to bundle him out of the country after releasing him on bail.”

Another editorial that appeared on 18 September in the Dawn said that the “Punjab government needs to take urgent steps to protect minorities in the province for the situation there is deteriorating. The centre, meanwhile, should start working towards the repeal of the blasphemy laws. For too long they have been used to settle personal scores, grab land—and to kill. These draconian laws must be struck off the books.”

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


Russia Presses US to Destroy Afghan Poppy Crop

MOSCOW — Russia is pressing the White House to resurrect the Bush-era policy of large-scale eradication of poppy fields in Afghanistan, an effort that critics say angered Afghan farmers and rallied support for the Taliban but did little to curb the cultivation of opium.

The Kremlin’s counter-narcotics chief, Viktor P. Ivanov, said in an interview published in the daily Izvestia on Wednesday that the U.S. and Russia should work more closely together to stem the rising tide of heroin addiction and prevent extremist organizations from financing attacks with profits from the drug trade.

One of the chief strategies the U.S. and NATO are currently pursuing to curb the multibillion-dollar heroin trade in Afghanistan is to replace the cultivation of opium poppies with grain and fruit crops.

Ivanov said such measures were insufficient.

“It’s not enough to offer alternative farming,” Ivanov said, according to Izvestia. Instead, he told The New York Times this week, the Obama administration should use the kind of aerial spraying of herbicides the U.S. has employed against the illicit coca crop in Colombia. Cocaine is derived from coca.

“I would call on the United States to use defoliation from the air,” Ivanov told the Times. He was on his way to the U.S. on Wednesday to meet with his counterparts there the following day.

Afghanistan provides more than 90 percent of the heroin consumed around the world. Russia and some other states in the former Soviet Union, which lie along Afghan drug smuggling routes, suffer from high addiction rates.

The Bush administration had long supported the manual eradication of opium poppy crops in Afghanistan. At one point, it tried to persuade President Hamid Karzai to accept aerial spraying as well and even transferred U.S. Ambassador William Wood from Bogota to Kabul because of his expertise in the issue.

But Karzai opposed aerial spraying on environmental grounds, preferring manual eradication efforts. The U.S., meanwhile, has become increasingly leery of destroying crops at all, fearing that the effort turns farmers into insurgents.

While the Afghan government continues its own manual crop eradication program, the Obama White House has all but abandoned the Bush administration’s efforts to destroy Afghanistan’s opium harvest.

Instead of eradication, the U.S. is now helping farmers plant alternate crops, destroying drug labs, trying to arrest major traffickers and interdicting shipments.

“Large-scale eradication efforts have not worked to reduce the funding to the Taliban,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday. He added that destroying crops has also driven farmers who have lost their livelihoods into the “hands of the insurgency.”

A recent U.S. Senate report labeled the Afghan eradication program “an expensive failure,” and special U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke called the practice “a waste of money.”

Eradication efforts in 2007 and 2008 destroyed less than 4 percent of the annual crops, according to a U.N. report, which also called eradication a failure.

But Ivanov contends that aerial spraying would work.

At a July conference, Ivanov blamed the failure of the U.S. and NATO counter-narcotics operations on poor tactics, and urged aerial spraying.

“If they used such methods in Afghanistan, all poppy fields there will be completely eradicated in just one year,” Ivanov predicted at the time.

That month Ivanov told the business daily Kommersant that the U.S. was reluctant to fight poppy cultivation more forcefully because, he claimed, Washington feared a backlash from powerful drug barons allegedly living in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Some Western counter-narcotics officials have also urged the continuation of eradication programs, saying that even if such efforts destroy only a small fraction of the crop, they can discourage cultivation by raising the risk to farmers of planting poppies

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Swedish Officials Meet Suspects in Pakistan Terror Probe

Swedish embassy officials have now met with the four Swedish terror suspects currently imprisoned in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Utrikesdepartementet) said on Wednesday.

Given their present circumstances, the group is said to be doing well.

The four Swedes — Mehdi Ghezali,a former inmate of Guantánamo Bay, 28-year-old Munir Awad, his 19-year-old girlfriend Safia Benaouda, and their two and half-year-old boy — were arrested on August 28th.

According to the foreign ministry spokesperson Karin Nylund, the meetings were conducted collectively and individually. The consulate will now continue its assignment in accordance with established protocol, however, Nylund was unable to provide concrete details about what will happen next.

“We will remain in contact with the detainees to the extent that they want and try to help if needed,” she said.

The Swedish prisoners were part of a group of foreigners thought by Pakistani police to be travelling in the company of a terror suspect.

The man’s alleged mission was to bring the foreigners to the lawless region of northern Waziristan to meet an Zahir Noor, an individual suspected of being a Taliban leader.

The group was arrested on the border of the North-western province, a region heavily targeted in the ongoing civil war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The group was arrested in a forbidden zone containing nuclear facilities, and is suspected of collaborating with terrorists.

The prisoners insist that they were on their way to a harmless religious gathering.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK’s Brown Seeks Fewer UK Troops in Afghanistan

LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday he was focused on cutting back on the number of the country’s troops in Afghanistan, despite a report from the top U.S. commander calling for an increase in the number of soldiers.

Brown insisted he was hoping to withdraw some British soldiers as soon as Afghanistan’s local forces become able to carry out their own security duties.

His comments follow the reported assessment of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior American commander in Afghanistan. McChrystal, who is also the NATO commander in Afghanistan, has concluded that more, not fewer, international troops were required.

“Our big challenge is to build up the Afghan army,” Brown said. “It used to be very few. It is 80,000 now. It is going to go up to 135,000 in the next year, so gradually the Afghan army can take more control of their own affairs, and allow our forces to train them, and then allow our force numbers to come down as we see the Afghan army going up.”

The Times of London newspaper reported Tuesday that Britain is considering the deployment of a further 1,000 troops in response to McChrystal’s assessment.

