Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110626

Financial Crisis
»Brussels Readies for Expenses Scandal
»Dissent, Strikes Ahead for Greece on Crisis Reform Road
»German Finance Minister: Eurozone Could Survive Greek Default
»Giorgio Armani Pummels Prada, Says Fashion is Now a Slave to Big Banks
»Greece: Fear Dimitra
»Latin America: The Spanish Brain-Drain
»Netherlands: Questions Remain About Pension Reform’s Affect on Income
»Bill Gates Funds Gulen Islamist Movement
»Brazen Bulger Toured Alcatraz While on the Lam
»Muslim Who Came Forward Key to Seattle Terror Bust
»Ottawa Taxpayers Should Rejoice Over ACORN’s “Living Wage” Defeat
Europe and the EU
»Barroso Calls Danes to Order
»Belgium: We Need a Velvet Divorce
»Germany: Duisberg Dedicates Love Parade Memorial
»Germany: Drugs Plot Raid Reveals Old Woman Feeding Rabbits With Cannabis
»Irish Turf Cutters Don’t Give a Sod for EU Bog Ruling
»Italy: Latium Region Invests 2.2 Mln in 370 Fairs and Parties
»Italy: Tax Police Impound €1.2bn of ‘Mafia Assets’ In Five Months
»Italy: Naples’ Unending Garbage Problem Affects Children’s Health
»Italy: Phone Call Reveals Fears Over Interim Government and Vote-Buying in Parliament
»Netherlands: New Youth Criminal Law Will Mean Longer Jail Terms: Minister
»Norway: Altar-Native Sex
»Wilders, Israel and the Jews
North Africa
»Egyptian Muslims Torch 8 Christian Homes on Rumor of Church Construction
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Creates Super-Coalition
»Egypt: Christians, Muslims Clash Over New Church
»Hundreds of Salafists Attack a Coptic Church in Upper Egypt
»Libya: Football Players Defect to Rebels
»UN Libya Resolution Not Tasked With Regime Change, Says AU’s Zuma
Middle East
»Lebanon: Bechara Rahi Speaks About the Arab Uprisings and US Plans
South Asia
»After Ruyati’s Beheading, Jakarta Stops Migrants From Going to Saudi Arabia
»Pakistan: A Documentary About Christians? No Thanks: Foreign Journalists Unwelcomed
»Taliban Use Child to Carry Bomb to Kill Police
Far East
»Beijing Wants Socialist Patriotism Taught to Hong Kong Students
»China’s Wen in Britain on Europe Tour as Activist Freed
Australia — Pacific
»Dad Prayed His Children Would Die
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Kenyan Muslim Leaders Call for Death Penalty for Gays
Latin America
»Hezbollah in Latin America — Implications for Homeland Security
»‘Stop Dreaming of His Death’: Allies of Hugo Chávez Hit Out at President’s Enemies Amid Reports He is ‘In a Critical Condition’ In Hospitalvenezuelan President’s Health Sparks Succession Talks
»EU: Leaders Agree Tighter Internal Border Rules to Curb Illegal Immigration
»Obama Slips Dream Act Amnesty Past Congress
»Sweden: Students Suspected of Residency Permit Fraud
»Switzerland: Justice Minister Pledges Tougher Asylum Stance
Culture Wars
»Do Kids Prefer Playmates of Same Ethnicity?
»You’re All Equal Here: Swedish School Bans ‘Him’ And ‘Her’ In Bid to Stop Children Falling Into Gender Stereotypes

Financial Crisis

Brussels Readies for Expenses Scandal

The Independent, 22 June 2011

“Europe braced for MEPs’ expenses storm,” leads The Independent, which explains that the European Parliament is about to release a report on the abuse of parliamentary expenses that it has fought since 2008 to keep secret. The UK daily says that the release follows a decision by the European Court of Justice that there is an “overriding public interest” in making the report public. Partly leaked to The Sunday Times in 2009 and then the subject of a long legal battle, it includes details of payments made by MEPs to unaccredited assistants and the claiming of end-of-year bonuses. “Given the difficulties the EU faces in persuading countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal to accept tough austerity measures,” the Independent points out, “the re-emergence of allegations of misuse of taxpayer funds by MEPs is unlikely to be welcome on the streets of Athens or across the Union.” But the British MEP Chris Davies, who originally leaked the report, says today is an important day for the EU : “Bit by bit the parliament is being brought kicking and screaming towards transparency”.

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

Dissent, Strikes Ahead for Greece on Crisis Reform Road

Greece faces a strike this week and a momentous battle in parliament as the government struggles to quash dissent to additional austerity reforms needed to secure a vital new EU-IMF bailout.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Finance Minister: Eurozone Could Survive Greek Default

The eurozone is preparing for the worst in the Greek debt crisis and will cope should Athens default on its loans, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in an interview published on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Giorgio Armani Pummels Prada, Says Fashion is Now a Slave to Big Banks

Designer Giorgio Armani gave reporters an earful Tuesday following a fashion event in Milan, Italy

Top Italian designer Giorgio Armani has denounced the current state of the fashion industry for being “in the hands of” high finance rather than the fashion houses themselves. Speaking after the last day of Milan’s menswear spring/summer fashion week, Armani’s comments were also a not-so-subtle swipe at rival Prada, which was recently quoted on the Hong Kong stock exchange. “I’ve wanted to say something about this for awhile, and now’s the time: fashion is in the in the hands of the banks (and) the stock market,” Armani told reporters Tuesday. “It no longer belongs to the owners, but to those above them. I still haven’t been able to understand how the banks influence our line of work — it’s a mystery.” Asked if the comments were a reference to Prada’s move earlier this month to become the first top European fashion house to be listed on the Hong Kong exchange, Armani, 76, declared: “I don’t have debts. Instead, Prada’s problem is that they have to pay back the money that the banks spent to build up the brand.” Armani said he preferred to remain independent, and had no plans to sell the company. “There are thousands of ways to make money. But for me, I don’t want to wind up having to knock on the door of some Thai managers to explain myself.” He said that Prada chief Miuccia Prada was “ingenious” for her “irony…and bad taste that becomes chic.” But he complained that certain collections that are “sometimes ugly” always get positive coverage in the press. “You know why…” Prada refused comment.

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

Greece: Fear Dimitra

How one 62-year-old grandmother explains the Greek crisis.

ATHENS — After a year with the same old crowd of anarcho-leftists and labor unionists at the endless anti-austerity protests in Athens, I finally met a Greek who might well be the poster woman for the economic crisis.

Dimitra is a 62-year-old grandmother who lives in the once-fancy, now-bedraggled central Athens neighborhood around Victoria Square. She runs a mini-market that supports not only her, but also her underemployed daughter and two grandchildren. It’s about to go under. She has always paid her taxes, even as her tax-evading friends have ridiculed her, and never spent more than she could save. But the austerity measures have driven up her tax and utility bills, so her savings are running out. And if that wasn’t enough, her neighborhood is now filled with drug addicts and gangs. She’s afraid to go out after dark because she’s gotten mugged more times than she can remember. “I am wearing out,” she says.

For many years, Greek politicians didn’t pay attention to people like Dimitra. They should have. This silent majority — the Greeks who followed the rules, paid their taxes, and lived within their means — are now paying for debts racked up by a corrupt, inefficient, and clientelistic political system that gave them almost nothing. The government shouldn’t fear the aganaktismenoi, the slogan-chanting Greeks who have camped out for weeks in Syntagma Square in a sit-in anti-austerity protest modeled after Spain’s indignados. They should fear Dimitra, and every other Greek like her who has quietly given Greek politicians the benefit of the doubt and, after this year of austerity gone nowhere, finally lost patience with them.

Greece’s many problems, of course, predate the embattled government of George Papandreou. The center-left PASOK party that his father, Andreas, founded was elected in October 2009 on a mandate to expand government — until it discovered that the country was more than $400 billion in debt. Now, a year of austerity measures in exchange for emergency bailout loans to keep the country from going bankrupt has done little to calm markets or creditors, and it has cut deeply into Greeks’ disposable income and their sense of security. Papandreou’s government will pay the immediate price, even after surviving Tuesday’s midnight confidence vote.

But even with early elections, which look increasingly likely as faith in Papandreou’s government plummets, the main opposition center-right party, New Democracy, is widely viewed by voters as equally ineffective. “The debt crisis should have been a time for political parties — and political movements — to unite to save the country, but instead they have remained attached to their vested interests even as the ship was going down,” says political analyst Dimitris Skalkos. “It’s like they can’t see past their own rhetoric to actually work to get us out of this mess.”

Domestically, the mess has many layers, including a stagnant, almost Soviet-style economy that favors patronage over meritocracy, a culture of corruption that has squandered public money, and a recent rise in illegal immigration that’s been badly managed by both the Greeks and the Europeans, leaving thousands of unemployed, undocumented, and increasingly desperate migrants stranded in Athens. In the last year, a troubling increase in violent crime has also egged on once-marginal neo-Nazi gangs, whom some longtime inner-city residents now see as a more effective security force than municipal and Greek police.

