Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/27/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/27/2009North Korea, sensing a foreign policy vacuum at the highest levels of the United States government, is becoming increasingly bellicose. After testing a nuclear device and a short-range missile, it has repudiated the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and says that any interference with its global arm sales constitutes an act of war.

In other news, 2008 was a record year for wine in Morocco, which produced of 33 million bottles of the delightful but extremely haram beverage.

Thanks to Andy Bostom, C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JCPA, KGS, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
China Warns Federal Reserve Over ‘Printing Money’
China Still Buying Record Amounts of U.S. Bonds: Report
Russian Economic Slide Worsening
Andrew Bostom: Stop Ignoring Islam’s Antisemitic Doctrine
Obama, Another Jimmy Carter?
Ralph Peters: Instant Justice: Gitmo? No, Kill Thugs on Spot
Those Who Make Us Say ‘Oh!’
Governor-General’s Hearty Seal Meal ‘Proper Etiquette’
Greyhound Killer’s Fate Will Not be Divulged
Europe and the EU
Ann Woolner: Newspapers Must Control Internet ‘Parasite’
Austria: Wounded Sikh Guru Rallies in Hospital
Brussels: On Regional Elections
Copenhagen: Police Drop Case Against Anti-Jewish Chanter
Denmark: Climate Conference Sex Boom
Denmark: Christiania Loses Court Case
Hungary: Holocaust Train Vandalised
Italy: Requests for ‘Debaptisms’ Soar in Milan
Italy: Berlusconi Renews Attack on Judiciary
Italy: Fans Stabbed in Rome Conquest
Netherlands: Surprise at “All Part of the Job” Court Ruling
Netherlands: Impunity for Dutch Massacre in Indonesia Was Given 60 Years Ago
Netherlands: Raising Carlos: Making the Case for Sterilising Drug-Addicted Mothers
Opel Bid a Lottery, Fiat Chief Says
Spain: Two Moroccan Women Crushed to Death on Ceuta Border
Telegraph Columnist May Run Against Tarnished MP
Top British Diplomat Reaffirms His Country’s Support to Turkey’s EU Bid
UK: Chief Constable Takes Government to Court Over ‘Irrational’ Budget Row
UK: Girl Left to Die in Blazing Car After Driver Boyfriend Told Fire Crews No One Was Inside
UK: Marlowe’s Koran-Burning Hero is Censored to Avoid Muslim Anger
UK: Puma Upgrade in Romania is Stalled ‘Over Fears for Votes’
UK: Senior Judge Blames Slow Police Response Times for Britain’s ‘Vigilante Culture’
Walesa Will Urge Irish to Support Lisbon
Croatia: Public Sector Wages to Increase by 77% by 2016
EU, Visa Liberalisation is a Concrete Prospect
North Africa
Morocco: Agreement With Holland to Cooperate Against Crime
Wine: Morocco; Record Production in 2008, 33mln Bottles
Israel and the Palestinians
Lieberman for Ratification Road Map, Livni Attacks
Netanyahu Willing to ‘Give Up Outposts’
Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: The E-1 Area and the Link Between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim
The American Mistake
Middle East
Iran: Tehran Looking to Strengthen Ties With Paraguay
Jordan Jails Thousands Without Trials, HRW Report Says
Lebanon: Colonel Accused of Spying for Israel
Obama to Visit Saudi Arabia to Discuss Peace, Iran
Report: Lebanon Colonel Held for Spying for Israel
Tourism: Israeli Employee Committees Boycott Turkey, Survey
Woman ‘Keeps Mother’s Body in Freezer for 20 Years’
South Asia
Bombs, Fires Rock Thai South
Held in Malaysia for 2 Years
India: Curfew Imposed in Punjab After Sikh Riots
The Euphoria of the Indian Economy After the Results of the Elections
US for Smaller India Role in Kabul
Far East
China Says Being Demonized Over Fake Drugs
N. Korea ‘Told U.S., China of Impending Nuke Test’
N. Korea Throws Nuclear Rattle Out of Pram
North Korea Threatens to Attack South if Ships Searched
North Korea Issues Heated Warning to South
Philippines: 10 Dead in Muslim Clash
S. Korea: Let Roh’s Death End Discord
S.Korea May Need Its Own Deterrent
Australia — Pacific
Cabbie Rapist ‘Honest and Caring’
Visa Changes an Invitation to Smugglers: Opposition
Sub-Saharan Africa
MP Calls for HIV Positive Citizens to be Branded on the Buttocks
Latin America
Bolivia Denies Supplying Iran With Uranium
Alleged People Smuggler Arrested After Arriving in Perth
Denmark: Iraqi Asylum Seekers ‘Will be Sent Home’
Finland: Processing Times of Asylum Applications Drawn Out
Germany is Losing the Cream of Its Workforce to Other Countries
Guantanamo: Tunis Prepared to Welcome Its Citizens, Minister
Italy: Forced Returns Avoid Tragedies, Berlusconi Says
Italy: ‘More European Help’ Needed on Illegal Immigration, Frattini
Italy: Minister Vows Govt to Keep Turning Back Migrant Boats
Libya: 400 Traffickers and Illegals Arrested
Netherlands to Help Greece With Asylum Seekers
Sweden: UN Slams Sweden for Child Rights Failure
UK: Immigrants Choose England Over Scotland
UN to Deter Refugees in Calais From Heading to Britain

Financial Crisis

China Warns Federal Reserve Over ‘Printing Money’

China has warned a top member of the US Federal Reserve that it is increasingly disturbed by the Fed’s direct purchase of US Treasury bonds.

Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said: “Senior officials of the Chinese government grilled me about whether or not we are going to monetise the actions of our legislature.”

“I must have been asked about that a hundred times in China.. I was asked at every single meeting about our purchases of Treasuries. That seemed to be the principal preoccupation of those that were invested with their surpluses mostly in the United States,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

His recent trip to the Far East appears to have been a stark reminder that Asia’s “Confucian” culture of right action does not look kindly on the insouciant policy of printing money by Anglo-Saxons.

Mr Fisher, the Fed’s leading hawk, was a fierce opponent of the original decision to buy Treasury debt, fearing that it would lead to a blurring of the line between fiscal and monetary policy — and could all too easily degenerate into Argentine-style financing of uncontrolled spending.

However, he agreed that the Fed was forced to take emergency action after the financial system “literally fell apart”.

Nor, he added was there much risk of inflation taking off yet. The Dallas Fed uses a “trim mean” method based on 180 prices that excludes extreme moves and is widely admired for accuracy.

“You’ve got some mild deflation here,” he said.

The Oxford-educated Mr Fisher, an outspoken free-marketer and believer in the Schumpeterian process of “creative destruction”, has been running a fervent campaign to alert Americans to the “very big hole” in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities built up by a careless political class over the years.

“We at the Dallas Fed believe the total is over $99 trillion,” he said in February.

“This situation is of your own creation. When you berate your representatives or senators or presidents for the mess we are in, you are really berating yourself. You elect them,” he said.

His warning comes amid growing fears that America could lose its AAA sovereign rating.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

China Still Buying Record Amounts of U.S. Bonds: Report

TOKYO (Reuters) — China’s official foreign exchange manager is still buying record amounts of U.S. government bonds, in spite of Beijing’s increasingly vocal fear of a dollar collapse, the Financial Times reported..

In a story on its website, the FT quoted Chinese and western officials in Beijing as saying China was caught in a “dollar trap.”

The newspaper said China had little choice but to keep pouring the bulk of its growing reserves into U.S. Treasuries, which remains the only market big enough and liquid enough to support its huge purchases.

The FT’s story lent support to U.S. Treasury futures in Asian trading on Monday, analysts said.

“The FT article probably helped boost the confidence of Treasuries holders who were anxious about potential selling by other players amid worries of a possible U.S. downgrade,” said Yasutoshi Nagai, chief economist at Daiwa Securities SMBC.

Lead T-note futures were 3/32 lower from late U.S. trading on Friday at 119-2.5/32, but off a six-month low of 118-30.5/32 hit earlier on Monday.

The dollar index (.DXY), which measures the dollar’s value against a basket of six major currencies, hit a five-month low late last week, hurt by concerns that U.S. government debt may lose its AAA rating.

China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (Safe) has not fundamentally changed its strategy of allocating the bulk of its burgeoning foreign exchange reserves to U.S. Treasury securities, the FT quoted a western adviser familiar with Safe thinking as saying.

The FT quoted the adviser as saying Safe traders were “very negative” on sterling because of expectations of renewed weakness of the UK currency but Safe was neutral on the euro and bullish on the Australian dollar.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Russian Economic Slide Worsening

Russia’s economy contracted sharply in April — shrinking by 10.5% from the same month a year ago — Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach has said.

The data came as officials were quoted as saying Russia would have a budget deficit equivalent to 9% of GDP in 2009, from an earlier 7.4% prediction.

Russia’s economy had been growing thanks to high oil prices, which peaked at about $147 a barrel last summer.

But since then, the price of oil, a key export, has fallen by more than half.

The sharp drop in the economy in April came after Federal State Statistics figures showed that, on a year-on-year basis, output dropped 9.5% in the first three months of the year.

‘Tough regime’

Industrial output has slowed in the wake of the global economic slowdown, and investors have withdrawn from Russia.

There are fears that poverty levels are rising — with Russian churches reporting a rise in the number of people seeking free meals as a result of the global financial crisis

On Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave downbeat comments on the country’s economy — though he avoided giving precise statistics on how bad it had become.

However, he called for sharp cutbacks in government spending in a “shift to a regime of tough economising of budget funds”.

Mr Medvedev also hit out at corrupt officials for “sucking” away state funds.

Russia’s regions should be less reliant on Moscow and be prepared to fend more for themselves, he added.

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


Andrew Bostom: Stop Ignoring Islam’s Antisemitic Doctrine

Bronx bomb plot reminds us of a core religious problem

Special to

“These were people who were eager to bring death to the Jews and the Jewish community.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder provided this apt characterization of the four converts to Islam whose plans to bomb a Bronx synagogue and a Jewish community center were thwarted.

Richard Williams, uncle of the arrested plotter Onta “Hamza” Williams, lamented that his nephew, a Baptist who converted to Islam, “…wasn’t raised this way. All this happened when he became a Muslim in prison.” Indeed, Warith Deen Umar, a Muslim chaplain who worked for 25 years in the New York State prisons and was considered a highly influential cleric, reportedly boasted that this vast incarceration system was, “…the perfect recruitment and training ground for radicalism and the Islamic religion.” During his chaplaincy, Umar also repeatedly gave sermons fomenting Jew hatred, witnessed by prison staff.

But beyond all this, the obvious question persists — although dutifully avoided by our learned religious, media and political elites in this sorry age of Islamic correctness: What Islamic teachings might these American Muslim converts have learned, whether in prison, or elsewhere, which caused them to target their American Jewish neighbors, specifically, for mass killing? Simply put, it is impossible to comprehend this ugly phenomenon without understanding the core, mainstream Islamic theology — still unreformed and unrepentant — which has inspired hatred of Jews since the advent of Islam?

For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, has served as the academic shrine — much as Mecca is the religious shrine — of the global Muslim community. Al Azhar University and its mosque represent the pinnacle of Islamic religious education.

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Obama, Another Jimmy Carter?

Jimmy Carter took a little over three years to create the image of the US as a confused and soft power. Obama is bidding fair to create that image even in his first year in office. The North Korean defiance is the first result of this perceived soft image.

During the US Presidential primaries last year, I had expressed my misgivings that Barack Obama might turn out to be another Jimmy Carter, whose confused thinking and soft image paved the way for the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran .The subsequent Iranian defiance of the US and his inability to deal effectively with the incident in which some Iranian students raided the US Embassy in Teheran and held a number of US diplomats hostage led to the disillusionment of sections of the US electorate with him and his failure to get re-elected in 1980. The strong line taken by him against the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet troops towards the end of 1979 did not help him in wiping out the image of a soft and confused President.

The defiant action of North Korea in testing a long-range missile with military applications last month and its latest act of defiance in reportedly carrying out an underground nuclear test on May 25, 2009, can be attributed—at least partly, if not fully— to its conviction that it will have nothing to fear from the Obama Administration for its acts of defiance. It is true that even when George Bush was the President, North Korea had carried out its first underground nuclear test in October 2006. The supposedly strong policy of the Bush Administration did not deter it from carrying out its first test.

After Obama assumed office on January 20, 2009, whatever hesitation was there in North Korea’s policy-making circles regarding the likely response of the Obama Administration has disappeared and its leadership now feels it can defy the US and the international community with impunity.

A series of actions taken by the Obama Administration have created an impression in Iran, the Af-Pak region, China and North Korea that Obama does not have the political will to retaliate decisively if they act in a manner detrimental to US interests and to international peace and security. Among such actions, one could cite the soft policy towards Iran, the reluctance to articulate strongly the US determination to support the security interests of Israel, the ambivalent attitude towards Pakistan despite its continued support to anti-India terrorist groups and its ineffective action against the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistani territory, its silence on the question of the violation of the human rights of the Burmese people and the continued illegal detention of Aung San Suu Kyi by the military regime in Myanmar, and its silence on the Tibetan issue. Its over-keenness to court Beijing in order to seek China’s support for dealing with the economic crisis and its anxiety to ensure the continued flow of Chinese money into the US for investment in the US Treasury Bonds have also added to the soft image of the US.

President Obama cannot blame the problem states of the world such as Iran, Pakistan, Myanmar and North Korea if they have come to the conclusion that they can take liberties with the present Administration in Washington DC without having to fear any adverse consequences. North Korea’s defiance is only the beginning. One has every reason to apprehend that Iran might be the next to follow.

Israel and India have been the most affected by the perceived soft policies of the Obama Administration. Israel is legitimately concerned over the likely impact of this soft policy on the behaviour of Iran. South Korea and Japan, which would have been concerned over the implications of the soft policy of the Obama Administration, had no national option because they had no independent means of acting against North Korea. Israel will not stand and watch helplessly if it concludes that Iran might follow the example of North Korea. I have said it in the past and I say it again that Israel will not hesitate to act unilaterally against Iran if it apprehends that it is on the verge of acquiring a military nuclear capability.

It will prefer to act with the understanding of the US, but if there is no change in the soft policy of the Obama Administration, it will not hesitate to act even without prior consultation with the US.

India too has been noting with concern the total confusion which seems to prevail in the corridors of the Obama Administration over its Af-Pak policy. Some of the recent comments of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, about alleged past incoherence in the US policy towards Pakistan and about the part-responsibility of the US for the state of affairs in the Af-Pak region have given comfort to the military-intelligence establishment and the political leaders in Pakistan. Obama’s new over-generosity to the Pakistani Armed forces and his reluctance to hold them accountable for their sins of commission and omission in the war against terrorism have convinced the Pakistani leaders that they have no adverse consequences to fear from the Obama Administration. India would be the first to feel the adverse consequences of this newly-found confidence in Islamabad vis-à-vis its relations with the US.

India also has reasons to be concerned over the definite down-grading by the Obama Administration of the importance of the USA’s strategic relationship with India. This down-grading has given satisfaction to Pakistan as well as China.

Jimmy Carter took a little over three years to create the image of the US as a confused and soft power. Obama is bidding fair to create that image even in his first year in office. The North Korean defiance is the first result of this perceived soft image. There will be more surprises for the US and the international community to follow if Obama and his aides do not embark on corrective actions before it is too late.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ralph Peters: Instant Justice: Gitmo? No, Kill Thugs on Spot

WE made one great mistake regarding Guantanamo: No terrorist should have made it that far. All but a handful of those grotesquely romanticized prisoners should have been killed on the battlefield.

The few kept alive for their intelligence value should have been interrogated secretly, then executed.

Terrorists don’t have legal rights or human rights. By committing or abetting acts of terror against the innocent, they place themselves outside of humanity’s borders. They must be hunted as man-killing animals.

And, as a side benefit, dead terrorists don’t pose legal quandaries.

Captured terrorists, on the other hand, are always a liability. Last week, President Obama revealed his utter failure to comprehend these butchers when he characterized Guantanamo as a terrorist recruiting tool.

Gitmo wasn’t any such thing. Not the real Gitmo. The Guantanamo Obama believes in is a fiction of the global media. With rare, brief exceptions, Gitmo inmates have been treated far better than US citizens in our federal prisons.

But the reality of Gitmo was irrelevant — the left needed us to be evil, to “reveal” ourselves as the moral equivalent of the terrorists. So they made up their Gitmo myths.

Now we’re stuck with sub-human creatures who should be decomposing in unmarked graves in a distant desert. Before reality smacked him between the eyes, Obama made blithe campaign promises and quick-draw presidential pronouncements he’s now unable to fulfill.

Everything’s easier when you’re campaigning and criticizing, but the Oval Office view is a different matter. And suddenly your old allies, who rhapsodized about the evils of Gitmo, no longer have your back.

Odious senators, such as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, damned Gitmo to hell. But they don’t want to damn the prisoners to Massachusetts (given that few al Qaeda members can swim, Cape Cod seems a splendid place for a prison). Don’t the icons of ethics want to solve the problem?

Or should we send the Gitmo Gang to California’s Eighth Congressional District, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s constituents could guarantee an end to waterboarding? The good voters of San Francisco could put up their new guests in a grand Nob Hill hotel and stage teach-ins to explain why America’s so nasty.

Another option — which would save taxpayers millions — would be to encourage a coalition of, Code Pink and ACORN to sponsor an “Adopt a Terrorist” program.

The only requirement would be that the terrorist has to live full-time with the sponsor’s family so he’d always get plenty of hugs.

On a serious note, it’s not just voter NIMBY-ism that makes this problem so difficult. The practical catches came home to me when last I visited Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.

The grounds of a massive federal penitentiary adjoin that venerable Army post. One Washington-isn’t-thinking proposal would park the terrorists right there in the Big House. But here’s the catch: Ft. Leavenworth’s home to the Army’s Command and General Staff College, attended each year by hundreds of elite foreign officers.

At CGSC, our officers build international relationships that benefit our country for decades to come, while allies and partners learn how to work together. But with Islamist terrorists confined next door — hardly a mile as the crow flies from the Staff College — Muslim countries would withdraw their students from the program under pressure from Islamist factions at home — who’d claim that Ft. Leavenworth was the new Gitmo.

Do we really want to sacrifice our chance to educate officers from the troubled Muslim world? Do we want to destroy an educational program that’s been of tremendous benefit? One that’s advanced the rule of law and human rights?

Other proposed prison locations have their own challenges (although Cape Cod still looks pretty good to me). Meanwhile, our foreign “friends” who shuddered at the imaginary horrors of Gitmo are unwilling to share the burden.

