Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110409

Financial Crisis
»Andrew C. McCarthy: You’re Kidding, Right?
»Combating Debt and Inflation: European Central Bank Faces Interest-Rate Dilemma
»Cyprus’ Unemployment Rate Up to 16.7%
»Iceland: A Gentle Cure for the Crisis
»Portugal: Rehn: Plan Estimated at 80 Bln
»Portugal Has ‘No Time’ To Settle Democratic Mandate Concerns
»Unions, Protest and the Collapse of the US Economy
»Fatwa! City Will Kill Gibran Middle School Due to Poor Numbers, Performance
»House Votes to Undo Net Neutrality Rules
»Philadelphia-Area Party Shooting: One Dead, Eight Injured
»Police Search for Suspect in Santa Monica Synagogue Explosion
»Post Falsely Claims Conservative Role in Soros-Funded “Prison Reform” Movement
»Santa Monica Synagogue Bomb: Suspect Named
»States Push Back Against Federal Power
»Suspect Sought Over LA Synagogue Blast
»Tom Tancredo: Obama’s Dangerous Islamist Tilt
»Why Americans Should “CAIR” About the Growing Enemy Within
Europe and the EU
»7 Killed, 15 Wounded in Dutch Mall Shooting
»France Arrests Burqa-Ban Protesters
»Frustrated Eastern European Doctors Head West
»Hungary: Orbán’s Plan to Re-Revolutionise
»Italy: Mona Lisa Tomb Hunt Set to Start
»Italy: Wine Exports Beat Home Consumption for First Time
»Italy: Politician Offers to End Ancient Statue Spat and ‘Share’
»Italy: Modena Witnesses Hottest April in 181 Years
»Italy: Berlusconi Buys House in Lampedusa and Shows Proof
»Italy: Public Lazio Region Most Lacking Blood Supplies
»Netherlands: Ban on Kosher and Halal Ritual Slaughter a Step Nearer
»Netherlands: Green Light for Human Egg Freezing Programme
»New TV Documentary: How Europe Got Its First President
»Over Eight Million Italians Drink Dangerously
»Paris Police Arrest 58 at Burka Law Protest
»Rape, Murder and Genocide: Nazi War Crimes as Described by German Soldiers
»Seven People Killed After Man Opens Fire With Machine Gun in Dutch Mall
»Slaughtered at School: German Kids Endure Hare-Raising Experience
»Sweden: Suicide Bomb Attack ‘Planned Years Ago’
»UK: Cash-Strapped Council Rebrands Brixton Riots as an ‘Uprising’ (and Funds the 30th Anniversary ‘Celebrations’)
»UK: Labour’s Cherished Schools Building Programme Attacked for Wasting 30 Per Cent of Its Cash
»UK: Portrait of a Pitiless Murderer, Paying Her Debt to Society: Killer Who Tortured Widow to Death Enjoys Nights Out and Shopping Trips
»UK: Special Forces Scandal as Officers Are Held ‘For Trying to Leak Secrets’
»UK: Voodoo and Human Sacrifice: The Haunting Story of How Adam, The Torso in the Thames Boy, Was Finally Identified
»Croatia: EU: Barroso in Zagreb for Final Accession Push
»Defence: Serbia-France Sign Cooperation Agreement
Mediterranean Union
»Invest in Med: Network Postal Offices Launched
North Africa
»Egypt: Army Will Use Force to Clear Protesters
»Egyptians March on Israeli Embassy
»Libya: Rebels to Erdogan, No to Talks With Gaddafi
»Libya: Agedabia: Rebels’ Helicopter Violates No-Fly Zone
»Libya: Gaddafi on TV While Paying a Visit to Tripoli School
»Libya Rebels Report NATO Escalation in Misrata
»Morocco: Two Projects to House Shanty Town Dwellers
»Snipers Said to be Targeting Libyan Children
»Three Churches Attacked, Egyptian Military Sides With Radical Muslims
»Western Sahara: Party Founded Looking to Oust Polisario
Israel and the Palestinians
»Consensus Forming That Goldstone Report Set to Continue Passage Through UN Despite Goldstone’s Retraction, Diplomats, Officials Suggest
»Hamas Militant Killed in Gaza Strike Was ‘Physically’ Involved in Shalit Kidnapping
»UN Chief to Peres: I Will Not Retract the Goldstone Report
Middle East
»Bahrain Police Stage Incursion Against Prominent Activist
»Heavy Security Prevents Protests in Oman City
»Kuwait: Investments Equal to 340 Billion Dollars
»Nuclear Fuel Being Reloaded at Iran Power Plant
»Syria: Assad’s Concessions Not Enough, Chaos Continues
»Syria: Security Forces Fire on Demonstrators in Latakia
»Syria: State TV Shows Masked Gunmen Firing on Protesters Amid Deadly Clashes
»Syria: Police Shoot on Participants in a Funeral in Daraa
»Turkey’s Otokar Signs Export Deal Worth 9.3 Mln USD
South Asia
»Failed Suicide Bomber Says He Didn’t Know Muslims Would be Killed
»Indonesia: Sharia: Woman Caned in Front of a Baying Mob for Having an Affair
»Sri Lanka: Textile Industry Profits on the Back of Exploited and Underpaid Women
»Strike Over Killing of Muslim Cleric Shuts Kashmir
Far East
»China Launches “Charm” Campaign to Clean Up Its Image
»Japan: Iran Says Its Experts Can Easily Help
Australia — Pacific
»Pregnant Women Could Face Ban on Buying Alcohol
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ivory Coast: Coast to Coast They Hate the Most
Latin America
»Rio — School Tragedy
»1,000 in Lampedusa, More Boats to Arrive
»Alfano Tells EU: Stop Passing the Buck on Africa Migration
»Barge With Hundreds on Board Docks at Lampedusa
»Fini Says EU is Stalling and Unequal to Task
»France and Italy Seek to Defuse Diplomatic Spat
»Hundreds More Migrants Arrive in Lampedusa
»Italian-Tunisian Deal Holds, Departures Halted
»Maroni Says EU Solidarity is Just Words
»Mass Immigration From Tunisia: Italy Seeks to Pass Problem on to EU Partners
»Mediterranean Migration Issue Has Become ‘Very Emotional’, Commissioner Says
»Napolitano: On Immigrants EU Must Speak With Single Voice
»South Tel Aviv Residents March to Demand Deportation of Foreigners
»Temporary Residency for Illegals Violates Schengen
»Wulff: Unsure That EU Can Speak With One Voice
Culture Wars
»UK: Police Inspector: Army Medals Out, Gay Pride Badges in, And Theft Blamed on Badgers to Cut Crime Rates: How Political Correctness is Crippling My Police Force

Financial Crisis

Andrew C. McCarthy: You’re Kidding, Right?

With due respect, I think those who are praising the budget deal are deluding themselves. Under circumstances where we are trillions of dollars in debt, the GOP just caved on its promise to cut the relative pittance of $61 billion in spending because it’s just not worth fighting for more than the half-pittance of $40 billion Democrats claimed was their drop-dead number. “Drop dead” meant daring Republicans to shut the government down (which, as we know, doesn’t actually shut the government down). The Republicans blinked.

For me, this is no surprise — as I’ve said several times (see, e.g., here and here), I don’t think they’re serious. But I want to make a point about how strange this praise of Boehner & Co. is. A mere four months ago, the big controversy in conservative and Republican circles was whether the GOP had reneged on their vaunted pledge to cut $100B in spending in the current fiscal year because they had seemingly come down to $61B. As I noted at the time, there was no question that, if you looked at the fine print of the pledge, the commitment was $61B — but that if you looked at reality, both $61B and $100B were laughably unserious. No matter. Folks around here pooh-poohed my criticism and insisted that a $61B pledge was a sober first step, showing real fortitude about getting our fiscal house in order.

So now they’ve stopped short, significantly short, of that purportedly serious step, and the reaction is, “We won!” You’ve got to be kidding me. The only thing Boehner won is future assurance that GOP leadership can safely promise the moon but then settle for crums because their rah-rah corner will spin any paltry accomplishment, no matter how empty it shows the promise to have been, as a tremendous victory.

And what’s the rationale for settling? Why, that these numbers are so piddling — that the $21 billion difference is so meaningless in the context of $14 trillion — that it’s best just to settle, make believe the promise was never made, make believe we didn’t flinch, and put this episode behind us so we can begin the “real work” of the next promise, the Ryan Plan.

Regarding that plan, you’re to believe that the captains courageous who caved on $21 billion — and who got elected because of Obamacare but don’t even want to discuss holding out for a cancellation of $105 billion in Obamacare funding — are somehow going to fight to the death for $6 trillion in cuts. Right….

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Combating Debt and Inflation: European Central Bank Faces Interest-Rate Dilemma

The European Central Bank wants to show toughness. On the day Portugal requested a multi-billion-euro bailout package, the ECB moved to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly three years. But the interest rate increase remains far too small, and success is highly questionable.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cyprus’ Unemployment Rate Up to 16.7%

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, APRIL 7 — The total number of people unemployed has reached 28,401, a staggering rise of 16.7% on this time last year. However, as daily Famagusta Gazette notes, the figure dropped from February’s 29,806. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the figure rose 0.9% to 26,087 persons from 25,844 in the previous month. The number increased for a third straight month. During March, an annual increase in unemployment was witnessed in sectors such as trade, accommodation and food service, construction, manufacturing, education and transportation and storage. News of the latest jobless totals came as Cyprus’ President Demetris Christofias announced that he will be meeting the civil servants’ union PASYDY and other unions today to discuss ways of saving some 70 million euros in 2011 and 2012.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iceland: A Gentle Cure for the Crisis

While countries elsewhere in Europe have responded to the debt crisis with unpopular austerity plans, Iceland, which allowed its banks to fail, has now embarked on a slow journey towards recovery. In a referendum scheduled for 9 April, the citizens of the country may refuse to reimburse the international creditors of the collapsed Icesave savings scheme

Ludovic Lamant

Walk through the streets of Reykjavik and you cannot fail to notice the vast cathedral of black concrete and multi-faceted reflective glass rising from its enormous seafront construction site — a monumental building which seems strangely out of place in such a predominantly low-rise city. The Harpa, which is the brainchild of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, will house Iceland’s new opera house and conference centre. Putting paid to fears of a suspension of work at the site, the building will finally be inaugurated on the 4 May.

In the wake of the collapse of the island’s banks in 2008, Portus Group, the private investor behind the development, which had an intial estimated cost of 12 billion krónur (74 million euro), was forced to appeal to the island’s government and Reykjavik city council for help to keep the project going. The nation’s administrators did not flinch, and work on the architectural masterpiece is now nearing completion. But what became of the Icelandic crisis?

Too big to save vs too big to fail

Although reeling from the effects of a banking collapse that plunged it into virtual bankruptcy, Iceland did not opt for draconian austerity measures. In contrast to the trend in continental Europe, the island decided to take more time to implement a “budgetary adjustment” that was sufficiently gentle to enable a number of projects to continue.

The cuts introduced by the government are to result in savings equivalent to 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) over three years — a far cry from the measures adopted by authorities on another island that is often compared to Iceland, which had also been hard-hit by the crisis. In 2011, Ireland is aiming to reduce its deficit from 32% to 9% in the space of just one year. Today, Reykjavik has announced that it has recovered from recession — growth is expected to reach 3% this year — and is coping with its debt without too much effort. How did this minuscule economy (320,000 inhabitants) manage to resurface in just two years?

Economists have proposed three explanations. The devaluation of the Icelandic króna: the sudden drop in the value of the island’s currency, which fell by 40% at the end of 2008, has had a positive impact on fish and aluminium exports. The principle of “too big to save”: the exact opposite of the “too big to fail” dogma, which has held sway in Europe and the United States, forcing governments to prop up major financial institutions whose collapse would have a domino effect in their banking systems.

Country’s indebted households yet to bounce back

In Iceland, the assets of the three major banks were far too big (valued at ten times GDP in 2007) to be fully rescued, and the state fell back on a policy of only buying back “internal assets”, that is to say loans to private individuals and companies on the island. As a result, shareholders were forced to accept losses on foreign assets, which were more numerous. Austerity measures that were less severe than those adopted elsewhere: in 2009, the Iceland’s government and social partners signed a “social stability” pact, designed to protect the welfare of its citizens.

Although recovery, driven by exports from Iceland’s very open economy, now appears to be underway, the country’s heavily indebted households have yet to bounce back. Consumption is still down by 20% on previous years. The rate of employment, which rose to 9.7% at the height of the crisis, has now fallen back to around 7% — a far cry from the situation in Ireland where unemployment has now exceeded 14%.

Sigridur Gudmunsdottir is one of the thousands of Icelanders who fell victim to a crisis whose causes had nothing to do with her. When it began she had what she dubs a “2007 job” with the pleasant working conditions and generous pay now associated with the good years of the noughties. “You often hear people saying that we partied too much, and that we over-borrowed and overspent. But that is not true: only a tiny part of the population of Iceland really took advantage of those times,” she complains.

Since the crash, everyone talks about GDP and public debt

Laid off at the height of the recession, Sigridur, who is now 50, has gone back to university. “That way I can get student funding, which is higher than unemployment benefit,” she explains. In 2006, she took out a property loan of 11 million krónur (68,000 euros) to buy herself a house. In the wake of the crisis, the loan which had an inflation-linked component ballooned to 14 million krónur (86,000 euros). With in a few months, she was caught in a trap: on the one hand, the size of her loan was increasing, while on the other, the actual value of her property was plummeting.

Today Sigridur still does not know how she will manage to pay back her debts, but she does not feel sorry for herself: “Some Icelanders have to deal with much more difficult situations. The people who took out foreign currency loans are much worse off.” As a rule, Icelanders do not like to grumble: afterall, life on the island has always been tough. Would she consider emigrating like so many of her countrymen? “That’s impossible, I’m too attached to my Icelandic roots.” At the same time, she does not think that the country is coping too well. “Ask anyone in the street. No-one believes there is a recovery…”?

Listen to people in Reykjavik, and you will be struck by the huge contrast between the optimism of politicians who are convinced that the crisis is behind them, and ordinary citizens trapped by the island’s virtual bankruptcy who are struggling to get back on their feet. Since the crash, everyone talks about GDP and public debt, considered to be the only relevant policy indicators — a view that also prevails elsewhere in Europe. Having forced certain banks to accept bankruptcy, and embarked on a policy of “gentle” austerity, the island should now decide to seek alternative instruments to measure the well-being of its population.

Translated from the French by Mark McGovern

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

Portugal: Rehn: Plan Estimated at 80 Bln

(ANSAmed) — GODOLLO (BUDAPEST), APRIL 8 — Preliminary EU estimates say that Portugal’s bail-out plan will total around 80 billion euros, said EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn. The Commissioner explained that the “very preliminary” estimate of 80 billion will “probably include a special chapter for the stability” of the Portuguese banking and financial sector, which raised market concerns in the past weeks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal Has ‘No Time’ To Settle Democratic Mandate Concerns

The European Commission has rubbished concerns that the caretaker administration in Portugal does not have a democratic mandate to negotiate a bail-out package and its attendant stringent austerity and economic restructuring, saying Lisbon does not have time for such concerns.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Unions, Protest and the Collapse of the US Economy

During the February/March Wisconsin Public Union Debacle the union workers were portrayed by the mainstream press as underpaid, overworked public workers who were having their bargaining “civil rights” unjustly attacked by Republicans bent on destroying the Union. The truth, however, paints a very different and dangerous picture that threatens the very foundations of America.

It used to be that public sector unions were shunned even by progressives. President Franklin Roosevelt, a strong friend to unions, warned in 1937, “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” The reason for his concern? “[A] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.” Roosevelt’s fears are literally coming true today.

Roosevelt wasn’t the only one warning that public employees should not be unionized. George Meany, the first president of the AFL/CIO remarked in 1955, it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” But starting with Wisconsin in 1959, states began to allow collective bargaining in government. Again the AFL/CIO warned; “in terms of accepted collective bargaining procedures, government workers have no right beyond the authority to petition Congress—a right available to every citizen.” It wasn’t until Democrat progressives realized that public sector unions would give the Democrats and progressives millions of campaign dollars and votes in any election did progressives begin to clamor for the right of public employees to unionize.

Public sector unionization provides the perfect circle of corruption. Once public employees were unionized, progressive Democrats could promise union members the moon to get their votes and campaign contributions. Once in office, there was no incentive for the elected official to protect the taxpayer when bargaining with the union. After all, to progressives, the taxpayer is merely a faceless, bottomless pit of tax revenue. Conversely, politicians have every incentive to capitulate to the unions to get their vote and campaign funding in the next election. In effect, public unions help elect the very politicians who will act as “management” in their contract negotiations. In essence, unions can handpick the officials who will sit across from them at the bargaining table.


Once it became apparent that the corruption caused by the past cozy relationship between unions and progressive politician is threatening state solvency, taxpayers are outraged. Last November candidates who promised fiscal responsibility were sent by the voters en masse to Congress, state legislatures and governor offices to fix the insolvency mess. However, fixing the mess is easier said than done. As soon as the Republicans try to apply fiscal responsibility, the unions scream their civil rights are being violated. They protest loudly, sometimes violently and generally claim they are due every dime they make.

Other than a willingness to make small concessions, unions so distort the facts that they make it sound as if the taxpayers are ripping off underpaid public workers. Tragically, their tactics are working. Millions of dollars in union sponsored attack ads are convincing voters that the Republicans are mean and are trying to destroy the unions when in fact they are trying to save their respective states.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Fatwa! City Will Kill Gibran Middle School Due to Poor Numbers, Performance

A controversial Arabic-language middle school — founded after a highly divisive public battle that involved curriculum, staffing and even whether the school would churn out terrorists — will be closed by the city for its gravest sin: failing to attract students.

Under the current proposal, the Department of Education would essentially put the Khalil Gibran International Academy out of its misery after the school “struggled to recruit and retain middle school students.”

Worse, the school’s most recent report card gave it F marks for both “student performance” and “student progress.”

The city will now try to turn the Arabic-language and culture school into a high school, and move it from its current location on Navy Street in Fort Greene to the Metropolitan Corporate Academy building on Schermerhorn Street in Downtown.

