Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/18/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/18/2008There are several articles worth looking at tonight concerning immigration in Sweden. Sweden is experiencing relatively rapid population growth, all of it due to immigration. Also check out the articles about violence in Malmö and sham marriages in Finland.

Thanks to AA, JD, RRW, Steen, TB, Tuan Jim, turn, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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1 Plus 1 Equals 20 Extra Votes for Franken
Activist Who Fought Bell Ringers Explains Motives
Ariz. Police Say They Are Prepared as War College Warns Military Must Prep for Unrest
Blagojevich Gave Big Contracts to Donors
Imposter President Obama
Minnesota: School Board Green Lights Eminent Domain
Nepotism Nation: Dems Embrace Dynasty Politics
Ohio: Armed Officers Raid Home, Hold Mom, Kids for 6 Hours
Why Are We Naming Schools for Paul Robeson?
Europe and the EU
Björk and Audur Capital Support Innovation
Boisterous Protest Disrupts Iceland Cabinet Meeting
Can Václav Klaus Put the Brakes on Europe?
Denmark: Professional Groups Slam Headscarf Ban
Germany: Berlin’s Poor Should Catch Rats, Says Politician
Hundreds of Immigrants Busted for Sham Marriages
Pampered MEPs Don’t Know What Hard Work is
Report: 60% of UK Muslim Schools Linked to Jihadists
Sweden: Unrest Continues Near Vacated Malmö Mosque
UK: Church Mustn’t Cave in to the Secularists
North Africa
Egyptian Offers Daughter to Iraqi Shoe-Thrower
Middle East
German Spy Revelations Put Steinmeier on the Defensive
Israel: Iran Could Attack US With Nuclear Bomb
Katyn Executioners Named
Russia’s Gazprom Threatens to Cut Gas to Ukraine
Far East
“It Was Definitely a Labour Camp” — Finnish Banker Documents North Korean Construction Site
Photo: Performing Monkeys Attack Trainer in China
Scuffles in S Korea Parliament Over Bid to Pass US Trade Pact
Two Dead, 36 Hurt in Philippines Store Bombings
Mexico Opens Call Center for Illegals — in Arizona
Somalis Who Entered US Illegally Cite Harassment and Discrimination
Sweden to Prioritize Deportations in 2009
Sweden: Segregation ‘Widespread’ for Immigrants
Culture Wars
Children and Parents of the Religious Intact Family Do Best on Child Development
Fox News [sic] Airs ‘Simpsons’ Episode Challenging Islamophobia
Student Says School Persecuted Him for Being Conservative
The Impending Collapse of Our Enemies
UN Security Council Authorizes Violation of Nations’ Sovereignty


1 Plus 1 Equals 20 Extra Votes for Franken

It’s bad enough that the Republican Party can’t prevent Democrats from voting in its primaries and saddling us with the New York Times’ favorite Republican as our presidential nominee. If the Republican Party can’t protect an election won by the incumbent U.S. senator in Minnesota, there is no point in donating to the Republican Party.

The day after the November election, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman had won his re-election to the U.S. Senate, beating challenger Al Franken by 725 votes.

Then one heavily Democratic town miraculously discovered 100 missing ballots. And, in another marvel, they were all for Al Franken! It was like a completely evil version of a Christmas miracle

As strange as it was that all 100 post-election, “discovered” ballots would be for one candidate, it was even stranger that the official time stamp for the miracle ballots printed out by the voting machine on the miracle ballots showed that the votes had been cast on Nov. 2 — two days before the election.

Democratic election officials in the miracle-ballot county simply announced that their voting machine must have been broken. Don’t worry about it — they were sure those 100 votes for Franken were legit.

Then another 400-odd statistically improbable “corrections” were made in other Democratic strongholds until — by the end of election week — Coleman’s lead had been whittled down to a mere 215 votes.

Since then, highly irregular counting methods have added to Franken’s total bit by bit, to the point that Coleman is now ahead by only 188 votes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Activist Who Fought Bell Ringers Explains Motives

BREA — The man who prompted the U.S. Postal Service to shoo away Salvation Army bell ringers says he just wants the law obeyed.

Postal Service regulations prohibit any organization from soliciting on its properties. But Salvation Army bell ringers had been allowed to become a mainstay in front of the Brea post office during the holidays for 25-plus years.

On Nov. 24, when Sean Thomas saw the iconic bell ringers at the Birch Street post office — staffed by employees of the Evangelical Christian Credit Union — he decided to speak up. The Salvation Army is a Christian organization.

“How can we have a church set up a collection facility in front of a federal building?” the 65-year-old Brea resident said today; he is chairman of human resources for the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fullerton. “I wanted to know who allowed these people to be here. … I don’t think it is appropriate.”

Thomas, who is gay, said he was partly motivated because he views the Salvation Army as anti-gay. A Salvation Army official today disputed that characterization.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ariz. Police Say They Are Prepared as War College Warns Military Must Prep for Unrest

IMF warns of economic riots

A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.

“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” said the War College report.

The study says economic collapse, terrorism and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned Wednesday of economy-related riots and unrest in various global markets if the financial crisis is not addressed and lower-income households are hurt by credit constraints and rising unemployment.

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted.

State and local police in Arizona say they have broad plans to deal with social unrest, including trouble resulting from economic distress. The security and police agencies declined to give specifics, but said they would employ existing and generalized emergency responses to civil unrest that arises for any reason.

“The Phoenix Police Department is not expecting any civil unrest at this time, but we always train to prepare for any civil unrest issue. We have a Tactical Response Unit that trains continually and has deployed on many occasions for any potential civil unrest issue,” said Phoenix Police spokesman Andy Hill.

“We have well established plans in place for such civil unrest,” said Scottsdale Police spokesman Mark Clark.

Clark, Hill and other local police officials said the region did plenty of planning and emergency management training for the Super Bowl in February in Glendale.

“We’re prepared,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Deputy Chief Dave Trombi citing his office’s past dealings with immigration marches and major events.

Super Bowl security efforts included personnel and resources from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. military’s Northern Command, which coordinated with Arizona officials. The Northern Command was created after 9/11 to have troops and Defense Department resources ready to respond to security problems, terrorism and natural disasters.

Northern Command spokesman Michael Kucharek and Arizona Army National Guard Major. Paul Aguirre said they are not aware of any new planning for domestic situations related to the economy.

Nick Dranias, director of constitutional government at the libertarian Goldwater Institute, said a declaration of marital law would be an extraordinary event and give military control over civilian authorities and institutions. Dranias said the Posse Comitatus Act restricts the U.S. military’s role in domestic law enforcement. But he points to a 1994 U.S. Defense Department Directive (DODD 3025) he says allows military commanders to take emergency actions in domestic situations to save lives, prevent suffering or mitigate great property damage.

Dranias said such an emergency declaration could worsen the economic situation and doubts extreme measures will been taken. “I don’t think it’s likely. But it’s not impossible,” he said.

The economy is in recession. Consumer spending is down, foreclosures are up and a host of businesses are laying off workers and struggling with tight credit and the troubled housing and financial markets. The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank and U.S. Treasury Department have pumped more than $8.5 trillion into the economy via equity purchases of bank stocks, liquidity infusions, Wall Street and bank bailouts and taxpayer rebates. U.S. automakers are seeking more than $14 billion in federal loans with fears they could fall into bankruptcy without a bailout. The U.S. housing and subprime lending-induced recession also has hit economies in Europe, Japan and China.

Gov. Janet Napolitano’s office declined comment on emergency planning and possible civil unrest. Napolitano is president-elect Barack Obama’s pick for secretary of Homeland Security, an agency that oversees airport security, disaster response, border security, customs and anti-terrorism efforts.

As governor, Napolitano sent National Guard troops to Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in 2003 in response to terrorism threats.

Glendale Police spokesman Jim Toomey said the West Valley suburb developed new emergency plans with the approach of Y2K computer changeovers leading up to the year 2000 and police have updated those plans several times including after 9/11. Toomey said strategies to deal with public unrest usually involve deploying personnel and equipment to deal with specific incidents while still providing usual services.

