Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/28/2009It looks like the first foreign policy test for President Obama will be the upcoming launch of the North Korean missile. Japan, the United States, and South Korea are monitoring the tense situation closely, and will take the issue to the — gasp! — UN if North Korea fails to listen to reason.

What will China do? We’ll have to wait and see.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CSP, Fausta, Fjordman, Furor Teutonicus, Gaia, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Paul Green, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Congresswoman: Hands Off Dollar!
Indonesia: Central Bank Seeks to Reduce Dollar Dependency
Italy: Fiat to Meet Its 2009 Targets
The March to a Global Currency
Is There Any Gold Inside Fort Knox, the World’s Most Secure Vault?
Obama Gets List of Top Muslim Americans
O’s Foreign Failures
Playing President
Surprise!… Obama’s Town Hall Participants Were All Campaign Supporters
Tancredo: Clinton Aids Obama’s ‘War on Guns’
Will American Kids Trade Baseball Caps for Mandatory White Helmets?
Your Health Records on Sale Block
Canadians Find Vast Computer Spy Network: Report
Europe and the EU
A Warning to the French People
Berlusconi: Me Like Obama? I’m Paler
Copenhagen: Environmental Munich
Fini: Mussolini Great Statesman? I’ve Changed My Mind
Grand New Designs for Brussels
Police Identify 200 Children as Potential Terrorists
Sarkozy Threatens to Renounce Andorra Title
UK Muslim ‘Teddy-Bear’ Woman Wins Top Honors
UK: Bishop of Rochester is Stepping Down
UK: Criminals Counselled and Family Breakup Rewarded
UK: Council Brings in ‘sickie Spies’ to Check Up on Employees Who Take Too Much Time Off
UK: Daud Abdullah Must Resign
UK: Jacqui Smith’s Husband’s Blue Movies on Expenses
UK: Londoners Photographed 425 Times a Day
UK: The Horrifying Campaign of Abuse, Lies and Threats That Ruined the Career of a Headteacher — and Her School
North Africa
Egypt: National Plan to Combat Hepatitis C Virus With EU
Israel and the Palestinians
EU Hands Over Waste Collection Equipment to Palestinians
Netanyahu to Negotiate With PNA for Peace
Middle East
Ihsanoglu: NATO Chief Should be at Ease With Muslim World
Iraq: 62,000 Public Employees Fired on Corruption Charges
Saudi Arabia: Theatre Official Art After 50 Years
Saudi Holds First Fashion Show for Designers
South Asia
Afghan Singer Finds Herself in Stardom Woes
Indonesia: Rehabilitation for Convicted Drug Addicts
Pakistan: India Involved in Attack Against Sri Lankan Cricket Team, Report Claims
Far East
Anyone Asking for Justice in China Can End Up in Prison, Forced Labour or Tortured
Med: 150 Mln Consumers, China Looking at Southern Shore
North Korean Missile is Challenge to Obama
Philippines in Hostage Compromise
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sudan Says Suspects Israel Was Behind Attacks
Latin America
Chris Tuggle in the Americas Report: Honduras’ Faustian Bargain
Exclusive: Hezbollah Uses Mexican Drug Routes Into U.S.
Libya: An Endless Flow of Desperate People
Spain: Number of Sea Crossing Deaths Halved
Culture Wars
Abortion: Spain, Shocking Video Shown at School

Financial Crisis

Congresswoman: Hands Off Dollar!

Wants ban on U.S. use of any foreign currency

A member of Congress is warning the Obama administration to keep its hands off the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s international currency.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., has introduced a resolution that would bar the U.S. from recognizing any other currency than the dollar as its reserve currency.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Central Bank Seeks to Reduce Dollar Dependency

Jakarta, 27 March (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia has joined a growing list of countries calling for concerted efforts to reduce the world financial system’s dependency on the US dollar amid the global drying-up of liquidity.

“There should be attempts by all countries to ease their dependency on United States dollars in their transactions … this is a global issue,” Bank Indonesia governor Boediono said at the State Palace.

“I myself, and some others too, have proposed that the most practical thing (we can do) now is to expand the availability of SDRs — Special Drawing Rights. This will eventually become a global currency,” he added.

SDRs are a basket of major currencies used in international trade and finance, usually by multilateral agencies.

China earlier this week called for a new global currency controlled by the International Monetary Fund, as part of a reform of the world’s financial system which is currently heavily dominated by the US dollar.

China said it would pursue this issue in the forthcoming G20 Summit in London on 1-2 April.

Indonesia and China inked a Rp 175 trillion or 100 billion yuan (15 billion dollar) currency swap on Monday partly as part of an effort to help boost confidence in the Indonesian rupiah, which has been falling against the US dollar.

The swap deal is effective for three years and can be extended with the approval of both partners.

The swap is expected to provide short-term foreign exchange liquidity as well as bolstering the rupiah’s performance, help boost bilateral trade and investment and help stabilise the financial market.

According to BI, Indonesia exported 11.5 billion dollars worth of goods to China last year — an 18.9 percent increase from the 9.68 billion dollars booked in 2007. It meanwhile imported 15.2 billion dollars from China, a leap of 77.6 percent from 8.56 billion dollars recorded in 2007.

BI says Indonesia needs more funding to add to the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which stood at 53.9 billion as of 13 March. Boediono said the central bank is “open” to the possibility of making similar currency swap agreements with other countries.

A reduced need for dollars would mean a boost for the rupiah.

BI said the swap line was on top of the multilateral swap arrangement under the Chiang Mai Initiative, under which Indonesia is set to access for foreign exchange purposes at least 12 billion dollars from Japan, 4 billion dollars from China and 2 billion dollars from South Korea.

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

Italy: Fiat to Meet Its 2009 Targets

Italian automaker benefiting from government incentives

(ANSA) — Turin, March 27 — Despite the global economic downturn, Italian automaker Fiat said on Friday that it expected to meet its target for 2009 with a trading profit of over one billion euros.

“We are convinced that from an economic and global standpoint we have bottomed out and will now begin to rise,” CEO Sergio Marchionne said at Fiat’s annual stockholders’ meeting.

“The initial indications of a turnaround are visible in all leading world economies, while the first concrete signs of a recovery will materialise in the second half of the year, starting in the United States, then in Asia to arrive in Europe towards the end of 2009,” he added.

Also on hand at the stockholders’ meeting was Fiat Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo who agreed that the situation on the market was beginning to improve, in part thanks to recent government incentives to boost car sales.

In Italy, he said “all sectors of the automobile industry are feeling the first positive effects of the incentives. We are witnessing an upturn for the market and a renewal of the fleet of vehicles on the road”.

The government last month issued a decree offering incentives to scrap old vehicles for new, less polluting ones. The incentives expire at the end of the year. “Our group is taking full advantage of this opportunity also thanks to the ample array of products which are friendly to the environment, like methane-run engines for which we are the world leader,” Montezomolo told stockholders.

Looking at Fiat’s performance during the economic downturn, Montezemolo observed that “despite the sharp drop in demand on a world level, the results of our group in 2008 were significant and demonstrated how Fiat is a healthy and competitive company”.

“The deterioration of market conditions in the last quarter of the year did not keep us from posting our best trading profit ever, the highest in our 100-year history. All sectors demonstrated their great ability to react and adapt,” the Fiat chairman said.

Marchionne explained that Fiat was in a better position than other automakers to weather the economic crisis because “we had already embarked on a policy of innovation and did not wait for a crisis us to dictate change to us”.

“This has placed us in a position to take the first step towards putting order in a confused market and to play a leading role. Our objective is to do everything possible to protect our marques, our business and our way of doing business,” the CEO added. Fiat, Marchionne observed, “has the ability and the determination today to meet the challenges which face us and to continue to build something which is new and long lasting”. CONSOLIDATION WILL LEAVE NO MORE THAN SIX GLOBAL PRODUCERS..

Turning his attention to the automobile industry in general, Marchionne said that “the first big problem which the auto industry must tackle is overproduction. It is evident that rationalization is necessity”. “Fiat does not live in another world. The problems which other automakers are facing are the same that we must deal with,” he added.

“The whole automobile industry needs to be restructured on a world level. More than likely over the next 24 months we will see a consolidation of the market which in the end will leave no more than six global producers” Marchionne told the shareholders.

In this framework the CEO observed that Fiat’s proposed partnership with American automaker Chrysler “will bring great benefits to our company”. “This alliance will not involve any financial investment by Fiat and not will entail accepting any of Chrysler’s debts. It is based on the logic of reciprocal interests. It will give us a stake in Chrysler and access to new markets, while the American carmaker will have competitive platforms for fuel-efficient vehicles with cutting-edge motors, transmissions and components for which our company is a recognised leader.” he added. The partnership will also give Fiat access to Chrysler’s assembly plants as well as its sales and service networks in North America, which are necessary for the Italian automaker’s goal of bringing Alfa Romeo back to the US market and introducing its popular new Fiat 500 city car there, both of which need to be produced in the US to be profitable.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The March to a Global Currency

Up until now the current economic crisis has helped grease the wheels in getting Americans to think that we are not invincible, that economies are susceptible to frightening times. This awareness has programmed the brains of Americans to understand the feeling of financial fear and to know they never want to experience this fear again — whatever the cost. It is this psychological conditioning that has already opened one door and will soon open two more.

What we saw behind door No. 1 was the acceptance by the American public of extremely excessive bailouts and stimulus packages disguised as a “fix” of the recession with little or no oversight.


After trillions of new dollars have been (and continue to be) printed or government subsidized, door No. 2 will swing open, and hyperinflation will punch us squarely in the mouth!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Is There Any Gold Inside Fort Knox, the World’s Most Secure Vault?

It is said to be the most impregnable vault on Earth: built out of granite, sealed behind a 22-tonne door, located on a US military base and watched over day and night by army units with tanks, heavy artillery and Apache helicopter gunships at their disposal.

Since its construction in 1937 the treasures locked inside Fort Knox have included the US Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, three volumes of the Gutenberg Bible and Magna Carta.

For several prominent investors and at least one senior US congressman it is not the security of the facility in Kentucky that is a cause of concern: it is the matter of how much gold remains stored there — and who owns it.

They are worried that no independent auditors appear to have had access to the reported $137 billion (£96 billion) stockpile of brick-shaped gold bars in Fort Knox since the era of President Eisenhower. After the risky trading activities at supposedly safe institutions such as AIG they want to be reassured that the gold reserves are still the exclusive property of the US and have not been used to fund risky transactions. Related Links

In other words, they want to be certain that the bullion has not been rendered as valueless as if a real-life Goldfinger had stolen it.

“It has been several decades since the gold in Fort Knox was independently audited or properly accounted for,” said Ron Paul, the Texas Congressman and former Republican presidential candidate, in an e-mail interview with The Times. “The American people deserve to know the truth.”

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

Obama Gets List of Top Muslim Americans

CHICAGO — In a bid to get more Muslim Americans working in the Obama administration, a book with resumes of 45 of the nation’s most qualified — Ivy League grads, Fortune 500 executives and public servants, all carefully vetted — has been submitted to the White House.

The effort, driven by community leaders and others, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., was bumped up two weeks because White House officials heard about the venture, said J. Saleh Williams, program coordinator for the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association, who sifted through more than 300 names.