At a hearing on Monday night to discuss the death of the middle school, no teachers and only two parents showed up to defend the current program — a far cry from 2007, when supporters eagerly rallied for the Gibran Academy after opponents trashed the school with claims that its Islamic-centered instruction would inevitably glorify violence.

It’s a stunning fall from prominence for the school, which was founded by Debbie Almontaser in a seemingly bulletproof partnership with New Visions for Public Schools, which had created more than 100 small schools in the city. But the Arabic-language and culture curriculum was almost immediately under fire from anti-Arab conservatives as well as some liberals who were concerned about segregating public education.

Almontaser didn’t do herself any favors, becoming a lightning rod after she refused to repudiate a line of T-shirts reading, “Intifada NYC,” a reference to violent struggle.

When she was forced out by the Department of Education, the New York Post could barely hide its glee: “Intif-adios to school chief,” the headline said.

A federal panel later ruled that the city had discriminated against Almontaser for violating her free speech rights, but she never returned to the school, which is now on its third principal and third location.

The school, without Almontaser at the head, enrolled its first class in shared space in Boerum Hill before moving to Fort Greene two years ago. But neither location complemented the Arabic program; only 1 percent of the population in the neighborhood around the current location is of Arab descent, according to the Census Bureau. As a result, enrollment has plummeted.

“The number of students attending the school each year has substantially declined,” the city said, citing 60 sixth-graders in 2007 compared to the mere 35 this year. “In 2010, Khalil Gibran … received the lowest number of sixth grade applications in District 13. Only 18 percent of students who applied to Khalil Gibran ranked it within their top three choices. Declining enrollment … suggests that District 13 families are seeking other options better matched to their interests and needs.”

But the Academy could thrive as a high school program, city officials said.

“The school’s goal is to prepare students for college and successful careers and to foster an understanding of different cultures, a love of learning, and desire for excellence in all of its students,” the Education Department said.

The city will discuss the issue again at the new Khalil Gibran building [362 Schermerhorn St. at Third Avenue in Downtown, (212) 374-5141] on April 14 at 6 pm.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

House Votes to Undo Net Neutrality Rules

The vote, which fell mostly along partisan lines with 234 Republicans and 6 Democrats voting yes, and 177 Democrats and 2 Republicans voting no. The short bill relies on Congress’s authority to override regulatory agencies, rather than revoking funding for the FCC.

The vote is largely symbolic, however, because President Obama has promised to veto any legislation reversing the rules. Open internet rules were part of Obama’s platform, and many of his supporters have criticized the new rules for not being strong enough. But there remains a possibility a similar provision could be instated as a “rider” in the funding bill that must be passed before the end of the day if a government shutdown is to be averted.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Philadelphia-Area Party Shooting: One Dead, Eight Injured

Police Currently Have a Suspect in Custody After a Late-Night Incident in Chester, Pennsylvania

One teenager is dead and eight others have been injured after a late-night shooting at a girl’s 18th birthday party outside of Philadelphia.

Police said today that they have a suspect in custody, but they have not said what they believe led to the shooting at 11:30 p.m. Friday at Minaret Temple No. 174 in Chester, Pa.

Police brought in for questioning dozens of people who were at the hall at the time of the shooting. The building was reportedly locked down.

One victim was shot in the head, and two firearms were recovered at the scene, according to Chester police.

Two shooting victims were in critical condition this morning while six others were in stable condition at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, according to police.

Chester Mayor Wendell Butler Jr. told the Philadelphia Daily News that he visited the scene of the incident early this morning.

“It probably was a young persons’ party, probably people in their late teens,” Butler said, adding that some in attendance may have been even younger.

Butler added that uninjured witnesses to the incident were taken by bus from the temple to the Chester police station.

“That’s where our detective division is. We have to interview everybody,” Butler told the Philadelphia Daily News. He said that he understood that private security was at the event.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Randy Bothwell at (610) 447-8430.

[Return to headlines]

Police Search for Suspect in Santa Monica Synagogue Explosion

Police release a photo of the suspect, Ron Hirsch, 60, also known as Israel Fisher, saying they thought he was behind Thursday’s blast outside Chabad House.

Police on Friday were searching for the suspect in a Santa Monica synagogue explosion that authorities had earlier believed to be an accidental blast.

Santa Monica police released a photograph of the short and heavyset suspect, Ron Hirsch, 60, also known as Israel Fisher, saying they thought he was behind Thursday morning’s blast outside Chabad House on 17th Street between Broadway and Santa Monica Boulevard. Police described Hirsch as a transient.

“Hirsch should be considered extremely dangerous,” said a police bulletin sent to other law enforcement agencies.

He is described as white, 5 feet, 7 inches tall, 207 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes.

The bulletin said Hirsch was known to frequent synagogues and Jewish community centers in search of charity, among them Congregation Bais Yehuda on North La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.

The blast sent a 300-pound metal pipe encased in concrete hurtling through the air and crashing through the roof of a home next door to Chabad House. Originally authorities had said they believed the explosion was a freak industrial accident.

But on Friday, bomb technicians and detectives scouring the scene discovered evidence that the blast was caused by an explosive device, police said. Items found nearby were linked to Hirsch, who was being sought on state charges of possession of a destructive device and other charges.

The motive for the attack was unknown, police said. Joining local authorities in investigating the case were the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

On Friday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League issued a security alert to synagogues and other Jewish organizations in the Los Angeles area.

“ADL has no information regarding a specific threat against any Jewish institution,” the league announced in the alert. “However, community members should be extra vigilant.”

Amanda Susskind, the league’s Los Angeles regional director, said in an interview that the alert was “not intended to create panic or a drama,” but rather to keep people on the outlook for a man who seems to be disturbed.

She also said there was no indication that the suspect was part of a terrorist plot.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Post Falsely Claims Conservative Role in Soros-Funded “Prison Reform” Movement

A new report on “prison reform” has the fingerprints of billionaire leftist George Soros and his organizations all over it. But the media have tried to portray it as the result of a broad left-right coalition that wants to spend money on schools, not prisons.

Touting the report in advance, the Washington Post reported that “A coalition that includes the evangelical Prison Fellowship Ministries, the NAACP, the American Conservative Union and the American Civil Liberties Union is working to push changes that they hope will lower the U.S. prison population.” But the American Conservative Union (ACU) was not part of it.


The high incarceration rate decried by various speakers at the news conference reflects the fact that, as the prison population has grown, crime has fallen. No serious expert on the subject denies that the use of prison has been a factor in the decline in America’s serious crime rate. Nolan was quick to say that he does not favor the release of violent offenders from prison.

The NAACP wants to use money spent on prisons instead to be used on schools and teacher unions. “The NAACP calls for the downsizing of prisons and the shifting of financial resources from secure corrections budgets to education budgets,” its report says. It calls for legislatures to “shorten prison terms” for criminals.

The report also proposes legislation “that will close criminal records of certain offenders after they have not committed another crime within a certain number of years,“ leaving members of the public potentially in the dark about criminals, including sex predators, in their neighborhoods.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Santa Monica Synagogue Bomb: Suspect Named

Police confirm explosion was caused by homemade bomb.

Santa Monica Police Department Police say Ron HIrsch is extremely dangerous.

The explosion outside the Chabad House, a Jewish synagogue, in Santa Monica was indeed caused by a homemade pipe bomb, police say.

Police say Investigation has determined that Items found in and around the bomb have been linked to an individual by the name of Ron Hirsch, identified as a transient. Police are warning people at the temple and other temples to be on the lookout for Hirsh, whom police describe as extremely dangerous.

There is no known motive for a deliberate attack at this time, police say. A joint investigation by the Santa Monica Police Department, the FBI, the ATF, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Monica Fire Department is ongoing.

If you wish to remain anonymous, you can call WeTip at 1-800-78-CRIME (1-800-78-27463), or submit the tip on line at You will remain completely anonymous and may be eligible for a reward, up to $1,000..00, if your information leads to an arrest and conviction.

The explosion on April 7Th put a hole in the roof of the synagogue. It scared a lot of people but did not harm anyone.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

States Push Back Against Federal Power

Texas State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst has introduced a bill that could have massive implications for every state government as well as the federal government. Her bill (HB 1129) directs the state attorney general to conduct an investigation, and report to the Legislature before the end of 2012, of how international treaties and agreements might affect Texas law.

Of particular concern are “soft law” documents and agreements the federal government may embrace but which require no Senate confirmation. Agenda 21 is one of those U.N. “soft law” documents, signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. This 40-chapter document prescribes rules and regulations that set forth how government should control land use as a primary way to force integration of economic development with social equity and environmental protection. This document has never been debated nor approved by Congress, but its policies have been foisted upon state and local governments through the agencies of the federal government.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) signed by George W. Bush, along with the Mexico’s Vicente Fox, and Canada’s Paul Martin, in 2005 is another “international agreement” that attempts to “harmonize” rules and regulations of the three nations. Congress has never debated nor approved this agreement. Nevertheless, implementation of the “harmonization” process could affect the laws in every state.


The state of Texas wants to know exactly how these agreements and documents might affect the sovereignty of the state. Every other state should ask the same question.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Suspect Sought Over LA Synagogue Blast

A homemade bomb caused an explosion which slightly damaged a Californian synagogue, police said on Friday, naming an “extremely dangerous” homeless man wanted over the blast.

Some 100 peope were evacuated after the explosion Thursday near the Chabad House Jewish temple in Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles, which officials had said was due to some kind of industrial accident.

But Santa Monica police spokesman Jay Trisler said late Friday that further investigation had found material linked to a known transient in the debris of a metal post which landed on a nearby roof after the blast.

The suspect was named as 60-year-old Ron Hirsch — who also goes by the name of Israel Fisher — wanted on charges of possessing a destructive device and other unrelated charges.

“Bomb technicians and detectives conducted further forensic analysis ..and .. uncovered materials indicating that the device appeared to have been deliberately constructed,” he said.

“Investigation has determined that items found in and around the mechanism are linked to an individual by the name of Ron Hirsch,” who “is known to frequent synagogues and Jewish community centers seeking charity from patrons.”

“Based on his suspected involvement in this incident, Hirsch is considered extremely dangerous,” he added, issuing a mugshot of Hirsch showing the 60-year-old with a full beard.

Nobody was injured in the early morning blast, which triggered initial reports of a pipe bomb before police said it due to “some type of mechanical failure,” apparently underground.

A statement on the Chabad House website said a service was going on at the time of the scare, adding that those praying inside “did not hear or feel anything” and were alerted to the incident by police.

An update later Thursday said: “Some individual was attempting to separate concrete and pipe.

“He left the debris next to Chabad House and some chemical reaction took place which made the pipe shoot up and hit the roof of the next door property,” it added, saying there was “some small damage to our outside wall.”

The synagogue had no immediate further reaction after police identified Hirsch as the suspect sought in connection with the explosion.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Tom Tancredo: Obama’s Dangerous Islamist Tilt

Yesterday in Iraq, our supposed ally in the war against international terror, government security forces attacked Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad and killed and wounded over 300 residents. Camp Ashraf’s 3,000 residents are Iranian members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, dissidents opposed to the tyrannical government of Iran, a government that is financing terrorists in Syria, Lebanon and a dozen other nations.

The State Department’s tacit support for the Iraqi government’s continued harassment of Camp Ashraf is but one example of the Obama administration’s hypocrisy toward democratic movements in the Islamic world. Obama sends the U.S. military into action to assist Islamist rebels in Libya but then allows the murder of democratic dissidents inside Iraq, a supposed ally in the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban terrorists.

This is only the latest Iraqi attack on Camp Ashraf, which the Iranian mullahs have been trying to have closed down by pressuring the Shiite-dominated Iraq government. The U.S. military protected the camp until that responsibility was turned over to the Iraq government in 2007.

In the spring of 2009, Obama and his State Department stood silent while hundreds of thousands of Iranian citizens took to the streets to protest a stolen election. Obama could not bring himself to intervene in that democratic protest, yet he has jumped into the Libyan civil war on the side of rebels who have direct ties to al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The only consistent thread in this chain of events is this: Obama takes sides in the Islamic world only when the dissidents are hostile to U.S. interests or seeking to overthrow a U.S. ally, not when they support U.S. goals. This Islamist tilt is also seen in many of his appointments, particularly in the State Department and national-security staff.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Americans Should “CAIR” About the Growing Enemy Within

As I continue to sacrifice my Fourth Amendment rights while I take off my shoes and subject myself to being x-rayed and illegally molested by TSA officials at the airport, I am constantly reminded of the threat that violent jihadists pose to Americans everywhere. However, not all jihadists are tasked with the commission of perpetrating mass murder upon the citizens of Israel and America. Many jihadists have altered their modus operandi and have subsequently adopted a type of stealth and cultural jihad as evidenced by excerpts of the following Muslim Brotherhood 2007 strategic memo which states that “The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that all their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging their miserable house…”

Omar Ahmad, co-founder the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), made his anti-Christian bias crystal clear in a July 4, 1998 San Ramon Valley Herald article in which Ahmad stated “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Qur’an should be the highest authority in America.” This philosophy, commonly dubbed, Sharia law, is being systematically implemented right under our American noses and in a multitude of local venues.

Nowhere is Sharia law being imposed upon the American people with greater vehemence than in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn resident, eighteen year old Negeen Mayel, whose parents escaped from Afghanistan after the Russian invasion, couldn’t escape the Sharia law-enforcement arm of the Dearborn Police Department. Mayel, a Christian, was filming her four fellow Christian missionaries while they were discussing the Gospel with Muslims at the annual 2010 Dearborn Arab Festival. A Dearborn police officer ordered Mayel to turn off her camera and when she didn’t turn it off quickly enough; she was arrested and charged in the Dearborn District Court for failing to obey a police officer’s order. Amazingly, in his court testimony, the arresting officer admitted that the filming by Mayel was indeed not a crime.

A growing number of Americans are slowly becoming cognizant of the threat being posed by the imposition of Sharia law upon an unwilling and often unaware non-Muslim American public. In the 2000 census, Dearborn consisted of 30,000 Arabs in a city of 100,000 people. This fact alone is not alarming. But what is alarming is when the mayor of Dearborn, John B. O’Reilly, Jr., an attorney who should know better, is catering to this growing minority as the city of Dearborn is offering preferential treatment which favors Sharia law advocates over Christians and other non-Muslim Americans.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

7 Killed, 15 Wounded in Dutch Mall Shooting

ALPHEN AAN DEN RIJN, Netherlands — A man armed with a machine gun opened fire in a crowded shopping mall on Saturday, killing six people and wounding 15, then committed suicide, officials and witnesses said.

Children were among the casualties, but authorities were not prepared to say whether they were among the dead or the injured, or both, due to privacy considerations, said Mayor Bas Eenhoorn. Three of the wounded were hospitalized in critical condition.

After the rampage, the attacker shot himself in the head at the Ridderhof mall in Alphen aan den Rijn, a suburb 19 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Amsterdam.

“It’s too terrible for words, a shock for us all,” said Eenhoorn.

The gunman was identified under Dutch privacy laws as 24-year-old Tristan van der V., and it was “all but certain” he acted alone, District Attorney Kitty Nooy said. She said he was a native Dutchman from Alphen who had previous run-ins with the law, including an illegal weapons possession charge that was dropped. He had a gun license, Nooy said.

She said notes had been found in both the shooter’s house and his car, but she could not say whether they indicated a possible motive for the rampage and suicide — or whether they contained threats.

Two hours after the shooting, Eenhoorn ordered several other malls in the town evacuated, but he would not elaborate on the reason. Dutch television broadcasters showed a bomb squad searching a black Mercedes parked outside the Ridderhof mall that is believed to have belonged to the shooter.

A witness identified as Maart Verbeek told state broadcaster NOS the attacker appeared to be firing randomly.

“There was a panic in the mall, a lot of people running,” said Verbeek, a pet shop owner. “I see the attacker coming, walking, and I go inside the store … and I see him going by with a big machine gun.”

Witness Martine Spruit, a 41-year-old receptionist, told The Associated Press she was shopping at a drug store when she heard bangs and people in the store hid behind shelves. When they realized a shooting was taking place, customers shouted for employees to lock the doors.

“Then we heard the shots getting further away, so he was walking back and forth,” she said. “Then we thought we’d have a look and there were two people lying dead near the entrance… Then he came back shooting so we locked the door again.”

Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued statements saying they were shocked and sympathize with the victims and their families.

[Return to headlines]

France Arrests Burqa-Ban Protesters

French police have arrested 59 people in Paris for participating in protests against the ban on the Muslim veil — known as the burqa or niqab.

Protests on Saturday came two days before French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s burqa ban goes into effect, Reuters reported.

According to a police spokesman, among those arrested at the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris were 20 burqa-wearing protesters.

The new law forbids wearing the full veil in public and bears a fine of USD 216 [150 euros].

Muslims argue that the legislation discriminates against France’s Muslim population, which is already facing rising level of Islamophobia.

However, supporters of the ban argue that the veil hides women’s faces and thus violates the ideals of secularism and equality.

On Monday, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant referred to the number of Muslims in the country as a problem, during a debate that was opened on the role of Islam in French society.

Leaders of various faiths in France voiced opposition to the debate in a joint statement, saying that it could fuel racial prejudice and stigmatize Muslims.

France is home to over five million Muslims.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Frustrated Eastern European Doctors Head West

More and more eastern European doctors are heading west as government economic austerity measures eat into their pay and conditions deteriorate, leaving behind understaffed health systems in crisis.

From Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, growing numbers of physicians, surgeons, anesthetists and other specialists are packing up for countries like Britain, Germany and Sweden.

“There are no prospects for me in Hungary,” said surgeon Csaba Andok, who is in his fifties. “I am leaving for Germany where my work is appreciated,” he told AFP.

Last year 1,111 physicians applied to the Hungarian government for a certificate allowing them to work abroad, up 25 percent from 2009, according to the ministry of national resources.

This may represent just a fraction of the country’s 30,000 practicing doctors but, in a worrying trend for the future, it involves many of the 800 new graduates a year.

“Discontent is widespread among doctors, primarily due to deteriorating salary conditions,” Andok said.

Their caseloads have increased over the past year for the same pay, which at 550-740 euros a month is comparable to that of a waiter in a trendy cafe.

“Work is carried out by a very limited staff and the shortage of personnel makes daily pressure unbearable,” Andok said.

The economic crisis that hit Hungary in 2008 led the government to impose stiff austerity measures including a sales tax hike, the scrapping of 13th-month annual bonuses and reduced heating subsidies.

