Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100822

Financial Crisis
»Italy: Sluggish Legal System ‘Costs Firms Almost €3 Bln Annually’
»An FBI History of Howard Zinn
»‘Crash the Tea Party’ Teacher Resigns as His Dismissal Loomed
»Faithful Already Filling the [Proposed Building Site of Mosque]
»Fort Hood Massacre Classified as “Workplace Violence”
»The Rev. Franklin Graham Says President Obama Was ‘Born a Muslim’
»Local Muslim Association Faces Rumour Campaign
Europe and the EU
»By Toutatis! Asterix McDonald’s Ad Irks French
»Italy: Berlusconi Escort ‘Gang-Raped’ By Businessman and Guests
»Italy: Vaginal Cosmetic Surgery Takes Off
»Most Germans Reluctant to Donate to Pakistan
»Pope Asks French Pilgrims to Welcome People of All Origins
»Sweden: Mystery of Wikileaks Hacker Julian Assange and Rape ‘Set-Up’
»Switzerland: Name of Racist Scientist Remains on Top
»The Desire to Restore Al-Andalus
»UK: Shock for Man Ordered Off Flight and Arrested by Armed Police at Heathrow… Because of a Traffic Dispute Seven Months Earlier
»UK: The Greatest Taboo: One Woman Lifts the Lid on On the Tragic Genetic Consequences of When First Cousins Marry
Middle East
»Iraqis Accused of Killing Six Redcaps Are Freed
»Lebanese Gaza-Bound Flotilla Postponed Over Cyprus Rebuff, Organizers Say
»Looks Like the Fix is in: Russia’s Polish Crash Investigation
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Taliban Snipers Who Killed Ten British Soldiers Die in Air Strike
»Afghanistan: Taliban Claim Captured U.S. Soldier Has Converted to Islam and is Teaching Its Fighters Bomb-Making Skills
»Indonesia: Minister’s Twitter Message in Arabic Draws Protests
»Pakistan Flood Aid From Islamic Extremists
»Video of Lynch Mob Killing Two Teenage Brothers Sparks Mass Demonstrations Across Pakistan
Far East
»Japan: 40 Million Euros From Colonial Japan Unclaimed
»Belgium: “It’s an Asylum Crisis”
»Border Patrol Joins Ice Agents in Condemning the Obama Administration
»In 2004 Illegal Alien Votes Illegally, In 2010 Feds Making Him a Citizen
»Italy: Migrants ‘Arrived Aboard Luxury Yacht’
»Italy Party Lauds France’s Roma Policy
Culture Wars
»Senators Line Up to Tell U.N. To Leave Kids Alone
»Four Winners of the 2010 Fields Medal Announced
»Nobel Prizewinner: We Are Running Out of Helium

Financial Crisis

Italy: Sluggish Legal System ‘Costs Firms Almost €3 Bln Annually’

Mestre, 18 August (AKI) — Italy’s slow-moving system of justice and cumbersome bureaucracy cost companies a staggering 2.66 billion euros in a single year, according to an association of small firms and artisans in the northeastern city of Mestre near Venice.

The total includes fines for missed deadlines during bankruptcy procedures (1.03 bln euros) lengthly trials which can go to several levels of appeal (1.09 bln euros), and the bankrupcty procedures themselves (532 million euros).

“Out of 972,555 pending trials, the average length of time a trial takes is 2 years, 5 months and 21 days. Of the 51,000 appeals pending, these take an average 2 years and 3 months,” said Mestre’s CGIA association.

“For bankruptcy cases, the average timescale is 8 years, 3 months and 23 days,” CGIA added.

The data relates to 2007 — the most recent year for which figures were available, the CGIA noted.

“The situation in the southern regions is the most worrying,” it said noting that in Basilicata trials take an average 1,463 days compared with 614 days in the best-performing region of Valle D’Aosta in northern Italy.

“Italy’s judiciary needs to function more efficiently,” said CGIA’s secretary Giuseppe Bortolussi.

“It is one of the biggest obstacles for foreign investors.”

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


An FBI History of Howard Zinn

Did the historian lie about his Communist Party affiliation?

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, as Joseph Stalin entered the final years of his reign of terror in the Soviet Union, twentysomething Howard Zinn served as a foot soldier in the Communist Party of the United States of America—this according to recently declassified FBI files. Zinn, the Marxist historian and progressive hero who died in January, may also have lied to the FBI about his Communist Party membership. Is it at all surprising that someone who got history so wrong stood on the wrong side of history?

Zinn’s partisans will no doubt jeer at much of what the FBI files reveal. Who cares if Zinn marched in a May Day parade or if his wife subscribed to The Daily Worker? Other allegations are more serious but vague. One declassified report notes: “Information received on 6/12/53, indicated that the subject was possibly in contact with persons operating in the Communist Party underground.” What information, derived from whom? Was Zinn “possibly” involved with spies or really involved with spies? What kind of “contact”? Who in “the Communist Party underground”? And for some, the identity of the accusers vindicates the accused. J. Edgar Hoover’s personally ordering an investigation of Zinn on March 30, 1949; FBI associate director Clyde Tolson’s ominously asking, “What do our files show on Zinn?”; and FBI spooks’ surveillance of Zinn’s home—these stand as badges of honor in some circles, most notably the ones in which Zinn operated.

But amid charges innocuous and amorphous are specific allegations by numerous eyewitnesses that Howard Zinn was indeed a Communist Party member. After interviewing Zinn on November 6, 1953 and again on February 9, 1954, FBI agents described him as “courteous” and “friendly,” yet willing to part with information only after a repetition of pointed questions. Zinn admitted membership in numerous Communist fronts, including the Americans Veterans Committee and the American Labor Party, which employed Zinn at its headquarters in Brooklyn at a time when Communists controlled it. But he steadfastly denied membership in the Communist Party itself.

Several Communist Party members said otherwise. The files paraphrase one informant’s conversation with Zinn in 1948 as the future historian traveled from a protest outside the Truman White House to a Brooklyn rally for presidential candidate Henry Wallace. According to the informant, “Zinn indicated that he is a member of the Communist Party and that he attends Party meetings five nights a week in Brooklyn.” The files summarize how another informant believed that Zinn was “selected as a delegate to the New York State Communist Party Convention.” The Zinn that emerges from the files manned picket lines, religiously attended almost daily party meetings, and collected subscriptions for The Daily Worker. His work on behalf of radical causes was apparently so conspicuous that even a neighbor told the FBI that she believed Zinn was a Communist.

[Return to headlines]

‘Crash the Tea Party’ Teacher Resigns as His Dismissal Loomed

Beaverton middle school teacher Jason Levin, who founded the now notorious “Crash the Tea Party” website, is no longer a teacher.

Levin resigned Wednesday in lieu of termination, said Beaverton School District Legal Counsel Camellia Osterink.