McChrystal claims that without more troops, the U.S. and allies could lose the war. By the end of the year, the U.S. troops will have a record 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, working alongside 38,000 NATO-led forces.

Britain has about 9,000 troops — the second largest force after the U.S. — based mainly in the southern Helmand province. A total of 217 British troops have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Brown’s office said no decision had been made on whether to send an extra 1,000 soldiers. “Nothing has been ruled in, and nothing has been ruled out,” a spokesman for Brown said while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

The spokesman said that troop levels are under constant review, and that officials were studying the details of McChrystal’s report.

A recent surge in the number of British troop deaths — a result of an increasing use of roadside bombs by insurgents and an aggressive campaign to oust Taliban fighters before the country’s Aug. 20 elections — has led to some public skepticism over the mission.

“We are not a squeamish people. We can take sacrifice and pain if we are convinced we know what the war is for and there is a reasonable prospect of success,” Paddy Ashdown, a House of Lords legislator and former U.N. High Representative for Bosnia, told BBC radio.

“Both of these things have been absent for the last three or four years. I think there is a real possibility now that we will lose the campaign in Afghanistan in the pubs and front rooms of Britain, before we lose it in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

Obama, Hu Vow to Forge Dynamic Ties

NEW YORK (AFP) — US President Barack Obama said Tuesday he was looking forward to visiting China in November, as he met Chinese President Hu Jintao and both sides vowed to forge a “comprehensive” relationship.

The leaders met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly here and both spoke warmly of improving Sino-US ties during a photo-op, without mentioning a trade dispute sparked by US duties on Chinese tire imports.

“I am committed to pursuing a genuinely cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China,” Obama said at the meeting at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

“We can make our relationship more dynamic and effective,” Obama said, adding, “I am very much looking forward to my visit to China in November.”

Hu, who sat opposite Obama along a long table, which also provided seating for a large group of aides from each side, echoed Obama’s words, vowing to work for a “positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship for the 21st century.”

“The Chinese side is also willing to work with the United States to properly handle essential issues to ensure our relationship will continue to grow on a sound and steady course,” Hu said, through a translator.

Hu earlier made a key speech at a United Nations climate conference and pledged to curb the growth in China’s carbon dioxide emissions by a “notable margin” by 2020 from their 2005 levels, though did not give an exact figure.

He is set to attend the General Assembly meeting on Wednesday, before heading on to Pittsburgh on Thursday for the G20 summit of developed and developing nations.

Washington has imposed punitive tariffs of 35 percent on Chinese-made tire imports — a move that prompted Beijing to lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Policy Center Urges Deeper US-China Relationship

WASHINGTON — A strategic think tank with close connections to the Obama administration is calling on the White House to develop better and broader relations with China.

The Center for a New American Security, in a study prepared by a panel of 10 academics, declared Tuesday that the first principle of China policy should be: “China should not be treated as a threat.”

The center was co-founded two years ago by two now-high-ranked administration officials, Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for Asia, and Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao were meeting in New York on Tuesday.

Obama said he would be visiting China in November.

China’s influence is increasingly global. The United States, consequently, “should make a concerted effort to engage China as a major partner in confronting global problems.”

These include, the study said, the economic crisis, climate change and energy security. At the same time, the two sides should be open and comfortably address issues of disagreement, the study said.

Thirty years after President Jimmy Carter established diplomatic relations with China, after a groundbreaking visit by President Richard M. Nixon, the United States “has been slow to articulate a comprehensive framework that moves beyond the simplistic,” the study said.

In the meantime, it said, neo-conservatives advocate containment while isolationists try to adopt protectionist policies.

“The truth of the matter is that the United States and China’s mutual interdependence is significant and continues to grow,” the study said.

Over the last decade, economic and political relations between the United States and China have expanded, with bilateral trade topping $409 billion this year.

At a high-level meeting in July in Washington, the United States and China pledged closer cooperation to deal with global hot spots such as Iran and the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner portrayed the talks as a positive development in relations, the list of accomplishments on the economics side basically reaffirmed steps both nations have already taken to deal with the financial crisis.

On foreign policy, there were no apparent breakthroughs although the countries pledged closer cooperation in dealing with the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.

Clinton conceded that differences remained in many areas such as human rights.

There have been differences over trade, as well, and China is resistant to major climate change proposals.

It has given its support to negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program and the fate of tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities could rest on the stand China takes at the United Nations.

The study coincides with the high-level meetings at the United Nations and meetings of the so-called G-20 nations later in the week in Pittsburgh.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

S. Africa: Murder Down; Rape, Robbery, Hijacking Up

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South Africa’s murder rate — one of the world’s highest — has dropped slightly, but the country faces a distressing rise in rapes, robberies and hijackings, South African police said Tuesday.

The number of murders decreased 3.4 percent to 18,148 between April 2008 and March 2009. That still leaves 50 murders a day in the country of some 50 million people.

Sexual offenses increased 10.1 percent, with a total of 71,500 reported offenses. Robberies at homes and businesses increased more dramatically, up 27.3 and 41.5 percent respectively.

South Africa has one of the worst crime rates in the world, putting the government under pressure to show that safety is improving ahead of next year’s soccer World Cup.

“There are areas where we are making progress. At the same time there are areas where we are still lagging behind,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said. “Government is unshakable in its resolve to fight crime.”

Many observers and opposition parties are not convinced the government is winning the war against crime.

“It’s a bad year. It’s definitely a bad year,” said analyst Johan Burger, with the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

President Jacob Zuma has appointed a new police commissioner Bheki Cele and charged him with ridding the police force of corruption and boosting morale as the country approaches its first World Cup, expected to draw 400,000 visitors.

In a small bright spot, the number of muggings dropped for the third consecutive year. The latest figures show a 7.4 percent decrease.

Of more concern to South African residents was the increase in house and business robberies and an increase in car hijackings. Figures show that business robberies increased by a staggering 41.5 percent, house robberies increased by 27.3 percent, truck hijackings increased by 15.4 percent and car hijackings increased by 5 percent.