“People don’t feel safe anymore, in any way, and it makes them tense, angry, suspicious,” says Father Maximus, the priest at Aghios Panteleimonas, a cathedral in a central Athens neighborhood of the same name that has seen some of the worst crime in the past year. “I don’t know what to tell the elderly women who show up crying, bruised after an Afghan or African migrant has mugged them on the way to church. I don’t know what to tell the teenage prostitutes from Africa who show up here, begging for help and a way out of the trap of their lives, or the homeless migrants squatting outside the church. There’s no order, and in this atmosphere anyone who is a victim can also be a villain.”

I met Father Maximus, a Greek who lived in Germany and likes to play improvisational jazz, at his church earlier this year. Like other Greeks who have lived abroad, or like diaspora Greeks like me, he held on to the idea that Greeks stuck together in tough times and always opened their hearts to strangers. “It seems like we lived in some kind of nostalgic fantasy,” he told me, as we walked through his battered neighborhood. Things have really devolved in the last year here, he said. Many pensioners refuse to leave their homes because they are scared of getting held up by xenoi, the “foreigners” from Africa and Asia who now outnumber them in the neighborhood. In response, right-wing gangs police the streets and have attacked makeshift basement mosques while Bangladeshi migrants worship inside.

Many in those gangs belong to Chrysi Avgi, or Golden Dawn, a fringe fascist group despised by most Greeks. In provincial elections last October, exasperated residents in crime-ridden Athenian neighborhoods helped elect Chrysi Avgi’s leader, Nikolas Michaloliakos, to the Athens municipal council because he promised to crack down on crime and kick out migrants, who were presumably responsible for it. Michaloliakos has been known to greet his fellow council members with a Nazi salute. While Chrysi Avgi has no prospect of winning parliamentary seats, “its appearance in politics does show that, as support for the two main parties in Greece have weakened, the space for the fringe has opened,” says Stathis Kalyvas, a political science professor at Yale University who follows developments in his homeland closely.

One party already in parliament, the Popular Orthodox Rally, has rallied support by playing on Greeks’ increasing fear of foreigners. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, an Amherst-educated economist who was Papandreou’s college roommate, got the most applause from his fellow conservatives during an anti-austerity speech last week by saying he would roll back PASOK’s citizenship law, which gives citizenship to the Greek-born children of migrants who have lived here legally for five years. “It’s an uneasy time, and it’s disappointing that prominent people are scapegoating immigrants to explain away our problems,” says Anna Triandafyllidou, who studies migration as a research fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.

Most Greeks are not xenophobes, but the crisis has made this somewhat parochial culture more insular. Many are recoiling from Europeans, especially the Germans, who are judging them, often unfairly, for being lazy spendthrifts with an entitlement complex. Others are recoiling from the IMF, whom they fear is trying to take over Greece. I’ve seen flyers for the “buy Greek” movement, which aims to stoke both national pride and the economy by promoting Greek products. A few conspiracy theorists are also reaching for a dated anti-Americanism that assumes an Evil Empire United States, with President Obama as Darth Vader, is bringing Greece to its knees because they want to pillage it. “We have hidden reserves of oil and gold,” a mechanic named Yiannis told me at a recent anti-austerity demonstration. “The big powers want to take it all away from us.”

Many Greeks are also recoiling from Papandreou, a genial, Minnesota-born sociologist from one of Greece’s most prominent political families, because they don’t think he’s Greek enough. “Why can’t Jeffrey eat a souvlaki with the rest of us?” sighed Dimitris, a 50-year-old wedding photographer who protested outside Parliament during Tuesday’s confidence vote, pointedly using Papandreou’s nickname to signal his “otherness.”

It’s notable that Papandreou saved his government last week by replacing his finance minister with Evangelos Venizelos, his biggest foe in the party, and a political veteran who is a familiar face in Greek politics. Venizelos, a constitutional law scholar and former defense minister, is known as a brilliant, if vicious, political strategist who speaks beautiful Greek.

To her great credit, Dimitra, the grandmother, was fighting this insularity when I met her last month. She was stout and direct, with short gray hair, schoolteacher glasses, and a disarmingly girlish smile. She wouldn’t tell me her last name, saying she didn’t like reporters, but she stuck by me during a memorial service for Manolis Kantaris, a 44-year-old Greek man who had been robbed and stabbed to death early last month as he was loading his car to take his pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth. Dimitra didn’t know Kantaris, but he had lived in her neighborhood, and she wanted to leave flowers at the makeshift shrine marking the spot where he died. Witnesses told police three “dark-skinned foreign men” had killed him. A Bangladeshi man was stabbed to death in retaliation. (Police have arrested two afghan migrants on suspicion of killing kantaris, but no one has been arrested in connection to the Bangladeshi man’s death.)

The crowd at the memorial service was already angry by the time I showed up. “Foreigners get of Greece!” they chanted, and waved Greek flags and chased a hapless African migrant who was dumpster-diving for food and soda cans to recycle for money. Gangs of sweaty young Greek men rolled up their flags and held the poles like clubs, ready for a fight. When the crowd broke into an angry rendition of the national anthem, Dimitra refused to join them. “This is not my country,” she said, crying. “Why have we ignored our problems and let them boil over into something this ugly?”

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

Latin America: The Spanish Brain-Drain

El País Madrid

Faced with record unemployment and poor job prospects, a generation of young Spaniards is decamping to the economic boomtowns of Pablo Ximénez de Sandoval

The equation seems straightforward. A generation of Spanish graduates is doing nothing with its education. Meanwhile, a continent that is laying the foundations of growth needs qualified workers.

The typical Spanish emigrant to Latin America today is about 30 years old, highly qualified and mostly without a family. Juan Arteaga is one. Aged 30, he has been living in Mexico City for five years. After studying journalism he tried to find work at an academic journal in Santander. “But it’s difficult in Spain. You can end up working as a waiter before you find work as a journalist.” Today he works for the consulting firm Llorente y Cuenca, specialising in social networking and online communication.

“In Spain, Latin America is seen as a little child who is still growing up,” Juan Arteaga explains. “But when you get here, you realise that the kid is really, really big. Mexico is a much larger market than Spain, thanks to its resources, its oil, energy, the size of the country, its 110 million people… It’s a monster.”

Despite everything the press writes about this special period of prosperity and stability that Latin America is going through, the continent continues to surprise the Spaniards. “Many Spanish companies come and say they want to have a base in Mexico from which they can springboard to the United States. And then they grasp that Mexico is a huge market itself, and it’s growing fast.” So they give up on their planned jump to Uncle Sam and build a growth strategy for where they are, says the young Spaniard.

The Spanish banking sector understood this many years ago. Javier Lopez, president of the CreditServices financial company, explained a few months ago that a good chunk of the company’s activity had shifted to Brazil following the financial crisis: “Today, I’m managing finances in Latin America like I was doing in Spain five years ago.”

“In Mexico, the world of work has nothing in common with Spain,” Juan Arteaga goes on. “You work really hard, and there is less time off. But hard work is rewarded. Someone who works well moves up fast. I landed here with no money, no network, and five years later I’m handling communications for Coca-Cola in its second global market. And all that by the age of 30.” It’s a career that’s unthinkable for most young people in Spain. Juan sums it up succinctly: “In Spain, I would still be living off scholarships.”

The Colombian consulate in Madrid is seeing an unprecedented increase in applications for work visas. In 2008, the consular services were handling an average of 45 visas a month. This year, the average has yet to drop below 70, counting all types of visas, including the special permit to create business contacts.

There is no shortage of Spaniards “exasperated by the situation at home, who have some capital and want to go abroad to invest,” explains Lucy Osorno, the consul. Her country is “quite generous” in granting visas to Spaniards, she says, and “it offers many opportunities for investment and work,” particularly in the infrastructure sector. Colombia, which needs Spanish investment, is helping enterprises get started by removing the condition that they employ a minimum number of Colombians.

Money, the desire to be active, Hispanic culture, lush natural landscapes, a demand for the Spaniards… Who would even want to move to Germany when there is Latin America? But other factors, such as distance and lack of social security, dull the lustre of the new Eldorado: emigration remains a possibility for only a minority of the unemployed Spaniards who might seem a natural fit, although it is becoming more popular. “Latin America is a very faraway continent, and some news coverage [of the violence] doesn’t help,” Juan Arteaga admits.

Within Europe, the Spanish emigrant is never more than four hours by plane from home. From Latin America, the nearest European destination is nine hours away. Pilar Pin, executive director of Spain’s Office for Expatriate Affairs, which studies the lives of Spanish expatriates around the world, singles out as problems the “wages, labour laws, poor coverage in case of unemployment and the health system… We are used to a free and universal system, and health care in the Americas is extremely expensive.”

The numbers are clear, and they show there is no wave of Spanish migration to Latin America. It’s not forlorn and hungry emigrants clutching cardboard suitcases that we’re seeing headed for the boats, but university students in search of experience.

Still, the fact remains that over the next decade there is a whole continent out there where Spanish is spoken and where the emigrants can put their hand to something. At the same time, back in Spain, a generation of young graduates finds itself stuck in economic agony. Those two realities are now beginning to come together.