Which brings us back to this column’s opening credo: Terrorists are anathema to civilization and the human race. By their own choice, they’ve set themselves beyond the human collective. Better to eliminate them where you find them than to let them live to become a lunatic cause.

Telling them that we’ll just lock them up and treat them really nice is a better terrorist recruiting tool than Gitmo ever was. Why not become a terrorist, if the punishment’s three hots and a cot, along with better medical care than you’ve ever had in your life?

Plus, you get your own fan club.

Those who worry about the rights of terrorists ensure that these beasts will continue to slaughter the innocent. In your back yard.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Those Who Make Us Say ‘Oh!’

A tribute to America’s war heroes, past and present

More than most nations, America has been, from its start, a hero-loving place. Maybe part of the reason is that at our founding we were a Protestant nation and not a Catholic one, and so we made “saints” of civil and political figures. George Washington was our first national hero, known everywhere, famous to children. When he died, we had our first true national mourning, with cities and states re-enacting his funeral. There was the genius cluster that surrounded him, and invented us-Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton. Through much of the 20th century our famous heroes were in sports (Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, the Babe, Joltin’ Joe) the arts (Clark Gable, Robert Frost) business and philanthropy (from Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates) and religion (Billy Graham). Nobody does fame like America, and they were famous.

The category of military hero-warrior-fell off a bit, in part because of the bad reputation of war. Some emerged of heroic size-Gens. Pershing and Patton, Eisenhower and Marshall. But somewhere in the 1960s I think we decided, or the makers of our culture decided, that to celebrate great warriors was to encourage war. And we always have too much of that. So they made a lot of movies depicting soldiers as victims and officers as brutish. This was especially true in the Vietnam era and the years that followed. Maybe a correction was in order: It’s good to remember war is hell. But when we removed the warrior, we removed something intensely human, something ancestral and stirring, something celebrated naturally throughout the long history of man. Also it was ungrateful: They put themselves in harm’s way for us.

For Memorial Day, then, three warriors, two previously celebrated but not so known now by the young.

Alvin York was born in 1887 into a Tennessee farming family that didn’t have much, but nobody else did, so it wasn’t so bad. He was the third of 11 children and had an average life for that time and place. Then World War I came. He experienced a crisis of conscience over whether to fight. His mother’s Evangelical church tugged him toward more or less pacifist thinking, but he got a draft notice in 1917, joined the Army, went overseas, read and reread his Bible, and concluded that warfare was sometimes justified.

In the battle of the Argonne in October 1918, the allies were attempting to break German lines when York and his men came upon well-hidden machine guns on high ground. As he later put it, “The Germans got us, and they got us right smart . . . and I’m telling you they were shooting straight.” American soldiers “just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home.”

But Cpl. York and his men went behind the German lines, overran a unit, and captured the enemy. Suddenly there was new machine-gun fire from a ridge, and six Americans went down. York was in command, exposed but cool, and he began to shoot. “All I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting. . . . All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to.” A German officer tried to empty his gun into York while York fired. He failed but York succeeded, the Germans surrendered, and York and his small band marched 132 German prisoners back to the American lines.

His Medal of Honor citation called him fearless, daring and heroic.

Warriors are funny people. They’re often naturally peaceable, and often do great good when they return. York went home to Tennessee, married, founded an agricultural institute (it’s still operating as an award-winning public high school) and a Bible school. They made a movie about him in 1941, the great Howard Hawks film “Sergeant York.” If you are in Manhattan this week, you may walk down York Avenue on the Upper East Side. It was named for him. He died in Nashville in 1964 at 77.

Once, 25 years ago, my father (U.S. Army, replacement troops, Italy, 1945) visited Washington, a town he’d never been to. There was a lot to see: the White House, the Lincoln Memorial. But he just wanted to see one thing, Audie Murphy’s grave.

Audie Leon Murphy was born in 1924 or 1926 (more on that in a moment) the sixth of 12 children of a Texas sharecropper. It was all hardscrabble for him: father left, mother died, no education, working in the fields from adolescence on. He was good with a hunting rifle: he said that when he wasn’t, his family didn’t eat, so yeah, he had to be good. He tried to join the Army after Pearl Harbor, was turned away as underage, came back the next year claiming to be 18 (he was probably 16) and went on to a busy war, seeing action as an infantryman in Sicily, Salerno and Anzio. Then came southern France, where the Germans made the mistake of shooting Audie Murphy’s best friend, Lattie Tipton. Murphy wiped out the machine gun crew that did it.

On Jan. 26, 1945, Lt. Murphy was engaged in a battle in which his unit took heavy fire and he was wounded. He ordered his men back. From his Medal of Honor citation: “Behind him . . . one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back.”

Murphy returned to Texas a legend. He was also 5-foot-7, having grown two inches while away. He became an actor (44 films, mostly Westerns) and businessman. He died in a plane crash in 1971 and was buried with full honors at Arlington, but he did a warrior-like thing. He asked that the gold leaf normally put on the gravestone of a Medal of Honor recipient not be used. He wanted a plain GI headstone. Some worried this might make his grave harder to find. My father found it, and he was not alone. Audie Murphy’s grave is the most visited site at Arlington with the exception of John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame.

I thought of these two men the other night after I introduced at a dinner a retired Air Force general named Chuck Boyd. He runs Business Executives for National Security, a group whose members devote time and treasure to helping the government work through various 21st-century challenges. I mentioned that Chuck had been shot down over Vietnam on his 105th mission in April 1966 and was a POW for 2,488 days. He’s the only former POW of the era to go on to become a four-star general.

When I said “2,488 days,” a number of people in the audience went “Oh!” I heard it up on the podium. They didn’t know because he doesn’t talk about it, and when asked to, he treats it like nothing, a long night at a bad inn. Warriors always do that. They all deserve the “Oh!”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Governor-General’s Hearty Seal Meal ‘Proper Etiquette’

The thought of Canada’s regal representative wrist-deep in the carcass of a freshly slaughtered seal, skinning a layer of blubber and slicing off a piece of heart to consume may evoke the same charges of savagery as the contentious seal hunt itself, but Governor-General Michaëlle Jean was actually following dining etiquette to the letter.

“She went there to show solidarity, and if that is part of the custom, then it is part of the whole thing. You either do it 100% or you don’t do it,” said professional etiquette consultant Diane Craig. “It was the proper etiquette.”

Ms. Jean joined a community feast in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, on Monday, the first day of a week-long Arctic tour. Using a traditional carving knife to gut and feed from a seal, she kneeled next to a community elder and asked questions about the meal they were about to share.

Ms. Jean reportedly told her daughter, Marie-Eden, the seal tasted like sushi.

A spokeswoman travelling with the Governor-General said Ms. Jean was “warmly received” when she joined the celebration, alongside over one hundred Inuit.

“This celebration involved the serving of raw meat, as is the tradition during community feasts in the North. [Monday] night, raw caribou, arctic char, seal were among the meats served as part of the festivities along with soup and the traditional bread bannock. Everyone was invited to try the different meats including the Governor General,” Marthe Blouin wrote in a statement.

Imagery of the Governor-General wearing a black track suit and kneeling over a seal carcass caused a stir Tuesday. The gesture of solidarity with the country’s beleaguered seal hunters was viewed by many to be an unwelcome break from tradition and an affront to animal rights.

Opinions posted online on Ms. Jean’s participation varied from describing it as “hardcore” and “leadership by example” to “embarrassing” and “shameful.”

Gawker, an American media blog, wrote a column comparing Ms. Jean to Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, notorious for hunting wolves from a helicopter, declaring the Queen’s representative in Canada “clearly the more badass of the two.”

Earlier this month, the European Union voted to impose a ban on seal products to protest commercial hunting methods used in Canada’s seal hunt. The ban is to take effect in 2010.

The Canadian government supports the hunt as crucial for some 6,000 North Atlantic fishermen. While northern Aboriginals are exempt from the ban, they fear the stigma will put an end to their way of life.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals described the incident as a revolting, predictable publicity stunt to save “a dying industry.” Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s vice-president for policy, said the Governor-General was giving Canada even more of a “neanderthal image than it already had.”

“The seal hunt is Canada’s shame, and in 10 years, Canadians will be horrified, saddened, and ashamed that their government defended it for so long. The Governor-General will come to understand her disgusting stunt as the most immoral and stupid thing she has ever done in public life,” Mr. Friedrich said.

Ms. Craig, president of Corporate Class Inc., a Toronto image consulting firm, says politics aside, Ms. Jean was absolutely correct to join her hosts in the centuries-old tradition.

“She was a guest … and you are supposed to eat what the host offers up. In a situation like this, because of the symbolism, it was the right etiquette to do that,” she said. “I’m sure she didn’t have two plates of it.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Greyhound Killer’s Fate Will Not be Divulged

The public may never learn whether a man who decapitated a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus en route to Winnipeg last summer is hospitalized or released.

Manitoba’s criminal code review board meets on Monday to decide whether Vince Li, who was found not criminally responsible for killing Tim McLean last July, should be institutionalized or given a conditional or absolute discharge.

“Our current practice has been to treat the decisions as being private and only available to the parties involved and to the treatment team,” said John Stefaniuk, the chairman of the review board. “However, we are aware that information in other jurisdictions is readily made available, particularly in Ontario and British Columbia.”

Li said the voice of God told him to stab, behead and cannibalize Mr. McLean’s body because the victim was an evil, supernatural demon who would kill him.

Two doctors testified that Li was suffering from a major mental illness, but agreed that despite committing one of the most gruesome crimes in Canadian history, he could one day be rehabilitated and returned to society.

Mr. Stefaniuk said releasing the board’s decision could violate Li’s rights as a patient.

“We have received some advice that the board is subject to provincial privacy legislation. So, of course, if we have advice to that effect, we’re certainly going to comply with that,” he said. “But we’re looking to see to what extent that restricts our ability to release decisions or release reasons for decisions.”

An ethics expert at the University of British Columbia says while the case raises difficult ethical issues, there is a compelling public interest “in what happens to a person like this.”

Michael McDonald, professor at UBC’s W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, said members of the public will understandably want information on where and when Li may be released, and whether he is safe to be back among the broader community.

“One of the things we would really want to know is what measures have been taken; has the person had adequate treatment that they feel comfortable to release him, and is anyone going to be monitoring the situation,” Mr. McDonald said, noting it would be difficult for the public to gain those assurances if no information on Li’s fate is released.

Mr. McDonald acknowledged there could be a concern about excessive publicity interfering with Li’s road to rehabilitation, but said given the fairly short period of time between the court decision and the determination of his fate, “I would err more on the side of the public’s right to know.”

Bev Scharikow, a spokeswoman for the review board, said decisions are automatically released to “designated parties,” including the Crown, the treatment team, the designated hospital, the patient and his counsel.

“The family are not designated parties,” Ms. Scharikow said, but added that it is “being looked into at this point.”

Ensuring Li’s privacy in the event he is released could also pose challenges. In the Internet age, where photos of Li are readily available, anyone who recognized him in the community could spread information on his whereabouts within seconds, Mr. McDonald noted.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ann Woolner: Newspapers Must Control Internet ‘Parasite’

There was a time, not long ago, when whoever wanted to use a news story for commercial purposes would actually ask the newspaper’s permission. They might even pay for the privilege.

As outlandish to the Google generation as typewriters, the idea was that newspapers owned their content. And why shouldn’t they?

They pay reporters, photographers and editors to produce news stories. They spend huge sums to send journalists into the world’s danger zones. Then there is the real estate, the buildings, the equipment needed. None of it is cheap.

And yet when I sat at my desk in Atlanta and Googled for the latest news on Obama and Guantanamo Bay, up came links and snippets of stories produced by the Kansas City Star, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Miami Herald and other news organisations. I didn’t pay for the stories. And, for the most part, neither did Google.

You wouldn’t expect General Motors to give away its cars to Toyota. But we have come to expect all the news in the world at the touch of our fingertips, brought to us mostly by search engines and aggregators that gobble up the product often without paying the producers a penny.

Thanks in part to a steady diet of free food, Google has grown into a worldwide giant while newspapers have had their guts hollowed out.

That isn’t the only reason, not even the main reason, newspapers totter on the brink of extinction. To some degree they have cut out their own guts.

Profit-hungry publishers kept trimming staffs, downgrading the product and shrinking circulation areas long before the internet started sucking away ads or sucking in content. At the same time, publishers ignored the potential the internet offered for a cleaner, cheaper, quicker news delivery and cost-efficient want-ads.

But that still doesn’t mean newspapers should have to continue giving search engines and news aggregators a free ride. It is in no one’s interest for news organisations to collapse. Who would cover the news? The blogger next door?

If you eliminate straight news from journalists backed by newspapers or broadcast organisations, the internet has very little professionally produced, straight news reporting.

The internet has commentary and analysis, search engines and aggregators.

This sort of thing “leeches that reporting from mainstream news publications,” as former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon put it this month before a Senate subcommittee.

“The parasite is slowly killing the host,” testified Simon, author and writer of the HBO series The Wire.

While journalists and entrepreneurs look, belatedly, for a way to make journalism work online, newspapers are going bankrupt, their staffs shrinking.

Without the host, what will happen to the parasite?

“You have to have some kind of compensation for the use of content that amounts to journalism, or otherwise you’re not going to have journalism,” says Bruce Sanford, a media lawyer in Washington with Baker Hostetler.

News organisations already have it within their power to force a sea change by claiming ownership over that which is already theirs.

Search engines and news aggregators are probably within the law in offering headlines, snippets and links to news stories. That is, no doubt, fair use and permissible under copyright law.

When they want to display more, as Google does with Associated Press stories, for example, they get licensing agreements and pay.

But even to offer those snippets, Google electronically scoops up all the content on every website around and stores it on a database. That isn’t fair use, even though Google doesn’t show the data to others.

Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker says all that newspapers have to do to prevent Google from copying their websites is to opt out, either wholesale or on a story-by-story basis.

Some do. Most don’t.

But if all of them opted out, the search engines, the aggregators and their readers might realise that news is worth paying for. It could help save a critically ill and critically important industry.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Austria: Wounded Sikh Guru Rallies in Hospital

Vienna, 26 May (AKI) — The health of a Sikh guru who was attacked at a temple in the Austrian capital Vienna at the weekend has improved considerably, the Indian embassy said on Tuesday. According to a report by the Austria News Agency citing the embassy, 68-year-old guru, Sant Niranjan Dass, has improved after he had surgery.

Dass underwent surgery after Sunday’s attack at the Rudolsheim temple where another guru 57-year-old Sant Rama Nan was killed.

“Sant Niranjan Dass is doing well,” the embassy said. “He could soon be released from the hospital.”

Dass’s deputy, Sant Rama Nan, succumbed to his injuries and died in a Vienna hospital on Monday.

Six people were arrested in connection with the attack on Sunday in Vienna’s 15th district. Police said six bearded, knife and gun wielding attackers entered the temple, shot the two visiting gurus and attacked worshippers.

Four of the wounded were suspects, two of them in a serious condition, according to police.

About 150 people were in the temple when the violence took place, police said. Authorities are investigating what triggered the attacks.

Austrian interior minister Maria Fekter said Austria’s community of around 3,000 Sikhs have lived there “exceptionally peacefully”.

India’s external affairs minister S.M. Krishna said on Monday that the Indian government would take all necessary steps to bring the culprits of the Vienna violence to justice.

“We are receiving the cooperation of the Austrian authorities and are determined to ensure the perpetrators of this completely mindless and wanton attack are brought to justice,” he said.

The Indian embassy in Vienna was in close contact with the Austrian foreign ministry, the Viennese police and the Austrian authorities, he said.

“There is no excuse whatever for the violation of the sacred premises of the gurudwara (temple) to sub serve narrow sectarian interests and other purposes,” Krishna said.

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

Brussels: On Regional Elections

Samira at Hungarian-language blog a fátyol alatt reports (in French) that election posters in the Brussels Region for the regional Belgian elections, particularly in Molenbeek and Ixelles (Elsene), feature many North African and Turkish names.

The posters in these areas belong mostly to the Francophone Reformist Movement (RM), Humanist Democratic Party (cdH), and Socialist party (PS).

In 2007 Muslims were estimated to be 7.5% of the French Community and 11.8% in Brussels, and on the increase. This electorate is potentially more imporatnt, since youth make up 32%, compared with 23% elsewhere.

Muslims are voting Left — in recent elections the Socialists got 43% and the CdH 18.7%, which between 2004 and 2007 got an infusion fo votes from MR. Today the Socialists get most of the Muslim votes, despite having an atheist ideology, while traditional ethical values play a fundmanetal role in voting for CdH, whch was founded on religious identity.

Just a third of the Muslim electorate of 2007 attended a mosque regularly. Two thirds said they were not practicing.

Samira says that Musilms vote for the Left for socio-demographic causes. Muslims belong to the disadvantaged group: workers, employed and unemployed, and women, who make up just 6.6% of the Muslim electorate, tend to vote Left.

Dutch language blog In Flanders Field looked at the Socialist Party and published a list of the apparently Muslim candidates. 26 of the 72 PS candidates (36%) are Muslim.

Meanwhile, the Francophone Humanist Democratic Party tried to hide (1, 2 NL) the Muslim headscarf of one of their canddiates — Mahinur Ozdemir, number 21 on the list…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Copenhagen: Police Drop Case Against Anti-Jewish Chanter

The video was posted online by Ted Ekeroth, who quotes the man, who led the crowd in Danish and Arabic chants, as saying “we want to kill all the Jews, all they Jews should be slain, they have no right to exist!” (h/t Dan Ritto)

The same man is also seen giving the Nazi salute while shouting “Down, down Israel, viva, viva Palestina.”

“We will kill the Jews all over the world” and “All Jews will be butchered” were chants shouted during a demonstration in front of the Copenhagen city hall in January and the man doing so can be both seen and heard on video tape. And yet, the statements will not have any immediate consequences. Copenhagen Police has decided to drop the case on transgression of article 266b of the penal code, also called the ‘racism paragraph’.

The reason for the decision is that police couldn’t find out the perpetrator’s identity.

“There exists only one video clip in the case, where the perpetrator can be seen and the statements can be heard, and this hasn’t been sufficient to find out the perpetrator’s identity,” according to the decision.

This surprises the Documentation Centre Racism and Discrimination (DRC), since the video clip shows that the police stood by and could have intervened.

DRC head Niels-Erik Hansen says that they could have certainly arrested and charged him. But they didn’t do so and didn’t ask for his identity either. This means, he says, that we have rules, but they aren’t maintained.

Two demonstrations were held in front of city hall on Saturday, January 10. One in support of Israel and a counter-demonstration, which supported the Palestinians, and the atmosphere was strained..