           — Hat tip: turn[Return to headlines]

Blagojevich Gave Big Contracts to Donors

When Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich committed $8 million in state money to a local children’s hospital this fall, federal authorities said he wasn’t going to let the precious dollars out of his hands so easily. He demanded a $50,000 campaign contribution from the hospital´s chief executive in return.

It’s among the various accusations against Mr. Blagojevich, who was named last week in a federal criminal complaint on charges of trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama´s now-vacant U.S. Senate seat.

But a review by The Washington Times of state contracts and campaign contributions shows that those weren´t the only things Mr. Blagojevich didn’t let out of his office without a price tag.

Nearly half of the $664,000 Mr. Blagojevich’s campaign fund collected from corporations and organizations in just the first six months of 2008 came from groups with lucrative state contracts.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Blagojevich Was Bookie, Says Federal Informant

The ABC7 I-Team has learned that an attorney who went undercover for the FBI in the late 1980’s says he told federal authorities years ago about wrongdoing by Blagojevich.

His name is Robert Cooley.

Cooley was a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago in the late 1980’s who became one of the most potent witnesses against Chicago corruption, testifying for federal prosecutors in cases that resulted in dozens of convictions.

Cooley says that before Rod Blagojevich got into politics he was a bookmaker on the North Side who regularly paid the Chicago mob to operate.


He told ABC7 that Mr. Blagojevich regularly paid a so-called street tax to Robert “Bobby the Boxer” Abbinanti, a convicted outfit gambling collector. In the early 1980’s, Abbinanti was working for convicted West Side mob boss Marco D’amico. Bookies pay street taxes to the crime syndicate in exchange for being allowed to operate such a racket.

“I predicted five years ago when he ran the first time that he was a hands on person who would be selling every position in the state of Illinois and that it exactly what happened,” said Cooley.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Imposter President Obama

The foolish people who work for the mainstream media and that includes cable news networks (CNN, MSNBC, FOX) have either excoriated anyone who believes a candidate running for president of these united States of America must prove his citizenship, or have completely ignored this issue, aren’t even worth commenting on any longer. These networks and their anchors are nothing but a disgrace to their profession.

Obots (Obama faithful) continue to say it doesn’t matter that Obama’s father was foreign born and governed by Britain. They parrot because Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a natural born citizen at birth, that automatically qualifies Obama as natural born at birth. Nothing could be further from the truth. On, the official mouth piece for Obama, you will see this statement:

“When Barack Obama Jr. was born on Aug. 4,1961, in Honolulu, Kenya was a British colony, still part of the United Kingdom’s dwindling empire. As a Kenyan native, Barack Obama Sr. was a British subject whose citizenship status was governed by The British Nationality Act of 1948. That same act governed the status of Obama Sr.’s children.”

If you read (or listen) to the Wong Kim Ark case cited above, this is the case in a nutshell. Wong Kim Ark, was a young Chinese man born in San Francisco, California. His parents were subjects of the Emperor of China even though they were permanently domiciled in California. Ark left the U.S. for a short period of time for a visit to China. Upon his return, he was denied entry back into the U.S. because he was not a natural born citizen at birth. This was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices gave this case a thorough, historical scrubbing and in the end their decision was against Wong Kim Ark: “‘In other words, the fourteenth amendment does not exclude from citizenship by birth children born in the United States of parents permanently located therein, and who might themselves become citizens; nor, on the other hand, does it arbitrarily make citizens of children born in the United States of parents who, according to the will of their native government and of this government, are and must remain aliens. Tested by this rule, Wong Kim Ark never became and is not a citizen of the United States, and the order of the district court should be reversed.”

The justices go into great detail about the Fourteenth Amendment as it relates to this issue as well as treaties. Obama’s mother was born in the U.S. There is no disputing that fact. His father was Kenyan born. Obots claim that Obama never gave up his citizenship either as a result of his father being foreign born or when his mother married Lolo Soetoro. The Wong Kim Ark case covered that argument as well:

‘That said Wong Kim Ark has not, either by himself or his parents acting for him, ever renounced his allegiance to the United States, and that he has never done or committed any act or thing to exclude him therefrom.’

That argument proved fruitless as the court ruled against Wong Kim Ark.


Obots are very passionate about their support of this man who has sealed up his life tight as Scrooge. Obama slaps his supporters in the face with each passing day by refusing to address this issue other than spending a whopping one million dollars to date to fight the exposure of all his lies. But, what can one expect since Obama’s base is Chicago, Illinois, a state that has produced some of the most corrupt elected officials in this history of this country.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Minnesota: School Board Green Lights Eminent Domain

Despite emotional and sometimes teary-eyed objections from homeowners, a school board has approved using eminent domain to take privately owned land and develop new schools as part of its “Red Plan.”

About 40 community members voiced their objections at a Duluth, Minn. school board meeting last night, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

Residents pleaded with officials for more than an hour, asking them not to seize their homes.

Then the board voted 6-1 for the plan.

Member Gary Glass was the only person to vote against it.

Homeowner Tina Legarde told officials, “If the board approves a resolution to use eminent domain now or in the future — you will resemble a bully on a playground who takes by force that which he wants.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Nepotism Nation: Dems Embrace Dynasty Politics

Barack Obama’s path to the presidency included beating what had been one of the nation’s most powerful families. But, in an unusual twist, his election last month is helping accelerate the trend toward dynasty politics.

His secretary of state will be Hillary Clinton, the wife of the former president. The Senate seat she’ll vacate is being pursued by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of a president and the niece of two senators. Joe Biden’s Senate seat may go to his son Beau. Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, Obama’s pick for interior secretary, could end up being replaced by his brother, Rep. John Salazar.

And Obama’s own seat could go to the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. — less likely now in light of developments in the Rod Blagojevich scandal — or to the daughter of Illinois’ current House speaker.

The U.S. Senate could end up looking like an American version of the House of Lords — and Republicans have begun to take notice.

“Democrats seem to lack a common man who can just win a good, old-fashioned election,” said Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “They’ve got seat-warmers, seat-sellers and the making of pillows for the seats of royalty. No wonder the public wonders what’s going on in Washington.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ohio: Armed Officers Raid Home, Hold Mom, Kids for 6 Hours

An Ohio family whose members have served their friends and neighbors with food cooperative services involving bulk and discount supplies has been targeted in a raid by armed law enforcement officers wearing black fatigues who forcibly rounded up the mom and 10 children and held them for six hours.

The raid prompted a complaint filed today on behalf of the family by the Center for Constitutional Law at the Buckeye Institute. It alleges authorities “made a haphazard unannounced entry into the property with guns drawn, as other officers surrounded the property, with guns drawn,” then “confiscated the family’s personal food supply, personal computers, and personal cell phones.”

The complaint names the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Lorain County General Health District and the state’s attorney general. A spokeswoman at the Department of Agriculture said its officers were at the scene in an advisory role. A spokeswoman at the county health agency refused to comment except to explain it was a “licensing” issue regarding the family’s Manna Storehouse.


The Buckeye Institute’s Maurice Thompson said he took legal action in Lorain County Court of Common Pleas because of alleged violations of the Stowers’ constitutional rights.

“The use of these police state tactics on a peaceful family is simply unacceptable,” said Buckeye Institute President David Hansen. “Officers rushed into the Stowers’ home with guns drawn and held the family — including 10 young children — captive for six hours. This outrageous case of bureaucratic overreach must be addressed.”

The Buckeye Institute argues the core issue — the right to buy food directly from local farmers, distribute locally-grown food to neighbors and pool resources to purchase food in bulk — are rights that do not require a license.

“The Stowers’ constitutional rights were violated over grass-fed cattle, free-range chickens and pesticide-free produce,” said Thompson, the institute’s Center of Constitutional Law director. “Ohioans do not need a government permission slip to run a family farm and co-op, and should not be subjected to raids when they do not have one. This legal action will ensure the ODA understands and respects Ohioans’ rights.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Are We Naming Schools for Paul Robeson?

In 1934, one could understand Robeson’s enthusiasms as well. He had suffered a goodly share of the everyday indignities that befell blacks in America at the time and was likely as ignorant as his fellow Americans of Stalin’s capacity for evil.

By 1937, when Robeson returned to Russia for a lengthy concert tour, he had no such excuse. Stalin had already unleashed his famously paranoid “Terror” against all suspected intriguers, the entire American community among them.