“It was mostly under the radar,” Williams said. “We thought it would put (the president) in a precarious position. We didn’t know how closely he wanted to appear to be working with the Muslim American community.”

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

O’s Foreign Failures

AMERICA’S enemies smell blood and it’s type “O.”

All new administrations stumble a bit as they seek their footing. But President Obama’s foreign-policy botches have set new records for instant incompetence.

Contrary to left-wing myths, I wasn’t a fan of the Bush administration. (I called for Donald Rumsfeld to get the boot in mid-2001.) But fair’s fair. Despite his many faults, Bush sought to do good. Obama just wants to look good.

Vice President Dick Cheney was arrogant. Vice President Joe Biden is arrogant and stupid. Take your pick.

Don’t worry about the new administration’s ideology. Worry about its terrifying naivete.

Consider a sampling of the goofs O and his crew have made in just two months:…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Playing President

Obama’s performance as POTUS is pretty convincing, if not Oscar-worthy. From the moment CNN called the election, Obama’s rehearsed swagger emerged. He won; he is entitled to gloat. What’s pitiful is that he really thinks he is in charge.

Well before Obama seriously considered a run for president, others evaluated his potential. Khalid Al-Mansour, associate of Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, helped get Obama into and through Harvard.


By surrounding himself with advocates of global governance, his campaign speech in Berlin and with his public pronouncements, Obama has sent a strong signal to the world that he is ready to lead the United States into the United Nations’ slaughterhouse. The gateway will be the mechanism to control the global economy produced by the G20 meeting [on April 22nd].

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Surprise!… Obama’s Town Hall Participants Were All Campaign Supporters

What a shocker. Dear Leader’s town hall participants were ALL campaign supporters or donors.

But while the online question portion of the White House town hall was open to any member of the public with an Internet connection, the five fully identified questioners called on randomly by the president in the East Room were anything but a diverse lot. They included: a member of the pro-Obama Service Employees International Union, a member of the Democratic National Committee who campaigned for Obama among Hispanics during the primary; a former Democratic candidate for Virginia state delegate who endorsed Obama last fall in an op-ed in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star; and a Virginia businessman who was a donor to Obama’s campaign in 2008.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tancredo: Clinton Aids Obama’s ‘War on Guns’

Criticizes her claim U.S. at fault in Mexican drug violence

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is just aiding and abetting President Obama’s war on guns with her new suggestion that the U.S. is at fault in the Mexico drug cartel war.

“She’s part of Obama’s plan to conduct a war on guns,” he said. “He’s opposed to private ownership of guns, opposed to concealed carry laws. He doesn’t believe we should be able to carry guns as individuals.”


“The heavy weaponry is not coming from the U.S.,” he said, citing the Mexican military as a source for drug cartels for automatic weapons, as well as gun dealers throughout South and Central America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Will American Kids Trade Baseball Caps for Mandatory White Helmets?

I want to give you a little more information and context. Keep that frog in hot water in mind.

The United Nations has a volunteer program called the White Helmets.

(Excerpt from a UN document dated Dec 1997)

[Participation of volunteers, “White Helmets”, in activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development.

Calls upon States to promote the facilitation of cooperative actions between the United Nations system and the civil society, through national volunteer corps, in order to strengthen the United Nations capacities for early and effective response to humanitarian emergencies; ]

To understand why the UN ‘White Helmets’ should be a concern to American Citizens and how it relates to HR 1388, you must understand how our government works with the OAS and the ‘Summits of the Americas’.


…to urge member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) that have not yet done so to take action, as decided by the heads of state and government at the Summit of the Americas, to establish, organize, and finance in a manner they deem appropriate national corps of volunteers that can be available to other countries of the Hemisphere.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Your Health Records on Sale Block

Critic says patient consent unneeded in stimulus plan

Institute President Sue Blevins said the new “stimulus” bill approved by Congress provides for electronic health records for all Americans.

The move, she says, weakens an individual’s control over his or her own health records to the point that data could be employed for research that may end up being used against the patient.

“The economic stimulus law plans for every American to use an electronic health record (EHR) and allows those records to be sold for research and public-health purposes — without patients’ consent,” she explained.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Canadians Find Vast Computer Spy Network: Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Canadian researchers have uncovered a vast electronic spying operation that infiltrated computers and stole documents from government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

In a report provided to the newspaper, a team from the Munk Center for International Studies in Toronto said at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries had been breached in less than two years by the spy system, which it dubbed GhostNet.

Embassies, foreign ministries, government offices and the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York were among those infiltrated, said the researchers, who have detected computer espionage in the past.

They found no evidence U.S. government offices were breached.

The researchers concluded that computers based almost exclusively in China were responsible for the intrusions, although they stopped short of saying the Chinese government was involved in the system, which they described as still active.

“We’re a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,” said Ronald Deibert, a member of the Munk research group, based at the University of Toronto.

“This could well be the CIA or the Russians. It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on.”

A spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in New York dismissed the idea China was involved. “These are old stories and they are nonsense,” the spokesman, Wenqi Gao, told the Times. “The Chinese government is opposed to and strictly forbids any cybercrime.”

The Toronto researchers began their sleuthing after a request from the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

The network they found possessed remarkable “Big Brother-style” capabilities, allowing it, among other things, to turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of infected computers for potential in-room monitoring, the report said.

The system was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian nations as well as on the Dalai Lama, the researchers said, adding that computers at the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated and a NATO computer monitored.

The report will be published in Information Warfare Monitor, an online publication linked to the Munk Center.

At the same time, two computer researchers at Cambridge University in Britain who worked on the part of the investigation related to the Tibetans are releasing an independent report, the Times said.

They do fault China and warned that other hackers could adopt similar tactics, the Times added.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Warning to the French People

Here is a text from the pen of René Servoise, former ambassador of France to Indonesia. It is posted at Bivouac-Id, Le Post and Terre d’Israel. Despite its length, I chose to abridge it only slightly:

A mutation of our nation is in progress. It is growing, it is profound but uncontrolled. In all likelihood, the immense majority of Frenchmen are unaware of it.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim families, from North Africa, the Middle East and black Africa — whose religion, aspirations and mores are radically different from ours — now live on our soil. Their birth rate is higher than that of European families. What is the consequence? Within 30 years the population of Islamist culture could be in the majority among those 40 years old or younger. “In France, we will have between 6 and 8 million Arabs by the years 2005 — 2010,” said Edgar Pisani, honorary president of the Arab World Institute. We have been duly warned: this is a radical transformation (political, economic, cultural and social) of our society.

This mutation is in progress at the very moment when, to use Toynbee’s expression, “an external proletariat” is forming on the southern and western shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This army of reservists came about as a result of the birth rate of these peoples, and the absence of an economic policy capable of guaranteeing them a decent life in their homeland. In front of them lie France, Italy, Spain and Germany, lands of mirage, highly developed, with guaranteed employment, free social protection and education. Who could resist the call of this “promised land”?

At the same time, all over the world, roused by immense hopes, Islam is enjoying an unprecedented revival. It is awakening after a long night. It has renewed vigor, pugnacity and ambitions. From Morocco to Indonesia, from the Muslim States of Central Asia to black Africa, more than one billion two hundred million men — young compared to the aging populations of Europe — constitute a “community” (Umma).

It is transnational, motivated by spiritual aspirations, material demands and political ambitions, and (here and there) financed by revenue from oil.

In France, the successive waves of Italians, Poles, central European Jews, Spaniards and Portuguese, had never posed comparable problems of integration. Why? Because they belonged to the European branch. Their religious traditions and their ambition to acquire more individual freedoms facilitated their assimilation. Finally — and this is far from the least important reason — these immigrants expressed a desire to share the destiny of the French nation. To meld into it. Integration cannot be decreed. In order for it to materialize it must be desired by two, this is obvious. And the two must converge. Today, the situation is different, radically different. An active and determined minority among the Islamists refuses integration. Deliberately.

In close communion with Islam (its matrix), it is receptive to orders from abroad, to spiritual counsel, ideology and financial support. And much more. Not only does it intend to keep its identity, but to re-Islamize the non-practicing, if not convert the natives of the host country to the true faith. Islam has never conceived of itself as a minority in a secular State, but necessarily as the majority religion. (…) Exalted by its renewal, propelled both by its demography and its absence of economic development, infiltrating wherever there is no resistance, Islam is advancing like a wave.

The French people can measure its vitality by the number of mosques multiplying on their territory (sometimes with the help of Catholic and lay leaders), mosques run by imams 96% of whom are from foreign countries. Also by the prospect of seeing — in the second half of the 21st century — the fall of Catholicism in France to second rank, leaving first place to Islam.

Thus two dynamics are developing: one inside our borders (…); the other outside (…) Concomitant and convergent, these changes are determining factors for Europe and for the French nation where the demographic stagnation is alarming.

[See link above for a map showing the growth in the number of French mosques]

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi: Me Like Obama? I’m Paler

(AGI) — Acerra, 26 Mar. — Silvio Berlusconi has come back on the remarks he made yesterday regarding people who have lost there jobs. “I wouldn’t stay in the redundancy fund” the premier said “and do nothing. I would try something else, a shop or some kind of self-employment”. To someone pointing out that American President Obama has said the same, Berlusconi replied with a smile: “I’m paler… also because I haven’t had any sun for a long time. He is better looking, younger and taller”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Copenhagen: Environmental Munich

Climate: Czech President Vaclav Klaus once called global warming a new religion, a Trojan horse for imposing a global tyranny worse than communism. Details about the Copenhagen Conference prove how right he was.

The first of three marathon negotiating sessions designed to hammer out the details of the Copenhagen Accord on climate change to be signed in December began on Sunday, March 29, in Bonn, Germany. From what we know, it will be a surrender to tyranny as significant as another negotiated 71 years ago.

A 16-page informational note obtained by Fox News outlines the goals and agenda of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a body paving the way to Copenhagen with good intentions. Behind this alphabet soup is a list of ideas and talking points for what the U.N. calls an “ambitious and effective international response to climate change.”

We’re not sure how effective it will be, but it’s certainly ambitious as it seeks to reorder the world economy in a de facto repeal of the Industrial Revolution. Under the supervision of the U.N., free trade would die, industries that survived could be relocated across borders, and we would have mandatory carbon offsets and cap-and-trade imposed on a global scale.

Part of the “framework” of this new and more draconian Kyoto pact is a new kind of tariff known as a “border carbon adjustment” that the note describes as “a levy on imported goods equal to that which would have been imposed had they been produced domestically.” In other words, if the exporting country does not impose a carbon tax, the importing country will.

Another form of “adjustment” is to require exporters to “buy (carbon) offsets at the border equal to that which the producer would have been forced to purchase had the goods been produced domestically.” Imagine the U.N. forcing American exporters to buy carbon offsets.

Under this global climate regime, tariffs would be allowed “as protective barriers to shelter producers of climate-friendly goods.” The note endorses subsidies for producers of goods that are deemed “environmentally sound.” Protection goes green. Who knew Mr. Smoot and Mr. Hawley were environmentalists?

The document speaks of a “climate change levy” on maritime shipping and aviation that is certain to devastate foreign trade and tourism. The American aviation industry had revenues of $208 billion in 2008. Unless we can come up with a hybrid 747 real quick, there’s trouble ahead.

