Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110811

Financial Crisis
»Germany to Propose Unelected ‘Stability Council’ For EU
»Greece: Sales: Earnings Fall in All Sectors, Survey
»Greece: Unemployment Rate Hits All-Time High
»Greece: High Rents Take Toll on Businesses
»Greece: Financial Crimes Squad Snares Island Tax Dodgers
»Italy: Government to Show Its Budget Cards
»Italy: Milan Stock Market Climbs 4.10% at Close of Trading
»Italy: Minister Vows Tax Hikes, Spending Cuts and More Labour Flexibility to Balance Budget
»Italy: Tremonti Sketches Strategy to Avert Debt Calamity
»Italy: Milan Makes Europe’s Biggest Gains After More Market Drama
»Sarkozy to Announce Fresh Austerity as France Sucked Into Whirlpool
»Spain: Government Calls for Fast EU Response
»Swiss Central Bank to Weaken Franc
»Wall Street Ends Another Wild Day, With Dow Up About 420 Points
»Billionaire George Soros ‘Slapped 28-Year-Old Brazilian Ex-Lover and Tried to Choke Her After He Refused to Give Her $1.9m Manhattan Apartment’
»Superfast Military Aircraft Lost in Test Flight
»Weapons of Mob Destruction
Europe and the EU
»‘Drop Racism From Swiss Elections’ Demand
»Germany Opposes Danish New Border Controls
»Germans Ask, ‘Could it Happen Here?’
»Germany, Switzerland Reach Deal on Tax Evaders
»Italy: Renaissance Art Saved From Water Leak in Milan
»Italy: State Museums Open All Day on Mid-August Bank Holiday
»Jihadists ‘Flooding Internet’ With Anti-British Messages Amid Riots
»Netherlands: Half of Welfare Claimants Can Work, Says Minister
»Our Political Leaders Seem to be Paralysed by Crises
»UK Riots: The Young Yobs Back on the Streets Despite David Cameron’s Pledge
»UK: Britain’s Liberal Intelligentsia Have Smashed Virtually Every Social Value
»UK: Coalition United in Restoring Law, Order and Property
»UK: Family Flee Home as Isle of Dogs Rioters Burst in With Axe Threatening to Kill
»UK: London Riots: Far-Right Political Party ‘Protect’ Eltham Residents
»UK: Right-Wing Extremists Hijacking the Vigilante Patrols Protecting Against Looters, Warn Police
»UK: The Breakdown of Family Life Has Led to Today’s Anarchy
North Africa
»Libya: NATO Killing Civilians in Tripoli to Provoke Unrest
Middle East
»Erdogan and the Turkish Military: The Challenge Continues
»Increasingly Confident Turkey Risks ‘Geopolitical Megalomania’
»UN Stalemate on Syria as Syria Admits “Some Mistakes”
South Asia
»Afghan Women Swap Burka for Uniform
»New Bollywood Film Sparks Storm
»Pakistan: Mystery Still Surrounds Fate of Al-Qaeda Military Chief
Far East
»Experts Wonder if China and the US Are Now on Par
»World’s Biggest Brewery Enjoys Success in Asia
»Anti-Immigrant ‘Plot’ In Denmark
»Nepali Govt Planning Tighter Controls on INGOs
Culture Wars
»Australia’s First Lesbian and Gay Retirement Village Approved
»Going Godless: Does Secularism Make People More Ethical?
»The Most Accurate English Translation of the Koran

Financial Crisis

Germany to Propose Unelected ‘Stability Council’ For EU

Germany has proposed the creation of a new EU ‘overseer’ that would crack the whip and impose sanctions on countries that do not adhere to rigid budget discipline and pro-business labour policies. The country’s economy minister, Philipp Roesler, on Tuesday (10 August) told reporters that the bloc should create a new EU institution, a ‘stability council’, of unelected supervisors that would ensure member states that stick to budget temperance and limit debt and keep in check debt growth.

This council should be given the power to slap sanctions on countries to ensure they cut their deficits and monitor use of financial assistance. The plans would also require that a German-style ‘debt brake’ be written into national constitutions. But the new body would also be empowered to carry out ‘competitiveness tests’ amongst eurozone states to see if labour market policies are sufficiently competitive. The tests would also assess the innovation climate.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Greece: Sales: Earnings Fall in All Sectors, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, AUGUST 9 — The deterioration in financial results and turnover has spread across all Greece’s financial sectors, according to a survey on Greek entrepreneurship by the ICAP research group, as reported by daily Kathimerini. The ongoing recession in this country has forced previously profit-making companies to incur losses for the first time ever, as indicated by the analysis of 2010 and 2011 financial reports from 26,616 companies. Total sales declined by 3.3% last year to 168.8 billion euros, from 174.6 billion euros. Gross earnings fell 11.6% year-on-year as the cost of sales was not contained, leading to a drop in operating results of 78%, or 3.7 billion euros. The situation was aggravated by the dramatic 91% increase in non-operating expenses such as extraordinary losses, reversing total profits of 4 billion euros in 2009 to total losses of 2.33 billion euros in 2010. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) dropped by a considerable 25.5% to 11.4 billion euros, from 15.4 billion euros in 2009.

The top companies in terms of earnings were the OPAP gaming company, Public Power Corporation, Cosmote and Hellenic Petroleum, all of which are state-controlled.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Unemployment Rate Hits All-Time High

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — The number of unemployed persons in Greece has soared to 822,719, according to data published by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Thursday and cited by the local press. With the economy in its third year of recession, the unemployment rate rose to an all-time high 16.6% from 15.8% in April. It was 12% in May last year. The number of jobless people in May shot up by 220,534, according to the ELSTAT figures, 36.6% more than May last year, and by 36,260 people compared to April this year. The economically inactive population, which includes all men and women who are not part of the labor force, i.e. are neither employed nor unemployed, now includes 4,383,374 people.

Unemployment is considerably higher among women than men (20% against 14.1%), while the age bracket with the biggest jobless rate is 15-24-year-olds, at 40.1%. In a recent survey on the Greek economy, the OECD forecast an unemployment rate of 16% in 2011 and 16.4% in 2012.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Greece: High Rents Take Toll on Businesses

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, AUGUST 11 — With slow sales and high rents, shops in Greece are closing doors to business, president of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) Vassilis Korkidis said on Thursday. In an interview with Skai television early on Thursday, Korkidis said that a large number of shops and offices remain unrented as landlords refuse to drop commercial rents. In the shops that do operate, sales have dropped by 25% although prices have gone down by 15%, Korkidis said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Financial Crimes Squad Snares Island Tax Dodgers

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, AUGUST 11 — A new tactic by the Greek financial crimes squad (SDOE), which saw officers from Attica dispatched to tourist resorts to check if hoteliers and restaurateurs are evading taxes, appears to have paid off as between 46 and 100% of the businesses they inspected on various islands were found to be guilty of offenses. The most persistent offenders — as daily Kathimerini reports — were on Rhodes, where 11 out of 11 businesses checked were found to be breaking tax laws. Sources said that there is a SDOE team based on the island but they were not informed of the inspections, which were carried out by officers from Athens. The most checks were carried out on Santorini, where 115 of 149 businesses, or 77%, were deemed to be evading taxes. Similarly, on Myconos 103 of 140 entrepreneurs, or 73%, were caught offending. On Paros, 116 businesses were checked, 75 (65%) were in contravention of tax legislation. On Aegina, the rate of offending businesses dropped to 46%. The most flagrant offenders were on Myconos and Paros, where businessmen broke a range of laws by not issuing receipts, issuing fake receipts, not keeping proper accounting records and by not passing on value-added tax revenues to the state. On Myconos, the 103 businesses caught breaking the law committed a combined total of 7,330 offenses.

On Paros, 75 businesses committed 5,119 offenses. The SDOE team conducted checks at more than 700 businesses between April 30 and August 8.

It appears that the decision to send officials from Athens rather than to rely on local personnel helped increase the effectiveness of the checks. The Finance Ministry has to raise 5.4 billion euros each month until the end of the year in order to reach its budget targets. Clamping down on tax evaders is seen as one of the best ways to increase its revenues. The Finance Ministry said recently that 14,700 individuals, companies or organizations owe 37 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Government to Show Its Budget Cards

Plans to be revealed to employers and unions

(ANSA) — Rome, August 10 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government will put on the table the measures it intends to take to achieve a balanced budget by 2013 when it meets Wednesday with union and employer associations.

A similar meeting was held last week at which employers and unions, in a rare common front, presented a joint proposal for the government to raise some 48 billion euros in revenue needed to achieve a balanced budget by 2014.

At the time, the government said it would get back to the unions and employers next month with its game plan. However, it was forced to move this schedule up after Italy bowed to pressure from markets, the European Central Bank (ECB) and European Union, especially Germany and France, to move faster and balance the budget by 2013.

Union and employers meet again ahead of their encounter with the government and are expected to confirm their call to reduce the cost of government, cut red tape, simplify government administration, boost the labor market and enact more privatization, deregulation and reform of the tax system.

According to unions and employers, belt-tightening measures now need to be accompanied by creating the conditions for growth.

Although there has been no confirmation of the details of the government’s plan, it is expected to include most of the proposals from employers and unions and may even go so far as to include some kind of a ‘wealth tax’, even though this is much-loathed by Italy’s billionaire government chief.

Many believe this will be a one-off measure and rake in revenue from large investments, deposits, stock and bond assets, and real estate holdings.

Structural tax reform is expected to focus on raising the tax on gains from financial market operations from 12.5% to 20%, while the 12.5% rate would remain on treasury bonds, and hiking real estate tax on second homes and holdings.

Pension reform also looks set to be a major part of the plan but, due to opposition from unions and even within the government coalition, primarily the Northern League, it is not expected to touch acquired benefits.

Commentators say the government is likely to propose gradually raising the retirement age based on life expectancy and moving forward the target date to make the retirement age the same for men and women.

Welfare changes are likely to include revising the requisites to receive disability, maternity and other benefits.