This year, well-coordinated armed gangs have blazed through several shopping malls in Johannesburg, killing bystanders and terrifying shoppers and store owners.

Mthethwa said he believes the worsening economy may be the real culprit for the rise in robberies. South Africa is in its first recession in two decades. He said he was deeply concerned about the increase in house robberies.

“It is one of the crimes that are the most intrusive and personalize the crime experience,” he said.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, condemned the figures as a “serious deterioration” of the crime situation in South Africa.

“With the 2010 World Cup fast approaching, the usual rhetoric and empty promises must once and for all be brought to an end,” spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard said in a statement, in which she called for more police and better training.

Joe Mcgluwa, from the Independent Democrats, said his party viewed the statistics with mixed feelings. They welcomed the decrease in murders but were very concerned about increase in other forms of violent crime.

“The increase in sexual offenses is most worrying of all and shows we still have a very long way to go to create a society where our women and children are safe,” he said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


U.S. To Keep South Africa Embassy Closed After Threat

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) — The United States will keep its embassy and other American government offices in South Africa closed on Wednesday after it received an undisclosed security threat, the embassy said on its website.

U.S. embassy spokeswoman Sharon Hudson-Dean had said earlier on Tuesday that the assumption was that the U.S. offices would reopen on Wednesday.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the threat was “pretty credible information” against U.S. government facilities in South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy.

South Africa, due to host the soccer World Cup next year, is not itself seen as a target for attacks. Hudson-Dean said it was the first time in a decade the offices had been closed due to a security threat.

Somali rebels have vowed to avenge last week’s killing of one of the continent’s most wanted al Qaeda suspects in a raid by U.S. commandos, but there has been no previous link between Somali insurgents and South Africa.

Bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 killed 224 people and wounded thousands.

“The embassy is tracking developments very closely and assessing its security posture and formulating an appropriate course of action,” said Kelly.

South African Police Commissioner Bheki Cele did not give details of the threat and said he could not rule out the possibility of a hoax while investigations continued.

“It is under control,” he told reporters in Cape Town.

A U.S. embassy message told American citizens to refer back to a July 29 U.S. State Department worldwide caution.

It included a warning that information suggests al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

As well as the embassy, there are U.S. consulates in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and other U.S. government offices, including that of USAID, the Agency for International Development.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Dutch Pilot Held Over Argentine “Death Flights”

MADRID/BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) — A Dutch-Argentine airline pilot accused of running “death flights” to dump political prisoners at sea under Argentina’s military government 30 years ago was arrested in Spain, Spanish officials said on Wednesday.

Argentina issued an international arrest warrant last year for Julio Alberto Poch after an Argentine judge traveled to Europe and interviewed colleagues who said he had boasted about disposing of drugged prisoners into the River Plate or the ocean.

Poch, 57, a retired Argentine navy lieutenant, was arrested on Tuesday at Valencia’s Manises Airport during a stopover as he flew a plane to Amsterdam. Poch works for Holland’s Transavia, an airline owned by Air France-KLM.

Argentina had asked that the Netherlands extradite Poch, but he was protected by his Dutch citizenship while in the Netherlands, Argentina’s Human Rights Secretariat said in a statement.

Spain arrested him on the international warrant and a justice system source in Buenos Aires, who asked not to be named, said Argentina will now request his extradition from Spain.

Poch is accused of being involved in the deaths or disappearance of hundreds of people held in the Naval Mechanics School, Argentina’s infamous political prison, the source said.

Prisoners at the school, known as the ESMA, were tortured and many were drugged and then put into helicopters or airplanes to be cast into the river or the sea while still alive.

“THEY WERE TERRORISTS”

An Argentine government report says more than 11,000 people died or disappeared during the so-called Dirty War, a crackdown on alleged leftists and other opponents of the military regime that ruled from 1976 to 1983.

Argentine Federal Judge Sergio Torres traveled to the Netherlands in December last year to gather testimony from work colleagues of Poch who said he confessed to them his involvement in the “death flights” and the way prisoners were thrown out of planes, the Human Rights Secretariat said.

“(Poch) told me how aboard his plane, people who were still alive were thrown off with the intent of executing them,” a pilot told Torres during an interview with the judge in the Netherlands, official Argentine news agency Telam reported.

Poch justified the killings by saying “they were terrorists,” according to the testimony cited by Telam.

Another pilot who worked with Poch said “his behavior was outrageous, he defended throwing people off planes into the ocean,” Telam said.

Poch has worked for Transavia since the 1980s when he fled Argentina to the Netherlands, where he lives with his family, Telam said.

In 2005 Argentina’s Supreme Court, at the urging of then-President Nestor Kirchner, struck down two amnesty laws that shielded hundreds of former officers from charges of human rights abuses during the dictatorship.

Courts have since issued a handful of severe prison sentences for members of the security forces — many now elderly — who were convicted of kidnapping, torturing or killing dissidents.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Italy: 757 Migrants Pushed Back in 4 Months, Gov’t

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 22 — In almost four months, from May 6 to August 30, there have been a total of eight operations carried out to repel a total of 757 migrants in the Sicilian Channel to Libya. The data was reported by the Interior deputy Minister, Alfredo Mantovano, during a hearing at the Schenghen Commission, who then stressed the Italian position: “the government has no intention of interrupting or suspending repulsion operations”. The deputy minister also affirmed that Italy, in all of these occasions guaranteed at sea rescues and “never denied to the illegal immigrants who were intercepted” the right to ask for asylum. During the hearing, Mantovano stressed that the procedures were “carried out in conformity with internal and international regulations”, with the Italian bodies that, “with agreements with Libya and Malta, operated in such a way that all rescue operations were carried out”. Regarding the possibility for immigrants who have been pushed back to ask for asylum, the deputy minister guaranteed that “Italy has never denied this to them”. Every operation, he explained, “lasted more than ten hours and the possibility was given to all but none” of the 757 illegal immigrants “asked for refugee status or stated that they were oppressed in their country of origin”. Therefore Italy will not change direction. Also because, Mantovano continued, “if the repulsion procedures obtained a single effect, it was that of saving the lives of people who would have died under other conditions”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Govt Rejects ‘Push- Back’ Criticism

Undersecretaries defend Italy’s refugee and migrant record

(ANSA) — Rome, September 22 — The Rome government hit back at international critics of its migrant ‘push-back’ policy on Tuesday, saying refugee rights were fully recognized under Italian law. The United Nations Refugee Commissioner, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, the European Commission Vice-President and Human Rights Watch have all expressed concern in recent days over the policy of forcibly escorting boat migrants approaching Italian shores to Libya instead of bringing them to Italy.

