Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dymphna’s Packet O’ News for May 12th

This time with hat tips to Insubria, Fjordman, Tuan Jim, and JD:

Stories about Pakistani commandos, Cheerios, chickens in your yard, Chinese lurking in your computer, and the government gravy train you’re riding if you work for Unca Sam.

A good one about Murtha’s Airport - with six flights a day - being one of the first in line to get some stimupork. I hope they don’t plan to hire any white men to repave that aerodrome.

There’s Italy vs. the toothless E.U., and the natives in Sweden rose up against their Arab-speaking neighbors. The latter had to be re-located. Bad Swedes!

Look for the story about our beloved POTUS driving Canada into the arms of the EU. Again.
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Pakistan Drops Commandos Into Taliban Stronghold

Army helicopters dropped Pakistani commandos behind Taliban lines in the Swat Valley on Tuesday as part of a widening offensive against the militants, while a U.S. missile killed eight people in an attack on a suspected insurgent hideout elsewhere in the northwest.

Choppers inserted troops into the remote Piochar area in the upper reaches of the valley, an army statement said. Officials identified it as the rear-base of an estimated 4,000 Taliban militants also entrenched in Swat’s main towns. It is seen as possible hiding place of Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah.

Pakistani authorities launched a full-scale assault on Swat and surrounding districts last week after the Taliban pushed out from the valley on the back of a now-defunct peace deal and extended their control to areas just 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the capital, Islamabad.

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New immigration policy under fire

Council of Europe urges end to repatriation of boat people

Europe’s human rights body, the Council of Europe, on Monday urged Italy to reconsider its new policy of returning would-be-immigrants picked up by Italian vessels in the Mediterranean to Libya.


‘‘Italy’s initiative tosses up completely the right to seek asylum’’ and this is not a ‘‘good’’ thing, said Hammerberg, stressing that it ‘‘ignores the possibility of the right to escape from repressive and violent situations’’. Italy launched its controversial new policy last week, turning back boats of would-be-immigrants and possible asylum seekers trying to reach the country’s southernmost island of Lampedusa.

The vessels, intercepted by coast guard and navy vessels, were escorted back to Libya, the most popular jumping off point for illegal immigrants.


Maroni firmed up the new policy last week after the latest in a string of disagreements with Malta over who should take migrants located in disputed waters.

Under the policy, which sees a key part of a landmark accord with Libya implemented for the first time, migrants are rescued in international waters and taken back to Libya where humanitarian organisations can vet their asylum claims.


Malta’s interior minister, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, echoed Maroni in hailing the deal with Libya.

‘‘It’s a very positive step, which we support,’’ he said on Friday.

‘‘It is no longer acceptable to see people on leaky boats risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean while we stand by,’’ said the minister, who announced that he and Maroni would visit Libya soon along with European Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

Italy, which rescues thousands of North African migrants a year, mostly at Lampedusa south of Sicily, and Malta, which rescues hundreds, will now ask Brussels to put together a ‘‘stronger’’ aid package for Libya, he said.

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A potential new star may be rising in India. Handsome, young Omar Abdullah, the grandson of one of India’s legends, Sheikh Abdullah, the so-called Lion of Kashmir in the Indian independence movement, has suddenly burst on the Indian political scene with a remarkable three-minute speech in the national parliament. Abdullah, who is also chief minister of the contested Indian-Occupied Kashmir state, electrified a debate with an appeal as “an Indian and a Muslim” for clear-cut secularism and a defense of the U.S. and Britain’s relations with New Delhi.

Back in Srinigar, the Kashmiri capital, he also extended an olive branch to Pakistan, acknowledging that there had been a “remarkable” drop in Islamabad’s contribution to the violence in the disputed region in recent years. Some 70,000 have died in the violence since partition of British India ended with no resolution of the region’s position. Since his grandfather led a local political movement to join India, Pakistani infiltrators have supported local Muslims demanding accession to Pakistan or independence. Abdullah’s comments came with New Delhi’s continuing to refuse to restart peace talks in the wake of the unresolved issue of the terrorist attack on Mumbai, mounted from Pakistan. Washington has been pressing both sides for a resolution of their differences to permit the redeployment of military forces for a maximum pursuit of the terrorist threat to both regimes and Afghanistan.