There is talk of signatories implementing cap-and-trade policies that the note admits “would involve negative consequences for the implementing country.” Such policies “may induce some industrial relocation . . . to less-regulated host countries.” Gee, ya think?

The Obama administration supports a domestic cap-and-trade policy and included it in its deficit-creating budget proposal. As we’ve noted, cap and trade, through its limit on total carbon emissions, is really a cap on economic growth. An analysis by the George C. Marshall Institute estimates GDP losses of as much as 3% in 2015 and as much as 10% in 2050 as a result of this measure

The effect of this accord if we participate is incalculable. According to the Department of Energy, roughly 72% of U.S. electrical power generation in 2007 was derived from burning fossil fuels. Some 6% came from hydropower and less than 3% came from solar, wind and “other” sources.

Writing in the Financial Times recently, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said: “As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not communism.”

Klaus told the Cato Institute recently that “environmentalism is a religion” that accepts global warming on faith and seeks to exploit it to reshape the world and economic social order.

Its commandments are now being written. The U.N. will be its temple and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon its high priest

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Fini: Mussolini Great Statesman? I’ve Changed My Mind

(AGI) — Rome, 25 Mar. — Speaker of the Chamber Gianfranco Fini, in a press conference to the Foreign Press Association, was asked about his thought on Mussolini. A journalist reminded him that 15 years ago he called the dictator the greatest statesman of the century, and Fini replied: “I’m fascinated by your question…. clearly the answer is in what I’ve done in the past 15 years”. Today, Fini added, “my answer is no, I have changed my mind, otherwise I would be schizophrenic”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Grand New Designs for Brussels

The European Union is planning a major makeover of its headquarters in Brussels. The ambitious design by French architect Christian de Portzamparc aims to transform the European Quarter from a concrete administrative ghetto into a glimmering “open city to the sky.”


All of this construction will cost hundreds of millions of euros, possibly even billions. There are no exact numbers for the project at this early planning stage, not even estimates. The necessary funds will be added into the budget later, little by little and in manageable amounts. By then, presumably, today’s building dreams will long since be yesterday’s decisions and by their own intrinsic momentum they will prevail against any critics and skeptics. So far, at any rate, only a few Members of the European Parliament have even raised an objection to the delusions of grandeur in Brussels.

That is hardly surprising. After all the planners and developers in the Commission, Council and Parliament like to abide by a tried and tested principle: More offices mean more EU.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Police Identify 200 Children as Potential Terrorists

Drastic new tactics to prevent school pupils as young as 13 falling into extremism

Two hundred schoolchildren in Britain, some as young as 13, have been identified as potential terrorists by a police scheme that aims to spot youngsters who are “vulnerable” to Islamic radicalisation.

The number was revealed to The Independent by Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police and Britain’s most senior officer in charge of terror prevention.

He said the “Channel project” had intervened in the cases of at least 200 children who were thought to be at risk of extremism, since it began 18 months ago. The number has leapt from 10 children identified by June 2008.

The programme, run by the Association of Chief Police Officers, asks teachers, parents and other community figures to be vigilant for signs that may indicate an attraction to extreme views or susceptibility to being “groomed” by radicalisers. Sir Norman, whose force covers the area in which all four 7 July 2005 bombers grew up, said: “What will often manifest itself is what might be regarded as racism and the adoption of bad attitudes towards ‘the West’.

“One of the four bombers of 7 July was, on the face of it, a model student. He had never been in trouble with the police, was the son of a well-established family and was employed and integrated into society.

“But when we went back to his teachers they remarked on the things he used to write. In his exercise books he had written comments praising al-Qa’ida. That was not seen at the time as being substantive. Now we would hope that teachers might intervene, speak to the child’s family or perhaps the local imam who could then speak to the young man.”…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy Threatens to Renounce Andorra Title

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to renounce his title of co-prince of Andorra if the tiny country does not change its secretive banking laws, a government minister confirmed on Thursday (26 March).

The Principality of Andorra, a miniscule territory squeezed between France and Spain in the Pyrenees, has been jointly ruled by the two countries since it was established centuries ago.

The French president and Spain’s Bishop Joan Enric Vives Sicilia are the current co-princes of Andorra, which is currently on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) blacklist of “non-co-operative” financial centres, or, in other words, tax havens.

“He [Nicolas Sarkozy] said he would renounce his title of co-prince of Andorra if all countries that practise these tax haven mechanisms do not behave themselves,” French minister for family affairs, Nadine Morano, said on the i-Télé television channel.

Ms Morano was referring to comments made by Mr Sarkozy on Wednesday to deputies from his UMP party.

Participants at that meeting later reported him as saying: “I want a list of tax havens and I want them to be sanctioned. I don’t want banks to keep working with the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and Macao. Otherwise, I will resign from my post of co-prince of Andorra.”

“Monaco has to align as well: I will talk to Prince Albert. Even Switzerland gave in,” he added, according to Le Monde.

Under considerable international pressure, Andorra said earlier this month that it would lift its banking secrecy in cases when accords on interchange of tax data apply, promising a law by November.

Switzerland, Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium earlier this month received assurances by the EU they would not be included in the OECD blacklist after they too agreed to comply with the organisation’s rules on the exchange of tax information.

The issue is to be discussed during a G20 meeting in London on 2 April, where the EU — France and Germany in particular — will push for a stronger offensive against tax havens in the wake of the global financial crisis.

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

UK Muslim ‘Teddy-Bear’ Woman Wins Top Honors

Baroness named UK’s most powerful Muslim woman

A woman who became famous for rescuing a British teacher jailed in Sudan for calling a teddy bear ‘Muhammad’ was named Britain’s most powerful Muslim woman on Wednesday.

“I’m extremely proud to be named as the most powerful British Muslim woman and I’m sure my Pakistani origins, my strong faith and my Yorkshire upbringing has played a huge part,” said Sayeeda Warsi, the 38-year-old Baroness and member of the House of Lords.

“I personally come from a family of all girls and was brought up to believe that anything was possible and being a Muslim woman should in no way be seen as a barrier but as an asset to achievement,” Warsi said.

The Muslim Women Power List, which included 13 women, was an initiative to celebrate and build a network of successful Muslim women in British society.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Bishop of Rochester is Stepping Down

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones

An email has just dropped in my inbox revealing that Michael Nazir-Ali is stepping down as the Bishop of Rochester.

Still only 59, his decision to resign so early begs many questions.

The offical explanation is as follows: “he is hoping to work with a number of church leaders from areas where the church is under pressure, particularly in minority situations, who have asked him to assist them with education and training for their particular situation.”

That he has a passion for supporting and defending the persecuted church is not in doubt.

But his decision has almost certainly been influenced by the dismay he feels at the direction that the Church of England has taken under Rowan Williams.

It is no secret that the two have had a rather strained relationship, with the bishop being unafraid to make public comments that contradict the archbishop.

Nevertheless, Dr Williams has released a warm message to Bishop Michael.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Criminals Counselled and Family Breakup Rewarded

Labour’s made niceness a State policy — and the result is a nastiness that’s destroying Britain

A key element of this growing fashion for ‘niceness’ is the feminisation of the classroom, reflected in the fact the vast majority of the recruits to the teaching profession are women, particularly in the primary sector, where men are almost an extinct species.

Though the politically correct brigade likes to pretend there are no differences between the genders, the truth is that women are, in general, more given to feelings of compassion than men, preferring co-operation to discipline.

In this feminised educational order, girls have tended to thrive, but, correspondingly, many boys have opted out.

That is why male adolescents, especially those from deprived backgrounds or fatherless homes, are doing much worse. But the feminisation of education is just one aspect of the ‘niceness’ movement.

The same pattern can be found in the probation service, which is meant to guide offenders away from crime. Almost two-thirds of probation officers are women.

Similarly our courts, dominated by an increasingly feminised legal profession, seek to demonstrate their compassion by handing out lenient sentences and meaningless punishments ‘in the community’.

Indeed, the ‘nice’ approach to crime means that offenders are increasingly treated as victims because of social exclusion or drug habits, deserving counselling rather than punishment.

This is simply a form of quasi-Marxism which holds that any attempts to impose order is, instead, oppression designed to uphold traditional hierarchies and exclude vulnerable groups on the basis of class, race or gender.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Council Brings in ‘sickie Spies’ to Check Up on Employees Who Take Too Much Time Off

A council has recruited 15 ‘attendance tsars’ to spy on employees they suspect of pulling ‘sickies’.

Oxford City Council is the first authority in the country to bring in monitors to keep tabs on its 1,300 workers.


The council is now ‘desperate’ to reduce days off and have issued a warning to workers saying they should not have more than seven days off sick a year.

Workers have condemned council chiefs, accusing them of adopting a ‘Nazi regime’.

One worker, who did not want to be named, said: ‘Everyone’s terrified about being spied on.

‘Morale is on the floor and people have compared the council to being a Nazi regime.

“People work their socks off here but it’s never enough.

‘I have seen some people who are coming into work ill because they are scared of losing their jobs.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Daud Abdullah Must Resign

Hazel Blears has taken an admirable stand against a man whose views overstep the mark

by Shiraz Maher

It is not a popular thing to speak in support of politicians these days — particularly when many do themselves and their profession no favours — but the efforts of Hazel Blears, the sterling secretary of state for communities, are deserving of our recognition.

Over the last two weeks Blears’ department has been expressing its concerns to the Muslim Council of Britain about their deputy secretary-general, Daud Abdullah, who signed a deeply disturbing “statement” addressed to “all rulers and peoples concerning events in Gaza”.

The statement is unambiguous (pdf). It condemns those who have “given up the choice of jihad in the way of Allah as an effective means in defeating the occupation”. This is clearly beyond the pale. By endorsing jihad in Gaza, Abdullah is glorifying Hamas terrorism and inciting an already turbulent region to yet more violence.

But the document does not stop there. It also issued a number of “legal judgements” which include: “The obligation of the Islamic nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways”.

This is a thinly veiled threat against the British armed forces who offered to send warships to the Mediterranean as part of an international peacekeeping force during the Gaza war. Abdullah has tried — and failed — to explain away these comments ever since.

He initially claimed that such a scenario is purely hypothetical because, as yet, no British warships have actually been sent across. That might be so, but it does not negate the threat of violence against them or the implicit ultimatum his words present. When this sophism failed to garner much sympathy, Abdullah changed tact and went on the offensive with contrived rage. “What about the independence of the MCB?” he cried.

At last, Abdullah found an audience. Portraying him as the victim of a Whitehall witch hunt, ENGAGE said Blears was trying to “intimidate” the MCB. That much was to be expected from ENGAGE which is run by former MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala.

Blears is sending a clear message that it is not just the violent extremists of al-Qaida to whom the state is opposed but also those who share its worldview.

Herein lies the point. Abdullah’s argument about the MCB’s independence is a straw man. By refusing to engage with the group because of its views, Blears was setting down a marker about the values which must underwrite engagement with the British state. As such, the MCB is free to dismiss Blears’ requests for Abdullah to stand down. But just as they have the right to ignore her; she too has the right to ignore them.