The government is also expected to propose privatizing local services and utilities — except water, the privatization of which was rejected in a referendum earlier this year — and selling stakes in the state-controlled corporations ENI (fuels), ENEL (electricity production), Terna (electricity distribution) and Finmeccanica (an engineering conglomerate involved in aerospace, defence, electronics, transport and energy). Proposals to cut the cost of government may include reducing the number of MPs, cutting the perks they enjoy and abolishing some provincial administrations, a difficult task given that they provide jobs for lower-level politicians who rally party support on a local level.

Observers say it is uncertain how much these measures will address Italy’s greatest problem: its massive public debt which is currently over 120% of GDP.

If it did not have to pay so much to service this debt, Italy would perhaps be the most virtuous country in the industrial world as it is estimated it would have a budget surplus of 2% of GDP.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Stock Market Climbs 4.10% at Close of Trading

Milan, 11 August (AKI) — Italy’s FTSE MIB leading-stock index rose 4.10 percent at the close of trading on Thursday to 15,277,19 points after finance minister Giulio Tremonti outlined fast-tracked austerity measures to achieve a balanced budget by 2013.

The index was down 0.4 percent in late morning trading, after rising as much as 3.9 percent. Shares in Italian banks including Intesa Sanpaolo were suspended because of the market volatility.

National benchmark indexes rose in every western European market except Denmark and Greece on Thursday The UK.’s FTSE 100 Index (UKX) increased 3.2 percent and Germany’s DAX Index soared 3.3 percent. France’s CAC 40 Index (CAC) climbed 2.9 percent.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index surging the most since May 2010, as investors speculated that recent losses have overestimated the slowdown in the pace of economic growth.

On Wesdesday, the Italian stock market posted its worst one-day loss since the Lehman Brothers crisis in October 2008 when the index plunged 6.65 percent amid fresh investor fears about the eurozone debt crisis that has caused extreme turbulence and heavy falls in financial markets over recent weeks.

Italian lenders are worried about the country’s ability to deliver on the promises to help boost growth and speed up its deficit reduction.

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

Italy: Minister Vows Tax Hikes, Spending Cuts and More Labour Flexibility to Balance Budget

Rome, 11 August (AKI) — Italy’s finance minister Giulio Tremonti on Thursday outlined measures aimed at balancing Italy’s budget by 2013 including higher taxes, possible cuts to civil servants and politicians’ salaries and easing rules on firing employees.

Tremonti told lawmakers that tough and speedy measures were needed over the next two years to achieve a balanced budget and cut Italy’s deficit to 3.9 percent of national income in 2011 but said a decline to 1.1 percent in 2012 was probably too drastic.

He also urged members of parliament to make a balanced budget amendment part of Italy’s constitution, emphasising that current measures were “not working” as they had led to Italy’s “extraordinary” burden of 1.9 trillion euros of public debt, the third highest in the world.

Italy’s public debt is currently 120 percent of gross domestic product, second only to Greece’s in the eurozone

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi told a meeting of union and business leaders in Rome on Wednesday the Italian government would fast-track some 20 billion euros of austerity measures to balance the budget in 2013. He said the cabinet would approve an emergency decree containing the debt reduction package by 18 August but made no concrete proposals.

Tremonti on Thursday said the cabinet would approve the austerity package on 16 August.

Tremonti’s address to the joint session of the budget and constitutional affairs committees of Italy’s lower and upper houses of parliament on Thursday was intended to parry criticism that the government has not been specific enough about its plans to mend public finances in the face of a collapse in investor confidence that has led to market turbulence in recent weeks amid concerns Italy and Spain could be infected by the eurozone debt crisis

Other possible measures outlined by Tremonti included liberalising local services, cracking down on widespread tax evasion, raising the retirement age for women in the private sector and relegating non-religious holidays to Sundays to increase productivity.

One immediate measure could be an increase in tax on financial income, Tremonti said.

“We are ready right now to raise taxes on financial income from 12.5 percent to 20 percent,” he stated.

But there has been no sign of agreement on the measures to be taken.

Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest men, has ruled out a wealth tax and the powerful CGIL, Italy’s largest trade union federation has threatened strike action if the thrust of the government measures are cuts that target workers.

The CGIL has called on the government to boost revenue through a wealth tax, recouping dodged taxes and increasing capital-gains taxes rather than focusing on cutting spending and benefits.

The centre-left opposition say they oppose any taxes targeting lower income families. The government also appears divided on the issue, with its junior partner, the federalist Northern League, saying it opposes any taxes that may target private savings.

Tremonti and Berlusconi were due later on Thursday to meet Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano, who, like parliamentarians, cut short his summer holiday to return to Rome.

Earlier this week, the head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet called on Italy and Spain to hasten their return to “normal” budgetary situations.

Trichet said the ECB, which this week began buying up Spanish and Italian government bonds to counter spiralling borrowing costs, had asked Italy “in a very clear way these past few days” to take action on its budget deficit.

The government unveiled an austerity package in July containing 48 billion euros of spending cuts.

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

Italy: Tremonti Sketches Strategy to Avert Debt Calamity

Tough line on tax evasion and pension reform, few details

(ANSA) — Rome, August 11 — Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti briefed parliament on Thursday on the government’s plans to balance the budget by 2013 and avert a sovereign debt crisis.

The measures, to be included in a decree expected by August 18, are in response to pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB) that Italy move swiftly to fix its finances and speed up plans for balancing the budget from 2014 to 2013.

Appearing before a joint session of the parliamentary constitutional affairs committee, Tremonti called for a constitutional amendment to make a balanced budget obligatory.

“An era has ended,” Tremonti said. “We can no longer spend more that what we have, especially if we have to go into debt in order to do so. This is why explicit rules are needed to govern fiscal policy”.

But the minister gave few details on key provisions of the upcoming decree, primarily those regarding pension reform and the possibility of a one-off wealth tax on financial assets and real estate holdings.

The minister explained that he could not go into detail because final decisions on the measures still had to be made.

However, on the question of a wealth tax, he did mention the possibility of a “solidarity contribution”.

It was necessary to amend the Constitution, Tremonti explained, because article 81 which deals with budgetary measures, “has not worked” given that Italy has accumulated a public debt of over 120% of GDP and it was now “the third or fourth highest in the world”.

Article 81 is limited to stating that laws passed by parliament authorising new or additional spending had to indicate how these funds will be raised, leaving the door wide open to creating debt by issuing treasury bonds.

Tremonti said that a balanced budget would help reduce Italy’s debt because it would free up the country’s primary surplus, revenue after expenditures excluding debt interest payments, allowing funds to be used to chip away at the debt.

In order for Italy to meet its budget goals and protect itself from speculation, he said a form of “political disarmament” was needed with all political forces demonstrating a “constructive spirit”.

Yet Tremonti said it was not possible to make “drastic decisions” because these could push Italy back into a recession.

Referring to a recent letter from the ECB, which some have said “dictated” to Italy the actions it needed to take, the minister said the letter was “confidential” and that it included “suggestions” but that the final decisions would be up to the Italian government.

Although he did not go into detail on the other measures in the upcoming decree, he said that under consideration were the ECB suggestions to change Italy’s labor laws to make it easier for public employees to be fired.

In an apparent attempt to appease unions, he added that action needed to be taken on the use of temporary contracts which he said had been abused and this had created instability.

The minister said that pension reform was also in the package and may include a freeze on early retirement based on the number of years worked and faster action to make the retirement age the same for men and women.

On the need to cut the cost of government, Tremonti said that there was a need to reduce not only how much politicians earned but also their number as well.

He said the government intended to crack down further on tax evasion and embark on an ambitious program of deregulating professional services and privatising local utilities, with the exception of water, an issue which was rejected in a referendum earlier this year.

Umberto Bossi, head of Berlusconi’s key ally the Northern League, defined Tremonti’s explanation as “foggy” and said that the key issue was “whether the rich or the poor are going to pay”.

He then reiterated his party’s opposition to punitive pension reform and readiness to consider a one-off wealth tax, which Italy’s billionaire premier is loathe to do.

The leader of the centrist UDC opposition party, Pier Ferdinando Casini, said he was also in favor of the one-off tax.

Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the main centre left opposition party, the Democratic Party, said it was “shocking” that “there is a total lack of ideas and unity in the government”.

Bersani said it was imperative to move quickly to reassure financial markets and warned a constitutional amendment would take at least six months.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Makes Europe’s Biggest Gains After More Market Drama

Benchmark FTSE MIB index up 4.1%

(ANSA) — Milan, August 11 — It was another roller-coaster ride on the Milan bourse and other European markets Thursday but at the end of trading Milan posted the highest gains of the continent’s main stock exchanges.

Milan’s benchmark FTSE MIB index was up 4.1% at 15,277 points, meaning it recovered much of the ground lost on Monday, when it put in the worst performance in Europe with a dramatic drop of over 6%. Thursday also saw Paris jump 2.89%, Frankfurt close 3.28% higher and London climb 3.11%. According to some analysts, Thursday’s gains were possible thanks to assurances from ratings agencies that France’s debt was not at risk of a downgrade and discussions in Europe of taking action against short-covering, the trade term for quick profit taking. A sign that confidence had returned to the markets was evidenced by a drop in the price of gold, which fell from Wednesday’s record high of above $1,800 an ounce to around $1,750.

Milan opened with strong gains on Thursday as investors appeared to be taking advantage of the low prices. The same was true in the rest of Europe with opening gains of between 2% and 3%. Gains were reduced slightly later in the morning, but quickly returned to opening levels before falling just after noon to then fluctuate between the red and the black. By mid-session bank stocks continued to keep markets from posting gains and in Milan Italy’s biggest bank UniCredit was down 2.17% while the country’s number two bank, Intesa SanPaolo, was losing 1.94%. UniCredit continued to lose ground, falling by 4%, which contributed to the FTSE MIB index being down by more than 1%. Industrials were mixed in Milan and at mid-session Fiat Industriale was up 1.99% while Fiat Automotive was down 1.48%, while Pirelli gained 1.91% and Italcementi fell 1.68%. Fears that Wall Street would open again on a downturn sent European markets into a tailspin, with Milan falling by more than 3%, Paris plummeting 3.36%, Frankfurt slipping 1.58% and London retreating 0.7%. The situation then turned around once again when, contrary to expectations, Wall Street picked up on news that demands for unemployment compensation were down.