Source: TV 2 (Danish)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Climate Conference Sex Boom

Copenhagen’s sex trade did brisk business during the recent business climate conference.

The global climate challenge may have been on the daytime agenda during the recent World Business Summit climate conference in Copenhagen, but in the evenings many businessmen, politicians and civil servants are reported to have availed themselves of the capital’s prostitutes.

“We’ve been extremely busy. Politicians also need to relax after a long day,” says ‘Miss Dina’, herself a prostitute.

Good for the economy Nyhedsbrevet 3F called various escort agencies and prostitutes to hear whether they had been busier than normal during the climate conference — and all agreed; summits in Copenhagen are good for the economy.

Dorit Otzen, who leads Reden International says that major events in Copenhagen attract more sex workers.

“A lot of men in one place means more work for prostitutes. At the same time we have a government that will not ban prostitution, so in fact we invite visitors to avail themselves of prostitutes,” Otzen says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Christiania Loses Court Case

The Danish State has won a court case on its rights to the Christiania area of Copenhagen.

Denmark’s Eastern High Court has ruled that the State has the right of use of the Christiania area of Copenhagen and that changes to the law on Christiania in 2004 were legally safe.

The Christiania community had maintained during the case that it had an irrevocable tenure to use the Christiania area and that a change in the Christiania law in 2004, which removed the community’s inherent right of use, was invalid, or should have been introduced over a longer period.

But the High Court rejected both contentions, as well as a claim by 700 individual inhabitants of the area that the termination was not binding on them, and claims by others that they had won prescriptive title.

Dispute The High Court decision ostensibly puts an end to 38 years of disagreement, which started in 1971 when squatters took over an area of disused barracks and transformed it into a seemingly autonomous alternative society. A government decision in 1973 termed the area a social experiment.

After several years of court cases on rights to the area, the Supreme Court decided in 1978 that Christiania could be cleared, although a parliamentary majority decided that inhabitants of Christiania could remain where they were.

Much of the argumentation in the case has centred around how long Christiania could remain unchanged.

Supreme Court Counsel for Christiania says he is pleased with the judgment, despite the fact that his clients lost.

“This was a good judgment. We won 49 percent and lost 51 percent. I am satisfied with the legal arguments and they should lead to us appealing to the Supreme Court,” Knud Foldschack told

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Hungary: Holocaust Train Vandalised

Vandals spray-painted the words “gulag”, “Gaza” and “intifada” on a train carriage, which is the home of a travelling Holocaust exhibition organised by the March of the Living Foundation. Police launched an investigation into the matter, which happened in the early hours of last Thursday. The exhibition has been travelling the country since March 2007 and focuses on the Hungarian aspect of the Holocaust.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: Requests for ‘Debaptisms’ Soar in Milan

Milan, 20 May (AKI) — The northern Italian city of Milan is experiencing a boom in the number of people who want to renounce their baptism and leave the Catholic church. A report in the Italian daily ‘Il Giornale’ said the diocese had received over 200 requests in the first five months of 2009, equalling the total number received in 2008.

“As a pastor, I worry and suffer every time I have to sign, as I did this morning, when I signed five or six of these requests,” said Luigi Manganini, the priest who presides over the discipline of the sacraments of the Milan diocese quoted by Italian daily ‘Il Giornale’.

Manganini said this upwards trend of so-called ‘debaptisms’ is “worrying” because the majority of the cases are of people between the age of 40 and 50. In his view, baptism is irreversible.

“It is out of the question to speak of ‘debaptism’, since baptism is an irreversible sacrament for he who believes, and cannot be erased in any way. In the case of an explicit request of someone wanting a certificate to abandon the Catholic faith, the church limits itself to writing this in the registries where the act of baptism was recorded.”

The procedure can be time consuming, as a request form has to be filled out and handed to a local priest, who will then send the request to the administration office of the discipline of the sacraments.

Then, according to Manganini, the priest is encouraged to speak with the person requesting the cancellation, and if he or she insists, the office will attempt to contact the person and encourage them to reverse their decision.

But Manganini said people almost never show up to this meeting.

The act of ‘debaptism’ amounts to apostasy and the applicant is thus automatically excommunicated and prohibited from taking sacraments or having a funeral in a church.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Renews Attack on Judiciary

Rome, 21 May (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has renewed his attacks on the country’s judiciary and reaffirmed his commitment to strengthen the power of the premier over the parliament. The move follows a decision by a judge earlier this week who ruled that his former corporate lawyer David Mills perjured himself to protect Berlusconi’s business empire.

Berlusconi told the annual meeting of Confindustria, Italy’s largest private employer body, that certain judges were not impartial and were “leftist extremists”. Berlusconi was himself removed from the trial under a new immunity law.

“This morning the newspapers say that you cannot criticise judges. Instead, I believe that is the right of every citizen to criticise judges,” he told the employers’ meeting in Rome.

“With regard to facts concerning me, I cannot remain silent because there are too many doubts that arise from reading the newspapers about the behaviour of the prime minister when I was an entrepreneur.”

He then turned his attention to the sentence handed down on Tuesday by judge Nicoletta Gandus.

“I have called this sentence scandalous because it is completely contrary to the truth,” Berlusconi said.

“Give me two minutes, I cannot tell you. I do not remember ever meeting the lawyer Mills.”

Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party claimed Gandus had issued her ruling — an explanation of why in February she handed British lawyer David Mills a four-and-a-half-year sentence for taking a 440,000 euros bribe from Berlusconi — to damage the premier’s popularity ahead of upcoming local and European Parliament elections.

In her 400-page reasoning, Gandus said she and her colleagues had concluded that Mills was guilty because the evidence showed that he had lied in court in two trials in 1997 and 1998 to shield Berlusconi and his Fininvest company from charges relating to the purchase of US film rights, and to “protect Berlusconi’s economic interests”.

The reasoning said Mills had accepted the bribe to act “as a false witness” and “to allow Silvio Berlusconi and his Fininvest group impunity from the charges or, at least, to keep their huge profits”.

Berlusconi on Thursday also reaffimed his commitment to proceed with reform of Italy’s judical system.

“We will not stop until we have separated the role of the magistrates from the role of prosectors,” he said.

But Berlusconi also stressed the need for parliamentary reform.

“They need young people to guarantee 98 percent of their attendance. There are deputies (MPs) whom you never see because they have more important things to do than to stay there and vote.

“But how do they vote? They look at the head of their group who lifts his thumb to say yes, extends his hand for an abstention or makes a sign with his thumb to say no.

“Now they are saying that I offend the parliament but this is the real truth — the assemblies are absolutely useless and counter productive,” he said.

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

Italy: Fans Stabbed in Rome Conquest

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Now some of the articles make this sound like a fairly routine occurrence during international soccer matches in Italy — I’m curious about that — the translated Italian piece I read earlier today (forget the source) gave initials for the 4 attackers (listed as “Italian”…but that doesn’t mean too much these days) — who virtually hit the US guy right in front of the federal cops (all 4 were arrested on the spot — during the attack). Apparently they thought he was English because he was talking to someone else in English — but I would expect most of them could tell the difference between and American and English accent.]

The lead-up to the Champions League final has been marred by stabbings and arrests as violence flared up in Italy. On a day that was supposed to be a celebration football there were two stabbings, several injuries and four arrests as police struggled to control attacks by the notorious Roma Ultras on Manchester United supporters.

An American was stabbed this afternoon near Rome after he was mistaken for a Manchester United supporter.

He was attacked by four Roma Ultras after being mistaken in the seaside town of Ostia, 20 miles from the city.

Police say he was knifed in the leg after leaving a pub by the group of Italians who were aged between 20 and 22 years old and they were all arrested.

It followed the stabbing of Greg Wheldon, 34, a United fan who suffered a knife wound to his left leg after being set upon as he walked to his hotel near the Vatican in the early hours of this morning.

In another incident in Pisa 200 miles away Manchester United fans who had flown there intending to take public transport to Rome were involved in clashes with locals and three needed treatment for minor injuries.

And in a separate incident, police said three fans from Barcelona were held after a search of their car at the ferry port north of Rome at Civitavecchia uncovered a javelin and batons.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Surprise at “All Part of the Job” Court Ruling

The Christian Democrats have also called for stiffer sentences for people who attack police officers. The party is astonished with Tuesday’s court ruling that violence against the police was “all part of the job”. The response of the Christian Democrats is in line with the Council of the Dutch Superintendents of Police. The council says it is disappointed that judges did not hand out double sentences to people found guilty of acts of aggression against police officers. The announcement followed the results of Tuesday’s ‘theme session’ in an Amsterdam court, which included 17 cases of violence against people who serve in public functions.

The superintendents object to the fact that those who committed acts of aggression against civil servants such as ambulance attendants received a double sentence, whilst assaults against police officers and street coaches were punished with sentences that were — on average — 70 percent higher. The judges say the sentences were more lenient because dealing with violence is an integral part of a police officer’s job.

Next Wednesday, Amsterdam’s Public Prosecutor’s Office will again hold a special mass trial of people charged with extreme acts of aggression against police officers, bus drivers and ambulance attendants.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Impunity for Dutch Massacre in Indonesia Was Given 60 Years Ago

The Dutch state does not want to pay compensation to the victims of a 1947 massacre in an Indonesian village, but it also stopped the prosecution of the army officer who was held responsible right after the attrocity, the Dutch current affairs television programme Netwerk revealed on Monday.

The story of the Rawagede village was back in the limelight last year when relatives and survivors of the massacre demanded an apology and compensation from the Dutch state.

On the TV show on Monday, Jeffrey Pondaag of the Committee for Dutch Honours of Debt showed an exchange of letters from 1948 that reveals the decision not to prosecute major Alphons Wijnen for the atrocity was taken straight after the tragedy, in spite of a recommendation by the Dutch chief of staff Simon Spoor to the procurator general to institute proceedings.

On 9 December 1947, Dutch troops attacked the village of Rawagede and, according to the villagers, killed all the men — 431 in total. A 1969 investigation by the Dutch government into war crimes in Indonesia says 150 were killed in Rawagede (since renamed Balongsari).

Indonesia was granted sovereignty from the Netherlands in 1949 after five years of armed struggle against the Dutch army.

Pondaag and his committee are now seeking compensation and apologies for nine widows and one man who survived the bloodbath as a boy. Pondaag said he found the exchange of letters in the files given to him by the lawyer representing the government in the case.

The Dutch attorney general has rejected the civil claim put forward last September because the case is too old.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Raising Carlos: Making the Case for Sterilising Drug-Addicted Mothers

Some mothers — drug addicts among them — are incapable of taking care of their unborn children. Should they be interned in the interest of the children? Or should they even be allowed to have kids?

A chubby infant plays with a book in his crib. He doesn’t cry or coo, but his raspy breathing can be heard across the room. Unlike most nine-months-old babies, Carlos can’t sit up or roll over yet. But lately he has been smiling and he is eating well, his foster mother Wilma Aarts says. And he no longer needs artificial respiration. Carlos is the fifth child of a cocaine-addicted mother who is currently expecting her sixth.

Carlos’ case has stirred a debate among ethicists, psychiatrists and legal experts: how far should society go in protecting an unborn child from its own mother? The Dutch government has been running a campaign for the past year calling on women to adopt a healthy lifestyle as early as a year before conception. But is it enough?

Some experts are saying the government should intervene in the mother’s lifestyle, for example by forcibly interning pregnant women who are addicted to hard drugs or alcohol, as ethicists Guido de Wert and Ron Berghmans recently proposed in an opinion article in NRC Handelsblad. De Wert and Berghmans want forced internment of pregnant women to be made part of a new law proposal on compulsory mental health care, and they want the state to intervene well before the 24th week of pregnancy, when the fetus is at its most vulnerable.

One question is on everybody’s mind: can a fetus of less than 24-weeks-old be considered a person, or does it become a person only when it is a viable baby? The distinction is important because the first definition would make abortion, which is allowed until the 24th week of pregnancy in the Netherlands, equal to murder.

Forced sterilisation

In Wilma Aarts’ living room in Amsterdam, two-year-old Jeffrey points to the crib and says: “Brother, brother.” Carlos doesn’t react. Neither does he cry. He makes no use of what is a baby’s main means of communication. Carlos spent the first five months of his life in three hospitals and in the care of dozens of medical workers. For the first two months and a half he fought for his life in an incubator. Wilma and her husband visited with him every day; his own mother stopped visiting eight days after the birth.

In Amsterdam alone some twenty addicted women give birth to a living or stillborn child every year. It was what prompted Amsterdam juvenile judges Anne Martien van der Does and Toos Enkelaar last year to plead for a system of guardianship of unborn children. This would allow a guardian to monitor the lifestyle of the addicted mother.

Wilma Aarts and her husband discuss the issue regularly. They think compulsory internment or guardianship are not enough: addicted mothers should not be allowed to have children at all, they say. “For years now there has been a debate about forced sterilisation of some mentally handicapped women. Why not include addicted women?” Aarts says.

An emotional appeal

And yet, once a baby from an addicted mother is born, Wilma and her husband embrace it. They love Jeffrey who has been with them for two years. He’s developing well despite being a premature baby and having been exposed to cocaine in his mother’s womb. They are getting attached to Carlos as well. As far as they are concerned, the boys can stay with them for as long as they need to.

But someone has to convince — or force — the mother not to have any more children, the couple pleads. Aarts: “A child only gets one chance to develop its lungs and that’s in the womb. These children are all born prematurely, with underdeveloped lungs.”

Once she tried an emotional appeal to Jeffrey and Carlos’ mother. “I wrote her a letter begging her not to have more children.” Aarts never got a reply from the mother she describes as a charming woman whom she sees every couple of months.

But the mother refuses to use birth control. She lives with a man who partly bankrolls her addiction. He is the father of the three youngest children and says he too is incapable of caring for them. The mother occasionally spends time in jail. A third child lives with the man’s mother; the oldest two children are in foster care.

Wilma Aarts: “Soon the sixth child will be fighting for its life in an incubator. And we won’t be able to give it a home. Somebody else will have to do it.”

Temporary compulsory contraception

But is forced sterilisation the answer or is it going too far? Member of parliament Marjo van Dijken (Labour) is in favour, she has written a draft law making forced sterilisation possible a long time ago. “I want every parent who has had custody taken away by a judge to be temporarily forbidden from having more children,” she says.

But what if the child was wrongly removed from its home? Van Dijken: “I’m not working under that assumption. And in any case: as soon as the judges restores custody the compulsory contraception will be ended. This is not about IQ but about bad parenting.”

Others think the mother should be given a chance. “Medical workers have to first try to convince the mother to live a healthy life,” says Froukje Bos of the foundation for psychiatric patients, Pandora. Only in extreme situations should state guardianship of an unborn child be considered.

Bos thinks a law to forcibly intern mothers who ‘inflict damage on the fetus’ is going too far. “The law is for everybody. You can’t make a generic law based on a few extreme cases. Where is the line? Should women who smoke while they’re pregnant also be interned then?”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Opel Bid a Lottery, Fiat Chief Says

Preliminary decision expected Wednesday

(ANSA) — Berlin, May 26 — Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne met here on Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to illustrate Fiat’s revised offer for a controlling stake in German automaker Opel.

“We had a constructive talk. We illustrated our plan and the German government is seriously committed to resolve this problem,” Marchionne told the Bloomberg agency after meeting with Merkel.

When asked about Fiat’s chances of success, Marchionne said “it’s a lottery now, that’s all I can say. Except that we’re seriously engaged in striking an accord”.

Marchionne is expected to meet with the chancellor again later in the day.

Meanwhile, German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg confirmed that the government will make a preliminary decision on Opel’s future partner on Wednesday.

Although Opel is privately owned by GM, the German government is involved in the negotiations because of the huge loans federal and regional governments will have to guarantee to allow the automaker to survive during the restructuring process. The other two Opel bidders, Fiat’s main rival, the Austrian-Canadian auto parts maker Magna International and RHJ International, a European arm of the American private equity fund Ripplewood, have also revised their offers and will meet with Merkel.

Fiat’s offer centers on integrating Opel into a global automaker with the operations of Fiat and Detroit No.3 Chrysler, which Fiat is set to take control over.

Magna’s bid is being backed by Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, and is reported to be preferred by leading federal and regional government officials because it is said to include a greater capital injection and aims at keeping the German automaker independent. GM has to sell at least a stake in Opel to respect its radical restructuring plan and thus quality for further US federal bail-out funds.

TREMONTI SEES OPEL AS A ‘GAME BETWEEN GOVERNMENTS’ In a related development, Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said in Rome on Tuesday that Opel’s future “at this point is a game between governments”.

“It’s like we’ve gone back to a state-controlled economy because the game is between the German government, the regional German governments, the Russian government and the American government,” he explained.

“This is a very complex game and it’s too soon to say what will happen,” Tremonti added.

Germany’s federal and regional governments are involved because they must guarantee Opel’s bridging loans, while the Russian government is in play because Magna International is allied not only with Sberbank but also Russian automaker GAZ. The American government is important because it must determine by May 31 whether the GM’s restructuring plan, which includes finding a partner for Opel, is sufficient to qualify the Detroit No.1 for further US bail-out funds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Two Moroccan Women Crushed to Death on Ceuta Border

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 25 — Two Moroccan women who were transporting smuggled merchandise died this morning as they attempted to cross the border at El Biutz in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, in Morocco. According to sources from the local prefecture, quoted by daily paper El Pais, the two women were trampled by the crowd of street vendors which gathers every day at the border crossing. The two victims were treated by personnel from the Spanish medical services, but died of suffocation. Last week a number of people were injured in another “human avalanche” at the Ceuta crossing, and a woman died of suffocation in 2008 at the border with Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in Morocco. Around 10,000 Moroccans arrive in Ceuta every day to buy Spanish merchandise which they then sell in Morocco, or to sell Moroccan goods in the Spanish territory. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Telegraph Columnist May Run Against Tarnished MP

LONDON (AFP) — The scandal over MPs’ expenses took a new twist on Tuesday when the associate editor of The Daily Telegraph, which broke the story, said he might run against one of the exposed MPs at the next election.

Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer, which has revealed how MPs put everything from moat cleaning to toilet paper on expenses, said he would stand against Alan Haselhurst unless he repaid thousands of pounds he had claimed.

Haselhurst, a senior Conservative MP, reportedly used his parliamentary allowances to pay for 12,000 pounds worth of gardening at his country house.

In his column to appear in Wednesday’s Telegraph, Heffer gives Haselhurst, his local MP and a deputy speaker of the House of Commons, an ultimatum.

“If he does not, between now and the opening of nominations for the general election, admit error, apologise, pay back the 12,000 pounds and promise to behave, I shall stand against him as an independent,” Heffer wrote.