The picture is no rosier in Romania where medical professionals have seen their salaries cut by at least 13 percent since the government introduced cost-cutting measures last July.

The number of doctors wanting to leave the country almost doubled in 2010 to 2,779 from the previous year, according to official figures.

In neighboring Bulgaria, nurses are leaving at the rate of 1,200 per year, the association of medical professionals estimates.

They earn about 205-255 euros a month, several times less the average pay for a nurse in Britain.

The exodus is hammering the healthcare system in the EU’s poorest member state, which the health ministry says has around half the 60,000 nurses the association of medical professionals says it needs to function properly.

The Bulgarian emergency and anesthesia services are particularly hurt by the departure of hundreds of doctors a year, according to union officials.

Small hospitals meanwhile lack basic equipment and material, some even asking patients to bring along their own sheets.

In Estonia the complaints that push professionals to consider emigration are less about salaries than about standards and disheartening bureaucracy.

“The current health system in Estonia is a lot like it was during the Soviet era, with bureaucrats deciding how and for what funds are given,” said doctor Ivo Kolts, who also teaches anatomy at Tartu University.

“Estonian hospitals are often interested in making useless analyses and computer screenings because the state pays for such studies, regardless of whether a patient needs them or not,” he told AFP. “The quality of treatment is often not the priority.”

Desperate Hungarian doctors say they are considering resorting to the drastic tactics of their Czech colleagues, around 3,000 of whom handed in their resignations en masse in December.

The action prompted the government to agree to several pay rises until 2013.

Hungary’s centre-right government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban says it is working to improve work conditions for healthcare employees, but the details remain vague.

In the meantime retired doctors are being called back into service to fill vacant posts, particularly in the countryside.

The governments in Bulgaria and Romania have not said how they plan to stop the hemorrhaging.

Poland has managed to stem a similar outflow of medical staff since 2005 by increasing salaries and investing in training, with some professionals now choosing to return.

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

Hungary: Orbán’s Plan to Re-Revolutionise

Andrej Bán / Týžden

On March 15, Hungarians commemorated their Revolution of 1848. This year, however, the image of the historical revolutionary Kossuth has faded into the background behind that of the current Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán.

Andrej Bán — Martin Hanus

A solemn glass of champagne and brand-new passport of the Hungarian Republic in hand, twenty Csangos [members of the Hungarian minority in Romania] have just been granted dual nationality. All of them have dressed up in their traditional costumes, and most have tears in their eyes.

Nothing surprising there — these are people from the depths of the history, and not just because of the thousands of miles they had to travel from their districts along the Moldovan-Romanian border, where they have lived for a thousand years.

A new citizenship law introduced by Orbán is a generous one: it contains a clause which, in many cases, dispenses with the requirement to trace one’s lineage back to the Hungary that existed before 1918. Csangos benefit from this exception: showing the Hungarian names of their parents and grandparents on a simple birth certificate is enough to prove their Hungarian origins.

“Brussels will not dictate to us”

Budapest is happy to indulge its distant cousins. Three days before the Csangos, it was the turn of Hungarian Croatians of Mohács to be honoured, and the day before them it was the turn of the Hungarians of the Vojvodina and Transylvania, from Subotica, Koloszvár and Csíkszered. All swore an oath of loyalty to their new homeland, Hungary, to serve it and to defend it.

Before the first Csangos were swore their oaths, prime minister Orbán addressed a crowd of more than twenty thousand people from the steps of the National Museum: “We Hungarians have sworn on these steps never again to be slaves.”

Everyone in the crowd knew the significance of these words, proclaimed to mark the 163rd anniversary of the anti-Habsburg revolution of March 15, 1848, when the fathers of the Hungarian Revolution forced the imperial governor to accept the twelve demands of the Hungarian revolutionaries, among them freedom of the press and the abolition of censorship.

“The oath of 15 March commits us. This oath means that each Hungarian has sworn to stand by every other Hungarian, and we will all stand together for the sake of Hungary.” Orbán took full advantage of the symbolism of March: “In honouring our oath, we did not submit to the dictates of Vienna in 1848. We rose up against Moscow in 1956 and in 1990, and today we will not let anyone dictate to us from Brussels or from anywhere else.”

New name, new constitution

On the eve of this major speech the governing coalition parties submitted a draft reform of the constitution to parliament, already called “the Easter Constitution” — which they feel symbolises the rebirth of the Hungarian nation.

The Hungarian Republic will now be called simply Hungary. Despite the dismay expressed by the opposition on the left, Orbán’s Fidesz party has declared that the constitution will be the fruit, not just of reflection by politicians alone, but of the entire nation. A few weeks ago every household in Hungary received a questionnaire comprising twelve questions: for example, would they agree that a life sentence should be served in full?

Some 800,000 Hungarians have already responded. Their answers will have to be processed in record time if the the new constitution is to be approved by Parliament by mid-April — and then be solemnly signed by the President of the republic, Pál Schmitte, on Easter Monday.

Hungary’s uneasy neighbours

All this could just be a purely internal affair but for one clause: “Hungary, guided by the ideal of the Hungarian nation, taking responsibility for all Hungarians living abroad” — a form of words that extends a long way from Budapest. Unsurprisingly, neighbouring states are less than delighted with Hungary’s sense of responsibility for its new citizens who live beyond its own borders.

The new constitution is perceived to be for the Hungarian nation as a whole. Consequently, it is intended to guarantee voting rights to freshly naturalised Hungarians living abroad. According to some media, however, dissension persists within Fidesz on the matter.

The draft constitution also revives the outdated terminology of imperial Hungary. The Supreme Court, for example, should now be called “Curie”.

National, Christian, imperial, revolutionary: that appears to be the new Easter Constitution of Viktor Orbán…

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

Italy: Mona Lisa Tomb Hunt Set to Start

Experts optimistic they’ll find DNA at ex-convent in Florence

(ANSA) — Florence, April 5 — The hunt is set to start for the tomb and possible remains of the model for Leonardo’s Mona Lisa in an ex-convent in her home town, Florence.

“I’m sure her tomb is in there,” said Leonardo scholar Giuseppe Pallanti, who in 2007 said he had traced the burial place of merchant’s wife Lisa Gherardini to the former Convent of St Ursula, in the heart of Florence.

Radar scans have located a crypt under one of the ex-convent’s two churches and the search will begin in earnest on April 27, experts said Tuesday.

Once the DNA of the woman thought to be Gherardini is found, they said, it will be compared with that of two of her children buried in Florence’s Santissima Annunziata church.

Despite its central location, the ex-seat of the Ursulines is now an extremely run-down, almost dilapidated building.

The sprawling three-story Sant’Orsola building dates back to 1309 but ceased to be used as a convent in 1810, when it was turned into a tobacco factory.

It was used to shelter WWII refugees in the 1940s and ‘50s before housing university classrooms in the following decades and then falling into disuse and becoming a dump.

The site has stood semi-derelict with its windows bricked-up since building work to re-develop it as offices for Italy’s Guardia di Finanza tax police were abandoned in 1985.

Despite Pallanti’s confidence, the chances of finding the tomb of merchant Francesco del Giocondo’s wife are slim, according to British experts cited on the Internet.

“Hopes of tracing her tomb have been dashed after it emerged that building works at the site in the 1980s saw its crypts wantonly excavated and their contents destroyed,” the experts said in October.

But Italian experts who are set to start combing the site think there is reason to believe the tomb might have survived “in natural rock cavities that may have housed a small graveyard on the margins of what were once the cloisters”.

“This will be the prime focus of our search,” they said.

Pallanti said the excavations were the “natural prosecution of my archival work”.

“I’ve pored over thousands of archive pages and I’m convinced the remains of Lisa Gherardini were buried there”.


Pallanti has said his research has wiped away all doubt about the identity of La Gioconda, as the Italians call the Mona Lisa because of the surname of her husband, Giocondo.

“It was her, Lisa, the wife of the merchant Francesco del Giocondo — and she lived right opposite Leonardo in Via Ghibellina,” Pallanti said when he unveiled his findings in 2007.

Most modern scholars have now agreed with Pallanti that the Mona Lisa sitter was Lisa del Giocondo, who according to the Italian researcher became a nun after her husband’s death and died in the convent on July 15, 1542, aged 63.

The couple were married in 1495 when the bride was 16 and the groom 35.

It has frequently been suggested that del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo to paint his Mona Lisa (mona is the standard Italian contraction for madonna, or “my lady,”) to mark his wife’s pregnancy or the recent birth of their second child in December 1502.

Although pregnancy or childbirth have frequently been put forward in the past as explanations for Mona Lisa’s cryptic smile, other theories have not been lacking — some less plausible than others.

Some have argued that the painting is a self-portrait of the artist, or one of his favourite male lovers in disguise, citing the fact that Da Vinci never actually relinquished the painting and kept it with him up until his death in Amboise, France in 1519.

The most curious theories have been provided by medical experts-cum-art lovers.

One group of medical researchers has maintained that the sitter’s mouth is so firmly shut because she was undergoing mercury treatment for syphilis which turned her teeth black.

An American dentist has claimed that the tight-lipped expression was typical of people who have lost their front teeth, while a Danish doctor was convinced she suffered from congenital palsy which affected the left side of her face and this is why her hands are overly large.

A French surgeon has also put forth his view that she was semi-paralysed, perhaps as the result of a stroke, and that this explained why one hand looks relaxed and the other tense.

Leading American feminist Camille Paglia simply concluded that the cool, appraising smile showed that “what Mona Lisa is ultimately saying is that males are unnecessary”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Wine Exports Beat Home Consumption for First Time

Rome, 7 April (AKI) — The value of Italian wine consumed abroad for the first time last year was superior to domestic sales, according to a report by agricultural consumer group Coldiretti.

Wine drinkers outside of Italy in 2010 spent 3.93 billion euros on wines like the celebrated Tuscan Brunello di Montalcino, a 12 percent jump from the prior year, according to the report by Rome-based Coldiretti. Italian wine consumption last year fell 4.8 percent, to 3.89 billion euros.

The quantity of wine Italians drink has fallen by half over the past 30 years as bottled water takes pride of place in household spending on drinks, Coldiretti said in a separate report distributed on Tuesday.

In 2010 a typical Italian family would spend 19.71 euros a month on mineral water, and around 12 euros on wine. Meanwhile, more wine is consumed in the United States than any other country — including Italy and France — providing a boost to major wine exporters.

In 2010, Americans bought almost 330 million cases of wine, compared to 321 million cases in France, the second-biggest consumer, according to a recent report prepared by US-based wine consulting agency Gomberg, Fredikson & Associations. However, per capital, the French drank far more: 45 litres a year, compared with 10 litres for Americans.

Globally, people drank 7.82 billion euros worth of Italian wine in 2010, compared with 7.6 billion euros in 2009.

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

Italy: Politician Offers to End Ancient Statue Spat and ‘Share’

Rome, 29 March (AKI) — An Italian politician has offered to end a dispute over an ancient Greek statue by sharing the 2,300 “Victorious Youth” statue owned by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Le Marche’s regional governor Gian Mario Spacca said that the ownership spat between the country with perhaps the worlds largest artistic patrimony and the world’s wealthiest private art institution can be laid to rest by sharing.

“We have not come to declare war on the Getty …. We are here to try to resolve the dispute in a way that will benefit this great museum, the people of Italy and, most important, art lovers around the world,” Spacca told reporters late Monday.

The Getty has been accused by Italy of acquiring illegally trafficked art. The museum has returned a number of pieces after striking deals without admitting any wronging.

“The Italian people expect a museum as prestigious as the Getty should not be trafficking in illegal art,” Spacca said, adding: “The Getty should show the world it can act like a world-class cultural institution and behave ethically.”

Spacca toured the Getty in Los Angeles, a visit museum spokeswoman Julie Jaskol was quoted in reports as describing “friendly.”

“It was a friendly meeting and we were pleased that the (governor) and his group were able to visit the Getty Villa,” she said.

But the Getty was not ready to reach an accord since there is a legal case pending in Italy.

The “Victorious Youth” bronze statue, better known as the Getty Bronze, was dredged up in 1964 by a fishing trawler off the coast of Fano, a town in Le Marche in eastern Italy.

Italian prosecutors want the statue to be returned to Italy. They claim the Getty was wilfully negligent when it acquired the depiction of an athlete crowned with an olive wreath for $4 million in 1977 after is was smuggled out Italy. The museum denies the charges.

An Italian judge is expected to issue a decision in a few weeks.

In 2005, Italy charged former Getty curator Marion True with procuring looted works. The case last year was dismissed because of the expiration of the statue of limitations.

In 2007, the Getty agreed to return 40 objects to Italy, but not the Getty Bronze.

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

Italy: Modena Witnesses Hottest April in 181 Years

(AGI) Modena — Modena marked a record 26,9 degrees, with highs of 28,7 in the outskirts. According to Modena and Reggio Emilia University experts, recorded temperatures during the first week of April are the highest since records began, 181 years ago, and are closer to June averages.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Buys House in Lampedusa and Shows Proof

(AGI) Rome- Silvio Berlusconi has bought a house in Lampedusa (Sicily) and showed his party members the contract to prove it.

“Berlusconi assured us that he acquired a house in Lampedusa and even put the contract on the table for us to see,” said members of the Italian parliament from the Democratic and Socialist parties as well as from Berlusconi’s own PdL (People of Freedom) after meeting with the Prime Minister in his abode in Rome, Grazioli Palace.

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

Italy: Public Lazio Region Most Lacking Blood Supplies

(AGI) Rome- According to Italy’s Health Department Lazio is the region most lacking in blood collection. The region covers a mere 40% of its own deficit with stable conventions and is at the most critical level in Italy. The overall demand for blood in regions lacking required supplies amounts to 80 thousand units, compared to which there is an additional production of 92 thousand units in self sufficient regions. The Ministry of Health stated as much in its decree for the 2010 national self-sufficiency for blood program.

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

Netherlands: Ban on Kosher and Halal Ritual Slaughter a Step Nearer

A majority of MPs is now opposed to Jewish and Muslim ways of killing animals following the Labour party’s decision to support a ban.

Both religions demand that slaughter is carried out with a single cut to the throat. In ordinary abattoirs, animals are usually stunned before being killed.

The proposal to ban ritual slaughter, drawn up by the pro-animal party PvdD, will be debated next week.. It claims there is evidence ritual slaughter causes animals unnecessary pain and suffering.

The three religious parties in parliament oppose the ban on freedom of religion grounds. The ruling VVD has not yet made up its mind.

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

Netherlands: Green Light for Human Egg Freezing Programme

Health minister Edith Schippers has given the green light to women who wish to freeze their eggs because there are no legal objections, she told MPs on Tuesday.

Schippers has also followed the advice of gynaecologists and embryologists who recommend 45 as the maximum age for replanting.

In 2009, the AMC teaching hospital in Amsterdam said it planned to offer egg-freezing services to single women and allow them to become a mother up to the age of 45 — the cut-off age for ivf techniques.

Last month, a 63-year-old woman gave birth to a baby girl after undergoing treatment in Italy using a donated egg.

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

New TV Documentary: How Europe Got Its First President

How did the post of European president get to be created? And how did someone completely unknown to most Europeans end up in it? This is the story revealed in a new TV documentary, ‘The President’, a film by Danish director Christoffer Guldbrandsen. Guldbrandsen and his crew travelled the continent for almost two years to gather material for the film.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Over Eight Million Italians Drink Dangerously

Young people binge boozing also during week, say experts

(ANSA) — Rome, April 5 — Over eight and a half million Italians engage in some form of dangerous drinking, Istat said Tuesday in its annual report on alcohol consumption.

The national statistics agency said 8.624 million people in Italy binge drink, drink quantities of alcohol on a daily basis that are hazardous for their health or drink before they should — under the age of 16.

This means that 16.1% of over-11s in Italy have an unhealthy drinking habit of some form.

Istat said 392,000 11-to-15-year-olds, 13.6%, consume alcohol, a risk factor in itself for their age, although the problem is made worse by the fact that many of these children also drink excessive amounts.

The agency said, however, that Italians at the other extreme of the age scale were most guilty of drinking more than the recommended daily quantities, an issue affecting 2.915 million over-65s (43.5% of men in this age group, 10.6% of women).

Experts said the findings and other indicators confirmed that binge drinking is increasingly a problem for young Italians and one that is no longer isolated to the weekend.

Emanuele Scafato of the Higher Health Institute’s (ISS) National Alcohol Observatory said 14.4% of hospital admissions for excessive alcohol consumption regarded under-14s and 25.4% regarded 15-to-35-year-olds.

“This is an alarm bell because it shows that those who drink don’t wait for the weekend anymore,” Scafato said.

“Now young people meet at bars near their homes or schools and start at 5pm with an aperitif and they continue with beer and spirits until late. And more and more are doing this.

“What’s more, consumption of alcohol away from meals has increased both for younger and older people”. Some consumer groups have called on the government to raise the legal drinking age from 16 to 18 following the alarming results of previous studies.

In October the ISS released a report that said one in three Italians aged 16-24 risk serious health problems because of the potentially dangerous way they drink.

The new problem drinkers were more likely to be from the north of Italy, have a high-school or even university education, and no money worries, at least for the moment, the ISS said.

In June the Eurispes research institute said Italian children start drinking alcohol earlier than minors anywhere else in Europe.

It said on average Italian children have their first contact with alcohol at about 12 and a half, two years earlier the European average.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Paris Police Arrest 58 at Burka Law Protest

Paris police have arrested 58 people trying to take part in a banned demonstration against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government’s new law banning the burka and other all-covering clothing.

Police swooped on the protesters near the capital’s Place de la Nation and took them in for identity checks.

Eighteen women were among those arrested, officials say.

Two people have been ordered to leave French territory following identity checks — one to then United Kingdom, the other to Belgium. One of them was arrested on the motorway between Amiens and Paris.

An application for permission to hold the demonstration was turned down on Friday. Police said that the ban was because they feared violent clashes with counter-demonstrators. (!)

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Rape, Murder and Genocide: Nazi War Crimes as Described by German Soldiers

The myth that the Nazi-era German armed forces, the Wehrmacht, was not involved in war crimes persisted for decades after the war. Now two German researchers have destroyed it once and for all. Newly published conversations between German prisoners of war, secretly recorded by the Allies, reveal horrifying details of violence against civilians, rape and genocide.