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

Netherlands: Questions Remain About Pension Reform’s Affect on Income

Changes to the pension system will lead to a 6% to 7% reduction in pensioners spending power, the government’s macro-economic forecasting body says in a preliminary report on pension reforms worked out by unions, ministers and employers.

But the difference will be much greater for people who chose to retire at 65 once the official retirement age is raised to 66 or 67, the CPB says.

General workers union Bondgenoten had claimed the changes could lead to a 15% of 25% drop in spending power for pensioners.

The CPB also says the agreement leaves many questions unanswered and youngsters will be hardest hit.

This is because the size of corporate pension payouts will be largely determined by stock exchange developments.

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


Bill Gates Funds Gulen Islamist Movement

The Fethullah Gulen movement, which seeks to restore the Ottoman Empire, has found a friend and benefactor in Bill Gates of Microsoft fame. Mr. Gates is ranked the third wealthiest person on planet earth.

In 2007, through the Texas High School Project, the Gates Foundation shelled out $10,550,000 to the Cosmos Foundation, a Gulen enterprise that operates 25 publicly funded charter schools in Texas.

The Internal Revenue Service Form 990 for Cosmos shows that the Cosmos Foundation received $41,570,721 from taxpayers.

At present, there are 85 Gulan madrassahs (Islamic schools) in the United States, and all operate with public funding.

At the Gulen schools, students are indoctrinated in Turkish culture, language, and religion so that they may be of service in making Fethullah Gulan’s dream of a universal caliphate a reality. The madrassahs sponsor Turkish clubs, Turkish language societies, Turkish dance groups, and annual trips to Istanbul.

According to Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, the 85 Gulen schools advance and promote Islamic beliefs; present the Ottoman Empire, which lasted from 1299 to 1923, as a golden age; and serve to rewrite history by denying the Armenian holocaust under the Turks during World War I.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Brazen Bulger Toured Alcatraz While on the Lam

Even when he was on the lam, Whitey Bulger was a “Rock” star. At one point during his epic, 16-year run from justice, the bloodthirsty Boston gangland baron posed as a common tourist during a brazen visit to his old stomping grounds — Alcatraz Island. Although he was one of the country’s most wanted fugitives, Bulger took time out to don cartoonish prison stripes at a photo booth outside the legendary San Francisco prison — and a source close to his family provided the pictures to prove it. One of Bulger’s many mob molls, gal pal Teresa Stanley, was at his side. She also slipped into some jailbird garb stenciled with the phrase “Property of Alcatraz,” and smiled as if she hadn’t a care in the world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslim Who Came Forward Key to Seattle Terror Bust

Seattle officials say the plot to attack a South Seattle federal building was derailed thanks largely to a felon who stepped forward.

Law enforcement officials say they were able to interrupt the attack on a military induction center because a Seattle Muslim with a criminal history contacted police when the plot’s alleged mastermind, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, asked him to join in the scheme.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ottawa Taxpayers Should Rejoice Over ACORN’s “Living Wage” Defeat

The infamous American radical group ACORN suffered a rare defeat in the Canadian capital city last week.

Ottawa City Council committee gave a thumbs-down to the ACORN-backed plan that would have forced contractors with the city to fork over at least $13.25 per hour, a full three dollars more than the general minimum wage in the province of Ontario.

The city council previously turned down the same “living wage” proposal a few months ago because it would have required millions of dollars in local tax increases.

ACORN has long supported raising the minimum wage and enacting so-called living wage policies. In the U.S., ACORN claims it organized community and labor coalitions that succeeded in enacting living wage laws in 41 cities by the end of the 1990s. A living wage is usually several dollars higher than the minimum wage prescribed by law.

But ACORN’s motives are not pure.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Barroso Calls Danes to Order

Jyllands-Posten, 23 June 2011

José Manuel “Barroso threatens Denmark,” headlines Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. The paper considers the letter sent to all EU leaders on June 22 — an ultimatum. Barroso reminded the twenty seven heads of government that “the Commission will not hesitate to intervene” if the Schengen accords are violated. In Denmark, this letter is seen as taking sides against the country, which recently took the much criticised move of restoring border controls. “The Commission focuses on small countries because they do as they are told,” argues Hjalte Rasmussen, professor at the University of Copenhagen, in the pages of the Jyllands-Posten and adds, “It doesn’t have that power on countries such as France”.

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

Belgium: We Need a Velvet Divorce

De Volkskrant Amsterdam

In 1992, Czechoslovakia separated peacefully into two countries. Today neither Czechs nor Slovaks regret the decision. Maybe it’s time Belgium did the same thing, says De Volkskrant’s Central and Eastern Europe correspondent.

Jan Hunin

June 13, it was abundantly noted, marked the first anniversary of Belgium’s legislative elections. For the umpteenth time we were reminded that the country no longer has a government, that no other nation has gone as long without a legislative body, and, worse yet, that the situation will continue for some time.

One aspect that has been overlooked in this deluge of bad news is whether or not it is time to split the assets. If Flanders and Wallonia were married to each other, they would have split up a long time ago. Since decentralization began in the 1970s, there has been a hectic sequence of power-sharing conflicts. Not even a therapist would know what to do.

The language barrier is now a wall

But international relations don’t have the same criteria as personal relationships. The idea of a split has never been very popular, not only because it upsets stability but also because most of us believe that linguistic or community differences aren’t enough to warrant a separation. In short, in Western nations, separatist movements cannot count on the sympathy of the masses.

Sometimes, however, there is no alternative. We should ask ourselves if it wouldn’t be better to separate and remain good friends, rather than continuing to fight until the outcome becomes unpredictable.

With Belgium, as with most marriages, the split wasn’t foreseeable from the beginning. Despite claims by the Flemish nationalists to the contrary, when it was formed Belgium was anything but an artificial nation.

Even discrimination against the Dutch language did not affect relations between the Flemish and the Walloons. But the creation of separate federal bodies began an unstoppable process. The language barrier is now a wall.

Even if a solution is found, it will only delay the problem until the next crisis. The Czechoslovakian example demonstrates that in such a case it is better to break up. In that country, too, everyone wondered why a split was absolutely necessary. Just like the Flemish and the Walloons, the Czechs and the Slovaks seemed destined to remain together eternally.

Despite mutual reproaches — the Slovaks felt they were treated as second-class citizens while the Czechs claimed they were always footing the bill — nothing seemed to forecast a separation once communism fell. Unlike the Flemish and the Walloons, the people of Czechoslovakia spoke, more or less, the same language. They were not in the same situation as Belgium.

No regrets

That didn’t stop the leaders of the two parts of the country from implementing a “Velvet Divorce” several years after the “Velvet Revolution”. Barely a week after the Slovakian Parliament proclaimed independence, everything was settled. On December 31, 1992, Czechoslovakia officially ceased to exist. According to the politicians involved, the differences in views had become insurmountable.

Not everyone was satisfied with this outcome. Far from it: opinion polls revealed that a majority of Czechs and Slovaks were against. But today they do not regret the split. Even the Slovaks, the weak little brothers, have not suffered on the economic front. As citizens of an independent state, they are better able to defend themselves than when they depended on Czech financing.

What has really improved, since the separation, is their relationship. It is now much better than when the Czechs and the Slovaks were compatriots.

The Velvet Divorce should be an example for Belgium, where the problems between communities are much more bitter than in the former Czechoslovakia. Nor should we fear an economic crisis. Unlike the Czechs and the Slovaks in 1992, the Flemish and the Walloons have the safety net provided by the European single market. Even the problem of Brussels, which is both a distinct region and the capital of Flanders, is not necessarily an obstacle. The idea of a Belgian solution should not constitute an insurmountable goal, especially at a time when the notion of territoriality is more flexible.

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

Germany: Duisberg Dedicates Love Parade Memorial

Almost a year after the deadly stampede at the Love Parade electronic music festival, the city of Duisberg has dedicated a monument to those who died and were injured at the 2010 event.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Drugs Plot Raid Reveals Old Woman Feeding Rabbits With Cannabis

Police in Brandenburg who discovered a large plot of cannabis called on the neighbouring house only to find an 84-year-old woman who had been feeding her rabbits with the plants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Irish Turf Cutters Don’t Give a Sod for EU Bog Ruling

Government concerned it will face heavy fines if it flouts Brussels environmental directive intended to protect boglands

Down in the bog, amid a field of black strips of turf stacked like Jenga sticks, Michael Fitzmaurice looks up defiantly at the plane snooping on his industry.

The aircraft is on the lookout for anyone still cutting, piling or collecting turf — an endeavour that the EU deems illegal.

“It’s some craic that we have a country in recession and virtually bankrupt but the authorities can afford to put a plane in the sky to spy on turf cutters,” he says breaking apart a piece of the black, natural fuel in his hands.

“During the cutting season we have had helicopters as well as planes, and we have had officials in vans scouting across the boglands to stop us doing what our ancestors did for centuries.

“And it’s all because they are afraid that the EU will fine Ireland if turf cutting continues.”

The EU has designated this springy, soggy piece of Irish earth a Special Area of Conservation and has ruled that no more turf cutting can take place there in order to preserve the bogs.