For too long the government has shied away from defining those values it feels must shape the British public sphere. Instead, it has pursued a strategy of engagement that has often meant embracing some of the most reactionary elements from within the Muslim community.

These were precisely some of the themes I explored in my recent pamphlet, Choosing our Friends Wisely (pdf) for the thinktank Policy Exchange. We advocated a list of criteria for engagement that are universal, applicable to all communities, and defined through the prism of the British state. They establish the framework for creating a meaningful values-led initiative at the heart of government.

This is something government has shied away from in the past. It cannot continue to do so. The state is entitled to impose, and expect, a basic set of standards when it engages with others. By tacitly endorsing attacks on British soldiers and glorifying terrorism abroad, Abdullah has clearly overstepped the mark.

Blears was right to sever links with the MCB. Abdullah has betrayed his country and the very constituency he claims to represent — ordinary British Muslims. His position is untenable. He must resign — and resign now.

           — Hat tip: Furor Teutonicus[Return to headlines]

UK: Jacqui Smith’s Husband’s Blue Movies on Expenses

How he watched pornographic movies… paid for by the taxpayer

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s political future was in jeopardy tonight after it was revealed that her husband used her Commons expenses allowance to pay to watch pornographic films.

Richard Timney, who works as Ms Smith’s Commons adviser, used part of the Minister’s second-homes allowance to pay for the blue movies he watched on a subscription television channel.

The relationship between Ms Smith and her husband was said by Government insiders to be ‘very difficult,’ but stressed that the couple were still together.

It is understood that Mr Timney had been watching explicit adult movies on channels broadcast on the Virgin Media cable TV service.

The scandal revolves around an invoice on which Mr Timney is believed to have made the expenses claims. Subscribers to the service can access X-rated films on the Playboy Channel, the Adult Channel and Television X for around £11 a month. It is also possible to order adult channels on a pay-per-night basis for £5.

Tory MP Philip Davies said last night that if the porn-movie claims were true, the Home Secretary would have to resign.

‘Claiming that her sister’s back bedroom is her main home is one thing but this could push her over the cliff. It is surely not legitimate to use Commons’ second-home allowances to buy blue movies. If this is true, I cannot see how she can survive.’

The revelation comes as The Mail on Sunday launches a petition to demand a full enquiry into MPs’ expenses.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Londoners Photographed 425 Times a Day

Now plans are to increase surveillance

LONDON — The UK already is the West’s most surveyed nation — the average Londoner is secretly photographed an average 425 times a day — and officials now are launching a new Big Brother plan that will intensify the observation of civilians, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.


There is no exemption for Americans starting their flights in the United States. They will find their details recorded and stored for a decade. No warning has been given of the secret surveillance to the public.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Horrifying Campaign of Abuse, Lies and Threats That Ruined the Career of a Headteacher — and Her School


New Monument is a maintained community school — state-run, with no religious affiliation. Mrs Connor arrived in 1994 and became headmistress four years later. Some 80 per cent of her pupils were Muslim, many with parents illiterate in English. Half were on the special needs register.

But under Mrs Connor the school showed the second most improved SATs results in the country. In 2001, she was invited to Downing Street in recognition of this.

However, these achievements began to unravel in February 2003 when Paul Martin was appointed as a governor — even though he did not have any children at the school.

Mr Martin, 57, who ran a clothes shop in the town, is a white Muslim convert (as is his Austrian-born wife) and, at the time, headed the education committee at the mosque.

Within months he proposed that Sofia Syed, another Muslim, join the school’s board. Mumtaz Saleem, 41, was also recruited as a Local Education Authority (LEA) nominated governor. Martin and Saleem and, to a much lesser extent, Syed, were to be the architects of the disaster which followed.

At his first governors’ meeting, Mr Martin demanded they begin with a non-denominational prayer to the Almighty. Ominously, even at this early stage, he said he sensed ‘tension between the school and the community’. This was news to everyone else at the meeting. But the storm really broke the following February.

It was then Mr Martin wrote to the headmistress alleging that a Muslim teacher and governor called Rosie Mir had said to him: ‘I tell the children to throw the Koran away.’

He claimed she said that the holy book should be read only when the children were older and could understand it. He also alleged she said pupils were told they must leave their culture at home and become ‘nice little English children’.

Mr Martin went on to make an equally explosive allegation against another female staff member. He said Stephanie Roche had asked: ‘Why do they (children) have to go to the mosque? They can’t even read English. It’s so pointless.’

In response to these claims, Mrs Connor, wrote to Mr Martin and told him both women denied his allegations ‘ vehemently’. She added that she also consulted the imam of the Shah Jahan mosque, saying: ‘He was astonished and perplexed by your suggestion that there was any ill-feeling between the school and the mosque.’

Mrs Connor took the precaution of informing the LEA’s director of education, warning that the situation was becoming ‘extremely difficult’.

Tellingly, for the first time, she also used the phrase ‘hidden agenda’ in connection with Mr Martin’s behaviour. She said she heard from parents that proposals had been mooted for New Monument to become an Islamic school.

As an indication of her professionalism, she said she did not have a problem being head teacher of a faith school if the community wanted that.

The LEA remained silent. But Mr Martin made himself busy, complaining to the authority that he felt ‘traumatised’ and bullied by the other governors.

He said he suffered from ‘loss of sleep, profuse sweating, loss of concentration, poor performance at work’ and disruption in his family life. Furthermore, he was not convinced that the school was doing all it could ‘to proactively avoid anti-Muslim feeling within the school’.

A memorandum was duly produced by an LEA official, in which the following observation was made about Martin: ‘He takes everything literally and … one wonders if he does not have a hidden agenda. He is very active in the local mosque and has the potential to do harm to the school’s reputation.’

On June 9, 2004, another governors’ meeting took place. Again, Mr Martin and Mr Saleem harangued the headmistress on the need for a closer relationship between Islam and the school.

Eventually, Mrs Connor walked out, ‘clearly upset’ by the aggressive questioning.

Afterwards, one of the governors wrote complaining to the chair of governors, Mark Tackley-Goodman, about Mr Saleem’s hostile attitude and his ‘highly insulting’ observation that parents who sent their children to New Monument had a ‘lack of values’.

But Mr Martin was also back on the attack. He sent the chairman an email saying: ‘I have been a Muslim for nearly 25 years and I have never had any personal experience of Islamophobia. I am sorry to say that that has changed since I have been a governor.’

Unsurprisingly, Mr Tackley-Goodman lost patience at this accusation. He emailed an LEA official to complain about Mr Martin and Mr Saleem, adding: ‘I believe the time is well overdue for the LEA to step in and investigate.’

But the LEA was not prepared to defend its staff. In fact, one of the senior LEA officials expressed the view that Mr Martin was ‘quite reasonable’ and not a trouble-maker adding:’He has clearly stated to me that he is not after a single faith school.’ A bland reassurance was sent to the headmistress and an LEA officer later met her to discuss the situation.

Mrs Connor told the officer that parents were reporting meetings in the community that were organised to, in her words, ‘get me out’. She was also upset by an extraordinary ‘ cultural awareness’ training session that had been organised by Mrs Syed for the school’s staff.

The session trainers produced a special diagram setting out ideal Islamic attitudes in contrast to perceived English values — which contained things such as drinking, drug-taking and extra-marital affairs.

Once again, the chairman of governors asked the LEA to step in. This time the authority agreed to conduct a review.

It coincided with another ‘stormy’ governors’ meeting. Again, Martin and Saleem focused on faith.

Such was the atmosphere, that the Muslim teacher Ms Mir said Mr Martin’s allegations had made her ‘ emotionally ill’ and had driven her to question-her choice of career. In November-the LEA review delivered its report, having conducted 58 interviews, including one with the imam of the mosque.

It found there was ‘no evidence of deliberate racism or religious bias within the governing body or the school staff’. It added: ‘The head teacher has established a strong and enthusiastic team of staff who are committed to doing their best for pupils.’

But the strain caused by Martin and Saleem’s provocative behaviour was beginning to tell. The clerk to the governors quit.

In her resignation letter she said: ‘The last few meetings have been monopolised by Paul Martin and Mumtaz [Saleem] … An inordinate amount of time (was) spent on discussions concerning the mosque/school relationship.’

An educational training consultant who attended a governors’ meeting observed ‘bullying’ of the majority took place. She, too, noted that the term ‘hidden agenda’ was now being widely used in relation to ‘a campaign-by certain governors to get a single faith Islamic school on the New Monument site’.

Mr Tackley-Goodman, the chairman of the governors, went on the counter-attack yet again. In early 2005 he wrote to the LEA saying: ‘The LEA are now casting those who have tried to resolve the anti-Christian and anti-secular antics of a small group of individuals, as the parties at fault.’

In May, mediation between the warring factions took place. Two days later the governing body voted to remove Mr Martin. Mrs Connor, the head, said that after that meeting Mr Saleem shouted at her that they were going to get her. If she thought she would ‘get away with this’ she was wrong.

As part of routine changes among the governors, Mr Tackley-Goodman stepped aside as chairman, though he continued to play an active role on the board.

A week later an LEA official reported a conversation he had with the new chairman, a moderate Muslim called Mr Shah, who reported that the militant governors ‘did not represent any community and had been removed from their respective roles/interest in the mosque’.

Mr Shah could not understand why Mr Martin was pursuing a single faith school when that was not the wish of the wider community.

Yet still tensions were rising. June 14 was to prove a disastrous day for the school. There was another explosive meeting, during which Mr Tackley-Goodman claimed to have been threatened by Mr Saleem. He said Saleem also made a ‘scandalous allegation of racism’ against the headmistress.

The same day, Mr Martin delivered his coup de grace — a complaint to the LEA that the school was, to use that dread phrase, institutionally racist.

Among his criticisms was that while the cover of a school document showed seven children, only one of whom was brown-skinned.

That afternoon, outside the school gates, rumours circulated of the existence of a petition of no confidence in the headmistress. Graffiti offensive to Mrs Connor was daubed on school walls.

That same evening, senior LEA officers were advised by the grandly-titled County Council Complaints Management and the Equalities Coordinator that they should launch an independent investigation into the complaints against the school and its headmistress. If not, they faced ‘the risk of a referral to the Commission of Racial Equality’.

The following day the rumoured petition appeared. It was headed with the words: ‘We the undersigned, parents of children at New Monument School, no longer have confidence in Erica Connor to educate our children in a way that respects and values our faith, culture and heritage.’

Attached to the petition were two pages describing the headmistress as ‘racist and Islamophobic’. She had, the petition alleged, transferred resources from ‘brown Muslim children to white special needs children’. Scandalously, the document also drew attention to her part- Jewish background.

Presiding over the High Court case, Deputy Judge John Leighton Williams would later observe this petition was ‘a highly offensive document, itself racist’. Yet here it was, being distributed in the playground and to local homes. Mrs Connor said some parents told her they had been intimidated into signing it, and apologised to her.

But by now there was real fear among school staff. Police issued them with personal attack alarms and advised them not to stay at school after 3pm. On one occasion, Mrs Connor said she had been surrounded by youths after leaving the school, but an ex-pupil intervened to help her. She said the experience was ‘very threatening’.

So, again, what did the LEA do? It wrote a letter to parents and staff which the judge later described as ‘not clearly and unequivocally supportive of the staff and Mrs Connor’.