It is March 6, 1943, and two German soldiers are talking about the war. Fighter pilot Budde and Corporal Bartels were captured by the British a few weeks earlier. The war is over for them, and it’s time to share memories.

Budde: “I flew two spoiling attacks. In other words, we shelled buildings.”

Bartels: “But not destructive attacks with a specific target, like what we did?”

Budde: “No, just spoiling attacks. We encountered some of the nicest targets, like mansions on a mountain. When you flew at them from below and fired into them, you could see the windows rattling and then the roof going up in the air. There was the time we hit Ashford. There was an event on the market square, crowds of people, speeches being given. We really sprayed them! That was fun!”

Two other pilots, Bäumer and Greim, also had their share of amusing experiences, which they described in a conversation with other soldiers.

Bäumer: “We had a 2-centimeter gun installed on the front (of the aircraft). Then we flew down low over the streets, and when we saw cars coming from the other direction, we put on our headlights so that they would think another car was approaching them. Then we shot them with the gun. We had a lot of successes that way. It was great, and it was a lot of fun. We attacked trains and other stuff the same way.”

Greim: “We once flew a low-altitude attack near Eastbourne . When we got there we saw a big castle where there was apparently a ball or something like that being held. In any case, there were lots of women in nice clothes and a band. We flew past the first time, but then we attacked and really stuck it to them. Now that, my dear friend, was a lot of fun.”

Disconcerting Tone

It is an unfamiliar and disconcerting tone that soldiers Budde, Bartels, Bäumer and Greim use in these conversations. It has little to do with the tone one encounters in television documentaries or memoirs about the war. But it’s the way soldiers talk when they are together and chatting about their experiences.

The public discourse about war is characterized by contempt for the bloody sides of the military profession, a contempt to which soldiers themselves conform when they are asked to describe their experiences. But there is also another view of war, one in which it is not only an endless nightmare, but also a great adventure that some soldiers later remember as the best time of their life.

In World War II, 18 million men, or more than 40 percent of the male population of the German Reich, served with Germany’s military, the Wehrmacht, and the Waffen-SS. Hardly any other segment of time has been as carefully studied in academia as the six years that began with Germany’s invasion of neighboring Poland in September 1939 and ended with the total capitulation of the German Reich in May 1945.

Even historians find it difficult to keep track of the literature on the deadliest conflict in human history. The monumental “Germany and the Second World War,” which was completed three years ago by the Military History Research Institute in Potsdam near Berlin and is seen as the standard German work on the war, encompasses 10 volumes alone.

Every battle in this monstrous struggle for control over Europe has its fixed place in the historical narrative today, as does, of course, the horrible violence that left 60 million dead around the world, including the suffering of the civilian population, the murder of the Jews and the partisan war in the East.

Sugarcoating Reality

But how the soldiers experienced the war, how the constant presence of death and violence changed them, what they felt and feared, but also enjoyed — all of this tends to be marginalized in historical accounts. History was long suspicious of the subjective view of the events it considers, preferring to stick to verifiable dates and facts.

But this also has to do with the incompleteness of sources. Military letters, reports by contemporary witnesses or memoirs provide a sugarcoated version of reality. The recipients of these personal accounts were the wives and families of soldiers or the broader public. Descriptions of the daily business of war, in which soldiers just happened to massacre the residents of a village or “brush” a few girls, as rape was called in the troops’ jargon, had no place in these accounts.

It isn’t just that the recipients’ expectations stood in the way of soldiers providing truthful accounts of what had actually happened — the time that had passed since the war also distorted the soldiers’ views of their experiences. In other words, anyone who wants to obtain an accurate picture of how soldiers see a war must gain access to them and gain their trust as early as possible, so that they can speak openly without the fear of being called to account afterwards.

What already seems hardly feasible for current military operations like the war in Afghanistan is nearly impossible when it comes to an event that happened so long ago as World War II. Nevertheless, two German historians have managed to produce precisely such a documentary of perceptions of the war using live historical recordings.

In Their Own Words

The material that historian Sönke Neitzel uncovered in British and American archives is nothing short of sensational. While researching the submarine war in the Atlantic in 2001, he discovered the transcripts of covertly recorded conversations between German officers in which they talked about their wartime experiences with an unprecedented degree of openness. The deeper Neitzel dug into the archives, the more material he found. In the end, he and social psychologist Harald Welzer analyzed a total of 150,000 pages of source material. The result is a newly published book with the simple title of “Soldaten” (“Soldiers”), published by S. Fischer Verlag. The volume has the potential to change our view of the war.

The recordings, which were made using special equipment that the Allies used to secretly listen in on conversations between German prisoners of war in their cells starting in 1939, offer an inside view of World War II. In doing so, they destroy once and for the myth of a “clean” Wehrmacht.

In “Soldiers,” which is subtitled “Transcripts of Fighting, Killing and Dying,” the soldiers talk about their views of the enemy and their own leaders, discuss the details of combat missions and trade astonishingly detailed accounts of the atrocities they both witnessed and committed.

There are always reasons given for killing. Sometimes the reason can be as simple as someone not walking to the other side of the street quickly enough or not handing over an item right away.

Zotlöterer: “I shot a Frenchman from behind. He was riding a bicycle.”

Weber: “At close range?”

Zotlöterer: “Yes.”

Heuser: “Did he want to take you prisoner?”

Zotlöterer: “Nonsense. I wanted the bicycle.”

Part 2: Allies Hoped to Discover Military Secrets

By the spring of 1945, about a million members of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS had been captured by British or American forces. Most were placed into normal POW camps after being captured. But between September 1939 and October 1945, more than 13,000 German prisoners were transferred for closer “observation” to special facilities that the Allies had initially established in England, at the Trent Park manor north of London and at Latimer House in Buckinghamshire, and at Fort Hunt in the US state of Virginia starting in the summer of 1942.

The purpose of the special camps was to extract military secrets from the soldiers. The Allies hoped to win information that would give them a strategic advantage. In addition to the cells being bugged with hidden microphones, a number of informers were planted among the prisoners whose assignment was to guide the conversations in the desired direction.

It can be assumed that most of the prisoners were not aware that they were being spied on, and even if they were, they quickly abandoned all caution in their conversations with fellow soldiers. The human need to converse is noticeably stronger than the fear that the enemy could be listening in.

Thousands of Transcripts

The archives contain an impressive volume of material obtained in this manner. The British prepared 17,500 transcripts, ranging from half a page to more than 20 pages each. The Americans have also preserved thousands of verbatim transcripts of the secretly recorded conversations in German, most of which included an English translation.

The decision to transfer POWs to Trent Park or Fort Hunt was made by Allied intelligence officers who selected suitable candidates in a multistage interrogation process. While the British focused their attention on higher-ranking officers and thus the Wehrmacht elite, the Americans were more likely to listen in on the conversations of regular combat troops. About half of the inmates at Fort Hunt were ordinary soldiers, especially from the army, a third were non-commissioned officers and only a sixth were higher-ranking officers.

The sheer diversity of the voices describing their own experiences provides an almost comprehensive view of the war from the soldier’s perspective. The bugged prisoners included soldiers from almost every part of the military, from combat swimmers in a naval unit to a general. The material also covers an astonishingly wide range of operational areas. Almost all of the prisoners who ended up in the special camps were captured on the Western Front or in Africa, but because most soldiers fought on various fronts during the course of the war, there are also many accounts of the war in the East, which differed markedly from the Western Front.

Scientists and academics have always been interested in the question of how quickly perfectly normal people can turn into killing machines. The material Neitzel and Welzer uncovered for their book suggests that the answer is simple: very quickly indeed.

‘I Felt Sorry for the Horses’

It makes sense that war brutalizes people. Anyone who is exposed to extreme violence over an extended period of time eventually loses his inhibitions and becomes a perpetrator of violence himself. This is the view held by academics that study violence from a socio-psychological point of view. It’s a view that is supported by the autobiographical literature, where men appear to go from stroking their children’s hair one moment to being cold-blooded killers the next.

But anyone who reads the wiretapping transcripts that Neitzel and Welzer have analyzed is forced to conclude that it doesn’t take much to convince men in uniform to kill others. In many cases, it appeared to take just a few days before the soldiers lost their inhibitions about taking lives. In fact, more than a few even openly admitted to enjoying the act of killing.

The use of violence is an appealing experience, and it is one that comes much more easily to people than we have become accustomed to believing after 65 years of peace in Europe. Sometimes all it takes is a weapon or an airplane, as the following conversation between a German pilot and a reconnaissance soldier on April 30, 1940 reveals:

Pohl: “I had to drop bombs onto a train station in Posen ( Poznan ) on the second day of the war in Poland . Eight of the 16 bombs fell in the city, right in the middle of houses. I didn’t like it. On the third day I didn’t care, and on the fourth day I took pleasure in it. We enjoyed heading out before breakfast, chasing individual soldiers through the fields with machine guns and then leaving them there with a few bullets in their backs.”

Meyer: “But it was always against soldiers?”

Pohl: “People too. We attacked convoys in the streets. I was sitting in the ‘chain’ (a formation of three aircraft). The plane would wiggle a little and we would bank sharply to the left, and then we’d fire away with every MG (machine gun) we had. The things you could do. Sometimes we saw horses flying around.”

Meyer: “That’s disgusting, with the horses…come on!”

Pohl: “I felt sorry for the horses, not at all for the people. But I felt sorry for the horses right up until the end.”

Part 3: Boasting about Their Exploits

When soldiers talk about the war, words like “death” and “killing” are hardly ever used. And why should they be? It’s obvious that the important thing is the result, not the work itself. A construction worker, as Neitzel and Welzer point out, wouldn’t talk about stone and mortar during his lunch break.

Many of the transcribed conversations have the feel of party banter. The prisoners aren’t interested in having heart-to-heart talks with each other. They seem surprisingly composed, given the horrors they have experienced. Instead, they seek to entertain and even amuse each other. As is often the case when men recount their exploits to each other, there is also a boastful aspect to their stories.

At least as revealing as the stories the prisoners tell each other are their reactions to what they are hearing. Where certain things are taken for granted, there is no sense of confusion, argument or protest. That also reveals what these men considered to be normal, and what they felt was a violation of the norms.

The soldiers seldom talk about dying, and they rarely discuss their own feelings or fears. Perhaps that is because there is no entertainment value to be had in despair or fear of death. In the soldier’s world, admitting that one is not able to cope with an extreme situation is generally seen as evidence of weakness. Admittedly, that is no different with civilians, who are equally loath to confess, except perhaps to very close friends, that they were so afraid they almost wet their pants or had to vomit.

No Distinctions

Men love technology, a subject that enables them to quickly find common ground. Many of the conversations revolve around equipment, weapons, calibers and many variations on how the men “whacked,” “picked off” or “took out” other human beings.

The victim is merely the target, to be shot and destroyed — be it a ship, a building, a train or even a cyclist, a pedestrian or a woman pushing a baby carriage. Only in very few cases do the soldiers show remorse over the fate of innocent civilians, while empathy is almost completely absent from their conversations. “The victim in an empathic sense doesn’t appear in the accounts,” the authors conclude. Many of the bugged Wehrmacht soldiers also do not distinguish between civilian and military targets. In fact, just a short time after the beginning of the war, such distinctions did not exist except on paper. Following the attack on the Soviet Union, no distinctions were made at all.

Some soldiers are even particularly proud of having killed as many civilians as possible. In January 1945, Lieutenant Hans Hartigs of Fighter Wing 26 talks about a raid over England in which the goal was to “shoot at everything, just nothing military.” “We mowed down women and children in baby carriages,” the officer reports with satisfaction.

In March 1943, Solm, a seaman on a submarine, tells a cellmate how he “knocked off a children’s transport” in which more than 50 children drowned. The transport he mentions was most likely the British passenger ship City of Benares, which was sunk in the north Atlantic on Sept. 17, 1940.

“Did they all drown?’

“Yes, they’re all dead.”

“How big was it?”

“6,000 tons.”

“How did you know that?”

“Via the radio.”

Lack of Moral Qualms

War does not eliminate the importance of moral categories, as one might expect, but it does alter their range of validity. This also applies to the battles of World War II. As long as the soldier operates within the limits he considers necessary, he perceives his actions as legitimate. This can easily encompass acts of extreme brutality. This is why the soldier seems to have no particular moral qualms about engaging in behavior that would trigger revulsion in times of peace.

When morality is not abrogated but merely suspended, rules continue to exist. Pilots who have been shot down and are still hanging from their parachutes were not legitimate targets, whereas the crews of wrecked tanks were given short shrift. Partisans were always shot on the spot, the logic being that anyone who ambushed one’s fellow soldiers deserved nothing better. Executing large numbers of women and children by firing squads was considered savage in the Wehrmacht, which doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen repeatedly.

In October 1944, radio operator Eberhard Kehrle and SS infantryman Franz Kneipp had a casual conversation about the practice of fighting partisans.

Kehrle: “In the Caucasus , when one of us got killed there was no need for any lieutenant to tell us what to do. We just pulled out our pistols and shot everything in sight, women, children, everything…”

Kneipp: “A partisan group once attacked a convoy carrying the wounded and killed everyone inside. We caught them half an hour later near Novgorod . We put them in a sandpit, and then everybody started firing at them with MGs (machine guns) and pistols.”

Kehrle: “They should be killed slowly, not shot.”

‘Let’s Kill 20 Men so We Can Have Some Peace and Quiet’

The story Lance Corporal Sommer tells about a lieutenant whom he served under on the Italian front shows how common it was to terrorize the civilian population:

Sommer: “Even in Italy , whenever we arrived in a new place, he would always say: ‘Let’s kill a couple of people first!’ I could speak Italian, so I always got special tasks. He would say: ‘Okay, let’s kill 20 men so we can have some peace and quiet here. We don’t want them getting any ideas!’ (laughter) Then we staged a little attack, with the motto: ‘Anyone gives us the slightest trouble and we’ll kill another 50.’“

Bender: “What criteria did he use to select them? Did he just pull them out at random?”

Sommer: “Yeah, 20 men, just like that. ‘Come here,’ he’d say. Then he’d line them up on the market square, pick up three MGs — rat-a-tat-tat — and there they were, dead. That was how it happened. Then he would say: ‘Great! Pigs!’ He hated the Italians so much, you wouldn’t believe it.”

Part 4: ‘We Threw Her Outside and Shot at Her’

Hardly anyone is immune to the temptations of “unpunished inhumanity,” as the philosopher Günter Anders once aptly described unbridled terror. Where the door is opened to violence, even good family men quickly shed their inhibitions. Nevertheless, armies differ in their methods, as was the case in World War II.

The Red Army was hardly inferior to the Wehrmacht in terms of its propensity for violence. In fact, the pronounced culture of violence on both sides led to a disastrous radicalization of the war in the East. The Anglo-Saxon forces behaved in a far more civilized way, at least after the first phase of the fighting in Normandy, in which the Western allies also took no prisoners.

The way a body of soldiers proceeds in the regular use of violence is not dependent on the individual. Putting one’s faith in self-restraint would be to misunderstand the psychodynamics of armed conflicts. What is in fact critical is the expectation of discipline that comes from above.

War crimes occur in almost every prolonged armed conflict, as evidenced recently by the photos taken by an American “kill team” in Afghanistan, which shocked the public when the images were published two weeks ago. Everything depends on whether these crimes are also seen as crimes by the military leadership and if the perpetrators are then punished accordingly. Even before the war against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht leadership established that there was no need to punish soldiers for attacks on Russian civilians, and that Red Army officers were to be shot immediately.

Trading Stories Like Sex Tourists

A side of the daily routine during war that is understandably left out of military letters and memoirs is the soldiers’ sex life, even though sexuality plays an important role in every army. According to the research literature, the generals had great trouble keeping the men’s sex drives under control with brothels. Sexually transmitted diseases were so widespread in the military that entire companies were routinely required to undergo treatment.

The record of a bugged conversation from June 1944 reveals the importance of womanizing among the men. The transcriber decided to summarize the discussion instead of noting the men’s exact words:

“18:45 Women

19:15 Women

19:45 Women

20:00 Women.”

When the people listening in on the conversations took the trouble to transcribe everything that was being said, the talk, predictably enough, revolved around where the best girls were to be had, how much they cost and what other sexual opportunities there were behind the front. In one such conversation, the men trade stories like experienced sex tourists.

Wallus: “In Warsaw , our troops had to wait in line in front of the building’s door. In Radom , the first room was full while the truck people stood outside. Each woman had 14 to 15 men per hour. They replaced the women every two days.”

Niwiem: “I have to say that we weren’t nearly as respectable in France sometimes. When I was in Paris , I saw our soldiers grabbing girls in the middle of a bar, throwing them across a table and — end of story! Married women, too!”…

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Seven People Killed After Man Opens Fire With Machine Gun in Dutch Mall

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

A gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon at a crowded shopping mall outside Amsterdam on Saturday, leaving at least seven people dead and wounding 15 others, with children among the victims, Dutch officials said.

The attacker was among the dead after fatally shooting himself at the Ridderhof mall in Alphen aan den Rijn, Mayor Bas Eenhoorn said. The suburb is less than 15 miles southwest of Amsterdam.

Four of the wounded were in critical condition, five were in serious condition and at least two others were slightly wounded, Eenhoorn said.


‘You hear about this sort of thing happening at American schools and you think that’s a long way away,’ said Rob Kuipers, 50, a project manager. ‘Now it’s happened here in the Netherlands.’

Investigators were trying to determine the shooter’s identity, the mayor said. Witnesses said he had long blond hair, appeared to be about 25 years old, and wore a leather jacket with camouflage pants.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Slaughtered at School: German Kids Endure Hare-Raising Experience

It was a lesson designed to help teach children the realities of life: Teachers at a school in Schleswig-Holstein arranged for a rabbit to be slaughtered in front of the kids to give them an insight into how Stone Age people managed to live without a freezer. Ultimately, though, not even a student petition could save the bunny from its grisly fate.

Before the farmer slaughtered the rabbit, the school children were allowed to bid the creature farewell. He was standing in the school’s courtyard, the rabbit pinned between his legs, and the children were in a circle around him. They should approach one-at-a-time, the farmer said, so as not to frighten the animal. “Bye bye little rabbit,” the children said — expressing gratitude that they would be able to consume it later.