Robeson pretended not to notice. “Here was one who was wise and good,” said Robeson of Stalin after the tour. “The world and especially the socialist world was fortunate indeed to have his daily guidance. I lifted my son Pauli to wave to this world leader.”

Pauli, then 10, could see what his father refused to: the parents of his school chums were being arrested and assassinated. In his memoirs, Pauli lamented how his father had turned his back even on his closest friends.


By the time Stalin died in 1953, no sentient adult could have failed to understand the depths of his depravity, none, of course, but the winner of the 1952 Stalin Peace Prize, Paul Robeson.

“Yes, through his deep humanity, by his wise understanding, he leaves a rich and monumental heritage,” Robeson eulogized his beloved Uncle Joe. “He leaves tens of millions all over the earth bowed in heart-aching grief.”

Stalin also left tens of millions buried under that same earth. That educators continues to ignore Stalin’s infamy and honor Robeson useful idiocy tells us just about all we need to know about the public school establishment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Björk and Audur Capital Support Innovation

Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk and Icelandic financial services provider Audur Capital have established a joint venture fund called BJÖRK, after the singer. The fund will be used to invest in seed companies in Iceland.

“It’s Audur’s idea and it’s a great honor that [the fund] is named after me,” Björk told Morgunbladid when she and Audur’s chief executives, Halla Tómasdóttir and Kristín Pétursdóttir, presented their initiative yesterday.

It is hoped that the fund will have close to ISK 2 billion (USD 17 million, EUR 12 million) in capital and that companies will be able to apply for grants from the fund next year. Audur Capital has already contributed ISK 100 million (USD 867,000, EUR 614,000) to the fund.

Björk said she will assist Audur Capital with the venture fund in any way possible. The singer has publicly expressed her support for Icelandic seed companies, both domestically and abroad, in the past months, bringing attention to their operations.

“It was often necessary but now it’s of vital importance. I hope that both seed companies and people with money will take an interest in this initiative,” Björk encouraged, adding that she is pleased about the fund’s focus on environmentally-friendly operations.

Tómasdóttir, executive chairman of Audur Capital, said the idea for the fund was inspired by Björk’s work with the grass root. “It became clear after the banks collapsed and we were faced with these unbelievable times in Iceland that innovation and seed companies have had it very difficult.”

Tómasdóttir stated that a new Iceland has to be more diverse than it used to be. “We especially look towards deploying money to sustainable companies.”

The fund will only support companies that are financially profitable, socially responsible in terms of business methods and environmentally friendly. “We believe there are many investors out there who have limited stock investments to choose from in the current environment,” Tómasdóttir said.

Tómasdóttir added that the government should present a policy on innovation. “But I think we have reached a point where the grass root and the people in this country have become more powerful and they should present a vision for the future rather than the government.”

Investing in seed companies is risky, Tómasdóttir admitted, but still the right way to go.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Boisterous Protest Disrupts Iceland Cabinet Meeting

“I’m surprised at just how peaceful Icelanders are,” said Margret Kristin Blondal, protesting alongside her mother, Solveig Hauksdottir outside the Cabinet meeting house yesterday. She said it’s unbelievable that nobody has yet started ripping up paving stones to throw. She believes that the protests could be a lot more violent. “Maybe that’s what the government is waiting for,” she says.

Around two hundred protesters gathered at the cabinet meeting house yesterday and tried to prevent government ministers from gaining entry. Police officers escorted the ministers in through a back entrance. Children at the neighbouring Tjarnarborg nursery school looked on excitedly until police requested the blinds be drawn on the windows, reports. Most of the protesters then entered the house’s garden and heckled ministers as they struggled on the icy back steps on their way into the meeting.

The protesters were still there and heckling loudly as the ministers were escorted back to their cars by police and a crush of journalists, both Icelandic and international. Some minor pushing and shoving between police and protesters followed, but the demonstration was disbanded when both sides agreed to leave the scene at the same time together.

Einar K. Gudfinsson, Minister of Fisheries said he was very disappointed that the protesters chose to behave the way they did by “Preventing democratically elected representatives of the people coming into their workplace”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Can Václav Klaus Put the Brakes on Europe?

Czech President Václav Klaus has encountered approval — both in Prague and elsewhere — for his new approach to critiquing the European Union, which dispenses with the vulgar nationalist behavior he has thus far displayed. On Jan. 1, his country will assume the EU’s six-month rotating presidency.

President Václav Klaus is an expert when it comes to etiquette. He speaks very quietly, forcing his counterpart to listen carefully. No, he says, he is not an opponent of the European Union, but an “EU realist” — in contrast to the many afflicted with “EU naiveté,” those who “passively and indiscriminately approve of everything coming from Brussels.”

Klaus, a former professor of finance, probably felt that the members of the delegation from Strasbourg who paid him a visit at Hradjin, Prague Castle, two weeks ago were also victims of “EU naiveté.” The chairmen of the political parties’ parliamentary groups in the European Parliament, including President Hans-Gert Pöttering, a member of Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Green Party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, had traveled to Prague in an attempt to appeal to the conscience of Klaus, a known Euro-skeptic. His country will assume the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on Jan. 1.

It will be the Czech Republic’s first time at the helm since it became an EU member state in December 2004. Prague will face especially difficult external conditions in its new role. The financial crisis has also reached the Czech Republic, and the EU has taken steps to mitigate the recession on the continent. Can a country whose president has made a name for himself as a critic of the EU for years even shoulder this responsibility?…

…And Klaus, 67, wants it to stay that way. Three weeks ago, he descended from Prague Castle to testify as a witness before the constitutional court in Brno, the country’s second-largest city. The judges were being asked to decide whether the treaty violates the Czech constitution.

Klaus was in top form. “Even your jobs are in jeopardy,” he told the judges. He argued that the Treaty of Lisbon would allow Europe, removed from the will of voters, to finally triumph over the sovereignty of its individual member states. But the president’s appeal left the judges unconvinced.

Klaus has coined a special Czech version of EU critique. It is calm and intellectual, like its prophet, who consistently argues in the name of freedom — especially the freedom of the markets. He dispenses with bombastic nationalist rhetoric, instead criticizing the EU for its bureaucracy and democracy deficits. In an interview with SPIEGEL, he warned against a “gradual process of standardization.” In Klaus’s view, Brussels produces a constant flow of ordinances that, though binding on EU members, were never ratified by any parliament…

…But this is far from the end for the president, who remains the Czech Republic’s most popular politician by far. After years as honorary party president, Klaus now plans to turn his back on the ODS and launch a new political movement. Its most important characteristic will be its critical stance toward Europe. Even Social Democratic and Communist voters appreciate Klaus’s unbending stance toward Brussels. More than half of these voters are also suspicious of Brussels.

His EU skepticism, which dispenses with nationalist pathos, also falls on receptive ears internationally. Klaus could even attempt to cooperate with other EU opponents and forge an international group of EU critics keen to put the brakes on Brussels.

During his most recent state visit to Ireland, the Czech president made time for a private dinner with Declan Ganley, a multi-millionaire who was one of the key sponsors of the Irish No campaign leading up to the referendum over the Treaty of Lisbon with his Libertas party. Using the same programmatic name, Klaus’s associates apparently plan to form a Czech branch in the near future.

Klaus ought to get along well with Britain’s Tories, as well. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sealed off her country against dictates from Brussels. A portrait of the Iron Lady is believed to grace Klaus’s desk on the Hradjin, and the president is making sure that, in the coming six months, the blue flag with the yellow stars will not be hoisted next to the Czech flag on the ramparts of his castle.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Professional Groups Slam Headscarf Ban

A proposed ban on judges wearing headscarves is viewed by most profession representatives as unnecessarily questioning a judge’s abilities and impartiality

A government proposal to ban the wearing of headscarves by judges in the courtroom has received a flood of criticism from groups ranging from lawyers to human rights organisations — all of whom believe the law is an insult to Muslim judges.

A broad parliamentary majority supports the proposal, created in November in the wake of a heated national debate over whether women wearing the Muslim headscarf in the workplace were putting religion over duty.

Former parliament candidate Asmaa Abdol-Hamid started the headscarf furore in April 2007, saying she would continue to wear her headscarf on the job even if elected as an MP. The dispute was further taken up by the Danish Court Administration earlier this year, which ruled that judges should not be banned from wearing religious symbols.