Milan’s loses were reduced to 0.6% before a surge less than an hour to closing drove it up by over 4% with Fiat Automotive bouncing up by more than 5% and Intesa SanPaolo soaring 7.77%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy to Announce Fresh Austerity as France Sucked Into Whirlpool

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday (10 August) has said his government will produce fresh measures to slash the country’s large public debt in an effort to stave off a cut to France’s triple-A credit rating. The leader flew back from his summer holiday and hauled government ministers back from theirs for an emergency meeting to address the rapidly worsening eurozone crisis.

He told his key ministries they have a week to draft sharp new austerity measures, which may include the closing of tax loopholes and spending cuts. Paris’ promise to reduce the budget deficit from 7.1 percent in 2011 down to three percent by 2013 will be maintained no matter how the country’s economic situation evolves.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Spain: Government Calls for Fast EU Response

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 11 — The Spanish government has asked the EU for greater speed and unity in responding to the crisis of the eurozone, faced with the worrisome market upsets. Reiterating this today was Infrastructure Minister and spokesman José Blanco in an interview on Radio Onda Zero. “We must have a common European policy, and for this reason we must improve the economic goverment of the EU,” said the government spokesman in underscoring that, after the common European currency, there has been a lack of “a common economic and fiscal policy to respond to the challenges we are facing.” Spain’s sovereign debt, alongside Italy’s, has over the last few days been targeted by speculative attacks within the market, a situation which Madrid has attributed in part to the slowness of decisions on a second bailout for Greece’s economy. “When Europe reacts the markets respond,” noted Blanco, “and we have just seen how they reacted after the ECB move, with the risk differential down and even today seeing a session starting out in decline.” This morning the spread between Spain’s 10-year bond and the German benchmark bund is once again around 280 base points. Government spokesman Zapatero has insisted on the need to rapidly apply the Eurogroup’s agreements made on July 21 for the second aid package to Greece, which has yet to be approved by the national parliaments of the eurozone. Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy has also today requested an urgent hearing with Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in the Congress of Deputies, “faced as we are with the seriousness of the economic and financial situation” in the country.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Swiss Central Bank to Weaken Franc

The Swiss National Bank has decided to increase the supply of liquidity to the Swiss franc money market to weaken the surging franc. “The massive overvaluation of the Swiss franc poses a threat to the development of the economy in Switzerland,” the Swiss National Bank said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Wall Street Ends Another Wild Day, With Dow Up About 420 Points

Stocks on Wall Street surged higher Thursday, buoyed by bargain-hunting investors, positive economic data and some easing of concerns over Europe’s finances.

As trading ended, the Dow Jones industrial average was up about 420 points, or 3.9 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the Nasdaq composite were both up about 4.6 percent.

Every day this week, stocks have ricocheted between steep gains and losses to an extent not seen since March 2009. With stocks soaring on Thursday, bond yields rose again, gold declined, and oil futures were back above $85 a barrel.

[Return to headlines]


Billionaire George Soros ‘Slapped 28-Year-Old Brazilian Ex-Lover and Tried to Choke Her After He Refused to Give Her $1.9m Manhattan Apartment’

Billionaire financier George Soros is being sued for $50 million by his former lover — a 28-year-old Brazilian soap star who claims he physically abused her and broke a promise to give her a Manhattan apartment.

Adriana Ferreyr claims her 80-year-old former boyfriend slapped her across the face and placed his hands around her neck in a bid to choke her while they argued about the $1.9miilion flat.

The details of the acrimonious split are to be aired in Manhattan Supreme Court, where Miss Ferreyr yesterday filed her $50 million suit.

It states that the actress was dating Mr Soros, estimated to be worth about £14.5billion, for around five years. During that time he promised to give her an apartment at 30 East 85th Street, worth $1.9 million and a city block from Central Park.

But before she got the chance to take possession of the generous gift Mr Soros abruptly called off the relationship.

Her lawsuit claims that, despite his ‘heartless’ rejection, the couple briefly reignited their relationship, and that it was during a passionate night in bed that the billionaire let slip with a whisper in her ear that he had promised the apartment to another woman.

Miss Ferreyr reacted badly to this news and an ensuing argument allegedly turned violent.

The lawsuit states: ‘While still in bed, Soros slapped Ferreyr across the face and proceeded to put his hands around her neck in an attempt to choke her.’

It goes on to assert that Mr Soros allegedly threw a glass lamp at Miss Ferreyr. It missed her but shattered on the floor and cut Miss Ferreyr’s foot, a wound which required three stitches.

This allegation is supported by a police report of the incident, after Miss Ferreyr called the police but did not lay charges.

The accusations contained in Miss Ferreyr’s court papers are being strenuously denied by Mr Soros’s lawyer William Zabel, who branded the lawsuit ‘frivolous and entirely without merit’.

Mr Zabel told the New York Post: ‘Mr Soros did have an on-again, off-again and non-exclusive relationship with Ms Ferreyr. The complaint is riddled with false charges and is obviously an attempt to extract money from my client, who is a very wealthy man…’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Superfast Military Aircraft Lost in Test Flight

The U.S. military lost contact with an unmanned hypersonic glider shortly after it launched on a test flight today (Aug. 12) as part of a global strike weapons program to develop vehicles capable of flying at Mach 20 and reach any target in the world in an hour. The DARPA glider, called the Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California atop a Minotaur 4 rocket at 7:45 a.m. PDT. According to DARPA updates, the test flight appeared to go well until the glide phase, when monitoring stations lost contact with the HTV-2 vehicle.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Weapons of Mob Destruction

In Philadelphia, a group of 20-40 youths went on a rampage in Center City August 1st, resulting in 59 people being beaten and briefly hospitalized. Last Thursday, a mob ran through the Wisconsin State Fair at closing time, beating up people at random. In London, citizens have been besieged by three straight nights of hellish rioting, even as that rioting has spread to other parts of the nation. The common themes? A racial component, studiously ignored wherever possible; technology that makes mob organization far easier than ever before; and the undeniable relationship between welfare state policies and the expansion of underclass mores.

The racial element of these attacks is becoming impossible to ignore. In Philadelphia, black Mayor Michael A. Nutter, much to his credit, stepped into the breach. After telling black youths, “You have damaged your own race,” he announced an increase in police patrols in some neighborhoods, called on citizens to monitor the streets, and moved up a weekend curfew on minors to 9 p.m. Parents will also be subjected to increasing fines each time one of their children gets caught violating the curfew. “Take those God-darn hoodies down, especially in the summer,” said Nutter. “Pull your pants up and buy a belt ‘cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”


[JP note: The racial nature of these disturbances is the elephant in the room which the loony-left running the show here in the UK and the USA studiously ignores.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

‘Drop Racism From Swiss Elections’ Demand

Swiss human rights groups have called on political parties to avoid racist campaigning during the upcoming October elections. The head of the Independent Federal Commission Against Racism, Georg Kreis, told AFP that Swiss elections were usually periods of racist and xenophobic agitation. “There is a certain seductiveness during elections in using xenophobia or defamation as a political tool”, he said.

The commission is spearheading the ‘Fairplay in Elections’ campaign, which is backed by nearly 30 organizations, including human rights group Amnesty International. During election campaigns, controversial themes should be brought to the table, he conceded, but debates should stick to the facts. Kreis’s call has received press backing: “Those Swiss who are against smear campaigns, exclusion and the ‘concept of the enemy’, have gained a voice. With an online signature, they can speak out”, the NZZ newspaper writes. Switzerland’s biggest political party, the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has consistently sparked controversy with its campaigns.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Germany Opposes Danish New Border Controls

Germany on Wednesday strongly criticised neighbouring Denmark for its move to reintroduce permanent customs controls at its borders, calling the move “unjustified”. The European Union has also spoken out against Denmark’s bid to reinforce controls at its borders with Germany and Sweden and the European Commission is probing whether the move may violate the Schengen free travel agreement, to which Denmark is a signatory. “There isn’t the slightest reason, at this time, to build a new Danish border control system which has raised grave doubts over compatibility with the Schengen treaty with both the European Commission and the German government,” German deputy foreign minister Werner Hoyer said in a statement.

“It is incomprehensible that action should be taken on the ground before the European Commission had made up its mind” on the matter, Hoyer added. A Danish foreign ministry official who asked not to be named told AFP Wednesday he had not seen Hoyer’s comments but stressed that Denmark remained committed to “remaining within the boundaries of the Schengen agreement.” “We are implementing this in close consultation with the European Commission, and we intend fully to respect Schengen,” he insisted.

Denmark, which deployed 50 new customs officers at its borders with Germany and Sweden on July 5, argues that the random border checks only aim to combat the smuggling of illegal goods and drugs, not to control travellers. The Schengen agreement cannot be breached “under the cloak of a justifiable wish of wanting to fight criminality more efficiently,” Hoyer said.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Germans Ask, ‘Could it Happen Here?’

As the riots on English streets subside, the country has begun a painful discussion about the root causes of the chaos. In Germany, too, observers have warned that violence could even flare up here. On Thursday, most newspaper commentators dismissed such talk as scaremongering.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Germany, Switzerland Reach Deal on Tax Evaders

The days when German citizens could evade taxes by hiding their money under the protection of Swiss banking secrecy laws are now numbered. Under a new agreement, Berlin can acquire such information from Bern.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Italy: Renaissance Art Saved From Water Leak in Milan

Concern about Raphael masterpiece

(ANSA) — Milan, August 10 — Renaissance masterpieces including Raphael’s famous Marriage of the Virgin have been saved from a water leak inside the Brera Pinacoteca gallery in Milan. In June a worker from the Italian Labour Union (UIL) identified the leak in the roof and claimed that resulting humidity threatened paintings including the Raphael in the world-famous gallery.