The farmer from the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein had brought the gray-and-white rabbit to the school in the town of Ratekau as part of a week-long project focusing on the Stone Age, which has for years been part of the fifth-grade curriculum. Among other things, the children were to be taught that in earlier times, people couldn’t just grab their food out of the freezer and throw it in the oven.

The farmer, himself the father of a fifth-grader, had only the best intentions. Three years ago, he had carried out a similar demonstration using chickens. “Everything was done according to the slaughtering regulations,” he says. And three years ago, nobody seemed to mind much.

‘Killing Animals Involves Taking Responsibility’

He assumed that this time would be the same. The idea that ultimately the Education Ministry of Schleswig-Holstein might become involved never crossed his mind.

It was 10 days ago, at the very beginning of the unit, that he proposed the idea of slaughtering a rabbit to fifth-grade teachers at the school. “My point wasn’t to show children death,” he said. “We wanted to demonstrate the larger context: that killing animals involves taking on responsibility. Only after than can we eat the animal.”

The fifth grade teachers at the school weren’t sure at first how to react to the proposal. But then they took a vote: six in favor and two against. They failed, however, to inform the parents of the decision. The school’s principal, Georg Krauss, says that he too was left in the dark. He says that he personally believes that animal slaughtering has no place in a school. “But the whole thing wasn’t the product of sensationalism,” he insists. “Children used to know that the meals on their plates had once been alive.” The teachers, he says, merely wanted to raise the children’s sense of value.

The farmer had three days to prepare the children for the slaughter. The process was important to him — he studied social pedagogy and wanted to ensure that he properly contextualized what the children were about to see.

Students Launch Effort to Save Doomed Bunny

One day prior to the event, some of the fifth-graders launched an effort to save the rabbit and collected 30 signatures of classmates who were opposed to the killing. The farmer said he knew nothing about the campaign — and the teachers ignored the petition.

“We rejected this form of protest,” one of the teachers was quoted by the Lübecker Nachrichten newspaper as saying. “One can’t collect signatures against a math test either.”

In total, some 100 children took part in the Stone Age project — and late last week, 50 of them voluntarily surrounded the farmer and the rabbit in the school courtyard. Before he began, the farmer told the children that what they were about to see wasn’t disgusting nor was it monstrous — and that they would agree once it was over.

Then the farmer hit the rabbit with the hammer. One child fainted, others burst into tears. Next, he slit the animal’s throat with a knife, gutted the body, skinned it and hung it up to drain The next day, the rabbit was grilled in the school yard and eaten — in Stone Age style, naturally, on a hot stone. Some mothers and fathers who had attended the feast had also tried it, the farmer recalled.

‘Barbaric Events’

Shortly afterwards, outraged parents called the Lübecker Nachrichten and complained about the “barbaric events.” “My son came home as pale as a ghost,” one parent told the paper. “He has not slept well since then, and ate nothing for a long time.” Shortly afterwards, the Schleswig-Holstein Education Ministry became involved in the case. “We consider the incident educationally problematic,” ministry spokesman Thomas Schunck said. It will be banned from happening again.

Krauss, the school principal, plans on holding “official discussions” with the relevant staff members. He will also apologize to parents for not informing them in writing beforehand. He insisted he has taken interest in the views of all parents, including those who responded positively to the lesson. “Those who have complained did not speak to me, but straight to the press,” Krauss said.

The chairman of the Parents Advisory Council for Community Schools, Stefan Hirt, said it made sense to teach children that food did not only come in frozen form. “But I find using a sledgehammer for that twisted,” he said. “For 10 year olds, that is a shock that will stay with them for life. They still keep their stuffed animals in their beds.”

But the farmer insisted that was nonsense. It was not the children who had the problem, but the parents. They did not want to admit, he says, that an animal must be killed to make their sausage. In any case, he says, the demonstration seems to have had the desired pedagogical effect of halting a mentality of looking away and avoiding the issue of how we actually turn animals into food. Some parents, however, disagree. “Now I have even more problems explaining to my child where meat comes from,” one mother wrote to the school.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Suicide Bomb Attack ‘Planned Years Ago’

ShareThe suicide bomb attack in Stockholm last December may have been planned for several years according to reports in the Swedish press.

The Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper reports that the bomb attack in central Stockholm may have been more premeditated than was first suspected.

The 30-year-old arrested recently in Scotland and is believed to have assisted suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab is said to have ammassed money in four separate banks in preparation for the attack.

The suspect, who is still being held in Scotland, is said to have acted as financier and may have even started planning as early as 2003.

Svenska Dagbladet reports that the man could have started making payments to Abdulwahab starting in June 2009, some 18 months before the attack in the Swedish capital.

The latest revelations prompted terrorist expert Magnus Ranstorp to wonder how come Abdulwahab had not appeared on the radar of the security services earlier, bearing in mind his financial activity.

“It could prove that he has a broader range of contacts and longstanding communication with various groups,” he told SvD.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Cash-Strapped Council Rebrands Brixton Riots as an ‘Uprising’ (and Funds the 30th Anniversary ‘Celebrations’)

For those who were caught up in the violence and destruction, the Brixton riots are best forgotten.

Yet Labour councillors are spending thousands of pounds remembering tomorrow’s 30th anniversary of the carnage in South London which put 279 police officers in hospital.

The incident has been renamed the ‘Brixton Uprising’ and will feature ‘first-hand witness accounts’ along with ‘special guests’ to provide the entertainment.

Lambeth Council is staging the celebration in its Windrush Square and Tate Library. It will be recorded for the council’s Black Cultural Archive.

The Jamaican ‘dub poet’ Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose work contains graphic descriptions of alleged police brutality during the 1980s, including one entitled ‘Ingland is a Bich’, is due to perform.

The Labour-run authority is funding the event despite constant complaints by its leader, Steve Reed, that government-imposed cash cuts would lead to a rise in crime and another ‘Baby P tragedy’.

Lambeth has recently declared mass redundancies among street cleaners, park rangers and lollipop ladies, and closed all but one of its public lavatories.

A spokesman said tomorrow’s event was ‘community-led’ and part of its work engaging with the public.

But Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons sub-committee on counter-terrorism, said: ‘I would question the act of celebrating an insurgency.

‘It was difficult and dangerous at the time and I don’t want to remember it.

‘The law is the law and, just because it was chaotic 30 years ago, there is no need for celebrations.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour’s Cherished Schools Building Programme Attacked for Wasting 30 Per Cent of Its Cash

Almost a third of the multi-billion pound budget spent on building new schools under Labour was wasted, a damning report said yesterday.

Cash was splashed out on consultants, architects and elaborate designs under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

But Sebastian James, group operations director at Dixons, who led an independent review of the project, claimed that as much as ‘30 per cent of the total money spent’ could have been saved.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Portrait of a Pitiless Murderer, Paying Her Debt to Society: Killer Who Tortured Widow to Death Enjoys Nights Out and Shopping Trips

[WARNING: *** Extremely disturbing content ***]

Tanned, tattooed, heavily made-up and dripping with cheap jewellery, she is all set for a night on the town. After which, Sarah Davey will continue serving her indefinite sentence for murdering a helpless widow.

Davey, one of the most notorious young killers of modern times, is starting to taste freedom after being locked up for 13 years.

Not only is the 27-year-old given regular hair and beauty treatment in Askham Grange open prison, she is even allowed nights out and shopping trips in nearby York, mixing with innocent young people unaware of her violent past.

Davey was 14 when she and 15-year-old Lisa Healey tortured and murdered Lily Lilley then dumped her body in a wheelie bin and pushed it through the streets before overturning it into a canal.

The two girls, who had run away from home, had befriended the lonely 71-year-old and after being invited in for a cup of tea they taunted her, squirted her with shampoo and cut her legs with a knife.

After choking her with a gag tied so tightly that her false teeth were driven down her throat, they crammed her body into the bin and threw in a framed photograph of her son as a baby.

They then took over her house in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, making hundreds of calls from her phone and using her pension money to buy crisps and chocolate.

Both were locked up indefinitely in 1999 for what a senior judge described as an ‘unspeakably wicked’ murder.

Extraordinarily, Healey was able to become pregnant while on day release from her open jail, as revealed by the Daily Mail. She has since been freed and given a new identity. Her partner in crime is still inside having been refused parole after being caught with drugs.


Davey’s former fellow inmate said: ‘Sarah’s never shown any interest in men, but she did say maybe she should try and get pregnant like Lisa did so she can be released sooner.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Special Forces Scandal as Officers Are Held ‘For Trying to Leak Secrets’

Two senior Special Forces officers suspected of leaking details of highly sensitive covert operations have been arrested under the Official Secrets Act, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The unprecedented arrests came as members of the SAS and SBS were deployed in Libya in preparation for airstrikes and to liaise with rebels and identify stranded British oil workers for rescue.

It was unclear last night what the officers are suspected of leaking, but it is understood it involves attempts to pass it to a major broadcaster.

The investigation is focused primarily on information relating to the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But it is also looking at secret information the men had access to about Libya and other countries where Special Forces have been operating.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Voodoo and Human Sacrifice: The Haunting Story of How Adam, The Torso in the Thames Boy, Was Finally Identified

[WARNING: *** Extremely disturbing content ***]

The horror of Adam’s last hours is almost beyond imagination. In his short life, he’d got used to being far away from his West African home and perhaps even accustomed to being passed — like a chattel — from one adult to another.

From the moment he was handed over to a man he didn’t know and brought to London, this poor little boy — five, maybe six years old — would have known only cruelty and terror. In those final hours, he must have been so frightened, so terribly alone.

What I want to believe is that he was so drugged he was unconscious and oblivious of the terrifying events that were about to unfold. But, deep down, I fear that wasn’t so.

Post mortem results, too grim to bear much repetition, reveal that he was still alive when his throat was cut; the West African poison that was found in his intestine is a paralysing agent, not an anaesthetic. There’s a very real chance that Adam would have seen what was coming.

Unable to move and unable to scream, Adam’s last sight on earth would have been of a man approaching him — and then the flash of a razor-sharp knife.

Britain’s first ritual killing had just claimed its victim, an innocent little boy.

Adam’s body was found in the River Thames in London, close to the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, on September 21, 2001. The case, however, soon became known as ‘the torso in the Thames’ because when it was found, the body was without its legs, arms and head and had been entirely drained of its blood.


A sophisticated analysis of Adam’s bones for trace minerals that are absorbed from food and water revealed levels of strontium, copper and lead two-and-a-half times higher than would normally be expected in a child living in England.

From the analysis, forensic geologists gradually narrowed down Adam’s likely origin — it matched people who came from West Africa, probably Nigeria.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Croatia: EU: Barroso in Zagreb for Final Accession Push

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, APRIL 7 — European Commission President José Manuel Barroso arrived today in Zagreb for talks with high-ranking officials in the Croatian government, from which strong support is expected for Croatia’s final efforts to adapt to EU standards and to end accession negotiations, which have reached their final stages, in the coming months. In Zagreb — the first stage of a visit to the Western Balkans — Barroso expressed his belief that shortly Croatia will become the 28th member state of the European Union. Croatian Premier Jadranka Kosor has made closing negotiations in June his objective so that it is possible to move forward with a referendum in Croatia and ratify the agreement in the parliamentary assemblies of the member states in order to join the EU in the second half of 2012. However, the Croatian press, citing diplomatic sources in Brussels, has written that ending negotiations in June “seems to be a very difficult objective” to achieve. Fundamental rights, the judicial system and the fight against organised crime and corruption is the negotiation chapter that must still be brought into line and implemented according to EU standards. EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele is also travelling with Barroso, who will also speak to Parliament during the day. The next stop on their visit will bring them to Sarajevo (Bosnia Herzegovina), Podgorica (Montenegro) and Skopje (Macedonia).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Defence: Serbia-France Sign Cooperation Agreement

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 8 — Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac and his French counterpart Gerard Longuet signed in Paris an agreement on bilateral cooperation in the domain of defence, reports Tanjug news agency.

The agreement envisages that the two countries’ defence ministries would enhance their cooperation in the fields of education, military-economic and military-technical relations, as well as the exchange of officers and expert associates, the Serbian Defence Ministry stated in a release on Thursday.

Sutanovac pointed out that this is an important moment for Serbia to close the agreement on defence matters within the framework of its partnership with France, which would also help strengthen the traditionally good relations between the two countries’ armies.

Longuet agreed with Sutanovac on this point and underscored that this is one of the ways in which France supports Serbia in its reform process and European integration.

The two ministers discussed the integration of Serbian officers in the French Army contingent in EU mission Atlanta, as well as the participation of Serbia’s medical team in EUTM mission in Somalia and Uganda.

The Thursday meeting between Sutanovac and Longuet was held as part of the visit of Serbian President Boris Tadic to France, the Defence Ministry stated in the release.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Invest in Med: Network Postal Offices Launched

The Euromed Post Community, an association dedicated to strengthening exchanges between Mediterranean post offices, was officially incorporated in Rome last month. According to the Enpi website (, this regional post network, supported in its preparatory and launch phase by the EU-funded Invest in Med programme, will improve cooperation between member countries, facilitating procedures for physical and electronic mail transfers, sharing human resources and technologies, and enhancing the quality of financial services offered, specifically when related to migrants’ transfers of funds. The network currently gathers the post offices of Cyprus, Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Greece, Lebanon, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Palestine, Slovenia, Syria and Turkey. Based in Malta, the Euromed Post Community is chaired by Egypt, and general secretariat ensured by Italy. Invest in Med is a Euro-Mediterranean network of organizations, funded by the EU with a budget of 9 million euros, committed to investment promotion and trade facilitation, strengthening SME collaboration and exchange of best-practices.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Army Will Use Force to Clear Protesters

(AGI) Cairo — Egypt’s ruling military council said it would use force to clear protesters from Cairo’s central Tahrir square. A senior military officer said protesters would be cleared from the square with “firmness and force” and blamed trouble in the square on “elements that backed the counter-revolution”.

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

Egyptians March on Israeli Embassy

Arab newspaper says protestors burned Israeli flags, handed out fliers calling for third intifada to be held on Nakba Day. Meanwhile protesters amass once again at Tahrir Square, calling to prosecute Mubarak, family

Egypt’s protesters stepped up their challenge to the country’s ruling military Friday, as tens of thousands massed demanding it prosecute ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his family for alleged corruption, while a smaller group tested out the army’s tolerance with a march on Israel’s embassy.

“Remove the flag, we don’t want it here,” they shouted referring to the Israeli flag on the top floor of the building. According to a report by the al-Masri al-Youm newspaper the protestors also burned other Israeli flags.

“We shall remain here until our demands are met and only then will we focus on internal affairs again,” one protestor said. The report noted that as demonstrators burned Israeli flags passersby expressed their support by honking. Residents in nearby houses stepped out holding Palestinian flags.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Libya: Rebels to Erdogan, No to Talks With Gaddafi

(ANSAmed) — BENGHAZI (LIBYA), APRIL 8 — A spokesman for Libyan rebels has rejected a proposal of mediation put forward by the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Recep Erdogan, and has repeated that the National Transitional Council (NTC), the body now in control of part of the country, does not intend to negotiate with Muammar Gaddafi.

“We respect the position of the Turkish people but we do not believe that Erdogan’s stance reflects that of his people,” Ahmad Bani told the pan-Arab satellite channel Al Arabiyya. Erdogan “probably expressed his own personal interest because we have already said that there is no chance of talks until Gaddafi and his family leave the country,” he added.

“I think that Erdogan spoke not in the interest of the Libyan and Turkish people, but in his own personal interest,” Bani said.

The Turkish Prime Minister repeated yesterday that Ankara is working towards a road map for peace in Libya. The plan, he added, includes a ceasefire and the withdrawal of government troops from some cities. During the course of the crisis, Turkey has held talks with both the rebels and the Tripoli authorities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Agedabia: Rebels’ Helicopter Violates No-Fly Zone

(AGI) Agedabia — A military helicopter was spotted near Agedabia violating the no-fly zone imposed by the UN. Libya’s former flag made by the rebels was reported as waving on the helicopter. Sources in the press revealed that the helicopter was flying low east of a strategic crossroad where violent fights by people loyal to Gaddafi are still under way.

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

Libya: Gaddafi on TV While Paying a Visit to Tripoli School

(AGI) Tripoli — Muammar Gaddafi was unexpectedly on national TV network again while visiting an elementary school in Tripoli.

Surrounded by body guards, wearing the traditional brown burnous and sunglasses, Gaddafi mingled with the pupils who were chanting anti-West slogans. The TV network reported that the visit to the school took place in the morning.

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

Libya Rebels Report NATO Escalation in Misrata

(AGI) Beirut — Insurgency source Mustafa Abdulrahman speaks of “positive” escalation in NATO raids on Gaddafi’s loyalists Misrata. According to the source “at least four loyalist positions” have been targeted today. Insurgents admit to 8 casualties during today’s fighting.

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

Morocco: Two Projects to House Shanty Town Dwellers

(ANSAmed) RABAT, MARCH 29 — Almost 2,300 Moroccan families today forced to live in poor conditions in decaying shanty towns that have sprung up in recent years in the rural town of Ech-Chellalate, will have “respectable accommodation” within a few months. The MAP agency reports that King Mohammed VI has officially launched the works on two important projects in the Prefecture of Mohammedia, which will help resolve the age-old problem of the country’s slums, which the King has made one of the priorities of his “Cities without poor areas” programme.

The programme is an integral part of the national initiative for human development, which is supported by Mohammed VI and which, within a few years, hopes to bring a solution not only to housing problems but also to poverty, financial uncertainty and social exclusion.

The two projects, entitled “Azzaitoun” and “Al Marwa”, will cost a total of around 221 million dirhams, more than 20 million euros.

The “Azzaitoun” project, which is due to be completed in the space of a few months, covers a total area of around ten hectares. The area will see 370 housing lots built to accommodate 740 families. The project is also due to include 25 so-called “social” housing lots and four for public buildings.

The total cost of the project is 68.8 million dirhams (just over 6.1 million euros), of which 62.3 million will be spent on the purchase of land. The project includes some financing by beneficiaries (almost 15 million dirhams, around 1.3 million euros).

“Al Marwa”, meanwhile, is due to be completed within 18 months at an estimated cost of 153 million dirhams (around 13 million euros), and will see the construction of 808 new housing lots, 767 of which will be made available for the rehousing of families living in the slums, 32 for social purposes and 7 for public buildings. Finally, two lots will be built to host commercial activities. Beneficiaries are due to contribute to this project too, to the tune of 2.7 million euros.