The Irish government is concerned that the EU will levy heavy fines on the republic for flouting environmental directives laid down 14 years ago.

But Fitzmaurice, 43, who started turf cutting with his father when he was four, rejects the notion that his government has to adhere to Brussel’s environmental edict because Ireland owes so much to the EU.

“It wasn’t turf cutters and their families who bankrupted this country. It was the banks and the builders and their politician friends who got Ireland into such a mess.

“We are not responsible for that so why should we pay such a massive price just to do what Europe says.”

Ireland’s version of the National Trust, An Taisce, insists however that the Fine Gael-Labour government must now enforce the ban.

Irish environmentalists point out that the bogs are unique, and one of the most fragile and overworked natural habitats in the world.

“Bogs have a wider value to society if intact than the limited short-term economic gains of the minority vested interest of peat extractors,” says an An Taisce spokesman.

The environmental group insists that the need to stop turf cutting is “10 years overdue”.

But the men and women who cut on the bogs of Ireland have a champion in Dublin, the TD for Roscommon South Leitrim, Luke “Ming” Flanagan.

With his goatee beard and long hair he bears some resemblance to the villain in the Buck Rogers sci-fi movies. But Flanagan, a radical independent Dáil deputy, is deadly serious about defending the right to cut turf.

“The authorities are threatening these people with criminal and financial sanctions.

“I have heard instances of turf cutters who also work on the land being told they will have their single farm payment from the EU stopped if they don’t stop cutting the bog.

“At present there is a standoff, a bog ceasefire if you like. But we are now into a critical period and I would hope there could be a compromise, that a small percentage of the bogs could continue to be cut.

“We are talking about the livelihood of about 18,000 people who either work cutting the bogs for turf or rely on it for fuel.

What’s the alternative for them — bringing in more coal from Poland or oil from the Middle East?”

On the bog near to where Fitzmaurice works, Tom Gibney has erected an Irish tricolour overlooking his own turf bank.

“I have the deeds to this bog going back to British rule in 1896 framed in glass on my wall at home.

“It still has the UK crown on the top of the document and now that we are supposedly an independent country I am not giving it up and the right to cut a small piece of it for turf.”

Not far away in a dank little cottage 87-year-old Ella McKeague is warming herself at the fire, the pungent smell of turf smoke filing up her room.

Adjacent to her home is a small bog she owns which neighbours recently extracted enough turf from to keep the frail pensioner warm for the rest of the year.

“I can’t afford oil. We all rely on our turf to get us through the year.

“Tell them to let us keep cutting the turf like I used to do for 60 years, “ she says gripping her walking frame and leaning forward to place another few strips of the black and brown natural fuel on to her fire.

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

Italy: Latium Region Invests 2.2 Mln in 370 Fairs and Parties

(AGI) Rome- A total of 370 traditional, recreational and cultural initiatives will be funded by the Latium Region in 2011. Renata Polverini is at the head of the regional board which approved the 370 requests (out of the 900 submitted). The total investment amounts to 2.2 million euros, partly earmarked for event organization and partly for the promotional communications campaign. Tourism and Marketing consultant for ‘made in Lazio’, Stefano Zappala’, stated, “We used a set of selection criteria which factor in objective parameters such as the historic value of the events, the economic repercussions and the cultural value of each initiative”.

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

Italy: Tax Police Impound €1.2bn of ‘Mafia Assets’ In Five Months

Rome, 23 June (AKI) — Italian tax police said on Thursday they seized suspected mafia assets worth 1.2 billion euros in the first five months of the year and investigated over 5,000 people.

Between January and the end of May, tax police confiscated mafia assets worth 388 million euros — more than twice the figure for the whole of 2010.

The number of mafia suspects whose assets were investigated in the first five months of the year — 5,271 — was 61 percent higher than in the same period of 2010, according to tax police.

Forty-seven people were reported to police during the first five month of this year, of whom 31 were arrested on suspicion of mafia association and fraud.

Tax police said they investigated 9,800 tip-offs on suspect financial operations during the same period.

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

Italy: Naples’ Unending Garbage Problem Affects Children’s Health

(AGI) Rome — Respiratory problems, including coughing, bronchitis and asthma have increased in children because of the garbage emergency in Naples. In launching the alarm, the president of the Italian Federation of Pediatric Doctors (FIMP), Giuseppe Mele, said, “Because of the fires that release dioxin and other toxins, children who already have fragile respiratory systems, especially those with allergies, have suffered the most.” FIMP, in cooperation with the Superior Institute of Health, has been monitoring children’s health in Campania for a year.

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

Italy: Phone Call Reveals Fears Over Interim Government and Vote-Buying in Parliament

“They’ll Tip Us Over the Edge” Frattini Tells Bisignani

NAPLES — Luigi Bisignani emerged as a highly effective string-puller during manoeuvring over the post-Fini future of the Berlusconi government so it was to him that foreign minister Franco Frattini turned when he was looking for a way to avoid a crisis. Mr Frattini explored with Mr Bisignani the possibility of parliamentarians switching sides in the alliance’s now opposed groupings. He explicitly referred to “senators bought to make them ministers” and talked about ways of “hanging tough”. The transcripts and statements included in the case file prepared by public prosecutors Henry John Woodcock and Franceso Curcio reveal in-fighting in the majority and confirm details that have hitherto been denied. One is the attempt by equal opportunities minister Mara Carfagna to negotiate a transfer to Gianfranco Miccichè’s south Italy party. Mr Bisignani showed that he was capable of keeping these meetings and conflicts under control while managing media exposure and influencing Silvio Berlusconi’s decisions. Evidently, the prime minister had already decided a year ago to put his money on Angelo Alfano and on Giorgia Meloni.

Luncheon at Palazzo della Farnesina

The Bisignani-Frattini connection became clear in April 2010 when Luca Simoni, former director general of the Cassa di Risparmio dell’Etruria and then San Marino savings banks, contacted Mr Bisignani and, as is noted in the transcript, “says that he has just come from a meeting with the foreign minister together with doctor… Simoni says that they have to decide whether to invite a fourth person to the luncheon”. Two days later, “Simoni contacts Rita and says that he has spoken to doctor Bisignani, who was hurrying to the Holy See. They did not fix an appointment and he requested a meeting this afternoon or tomorrow”. A few more days go by and in the end Simoni calls back: “He asks whether the doctor is free on Thursday or Friday for a meal with Vittorio Casale. They agree to speak later. Simoni points out that he has to speak to Bisignani before he meets Frattini” but no mention is made of what will be discussed at table.

“Former AN parliamentarians will tip us over the edge”

In reality, Frattini and Bisignani appear not to need intermediaries, as is obvious from a phone call on 5 August 2010 at the height of the Berlusconi-Fini war when il Giornale newspaper was hounding the leader of the Chamber of Deputies over his flat in Montecarlo. The atmosphere in the majority was at white heat.

Frattini: I did it today. I went yet again to this group, to this mini-summit, where our mutual friend was in an interlocutory mood.

Bisignani: Oh, thank goodness.

Frattini: He said: well, we can’t go on spouting the same stuff about elections. The government has to move forward. He even made me feel encouraged… You know he said: You’ve got this image, you have to say these things. We can’t look as if we’re tearing everything apart, can we?

Bisignani: And he’s got high hopes about seventeen of them but I’m pretty worried, to tell the truth… these seventeen newcomers worry me a lot.

Frattini: Well, if you take a look at the issue of Panorama that comes out this evening or tomorrow… there are seven pages on the flat in Montecarlo… there’s a long interview with Gaucci that practically says.

Bisignani: I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it.

Frattini: Oh, you’ve already seen it?… but I mean to say, at this stage, so to speak, today he saw Ronchi, now he’s seeing Viespoli… today he was at… because obviously you know that Gianni also told him. In other words, we can’t every day, fear breeds fear. You know it doesn’t take much on the back of fear, just two or three senators coming over to us and you’ve got an interim government because in theory the numbers are there in the Chamber.

Bisignani: Obviously, in the Senate.

Frattini: Not in the Senate but if they get hold of and they buy four or five senators, six perhaps, offering them junior ministerial or ministerial posts, the senators will move.

Bisignani: Obviously.

Frattini: Instead of going home, they become ministers.

Bisignani: Undoubtedly, undoubtedly.

Frattini: So the tactics are wrong on this. We’ve tucked away Daran from the old National Alliance (AN).

Bisignani: Madness.

Frattini: They’re going to tip us over the edge to save their skins.

Bisignani: And get the revenge they weren’t able to get… because that’s the truth of it.

Frattini: Yes, yes, Luigi, he’s got that clear today, less so yesterday and who knows about tomorrow… still, no one doubts that he has Alfano, Gelmini and Meloni in mind as the three coordinators, which of course means we’re there… He’s told everyone so this business of Schifani calling me every day, it means that we hung tough when we had…

Bisignani: And I saw that thing about European Foundations.

Frattini: Today, I gave Berlusconi a first draft of the statute, he told me to do it with Alfano and Meloni…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Netherlands: New Youth Criminal Law Will Mean Longer Jail Terms: Minister

Youngsters aged 15 to 23 will face criminal charges as either juveniles or adults, under new legislation being drawn up by junior justice minister Fred Teeven.