A wave of professional groups have issued a statement that blasts the government’s proposal as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unfortunate’. Among those signing the statement were the associations representing lawyers, judges, courts, and administrators, plus the Foundation for Due Process and the Institute for Human Rights.

‘It’s completely unnecessary to pass this law,’ Jørgen Lougart, head of the Danish Judges Association, told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. ‘It is precisely because judges are so well educated and schooled in law that it’s taken for granted they live up to the codex of being and appearing impartial.’

Brian Mikkelsen, the justice minister, said that the proposal sought to ensure that there would never be any doubt about a judge’s political or religious neutrality.

‘Although it’s still in the decision process, we’ve made the proposal for preventive reasons,’ he said. ‘We’re addressing the rise of religious fundamentalism in the public domain.’

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was not moved by the professional group statement, either, saying the law would be ‘carried out as agreed to’ by parliament. (rc)

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Germany: Berlin’s Poor Should Catch Rats, Says Politician

A Berlin politician has come under fire for suggesting that poor people should be encouraged to catch rats by offering them 1 euro per dead rodent. The intriguing idea entails some gnawing practical problems and has been called “inhuman and cynical”.

Picture the scene — hundreds of poor people armed with clubs chasing rats through the streets of Berlin.

There’s something Dickensian about the notion, but it has been proposed by a Berlin politician who is now being criticized for suggesting that the city’s poor should be enlisted to tackle the growing rat infestation in the center of the German capital.

“Especially people who usually collect bottles could get one euro for every dead rat,” Henner Schmidt, head of the business-friendly Free Democrat party in the Mitte district of Berlin, told Berliner Kurier newspaper this week.

The party may formally propose the scheme at a meeting of the district council on Thursday, unless it changes its mind in the wake of some damning criticism and negative media coverage.

“It’s inhuman and cynical to send poor people out to chase rats so that Berlin can solve its rat problems,” said the German Forum for People Without Income.

“If the FDP actually goes ahead with its absurd and inhuman proposal on Thursday in the district council, we can only call on Berlin’s long-term unemployed to chase Berlin FDP politicians rather than hunting rats,” said Martin Behrsing, the group’s spokesman.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hundreds of Immigrants Busted for Sham Marriages

Sham marriages for the sake of residence permits have become a lucrative business in Finland. The daily Turun Sanomat reports that courts rejected 300 residence permit applications last year that were based, say authorities, on marriages of convenience.

All in all last year, 1,930 people applied for residence permits on the basis of marriage to a Finn.

Increasingly, marriages are being arranged for large sums of money. The newspaper interviewed one Moroccan man, who says that the cost of a marriage runs from thousands to tens of thousands of euros.

Jaakko Sonck, of the National Bureau of Investigation, says that punishments for fraudulent residency applications are very mild.

The most frequent customers of false marriages are Russians, Africans, and Thai citizens.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Pampered MEPs Don’t Know What Hard Work is

The European Parliament’s ineffable contrariness has rarely been better illustrated than by yesterday’s vote to scrap Britain’s opt-out from the 48-hour working week directive.

We are entering what looks like a long and damaging recession from which no European country will be spared. Across the continent, millions of people will lose their jobs and thousands of businesses will go to the wall.

The response of MEPs? Why, to load on more red tape, of course.

Given the pampered existence enjoyed by so many of them, it should come as no surprise that they believe no-one should work more than 48 hours a week, even if they want to, or need to.

As one of their number, our own Daniel Hannan, has pointed out, it is not so much the attempted limitation on working hours that is so objectionable, it is the bureaucracy that goes with it. New timekeeping logs, inspections, enforcement machinery — the full panoply of the Brussels bureaucracy will be wheeled out.

Big companies will have the machinery to deal with this; it is small and medium size firms that do not have personnel departments that will be under the cosh.

In the vote, a majority of Labour MEPs defied the party line, which is to maintain the opt-out. That they could do so with apparent impunity speaks volumes for the collapse of Labour discipline in the European Parliament.

The Government insists that it will fight to retain the British opt-out. The issue is now due to enter “conciliation” talks. If it remains unresolved, ministers say the status quo will comply continue.

We admire their confidence — but do not share it. This week’s vote shows that the EU machine now has the 48-hour opt-out firmly in its sights and has shown in the past that it is prepared to wage a long attritional war to get its way. It could be a bruising battle.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Report: 60% of UK Muslim Schools Linked to Jihadists

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who is informed about these issues, except perhaps those who figured it must be more than 60%.

Damian Thompson has kindly sent me notice of his report, “Exclusive: 60 per cent of Britain’s Muslim schools have extremist links, report says,” at his Telegraph blog, December 17.

Britain’s Muslim schools are facing a devastating blow to their reputation from a report suggesting that over 60 per cent of them are linked to potentially dangerous Islamic fundamentalists.

An early version of the report, entitled When Worlds Collide, alleges that of the 133 Muslim primary and secondary schools it surveyed, 82 (61.6 per cent) have connections or direct affiliations to fundamentalists. The 133 schools are in both the private and public sectors and supposedly subject to Ofsted inspection. If one includes 24 Saudi schools “about which little is known” (the report’s phrase), then the fundamentalist proportion rises to 67.5 per cent.

You won’t be surprised to learn that it has also discovered that some of these schools teach “repugnant” beliefs about the wickedness of Western society and Jews….

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Unrest Continues Near Vacated Malmö Mosque

Fresh disturbances erupted on Wednesday evening near the basement location which had previously served as a mosque in Malmö’s Rosengård district.

Fireworks were aimed at police and several fires were lit when police arrived to blockade the basement office with containers.

Tensions in the area were still high as of 12.30am Thursday morning, according to police in Skåne.

One man was arrested during the evening on suspicions of preparing to commit assault. Three other men and boys were also detained.

The youngest, born in 1992, was taken home to his parents.

The police’s main goal for the evening was to ensure that emergency crews could perform their duties and extinguish the fires which continued to burn in the area.

More than ten fires were lit over the course of the evening.

The basement offices, which had previously served as a mosque for the Islamiska kulturföreningen (‘Islamic Cultural Association’), had been occupied since November 24th to protest against the landlord’s decision not to renew the association’s lease for the space, which it had held for the past 15 years.

On Monday, police forcibly removed the remaining three protesters from the space in front of a crowd of angry onlookers.

Emotions have been running high since the forced evacuation, resulting in sporadic disturbances throughout the week.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Church Mustn’t Cave in to the Secularists

Religion has as much right in the public sphere as the secularism that sometimes claims ownership of it, argues George Pitcher.

It’s widely said, with some justification, that it’s difficult to know what Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, thinks and, indeed, what he is saying. That’s partly to do with the complexity of his intellect and partly to do with his refusal to talk in the sound-bites that characterise our media age (and there will be plenty of people with ruder reasons for his opaqueness).

Today, in an excellent profile of him by James Macintyre in the New Statesman, he raises the prospect of disestablishment of the Church of England as really no big deal, only to say that it must be firmly resisted. The caricature is of an other-worldly academic who can’t make his mind up.

You may not be surprised if I take a different view. It seems entirely valid to say that disestablishment is of no great consequence now that the Christendom model no longer prevails in Britain. Church and State no longer co-extend in the manner that they did in the days of the British Empire. We may not like that, but it is true.

This is an entirely different proposition from the regular rubric of the British people: “We are a Christian country.” Yes, we are. But that history and heritage would be unaltered by disestablishment. The United States, after all, has no constitutional connection between its state and its Christian churches and is probably the world’s most robust representative of Christendom; Christians are never more influential than when they are independent of the state apparatus (look at the Vatican).

So, as Archbishop Williams says, it most assuredly would not be “the end of the world” if the Church of England disestablished. Where, however, we have to be most careful is in indulging the motives of those most keen on disestablishment.

There are secularists — indeed there are atheists — who would say that they don’t buy into the Church in any spiritual or mysterious way, but that they are glad it’s there, for reasons of social cohesion, our island history or aesthetics. But there are also secularists, of a more fundamentalist and prescriptive nature, who would want to remove religion entirely from the public sphere, to make it a personal idiosyncrasy and pursuit, behind closed doors and away from politics and from public policy.