“Al Marwa” will cover a surface area of 24 hectares, and will include a mosque, a high school, a doctor’s surgery, a professional training centre and a police centre.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Snipers Said to be Targeting Libyan Children

GENEVA — Snipers are targeting children in the besieged rebel-held Libyan city of Misrata, the United Nations’s children agency said on Friday.

Hundreds of residents have been killed and wounded in the assault by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces on Libya’s third-largest city, and residents are running short of water, food and medicine.

“What we have are reliable and consistent reports of children being among the people targeted by snipers in Misrata,” the agency’s spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told reporters in Geneva.

The information was based on local sources, she said, though she was unable to say how many children have been wounded or killed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it is sending a team to Misrata by boat and would investigate the reports of snipers targeting children.

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) admitted that its air strikes on Thursday hit rebels using tanks in eastern Libya, but said it would not apologise for the deaths of at least five fighters.

British Rear Admiral Russell Harding, the deputy commander of the NATO operation, said the military alliance had no previous information the rebels were operating tanks.

In the past, only forces loyal to Col Gaddafi had used heavy armoured vehicles, he said. AP

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Three Churches Attacked, Egyptian Military Sides With Radical Muslims

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — In the last two weeks three attacks on churches were undertaken by Salafis or Islamic Fundamentalists in Egypt. The Salafis demanded churches move to locations outside communities and be forbidden from making repairs, “even if they are so dilapidated that the roofs will collapse over the heads of the congregation,” says Father Estephanos Shehata of Samalut Coptic Diocese.

The latest of these incidents took place in the village of Kamadeer, in Samalout, Minya province on April 5, which escalated to the point where it was feared the church would be torched and demolished, as was done in the case of St. George and St. Mina Church in village of Soul, Atfif, on March 5 (AINA 3-5-2011). For three days Muslims occupied the entrance to St. John the Beloved Church in the village of Kamadeer with their mats, praying and sleeping there while thousands of village Copts staged a sit-in for three continuous days in front of the Minya governorate building, vowing not to leave until they got their church back. “Even if it takes one year, we will still be here,” said Fr. Youssab in the rally. The Coptic demonstrators demanded the reopening of their church and prosecution of the squatters (video of Coptic sit-in).

When the priest arrived at St. John the Beloved church on April 5 he found hundreds of Salafis, who told him and the parishioners that arrived for mass they are “not allowed” to pray at this church any longer.

The problem started when the heavy rain in January 2011 caused the church, which is built of clay bricks and has a timber roof, to suffer severe cracks. The Copts requested from the military permission for repairs. Last week inspectors from the local council visited the church and confirmed the church is dilapidated and poses a threat to the parishioners and must be repaired.

“This has angered the Muslims,” said attorney Hani Labib from Kamadeer, “who saw the Copts were going to get permission for renovation because of the state of the church. They told us ‘we allowed you to pray here, but there is no question of any building work to be done, this will have to be over our dead bodies.’“ He added that police officers summoned a number of Copts from the Kamadeer village and ordered them to sign affidavits not to pray at the church in “deference to the wishes its Muslims.” But the Copts refused to sign.

“Salafi Sheikh Mohamad Saleh, called on Muslims to prevent the restoration of the church,” said Fr. Estephanos. He added the Muslims said we have to move the church to another location, which was refused. “Because they have built a mosque five meters away from the church, this means that of course the church, which has been there for twelve years, has to move.” He said relationships between Copts and Muslims in the village are usually amicable but the Salafis stepped in and incited Muslims from other villages to besiege the church.

After several calls to the military governor and the governor of Minya and following several meetings, the problem was resolved “to the satisfaction of the Muslims, as usual,” said Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub.

On April 7 an “unofficial reconciliation” meeting was held between the two parties, and according to the signed agreement, The Copts are to relocate the church about 200 meters away from the old church and the new mosque, by exchanging plots of land with one of the Coptic parishioners. Although the new plot of land is 550 meters, Copts are allowed to build on only 175 meters. The new church must be one story high and not two as the old one was, and must not have any manifestations of a church, i.e., a dome, a cross or a bell.

The military governor and the head of Minya security knew of the details of the agreement. “This will set a precedent in Egypt,” said activist Nader Shoukry. “Now this will be used everywhere, since the law is never applied when it comes to Copts. Instead we get those Bedouin ‘unofficial reconciliations.’“

In a second incident, on Sunday March 27 nearly 500 Salafis, armed with swords, batons and knives, stood in front of St. Mary’s church in the Bashtil district of Imbaba, Giza demanding its closure because “this is a Muslim area and no church should be allowed here.” They closed the church door and held a number of the parishioners inside, including children. The terrorized Copts called the army to get them out, especially the children, who were traumatized. The military police arrived, freed the congregation and dispersed the Muslim mob, who lurked nearby “to see if they need to attack again in case the Copts returned to the church,” said a Coptic witness.

St. Mary’s church, which serves 800 Christian families, is a prayer hall inside a services center which includes a kindergarten and a free clinic. It had obtained the approval to operate by the disbanded State Security Intelligence (which operates now under the new name of National Security) in December 2010 and which was until the “January 25 Revolution” the only authority responsible for issuing approvals for churches, even if they had a Presidential decree.

Two Salafi imams, sheikh Gamal and sheikh Mohammad Farag (an auto mechanic by trade), incited Muslims to carry out this siege by claiming Copts wanted to turn the center into a Church without a proper license. The two priests of the church were taken to the Giza Security Directorate to forge an unofficial “reconciliation.” According to Dr. Naguib Ghobrial, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights, the police told him they took the priests away because of concerns for their safety.

A few days before this incident, four Salafis from the neighborhood filed a complaint with the local police claiming “the sound of hymns during mass ‘makes their ears ache,’“ according to Coptic lawyer Peter el-Naggar. “Fact is the center, which used to be a clothing factory before being bought by the church in 1990, is in the middle of agricultural land.”

After the reconciliation meeting at the Giza Security Directorate, services at the Bashtil center were halted until the church acquires a license to operate, according to Father Hermina, who is in charge of the center.

In the third incident, three days before the Bashtil center incident, St.. George’s Church in Beni Ahmad, 7 KM south of Minya was also subjected to Muslim intimidation. The 100 year-old church received three years ago an official permit from Minya governorate allowing for the expansion of its eastern side as well as the erection of a social services center within a small plot of land belonging to the church. Three Salafis together with a large crowd of village Muslims visited the church on Wednesday, March 23 and ordered the church officials to stop construction immediately and undo what they had completed, otherwise they would demolish the church after Friday prayers. They also demanded the church priest, Father Georgy Thabet, leave the village with his family.

Muslims were invited from all neighboring village to be ready for Friday’s demolition if their demands were not met. It was reported the village Coptic youth stood guard inside the church to prevent any Muslim demolition, and Salafis were standing outside church calling for the priest to leave the village as well as hurling insults. Beni Ahmad village has a population of 8,000 Copts and 23,000 Muslims.

The Diocese stepped-in and contacted the authorities who in turn asked them to contact the military governor. A meeting was held between representatives from the church, the Salafis, the army and security in Minya. The Salafis requested the demolition of what was built and the departure of the priest and his family. In the end the military told the Copts they cannot interfere in this case. “In other words the authorities have sold the Copts to the Salafis, to do what they like with them and the church,” commented local Coptic activist Mariam Ragy.

The expansion work has stopped but church services continue with the same priest. The Salafis asked for a “donation” from the church for a so-called kidney dialysis center, “which is not even suitable for animals to live in, let alone being a medical center,” said Ragy.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Western Sahara: Party Founded Looking to Oust Polisario

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MARCH 30 — “A future based on democracy, justice and freedom” is what the Rassemblement Saharawi Democratique (RSD) is proposing for the Western Sahara. The RSD was recently established and presented its platform, which has the stated objective of breaking away from what it calls the “tyrannical” practices of the Polisario Front, which after 35 years has not been able to obtain results because of its rejection of all possibilities, and against which the new party is offering itself as a “democratic alternative”. While presenting the new party, spokesman Salah Khatri said that the RSD has been founded to allow the Saharawi People to be able to freely choose their own representatives and to encourage a “shared political solution,” which takes “the interests of our region, the Maghreb,” into account . One of the stated goals of the party is to create better conditions for “the introduction of democracy in the Lahmada camps,” accusing the Polisario Front of not being capable of overcoming the current impasse, contributing to the “loss of hope and absence of democracy,” said Khatri, who specifically mentioned the despair that prevails among young Saharawi. We “are the political and social solution for our people”, he added. For the RSD, the Polisario bases its power on “nepotism, tribalism and corruption”, increasingly appearing “as a factor contributing to disorder at a domestic and international level”.

Khatri pointed in particular to the stalled negotiations, which have been taking place near New York under UN auspices. The RSD has established a platform that is essentially based on the desire to “respect the decisions of the institutions and the international bodies, and to obtain a shared and negotiated political solution “. The new party, anticipating any perplexity on its actual representation within the Saharawi people, said that it is present, at a “moderate” level, with its committees in the refugee camps and in five European countries, in addition to Mauritania and in Morocco. The first official event of the Rassemblement Saharawi Democratique should be its first congress, which will take place between November and December, probably in the camps in Tindouf.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Consensus Forming That Goldstone Report Set to Continue Passage Through UN Despite Goldstone’s Retraction, Diplomats, Officials Suggest

Evidence mounts that Goldstone Report into Israel’s Operation Cast Lead will not be withdrawn from the UN even after Goldstone publicly retracts core allegations

It now appears all but certain that the controversial report alleging deliberate Israeli atrocities against Palestinian civilians in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza will not be withdrawn from the United Nations despite retractions of key allegations made in the report by its author, Justice Richard Goldstone.

One well-placed European diplomat told The Commentator on Saturday that all the signs this week from major European countries and from the United Nations itself suggested that hostility to the Jewish state remained so strong that even Goldstone’s remarkable comments, made in the Washington Post on April 1, could not stop the report’s momentum in its passage through UN bodies:

“Just look around you,” the diplomat said. “The messages from major European countries as well as what people are saying in the halls of the United Nations all indicate that this thing cannot be stopped.”

“The Europeans in particular are keen not to upset the Arab world at a time of turmoil and as several leading countries are involved in military actions in Libya.”…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Hamas Militant Killed in Gaza Strike Was ‘Physically’ Involved in Shalit Kidnapping

Senior Hamas militant Tayser Abu Snima was killed in Israel air strike overnight in retaliation for attack on Israeli school bus; IDF spokesperson says Shalit family being updated on details of Snima’s involvement in Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping.

The Hamas militant whom Israel killed in a retaliatory air strike overnight on Saturday had been involved in the kidnapping of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, an IDF spokesperson said on Saturday evening.

Israel said that Tayser Abu Snima was “directly and physically involved” in the 2006 capture of Gilad Shalit, which occurred during a cross-border raid.

The IDF spokesperson said that Shalit’s family was notified of the incident.

Snima was also “in charge of executing a terror attack from Sinai, firing rockets at the city of Eilat,” the IDF spokesperson said.

The Israeli air strike which killed Snima was carried out in retaliation for the Hamas attack on an Israeli school bus on Thursday, which left a teenager critically wounded and the bus driver moderately wounded.

Since Thursday, tensions on the border have escalated dramatically, with over 120 rockets, mortars, and Grad missiles being fired from Gaza into Israel. Eight rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, said Snima’s killing “will not affect our work” and dismissed Israel’s claims.

He said Israel “does not have the information about Shalit’s capture to be able to say who among our leaders had a role in its execution.”

Israeli forces attacked 11 Gaza terror cells over the course of the weekend, an IDF spokesperson said.

Palestinians in Gaza say that 18 people were killed in Israeli air strikes over the weekend and over 60 wounded. Paramedics in the strip say that many of those wounded were civilians, including women and children.

Ubaida also accused Israel of “looking for an achievement as a cover for their crimes,” referring to Israel’s punishing retaliatory strikes on the Strip.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

UN Chief to Peres: I Will Not Retract the Goldstone Report

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told President Shimon Peres in a meeting in New York on Friday that the UN would not be retracting the Goldstone Report, despite its author’s renouncement of some of the report’s claims.

The Goldstone report was sponsored by the UN, focusing on Operation Cast Lead that took place in Gaza over the winter of 2008 and 2009.

President Shimon Peres tells Ban ‘UN cannot remain neutral in light of the rockets fired from Gaza to Israel.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain Police Stage Incursion Against Prominent Activist

(AGI) Manama — Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khavaja reports suffering a police incursion and beating at his home. Some twenty police, according to the activist’s reports, broke into his house at night and beat him. Abdulhadi al-Khavaja is a key inspirer of Bahrain’s civil protests. In response to the protests the government has declared the state of emergency.

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

Heavy Security Prevents Protests in Oman City

SOHAR, Oman, April 8 (Reuters) — Heavy security prevented fresh protests after Friday prayers in the Omani city of Sohar, where protesters camped out for over a month before security forces moved them out last week.

Checkpoints were set up across the northeastern industrial city with dozens of armoured vehicles blocking access to protest areas. Residents’ names were checked against a list and access to mosques was restricted, while a helicopter flew overhead, witnesses said.

Demonstrations in Oman, inspired by protests that have spread across the Middle East and toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, have focused on demands for better wages, jobs and an end to corruption. Many protesters have demanded the state prosecute sacked ministers for corruption.

“Worshippers have been restricted from going to Friday prayers because of so many checkpoints,” one resident said. Asked if there would be further protests in the area, he said: “I don’t think so.”

Another resident said: “There are at least a dozen checkpoints in Sohar, more than three times what there were last Friday.”

Omani activists using emails and text messages called for a a Friday demonstration against the killing of at least one and wounding of eight others when security forces crushed a crowd of stone-throwing protesters last week. Witnesses later said that between 50 and 60 protesters were detained last week.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled the once sleepy sultanate for 40 years, has embarked on a series of reforms since protests began.

He promised in March to cede some legislative powers to the partially-elected Oman Council, an advisory body. At present, only the sultan and his cabinet can legislate and a transfer of powers has yet to be announced.

The Sultan also ordered a grant of 150 rials ($375) unemployment benefit. He raised civil service pay and pensions of government employees and doubled social security allowances. (Writing by Nick Macfie; editing by David Stamp)

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Kuwait: Investments Equal to 340 Billion Dollars

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 6 — Kuwait prepared a strategic plan for its energy policies that provides for investments amounting to 340 billion dollars and a substantial change from the use of oil to gas in the production of energy. Hasim al Rifai, the Kpc executive director quoted by the Kuwait Times, stated that “Over the next five years the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation will spend 90 billion dollars on oil and gas projects”, and added that the 20 year plan provides for a total expenditure of 340 billion dollars.

Part of the amount will be allocated to the development of the gas sector whose production will be increased by 300% over the next two decades.

Mohammad Hussein, vice president of the Kuwait Oil Company (Koc), stated that “It is a considerable commitment for Kuwait that has always grown on the oil sector. Gas has never been one of our priorities, and the new direction we are following calls for a massive expansion of structures and facilities”.

To meet the production needs of the emirate, Kuwait plans to increase gas production from 1.2 billion cubic feet per day (cfpd) to 4 billion.

Kpc will also increase oil production to 4 million barrels per day from the current 3.5 million, while refineries will increase their working capacity to 1.4 million barrels per day compared to the current 950,000.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nuclear Fuel Being Reloaded at Iran Power Plant

Nuclear fuel is once again being loaded into the reactor of Iran’s Bushehr power plant, the Russian company that built the station said on Friday, after the latest in a series of delays to its launch.

Russia has built Iran’s first nuclear power plant under a $1 billion deal dating back to the 1990s. The project has long been a focus of attention because of global concern that Tehran’s nuclear programme could be aimed at developing weapons.

The plant near the Persian Gulf had been due to start producing electricity early this year after the process of loading nuclear fuel into the reactor core got under way last October.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Syria: Assad’s Concessions Not Enough, Chaos Continues

(ANSAmed)- ROME, APRIL 8 — The same script, the same scenes, the same bloody final. The Friday prayer in Syria has once again led to more protests, more repression by order troops and more victims. Satellite television channel Al Arabiya spoke of 17 people who lost their lives. Medical sources report that in Daraa alone, the city in the south that forms the heart of the protest, 10 people have been killed. There were incidents in Homs, Qamishli, Deir e-Zor, Banias, and Duma, on the outskirts of Damascus. Hundreds of Kurds, for whom the concession of citizenship for which they have been waiting for half a century is not enough, demonstrated in the north-east. In short, the concessions made so far by President Bashar Al Assad are not enough to placate the protest and avoid further tensions. The Syrian head of State has dismissed the old government and has appointed the former Minister of Agriculture, who comes from the Daraa region, as new Premier; he has signed the citizenship of around 200,000 Kurds who live in the east of the country and were so far considered to be foreigners; he has promised reforms and measures against corruption and, most importantly, the revision of emergency laws. The President’s most interesting move was his attempt to form an alliance with the country’s Imams, key figures in mending his ties with the practising Muslim population. In the past days Assad granted most requests made by the clerics, that way avoiding a religious shift of the laic State. The country’s most respected cleric, sheikh Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Bouti, was quoted by newspaper Al Watan as saying that the President has promised that women wearing a niqab (the veil that covers the entire face except the eyes) who were fired in the past will be hired again; that the high institution for religious studies, Sham, will be founded and that satellite television channels will be opened to promote the ‘true Islam’, “not aimed at the East nor the West”; and teachers will be allowed to wear a veil at school. It is impossible to say to what extent these requests reflect the will of the protesters, in a land that is ironclad by censorship. Still the clerical measures could not avoid another dramatic Friday. Once again, people clashed with the police after leaving the mosques. The opposition says that security forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrations. The official version of the Syrian regime is the one it has used in the past weeks: unknown troublemakers opened fire, both on the demonstrators and the Syrian police. Today’s demonstrations show that the attempts of Assad to close new alliances to consolidate the power of his Baath party have not yet led to the desired results.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Security Forces Fire on Demonstrators in Latakia

(AGI) Latakia — Eyewitnesses report that Syrian security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Latakia, the country’s main port. The city is 330 kilometres north-west of Damascus.