The incident has been documented in a series of photos given to ANSA and Sandrina Bandera, the superintendent responsible for the Brera Pinacoteca, said urgent action had been taken to remedy the leak.

Bandera said the Raphael was protected from any damage.

“We were calm about it,” she said.

But the UIL has appealed to the Culture Minister Giancarlo Galan to intervene immediately with a special decree to redo the gallery’s roof, estimated to cost 1.4 million euros.

The Raphael masterpiece, dated 1504, depicts the marriage of Mary and Joseph and is one of the Brera gallery’s major drawcards.

The museum houses one of the most famous collections of paintings in Italy, specialising in paintings by artists from the northern regions of Veneto and Lombardy, and includes Andrea Mantova’s Dead Christ and Giovanni Belli’s Pieta.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: State Museums Open All Day on Mid-August Bank Holiday

(AGI) Rome — Italy’s museums, galleries, monuments and historic buildings will stay open all day on the mid-August bank holiday. This also goes for all the state villas, castles, temples, parks, gardens, outside areas, archeological sites, necropolises and digs. Many arts venues will also be involved, hosting events such as concerts, themed exhibitions, guided tours and ad hoc initiatives.

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

Jihadists ‘Flooding Internet’ With Anti-British Messages Amid Riots

Washington, 11 August (AKI) — As the riots that broke out in the British capital London late on Saturday and spread to other cities England continue, jihadists have flooded the Internet with anti-British messages inciting rioters to further action, according to US-based terrorist tracking group SITE Intelligence.

In a message on the Shumukh Al-Islam website posted Wednesday, one extremist said the riots could be “useful” for the jihadist cause, suggesting Britain could withdraw troops from Afghanistan and send them to London to quell the violence.

Besides the young black father-of-four shot dead by police, Mark Duggan, which sparked the violence, three Asian men were hit and killed by a car while defending their community from looters in the central city Birmingham this week.

Police have arrested over 1,100 people over the looting and unrest in Britain which analysts say has largely been organised by disaffected young people using the Blackberry smartphone’s encrypted freed messaging service, the microblogging website Twitter and other social networking websites.

Britain’s prime minister David Cameron cut short his summer holiday in Italy and returned to Britain, deploring the violence and claiming on Wednesday that “fightback” had begun against the riots and looting.

He pledged to deploy an extra 10,000 police officers to London’s streets amid criticism that security forces had responded inadequately to the riots, the worst seen in the country since the 1980s.

But postings on jihadist websites have urged Muslim militants to incite the rioters to further action via social media, possibly leading to Arab-style protests in Britain, SITE claimed.

Another post to the Shumukh Al-Islam website advised jihadists to “infiltrate the British Facebook and Twitter” pages with catchy slogans such as “We are all Mark Duggan,” SITE said.

On another jihadist website, Ansar Al-Mujahedeen, users provided links to the Facebook pages of top British football clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal, urging militants to post key slogans there, according to SITE.

Authorities cancelled at least two major soccer matches including a friendly between England and Holland at London’s Wembley stadium on Wednesday amid fears of further violence.

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

Netherlands: Half of Welfare Claimants Can Work, Says Minister

Half the 355,000 people in the Netherlands who claim welfare benefits could work at least part time, junior social affairs minister Paul de Krom says in an interview with news agency ANP.

The minister is currently working on plans to reform the welfare benefit (bijstand) system which will be extended to cover people on youth handicap benefits and those who work in sheltered employment schemes.

‘I think everyone who can work should do so,’ De Krom said. ‘At the moment there are 135,000 jobs open in the Netherlands and 1.2 million people claiming benefits. Some of them can’t work, but some 500,000 of them can.’

De Krom’s plans, published earlier this year, involving fining claimants who don’t try to find a job and possibly introducing compulsory community service projects for long-term claimants.

Entitlement to welfare benefits will also be calculated on a household rather than an individual basis, so that the income of adult children will be taken into account. This aspect of the reforms has already been criticised by local councils (who administer welfare benefits) and the Council of State advisory body.

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

Our Political Leaders Seem to be Paralysed by Crises

A breakdown of social norms and a potential meltdown of the global financial system have exposed a shocking absence of meaningful leadership.

A crisis reveals. It challenges leaders, and exposes whether or not they have the right stuff. As we face a breakdown of social norms in the UK and a potential meltdown of the global financial system, what can we tell about our current generation of political leaders? The most obvious answer is this: these crises have exposed a shocking absence of meaningful leadership.. This is not a comment on the absurd soap opera of whether the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister were going to break off their holidays. That was always going to happen, although Boris Johnson and David Cameron did ignore a basic political law, which is that if you are going to have to do something anyway, you should do it of your own free will rather than being forced to. No, that’s just froth. What worries me is that we are seeing something more fundamental revealed about the frailty, the fragility and the failings of our institutions.

Put simply, our political leaders, whether of Left or Right, just don’t seem up to the job. Were the riots really motivated simply by criminality, as Cameron claimed, or by a failure of parenting, as Ed Miliband thought? Was that the best the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition could do? Platitudes are no substitute for analysis any more than condemnation is for a sense of moral purpose. This, I think, is the nub of it: we have a politics which has replaced ideology with pragmatism, and as a result is unable to interpret events, let alone shape them. All we get is commentary.

Contrast this with the last century. Churchill redeemed himself, and saved the world, during the Second World War. Margaret Thatcher defeated fascism in the Falklands war, and ultra-Leftism in the miners’ strike. We are a better and stronger country, at home and abroad, for her undeviating will and courage. It wasn’t just Britain — the post-war world was full of examples. Nixon and China. Reagan and the Russians. Gorbachev and perestroika. Mandela and de Klerk. These were big figures who made bold choices, shaped the future, called the shots.

What a contrast with today’s situation, where not merely our political leaders, but the institutions they control — from the Treasury to the beat cop — have seemed unable to get a grip. Part of the problem is that the three main political parties in Britain are all, essentially, the children of David Owen. Cameron, Miliband and Nick Clegg stand on a broadly SDP platform, based on a liberal approach to both social issues and the economy. That makes for far less disruption when government changes hands, but it also means that there is no longer a contest between sharply different views of how society should be run.

Evelyn Waugh used to criticise the Conservative Party because it had never turned the clock back by a single minute. But at least it was properly conservative. Harold Macmillan would be shocked at the modern party’s Maoist commitment to revolutionary change, just as Tony Crosland would be aghast at Labour’s obeisance to capital. The connecting thread is that Left and Right have accepted not merely market mechanisms, but the market’s ultimate mastery. For more than 30 years, politicians have told industries, communities and voters that you can’t buck the system. In doing so, they have internalised their own advice, and ended up enslaved by these new gods themselves. George Osborne’s mantra is that if we don’t face up to austerity, then we’ll be like Greece, at the mercy of the markets. Would any Conservative politician, in any previous administration, have compared our great nation to a failing southern European economy (rather than a modern-day Athens or Sparta)?

Our former leaders would be shocked by the willingness of Cabinet ministers to talk down our country. Accepting your own powerlessness is a characteristic of weak leaders throughout history: always managing, never transforming. Yet even Harold Wilson had the swagger to attack the “gnomes of Zurich”, the faceless money-men of his day.

This move to the Right on economics has been matched by a collective move to the Left on social policy. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police announced a change in tactics, from containing (some would say observing) the looting and rioting to interdicting it. About time, too, said every council tax payer in London: we give enough to them every year, so why can’t they do their basic job of keeping public order? The reason, sadly, is that the police have heard what their political masters have said for decades — moral relativism is in, and authority is out.

Years ago, on Not the Nine O’clock News, Mel Smith played a trendy vicar. Asked about his view of evil, he replied: “I’d say, come on in, Satan, my old chum, and have a cup of tea.”

The police have been getting similar politically correct signals from their bosses for years. A charge of racism can paralyse an organisation — and in the absence of tough leaders who can tell the difference between a real grievance and a factitious one, the lower ranks will play safe. Good, honest coppering goes by the board. Such issues all come down to judgment and morality. But these are tough questions: after all, if some things are right, others must be wrong. On what basis can those weaned on a politics of pragmatism take a view?

Just look at Iain Duncan Smith: as soon as he was put in charge of welfare, he concluded that financial incentives were the only way to get people into work. Whatever his motivation, issues of morality, peer pressure, right and wrong appeared to be inoperative. And the end result? Just Gordon Brown in smarter suits. We are through the looking glass here. It is fashionable in political circles to talk about the “need for a narrative”. But that’s an evasion. Before you can tell a story, you need to have a point of view. Sarah Palin, as so often, got it right when she taunted Barack Obama — “How’s the hope-y, change-y thing goin’ for ya?” Crude, perhaps crass, but to the point. One might equally ask of David Cameron — “How’s being the change you want to see going for you?” It’s all process, and not purpose. Change, in itself and for itself, becomes the end rather than the means, because politicians can no longer answer the questions — change to what, and for what?

Our leaders know they should have answers, but the questions are too big. It’s not just Cameron and Obama who are failing, especially in the face of the great crisis of globalisation. So are Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. The latter pair want the eurozone to succeed, but won’t level with their public in a way that an Adenauer or de Gaulle would have. The fundamentals of the world economy are changing. China owns nine per cent of America’s debt and lectures it. Brazil owns 10 per cent and stays silent. Economic power — and thus actual power — is moving to the South and East. We live in the North and West: old and cold and on the wrong side of the planet. It’s not a comfortable observation, but it’s one that any adult can make. So why can’t our leaders talk to us about it? Don’t they know, don’t they care, or are they too scared? This is the spectre that is haunting Britain: the failure of politics.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK Riots: The Young Yobs Back on the Streets Despite David Cameron’s Pledge

Young offenders who took part in the rioting and looting that blighted Britain’s streets this week are walking free from court without facing significant penalties.

Despite David Cameron’s promises that they would face “punishment”, a string of juvenile criminals have been allowed to return home with their parents.