Fears over policy, which provides for asylum claims to be vetted by Tripoli, have centred on the lack of any asylum legislation in Libya.

But Interior Undersecretaries Alfredo Mantovano and Nitto Francesco Palma both insisted no one escorted back to Libya by Italian patrols had been denied the right to request asylum. Speaking at the presentation of an immigration report, Palma said there had been eight “push-back operations” since the policy was launched in May, in which 757 people had been taken back to Libya. “Not a single request for international protection was made during this journey,” he said. “If there had been, we would not have had problems bringing these people to Italy”. Answering questions at a House parliamentary committee, Mantovano noted that the journeys back to Libya took ten hours, during which time “anyone could have asked for protection or informed staff they feared persecution but no one did”. He said all Italy’s actions had fully complied with international laws protecting the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Responding to questions about a drop in the number of asylum applications, which had led to suggestions the push-back policy was preventing people making claims, Mantovano said the 2008 and 2009 figures could not be compared. He said this was because 2008 had seen an abnormally high number of applications. The undersecretary said the number of asylum applications received by Italy during the first eight months of 2009 were higher than those received during the same period in 2007, and more than those received over the entire years of 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Palma and Mantovano both said Italy had done as much as possible to help foreigners in need. Palma said Italy had carried out 653 rescue operations, saved the lives of 41,200 migrants at sea and accommodated them in Italy a cost of over 77 million euros between January 2007 and April 2009 Mantovano pointed to Italy’s record with asylum applications, saying it set an example for the rest of Europe. In the first eight months of 2009 it processed 17,203 asylum applications and granted refugee status to 1,246 people. A further 5,418 people received another form of protection while around 10,000 had their claims refused. Mantovano said that over the last decade, the percentage of applicants granted some form of protection had remained constant, at around 40%.

INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM. The push-back policy has been the subject of heated internal debate in Italy, ever since it was launched four months ago, attracting fierce criticism from opposition MPs, Catholic groups and rights organizations, But in recent days, the topic has also drawn international comment. Last week, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay sparked anger in the centre-right government by referring to “the hardship of those who are left stranded near the shores of Libya, Malta, and Italy”, while on Monday, the European Union’s Justice and Security Commissioner Jacques Barrot said Libya’s treatments of migrants and asylum seekers was “unacceptable”. On the same day, UN Refugee Chief Antonio Guterres expressed “strong reservations” over Italy’s push-back policy, warning Libya did not provide “proper safeguards to protect asylum seekers”. The international organization Human Rights also published a scathing 92-page report on the policy, suggesting Italy was “sending people back to abuse”. HRW refugee policy director Bill Frelick said the policy was an “open violation of Italy’s legal obligation not to commit refoulement”, which is the forced return of people to places where they risk abuse or death. Libya is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which provides internationally recognized rights for asylum seekers and refugees, has no asylum laws and does not distinguish between refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants. People entering Libya without documents or permission are treated as illegal entrants and subject to arrest. The Italian government says its policy is compliant with international law and EU regulations and draws attention to fact its location on the EU’s southernmost border means it has to cope with a disproportionate number of arrivals.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Keep Out, Britain is Full Up

Migrants on the move yesterday after the French authorities bulldozed their shanty town

BRITAIN must not take in any of the migrants massing in France because the country is full, it was claimed last night.

French authorities yesterday finally destroyed the Calais shanty town, known as The Jungle, used by migrants as a launch-pad to Britain.

But Tory politicians urged them to act quickly to ensure those displaced from the newly cleared camp did not simply come straight to the UK.

Critics of yesterday’s operation said that while it was essential the five-year-old camp was knocked down, there seemed no proper plan in place to deal with the 1,000 or so Afghans or Iraqis left homeless.

While some reports said the French would use British taxpayers’ cash to offer the migrants financial incentives to go home, most experts believe they will simply disperse to smaller makeshift camps around the Calais docks and continue their attempt to enter Britain illegally.

Their attitude was summed up by one Afghan immigrant removed from The Jungle yesterday who said: “We’re determined to stay as close to the port as possible because it’s the way to England.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: No New Research Into Cost of Immigration

There will be no new research into the cost of immigration in the short term, the Volkskrant reports on Tuesday.

Three motions aiming to force integration minister Eberhard van der Laan to carry out the research will be voted down in parliament later today, the paper says.

One motion from the Liberals (VVD) calling for an update of a 2003 report on immigration and the economy was thought to have a small chance of success. But Labour MPs have decided to vote against it as well, the paper says.

Van der Laan said earlier this month the cabinet had met its legal obligations on answering MPs questions. In July Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration party PVV asked a number of government ministers to calculate exactly how much non-western immigrants cost Dutch society.

Refugees

Meanwhile, former prime minister Ruud Lubbers says in an interview with the Nederlands Dagblad that the country needs to be more generous in admitting refugees and highly-skilled migrants. ‘Foreign workers are needed to combat the effect of the aging population, Lubbers said.

‘We need unorthodox policies. Instead of saying ‘no unless’ we should be saying ‘yes, as long’ when we are talking about letting in foreigners,’ Lubbers, the former UN high commissioner on refugees said.