District officials would not say why Levin was facing dismissal, but that it followed an internal investigation into his use of public resources and time spent at school.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Faithful Already Filling the [Proposed Building Site of Mosque]

As debate rages as to whether a controversial mosque should be built two blocks away from Ground Zero, Muslim worshippers are already holding prayer services inside the proposed building site.

Yesterday, dozens of the faithful sat facing east on the green- and mustard-colored rug inside the 152-year-old former Burlington Coat Factory building at 45-51 Park Place.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan, plan to build a $100 million mosque and Islamic community center there.

Men were situated toward the front of the interior, with women relegated to the rear. A spillover crowd sat on an overhead catwalk.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Fort Hood Massacre Classified as “Workplace Violence”

This is insane…

Authorities are reportedly classifying the Fort Hood Massacre as “workplace violence.” The Jawa Report posted on this earlier:

Wow, this seems pretty idiotic. I haven’t read the full Fort Hood report, but if the various news reports are accurate then it seems that the DOD investigation focuses on workplace safety issues and the disclosure of mental health problems rather than the obvious — WTF was a guy in contact with a known terrorist leader doing in the military in the first place?


To construe Fort Hood as anything other than an act of terrorism is to whitewash one of the worst cases of terrorism since 9/11.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Rev. Franklin Graham Says President Obama Was ‘Born a Muslim’

The Rev. Franklin Graham waded into the discussion with his own controversial explanation of why people wrongly believe the president is a Muslim. Graham, who prayed with Obama in a session with his father, Billy Graham, earlier this year, was asked whether he has any doubts about Obama’s self-avowed Christian faith.

“I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name,” Graham told CNN’s John King in a televised interview that aired Thursday night.

“Now it’s obvious that the president has renounced the prophet Mohammed, and he has renounced Islam, and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That’s what he says he has done. I cannot say that he hasn’t. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said,” Graham continued, adding that “the Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs.”


White House spokesman Bill Burton reacted to Graham’s comments at a White House briefing today in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., saying simply that the president is a committed Christian and that Franklin Graham is entitled to his opinion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Local Muslim Association Faces Rumour Campaign

A letter to the editor in a west-end newspaper suggesting a local Muslim association has ties to extremists could be the final straw in an increasingly shrill campaign against a proposed Islamic school in Lessard.

The chairman of the Muslim Association of Canada’s Edmonton chapter says the organization is considering suing a tiny handful of “people exhibiting Islamophobia” who are spreading distortions and outright falsehoods about the organization.

“Very much so,” said Issam Saleh. “Our lawyers are compiling a case and we’re considering legal action.”

He said last month an opponent of MAC’s plan told the media that the group might be funding terrorism.

MAC plans to turn a vacant, run-down strip mall in the tony west end neighbourhood into a mosque, community centre and Islamic primary school.

Saleh says that while most of the neighbours have welcomed them — especially the four churches and two synagogues in the area — a small group is “promoting misconceptions” to turn public support against them.

In this month’s issue of the West End News, a letter to the editor signed only by “concerned residents of Lessard/Gariepy Community” warns of “MAC’s affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood is a political group, who calls for an Islamic political and social system and opposes western political and cultural influences,” the letter says. “Given the above, we would like to know what the new centre will be preaching.”

Safwat Girgis, vice president of the Lessard Community League and one of the people behind the letter, said he and his group were initially opposed to MAC’s plan because they feared it would bring too much traffic to the area and cause parking problems.

But when they discovered its “ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, “it added a different dimension.”

The brotherhood “has a bit more of a radical view of Islam,” he said, “and that’s something to be concerned about.”

But Saleh calls that a complete distortion.

MAC’s national website says it traces its roots to “the Islamic revival of the early 20th century, culminating in the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

What that means, he said, is that they follow the spiritual teachings of Imam Hassan al-Banna, who taught his followers such virtues as understanding, perseverance, personal sacrifice, and service to the whole community.

In some parts of the Islamic world, the brotherhood became politicized, but that’s not the case here in Canada.

“We get no funds from overseas, and we don’t send any funds out of the country,” Saleh said. “We want to be part of the social fabric of Canadian society. We want to integrate.”

One of MAC’s biggest programs is the Educational Muslim Achievement Awards Night, where students are honoured for their success. This year 280 local Muslim students from elementary school to university were given trophies and scholarships.

“This is what we’re trying to do in the community, things like promoting education,” said Saleh.

MAC has applied to the city to rezone part of its building for a school. He said they plan to begin with a preschool and slowly work up to Grade 3.

The organization eventually wants to have a K-9 school somewhere in the west end, but not at that location, he said.

“They’re using scare tactics, (suggesting links to) terrorism and things like that,” he said. “On the basis of goodwill and building the community, we haven’t responded in a legal way to this, but they’re pushing it to the point that we have no choice but to respond by taking legal action.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

By Toutatis! Asterix McDonald’s Ad Irks French

A McDonald’s ad featuring Gallic independence symbol Asterix and his merry band of warriors feasting inside one of the US fast food giant’s restaurants has provoked the ire of French bloggers.

One Internet commentator said the poster, which has sprung up on French streets this week, was “an electric shock” and asked how the authors of the phenomenally successful comic series could have allowed such use of Asterix.

“I don’t know what to say except express my deep disgust,” wrote Georges Abitbol on the website. “If this doesn’t cause traffic accidents…”

“Well done Albert Uderzo for sacrificing such a comic book monument to the Roman hordes,” wrote Abitbol, referring to the illustrator who created the indomitable characters along with late writer Rene Goscinny over 50 years ago.

Since then, the comic book adventures of the first century BC warrior have sold 325 million copies — 200 million of them abroad — and been translated into 107 languages and dialects.

The 20-year-old Asterix theme park outside Paris rivals the French capital’s Disneyland as a tourist draw and a series of hit movies, including both live action and animated capers, have been worldwide hits.

The contentious ad shows the village partying, as is traditional at the end of one of Asterix’s and his sidekick Obelix’s adventures, inside the restaurant, with the bard Cacophonix tied up at the foot of a tree, also a tradition.

But the illustration studiously avoids showing any of the characters actually eating anything resembling a “Big Mac” and fries — or wild boar for that matter.

Asterix’s publishers, Les Editions Albert Rene, said that they did not want to enter into the debate.

“The message speaks for itself — come as you are — and the Gauls are as they are,” the publishers said.

“This campaign exists in partnership with McDonald’s because the message fits, because it doesn’t detract from the characters’ values.

“It’s just an advertising campaign which is apparently well done as in any case it creates emotion.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Escort ‘Gang-Raped’ By Businessman and Guests

Bari, 20 August (AKI) — The escort who revealed she spent the night with Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has claimed she was held prisoner and gang-raped this week by a prominent southern businessman and two other guests at his villa.