The minister sent a briefing note to MPs on Saturday outlining his plans for a ‘coherent package of sanctions’ for youngsters, with a focus on tougher sentences for serious crimes.

The maximum juvenile detention centre sentence is to be doubled to four years and serious sexual or violent crimes will always involve jail time, the minister said. Judges will also be able to sentence youngsters to psychiatric prison, once a period in a juvenile psychiatric institution has ended.

‘Age will no longer be important,’ Teeven told the Telegraaf newspaper. ‘We will come down hard on youngsters who are habitual offenders.’

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

Norway: Altar-Native Sex

Wood you believe it — a couple of crackpot Green protesters stripped off naked to have sex on the alter in the middle of a church service in Oslo, Norway.

The pair caught in the act at Oslo Cathedral were arrested after one shocked churchgoer called the police. Other furious parishioners pulled the couple apart and held them until police arrived. They also seized a man that had been taking pictures of the act.

A police spokesman confirmed: “We arrested three people for sexual activity in front of the altar in Oslo Cathedral.”

A spokesman for the trio — who have not been identified by police — said: “We had to pay a small fine or spend 16 days in jail. We chose the former because we didn’t want to spend so long without having sex.”

The kinky pair are part of Swedish pressure group “F*** For Forests” that is trying to publicise global deforestation by having sex in public to draw attention to the problem. It believes in campaigning for the cause by outraging public decency.

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

Wilders, Israel and the Jews

Op-ed: Acquittal of ‘anti-Muslim’ politician could have problematic consequences for Jews

Last week, Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, was cleared by an Amsterdam Court of all charges of insulting Muslims and inciting hatred and discrimination against them. The trial of the only internationally known Dutch politician drew major media attention in many countries. The verdict is generally being hailed as a triumph for almost unbridled free speech. Concerning Israel, the Jews and what may be said about them in The Netherlands, this judgment could invite very problematic consequences.

The developments in the court case were bizarre. The public prosecution had concluded years ago that Wilders should not be prosecuted. The Amsterdam Court, however, forced the prosecution to charge Wilders. This started a three-year procedure. The first round ended abruptly in October 2010. Then judges of the Amsterdam Court deposed their colleagues sitting on the Wilders case, because they had shown bias against him. Thus, a new court had to start the hearings from the beginning in February. The public prosecution requested Wilders’ acquittal as it had also done in the first round.

Full story

The charges included a long list of statements by Wilders, one of which was: “The Koran is the Mein Kampf of a religion which aims to eliminate others and which calls the others — the non-Muslims — unreligious dogs.” On another occasion he had said: “The core of the problem is fascist Islam, the sick ideology of Allah and Mohammed, as written down in the Islamic Mein Kampf, the Koran.”

Regarding Muslims, Wilders had said inter alia: “Close the borders. No more Muslims should be let into the country, many Muslims should leave the Netherlands and criminal Muslims should lose their Dutch nationality.”

The court found that while Wilders may have on occasion spoken in a hurtful and coarse way, he should be able to propagate his views as part of public political debate. After the verdict, Muslim and other organizations announced that they want to take the issue up with the United Nations Human Rights Council. In the meantime, Wilders continues to receive many death threats, mainly from Muslims, and must be heavily guarded.

One has to analyze Wilders’ policies separately from the way he expresses them. He has been a pioneer in pointing out that the greatest threat to humanity comes out of the Islamic world. This goes far beyond the more than hundred million adherents of Bin Laden’s worldview, suicide and other bombers, as well as the many crimes against humanity in countries such as Yemen, Syria, Libya and so on. However, to consider all Muslims as a global threat is an unfounded and populist generalization.

Anti-Semitic talkbacks Wilders has been a consistent defender of Israel. The Freedom Party supports the Dutch minority government of Liberals and Christian Democrats from the outside. This government has, as part of its official program, the improvement of Dutch-Israeli relations. Wilders plays an important role in making sure that this is indeed the case.

The Freedom Party has, together with two small Christian parties, taken a lead role in the fight against anti-Semitism. With regard to physical and verbal attacks on recognizable Jews in The Netherlands, Muslims and in particular youngsters of Moroccan origin, have a disproportionately large share in these crimes, compared to their size in the population. The Freedom Party’s spokesman on anti-Semitism issues Joram van Klaveren, is making consistent efforts to convince the government to pay for the security of Jewish institutions. Financing their own security is a heavy burden for the small organized Jewish community, which numbers about 8,000 members.

The Freedom Party, however, plays a very negative role in the current debate on a private bill introduced by the Party for the Animals to prohibit religious slaughter without stunning an animal first. Initially, Wilders’ party’s support for the bill was seen as part of its anti-Islam policies. In the interim, it has been found that the percentage of Dutch Muslims who are not willing to eat Halal meat from stunned animals is very small.

The Freedom Party has supported this prohibition enthusiastically, knowing full well that orthodox Jews will be its main victims. In the parliamentary debate, its spokesman Dion Graus has called religious slaughter “ritual torture.” He also stated that his party is not against Muslims, as the proposed prohibition also hurts Jews. Thus once again, Jews have become an instrument in Dutch politics.

When analyzing what consequences the Amsterdam court decision may have for Jews and Israel, one needs to be informed about Dutch anti-Israeli propaganda, which has succeeded in convincing more than 38% of the Dutch population that Israel intends to commit genocide against the Palestinians. This information was found in a major poll undertaken by the University of Bielefeld in Germany. Anti-Israeli inciters regularly publish in most leading Dutch media.

The religious slaughter debate has unleashed a sewer of anti-Semitic talkbacks in several mainstream Dutch papers. After the verdict in the Wilders case, many of these as well as statements comparing the Torah and Talmud to Mein Kampf, and claims that Judaism is a sick religion, cannot be legally challenged.

Manfred Gerstenfeld is the author of 20 books. Last year, his book in Dutch, “The Decay: Jews in a Rudderless Netherlands, sparked a major debate in the Netherlands

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Muslims Torch 8 Christian Homes on Rumor of Church Construction

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — A mob of nearly 200 Muslims torched eight Christian homes on Saturday morning in the Upper Egyptian village of Awlad Khalaf. The attack was initiated by a rumor that a house which is being built by Wahib Halim Attia will be turned into a church. Two Christians and one Muslim were injured, no fatalities were reported.

Wahib Halim Attia obtained a license to build a house in the village on a 95 square meter plot. The house grew to an area of 350 square meters but was still on agricultural land that he owns. This gave rise to the rumor that he intended to build a church instead.

Father Weesa Azmy, the priest at St. George Church in the neighboring village of Negou Madam East, said that someone went to the City Council in Dar es Salam and told them about the irregularities in the house construction, and Wahib was ordered to remove the excess by June 24. “Instead Wahib carried on with the construction, which angered the Muslims, who decided to play God and take the law into their own hands; they attacked the construction site and other Christian homes.”

According to Father Weesa, Muslims broke into the home of Ihab Tamer, who defended himself with a rifle. A Muslim who was there to help Ihab was injured by a bullet in his leg from Tamer’s rifle. The matter was explained and resolved with the family of that Muslim.

According to eyewitnesses the Muslims, mostly Salafists and some youngsters, looted and torched eight homes belonging to Wahib Halim Attia and his two brothers, his three cousins and two other Copts, including Ihab Tamer.

The police arrived three hours after the looting and torching had ended.

Father Weesa said Ihab Tamer, who was in hiding after the shooting incident, contacted him and he advised him to give himself up to the police as he was acting in self-defense. “If someone sees people breaking into his home, surely he has to defend his family and himself.”

The police told father Weesa, who did not witness the incident himself, that most of the attackers were teenagers between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. This was refuted by eyewitnesses. However, he said “if it is true that there were children and teens, then definitely someone else has sent them.” He added he will not attend any reconciliation meetings and the rule of law must be upheld, on the Copt if found guilty and the attackers. Most of the teens and children were arrested by the police but no adults were arrested.

Police and security are now present in Awlad Khalaf village and the 30 Christian homes are being guarded, the Security Chief said tonight on the Egyptian State TV.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Creates Super-Coalition

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has created a coalition of 17 parties, including liberal and secular groups, to form a common platform ahead of legislative elections, Egyprian state media said Wednesday.

The new political alliance, including the Brotherood’s Freedom and Justice Party, the liberal Wafd party, the left-leaning Tagammu, and the newly formed Salafi (Muslim Fundamentalist) Noor party, say they joined forces to “channel their efforts… into building a state of law based on citizenship, equality and sovereignty of the people.”

In a statement, the parties outlined their common principles including “freedom of belief and worship”, freedom of expression and a free media, the independence of the judiciary, and “an economic system based on social justice.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Christians, Muslims Clash Over New Church

A security official says Christians and Muslims have clashed in southern Egypt over the construction of a church.

A local security chief, Assem Hamza, says Muslim residents of the Awlad Khalaf village rallied Saturday outside Christian-owned land where construction of a church was under way.