The Netherlands is placing too much emphasis on getting rid of people, he said. ‘Our refugee policy is characterised by its restrictive nature and inefficient implementation. We are wasting a lot of talent,’ he told the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Swedish Integration Policies ‘A Failure’

Immigrants to Sweden continue to flock to a few, high-immigrant concentration areas, new statistics show, prompting one politician to conclude the country’s integration politics have failed.

According to a fresh report from Statistics Sweden (SCB), the number of inhabitants with foreign backgrounds has escalated in all of the country’s most immigrant-dense areas over the past ten years.

Employment has increased to some extent in many city districts, and the number of individuals reliant upon government benefits has decreased to an equal degree.

By far the greatest change, however, relates to the concentration of inhabitants with a foreign background, which has increased dramatically in most of the 38 city districts.

“What the statistics show is that our migration and integration policies have totally failed,” said Anders Lago, the Social Democratic mayor of Södertälje, to the TT news agency.

For 38 the districts deemed to have a high concentration of immigrants, from Malmö’s Rosengård in the south to Hertsön in Luleå in the north, municipalities have signed special development agreements with the Swedish government.

The goal of the agreements is to improve coordination between the state and the various municipalities and to increase cooperation between administrative authorities and the private and non-profit sectors within each district.

In order to follow the development process, the government has also requested Statistics Sweden with tracking developments in all 38 districts.

The initial results of the agency’s investigation, presented on Wednesday, paint a dismal picture of how well Sweden has succeeded in promoting a diverse society over the past ten years, with the concentration of foreign born increasing in most of the districts surveyed.

“In practice, more of these areas are functioning like huge refugee reception centres. They become a passage way for asylum seekers and refugees, which makes it clear that this is a very, very, serious problem for society,” said Lago.

In Ronna, a district of Södertälje, south of Stockholm, for instance, the concentration of inhabitants with a foreign background has increased from 66 to 84 percent in ten years.

In Linköping’s Skäggtorp neighbourhood in central Sweden, the concentration has increased from 22 to 49 percent.

In nine of the 38 districts, more than 80 percent of inhabitants have a foreign background. The most densely populated immigrant district was Hjällbo in Gothenburg, with a concentration of 90 percent.

Sweden’s Minister for Integration, Nyamko Sabuni, however, refused to see the increased concentration of immigrants in city districts as an indication of the success or failure of Sweden’s integration politics.

“The purpose of integration politics is not to spread people out. We don’t see it as a problem that many individuals with a foreign background live in areas with a high concentration of immigrants. The problem is that many people with an immigrant background are unemployed. The purpose of integration politics is to support people so they can establish themselves in the job market,” she told the TT news agency

“The statistics show that employment is on the rise and the need for economic support is decreasing, which is encouraging.”

The agency’s statistics also contained data on a number of positive developments, including a marked increase in the number of gainfully employed individuals in most city districts.

Both Andersberg in Halmstad and Hjällbo in Gothenburg witnessed a 19 percent increase between 1997 and 2007. In 2007, almost half the population of both districts was employed.

Similarly, during the same period, the number of working individuals in Rosengård rose from 19.9 to 34.2 percent, while employment figures for the entire country oscillated between 72 and 78 percent.

In most districts, the proportion of inhabitants receiving government benefits dropped by as much as six percent between 2004 and 2007.

Despite this reduction, in areas such as Rosengård almost 26 percent of the population retained some form of economic support in the year 2007.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


The Calais ‘Jungle’ Has Been Cleared — But This Tide of Despair Has Only Just Begun

The desperate scenes at the Calais ‘Jungle’ have shone a grim light on Britain’s immigration problem. But the ineffective policies and porous borders of the EU mean that much worse is to come, says Philip Johnston.

By the time the French police arrived in force yesterday, only a few hundred immigrants were left in the Calais “Jungle”. Alerted to the authorities’ plans, many had already moved on. It is rumoured that a new squatter camp is taking shape close to Dunkirk. The Calais shanty might have been dismantled; the people, however, remain and more will come. The big question is: what does Europe do about it?

From this side of the Channel, the problem looks like something the French should deal with. After all, there is an EU rule, the Dublin Convention, whereby anyone seeking asylum should do so in the first member state they arrive in. But we are not talking here about political refugees, even if many of the countries they come from are politically unstable. By and large, they are economic migrants looking for a better life. More than 100 in the Calais camp were unaccompanied children sent from villages in Afghanistan by family and friends who club together to pay people traffickers to get them to Europe, preferably to Britain, where they might have prospects that do not exist at home.

Related Articles

Bulldozing ‘The Jungle’ will not stop immigrants coming to UK

This human tide was captured brilliantly in Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 film In This World, which followed the journey of two 14-year-old Afghani boys from a refugee camp in Peshawar. They could equally have been from Africa, Kurdistan or even China. What they all want is to get to Britain; and after braving the blazing sands of the Sahara, risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean or spending days cramped and hungry in the back of a lorry from central Asia, they are not about to be thwarted by 22 miles of English Channel.

Across Europe, shanty towns are springing up to house the flood of illegal immigrants who pose one of the greatest long-term challenges to the EU. Climate change, population growth, water shortages, famine and war will all drive more and more people from their homelands and towards Europe. Many want to get to the UK, but the idea that this country is being hit hardest is wide of the mark. As an island with border controls still intact, Britain can at least keep some limits on the numbers arriving, even if some will inevitably make it across the Channel.

But in the countries closest to the EU’s external borders, serious problems are emerging. In Greece, tens of thousands of migrants are living in squatter camps in Athens and on the Aegean Islands. Many eventually make their way to Italy, which also is bearing the brunt of the influx. The Mediterranean coasts of Spain and France are seeing a large rise in numbers. In 2008, an estimated 70,000 tried to cross from North Africa. Corpses are sometimes washed up on the beaches, the result of ill-fated attempts to cross the sea from Africa, often in small craft unable to withstand the elements.

