Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/24/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/24/2009The U.S. government is proposing to extend its power to seize control of private firms beyond the banking system, to include financial institutions that are deemed big enough to destabilize the entire system if they fail.

This opens the door to other industries — automakers, manufacturers, and any other huge companies that are judged “too big to fail”.

If you think they were badly run in private hands, just wait until the government gets through with them. Can anyone say “Amtrak”?

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fausta, Fjordman, Henrik, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JCPA, JD, KGS, Swenglish Rantings, TB, Tuan Jim, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Americans Largely Silent as Their Nation is Systematically Destroyed
China Calls for New Reserve Currency
Dr. Bernanke Keeps US on Heroin
Governor: Why South Carolina Doesn’t Want ‘Stimulus’
Netherlands: ING Chief Asks Staff to Give Back Bonuses
U.S. Proposes Broad Power to Seize Firms
Chuck Baldwin: My Response to the MIAC Report
Hold the Phone: Dodd’s Wife Was Paid by AIG?
Justice Department: ‘Zip It’ on Ayers Probe
Obama Administration Begins the End of Private Enterprise?
Obama is ‘First Hispanic President, ‘ Geraldo Rivera Says
Stiglitz: Geithner Plan Will Rob US Taxpayers
The Truth Exposed: Islamic Terrorist Training & Fundraising in America
Galloway Banned for ‘Deeds, ‘ Not Words: Kenney
Jonathan Kay: Before Anyone Assigns the Slightest Hint of Credibility to the UN’s Latest Slagging of Israel…
Raphael Alexander: Racial Profiling to Prevent Racial Profiling
Rudyard Griffiths: Kenney Nails the Language Issue
Wanted: Fake Homeless
Watchdogs Urge Police to Record Racial Data
Europe and the EU
Australian Strategist to Lead Libertas Campaign
Denmark: Soldiers’ Union: Stop the Draft
Denmark: Companies Suspected of Cheating Iraq Embargo Given Ultimatum
EU: Sharia Banking Conquerors Europe
Finland in European Top Ten in Number of Freedom of Speech Violations
Finland: Increase in Youth Crime Continues in Helsinki
France: Human Rights Organization Sues Wilders
Germany: More Ethnic Turks Becoming German Citizens, Study Shows
Germany: ‘The Bonus Debate is a Convenient Distraction’
Italy: Berlusconi Not as Rich in 2007, Declared 14. 5 Mln
Italy: Bawling Out Workers is ‘Mobbing’
Minister Okays Dutch or Foreign State Support for Mosques
Norway: Socialist Left: Ban on Gasoline Driven Cars
Poll: Most Czechs Trust President, Local Authorities
Romania Weighs Decriminalizing Incest
Sardinia to Axe Luxury Tax
Sweden: Most Swedes Support Mandatory Military Service: Poll
Sweden: Decision to Work in Sweden Proves Costly for Aspiring Resident
Sweden: Gothenburg Hit by Spate of Morning Bomb Scares
The Sunday Times Interview With Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic
UK ‘Home to 300 Rights Abusers’
UK Population Must Fall to 30m, Says Porritt
UK: ‘Threat of Britons Trained by Al Qaeda’
UK: Give US a £40k Pay Rise and We’ll Surrender Lavish Perks! Shameless MPs Reveal ‘solution’ to Expenses Row
UK: G20 Protesters ‘Will Try to Bring London to Standstill’
UK: Judge Spares Businessman Who Kidnapped Burglar After Police Told Him: ‘We Can’t Come for Two Days’
UK: NHS Blunders Left Cannabis-Crazed Schizophrenic Asylum Seeker Free to Murder Policeman
UK: Rights Bill is Branded ‘Hot Air’
UK: Schizophrenic Who Killed Jonathan Zito Set to be Moved From High-Security Prison
UK: This is No Way to Counter Islamic Terror
Italy: Two Million Legal Migrants From Outside EU
Kosovo Albanian Gangsters, Hitmen Active in UK
Serbia: Commemoration for 10th Anniversary of NATO Bombing
Spain: Zapatero, Troops Out of Kosovo a Logical Decision
North Africa
Algeria: Elections, Football Stars Support Bouteflika
Tunisian Pilot Who Paused to Pray Instead of Taking Emergency Measures Before Crash-Landing His Plane, Killing 16 People, Has Been Sentenced to 10 Years in Jail by an Italian Court Along With His Co-Pilot.
Violence on Women: Tunisia, Poster Contest in Arab Countries
Israel and the Palestinians
Clash in Tense Israeli-Arab Town
Israel: Religious Party Joins Likud-Led Coalition
Israel: Gov’t, Barak-Likud Agreement, Labour Unrest
Israel: Labour Agrees to Government With Likud
It’s Worse Than a Crime, It’s Blundering Analysis
Video: a New Coalition and an Averted Terror Attack in Israel
Middle East
Government Warns of Nuclear Terror Threat
Hardline Saudi Clerics Urge TV Ban on Women, Music
Islam: Turkey Expands Headscarf Ban to Ballot Boxes Boards
Lebanon Press Says PLO Bomb ‘settling of Scores’
The Arab Peace Initiative: a Primer and Future Prospects
Russian Ads Using Obama Spark Racism Complaints
South Asia
India: Mumbai Terror Suspect is All Smiles in Court
Indonesia Arrests Four Dutch Reporters in Papua
Indonesia: Jail Him 20 Years
Militants Warn Pakistan
More Bombings by Thailand’s Islamic Separatist Guerrilla
Pakistan: US Did Deal With Army to Restore Judges
Pakistan: Suicide Blast Targets Police in Islamabad
Singapore to Launch Tougher Public Order Law
Singaporean Admits Role in Plot
Far East
“Confrontation” Heating Up in South China Sea
Beijing Censors Part of Vatican Website in Chinese
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Fears Gangland War Has Spread to Canberra
Australia: One Dead After Airport Gang Brawl
Australia: Zarubin Family’s Gold Coast Party Gatecrashed by Thugs
Australia: Security in Shambles
New Zealand: Would-be MP Loses Immigration Fraud Appeal
New Zealand: Minister Queries Work Permit for Man Who Killed Daughter
Sub-Saharan Africa
Nigeria: African Arabs and Black Hatred
Latin America
Venezuela: Spain Calls Unjustified Nationalization of Banco De Venezuela
Finland: Column: Immigration Issue Becoming Political Touchstone
Finland: Social Workers Urge More Care for Asylum Seekers
Libya-GB: Cooperation on Border Security
Switzerland: NGO Finds Huge Disparity in Asylum Policy
UK: The Calais ‘Guantanamo’
US to Boost Mexico Border Defence
Guess Who Says Pope Was Right About Condoms, Aids
Why Communism Doesn’t Have as Bad a Name as Nazism?

Financial Crisis

Americans Largely Silent as Their Nation is Systematically Destroyed

After trillions in taxpayer debt has been foolishly poured into the bottomless black hole of leftist wealth redistribution programs, under the guise of economic “stimulus” or “stabilization” legislation, the new “ONE World” government running Washington DC announces; Geithner, Bernanke Call for New Wind-Down Powers After AIG… and the people still sit silent as they watch Obamanation grow in unbridled power.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

China Calls for New Reserve Currency

China’s central bank on Monday proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund.

In an essay posted on the People’s Bank of China’s website, Zhou Xiaochuan, the central bank’s governor, said the goal would be to create a reserve currency “that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies”.


China’s proposal would expand the basket of currencies forming the basis of SDR valuation to all major economies and set up a settlement system between SDRs and other currencies so they could be used in international trade and financial transactions.


Mr Zhou said the proposal would require “extraordinary political vision and courage” and acknowledged a debt to John Maynard Keynes, who made a similar suggestion in the 1940s.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dr. Bernanke Keeps US on Heroin

Is Bernanke fighting the war of 1929 in 2009? Surely, today, with the explosion in M1, the basic money supply, there is no shortage of dollars out there, even if they are not circulating fast enough.

To end our recession, Bernanke may be running an even greater risk: hyperinflation. This has destroyed more nations than deflation or even depression.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Governor: Why South Carolina Doesn’t Want ‘Stimulus’

Here’s the background: Before the stimulus bill passed, I asked for states not to be bailed out. After it was signed into law, I said that a state bailout would create more problems than it solved, and that we shouldn’t spend money we don’t have. That debate was lost, so I looked for a reasonable middle ground. I asked the president for his support in using the $700 million to pay down state debt.

If we’re going to spend money we don’t have at the federal level, it becomes all the more important that our state balance sheet is in good order — particularly if this is a protracted downturn. But many people do not realize that the stimulus money runs out in 24 months — at which point South Carolina will be forced to find a new source of funding to sustain the new level of spending, or to make sharp cuts. Sure, I could kick the can down the road; in two years, I’ll be safely out of office. But it would be irresponsible.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: ING Chief Asks Staff to Give Back Bonuses

ING chief Jan Hommen has made what he called a “moral appeal” to his employees to return the bonuses paid to them in 2008. In an interview with national broadsheet de Volkskrant, Mr Hommen said that while it was impossible to scrap the bonuses, he was asking the most senior 1200 ING employees to give up their payouts for last year. The CEO says some managers say they are prepared to do so, though he has no idea how many actually will.

ING is one of the Dutch banks that received billions of euros in government help to weather the financial crisis. The banking concern came in for severe criticism when it turned out it paid out 300 million euros in bonuses for 2008. The bank is working on a new bonus system for this year. In future, bonuses will be paid only if the bank’s overall profits have increased.

Finance Minister Wouter Bos will shortly be writing to the Lower House, saying he will investigate the possibility of claiming back bonuses and variable rewards from government-supported banks for the current year. According to a spokesperson, he is also looking into a possible legal ceiling for bonuses, and whether a bonus tax can be levied, similar to the taxation measure introduced in the United States.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

U.S. Proposes Broad Power to Seize Firms

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve, still stinging from the political furor over the bailout of American International Group, began a full-court press Tuesday to expand the federal government’s power to seize control of troubled financial institutions deemed too big to fail.

In his news conference Tuesday night, President Barack Obama said the government could have handled the AIG bailout much more effectively if it had had the same power to seize large financial companies as it does to take over failed banks.

“It is precisely because of the lack of this authority that the AIG situation has gotten worse,” Obama said, predicting that “there is going to be strong support from the American people and from Congress to provide that authority.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offered a proposal that would allow the government to take control, restructure and possibly close any kind of financial institution that is in trouble and big enough to destabilize the broader financial system.

The federal government has long had the power to take over and close banks and other deposit-taking institutions whose deposits are insured by the government and subject to detailed regulation.

But the Obama administration and the Fed would extend that authority to insurance companies like AIG, investment banks, hedge funds, private equity firms and any other kind of financial institution considered “systemically” important. That would let the government for the first time take control of private equity firms like Carlyle or industrial finance giants like GE Capital.

[Return to headlines]


Chuck Baldwin: My Response to the MIAC Report

However, it is the following statement contained in the MIAC report that is particularly disturbing to yours truly. Under the heading “Political Paraphernalia,” the report states, “Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups. It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional [sic] Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material. These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate [sic]: Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr.”

The obvious inference of the above statement links Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and myself to potential dangerous “militia members.” The broader implication is that the millions of people who supported Ron Paul, Bob Barr, or myself are likewise categorized as potential dangerous “militia members.” This is a classic case of broad-brushed police profiling. Can you imagine the fallout of this preposterous report had the names Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Maxine Waters been used instead of the names Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hold the Phone: Dodd’s Wife Was Paid by AIG?

She Served on the Board of an AIG Property… Based in Bermuda

Senator Dodd, there’s been a lot of attention recently to your relationship with AIG. You’re the top Congressional recipient of their political donations, they have a major presence in your state, and you sponsored a provision that allowed them to deliver bonuses to many of your constituents. And yet even as you’ve sworn up and down that you never wanted to protect AIG, and you have no reason to wish to do so, we learn that your wife served on the board of — and was compensated by — an AIG subsidiary?…

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Justice Department: ‘Zip It’ on Ayers Probe

Administration muzzles police officers who want to reopen murder case

The Obama Justice Department instructed San Francisco police officials not to comment after top law enforcement officers there signed a letter accusing Weathermen radical Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, of being directly behind the 1970 bombing of San Francisco’s police station that killed one sergeant and wounded nine others.


Police Officers’ Association President Gary Delagnes confirmed to the Chronicle his union was contacted by federal investigators telling them they had an “active investigation and should not be commenting on the case.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Administration Begins the End of Private Enterprise?

In yet another unprecedented move, the Obama Administration is asking Congress for extraordinary and unconstitutional broad powers to take over private enterprise companies. I and others have warned that this would happen, as Obama and his Congressional adherents not only believe but, are out to prove that they are above the law.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama is ‘First Hispanic President, ‘ Geraldo Rivera Says

(CNSNews.com) — Journalist and TV personality Geraldo Rivera summed up the optimism of pro-immigrant activists and mostly Democrat politicians at the 13th annual U.S.-Mexico Congressional Border Issues Conference by saying he is confident President Barack Obama will keep his campaign promise to sign “comprehensive immigration reform” into law.

“Barack Obama is the first Hispanic president the same way Bill Clinton was the first black” president, Rivera said at the conference, which took place Thursday at the U.S. Capitol.

Rivera also said the Hispanic community should “give the president some slack” in keeping that promise on immigration reform, given the pressing problems with the economy and other priorities, including health care.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Stiglitz: Geithner Plan Will Rob US Taxpayers

The U.S. government plan to rid banks of toxic assets will rob American taxpayers by exposing them to too much risk and is unlikely to work as long as the economy remains weak, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Truth Exposed: Islamic Terrorist Training & Fundraising in America

Since 2004, investigators of the Northeast Intelligence Network have been performing an extensive investigation and surveillance operation of the activities of Jamaat ul Fuqra, an Islamic terrorist group that is currently active and operational across the US and Canada. The findings of our investigation and surveillance operations are as extensive as they are disturbing.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Galloway Banned for ‘Deeds, ‘ Not Words: Kenney

OTTAWA — The Harper government is standing by its decision to bar British MP George Galloway from entering Canada, despite accusations by the opposition that the government is muzzling free speech.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Monday that he has no intention of overturning a decision by officials at the Canada Border Services Agency to deny entry to Mr. Galloway based on national-security grounds.

“I don’t see why we should make exceptions and override the decision of our professional border security agents in making a judgment about the inadmissibility of someone who provides funding and resources to an illegal terrorist organization,” Mr. Kenney told reporters outside the House of Commons.

Mr. Galloway, who has been elected five times to the British House of Commons, learned last week that he was barred from entering Canada for a four-day speaking tour during which he was expected to condemn the Afghanistan war. Mr. Galloway was kicked out of the Labour Party in 2003 after opposing the Iraq war.

On a recent trip to Gaza, he donated money and supplies to the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian territories.

Referring to Mr. Kenney as the “minister of censorship,” NDP Leader Jack Layton called on the government to reverse its position.

“We’re calling on the minister to open Canadian doors to voices. You shouldn’t be a minister of censorship,” Mr. Layton said.

But Mr. Kenney said censorship wasn’t the issue.

“It’s not about words, it’s about deeds. It’s not about his opinions, it’s about his financial, material support for an illegal terrorist organization,” said Mr. Kenney, adding that Mr. Galloway is free to publish his views in Canada.

“The law is clear, and experts will tell you this, that anybody who provides material and financial support to an illegal terrorist organization is prima facie inadmissible to Canada.”

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, foreign nationals can be deemed inadmissible to Canada on national security grounds for “engaging in terrorism.”

Hamas is on Canada’s official list of terrorist organizations, making it an offence to “contribute” to Hamas’ activities, even indirectly.

Mr. Kenney said his office was aware of Mr. Galloway’s case before the decision was made to bar the controversial MP. However, Mr. Kenney insisted he did not instruct border officials to block Galloway’s entry.

“There was some discussion in my office but I could not and cannot give direction to agents of the CBSA, who are not even in my ministry,” said Mr. Kenney, referring to the fact the agency falls under the authority of the public safety minister.

For his part, Mr. Galloway has threatened to challenge the Canadian government’s decision in court.

“That’s the way the right-wing, last-ditch dead-enders of Bushism in Ottawa conduct their business,” he wrote on his website.

Meanwhile, the groups that organized Mr. Galloway’s visit — the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, the Ottawa Peace Assembly and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights — are vowing to launch a cross-Canada campaign to “defend free speech” and reverse the ban.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Jonathan Kay: Before Anyone Assigns the Slightest Hint of Credibility to the UN’s Latest Slagging of Israel…

… please consider the source. The United Nations “human rights investigator” now telling the world that Israel’s attack on Gaza was a “war crime” is notorious anti-Israel bigot Richard Falk. For some background on the fellow, I reproduce the following 2008 blog post…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Raphael Alexander: Racial Profiling to Prevent Racial Profiling

The Human Rights Commission is urging Canadian police to start keeping records of the race of the people they encounter in order to prevent racial profiling.

I’m not making this up.

To ensure that people are not being scrutinized by their racial characteristics, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation wants police or border guards to record racial characteristics. The goal? Well, the goal is somewhat unapparent:

“The goal would be to determine whether profiling based on grounds such as race is occurring — a suggestion the RCMP denies. The two organizations also believe such a system could help prevent profiling by making police and security forces more aware of their own decisions.”

Racial profiling to prevent racial profiling.

Now, bear with me here, because this reminds me of a Jerry Seinfeld episode. You see, the idea that the social engineering types are trying to prove, is that people of certain races don’t commit crimes, but rather criminals commit crimes. A simple enough explanation. As such, the logic that follows is that if we apply a universal humanist approach to crime fighting, we arrive at the conclusion that people should not be treated as suspects based upon their physical appearance. And in a Bizarro world, I might agree.

In the real world, however, physical appearance does play a factor. What the HRC is asserting is that there is a bias or preference for law enforcement officers to select certain people for greater scrutiny based on their race. But I would argue that first, this isn’t true, and second, that demographic statistics are different than the reasons for selecting a suspect. If it turns out that a disproportionate number of black citizens are chosen by police for scrutiny, it may be because police officers don’t tabulate a quota of how many black citizens there are as a percentage of the amount of suspects they stop in order to be sufficiently sensitive to the subject of racial profiling. The kind of people they stop are those who might be acting curiously, or rouse their suspicions in one manner or another.