“If Sir Alan thinks I am joking, I warn him I am not. I have backers and volunteers.

“I say this more in anger than in sorrow: we are all angry. Doesn?t he get it?”

Haselhurst told his local newspaper on Tuesday that he would repay the money.

“In terms of total expense claims I currently rank 582nd out of 646 MPs. However, my claim for gardening help has caused concern. Out of respect to my constituents I am this week repaying the sum of 12,000 pounds,” he said.

“I deeply regret the public anger which the expenses revelations have understandably generated.”

Heffer is one of a number of high-profile independent figures who have said they will consider standing at the next election, due by the middle of next year, following public outrage over MPs’ lavish spending habits.

The expenses row has so far prompted nine MPs to announce they will leave parliament, including the speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin.

Broadcaster Esther Rantzen confirmed earlier on Tuesday that she would stand for election in Luton if the current incumbent, Labour MP Margaret Moran, did not step down.

Moran was revealed in the Telegraph to have claimed 22,500 pounds for treating dry rot for a house that was neither in her constituency nor near parliament in London. Labour officials are currently reviewing her case.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Top British Diplomat Reaffirms His Country’s Support to Turkey’s EU Bid

ISTANBUL — British Foreign Secretary David Miliband reaffirmed late Tuesday his country’s support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU, saying Ankara’s full membership would bring economic dynamism into the bloc, help solve its energy security problems and build closer ties between the West and the Muslim world.

“Britain is more convinced than it has ever been that the strategic decision to support Turkey’s accession to the European Union is the right one,” Miliband, who is currently in Ankara on an official visit, told Reuters.

“It is good for Europe as well as for Turkey,” he added.

Turkey began EU membership negotiations in 2005, but progress has since largely ground to a halt because of strong opposition in some member countries like France, Germany and Austria, and disagreements over the divided island of Cyprus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this month reiterated their opposition to Ankara joining the EU. The pair insisted that the 27-member bloc offer Turkey a “privileged partnership” instead, a move analysts described as an indicator of short-time calculations to achieve political advantage ahead of the European Parliament elections set for next month.

Miliband said the bloc should adopt a more “open outlook” and embrace the long-term benefits of Turkey’s membership provided it meets all entry criteria.

“Turkey is a particular place that would benefit Europe’s energy future. That would not have been given the priority and prominence it deserves five years ago,” he said.

Opening the doors of the EU to Turkey would be a “significant bridge to the Islamic world”, Miliband said.

“Turkey has a combination of a Muslim majority population and a proud democratic heritage. I think you can balance those things,” he added.


Miliband, however, said Turkey needed to speed up its EU reforms. “Everyone wants to see Turkey making strides towards reforms,” he said.

“But equally we want to see a European Union that has got the right orientation and outlook, an open EU, that is something we have to work on specially at a time of economic downturn.”

“There have been significant changes if you look at the last 30 years. I think there is a new Turkey being built. I think that the direction is clear,” he said.

Miliband said another strong selling point of Turkey’s EU entry is its vibrant market economy. Economic activity is seen contracting by five percent this year due to the effects of the global economic crisis, compared to average growth of 7 percent between 2002 and 2007. The economy is expected to expand in 2010.

“Turkey will bring significant economic dynamism into the bloc. I think the debate of the Turkish economy will change in the next few years,” he said.

Miliband, who arrived Tuesday in the Turkish capital of Ankara to hold talks focused on the country’s European Union membership bid, met with Turkey’s Chief Negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis.

He met Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutolgu on Wednesday, and is also scheduled to meet Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan later in the day.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Chief Constable Takes Government to Court Over ‘Irrational’ Budget Row

A chief constable is the first in Britain to take legal action against the Government over an “irrational and unreasonable” budget row which will force him to sack nearly 200 staff and officers in a year.

Mark Rowley, the head of Surrey police, said he would fight local government ministers in the High Court over a decision which means he will have to slash £1.6 million from the force’s budget and will “erode” his ability to protect the public.

It also means new bills will have to be sent to every council taxpayer in the county at a cost of £1.2 million — eating up virtually all of the planned saving.

Mr Rowley, who has pioneered the fightback against the Home Office target culture in policing, has written to ministers saying: “To any impartial observer, at a time of recession, this will be seen as a total waste of public money.”

The police force has instructed lawyers to challenge the decision by calling for a judicial review.

Ministers say the cap is necessary to protect Surrey residents from an excessive increase in the policing precept, that makes up part of their annual council tax levy.

The move equates to just six pence a week being taken off the council tax of the average householder in Surrey.

It is the second time the budget of the force — one of the top performing in the country — has been capped. Mr Rowley said he has already had to cut 144 police staff this year and will have to lose 50 more frontline operational posts including major crime investigators, Special Branch officers and staff in the forensic department.

He said that the situation was “of grave concern” and added: “The impact for the public overall will be a less capable police service.”

“If you are a criminal you might be tempted to come to Surrey, where the policing resources are less,” Mr Rowley added.

The chief is backed by Peter Williams, the chairman of the Surrey Police Authority, who said the force was the victim of “centralised foolhardiness.”

Mr Williams said that Surrey was one of two forces whose budgets had been capped by Government this year — the other being Derbyshire — but the only one to be told to rebill.

Half of Surrey’s crime originates in London, the force claims, but Government funding makes no allowance for that.

The Department for Communities and Local Government wanted average council tax increases below five per cent but Surrey set its council tax precept to seven per cent.

It had set a budget of £198.7 million in February for 2009/10, an increase of 4.8 per cent, but this has been capped and reduced by £1.6 million.

Mr Williams said that when he asked John Healey, the Minister of State for Local Government, about how capping decisions were made they were told: “It is not Government policy to discuss how it collectively arrives at a decision.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government had been “very careful” to strike the right balance in its funding and said it “should not impact on frontline policing.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Girl Left to Die in Blazing Car After Driver Boyfriend Told Fire Crews No One Was Inside

A man left his girlfriend to burn to death in a car after he crashed into a tree, a court heard yesterday.

Waqas Arshad, 24, told emergency services there was nobody inside, despite knowing 17-year-old Emily Brady was trapped in the burning wreckage.

It was only as firefighters tackled the blaze that they realised the teenager was in the car, still strapped into the passenger seat.

Arshad, of Luton, pleaded guilty yesterday to causing death by careless driving while over the alcohol limit, and causing death by driving while uninsured.

Natalie Carter, prosecuting at Luton Crown Court, told the court Arshad lost control and crashed into a tree in Eversholt, Bedfordshire, at 3am on November 2 last year. But instead of calling for help, he got out of the car and did nothing.

Mrs Carter said: ‘After the collision it’s plain that Emily Brady was in the passenger seat; the defendant in the driver’s seat.

‘She did not die as a result of the injuries received in the collision, which included two broken vertebrae, but she died as a result of carbonisation.’

Miss Brady’s mother Patricia said after the hearing: ‘It was despicable behaviour to make no attempt to try and pull her out of the car.’

The court — packed with relatives of Miss Brady, who lived in Dunstable — heard how firefighters answering a call from a witness asked Arshad if there was anyone in the car. He told them ‘no’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Marlowe’s Koran-Burning Hero is Censored to Avoid Muslim Anger

IT WAS the surprise hit of the autumn season, selling out for its entire run and inspiring rave reviews. But now the producers of Tamburlaine the Great have come under fire for censoring Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece to avoid upsetting Muslims.

Audiences at the Barbican in London did not see the Koran being burnt, as Marlowe intended, because David Farr, who directed and adapted the classic play, feared that it would inflame passions in the light of the London bombings.

Simon Reade, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, said that if they had not altered the original it “would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions”.

The burning of the Koran was “smoothed over”, he said, so that it became just the destruction of “a load of books” relating to any culture or religion. That made it more powerful, they claimed.

Members of the audience also reported that key references to Muhammad had been dropped, particularly in the passage where Tamburlaine says that he is “not worthy to be worshipped”. In the original Marlowe writes that Muhammad “remains in hell”.

The censorship aroused condemnation yesterday from senior figures in the theatre and scholars, as well as religious leaders. Terry Hands, who directed Tamburlaine for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1992, said: “I don’t believe you should interfere with any classic for reasons of religious or political correctness.”

Charles Nicholl, the author of The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, said it was wrong to tamper with Marlowe because he asked “uncomfortable and confrontational questions — particularly aimed at those that held dogmatic, religious views”. He added: “Why should Islam be protected from the questioning gaze of Marlowe? Marlowe stands for provocative questions. This is a bit of an insult to him.”

Marlowe rivalled Shakespeare as the most powerful dramatist of the Elizabethan period. He died aged 29 in a brawl over a tavern bill. Tamburlaine the Great was written not later than 1587. It tells the story of a shepherd-robber who defeats the king of Persia, the emperor of Turkey and, seeing himself as the “scourge of God”, burns the Koran.

Mr Farr reworked the text after the July 7 attacks. The production closed last week. Mr Farr said in a statement: “The choices I made in the adaptation were personal about the focus I wanted to put on the main character and had nothing to do with modern politics.”

But Mr Reade said that Mr Farr felt that burning the Koran “would have been unnecessarily inflammatory”. The play needed to be seen in a 21stcentury context, he believed.He said: “Marlowe was not challenging Muslims, he was attacking theism, saying, ‘I’m God, there isn’t a God’. If he had been in a Christian country, a Judaic country or a Hindu country, it would be their gods he’d be attacking.” He said more people would be insulted by broadening the attack.

Inayat Bunglawala, the media secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, disagreed, saying: “In the context of a fictional play, I don’t think it will have offended many people.”

Park Honan, Emeritus Professor at the School of English, University of Leeds, and author of Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy, said: “It is wrong to tamper with the play, wrong to shorten it and wrong to leave out the burning of the Koran because that is involved with the exposition of Tamburlaine’s character. He’s a false prophet. This is meant to horrify the audience.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: Puma Upgrade in Romania is Stalled ‘Over Fears for Votes’

A plan to award Romania a £400 million contract to upgrade Royal Air Force helicopters has been delayed amid fears of a voter backlash.

Senior military officers have told The Times that the Government is holding up the contract to overhaul the RAF Pumas for political reasons.

The work on the 33 Puma transport helicopters is expected to be done in Romania by Eurocopter, but Labour MPs are worried about the reaction of voters amid rising unemployment in Britain. The Government is said to favour switching the £250 million to £400 million contract from Eurocopter to AgustaWestland, which would upgrade the Royal Navy’s Sea Kings instead of the Pumas. The work would be done in Yeovil and could create hundreds of jobs.

However, this is not an option that the Armed Forces favour because the Pumas are better suited to “hot and high” work in Afghanistan. A senior military officer said: “The Puma decision is all about politics. We need the aircraft, but it is not politically acceptable to be sending work to Romania.”

Another source said that ministers had twice rejected the request to upgrade the Pumas. An MoD spokesman confirmed that the Puma upgrade had not been approved but declined to say why.

The military has repeatedly complained that it is critically short of helicopters in Afghanistan and the Government has considered leasing old Soviet helicopters to fill the gap.

Amicus, the union, has met defence ministers to press for the helicopter work to be done in the UK. Bernie Hamilton, the union’s national organiser, said: “I have made representations to ministers and our view is that it would be better to upgrade the Sea Kings because there would be more UK work content. This contract would enable Westland to take on more people and would also be a benefit to Rolls-Royce, which makes the engine.”

It is understood that Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, has waded into the helicopter debate on Eurocopter’s side. He is said to be pushing for the Puma upgrade even if it means doing it in Romania because he hopes to guarantee future British work from Airbus, the aircraft maker owned by the same company as Eurocopter.

The Pumas were designed and built by Aerospatiale of French in the 1960s and 1970s. Eurocopter, which was formed from Aerospatiale, will upgrade the Pumas if a contract is awarded.

They entered service in 1971 and many are now nearly 40 years old. The project will enable them to continue to operate until about 2022.

“The best option is for a new fleet but no money exists for that,” a defence source said.

EADS, which owns Eurocopter, said: “The MoD has asked for the best-value-for-money solution. All options will be examined.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Senior Judge Blames Slow Police Response Times for Britain’s ‘Vigilante Culture’

A senior judge has warned of a rise in vigilante crimes caused by slow police response times. Richard Bray said citizens were increasingly taking matters into their own hands because of lack of confidence in the forces of law and order. He was speaking as he sentenced a father and his sons for attacking a man they thought had vandalised their car. Mr Bray, a circuit judge at Northampton Crown Court, said: ‘Nobody bothers to phone the police any more. They go round and sort it out themselves — and I know why. It is because the police do not actually come round so people go out themselves and deal with it.’ A police pledge, to which all 43 forces in the country have signed up, promises that in urban areas police will arrive within 15 minutes and in rural areas in 20 minutes. But Judge Bray’s scathing comments make clear he feels they are falling short of those commitments.

The attack which prompted his outburst occurred last year when Henry Smith, 48, and his sons Ian, 23, and Jamie, 19, decided to take revenge for damage to their car. The men, from Kettering, went to a nearby house and punched a man to the ground. Ian Smith and his brother then punched and kicked him on the floor, leaving him with injuries to his face, teeth and mouth. Both admitted grievous bodily harm at a previous hearing. Ian Smith was given a suspended jail sentence of 50 weeks and ordered to pay £1,000 to the victim. Jamie Smith received a 40-week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £1,500 compensation. Their father had pleaded guilty to affray and was ordered to pay costs.

They were ordered to complete 390 hours of unpaid work between them. Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It is refreshing to hear a judge accept the extent to which ordinary people are being forced to fend for themselves thanks to the failure of the criminal justice system. ‘This will continue so long as the police are forced to respond to the priorities of politicians rather than ordinary people. They’ll spend their time trying to meet arbitrary and distorting targets rather than trying to catch serious criminals.’ A spokesman for the Home Office said it did not keep figures on how quickly officers responded to callout times, despite its pledge. The spokesman added that it was not possible to keep specific figures on vigilante crime. A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said: ‘The judge is entitled to his opinion but it is one we do not share. In the case he refers to, the incident in question was not reported to us so we were not in a position to respond. ‘We invest heavily in officers, staff, training and technology to ensure members of the public can be confident of receiving a good service from Northamptonshire Police.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Walesa Will Urge Irish to Support Lisbon

LIBERTAS INVITATION: FORMER POLISH president Lech Walesa will urge Irish voters to support the Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum during his upcoming trip to to the country, which is at the invitation of Libertas.

Mr Walesa has spoken at events in Madrid and Rome organised by Libertas, which rejects the treaty.

However, the co-founder of the Solidarity trade union said his readiness to listen to Libertas positions should not be mistaken for agreement.

“I don’t agree with Libertas. I’m just giving them my point of view,” he said. “I’m ready to go to Ireland, speaking out alone or alongside Ganley, to say ‘My dear Irish people, back this treaty’.”

As one of a panel of EU “wise men”, he said it was his duty to listen to all positions in a “democratic confrontation”.

Some political commentators in Poland suggested Libertas was courting Mr Walesa to boost the profile and chances of their newly-formed Polish sister party in the upcoming European elections.

Mr Walesa has dismissed speculation about those intentions and restated that, despite its perceived faults, he is a supporter of the Lisbon Treaty.

“It’s crucial to have an imperfect driver than no driver at all.

“And we’re going to make this treaty better,” he said, adding that he hoped to “convince Mr Ganley to change his mind” about the Lisbon Treaty.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the former president had explained his priority for his Irish trip was to back the Lisbon Treaty.

“I spoke to Mr Walesa and I can say officially that he will be urging the Irish on the eve of the European elections to support the Lisbon Treaty, which Libertas opposed,” said Mr Tusk.

“That’s Lech Walesa all over, he will play a prank on them and the balance, as he says, will be positive for us.”

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


Croatia: Public Sector Wages to Increase by 77% by 2016

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 26 — According to the agreement signed between unions and the Croatian government public sector wages could increase by as much as 77% by 2016 compared to current retributions. According to data processed by unions and reported to the Italian Trade Commission in Zagreb, a newly hired person with a degree who today earns 6,386 kunas (gross, equal to approximately 875 euro) will earn 11,201 kuna (gross, equal to approximately 1,534 euro) in 2016. In any event this prediction already takes into account the fact that the economy should revive as of the first semester of 2010. The agreement guarantees an increase in wages no matter how the economy is going. As of 1 January 2010 the increase will be equal to the six-month inflation rate, whereas from 1 october 2010 it will be equal to the yearly inflation rate.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU, Visa Liberalisation is a Concrete Prospect

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 25 — The European Commission is convinced that visa-free travel in the Schengen Area for citizens from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo will soon be possible. The Commission in Brussels announced that it had today delivered to the 27 member states its assessments on how the five Balkan states were proceeding on the implementation of the required measures. “I am very satisfied by the efforts made by countries in the region to implement the stages of the roadmap and their excellent cooperation,” said Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot and commissioner ad interim for Justice. “I am confident that visa-free travel for all western Balkan states is a concrete prospect”. During the first quarter of 2009, the Commission carried out 15 missions, three in each country in which experts from member states participated, and four meetings, one for each key area (document security, border management, public order and security, external relations and fundamental rights). As for the contents, the Commission will publish information between June 4 and 5, on the occasion of the next Justice and Internal Affairs Ministerial Council which will take place in Luxembourg, explained a press officer from the EU Council. According to a document published on the European Stability Initiative website, which anticipates the contents of the Commission’s report, only Macedonia will result as meeting the benchmarks, Serbia and Montenegro will meet most of the benchmarks, Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina will be lagging behind and Kosovo will not be classified. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Morocco: Agreement With Holland to Cooperate Against Crime

(ANSA) — RABAT, MAY 26 — Morocco and Holland will work together against organised crime. The two countries signed an agreement to encourage cooperation between police forces and prosecutors in both countries. Announcing the accord was Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin of the Christian Democratic Party, speaking to Dutch Radio, after discussing the agreement with Moroccan counterpart Abdelwahad Radi. The agreement calls for Dutch criminals in Morocco to serve their sentences in Holland and vice-versa. In the past 15 months, Moroccan has asked Holland for help for 152 time with justice-related issues, and on each occasion it was necessary to made a special agreement. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Wine: Morocco; Record Production in 2008, 33mln Bottles

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 26 — In 2008 Morocco produced about 35 million bottles of wine with an increase of 9% compared to the year before, wrote the Arab language newspaper, Al Massae. The paper specified that the wine sector has annual sales of over 1 billion dirham (90 million euros) and employs some 10,000 people. The capital of Moroccan wine is the region of Meknes in the north-east of the country, which with five producers represents 85% of total production, between 300,000 and 400,000 hectolitres. For 2009 another increase is expected thanks to the excellent rains that fell between October 2008 and February 2009. “No rain has been seen like this in Morocco for the last 50 years,” declared the secretary of state in charge of water management, Abdelkebir Zahoud, “which affected all of the regions of the country, including the deserts in the south.” “The reservoirs have reached 80% of their capacity, something that has not happened since 1963,” he added; “the rains refilled the water table, with 12.8 billion cubic metres of water in the reservoirs which gives us autonomous water resources for the next 3 years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Lieberman for Ratification Road Map, Livni Attacks

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 26 — Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the radical rightwing, confirmed today that he is in favour of the Road Map (the road towards peace stipulated by international mediators to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). He said that he is convinced the present government should renew the Road Map’s ratification. An apparently conciliating viewpoint, but it has immediately lead to polemic reactions from his predecessor. Today the leader of the centrist opposition, Tzipi Livni, said the call for the Road Map remains a stratagem, which doesn’t guarantee that negotiations will be resumed, if Lieberman at the same time continues to deny the successive bilateral agreements signed in 2007 in Annapolis with American mediation. “Of all international initiatives on the table, the Road Map is the option which is most in line with our interests” Lieberman said this morning in an interview with Military Radio. According to Livni his words hide his intentions to postpone concrete negotiations indefinitely. Because — he said later on the same radio station — the Road Map includes “a final decision (on the status of the Palestinian territories) only in a third stage”, while Annapolis imposes the immediate continuation of talks between the parties, also during the transitory stages. The truth, Livni concluded, is “that this government doesn’t want to negotiate, it is digging in its heals in an attempt to stop any re-launch of contact with the Palestinians. Even though refusing to talk only means creating a situation in which we won’t have any more partners to negotiate with”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu Willing to ‘Give Up Outposts’

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to tear down settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank in return for US backing on its stance on arch-foe Iran, local media reported on Tuesday.