They are entitled to their view. But as long as there are those who believe that their public life is informed by their faith then this essentially political repression should be resisted. In short, religion has as much right in the public sphere as the secularism that sometimes claims ownership of it.

If I am told that my job title is no longer a statist one, I can handle that. If I am told that I am to be excluded from affairs of state because of it, then I am going to fight for its retention. Disestablishment of the Church is not to be confused with dismemberment of it.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Offers Daughter to Iraqi Shoe-Thrower

CAIRO (Reuters) — An Egyptian man said Wednesday he was offering his 20-year-old daughter in marriage to Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush in Baghdad Sunday,

The daughter, Amal Saad Gumaa, said she agreed with the idea. “This is something that would honour me. I would like to live in Iraq, especially if I were attached to this hero,” she told Reuters by telephone.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

German Spy Revelations Put Steinmeier on the Defensive

With revelations continuing to pour in about the importance of German intelligence during the US invasion of Iraq, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is on the defensive. On Wednesday, General Tommy Franks added his praise for the German spies in Baghdad.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is not having a good week. And on Thursday, it promises to get even worse. Steinmeier is scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee currently investigating the extent to which German intelligence agents assisted the US military during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Steinmeier has consistently suggested that German agents in Baghdad prior to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” were given instructions that “precluded active support of combat operations.”

But a weekend report in SPIEGEL, citing interviews with 20 current or former US military officers, indicates that those instructions may not have been followed. Many of the military men say that information from the German agents was important and highly valued — and that it also played a role in the planning of some parts of the invasion. As a result of the weekend report, Steinmeier’s questioners on Thursday have said they intend to question the foreign minister much more aggressively…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Israel: Iran Could Attack US With Nuclear Bomb

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, appealed to world leaders to act now to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear programme.

“If it built even a primitive nuclear weapon like the type that destroyed Hiroshima, Iran would not hesitate to load it on a ship, arm it with a detonator operated by GPS and sail it into a vital port on the east coast of North America,” Mr Barak told a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Indicating the possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran, Mr Barak said: “We are not taking any option off the table, and we recommend to the world not to take any option off the table, and we mean what we say.”

His comments came as a Russian news agency reported that the Kremlin had confirmed that it will deliver a new air defence system to Iran. The Russian foreign ministry denied reports of the deal in October.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Katyn Executioners Named

The Russian Memorial Society NGO, investigating the “Katyn massacre”, has discovered a list of names of Soviet secret agents responsible for murdering thousands of Polish officers in 1940.

The man in charge of the mass murder is thought to be personally responsible for the death of 50,000 people over a long and bloody career.

Researcher Nikita Pietrov has got hold of a list of officers of the NKVD — a forerunner to the KGB — who participated in the Katyn massacre, where up to 22,000 Polish officers were murdered in prison camps and forests in Russia.

The head executioner turns out to be the then 45-year-old Vasilij Blochin. Making his first kill of Russian dissidents in 1927 he went on to execute people regularly for the next 29 years, causing the death of an estimated 50,000.

Records indicate that Blochin was especially trusted by Stalin, who used him to eliminate many of his enemies, real and imagined. The Katyn massacre was among the executioner’s special tasks for which he received considerable reward once Stalin signed their fate in the spring of 1940.

Researcher Nikita Pietrov claims that the Soviet secret police rewarded not only high ranking officers involved in the murders, but also drivers, typists and ordinary soldiers.

The Soviets initially claimed that that Nazi soldiers were responsible for the Katyn massacre. But after an investigation in the 1990s, Moscow admitted that it was in fact the NKVD who were responsible but have since refused, both to label the massacre as ‘genocide’, or carry out prosecutions against those still alive who took part.

Nikita Pietrov of NGO Memorial Society is trying to establish and reveal the names of all Katyn executioners who are still being protected against war crime trials by the Russian authorities.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Russia’s Gazprom Threatens to Cut Gas to Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Gazprom state natural gas giant warned on Thursday that it will cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Jan. 1 if the country fails to pay off a $2 billion gas debt.

The tough warning from Gazprom officials will likely unnerve European nations who fear a replay of supply shortages in January 2006 amid a pricing dispute between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine then siphoned Russian gas intended for Europe from a transit pipeline crossing its territory after Gazprom cut supplies.

Gazprom Sergei Kupriyanov warned on Thursday that the company will not sign a gas contract with Ukraine for next year unless the debt is paid. “That will mean that we won’t have any legal reason to provide Ukraine with gas starting Jan. 1,” Kupriyanov said at a news conference.

Kupriyanov said Ukraine had rejected all Gazprom’s compromise proposals and that talks are deadlocked.

Kupriyanov’s warning followed a statement from Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko who said that Ukraine has already paid its debt for the gas consumed in the summer and autumn.

Yushchenko said the state gas company Naftogaz on Wednesday transferred $800 million to pay off the debt and that another $200 million would be wired soon.

But Kupriyanov said that the payment mentioned by Yushchenko only covered Ukraine’s debt through the end of October. He said that Ukrainian officials made it clear that no further payments will be made before the year’s end. He adding that by Jan. 1 Ukraine’s debt will reach $2 billion.

Ukraine’s Naftogas made no immediate comment on Kupriyanov’s statement.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

“It Was Definitely a Labour Camp” — Finnish Banker Documents North Korean Construction Site

[TJ: Can someone lend these people a few bucks to buy a clue?]

A trip to the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea can be like going to the theatre

By Inka Kovanen

The view from a train window in October 2008 was jaw-dropping: hundreds of skinny men with pickaxes in their hand on a construction site beside the tracks. Soldiers with submachine guns or automatic pistols stood guard while the men broke up the rocks into smaller pieces with the axes. The location was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), on a train heading from the Chinese border and bound for the capital Pyongyang.

Finnish bank manager Pekka Järvelä from Oulu sat in his train compartment out of sight of his minders from the North Korean State Security Department and snapped the kind of image that seldom makes its way outside the closed dictatorship. “It was definitely a labour camp. The first impression was of concentration camps. The area was not fenced in, but armed soldiers were guarding the work being carried out. It looked as if it was connected with building the railway.” Since this is North Korea it is by no means certain that what Järvelä witnessed was in fact a camp for forced penal labour. North Korea denies the existence of such facilities, but according to the United States government and international human rights organisations, something like 150,000 to 200,000 people are in camps like these in the country.

Järvelä and his wife were among a group on a tour of North Korea. The trip was a surprise gift for his wife’s birthday: “I wanted to offer my wife something she had never experienced before, and North Korea is the last closed bastion of communism on the planet”, said Järvelä.

In the course of a week-long visit, banker Järvelä often felt he was in the middle of some strange theatrical production. It was impossible to know what was true and what was an elaborate choreographed artifice. “When we encountered well-dressed people, for instance a mother leading a child in school uniform, it crossed my mind to wonder if these two had really chanced into our path on their way to school, or were they planted there for us…”

The Pyongyang Metro is one of the riddles of the DPRK. According to the official information on the subject, the two lines have a total of sixteen or seventeen stations (one serves both lines), but foreigners are permitted only to ride between two stops on one of the lines. Järvelä made the short trip. The starting station was a magnificent underground marbled hall with crystal chandeliers, and the Finns were met by an empty Metro carriage. Three local passengers got in, and the end stop on the ride was an equally splendid marble hall.

There have been suspicions that the Metro itself is merely a handsome piece of window-dressing built for the foreign tourists. “You really don’t know what to think”, muses Järvelä. “I kept an eye on the entrances to a nearby Metro station from our hotel window: people did go down into the tunnel from time to time or emerge from the doors.”

Travellers in a foreign group have next to no opportunities for making contact with ordinary North Koreans. It is not possible to leave the confines of the hotel by oneself. Aside from the Finnish tour guide, the group is accompanied at all times by two local guides. Then again, the Pyongyang residents seem in no great hurry to make the acquaintance of their visitors — quite the opposite. “They most certainly knew that we were being watched, and so were they.”