For instance, I’ve been stopped by the police while walking before, despite being in the preferential demographic of the white male. How did such a travesty against my personal liberties occur? Well, once I was running home from work in Parkdale, a poor neighbourhood of Toronto, at 2 o’clock in the morning. That generally gains some notice from police. Another time I was walking through a park in Toronto to make a shortcut at 1 o’clock in the morning after having gone to the store for a post-midnight snack craving. Both times I was stopped because my actions seemed suspicious to trained law enforcement officers. Perhaps if I had been black, or a visible minority of some kind, I might have thought that the police stopped me because they wanted to harass me. But then again, I can’t speculate on that. All I can say is that I don’t blame the police for stopping me, and ensuring I was not taking part in some kind of illicit activity.

The article in the National Post cites that the HRC wants such data collected because it already occurs in the United States and other countries. But that isn’t a defence of the program, particularly since racial tensions in Canada and the United States have an entirely different historical experience. With a program that would second guess every “discretionary decision” made by a police officer, it would create an inordinate amount of paperwork, add an unnecessary difficulty to the job of the officer, and ultimately impede the officer from upholding the law. It might even contribute to an increase in crime.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Rudyard Griffiths: Kenney Nails the Language Issue

Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, should be commended for kick-starting a much need public discussion about the language skills and civic literacy of aspiring Canadian citizens.

For too long Canada has avoided the kind of common sense dialogue about its settlement policies that Minister Kenney is galvanising. The reality is the “quietism” of successive federal governments about all things related to immigrant selection and recruitment is a public policy debacle of historic proportions: ten of thousands of newcomers languishing in dead end jobs, the out migration of up to 40 percent of professional male immigrants in the last decade alone, and the justifiable hardening of attitudes among visibility minority groups who rightly feel they are being exploited economically.

Minister Kenney is spot on in his assertion that the ability to speak one of Canada’s two official languages is fundamental to an immigrant’s economic success and overall social integration. In fact, detailed multi-decade research shows that language proficiency outstrips job experience and educational background as the factor which has the greatest positive impact on a newcomer’s ability to settle themselves successfully in Canada.

That said, making proficiency in reading, writing and speaking either official language a prerequisite for every person applying to come to Canada is only part of the solution.
Of the quarter million newcomers Canada welcomes each year less than a third have their language abilities assessed in the process of becoming permanent residents. The majority of newcomers begin the path to full citizenship as dependents of a ‘primary applicant’ or citizen and do not have to demonstrate they can speak French or English.

As I write in my just published book, Who We Are: A Citizens Manifesto, Canada needs to redouble its efforts to ensure that this much larger group of permanent residents attain basic language proficiency as quickly as possible.

Specifically, the adult-aged dependents of primary applicants should receive in-depth language testing before being admitted to the country and at yearly intervals. Based on these assessments they should have the opportunity to continue language training beyond the current three-year cut-off.

Basic language proficiency is especially important for immigrant women.

Having entered Canada as spouses of the primary applicant and therefore not pre-screened for language proficiency, women are significantly more likely than their male counterparts to lack a working knowledge of French or English. From a social-justice perspective, this is a situation that must be addressed so that every female newcomer, regardless of their socio-economic position, attains the basic fluency needed to participate in the civic life of their local community and country’s democratic institutions.

In addition to focussing on the language needs of women, the federal government should also put special emphasis on second language training for school-age children, particularly in the country’s major cities.

In Toronto, the city that attracts the majority of newcomers to Canada, the percentage of elementary schools with English-as-a-second-language instructors has declined from 41 to 29 percent in the last decade while the number of students requiring such instruction has doubled. Young people from non- French- or English-speaking countries desperately need additional support to master French and/or English. The federal government should find ways to work with the provinces to get more funding for language instruction into urban classroom to relieve overburdened ESL instructors.

There is one more vitally important policy reform which could encourage higher levels of language proficiency and civic literacy among newcomers: follow the leads of sister nations Australia, Britain the U.S. and overhaul the exam newcomers to Canada are required to pass to become full citizens.

According to Dominion Institute research, immigrants take the citizenship exam seriously and as a result attain levels of basic civic literacy as high or higher than native-born Canadians. Let’s build on this dedication and encourage the good things that come with high rates of civic literacy, such as voting and participation in formal politics, by designing a much more comprehensive exam that covers a range of subjects related to Canada’s history, political systems and the responsibilities of citizenship.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Wanted: Fake Homeless

Decoys given $100 Visas to pretend poverty for survey

The city will be giving pre-paid Visa cards to people to pretend they’re homeless to test the efficiency of the city’s street-needs assessment, scheduled for April 15. Critics argue the money spent on the assessment should be put into homeless shelters and other services. (Craig Robertson/Sun Media files)

The city is giving $100 pre-paid Visa cards to people who agree to pretend they’re homeless when Toronto conducts its needs assessment of those without shelter.

In an e-mail sent out last week to different social agencies and individuals, city employee Monica Waldman said they are looking for “tons” of people to sign up to be “decoys” on April 15, the night scheduled for the city’s second homeless head count.

“Decoys are essentially ‘faux’ homeless people for quality assurance purposes in this research,” she wrote. “As a decoy, you would need to come to a 30-minute training session and then be deployed to various sites throughout the city where you will wait to be approached by the research volunteers.”

Each decoy will receive a $100 pre-paid Visa card as an honorarium.

The last street-needs assessment (SNA) — conducted April 19, 2006 — found there were 5,052 homeless people living on the streets and in shelters across the city. Some 750 volunteers asked people to fill out a 10-question survey that helped the city estimate the number of homeless people and to determine how to better provide services to them.

Decoys are instructed to stay in character and answer the survey questions. They don’t have to dress in any particular way.

Councillor Janet Davis, who heads the community development committee, said yesterday that she wasn’t aware of the need for decoys, but said “there hasn’t been any changes” in the SNA program.

“What I do know is that the street-needs assessment has provided the city with the most detail ever about who is living on the street, what their needs are and what services are required,” Davis said. “It’s been a tremendous success.”

Michael Shapcott of the Wellesley Institute said while it’s not unusual for decoys to be used in a head count, the hundreds of thousands of dollars the city spends on the assessment could be better utilized on social agencies.

“The decoys are supposed to look like homeless people but a lot of homeless people don’t look like homeless people because it’s a survival strategy,” he said. “It’s only really counting a tiny fraction. The city is facing a double whammy with increased need from the street and frozen dollars from senior levels of government, so they should be spending as wisely as they can.”

Homeless advocates also contend that by conducting this survey, it takes resources away from the agencies street people need the most, such as shelters.

“Really well-meaning volunteers sign up to do this and they don’t realize that six months down the road, things go into place that are not very helpful,” said street nurse Cathy Crowe, of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.

But the homeless head count is the only clear way to grasp what services are needed by the homeless, said SNA program manager Patricia Anderson.

“SNA two years ago resulted in real service improvements, including the direction from city council to spend 20% of federal funds to help homeless people who are aboriginal,” Anderson said recently on Facebook.

           — Hat tip: Swenglish Rantings[Return to headlines]

Watchdogs Urge Police to Record Racial Data

Two organizations are urging Canadian police and security agencies to start keeping records on the race of people they deal with in the hopes that it will prevent racial profiling.

After pulling a car out of line at a border crossing or subjecting someone to a secondary search, officials should record characteristics such as race, age and gender, according to a joint recommendation from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

The goal would be to determine whether profiling based on grounds such as race is occurring — a suggestion the RCMP denies. The two organizations also believe such a system could help prevent profiling by making police and security forces more aware of their own decisions.

Such data is already collected in several countries, including the United States, the organizations report.

“The idea behind collecting data is that every time that there is a discretionary decision made by a police officer, by a border agent, that they identify what that discretionary decision was,” said Maciej Karpinski, a senior research analyst at the Canadian Human Rights Commission….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Australian Strategist to Lead Libertas Campaign

ANTI-LISBON Treaty group Libertas has recruited the Australian political strategist who steered John Howard to four election victories and assisted Boris Johnson in his campaign to become mayor of London.

Lynton Crosby is directing Libertas’s Europe-wide campaign for the forthcoming European Parliament elections, a spokesman for the group confirmed to The Irish Times .

Libertas, founded by Tuam-based businessman Declan Ganley, plans to run more than 100 candidates across all 27 EU member states in an attempt to transform the June elections into a proxy referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The party will run three candidates in Ireland, including Mr Ganley who has announced his intention to stand in the North West constituency.

Mr Crosby, who directed the British Conservative Party’s 2005 general election campaign before taking on Boris Johnson’s bid for the London mayoralty, has been described as “the Australian Karl Rove” for his tactics, some of which have proved controversial in his home country in the past.

His decision to work for Libertas has raised eyebrows within Conservative circles in Britain.

It is expected Libertas will present a challenge for the Conservative Party in the European elections as both will be vying for the support of voters disillusioned with or opposed outright to the EU.

The move is “one of the most surprising turns” in Mr Crosby’s career, The Australian newspaper said.

Mr Crosby told the paper his role with Libertas did not signal a rift with the Tories. “The Conservatives will only be contesting seats in Britain and I will be working with Libertas across the whole continent,” he said.

The Crosby appointment follows Libertas’s announcement earlier this month that it had hired Joe Trippi, an American political strategist who was instrumental in Howard Dean’s internet-savvy campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.

Mr Trippi will co-ordinate the group’s online campaign which will focus on web-based fundraising and outreach, a Libertas spokesman said.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Libertas will field a candidate in Malta in the European Parliament elections. Mary Gauci, a civil servant who recently resigned from her post as deputy leader of the right-wing Azzjoni Nazzjonal party, citing personal reasons, announced her candidacy at the official launch of the party in Malta on Saturday.

Mr Ganley, who was present at the launch, accused Maltese prime minister Lawrence Gonzi of signing the Lisbon Treaty without even reading it, and said the country’s parliament had barely discussed the document before agreeing to ratify it.

Mr Gonzi, however, dismissed the Libertas founder’s claims as “completely untrue” and “totally absurd”, according to reports in the Maltese media.

Ms Gauci, whose previous party has a strong anti-immigration stance, told reporters at the launch that illegal immigration was a “national wound” for Malta.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Soldiers’ Union: Stop the Draft

The Army Private and Corporal Association (HKKF) says it would be both sensible and provide good savings if conscription was suspended.

“We don’t feel that we get enough out of conscription in relation to the resources that are ploughed into it. The draft only provides about 20-25 percent of the standing defence force — and that is rather expensive recruitment to keep going. It would never be allowed in a private company,” says HKKF Chairman Flemming Vinther in an interview with Ritzau.

He says he is not surprised that Henrik Jedig Jørgensen of the Institute for Military Studies says in Information today, that savings of some quarter of a billion kroner could be made by stopping conscription.

6,500 each year A majority in the Defence Commission says that the draft system, which calls up some 6,500 each year, should be maintained. The Social Democrats, Social Liberals and Socialist people’s Party, however, say it should be abolished.

Vinther says that it would not be necessary to abolish the draft formally, as this would require constitutional amendments. However, the draft could be suspended, and could then be re-introduced at a later point if necessary.

The Defence Commission is to deliver its report on Denmark’s future defence later this week.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Companies Suspected of Cheating Iraq Embargo Given Ultimatum

Danish companies that made illegal payments to the Suddam Hussein regime must pay back their profits or face trial

Thirteen Danish companies suspected of bribing their way to lucrative contracts in Iraq after the end of the first Gulf War have been given an choice: voluntarily hand over the profits you made on illegal contracts or risk having your company’s name dragged through the mud in a trial.

The Public Prosecutor for Serious Economic Crimes has informed the companies that it can prove that between 2000 and 2002 they made illegal payments — known as ‘after sale service fees’ — to the Iraqi government in exchange for export orders in the neighbourhood of 500 million kroner…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

EU: Sharia Banking Conquerors Europe

All over Europe Islamic banks are establishing branches, Western banks are offering Sharia-compliant financial services, and European governments are trying to outcompete each other in welcoming them. Proponents of banking along the lines of Sharia (Islamic law) claim that the Islamic banking system is “more ethical” than the West’s capitalist system.. This is not true. Unfortunately, however, in our age of crashing financial markets, many Westerners — not just the traditional anti-capitalist European left — seem very eager to buy that argument.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Finland in European Top Ten in Number of Freedom of Speech Violations

Finland has been found guilty of freedom of speech violations by the European Court of Human Rights more often than the majority of the Council of Europe member states or, for example, any of the other Nordic Countries.

Over a period of ten years Finland has been convicted seven times of violating against the Freedom of Speech Article of the Human Rights Agreement. Of the Nordic Countries, Norway makes it closest to Finland in the number of freedom of speech offences. Since 1999 Norway has been found wanting on of five counts of freedom of speech violations. The cases have mainly related to the freedom of press. In the same space of time Sweden has been reprimanded twice. Not surprisingly, Denmark has a clean sheet in this respect, as does Iceland. Of the 47 nations that have ratified the Human Rights Agreement, seven have received more Freedom of Speech violation convictions than Finland. Turkey is in a class of its own with 169 convictions, against number two Austria’s 24 convictions.

One reason for Finland’s relatively high rating may be the fact that Finnish courts have poorly-stated arguments for their rulings, estimates communications law researcher Päivi Tiilikka. In Tiilikka’s view, in Finland the sections of law dealing with freedom of speech are often interpreted quite literally, whereas the European Court of Human Rights tends to see things from a wider perspective. “In matters dealing with the freedom of press, the European Court of Human Rights often also takes into consideration the general public’s right to receive information, while in Finland such disputes are primarily seen as private matters between the writer and the subject of a newspaper article”, Tiilikka ponders. The state of freedom of speech, however, is not necessarily as bad as might seem based on the statistics, estimates human rights lawyer Markku Fredman. “Even the latest rulings deal with issues that took place several years ago — the reason being Finland’s long handling times for such cases”, Fredman points out. In his view the Finnish law courts’ argumentation has also improved. In its sentencing practice, Finland’s Supreme Court refers more and more often to the European Court of Human Rights rulings…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Increase in Youth Crime Continues in Helsinki

More than 2,000 offences committed in 2008

Since 2005, the crime rate of the under-15s has been constantly growing in Helsinki, and according to statistics, the number of offences in 2008 was 2,138.

By far the most typical offences committed by youngsters are property crimes, such as petty larceny. Even assaults and mild assaults are typical, and over the last couple of years the number of such violent acts has increased. In addition, some violent actions committed by adolescents and pre-teens in the Greater Helsinki area have been observed. Deputy Police Chief Jari Liukku does not regard the statistics as alarming. Fluctuation is small, and some occasional series of crimes have a certain impact on the number of vandalism cases and others. According to Liukku, the higher figures are also attributable to the authorities’ active and spontaneous intervention in problems as well as to their keeping potential perpetrators under observation. The figures have been rising since the launch of a mobile police squad, which is to help where it is needed…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

France: Human Rights Organization Sues Wilders

Islam in Europe 24 March 2009

A French human rights organization is summoning Geert Wilders to court. The head of the PVV party is accused of inciting to hatred of Muslims.

“Wilders made statements about French Muslims, about Muslims in Paris and Marseilles, which incite to racial hatred,” says lawyer Yassine Bouzrou. He lodged the complaint on behalf of the organization, which is being studied by the public prosecution. If Wilders is found guilty, he can be sentenced for one year in prison.

Wilders was not aware of the complaint yesterday evening. “I hear this for the the first time,” he said. “The wold is becoming small with trials and procedures everywhere: from the Netherlands, Jordan and England to France. Dreadful. But I’ll naturally fight back judicially. They won’t prevail over me.”

Last week the PVV head signed an official appeal against the UK’s refusal to let him into the country.

The French complaint is based on Wilders’ speech in New York last September. “Paris is now surrounded by a ring of Muslim neighborhoods,” he said then. “Many neighbourhoods in France are no-go areas for women without head scarves.”

He called the riots in the suburbs in 2005 a “Muslim intifada”. Bouzrou came to the conclusion that the expressions are criminal. “Wilders says in that speech also that one in three French Muslims supports suicide attacks. With that he suggests that one in three French Muslims is a potential terrorist. Where he does he get all of this? How did he get ot it? Wilders makes serious accusations which are based on nothing.”

Bouzrou made the complaint for the French human rights organization ADDH. They work together with the Collective against Islamophobia in the fight against Muslim hatred.

“A politician may express his idea. But Wilders makes dangerous statements about something of which he has no understanding. These are not political ideas, but insults and prejudices,” says the lawyer. “We already had in France attacks on mosques and against Muslim cemeteries. The statements by Wilders instigate further extremism against Muslims.”

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

Germany: More Ethnic Turks Becoming German Citizens, Study Shows

Turks are still Germany’s largest foreign minority, but those born in the country are now more likely to become citizens, according to figures released by the Federal Statistics Office.

Germany is home to some 6.7 million foreigners, of which one-quarter are Turkish nationals, the Federal Statistics Office (Destatis) in Wiesbaden said on Monday, March 23.

The number of Turkish citizens living in Germany, however, declined by 25,200 to 1.7 million by year-end in 2008, due mainly to the number of Turks who were granted German citizenship during the course of the entire year.

Ethnic Turks residing in Germany must normally choose between Turkish or German citizenship. Even though nationality laws based mainly on descent were eased in 2000, it is not uncommon for those born in Germany to foreigners to assume their parents’ nationality instead…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Germany: ‘The Bonus Debate is a Convenient Distraction’

The US debate over corporate bonuses is quickly growing into a first-rate scandal for the administration of President Barack Obama. German commentators, though, think it is little more than a populist distraction…

German papers on Monday are pulling a variety of lessons out of the scandal. Financial papers defend the bonuses as legal and call the scandal a distraction. Other commentators say paying the bonuses will harm the foundations of the free market by denying one of its principles — accountability.

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“It’s not unusual for a incumbent politician to think of a tax hike as an ‘interesting activity’ — but it is unusual for her to say so in public. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted with those words to a resolution by the US House of Representatives that could tax bonus payments for corporate managers, in certain circumstances, at a rate of 90 percent.”

“With that, an idea may now be introduced to German politics that will cause obvious legal problems and shake one bulwark of freedom in our economic system: the reliability of private contracts. Even if bonuses paid to managers of companies heavily supported by government funds might anger the population, they are still a part of legal contracts.”

“The bonus debate is a convenient distraction. It dominates public attention and hides other questions over what the new US government has actually achieved in the banking crisis.”

The conservative daily Die Welt writes:

“The AIG riddle was solved on Sunday evening. After a period of stonewalling, Treasury Secretary Geithner admitted that his department removed the bonus-limitation clause. Denying it would have been more expensive than paying out the bonuses, he argued. Now there are new questions: Did Geithner know the exact size of the bonuses from the start? Did he nevertheless torpedo the clause? And was Barack Obama informed about any of this?”