Patrizia D’Addario alleges local businessman and chairman of a minor league soccer team, Salvatore De Lorenzis, held her against her will at the villa in the southern Puglia region from Monday to Thursday.

High on drugs, De Lorenzis repeatedly attacked her together with two other guests and filmed the rapes, D’Addario alleges.

De Lorenzis took her mobile phone and tape-recorder before driving her to the rail station in the southern city of Lecce, she said.

De Lorenzis has dismissed D’Addario’s allegations as falsehoods.

“ She’s a total madwoman, a drug addict and a prostitute. It’s all complete lies, she’s just blackmailing me like she did Berlusconi,” he told the Telerama local radio station in a phone interview.

Prosecutors in have opened a probe into the case after D’Addario arrived at a police station in Lecce on Thursday in an apparently confused and distraught state. She declined a medical check-up, however.

De Lorenzis owns a video gaming company and is getting divorced from actress and Italian Big Brother contestant Carolina Marconi. He is also chairman of the Puglian soccer team Racale.

D’Addario sparked a major scandal last year when she taped her encounter with Berlusconi and released it to the press. She claimed he had failed to deliver on a promise to help her with a building development in her hometown of Bari.

Berlusconi, 73, admitted having sex with D’Addario but said he had never paid a woman for sex and didn’t know she was an escort.

After her disclosures, D’Addario reported that her apartment was ransacked and items removed from it including her computer, documents and underwear. She has also claimed to have received a several threats.

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

Italy: Vaginal Cosmetic Surgery Takes Off

Rimini, 20 August (AKI) — Growing numbers of Italian women are undergoing surgery to remodel their genitals and boost their sex lives. In a sign of the rising popularity of these operations, the final of the 2010 Italy’s Miss Cosmetic Surgery contest taking place on late Friday in the Adriatic coastal resort of Rimini includes a ‘Vaginoplasty’ section.

Vaginoplasty, or the rejuvenation and remodelling of the vagina through laser surgery is especially popular with women who have had children or older women, according to surgeon Alessandro Littara.

Around 50 women undergo the procedure annually, he said.

“We shrink the vagina so the muscles regain tone and the women is able to ‘feel’ more again.”

Littara set up Milan’s Institute of Sexual Laser surgery, one of “three or four” centres carrying out vaginal cosmetic surgery in Italy.

Evern more popular, however is labiaplasty (labia reduction and beautification), according to Littara. He said around 100 women request this type of surgery each year, which includes injecting human issue or acids into the vagina’s external labia to recreate their youthful plumpness.

“The typical patient is aged between 25 and 40, most commonly 30-35,” said Littara.

“Most are happily married and are often accompanied by their partners.”

A labiaplasty operation typically costs around 5,000 euros, while Vaginoplasty costs 7,000 euros. Both are carried out in day hospitals and the patient is sedated and given a local anaesthetic.

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

Most Germans Reluctant to Donate to Pakistan

The majority of Germans don’t want to donate to aid efforts in Pakistan despite the increasingly dire floods endangering millions of people there, a poll revealed on Friday.

Some 58 percent said they didn’t plan to send money to help the more than 20 million people displaced by the disaster in the country, according to the survey taken by Infratest dimap for broadcaster ARD.

Just 12 percent of those questioned said they had already made a charitable contribution after getting word of the devastating floods that followed heavy monsoon rains. Another 24 percent said they planned to donate money soon.

These numbers are low compared to a similar poll taken following the 2005 tsunami, when 62 percent said they had already donated and 22 percent said they planned to do so.

When the current poll asked participants their reasons for not donating, 40 percent said it was because they didn’t have enough money themselves. Another 29 percent said they did not believe the money would make it to the right place. Eight percent said they never make charitable contributions, and seven percent said Pakistan was too culturally different to imagine making a donation there, ARD said.

Three percent said they felt Germany’s problems were more important, and two percent said lawmakers were responsible for taking care of the situation. Another two percent said they did not trust Pakistan.

The poll questioned 1,000 representative citizens between August 17 and 18.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pope Asks French Pilgrims to Welcome People of All Origins

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday asked French pilgrims to welcome people of all origins days after France repatriated more than 200 Roma and Gypsies in a controversial crackdown.

The pope said Sunday’s scriptures were “an invitation to know how to accept legitimate differences among humans, just like Jesus came to pull together men from every nation and speaking every language.”

Benedict, speaking after his weekly Angelus prayer at his papal summer residence outside Rome, also invited parents to educate children in tolerance.

“Dear parents, may you be able to educate your children to universal fraternity,” he told pilgrims from Paris in French.

Amid international criticism, France flew Roma and Gypsies to Romania on “a voluntary basis” on Thursday and Friday in exchange for grants of 300 euros (385 dollars) per person.

But any foreign-born Roma caught up in French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s crackdown on illegal Gypsy camps who refused to take a flight will be issued orders to leave France within a month, without the handout.

The measure was harshly criticised by the Vatican’s council on migrants, the French opposition and the Council of Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Mystery of Wikileaks Hacker Julian Assange and Rape ‘Set-Up’

It is a case bound to excite the world’s conspiracy theorists. First the secretive computer hacker behind the leak of thousands of intelligence documents about the Afghan war was sought yesterday by police who accused him of rape.

Then just hours later the charge against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was mysteriously dropped — and his supporters claimed he had been the victim of an attempt to smear his name.

A WikiLeaks activist said: ‘We were warned to expect dirty tricks. Now we have the first one.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Name of Racist Scientist Remains on Top

A Swiss mountain named after one of the most influential scientists of the 19th century will keep its name, despite his proven racism.

The three communities bordering the mountain on Thursday rejected a petition signed by people from around the world calling for the name of Louis Agassiz, a key promoter of the Ice Age theory, to be removed from the mountain.

When Agassiz moved to the United States in 1846, he became a leading researcher and one of the world’s best-known scientists.

However, his belief in the separation of the races — while not an unusual position at the time — had a major impact on the debate about racial equality and slavery in the US.

The petition to have his name removed from the Agassizhorn, close to where he did some of his early glacial research, was rejected by the communities of Grindelwald, Guttannen and Fiesch.

The promoters of the petition claim that Agassiz was not only a promoter of racism but a forerunner of the supporters of apartheid in South Africa.

The petition demanded that the mountain be renamed Renty, after a Congolese slave.