Netanyahu told his right-wing Likud faction on Monday that Israel would have to dismantle what it considers illegal outposts, as demanded by Washington, since the issue of Iran was more important, newspaper reports said.

“I identify the danger and that’s why I am willing to take unpopular steps such as evacuating outposts. The Iranian threat is above everything,” the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot quoted Netanyahu as saying.

“There are things on which you have to compromise.”

Since returning to the prime minister’s post on March 31, Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Iran’s controversial nuclear drive posed the biggest threat to Israel since its creation in 1948.

At his first meeting with Barack Obama in Washington last week, Netanyahu sought to win support for his stance from the new US president, who has said he is open to dialogue with the Islamic republic.

Obama assured Netanyahu that his diplomatic efforts over Iran’s nuclear drive were not open-ended and told him that “settlements must stop” so that the stalled Middle East process could move forward.

Settlement outposts in the West Bank, which Israel seized from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, are those built without Israeli government approval. However, the international community considers all Jewish settlements on occupied land illegal.

“Soon we will have to take down outposts,” Yediot quoted Netanyahu as telling the Likud MPs, most of whom oppose dismantling any settlements in the West Bank, which they consider part of biblical Israel.

“Our relations with the United States are important and we must preserve them,” he said. “The situation today is not like the situation back in 1996 and 1999 (during his first term as premier). We mustn’t waste time.

“In this reality, we have to make decisions. We are going to have to subordinate our priorities to existential needs and reach as broad a national unity as possible to repel the danger,” he said.

Netanyahu dispatched a delegation headed by Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor to London on Tuesday for talks with US officials on creating joint teams to discuss the Iranian nuclear programme and settlement outposts, a senior official told AFP.

Israel and Western powers fear Iran’s nuclear drive is a cover for efforts to built atomic weapons, claims repeatedly denied by Tehran which has vowed to press on with its activities.

Israel itself is widely believed to be the only nuclear armed state in the Middle East but adopts a policy of neither confirming nor denying whether it has a nuclear arsenal.

Both Israel’s defence minister and army chief said this week that they thought chances were low that US dialogue would succeed in halting Iran’s controversial nuclear activities.

Under the 2003 international “roadmap” peace plan, Israel committed to dismantling outposts erected since March 2001 and a government commission later determined there were 26 such structures in the West Bank.

Watchdog groups say the actual number of such outposts is more than 50.

Although most members of his government fiercely oppose freezing settlement activity, Netanyahu became convinced during his Washington visit that he must press ahead with the policy, media reports said.

“The penny has dropped for Netanyahu,” wrote Yediot. “He now knows that the Obama administration isn’t willing to concede the linkage… between Iran and the settlements,” it said.

“If Israel wants Washington to help it stop Iran’s nuclear armament, it is going to have to hold up its end of the bargain… to stop expanding its settlements… and to remove the illegal settlement outposts.”

Israel has repeatedly said it was not ruling out a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but US officials have warned against such action.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: The E-1 Area and the Link Between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim

by Nadav Shragai

  • The E-1 area is a part of the Israeli city of Maale Adumim, located immediately adjacent to Jerusalem.
  • The main threat to Israel’s future contiguity comes from encroachments on E-1 made by illegal Palestinian construction. Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank has been governed by the legal terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement from September 28, 1995. The area around E-1 is within Area C, where, according to Oslo II, Israel retained the powers of zoning and planning.
  • As a result, much of the recently completed Palestinian construction there is illegal.
  • In contrast, none of the Oslo Agreements prohibited Israeli settlement activity, though Israel undertook unilateral limitations upon itself in this area in recent years.
  • Contrary to reports, the completion of E-1 would not cut the West Bank in half and undermine Palestinian contiguity. Israel has planned a new road that would allow Palestinian traffic coming from the south to pass eastward of Maale Adumim and continue northward to connect with the cities in the northern West Bank. This Palestinian bypass road would actually reduce the time for Palestinian drivers traveling in a north-south direction who would encounter no Israeli roadblocks.
  • Israeli construction of E-1 will not undermine Palestinian contiguity, but were Israel to lose control of E-1, the contiguity of Israel would be severely compromised…

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]

The American Mistake

US administration’s view on conflict based on seven false assumptions

For some weeks now, commentators have been telling us that if only Israel agrees to accept the US position regarding the two-state solution, it would be possible to progress quickly and secure a final-status agreement.

This hypothesis is premised on seven assumptions, all of which are false. Had the US administration undertaken a real assessment and examined the fundamental assumptions underlining the solution, it may have reached different conclusions.

So what are the seven false assumptions?

1. “Establishing a Palestinian state in line with the 1967 borders is the essence of the Palestinians’ national aspiration.” It is true that the Palestinians wish to get rid of the Israeli occupation, yet a small and divided state whose establishment would force them to agree to end the conflict and their demands is the Palestinians’ nightmare, rather than their national aspiration. They could have secured such state three times in the past (in 1937, 1947, and 2000,) yet three times they rejected the offer with horror. What is the basis for assuming that the Palestinian ethos, which is premised on a “desire for justice,” need for revenge,” recognition of their victimhood, and mostly the “right of return” has changed all of a sudden?

2. “The gap between the Israeli and Palestinian positions is bridgeable.” Reality is different. The maximum an Israeli government (any Israeli government) can offer the Palestinians and still survive politically is far from the minimum that a Palestinian government (any Palestinian government) would be able to accept and survive politically.

3. “Egypt and Jordan want to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved, and therefore they will be a contributing factor.” Reality is the different: Both Egypt and Jordan prefer the status quo to continue, whereby the conflict continues and they can continue to blame Israel. As long as the conflict exists, Egypt has the ultimate excuse for all domestic and regional troubles. Meanwhile, for the Jordanians, a neighboring Palestinian state — likely under Hamas’ rule — would mark the end of the Hashemite Kingdom.

4. “A final-status agreement would bring stability and security to the region.” The exact opposite is true. There is no chance that the small and divided Palestinian state would be viable. The frustration to be created by such situation (certainly in Gaza,) with Israel being stripped of “defensible borders, is an obvious foundation for instability.

5. “At this time we have an opportunity that must not be missed.” If we compare the situation that prevails today to the situation that prevailed in 2000, we reach the clear conclusion that the chance of securing an agreement back then was much greater than it is currently, yet it didn’t happen. Is it possible at this time to reach an agreement in Judea and Samaria, not to mention Gaza, when Hamas is the dominant Palestinian movement.

6. Progress on the Palestinian front is vital in order to enlist the support of Arab states against Iran.” How are these two issues related? Arab states (such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia) have a supreme interest in curbing Iran, irrespective of the Palestinian issue.

7. “There’s only one solution to the conflict.” What is this assumption based on? When was a thorough examination that looked into the range of possibilities been undertaken last, here or in the US? Alternate solutions, whereby the Palestinian are no longer under Israel’s control, can be presented easily.

Regrettably, and irrespective of the manner in which the American assessment was undertaken, the Obama administration’s conclusions are clear-cut. The chances of securing a final-status agreement on the basis of the two-state formula and implementing it successfully are not much greater than the prospects in 1993 (Oslo,) 2000 (Camp David,) and 2007 (Annapolis.)

We should hope that the almost assured failure would not have negative ramifications on other fronts, such as the effort to curb Iran or Israel-US ties.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Tehran Looking to Strengthen Ties With Paraguay

Asuncion, 26 May (AKI) — Paraguay’s foreign minister Hector Lacognata has told Iran that it is committed to building stronger economic ties with Tehran, according to Iran’s state-run media. The move appears to be part of a strategy by Iran to expand its influence in Latin America.

Paraguay’s foreign minister Hector Lacognata made the remarks in a meeting with Iran’s non-resident ambassador to Paraguay Morteza Tafreshi, Iranian state media, Irna and Fars, said on Tuesday.

Lacognata referred to Iran as “the cradle of civilisation” and underscored the need for participation by Iranian companies in various economic and trade projects in Paraguay.

Last week Tafreshi said Iran was very interested in importing soy and meat from Paraguay. He made the remarks in a meeting with the country’s agriculture minister.

“We are hoping that we can reach an agreement with the government of Paraguay so we can purchase all the food products that we need,” said Tafreshi, quoted by Paraguayan media.

Soy and meat are staple products in Paraguay, and both are among the country’s largest exports.

“In Iran, we have major agricultural research centres, therefore, taking into consideration that Paraguay is also an agricultural country, I believe we can also establish cooperation between agricultural research centres in both countries,” said Tafreshi.

Tafreshi was accompanied by Iranian investors, who are interested in developing farming and real estate projects.

Paraguay, which is one of Latin America’s poorest countries and one of the most corrupt in the world, recently elected leftist leader Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, to the presidency after 61 years’ rule by the conservative Colorado party.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (photo) was one of the first to congratulate Lugo on his victory.

Iranian media praised Lugo by calling him “a man of God and an enemy of the Great Satan,” said a report the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a US-based think-tank.

Iran has recently sought to expand its interests and make new allies in the Latin American region, specifically with Bolivia and Venezuela, both considered ‘hostile’ by the United States.

Paraguay does not produce any oil and relies solely on foreign imports.

The CIA’s World Factbook says the country imports up to 27,410 barrels a day. COHA’s report said Ahmadinejad could use Iran’s oil and investments as a bargaining tool with the Lugo administration.

Paraguay — unlike Bolivia and Venezuela — has a sizeable Muslim population in the so-called tri-border region, where Argentina, Brasil and Paraguay meet.

According to COHA, the Muslim population aided Lugo’s campaign through fund-raising drives that have been supported by Iran and Venezuela.

Economic and political cooperation between Venezuela and Bolivia has grown tremendously in the past three years.

Recently, Iran and Venezuela created a joint 2 billion dollar fund to finance investments in friendly third countries and has financed seven projects in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has expressed explicit support for Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment programme, which the US and other powers fear is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

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

Jordan Jails Thousands Without Trials, HRW Report Says

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 26 — Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Jordan to end administrative detention that allows authorities to put suspects behind bars indefinitely without trial, insisting such practice is widespread and often used for personal vendetta by police authorities. In a report under the title: ‘Guests of the Governor: Administrative Detention Undermines Rule of Law in Jordan,’ the London based agency said the practice is used against crime victims, personal enemies and people freed by the courts “Governors and other high officials shouldn’t be able to lock people up on vague suspicions of improper behavior,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an invitation to abuse,” he said in a statement distributed during a press conference in Amman, noting that there are at least 10,000 new cases of administrative detention each year. Among every five inmates there is at least one administrative detainee. The group urged the government to cancel ‘The Crime Prevention Law’, which grants governors the authority to detain persons who are “a danger to the people,” insisting the term is an excessively vague term that opens the door to routine abuse. “Governors frequently issue such orders against prisoners whose sentences have expired, persons arrested on suspicion of a crime but to whom judges have granted bail, and persons who may have prior criminal convictions,” added the group. “Governors should not be able to overrule the courts by jailing people who judges have said can safely remain free,” Stork said. According to the report governors have jailed victims of crimes instead of the perpetrators. Some women threatened with family violence have spent over ten years in administrative detention, allegedly for their own “protection.” Governors have similarly detained victims of threats of tribal revenge. Street vendors, usually men, are also susceptible to administrative detention. In several cases, governors or their assistants abused their powers of detention by arresting persons against whom they had a personal grudge, said the report. “The government has ignored calls over the past four years by Jordanian rights activists, including the National Center for Human Rights, to review the practice of administrative detention,” added Stork, who also blasted prison guards for helping the injustice prevail. He aded administrative detainees commonly go on hunger strike to try to seek a review of their cases, but prison wardens often deny hunger strikers access to water, in violation of international prison standards, in order to shorten the duration of the strikes. “The cries for release from administrative detainees on hunger strikes are the human face of the breakdown of independent judicial oversight over governors’ powers to detain persons almost at will,” said Stork. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Colonel Accused of Spying for Israel

Lebanon and neighbouring Syria remain technically at war with the Jewish state.

Beirut, 26 May (AKI) — A Lebanese army colonel was arrested on suspicion of having spied on behalf of Israel, a country considered Lebanon’s enemy, Arab media reports said on Tuesday. The colonel’s arrest took place after an anonymous tip was given to the armed forces warning them of “the necessity to monitor the movements of the colonel, because his activities were considered to be very dangerous,” said a report by Qatar-based Arab TV network Al-Jazeera.

In recent weeks, a total of 15 suspects have been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel.

However, Lebanon is holding up to 30 suspects, 21 of whom have already been charged.

Several others have confessed to have worked for the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

Three of those were charged on Tuesday.

Officials have already shown sophisticated spying devices and other gadgets that were found in the houses or offices of some of the suspects.

News of the arrest surfaced less than two weeks before crucial elections on 7 June.

Israel has not commented on any of the arrests. Lebanese media reports claimed at least two alleged spies fled to Israel last week and demanded the Jewish state return them.

Hassan Nasrallah, chief of the Iranian and Syrian-backed militant Shia movement Hezbollah, called for the death penalty for all suspects convicted of spying for Israel.

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

Obama to Visit Saudi Arabia to Discuss Peace, Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in Riyadh next week to seek his support over the nuclear standoff with Iran and reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Obama will visit Riyadh on June 3 in a surprise addition to his scheduled three-day trip to Egypt, Germany and France, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is a staunch U.S. ally in the region and potentially a key player in the drive for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which Obama has declared a top foreign policy priority.

The Obama administration has embraced the 2002 Arab peace initiative, a proposal authored by Saudi Arabia that offered Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for a full withdrawal from the lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, creation of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.

Gibbs dismissed the idea the Saudi stop was added to persuade Arab states to make conciliatory gestures to Israel.

“The president believes it’s an important opportunity to discuss important business, like Middle East peace, but it’s not born out of anything specific,” he said.

Gibbs last week scotched speculation that Obama would use his much-anticipated speech to Muslims, which he is due to deliver in Egypt on June 4, to unveil a new Middle East peace initiative.

Obama has held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks as part of efforts to jumpstart stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace moves and will meet Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Thursday.


The visit to Saudi Arabia comes as Obama is seeking to build an alliance of moderate Muslim nations to put pressure on Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program, which Washington fears is a cover to build a nuclear bomb.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called in March for Arabs to agree on how to tackle Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for electricity generation.

Obama’s administration has been at pains to reassure Saudi Arabia that Washington’s efforts to reach out diplomatically to Iran will not affect bilateral relations.

Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the leader of mainstream Sunni Islam, fears the growing regional power of non-Arab, Shi’ite Iran, which backs Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist factions such as Hamas and has considerable influence in neighboring Iraq.

The United States has raised the idea of sending Yemeni terrorism detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, which Obama has said he will close by next January, to Saudi Arabia, as Riyadh has a program to rehabilitate militants.

Saudi Arabia is among the United States’ top 15 trading partners. Last year, two-way trade was $67.3 billion, which equaled about 2 percent of total U.S. exports and imports.

Saudi Arabia exported $54.8 billion worth of oil and a few other products to the United States in 2008 and imported $12.5 billion of U.S. goods.

(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington and Ulf Laessing in Riyadh; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Report: Lebanon Colonel Held for Spying for Israel

Source says Lebanese colonel detained last week, questioned about links to Israeli spy agencies. Lebanon holding up to 30 suspects in espionage investigation

A Lebanese army colonel has been detained on suspicion of spying for Israel, security sources said on Tuesday.

The sources said the colonel was arrested last week and was being questioned about links to Israeli spy agencies.

Lebanon is holding up to 30 suspects in what security sources say is a widening investigation into espionage for Israel.

At least 21 suspects have already been charged, some in absentia, and several have confessed, the authorities say. Israel has not commented on the arrests.

Lebanese officials have displayed what they say is sophisticated communications equipment and other gadgets found in the homes or offices of some of the suspects.

Lebanon says at least two spies fled to Israel last week and has demanded Israel hand them back.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Lebanese Islamist group Hizbullah, last week called for the death penalty for all suspects convicted of spying for Israel.

Senior Lebanese security officials say the arrests have dealt a major blow to Israel’s spying networks in Lebanon.

They say many of the suspects played key roles in identifying Hizbullah targets that were bombed during a 34-day war between Israel and the Shiite group in 2006.

Other suspects have been charged with monitoring senior Hezbollah officials and at least one is alleged to have played a role in the 2004 assassination of a commander of the group.