“A close ally of Hillary Clinton’s, (Senator Evan Bayh), has joined with 14 other fiscally conservative Democrats in the Senate … in a working group that makes the new secretary of state a potential force within Congress. Eight of its members supported her candidacy for president.”

“Barack Obama has given his word that he would not keep people in the dark about such an controversial topic. If he is refuted while emotions are still at a boil, the mistrustful far left will turn away, Republicans inclined to support (Obama) would feel pressure and pretenders to the throne under the Democratic tent would gain support. And Hillary Clinton’s new little circle of friends in the Senate would make sure that the president will listen to the new secretary of state.”

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“America’s new government has charged itself with hunting a new specter on Wall Street, the corporate bonus for financial jugglers in banks and insurance companies, which has alternately been described as a ‘success,’ ‘retention,’ or ‘loyalty’ bonus — but always winds up being paid. At the same time a German labor minister is arguing for government intervention to save Opel. The two stories sound different, but they have a common theme, which rests on a basic principle of a market economy: accountability.”

“Free-market thinkers like Walter Eucken argued that accountability was as important in a market economy as the precedence of private over public ownership. Price pressures from supply and demand function only when they lead to financial reward and punishment for the players involved. Private property and personal accountability must both exist for profit and loss to work properly. This principle has been damaged by falsely constructed compensation systems in many banks and insurance companies.”

“The case of Opel is also a matter of accountability… A company that produces too many products for the market should be held liable and may, in the end, be eliminated from competition. But politicians determined to (rescue Opel) don’t want to hear this logic.”

“The financial world has gone to pieces because it has disregarded the law of accountability. A government should not try to save the economy by repeating this mistake.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Not as Rich in 2007, Declared 14. 5 Mln

(AGI) — Rome, 23 March — Silvio Berlusconi’s income was reduced in 2007 to a tenth of what it was the year before: 14,532, 538 compared to the 139,245,570 euros in 2006. This is what is read in a declaration of income presented last year for the 2007 earnings of the Prime Minister. The Premier paid gross taxes of 6,242,161 euros, with a tax credit of 399,169 euros.. Many were the goods and stakes in companies that the ‘Calvaliere’ declared. For the most part, the Premier’s real estate property is in Milan: two apartments used as homes, two enclosed parking spaces, three apartments and 50% of another apartment.

Moreover, he declared land holdings in Antigua. As far as other possessions, Berlusconi owns a 1992 Mercedes Sel and a 2006 Audi A6, as well as three boats: the San Maurizio from 1977, the Principessa Vai Via from 1965 and the Magnum 70 from 1990.

As for stakes in companies, Berlusconi possesses 5,174,000 shares in Dolcedrago (1 euro nominal value), 4,294,342 shares in Fininvest (1 euro nominal value), 2,548,000 shares in Holding Italiana Prima SpA, 2,199,600 shares in Holding Italiana Seconda SpA, 1,193,400 in Holding italiana Terza and 1,144,000 in Holding Italiana Ottava (all with 1 euro nominal value)to which must be added 200 shares in the Banca Popolare di Sviluppo (500 euro nominal value), a deposit administered by Banca di Sondrio of 896,000 shares and three deposits managed directly by banks which act autonomously in the purchasing and selling of shares, at the Banca Popolare di Sondrio, Banca Agricola Mantovana and the Banca Arner Italia SpA.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bawling Out Workers is ‘Mobbing’

Pro- staff ruling a week after F- word OK

(ANSA) — Rome, March 24 — Scolding a worker repeatedly and so loud that co-workers can hear it amounts to the crime of ‘mobbing’, Italy’s highest court of appeal ruled Tuesday.

The Cassation Court ordered a Milan company to pay 9,500 euro in damages to a worker of 12 years’ standing who was subjected to “continuous” and “excessive” reprimands for months before being sacked.

The high court, which last week OK’d the use of the F-word against bosses, found that the behaviour of the manager was in fact “a pretext” to “create a climate” to justify the firing of the worker, identified only as Anna D. The manager, who was not identified, was found to have “amplified incidents of modest significance” so she could be seen to be in the right when she eventually sacked Anna, the court said.

Mobbing usually refers to the collective bullying of workers by co-workers but is used in non-English-speaking countries also for other forms of bullying or aggressive treatment of staff.

Last week the Cassation Court said it was OK for workers to ask bosses “Who the f*** do you think you are?” as long as it was an “instinctive” reaction to being reprimanded.

photo: the Cassation Court

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Minister Okays Dutch or Foreign State Support for Mosques

THE HAGUE, 24/03/09 — The government is allowed to subsidise mosques, Home Affairs Minister Guusje Ter Horst has stated. Shhe will not take action either against donations from foreign regimes. The risk of these is exaggerated, Ter Horst writes in a letter to the Lower House.

“The principle of the separation of Church and State does not exclude any form of support from the government to a religious community,” Ter Horst maintained. As examples of permissible support, she referred to the subsidisation of “specific social activities by a religious organisation.”

No application can “generally” be made for financial support from the government for the building of a mosque. This means the construction is “usually” completely dependent on donations from members of the Muslim community, with financing “sometimes” being obtained from abroad. This is “primarily financing from countries in the Middle East” via “foreign governments, Islamic NGOs and wealthy people”.

Ter Horst will not intervene to stop donations from foreign regimes. “Contacts between a foreign government and its (former) citizens in the Netherlands may solely take place on a voluntary basis and may not hamper integration. There are no indications that these criteria are not being met.”

The minister mentions a series of examples of foreign funding that she claims are not detrimental to integration. For example, although donations from wealthy residents of the Gulf region to mosques in the Netherlands are “increasingly visible”, they are not intended for the acquisition of influence. “These wealthy people mostly finance mosques as part of the compulsory Zakat, one of the foundation stones of Islam, which spurs Muslims to give away part of their property as an act of charity,” the minister explained.

Last year, Morocco established a council for Moroccans in Europe. This “is intended to serve the specific religious and cultural needs of this community, and to preserve the Moroccan identity, faith and traditional values against the background of religious fundamentalism and extremism,” Ter Horst declared. This council is no more detrimental to integration than the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) “which pays the salaries of all imams attached to Diyanet mosques” in the Netherlands, Ter Horst reasoned.

Anxiety about ultra-orthodox Saudi influence is a thing of the past, the minister suggests. “Where mosques are concerned, there were worries about security risks”. These involved “the spread of ultra-orthodox salafism by the Saudi government and Saudi Islamic organisations”.

The minister also suggests that other issues are outdated. “There was anxiety about anti-integration risks in connection with the building of the Wester mosque by Milli Gorus in Amsterdam and the funding of the Essalam mosque in Rotterdam by a sheik from the United Arab Emirates. Recently, there was also publicity about organisations linked to the Turkish Fetullah Gulen movement.”

“The risk that a Dutch mosque is influenced from abroad always exists (…) but should not be overestimated. The principle of the separation of Church and State in our democracy means that government intervention in religious communities is not always possible, nor desirable. Both this principle and the freedom of religion mean that the government cannot in theory take action concerning the composition of the board of a mosque and the financing of a mosque, even if these are managed to some extent from outside the country.”

But there are mosques and donors who appear more moderate than they actually are. “It is sometimes difficult to assess the risks because the organisation has a double face: it outwardly supports moderation and integration, while the atmosphere inside the walls is completely different.”

To recognise and deal with “facade politics of this sort”, Ter Horst has developed a set of instructions, intended for local governments and civic organisations. This will be made available via Nuansa, the knowledge and advice centre on Polarisation and Radicalisation (www.nuansa.nl).

Summing up, the Labour (PvdA) minister observed that “it is primarily the strength of the Dutch mosques themselves that can limit the risks of foreign financing.” It is not necessary to give the government more powers; there is already a “good system for monitoring, enforcement and sanctions.”

The cabinet will present a bill this year concerning the obligation of foundations to publish their annual accounts. “This will also make the financial situation of mosques more transparent, as they are often managed by foundations. It also means that it will be more difficult for financiers, foreign or not, to secretly acquire influence in a mosque.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Norway: Socialist Left: Ban on Gasoline Driven Cars

Finance Minister and Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen says her party wants a ban on the sale of gasoline driven cars by 2015. She says that new technology will be available by then. — The Socialist Left will adopt this as a goal, but it must of course be effectuated in cooperation with other countries, she says.

In an interview with Aftenposten, Halvorsens says she believes that by 2015 the development of new technology will have advanced to the point where it is quite possible to demand that all new cars be emission free.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: uhh, yeah…]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Poll: Most Czechs Trust President, Local Authorities

Prague, March 23 (CTK) — Czech President Vaclav Klaus still enjoys the highest public trust out of the constitutional institutions, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM polling centre in March and released to CTK Monday.

Klaus is trusted by 65 percent of respondents and almost the same share, or 64 percent, trust local authorities…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Romania Weighs Decriminalizing Incest

Consensual Relations Between Relations Already Legal In Several European Nations

Surprising as it may seem, incest is not always a crime in Europe.

Three European Union nations — France, Spain and Portugal — do not prosecute consenting adults for incest, and Romania is considering following suit.


Opposition also comes from the Romanian Orthodox Church, which counts some 85 percent of the population among its worshippers and says incest “affects the moral and psychological health of human beings … the sacred family institution, and public morality.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sardinia to Axe Luxury Tax

Super- rich will benefit from yacht and plane relief

(ANSA) — Cagliari, March 24 — The new governor of Sardinia said Tuesday he will repeal a so-called ‘luxury tax’ regime that has been the bane of the millionaires and yacht-owners who use the island as a summer playground.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi and flamboyant Formula One boss Flavio Briatore are among the host of VIPs and glitterati who will benefit from the decision by governor Ugo Cappellacci to axe levies on super-yachts and private planes.

Cappellacci, the son of Berlusconi’s tax adviser, announced his plan as he presented a draft budget to trade unions Tuesday.

The tax on the mega rich was first introduced in 2006 by Cappellacci’s centre-left predecessor Renato Soru, who was defeated in elections last month. Soru, himself a billionaire, argued the levies would help conserve Sardinia’s natural resources and boost the flagging local economy.

Under the tax system, owners of yachts between 14m and 16m are required to pay 1,000 euros for mooring at any of the island’s ports, with a maximum of 15,000 euros levied on boats over 60m.

Boat owners are required to pay the tax in full, even for a one-day visit, within 24 hours of arriving on the island.

Taxes are also levied on private planes landing in Sardinian airports.

Briatore was one of the taxes’ fiercest critics, arguing that the extra charges are driving well-heeled tourists away from Sardinia, but other VIPs on the island sided with Soru.

Tom Barrack, a billionaire Californian real estate investor who owns a string of Emerald Coast resorts, agreed with Soru that affluent tourists were being asked to “pay a small price to enjoy and help preserve this island’s unique beauty”.

In February 2008 the Constitutional Court abolished another tax introduced by Soru on second homes built within three kilometres of the sea owned by non-residents.

The ruling that the taxes were unconstitutional brought relief to millionaires with lavish holiday villas but also to Italy’s middle classes, many of whom have more modest getaways on the island.

Cappellacci said Monday he was also planning to loosen restrictions on construction along Sardinia’s coastline if guarantees are maintained to safeguard the environment.

“It’s time to put an end to this cliche’ about some people wanting to cover the coast with cement and others wanting to protect the natural beauty — it’s a Taliban vision of environmental policy,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Most Swedes Support Mandatory Military Service: Poll

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Interesting to compare and contrast opinions on conscription in Sweden and Denmark — see other article from Politiken. Kinda similar in the difference from articles last Friday between decreasing migration in Sweden and increasing #s in Finland.]

Amid concerns about moving to an all-volunteer military, a new poll shows the majority of Swedes want to retain the country’s current system of mandatory military service.

The greatest support for mandatory service comes among young men, 74 percent of whom want to maintain it. The corresponding figure for the entire population is 63 percent, according to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Overall, a slightly higher number of women want to continue with mandatory military conscription, 65 percent, versus 61 percent for men.

Among young women, however, support is somewhat lower — 61 percent — than among women in general.

The recent government proposition on the future of Sweden’s military calls for mandatory military service to be phased out in favour of an all-volunteer military in order to save money and to create a leaner and more flexible Armed Forces.

But brigadier general Bengt Axelsson is doubtful whether the assumed cost savings will actually be realized.

“I want to raise a warning finger. It’s not going to be possible to achieve the volume of soldiers people are now counting on having by relying on volunteers,” he told SvD, who fears that Sweden’s military will end up with fewer and less-competent soldiers.

“It’s clear that it’s going to be more expensive because we’ll employ people significantly earlier and for longer periods of time. It will become more expensive and it’s obvious there’s a risk we’ll get a lower-quality system.”

Military leaders from neighbouring Denmark and Finland also warned that Sweden’s decision to scrap military service could have negative consequences.

“Mandatory service is a very cost-efficient defence solution. Many European countries who have abandoned military service have had lost of problems recruiting,” Gustav Hägglund, former head of Finland’s armed forces, to SvD.

He added that part of the problem is that the best candidates often choose other careers, while those who end up choosing the military of often people who don’t have so many other alternatives.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Decision to Work in Sweden Proves Costly for Aspiring Resident

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Ahh yes, let’s penalize the people who don’t want to live on the dole.]

An Azerbaijani’s dream of building a life with his Swedish wife in her home country is in jeopardy because of his decision to get a job.

Rafail Hamidov has been living in Sweden since September 2006 on a temporary residence permit, the Blekinge Läns Tidning (BLT) reports.

Ever since arriving in the country, he has done his best to follow the rules and do what was expected of him.

He started studying Swedish and even managed to find employment as a forestry worker.

Because the job was more than 80 kilometres away from the couple’s home in Karlshamn, however, Hamidov choose to spend the work week at the job site rather than spend three hours a day commuting back and forth.

But the decision to commute weekly ended up having dire consequences for Hamidov’s bid for a permanent residence permit.

In the eyes of Sweden’s Migration Board (Migrationsverket), Hamidov and his Swedish wife were no longer living together, leading the agency to deny his application for permanent residency.

A lack of a permanent residency then led Hamidov’s employer to decide not to hire him permanently.

Thus, when the worker Hamidov had temporarily replaced came back to work, the Azerbaijani once again found himself out of job.

A case worker with Sweden’s National Public Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) suggested instead that Hamidov take classes in hopes of increasing his employability.

“I have a university degree in economics from my home country and I’ve had it approved by Sweden’s National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket),” Hamidov told BLT.

“If I add to my credentials I’ll increase my chances of getting a job.”

But when Hamidov applied for loans to support himself while studying, the Swedish National Board of Student Aid (CSN) also turned him down because he didn’t have permanent residency.

Hamidov and his wife, who are expecting their first child, then sought social welfare in order to scrape together enough money to pay their bills while Hamidov pursued his studies.

But their application to social services was rejected because welfare payments can’t be used to help finance education costs.

Ironically, had Hamidov chosen not to take a job which required a weekly commute, he would have received permanent residency, writes BLT.

“The Migration Board, the municipality, and the employment agency all belong to the same country but they all say different things,” said Hamidov.

“One authority says ‘work’ and another says ‘you’re not allowed to work’. What is someone supposed to believe?”

Migration Board spokesperson Louise Utter admitted that sometimes the rules work against even the most well-intentioned immigrants.

“Unfortunately, our laws don’t always line up with one another,” she told the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gothenburg Hit by Spate of Morning Bomb Scares

Shoppers in Gothenburg suffered disruption on Tuesday as the city was hit by a spate of bomb scares.

The discovery of a suspicious shoe box in a subway tunnel near Gamlestadstorget in Gothenburg on Tuesday morning led to delays to tram and train traffic.

A further bomb scare earlier on Tuesday morning led to the closure of part of the shopping centre near Frölunda square.

Both scares turned out to be false alarms and news agency TT reports that by lunchtime transport links had returned to normal and the shopping centre had been re-opened.

Police bomb technicians were called to a Hemköp supermarket on Frölunda square this morning when staff reported a suspicious package. The store was cordoned off while police investigated the source of the alarm — a discarded shoe box.

Gothenburg police are not ruling out a connection between the two discarded shoe boxes.

“These boxes are not dissimilar, but we have not received any information of a threat,” said Björ Blixter at Västra Götaland police to news agency TT.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

The Sunday Times Interview With Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic

Mr President, thank you for kindly agreeing to an interview with The Sunday Times.

1. Could you please elaborate on the “democratic deficit” you identified in the institutions of the European Union during your speech in front of the European Parliament?

VK: I see the “democratic deficit” in a growing distance between the citizens of the EU member states and the EU political elite, as well as in the shift of decision-making from the member states capitals to Brussels. About seventy-five percent of our legislation is now made in the EU by unelected officials and there are attempts in the Lisbon Treaty to give them even more power, to give the EU its own legal personality and to abolish the member states’ right of veto in a number of important areas. This certainly is not a solution to the democratic deficit, it makes the democratic deficit even greater.

2. The Irish have once rejected the Lisbon Treaty but they have been asked to go to the polls again — and surveys indicate that this time the vote could have a different outcome. What is your position on the renewed referendum on the Treaty in Ireland?

VK: I will not comment on the Irish government’s decision to hold the second referendum. It is its sovereign decision for which it is accountable to the Irish voters. I am not certain that the vote could have a different outcome, I believe the Irish people knew what they were doing. But the pressure will be enormous, and not very democratic.

3. Supporters of the Treaty argue that it would make the institutions of the European Union more efficient, giving more power to elected member of the European Parliament rather that selected bureaucrats. Why do you think that the Treaty would make the “defect” you identified in the EU decision-making even worse, as you said in your recent speech?

VK: If you read the Treaty from cover to cover (and you must have its consolidated version or all the existing treaties next to it), you must conclude that the Treaty makes the EU less democratic, it makes the decision-making less transparent and it gives more competences to Brussels, at the expense of member states. It makes it more difficult to disagree, as it changes unanimous voting into qualified majority voting in more than fifty areas. It opens a way for further centralisation and it includes self-amending clauses which can change and therefore extend EU competences without the need for the national parliaments or the EU member states’ citizens to agree with it.

4. What articles of the Lisbon Treaty do you object the most and why?

VK: I object the Treaty as such. It is the old Constitutional treaty re-written. If ratified, it will represent an irreversible shift from “Europe of states” to “the State of Europe”. This cannot be “improved” by some cosmetic changes in article “x” or “y” of the Treaty.

5. As a vehement proponent of economic deregulation, what do you think of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s plan for the upcoming G-20 summit, in which he calls for more regulatory supervision?