Immigration is potentially the biggest crisis facing the EU at a time when the economies of the 27 member states are themselves under pressure. Within Europe itself, there are large movements of migrant workers depending on the prevailing economic climate. When the economy was booming, hundreds of thousands of eastern Europeans headed west after their accession in 2004, principally to the UK, which was the only major economy to let them in to work.

Although the Home Office initially predicted that a maximum of 13,000 east Europeans would come each year, the numbers peaked at close to a million, mostly from Poland. Many have returned home now the recession has taken hold and there are better job opportunities in their own countries. But hundreds of thousands have stayed on to await an upturn.

While they may be considered by indigenous workers to be immigrants, they are in reality part of the internal EU labour market. Nothing can be done to prevent them seeking work in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter. From 2011, all remaining restrictions on the movement of migrant workers within the 27 member states, introduced with the accession of the eastern states in 2004, must be lifted, though they will remain in place until 2014 for workers from Romania and Bulgaria.

Free movement of workers is a fundamental right in the EU, which is why the arguments over the number of eastern Europeans working in Britain are somewhat redundant since nothing can be done about them, short of leaving the EU and erecting new barriers. However, the problem is that the Europeans who have come to Britain are mostly young single men who are competing for jobs with the very group in our own society who are least able to get work.

The only immigration that can be controlled is that into the EU, not that within it; and those curbs can only be as good as the weakest border — and some are very weak indeed. There has been agreement to establish an EU frontier force of about 400; but given the extent of the borders from Finland in the north to Greece in the south, how effective could this be?

Another suggestion, being pushed by the French in particular, is for “burden sharing” around the EU. Many of the migrants are claiming political asylum, which current law says can only be done in the first country in which they arrive. Inevitably, by the time migrants have reached the Channel they have already been to four or five other EU countries and may even have already applied for asylum and been rejected.

In 2008, there were 240,000 would-be political refugees in the 27 member states. The highest number of applications was in France with 42,000, followed by 30,500 in the UK (though this is way down on 2002 when 100,000 were recorded). But the figures do not tell the whole story. Greece had only 19,000 applications, but it has far more illegal immigrants who choose not to come to the attention of the authorities or who are planning to move on elsewhere. As the immigration crisis grows, pressure will be applied on Britain, in particular, to take more of them because other European countries, rightly or wrongly, believe the UK acts as a magnet to many migrants who speak English, have communities in Britain and believe that work or benefits are easily available to sustain them.

Despite the Dublin Convention, countries such as Greece or Italy do not wish to spend the money and effort processing the asylum applications of migrants who would rather move on to Britain. For all the talk in Europe about an EU-wide approach, the problem is simply being passed from one country to another.

It is made worse by the ease of travel in continental Europe, where most national frontiers have been abolished under the Schengen treaty. It is not difficult to get from one end of the EU to the Channel without ever showing a passport or any other document. If the EU’s external borders are impossible to police, perhaps one answer is to restore internal controls.

Removing illegal immigrants is also a complex and expensive process; and if they claim asylum, it cannot be done until the legal procedures have been exhausted. Under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the key provision — known as non-refoulement — means that no one claiming asylum will be returned to a country where he might be persecuted. A second requirement is that proper consideration should be given to each claim and that no one will be prosecuted for entering a country illegally. It can be impossible to tell where an asylum seeker has come from, since they often arrive without any papers. The gangs that control “people smuggling” tell them to destroy all documentation.

Another solution is to treat the European Union as one area for asylum purposes and to process applications outside the EU, with a quota system to ensure the refugees are shared around the 27 member states. This system would replace the Dublin Convention, which was supposed to be a “burden sharing” arrangement but merely ensured that certain countries became targets for the traffickers.

It would be nigh on impossible to sell such an idea to EU voters and could act as a spur to greater migration. Only this week, a suggestion by the European Commission and the UN that Britain should accept some of the Calais Jungle’s inhabitants was rejected by ministers as a breach of international rules. The Home Office said: “There are processes in place for claiming asylum, in particular that you claim in the first safe country you get to.”

However, we cannot ignore the problem either. In his apocalyptic novel The Camp of the Saints, written in 1973, the French writer Jean Raspail contemplates the dilemma facing Western nations as a mass of starving boat people from the Third World arrive on the shores of southern Europe.

“They were a million poor wretches, overwhelmed with misery, ready to disembark on our shores,” he wrote. “To let them in would destroy us; to reject them would destroy them.” It is a dilemma with which Europe will have to grapple for a long time to come.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Web Forums Help Iraqi Refugees Adapt to America

BAGHDAD — “Mozart” is the screen name of a 44-year-old guitar-playing Iraqi refugee who was resettled in the United States recently.

In a posting this month to a popular online forum for Iraqis emigrating to the West, Mozart rattled off his many accomplishments: an economics degree from a prestigious Iraqi university, a diploma from an arts institute, experience in tourism and restaurant management, and 25 years as a musician with an Iraqi band.

“All this to tell you: I’m now working in a warehouse, doing manual labor for $8 an hour. My brothers and sisters, work is never shameful,” Mozart wrote in Arabic. “In time, you will find your opportunity in the land of opportunity.”

There’s a growing online audience for Mozart ‘s encouraging words. After years of backlog, the United States is admitting Iraqis in record numbers — 17,000 were resettled this year, up from just 202 in 2006 — but the refugees are arriving in the midst of a dire economic crisis with few job prospects and only a few months of federal assistance before they’re left to fend for themselves.

Iraqis who are approved for resettlement often flee death threats and torture only to find a new set of fears in their U.S. sanctuaries: lack of employment, alienation, language barriers and concern over loved ones who are still in Iraq . The U.S. government teaches Iraqi refugees the basics of life in the United States , such as applying for a driver’s license or paying utility bills.

Resettlement manuals don’t explain the nuances of American society, however, and the “overly positive” literature was published before the financial crisis wiped out the entry-level jobs that refugees typically fill, said Bob Carey , the nonprofit International Rescue Committee’s vice president for resettlement and migration issues.