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The law of unintended consequences … again. It’s long since anyone in Ottawa thought a Canadian-EU economic alliance could [or ought to] stave off North American integration. But with the failure of the Doha Round of trade liberalization, Obama Administration protectionist whispers about Buy America, and three-quarters of Ottawa’s trade with its southern neighbor, the Canadians have restarted free trade talks with the EU. Proponents say it could boost the current hundred billion dollar trade by a third in seven years, not really all that much in either party’s terms. Still in these times, trade is trade. Trouble is that most Ottawa-Brussels exchange is already duty free except for agricultural products -- and that is the toughy on both sides. If anyone is noticing in Washington, however, since Mexico already has a FTA with the EU, the U.S. would be the odd-man-out in the North American FTA -- if and when.

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Migrant warns Africans off ‘misery’ Europe

AN African in Paris is appealing to his countrymen to stay at home rather than risk their lives attempting to break into “fortress Europe”, where, he says, they will be miserable.

Omar Ba, from Senegal, in west Africa, says Europe is not the promised land imagined by Africans; instead it is almost impossible to find a job or somewhere to live and people are unfriendly to foreigners.

“I came in search of happiness,” said Ba, 28, in a cafe in Paris last week. “I found solitude and depression.”

He is luckier than most because his book “I Came, I Saw, I Believe No More” has turned the child of impoverished smoked-fish sellers into a minor celebrity and has put a human face on the plight of African “boat people”.

Ba, who grew up in a former leper colony, blames bad government in Africa rather than Europe’s immigration policies for the tragic deaths at sea of thousands of would-be immigrants in recent years. “If Africa provided just a minimum for its people, do you think so many would leave?” he said?

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20 Muslim Extremist Rebels Die In Philippine Clash - Police

More than 20 Muslim extremists have been killed in fierce fighting in the southern Philippines in retaliatory attacks following the gunning down of a local police chief, police said Monday.

The fighting in the southern island of Jolo broke out after Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf members ambushed Chief Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, killing him and four of his men last Thursday.

Five rebels were also killed in the attack.

Since then, residents in the area have reported seeing numerous Abu Sayyaf bodies left behind after clashes with government forces, local police official Director Felizardo Serapio said.

“The civilians in the area sighted 20 more Abu Sayyaf killed aside from the five terrorists killed earlier in the encounter,” he said.

Serapio said the Italian Red Cross hostage being held by the rebels, Eugenio Vagni, was reportedly sighted on the outskirts of Indanan town in Jolo but police are still trying to confirm this.

Vagni and two other members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Swiss Andreas Notter and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, were abducted while on a humanitarian mission to Jolo Jan. 15.

Notter and Lacaba were recovered separately by security forces that included Kasim’s men in April, but Vagni remains in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf who are known for kidnapping foreigners and Christians and holding them for ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf was founded in the 1990s, ostensibly to fight for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Intelligence agencies say they had links to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

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China blocks U.S. from cyber warfare

by Bill Gertz

China has developed more secure operating software for its tens of millions of computers and is already installing it on government and military systems, hoping to make Beijing’s networks impenetrable to U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

The secure operating system, known as Kylin, was disclosed to Congress during recent hearings that provided new details on how China’s government is preparing to wage cyberwarfare with the United States.

“We are in the early stages of a cyber arms race and need to respond accordingly,” said Kevin G. Coleman, a private security specialist who advises the government on cybersecurity….The deployment of Kylin is significant, Mr. Coleman said, because the system has “hardened” key Chinese servers.

U.S. offensive cyberwar capabilities have been focused on getting into Chinese government and military computers outfitted with less secure operating systems like those made by Microsoft Corp.

“This action also made our offensive cybercapabilities ineffective against them, given the cyberweapons were designed to be used against Linux, UNIX and Windows,” he said.