Fortunately chance played its hand on a trip to Myohyang-san (“the Mysterious Fragrant Mountain”), a mountain and tourist attraction north of the capital. The tourist party’s car broke down shortly before arrival at the destination, and the foreign guests had to walk into a village. “The car was soon fixed up. But in the meantime I managed to shoot off a few sharp images of people, for instance of a woman who was pushing a mentally-handicapped child in an old-fashioned wooden baby carriage.” Järvelä is a keen amateur photographer, so he knew right away he had got some tremendous images.

Things were made somewhat easier for him by the presence of a 300mm telephoto lens, which by some miracle he had managed to bring across the border into North Korea. Not surprisingly, his photography antics also attracted the interest of the policemen of the State Security Department. Back at the hotel, Järvelä was picked up from the dinner table in the middle of the evening meal. In an adjacent room he was ordered to remove from the camera memory all the images that contained people.

Only landscapes and pictures of monuments were allowed to pass censorship. Some of Järvelä’s pictures did get rescued, however, as they were safe on another memory card, taken out of the camera earlier. “After it was over, the policeman apologised and said ‘I’m sorry’ in English”, recalls Järvelä with some amusement. The regime’s control does, it seems, stretch everywhere. When Järvelä bought a stamp from a Pyongyang shop with an image of Finnish ski-jumper Matti Nykänen on it, and then posted off a card to himself in Finland, two days later an official turned up at the hotel to say that the card was still short one stamp. “I added a second stamp and the card went off.”

Järvelä did not see any signs during the trip of the starvation that is said to be rife in North Korea. It is quite simply kept hidden from the eyes of foreign tourists. As a keen ornithologist, Järvelä was also astonished at the lack of birds to be seen in the country. “I saw only a few cranes, and hardly any small birds anywhere. It did make you wonder a bit what had happened to them all…”

In spite of everything, Järvelä was left with a positive feeling after the trip to North Korea. “It is undeniably very safe there, and the people seemed cheerful. The only rather angsty experience was being called in for questioning over the photography. There was admittedly a certain adrenaline rush after that.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Photo: Performing Monkeys Attack Trainer in China

When one of the monkeys refused to ride on a child’s bicycle in a street performance in Sizhou, in eastern China, their owner beat it with a stick.

Although they were tied to the man with ropes attached to their collars, the monkeys appear to have decided to fight back.

The two animals came to the defence of the third monkey, grabbing the stick from the man, pulling on his ear and biting his head.

When he dropped his cane, on monkey snatched it up and began beating the trainer on the head until he broke the stick, witnesses said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Scuffles in S Korea Parliament Over Bid to Pass US Trade Pact

[TJ: I should note that with strong, long-term regional allies like the RoK, Japan and Colombia (and it blows my mind that we have not ratified the FTA with Colombia yet — the only folks we’re hurting by not ratifying it are our manufacturers — Colombian producers already get to import their products tariff-free to the US through the Andean Free Trade Agreement regardless of whether or not we sign the CFTA) — I am completely in favor of maintaining or expanding free trade agreements — while I am most certainly not in favor of unlimited free trade agreements with countries like China and Russia. On a lighter note, if we could get some action like this in Congress, C-SPAN could go to pay-per-view. By the way, if some of this barricade action looks a little familiar, there were some similar actions by the GNP immediately prior to the presidential elections this past February when the liberals tried to introduce a bill to disqualify then-presidential-candidate Lee Myung Bak (current president) from the presidential race — or something along those lines.]

SEOUL (AFP) — South Korean MPs barricaded themselves into a parliamentary committee room Thursday after opponents smashed down the door, as tempers flared over a bid to ratify a US free trade pact.

The scuffle began as dozens of the governing Grand National Party’s (GNP) members, helped by security guards, occupied the room to start procedures to approve the deal.

About 150 opposition legislators and aides pushed or elbowed other ruling party legislators outside the closed room, witnesses said.

Some opposition members with a chisel and hammers broke down a door and used a nearby fire hose to spray water into the room but GNP legislators inside immediately put up a barricade with sofas and chairs.

Security guards used a fire extinguisher to stop the scuffle.

The opposition MPs staged a sit-down protest after their repeated attempts to break into the room failed. A GNP member was hospitalised for injuries in his hand, according to Yonhap news agency.

The GNP insisted that the pact, signed by Seoul and Washington last year, should be approved by a full parliamentary session before the end of this year. The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) says South Korea should not ratify it until the US Congress moves to do so.

“We are in a battlefield today,” GNP parliament leader Hong Jun-Pyo told reporters, vowing to push a motion for ratification through the 29-member committee as a prelude to approval by the full house.

The GNP has 172 seats in the 299-member legislature compared to 83 for the DP.

Hong rejected a proposal from his DP counterpart, Won Hye-Young, of opposition cooperation in endorsing the pact within 30 days after Washington requests its own legislature to approve it.

After hours of confrontation, the GNP completed procedures to put the motion to a vote at the committee. Committee chief Park Jin urged the opposition to ratify the pact through discussion but gave no timetable on the vote.

The GNP has vowed to push for ratification this year in hopes of pressing the US Congress also to move swiftly. Both legislatures must endorse it to bring it into operation.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and President George W. Bush agreed during an April summit to push for approval of the FTA this year.

For the US, the deal with South Korea would be its biggest since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

Some estimates say it could boost two-way trade, worth 78.4 billion dollars last year, by up to 20 billion dollars in coming years.

However US president-elect Barack Obama has called the deal “badly flawed” and said it does too little to narrow a huge imbalance in the auto trade in Seoul’s favour.

South Korea has ruled out any renegotiation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Two Dead, 36 Hurt in Philippines Store Bombings

ILIGAN, Philippines: Bombs ripped through two department stores in the southern Philippine city of Iligan Thursday, killing two people and wounding at least 36 in an attack blamed by the authorities on Muslim separatists.

Police swarmed the bloodied, upturned baggage check-in counters of the Unicity store and the neighbouring Jerry’s Shoppers’ Plaza in downtown Iligan to collect evidence shortly after the early afternoon blasts, an AFP photographer on the scene said.

Local investigators and witnesses said the bombs were made from mortar shells and were hidden in packages that were checked into the counters. The devices went off within 15 minutes of each other, they added.

Two people, including a baggage counter clerk at one of the stores, were killed, Master Sergeant Armando Amoroso, a military investigator on the scene, told AFP.

Thirty people were being treated at the Doctor Uy hospital for blast injuries, hospital staff said, while six other injured people were awaiting transport from the scene of the blast, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

Iligan is a city of 300,000 on the north coast of Mindanao island, where Muslim separatists have been waging a decades-long guerrilla campaign and have been suspected of harbouring militants with ties to Al-Qaeda.

“Our suspects are the lawless MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) group, because of the type of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that were used,” army Colonel Nicanor Dolojan told reporters.

Hardline MILF units went on a killing and burning spree of Christian villages across Mindanao in August after the Supreme Court blocked a draft peace agreement that would have given the MILF control over vast areas of the south.

President Gloria Arroyo has since shelved peace talks and demanded that the MILF surrender the rebel leaders blamed for the attacks before talks could resume.

Arroyo “condemns the ruthless and violent acts of terrorism against our communities,” her spokesman Anthony Golez told reporters.

Dolojan said the motive for Thursday’s bombings was “to sow terror in the area.”

Closed-circuit television footage from one of the bombed shopping centres showed two male suspects in traditional Muslim garb depositing an item at the baggage counter, the military official said.

City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the local government had received threats by telephone over the past two weeks.

“They are threats to bomb establishments — department stores, churches, schools, public places, markets,” he said over local television.

- AFP/vm

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Mexico Opens Call Center for Illegals — in Arizona

The Mexican government has opened a special call center in Arizona to provide a sympathetic ear for Mexican citizens caught up in the crackdown on illegal immigration in the desert state.

Officials at the Mexican consulate in Tucson said they opened the center last week. It is available 24 hours a day to field complaints from Mexican nationals about their treatment in the border state, where as many as half a million illegal immigrants live and work in the shadows.

“We want to offer a human voice at the other end of the line, so they can feel protected and know that someone is here for them,” said Alejandro Ramos, head of the consulate’s Department of Protection.

Feelings run high about illegal immigration in the United States, where an estimated 12 million undocumented workers and their children hide from authorities.