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

Tourism: Israeli Employee Committees Boycott Turkey, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 26 — A new survey found that 72% of Israel’s employee committees’ have decided to continue boycotting Turkey’s vacation spots, following the tensions in diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara, daily Hurriyet reported quoting the Israeli Internet-based news site The poll was conducted by the Veadim Group, which centralizes information regarding the employee committees’ financial activities. The survey was held ahead of Israel’s annual tourism fair, scheduled to take place in July. Employee committees’ are a significant part of the tourism industry, marketing special vacation deals, both in Israel and abroad, to their members. Among the organizations which will not include Turkey in their travel packages are the First International Bank of Israel, El-Al, Egged, the Agricultural Research Organization, ECI, Elektra, Israel Refineries LTD., The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, the Israeli Technological Institute, Haifa Port and the Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI, to name a few. At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos late January this year, Erdogan participated in a panel with Israeli President Shimon Peres and dramatically walked out of the session in a move to protest both Peres and the panel’s moderator. Erdogan’s outburst gained a lot of sympathy among Islamic countries but caused worries in Western countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Woman ‘Keeps Mother’s Body in Freezer for 20 Years’

Neighbours believe that Daulat Irani, 83, was worried authorities would discover her mother had been living in Britain illegally if she made her death public.

Instead of holding a funeral, Mrs Irani is thought to have wrapped the body up in a black bin bag and then put in a chest freezer in the garage.

It is thought that Mrs Irani confided the secret to a friend who then tipped off the police. Officers questioned Mrs Irani under caution but said they are not treating the death as suspicious.

Alex Bennett, 24, a neighbour, told The Daily Mirror: “She’s a lovely old lady and always sends a Christmas card to us.

“She used to look after a white-haired gentleman known as ‘the doctor’ when he became poorly. But I think he passed away a couple of years ago. I’ve lived here all my life and I never saw her mum.”

Ray Dyson, 77, another neighbour of Mrs Irani’s in Sidcup, South East London, added: “The first we knew was when two police cares and an officer in a full forensic bodysuit turned up.

“They taped-off the garage and have now put a padlock on it. It was obviously more serious than a burglary so I asked if she was OK and the police said she was fine.”

A Metropolitan police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm we went to a residential address in Sidcup.

“Officers found the body of a woman. We believe we know the identity but await formal identification. The death is being treated as unexplained. An 83-year-old woman has been interviewed under caution but there have been no arrests.”

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

South Asia

Bombs, Fires Rock Thai South

YALA — SUSPECTED separatist militants in Thailand’s troubled south set off an apparently coordinated series of bombs, grenades and fires early on Wednesday, police said.

The first bomb exploded at around 4.00am (2100 GMT, 5am Singapore time) in front of a hotel in the centre of the town of Yala, but only parked cars and windows were damaged by the small device, they said.

Two grenades were thrown and exploded nearby, one hitting a cash machine and another damaging a billboard pole in front of a car showroom.

Police said suspected Muslim separatists also started fires at two warehouses, containing construction materials and consumer products, and a furniture shop in the town.

No one was injured in any of the incidents, they said.

More than 3,600 people have been killed and thousands more wounded in five years of separatist violence across the three Muslim-majority provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

Twin bombs exploded in Narathiwat in November, killing one person and injuring 70 in one of the biggest attacks on civilians since the insurgency erupted in January 2004.

Buddhist-majority Thailand annexed the ethnic Malay area in 1902, sparking decades of tension. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Held in Malaysia for 2 Years

KUALA LUMPUR — A SINGAPOREAN Islamic terror suspect recaptured in Malaysia last month will not be extradited to the city state for at least two years, Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Wednesday. Mas Selamat Kastari, who was arrested in Skudai, a small town in Johor on April 1, is being held under the Internal Security Act for two years ‘because we need to know more information,’ Mr Najib told reporters.

The Internal Security Act allows detention without trial for varying periods determined by the government. The detention periods can be extended indefinitely.

Mr Najib called Mas Selamat, the Singapore commander of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group, a ‘threat to national security’.

Asked if Malaysia had informed Singapore that it won’t be handing over Mas Selamat, Mr Najib said authorities in the two countries were in touch.

Mas Selamat was detained under Singapore’s Internal Security Law, which is virtually identical to Malaysia’s, when he escaped from a high-security prison on Feb 27 last year by wriggling out of a toilet window. He evaded a massive manhunt and slipped into Malaysia by swimming across the narrow Johor Strait that separates the two countries.

He lived undetected in a Malaysian village of about 100 people, rarely going out or mixing with other residents. He was recaptured by Malaysian commandos with the help of Singaporean and Indonesian intelligence agencies.

Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama quoted unidentified sources as saying that authorities would discuss the handing over Mas Selamat to the Singaporean authorities toward the end of his two-year detention period.

While in detention, Mas Selamat will undergo a rehabilitation programme that includes debating with religious experts on Islam, Bernama quoted the sources as saying. There is no extradition treaty between the two countries.

Mas Selamat, a Singaporean citizen of Indonesian origin, is the mastermind behind a plot to hijack a plane and fly it into Singapore Changi international airport. He was caught by the Indonesian police in 2006 and handed over to Singapore. — AP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

India: Curfew Imposed in Punjab After Sikh Riots

Jalandhar, 26 May (AKI) — Indian security forces imposed a curfew in the northern state of Punjab on Tuesday after two people died in riots sparked by the killing of a Sikh preacher in Austria. Indian army and police patrolled towns, highways and train stations in the state after street protests turned violent.

The violence also spilled over into neighbouring Haranya state, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Most shops in areas hit by Monday’s protests remained closed for a second day, even though authorities began to slowly relax the curfew in some areas.

The riots caused US retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc to postpone the opening of its first store in India. It had been scheduled to open in Punjab on Tuesday.

Two demonstrators were killed by police on Monday amid angry protests in Punjab’s Jalandhar city that began late Sunday after the attack by Sikh hardliners at a Vienna temple against two visiting Sikh gurus.

There are reportedly fewer than 3,000 Sikhs in Austria.

The protests snowballed into violent rioting in all major cities and towns across Punjab upon news on Monday that one of the gurus, Sant Rama Nand, had died of his injuries the Asian Age newspaper reported.

Another more senior guru, 68-year-old Sant Niranjan Dass, had to undergo surgery after the armed attack by six fundamentalists. At least 16 people were hurt in the attack.

Nand was a follower the of the liberal Shri Guri Ravidas Sabha movement, which has a large following in India among lower caste Sikhs and Hindus. The fundamentalist Sikhs who attacked the preachers were reportedly from a higher caste and believed the gurus were disrespectful of the Sikh holy book.

All major highways in the state and both the main rail routes to Jammu and Amritsar were blocked, forcing the complete suspension of traffic.

As many as 25 companies of paramilitary soldiers flew to the area from Delhi, and 40 companies of Punjab police were deployed in the curfew-bound areas.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh on Monday expressed his deep distress over the violent clashes in Punjab and appealed to the people of Punjab to “stay calm” and “show restraint”.

Meanwhile, Punjab’s chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal issued a joint appeal for calm.

They disclosed that police officers on the ground had been authorised to “shoot on sight if the situation warrants such action”.

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

The Euphoria of the Indian Economy After the Results of the Elections

The Indian stock market rose by 18 points in two days, a sign of trust in the Congress and in Singh. There is anticipation for the liberalization of direct foreign investments and a political system that is able to eradicate the poverty in the slums and rural area.

The Indian economy is highly euphoric after the victory of the congress. Even though the Bombay stock exchange lost 200 points today, it has risen by 18% since the 18th of May, the first working day after the elections, demonstrating the fact that the Indian population voted with the hope for a stable government and the economic development of the country.

If the stock exchange is taken as a thermometer or as a sign of the public opinion, in this case, there could not have been a better demonstration of the hope that the people put in the fore coming government.

This sudden rise of 17.3% in just one trading day (18th of May) is also a world record. For similar results we need to go back 76 years, to the of 15 March1933, when the Dow Jones in New York registered a jump of 15.3% in just one day.

The trend was also confirmed the successive day with a further rise of 318 points.

The confidence that the Indian market is putting on the coming government of Manmohan Singh will help India to raise funds abroad on the world markets. Let’s hope that the government of the Congress without the encumbrance of the left parties, as it was in the previous legislature, will be able to introduce reforms for a quick and better development. The experts suggest that the India should be furthermore liberalized so as to encourage direct foreign investments.

India, that faced an economic slowdown due to the global recession, requires farsighted leadership in order to rise once again. The market exuberance is surely a sign of confidence in Manmohan Singh who returns to power without the hindrance of the Left. He was the man behind the first economic reforms during the 90’s, he is an economist and a cool-headed decision maker. It was his determined leadership that help us make the civil nuclear deal with the USA.

A strong economic rise is need to bring the millions of people in the rural areas and 60% of those living in the villages above the poverty line.

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

US for Smaller India Role in Kabul

Pakistan pressure to prune consulate footprint in Afghanistan

New Delhi, May 26: The US administration is nudging India to scale down its presence in Afghanistan — including pruning or closing down its consulates — in line with Islamabad’s demands, sources said.

This stand goes against US policy of the past eight years, when Washington wanted India to send troops to Afghanistan.

The US is now hunting new allies to “stabilise” Pakistan and Afghanistan, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran that have leverage with Islamabad, as President Obama’s Afpak policy takes off.

Delhi’s role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, including infrastructure projects and integrated development projects, has not gone down well with Pakistan, which sees India’s strategic interest in its presence.

Islamabad, which is the epicentre of America’s fight against terror in the region, is pressuring Washington to prevail upon New Delhi to reduce its presence in Afghanistan.

The matter was hinted at in talks with India when Richard Holbrooke, the US administration’s special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, was in Delhi recently. The sources said the US would like India to prune or shut down consulates in Herat and Jalalabad.

Other than the embassy in Kabul, India has four missions in Afghanistan — in Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Jalalabad.

Herat and Jalalabad are in regions where the Taliban are active, and Islamabad accuses India of using its consulates there to whip up anti-Pakistan sentiments. While Herat borders Iran, Jalalabad is close to Pakistan.

The Obama administration is leaning towards Pakistan’s friends China and Saudi Arabia as the fight against the Taliban in the country becomes increasingly tenuous. Holbrooke visited China on April 16 and the US has sounded out Beijing on helping Pakistan fight the insurgents, the sources added.

China has an immediate interest in this, having made huge investments in Pakistan, where some 10,000 of its engineers and technicians work. Besides, Pakistani training camps are blamed for the insurgency in the Xinjiang region of China. With Iran too coming into the picture in US policy on Afghanistan, Washington would be keener on shifting its focus on countries that have greater influence on Islamabad than New Delhi.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Says Being Demonized Over Fake Drugs

BEIJING (Reuters) — A senior Chinese health official complained on Tuesday that his country was being unfairly demonized as a center of fake drug production and defended the government’s regulatory steps as sufficiently strong. China has been battling a string of tainted and counterfeit food and pharmaceutical cases over recent years and has vowed to get tough..

While many of these scandals have only had a domestic impact, others have affected consumers abroad. At least 100 people in Panama are thought to have died in 2006 after consuming toxic, mislabeled drugs in cough syrup from China.

But Bian Zhenjia, deputy head of the State Food and Drug Administration, said China was being unfairly blamed for the problem, especially by foreign media which claim the country is a major exporter of fake drugs.

“I do not agree with what the foreign media say. The Chinese government has always paid a lot of attention to cracking down on fake drugs,” Bian told a news conference.

The problem was that sometimes overseas companies ignored Chinese regulations and did business with unregistered firms, he said.

“We hope that we can work hard together with the rest of the world and crack down on fake drugs, not hype up the problem and launch attacks,” he said, adding some reports on fake drugs from China were simply false.

“If the international community can give us information on fake drugs, we will resolutely investigate. There is no ambiguity about this,” Bian added.

China frequently complains it is misrepresented by overseas media on everything from product quality to its rule of Tibet, and says the journalists ignore China’s side of the story or intentionally seek to blacken its name.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

N. Korea ‘Told U.S., China of Impending Nuke Test’

North Korea notified China and the United States of its plan for the second nuclear test on Monday, a senior government official told reporters Monday. “As far as we know, North Korea informed the United States of its impending second nuclear test just before it was carried out. It seems the test took place immediately afterwards so that the U.S. did not have time to notify us,” the official said. A diplomatic source said the North informed China as well.

But when exactly North Korea told the two countries of its plan is unclear. In the first nuclear test in October 2006, North Korea notified China just an hour before the test, causing subtle tension between the two countries.

The North’s decision seems to be motivated by a strategic judgment, in expectations of pressure by the international community to slap sanctions on North Korea. When the North reported the launch of a long-distance rocket last month to relevant international organizations, it emphasized that the U.S. and China had been notified in advance and the launch was therefore legal. But a South Korean official said, “Giving advance notice will not lessen sanctions that will be imposed on North Korea.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

N. Korea Throws Nuclear Rattle Out of Pram

Whatever else you may say about Kim Jong-il, his sense of timing is exquisite. The first time his regime tested a nuclear device, in October 2006, the underground blast coincided almost exactly with the touchdown on (South) Korean soil of Shinzo Abe, a hardline critic of Pyongyang and then Japan’s prime minister. Mr Abe duly pushed for tougher United Nations sanctions against the North. But, within weeks, plans were set in motion to bring Pyongyang back to a negotiating table where it was offered further goodies to reverse its nuclear ambitions.

This time, reports that North Korea has tested a second bomb come as South Korea is reeling from a homegrown crisis, the suicide of Roh Moo-hyun, president until last year. Roh, who jumped off a cliff on Saturday, was an advocate of the so-called Sunshine Policy of engagement with the North, a strategy that was torn to shreds by Pyongyang’s 2006 nuclear blast.

Roh’s successor, Lee Myung-bak, has pursued a much tougher line against the North, refusing even to send it food aid unless Pyongyang specifically requests it. Arguments over which strategy is right still rage in South Korea: the suicide of Roh, who was being investigated over bribery allegations, will only add fuel to the fire.

What South Korea does may not matter. Whether in sunshine or in rain, North Korea seems determined to press on with its nuclear programme regardless. Monday’s test may have been designed to prove — to itself and to the world — that Pyongyang has improved its capabilities since the 2006 blast, which some military experts suggested might have been something of a damp squib.

North Korea’s official announcement of Monday’s test, which was accompanied for good measure by the firing of a short-range missile, made a point of saying that it had ironed out technical problems. It is too early to know whether this is true.

The likelihood is that North Korea is throwing its radioactive rattle from its pram in an effort to grab the attention of Barack Obama. The new US president has put Pyongyang fairly low down a list of priorities dominated by efforts to get the domestic economy going and to tackle terrorist threats brewing in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East. His administration has taken the view that it will talk to Pyongyang when the time comes, but that there is no rush.

There is, of course, only one thing worse than being talked about. And that is not being talked about. Mr Kim is suitably piqued. Since April, his regime has fired a long-range missile that is technically capable of hitting Alaska — presumably Sarah Palin was keeping an eye out — and restarted a plutonium programme. Now it has tested a bomb. Mr Obama noticed this one. He duly sent out a statement in the wee hours condemning North Korea for “recklessly challenging the international community”.

The US president’s rebuke went on to say that North Korea would not achieve “international acceptance” unless it abandoned its nuclear weapons programme. But the worrying possibility is that Pyongyang may not care.

The growing feeling in Seoul, where even the unification minister struggles to explain the purpose of his ministry, is that North Korea may be trying to dash across the nuclear finishing line. Until recent months, the widespread assumption has been that Mr Kim’s regime has used the nuclear threat as a bargaining chip to press for various concessions: food, oil, cash and direct contact, preferably bilateral talks with Washington.

Now some senior officials speculate that North Korea may have come to the conclusion that the best bargaining chip of all is a certified nuclear bomb capable of being mounted on a warhead. That would certainly grab Mr Obama’s full attention

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

North Korea Threatens to Attack South if Ships Searched

SEOUL (Reuters) — North Korea, facing international censure for this week’s nuclear test, threatened on Wednesday to attack the South after it joined a U.S.-led plan to check vessels suspected of carrying equipment for weapons of mass destruction.

In Moscow, news agencies quoted an official as saying that Russia is taking precautionary security measures because it fears mounting tensions over the test could escalate to war.

Adding to mounting tension in the region, South Korean media reported that Pyongyang had restarted a plant that makes plutonium that can be used in nuclear bombs.

North Korea’s latest threat came after Seoul announced, following the North’s nuclear test on Monday, it was joining the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, launched under the George W. Bush administration as a part of its “war on terror.”

“Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels including search and seizure will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty and we will immediately respond with a powerful military strike,” a North Korean army spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.

He reiterated that the North was no longer bound by an armistice signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War because Washington had ignored its responsibility as a signatory by drawing Seoul into the anti-proliferation effort.

The U.N. Security Council is discussing ways to punish Pyongyang for Monday’s test, widely denounced as a major threat to regional stability and which brings the reclusive North closer to having a reliable nuclear bomb.

Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed security source as saying a stand-off triggered by Pyongyang’s nuclear test on Monday could affect the security of Russia’s far eastern regions, which border North Korea.

“We are not talking about stepping up military efforts but rather about measures in case a military conflict, perhaps with the use of nuclear weapons, flares up on the Korean Peninsula,” the source said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who called him on Wednesday, that Russia would work with Seoul on a new U.N. Security Council resolution and to revive international talks on the North Korean nuclear issue.


Seoul shares closed lower with traders saying the latest rumblings underscored the risks for investors stemming from troubles along the Cold War’s last frontier. The main index has fallen 3 percent this week. The won currency was also down.

The nuclear test has raised concern about Pyongyang spreading weapons to other countries or groups. Washington has accused it of trying try to sell nuclear know-how to Syria and others.

The rival Koreas fought two deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 near a disputed maritime border off their west coast and the North has threatened in the past year to strike South Korean vessels in those Yellow Sea waters.

Analysts say Pyongyang’s military grandstanding is partly aimed at tightening leader Kim Jong-il’s grip on power to better engineer his succession and divert attention from a weak economy, which has fallen into near ruin since he took over in 1994.

Many speculate Kim’s suspected stroke in August raised concerns about succession and he wants his third son to be the next leader of Asia’s only communist dynasty.

North Korea has been punished for years by sanctions and is so poor it relies on aid to feed its 23 million people, but that has not deterred it from provocations.

A U.S. Treasury Department official said it was weighing possible action to isolate the North financially. A 2005 U.S. clampdown on a Macau bank suspected of laundering money for Pyongyang effectively cut the country off from the international banking system.

The secretive North appears to have made good on a threat issued in April of restarting a facility at its Yongbyon nuclear plant that extracts plutonium, South Korea’s largest newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, reported.

“There are various indications that reprocessing facilities in Yongbyon resumed operation (and) have been detected by U.S. surveillance satellite, and these include steam coming out of the facility,” it quoted an unnamed government source as saying.

The Soviet-era Yongbyon plant was being taken apart under a six-country disarmament-for-aid deal. The surveillance had yet to detect any signs that the North, which conducted its only prior nuclear test in October 2006, was again separating plutonium.