Mrs Connor was now not only fearful for her safety, but deeply demoralised. She told staff her life was ‘falling apart’ while the LEA stood idly by. One LEA-appointed consultant warned the authority the staff as a body were ‘deeply offended to be called racist.’ The consultant added: ‘There is a real atmosphere of fear and suspicion … Everyone is careful of what they say and who they speak to. This seems to be permeating into the classroom.’

Yet astonishingly, far from supporting the headmistress and her loyal staff, the authority assured Mr Martin they were setting up an investigation into his concerns. Two people would conduct it, one of them from a Muslim background, as he had demanded.

Mr Tackley-Goodman tried one last time to get the LEA engaged.

He told the authority: ‘The school has time and time again been held up as a model of racial and cultural integration and I would like to believe the LEA will now take positive action to reinforce these messages in the community.

‘Unfortunately I fear that so-called political correctness will prevent a fair-minded and balanced approach.’

How right he was. The LEA was then put under further pressure.

A ‘joint communication’ purportedly from ‘Woking Asian/Muslim organisations’ suggested in schools where there is ‘not a majority, but a significant Muslim presence’ there should be changes. These included an act of collective Islamic worship, recruitment of Islamic teachers, ‘adjustment of the National Curriculum’, facilities for Friday prayers and a staff dress code.

The final straw came when the LEA report into allegations of racism was delivered. Investigators admitted they could not ‘find sufficient evidence to uphold the complaint of racism by the school or the local authority’.

But it added: ‘We believe the headmistress, along with some other governors, indirectly displayed Islamophobia through ignorance and fear of losing control.’

Indirect Islamophobia? Delivering his verdict last week, Judge Williams was scathing. He said: ‘I have to say that many of the views they (the investigators) have expressed are not views I would have reached on the evidence before me.’

At the time, Mrs Connor was simply ‘horrified’ — and 28 of her staff signed a letter to the LEA damning the report. They said they felt ‘let down’ by the authority.

On September 21, 2005, the deputy head teacher was certified unfit for work due to stress. Six days later Mrs Connor followed suit. Neither has been back to New Monument. Mrs Connor has not taught again.

With the school in disarray, Ofsted was forced to intervene, placing it under special measures and appointing an interim head teacher and deputy. Academic standards slipped. The school’s subsequent Ofsted report stated, thanks to plunging morale among teachers, ‘standards are low and pupils’ achievement inadequate’.

Mr Martin still lives in the area, but is no longer involved with the school. He declined to speak to the Mail. Mr Saleem has moved out of the area and could not be contacted. Nor could Mrs Syed.

Their legacy, though, is only too apparent. New Monument, once a beacon for community cohesion and educational excellence, has been sacrificed on the altar of religious bigotry.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: National Plan to Combat Hepatitis C Virus With EU

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 26 — Minister of Higher Education and Minister of State for Scientific Affairs Dr Hani Hilal has announced the start of a national plan to combat hepatitis C virus in cooperation with the European Union. Addressing the Education and Scientific Research committee of the Shura Council, the minister said that Egypt is a pioneer state in the field of scientific research and development among Arab countries. He cited a six-point plan based on basic elements depending on inviting prominent scientists to give lectures to junior scientists in the scientific domains. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

EU Hands Over Waste Collection Equipment to Palestinians

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 26 — The Palestinian ministry of Local Government took delivery of over 1.3 million euro worth of waste collection and disposal equipment, in a move that will directly impact on the quality of life of ordinary Palestinians, helping local authorities to deal with the estimated 500,000 tons of solid waste generated annually in the West Bank alone. The Palestinian minister for Local Government, Ziad Al Bandak said: “This project is complementary to the ministry’s plan to activate the joint services of the Councils for solid waste, which aims to enable them to provide waste disposal services to our citizens at a lower cost.. It is worth noting that the EU has contributed a total of 5.2 million euro to this project”. The equipment handed includes 87 waste containers, which will end up on the streets of Ramallah, and heavy equipment for the collection and disposal of solid waste, such as wheel loaders and tractors. The equipment delivered will benefit the Salfit, Ramallah, Hebron, Tulkaren, Tubas, Tamoun, Qalqilya, Jericho, Azzon and Hablah areas, but over the coming months 27 municipalities, Joint Service Councils and local councils across the West Bank will benefit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu to Negotiate With PNA for Peace

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — Israeli premier-designate Benyamin Netanyahu (Likud) has been quoted by the Haaretz daily in its online site as saying in a Jerusalem meeting with Israeli, Arab and foreign businessmen that he would “negotiate with the Palestinian National Authority for peace” . “Security, peace and prosperity are linked,” added Netanyahu, who also encouraged conference participants to invest in the Palestinian economy. These statements have come after the announcement that Ehud Barak’s Labour Party would be joining the government, and Barack Obama’s speaking, during the night, on his concern over the future for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The leader of Israeli centrist party, Kadima, and outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said today that she was “saddened” by the agreement reached yesterday by Barak and Netanyahu. She called the agreement “an expression of bad politics”. “Yesterday we witnessed an expression of bad politics,” said Livni, reported on the Yediot Ahronot website, adding that she believes that Barak — the Minister of Defence in the outgoing government, destined after yesterday’s agreement to hold the same office in the right-wing cabinet led by Likud — contributed “to a growing lack of confidence of the citizens towards politics”. Kadima — which was confirmed as the top party in the February 10 elections, but did not win a majority in congress — will not enter into Netanyahu’s government and intends to lead the opposition, confirmed Livni. For us “this is a government that does not have fundamental values,” she explained, adding that “stability is not a value in itself”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Ihsanoglu: NATO Chief Should be at Ease With Muslim World

The head of the world’s largest Muslim organization has voiced reservations about an emerging consensus within NATO to bring Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the alliance’s top post, saying the NATO secretary-general should be a person who has credibility in the Muslim world.

“If NATO intends to be busy with the Muslim world and issues like Afghanistan, the person it will elect as NATO secretary-general should be acceptable to these societies,” Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said in Moscow, where he is attending a regional meeting on Afghanistan.

Rasmussen has emerged as a strong contender to replace NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, whose term is about to expire. Although the United States and European members of NATO widely support Rasmussen, Turkey, the only Muslim member of the 26-nation alliance, is opposed because of his statements during the 2006 “cartoon crisis,” in which Muslims around the world staged protests against cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that were published in a Danish newspaper.

Denmark is one of the few European countries whose soldiers in the 62,000-strong NATO-led force in Afghanistan fight in the most dangerous, southern part of the country alongside American units. Rasmussen, a staunch Atlanticist, was also a strong backer of the US invasion of Iraq and deployed troops there.

Ihsanoglu also criticized a security-based approach to stabilize Afghanistan, saying the problems in the country are far more diverse. “The issue is not a security issue. It is not an issue of terrorism or abduction. Yes, there are incidents of terror, there are incidents of abduction and murder. But when you take up the issue as a purely security issue, it could not be resolved. On the contrary, it became more complicated,” Ihsanoglu said.

“There is the problem of organized crime, the narcotics trade, a political power vacuum, ethnic clashes and the problem of representation. A centuries-old social structure was destroyed by the Soviet invasion and a new one to replace it has yet to be established,” he added. “We need to apply social development and political formulas to deal with Afghanistan’s problems.”

Ihsanoglu was due to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the first meeting between the two, on the sidelines of the Afghanistan meeting in Moscow. He said Afghanistan, the Middle East conflict, the situation in Gaza and the Darfur crisis in Sudan were among the issues he wanted to discuss with the Russian leader.

The OIC chief, who approved an application from Russia to become an observer in the OIC following his election in 2005, also said Russia’s presence in the 57-nation group was important for the 20 million Muslims living in Russian territory. “These people should also see themselves as part of the Muslim world,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Iraq: 62,000 Public Employees Fired on Corruption Charges

The interior ministry has launched a campaign aimed at uprooting corruption and sectarian divisions. Political activities have been prohibited for police officials, and sharing of information among Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds is being promoted in order to ensure law and order in the country. Iraqi minister: “We now have a chance to be the first workable Arab democracy.”

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The Iraqi interior ministry has fired 62,000 public employees who have been accused of corruption, and has launched an intense campaign aimed at dismantling sectarian and confessional divisions among the security forces. Interior minister Jawad al-Bolani revealed the news in an editorial published yesterday in the U.S. newspaper the Chicago Tribune.

“We’ve tackled corruption,” al-Bolani writes, “by firing 62,000 employees and begun to dismantle sectarianism by prohibiting all political activity by police officers and creating a force made up of all Iraqis, Shiite, Sunni and Kurd.”

The Iraqi interior ministry is made up of more than half a million people. Since the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein, in 2003, it has been marked by corruption, interconfessional conflicts, and bad management that al-Bolani describes as “pervasive,” “preventing us from rebuilding our infrastructure and returning a sense of normalcy to the country.” But the minister insists that Iraq has changed direction, and is now capable of maintaining law and order: “We now have a chance to be the first workable Arab democracy,” he says.

In order to stem the violence that exploded in the country in 2004, the ministry created a special security division, the national police. Between 2005 and 2006, this had become a domestic source of violence and division.. Now the situation has improved, and the country has begun a slow journey toward normalcy that it intends to maintain thanks in part to the continued recruitment of police officers. “Challenges remain, of course,” al-Bolani admits, “as we continue to combat militia infiltration and the death rattle of the insurgents, but momentum is on our side.”

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

Saudi Arabia: Theatre Official Art After 50 Years

(by Lorenzo Trombetta) (ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — For the first time in almost 50 years a theatre play was performed in front of government officials in Saudi Arabia: on Friday in Riyadh the Theatre Festival was opened in the presence of government members, while the supreme religious authority of the country continues to stigmatise film and theatre as “breaking Islamic law”. For World Theatre Day, in which Saudi Arabia is participating for the first time, the curtain of the Saudi-Arabian Culture and Art Association (Asca) were raised for the first time in 49 years in the presence of a mixed audience, men and women, including “high representatives of the Culture Ministry” reported the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, published in London and owned by Saudi prince Khaled bin Sultan, on its front page. The play was performed by the actors of Diadema (al-Iklil), preparations have been in the news in the past days “after threats and attempts to sabotage” preparations “carried out by unknown persons against the theatre group”. The religious authorities in Saudi Arabia oppose artistic expression: Grand mufti, Abd al Aziz al Shaykh, called theatre an activity that “breaks Islamic law”. Two years ago a fight broke out between viewers and actors during the performance of a comedy which showed “the contradictions of a society which is considered to be moderate by the West, but which in fact is subjected to religious extremists”. The few (film) theatres that are tolerated are still rigorously divided into stalls for men and a balcony for women and the performance of comedies, usually by men only, is only allowed during Ramadan. Last year, seven of the ten theatre plays on the bill were performed and directed by men, two by children. Women appeared in just one play according to Najah al-Usaymi of the local on-line daily Arab News. The last show performed in Riyadh in the presence of authorities goes back to 1960. Since then only small private cultural circles and universities organised shows. “With this event we want to re-launch Saudi theatre” said the vice director of Asca, Muhammad Rassis, adding: “We are children of today and we talk about today. We have nothing to do with the past”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Holds First Fashion Show for Designers

There were no camera flashes or paparazzi as the models strutted down the catwalk showing off the latest Western and Oriental styles in Saudi Arabia’s first fashion show this week.