The secure operating system was disclosed as computer hackers in China - some of them sponsored by the communist government and military - are engaged in aggressive attacks against the United States, said officials and experts who disclosed new details of what was described as a growing war in cyberspace.

These experts say Beijing’s military is recruiting computer hackers for its forces, including one specialist identified in congressional testimony who set up a company that was traced to attacks that penetrated Pentagon computers.


Mr. Coleman, a computer security specialist at Technolytics and a consultant to the office of the director of national intelligence and U.S. Strategic Command, said Chinese state or state-affiliated entities are on a wartime footing in seeking electronic information from the U.S. government, contractors and industrial computer networks.

Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said April 23 that the reports of Chinese hacking into Pentagon computers were false.

“Relevant authorities of the Chinese government attach great importance to cracking down on cybercrimes,” Ms. Jiang said. “We believe it is extremely irresponsible to accuse China of being the source of attacks prior to any serious investigation.”

Mr. Coleman, a computer security specialist at Technolytics and a consultant to the office of the director of national intelligence and U.S. Strategic Command, said Chinese state or state-affiliated entities are on a wartime footing in seeking electronic information from the U.S. government, contractors and industrial computer networks.

Mr. Coleman said in an interview that China’s Kylin system was under development since 2001 and the first computers to use it are government and military servers that were converted beginning in 2007.

“What’s so interesting from a strategic standpoint is that in the cyberarena, China is playing chess while we’re playing checkers,” he said.

The Chinese are relentless and don’t seem to care about getting caught. And we have seen Chinese network operations inside certain of our electricity grids.”

Mr. Brenner said there are minimal concerns about a Chinese cyberattack to shut down U.S. banking networks because “they have too much money invested here.

“Our electricity grid? No, not now. But if there were a dust-up over Taiwan, these answers might be different,” he said.

Several computer security specialists recently sounded public alarm about the growing number of cyberattacks from China and Russia.

China, based on state-approved writings, thinks the United States is “already is carrying out offensive cyberespionage and exploitation against China,” Mr. Coleman said.

In response, China is taking steps to protect its own computer and information networks so that it can “go on the offensive,” he said.

Mr. Coleman said one indication of the problem was identified by Solutionary, a computer security company that in March detected 128 “acts of cyberagression” per minute tied to Internet addresses in China.[…]

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Sweden: Refugee families forced to flee

Several Iraqi refugee families were forced by a local lynch mob to leave their homes in Vännäs (northern Sweden) Saturday night. The families were evacuated to another neighborhood.


According to the information received, everything started with a fight between a group of Sweden and a group of immigrant youth on Friday. This developed on Saturday evening and night to harassment with stone throwing against windows and verbal threats

“All Arab speaking families were either threatened or harassed during the night. We had no other voice than to evacuate all the families. It’s so terrible that it’s unreal,” says Ingrid Lindroth, refugee coordinator in Vännäs.

The incidents involved about 25-30 people who were now forced to move to a different neighborhood. The mob consisted of both youth and adults.

Ingrid Lindroth says she’s never experienced anything similar before. What makes the situation even worse is that the refugees already experienced such terrible things and now when they come here, where they will feel secure, they’re forced to flee again.

if you read the comments section on this story, evidently the “Arab-speaking families” were experiencing payback for the rape of some Swedish girls in the neighborhood. Of course the news story doesn’t report that. How come it’s always the comments that have the real scoops?

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Obama De-funding the Union Corruption Busters

By Don Todd (formerly served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Labor Management Standards under President George W. Bush.)

The President’s fiscal year 2010 budget for the federal government was unveiled last Thursday and surprisingly he found one agency that he thinks deserves a 9% budget cut. This agency is the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) in the U.S. Department of Labor. Obama proposed to cut its budget from $45 million in fiscal year 2009 to $41 million in fiscal year 2010.

OLMS is the federal agency that investigates financial crimes that occur when union officials steal from their union. OLMS also investigates cases where union officials engage in fraud and other corrupt practices in conducting union officer elections.