VK: I think that the attempts to solve the current economic and financial crisis by further regulation are wrong and they can have the effect of making the crisis even graver. The crisis cannot be solved by restraining human initiative and putting further burdens on businesses, I propose the exact opposite: deregulation, liberalisation, removing barriers and unnecessary, obstructive legislation at the EU level. In my view, the next Commission should propose which legal acts and standards are to be repealed, rather than proposing new ones….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK ‘Home to 300 Rights Abusers’

More than 300 people responsible for war crimes and other human rights abuses overseas could be living in Britain, the BBC has learned.

File on 4 has discovered that many of the alleged perpetrators are known to the government’s UK Border Agency.

The agency recommended rejecting hundreds of asylum or immigration claims in five years from people suspected of crimes against humanity.

Only a handful of cases have been referred to the police.

Figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request by File on 4 show the UK Border Agency’s war crimes team recommended rejection of 350 asylum and immigration claims in five years, on the grounds it suspected the applicants of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

But less than half of those were actually excluded.

The figures do not include people who entered the country illegally or were not spotted by the authorities.

One estimate suggests that this could be another 100 people

Police plea

Only 22 cases of people alleged to have been either war criminals or human rights abusers have been referred to the police in the last five years.

And there have been claims some investigations failed because of a lack of resources or expertise.

The government’s reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile, said that needed to be rectified.

“I would hope that the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner would think it right to set up an additional unit, just as one of his predecessors set up the war crimes unit, to investigate international criminal matters of this kind, “ he told the BBC.

“There is a suspicion around the world that the United Kingdom gives safe haven to people who have committed genocide and indeed torture.

“Some of them are suspected of the most appalling crimes, involving murder on a large scale,” he added.

The Home Office said that the government was committed to dealing with human rights abusers.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK Population Must Fall to 30m, Says Porritt

JONATHON PORRITT, one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society.

Porritt’s call will come at this week’s annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron.

The trust will release research suggesting UK population must be cut to 30m if the country wants to feed itself sustainably.

Porritt said: “Population growth, plus economic growth, is putting the world under terrible pressure.

“Each person in Britain has far more impact on the environment than those in developing countries so cutting our population is one way to reduce that impact.”

Population growth is one of the most politically sensitive environmental problems. The issues it raises, including religion, culture and immigration policy, have proved too toxic for most green groups.

However, Porritt is winning scientific backing. Professor Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, will use the OPT conference, to be held at the Royal Statistical Society, to warn that population growth could help derail attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Rapley, who formerly ran the British Antarctic Survey, said humanity was emitting the equivalent of 50 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

“We have to cut this by 80%, and population growth is going to make that much harder,” he said.

Such views on population have split the green movement. George Monbiot, a prominent writer on green issues, has criticised population campaigners, arguing that “relentless” economic growth is a greater threat.

Many experts believe that, since Europeans and Americans have such a lopsided impact on the environment, the world would benefit more from reducing their populations than by making cuts in developing countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Threat of Britons Trained by Al Qaeda’

Pakistan has monitored more than 20 Britons believed to have spent time with radical militant groups and then returned to the UK, Sky News has learned.

The tracked men are said to have trained with extremist outfits linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban and are thought to pose a potential threat to British security.

The dossier of names is expected to be handed over to British anti-terrorist teams soon and is being seen as a big leap forward in the sharing of intelligence between the two countries.

But British authorities may wonder why the names were not handed over before the suspects re-entered the UK.

The details have been compiled by Pakistan’s intelligence service — the ISI — and follow the Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s declaration that three-quarters of all serious terror plots in Britain have their roots in Pakistan.

The suspects are aged between 17 and 23 and have apparently created “sufficient suspicion” with their activities for the ISI to believe they pose a “potential danger” to Britain.

At least four are thought to have been fighting in Afghanistan — which means they may well have been attacking British troops there….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Give US a £40k Pay Rise and We’ll Surrender Lavish Perks! Shameless MPs Reveal ‘solution’ to Expenses Row

Shameless MPs have reluctantly agreed to give up some of their lavish perks — but only in return for a massive pay rise.

This could mean their basic wage of £63,291 would rise immediately to more than £100,000.

Support is gathering in Westminster for MPs to be given a ‘proper’ salary in return for scrapping their second-home allowance.

The perk — which allows them to claim £24,000 a year for mortgage interest payments, utilities bills and similar expenses — has become a longstanding source of controversy amid claims that it is being widely abused.

Employment minister Tony McNulty, who is facing an investigation after claiming £60,000 in expenses for his parents’ home, is leading the calls for a pay rise.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: G20 Protesters ‘Will Try to Bring London to Standstill’

Next month’s G20 summit will present an “unprecedented” challenge as up to 2,000 protesters attempt to bring London to a standstill, the Metropolitan Police admitted yesterday.

The 20 world leaders, including Barack Obama, are to visit the capital for the summit on 2 and 3 April. They plan to discuss ways to tackle the global financial crisis.

But their presence is expected to encourage a large number of protests, with scores of activists from an array of different causes determined to generate publicity from demonstrations around the event.

The majority of protest groups have promised to demonstrate peacefully, but there are fears anarchist and hardcore anti-capitalists from Britain and abroad will try to fight police in pitched battles reminiscent of the anarchist riots of the late 1990s which caused millions of pounds of damage….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Judge Spares Businessman Who Kidnapped Burglar After Police Told Him: ‘We Can’t Come for Two Days’

A businessman who kidnapped a burglar has been spared jail after a judge accepted he was ‘driven to distraction’ by repeated break-ins. Building firm boss Sean Preson, 41, dialled 999 after spotting four intruders attacking a bungalow he was modernising, but after being told an officer would not be sent to see him for two days, then set about catching them himself. He and an employee captured one of the culprits, an 18 year old, that night and forced him to direct them to the home of another, aged 29, where a skirmish took place, a court heard.

The police later arrested the ‘vigilantes’. Married father-of-three Preson was charged with kidnap, an offence that carries a maximum sentence of life in jail.

He admitted the charge, but walked free from Leicester Crown Court after being given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work.

Judge Michael Pert QC said: ‘I’m prepared to treat your case as an exception. ‘I accept you were driven to distraction by people constantly burgling your premises. ‘The fact you called the police and were told they’d send someone to see you in two days, in my judgement, it would give anybody pause for thought. Anyone would be sympathetic to the position you found yourself in.

‘I cannot accept what you did was right, but whether your conduct warrants you being sent to prison, in my view, it doesn’t.’

The 18 year old and the 29 year old were each cautioned for theft. A 28-year-old woman was also cautioned, and a 24-year-old man who was charged with attempted theft was given a 12 month conditional discharge at an earlier hearing.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Just finished Theodore Dalrymple’s truly excellent “Not With a Bang But a Whimper” — this is straight out of one of his essays — repeat criminals being given only a warning — not even any kind of sentence…while charging the honest joe.]

Preson, of Huncote, Leicestershire, was driving his family home from a restaurant last August and spotted trespassers trying to steal floodlights and CCTV equipment from the site. The building had been repeatedly raided to the cost of £4,500, during the previous six months….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Blunders Left Cannabis-Crazed Schizophrenic Asylum Seeker Free to Murder Policeman

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Here’s another one straight out of Dalrymple.]

A series of NHS blunders left a cannabis-using paranoid schizophrenic free to stab a policeman to death.

Tennyson Obih, 29, went ‘off the radar’ and on the rampage to kill PC John Henry after he ditched his medication for a mixture of ‘olive oil and prayer’. A team of mental health visitors was supposed to monitor his progress after he was released from hospital nearly three years ago.

But he regularly missed appointments and officials failed to react to Obih’s startling admission that he had taken the advice of his African father to swallow olive oil and pray instead of taking his prescribed medicine.

Obih, who dubbed himself ‘The Chosen One’, believed he had special powers, could predict the future and could point at something to make it vibrate until it exploded.

One month later, in June 2007, he went beserk in Luton town centre with a four and a half inch knife, stabbing a middle aged window cleaner in the back and killing PC Henry, 36.

As the dead father of one’s widow spoke movingly of her loss, there were calls for an inquiry into the care in the community treatment plan which failed to effectively monitor Obih…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Rights Bill is Branded ‘Hot Air’

The government’s proposed Bill of Rights has been criticised by civil liberties campaigners as “hot air”.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw believes a written statement of “common values” will boost social cohesion in Britain.

But it is not clear if the measures set out in a green paper will be enforceable in the courts.

Unlock Democracy, which campaigns for a written constitution, warned it could become a “list of nice things” which the government would “simply ignore”.

The proposed Bill of Rights and Responsibilities does not include the right to a jury trial or a ban on detention without charge.


In its green paper, the government argues “the belief in their fundamental nature is already so deeply entrenched, culturally and politically, and there is no fundamental threat to them”.

It says it does not want to override safeguards contained in the Human Rights Act — such as free speech and fair trials — or open up “new areas of litigation”.

But it says the “selfish and sometimes aggressive assertion of rights” can damage social cohesion and stability, leading to the creation of a “‘me’ society rather than a ‘we’ society”.

The government argues there is a need for British citizens’ existing rights to be collected in one place along with the social responsibilities expected of them in return.

“Although not necessarily suitable for expression as a series of new legally enforceable duties, it may be desirable to express succinctly, in one place, the key responsibilities we all owe as members of UK society, ensuring a clearer understanding of them in a new, accessible constitutional document and reinforcing the imperative to observe them,” the green paper says.

“Key responsibilities” included in a Bill of Rights might include not claiming benefits when able to work, obeying the law, reporting crimes, co-operating with the police, paying taxes, voting and doing jury service.

They could also include parents’ duty to look after children, treating public sector workers with respect and living “within our environmental limits”.

‘Binds us’

Launching a “wide-ranging consultation” on the proposals, Mr Straw said: “We believe it is important that people know their rights and their responsibilities. That common knowledge helps bind us together as a nation.”

But campaigners say that without including safeguards to fundamental liberties — and by explicitly linking rights to responsibilities — the new bill will be seen as government “nannying”.

Peter Facey, director of Unlock Democracy, said: “Our rights and freedoms should not be treated either as rewards handed out by the government for good behaviour, or as privileges that can be withheld like a child’s pocket money.”

Instead a Bill of Rights should be a “genuine guarantor” of rights such as jury trial and not being held without charge to “protect” citizens from the state, he argued.

And it should be “entrenched” in law so that it could not be reversed by future governments who do not like its provisions.

“There is no point in having a Bill of Rights that is a paper shield, which says nice things but which the government can simply ignore,” said Mr Facey.

But he welcomed the green paper as the “first stage” of a necessary debate.

Ceri Goddard, acting director of the British Institute of Human Rights, also welcomed the green paper, but added: “Instead of setting forth ambitious and imaginative proposals to safeguard a comprehensive set of rights for everyone in these challenging times, what the government is proposing is at best half measures and at worst hot air.”

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve, for the Conservatives, dismissed the proposals as “pap”…..

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Schizophrenic Who Killed Jonathan Zito Set to be Moved From High-Security Prison

A schizophrenic who killed a newly-wed musician in a packed Tube station is being prepared for an early release.

Christopher Clunis was jailed indefinitely after stabbing Jonathan Zito, 27, through the eye at Finsbury Park station in December 1992.

The case caused outrage when it was revealed that Clunis, now 45, who had a history of violent behaviour, had been released under the controversial ‘care in the community’ programme just weeks before the killing.

Eight days before the attack, Clunis, who had stopped taking his medication, was found wandering the streets with a screwdriver and breadknife, threatening children.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: This is No Way to Counter Islamic Terror

The lesson from Northern Ireland is that we must tackle extremist ideology as well as violence

British troops returning home after fighting for Queen and Country were greeted with placards that smeared them as “murderers” and chants that slandered the Army as a “killing machine”. This wasn’t Luton and the demonstrators weren’t Islamist extremists. This was Belfast, in November. The troops were those of The Royal Irish Regiment and the protesters were Irish republicans of both the “dissident” and “mainstream” varieties.

The similarities between events in Luton and Northern Ireland run deep. In both cases the protesters were inspired by an ideology that is starkly opposed to the British State and everything that it stands for. Moreover, the Government is applying the supposed lessons of Northern Ireland to the battle against jihadi violence.

The bringing of peace to Northern Ireland is rightly held to be a monumental achievement. But the price of peace has involved bringing into government men who are utterly unrepentent about a quarter of a century of terrorism. Sinn Féin was not required to decommission the central tenets of its creed or its belief that the IRA’s campaign of violence was a “just war”.

In the aftermath of the recent violent spasm, several security sources referred wistfully to the good old days when the help of a former IRA Council member such as Brian Keenan could be sought to rein in potential splinter groups . His “street cred”, derived from his hardline views, was felt to be crucial to the maintenance of republican unity.

The Government’s strategy for dealing with Islamist violence betrays an all too familiar spirit. The best antidote to “violent” extremism is deemed to be dealing with those “non-violent” extremists who hold exactly the same views. The Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, published today, puts the emphasis on stopping the spread of Islamist ideology through education, propaganda and funding organisations and programmes run by Islamist extremists.

The problems with this approach have been detailed in a remarkable Policy Exchange report, Choosing Our Friends Wisely, by a former Hizb ut-Tahrir radical, Shiraz Maher and a Cambridge academic, Martyn Frampton. It highlights the way in which the Government’s flagship scheme for combating Islamist terrorism — the Prevent Strategy — is in many places helping to empower the very forces that underpin the threat we face. Funded to the tune of about £90million over a three-year period, it too often provides succour to local incarnations of the broader Islamist threat.

The significance of this cannot be understated. We are involved in a desperate ideological struggle — one that demands a response that encompasses not only “soft” power but “hard” power too. It was the decisive hard power of the Army and security forces that forced the IRA to the negotiating table.

This is a conflict that crosses the boundaries of foreign and domestic. In the battle against Islamist extremism, the front line is, as often as not, on the home front. Obviously, we must value those who risk life and limb on traditional battlefields — and the large crowds turning out to welcome home the troops suggest that the vast majority do honour their efforts. But equally, it is clear that much of the responsibility for winning the struggle lies not with the troops, but with those tasked with preventing extremism at home.

Today, the question of who is the Chief Constable of say, West Yorkshire, bears the same import for national security as did the matter of who was First Sea Lord in a bygone era. Soldiers returning from Afghanistan find themselves, along with the civilian population, facing a threat to the home front, as great as any since the V1 and V2 raids of the Second World War.

It is for this reason that domestic counter-terrorism strategy is so vital. There is still a significant hardcore of extremists in Britain who believe in violent jihad and whose actions have merely been contained by the police and security services. That our strategy is failing cannot but be a cause for alarm.

In large part that failure is due to precisely the same attitude that prevailed in relation to Irish republicanism: that it is only those imbued with radicalism who have the authority to defang the militants. Yet it is worth asking: if such views are allowed to reign, what hope is there for genuine moderates? The destruction of the centre-ground SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party serves a cautionary note. There is a danger that the present strategy will sacrifice the vast majority of moderate Muslims. The Islamists are still a minority within their minority and it would be a tragedy if they were artificially boosted by misguided policies driven by the short-term impulse to stop the “next bomb”.

The truth of all this appears to have been grasped by far-sighted members of the Cabinet, such as the Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears. But hers is just one in a number of powerful voices.

The stakes could not be higher. For what incidents such as those in Luton and Northern Ireland should force us to acknowledge is that extremist ideas must be tackled head on and faced down. If they are not, then such episodes will become the norm, rather than the exception. Even more terrifying is the prospect that this could lead to events such as the dreadful killings in Northern Ireland being repeated here in an Islamist hue in years to come.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Italy: Two Million Legal Migrants From Outside EU

Rome, 23 March (AKI) — The Italian government’s hardline measures to restrict immigration have not deterred an influx of foreigners from outside Europe. New statistics released on Monday show that there are more than two million residents from outside the European Union living legally in Italy.

A report by Italy’s central statistics agency ISTAT said that Albanians top the list with 303,818 permits of stay issued in 2008, followed by 277,329 Moroccans, 139,711 Ukrainians with 139,711 and 137,912 Chinese migrants.

Other non-EU countries with fewer than 100,000 living in Italy legally include Filipinos, Tunisians, Indians, Serbians, Peruvians, Egyptians and Sri Lankans. According to the report, the largest concentration of these migrants is in the north and in central regions of the country.

Over 1.2 million permits of stay were issued for working purposes, while 680,000 were issued for family reasons.

Study permits numbered only 45,000, while 24,000 were issued for religious reasons and 21,000 for humanitarian reasons.

The report did not take into account citizens of European Union member countries, such as Romania or Poland, whose citizens make up a considerable proportion of immigrants.

However, the number of foreigners living illegally in Italy is over 650,000, according to the Italian interior ministry.

In Italy, ‘irregular’ immigrants include those who entered the country illegally and those whose whose legal permit of stay has expired.

The current conservative Italian government has adopted a tough stance on immigration and stepped up the repatriation of illegal immigrants or those deemed a security threat.

Immigrants can take over 12 months to obtain a renewal of their permit of stay, which is often issued for a only a few months. That means many find themselves in a constant state of ‘irregularity’

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

Kosovo Albanian Gangsters, Hitmen Active in UK

Former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) have become prominent figures in London’s underworld of organized crime, the London Daily News writes.

Experience with knives and fire arms have put them at the top of the list of professional assassins in the British capital, the daily states.

It adds that Albanian hitmen working in London “touting for business and offer their sordid services at GBP 5,000”.

One leading Albanian gangster who spoke to the London Daily News said:

“We can use guns, we control the prostitutes in Soho and we are investing in London heavily. We fear no one and the law cannot do anything to stop us.”

The war in Kosovo fuelled the spread of the Albanian Mafia after numerous gangsters disguised as Kosovo “refugees” found their way into European countries, especially the UK now over ten years since the troubles in the Balkans, the daily writes.

“The Albanian Mafia is not a pyramid with one leader, rather an organization with several bosses,” the article explains.

“The ownership of the European heroin market, according to police sources from a dozen European countries is in the hands of 30 Albanian mafia families. Each of these families control a specific area of Kosovo which is the main transit point for all drugs,” London Daily News writes.

“The Drenica area, which goes through Prizren, Klina and Istok connects Montenegro and FYROM [Macedonia] is controlled by the Drenica Group whose main profit is drugs, weapons, stolen automobiles, white slavery, cigarettes and alcohol. This mafia is connected with the Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian and Czech mafia,” the daily reported.