The show was the culmination of a competition among Saudi designers and was the first of its kind. Other fashion shows in the kingdom had been held as part of charity activities or approved under other names like “bazaars.”

“A fashion show in Saudi Arabia is different from anywhere else,” one of the models told “We took part in this one after making sure no cameras will be allowed.”

“ A fashion show in Saudi Arabia is different from anywhere else “

A top modelThe female-only audience got to see a range of fashions by the 28 designer finalists, including abayas — the traditional cloak worn over clothing — casual outfits and gowns.. The goal of the competition was to design an oriental outfit and a western outfit to suit modern times…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Singer Finds Herself in Stardom Woes

Aspiring star quits singing after Taliban death threats

Lema Sahar never ventured out in public without an all-enveloping burqa, until she jumped on stage and sang her heart out in the Afghan version of “American Idol.”

In a series of performances beamed across the country, the girl from Kandahar showed her face to the world—although her hair was covered by an Islamic veil—as she crooned anguished Afghan love songs.

She charmed her way into the third spot of the 2008 version of the wildly popular “Afghan Star” competition, beating more than 2,000 rivals in votes sent by mobile telephone text messages.

It was the best a woman had ever done in the competition, launched in 2005.

Sealing her success, the 20-year-old singer won an “award of courage,” 4,000 dollars in cash and a recording contract from private television station Tolo, which hosts the program.

She became an instant star, but not in her hometown of Kandahar, a southern stronghold of the Taliban where women are seldom seen in public and never without a burqa which includes a small grille to cover the eyes.

In Kandahar Sahar was considered a disgrace and soon began receiving death threats, even from her own male relatives.

She had no choice but to flee for her life.

“My life is under threat; everybody is threatening to kill me. It’s all because I participated in the ‘Afghan Star’,” Sahar told FAP from the Pakistani city of Peshawar, where she has been in hiding since fleeing Afghanistan two months ago.

“My own relatives, some of my cousins, our neighbours, were also threatening to kill me,” She said in a telephone call arranged by a close relative in Afghanistan.

Other threats were anonymous, sometimes in letters dropped at the family home.

“They were saying that they will kill me because I brought shame to them. I was moving from one place to another when I was in Kandahar. I was scared,” Sahar said, speaking in her native Pashtu.

It was from Kandahar that Taliban Islamist zealots first picked up arms to sweep into government by 1996, imposing a harsh rule that saw women whipped in the streets if they did not cover up from head to toe.

The 2001 U.S.-led invasion removed them from government more than seven years ago but their strict moral code is still adhered to by many in Afghanistan, especially ethnic Pashtuns.

The tribe of millions extends across the border into Pakistan where Taliban radicalism has surged in recent years.

“Even here I don’t feel safe,” Sahar said from the home of a relative who lives in Peshawar.

Last resort: UN

Sahar requested asylum in Europe or the United States through the U.N. refugee agency. “The United Nations is my last hope,” she said.

Many young Afghans try to escape their precarious and conservative homeland, dreaming of a freer life in the West.

Some pay people smugglers, others are suspected of exaggerating risks in a bid to secure asylum. There are common stories about young Afghans who have flouted study visas or broken out of official visits.

Even the long-time presenter of “Afghan Star,” Daud Sidiqi, snuck into Canada in January. He had been in the United States for the Sundance Film Festival where a documentary about the show won an award.

An aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai took a similar route while travelling with his head of state to the U.N. General Assembly last year.

For many Afghan women—journalists, lawmakers, officials—the threats at home are all too real.

Last September, unknown attackers killed Afghanistan’s most prominent policewoman, Malalai Kakar, outside her home in Kandahar. The Taliban claimed responsibility for her murder.

A few months later, men sprayed acid into the faces of Kandahar schoolgirls.

“Afghan Star” contender Farida Tarana, who came eighth in 2007, took refuge in Iran for a few months last year, telling AFP at the time that a music video in which she appeared without a headscarf led to death threats.

In 2007, two Afghan women journalists were shot dead in murder cases that have not been solved. One was allegedly an “honour killing” by a relative.

Sahar and her family say her concern is genuine.

“We can no longer protect her against the threats,” said a brother, Ashraf. “Her participation in ‘Afghan Star’ made our lives so hard. There was always someone threatening us because of that.”

Another relative confirmed he helped the young singer into Pakistan for her own safety.

Sahar meanwhile regrets reaching for stardom.

“I didn’t know all this would happen to me,” she said. “I can’t go back home. I can’t live my whole life hiding,” she said.

“Somebody has to get me out of here.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Rehabilitation for Convicted Drug Addicts

Jakarta, 23 March (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia which has some of the world’s toughest anti-drug laws is to provide rehabilitation for convicted drug addicts. But the changes, outlined in a memo issued by the Supreme Court, stressed that convicted drugs addicts should continue serving jail time.

The memo stipulated several requirements for drug users who qualify for treatment at rehabilitation centres.

When arrested, they must only have a maximum of 0.15 grammes of heroine, cocaine or morphine, one roll or 5 grammes of marijuana, one ecstasy pill or 0.25 grammes of crystal methamphetamines.

Drug users are also obliged to undergo drug tests based on a request by investigators and a recommendation letter from a court-appointed psychiatrist.

The court memo issued on Friday orders judges not to send drug addicts to prison, but rather to rehabilitation centres.

“But the ruling will not be implemented retroactively,” Supreme Court spokesman Djoko Sarwoko told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

In order to qualify for the treatment the drug users must show no signs of a relapse, and there must be no evidence that they are drug dealers.

In its memo, the Supreme Court proposed rehabilitation facilities or therapy centres that could be appointed to help drug addicts, including hospitals, rehabilitation centres under the social services ministry and the health ministry.

Commenting on the memo, the Indonesian Judiciary Supervisory Community (Mappi) watchdog warned such a policy was prone to misuse by suspects and law enforcers.

Indonesia enforces the death penalty for drug dealing, and a maximum of 15 years prison for drug use. In practice, this is rarely carried out against Indonesian citizens, but the country has enforced the law against foreign tourists.

In 2004, Australian citizen Schappelle Corby was convicted of smuggling 4.4 kilogrammes of cannabis into Bali, a crime that carried a maximum penalty of death. She was found guilty and is serving a 20 year prison term.

A group of Australian citizens known as the “Bali Nine” were caught smuggling heroin in April 2005 and are currently facing the death penalty.

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

Pakistan: India Involved in Attack Against Sri Lankan Cricket Team, Report Claims

Lahore, 24 March (AKI/DAWN) — The rocket-launchers and explosives used in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team are used by Indian security forces, Pakistani daily Dawn reported on Tuesday, quoting an unspecified forensic report.

According to the report, four rocket-launchers and nine explosives seized from the scene of the deadly attack in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore earlier this month are factory-made and used by Indian forces.

Forty grenades, 10 sub-machine guns (SMGs), five pistols, 577 live rounds of SMGs and 160 bullets of pistols were also found at the scene.

A dozen attackers fired 312 bullets, two rockets and detonated two bombs near Lahore’s Liberty roundabout on 3 March as the Sri Lankan team was on its way to a match.

The attack killed six policemen and a Pakistan Cricket Board van driver and injured six of the Sri Lankan players.

“No suicide jacket was found at the scene, suggesting that they were not on a suicide mission.. The SMGs used in the attack are of Russian, German and Chinese origin,” an unnamed investigator told Dawn on Monday.

The attack seriously damaged Pakistan’s reputation a host for any future international sporting event, including the 2011 Cricket World Cup. In early March, Bangladesh’s cricket team announced it was postponing Pakistan’s seven-match tour of the country scheduled for mid-March.

Although none of the 12 terrorists involved in the attack has been arrested, investigators have come up with a claim based on ‘positive leads’ that no militant organisations Pakistan had the capacity to carry out the attack without the help of a state intelligence agency.

“The ammunition and communication network is the base of our claim that a state agency is also involved,” said the investigator.

He said that law-enforcement agencies had taken over 100 suspects into custody, but yet to arrest any of the terrorists.

“Unfortunately all terrorists (involved in the attack) managed to flee to (Pakistan’s) tribal belt owing to a ‘belated’ response by police in going after them soon after the attack,” he said.

Investigators are now convinced that the mastermind of the attack had four objectives: to sour Pakistan’s relations with Sri Lanka; to stop foreign teams from coming to Pakistan; to destabilise Pakistan and to let the country know that India’s spy agency is more capable than Pakistan’s intelligence services in carrying out such attacks even in the midst of a huge security presence.

Investigators however clarify that the attackers did not want to hijack the cricketers’ bus.

A four-member police team, headed by Punjab’s Additional Inspector-General of Police Salahuddin Khan Niazi, and another joint investigation team comprising officials from Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), have been investigating the Lahore attack.

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

Far East

Anyone Asking for Justice in China Can End Up in Prison, Forced Labour or Tortured

According to a human rights group, tens of people in Heilongjiang are locked up in prison or sent to Re-education-through-Labour camps to stop them from presenting petition against local authorities..

Beijing AsiaNews/Agencies) — Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) reports that tens of residents from the faraway province of Heilongjiang have been arrested, badly beaten by police, sent to prison or hospital after travelling to Beijing to ask the authorities for justice.

Chen Jinxia, a petitioner from Dailing District, Yichun City, Heilongjiang Province, has suffered nearly two years of arbitrary detention since she was first intercepted on 24 April 2007.. Over the past 23 months, she has been separated from her son, beaten, sent to a Re-education-through-Labour (RTL) camp, and is now held in what is called a “black jail”, that is an unofficial detention centre.

According to her family, Chen started petitioning after her husband developed a mental illness as a result of repeated detention by local authorities in retaliation for his persistent petitioning. When Chen left for Beijing on 24 April 24 2007 to petition higher authorities, she brought her then 12-year-old son, Song Jide. They were intercepted in Beijing and sent to Ma Jia Lou, a “black jail” in the capital. After their release, as they were boarding a local bus to return to their hostel in Beijing, interceptors from her hometown forcibly dragged her off the bus. The bus departed with Chen’s son. When Chen protested, one of the interceptors, the head of the Dailing Letters and Visits Office, Yang Haifeng, told her “not to bother” about Song, stating that he would “take care of the matter”. The other interceptors, including two from Dailing District Public Security Bureau (PSB), forcibly returned Chen to Dailing.

Upon her return, Chen was administratively detained for ten days. She was beaten, her spine was injured, and she was left paralysed. On 5 May 2007, Chen was released from the detention center. On 13 May the Dailing Letters and Visits Office told Chen that the child could not be found. After hearing the news, Chen spent two days going to various government offices pleading to speak with officials, but she was repeatedly rebuffed and dragged away. On 15 May, local authorities sent Chen to Dailing Hospital for “treatment”. She was held there until 30 June, when she evaded her monitors and attempted to take a taxi to Yichun to petition the mayor. Chen was caught by the police, and at the local police station, she broke a sheet of glass in anger.