Several of the young rioters have been pictured in national newspapers committing crimes. Nonetheless, they retain the court’s protection of legal anonymity.

The sentences being handed down have dismayed police and MPs after the Prime Minister’s promise that rioters would “pay for what they have done”.

Further undermining Mr Cameron’s tough rhetoric, Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, backed the courts. He rejected the Prime Minister’s call for new sentencing rules.

According to the Metropolitan Police, roughly half of the 240 people who have appeared in court so far charged with being involved in the London riots are under the age of 18…

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

UK: Britain’s Liberal Intelligentsia Have Smashed Virtually Every Social Value

So now the chickens have well and truly come home terrifyingly to roost. The violent anarchy that has taken hold of British cities is the all-too-predictable outcome of a three-decade liberal experiment which tore up virtually every basic social value. The married two-parent family, educational meritocracy, punishment of criminals, national identity, enforcement of the drugs laws and many more fundamental conventions were all smashed by a liberal intelligentsia hell-bent on a revolutionary transformation of society. Those of us who warned over the years that they were playing with fire were sneered at and smeared as Right-wing nutters who wanted to turn the clock back to some mythical golden age.

Now we can see what they have brought about in the unprecedented and horrific scenes of mob violence, with homes and businesses going up in flames, and epidemic looting.

Clearly, there is some as yet unidentified direction and co-ordination behind the anarchy. But what is so notable and distressing is that, after the first day when adults were clearly involved, this mayhem has been carried out in the main by teenagers and children, some as young as eight.

The idea that they should not steal other people’s property, or beat up and rob passers-by, appears to be as weird and outlandish to them as the suggestion that they should fly to the moon. These youths feel absolutely entitled to go ‘on the rob’ and steal whatever they want. Indeed, they are incredulous that anyone should suggest they might pass up such an opportunity. What has been fuelling all this is not poverty, as has so predictably been claimed, but moral collapse. What we have been experiencing is a complete breakdown of civilised behaviour among children and young people straight out of William Golding’s seminal novel about childhood savagery, Lord Of The Flies.

There has been much bewildered talk about ‘feral’ children, and desperate calls upon their parents to keep them in at night and to ask them about any stolen goods they are bringing home. As if there were responsible parents in such homes! We are not merely up against feral children, but feral parents. Of course these parents know their children are out on the streets. Of course they see them staggering back with what they have looted. But either they are too drunk or drugged or otherwise out of it to care, or else they are helping themselves to the proceeds, too. As David Cameron observed yesterday, there are clearly pockets of society that are not just broken, but sick

The causes of this sickness are many and complex. But three things can be said with certainty: every one of them is the fault of the liberal intelligentsia; every one of them was instituted or exacerbated by the Labour government; and at the very heart of these problems lies the breakdown of the family. For most of these children come from lone-mother households. And the single most crucial factor behind all this mayhem is the willed removal of the most important thing that socialises children and turns them from feral savages into civilised citizens: a father who is a fully committed member of the family unit.

Of course there are many lone parents who do a tremendous job. But we’re talking here about widespread social collapse. And there are whole areas of Britain, white as well as black, where committed fathers are a wholly unknown phenomenon. In such areas, successive generations are being brought up only by mothers, through whose houses pass transitory males by whom these women have yet more children — and who inevitably repeat the pattern of lone and dysfunctional parenting. The result is fatherless boys who are consumed by an existential rage and desperate emotional need, and who take out the damage done to them by lashing out from infancy at everyone around them. Such children inhabit what is effectively a different world from the rest of society. It’s a world without any boundaries or rules.. A world of emotional and physical chaos.

A world where a child responds to the slightest setback or disagreement by resorting to violence. A world where the parent is unwilling or incapable of providing the loving and disciplined framework that a child needs in order to thrive.Yet instead of lone parenthood being regarded as a tragedy for individuals, and a catastrophe for society, it has been redefined as a ‘right’.

When Labour came to power in 1997, it set about systematically destroying not just the traditional family but the very idea that married parents were better for children than any other arrangement. Instead, it introduced the sexual free-for-all of ‘lifestyle choice’; claimed that the idea of the male breadwinner was a sexist anachronism; and told girls that they could, and should, go it alone as mothers. This was the outcome of the shattering defeat of Tony Blair, in the two years or so after he came to power, at the hands of the ultra-feminists and apostles of non-judgmentalism in his Cabinet and party who were determined, above all, to destroy the traditional nuclear family. Blair stood virtually alone against them, and lost.

One of these ultra-feminist wreckers was Harriet Harman. The other night, she was on TV preposterously suggesting that cuts in educational allowances or youth workers had something to do with young people torching and looting shops, robbing and leaving people for dead in the streets. But Harman was one of the principal forces in the Labour government behind the promotion of lone parenthood and the marginalisation of fathers. If anyone should be blamed for bringing about the conditions which have led to these appalling scenes in our cities, it is surely Ms Harman. And this breaking of the family was further condoned, rewarded and encouraged by the Welfare State, which conceives of need solely in terms of absence of money, and which accordingly subsidises lone parenthood and the destructive behaviour that fatherlessness brings in its train.

Welfare dependency further created the entitlement culture that the looters so egregiously display. It taught them that the world owed them a living. It taught them that their actions had no consequences. And it taught them that the world revolved around themselves. The result of this toxic combination of welfare and non-judgmentalism was an explosion of elective lone parenthood and dysfunctional behaviour transmitted down through the generations at the very bottom of the social heap — creating, in effect, a class apart.

Once, children would have been rescued from their disadvantaged backgrounds by schools which gave them not just an education but structure and purpose to their lives. But the liberal intelligentsia destroyed that escape route, too. For its onslaught upon marriage — the bedrock institution of society — with a tax system that penalises married couples with a wife who doesn’t work, was replicated by an onslaught upon the understanding and very identity of that society. Instead of transmitting knowledge to children, teaching was deemed to be an attack upon a child’s autonomy and self-esteem. Thus it was that teachers adopted the ‘child-centred’ approach, which expected children not only to learn for themselves but also to decide for themselves about behaviour such as sexual morality or drug-taking.

The outcome was that children were left illiterate and innumerate and unable to think. Abandoned to wander through the world without any guidance, they predictably ended up without any moral compass. All of this was compounded still further by the disaster of multiculturalism — the doctrine which held that no culture could be considered superior to any other because that was ‘racist’. That meant children were no longer taught about the nation in which they lived, and about its culture. So not only were they left in ignorance of their own society, but any attachment to a shared and over-arching culture was deliberately shattered.

Instead of forging social bonds, multiculturalism dissolved them — and introduced instead a primitive war of all against all, in which the strongest groups would destroy the weak. Closely related to this was ‘victim culture’, in which all minority groups were regarded as victims of the majority. So any bad behaviour by them was excused and blamed on the majority.

In similar vein, all criminal wrongdoing was excused on the basis that the criminal couldn’t help himself, as he was the victim of circumstances such as poverty, unemployment, or as yet illusory cuts in public spending. The human rights of the criminal became seen as more important than the safety and security of his victims. Punishment became a dirty word. So the entire criminal justice system turned into a sick joke, with young hoodlums walking off with community sentences or Asbos which they held in total contempt. Mr Cameron has declared that all those convicted of violent disorder in these riots will go to prison. Really? Isn’t it more likely that they will end up on some community penalty which will see them taken on trips to Alton Towers to make up for their disadvantaged upbringing? This is the normal response of our sentimentalised and addle-brained criminal justice officials. In short, what we have seen unfolding before our horrified gaze over the past four days in Britain is the true legacy of the Labour years.

The social and moral breakdown behind the riots was deliberately willed upon Britain by Left-wing politicians and other middle-class ideologues who wrap their utter contempt for the poor in the mantle of ‘progressive’ non-judgmentalism. These are the people who — against the evidence of a mountain of empirical research — hurl execrations at anyone who suggests that lone parenthood is, in general, a catastrophe for children (and a disaster for women); who promote drug liberalisation, oppose selective education (while paying for private tutors for their own children) and call those who oppose unlimited immigration and multiculturalism ‘racists’. And the real victims of these people ‘who know best’ are always those at the bottom of the social heap, who possess neither the money nor the social or intellectual resources to cushion them against the most catastrophic effects of such nonsense.

Britain was once an ordered society that was the envy of the world — the most civilised, the most gentle and law-abiding. Can Broken Britain be put together again? David Cameron is commendably talking tough: but will he have the stomach for tough action? Will he, for example, remove the incentives to girls and women to have babies outside marriage? Will he dismantle the concept of entitlement from the Welfare State? Will he vigorously enforce the drug laws? Will he end the kid-glove treatment of ‘victim groups’, and hold them to account for their behaviour in exactly the same way as everyone else?

Repairing this terrible damage also means, dare I say it, a return to the energetic transmission of Biblical morality. Anyone heard from the Archbishop of Canterbury about the riots? Anyone care to guess what he will eventually say about them? Quite. When church leaders stop prattling like soft-headed social workers and start preaching, once again, the moral concepts that underlie our civilisation, and when our political leaders decide to oppose the culture war that has been waged against that civilisation rather than supinely acquiescing in its destruction, then — and only then — will we start to get to grips with this terrible problem. Until then, within the smouldering embers of our smashed and burned-out cities, we can only look upon the ruins of the Britain we have so dearly loved; the Britain that once led the world towards civilisation, but is now so tragically leading the way out.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Coalition United in Restoring Law, Order and Property


[Reader comment by Jez at 1024am, 11 Aug 2011]

Yes, i noticed that Dennis.

The Police spokesman on SKY (who’s colleagues and equivilents had just lost control of several key British Cities) angrily denounced the Eltham community for averting their borough being burnt down because their presence ‘tied up his police’ yet the massed, heavily armed Turks or huge number of Sikh’s or Muslims doing excatly the same didn’t get a mention.

They really do hate white communities it seems.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Family Flee Home as Isle of Dogs Rioters Burst in With Axe Threatening to Kill

A family was under siege from a mob of 50 they believe were out to kill them during last night’s rioting across London.