North Korea’s meager supply of fissile material is likely down to enough for five to seven bombs after Monday’s test, experts have said. It could probably extract enough plutonium from spent rods cooling at the plant for another bomb’s worth of plutonium by the end of this year.

Japan’s upper house of parliament denounced the test and said in a resolution the government should step up its sanctions.

North Koreans celebrated, with a rally in the capital of top cadres and military brass, KCNA said.

“The nuclear test was a grand undertaking to protect the supreme interests of the DPRK (North Korea) and defend the dignity and sovereignty of the country and nation,” it quoted a communist party official as saying.

The North’s next step may to be resume operations at all of Yongbyon, with experts saying it could take the North up to a year to reverse disablement steps. Once running, it can produce enough plutonium to make one bomb a year.

The hermit state has also threatened to launch a long-range ballistic missile if the Security Council does not apologize for tightening sanctions to punish it for an April launch widely seen as a missile test that violated U.N. measures.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

North Korea Issues Heated Warning to South

TOKYO, May 27 — North Korea announced Wednesday that it is no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War, the latest and most profound diplomatic aftershock from the country’s latest nuclear test two days earlier.

North Korea also warned that it would respond “with a powerful military strike” should its ships be stopped by international forces trying to stop the export of missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The twin declarations, delivered by the country’s state news agency, followed South Korea’s announcement Tuesday that it would join the navies that will stop and inspect suspicious ships at sea. North Korea has repeatedly said that such participation would be a “declaration of war.”

They followed other developments in North Korea that have added to the sense of jangled nerves across northeast Asia since Monday’s underground nuclear test.

The North fired three more short-range missiles off its east coast on Tuesday, said Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. North Korea had fired two missiles into the same waters on Monday.

And U.S. spy satellites have detected signs that North Korea has restarted its nuclear plant, a South Korean newspaper reported Wednesday. Chosun Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean government source as saying that steam has been detected from a reprocessing facility at North Korea’s Yongbyon plant.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Tuesday to her Russian counterpart as part of an effort to seek a united response with “consequences” for North Korea. But U.S. officials also stressed that they are still eager for North Korea to return to multilateral disarmament talks and are not ready to declare the multi-year effort to end North Korea’s nuclear program a failure.

“We feel the door does still remain open, that we’re ready to engage,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly. He described the Obama administration’s effort now as trying to “bring international pressure to bear to get them to reverse their course.”

In Tokyo, a former defense minister and ruling party lawmaker said Japan should consider developing the ability to conduct preemptive strikes against North Korea, even though Japan’s constitution prohibits it from taking offensive military action.

South Korea had long resisted U.S. pressure to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which was created in 2003 by President George W. Bush and includes more than 90 countries that have agreed to stop and inspect suspicious cargo on sea and land.

Seoul was reluctant to rile North Korea, but North Korea’s second nuclear test nudged Seoul Korea to change its policy.

North Korea has long been suspected of shipping or flying missiles to customers in the Middle East and South Asia.

As a member of the security initiative, South Korea is likely to receive intelligence information from the United States, Japan and other countries about ships leaving North Korean ports that may be carrying such goods, a government official said in Tokyo.

Joining the international interdiction effort “is a natural obligation for a mature country,” said South Korea’s foreign minister, Yu Myung-hwan. Even before Monday’s nuclear test, peaceful coexistence on the Korean Peninsula had been sorely tested this spring. The North launched a long-range missile, detained a South Korean citizen, kicked out U.N. nuclear inspectors, restarted a plutonium factory and halted the six-nation negotiations on its nuclear program.

“Inter-Korean relations have hit rock bottom,” said Yun Duk-min, professor of international politics at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, a government think tank in Seoul. “So it is the right thing to join PSI, even if North Korea reacts with resistance.”

“The current U.S. leadership . . . has drawn the puppets [South Korea] into the PSI,” North Korea’s military complained Wednesday in a statement.

North Korea is thought to possess more than 200 mid-range Nodong missiles that can strike nearly any part of Japan. The Japanese government, which has invested billions of dollars in a U.S.-made antimissile defense system, is concerned that the North is making progress in designing nuclear warheads that could fit atop its missiles.

“We must look at active missile defense such as attacking an enemy’s territory and bases,” the former defense minister, Gen Nakatani, said at a meeting of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

In China, where condemnation of the North’s nuclear test was surprisingly swift and unambiguous, the state media on Tuesday printed strong reprimands of North Korea from other countries. The shower of criticism was far different from the reaction to North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, when the Chinese media blamed the United States for provoking Pyongyang by cutting off aid.

“This may well be a reflection of Beijing’s frustrations for not being able to assert control and influence over North Korea,” said Wenran Jiang, research chair of the China Institute at the University of Alberta.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Philippines: 10 Dead in Muslim Clash

MANILA — TEN Muslim extremists were killed on Wednesday in a fierce firefight with government troops on the southern Philippine island of Basilan, the military said.

The death toll could be higher as troops continue to hunt down members of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group who were behind the kidnapping of three local school teachers four months ago, said Captain Neil Estrella.

The group released the teachers on Tuesday, possibly after a ransom was paid.

Mr Estrella said once the safety of the schoolteachers was assured, Marines began ‘stalking the perpetrators.’ They encountered the main body of about 50 Abu Sayyaf members before dawn Wednesday, leading to an intense firefight, he said.

The bodies of 10 Abu Sayyaf members were recovered with no casualties on the government side.

While the fighting has subsided, pursuit of the extremists is continuing, said Mr Estrella.

The Abu Sayyaf are known for kidnapping Christians and foreigners for large ransom payments and have killed their hostages when their demands have not been met.

Earlier this month, the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan beheaded a retired Christian carpenter abducted two months earlier after his family failed to pay a ransom.

Another group of Abu Sayyaf militants continue to hold Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni on the island of Jolo, where they kidnapped him in January. Two other Red Cross workers abducted with Vagni have since been freed.

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

The United States on Tuesday offered up to 2.5 million dollars in rewards for tips leading to the capture of three senior Abu Sayyaf members. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

S. Korea: Let Roh’s Death End Discord

I could comprehend his decision as an individual to take his own life, but it was wrong of him to make such a choice as a leader of the nation.

Last Saturday after former President Roh Moo-hyun died, his supporters trying to set up a mourning altar in front of Seoul City Hall scuffled with police. Mourners with chrysanthemums were lining up to pay tribute, and the police encircled the crowd.

One of the organizers was distributing black ribbons that read “Condolences.” As he approached and offered me a ribbon, I was beset by complicated thoughts.

How should I interpret the death of President Roh? Should I be wearing the ribbon of condolence?

I was touched with compassion and was heartbroken by his death. I felt I understood his pain.

But was he right to choose death?

Even if I could comprehend his decision as an individual to take his own life, it was wrong of him to make such a choice as a leader of the nation.

I turned down the ribbon.

The Roh supporter looked at me with reproachful eyes and asked, “Are you a member of the New Right?” Sadly, it seems Roh’s death is again picking on old scabs.

The death of any man is a sad and pitiful event. Roh’s tragic fate must have been especially heartbreaking to those who supported him. Many young men in black suits visited the mourning altar.

No one has the right to obstruct their grief. The police cannot and should not stop the tears of the mourners. The overly prickly response of the police to the mourning altar on the day of Roh’s death has backfired.

I hope the mourners would be able to cry their full and clear their minds. I wish the tears will wash clean their hearts and bring peace to the country.

Although I understand how Roh had felt, I don’t think his decision was right.

We all experience dead ends in our life. We might be tempted to escape all the suffering by choosing death.

However, we usually say, “I cannot die even if I want to.” We suppress the temptation because of our parents, spouse, children, the job, responsibility or even love.

As a national leader he should have considered the effect of his suicide.

You might argue that a man ready to kill himself cannot afford to think further. However, during his presidency, such spontaneity had been his weakness.

Why did he not think of how solemn it is to be a president and what he represented?

What if he had written, “I end my life because I cannot keep the presidential honor but I hope the nation will transcend division and go a new way with my death?”

Korea already has the disgraceful record of the highest suicide rate in the world. When even someone who had been the president of the country ends his life this way, the impact is bound to be tremendous.

While death to an individual ends everything, his death as a former president should be interpreted differently. It is tragic and heartbreaking, but as a public figure, his act was not appropriate. The funeral procedure should reflect this point.

The prosecutors rebuked him as a criminal [suspect] during his investigation, but immediately after his death, all investigations were closed. While the jurisdiction is no longer valid with the death of the concerned party, it does not change the crime [he is accused of].

I am not suggesting harassing the late president.

We need to find out the truth and make sure whether the prosecutors were not unreasonable. The prosecutors virtually admitted how political they are, making an excuse of struggling politically, and swayed by public sentiment.

The presidential guards should have anticipated the possibility and should have used all appropriate security measures. It is a shame that we are living in a country where a retired president is not guarded properly. It was indeed a tragic event, but it is a separate matter that a country has to defend its position as a nation.

The late President Roh had admired Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln was reelected in the last days of the American Civil War, which left the United States completely devastated.

On April 14, 1865, only six weeks after his second inauguration, he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater near the White House. All Americans, both in the Union and the Confederacy, mourned his death.

In his reelection address, one of his most celebrated speeches, he called for forgiveness and tolerance. He said:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation¡¯s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

When President Lincoln was killed, people pondered the meaning of the address and thought that he might have anticipated his fate and left his last words to Americans.

The meaning of death depends on how those left behind accept the death, not the one who died.

The death of President Roh will have different meanings depending on us.

I would like to propose that his death mean the end of Korea’s division.

It is time to get over the hatred.

His death puts an end to discord that lasted for ten years. Those who loved him, especially, have a duty to make his death meaningful.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

S.Korea May Need Its Own Deterrent

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Following the welcome news that Japan might finally start pulling their weight on their defense and modifying their constitution…]

North Korea said Monday it “successfully” conducted another underground nuclear test. Despite warnings and efforts by the international community to dissuade it, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006 and a second test now. It also launched three short-range missiles. The same day, the state-run news agencies reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had sent a telegram of condolence to former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun’s family.

The U.S. and South Korean governments sensed an artificial seismic wave measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale at around 9:45 a.m. on Monday in Kilju, North Hamgyong Province. The first nuclear test in 2006 created a seismic wave measuring 3.6. The one-point difference on the Richter scale signifies at least a 10-fold increase in the intensity of explosion. North Korea’s nuclear test created a seismic wave around 0.9 points stronger than the original test. U.S. officials say the size of the first nuclear test was equivalent to 1 kt of dynamite, while the second test is estimated equivalent to more than 2 to 3 kt. The power of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan just before the end of World War II in 1945 was around 15 kt and 22 kt.

The long-range rocket North Korea launched on April 5 flew 3,200 km. The effective range had almost doubled compared to the first missile launched in 1998, which flew a distance of 1,620 km. This year, in other words, North Korea has succeeded in more than doubling the power of its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. It is still too early to conclude that the nuclear weapon and long-range missile capabilities are in their final stage of completion. The power of its nuclear weapon lags far behind the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima 64 years ago, while in three separate tests, its long-range missile fell far short of the 7,000 km to 8,000 km range considered the standard for intercontinental ballistic missiles. But if North Korea continues its tests without any limitations, we will soon face a country that has a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

It would then be in a completely different class from South Korea. It would want to be treated as a nuclear power by the international community, and U.S. treatment would also change. North Korea has already demanded to be treated as a nuclear state during the six-party talks and through other channels. If it was, it would no longer try to recognize South Korea as an equal and would attempt to alter the fate of the South by touting its superiority on the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement accusing North Korea of “directly and recklessly challenging the international community.” The South Korean government said the nuclear test was an “intolerable act of provocation.” The U.S. and South Korean governments, along with Japan, plan to pursue a new resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea. The nuclear test is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which bars the North from conducting further tests, necessitating new measures from the council.

But UN sanctions so far have not been effective, and North Korea has scoffed at them. China, which holds the key to deciding on the intensity of sanctions, was angry about the first nuclear test, calling it a “reckless” act. But following the second nuclear test, the Chinese government in foreign ministerial talks in Hanoi, Vietnam said it would “objectively monitor the situation.” North Korea is believed to have given the U.S. and Chinese governments advance notice of its nuclear test. This means that North Korea is considering the resumption of talks with Washington by playing a strategic game.

South Korea faces the most pressing threat due to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICBMs, but has its hands tied behind its back and is incapable of a substantial response due to its commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime signed with the U.S. government. North Korea claims its rationale for having nuclear weapons is to defend itself. South Korea too now requires a deterrent. If the day comes when the republic and the lives of its citizens are threatened, we must take on the problems posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICBMs by realizing that we can no longer accept the limitations of international treaties.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Cabbie Rapist ‘Honest and Caring’

A Sydney cabbie who raped three female passengers is an “honest, caring person who would not harm a soul”, a judge has been told.

Fatima Kazan also said her brother-in-law, Hassan Nagi, was “very, very sorry” for his offences.

She was giving evidence in the Downing Centre District Court on Wednesday at the sentencing hearing of Nagi, 37, of Bexley.

Nagi has pleaded guilty to raping three women, aged 31, 23, and 27, in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

Ms Kazan said she had known Nagi for 10 years and had been shocked to learn of his crimes, adding, “This was out of his character, this is not him.”

She saw her brother-in-law daily. “He is always crying, he is always depressed,” she said.

His lawyer handed up to Judge James Bennett a bundle of material, including “confidential submissions”..

The hearing is continuing.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Visa Changes an Invitation to Smugglers: Opposition

The Federal Opposition says a proposed overhaul of the bridging visa system would further soften Australia’s border protection policies, sending the wrong message to people smugglers.

A Parliamentary inquiry says there need to be changes to how the system works, including offering applicants increased assistance to health care, legal services and accommodation.

The Greens say the changes do not go far enough, the Opposition’s immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone says the recommendations would allow people into the community before they have had their identity and security status checked.

“That is just another message right now that I think is very unhelpful as the people smugglers literally get bigger and bigger boats, and become more and more active in what is a very dangerous and inhumane trade,” she said.

“The message says, ‘Look, we’re not even going to complete all of your identity checks before we pass you into Perth or Adelaide or some other community where you can work, where you’ll be given unemployment benefits if you can’t get a job, where we’ll find you decent accommodation’.”

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

MP Calls for HIV Positive Citizens to be Branded on the Buttocks

Swazi residents were asked on Tuesday to debate a politician’s call for HIV positive citizens to be branded on the buttocks, which has sparked an uproar in the small mountain kingdom.

The Times of Swaziland asked for feedback on best ways to combat HIV and rights to freedom of speech after Timothy Myeni told fellow politicians that all Swazis should be tested for HIV and their backsides marked if infected.

“I have a solution to this virus. The solution will come from a law that will make it compulsory to test for HIV. Once you test positive, you should be branded on the buttocks,” the member of Parliament said last week.

“Before having sex with anyone, people will then check the buttocks of their partners before proceeding with their mission,” the newspaper reported him saying.

Landlocked Swaziland is one of the world’s poorest nations with the highest HIV prevalence in the world under the rule of Africa’s last absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Miyeni, who leads a popular gospel group, has stuck to his call for compulsory HIV testing but apologised for the buttocks branding suggestion.

“I am very sorry for saying HIV positive people should be branded, I did not know it would turn out like this. I have seen that the suggestion was very offensive and many think I was discriminating, so I withdraw my statement,” he said last week.

Reader responses will be published in the Times of Swaziland next Tuesday, the newspaper said in its online edition.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Bolivia Denies Supplying Iran With Uranium

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia on Tuesday denied supplying uranium to Iran, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed Israeli allegations that the two countries have been aiding Tehran’s nuclear program.

Bolivian Mining Minister Luis Alberto Echazu said his country doesn’t even produce the radioactive metallic element, though he acknowledged that officials believe the country has some untapped uranium deposits.

“There isn’t even a precise geological study of uranium deposits, and much less can there be talk of export” to another country, he said.

A secret Israeli Foreign Ministry report, obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, cites previous Israeli intelligence assessments saying “there are reports that Venezuela supplies Iran with uranium for its nuclear program” and that “Bolivia also supplies uranium to Iran.”

Chavez said during a visit to Brazil that it’s one more in a list of accusations his government must fight off, including that “we’re a paradise for drug trafficking, that we protect terrorists.”

“They accuse us of anything,” Chavez said. “I saw in the press yesterday… a supposed official document of the Israeli government where it says Venezuela is supporting Iran in the construction of the atomic bomb.”

Chavez didn’t directly deny the Israeli report’s assertion, but he has often joked that critics want to make it appear Venezuela and Iran are producing an “atomic bicycle” together. Iran is helping to produce bicycles and tractors in the South American country among various joint projects.

Bolivian Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana described Israel’s intelligence agency as a bunch of incompetent “clowns,” and Echazu said the Bolivian Foreign Ministry plans to issue a formal response to the report’s assertion.

Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales have built close ties with Iran and have fiercely opposed Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Both Venezuela and Bolivia broke off ties with Israel in January to protest its offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Chavez has backed Iran’s assertion that its nuclear program is purely to produce energy, despite Israel’s contention that Iran is building atomic weapons.

Israel’s three-page report about Iranian activities in Latin America was prepared before a visit to the region by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who plans to attend a meeting of the Organization of American States in Honduras next week. The report did not specify where the uranium allegedly supplied by the two countries originated.

The U.S. State Department declined to comment, referring questions to Israeli officials. It did say that the U.S. is watching closely for any violations of U.N. resolutions that bar countries from selling sensitive material to Iran.

“All U.N. members are obligated to implement existing U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions on Iran,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. “We are certainly monitoring for any indication or any actions that might be in breach.”

Some analysts doubt that Iran currently is receiving uranium from other countries.

“Iran does not need to import uranium from abroad” at this time, said Farideh Farhi, a researcher at the University of Hawaii who is an expert on Iran’s foreign policy. “Iran has uranium deposits itself. There is a real issue about Iran’s deposits being large enough to sustain the ambitious enrichment program Iran is envisioning in the future, but at this point this is not an issue.”

While defending Iran, Chavez has also expressed interest in starting a nuclear energy program in Venezuela — and Russia has agreed to help under an agreement signed during a November visit by President Dmitry Medvedev.

According to the agreement, published earlier this month in Venezuela’s Official Gazette, Russia plans to help Venezuela in the “exploration and exploitation of fields of uranium and thorium, to be used for peaceful purposes.”

Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko said through an interpreter during Medvedev’s visit that “we are ready to teach students in nuclear physics and nuclear engineering.” He also referred to geological studies and “looking for uranium” in Venezuela. It’s unclear when that could begin.