The 3,946m Agassizhorn is within the perimeter of the Jungfrau-Aletsch Unesco World Natural Heritage Site.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Desire to Restore Al-Andalus

The Myth of the Golden Age in Muslim Spain

Apologists for Islam including those agitating for a mosque and Muslim community center at Ground Zero (labeled as the “Cordoba Initiative”) never tire of referring to the “Golden Age” of tolerance that supposedly characterized seven centuries of Muslim dominated Spain. This fundamentally flawed assessment draws the wrong conclusion based on fragmentary evidence and distorts the larger picture. It is usually portrayed in such rosy terms by those who have no access to primary Spanish language historical sources and ignores the reality of enormous destruction wrought by the three Arab-Berber Muslim invasions that repeatedly sought to hold on to control and rule over the indigenous peoples of Spain who had been reduced to second class citizens in their own homeland; see for example the recent best seller — Espana Frente al Islam De Mahoma a Ben Laden” by Cesar Vidal, 2005; La Sfera de los Libros.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Shock for Man Ordered Off Flight and Arrested by Armed Police at Heathrow… Because of a Traffic Dispute Seven Months Earlier

A man was ordered off a flight and arrested by four armed police at Heathrow over a traffic dispute seven months earlier.

Officers swooped on Tom Hardyment as he returned from a trip to Washington — even though he had told them he would be away and had offered five times to fix a date to report to a police station.

The car dealer was led off the Virgin plane, driven away in a cage inside a van, then held in cells for six hours before being released without charge.

Five days later he was told no further action would be taken.

Police were investigating claims from a driver that he had been threatening and racially abusive.

But Mr Hardyment, 40, from Chiswick, West London, said: ‘The passengers must have thought I was a terrorist. The police knew I was on the flight as I’d told them my movements.’

The road incident took place in West London in January.

Mr Hardy­ment swerved at a junction after a car pulled out in front of him. When both cars stopped at lights, an Asian woman leapt out and pounded on his passenger window.

He said: ‘At first I thought it was an attempted robbery. The woman was going berserk.

‘I got out and the woman was screaming abuse. She said she was a nurse looking after a child. I said judging by her violent behaviour she shouldn’t be in charge of children and I’d make sure she never worked in this country again.’

Mr Hardyment believes this may have been misinterpreted as racist. Within days police contacted him over ‘a racist attack’.

On one occasion when he tried to meet police, the officer concerned was away on holiday, and a further meeting was cancelled because a new officer assigned to the case needed more time to research it.

Mr Hardyment had fixed a date to see police after his U.S. trip.

He is making a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and asking his MP Vince Cable to take up his case.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘We treat all allegations of race crime seriously.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: The Greatest Taboo: One Woman Lifts the Lid on On the Tragic Genetic Consequences of When First Cousins Marry

By Tazeen Ahmad

Sitting in the family living room, I watched tensely as my mother and her older brother signed furiously at each other. Although almost completely without sound, their row was high-octane, even vicious.

Three of my uncles were born deaf but they knew how to make themselves heard. Eventually, my uncle caved in and fondly put his arm around his sister.

My mum has always had a special place in her family because she was the first girl to live beyond childhood. Five of her sisters died as babies or toddlers. It was not until many years later that anyone worked out why so many children died and three boys were born deaf.

Today there is no doubt among us that this tragedy occurred because my grandparents were first cousins.

My grandmother’s heart was broken from losing so many daughters at such a young age. As a parent, I can’t imagine what she went through.

My family is not unique. In the UK more than 50 per cent of British Pakistanis marry their cousins — in Bradford that figure is 75 per cent — and across the country the practice is on the rise and also common among East African, Middle-Eastern and Bangladeshi communities.

Back when my grandparents were having children, the med­ical facts were not established. But today in Britain alone there are more than 70 scientific studies on the subject.

We know the children of first cousins are ten times more likely to be born with recessive genetic disorders which can include infant mortality, deafness and blindness.

We know British Pakistanis constitute 1.5 per cent of the population, yet a third of all children born in this country with rare recessive genetic diseases come from this community.

Despite overwhelming evidence, in the time I spent filming Dispatches: When Cousins Marry, I felt as if I was breaking a taboo rather than addressing a reality. Pakistanis have been marrying cousins for generations.

In South Asia the custom keeps family networks close and ensures assets remain in the family. In Britain, the aim can be to strengthen bonds with the subcontinent as cousins from abroad marry British partners.

Some told us they face extreme pressure to marry in this way. One young woman, ‘Zara’, said when she was 16 she was emotionally blackmailed by her husband’s family in Pakistan who threatened suicide over loss of honour should she refuse to marry her cousin.

She relented and lives in a deeply unhappy marriage. But others told me of the great benefits of first cousin marriage — love, support and understanding. To them, questioning it is an attack on the community or, worse, Islam.

At a Pakistani centre in Sheffield, one man said: ‘The community feels targeted, whether that be forced marriages or first-cousin marriages. The community is battening down its hatches, not wanting to engage.’

As a British Pakistani, I am aware of the religious, cultural and racial sensitivities around this issue and understand why people would be on the defensive when questioned about it.

At times I was torn between explaining the health risks while privately understanding the community’s sense of being demonised.

But I have also grown up in a family that has suffered the medical implications and strongly believe that people should have the choice to make an informed decision.

Throughout I had to remind myself that this is a health story — nothing more. It is not about religion or cultural identity. It is about avoidable suffering such at that experienced by Saeeda and Jalil Akhtar, whom I met in Bradford.

They are first cousins and have six children, three with the genetic disease mucolipidosis type IV. This stops the body getting rid of waste properly and affects brain functions controlling vision and movement.

Mohsin, their second eldest, is 17 and blind. He wanders aimless and helpless, often crying in frustration. His sisters Hina, 13, and Zainab, 11, have the same condition. They live in almost complete darkness.

Saeeda is worn down from years of round-the-clock care. She spoon-feeds them, dresses them and fears for them. Neither she nor her husband can quite accept that their familial link is the cause of this pain.

This is a major public health issue that has huge implications for other services. The cost to the NHS is many millions of pounds.

On average, a children’s hospital will see 20 to 30 recessive gene disorders a decade, but one hospital in Bradford has seen 165, while British Pakistani children are three times more likely to have learning difficulties, with care costing about £75,000 a year per child.

However during this investigation we found no efforts to introduce any national awareness-raising campaign. Why?

We approached 16 MPs with a significant number of British Pakistani constituents for interview — every one declined. We asked 30 MPs with a high population of British Pakistanis in their seats to give their views in a short survey. Only one, who wanted to remain anonymous, responded, saying anyone who tried to talk about it risked being attacked politically.

A lone voice was Ann Cryer, former Labour MP for Keighley, near Bradford, who said ‘fear of being accused of racism or demonisation’ prevented politicians speaking up.

It is not just British Pakistani families who suffer. Wayne and Sonia Gibbs are white and first cousins once removed. They had no idea this could lead to problems. Their daughter Nicole had juvenile osteopetrosis, a genetic disease that causes the bones to thicken and crush the body’s organs. Nicole died aged two.

The couple now know both carry the recessive genes that caused Nicole’s illness. They wanted more children — but had genetic counselling first. They have two healthy boys today.

I have travelled nationwide, meeting doctors and families whose lives are full of pain. To me the solution is simple: Ring the alarm bells loud and clear.