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

Syria: State TV Shows Masked Gunmen Firing on Protesters Amid Deadly Clashes

Deraa, 8 April — (AKI) — Syrian state television has aired footage of masked gunmen opening fire Friday on demonstrators in the southern city of Deraa, where security forces killed at least 17 people, according to activists and hospital sources.

In the footage, filmed in a tree-lined street off Deraa’s main square, at least five men with their faces covered, appear to lie in wait for the demonstrators ad open fire on them and on police, according to state TV.

Syrian news agency SANA reported shooting in Deraa, but it said “vandals” had opened fire on mass gatherings, killing a policeman and an ambulance driver and wounding dozens of police and residents.

“Some of the gunmen were firing live bullets on protesters and security forces. This expresses clearly and openly that there are some people who wish evil on Syria,” the news anchor said.

The Syrian government has blamed killings during weeks of pro-democracy protests on armed groups shooting at random, while protesters say they have been targeted by security forces.

Earlier in the day, violent clashes broke out after weekly Friday prayers between Syria’s security services and demonstrators in Deraa, a rights activist was cited as saying by Al-Arabiya.

“Thousands of demonstrators leaving from three mosques marched to the courthouse but security forces dressed in civilian clothing fired tear gas to disperse them. Demonstrators threw stones and clashes ensued,” he said.

“The situation is very tense,” he added.

Syrian security forces had deployed earlier in Deraa as thousands, including people from neighboring towns, streamed in ready to demonstrate in support of political reform after the traditional Friday prayers.

President Bashar al-Assad has ordered a probe into Deraa’s protest casualties. He is under popular pressure to introduce major political reforms and end emergency powers which give security services powers to crush dissent,

Thousands of people on Friday including Kurds and Christians also marched in towns in northern Syria, mainly in predominantly Kurdish Hassake and Qamishli, calling for an end to emergency rule and the release of prisoners, another rights activist said.

I residents had formed committees to verify the identity of people arriving for a rally and check that they were not carrying weapons, according to a human rights activist.

He told AFP demonstrators and authorities reached an agreement allowing protestors to rally without the intervention of security forces.

“This agreement, so far, has been respected,” he said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said at least eight people, but perhaps as many as 15, were killed last Friday in Douma, a suburb 15 kilometres north of Damascus, when men in civilian clothes, suspected by witnesses to be security services, opened fire on protesters.

In Yemen, two protesters were shot dead and 25 wounded by gunfire during protests in the southern city of Taez, hospital sources said. Some 200 were hurt by tear gas inhalation.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis massed for pro- and anti-regime protests on Friday. Around 125 people have been killed since the revolta against president Ali Abdullah Saleh inspired by successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, began in January.

The embattled president rejected an exit plan by Gulf states trying to broker an end to bloody unrest at his decades-long rule.

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

Syria: Police Shoot on Participants in a Funeral in Daraa

(AGI) Amman — Syrian security forces opened fire on a crowd near the Omari Mosque in Daraa, the epicenter of anti-regime protests. The uprisings are in protest against President Bashar Assad. The mass funeral of the several protesters killed yesterday had just ended when, according to two eye-witnesses, police agents started shooting at a group of people singing chants and slogans against the regime.

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

Turkey’s Otokar Signs Export Deal Worth 9.3 Mln USD

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, APRIL 5 — Turkey’s Otokar Automotive and Defense Industry Corporation announced Tuesday that the company signed an export agreement worth 9.3 million USD. In a statement released Tuesday, Otokar said that the export agreement was for the 4x4 armored personnel vehicles, spare parts and relevant training. Otokar is Turkey’s biggest private sector defense company.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Failed Suicide Bomber Says He Didn’t Know Muslims Would be Killed

The notion of killing non-Muslims, however, doesn’t appear to have caused guilt.


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani boy who took part in a suicide mission that killed more than 40 people at a Sufi shrine sought forgiveness Friday in a television interview from his hospital bed.

The boy, who police said is 14, was arrested after his belt of explosives failed to go off in Sunday’s attack. He said he had been trained by militants close to the Afghan border, and that his handlers spoke of “more than 350 other boys going through the training.”

In the attack on the Sufi shrine, at least two bombers successfully detonated explosives, killing at least 44 people. The boy whose explosives didn’t go off was arrested shortly after the incident.

Police initially said he was unrepentant, and that he told them he wanted to “send them to hell.”

However, in Friday’s interview, he said he is “seeking forgiveness” from the families of those killed and wounded.

“I never knew that I was going to hurt Muslims. I learned it only after I failed,” said the boy. “May Allah forgive me.”

The boy’s left arm was amputated as a result of injuries he sustained after he was shot by a guard. In Friday’s interview, the boy spoke softly while lying in bed. The stump of what was left of his arm was bandaged.

The boy gave his name as Omar, though police initially identified him as Fida Hussain.

He said he spent two months training with four other boys in the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, a region that is under militant control. The Pakistan army has yet to launch an offensive there despite American pressure, saying it does not have the resources.

Since 2007, Al-Qaida and Taliban militants have carried out hundreds of suicide attacks at government installations, security forces and Western targets in Pakistan. Several Sufi shrines have been bombed because the extremists do not agree with the way Muslims who visit them practice the faith.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Sharia: Woman Caned in Front of a Baying Mob for Having an Affair

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

A woman flinches as she is about to be repeatedly caned for having an extramarital affair.

Irdayanti Mukhtar, 34, received nine lashes by Sharia Police for having a relationship with another man, even though she is said to be in the process of divorcing her husband.

The harsh punishment was meted out in front of a crowd of 200 people outside the Al Munawwarah Mosque in Jantho, Indonesia.

The jeering crowd recorded the brutal beating on their mobile phones and camcorders and shouted for more beatings in the strict Muslim city.

Mukhtar had been sentenced to the punishment the previous day by a Sharia court where prosecutors said that she was guilty of being in ‘close proximity’ to another man.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: Textile Industry Profits on the Back of Exploited and Underpaid Women

women still don’t earn enough to support their families. In 2010 recorded profits of over € 2.5 billion, but 42% is the result of the low cost of labour.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — In Sri Lanka women employed in the textile sector continue to be underpaid, exploited and are often victims of violence, although the government has asked the industry five yearly wage increases and better working conditions.

According to Apparel Industry Labour Rights Movement (Alarm), not all industries have implemented the new provisions. In at least six textile factories employees work seven days a week for a minimum wage of 60 euro per month. The government data shows that to survive a family must earn at least 350 euros per month, also considering basic medical costs.

These days, Alarm and other human rights groups organized a meeting entitled “ Living wages as fundamental rights of Sri Lanka garments factory workers” (see photo). The conference launched a people’s court consisting of judges, trade unionists, local and foreign activists who investigate cases of exploitation of women in the textile factories of the industrial districts of Katunayake, Biyagama and Koggala (southern Sri Lanka).

Shanti Dairiam, a female judge of the people’s court, says that “in recent years Sri Lanka has signed many international conventions and agreements with various industries. However, workers can not surivive. Their basic salary is not enough to live in dignity and raise a family. “

According to Alarm multinationals that have outsourced their production to Sri Lanka are primarily responsible for the severe state of exploitation of the textile industry, taking advantage of low wages and weal legislation to produce huge profits, condemning women to a life of poverty.

Members of Alarm emphasize that the current global trading system is based on the search for the country offering the lowest production costs, but this places all of the burdens on workers.

Clothing is the main industry of Sri Lanka and employs about 30 thousand people, mostly women. In 2010 the export of textile products made profits of 3.5 billion dollars. According to Alarm about 42% of the gain comes from the low cost of labour.

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

Strike Over Killing of Muslim Cleric Shuts Kashmir

SRINAGAR: A strike called by separatists in revolt-hit Indian-administered Kashmir to protest against the killing of a leading Muslim cleric paralysed much of the region on Saturday.

Pakistan-based rebels fighting Indian rule blamed the killing of Moulvi Shoukat Ahmad Shah on “Indian agencies” seeking to “sabotage the freedom struggle of Kashmiris.” No militant group has claimed responsibility for the explosion which killed Shah [1], a respected cleric and a staunch pro-independence supporter, at a mosque in Srinagar minutes before the start of Friday prayers.

Most shops, businesses, schools and offices in Srinagar and other major towns in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley were closed by the strike.

Shah’s death sparked condemnation from separatist and pro-India politicians alike. Kashmir’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah, joined throngs of people visiting the bereaved family.

“The killing of a veteran religious scholar is a great loss to the society and those responsible for the crime have exhibited their inhuman behaviour,” he said.

Separatists described the killing as an “attack on the Kashmiri freedom movement”.

“It’s nothing but a conspiracy to deprive us of our religious and political leaders,” said leading cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Yaseen Malik, head of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Shah’s close friend, mourned his loss.

“The killing has broken our back. We will expose those responsible,” he said.

Shah was in favour of independence for Kashmir, unlike many armed rebels who are seeking the territory’s union with Pakistan.

Thousands of mourners accompanied the funeral procession of Shah who was buried at “Martyrs’ Graveyard” on Friday.

Security forces were deployed in strength as a “precautionary measure” to maintain law and order but no incidents were reported, police said.

Last summer, Kashmir was rocked by street protests against Indian rule that left 114 people dead — most of them shot by security forces.

The Himalayan region is divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both. It has triggered two of the three wars fought by the neighbours since independence in 1947.

According to an official count, 47,000 people have died in Kashmir in more than two decades of rebellion against New Delhi’s rule. — AFP

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Launches “Charm” Campaign to Clean Up Its Image

Beijing is betting on cultural and arts exchange to present itself as a peaceful power. However, the world sees the arrests of dissidents and media censorship. A survey for the BBC shows a growing popular displeasure towards China, especially in the West.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China has launched a “charm” campaign, promoting cultural exchanges abroad to boost its image as a peaceful power. However, a worldwide survey indicates that more than 50 per cent of people view with growing apprehension Beijing’s economic growth and policies.

China is aware that its persecution of human rights activists (see the detention Liu Xiaobo) and the widespread corruption among Communist leaders have generated “bad” publicity. However, as its economy grows, so does its ambition to be a world power and for this reason it wants to be seen favourably abroad.

Wu Fan, editor of US-based magazine China Affairs, said that China prefers cultural and arts exchanges, especially at school and university levels, because it certainly cannot promote itself by highlighting its corruption, lack of democracy, and poor human and economic rights record. For this reason, the Chinese government has set up 600 Confucius Institutes, with exchange programmes and language courses, and more.

A recent survey for the British Broadcasting Corporation World Service, among more than 28,000 people in 27 countries, shows that as China’s economy grew so did its negative image over a similar survey conducted in 2005.

Across all countries polled, an average of 50 per cent expressed a positive view of China’s economic power, whilst 33 per cent were negative. However, negative views of China’s growing economic power rose—and are now in the majority—in the US, France, Canada, Germany and Italy.

Negative views are also the result of growing economic frictions among these nations at a time of low economic growth, with each trying to protect its domestic industry against the invasion of Chinese products.

In Africa, views are more favourable, especially in Nigeria (82 per cent) and Kenya (77 per cent). In fact, for analysts, Africans are more likely to see China as a great source of development aid. However, even here, people are increasingly aware that China’s involvement in the continent is limited to buying energy and raw materials, and paying them with infrastructures built by Chinese companies.

Chinese firms open mines and exploit African workers as much as they do Chinese workers. They also flood local markets with Chinese-made goods, stifling the nascent local manufacturing sector.

The same trend is visible in many other developing nations where Chinese economic growth is seen as positive overall.

Negative attitudes are confirmed by a question about trading practices. Those saying China is unfair were above 50 per cent in Japan, South Korea, Germany and Italy. In the US, the figure was 45 per cent, compared with 24 per cent saying that it was fair.

As part of its charm offensive, Beijing has organised special courses for Communist Party leaders on how to project an image of efficiency, courtesy and fairness with foreign media.

Experts note however that actions speak louder than words. They point to the fact that, in February and March, police arrested foreign journalists covering street protests in Beijing and Shanghai.

It also goes without saying that the charm campaign applies abroad, not at home.

Hu Ping, editor of the US-based online magazine Beijing Spring, told Radio Free Asia that China was hoping to increase censorship, especially on the Internet, and extend its control over public opinion, eliminating all forms of dissent.

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

Japan: Iran Says Its Experts Can Easily Help

(AGI) Tehran — A scientist said that Iran’s nuclear experts can easily handle and resolve the Fukushima nuclear emergency.

Leading Iranian nuclear scientist, Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri, told the semi-official Fars news agency that, “Our experts can easily deal with such a disaster and resolve Japan’s problems.”

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

Australia — Pacific

Pregnant Women Could Face Ban on Buying Alcohol

An Aboriginal corporation in Central Australia says it wants to be allowed to ban pregnant women from buying alcohol.

The Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation owns three shops in Alice Springs and is concerned about the effects of foetal alcohol syndrome in babies.

The corporation’s Darryl Pearce says Alice Springs is facing many problems associated with alcohol abuse.

Mr Pearce says the corporation wants governments to consider allowing its stores to ban pregnant women from buying alcohol, despite anti-discrimination laws.

“Unfortunately there are people who stop thinking about the child they’re carrying and concentrate on their own personal social lives,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says the Government is willing to consider local solutions to tackling alcohol issues in Alice Springs.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ivory Coast: Coast to Coast They Hate the Most

[Comments: Scroll down in the article to reach the part about the Ivory Coast.]

There is a civil war in the Ivory Coast between Muslims and Christians. Unsurprisingly the EU has chosen to back the Muslim side. France is using armed force to insure that the Muslims take over.

Islam came to the Ivory Coast via Berber slave traders. Now it is trying to take over with mass murder and the backing of the ‘international community’. The post-colonial Ivory Coast was a success story. But Muslim immigration has turned it into a nightmare.

The media narrative on the Cote D’Ivorie crisis is that Muslim thug Alassane Ouattarra is the legitimately elected leader of the country. But Alassane Ouattarra had a Birther problem of his own. Under Ivory Coast law, the president and his parents have to be native born. Alassane Ouattarra was born in the Ivory Coast, but his father wasn’t. That legally disqualified him from holding office. He tried for it anyway despite a Supreme Court ruling barring him.

Ouattarra tried to present forged documents, resulting in a warrant for his arrest. He ran for office yet again. But this time he brought large numbers of Muslim immigrants who were not legally qualified to vote to the polls. Numerically he won, but the invalid votes were thrown out by the Constitutional Council. The ‘international community’ chose to back Ouattarra, who had no legal right to even stand for office, and his illegal Muslim voters. Now they’re doing everything possible to put him in power.

Let’s be clear about what is going on here. Gbago is no saint—few African leaders are. But Alassane Ouattarra and his Muslim thugs are trying to turn the Ivory Coast into another Sudan filled with the bodies of Christians and Animists. Backing an Ouattarra takeover means backing another Muslim genocide against Christians and Animists.

The Obama Administration has pushed for the replacement of Gbago with Ouattarra. The UN has used mostly unproven war crimes allegations, that smack of events in Yugoslavia, to conduct a war to put Ouattarra and his Muslim thugs in power. Meanwhile the UN did not intervene military when Muslims were engaged in genocide in Sudan. UN peacekeepers serve as Ouattara’s private bodyguard.

Despite all the lies about acting on behalf of Ivorians—the UN is acting on behalf of Muslims. On behalf of Ouattara and the Muslim immigrants drawn by the wealth of Cote d’Ivoire.

The numbers tell the tale. In 1957, Muslims barely made up 20 percent of the country. In the 90’s, they were already half the country. The boom has come from migrant workers. Many of whom were enlisted to vote for Ouattara.

This civil war hinges on the question of whether Muslim immigrants should be allowed to take over the Cote d’Ivoire. The UN says yes. Obama says yes. France says yes. But this is a preview of coming attractions for Europe and America as well.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Rio — School Tragedy

As the motive has been scrubbed from the English speaking media, I took the liberty of calling a Brazilian friend and asking them to check the Portuguese media from home and translate an article for me that says what took place, given that our own English speaking media has become criminally negligent, no not negligent, criminally deceitful when it comes to all matters Islam. Here is the translation and link below with special thanks to PC for doing the heavy lifting.

Wellington’s addopted sister says he was strange and had no friends.

Jornal do Brasil

RIO — In an interview to a local radio station in Rio de Janeiro, Rosilane Menezes, sister of the shooter of Realengo, affirmed that Wellington Menezes de Oliveira was adopted, was strange, reserved and with no friends.

She also said that her brother was mentally unstable and 8 months ago he had moved to her house in Realengo, on the west of Rio de Janeiro.

“He was very focused in things related to the Islam and had let his beard grow a lot. He was very strange, used to spend all day on the internet reading themes related to Islam, he was very strange and reserved”, she said.

Wellington left a letter with phrases that made no sense, but with fundamentalist characteristics, informed the officer Djalma Beltrame.

-He used to go on Islamic websites and used the internet to have access to things that wasn’t part of our people. He is crazy. Just a hallucinated person could do this to kids — affirmed the commandant, who said that the letter was handed to the Homicide Officer.

[Return to headlines]


1,000 in Lampedusa, More Boats to Arrive

(AGI) Lampedusa — Around one thousand immigrants mostly from Libya landed in Lampedusa yesterday. They are, therefore, potential refugees. UNHCR estimates that 440 thousand people in despair from Sub-Saharan Africa are waiting on Libya’s shores.

The latest 243 immigrants, including women and children, arrived at around 1:30pm. Two more boats are expected to arrive. One of them is transporting sixty people.

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

Alfano Tells EU: Stop Passing the Buck on Africa Migration

(AGI) Turin — Italy’s justice minister, Angelino Alfano, lambasts the EC’s attitude to North Africa’s migration contigencies. The minister characterised the Union as “failing to address issues” and explained that the EC “has obligations too.” Speaking in Turin, Alfano said “Lampedusa isn’t just the southernmost part of Italy, it is the border of Europe. […] they [Brussels] needs to understand that migrants don’t head for Lampedusa because of its sunny beaches; they are crossing the border to access wealth and democracy.”

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

Barge With Hundreds on Board Docks at Lampedusa

(AGI)Lampedusa-The second vessel intercepted by Italian ships is docked in Lampedusa, Sicily with hundreds of immigrants on board. Access to the port area has been denied to journalists and priers. Various ambulances at the harbour collected persons brought on land with stretchers. Another vessel containing 50 immigrants had already arrived in the afternoon.