“Recent FBI report shows that Albanian mafia overtook the Russian and Italian mafia in New York. Same went for several European cities, including London, Berlin and Prague,” the article adds.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Commemoration for 10th Anniversary of NATO Bombing

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 23 — Many demonstrations have been planned for tomorrow, March 24, all over Serbia for the 10th anniversary of NATO raids. In the entire country, sirens will sound at noon and the Serbian government has invited citizens to stop what they are doing in public places, company offices, in the institutions and schools to observe a minute of silence for the victims of the bombing. The Serbian government will hold a special event dedicated to the day of memory for the victims. The session, tomorrow at noon, will be opened to the public, informed a statement from the Premier Mirko Cvetkovic’s cabinet, quoted by the Tanjug agency. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Zapatero, Troops Out of Kosovo a Logical Decision

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 20 — The withdrawal of Spanish troops is a “logical” and “well-publicised” one, given that Spain does not recognise the Balkan country as an independent state, said Spanish premier, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, speaking on the sidelines of the EU summit in Brussels today. “Our role in this scenario has lost a part of its meaning” Zapatero said, as quoted by the EFE press agency. With regard to the criticism expressed by NATO General Secretary, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who defined the withdrawal announced by the Spanish government as “ill-timed” and ‘unilateral”, the premier replied that: “the decision is Spain’s alone”.. According to Zapatero, not all of the countries in the alliance are in the same operations, nor do they particapate in missions in the same way. “Spain has more than fulfilled its committment towards stability in the Balkans”, the socialist premier said. Zapatero assured his audience that the decision to withdraw troops, which he called a “logical” one, “was indicated to the secretary general” of the alliance. “The formal aspects,” the head of the Spanish government added, “were carried out in a meticulous and painstaking way”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Elections, Football Stars Support Bouteflika

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MARCH 23 — Even historic Algerian sports stars have taken the field to support outgoing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s 3rd mandate in the upcoming elections on April 9. Ali Fergani, Mahmoud Guendouz, Abdelhamid Salhi, Lakdar Belloumi, and other players from the Algerian national side who made history when they beat Germany in the 1982 World Cup in Spain, applauded Bouteflika during his 4th electoral campaign rally organised in Setif, 300km east of Algiers. Relaunching sports in the country was the central theme of the president/candidate’s speech. “We have the material means and the infrastructure that would allow us to host two world cup’s at the same time,” said Bouteflika, “but the results have been less than expected.” The Algerian team has not qualified for the world cup since 1986. “Corruption and business have diseased sports. People who have to earn money should be involved in business,” he added in front of executives from several Algerian teams, including ESS Setif’s hakim Serrar. “Make your requests and we will respond,” he said while pointing out the performance of the athletes who “have raised the Algerian flag in front of the entire world”. Among those who were present was also Nouredine Morceli, a gold-medal winner in the 1,500 metre event at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. Bouteflika, 72 years old, has been in office since 1999, and will continue his campaign in Tiaret and Tissemsilt (west), before interrupting his campaign to go to Doha for the Arab League summit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisian Pilot Who Paused to Pray Instead of Taking Emergency Measures Before Crash-Landing His Plane, Killing 16 People, Has Been Sentenced to 10 Years in Jail by an Italian Court Along With His Co-Pilot.

The 2005 crash at sea off Sicily left survivors swimming for their lives, some clinging to a piece of the fuselage that remained floating after the ATR turbo-prop aircraft splintered upon impact.

A fuel-gauge malfunction was partly to blame but prosecutors also said the pilot succumbed to panic, praying out loud instead of following emergency procedures and then opting to crash-land the plane instead trying to reach a nearby airport.

Another five employees of Tuninter, a subsidiary of Tunisair, were sentenced to between eight and nine years in jail by the court, in a verdict handed down on Monday.

The seven accused, who were not in court, will not spend time in jail until the appeals process has been exhausted.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Violence on Women: Tunisia, Poster Contest in Arab Countries

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 20 — A competition for a poster to expose the violence that women from Arab countries are exposed to has been proclaimed in Tunis by the ‘Kawtar’ Women’s Study and Research Centre in collaboration with UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The contest aims at youth awareness on the unfortunately persistent problem of violence against women in Arab countries, inviting them to a positive response. The deadline for entries has been fixed for next April 30. The three posters considered to be the most significant will be used for an international campaign. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Clash in Tense Israeli-Arab Town

Israeli-Arab protesters have clashed with police as Jewish Israeli right-wingers marched in the majority-Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.

Thirteen arrests were made as police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse stone-throwing protesters.

Israeli-Arab residents of the town view the march as highly provocative and had vowed to stop it.

The High Court gave permission for the march, but police had postponed it several times, fearing violence.

About 2,500 police in riot gear flanked about 100 far-right activists as they marched on the outskirts of the town, waving Israeli flags.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Israel: Religious Party Joins Likud-Led Coalition

Jerusalem, 23 March (AKI) — Israel’s conservative Likud party signed a coalition agreement with the ultra-orthodox religious Shas party on Monday after intense negotiations, Israeli media said.

The agreement stipulates that current Shas chairman and minister of industry, trade and labour Eli Yishai will be deputy prime minister and also be appointed interior minister ..

Current communications minister and fellow party member Ariel Atias will be the new housing and construction minister.

Shas will also receive the religious affairs portfolio.

Israel’s prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu who heads the Likud party now has 53 seats in the 120-seat Israeli Knesset or parliament. He still needs at least 8 more seats to have a working majority.

Israeli president Shimon Peres on Friday granted Netanyahu a two-week extension to enable him to build a coalition government.

Other far-right nationalist and religious parties that may join a Likud-led coalition are the National Union, which has four seats, Jewish Home which has three seats and the United Torah Judaism which won five seats in the February election.

However, on Monday representatives from the centre-left Labor party led by party chairman and former prime minister Ehud Barak met Likud representatives for talks on forming a broad unity government.

Israeli media reports said Netanyahu’s efforts to bring Labor into a national unity government provoked angry opposition inside his Likud faction last week as MKs attacked the move for both ideological and political reasons.

Netanyahu turned to Labor after lengthy negotiations collapsed with the centrist Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.

If Labor joins the government, the 13 seats it gained during the 11 February elections would give Netanyahu a 66-seat majority.

Israeli media says Labor is demanding five key ministries among them defence, agriculture and trade. With regard to the Palestinians, Labor would demand that Netanyahu continue negotiations but there would be no mention of a two-state solution.

Shas and Likud’s deal follow Israel’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu’s announcement that it would join the government on 15 March.

Beiteinu is led by party chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who is a strong supporter of Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law.

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

Israel: Gov’t, Barak-Likud Agreement, Labour Unrest

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MARCH 24 — The Israeli Labour party is experiencing a dramatic situation after Labour leader Ehud Barak agreed with Premier designate Benyamin Netanyahu (Likud) to enter into a broad government. The agreement generally calls for the recognition of international agreements signed in the past by Israel and future aspirations for peace agreements with their neighbours, including the Palestinians. It also calls for a series of economic measures agreed upon with the Histadrut union, which they hope will protect the Israeli working class from the repercussions of the global economic crisis. Many Labour leaders, including secretary general Eitan Cabel, say that the entrance of the party into a government with six religious and national parties represents “its definitive end”. Today at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Centre, Barak will announce the meaning of the agreement reached with Netanyahu, which will guarantee his party five ministries including the Ministry of Defence and economics ministry. His rivals have decided to fight his decision and vote on joining the opposition. The result of the vote should be announced this evening. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel: Labour Agrees to Government With Likud

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MARCH 24 — Early reports from radio and television claim that the majority of delegates at the Labour Party conference in Israel have today approved the plan to join a coalition government with Likud, as recommended by party leader Ehud Barak. Official results confirm that 58% of the delegates voted in favour of joining a coalition government with Likud, whilst 42% of those entitled to vote said they were against the plans. There were 1,071 valid votes overall. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

It’s Worse Than a Crime, It’s Blundering Analysis

by Barry Rubin

The problem, as we see repeatedly, with much media coverage of issues involving Israel is the way the story is defined. There need not be any sense of bias by a reporter. Merely copying what other journalists do or from a specific ideological framework—not because reporters have preconceptions but because they make far less effort than in the past to balance them—leads to a conception of the story that is skewed.

This appears subtly in news stories but very openly in analysis pieces. Consider Steven Gutkin, “Analysis: Mideast peace up to interlocking deals,” March 16, 2009. The lead is innovative but a bit clunky:

“The fate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a collection of moving parts that somehow need to come together in a single package: an Israel-Hamas prisoner swap, a truce for Gaza, and new governments on both sides of the firing line that could pursue peace.”

There is an attempt to present the issue as involving a number of aspects. Yet the article mixes two very different things: the situation between Israel and Hamas regarding Gaza, and prospects for a comprehensive peace. In a very real sense, these are not related or, to put it another way, they are inversely related.

The undercover assumption here is that the more peace there is between Israel and Hamas, the more likely a comprehensive peace becomes. In fact, the first would damage the second. The reason why should be obvious: Hamas is against any compromise peace but favors long-term, bloody struggle using terrorism. If Hamas survives as ruler in Gaza, and even more damaging if the Palestinian Authority and Hamas make a coalition, the chances for a comprehensive peace—low enough already—decline to zero. All-out war is guaranteed.

The article next discusses the ups-and-downs of Israel-Hamas negotiations over a prisoner exchange and continues:

“Such a swap could have helped pave the way for a long-term Israel-Hamas truce deal that in turn might have opened the Gaza Strip’s blockaded borders to allow for reconstruction after Israel’s punishing offensive there.”

This can be summarized as: truce brings open borders brings reconstruction to repair damage caused by Israel.

The words “rockets” or the phrase cross-border attacks do not appear in the article. There is no hint that Hamas aggression is the cause of conflict, nor that the fighting started because Hamas unilaterally rejected the existing truce (which it wasn’t enforcing any way). Equally, there is no mention that the issue is not just opening the borders but what is allowed to go across them, nor that there is some problem with rebuilding things in order to benefit a radical and repressive Islamist regime to keep it in power.

Thus the story is this: Israel attacked and destroyed Gaza, let’s have a truce so it can be rebuilt.

And who do you think that places the blame on?

Then we turn to an equally important—and misexplained—subject:

“Rebuilding Gaza will almost surely also depend on the success of current reconciliation talks in Egypt between Hamas militants and the Western-backed Fatah movement in efforts to reverse the results of a brief 2007 civil war that left rival Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank.”

At least the reporter wrote “Western-backed” rather than moderate, though no hint is given that the civil war was started by Hamas. It was a rather one-sided civil war.

Yet next comes a truly terrible and profoundly misleading sentence:

“Getting Hamas and Fatah to reconcile is also key to the success of U.S.-backed Mideast peace talks, as it’s unlikely Israel would sign on to a deal if moderates are in control of just the West Bank while militants rule Gaza. The latest news from Egypt is that the Hamas-Fatah talks are not going well.”

Well, where to begin? While it is true that Israel understandably wants to sign a peace deal only with a united Palestinian side which can deliver on its pledges, putting Hamas and Fatah together will ensure no such deal can ever be signed.

There is no hint in this article of why the word “militants” is used to describe Hamas. A lot of people critique the media for not using the word “terrorists” I don’t agree. Terrorism is a tactic and Hamas uses terrorism yet that does not encompass the organization’s views or goals. I’d prefer to see such phrases as: radical Islamist or determined to wipe Israel off the map or repressive, or even genocidal.

But the implication is not that Hamas would block peace—much less that the Palestinian Authority would—for we are next told:

“The biggest question now is whether Israel would sign a deal under any circumstances. Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, a political hawk, early Monday initialed a coalition agreement with the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu Party, increasing the likelihood that Israel’s next government will spurn peace talks.”

“The bottom line is that the obstacles to Palestinian unity, open borders for Gaza and a peace deal that would usher in Palestinian statehood seem as formidable as ever.”

Note that there has not been one phrase or sentence to suggest that Hamas or Fatah or the PA are obstacles, only Israel. The Palestinians problem is just that they cannot unite, not that they oppose peace.

By the way, from a purely analytical point of view it should be pointed out that the reason PA-Hamas talks don’t go well is that both want to be in command, while Hamas is not going to give up control of Gaza. There isn’t going to be any Palestinian unity at all. You can bet on it.

And of course both Netanyahu and the Yisrael Beitenu party support a two-state solution.

But that one sentence is so important let me repeat it:

“The bottom line is that the obstacles to Palestinian unity, open borders for Gaza and a peace deal that would usher in Palestinian statehood seem as formidable as ever.”

So this is what is allegedly needed for peace:

—-Palestinian unity (in which Hamas would veto any peace);

—Open borders for Gaza (which would not only make Hamas rule permanent but would allow in items used for military purposes so Hamas could build up its army).

—”A peace deal that would usher in Palestinian statehood”

As always, there is no mention of a peace deal that would: end the conflict forever, bring full recognition of Israel, or provide Israel with security structures and guarantees.

This is the standard practice of AP and a lot of the media. What Israel wants in a peace deal is never ever mentioned.

The rest of the article discusses the prisoner exchange using such phrases as “Israel’s crushing economic blockade of Gaza” and “bloody Israeli military offensive in Gaza.” No criticism of Hamas; no mention of rockets; no mention of repression and executions of oppositionists in Gaza.

And we are told:

“Hamas is desperate to reopen the area’s borders to allow in reconstruction supplies.” This makes Hamas seem humanitarian. But usually those who are desperate are ready to make concessions to get what they need. This is not true in Hamas’s case.

And finally, the ending:

“If Hamas sticks by its refusal to recognize the Jewish state, as seems likely, a new right-wing Israeli government could use that as an excuse to shun a future Palestinian unity government, and perhaps even intensify the blockade of Gaza.”

Let us consider the full implications of this sentence: If Hamas says that it will never recognize Israel, will continue to attack Israel, does continue to attack Israel, teaches children to be terrorists, and has the goal of wiping Israel off the map, this merely gives Israelis of the “right-wing” an “excuse” to be mean to them.

Can people really be writing this kind of drivel, the slightest examination of which shows its absurdity? Can the AP and other news organs sneeringly reject any criticisms and assert that this is fair and balanced and good and accurate coverage?


But is this fair, balanced, accurate, and accurate coverage?


           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Video: a New Coalition and an Averted Terror Attack in Israel

[A PJTV interview with Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post — io’p]

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Government Warns of Nuclear Terror Threat

Britain faces a renewed threat of attack by terrorists with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, a major new government report states.

An increase in the theft and smuggling of dangerous materials means that terrorists are more likely to be able to use weapons such as a dirty bomb, according to the report.

The warning comes in the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy document called Contest 2, the most significant redrafting of the Government’s fight against violent extremists for six years.

The report warns: “Contemporary terrorist organisations aspire to use chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons.

“Changing technology and the theft and smuggling of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials make this aspiration more realistic than it may have been in the recent past.”

Launching the report, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: “Failed states, conflict and technology contribute to our concern about the threat, including what we know about what terrorists want to do and are planning to do.”

The report adds that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have allowed terrorists to develop more sophisticated types of improvised bombs.

“Terrorists have also developed new types of explosives and new ways of using them,” the report says. “Technology has developed in conflict areas overseas and is rapidly shared by terrorist organisations around the world.”

Britain is at most risk from the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan and from groups associated with al-Qaeda in North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq, as well as “self-starting networks or even lone individuals motivated by an ideology similar to that of al-Qaeda,” according to the report.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Hardline Saudi Clerics Urge TV Ban on Women, Music

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A group of Saudi clerics urged the kingdom’s new information minister on Sunday to ban women from appearing on TV or in newspapers and magazines, making clear that the country’s hardline religious establishment is skeptical of a new push toward moderation.

In a statement, the 35 hardline clergymen also called on Abdel Aziz Khoja, who was appointed by King Abdullah on Feb. 14, to prohibit the playing of music and music shows on television.

“We have great hope that this media reform will be accomplished by you,” said the statement. “We have noticed how well-rooted perversity is in the Ministry of Information and Culture, in television, radio, press, culture clubs and the book fair.”

Although it raises the pressure on the new minister, the recommendation is likely to have little effect. Khoja’s appointment was part of a government shake-up by Abdullah that removed a number of hardline figures and is believed to be part of an effort to weaken the influence of conservatives in this devout desert kingdom.

“No Saudi women should appear on TV, no matter what the reason,” the statement said. “No images of women should appear in Saudi newspapers and magazines.”

Saudi Arabia was founded on an alliance with the conservative Wahhabi strain of Islam that sees the mixing of sexes as anathema and believes the playing of music violates religious values.

The former information minister, Iyad Madani, earned the ire of hardliners several years ago by allowing music in government-run TV and female journalists to interview men, despite the country’s strict gender-segregation rules.

Women also appear on Saudi television with their faces showing, though most in public totally cover themselves.

Newspapers publish pictures of Saudi women, but almost always with their heads covered, while pictures of Western entertainers are shown but bare arms and cleavage are painted over.

The clerics include several professors from the ultra-conservative Imam University, Islamic research scholars, a judge in a court in the resort of Taif and some government employees.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, in town for meetings with Saudi officials, told a news conference that during lunch he sat between a female Saudi surgeon and a female journalist. He said while one woman is allowed to perform surgery and another is allowed to teach, neither is permitted to drive.

“I find that bizarre,” he said.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Islam: Turkey Expands Headscarf Ban to Ballot Boxes Boards

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 20 — Turkey expanded headscarf ban to the ballot box boards few days before the 29 March elections, Hurriyet Daily reports. Turkey’s Higher Board of Election (YSK) made a controversial decision that officials of ballot box boards, who were appointed by political parties, could not wear headscarves. YSK said that ballot box areas are “public spaces”. The election board made a statement about the official dress codes for the ballot box officials. The statement, which was signed by YSK president, Muammer Aydin, stated: “People who will be appointed for the ballot box boards by political parties have to obey official dress codes that have been defined by legal decisions and law because they will fulfill ‘a service in public spaces’ “. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon Press Says PLO Bomb ‘settling of Scores’

BEIRUT (AFP) — The killing of a top Palestine Liberation Organisation official in Lebanon could be a “settling of scores” between rival factions, Lebanese newspapers said on Tuesday. Kamal Medhat, the PLO’s number two in Lebanon, was killed in a roadside bombing outside the Mieh Mieh refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Monday along with … More

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

The Arab Peace Initiative: a Primer and Future Prospects

by Joshua Teitelbaum (pdf)

  • In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia was under intense scrutiny since fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers had proved to be Saudis. In February 2002, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia gave an interview to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in which he proposed to Israel “full withdrawal from all the occupied territories” for “full normalization of relations.”
  • In a flash, Abdullah had transformed the discourse: Instead of focusing on Saudi involvement in terrorism, the Western press was now talking about Saudi peacemaking. However, by the time the Abdullah trial balloon reached the Arab summit in Beirut in March 2002, the initiative had been modified and its terms hardened.
  • “Full normalization” became “normal relations” (which still marks significant progress over the Arab League formulation in Khartoum of 1967: “no peace, no recognition, no negotiations”). It called for an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories to the lines of June 4, 1967, in contradiction of UN Resolution 242, and which would bring Syria to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It also enshrined a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel.
  • Several aspects of the Arab Peace Initiative represent significant and positive developments in the official, collective Arab view of the future of Israel in the Middle East. However, Israel should refrain from accepting the initiative as a basis for peace negotiations because it contains seriously objectionable elements. Israel should also reject the “all or nothing” approach of the Saudis and the Arab League. Peacemaking is the process of negotiation, not diktat.
  • Peace would be best served by Israel going on the diplomatic offensive and presenting an initiative of its own, emphasizing the positive aspects of the initiative, and including an invitation to Arab leaders to a meeting in Israel to discuss the initiative in its entirety…

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]


Russian Ads Using Obama Spark Racism Complaints

MOSCOW (AFP) — Obama ice cream, anyone? Chocolate-vanilla ice cream is one of several Russian products being marketed using America’s first black president, even as critics call the ads racist.