In Birmingham, one GP practice has taken radical action. The doctors have campaigned heavily to stop cousin marriages. They have introduced genetic screening and testing for patients, starting at 16, and now claim that very few cousin marriages take place there.

My mother tells me that, long before I was born, her siblings and their cousins decided their tragedy would never recur.

The conclusion some will draw is that cousin marriages should be banned. I disagree. But people must be able to make informed choices about the risks involved and options available, be they genetic screening, counselling or carrier-testing.

At least there should be leaflets in doctors’ sur­geries and school campaigns.

Meeting the families in the programme upset me greatly. Every day for them was an uphill struggle, mostly because their children needed so much help and this put enormous stress on their family lives.

Yet this was avoidable. If this were any other health issue, politicians would have been out in force. But they are silent and as a result children continue to be born with terrible, prevent­able disabilities that are devastating their lives and those of their loved ones.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraqis Accused of Killing Six Redcaps Are Freed

Walk through the glass doors leading into John and Marilyn Miller’s living room and the family’s proud connection with the Armed Forces is immediately apparent.

Two poster-size pictures of their handsome sons, Simon and Jon, dressed in full Royal Military Police regalia, dominate the compact room.

The fireplace has become a shrine, decked with flowers and several smaller pictures of the young men they describe as the ‘diamonds’ in their lives. Two more giant photographs of the boys in their Redcap uniforms hang in the dining room.

Just over seven years ago, one of the couple’s precious jewels, Simon, 21, was brutally murdered with five other Redcaps when a 600-strong Iraqi mob attacked the Majar al-Kabir police station in southern Iraq, where the British troops had gone to discuss a refurbishment of the building.

Since then, John, 58, himself a former soldier, Marilyn, 49, and some of the other families, have campaigned tirelessly to find out exactly what happened and who was responsible for sending their loved ones into a hostile environment without adequate equipment to defend themselves.

Only a handful of the violent mob were ever identified. But thanks to John’s dogged lobbying of senior military personnel and politicians, eight Iraqis were arrested. Charges against one were dropped earlier this year.

Last week, this news-paper revealed that five other Iraqis arrested over the deaths had been released from custody after a judge in Iraq ruled they had no case to answer.

That leaves two men who remain in custody awaiting trial and warrants outstanding for a further eight men who are being sought over the Redcap deaths.

Mr Miller last night said that two men awaiting trial should be executed and the search for other members of the mob should continue. ‘They ought to hang, but I’m afraid they will be set free.

‘There is no way just two people fired the huge number of shots that killed our lads,’ he added.

But the focus for his anger remains fixed on the British military. He said: ‘I will not rest until the MoD admits that the deaths of my boy and the other lads were preventable. The MoD must accept responsibility.’


He and Marilyn collapsed in tears reading the inquest report, which stated that Simon suffered 17 gunshot wounds. ‘What I want to know, and it’s a question I’ve asked time and time again, is who sent those men out without the right equipment. And who was it that thought it was so important for them to go out that day, when it was known — at least by the Paras — that the town was a powder keg?’ asks John passionately.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lebanese Gaza-Bound Flotilla Postponed Over Cyprus Rebuff, Organizers Say

Lebanon revokes Miriam aid ship’s permit to sail after Nicosia authorities prohibit travel between Gaza and Cyprus.

A ship carrying women activists and aid will no longer head to Gaza via Cyprus from Lebanon on Sunday, the organizers said, after Nicosia announced it would not allow the vessel to sail from its ports.

“We will not embark tomorrow,” Samar al-Hajj told Reuters

“We are working to find another place [port to sail from]. There are obstacles, difficulties. We won’t give up easily,” she said.


Cyprus was used as a launch pad for activists to reach Gaza by sea from 2008 until mid-2009. Authorities introduced a ban last year, citing the island’s national interests.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Looks Like the Fix is in: Russia’s Polish Crash Investigation

by Diana West

It’s never been clear what really happened on that foggy morning of April 10 when a Polish airplane crashed on a Russian runway, killing all 96 people aboard including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, cabinet ministers, military service chiefs, intelligence officials, the central bank president, parliamentarians, historians, decapitating the conservative government and gutting the country’s elite.

Given the occasion — the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s long-denied massacre of 22,000 Poles at Katyn Forest — and given many of the crash victims’ dedication to exposing Soviet-era treachery and opposing Putin-era Russian expansionism, was the crash, as reported, an epically tragic accident? Even as the Russians immediately cited “pilot error” (they did wait, as former CIA officer Eugene Poteat has noted, until after the plane had gone down), they also pledged to Poland a joint, transparent investigation. But four months later, Russian obfuscation casts doubt on both notions: pilot error and Russian cooperation. Little wonder that Polish parliamentarian Antoni Marcierewicz, a member of the late president’s conservative Law and Justice Party, has recently announced a parliamentary probe into the crash, which he calls a “crime.”

What sort of crime? I caught up with the story’s latest twists at (where I am a contributor) in a post called “Polish Airplane Crash Cover-Up?” After seeking attribution for the post’s more sensational clues from a Polish journalist, I believe that “cover-up” might turn out to be the least of the problem.

Point one. Russia hasn’t turned over the plane’s black boxes to Polish investigators. This may well follow an odd, post-crash agreement between the two countries, whereby Russia provides Poland with recordings of the black boxes and Poland controls the recordings’ release (typical Russian-Polish agreement). But it also hoists a red flag over the entire investigative process. After all, “who” might have done “what” to a black box in a Russian recording studio?

Meanwhile, writing in the Polish newspaper Nasz Dziennik, some Polish pilots have challenged the authenticity of the recordings. Among other aeronautical reasons, they cited the length of the transcript, which appears to exceed the 30-minute capacity of a black box tape. The pilots also noted the transcript is missing the signature of the sole Polish expert involved. Further, Polish Radio RMF has reported that one of the Russian-made black-box recordings contains a 16-second gap.

Good thing no non-partisan, international team of investigators is examining this international mystery, right? Much better that the United Nations, for example, is currently squeezing Israel for defending its lawful naval blockade on Gaza (and concurrent offers to shuttle seaborne humanitarian aid to Gaza via land). With former KGB officer Vladimir Putin having personally taken charge of the crash investigation, why worry?

Point two. The Polish newspaper Fakt reported that three days after the crash, the air traffic controller on duty during the fatal crash disappeared. The Russians say he retired — and no, they don’t know where he is. Uh-huh…

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Taliban Snipers Who Killed Ten British Soldiers Die in Air Strike

Four deadly foreign mercenary snipers hired by the Taliban have been killed after being tracked down by British Special Forces in Afghanistan.

They were among at least three pairs of crackshots recruited by the Taliban from Pakistan, Egypt and Chechnya.

The mercenaries — who can kill troops at a range of up to 650 yards — are understood to have shot dead up to ten British soldiers in recent weeks.