Over the last eight years this office secured over 900 criminal convictions of union officials for embezzlement and other crimes and obtained court orders of over $91 million dollars - dollars that will be returned to union members. One would think that given Obama’s emphasis on helping unions that he would want to beef up the only agency in the federal government that watches out for union members and prosecutes those who steal from them.

However, apparently Obama believes that there is no need to prosecute those union officials who steal from their members because his budget cuts this agency, while at the same time other enforcement agencies in the Labor Department are given a huge boost. For instance, the Wage and Hour Division in the Labor Department received a boost of 18%, from $201 million in fiscal year 2009 to $238 in fiscal year 2010.

In the last appropriations cycle OLMS was the only agency in the entire Labor Department that was targeted by Congressional Democrats for a budget cut. Democrats were successful in cutting the budget from $47 million to $45. Now with a Democratic president in the White House and Democratic control of Congress one can only wonder where the final budget number will land.

The loss of $4 million dollars, millions that are being shifted to other programs such as the Wage and Hour Division, will most certainly result in a reduction of the ability of OLMS to prosecute those who steal from the working man and woman.

My quick back of the envelope calculations lead me to believe that OLMS is probably looking at staff reductions in the neighborhood of 40-50 personnel. This is significant for an agency that has slightly over 300 personnel nationwide.

Union officials invested very heavily to elect Obama and now that investment is paying dividends by the truckload. As ALG News has previously chronicled, the Obama payback to unions began immediately after he was sworn in and is continuing.

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It’s A Good Time To Work For Uncle Sam

President Obama’s call last year for “shared sacrifice” doesn’t extend to federal employees, at least based on the details of his administration’s 2010 budget released this week.

At a time when the official unemployment rate is nearing double digits, and 6.35 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, the U.S. government is on a hiring binge.

Executive branch employment - 1.98 million in 2009, excluding the Postal Service and the Defense Department - is set to increase by 15.6 percent for the 2010 fiscal year. Most of that is thanks to the Census Bureau hiring 102,000 temporary workers, but not counting them still yields a net increase of 2 percent in one year.

There’s little belt-tightening in evidence in Washington, D.C.: counting benefits, the average pay per federal worker will leap from $72,800 in 2008 to $75,419 next year.

Meanwhile, according to Forbes’ layoff tracker, there have been 558,087 layoffs since November 2008 at large public companies; even local school districts aren’t immune. That’s just a sliver of the total unemployed, which government data estimate to be 8.6 percent of the workforce, or an alternate method of reckoning that counts discouraged workers puts at 20 percent.

Some of the Feds’ hiring increases have been stunning. If you look at the four-year period from 2006 to 2010, the number of Homeland Security employees has grown by 22 percent, the Justice Department has increased by 15 percent, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can claim 25 percent more employees. (These figures assume that Congress adopts Mr. Obama’s 2010 budget without significant changes.)

A 39-page “dimensions” document accompanying the White House’s 1,380-page appendix offers justifications for each new hire. Homeland Security says its new employees will “increase border security.” The Agency for International Development wants to improve “the management and stewardship of foreign assistance programs.” The Smithsonian Institution wants “additional security guards.” And so on.

The final evidence that it’s a good time to have a .gov e-mail address? Civilian government employees are set to enjoy a 2 percent raise. Not only are private sector workers are struggling to keep their jobs, but their earnings are stagnating and pay cuts are no longer uncommon.

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Chickens could be coming to roost in a backyard near you

From Kansas City

Across the country and the metropolitan area, people are joining the national urban chicken movement, sometimes turning outlaw to raise the birds.

The movement started with the rationale that raising chickens fits in with efforts toward local and pure foods, supporters say, and the eggs are fresh and flavorful. The animals also are entertaining pets, many say.

Today, Overland Park homeowner David Crupper will seek a special-use permit to house up to four chickens, even though he already has the birds and a homemade coop in his backyard.

No disrespect for the law was intended, he said, but he had to buy the chicks before a farm supply business stopped selling them for the year. Crupper, 25, a financial adviser, is far from a hippie, he said, but he wants to get great eggs from “the girls.”