A neighbour of the Heatley family had to shelter them after they fled for their lives over two 7ft back garden fences in London’s East End. The mob broke into the house at the end of a quiet close in Millwall, on the Isle of Dogs, trashed it and looted what they could carry out-then set light to four cars parked in the cul-de-sac. Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman got a call at 11.30pm about Wayne Heatley’s family while out touring Whitechapel and Bethnal Green assessing the impact of the rioting.He rushed with his Administration team to the Isle of Dogs and immediately calmed angry neighbours-then arranged emergency bed and breakfast and later a permanent home for the family away from the Isle of Dogs.

“The mob attacked a white family who would have been killed if their Asian neighbour hadn’t taken them in and hidden them,” Mayor Rahman told the East London Advertiser tonight.

“This was totally unacceptable violence that has scarred this community-it was sheer thuggery.” Wayne Heatley, 48, who runs a breakdown recovery business in Poplar, was out collecting the youngest of his four sons when his older son David phoned to say a mob was smashing the house and the family was in hiding. David, 24, was battling to hold the street door while the marauding gang tried smashing it down with an axe as his mum Donna, 45, and girlfriend Lauren, 23, fled through the back garden. “He held the door as long as he could while the others got out,” said his dad. “Then he fled for his life out the back as the mob broke in. My family would have been killed if my neighbour hadn’t taken them in.”

The mob also set light to his Saab parked outside along with three other cars, including one belonging to a minicab driver who has now lost his income. David-recovering from his trauma-said: “I held onto the door for dear life by instinct while the family got away. “The mob was coming to kill us-they shouted they were coming for us.” The melee with the burning cars brought out dozens of angry neighbours which caused the mob to retreat. The neighbour who sheltered the family, Abdul Ahad, 52, said later: “The family were terrified-we had to bolt the doors and turn the lights out to protect them.” Mr Ahad dialled 999, then called Millwall councillor Maium Miah and mayor Rahman who arrived at the scene just before midnight. Wayne Heatley believes his family are innocent victims of ‘post code’ street gang warfare because the thugs found out they had moved to Millwall in E14 six years ago from Bow, which is E3. Detectives at Limehouse are investigating the incident.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: London Riots: Far-Right Political Party ‘Protect’ Eltham Residents

A far-right wing political party have claimed that they took to the streets of Eltham to “guide” the residents because the police were “unable to control the streets.”

The English Defence League (EDL) gathered in Eltham, south-east London, on Tuesday evening with around 200 residents from the area.

As the number of people swelled, the mood became increasingly violent as suspected looters were chased and set upon.

In one incident, a mob attacked a bus passing through the high street after black youths, seated on the upper deck, gestured through the window. Police were quick to respond, using dog-handlers to separate the two groups.

Jack England, EDL’s south-east regional organiser, claimed that the people on the streets were “patriots” and not vigilantes…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Right-Wing Extremists Hijacking the Vigilante Patrols Protecting Against Looters, Warn Police

Britain’s most senior police officer yesterday warned that Right-wing extremists could ‘hijack’ vigilante patrols protecting against looters.

Acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner Tim Godwin singled out the English Defence League and the British National Party as two organisations who might exploit the situation.

His warning comes amid intelligence that the EDL has successfully infiltrated vigilante groups in Enfield, North London — scene of some of the worst mindless violence and criminality on Sunday night — and Eltham in South East London.

Police warn the potential for this to ‘fuel the flames’ of an already fraught situation by adding a ‘violent racial element’ is ‘enormous and worrying.’

Residents claimed some English Defence League supporters were involved in organising vigilante patrols of young white men under the name Enfield Defence League on Tuesday night.

They split into three 30-strong groups in contact by mobile telephone and BlackBerry to patrol the streets.

Underlining police concerns, the EDL said yesterday: ‘Supporters have taken to the streets to help defend their communities and prepare for the clean-up operations that must follow the last few days of rioting and looting.

‘We already have members organising themselves in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Norwich and Birmingham, and are also looking to organise efforts in Bristol, Leeds, Wolverhampton, Salford, Nottingham, Leicester and Hull.’…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: The Breakdown of Family Life Has Led to Today’s Anarchy

THE wonder is not that the riots have happened; it is that they have not happened before. For over a generation we have conducted an experiment — to see whether the norms on which our society was built can be unravelled and replaced with an entirely new set of values. The evidence has been clear for years that the breakdown of the traditional family — of respect for elders, of discipline, of responsibility, of reward for work and of making one’s way — was having a terrible impact. Yet anyone pointing that out was dismissed as reactionary. In the wake of recent events, no one can deny that we have bred feckless, lawless males who pass on to their own children the same mistakes and multiply them with each new cycle of parenting. Ignore the hand-wringing excuses about jobs and poverty and young people’s disconnection from the rest of society. All of it is drivel, shamefully spouted by the very Left-wingers who have landed us in this. The culture which they have created has led to the events of the past five days. There was far worse unemployment in the Thirties and genuine grinding poverty, not the faux poverty of today, yet rioting was nowhere to be seen.

What is different now? Certainly a lack of discipline and the absence of the moral compass which for many generations was embedded across society — the difference between right and wrong. But what lies at the top of the pyramid of causes is the destruction which has been wrought to the family, for so long the mainstay of society and the means by which successive generations were civilised and socialised. In neighbourhoods such as Tottenham, where the rioting started, up to four in five families have no father living with them. This fatherlessness is the single most destructive factor in modern society. Pointing this out is not the same as blaming or making single mothers into scapegoats. Many do a heroic job in the circumstances but the facts are clear, unambiguous and devastating.

Since the Sixties when this social revolution began, the percentage of births outside marriage has risen from 5 per cent to 40 per cent.Not all of those children are fatherless. But even among cohabiting couples the chance of a subsequent break-up and fatherlessness is hugely increased. Around a quarter of all single-parent families are caused by the break-up of a seemingly solid cohabitation. Indeed, more than 40 per cent of all mothers will now spend some time living as a lone parent. Children who are brought up by single mothers are far more likely to have emotional, academic and financial problems. As the think tank Civitas put it in an authoritative report, they are “more likely to engage in behaviour associated with social exclusion, such as offending, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse or worklessness.”

The statistics are bleak. Single parents are 30 per cent less likely to know the whereabouts of their children than people who parent together. Single parents are more than twice as likely to report that their child’s behaviour is “upsetting” and they are 30 per cent more likely to report having significant arguments with their offspring.Among children aged five to 15, those from single-parent families are twice as likely to have mental health problems. They are more likely to score poorly on tests of reading, mathematics and thinking skills, and are 50 per cent more likely to report difficulties with teachers. They are also more likely to have behaviour problems or engage in antisocial behaviour. Boys from single-parent households are more likely to show hostility to adults and other children and to be destructive of property — both theirs and other people’s.

Contrary to the myth put out by those who still try to deny the benefit of a traditional family home, it is not the two parent set-up which mainly puts children at risk of abuse. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found that children are five times more likely to have experienced physical or emotional abuse in a single parent family.

But given this week’s events, these are the most salient statistics. Children aged 11-16 are 25 per cent more likely to have offended in the past year if they live in a single-parent family. While 15-year-old boys from such households are twice as likely to have taken drugs (22.4 per cent compared with 10.8 per cent) and three times more likely to be excluded from school.

These are among the reasons why boys from one-parent homes are twice as likely to be in prison by their early 30s. Fathers influence their children’s development through what psychologists call financial capital (using income to provide food, shelter, and resources that contribute to learning), human capital (sharing the benefits of their education, skills, and work ethic) and social capital (teaching emotional intelligence, self-esteem, competence and confidence). But with so many youngsters now being brought up in single parent homes on benefits, they never see the link between work and success, never learn to face consequences or take responsibility — the state is always there to pay — and never have to learn how they should behave.

There are other factors behind this week’s riots. But none are more fundamental than the break-up of the family.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: NATO Killing Civilians in Tripoli to Provoke Unrest

“People are at their wits’ end. Water, power, gas and petrol are in short supply,” an Italian businesswoman said. NATO denies civilian deaths accusations. Meanwhile, the National Transitional Council has fired its executive board and called for a new one. For the businesswoman, the change is just “an internal power struggle”.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) — “It’s a disgraceful situation. NATO continues to bomb and kill to push people to rise up and thus make it easier for rebels. Is this the way to protect and save the population?” said Tiziana Gamannossi, a Tripoli-based Italian businesswoman who spoke to AsiaNews about the latest NATO strike on the village of Majar (south of Zlitan, 160 km from Tripoli) last Tuesday, which according to the Libyan government killed at least 85 civilians. NATO has denied the allegation, saying that it only struck military targets. A spokesman for Gaddafi’s government stated instead that the dead include 33 children, 32 women and 20 men.

“It is a struggle every day in Tripoli,” Ms Gamannossi said as she described the hardships people face. “There are shortages of gas, water and power. The aqueduct, the gas lines and the oil pipeline to the refinery are in rebel control. Valves and pipes have been shut off. A gas cylinder used to cost three dinars, now it is 85. Petrol is in short supply because NATO has imposed a blockade to prevent Gaddafi’s army from using it. But what about the population?”

And that is not all. “Here, plants run on fuel and so are idle. Often, there is no power. There are rotating blackouts as the government shuts supply to this or that neighbourhood,” she said. “Sometimes, we can be without power for three or four days.”

Right now, it is worse, Gamannossi explained, because “It is Ramadan and fridges are full of food. There is little money and people try to buy as much as possible, but with this heat everything is going bad.”

After the killing of rebel leader Abdel Fattah Younes on 28 July, the rebel camp appears in difficulty. National Transitional Council (NTC) President Abdul Jalil sacked its executive board and asked its secretary, Mahmoud Jibril, to pick a new one.