It was in Sangin ten days ago that the first two foreign ‘dogs of war’ met their deaths. A second pair were killed on Friday.

In both cases, elite SAS and SBS troops, working with crack US and Afghan Special Forces, were involved in the covert hunt for the snipers.They had orders to ‘take out’ the deadly riflemen who have caused havoc among coalition forces with their so-called ‘fire and run’ tactics.

Senior military sources told The Mail on Sunday that locals tipped off Afghan National Army troops of the exact locations of the snipers.

Once the identities of the sharpshooters had been confirmed through close surveillance, Special Forces teams called in an air strike.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: Taliban Claim Captured U.S. Soldier Has Converted to Islam and is Teaching Its Fighters Bomb-Making Skills

A captured American soldier is training Taliban fighters bomb-making and ambush skills, according to one of his captors and Afghan intelligence officials.

Private Bowe Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 while based in eastern Afghanistan and is thought to be the only U.S. serviceman in captivity.

The 24-year-old has converted to Islam and now has the Muslim name Abdullah, one of his captors told The Sunday Times.

A Taliban deputy district commander in Paktika, who called himself Haji Nadeem, told the newspaper that Bergdahl taught him how to dismantle a mobile phone and turn it into a remote control for a roadside bomb.

Nadeem claimed he also received basic ambush training from the U.S. soldier.

‘Most of the skills he taught us we already knew,’ he said. ‘Some of my comrades think he’s pretending to be a Muslim to save himself so they wouldn’t behead him.’

Afghan intelligence officials also believe that Bergdahl is ‘cooperating with the Taliban’ and is acting as adviser to fighters at a base in the tribal area of Pakistan.

Nadeem also shed some light on how Bergdahl was captured.

After the serviceman left his post in Paktika’s Yahya Khel district with an Afghan soldier he was spotted entering a nearby village.

A group of eight Taliban gunman in a nearby field were alerted and ambushed the pair, killing the Afghan soldier.

Bergdahl was knocked to the ground and ordered to strip and put on Afghan clothing. His kidnappers disposed of all his clothing and belongings, fearing he may be bugged.

The American was initially terrified that he would be beheaded, Nadeem said, but has since become ‘very relaxed in our company’.

In April, a harrowing video of Bergdahl pleading for his freedom was released by the Taliban.

In the footage, Bergdahl said he wants to return to his family in Idaho and that the war in Afghanistan is not worth the number of lives that have been lost or wasted in prison.

It was the first he had been seen since the Taliban released a previous video of him at Christmas.

The seven-minute video of Bergdahl shows him sporting a beard and doing a few press-ups to demonstrate he’s in good physical condition.

There was no way to verify when the footage was taken or if he is still alive.

In the sometimes choppy video, Bergdahl talked about his love for his family, his friends, motorcycles and sailing.

‘I’m a prisoner. I want to go home,’ he said.

‘This war isn’t worth the waste of human life that has cost both Afghanistan and the U.S. It’s not worth the amount of lives that have been wasted in prisons, Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, all those places where we are keeping prisoners.’

At times speaking haltingly, as if holding back emotions, Bergdahl — clad in what appeared to be an Army shirt and fatigues — clasped his hands together and pleaded: ‘The pain in my heart to see my family again doesn’t get any smaller.

‘Release me. Please, I’m begging you, bring me home.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Minister’s Twitter Message in Arabic Draws Protests

Jakarta, 20 August (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian Information and communication Minister Tifatul Sembiring drew protests from his Twitter followers on Friday after he posted updates in Arabic. Some reminded the minister that not all Indonesians were Muslims.

In one of Tifatul’s updates in his Twitter account, @tifsembiring, over his ministry’s plan to stop the distribution of pornograpy he wrote: “Muntholaq is OK, now about its kayfifah and ghayah. According to Law No. 44/2008, porn distribution in the society MUST be stopped.”

Kaifiyyah means ways and ghayah means goals in Arabic.

Most of Tifatul’s Indonesian speaking followers complained they had no idea what the Arabic term meant.

“Shouldn’t an Indonesian minister use his or her own language? Do I expect too much?” one of Tifatul’s follower, Henri Manampring, wrote in his updates at @newsplatter.

Another Tifatul’s follower, Dian Paramita, whose twitter account is @mistymimit, also protested the minister for using Arabic rather than Indonesian.

“Do you forget that not all Indonesians have Islam as their religion?” Dian wrote to Tifatul.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla, an activist from the Liberal Islamic Network (JIL), then tried to help Tifatul’s follower by translating the Arabic terms.

“Muntholaq means beginning point; ,” Ulil wrote in his twitter account, @ulil.

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

Pakistan Flood Aid From Islamic Extremists

The queue stretches silently into the darkness, as dozens of families wait patiently for a plate of rice and chicken curry to break their Ramadan fast.

There is not a United Nations pick-up or Pakistani government official in sight at the small but efficient relief camp, close to the north-west Pakistani town of Nowshera.

Instead the food is provided by a hardline Islamist charity linked to terrorists blamed for the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Two years after it was supposed to be banned, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) members are working under a new name providing food, medicine and wads of rupee notes to hundreds of thousands of people affected by devastating floods.

Similar makeshift camps run by Falah-e-Insaniat, the group’s latest incarnation, are in operation across the land, raising fears that charities linked to militants are using the catastrophe to win hearts, minds and influence.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Video of Lynch Mob Killing Two Teenage Brothers Sparks Mass Demonstrations Across Pakistan

A horrifying video of a crowd watching a mob beat two teenage brothers to death has sparked mass demonstrations in Pakistan.

The video, broadcast on Pakistani news channels, shows a lynch mob taking turns to savagely beat the two boys with sticks, drawing blood from them before dragging and hanging their dead bodies from a nearby pole.

But perhaps just as shocking is that none of the dozens of people and police watching tried to stop the vicious attack.

It is now thought the boys, who were on their way to play cricket in Sialkot, an eastern Punjab province, may have been mistaken for robbers by the group who decided to deliver brutal justice for their supposed crime last Sunday.

The scenes have outraged Pakistanis, some who are questioning how their society could passively watch the shocking killings without intervening.

The News, an English-language daily newspaper, wrote: ‘Is this what we are? Savages? So utterly bereft of a speck of humanity that a crowd of ordinary men are passive spectators to public murder?’

The government has responded to the attack after civic groups condemned the killings and youths held demonstrations.

As details have emerged authorities appear increasingly confident the two boys — Moiz Butt, 17, and his brother Muneeb, 15 — were innocent.

The two went to play cricket after praying and eating breakfast, carrying a bag with them containing game equipment, said Mujahid Sherdil, a top government official in the district.

They were sons of a middle-class man who deals in fabric for soccer balls. Moiz was honoured with the title ‘Hafiz’ for having memorized the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

An armed robbery had taken place in the vicinity of the cricket field so residents were on alert and police were nearby.