“It’s a nice little hobby people can get behind,” he said, and he thinks his neighbors will support him.

But precedent isn’t on Crupper’s side. Four years ago, another Overland Park family tried to get such a permit. By a vote of 7-5, the City Council wouldn’t allow it.

Opponents said then that chickens did not belong in Overland Park. Some said the birds were unsanitary.

Some cities on board

In 2004, Madison, Wis., was among the first of several cities to change laws to allow limited numbers of chickens, but usually not crowing roosters. New York City has long allowed chickens. The birds live in urban areas in Chicago; Albuquerque, N.M.; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and other cities.

Many Web sites and Backyard Poultry magazine support the effort, which they say is still growing in this country, Great Britain and Canada. has 30,000 members - up from 20,000 last December - and it grows by 100 members a day, said its owner, Rob Ludlow.

KT LaBadie, an Albuquerque graduate student who started, said people are tearing out lawns to grow vegetables, and chickens are a natural next step.

Some cities have changed their laws because so many people were keeping chickens illegally, she said.

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FAA Approves Plan to Give Stimulus Funds to Airport Named After Murtha

The Federal Aviation Administration, after reviewing concerns about a project at a regional airport named after Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), has decided to go forward with plans to use $800,000 in stimulus funds to repave the airport’s alternate runway.

Late this afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation confirmed that the department had completed its review and would be releasing the funds for the Johnstown, Pa., airport project.

DOT spokesperson Jill Zuckman said the review was undertaken after a “senior policy” official at DOT decided he wanted to reconsider the project, but she declined to identify who that was or detail the reason for the reconsideration. She said the runway’s concrete hasn’t been replaced in many years and is in need of repaving.

“The bottom line is it deserved the money based on the merits,” Zuckman said. “It’s not an earmark.”


The Washington Post reported last month on more than $150 million in federal funds that Murtha directed to the airport, which has six arriving and departing flights per day. Among the improvements, Murtha directed the Pentagon to give the airport a new, $8 million, state-of-the-art radar tower that has not been used since it was built in 2004, and $30 million for a new runway and tarmac so the airport could handle large military planes and become an emergency military base in case of crisis.

Other news outlets, including CNN and ABC News, subsequently visited the airport and reported on the sleepy terminal and its gleaming federal buildings paid for by federal taxpayers.

Airport Manager Scott Voelker said he wrote to FAA officials urging the Obama administration to proceed with plans to underwrite the repaving work. The Post had reported that the airport has been losing passengers each year but was among the first four in the country that the FAA announced would receive stimulus funds.

“They say they’re dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s,” Voelker said. “But Mr. Murtha had nothing to do with the stimulus money.”

Are you gonna believe me or your lyin’ eyes?

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Cheerios in Trouble with the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration scolded the makers of Cheerios about the way they promote the cereal’s health benefits. The FDA sent a letter of warning to General Mills accusing them of making unauthorized health claims.

Current boxes of Cheerios are touting what the company calls exciting news -- the cereal’s ability to help lower cholesterol 10 percent in one month.

“My mother actually eats it every day, seven days a week for breakfast to lower her cholesterol,” Staten Island resident Lauren Schwam said.

According to a letter from the FDA General Mills’ advertising violates the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The agency said claims that Cheerios ingredients can lower cholesterol within a certain amount of time, all while providing cancer-fighting and heart-healthy benefits, essentially makes Cheerios “a drug” by their definition. And no drug in this country can be legally marketed without an approved new drug application.

As a certified dietetic nutritionist, Keri Glassman often recommends foods high in soluble fiber for patients looking to lower their cholesterol.

“Because of the oats, because of the soluble fiber in Cheerios, it may help you reduce cholesterol and I think the FDA is still acknowledging that … I just think they are saying but you can’t really say that because you are a food product, not a drug,” Glassman said.


The FDA gave General Mills 15 days to explain how it will correct the statements on Cheerios boxes.