Chavez said during a visit to Tehran last month that his government and Iran have been discussing plans for a joint mining company. He said “Iran has helped us a lot in making a map of Venezuelan mining” — apparently showing known deposits of gold, diamonds and other minerals. He didn’t elaborate on which minerals Iran would be involved in mining.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Alleged People Smuggler Arrested After Arriving in Perth

Alleged people smuggler Hadi Ahmadi has been arrested by Australian Federal Police in Perth following his extradition from Indonesia.

The dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen had been in custody in Jakarta since Indonesian police arrested him last June, at Australia’s request.

He was arrested and taken into custody by Australian authorities after arriving at Perth Airport last night.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus welcomed the news, saying Ahmadi would face 21 people-smuggling charges relating to four boat arrivals in 2001.

“Australia is grateful to Indonesia for its bilateral co-operation,” Mr Debus said in statement late last night.

Following the arrest, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said Australia would continue to work with its neighbours to crack down on people smugglers.

“The Government has renewed efforts to work closely with regional countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to prevent and deter people from attempting to enter Australia unlawfully,” Senator Evans said.

Ahmadi is accused of smuggling more than 900 asylum seekers to Australia in four separate sea voyages from April to August 2001.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last month approved Ahmadi’s extradition.

At the time of his arrest, authorities described Ahmadi — who has allegedly used more than a dozen aliases — as a “big fish” in people smuggling.

Ahmadi denies the allegations.

“That’s a big lie. I swear to God that’s a big lie,” he told the Nine Network.

“They’re just scapegoating me.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Iraqi Asylum Seekers ‘Will be Sent Home’

Taking shelter in a church will not have an effect on the government’s decision to expel refugees whose request for asylum has been denied

Immigration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech left no doubt yesterday that 60 Iraqi asylum seekers taking refuge in a Copenhagen church would have no influence on the government’s decision to return all 282 rejected Iraqi asylum seekers living in Denmark to their home country.

‘They will be sent home, no matter where they are,’ Hornbech said during consultation with members of parliament on Tuesday. ‘I hope that they head home on their own as soon as they read the writing on the wall.’

The Iraqis currently being granted shelter by Broroson Church in Nørrebro sought protection after a deal was reached with the Iraqi government clearing the way for the return of refugees whose applications for asylum have been rejected. Some have been living in Denmark for up to ten years, and some of the children have lived only in Denmark. Although some of the Iraqis are Christians, Hornbech has criticised the group for seeking protection in a church, instead of a mosque. During the consultation, however, she rejected criticism of that position.

The asylum seekers refuse to return to Iraq out of fear that their lives would be at risk if they returned home or because they have remained in Denmark so long that they no longer have ties to the country. The opposition called for the creation of residency status to accommodate their situation.

‘I can’t just give 282 people residency because the opposition wants a new immigration policy. That’s rebellious, distasteful, and disgusting.’

Although the Brorson Church parish council is allowing the Iraqis to live in its basement until at least August, should the state issue an order for the Iraqis to return home, the police are permitted to remove them forcibly.

The first Iraqis are expected to be sent home next month.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Processing Times of Asylum Applications Drawn Out

Nearly 1,200 waiting for interviews with Immigration Service

Asylum seekers are waiting up to 200 days before getting into an interview with the Finnish Immigration Service. The waiting times have nearly doubled from last year, when interviews took place inside just over three months.

Nearly 1,200 people are waiting to be interviewed to assess their eligibility for a residence permit in Finland. A sharp increase in the number of asylum applicants since August last year has had a major effect on the lengthening of application times.

Last autumn and winter, an average 500 asylum seekers came to Finland every month. In the spring, the pace had declined somewhat.

“In addition to the backlogged interview situation, another bottleneck is that the police are having difficulties in delivering the protocols of the interviews to the Immigration Service, because of a shortage of resources”, says Marjo Mäkelä, an official at the Finnish Immigration Service.

“Now we are interviewing those who applied for asylum in September 2008, and longer handling times are expected.”

Asylum applications, or applications for international protection, are handled either as normal or expedited procedure.

Bringing down the average processing time is the expedited procedure, in which the average is just over 100 days. Nearly half of all applications fall into this category.

The faster processing is for applicants coming from countries generally considered safe, and for applications which appear to be without foundation. Also, cases falling under the Dublin Convention, in which the applicant’s case is the responsibility of another EU country (and also Norway, Iceland, or Switzerland), are also processed more quickly.

Nearly half of all applications are “Dublin cases”.

The backlog has been anticipated, and more personnel has been hired to deal with the surge. On Monday, 30 new civil servants started work at the Immigration Service, focusing on interviews.

The new employees were given two-year contracts, and are located in Helsinki, Oulu, and Imatra.

The Finnish Immigration Service is expecting up to EUR 6,000 people to seek asylum in Finland this year. By the beginning of May there were slightly fewer applicants than had been anticipated — about 2,000.

Most asylum applicants still come from Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Germany is Losing the Cream of Its Workforce to Other Countries

A new migration study says an alarming number of highly qualified Germans are packing their skills and certificates and heading for foreign shores, the majority of them on a one-way ticket.

Researchers at the independent Council of Experts on Integration and Migration have found that some 180,000 Germans have left their country in the past five years. And that, says Council chairman Klaus J. Bade, presents a national-scale “personnel problem.”

He says it’s time for politicians to wake up and realize that those who are leaving are better qualified than those coming in from elsewhere. One field where the personnel pinch is being acutely felt is medicine.

The Council’s latest report shows that more than 3,000 medical staff, most of whom were trained in Germany, left the country in 2008. That brings the total number of German doctors working abroad to 19,000. Meanwhile, Bade points out, there are places in the eastern part of the country, the former GDR, where the lack of medical practitioners is reaching crisis proportions.

In order for the situation to change, Bade says it’s crucial to take a new look at immigration laws. He suggests a system which would give priority to people who could offer Germany needed skills.

The migration researcher also said Germany should do more to attract international talent. “We don’t operate a welcome culture,” he said, adding it was high time Germany implemented a national policy for easier recognition of foreign qualifications and that there should be active encouragement for foreign students to stay in Germany after graduation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Guantanamo: Tunis Prepared to Welcome Its Citizens, Minister

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 26 — Tunisia is prepared to welcome all its citizens held in the US prison in Guantanamo, said Justice and Human Rights Minister Bechir Tekkari. “We are willing to take in all Tunisian prisoners” said the minister “and to examine their situation following criminal procedures and presuming their innocence”. The United States has asked Italy to receive two Tunisian prisoners from Guantanamo: Riadh Nasri (alias Riagh Bil MohammedNasseri) and Moez Fezzani. In 2007 the Milanese magistracy issued a warrant for the arrest of the two men, charged with criminal association, aiding and abetting immigration and logistic support to a cell of the Salafite Group for Preaching and Combat. Regarding the requests made by Washington to Italy and other European countries, the Tunisian justice minister said that “the problem concerns the United States and Europe”. “Tunisia” he confirmed “is ready to take in all its citizens”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Forced Returns Avoid Tragedies, Berlusconi Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Forced returns avoid “tragedies at sea”, said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in an interview on ‘Radio Radio’. The premier said that, in Italy, “10% of citizens are foreigners — most of whom are well-integrated, respect the law and contribute to our economy though their labour. I don’t believe we should open our borders to everyone. People who come here without work end up in the hands of crime, as shown by the percentage of immigrants in our prisons. We must open our doors to those who come here legally, according to the established quota. Our doors should stay firmly closed to mass immigration, which instead was a recurring theme of the previous government”. “Forced returns,” Berlusconi stressed, “avoid tragedies at sea. If the boats reach our territorial waters, we’ll welcome them. But if they are intercepted outside our waters we’ll assist them and bring them back to the safety of the Libyan coast. There is a UN agency in Libya they can turn to, which verifies any asylum requests. If the conditions are met we will welcome them.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘More European Help’ Needed on Illegal Immigration, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 26 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Tuesday reiterated an appeal for European Union assistance on illegal immigration to help lift the pressure off southern European countries bearing the brunt of the influx. Speaking after a meeting with his Maltese counterpart Tonio Borg, Frattini said Italy and Malta would try to avoid the repeat of an incident in April which saw a four-day stand-off between the two countries on rescuing a Turkish freighter, the Pinar, carrying 140 migrants and the dead body of a pregnant woman. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi eventually ordered the migrants to be rescued on humanitarian grounds. Frattini said Italy and Malta would collaborate to prevent similar events via patrols near the Libyan coasts, “from which 95% of immigrants set off”. Last week Frattini welcomed European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s decision to include the immigration issue on the agenda of the June EU leaders’ summit. At a meeting with European Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot on April 24, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and his Maltese counterpart Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici received assurances that the rest of the EU would give them more help in dealing with illegal immigration. Barrot said the EC was ready to offer financial help to the two countries, which bear the brunt of immigrants leaving the North African coast for Europe, and would also propose measures that would mean other member states would share the burden of illegal immigration. He said that sooner or later other EU countries would have to cope with immigrants who arrive on the Italian and Maltese coasts arriving on their territory. Maroni meanwhile called on the EU to reinforce the role of its border agency Frontex, suggesting that it should be made responsible for the creation and management of “EU repatriation centres”. If Europe shared the burden of arrivals in this way, “the problem would resolve itself” and cases like that of the 140 stranded migrants “would never happen”, he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Minister Vows Govt to Keep Turning Back Migrant Boats

Roma, 22 May (AKI) — The Italian government will continue to intercept illegal immigrant boats in international waters in the Mediterranean and return them before they have a chance to claim asylum in Italy, interior minister Roberto Maroni said on Monday.

The practice, which is part of the government’s hardline approach to illegal immigration, has drawn criticism from the United Nations, the Catholic church and the Italian opposition.

“The policy is extremely effective in fighting illegal immigration and we will continue with it unhesitatingly,” said Maroni, addressing the Italian Senate.

Maroni also claimed that the policy of actively patrolling international waters for illegal immigrants and returning them does not breach international law and added that so far it has caused a drastic fall in the number of migrants reaching the Italian coast.

“It is a very effective deterrent , it save lives lost at sea and is causing a drastic fall in the number illegal immigrants reaching Italy by boat,” Maroni said.

The policy stems from a deal signed between Italy and Libya last year. Under the deal, Italian and Libyan vessels began joint patrols of the Mediterranean this month.

The government argues that the United Nations refugee should assess would-be immigrants’ requests for asylum at camps in Libya and other North African countries before they are admitted to Italy or other European countries.

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

Libya: 400 Traffickers and Illegals Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MAY 26 — During the night between last Friday and Saturday (the news was reported today) the Libyan Interior Ministry arrested about 400 people in an operation to fight illegal immigration. The operation involved the arrest of human traffickers, almost all of whom were Libyan, and illegal immigrants. The latter were found in a makeshift tent in an area that was not reported, where they were waiting to depart. In addition to ground-based activities, sea-based activities were employed beginning yesterday morning, including three motorboats from the Guardia di Finanza that were given to Libya May 14, and that are now based in Zuwarah, the port of departure for most of the small boats headed for Europe. The report for the first day of patrols, according to local sources, spoke of “normal service”. “The 3 vessels patrolled the coast off of Zuwarah,” the source confirmed, “and are ready to intervene whenever necessary when notified by other units.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands to Help Greece With Asylum Seekers

The Minister for Alien Affairs and Integration, Nebahat Albayrak, has offered to help Greece with its asylum policy. Dutch press agency ANP reports that a mission of asylum experts will travel to the southern European country from the Netherlands to share their knowledge on the matter and to see if the Greeks need any practical support.

Following a meeting in Athens with Greek officials involved in monitoring the border, the minister said it is important for European countries to work together to combat illegal immigration. She told Dutch public broadcaster NOS “If we do not invest in cooperation with countries on the southern European border, we will never solve our own migration problem.”

The Greek authorities are planning to use a cruise ship to pick up asylum seekers who arrive on the Greek islands in small boats. The idea is that the ship will sail to wherever the asylum seekers are and that procedures begin on board. According to Ms Albayrak the key issue is to determine whether an asylum seeker is entitled to protection or whether the person is an economic migrant.

The mission is made up of experts from the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND), the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and the Repatriation Service. The minister will visit a detention centre on the Greek island of Samos on Wednesday before she leaves for Malta where she will also discuss the problem of illegal migration on Thursday and Friday.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sweden: UN Slams Sweden for Child Rights Failure

Sweden continues to shirk United Nations-mandated obligations guaranteeing children the right to education, prompting the international body to call government officials to testify as to why many refugee children in hiding do not attend school in Sweden.

As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC), Sweden must guarantee children a number of human rights to ensure they can “develop to their full potential”, including the right to primary education.

But the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has criticized Sweden several times for failing to provide education to all children living in Sweden, according to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

At issue is the status of children in Sweden who have had their refugee status claims rejected and are due to be deported.

While the government examined the matter in a 2007 report, many child advocacy groups criticized the report for a lack of comprehensiveness.

The groups, which include Save the Children, the Swedish Church, and the Swedish Paediatric Society (Svenska barnläkarföreningen), are also upset with what they see as the government’s failure to prioritize the issue at the same time as children continue to suffer.

“Now the same question is up for the third time in front of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child,” said Henry Ascher, chair of the paediatric association’s working group for refugee children, to DN.

“We paediatricians who deal with asylum seekers and children in hiding see what an enormous difference there is between children who go to school and those who live in dark apartments with curtains drawn together with parents who aren’t doing well.”

In a response to the latest inquiry from the UN, the Swedish government said it plans to review and update the 2007 report and on Wednesday, Karin Johansson, a state secretary under social affairs minister Göran Hägglund, will testify before the UN’s children’s committee.

While the previous report included a number of proposed changes to Swedish law, it failed to address the issue education access for “paperless” children, who often times go into hiding with their families to avoid being deported, or who have not applied for residence permits because their parents also reside in Sweden without proper permits.

While Sweden doesn’t prohibit “paperless” children from attending school or preschool, a lack of clear regulations usually result in individual teachers or principals deciding which children are accepted.

Another issue is that schools aren’t considered safe zones, which means children in hiding or their parents could be taken by police while on school grounds.

While police rarely take advantage of the situation, it can happen, according to Save the Children’s Sanna Vestin.

“Just the knowledge that police have the right to do it means that certain parents don’t dare let their children attend school,” she told the newspaper

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigrants Choose England Over Scotland

Scotland’s perception of itself as an increasingly multi-ethnic and diverse country will be challenged today by official figures that show almost all of the net international immigration to Britain since 1991 has gone to England.

Between 1991 and the 2007 a net 2.14million migrants came to England. But in Scotland for the same period net foreign migration was a paltry 105,000.

In effect, the statistics mean that England absorbed 20 times more international migrants than Scotland even though the population is only 10 times larger. England also took 11 times more migrants than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined, even though its population is only 5 times larger than these three parts of the UK put together.

Balanced Migration, a cross-party group of MPs that includes Labour’s Frank Field and the Conservative Party’s Nicholas Soames, said: “This research shows that immigration is overwhelmingly an issue for England rather than other parts of the UK.”England can expect a population increase of nearly 10million people in the next 20 years or so, of which 7million will be thanks to new immigration. The political establishment is in denial on immigration — even though it is of concern to nearly 80 per cent of the population.”

The migration figures suggest that recent efforts by Scotland to attract more skilled foreign workers to the country have not given it any significant advantage.

The Fresh Talent initiative, introduced by the Scottish Executive in 2005, gave foreign students graduating in Scotland the opportunity to stay and work in the country for two years, one year more than if they graduated in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Nick Bailey, a senior lecturer in urban studies at the University of Glasgow, said: “Scotland has long sought to increase its population or stem the decline through net out-migration. Recent actions have included Glasgow taking one of the highest concentrations of asylum-seekers outside London. But people tend to drift back to the South East [of England] because that is where they see the economic opportunities and that is where the main established communities of recent migrants are.”

Scotland’s image of itself as a multi- ethnic country was recently underlined by Holyrood’s £2.4million campaign to combat racism — “One Scotland. Many Cultures.”

David Martin, who is number one on Labour’s Scottish list of candidates for the European parliamentary elections next week, said that statistics proved that the claims of the British National Party were baseless.

“Scotland is and always has been enriched by other nations and cultures. With a declining population in Scotland, we need to attract people of talent to lend their skills to Scotland. That is why Labour’s new points-based immigration system is fair and robust,” he said.

Murdo Fraser, the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said that geography played a major part in where foreign migrants settled because their main point of entry to the UK was in London or the South East.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said that the Balanced Migration data showed why the Fresh Talent initiative was needed. “We believe that there is an opportunity to attract talented and motivated individuals to live, work and study in Scotland, which we must continue to publicise and promote,” she said.

“Moreover, this data makes it clear that a ‘one size fits all’ immigration system does not work.

“Scotland has distinct population challenges — common sense, detailed research, the experience of Fresh Talent in action, and international best practice all demonstrate the need to develop a policy based on Scottish circumstances. That is why ministers and officials continue to press the Home Office for Scottish flexibilities within the points-based system, which would help disperse migrant workers from the south of England.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UN to Deter Refugees in Calais From Heading to Britain

The United Nations refugee agency is to set up an office in the French port of Calais to encourage some of the hundreds of migrants sheltering there not to try to get to Britain, it said on Tuesday.

Among other assistance, the undocumented immigrants — most of whom are in France illegally and plan to sneak into Britain — will be told that if they wish, they can attempt to claim refugee status in France instead.

“It’s not about trying to convince people to seek asylum in France, but simply to give them the information they need to make an informed decision,” said Francisco Galindo, representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The agency said it would bring refugee assistance groups from Britain to Calais to try to explain the reality of life there to would-be refugees who have travelled thousands of kilometres dreaming of a better future.

The constant stream of illegal immigrants arriving in Calais, most of the from Southwest Asia and Africa, has been a source of tension between London and Paris and has stirred anger in the French Channel port itself.

Mr Galindo said the office would open on June 3 after lengthy negotiations with French authorities.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


The Green Fox said...

Hi GOV, what do you make of this?

'Muslims are positioning themselves as the founders of America'

Zenster said...

North Korea, sensing a foreign policy vacuum at the highest levels of the United States government, is becoming increasingly bellicose. After testing a nuclear device and a short-range missile, it has repudiated the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and says that any interference with its global arm sales constitutes an act of war.

As is so often the case, these backwater bullies get it all wrong. Interference has nothing to do with it.

North Korea's arms sales are an act of war.

X said...

I've had some moroccan wine. Not bad, but doesn't travel very well. In fact one bottle my parents had brought back for us oxidised and sedimented out the moment we opened it. It literally looked like it turned to blood, it was freaky.