The online forums “are a good thing because they’re not filtered. It’s an accurate depiction of life in the States,” Carey said. “However, they’re hearing about one person’s experience in one state, in one economic situation, at one given time.”

One of the best-known Iraqi forums is Ankawa.com, which draws about 30,000 visitors a day, or nearly a million a month. Ankawa, named after a small town in northern Iraq , began 10 years ago as an online meeting place for Iraq’s Christian minority, said the site’s Sweden -based manager, Amir al Malih .

Malih, responding by e-mail to questions from McClatchy , said the site’s popularity had soared with the exodus of Iraqis displaced by the U.S.-led war and sectarian violence. In the early days, Malih said, a volunteer legal adviser monitored refugee-related forums to ensure accuracy. Now, he said, so many resettled Iraqis of all backgrounds visit the site that the community is self-policing.

“They have enough information and experience to denounce any false or incorrect information,” Malih said.

In this dismal employment market, displaced Iraqis can’t offer one another much but encouragement and prayers, small consolations for a remarkably educated refugee population that has trouble finding even fast-food work these days. Instead, Ankawa users do their best to smooth other parts of the transition, helping to decipher the mysteries of American life.

Forum regulars offer do’s and don’ts for airport screenings and remind new arrivals to report any changes of address “so you don’t become a national security concern.” They get into the nitty-gritty of an Iraqi household in America: Long skirts for Muslim women? Bring them, because U.S. shops are filled with miniskirts and shorts. Electrical appliances? Leave them in Baghdad because of the voltage difference. Hookah pipes? Don’t worry, the tobacco and coals are available. Need cheap furniture and household goods? Try a site called Craigslist , “where you can buy and sell anything!”

An Iraqi refugee whose online handle is “Arizona” is a particularly astute observer of his new world. One of his most recent posts describes how he walked into a Wal-Mart and was shocked to be welcomed by “a person who’s over 85 years old and works as a tracker of shopping carts.” Apparently unfamiliar with Wal-Mart greeters, who are often senior citizens, Arizona made a phone call to make sure that the chain wasn’t exploiting the elderly, and later he published relevant labor laws for other Iraqis to see.

Another time, Arizona wrote of a stroll through a park and his first encounter with homeless street performers. He struck up a conversation and learned about their tenuous lives. He wrote with admiration that the U.S. government provides them with food assistance and medical care.

“God bless you, my brother,” an Iraqi named Basel commented on Arizona’s post about the street musicians. “I always see you trying to shed light on American society and to show us the corners we’ve never heard of.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Declaration of Independence Gets PC Revision for Kids

Text tells 5th graders: ‘All people are created equal’

A textbook publisher known for painting a sunny, non-violent picture of Islamic jihad in its history books has rewritten part of the Declaration of Independence.

The Lone Star Report revealed that a fifth grader in Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, Texas, was told to memorize the Declaration of Independence as printed in “History Alive! America’s Past,” published by the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, or TCI.

But there was one hitch — an essential word had been altered.

[…]

WND reported earlier when “History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond,” also published by the Teachers Curriculum Institute, totally omitted any mention of the violence in a lesson on Islamic jihad.

“Jihad is defined as a struggle within each individual to overcome difficulties and strive to please god. Sometimes it may be a physical struggle for protection against enemies,” the book states. It notes that Islam requires “that Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Rename UN Security Council the Terror Council: Gaddafi’s Bizarre Rant at General Assembly

Muammar Gaddafi today launched a bizarre attack on the United Nations during a shambolic speech to its General Assembly.

The Libyan leader’s address got off to an inauspicious start after a mass walkout by world leaders who believed he should not be given the floor.

America was represented by a couple of mid-ranking diplomats after Hillary Clinton left the chamber. Gordon Brown had also stayed away from the event.

However, Gaddafi appeared undaunted and strode to the podium in brown and tan Bedouin robes, a shiny black pin in the shape of Africa placed over his heart.

He began by praising Barack Obama, who had just given his first speech as US President to the forum.

But proceedings quickly went downhill. Speaking rapid-fire Arabic, Gaddafi said the organisation was responsible for failing to prevent some 65 wars that had erupted since its foundation in 1945.

He then went on to call for the abolition of the veto power of the five permanent members or expanding the body with additional member states to make it more representative.

‘It should not be called the Security Council, it should be called the “terror council,” he said.

At one point he also claimed that swine flu had been deliberately manufactured for military purposes.

Gaddafi — who was making his first appearance at the UN — repeatedly brandishing a document and railing against the ‘inequality’ of member states.

He claimed the original purpose was that all members — large and small — should be equal and that this was had never been the case.

The Libyan dictator’s speech followed Obama’s first General Assembly address, but a recess of some 15 minutes was called by the Libyan president of the General Assembly so diplomats could be take new seats.

Gaddafi laid a yellow folder in front of him and opened some of the handwritten pages as he received scattered applause.

The chamber was half-empty as began his speech, holding a copy of the UN Charter in his hands.

For a moment, it seemed he lost his place while he sorted through the pages of his yellow folder.

He appeared to be speaking without a text, looking at a set of notes before him on handwritten pages. He was not reading from the TelePrompTer.

Earlier in the day, Gordon Brown told BBC Radio 5 Live he was unlikely to be present for Gaddafi’s speech, and renewed his criticism of the hero’s welcome given to bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi when he was released on compassionate grounds last month.

The move is a marked contrast from his much criticised silence on the issue in the wake of Al Megrahi’s release.

‘I don’t think I will be there for that,’ the PM said today. ‘I have made my views very clear to the Libyans.

‘The way that Megrahi was received in Libya was completely unacceptable. I think it did a lot of damage to the Libyans’ reputation in the international community.’

Downing Street officials stressed leaders did not routinely attend each others’ speeches, and Mr Brown would be missing other significant addresses.

Mr Brown insisted that Britain still believed that Megrahi was responsible for the bombing, despite the his continued protestations of his innocence.