Hamza said the construction was illegal. Security forces deployed as Muslim residents, including ultraconservative Salafis, moved in with bulldozers to try to bring down the construction.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hundreds of Salafists Attack a Coptic Church in Upper Egypt

Armed with sticks, Islamic extremists besieged in the church of Saint George in Bani Ahmed, in the Archdiocese of Minya, for five hours threatening to kill the pastor. The church had already been attacked on March 23. The violence was provoked by an attempt to restore the building.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Hundreds of Salafists yesterday attacked the Coptic Church of St. George in the village of Bani Ahmed (Minya — Upper Egypt) and attempted to kill Fr. George Thabet. The news was reported this morning. According to local sources, the extremists turned up outside the building armed with sticks, telling the faithful to deliver the priest who was celebrating mass. The army intervened only after five-hour siege, and the priest was escorted out of the village.

This is the second assault suffered by the community of Bani Ahmed, in a few months. On 23 March, the Salafists stopped the restoration of the church and obtained the expulsion of Fr Thabet from the village.

Fr. Rafic Greich, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told AsiaNews that the Salafists are against the restoration of the church and attacked the building when their suspicions were aroused by the removal of some vestments to a parish warehouse and the return of the parish priest. The priest said that the extremists do not tolerate the presence of Christians and find any excuse to destroy the churches.

Today, the Archdiocese of Minya has issued a statement reiterating its concern over the incident and denouncing the “return of the Salafists to the village.” The Archdiocese accused the government of the military of not doing enough to protect Christians.

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

Libya: Football Players Defect to Rebels

A group of Libyan football figures, including members of the national team, have defected to the rebels against colonel Muammar Gaddafi and after escaping to the rebel-held Nafusa Mountains in western Libya, they launched an appeal to Gaddafi: “He must leave. He should let us build a free Libya”. Among the players that defected Gaddafi are the goal keeper of the National team, Juma Gtat, three members of his team but also the coach of the most followed football club in Libya, Abdel bin Issa del al-Ahly. Gtat and bin Issa told Bbc online of the intention to defect: “Colonel Gaddafi should leave us alone and allow us to build a free Libya”, said Gtat in his hotel room from Jadu, stronghold of the rebels. “I hope to wake up one morning to find that Gaddafi is no longer there,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UN Libya Resolution Not Tasked With Regime Change, Says AU’s Zuma

(AGI) Benghazi — AU Libya mediator and S African president Zuma clarifies UN resolution 1973 is not intended for regime change.

Speaking at the AU Libya meetings in Pretoria, a frank and outspoken Zuma clarified that the resolution aims to “protect civilians, it does not allow for regime change or political assassination.” The Pretoria meetings were also attended by Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, Mali’s Amadou Toumani Toure’ and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

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

Middle East

Lebanon: Bechara Rahi Speaks About the Arab Uprisings and US Plans

The Maronite patriarch warns of the possibility that uprisings might lead to fundamentalist regimes and divide the Arab world into confessional states. He is also concerned that the destabilisation of Syria might have consequences for Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — Speaking to the 84th General Assembly of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), the new Maronite Patriarch, Mgr Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, said that the uprisings currently sweeping the Arab world could lead to fundamentalist regimes. He also added that plans for a ‘New Middle East’ by the United States might divide the Arab world into “confessional states”. His statements were widely covered in Lebanese newspapers.

In his address, the Maronite patriarch spoke about the proceedings of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Churches of the Middle East, held in Rome in October 2010. He noted that the role of the Catholic Church, in the present context full of uncertainties, is to help Christians remain in their respective Arab country so that they can contribute to the cultural and economic development and growth of their respective society.

Implicitly, the Maronite patriarch expressed concern for the fate of Syria’s Christians who, like their Iraqi brothers, might be driven into exile if their country is destabilised.

Such destabilisation would have incalculable consequences for the entire region, said Farid al-Khazem, a member of Lebanon’s parliament, certainly for Lebanon, but also for Iraq and Jordan.

In his view, Turkey is one of the actors of change in Syria in pursuit of its own agenda, but also in line with a mission received from the international community. Turkey has indeed become a place of refuge for Syria’s opposition.

These remarks echo those made by Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregory III at the start of the annual synod of his Church, which opened on Tuesday and closes tomorrow, in Ain-Traz, the patriarch’s summer residence.

The patriarch urged the United States and the international community to focus on the main problem of the Middle East, namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than issue anti-Syrian “motions”.

He also called on the Greek-Catholic Church of Syria to observe a day of fasting and praying yesterday.

The focus of ROACO’s meeting, which began on Tuesday and ended today, was the Middle East, in particular the Holy Land.

Coptic-Catholic Patriarch Antonios Naguib offered participants, in light of his personal experience, elements to interpret the current situation of Christians in the Middle East in order to direct the efforts of the agencies that support the mission as well as the ecumenical and interfaith commitment of Eastern Churches towards peace.

ROACO was founded in 1968 by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. It brings together all the agencies that provide financial aid to Eastern Catholic communities of all sizes to enable them to perform their services like religious worship, priesthood and pastoral training, education and schools, as well as social support and health care.

More than 20 Catholic agencies from 10 Western countries were represented in this year’s meeting.

ROACO is chaired by Card Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

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

South Asia

After Ruyati’s Beheading, Jakarta Stops Migrants From Going to Saudi Arabia

A migrant worker, Ruyati Binti Satubi Saruna, was sentenced to death for murder and then executed by beheading without Indonesian authorities ever being informed. An additional 28 Indonesian nationals face the death penalty. The Indonesian government and embassy are accused of showing little interest for the fate of Indonesian migrant workers.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The Indonesian government plans to bar migrant workers from going to Saudi Arabia as of 1 August. The decision was taken yesterday in the wake of the beheading of Ruyati Binti Satubi Saruna, a 54-year-old migrant woman, who had been sentenced to death for murder. After trying her, Saudi authorities executed her on 18 June without consulting with the Indonesian government or informing the Indonesian Embassy in Jeddah. Indonesian President Yudhoyono said that the moratorium on workers going to Saudi Arabia would end only when the two governments found a way to guarantee the rights of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. The president also said that he would appeal to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz for Ruyati’s body to be returned to her family in Bekasi. (See Mathias Hariyadi, “Indonesian woman beheaded in Saudi Arabia, Jakarta threatens to stop flow of migrants,” in AsiaNews, 21 June 2011).

At present, 28 Indonesian nationals are facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. A related case is already causing a row in Indonesia. It involves Hasin Taufik bin Tasid, 40, and his wife Sab’atun binti Jaulah, 30, who might lose their fingers after they were accused of stealing in 2006. In Saudi Arabia since 2001, the couple spent months in prison in 2006, and it appears that they received no legal assistance from the Indonesian Embassy.

Cases like those of Ruyati and others have forced Indonesian political parties to ask questions about how serious the Indonesian government is addressing the matter. For some, Indonesian authorities appear to view the problem as a “mere point on the peak of an iceberg”, which includes forged documents, financial embezzlement and worse of all poor handling and protection by Indonesian authorities of Indonesian workers abroad.

In response to the situation, President Yudhoyono announced the creation of a task force to deal with the protection and legal defence of Indonesian workers living abroad.

“I personally question what President Yudhoyono means in his statement about maximum protection. How can his administration claim that they want to provide the best protection to Indonesian workers after they neglected their fundamental duty to assist Ruyati when she was on trial? How could Ruyati be sent to Saudi Arabia when her papers were forged in terms of her true age,” Sri Palupi, a human rights researcher, told AsiaNews.

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

Pakistan: A Documentary About Christians? No Thanks: Foreign Journalists Unwelcomed

Islamabad (Fides Service) — Visa applications have been lying in the folders for several months. The Pakistani government shows they do not like foreign journalists who want to document and make inquiries about the lives of Christians in Pakistan, delaying and in fact denying — without giving any reasons — entry visas in the country. This is what Fides learns from some Italian journalists who for months have applied to enter the country in order to carry out service information on the life of the Christian community. It is possible that the same treatment is reserved for journalists from other countries, observe Fides diplomatic sources.

The case of Asia Bibi (Christian unjustly sentenced to death for blasphemy), the recent case of Farah Hatim (the Catholic girl kidnapped and forcibly Islamized), the assassination of Minister Shabhaz Bhatti in recent months and the great attention given by the international community , are causing damage to the image of the Pakistani government — and therefore some discomfort — clearly because they raise the issue of respect for human rights and, in particular, the rights of religious minorities. This is why the current approach is to prevent or hinder in any way communication professionals who, through their work are not free from risks, intend to remain vigilant on these sensitive issues.

To create a tightening of visa measures is also a recent publishing event: the Pakistani government did not like the work of the freelance French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet that, after spending some months in the country, in collaboration with some local TV stations, once returned back home wrote the book “blasphemous”, which tells the story of Asia Bibi. The book was published in France but also in Great Britain, in Italy and other European countries, attracting great attention. In the book Asia says: “I am just a woman in the ocean of women of this world, but I am convinced that my calvary is a mirror of many others. I wish my torturers opened their eyes and that the situation of my country changed “. The wish expressed by Asia Bibi is shared — note sources of Fides — by many Pakistani Christians who feel “second class citizens”: ask the government for equality and equal dignity, and to continue to count on the help of the international community. In particular it is hoped that economic aid and cooperation for the Pakistani government by the Western governments are somehow “conditioned” to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country, especially for minorities. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 06/25/2011)

           — Hat tip: LAW Wells[Return to headlines]

Taliban Use Child to Carry Bomb to Kill Police

(AGI) Kabul — An 8-year-old girl was killed when the bomb she was given by the Taliban detonated as she walked near a police vehicle in Uruzgan province, the Afghan Interior Ministry reports. The child was the only fatality, but some police officers were injured.