Other ads featuring US President Barack Obama have promoted tanning salons and tooth-whitening services.

But the creator of one Obama-themed ad — for ice cream bars which have a chocolate-flavoured centre embedded in a layer of vanilla — insisted Friday that it was not racist and should be seen as a joke.

The ad for Duet ice cream bars features a smiling, cartoonish black man flashing a V-for-Victory sign in front of the US Capitol, along with the Russian slogan: “Everyone’s talking about it: dark inside white!”

Some blasted the ad as insensitive after it surfaced on English-language websites this week. “This is just racist,” said one visitor to the Ads of the World website, while another asked: “Is the ice cream as tasteless as the ad?”

Andrei Gubaidullin, who created the ad, told AFP that it was not racist and that Russia simply had a different attitude to race than Western countries.

“For Russia, this is not racist. It is fun and that’s it,” said Gubaidullin, creative director at Voskhod advertising agency, based in the Urals Mountains city of Yekaterinburg.

“We don’t consider teasing ethnic groups racist. It is just seen as a joke,” he said by telephone, adding that he personally liked Obama.

In another ad to play on Obama’s race, a leaflet recently seen in Moscow used a photograph of the US president to promote a tanning salon.

And a leaflet circulated in Moscow last fall showed a smiling Obama with the slogan “Full Dental Democracy!” to promote the MeraDent chain of dental clinics.

People of African descent are relatively few in Russia and those who do live in the country often complain of racism.

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Mumbai Terror Suspect is All Smiles in Court

A Pakistani man charged with carrying out last year’s Mumbai terror attacks broke out into laughter today when he was asked by an Indian judge whether he understood the charges against him.

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 21, was one of 10 armed terrorits who ran amok in India’s financial capital last November during a series of commando-style attacks that killed 164 people.

“Kasab was smiling throughout the hearing and said that he was from Pakistan,” Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told The Times of London. “He laughed when the judge asked him if he understood everything in the [indictment].”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Indonesia Arrests Four Dutch Reporters in Papua

Four Dutch journalists have been arrested in the Indonesian Papua province, local contacts told Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The four were reporting from the capital Jayapura about a demonstration in favour of a referendum over Papuan independence. About 1000 protesters had gathered outside the provincial parliament.

The formal reason for the reporters’ arrest, according to a Jayapura police spokesman, is that the Dutchmen were contravening immigration rules. They are also alleged to have filmed without prior permission.

The four journalists, one from NRC Handelsblad and three freelances, are in Indonesia to report on the activities of Papua leader Nicolaas Jouwe. The 85-year-old co-founder of the pro-independence Free Papua Movement returned to Indonesia on Sunday after more than 40 years in exile in the Netherlands.

Papua was a Dutch colony and remained one after 1949 when Indonesia gained independence. In 1961 an elected government prepared the region for full independence, but Indonesia invaded the region which led to a brief war between The Netherlands and Indonesia. After a political intervention by the United Nations, Papua was handed to Indonesia in 1962 and formally annexed seven years later, after a referendum that was allegedly manipulated by Jakarta.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Jail Him 20 Years

JAKARTA — INDONESIAN prosecutors demanded 20 years’ jail on Tuesday for an alleged terrorist from Singapore who has confessed to killing a teacher and plotting an attack against Western tourists. Mohammad Hasan bin Saynudin laughed and giggled as the prosecution announced it would not seek the maximum sentence of death.

‘I don’t agree with 20 years. I will continue to fight and appeal for a lighter sentence because I’m not wrong. In fact I should get a medal for this act,’ he told the court.

Hasan, who claims to have met Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2000, has spoken openly of his crimes to reporters from his remand cell during his ongoing trial.

‘I’m not wrong and I don’t regret what I did. In the eyes of God I did nothing wrong… We only killed one idiot,’ he told AFP before the start of Tuesday’s proceedings.

He has also confessed to planning to bomb Singapore’s Changi international airport on behalf of regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah.

Prosecutor Totok Bambang said that as ‘only’ one person had been killed — a male Christian teacher in June 2007 — the death penalty for Hasan or any other members of his alleged terrorist cell was not merited.

‘We would have asked for the maximum sentence if the impact on the public was great but in this case only one person was killed,’ he explained.

He said Hasan had been ‘proven clearly and convincingly to have undertaken terrorist acts together with others.’

‘Hasan is a dangerous man… He is the brains behind the attack (against the teacher). He planned and came up with the concept but some of his ideas were not carried out.’

The state requested sentences of seven to 15 years for six of his co-accused who were also in court.

In seeking the sentences, it revealed that the cell had also planned to bomb a church and the car park of the supreme court in Jakarta.

It had also decided to bomb a backpacker cafe on Sumatra island in 2006 but aborted the attack due to concerns about possible Muslim casualties.

The suspects were rounded up in southern Sumatra in June and July last year. — AFP.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Militants Warn Pakistan

Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan — Militants on Tuesday warned the Pakistan government to stop expanding the cellphone network in a restive tribal area, worried it could be used to spy on their activities.

They circulated a pamphlet in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan on the Afghan border, telling authorities to stop the network expansion and ordering vendors to stop selling SIM cards, residents and officials said.

“A Jewish, Zionist-backed company is setting up the mobile phone network in Waziristan, which would be used to spy on Taliban activities and drone attacks,” said the pamphlet.

“This network is equipped with GPS (global positioning system) and can give the location of a person even if his mobile phone is switched off,” it said.

“In Iraq and Afghanistan such a system has been used to launch attacks against mujahedeen,” the leaflet said, referring to holy warriors.

“The government and those selling SIMs will be treated as criminals by us,” it warned.

A local administration official confirmed that a leaflet had been circulated in Wana.

Pakistan’s rugged tribal regions have been wracked by violence since hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaeda rebels fled across the border to escape the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

More Bombings by Thailand’s Islamic Separatist Guerrilla

Three police officers and eight civilians are injured in two separate blasts in the southern province of Narathiwat. Yesterday in Yala a bomb placed in the car of a police officer was defused. Five years of war by rebel Islamic militias have caused about 3,700 dead.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Eleven people were wounded in two separate attacks in Thailand’s southern provinces, theatre of an ongoing war between the Thai military and rebel Muslim militias.

A bomb packed on a motorcycle exploded at 6:40 am in an open-air market in Narathiwat province, injuring two policemen and eight civilians.

“We had been warned about bomb attacks but we didn’t expect one in the city,” a local official is quoted as saying.

Another bomb went off Monday morning outside a coffee shop at Sugai Koloh, 770 kilometres south of Bangkok, injuring one policeman.

Yesterday the bomb squad defused a seven-kilogram bomb placed in the car of a police officer in Muang district (Yala province).

Experts confirmed the device was remote controlled by a signal sent by a cellphone.

These attacks are but the latest in a string of violent acts that have shaken the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala in southern Thailand along the border with Malaysia.

In the past five years about 3,700 people have died in a war pitting the Thai military against a separatist guerrilla.

About 70,000 Buddhists out of 300,000 (in January 2004) have fled the region since rebels raided an army ammunition depot, killing four soldiers and escaping with more than 300 weapons which they have subsequently used in fierce fighting with the military.

Southern Thailand’s Muslim majority has never submitted to rule from Bangkok. They speak a Malaysian dialect and their culture, customs and traditions are Islamic.

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

Pakistan: US Did Deal With Army to Restore Judges

Islamabad, 20 March (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Under a deal brokered by the United States and the Pakistani army for the restoration of Pakistan’s judiciary, many cases related to forced disappearances and detentions will not be challenged in a court of law, according to a former senior intelligence official.

Retired squadron leader, Khalid Khawaja claimed in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI) that the deal includes those Pakistanis detained by Americans and the Pakistani army and who have disappeared without a trace.

Khawaja is a former official with Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service. He is also a leader of the rights organisation Defense of Human Rights which advocates in support of missing people in Pakistan.

“I know on authority that even the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz group (of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif) is on board on this deal, beside Pakistan Peoples Party led government,” Khalid said.

“The main complication is the case of missing people, around 650 people, whether they come from Islamic backgrounds or those Baluchi nationalists who were detained during the military operation in Baluchistan,” he said.

“They were killed through torture and therefore the government does not want anybody to challenge those cases and wants the files of those cases to be buried in the files forever.”

A spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office Abdul Basit admitted during an interview that the main problem in the release of kidnapped United Nations official John Solecki were the logistics.

Solecki was kidnapped on 2 February by a militant group in southwestern Pakistan known as the Baluchistan Liberation United Front, who want to exchange him in a prisoner swap.

His captors have presented a list of prisoners to be released but the government has not found many of the requested prisoners in jail.

“If Pakistani authorities need to release somebody they do that. The problem occurs when somebody has died of torture or is disabled,” he said.

“The best example is of slain Saud Memon. He was released but only because his disappearance was on record. He was picked up from South Africa and then taken to Guantanamo Bay military prison and this way his disappearance was documented.

“He was released from the prison and sent to Pakistan where the ISI (intelligence service) detained him without trial. The case was filed in the court for his release. His detention was so much in black and white that they had to release him.

“When he was released, he had been tortured so much by the ISI, he was a walking talking dead man. He died soon after his release.”

He said when he was released he was presented in front of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s Supreme Court on a stretcher. The Pakistani government recently announced it would reinstate Chaudhry and other judges sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf.

“Everybody witnessed that he was tortured and was near to death. No court of law took a notice of his ‘murder’.”

“Now the problem with other detainees is that either they are in the condition of Saud Memon (near to death due to torture) or they have already been killed in the detention centres. The problem in the case of Saud Memon is that they could not hide his detention.”

He cited the case of Masood Janjua as another example.

“The then president Pervez Musharraf personally assured his family that he would be released then I was personally informed that he was no more,” he said.

“The thing is that there are people who go to Afghanistan and get killed over there. Their family members always got the information about their killings. This is a different issue.

“Masood Janjua was picked up and the intelligence agency people kept assuring his family and his wife not to make fuss and he would return home soon and suddenly after many years they started saying that he was not detained by any intelligence agency but had gone to Afghanistan where he got killed.”

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

Pakistan: Suicide Blast Targets Police in Islamabad

Islamabad, 23 March (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — At least one person was killed in a suicide blast which targeted the intelligence branch of the police in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Monday. At least one other person injured but the casualty toll was expected to rise.

“I was passing by the special branch office when I heard a blast and at a glance I could see several bodies in front of the special branch gate. It appeared that a suicide bomber tried to enter the office but he was obstructed at the gate and he blew himself up,” an eyewitness told Adnkronos International (AKI) on condition of anonymity.

Initial reports said the blast was a suicide attack and the explosion shattered the windows of surrounding buildings.

Talking to a local TV station Pakistani prime minister’s advisor for interior Rahman Malik said they had at least 43 different intelligence reports on suicide attacks in the month of March and confirmed that security agencies had the information of today’s attack.

Police therefore beefed up security in the capital, but unfortunately the attack could not be deterred, said Malik. He also confirmed that so far only the guard at the gate was killed in the attack as he stopped the bomber from going inside.

The blast took place as Pakistan’s top police and intelligence officers Naveed Ilahi and Farooq Awan of Pakistan’s intelligence bureau were decorated with medals by president Asif Ali Zardari on the day of Pakistan’s 69th independence day.

Awan and Ilahi are credited with smashing Al-Qaeda cells in Pakistan.

No militant group had claimed responsibility for the attack late Monday.

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

Singapore to Launch Tougher Public Order Law

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I’m a big fan of Singapore going way back. They really know how to get things working properly economically — and there’s not much you can really criticize the gov’t for as far as social or economic issues…Which is why it’s so maddening when they want to keep cracking down on democratic representation or speech. Why should you need a permit for a gathering of 4 or more people — or not be allowed to criticize the ruling party — generally it’s a civil suit rather than a criminal trial — but it still winds up getting pretty ridiculous pretty fast.]

SINGAPORE (Reuters) — Singapore, which already has tough restrictions on freedom of assembly, plans to tighten them further ahead of a major Asia-Pacific summit in the city-state.

The Public Order Bill, introduced in parliament on Monday before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, was needed to “squarely address gaps in the current framework to enhance the ability of the police to ensure security during major events,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

Under the proposed law, police could prevent activists from leaving home if they knew they were going to a political rally. It would also allow police to order a person to leave an area if they determine he is about to break the law.

All outdoor activities that are cause-related will need a police permit, no matter how many people are involved. That is a change from the current law requiring a permit for gatherings of five or more people.

Opposition politicians and activists were quick to criticize the proposed law. “Even in communist China, peaceful protests are tolerated,” said Chee Siok Chin of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.

The bill allows police to stop people from filming law enforcement if it could put officers in danger. The bill cited live media coverage of Indian police trying to rescue hostages in the Mumbai attacks last November as posing risks to the officers.

Police could stop small peaceful protests against unpopular visiting government leaders, such as from Myanmar, if the law was introduced, activists said.

Last week, three Singaporeans tried to present a bouquet of orchids to visiting Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein for him to give to detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung Sann Suu Kyi.

Thein Sein was having an orchid named after him at the Botanical Gardens, a Singapore tradition for visiting heads of government.

The law is certain to pass, since the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has an overwhelming majority in parliament.

It also passed an amended law on Monday to ease a decade-long ban on political party documentary-like films, but introduced restrictions on dramatized political videos.

“These two sets of amendments should be viewed as part of the longstanding periodic adjustments the PAP has made to limit politics to tightly controlled electoral contests conducted in the absence of a meaningful civil society,” said Garry Rodan of Murdoch University in Western Australia.

Others said the two laws were pre-emptive measures for the government to prevent a repeat at the APEC meeting of confrontation between police and protesters that took place during the World Bank/IMF meeting in 2006, and also to deal with potential social unrest during Singapore’s worst-ever recession.

“As long as the government feels a threat, it needs greater measures to deal with greater problems,” said Terence Chong at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Singaporean Admits Role in Plot

MINNEAPOLIS — A THIRD man, said to be a Singaorean, has pleaded guilty to his role in a plot to illegally export materials used in space and weapons technology to China, Hong Kong and Singapore, the US attorney’s office announced on Monday. Ding Jian Wei, 50, of Singapore, pleaded guilty on Friday in US District Court in Minneapolis to one count of conspiracy to violate export regulations. His co-defendants — Ping Cheng, 46, of Manhasset, New York, and Lim Kok Tong Lim, 36, also from Singapore — also pleaded guilty in recent weeks to one count of conspiracy.

According to their plea agreements, the three men admitted that from March 23, 2007, through April 6, 2008, they conspired to violate export regulations by exporting and attempting to export high-modulus carbon-fiber material without a license.

The material is used in rockets, satellites, spacecraft and uranium enrichment. For national security reasons, a license from the US Department of Commerce is required to export it.

According to the plea agreements, Ding controlled several import and export companies, including one that acquired high-technology items for its customers. One of those customers is the China Academy of Space Technology, which builds satellites for the Chinese government.

The plea agreements said Ding’s role was to manage the companies, maintain a relationship with the Chinese users of the material, and provide money to buy the material. Cheng acted as the US agent forDing’s companies, and Lim’s role was to reach out to US suppliers.

The defendants dealt with an undercover Minnesota company that purported to be a supplier of aerospace commodities.

The men each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum US$1 million fine. A sentencing date has not been set. — AP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

“Confrontation” Heating Up in South China Sea

China says that it considers closed “the incident” with the U.S. ship on March 7, off the island of Hainan. But meanwhile, it is sending its own ships to the South China Sea “on patrol,” arousing the anger of the Philippines and other countries. Experts: if there is no cooperation, there is the risk of a serious confrontation.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China says that “top commanders do not have plans to increase the military presence in the South China Sea,” and that it considers closed the recent diplomatic incident with a United States ship. But meanwhile, its former warship Yuzheng 311 (in the photo) is patrolling the contested Spratly and Paracel islands, and the official media are announcing the sending of six more ships to the area “to curb growing illegal fishing activity.”

The announcement came on March 20 in the China Daily, which cites unspecified cabinet sources. The Spratly Islands are contested by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei. The Paracel Islands are occupied by China, but are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The Yuzheng 311 is a 3,000-ton former warship. The source says that the patrol ships will also have helicopters on board, for efficient sea supervision.

The initiative has created growing tension with the Philippines, whose parliament on March 10 approved a law that claims the Spratly Islands as its territory (in China, they are known as the Huangyan and Nansha islands).

The defense secretary of the Philippines has commented that the sending of the Chinese ship is not “a big threat.” Philippines’ Navy spokesman Colonel Edgardo Arevalo maintains that “sending patrol boats by different claimant nations into the areas that they claim is tolerated,” leaving open the possibility of the presence of ships from other countries.

Meanwhile, on March 7 the U.S. ship Impeccable was surrounded and threatened by five Chinese boats 120 kilometers southeast of Hainan Island. The United States lodged a formal diplomatic protest, observing that the ship was operating in international waters and was unarmed. Beijing responded that the ship was in the Chinese economic zone without authorization.

Experts observe that the South China Sea is essential for the interests of both China and the other countries in the region. A great deal of commercial traffic passes through it, and more than half of the oil in the world, some of it on its way to Japan, one of Washington’s main allies. Moreover, trade relations are increasing between the United States and its former enemy Vietnam, which has claims on the Spratly and Paracel islands, believing them to be rich in gas and oil deposits. The area is rich in energy and has large populations of fish, and could see extensive tourism development. The United States is helping Hanoi to expand its own fleet.