After the U.S. government failed to pass legislation overhauling immigration laws last year, many U.S. states and some local authorities have acted to clamp down on illegal immigrants. Arizona passed a law to block the hiring of illegal workers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Somalis Who Entered US Illegally Cite Harassment and Discrimination

I have been wondering for months whether Somalis were entering the US illegally across our borders and this article confirms they must be. Although, the article in the Houston Chronicle never actually tells us how these Somalis came to be in the US and why they are detained, I don’t know any other reason they should be in a facility such as this one in Texas other then illegally having entered the US.

Reading between the lines, these men must have been caught, detained and then asked for political asylum. As we reported previously there are immigration lawyers jumping at the chance across this land to help the “persecuted” get into our refugee system. If granted asylum they will get all the perks of the refugee program: subsidized housing, food stamps, English lessons, a caseworker to help them find jobs, etc.

Attorneys for 10 Somali men held in an immigration detention center in South Texas allege that federal immigration officials segregated and interrogated their clients after they left a Muslim prayer service, saying they were subject to “discriminatory and unethical” questioning.

Lawyers for the asylum seekers said the men — detained at the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall — were targeted because they were Muslim and from Somalia. The lawyers contend that their clients were segregated into a separate dormitory for two to three days after they left a Dec. 8 prayer service at the detention facility celebrating the Muslim holiday, Eid.

The Somalis were not given the opportunity to contact their lawyers, according to a letter the attorneys sent Monday to several federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties…

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]

Sweden to Prioritize Deportations in 2009

Swedish police are mulling chartering special planes in anticipation of the government’s wishes to step up the pace of deportations of the thousands of unsuccessful asylum seekers estimated to be in the country.

“2009 is going to be a tough year for a lot of people,” said Dan Eliasson, the head of the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), to the TT news agency.

On Tuesday, a Swedish charter plane landed in Baghdad carrying twelve people whose asylum claims had been denied by Sweden.

Ahead of the trip, the twelve had been taken to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport from Örebro and Västerås in central Sweden, Gävle on the country’s east coast, Växjö in south central Sweden, as well as from Malmö and Stockholm.

The trip was the first of its kind to Iraq from Sweden.

A few weeks ago, a similar transport was arranged to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia to return 42 rejected asylum seekers.

“We’re going to have more missions like this. The government has said that 2009 will be the year of the return, which puts the burden on us to bring a lot of people to their respective homelands,” said Peter Nilsson of the border police in Stockholm County.

So far most deportees have been returned piecemeal when space was available to regular commercial flights. But airline pilots are loathe to accept passengers which put up a struggle when brought on board their aircraft.

“A lot of people have learned that lesson. These are people who don’t want to return voluntarily. That’s why we’re doing these kinds of collective trips — to make it safer, more dignified, and more economic,” said Nilsson.

The Migration Board’s Eliasson reckons that 2009 will be a busy year, especially for the police.

“Many who have had their applications denied should go home, and many of them don’t want to. That’s understandable, as they often return to a life with difficult conditions. The police have a very difficult task. I’m expecting people to raise the bar, and that’s what’s on the way,” said Eliasson.

Neither the police nor the Migration Board will reveal just how long the list of deportees is, however.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Immigrants Central to Swelling Population

Sweden’s foreign-born population is expected to reach 14 percent by the end of 2008, a year in which the country’s overall population had its greatest increase since 1970.

In the last decade, the Sweden’s foreign-born population has grown by 27 percent, as measured as a percentage of Sweden’s total population, according to Statistics Sweden.

If people born in Sweden to two foreign-born parents are added to the mix, the total comes to 378,000 people, or nearly 20 percent of Sweden’s overall population.

The 108,000 Iraqis now living in Sweden comprise the second largest group of foreign-born residents in the country behind natives of Finland, of which there are 176,000.

During the past year, 102,000 people immigrated to Sweden, a 2 percent increase from 2007.

Immigration from Iraq was down 21 percent from the year 2007, but still remained strong with an estimated 12,000 Iraqis entering Sweden in 2008.

Statistics Sweden estimates that the country’s overall population will reach 9,259,000 by December 31st, 2008, an increase of 76,000 for the year and the largest jump since 1970.

In addition to immigration, Sweden’s robust birth rate also helped push up the country’s population in 2008 as 109,000 babies were born, 2,000 more than the year before. A higher number of births than deaths in Sweden in 2008 account for 19,000 of the people added to Sweden’s population during the year.

Sweden also lost 26,000 citizens to emigration in 2008, with four in ten choosing to head to Norway, the United States, or the United Kingdom.

In addition, 44,000 non-Swedish citizens left the country, most of who returned to their countries of origin, resulting in a record net immigration for the year of 57,000 people.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Segregation ‘Widespread’ for Immigrants

A study released on Thursday by Statistics Sweden (SCB) reports widespread segregation in the fields of education, housing, employment and politics.

In 2008, net immigration into Sweden reached record levels, with more than 100,000 people entering the country and projections that the foreign-born population will reach 14 percent by the end of the year.

The report, released on International Migration Day, illuminates how pronounced the differences in living conditions are between native Swedes and the country’s immigrant populations, particularly those born in Africa and Asia.

“We have seen that people born in these countries are well behind those born in the EU or other Nordic countries. The differences can be seen in education, the job market, and living arrangements,” SCB’s Lotta Persson told The Local.

“I was surprised at how widespread segregation was in Sweden,” Persson added.

For example, the study shows that foreign-born school children lagged behind their Swedish-born counterparts, with students born in Africa falling far behind their native peers by 9th grade, even if they came to Sweden at a pre-school age.

“The differences in schooling, especially for Africans, shows how they are not eligible in the same way as other groups for upper secondary education, as they are not achieving the right grades, even though we take into account how long they have been in Sweden,” said Persson.

“We don’t really know why this is.”

Persson theorized the results may be due the fact that many immigrants from Africa and Asia arrive in Sweden as refugees.

“They have a lot of experiences which may negatively affect them,” she said, adding that the majority of immigrants from Asia come from Iraq and Iran.

Within the Swedish job market, the study found that the length of time a person has lived in the country was a decisive factor in gaining employment.

For example, employment levels for residents who have lived in Sweden for five years or less were found to be quite low.

However, once a person has been a resident of Sweden for 20 years or more, employment rates improve significantly, although remain lower than those who are born in Sweden, the statistics show.

The lowest employment levels are in the African-born population, who were also shown to more often hold lower-level jobs despite often having high levels of education.

Voter participation within the immigrant population is markedly lower in comparison to the rest of Swedish society, in particular for those from Africa, Asia and non EU European countries.

Housing is another aspect of life in Sweden where segregation of immigrants is very pronounced.

“It is obvious that many Swedish cities, both large and small, exhibit clear housing segregation,” said the report.

Immigrants from the EU, other Nordic countries, North America and Oceania seem to be generally well integrated in Swedish residential areas, with no notable differences with the housing trends of native Swedes.

However, Africans are overrepresented in rental accommodations, with few living in houses or owner-occupied apartments.

There is also evidence of considerable segregation occurring when it comes to the geographical distribution of African and Asian immigrant populations relative to Sweden-born residents.

A full 60 percent of native Swedes live where the majority of the nearby population is also Swedish, with 20 percent living in areas that are virtually 100 percent Swedish.

In contrast, 20 of all foreign-born immigrants live in areas where more than 40 percent of the population comes from countries other than Sweden.

The situation is exacerbated by the active movement by native Swedes away from areas with a high-density of foreigners, particularly those from Asia and Africa, Persson explains.

“We have seen how the native Swedish population is moving out from those areas where many immigrants live,” she said.

Whilst the results may be seen as cause for concern in a country with an ever-increasing foreign-born population, the report does not draw any specific conclusions as to why Sweden is becoming such a segregated society.

Talking to The Local, Persson points to trends in Swedish society as the one possible explanation

“It has been found that immigrants from Iraq and Iran are not treated very well by the Swedish population,” she explained.

“They are definitely discriminated against in society. This discrimination may be one of the reasons for segregation, as it might be more difficult for them to get loans or to buy a house.”