‘Let us be in no doubt that Megrahi is regarded by us as the person responsible for that crime,’ he said.

However he pointed to the changed international context since Megrahi was convicted of the attack.

‘Twenty years ago, Libya was seen by all of us as a leading player in international terrorism,’ he said.

‘Over these last ten years, we have seen them try to move to a better position in the international community by renouncing nuclear weapons and at the same time renouncing engagement in international terrorism.’

The Prime Minister denied that the fact that there would be no one-to-one meeting with US President Barack Obama during his time at the UN and the G20 summit in Pittsburgh represented a snub.

‘I do say that the special relationship is strong, it continues to strengthen,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


The UN Loves Barack Obama Because He is Weak

It is not hard to see why a standing ovation awaits Barack Obama when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly today, writes Nile Gardiner.

Barack Obama’s Gallup approval rating of 52 percent may well be lower at this stage of his presidency than any US leader in recent times with the exception of Bill Clinton. But he is still worshipped with messiah-like adoration at the United Nations, and is considerably more popular with many of the 192 members of the UN than he is with the American people.

The latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey of international confidence in Obama’s leadership on foreign affairs shows strikingly high approval levels for the president in many parts of the world — 94 percent in Kenya, 93 percent in Germany, 88 percent in Canada and Nigeria, 77 percent in India, 76 percent in Brazil, 71 percent in Indonesia, and 62 percent in China for example. The Pew survey of 21 countries reveals an average level of 71 percent support for President Obama, compared to just 17 percent for George W. Bush in 2008.

As the figures indicate, Barack Obama is highly likely to receive a warm reception when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly today, whereas his predecessor in the White House was greeted with undisguised contempt and stony silence.

It is not hard to see why a standing ovation awaits the president at Turtle Bay. Obama’s popularity at the UN boils down essentially to his willingness to downplay American global power. He is the first American president who has made an art form out of apologizing for the United States, which he has done on numerous occasions on foreign soil, from Strasbourg to Cairo. The Obama mantra appears to be — ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do to atone for your country. This is a message that goes down very well in a world that is still seething with anti-Americanism.

It is natural that much of the UN will embrace an American president who declines to offer strong American leadership. A president who engages dictators like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez will naturally gain respect from the leaders of the more than 100 members of the United Nations who are currently designated as “partly free” or “not free” by respected watchdog Freedom House.

The UN is not a club of democracies — who still remain a minority within its membership — it is a vast melting pot of free societies, socialist regimes and outright tyrannies. Obama’s clear lack of interest in human rights issues is a big seller at the UN, where at least half its members have poor human rights records.

The president scores highly at the UN for refusing to project American values and military might on the world stage, with rare exceptions like the war against the Taliban. His appeasement of Iran, his bullying of Israel, his surrender to Moscow, his call for a nuclear free world, his siding with Marxists in Honduras, his talk of a climate change deal, have all won him plaudits in the large number of UN member states where US foreign policy has traditionally been viewed with contempt.

Simply put, Barack Obama is loved at the UN because he largely fails to advance real American leadership. This is a dangerous strategy of decline that will weaken US power and make her far more vulnerable to attack.

As we saw last week with his shameful surrender to Moscow over missile defence, the president is perfectly happy to undermine America’s allies and gut its strategic defences while currying favour with enemies and strategic competitors. The missile defence debacle is rightly viewed as a betrayal by the Poles and the Czechs, and Washington has clearly given the impression that it cares little about those who have bravely stood shoulder to shoulder with their US allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the wider war on terror.

The Obama administration is now overseeing and implementing the biggest decline in American global power since Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately it may well take another generation for the United States to recover.

[Return to headlines]


U.N. Climate Summit Leaves Large Carbon Footprint

To hear world leaders and others addressing the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, the threat could not be more real and the need more urgent to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

But in stark contrast to the earnest statements is the carbon footprint associated with their gathering.

It happens every autumn: midtown Manhattan becomes the motorcade capital of the world. Each foreign leader in town has a convoy of vehicles. Some of them, like President Obama’s motorcade, are 20-to-30 vehicles in length. It’s so long — it seems that when the front of it reaches the U.N., the back end is still back at his hotel.

Exacerbating the annual exercise in diplomatic gridlock are police actions, blocking intersections and closing streets for security to facilitate motorcade movements. It renders countless other vehicles immobile while waiting for motorcades to pass, their engines idling but still blowing exhaust into the midtown air.

Does it undermine the goal of the climate change summit and cause the pledges of environmental concern to ring hollow?

Asked about it, White House climate change negotiator Todd Sterns had a suggestion.

“I think the U.N. should make a pledge to electric vehicle motorcades within five years,” he said.

Right. As soon as all U.N. diplomats pay their parking tickets.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

6 comments:

DP111 said...

In other news, female Swedish soldiers are complaining about inferior government-issued brassieres, which they allege have a tendency to catch fire. It’s understandable why this might be a concern, since Swedish women are reported to be quite hot.

Amazing! Not one comment. Whats up doc?

Robin Shadowes said...

I assume you mean swedish women and not "swedish women". The latter are not hot unless you get turned on by fur and unibrows. However, it probably gets rather hot under the tent, especially during summer.

Sean O'Brian said...

Largest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold found in Staffordshire

Of general interest. There is a video at the link.

WAKE UP said...

"The US is always led by Texas".

Ah yes, Texas, still possibly our last, best hope - and home to the BEST music too!

Zenster said...

WAKE UP: Texas, still possibly our last, best hope - and home to the BEST music too!.

Little do you probably know.

Malagueña, Hard Rock, The Kinks, Led Zep, Chuck Berry, Cream, an obligatory homage to Hendrix. What more do you want? His name is Junior Brown and he rules much of the electric universe. This, from a supreme music snob who admires Andres Segovia, Jeff Beck and John Petrucci.

laine said...

Re Ghaddaffy duck:

Every clown needs his tent.