For Gamannossi, this is a “clear sign that they are in difficulty because the three different political factions are involved in the NTC”. It is not a sign of “collapse” but it does signal “a power struggle for leadership; in short, a dirty war.” (GM)

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

Middle East

Erdogan and the Turkish Military: The Challenge Continues

The Turkish premier responds to the protest resignation of military leaders with new appointments, supported by the head of state Gul, emboldened by election victory two months ago. But the choices reveal a compromise. The new chief of staff accused of war crimes in the Kurdish provinces.

Ankara (AsiaNews) — The ongoing showdown between Erdogan and the military seems to have no end. And as was the case in the previous two years the showdown takes place in the month of August, and, coincidentally, at the height of Ramadan. In fact, July 29, 2011, two months after the Erdogan’s electoral victory, the heads of the armed forces, namely the Chief of Defense, the general Isik Kosaner followed by chiefs of the army, navy and air force have resigned from their posts. The reason for their resignation: disagreement with the government over the detention of 14 generals and approximately 160 senior officers, all in service, placed under investigation because indicted for conspiracy and for the investigation of the infamous “Ergenekon” (the “Turkish Gladio”) and Beyloz cases.

They claim to be unjustly accused and not yet on trial, and thus prevented from participating in planned upcoming promotions during the month of August. The only one not to resign was the head of the gendarmerie, Gen. Necdet Ozel, who is also responsible for territorial security intelligence, which refers to by the Ministry of Interior as well as the police. The latter, as is well known, is very close to Erdogan.

Generalissimo Kosaner took the opportunity of his resignation to rail against pro-government media, guilty, in his view, of tarnishing the value and prestige of the Turkish Armed Forces, seen as pillars of contemporary Turkey. These are certainly sensational facts, this is the first time in Turkish history that military has resigned; to date in fact, it was armed forces which forced politicians to resign, even to the point of imposing the death sentence, as was the case 50 years ago when the then Prime Minister Menderes was hanged because accused of trying to oppose the excessive power of the military. This, therefore, marks a radical change which seems shocking and hard to get used to, as noted by the journalist of “Sabah” newspaper Mehmet Barla.

Erdogan’s response was immediate, backed by President Gul, who thanks to the constitutional amendments of September 12, 2010 and subsequent to the decrees of March 2011 have essentially established the independence of political power from the Supreme Council of Defense, the decisions of which until then, were considered final. On August 4, 2011 Erdogan and Gul have proceeded to appoint as head of the army the only one who has not resigned, General Necdet Ozel and have even appointed him provisional Chief of Staff of defense.

Following this Erdogan convened under his absolute and authoritative presidency — also for the first time in the history of Republic of Turkey — the Supreme Defence Council, with only the presence of nine general of the 14 demanded by the Statute of the Council itself. As already mentioned, four generals had resigned and the fifth, Admiral Bilgin Bolandi, is under investigation for Beyloz and Ergenekon.

Three days ago, the Supreme Defense Council confirmed General Necdet Ozel as Chief of staff, and the appointment of leaders of the military (Hayri Kivrikoglu), aeronautics (Mehmet Erten), Navy (Emin Murat Bilgel) and gendarmerie (Bekir Kalyoncu). The new composition was the result of compromises and a degree of magnanimity on the part of Erdogan, also because of the impossibility of finding material to fill in the missing pieces, given that 14 generals are still under investigation, without upsetting at the same time the leadership of the Turkish Armed Forces.

The result of these compromises was the appointment of Bekir Kalyoncu to the head of the gendarmerie, as his name appears on the list those of the accused in the Ergenekon case, and the marginalization of Aslan Guner, former Deputy Chief of Staff of Defense, to the direction of the Academy of War. He is guilty of not having greeted the wife of President Gul because covered with the veil. Magnanimity, as we have said, on Erdogan’s part since he has extended the temporarily suspended career of the 14 generals indicted for conspiracy. Another important fact is that the new appointments have been approved and communicated, for the first time, by the Presidency of the Republic and not by the Chief of Staff, as was customary until now.

Various comments have been made about this latest confrontation. First and foremost, from Erdogan, who, without mentioning the fact reiterated the urgent need for constitutional reform. Conservative and nationalist elements regard the gesture of the military leaders as a “harakiri”, because they delivered themselves into the hands of Erdogan, while the newspaper Taraf, which over the years has supported the investigation of various conspiracies against military cadres involved in Beyloz and Ergenekon and the subsequent cleaning up of the armed forces, considered it as a failure and compromise by Erdogan. Milliyet in contrast, expression of the old establishment, described the events as a good start and made their own the words of President Gul, who granting an extension to the 14 generals under investigation said: “If an extension of their general’s mandate were not granted, the new Chief of Staff would meet with great difficulty in his work. This gives him a good start, “said Gul.

Murat Belge, highest expression of civic conscience in Turkey, has said: “It is not enough to appoint a new Chief of Staff for Defense in Turkey to confirm democratic processes. Democracy does not happen by decree but it is a civil achievement, so we must take care. “ Regarding the new Chief of Defense, Ozel, there was no negative comment about him in the media, except that of a group of German parliamentarians (Ulla Ozpeke, Anrej Hunk, Ingrid Remmers, Heidrun Dietrich and Harold Weinher) who speaking to local media accuse the new chief of defense for war crimes in the Kurdish provinces in1999, when he was head of the gendarmerie.

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

Increasingly Confident Turkey Risks ‘Geopolitical Megalomania’

Last month’s election victory made Turkish Premier Erdogan and his government stronger than ever. While Turkey continues to be an indispensable partner for the West, Erdogan’s power and ambition are raising concerns.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UN Stalemate on Syria as Syria Admits “Some Mistakes”

US imposes sanctions on Syria and President Assad’s relatives. The latter admits errors by his security forces. For Russian ambassador, Syria’s opposition must take part in reforms, which cannot occur overnight.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The UN Security Council ended a two-hour closed door meeting on Syria without showing any signs that they can overcome their divisions and put an end to the violence in the Mideast country. France, Great Britain and Portugal want Damascus to stop its crackdown, and threaten more sanctions. The soft line pushed by Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa excludes UN sanctions in favour of dialogue.

The 15-member Council opened with a report by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who said that 13,000 people had been arrested since the start of the unrest, more than 3,000 disappeared and at least 2,000 killed.

For the representatives of Western nations, the Council should take further steps if violence is not stopped immediately.

The United States imposed new economic sanctions against Syria, targeting the Commercial Bank of Syria, which has been accused of buying non-conventional weapons abroad and working with a North Korean bank involved in ballistic missile exports.

US sanctions were also imposed on Syriatel, Syria’s main mobile phone company, which is owned by Rami Makhluf, President Bashir al Assad’s cousin.

The Security Council, which is scheduled to meet in a week, will not likely approve sanctions against the Assad regime. Instead, the latter has admitted that its security forces have made “some mistakes” in quelling protests in a meeting with a diplomatic delegation from Brazil, India and South Africa

According to envoys from the three countries, Assad said that he was committed to reform and multiparty democracy. For his foreign minister, “free and fair elections to the Parliament will be held in Syria before end 2011”.

Syria’s old ally, Russia, is equally against the West’s hard-line position. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he did not believe sanctions against Syria would be helpful, and that Syria’s opposition must take part in the reform, which cannot however occur overnight.

In Syria, arrests and clashes continued today, even though the Turkish ambassador to Damascus said he had visited Hama, a hotbed of unrest, and had seen the army pullout, following a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu and President Assad in which the former asked his Syrian host for moderation.

Images of a destroyed minaret in the southern town of Deir ez-Zor (pictured) have appeared online.

According to unverified claims, more people were killed or wounded today, this according to activists.

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

South Asia

Afghan Women Swap Burka for Uniform

More and more Afghan women are breaking with tradition in their male-dominated society, taking jobs and participating in public affairs.

They include 1,300 or so who have joined the police force who, despite facing discrimination, make an “immense” contribution to improving the welfare of other women, Marie-Thérèse Karlen, of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), tells

After three decades of war, international troops are due to withdraw in 2014, leaving the Afghan government with full responsibility for keeping order. In this context, the police force and army will be more important than ever.

Karlen is Deputy Country Director for Afghanistan and is based in Kabul.

Marie-Thérèse Karlen: As in any other work that brings women to the forefront of society, policewomen face many difficulties not only before and during the recruiting process, but also in their daily work. Especially in the rural areas, many families oppose their daughters joining the national police for security and cultural reasons.

On duty, women face harassment and denial of merit and promotion from their male colleagues.

However, the contribution these women make to improve the situation for other women is immense: being in charge of the police family response units they serve as an access point for women to talk about incidents of domestic violence and file formal complaints.

Furthermore, as part of investigation teams, policewomen can access the female family members during house searches, which is hardly possible by a purely male team. Because of these important contributions to women and the country’s overall security, the perception of at least part of the population towards policewomen is gradually changing in a positive way.

M-T. K.: Targeted attacks against female public officials is indeed a problem and prevents many women from participating in politics or public affairs.

Since 2002 the SDC has been contributing to the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality through various projects with its partners in the governance and livelihood sector.

In parallel, the SDC has been part of several coordinating bodies and helped to ensure that women’s rights and gender equality are included in the national priority programmes.

M-T. K.: On the programme level, the SDC mainstreams gender through projects in the governance sector such as promoting women’s rights, capacity building, supporting and monitoring gender-sensitive legislation, and enhancing women’s participation in sub-national and national policy making.

In the livelihood sector, the SDC supports gender-sensitive initiatives to promote equitable distribution of resources. Project components include income generation, kitchen gardening, health promotion, literacy, support of women’s shuras [councils] and awareness-raising among male community elders.

In addition, the SDC has “women-only projects”. These are small-scale actions to address specific needs of women such as supporting driving lessons for women and community-based vocational and literacy training, fistula awareness-raising, the establishment of kindergartens or the provision of equipment for female sports tournaments.

On the coordination level, with other donors, SDC participates in and contributes to meetings, strategies and initiatives and uses these national and sub-national platforms for advocating for a national dialogue on gender.

M-T. K.: When it comes to security, we have to differentiate between the regions and between the rural and the urban areas. The situation in the north, where the SDC implements rural development projects through partner NGOs, has become more tense.