Because of the offence, Chen was ordered held in a RTL camp for “damaging public property” for 18 months. After serving the 18 months, and immediately upon her release on 24 December 2008, Chen was sent to a “black jail” at No.226 Kangan Community in Dailing District. Currently held in a windowless room, Chen is guarded by four people who will not allow her to step outside. Members of Chen’s family who have tried to advocate on her behalf have been threatened and harassed by Dailing authorities.

“This wrenching tale of a mother’s anguish and suffering offers fresh evidence of a province where officials have been particularly ruthless towards petitioners and rights activists whilst enjoying total impunity,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “Moreover, Heilongjiang is rich in agriculture, and land disputes have become particularly intense. The provincial leadership has given local authorities free rein to smother dissent as they wish to please the central government with this mirage of ‘harmony’,” Xia said.

In the past 18 months, CHRD has documented many cases of arbitrary detention of petitioners and human rights activists in Heilongjiang Province for exposing misconduct by local authorities. At least five of those documented involved torture and beating while in custody. One petitioner, Luo Shubo, died on 24 August 2008 after local officials repeatedly prevented her from seeking medical treatment while detained in an RTL camp.

The brazenness of the Heilongjiang authorities is also illustrated by the case of human rights activist, Yang Chunlin, who was repeatedly beaten and tortured in police custody. Once, he was beaten with electric batons by a court policeman for merely attempting to speak with his family during his sentencing hearing.

CHRD wishes to draw attention to the pattern of human rights abuses in Heilongjiang Province illustrated by the cases listed below.

Liu Jie, from Xunke County, is serving 18 months in a RTL camp for collecting signatures for the petition, ‘Constitutional Democracy: the Foundation for Addressing Social Grievances’, signed by 12,150 petitioners. Liu has been repeatedly tortured and beaten during her incarceration. Liu began the petition in order to obtain compensation after local authorities broke a contract and took back the contracted farm which Liu had turned into a profitable enterprise.

Yuan Xianchen, an activist and “barefoot lawyer” from Jixi City, is serving four years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power”. Yuan is best known for acting as a legal advisor for workers at the Didao Mine in Jixi City who have been seeking compensation from the local government since the former state-owned business was re-structured and privatised. Yuan has been tortured in detention.

Yang Chunlin, a worker and activist from Jiamusi City, is serving five years in prison for collecting signatures for an open letter, ‘We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics’, signed by more than 10,000 people, mostly Heilongjiang farmers fighting forced eviction. Yang has been repeatedly tortured during incarceration.

Ren Shangyan and Kong Qiang, researchers at the China Justice Advocacy Web, are serving three years of imprisonment for investigating accusations of nepotism against a Shuangyashan official.

Li Yuzhen, from Muling City, was barred by Muling City police from leaving the women’s RTL camp in Harbin on 11 March after completing her one-year term there. The police threatened to send her back to the camp if she did not go with them. Li was finally allowed to leave after she signed a pledge that she would not petition during the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee in March. Li was given one year of RTL treatment for petitioning about her brother’s death, which she believes was caused by torture whilst in police custody.

Li Shuchun, from Yilan County, was held in custody between 14 January 2008 and 27 February 2009 for leading a group of 100 workers in seeking government action against corrupt management at the Hongqi Racecourse in Yilan County. Instead of heeding the request the local government collaborated with the racecourse management to have the workers arrested.

Luo Shubo, a petitioner from Anda City, died on 24 August 2008 after she was repeatedly denied medical treatment at the Qiqihaer RTL camp. Luo had submitted a petition after she won a court case but failed to get the compensation to which she was entitled. Despite her many illnesses, including heart disease, Luo was sent to two years of RTL on 30 October 2007.

Du Fengqin, a petitioner from Qiqihar City, had repeatedly petitioned against the local government for seizing her land without due process or adequate compensation. To pre-empt her from petitioning during the 17th Party Congress in October 2007, Du was detained prior to the Congress. Then on 16 October, the authorities sent her for one year of RTL claiming that she had “disrupted normal petitioning procedures” whilst in Beijing.

Jiang Yongwen went to Beijing to submit a petition on 22 September 2007 in order to reveal the true number of deaths reported by the local government in a mine accident in Baoqing County.. Jiang was intercepted and sent to RTL.

Sun Chongping, from Mudanjiang City, was detained in a black jail at Mudanjiang Assistance Station Children’s Relief Centre to prevent her from petitioning during the “Two Meetings” in March 2008. Sun tried to escape on 12 March but was caught, sent back to the same jail and beaten by police officers. Sun was told that she would be detained until after the Olympics. At present it is unclear whether she has been released or not. She was petitioning about misconduct by local family planning authorities.

Wang Fucheng was intercepted in Beijing on 7 March 2008 whilst petitioning for fair compensation. Wang, a 76-year-old ex soldier from Mudanjiang City, was detained in a black jail with 20 other petitioners at Mudanjiang City Assistance Station Children’s Relief Centre. On 14 March, Wang’s daughter met the same fate when she went to Beijing to petition about her father’s detention. It is unclear whether Wang and his daughter have been released.

Wang Xinglai, a farmer from Beian City, was intercepted by Beian officials while petitioning in Beijing on 18 November 2007. Wang was forcibly returned to Beian, where he was illegally detained for over a month before being sent for two years of RTL. Wang started petitioning after the Beian City government broke a 25-year land lease signed in 1997.

Yang Guihua, a petitioner, was sent to RTL for a year after she was intercepted on 5 November 2007 in front of the United Nations Development Programme offices in Beijing. Yang had been petitioning because the local court in Qiqihaer had delayed processing her case concerning money disputes.

Village representatives Yu Changwu and Wang Guilin were detained in December 2007 by the Fujin City Public Security Bureau in Jiamusi City. They were sent for, respectively, two and one-and-a-half years of RTL. Days prior to their detention, 40,000 villagers from 72 Fujin villages released a public notice declaring their right to 100,000 hectares of land in their villages, which the villagers claimed had been forcibly seized without adequate compensation by local officials.

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

Med: 150 Mln Consumers, China Looking at Southern Shore

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 20 — China is looking with interest at the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the 150-million strong consumer market on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Since 2007, the country has taken a leading role among exporters to the MENA area, becoming the main supplier to Egypt, third supplier to Algeria, Morocco and Libya, and the seventh supplier to Tunisia. However, these five north African countries account for just 3.4% of the Asian giant’s trade and the People’s Republic of China is far from transforming these commercial ties into political influence and cooperation in the energy sector. This fact emerged in 2008 according to geo-politics expert Francois Lafargue, in his essay in the European Institute of the Mediterranean Factbook, which was presented in Brussels. Chinese products (common consumer goods like small electrical equipment, clothes, tea) actually meet the needs of populations with a limited buying power. The standard of life in Tunisia and Morocco is at just 15% of the level of a French citizen and with these new clients on the global market, they cannot afford to pay for expensive western brands. On the other hand, Chinese businesses see north African countries as a shortcut to get to northern European markets, which have shown that they will not turn up their noses at budget products, especially in the technology field. There are already several Chinese firms operating directly in the Med countries — a worry for local economies given that the profits go back to China instead of being reinvested in the area. In particular, Algeria has become a favourite destination market for Chinese construction and public works companies. The Sheraton Hotel and the Al Qods di Algeri shopping centre were built by Chinese firms, as was the Oran hospital, the capital city’s airport and the new Foreign Ministry building. Added to this is a Chinese firms winning of the tender to build 700 homes in Massinissa, or part of the Annaba-Tlemcenm motorway (worth 6.2 billion dollars). China has also become active in the mining sector and telecommunications. ZTE, a company, has signed an agreement the Libyan operator for the creation of the first WiMax network in Africa, whilst in Morocco Huawey is Maroc Telecom’s supplier. Then, there is the car sector, which sees the emphasis switch to Algeria and Tunisia. The paradox, for example in Algeria, is the foreign presence in a country where the unemployment rate is around 15% of the active population, and 30% of those under 25. Indirect damage has been caused in Morocco and Tunisia, which have fallen victim to the outsourcing of western businesses in China. This is exactly what happened in the case of Technitrol, an American company which produces electrical components for cars, which announced the closure of its main premises and transferral to the Oriental market in 2007. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Korean Missile is Challenge to Obama

As Kim Jong-il prepares to challenge US authority, a tense region waits for Washington’s reaction

WARSHIPS patrolled the Sea of Japan and Patriot batteries were set up around Tokyo yesterday as North Korea counted down to a missile launch intended to challenge President Barack Obama as he attends the G20 summit in London.Two Japanese guided-missile destroyers set sail under orders to intercept the Taepodong-2 if the launch goes wrong and it threatens to come down in Japan, a key US ally. North Korea has said any interception would amount to an act of war.

Kim Jong-il, the North Korean dictator, has hinted that if the missile is destroyed, his country will strike back violently, conduct a second nuclear weapons test and ruin years of American disarmament diplomacy.

North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, maintains that the Taepodong-2 is to launch a satellite into space for peaceful purposes. The US and Japan think it is a long-range missile designed for atomic warheads. Experts say the missile could be fired any time from today, although the North Koreans have set a date between April 4 and 8.

The launch has become a test of American power, according to one of the most senior foreign policy advisers in China. The US and Japan “will be bankrupt in reputation and dignity” if the missile violates Japanese sovereignty and is not destroyed, said Professor Zhang Lian-gui, of the Central Party school.

His comments, in an official journal, showed how keenly Chinese leaders were watching Obama’s performance under pressure. Obama will have his first summit with President Hu Jintao in London this week.

[Return to headlines]

Philippines in Hostage Compromise

The Philippines have relaxed a security cordon around Abu Sayyaf rebels who have threatened to behead one of three Red Cross hostages seized in January.

At least 800 soldiers have pulled back on the southern island of Jolo.

“We are giving them a breathing space where they feel they’re safe to negotiate,” said Philippine Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

The rebels said they would kill one of the hostages if the cordon around them was not fully removed by 31 March.

In rare public appeal, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Jakob Kellenberger asked Philippine officials to consider the demands made by the Islamist militants.

He also called on the kidnappers not to harm the hostages — Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba — who were seized on 15 January.

Mr Kellenberger said Red Cross staff were in the Philippines to do humanitarian work, and that nothing whatsoever could be achieved by hurting them.

The Abu Sayyaf has a history of beheading captives.

In 2001, American Guillermo Sobero was killed after the government turned down attempts by the rebels to negotiate for hostages on the nearby island of Basilan.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan Says Suspects Israel Was Behind Attacks

Sudan said on Friday it believed Israel was behind two attacks on suspected smugglers which killed up to 40 people in the remote north of the country in January and February.

“The first thought is that it was the Americans that did it. We contacted the Americans and they categorically denied they were involved,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig said. “We are still trying to verify it. Most probably it involved Israel.”

Sadig said Sudan was gathering evidence at the site, and would not react to the attacks while the investigation was ongoing. He added that the convoys were likely smuggling goods, but not weapons.

The New York Times reported Friday that Israeli warplanes attacked a convoy of trucks in Sudan in January to block a suspected arms delivery to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, while a Sudanes official called it an American “act of genocide.”

The newspaper’s website quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying Israel carried out the attack, in which many people were killed, to stop weapons being transported to Hamas during Israel’s 22-day assault of Gaza.