For this reason, China wants to exclude U.S. ships from its main commercial area. But the United States is acting in accord with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It is an open secret that the ship Impeccable is capable of collecting information on underwater movement, through a gigantic submarine radar. Beijing has built a submarine base near Hainan Island.

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

Beijing Censors Part of Vatican Website in Chinese

The pope’s letter to Chinese Catholics remains inaccessible. But the control is practically useless. Much of the news from blocked Catholic sites — including AsiaNews — is able to pass through the firewall set up by the government.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — The Vatican’s website in Chinese, which was launched yesterday, is visible in China almost in its entirety, but the pope’s letter to Chinese Catholics remains inaccessible.

Yesterday, on the feast of St. Joseph, the Vatican made the Chinese language version of the site www.vatican.va available, with complex characters (used in Taiwan and Hong Kong) and simplified characters (used in mainland China). Sources for AsiaNews confirm that it is possible to read news about the pontiff, his speeches to the young people, the Wednesday catecheses, but his letter to Chinese Catholics made public in June of 2007 remains inaccessible. Despite the openness and caution of the document, the pontiff claims for the Holy See the last word on the appointment of bishops, and says that the Patriotic Association, the organism for controlling the Church, is based on principles contrary to the Catholic faith, essentially rejecting it. Since its publication, the letter has been banned in China, distributing it has been prohibited, and internet sites that post it have been forced to take it down. But the censorship has been pointless, because the letter circulates clandestinely in all the Catholic communities.

For years, Beijing has tried to control what information about China is reported by foreign websites, by blocking them completely or in part. The blocked sites include that of the diocese of Hong Kong, which posts many of the speeches of Cardinal Joseph Zen, a genuine champion of religious freedom in China, and the AsiaNews website. This does not change the fact that Cardinal Zen’s speeches are very well known in China, or that AsiaNews is the leading news source for local Catholic sites.

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

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Fears Gangland War Has Spread to Canberra

POLICE are investigating whether a double murder in Canberra is a dramatic escalation of bikie violence, triggered by an increasingly brutal turf war on the eastern seaboard.

Hours after police locked up high-ranking Sydney bikie Mahmoud Dib, emergency services crews were called to a southern Canberra home near where two men had been fatally shot.

ACT Police would not confirm or deny media reports that the shooting at the house in Couchman Crescent, Chisholm, was linked to bikie gangs.

“We are looking at all possible circumstances surrounding this incident and that will include any possible associations that these persons may have had with any groups,” a spokeswoman said.

One man was found dead from gunshot wounds in the front yard of the home; another was discovered in a rear yard. A gun was recovered from the scene.

A man was arrested and taken to Tuggeranong police station for questioning.

The Australian spoke to several residents last night who said they had always thought the house was trouble.

One of the residents, who was too scared to be identified, said the home was clearly a drug house and was always full of young people. But he had not seen motorbikes parked outside.

“It’s definitely drug-related, there are always a lot of cars there, people turning up all the time,” he said.

Another resident said her 10-year-old daughter heard the gunfire and was terrified. “The police told us not to leave the house, and we’ve been stuck ever since,” she said.

Residents believed there could be two homes in the street occupied by bikies or their affiliates. They were concerned about possible connections between yesterday’s shootings and the alleged killing by Comancheros of a Hell’s Angels associate at Sydney airport on Sunday.

Mr Dib was arrested at his western Sydney home on firearms offences by police investigating a string of drive-by shootings. The sergeant-at-arms of the Bandidos’ Parramatta chapter was taken into custody after a pre-dawn raid by heavily armed police on his home at Auburn.

The arrest followed the 11th drive-by shooting in western Sydney in the past six days, including attacks on Mr Dib’s Park Street home on Monday and on the home of a relative of his in nearby Pine Road.

Mr Dib, 27, was charged with six firearms offences over a loaded gun police found in his car last Monday.

Acting Superintendent Angelo Memmolo, from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, said Mr Dib was not in the car when police found the .45 calibre semi-automatic pistol — loaded with seven bullets — but had been in the area. No drugs or weapons were found in the 6am raid on Mr Dib’s home, but police seized two Harley-Davidson motorcycles they believe may have been stolen.

Anthony Zervas — the 29-year-old brother of a Hell’s Angels member — was bashed to death at Sydney airport on Sunday with metal bollards.

Police have not ruled out that bikies were behind a western Sydney drive-by shooting on Monday targeting a Merrylands home containing two adults and three children.

Yesterday, Mr Dib sat silently throughout his brief appearance at Burwood Local Court.

Magistrate Michael Dakin agreed to a request for an adjournment from Mr Dib’s lawyer, Mohammed Masri, for a bail hearing until Friday and formally refused bail.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia: One Dead After Airport Gang Brawl

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Baron — this article and the following one precede the story I posted earlier about the possible gang war.]

A MAN has been bludgeoned to death at Sydney Airport when a bikie gang confronted a rival group at one of the domestic terminals.

Police said a group of men arrived on a flight to Sydney about 1.30pm (AEDT) on Sunday and were unexpectedly met by what they believe to be a rival outlaw bikie group.

At the arrival area of the Qantas T3 terminal, witnesses told police the fight ensued and made its way to upstairs to the departure area where one of the men was hit over the head with a portable bollard.

Ambulance crews treated the man on the scene before he was rushed to Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick.

Four other men have been arrested over the incident and are being questioned by police.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia: Zarubin Family’s Gold Coast Party Gatecrashed by Thugs

THREE people were bashed unconscious, including a 16-year-old girl, and several others injured when a notorious teen gang rioted at a house party in Queensland.

Party hosts, Liz and David Zarubin, yesterday called for riot police squads to be established to respond quickly to outbreaks of spiralling youth violence across the state.

Their call came after an 18th birthday party for son Louis at their Gold Coast home on the weekend erupted into a wild brawl during which three people were bashed unconscious and a pregnant nurse was threatened with a pair of garden shears.

Party guests yesterday told how they feared they would die after a teenage gatecrasher, believed to be part of Palm Beach-based youth gangs The Palmy Army or Southside Soldiers, yelled out his suburb’s postcode to rally his mates.

Gang members used fists, feet, chairs and even a letterbox to attack guests, one of whom was hurled face-first into a car…

….Some injured guests were forced to wait almost half an hour for medical help with paramedics refusing to to attend the out-of-control party unescorted by police.

Queensland Ambulance Service commissioner David Melville said a brawl involving 30 people was still in progress at the Zarubin residence when paramedics were called and it was deemed unsafe to attend until police arrived.

Ambulance union state organiser Bob Lackey said his members were “sick of being used as punching bags” and were increasingly refusing to attend volatile situations without police back-up. He said police manpower shortages meant paramedics sometimes could not immediately respond to an emergency call if their safety was at risk.

“Often when (ambulance) officers attend a scene, they find themselves having to defend themselves and their patient,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia: Security in Shambles

FOUR men had been arrested, police had arrived and were taping off the public concourse area of the departure terminal, but the woman’s voice quivered with nervousness at what she had just witnessed: a vicious killing in full public view at Sydney airport.

The horror was fresh, the images indelibly fixed and the words tumbled out freely.

“It was awful, I’m sick, it was appalling, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” the witness told me. “Babies were getting knocked out of strollers, they were fighting all through here. It was gangs. They were bashing one man with those (chrome) stands you can see over there.”

I had arrived at terminal three to catch a flight to Canberra about 20 minutes after Anthony Zervas, 29, was bludgeoned to death last Sunday afternoon. Australian Federal Police had arrived in force but too late, 15 minutes after the deadly brawl had ended and most of the perpetrators had escaped by taxi.

AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty later described their response time as acceptable. It’s unlikely to be a view shared by Qantas check-in staff or the scores of terrified customers queuing for flights last Sunday. Three days on and the circumstances of the gruesome killing continue to raise more questions than answers.

Why were police notified of the deadly bikie brawl only after receiving a 000 call from a member of the public?

Given the density of closed-circuit television cameras scattered throughout the airport terminal — supposedly one of Australia’s most secure — why did the first police officers arrive after the 15-minute brawl was over and most of the attackers had fled?

And, crucially, why were no police on hand at gate five to escort the bikies away as they arrived off a Melbourne flight? It’s now known Qantas cabin crew had expressed concern about the potential for strife during the flight to Sydney.

Respected security analyst Alan Behm thinks he has some answers. There was a security failure on Sunday; a man was killed at the airport, he says. But deploying more police to the airport is simply a knee-jerk reaction to a more complex problem, Behm tells The Australian.

Airport security at Sydney and most other capital cities across Australia is geared to prevent an act of terrorism on board a plane, he says. It all depends where you want to put the focus of your security measures: on the air side of the passenger security screening barrier or the public concourse.

“I think the solution really is to maximise the protections you’ve already got with the (screening) barriers by having the police on the air side rather than the public side, if not apprehending, then intervening, before those thugs got on to the public concourse after getting off the plane,” Behm says.

Security protocols for an aircraft captain to radio ahead and warn of an onboard incident exist, which raises concerns about why this was not put to good effect on Sunday.

“It’s a question of whether the message was put into that system. Did the purser say to the aircraft captain, ‘We have a potential issue here, could you warn security?’ I suspect not,” Behm says.

There are suggestions police should have apprehended the bikies in the passenger departure area, but this would have posed a serious danger to the public.

“Police can’t just get their weapons out and start shooting. They can’t go throwing tear gas and stuff around, and even if the police went up against 12 blokes wielding these big steel bars, there’s every chance they would have got beaten s—less.”

Behm and fellow terrorism expert Clive Williams, of Macquarie University, agree with Keelty that police response times, on being notified of the incident, were acceptable. But it is unrealistic to expect unarmed Qantas security staff to intervene in a bikie brawl, Williams says.

At least one Qantas security official did have the presence of mind to record the numberplates of taxis departing with fleeing gang members, he says.

“He did the right thing. The police arrived essentially after these people (bikies) had fled,” Williams says.

“The problem with this bikie violence is that the kind of violence these police at the airport are trained for is terrorism related and not so much gang violence. Obviously there’s going to be a need to look at bikie violence more generally, not only in an airport context but the kinds of activities they are engaging in nationally, where there are wars going on between their factions.”

This is all cold comfort for innocent passengers, says influential Liberal senator Bill Heffernan, who sits on the Senate standing committee for transport.

On Monday, Heffernan called for a Senate inquiry into airport safety, saying Sunday’s bikie bashing raised serious public safety concerns. He tells The Australian that questions also need to be raised about what value for money taxpayers are getting in exchange for the hundreds of millions of dollars lavished on Australian airport security in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorism attacks in the US.

“We need to understand if this was a communications (problem),” Heffernan says. “I mean, Mick Keelty is out there saying everything is all right and I’m not going to comment on that. But what would happen if it was someone with a machinegun? You wouldn’t like to think about it. It does (raise) the question in ordinary Australians’ minds: What are we getting for our money?

“So rather than have a spontaneous or speculative response, I think we ought to have a Senate inquiry where witnesses can come along and know they are protected from litigation and from being threatened.”

Heffernan has some direct experience with airport security and not just a few concerns. In 2007, he carried his pocketknife through Canberra airport security before alerting staff of a screening failure.

Concerns about security at Sydney airport are not new. In 2005 Allan Kessing, a former Customs airport security officer at Sydney airport, was convicted for leaking a highly damaging report about serious security breaches to this newspaper. The report dealt with a range of security concerns including the criminal records of baggage handlers, luggage theft and drug trafficking.

His actions spurred the Howard government to implement a far-reaching probe into airport security, the Wheeler report, which resulted in more rigorous security measures being implemented across the country.

But the bikie brawl has again raised concerns that more needs to be done.

AFP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say one area requiring immediate attention is better agreement on airport policing functions involving the AFP and their NSW Police counterparts.

“State police don’t want to listen to advice from the AFP; they want to run their own race,” one AFP source tells The Australian.

While the AFP has prime responsibility for security at Sydney airport, that does not include the monitoring of the CCTV cameras, a state police role.

The issue of agreement on police roles is a problem, says former Sydney Airport Corporation chief executive Tony Stewart. The AFP believed its main role was counter-terrorism, while NSW Police focused on other areas of crime, he told ABC radio.

“The weak link is the demarcation between whether this was an anti-terrorism incident or a crime incident and somebody was probably looking at the rule book, saying it’s the other guy’s problem,” he said.

In his first comments on the airport violence, Kevin Rudd yesterday pledged “zero tolerance” for bikie crime.

“This sort of behaviour by bikies and others engaged in organised criminal activity is unacceptable in Australia, absolutely unacceptable,” the Prime Minister said soon after arriving in Washington, DC. State and commonwealth attorneys-general would discuss a co-ordinated response to the bikie menace at their next meeting, he promised.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus says the federal Government has ordered an investigation into the adequacy of the AFP’s response on Sunday in addition to a national audit of police officers deployed at airports.

Its understood that while Sydney airport has a full complement of 22 AFP officers rostered on duty on Sundays, Perth airport remains under-strength.

With the NSW Government mulling tougher anti-gang laws, federal Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has weighed into the debate with a call for national action to deal with criminal bikie gangs. He accuses Rudd of being overly zealous in trying to achieve budget savings, scrimping that has left airport security 35 per cent under-staffed.

“The Rudd Government has undercut airport security and national crime fighting through cuts to the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission,” Turnbull says. “The federal Government must show leadership on this issue and act in close collaboration with the states.”

According to the Opposition Leader, as of June last year, the AFP had 233 state and territory sworn police officers seconded to work at the country’s main airports, short of the 357 committed to at the Council of Australian Governments.

The bikie bashing is a wake-up call to the Government about a national crime problem that shows no respect for borders.

“The public (is) right to be alarmed,” Turnbull says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

New Zealand: Would-be MP Loses Immigration Fraud Appeal

An ex-parliamentary and mayoral candidate has lost his appeal against conviction and sentence for his part in an immigration fraud.

Pakistan-born Arshad Mahmood Chatha, 40, was found guilty by a jury in the High Court at Wellington in August last year of five fraud charges and one of having an implement of forgery.

The charges included three counts of using a document with intent to defraud, two of obtaining Pakistani passports with intent to defraud and one of possessing an implement for forgery — a rubber stamp purporting to come from a doctor’s surgery in Pakistan.

Chatha was jailed for two years.

The Court of Appeal, in a reserved judgment today, dismissed his appeal.

Chatha is a Pakistani national, with New Zealand citizenship.

He had previously stood for mayor of Palmerston North and ran for Parliament in 2002 and 2005 as an independent MP.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

New Zealand: Minister Queries Work Permit for Man Who Killed Daughter

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman is seeking advice from officials after it was revealed that an immigrant jailed for killing his daughter had been given a work permit rather than a deportation order.

Garth Duwayne Abbott was found guilty of the manslaughter of his 9-year-old daughter, Britney, in 2007.

The girl died after Abbott drove his four-wheel-drive off a 150m slope at Mt Wellington in August 2005. His other daughter, Shirvaun, 4, was injured but survived. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

Abbott was released in October last year after serving just 19 months. The Parole Board assessed him as not a risk to the community.

Abbott’s wife, Mirese, wrote to government officials before his release, pleading for her husband to be allowed to stay in New Zealand.

An Immigration NZ spokeswoman confirmed Abbott was granted a work permit by former associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones.

Dr Coleman said it was fair to ask why Abbott had been granted a work permit, when normal practice dictated an immigrant released from jail would be deported.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: African Arabs and Black Hatred

Lagos — Egypt is still so intimidated by its glorious Black African past that its Arab government would not allow thorough research into Egypt’s past. President Gamal Abdel Nasser falsified Egyptian history when he declared Egypt an Arab Republic. Egyptian authorities refused to allow American film makers to make a film on the life of Anwar Sadat in Egypt on the ground that the actor chosen for Sadat’s role was black. When Morocco left the OAU in 1984, it aspired to become a member of the European Union.

In Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Mauritania and the rest of the Arab world, Africans are treated as the scum of the earth. They are second-class citizens at the very best in their own countries. Blacks in these countries cannot aspire to positions of respect or authority. There are hardly Africans in high government positions in Arab governed African countries. Like Brazil, which is just as racially cruel against their black natives, there is no legislation favouring slavery (except in Mauritania). It is simply a way of life that’s all. Blacks do not really exist or at best are not humans.

Mauritania left the Economic Community of West African States to join the union formed by the Arab North African States. A few years ago, Mauritania sacked all black natives from their civil service positions. Black Mauritanians protest their plight to the African Union (AU) without receiving attention, because AU black leaders fear offending their Arab colleagues in the AU. In Mauritania, they have had to declare an end to slavery six times in this century alone, and still nothing has changed for the captive majority African natives. African slavery is still in their statute books. African slavery in Mauritania is what the on going quarrel between Mauritania and Senegal is about. The quarrel forced black African refugees to pour across the border from Mauritania into Senegal.

In Algeria, Arabs throw stones at black people, including diplomats, in markets and other public places. To quote Prof. Clarke, “Arabs always act as though they are not in Africa. Once when I was visiting Egypt, I told my Egyptian Arab host to get a cab ready for the next morning that I was going to Kenya. ‘So you are going to Africa to visit your people? We got no diseases here, why are you leaving us?” the host asked. Even across the Red Sea, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, blacks are treated worse than animals, after using their life’s savings to go there on pilgrimage.

Hundreds of blacks who have lived all their lives in Saudi Arabia are being repatriated daily right now, after losing an arm or leg for some minor or trumped up offense and without regard for their comfort, welfare or rights. Racism towards black Moslems in Saudi Arabia is so strong it makes one wonder if making pilgrimage to Mecca should be one of the five pillars of the Muslim faith, and why blacks bother to be Muslim’s.

Col. Gadhafi saw vicious white racism in the tragic death in August 1997, of Princess Diana of Wales, the mother of a future king of England, and her Arab lover. What no one remembered to ask Gadhafi was whether he himself was disposed to allowing any daughter of his to marry even the richest black man in the world let alone a black Libyan. If one were to ask Gadhafi why Africans are not high up in his government, he might balk that all Libyans are Africans. In that case, one should go and find out the truth for oneself in the poor sections of town. One would be shocked by the plight of our African kith and kin that constitute the bulk of the population in oil rich Libya and other Northern African countries similarly afflicted with Arab racism. While pretending to champion pan-African interest, he is busy getting rid of black immigrants from Libya.