This requires an intense security set-up by our partners. We have to adapt our way of work as well: for example we do not travel to the field by road but fly into the provincial capitals. However, activities are on-going and it is still possible to implement development projects there.

Kabul has gone through a time of increased tension with several major incidents over the last couple of months. This requires a constant assessment of the situation, measures for adaptation and a lot of flexibility from all sides…

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

New Bollywood Film Sparks Storm

A new Bollywood film tackling the issue of caste quotas in government jobs and education has raised a storm for its alleged anti-reservation stance. The state government of Uttar Pradesh has banned it for two months. The government of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has banned a controversial Hindi film called “Aarakshan” (Reservation) just two days before it is due to be released. The decision to ban the film, which was due to hit the screens on Friday, was taken after a recommendation by a high-level official committee that had been set up by the government of Uttar Pradesh that is run by Dalit leader Mayawati. After watching the movie, the official committee said that it felt its screening would create a “law and order problem” in the state. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister ordered the ban on security groundsUttar Pradesh Chief Minister ordered the ban on security grounds

The committee said it was of the view that the film’s dialogues could create hatred and adverse reaction in society. Uttar Pradesh is a populous state whose population is largely made up of Dalits (previously known as “Untouchables”), Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. After UP, the Punjab government has banned the screening of Aarakshan in the state. The ban will stay until the state screening committee previews the movie and submits its report.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Mystery Still Surrounds Fate of Al-Qaeda Military Chief

Islamabad, 11 August (AKI) — Mystery still shrouds the fate of one of the top Al-Qaeda linked operational commanders and strategists, Ilyas Kashmiri, according to Asia Despatch.

On the one hand, well-placed sources both militants from multiple outfits and local government officials are persistently confirming his death in a June 3rd drone’s strike. On the other hand, a leading Pakistani news channel, quoting anonymous sources within Pakistani and US intelligence, claimed recently that Kashmiri is not only alive but also spearheading his violent campaign in the Pak-Afghan border region.

In a statement to local media Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, in late 40s, was declared dead by his own group Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI) in the June 3rd CIA operated drone’s strike in the outskirts of South Waziristan tribal area’s main town of Wana. A local government official also confirmed his death in the said drone attack.

“I am fully confident that Kashmiri has been killed. All evidence suggests that he is no more,” He told Asia Despatch on condition of anonymity.

Ilyas Kashmiri was the commander of the 313 Brigade of HUJI. He is alleged to have orchestrated some of the most devastating attacks on Pakistani military installations across the country. These include the October 2009 attack on army headquarters in the northern garrison city of Rawalpindi and the siege of the Pakistani naval base in Karachi on May 22nd.

The Karachi naval base attack left scores of security personnel dead and inflicted severe damage on the operational strength of Pakistan’s navy by destroying two of its US-made P-3C Orion aircrafts and partially damaging a third one.

“I have his eyeglasses. Our Emir (leader) has left this mortal world. Why are you doubting his death?” said a reliable militant source from Wana in a recent interview. Another source further revealed that meetings of HUJI’s Shura council are underway to nominate Kashmiri’s successor.

The reports of Kashmiri’s death are further endorsed by Al-Qaeda’s recent publication Nawai Afghan Jihad. The latest issue published a eulogy paying tribute to the commander and vowing to continue his mission. Another militant source has also confirmed his death and even claimed to have been personally present at his funeral. “I buried him with my own hands. So there is nothing left to be doubtful about,” the unnamed source said in an interview.

However, leading security analysts have doubted the authenticity of HUJI’s statement regarding Kashmiri’s death because the official HUJI’s logo was missing. Traditionally, militants avoid instant confirmation of their commanders’ deaths until a new leader has been appointed in order to avoid possible disarray in militants’ ranks.

The US State Department declared Kashmiri a “specially designated global terrorist,” adding him to a list of high-ranking global militants.

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

Far East

Experts Wonder if China and the US Are Now on Par

The end of US hegemony and China’s rise have long been forecast. With the US up to its neck in debt and China’s economy still going strong, some say the view might be vindicated. Others are wary of hasty conclusions.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

World’s Biggest Brewery Enjoys Success in Asia

Belgian-based drinks giant AB InBev, which owns some of Germany’s best-loved beers, has recorded big sales in the Asia-Pacific region. This makes up for a steady decline in beer consumption in Europe and the US.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Anti-Immigrant ‘Plot’ In Denmark

Politiken, 10 August 2011

A secret espionage network consisting of a hundred people and called ORG is working towards a Denmark “cleansed” of immigrants, reports the Danish newspaper Politiken. According to the newspaper, which gained access to a private online forum, ORG has existed for 20 years. It spies on the Danish left and feeds information on its most prominent personalities to the most radical of the far-right Danish groups, such as “Den danske forening”, “the Danish Association”. The organisation also wants to “settle accounts” with the “traitors” who have permitted immigration or publicly supported it.

In 2009, a police officer member of the network was sentenced to probation for abusing his position to obtain information on “political opponents”. Several of ORG’s founders have been members of the leadership of the populist Danish People’s Party (FP) and, according to photos posted on the organisation’s forum, celebrate the summer solstice by partying around a cross of fire, an ancient Danish rite. The head of ORG, Jesper Nielsen, declined to meet with Politiken’s journalists, but wrote that “ORG does not want this publicity, because we assume that the non-public character of the organisation will be misinterpreted.

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

Nepali Govt Planning Tighter Controls on INGOs

Kathmandu says it wants to improve coordination, but associations respond that its real goal is to control groups working for immigrants, democracy and human rights.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — Nepal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare wants to tighten controls over international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) operating in the country. The latter however accuse the government of persecuting them in the name of transparency.

The ministry has created a monitoring unit with the National Planning Commission and set in motion a process to amend the Social Welfare Council Act in order to give the Ministry’s Facilitation Recommendation Committee (FRC) the power to check how INGOs carry out their projects.

“A technical team is working on the Act which broadens the FRC ambit and will give it more authority to manage INGO activities,” Ministry Undersecretary Ram Prasad Bhattarai said.

The government has decided to monitor INGOs following criticism that their activities are not transparent. Under the amended act, all INGOs in Nepal will come under the FRC.

“The attempt is to enhance the coordination of INGOs with the government as well as making one door policy more effective,” Bhattarai said.

However, NGOs are not convinced and remain highly critical of the government’s policy. In fact, they accuse the authorities of persecution.

“We are ready if government wants to see our economic transparency but transparency in our activities may hamper our work. So, we request government not to interfere in our works in the name of transparency,” said Baburam Neupane, Country Representative for Aide et Action International Nepal.

International NGOs are convinced that government wants to persecute those that work for minorities, democracy and human rights in order to force them to leave the country.

According to the Association of Non-government Organisations, local NGOs and INGOs are hampered in their emergency operations because the government wants to approve all their activities before they implement them.

More than 100 international NGOs are active in the country, also helped by the work of Christians.

Caritas is the best-known NGO. Thousands of families benefit from its assistance in case of emergencies as well its help to improve their life, farming and education.

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

Culture Wars

Australia’s First Lesbian and Gay Retirement Village Approved

The very first retirement village exclusively for homosexuals and bisexuals has been given final approval in Australia, today.

The 120-unit complex will be situated in Ballan, Victoria and is estimated to cost $30 million.

Featuring an indoor heated spa, bar and croquet lawn, it has been billed as “a haven” by its developer Peter Dickson and will be built in five stages.

According to the Geelong Advertiser, work is expected to start early next year and interest has already been piqued by potential buyers in England and the United States, as well as locals.

Dickson confirmed that they’d hired an engineer and were now meeting with potential builders.

A spokesman for Moorabool Shire Council said the project was first mooted some years ago and he could not recall there being any objections.

At the 2006 census, Ballan had a population of 1,807.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Going Godless: Does Secularism Make People More Ethical?

Boston University Psychologist Catherine Caldwell-Harris has studied the difference between religious and secular minds.

Non-believers are often more educated, more tolerant and know more about God than the pious. A new wave of research is trying to figure out what goes on in the minds of an ever-growing group of people known as the “Nones”.

Barry Kosmin is a different kind of market researcher. His data focuses on consumers targeted by companies like or World Overcomers Christian Church TM. The sociologist analyzes church-affiliated commercial entities, from souvenir shops to television channels and worship services.

But the most significant target of Kosmin’s research is the consumer group most likely to shy away from such commercial products: secularists. “The non-religious, or Nones, hold the fastest-growing world view in the market,” says Kosmin. “In the past 20 years, their numbers in the United States have doubled to 15 percent.”

The director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in the US state of Connecticut, Kosmin is among the few researchers focused on the study of non-believers. This umbrella covers various groups including atheists, agnostics and humanists, as well as those who are simply indifferent to religion.

Secularists make up some 15 percent of the global population, or about 1 billion people. As a group, this puts them third in size behind Christians (2.3 billion) and Muslims (1.6 billion). Despite their large numbers, little is known about this group of people. Who are they? And if not religion, what do they believe in?

“Sometimes I feel like Christopher Columbus on an expedition to an unknown continent,” says Kosmin. “For example, many believe that the US population is steadily becoming more religious — but this is an optical illusion. Many evangelicals have simply become more aggressive and more political.”…

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


The Most Accurate English Translation of the Koran

[at the bottom of the the linked article]

Did you know that 87% of the world’s Muslims are cannot even read the Koran? It is written in Arabic and most Muslims cannot read Arabic. Many in the 57 Muslim countries are illiterate. They rely on the “Clerics” to tell them what the Koran teaches.

Most English translations of the Koran have been done by these Clerics. They have white-washed what the Koran actually teaches. Can you read Arabic? Can you prove that the Koran actually says what the Clerics have told us it does? Should we trust them?

Usama Dakdok has spent 4 years translating the Koran into English. Arabic is his native language. His word-for-word translation of the Koran shows us what it really says. It reveals what is being taught behind closed doors in the Mosques. You can order it here. Have you ever read the Koran? How do you know what it teaches?

[Return to headlines]