When the boys appeared with a bag they were thought to be the robbers Mr Sherdil said.

He added, however, that more information was still being sought.

The boys were believed to have been in fights over the past few days for the right to play on the cricket ground, which was about a mile from their home.

Stations showing the video blurred out some of the more graphic images of the boys’ bloodied bodies, but several faces in the crowd are clearly identifiable, including several police officers in uniform who watched.

Punjab province Police Chief Tariq Saleem said the government has ordered two separate inquiries into the killings.

‘This incident is highly condemnable, especially in the police presence,’ Saleem said after visiting the boys’ family. ‘All accused, including police, will be arrested soon.’

Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited the family of the two boys Sunday in Sialkot and issued an appeal for citizens to come forward with evidence to help the investigation.

He said at least 10 suspects have been arrested, including four police officers.

Malik criticised the spectating police officers’ lack of action, saying they should have at least fired their guns in the air to disperse the crowd.

He also said the disgusted nation are baying for the mob’s blood.

‘It is not the kind of incident any civilized society can afford,’ he said. ‘The whole of Pakistan wants the people involved to be punished. And we are getting demands from the nation that they should be hanged at the very place where they murdered the two brothers.’

The brothers’ killings came as Pakistan’s government is reeling from other crises, including the worst flooding in decades. The calamity appears to have further eroded confidence in the government.

One newspaper commentator Ghazi Salahuddin wrote that the Sialkot attack and the desperation of the poor caught in the floods that have ravaged the country are “rooted in the potential inability of the state to protect and look after the citizens.’

‘These things are possible because the successive ruling elites do not really love Pakistan,’ he wrote.

‘They have never loved this country and the present government does not deserve to be blamed more for its lapses than the previous ones.’

Over the past two years, police and even soldiers have been caught on video beating suspects. In 2008, in two separate incidents in less than a week, crowds set fire to suspected robbers in the southern city of Karachi.

In the first incident, a picture of men lying like logs in a fire made the front pages of newspapers.

           — Hat tip: Dazed & Confused[Return to headlines]

Far East

Japan: 40 Million Euros From Colonial Japan Unclaimed

The amount lies in deposits in postal accounts, opened during the colonial period of the Land of the Rising Sun, which have never been claimed. Now the Government is ready to hand them over to the old “citizens” of China and Korea.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Billions of yen, blocked in millions of postal saving s accounts, have yet to be claimed by their owners. For the most part they are nationals of the former colony of Imperial Japan, living in Asia and the Pacific, most likely they do not know they still hold regular accounts in Japan.

According to the Postal Company and the Japanese bank, the financial institution that has custody of funds after the many renovations that followed the end of World War II, approximately 4.3 billion yen (approximately EUR 40 million) are included in the 19 million saving accounts that date to the colonial era. Many are owned by Chinese, Korean or Pacific Islands nationals.

The funds were not affected by the conflict, and continued to earn interest. But over time, no one has claimed them, raising the suspicion that the owners have died or have forgotten all about them.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, in a booming colonial Japan, these accounts were used by the entire domestic population. With the expansion of Japanese control over its neighbours, the Japanese government began to push the “new citizens” to open others. Starting from Korea, annexed by the Japanese in 1910, the postal accounts came to about 19 million.

Akira Ogaki, spokesman for the management of postal accounts, explains: “ The accounts are still valid and if someone comes to us with the appropriate documents then the funds will be made available to them. It might take a little bit of time as we will have to very thoroughly verify each application, but we intend to do so. “

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


Belgium: “It’s an Asylum Crisis”

The refugee organisation Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen is sounding the alarm about the plight of asylum seekers and is urgently demanding measures to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

At present Fedasil, the government agency that takes care of asylum seekers, seems unable to cope with the numbers of asylum seekers that need accommodation.

The organisation Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen claims that some one thousand asylum seekers have been holed up in hotels for over a year now. Often several families have to stay in one and the same room.

The asylum seekers staying in hotels today include some twenty minors. Els Keytsman of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen insists that even a caretaker government has to take responsibility for the situation.

The ngo wants the government to draw up an emergency plan to avoid a humanitarian crisis this winter. It is proposing that asylum seekers who are now on the streets are housed in government buildings or in housing containers that were promised long ago.

Fedasil, the government agency that takes care of asylum seekers, has confirmed that the situation is particularly worrying.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Border Patrol Joins Ice Agents in Condemning the Obama Administration

“We are receiving reports… that Eric Holder and DOJ have signaled that they [will continue to] challenge SB1070. If this development wasn’t so sad, it would be funny,” according to the membership of the National Border Patrol Council Local 2544, which represents U.S. Border Patrol agents in Tucson, Arizona.

While lamenting the disinterest in the Obama Administration for border security and immigration enforcement, Local 2544 officials said in a statement,

“Now, [Attorney General Eric] Holder and DOJ [Department of Justice] apparently have found resources to challenge SB1070. This is an obvious political ploy, and Americans should be outraged [that] they actually go after a state for trying to do something about the out-of-control illegal immigration mess.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

In 2004 Illegal Alien Votes Illegally, In 2010 Feds Making Him a Citizen

In Cookeville, Tennessee we see a perfect example of all that is wrong in both our immigration and electoral systems.

In 2004, an illegal immigrant voted illegally in Tennessee’s Putnam County. He showed false identification and a stolen Soc. Sec. number. But in 2010 the federal government is asking Tennessee officials to help smooth this illegal’s way to citizenship by ignoring past crimes.

Putnam County administrator of elections Debbie Steidl seems pretty annoyed by the whole situation. This illegal immigrant even went to her and signed an affidavit admitting that he voted illegally but he also presented the election official with a letter from the Department of Homeland Security demanding that she purge his name from the 2004 voting records.

You see, unless his name is purged he cannot seek legal citizenship because he has this illegal act on his record.

The frustrated County official said this illegal immigrant, “is being enabled. And that’s what bothered me more than anything!”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Migrants ‘Arrived Aboard Luxury Yacht’

Ellaro, 20 August (AKI) — A group of 122 migrants who arrived in southern Italy on Thursday say they reached the coast aboard a luxury yacht that had set sail from Turkey. The migrants are from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and include pregnant women and children.

The migrants were detained in an identification centre in the southern Calabria region after coming ashore at Ellaro, near Reggio Calabria. The migrants said that after a five-day journey, the yacht had dropped anchor about 50 metres from the coast and crew members brought them ashore aboard a motorised rubber dinghy.

Two suspected people smugglers were arrested, according to police.

While fishing boats have for years been the vessels of choice for people smugglers, they have started using sailing boats and have ratcheted up their fares accordingly, police say.