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

Far East

Beijing Wants Socialist Patriotism Taught to Hong Kong Students

Wang Guangya wants students to foster understanding of Chinese history, especially from Mao until today. The Office for public education makes a “popular” request to dedicate up to 50 hours of national education per year to issues. Many fear a form of “brainwashing”.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The national education must help students understand why China became socialist and how the Communist Party came to government, this is the suggestion of Wang Guangya, Director of the Beijing office for relations with Hong Kong and Macao.

In a meeting with young local students, he stressed that although Hong Kong has its own curriculum for “national education”, it should learn something from education in China. The “basic elements” applicable to Hong Kong are: “First, the history of China .. What was the experience of the Chinese people over the past 5 thousand years? Second, fostering an under standing of contemporary Chinese history, especially what happened in the last 150-200 years. If you don’t have such knowledge, you will find it difficult to understand why China chose to follow the way of socialism since 1949… Don’t take it negatively when you hear the phrase national education”.

There has been a lot of debate in Hong Kong on the issue of “national education”. Last month the Office of Education released a document that seems to be a popular demand to make up to 50 hours of national education compulsory in schools.

The democratic movement has expressed the fear that such an education is likely to be a form of “brainwashing”.

Much of the population of Hong Kong is made up of people who fled from China because of the repression of communism and the arrival of Mao. The city was also at the forefront in defending dissidents during the Tiananmen Square riots in 1989.

Aware of the criticism in this regard, Wang explained, “ The better the work done on national education, the better the Hong Kong-mainland relationship will be.”

Democrat member of parliament, Cheung Man-kwong, who works in schools, said Wang’s statements prove he has a hidden agenda on education in Hong Kong. “ He has presumed socialism is superior. This may not be the conclusion drawn by Hongkongers “.

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

China’s Wen in Britain on Europe Tour as Activist Freed

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Sunday kicked off the first full day of a visit to Britain, as Beijing released high-profile human rights activist Hu Jia from prison.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Dad Prayed His Children Would Die

AN extremist dad living in suburban Australia prayed his children would die as martyrs before puberty so he could enter heaven honourably, a court has been told.

The man sat his daughter, who was not yet three, on his knee to watch videos of executions and suicide bombings, slapping her if she became distressed, his former wife testified.

She said he also had the little girl sing a Jihadi song accompanying the videos.

A federal magistrate accepted the man taught the little girl to “chant enthusiastically and joyously over the death and mutilation of other human beings”.

It was alleged the man also punched, slapped or kicked his wife if she did not watch the videos.

A Federal Magistrates’ Court judgment, published this week, has revealed the man sought access to his two children, now aged 6 and 3.

But the dad, who has been convicted of assaulting his former wife, has been denied time with the children.

His identity is protected by the Family Law Act, but he continues to live in Australia.

The man was born in Libya and is of Palestinian origin. He and his ex-wife were devout Muslims.

But a federal magistrate said the case was not at all about the man’s religious beliefs, rather his broader belief system.

His former wife told the court that while she was pregnant and after their birth of their two children he made duas, or prayers of supplication.

He pronounced the duas, seeking that he and his wife be rewarded with great honour by the children dying before puberty and and going forward in the cause of Islam.

Federal magistrate Joe Harman accepted the father, known by the pseudonym Mr Heiden, pronounced the dua.

“I struggle to understand how a parent could possibly derive any joy from the thought of a child’s death, let alone enter into a prayer or plea to have a child taken from them when so many of parents in so many societies, including the present-day Palestine, experience that pain,” Mr Harman said.

When asked if he could have pronounced the duas seeking that one of his children die before puberty, the man said: “I’m not sure. I could have. I do that (make duas) a lot.”

But when asked if he did make such a dua, he said: “It’s possible. I don’t think I did. I really can’t remember, but I don’t see why it’s important.”

He said later he didn’t want to hurt his children or for them to be suicide bombers.

The couple separated in 2008 after the man allegedly slapped, kicked, punched and raped his wife, she told the court.

Mr Heiden denied any violence against his ex-wife.

The court heard the man had several involuntary admissions to hospital for psychiatric issues. The hearing was in New South Wales.

           — Hat tip: Salome[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenyan Muslim Leaders Call for Death Penalty for Gays

Muslim leaders in Kenya have called on the government to introduce the death penalty for homosexuals and to boycott their businesses, media reports said Monday.

“Death is the only punishment prescribed by Islam for such people as done in China and Iran,” the Daily Nation quoted Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, as saying.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Hezbollah in Latin America — Implications for Homeland Security

On Thursday, July 7, 2011 the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence will hold a hearing entitled “Hezbollah in Latin America — Implications for U.S. Homeland Security,” according to Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), the committee’s chairman.

Iran and its proxy group Hezbollah continue to expand their presence in Central and South American taking advantage of their already close relationship with Venezuela’s despot Presidente Hugo Chavez, a top U.S. general said as he described developments within the U.S. Southern Command to lawmakers.

Air Force General Douglas Fraser, commanding officer of the U.S. Southern Command, said Iran has significantly increased the number of Iranian embassies in the region while building “cultural centers” and mosques in more than 15 Latin American countries. Intelligence sources claim the Iranian built Mosques teach a radical brand of Islam to the impoverished people in Latin America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Stop Dreaming of His Death’: Allies of Hugo Chávez Hit Out at President’s Enemies Amid Reports He is ‘In a Critical Condition’ In Hospitalvenezuelan President’s Health Sparks Succession Talks

Senior supporters of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez have hit out at his enemies calling on them to ‘stop dreaming’ of his death.

They insist he is fine and will return to Venezuela when he is ready despite reports last night he was in a critical condition in a Cuban hospital.

His government has accused his opponents of ‘rubbing their hands together’ in glee.

On Saturday, Vice Foreign Minister Temir Porras tweeted that the President was recovering well from his surgery and wrote: ‘His enemies should stop dreaming and his friends should stop worrying.’

He also dismissed reports that the president was critically ill.

Vice President Elias Jaua said Chavez would return soon.

‘The national and international right-wing are going crazy, rubbing their hands together … even talking about the death of the president,’ he said in a speech, adding that Chavez’s rivals were exposing themselves as anti-democratic fascists.

‘They know they cannot win elections against our comandante,’ Jaua said.

The revolutionary socialist leader, who was last seen in public on June 9, is said to be receiving treatment for a pelvic abscess.

On June 12, the president completed a phone call with Venezuelan state television, and said medical tests showed no sign of any ‘malignant’ illness.

But according to a report in El Nuevo Herald, Mr Chávez is in ‘critical condition, not grave, but critical, in a complicated situation’, according to unnamed U.S. intelligence officials.

In Venezuela there is speculation that the president is actually suffering from prostate cancer. Intelligence officials could not confirm a diagnosis of prostate cancer but Mr Chávez’s family did go to Cuba in the last 72 hours.

His daughter Rosine’s and his mother Marisabel Rodríguez urgently left the country and headed to Cuba in a Venezuelan air force plane.

The government has treated the president’s departure as a state secret, providing few details about his condition.

The uncertainty over the president’s health has led to the first talks of succession — in his 12 years in power no one successor has ever emerged.

Mr Chávez’s bother, Adan Chávez, who is a state governor, told state television that he was recovering well.

He said: ‘In response to all the rumours, I can give faith that the president is recovering in a satisfactory manner,” Adan Chávez, who is a state governor, told state television Wednesday. “The president is a strong man.’

Adan Chávez added that ‘it’s not clear’ when his younger brother would return home, but said the president is expected to leave Cuba within 10 to 12 days.

Possibly to stave off rumours of bad health, Chávez personal Twitter account went active on Friday, for the first time in 20 days.

‘I’m here with you during the hard battles every day! Until victory always! We are winning! And we shall win!’ he tweeted.

Last week he posed between two other socialist heavyweights — Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.

The Venezuelan leader looked robust in his shiny tracksuit in his national colours while former Cuban president Fidel Castro appeared dishevelled in similar leisurewear.

The government originally said he would return ‘in a few days’, but as time has gone by and Chavez has remained in Cuba, rumours have circulated in Venezuela that the 56-year-old former soldier may be seriously ill.

However one Chavez ally, General Carlos Mata Figueroa told state television: ‘He’s getting better, stronger than ever.’

His absence has highlighted Chavez’s total dominance of Venezuelan politics — not to mention the airwaves — and the lack of an obvious successor.

Latin News, a think-tank based in the UK, said: ‘His senior ministers look dull and slightly hapless in his absence, underling his unique political charisma.’