Israeli officials refused to confirm or deny the attack, but intelligence analysts noted that the strike was consistent with other measures Israel had taken to secure its borders.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Chris Tuggle in the Americas Report: Honduras’ Faustian Bargain

The United States has enjoyed a long and influential relationship with Honduras, more so than most other nations. U.S. interest and military involvement in Honduras dates back to the turn of the century. During World War II, the United States signed a lend lease agreement with Honduras and also established a military presence operating a small naval base at Trujillo on the Caribbean Sea. Over the next thirty years over 300 million in U.S. foreign assistance would flow into Honduras, and by the end of the 1980’s that figure would jump to 1.9 billion.

It was during the 1980’s that Honduras became the “linchpin for United States policy toward Central America.” The U.S. remains Honduras’s most important trading partner and a primary source of foreign investment. Considering the long history and the traditionally close ties it was an unfortunate break with the rubric of U.S.-Honduran relations when the President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, moved-some argue pushed-Honduras into a devilish deal with the anti-democratic Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Exclusive: Hezbollah Uses Mexican Drug Routes Into U.S.

Works beside smuggler cartels to fund operations

Hezbollah is using the same southern narcotics routes that Mexican drug kingpins do to smuggle drugs and people into the United States, reaping money to finance its operations and threatening U.S. national security, current and former U.S. law enforcement, defense and counterterrorism officials say.

The Iran-backed Lebanese group has long been involved in narcotics and human trafficking in South America’s tri-border region of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Increasingly, however, it is relying on Mexican narcotics syndicates that control access to transit routes into the U.S.

Hezbollah relies on “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels,” said Michael Braun, who just retired as assistant administrator and chief of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“They work together,” said Mr. Braun. “They rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another, they are all connected.

“They’ll leverage those relationships to their benefit, to smuggle contraband and humans into the U.S.; in fact, they already are [smuggling].”

His comments were confirmed by six U.S. officials, including law enforcement, defense and counterterrorism specialists. They spoke on the condition that they not be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.

While Hezbollah appears to view the U.S. primarily as a source of cash — and there have been no confirmed Hezbollah attacks within the U.S. — the group’s growing ties with Mexican drug cartels are particularly worrisome at a time when a war against and among Mexican narco-traffickers has killed 7,000 people in the past year and is destabilizing Mexico along the U.S. border.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Mexico on Thursday to discuss U.S. aid. Other U.S. Cabinet officials and President Obama are slated to visit in the coming weeks.


Although there have been no confirmed cases of Hezbollah moving terrorists across the Mexico border to carry out attacks in the United States, Hezbollah members and supporters have entered the country this way.

Last year, Salim Boughader Mucharrafille was sentenced to 60 years in prison by Mexican authorities on charges of organized crime and immigrant smuggling. Mucharrafille, a Mexican of Lebanese descent, owned a cafe in the city of Tijuana, across the border from San Diego. He was arrested in 2002 for smuggling 200 people, said to include Hezbollah supporters, into the U.S.

In 2001, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani crossed the border from Mexico in a car and traveled to Dearborn, Mich. Kourani was later charged with and convicted of providing “material support and resources … to Hezbollah,” according to a 2003 indictment.

A U.S. official with knowledge of U.S. law enforcement operations in Latin America said, “we noted the same trends as Mr. Braun” and that Hezbollah has used Mexican transit routes to smuggle contraband and people into the U.S.

Two U.S. law enforcement officers, familiar with counterterrorism operations in the U.S. and Latin America, said that “it was no surprise” that Hezbollah members have entered the U.S. border through drug cartel transit routes.

“The Mexican cartels have no loyalty to anyone,” one of the officials told The Washington Times. “They will willingly or unknowingly aid other nefarious groups into the U.S. through the routes they control. It has already happened. That’s why the border is such a serious national security issue.”

One U.S. counterterrorism official said that while “there’s reason to believe that [Hezbollah members] have looked at the southern border to enter the U.S. … to date their success has been extremely limited.”

However, another U.S. counterterrorism official confirmed that the U.S. is watching closely the links between Hezbollah and drug cartels and said it is “not a good picture.”…

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Libya: An Endless Flow of Desperate People

(by Francesca Spinola) (ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MARCH 27 — “The Church in Libya is allowed to go into prisons and give pastoral care and first aid to people who need it”. The statement was made by a priest who has been living in Libya for years and who has asked to remain anonymous. Every Tuesday, a small religious delegation goes sometimes to one prison, sometimes to another, sometimes to a centre set up for migrants. “We have already visited 8 prisons and the Misurata centre which migrants say is 4 stars”, a priest jokes. But the comments are true, he heard them with his own ears. Last Tuesday in the courtyard of Jedeida prison, the English-speaking and French-speaking Africans had gathered to pray and sing. “At the end of the mass,” the priest explained, “the prison director, who had never once left us alone with the inmates, said that ‘we will restore the wall, you restore the souls’“. The prisons that are open to the priests are “in good condition” and prisoners’ lives inside are “dignified”. But there are so many illegal immigrants in Libya, perhaps 2 million, an enormous number for a country of less than 5 million people. Libya is halfway between Europe and Africa and, according to Sofrani e Saleh Jwan, who are studying the phenomenon and are the authors of a book on immigration, it is changing from a transit point to a destination. The head of the investigative police for immigration, Abdurramid Maraja, has described it as “a difficult reality to cope with”. Maraja, who is involved on a daily basis in managing the endless flow of illegal immigrants, repeats that the problem in Libya cannot be solved without international assistance. He says it is a problem which concerns the whole of Europe. Maraja is expecting to see agreements that Libya is making with countries on the other side of the Mediterranean, initially with Italy and with EU come into operation. His telephone rings continually for reports on migrants scouring the beaches or rescued from the sea. Maraja’s men work by infiltrating and mixing with illegal migrants in order to get to the top of the criminal organisations that manage them, which shut them in buildings during the wait for the sea to be calm before putting them in small boats which reach the fishing trawlers along the coast of Tripoli. The investigative police are working side by side with diplomats from African countries and with humanitarian organisations present in Libya, such as IOM, the International Organisation for Migration. “The first thing we do”, Maraja says, “is to try to identify them. When we find them still on the coast or just boarded, they don’t have any ID documents, because they destroy them before telling us they’re from Darfur, Gaza or Iraq”. Areas characterised by grave conflicts which from which they are seeking political refuge or requesting asylum. “We send them to the embassies that they indicate,” Maraja continues, “and there it is easy to find out if they are telling the truth”. Thus begins the procedure which will take them, in the best cases, to get their documents back and to benefit from a law which allows them to legally stay in Libya for 6 months with a work contract, which once out of date, means they must leave Libya. “Not all of them however agree to go back with the transport that we make available to them,” Maraja explains. “The Eritreans are amongst those who want to get to Europe at any cost. The Misurata prison currently holds 4,581 and none of them have the intention of accepting our re-entry programmes”. The fear of being put in prison for treason is too great. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Number of Sea Crossing Deaths Halved

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — In 2008, for the first time in recent years, the tragic toll of illegal immigrants perished while attempting to reach the Spanish shores has substantially decreased. Those who drowned while attempting to cross the sea toward the European promised land were 581 against 921 deaths of illegal immigrants in 2007, according to the 2008 report on Human Rights on the southern border, compiled by the Pro-Human Rights Association of Andalusia. The report also showed that deaths in the Mediterranean (342) overtook those in the Atlantic (239). But the overall number of immigrants who lost their life while pursuing the dream of a better future doesn’t include many who perished in the attempt to reach the southern border of Europe by crossing the African desert. “Official figures don’t take them into account,” said Rafael Lara, president of the above-mentioned Association, “Otherwise, the number of victims would grow threefold up to at least 3,000 immigrants.” Also the data from the Interior Ministry show a significant drop in the number of illegal immigrants arrived in Spain in 2008, down 25.6% from 2007, even if these figures don’t coincide with those in the report by the Andalusian NGO. Over the same span of time 46,246 immigrants were repatriated, down from 55,938 in 2007. This decrease, ministry sources said, was due to fewer illegal immigrants arriving in the Iberian peninsula. Another fresh development underlined in the report by the Pro-Human Right Association was that out of 494,585 foreigners currently estimated to be in Spain, just 8,749, that is 1.8% of the total, come from the depressed regions of sub-Sahara Africa. “You can’t emigrate in a legal and orderly way from those countries”, claimed Rafael Lara, who said the quota policy “ended in a failure as a system to manage immigration flows and caused huge obstacles to family reunions”. The report included strong criticisms at the immigration policy of the Spanish government and at the controls over illegal immigrants carried out by countries such as Morocco and Mali: “They provide help to these countries on condition that they take up a role as policemen at the borders”, Lara said. In its conclusions, the report underlined that “the myth of a legal and orderly immigration conceals a real refusal at coping with inequalities between Europe and Africa’. It also called for “a new immigration model since the present one violates human rights”, one in which closing down borders “should stop being a dogma”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Abortion: Spain, Shocking Video Shown at School

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 26 — As part of the campaign against the reform of the law on abortion, the on-line portals of the dailies El Pais and El Mundo today focus on the initiative of a state-recognised school in La Rioja. At this school a teacher has shown images of what look like the remains of aborted foetuses to some 15-year-old students. The images were shown next to footage of President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Minister for Equal Opportunities Bibiana Aido, instigator of the reform. The school is the ‘Most Pure Conception of St. Mary Micaela di Logrono school’, in which the crude images were shown by the school’s director and Ethics teacher Maria Victoria Vindel during Civic Education class which, according to the ministry programme, should educate students in “freedom, solidarity, respect and participation”. In the photomontage a boy appears dismembered next to an image of Zapatero, and the remains of an aborted foetus next to a photo of Minister Aido. In the video parts of the Gospel according to St. Matthew are quoted and the students are urged to “go out into the streets and protest against Zapatero: no to abortion, yes to life”. Pro-life associations and Spanish clergymen have organised a demonstration — to take place next Sunday in Madrid — against the reform. The conservative People’s Party distanced itself from the protest yesterday. According to the daily Publico, Minister Aido wants to change one of the most controversial aspects of the reform bill, in which 16-year-olds are allowed to abort even without their parents’ consent. Aido reportedly wants to add to the text that in these cases, the abortion must be subjected to the “preventive awareness” of an adult. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Ron Russell said...

The UN will do nothing about the situation in North Korea. That body is controlled by radical nationalist and those who support their agenda. They few the west as colonialist and will do whatever they can to oppose them. Yes, this will be an early test of the Obama administration's foreign policy, but the administration will come up short, hoping the test will fail. This has the making of a similar event in the early days of the Kennedy administration---Bay of Pigs--an event that led to a much more serious event several years later--Cuban Missle Crisis. Doubt if Obama has learned from history.

Afonso Henriques said...

About the abortion in Spain: It is just great that they are showing such a video.
I am THE ONLY PERSON MY AGE I know that is against abortion without having a strictly Catholic upbringing.

And from those that I know who have a strictly Catholic upbringing, some two thirds are for the abortion.

And people have no idea what the abortion is - mainly young girls - that it is vital to show those sick images and really put into the girls's head.
I've seen 16 years old girls who sherish for their "right" to abbort a baby and that simultaneously cry while hearing the story of an alcoholic man.

Abortion is not just an individual right it is a colective genocide.