“Today, we’re seeing fewer of those huge rusting boats with several hundred migrants on board. The people smugglers are getting more sophisticated and are using yachts and dinghies that blend in with those of holiday-makers,” Italian tax police said in a statement.

“Migrants are now paying up to 8,000 dollars for their passage and the earnings of these people trafficking organisations which operate across borders are staggering.”

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

Italy Party Lauds France’s Roma Policy

Italy’s main anti-immigrant party, a pillar of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition, praised France’s expulsion of scores of Roma on Thursday as a model to follow.

Claudio d’Amico, a lawmaker with the Northern League, said he believed “the line adopted by France on repatriating the Roma is the right line to follow” as Italy mulls ways to deal with its own soaring immigration.

He said Rome would have to act “as quickly as possible” to block Roma expelled by France to Romania from heading to Italy.

“We have to give a strong signal to avoid that happening. It must be made clear to all, Roma and non-Roma, that in our country those who live on the edge and in volation of the law are not tolerated and mustn’t put a foot on Italian soil,” he said.

France on Thursday began expelling scores of Roma, packing them on planes and flying them back to Romania at the start of a crackdown ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy which has drawn strong criticism at home.

Italy’s 160,000 Roma community has long been at the centre of debate over immigration policy and security, stoked repeatedly by the Northern League, an essential ally in Berlusconi’s return to power in 2008.

The coalition campaigned on pledges of cracking down on illegal immigration and crime, often linking the two.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International have criticised an increase in discrimination in Italy against groups like the Roma and African farm workers, who have come under violent attack in the south of the country.

Long a magnet for economic migrants from Africa, Italy earlier this year introduced a new policy to turn back immigrants before they arrive on Italian shores aboard boats from north Africa.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Senators Line Up to Tell U.N. To Leave Kids Alone

31 already committed to oppose treaty giving world body oversight of parents

Thirty-one Republican senators have agreed to oppose the United Nations’ “Convention on the Rights of the Child” treaty, and critics of the international plan to vest children with a long list of rights — such as a right to seek government review of parental decisions — are looking for three more names.

The campaign by supporters of opposes an effort to put the U.N. advocacy plan into operation in the United States.

So far, the senators who have joined to oppose what critics have described as a usurpation of parents’ rights by international bureaucrats are: Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona, Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri, Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sens. Tom Coburn and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Sens. Robert Bennett and Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sens. John Barrasso and Michael Enzi of Wyoming.

The resolution states the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child should not even be presented to the Senate for a vote, which would require two-thirds approval for ratification, because it “is contrary to the principles of self-government and federalism, and … because the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child undermines traditional principles of law in the United States regarding parents and children.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Four Winners of the 2010 Fields Medal Announced

There is no such thing as the Nobel Prize in Mathematics, but fortunately the field of math dishes out its own top honors every four years, bestowing the prestigious Fields Medal on two to four researchers. (Unfortunately for mathematicians, the cash prize attached to the Nobels is a far sight bigger.)

Four 2010 Fields Medalists were announced August 19 at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad, India: Cédric Villani of the Henri Poincaré Institute in Paris, Stanislav Smirnov of the University of Geneva, Ngô Bao Châu of the University of Paris XI, and Elon Lindenstrauss of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Villani was recognized in large part for “his profound mathematical interpretation of the physical concept of entropy, which he has applied to solve major problems inspired by physics,” according to a profile on the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) Web site.

Smirnov, according to an ICM profile, “gave elegant proofs of two long-standing, fundamental conjectures in statistical physics”—one relating to percolation and one relating to the so-called the Ising model of statistical mechanics, which has applications to magnetism—”finding surprising symmetries in mathematical models of physical phenomena.”

Châu, who will assume a faculty appointment at the University of Chicago in September, was lauded for his proof of a proposition known as the Fundamental Lemma. “It is deep, pure mathematics and has relevance to the world, including high-energy physics, computer science and cryptography,” Peter Constantin, chair of the University of Chicago math department, said in a prepared statement.

Lindenstrauss, not to be outdone in impenetrable accomplishments, won for his “results on measure rigidity in ergodic theory, and their applications to number theory.” Ergodic theory, according to Lindenstrauss’s profile, involves the behavior of dynamical systems.

The last batch of Fields Medals, in 2006, drew a great deal of attention when one of the recipients, Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, refused to accept his prize. He has since refused a $1-million Clay Mathematics Institute prize for his work resolving the long-standing Poincaré Conjecture.

“It was completely irrelevant for me,” Perelman told The New Yorker in 2006 of his Fields Medal. “Everybody understood that if the proof is correct then no other recognition is needed.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nobel Prizewinner: We Are Running Out of Helium

Robert Richardson worked on the superfluid properties of helium — now he worries that we are squandering our supplies of the gas

Most of us think of helium as something to fill balloons with or that makes your voice go funny when you inhale it. Why does it matter that helium supplies are running low?

There are some substitutes, but it can’t be replaced for cryogenics, where liquid helium cools superconducting magnets for MRI scanners. There is no other substance which has a lower boiling point than helium. It is also used in the manufacture of fibre optics and liquid crystal displays.

The use of helium in cryogenics is self-contained, in that the helium is recycled. The same could be done in other industries if helium was expensive enough that manufacturers thought recovering it was worthwhile.

Surely industry must be paying more and more for helium if it is in short supply.

No, the price is dictated by a calendar. The US government established a national helium reserve in 1925, and today a billion cubic metres of the gas are stored in a facility near Amarillo, Texas. In 1996 Congress passed an act requiring that this strategic reserve, which represents half the Earth’s helium stocks, be sold off by 2015. As a result, helium is far too cheap and is not treated as a precious resource.

Oil companies such as Exxon have invested heavily in extracting fossil fuels from shale, which may also contain helium. Could this come to our rescue?

The so-called Eastern oil shale in Kentucky and Ohio, which is also a source of natural gas, contains only trace amounts of helium, not the relatively large 0.5 to 2 per cent found in natural gas reserves in the American West. The same is true of North Sea gas and wells in Europe.

Say we do run out of helium — can’t we just make the stuff from something else or purify it from the air?

There is no chemical means to make helium. The supplies we have on Earth come from radioactive alpha decay in rocks. Right now it’s not commercially viable to recover helium from the air, so we have to rely on extracting it from rocks. But if we do run out altogether, we will have to recover helium from the air and it will cost 10,000 times what it does today.

The shortage of helium has been talked about for a while. Are things really getting that urgent now?

Maybe in Europe there has been a conversation, but not in the US — and the US supplies nearly 80 per cent of the helium used in the world. The problem is that these supplies will run out in a mere 25 years, and the US government has a policy of selling helium at a ridiculously low price.

What should the US government do instead?

Get out of the business and let the free market prevail. The consequence will be a rise in prices. Unfortunately, party balloons will be $100 each rather than $3 but we’ll have to live with that. We will have to live with those prices eventually anyway.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]