[Return to headlines]


EU: Leaders Agree Tighter Internal Border Rules to Curb Illegal Immigration

Brussels, 24 June (AKI) — European Union leaders at summit in Brussels on Friday agreed to establish a “safeguard mechanism” allowing the re-introduction of internal borders where countries are unable to control illegal immigration.

“The mechanism would allow “as a very last resort, (…) the exceptional reintroduction of internal border controls in a truly critical situation where a member state is no longer able to comply with its obligations under the Schengen rules as concerns the prevention of illegal immigration of third country nationals, with negative effects on other member states,” said a final statement cited by the EU Observer.

The EU executive, the European Commission, is to work out the details of the mechanism later this year, the EU Observer reported.

Without undermining this basic principle [of free movement of persons], we felt the need to improve the Schengen rules,” European Council president Herman Van Rompuy told journalists the end of the summit.

The planned revisions to the Schengen passport-free travel system were prompted by a row between Italy and France earlier this year over Tunisian migrants who had made their way to Europe following the democratic uprisings in north Africa. Most arrive in southern Italy from North Africa but are interested in working in France, Tunisias’ former colonial power.

Leaders at the EU summit also rejected a temporary exemption from the so-called Dublin regulation which obliges member states to send back asylum seekers to the first EU country of entry, as proposed by the commission.

No agreement was reached over a common EU asylum system despite calls from home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and a plea from Malta for other member states to take more of the thousands of refugees who have arrived from Libya in recent months.

Malmstrom in a letter to the 27 EU member countries on Wednesday criticised them failing to accept many of the tens of thousands of migrants fleeing violence and unrest in North Africa this year, of whom she said just 800 have been granted asylum in the EU.

The letter also denounced growing xenophobia and support for populism and far-right parties.

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

Obama Slips Dream Act Amnesty Past Congress

Columnist charges, ‘This is outright lawlessness on part of the administration’

A new enforcement memo handed down by the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week has some accusing the White House of running around Congress to implement the DREAM Act — and consequent amnesty for some illegal immigrants — by executive fiat.

The new memo, penned by ICE Director John Morton, directs ICE agents, attorneys and directors to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” — meaning less likelihood of deportation — for illegal aliens who have been students in the U.S., who have been in the country since childhood or who have served in the American military.

Critics have pointed out the new leniency standards parallel the provisions of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which could not pass the Senate, despite several votes over the past decade, including three failed attempts at passage last year.

“This is outright lawlessness on the part of the administration,” argued syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer on a discussion panel with Fox News’ anchor Chris Wallace. “Whatever the politics of this, we do have a Constitution. And under it, the Legislature, the Congress enacts the laws and the executive executes them. It doesn’t make them up.

“The DREAM Act was rejected by Congress,” Krauthammer continued. “It is now being enacted by the executive, despite the express will of the Congress. That is lawless. It may not be an explicit executive order; it’s an implicit one.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Students Suspected of Residency Permit Fraud

Thousands of foreign students are abusing their residency rights by never attending college in what could be a widespread visa fraud, according to a new report from the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Justice Minister Pledges Tougher Asylum Stance

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has responded to criticism of the federal government’s handling of asylum seekers.

In an interview with the Sonntags Blick newspaper, Sommaruga said she favoured cracking down on any asylum seekers acting disgracefully.

She said in difficult cases persons should be given coupons instead of money to prevent the purchase of alcohol. “When it’s necessary, the cantons could introduce curfews or designate no-go areas,” Sommaruga added.

She reiterated her promise to process applications from immigrants seeking work. “There are mostly migrant workers coming from North Africa. They have no right to asylum.”

At a news conference in Bern on Friday, the justice and police directors of the 26 cantons accused the federal authorities of taking too long to process claims and of sending asylum seekers from federal processing centres to the cantons too quickly.

The directors called on federal authorities to prioritise claims from people who had already lodged asylum claims in another country, and to stop sending these people — some 55 per cent of claimants — to the cantons all together.

Sommaruga told the SonntagsZeitung that Europe’s Dublin Regulation on asylum procedures was “not always perfect, but basically worked well.” She said that over 1,500 foreigners had been sent back to the country which they used to first enter Europe.

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

Culture Wars

Do Kids Prefer Playmates of Same Ethnicity?

Multicultural daycares don’t necessarily foster a desire for kids of visibly different ethnicities to play together. A study on Asian-Canadian and French-Canadian preschoolers has found these children may have a preference to interact with kids of their own ethnic group. Led by researchers from Concordia University and the University of Montreal, the findings are published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology.

“We found Asian-Canadian and French-Canadian children seemed to prefer interacting with kids of the same ethnic background,” says Nadine Girouard, a research associate in the Concordia Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH). “Both groups were more interactive with children of the same ethnicity and, when matched with kids from another background, preferred solitary play.”

This study builds on previous investigations that have shown preschoolers prefer to play with children of the same ethnic group. The research team also observed how multicultural playmates could influence conflict among peers of the same ethnicity — findings that contradict previous studies. “We observed that Asian-Canadian children frequently removed or attempted to remove toys from each other,” explains Girouard. “When interacting with peers of the same ethnicity, Asian-Canadian pre-schoolers were more competitive.”

Participants were recruited from six daycares located in Montreal and its suburbs: 30 mostly, second-generation Asian-Canadians and 30 French-Canadians. Children were paired with peers they had known for at least three months. According to the research team, social mores likely prompted a lack of interaction between cultures. “Asian-Canadian children talked less and they chose non-verbal ways to interact and collaborate,” says Girouard.

French-Canadian children used longer sentences when interacting with same-ethnic peers, yet decreased their verbal interactions when playing with Asian-Canadian peers. “Children of both groups adapted their behaviours by speaking less in the case of French-Canadian children and by speaking more in the case of Asian-Canadian children,” says coauthor Dale Stack, a professor in the Concordia Department of Psychology and CRDH member.

“Consistent with some past research, self-expression and social initiation are highly valued in Canadian culture, self-restraint and cooperation may be more important in Chinese and Asian-Canadian culture and this has an impact on multicultural peer interactions,” she continues.

Coauthor Monica O’Neill-Gilbert, a retired University of Montreal psychology professor, says the findings could prove important for new Asian-Canadian families during acculturation.

           — Hat tip: Dave[Return to headlines]

You’re All Equal Here: Swedish School Bans ‘Him’ And ‘Her’ In Bid to Stop Children Falling Into Gender Stereotypes

The Egalia preschool, in the Sodermalm district of Stockholm, has made the decision as part of the country efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood.

As well as the decision to stop using the words, the taxpayer-funded school also carefully plans the colour and placement of toys and the choice of books to assure they do not fall into stereotypes.

The school opened last year and is one a mission to break down gender roles — a core mission in the national curriculum for Swedish preschools.

The option to implement the rules is underpinned by a theory that society gives boys an unfair edge.

‘Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,’ says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher.

‘Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.’

At the school, boys and girls play together with a toy kitchen, waving plastic utensils and pretending to cook. One boy hides inside the toy stove, his head popping out through a hole.

Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen, to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.

Meanwhile, nearly all the children’s books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no ‘Snow White,’ ‘Cinderella’ or other fairy tales.

Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Rajalin also says the staff also try to help the children discover new ideas when they play.

‘A concrete example could be when they’re playing ‘house’ and the role of the mom already is taken and they start to squabble,’ she says. ‘Then we suggest two moms or three moms and so on.’

Egalia’s methods are controversial with Rajalin claiming the staff have received threats from racists apparently upset about the preschool’s use of black dolls.

But she says that there’s a long waiting list for admission, and that only one couple has pulled a child out of the school.

Jukka Korpi, 44, says he and his wife chose Egalia ‘to give our children all the possibilities based on who they are and not on their gender.’

Staff at the school try to shed masculine and feminine references from their speech, including the pronouns him or her — ‘han’ or ‘hon’ in Swedish. Instead, they’ve have adopted the genderless ‘hen’.

‘We use the word “Hen” for example when a doctor, police, electrician or plumber or such is coming to the kindergarten,’ Rajalin says.

‘We don’t know if it’s a he or a she so we just say “Hen is coming around 2 p.m.” Then the children can imagine both a man or a woman. This widens their view.’

Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said he’s not aware of any other school like Egalia, and he questioned whether it was the right way to go.

‘The kind of things that boys like to do — run around and turn sticks into swords — will soon be disapproved of,’ he said.

‘So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.’

           — Hat tip: DT[Return to headlines]


Anne-Kit said...

So at Egalia (retch!) they want to encourage the kids to be "whoever they want to be" but at the same time "try to help them discover new ideas" like having a family with 3 mums ...


You just couldn't make this stuff up ...

Is there a parallel universe around where people haven't lost their collective marbles?

How do I get there?

sameer said...

Bill Gates funding Islamic movement which intends to restore the Ottoman Empire and a world wide Calliphate. Brilliant !!

It is clear that one of the worlds richest and a genius businessmen is also so damn clueless about Islam and is only interested in appearing PC, appeasing muslims (read terrorists). I always knew that these rich just give a small portion of their wealth in charity only for publiclity !!

Bill Gates - you are an idiot. What will you answer to the future of US (including your own children) who will face the brunt of Muslims and face conversion or death?