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

Fini Says EU is Stalling and Unequal to Task

(AGI) Casalmaggiore — Gianfranco Fini says “It’s a paradox: just when the EU should clearly have common policies, it is stalling.” The Chamber of Deputies’ Spokesman was discussing the North African immigration situation during a meeting with students from Casalmaggiore at the town’s Teatro Comunale. He went on to say that “The European institutions do not appear to be up to today’s challenges. Just when we really need common policies the greatest difficulties seem to arise.”

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

France and Italy Seek to Defuse Diplomatic Spat

In an attempt to defuse a diplomatic row, Italy and France agreed Friday to jointly patrol Tunisia’s coast to try to curb the flow of migrants who have been heading to Europe, many hoping to reach France via the Italian island of Lampedusa.

AFP — Italy and France agreed Friday to carry out joint patrols off Tunisia’s coast to block migrants headed for Europe, with the French interior minister saying there was no “duty” to take in the boat people.

Following the arrival of thousands of migrants from the former French colony in recent weeks, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said after meeting French counterpart Claude Gueant that there would now be “joint air and sea patrols”.

Gueant said the EU’s border agency Frontex would control these patrols.

“Neither Italy nor France has a duty to host the migrants,” the French minister said, while Maroni called for “joint action” by Europe on immigration.

A diplomatic row between Italy and France has escalated after Italy on Thursday agreed to grant six-month residence permits to more than 20,000 mostly Tunisian migrants and said this would allow them to travel around Europe.

Many of the migrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa say they want to travel to France and hundreds have been arriving in the Italian town of Ventimiglia on the border with France, which has been sending them back.

Gueant earlier said that France did not want to “suffer a wave” of migrants and stressed that even those armed with permits would not be allowed to cross into France if they did not have identity papers and sufficient funds.

“We have agreed on the interpretation of the Schengen treaty,” Gueant said on Friday, adding there was “complete agreement with Roberto Maroni”.

“It’s clear that the residence permits the Italians will give allow freedom of movement but this is limited by the conditions defined by the treaty.”

Gueant said that Italy and France would also grant Tunisia economic aid.

The EU’s Schengen visa-free zone — which includes all of the European Union member states except for Britain and Ireland — has gradually eased internal border controls within Europe while beefing up external borders.

A total of 25,800 undocumented migrants on 390 boats have arrived in Italy so far this year, including around 21,000 who said they were from Tunisia.

Many of the Tunisians said they were fleeing a dire economic situation after the ouster of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January.

The row between France and Italy dominated Italian newspaper headlines.

“Paris and Rome at War” “Italy-France Confrontation” “Row with France” read some of the headlines, with Corriere della Sera daily accusing France of “duplicity” and Il Giornale saying that the migrants were “a human bomb”.

France “is questioning the spirit of a treaty and one of the fundamental points of the European system,” Corriere della Sera said.

Several commentators argued that France’s intransigence over the migrants was dictated by the rise of the far-right National Front.

Party leader Marine Le Pen has been put ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy in some recent opinion polls for the 2012 election.

“The French domestic situation is having a major effect with the fact that Marine Le Pen, leader of a xenophobic right, has become one of the favourites,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in an interview.

Immigration is set to top the agenda at a summit between President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome on April 26.

Maroni struck a deal with Tunisia earlier this month under which migrants who have already arrived will receive permits but any new arrivals will be deported under a new arrangement that facilitates expulsions.

As part of the agreement with Tunisia, a first plane left Lampedusa late Thursday for Tunis carrying some 30 migrants.

Italy has also agreed to provide Tunisia with boats and jeeps to step up its coastal patrols and prevent more migrants from leaving its coasts.

France detained 2,800 undocumented Tunisian migrants in March alone, Gueant said on Thursday, adding that most had already been sent back to Italy.

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

Hundreds More Migrants Arrive in Lampedusa

(AGI) Lampedusa — The Coast Guard says hundreds of illegal migrants are arriving on Lampedusa on two boats this afternoon.

The first boat, which is smaller, was carrying about 50 people and has already reached the island and has been taken to Favaloro. The other, slightly larger carrying about 200 to 300 people, was seen 13 miles south of the island.

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

Italian-Tunisian Deal Holds, Departures Halted

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 8 — Almost unnoticed, the agreement closed by Tunisia and Italy is starting to work. The facts, as sources in government have leaked, confirm that the pledge made when the two Home Ministers Habib Essid and Roberto Maroni shook hands has not remained only on paper, but is having its first results. The figures underlined by the Home Ministry in its formal reports confirm this. In fact, in the Gulf of Gabes two large boats were intercepted in three days, transporting almost 350 illegal migrants. Once on land, the migrants were detained and a judge that will hear them in the coming hours will decide on their fate. The effectiveness of the operations of the Tunisian authorities is also confirmed by the number of people rescued at sea. Just a few hours ago, units of the Coastguard — together with personnel of an oil rig — rescued around 50 people in open sea after they tried their luck despite the bad weather. They were lucky that the response to their request for help arrived in time. Currently Tunisia is witnessing the first forced repatriations of its emigrants from Lampedusa, with apparent indifference. The media don’t give much attention to the issue if any, and prefer to focus on the concessions the Government has managed to obtain during the exhausting negotiations with Italy on repatriation mechanisms and on the protection of illegal immigrants, for whom protection of human dignity has been requested, and obtained as people in government circles underline. For Tunisia this means that migrants who have not been granted a residence permit, not even a temporary one, should not be photographed or filmed. The Tunisian Interior Ministry has not specified what will happen to people who are sent back. A source said that their personal situation will have to be screened by security authorities, and probably by the magistracy. So their immediate future is also surrounded by uncertainty. Some sources add that it is not a certainty that they will end up in prison, and that it is more likely that they will be taken back to where they came from after an assessment of their social conditions. This mild approach recognises in a way the special situation of migrants who reached Italy before the agreement was signed. It should be stressed though that since a few days, Tunisia is using a strong arm against those who are detained while trying to reach Italy illegally. In most cases they are in fact trying to reach other EU countries that house large communities of fellow countrymen. Nearly all these migrants point out that they want to go to these countries to return to Tunisia later, once they have enough money to start their own business.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maroni Says EU Solidarity is Just Words

(AGI) Bergamo — Roberto Maroni criticised the EU over the immigrant emergency, saying that its solidarity is just words.

The interior minister explained: “The willingness to act quickly for those in difficulty,” is what “is missing a little at the European level. Europe prides itself on grand principles, but when called on to demonstrate its solidarity, nothing happens.”

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

Mass Immigration From Tunisia: Italy Seeks to Pass Problem on to EU Partners

By Hans-Jürgen Schlamp in Massa Marittima

Europe is celebrating the emergence of new democracies in North Africa, but the recent upheaval has caused a massive wave of immigration, with thousands landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa in recent months. The government in Rome wants to move the immigrants on to other EU member states.

It is one in the morning, but the leaders of the small tourist town of Massa Marittima in southern Tuscany are out in force despite the late hour. The mayor, the heads of the police, fire department, civil protection agency, and even the finance police and forest police are waiting for a bus with 44 young men who will be housed in the Sant’Anna church hostel. The men are from Tunisia; illegal immigrants.

For days they traveled in tiny, fragile boats across the open sea, before spending more days out in the open on the barren island of Lampedusa. Then they were put on a ship headed to the port of Livorno, before finally being sent to Massa Marittima. Here at the Sant’Anna — home to “a new culture of travel,” the advertising promises — they will be registered and fed.

Four of the Tunisians make a run for it. By the time they reach the outskirts of the town, they are at a loss for where to go. They ask a passer-by how to get to Rome, before the Carabinieri arrive and take them back to Sant’Anna. Their fellow immigrants are unhappy — they fear the escape attempt will cost the whole group its chance to stay in Italy. But their fears are unfounded.

For what the Italian government says are “humanitarian reasons,” all of the roughly 23,000 illegal immigrants from North Africa who have made their way across the Mediterranean since the start of the year will be given six-month residence permits. Only those who have been deported before, or who have committed crimes in Italy, will be sent back immediately. As will all those who arrive from now on.

A Policy with Many Flaws

Tunisia, as Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni proudly announced after tough negotiations with the new leadership in Tunis this week, is now ready to readmit its citizens without complaint if the Italians ship them back. The agreement “ends the flow of illegal immigrants” according to the minister, from the traditionally conservative and anti-immigration Lega Nord (Northern League). His party is part of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government in Rome.

Maroni’s certainty, however, might be misplaced. The new Italian policy on immigration is clearly flawed. What should be done with the immigrants arriving on the boats who are not from Tunisia but from Egypt, Libya or other countries? What about the Tunisians who discard their passports and claim to be from another country? And what about those already in “Bella Italia” on six month visas? Should they be sent home once their visas expire? Or will they be extended for “humanitarian reasons?”

The truth is that the authorities in Rome have something completely different in mind. They want the immigrants to move on — and head north.

It may sound far-fetched, but for Italians it could provide an elegant way out of their dilemma. The strategy may result in the immigration problem solving itself — as has happened once before. When tens of thousands of refugees flooded across the Adriatic from the Balkans at the end of the 1990s, they were briefly kept in camps before being given residence permits and turned out onto the streets. Within a few days, many had left Italy. Most did not return east across the sea, but traveled by train and car north, to Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Italian authorities simply watched.

Passing the Problem on

The interior minister likely envisions a similar result this time around. Indeed, experts estimate that about 80 percent of today’s immigrants do not want to stay in Italy. Their preferred destinations are France and Germany.

An Italian residence permit, Maroni says, gives the Tunisians the right to travel to other countries in the border-free Schengen zone and stay there for three months, including France and Germany. But the other Schengen countries see things rather differently, as do most EU legal experts. It would be necessary, they say, for Brussels to issue a corresponding order. In order to issue such a decree, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecelia Malmström would need the green light from a majority of EU interior ministers. That, though, looks unlikely.

Because just as the Italians want to pass the problem along by sending the immigrants abroad, other countries don’t want them either. Concern over the fate of the boat refugees — which periodically arises as a result of deadly accidents like the one this week — usually dissipates quickly.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that Europe still has not reached consensus on how to deal with those who have been arriving on its shores in such great numbers in recent years. Each country has sought to protect its own borders as best it can. This week, for example, the French — in potential violation of EU law — carried out checks at the border with Italy at Ventimiglia, checks which were supposedly abolished under the Schengen Agreement. The aim was to intercept Tunisians on their way into France and send them back.

Even the well-meaning hosts of the 44 young Tunisians in Sant’Anna would seem to realize that the problem will not be solved any time soon. They have come up with an “integration program,” which involves playing soccer with the locals as well as learning to speak and write Italian. There are even plans for a course on the history of the site and its surroundings.

But the operators of the hostel have made it clear to town officials that the North African guests cannot stay beyond the end of May. Then the space is needed again for “a new culture of travel.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Migration Issue Has Become ‘Very Emotional’, Commissioner Says

Member states should resettle Africans fleeing Libya rather than indulge in blame games about the plight of refugees trying to reach the EU, home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in an interview. Speaking to the EUobserver in her office on Thursday (7 April), Malmstrom said she was deeply disturbed by the news that 250 people fleeing Libya, mostly sub-Saharan refugees, drowned when trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Napolitano: On Immigrants EU Must Speak With Single Voice

(AGI) Budapest — Napolitano said, “It is necessary and possible for Europe to speak with a single voice on immigration and asylum. The President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, was speaking at the final press conference of the informal summit of the “United for Europe” group in Budapest. The Italian Head of State once again called for a common effort from the EU for the dignified reception of the immigrants and underlined the need for clarification in Europe over the interpretation of the Schengen treaty.

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

South Tel Aviv Residents March to Demand Deportation of Foreigners

Neighborhood group protests the presence of foreign infiltrators, calling upon the government to expel them immediately.

About 150 residents of South Tel Aviv marched through an area of the city frequented by foreigners, demanding that the government take immediate action to deport all persons that are in the country illegally.

The demonstrators held a procession through Neve Sha’anan pedestrian walkway and Levinsky public park near Tel Aviv central bus station, where many refugees and other migrants of African and Asian origin socialize.

Police officers were present to ensure that tensions between the groups did not flare up into violent confrontations. A number of shouting matches ensued, but did not escalate, and no injuries were reported.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Temporary Residency for Illegals Violates Schengen

(AGI) Berlin — German interior ministryspokesman Jens Teschke, says the temporary residence permits for illegal migrants violates the spirit of Schengen and will raise the question in Luxembourg, where a meeting of European Union interior ministers will take place. “We see in these measures taken by Italy,” said Teschke, “a violation of the spirit of Schengen.

“The German and Italian ministers must address this.”

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

Wulff: Unsure That EU Can Speak With One Voice

(AGI) Budapest — Speaking at the final press conference following the informal summit of “United for Europe” in Budapest, German President Christian Wulff explained again what Germany’s line on immigration is. “I tend to be slightly pessimistic about the possibility that the European Union can speak with one voice on immigration soon”, he said. By means of the Schengen Agreement, Europe has established “the freedom of movement”, he added, “which is a great thing. To address this issue, it is indispensable to speak with one voice on aid to these people’s countries of origin”.

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

Culture Wars

UK: Police Inspector: Army Medals Out, Gay Pride Badges in, And Theft Blamed on Badgers to Cut Crime Rates: How Political Correctness is Crippling My Police Force

Writing anonymously, for very obvious reasons, a police inspector reveals to the Mail how the force he loves is being crippled by political correctness and the (often dishonest) pursuit of government targets.

The suspect stared at me with hooded eyes, devoid of any emotion or conscience. His emaciated figure was so wrecked by heroin abuse that he could barely raise his arms.

‘Hello, inspector, it’s me again,’ he said, his voice dripping with disdain.

He had every reason to sound cynical, even contemptuous. He was a one-man crimewave, a prolific offender whose miserable life was dominated by violence, drugs and thieving, yet in all his years of delinquency he had never been properly punished by our laughably misnamed justice system.

When he was brought into the station last week, on a charge of stealing from a 94-year-old woman, I had a look at his record. It was a lengthy indictment of the incredible leniency of our courts.

Aged only 23, he had been arrested 80 times and convicted of an incredible 140 offences.

Among his crimes were assault, aggravated burglary, blackmail, theft and possession of Class A and Class B drugs.

His behaviour has long been out of control, showing respect for neither the law nor the rights of others. But despite his lengthy catalogue of offending, he has spent just 12 weeks in prison.

The only lesson he has ever learned is that he has nothing to fear from the courts. No doubt he will receive another ineffectual slap on the wrist the next time he is up before a judge.

As a long-serving police inspector, I despair of the reluctance of the state to deal vigorously with serious criminals such as this thuggish drug addict. This soft, destructive stance not only weakens public faith in the fight against crime, but also undermines the morale of the police.

What drags down our effectiveness, however, is not just the useless courts system that so often undoes all the effort we put into building cases, but also the highly politicised, target-driven, dogma-fixated culture of the police hierarchy.

Instead of allowing us to focus on the real task of tackling criminality, police chiefs and politicians have bogged us down in bureaucracy, much of it driven by fashionable obsessions with multiculturalism and meaningless performance statistics.

Official determination to manipulate crime figures has reached new heights of idiocy. Data is no longer a reflection of performance, but an exercise in deceit of the public.

In this brave new world of propaganda — conjured up by a string of directives — a vast array of crimes are reclassified by ‘crime managers’ to lessen their seriousness. Badger damage: Potting shed break-ins are blamed on the animals to keep crime figures down

Badger damage: Potting shed break-ins are blamed on the animals to keep crime figures down

So burglaries of potting sheds become ‘badger damage’, broken windows are blamed on ‘frost’ and stolen handbags are listed as ‘lost or misplaced’.

Even vandalism to vehicles can be ascribed to ‘stones thrown up by speeding cars’.

The warped priorities of this culture are also reflected in the ridiculous amount of time we have to devote to the creed of diversity.


My internal office phone directory lists no fewer than 32 officers with ‘diversity’ in their job title, all of them working nine-to-five in desk-bound jobs, while we slog it out on the front line. I was half-hoping that, given their irrelevance to the battle against crime, they might be made redundant in the public-sector cuts, but that was far too optimistic.

Diversity is sacrosanct, its commissars are protected and its influence is all dominant.

So in our training, for instance, just one day a year is devoted to practical instruction in officer safety, dealing with procedures such as correct use of handcuffs, Tasers and batons, or how to put a violent suspect in a van or cell.

Yet the effort devoted to diversity is far greater. We have to carry out two days of diversity training a year at headquarters, another day at our divisions, go through an eight-hour ‘e-learning’ package on our computers and, in our annual performance appraisal forms, show that we have accomplished three separate objectives ‘to raise diversity awareness’.

In addition, during weekly individual meetings with our supervisor, we have to explain what we have done to promote cultural diversity.

The minutiae of Hindu festivals, details of Black History month and the rituals of gypsy culture are all drummed into us. The whole pantomime is idiotic, especially in my neighbourhood where the ethnic minority is tiny.


Such absurdities can be found everywhere in the police. So we were told recently that former servicemen like me were no longer allowed routinely to wear medal ribbons on our uniforms, as had previously been customary, because such insignia might be deemed offensive to Muslims and Irish people. However, we have been encouraged to wear Gay Pride badges.

Similarly, Welsh and Scottish police forces are allowed to wear their national badges on their uniforms, but the St George’s flag appears to have been banned by English forces, as if our national identity is an embarrassment.


On another occasion, I was given a reprimand because I told a family that their son was a drug dealer. The mother had made a complaint that we were harassing him.

When I turned up at her home, which appeared to be well-equipped with the proceeds of his drug crimes, I told her frankly: ‘We keep arresting him because he’s a dealer.’

Such honesty prompted another complaint from her, and I was told I should have shown more ‘tolerance and politeness’ in my language towards the family.


Almost as depressing is the dead-weight of bureaucracy. Form-filling has become an end in itself.

For example, we were recently asked to fill in a 14-page document called a Display Screen Risk Assessment, which was meant to detail the safety of our working environment, including computers and furniture.

The whole exercise was absurd, since all our office equipment is supplied centrally — and therefore, by definition, approved — by the very bureaucrats asking us to fill in these safety forms.

[Comments: The inspector is a senior police officer serving in the South-East.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]