On 9 May, 1997, in flagrant defiance of a UN embargo on flights in and out of Libya, Col. Gadhafi invaded Nigeria with his planes carrying 1,000 members of his rag-tag army, plus 500 journalists. They strategically occupied the Kano airport and his other reception facilities, with the connivance of the Nigerian Muslim dictator host. The purpose was to launch a jihad in supposedly religiously secular Nigeria, or at least precipitate a serious schism between the predominantly Moslem north of the country and the Christian and animist south. Right now the Moslem world is trying to use ‘Sharia’ to dismember Nigeria. Pakistan, Libya and Saudi Arabia, to name a few, have pumped substantial funds into Zamfara, the first of Nigeria’s Sharia states, to start the process of Islamizing, (or at least trigger mayhem and civil war), in Nigeria as in Sudan.

No nation in Africa has suffered more in the hands of the Arabs than Ethiopia. It has been going on since Arabs first invaded Africa in the 7th century CE. Recently, with Libya supporting the people of Eritrea, they destroyed the basic structure of Ethiopia, to cut her from the sea and weaken this section of Africa, and eventually all of Africa, for further Arabization. They did this mercilessly with religion.

In the last 38 years, Gadhafi at one time or the other, tried to force Libya’s unification with Egypt, Algeria etc, and has continued the effort since with Sudan. He forcibly annexed the Auzon Strip from Chad, and sponsored destabilization in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Mali, Cote d’ Ivoire, Niger, etc in pursuance of his Arabization of Africa policy, laced with inordinate imperial personal ambition. In 1998, his strategy got a fillip with the founding of his community of Sahel-Savannah States (CEN — SAD), which he was hoping to use to control the envisaged African Union (AU). The CEN — SAD, at the moment, ropes in 25 African states from West, East, and Central Africa, and includes Senegal, Cote d “Ivoire, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Comoro Islands etc. Most of these unsuspecting African countries were stable until they joined CEN — SAD.

Col. Muammar Gadhafi pushed desperately for a United States of Africa government to be approved, set up, and launched right there and then, at the 9th ordinary Session of the Assembly of the heads of states of the African Union (AU), held in July 2007, in Accra, Ghana.

He has heightened his Arabization policy pursuit at the AU level since 2001, pretending to be promoting the Pan-African agenda of Kwame Nkrumah. Chinweizu, the renowned scholar, described Gadhafi’s Arab-Black Africa government plan at the time, “as unification of nigger monkey with python.” Arabs themselves divide Africa into North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa to instigate a division and as long as the invaders continue to occupy our land and treat us as slaves in North Africa, the two segments of the continent cannot cohabit.

In a paper presented at the meeting of the Arab league in Amman, Jordan, in 2001, Muammar Gadhafi spelt out the Arabization agenda against Africa in language reminiscent of Adolph Hitler’s Lebensraum, (Hitler’s sick obsession to secure a living space for political and economic expansion in Europe) for the Germans, (the superior race). Gadhafi in his address during the Amman’s Arab conference invited his Arab brothers outside of Africa to come to Africa in the following words. “The third of the Arab community living outside Africa should move in with the two-thirds (about 250 million) on the continent, and join the African Union, which is the only space we have.”

Gadhafi’s unbridled urge in modern times to enlarge Arabia inside Africa, is a continuation of the Arab war against Africans and the Arabization of African lands that started in the 7th century CE. Arabs have since settled on one-third of Africa, pushing continuously southwards towards the Atlantic Ocean. Arabs’ racial war against black Africa started with their occupation and colonization of Egypt between 637 and 642 CE, decimating the Coptic or black population.

Between 642 and 670 CE, more Arab invaders poured into Africa and occupied areas known today as Tunisa, Libya, Algeria and Morocco, where they physically eliminated most of the native (Berber) inhabitants. The Berbers that escaped death ran westwards and southwards towards the Sahara. In the 11th century CE, fresh Arab migrants of nomadic origin, migrated into North Africa to displace and drive the remaining pastoral Berbers deeper into the Sahara desert. With Arab consolidation and backing in Northern Africa, new waves of Arab invaders and migrants pushed deeper into the Nile banks, inhabited then by the Nilotic Shiluk, and continued all the way down to where Dueim stands today, belonging then to the Dinka and Furnawi autochthons. The entire territory was known at the time as Bilad as-Sudan (the Arabic for land of the Blacks), and currently includes the Republic of Sudan. Continuing with their Arabization of African land policy through elimination, displacement, separation, marginalization and suppression, the Arab invaders of Bilad as-Sudan, over the passage of time, decimated the population of (the Nilotic Shiluk, Dinka and Furnawi autochthons), owners of the land, and pushed to restrict the rest waiting for elimination to Darfur area and the South of the country, which the Arab invaders are now intent on taking from the native Black Africans. This is the genesis of the war in Sudan. It is a racial war. The Arabs want the Republic of Sudan, which by land mass is the largest country in Africa, to be an entirely Arab state, by exterminating the Black native population gradually to the last person.

The war in Sudan is our modern day Haiti war in terms of black liberation, and our recent fight against apartheid. Arabs are carrying out ethnic cleansing right now in Southern Sudan, with the financial support of the Arab world, particularly Libya and Saudi Arabia. China is backing them against Africa. The Janjaweed, with Sudanese and Arab governments’ backing, are trying to wipe out the black population so as to expropriate their lands, but Africans, including Nigerians, do not know where their interests should reside. The Arabs succeeded in doing the same thing in Northern Africa where the original Nubian African owners of the land have almost all been wiped out and the rest marginalized (enslaved) by their Arab invaders/settlers since 642 CE.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Venezuela: Spain Calls Unjustified Nationalization of Banco De Venezuela

Spanish Economy and Finance Minister Pedro Solbes said Monday that the Venezuelan government’s decision to nationalize Banco de Venezuela, a unit of Spanish bank Santander, was not justified.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reaffirmed on Thursday his decision to nationalize Banco de Venezuela.

“It does not seem to me that conditions are justified for a nationalization,” Solbes said at a financial conference in Madrid. The Minister added that the financial markets and the private sector in general are taking into consideration Venezuela’s move, Reuters reported.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Finland: Column: Immigration Issue Becoming Political Touchstone

Political and public debates over the issue of immigration could change Finland’s political landscape, says columnist Erkki Laatikainen, former editor-in-chief of the Jyväskylä-based newspaper Keskisuomalainen. The following is a column on the issue written by Laatikainen for YLE.

Immigration could well become the central issue in the next parliamentary elections. The considerable weakening of the national economy, combined with a rising insecurity, have coloured the debate.

The issue is problematic. Finland is not accustomed to discussing immigration or laying out guidelines for it. Comments that even slightly deviate from an officially sanctioned opinion are labelled racist or insulting to human dignity, even if the person who made the comment was a humanist who was simply trying to discuss what was in the nation’s best interests with respects to the issue. People are walking on eggshells in order not to be seen in the same light as simple-minded idiots or politicians who have built their careers on populist viewpoints or even illegal turns of phrase.

A recent poll commissioned by the daily Helsingin Sanomat, and conducted by the Gallup organisation, is symptomatic of this problem. The percentage of people who support immigration has dropped from 56 to 45 in the past two years. The Finnish public is worried. It has begun grumbling and griping.

This cooling of attitudes is probably even more significant than the poll reveals. Many respondents are politically correct, and do not express their real feelings in polls. No, they do this in the voting booth.

Finland’s main political parties and the state government carry the responsibility for creating a policy on immigration. If they continue to shove it to the back burner, the public’s dissatisfaction will quietly swell and explode in a hail of votes for the True Finns Party. That’s who will gather up the voices of dissatisfied loners, craftsmen, professors, colonels and entrepreneurs.

The True Finns don’t even have to try particularly hard any more. Thanks to party leader Timo Soini, the party is already seen by many to be a plucky bullhorn for the conscience of the common man. Soini would be wise to smooth over any controversy as much as possible.

This trend could lead to a situation where the True Finns, who now have only two seats in Parliament, are suddenly rewarded with more than twenty. The shock would be horrific. Finnish government would become much more complicated.

Finland needs immigrants. And as a Nordic democracy, the country also has responsibilities to human rights. It is entirely possible to reconcile the humanitarian point of view with the national economy’s need for skilled immigrants.

The route laid out by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Martti Ahtisaari in the recent historic meeting of living Finnish presidents represents the voice of reason.

Embracing a naïve refugee policy would lead to a calamitous atmosphere. On the other hand, it is in the national economy’s best interests to encourage skilled foreigners to move here. At the same time Finland can live up to its humanitarian obligations by taking in refugees as much as such a small country can be expected to. This way we will also ensure a less bumpy ride for our democracy.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Social Workers Urge More Care for Asylum Seekers

Finland should invest more in physical and mental health services for asylum seekers, say social workers who work with refugees.

In the past year there has been a huge upsurge in underage asylum seekers arriving in Finland alone — many of whom need psychological support to avoid future problems if they stay in the country.

A centre for underage asylum seekers that opened in Espoo at the beginning of this year is temporarily home to about 20 boys, mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. They are taught the basics of Finnish and other skills while cooking and cleaning for themselves — and trying to overcome the trauma of growing up in a war zone.

Social worker Riitta Moghaddam says that nearly all of them have experienced violence and almost all suffer from health problems.

Under Finnish law, though, asylum seekers are only entitled to health care in acute situations. This home has a nurse to look after the boys’ health but there is little psychological support.

Moghaddam, who worked for many years with asylum seekers in Sweden says that there psychological care is much better organised. Here, she says, it is insufficient even for Finnish youth, let alone for immigrants or refugees.

Minister of Migration Astrid Thors points out that since asylum seekers have no permanent status, they do not have the right to comprehensive care. She says it is more important now to concentrate on providing more reception centres for refugees, who are living in overcrowded, stressful conditions.

Last year about two percent of asylum applications were approved.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Libya-GB: Cooperation on Border Security

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MARCH 20 — Libya has asked Great Britain for help in organising specific training courses, in both Libya and the UK, for local security forces, which would concentrate on border security and techniques to avoid the ‘infiltration’ of traffickers of illegal immigrants. The request was made in the context of new talks with European countries about the problem of illegal immigration. The topics of cooperation in security, and ways to insure it, were looked at in a meeting in Tripoli between the British Ambassador, Vincent Feans, and the Libyan Minister of Public Safety, Abdoulfatah Younis. The British ambassador expressed his country’s interest in activating a tangible collaboration for border security and the fight against gangs of people traffickers, in particular. (ANSAmed)..

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: NGO Finds Huge Disparity in Asylum Policy

The non-governmental Swiss Refugee Council has called for increased efforts to prevent what it sees as injustices against illegal immigrants. Under a law in force since 2007 the country’s 26 cantons have wide-ranging autonomy to grant people with no legal status, among them rejected asylum seekers, temporary residency instead of forcing them to leave the country.

An asylum seeker who has lived in Switzerland for at least five years and who can prove that he or she is integrated into society is eligible for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds. A return to their country of origin is considered a case of extreme hardship.

A survey by the Refugee Council shows huge differences in the way the cantonal authorities grant exemptions. What’s more, an asylum seeker has no say in which canton will manage his or her case.

While there are cantons with a liberal policy, which have granted more than 500 permits since 2007, other more restrictive cantonal authorities have issued fewer than 20 humanitarian permits.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Don’t know what they call it in Switzerland, but over here, we call it states rights.]

“For the people concerned it probably feels like a lottery,” says Beat Meiner, secretary-general of the council.

He says the law is vague and the criteria for cases of extreme hardship are open to interpretation.

“All cantons are convinced that they are acting within the regulations,” Meiner told a news conference in Bern on Tuesday.

In practice, however, the definition of whether the degree of integration or the size of the apartment is sufficient to qualify a person as a special case could differ from canton to canton.

Appeals panel Thomas Baur, a legal expert and author of a survey on cases of extreme hardship, added that cantons including Zurich made a passport a precondition for an application. Other more liberal authorities allow candidates to provide a passport at a later date.

He criticised the lack of an appeals commission. “It is alarming that rejected applicants have no possibility to appeal against a decision by the cantonal authorities.

The NGO called for the creation in all cantons of advisory committees, including representatives of civil society, to support the authorities. Presently only four out of 26 cantons have such expert panels.

Meiner stressed the need for an appeals body, because it could help set straight possible misjudgements by authorities deciding on cases of humanitarian permits.

Protests In December around 150 rejected asylum seekers occupied a church in the city of Zurich in protest at the authorities’ policy towards illegal immigrants.

They claimed that Zurich was stricter than other cantons when applying the status of hardship and granting residency rights.

In another high-profile case, Fahad Khammas, a rejected asylum seeker from Iraq, was ordered to leave Switzerland. He was arrested earlier this week and is to be deported to Sweden where he had first applied for asylum.

The policy is in line with an accord on asylum with the European Union, but lawyers point out that the 24-year-old man was also denied refugee status in Sweden. He risks being deported to Iraq where his life is in danger, according to lawyers.

The Iraqi featured in a recent documentary on Switzerland’s refugee policy. NGOs say the man should be eligible for humanitarian asylum even though he has not lived in the country for five years.

Commenting on Khammas’s situation on Tuesday, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said even though his case was “emotional” and had been covered by the media, he should not be treated differently from other asylum seekers.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: The Calais ‘Guantanamo’

The British and French governments are discussing the creation of a new immigrant holding centre within the Calais docks which would be “inside Britain” under immigration law and allow cross-Channel asylum-seekers to be shipped back to their home countries easily.

Although no details have yet been agreed, the idea is to exploit the ambiguous legal status of a British “control zone” of the Calais port, created in 2003, to cut through the mesh of legal difficulties which prevent asylum-seekers from being expelled to their countries of origin.

The idea — discussed by the British and French immigration ministers last month — seeks to turn the tables on the asylum-seekers and the gangs who smuggle them into northern France. At present, the immigrants gathered in Calais, mostly from Afghanistan, Kurdistan and the Horn of Africa, can exploit contradictions and grey areas in European and international law on immigration and asylum to evade expulsion from France. They can be arrested repeatedly only to be freed to try to enter Britain illegally again.

The holding centre would potentially allow London and Paris to use the ambiguous status of the British “control zone” at Calais to send the migrants home. If agreed, the centre is likely to attract the scrutiny of civil liberties and human rights groups.

The creation of an “offshore, on-shore” holding centre, which helps London and Paris cut through the thickets of asylum law, may invite parallels with Guantanamo Bay. Although the idea would be to hold the asylum-seekers for only a short time in humane conditions, the immigrants would have fallen into a legal limbo of their own making…..

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

US to Boost Mexico Border Defence

The US government is to increase security at the country’s border with Mexico in an attempt to combat drug cartels, the White House has announced.

Immigration, customs and anti-drug agents and gun law enforcement officers will be reinforced as part of a $700m (£475m) undertaking.

Some 8,000 people have died in Mexico over the past two years amid bitter turf wars between rival drugs gangs.

The south-west US has also seen rising violence and kidnappings.

The money will come out of funds already allocated by the US Congress to assist Mexico in its fight against the drug cartels.

Gun crackdown

Agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will be sent to the border to region to help deal with the issue.

Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BEST) teams will be doubled and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is to create a special south-west intelligence group to co-ordinate all its efforts to tackle Mexican drug-related crime.

ATF is to send 100 agents to the border within 45 days to crack down on illegal gun transfers from the US into Mexico.

Mexico’s government will also receive five helicopters and a surveillance aircraft as part of the scheme.

“I believe the Mexican government will not fail,” said US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“And I believe our role is to assist in this battle because we have our own security interests in its success.”

Failed state warning

Earlier this year, a study by the US Department of Defence warned that Mexico was in danger of becoming a failed state because of the drug gangs.

Ms Napolitano said she had not ruled out sending National Guard troops to the border region, and said she would meet Texas Governor Rick Perry to discuss the possible deployment.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Mexico on Wednesday for the first of a series of high-level meetings between the two governments.

President Barack Obama is also expected to visit Mexico in the coming weeks.

Gang-related violence claimed the lives of some 6,000 people in 2008 and so far this year more than 1,000 have been killed as gangs fight both one another for territory and the police and troops sent to tackle them.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


Guess Who Says Pope Was Right About Condoms, Aids

Harvard scientist: Those mocking pontiff’s stand are wrong

A senior Harvard research scientist confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI, who endured heavy criticism for declaring that condom distribution programs worsen the AIDS epidemic in Africa, was actually correct.

Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, told National Review Online last week that despite AIDS activists and media outlets pounding the pope for downplaying the effectiveness of condoms, the science actually supports the Catholic leader’s claim.

“The pope is correct,” Green told NRO, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Communism Doesn’t Have as Bad a Name as Nazism?

Why is it that when people want to describe particularly evil individuals or regimes, they use the terms “Nazi” or “fascist” but almost never “communist”?

Given the amount of human suffering communists have caused — 70 million killed in China, 20-30 million in the former Soviet Union, and almost one-third of all Cambodians; the decimation of Tibetan and Chinese culture; totalitarian enslavement of North Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russians; a generation deprived of human rights in Cuba; and much more — why is “communist” so much less a term of revulsion than “Nazi”?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Zenster said...

Sweden: Decision to Work in Sweden Proves Costly for Aspiring Resident

[PA Announcement]

Paging Franz Kafka to the white courtesy phone. Mr. Kafka to the white courtesy phone, please.

[/PA Announcement]

Zenster said...

Why Communism Doesn’t Have as Bad a Name as Nazism?

Given the amount of human suffering communists have caused — 70 million killed in China, 20-30 million in the former Soviet Union, and almost one-third of all Cambodians; the decimation of Tibetan and Chinese culture; totalitarian enslavement of North Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russians; a generation deprived of human rights in Cuba; and much more — why is “communist” so much less a term of revulsion than “Nazi”?

This is a question for the ages. While this query may be regarded as a singlular triumph for the followers of Karl Marx it should, more likely, serve as the epitaph of all socialists world-wide.

PatriotUSA said...

No one should be surprised by this predictable move by the mullah obamaham and his socialist friends from low places. The more the government can gain control of, there will be less left for those to run any corporation, company in a profitable way. No industry is going to be safe and these shysters will continue to gather and wield their newly stolen powers with reckless abandon while laughing in the face of of the American people and the constitution. Rest assured, the constitution will not be safe and there will be many attempts to deny it, circumvent it and change or amend it to faciilitate this radical left turn towards the new world order. Hope the 53% of Americans who voted for Dope and Change are happy. I know ALOT of olks who are already very sorry they voted for BHO. A leopard cannot change it's spots, radical commiecrats will never change their lies and deceptive doubletalk.

Unknown said...

The article about Black-Arab relations in Africa is "Email your friend" material, this sort of stuff must be spread to all leftists people, make it uppear as a solidarity movement with poor upresed black africans. Those wicked Arabs, how dare they upres those poor black natives of Africa, only the most heartless leftist will not have a prejudice against Arabs after that article.