A spokesperson for Swedish Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni refused to comment on the report, saying the minister had not yet had time to review its findings.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Children and Parents of the Religious Intact Family Do Best on Child Development

A new study from the Mapping America project, co-released by more than 30 state family policy councils, finds that children have fewer problems at school and home when they live with both biological parents and frequently attend religious services. Dr. Nicholas Zill, the founding president of Child Trends, and Dr. Philip Fletcher, a research psychologist at Westat, co-authored the new study, which analyzes data from the National Survey of Children’s Health.

Among their remarkable findings: children in this group are five times less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to have behavior problems at home and school, and are more likely to be cooperative and understanding of others’ feelings. Parents of these children report less stress, healthier parent-child relationships, and fewer concerns about their children’s achievement. These differences hold up even after controlling for family income and poverty, low parent education levels, and race and ethnicity.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Fox News [sic] Airs ‘Simpsons’ Episode Challenging Islamophobia

Fox News screened recently an episode of Simpsons Comedy on Islamophobia, a step welcomed by Islamic organizations in US.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on American Muslims and other people of conscience to thank the Fox television network and the creator of “The Simpsons” for the episode that used comedy to challenge Islamophobia.

The episode, which aired Sunday evening and is titled “Mypods and Boomsticks,” highlights anti-Muslim sentiment by featuring a young Muslim character named Bashir and his family who face prejudice after moving to Springfield. In the program, Homer Simpson wrongly suspects that Bashir’s family is involved in a terror plot. Bart Simpson befriends Bashir and defends him from bullies.

CAIR sent a letter to the show’s creator Matt Groening thanking him for challenging anti-Muslim prejudice.

The letter said Sunday’s episode “brought to light how Americans can work toward mutual respect and inclusion by getting to know their neighbors.” It went on to state: “The episode also builds on the values that have made America the great nation it is — a nation in which citizenship is about finding common ground and building a better society. American Muslims have been doing just that by making daily contributions to our society that often go unrecognized.”

“Because of its acceptance in popular culture, comedy is often one of the best vehicles for challenging stereotypes and intolerance,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Fox and Matt Groening are to be congratulated for tackling the disturbing phenomenon of Islamophobia.”

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Fox News is part of the rightist and close-to-neo-cons American billionaire and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, which includes a large number of newspapers, publishing houses and TV stations in US and abroad such as Fox News, New York Post newspaper, Weekly Standard magazine and National Geographic channel.

Usually, Murdoch-owned TV channels and newspapers show radical stances against Arab and Muslim issues.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Student Says School Persecuted Him for Being Conservative

William Felkner, 45, says the New England college and six professors wouldn’t approve his final project on welfare reform because he was on the “wrong” side of political issues and countered the school’s “progressive” liberal agenda.

Felkner said his problems with his professors began in his first semester, in the fall of 2004, when he objected in an e-mail to one of his professors that the school was showing and promoting Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” on campus. He said he objected because no opposing point of view was presented.

He said Professor James Ryczek wrote to him on Oct. 15, 2004, saying he was proud of his bias and questioning Felkner’s ability to “fit with the profession.”

“I think the biases and predilections I hold toward how I see the world and how it should be are why I am a social worker. In the words of a colleague, I revel in my biases,” he wrote.

Felkner’s complaint, filed two years ago, alleges that Ryczek discriminated against him for his conservative viewpoint and gave him bad grades because of it in several classes. It also alleges discrimination by other professors and administrators.

Felkner said he received failing grades in Ryczek’s class for holding viewpoints opposed to the progressive direction of the class.

Felkner says he was also discriminated against by Professor Roberta Pearlmutter, who he says refused to allow him to participate in a group project lobbying for a conservative issue because the assignment was to lobby for a liberal issue. He alleges that Perlmutter spent a 50-minute class “assailing” his views and allowed students to openly ridicule his conservative positions, and that she reduced his grade because he was not “progressive.”


Bruce Thyer, professor of social work and former dean at the College of Social Work at Florida State University, has written about discrimination against conservatives and against evangelical Christians in social work. He said discrimination hurts the profession.

“I have seen students actively discouraged from perusing social work because of their politically conservative views. I’ve also seen it happen with students who have held strong religious views,” he said. “I think that the profession is a great and noble discipline and there are occasional episodes like this that cast a black eye, and it’s really unnecessary.”

Thyer said liberal and conservative social workers have the same goal — to help people — and that the school overstepped its bounds in Felkner’s case.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Impending Collapse of Our Enemies

The Depression — let’s call it what it is — leaves us, well, depressed. But there is very good news from around the world. Our enemies are collapsing under the strain of dropping oil and gas prices. What we had all hoped conservation and off-shore drilling would achieve, the global economic collapse is accomplishing: the defeat of OPEC, Iran, Chavez, Putin and the weakening of the financial underpinnings of Islamist terrorism. In each of these nations, the hold of the dictator is weakening as, one after the other, they face the consequences of dropping oil prices.

In Iran, the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the aggressive efforts of the U.S. government, and the actions of states like California, Florida, and Missouri to ban pension investments in companies that do business with Iran are having a big effect. Unable to expand its oil production for a lack of foreign investment, Iran faces the need to slash its budget drastically as energy revenues, the source of 85% of its income, crash. Iranian President Ahmadinejad is announcing harsh austerity measures. Having based his budget on $50-$60 oil, he now must recast it for at a $40 per barrel level. He boasts of cash reserves of $23 billion, but that sum won’t last long unless he makes major cuts. (Do the math: a shortfall of $25/barrel per day x 4 million barrels a day x 365 days = $36.5 billion, more than he’s got on hand).

The question for Ahmadinejad and for the Ayatollah who stands behind him is: Can their regime survive economic collapse? Unable to buy social peace by handouts and subsidies, will the top blow off an country that hates the regime, is predominantly very young, and is only 40% Farsi?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UN Security Council Authorizes Violation of Nations’ Sovereignty

The United Nations Security Council announced that it decided that, for the next year, States and regional organizations cooperating in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off Somalia’s coast — for which prior notification had been provided by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government to the Secretary-General — could undertake all necessary measures “appropriate in Somalia”, to interdict those using Somali territory to plan, facilitate or undertake such acts.

While many observers believe piracy should be curtailed with all the force necessary, they also believe it is not the role of the UN to decide when or where such action is appropriate.

“The United Nations Security Council is not in-charge of sovereign countries and they shouldn’t be the organization that allows such actions,” said political strategist Mike Baker.

“I’m all for using adequate force against terrorists and pirates, but I’m not for gaining the blessings of a corrupt organization such as the United Nations,” said Baker.


The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia said his country had no capacity to interdict or patrol its long coastline to ensure the security of the sea, but it had cooperated with the international community in that fight and it would continue to do so fully, now and in the future. That was why it supported resolution 1851.

However, he stressed the importance of adopting a comprehensive and holistic strategy to the Somalia problem — as piracy and terrorism and the humanitarian emergency were part of the whole problem that existed since the collapse of the Government in 1991. If that premise was accepted, there should be no difficulty in seeing a real way to tackling piracy and real instability in his country.

The most effective way was for the Security Council to take immediate measures, hopefully before the end of the year, when AMISOM’s mandate was to be reviewed — to authorize a robust peacekeeping operation, he asserted. The undermanned AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] contingent could become the nucleus of that new United Nations force. The aim should be to strengthen the Somali State by strengthening its security forces through the provision of forces, training and equipment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Baron Bodissey said...

TEST: We've been having problems with the "govcomments" page, so this is a test to see if posting a new comment will have any effect.

In other words: ignore this!

Tuan Jim said...

Well I know a comment I made last night on the "imaginary money" thread didn't show up but I'll give this one a shot.

A couple things. Somalia is many things, but I'm hard-pressed to continue describing it as a "sovereign nation". As far as I'm concerned it's been a failed state since before we went in there back in the early 90s. If the "government" can't take care of it's people, much less exert it's authority over more than a tiny fraction of it's area (not to mention fulfilling international obligations such as protecting sea lines of communication) - what else is it?

I forgot to make a note about the Philippines bombing when I sent the article in - it refers to mortar round IEDs in packages. Without more details it's hard to draw conclusions, but mortar round IEDs were also what they confiscated from the Bangladeshi Jihadi's house when they arrested him on 2 Dec ( Not sure about the locations associated with each article, but the first one clearly identified this guy as a bomb-maker.