Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/22/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/22/2009Vice President Biden — perhaps in an effort to counteract the debacle of Obama’s visit to Russia — has affirmed that it is still American policy to get Ukraine into NATO. The Russian response to this toothless gambit should be interesting.

In other news, for public-relations purposes Israel has decided to disseminate photographs of the Grand Mufti’s infamous visit with Hitler.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, Tuan Jim, Zonka, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Bernanke Says Fed Can Take on Supercop Role
Book Review: Outplaying Your Partner Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler
Akron Attack Victims Frustrated With Police Response
Did Radical Muslims Help Send Obama to Harvard?
Manhattan Moment: Regulation, Not Size, Is Health Care’s Biggest Problem
Mayo Clinic Calls House Plan Bad Medicine
Minnesota’s Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy Linked to Missing Somali Youths
Obama’s Racist Demagoguery
Obamacare: The Fast and the Furious
Republican Delays U.S. Nominees Over Honduras Policy
Stakelbeck on Christians United for Israel Conference
The Politics of Distraction
Canada a Key Source of Tamil Tiger Funding
Terry Glavin: Sheltering Hate While Preaching Tolerance Among Canadian Muslims
Europe and the EU
Biden Says U.S. Still Backs Ukraine in NATO
Danes Saving Malmö Economy
France: Corsica Police Station Car-Bombed
Germany: HIV-Positive Man Gets Further Eight Years for Unprotected Sex
Germany: Deutsche Bank Admits to Four Spying Cases
Ireland: Blasphemy Provisions Clash With Constitution
Irish Foreign Minister: ‘Wouldn’t a Dictatorship be Simpler?’
Norway/TV: ‘The Wanted’: Set Aside Your Apprehensions
Norwegian Gov’t Response
UK: Bruce Anderson: The British Admire Their Army — But They Don’t Understand It
UK: How Labour Keeps the Lower Classes in Their Place
UK: I Made Friends With Death: Nurse’s Graphic Account of Ten-Day Kidnap Nightmare in the Boot of a Car
UK: MOD Rejected Three Deals to Buy Black Hawk Helicopters
UK: School Bully Who Drove Girl, 14, To Brink of Suicide With Racist Taunts is Convicted in Landmark Case
UK: Somali Gangster Jailed for Life for Killing Policewoman Sharon Beshenivsky
Ukraine General ‘Killed Reporter’
Croatia: Tito’s Island-Prison Turned Into Natural Paradise
Kosovo NGOs Protest Perceived Visa Snub
North Africa
Economy: Tunisia Receives EU Funds for Neighbourhood Project
Israel and the Palestinians
‘Au Revoir’ To France and ‘Shalom’ To Israel
France: 2,000 Jews to Leave Country for Israel in 2009
Israeli Textbooks to Drop ‘Nakba’
Israel to Use Hitler Shot for PR
Outpost Evacuation, Fight on Saturday Permitted, Rabbi
Press: Israeli Army Prepare to Dismantle 23 Outposts
Middle East
Faith and Worship Exhibit to be Held in Abu Dhabi
GCC to Continue With US Currency Peg, Analyst Says
Iraq: UN Calls for More Protection for Christians
Jordan Rebuffs Right Wing Jews Plan to Buy Land in Kingdom
Lebanon: Anti-UNIFIL Terror Cell Dismantled
Russians Poised for Confrontation With Muslims
South Asia
Indonesia: Police Ban Radical Indonesian Cleric in Aftermath of Jakarta Bombings
Indonesia: Marriott Bomber Singled Out Mining Meeting
Indonesia: Terror Hits Home for Family
Indonesia: Terrorist Delivers What Boss Ordered
Far East
China Takes Hard Line Against Uyghurs, Local Authorities to Adopt Special Anti-Separatism Law
China Says Falun Gong Ban ‘Works’
Australia — Pacific
Family Wants Action on Melbourne Crime
Latin America
The Legionaries’ Last Stand. An Exclusive Interview With Fr. Thomas Berg
Finland: Many Immigrants Trapped in Language Courses
Greece: Five Migrant Reception Units on Cards
Illegal Immigration a Crime. A Long List of Italian Intellectuals Have Protested Vociferously
Italy: Doctors Line Up for Jobs Abroad
Italy: Migrants ‘Afraid to Seek Medical Care’ Due to New Laws
James Jay Carafano: “Smart and Tough” Immigration Enforcement Fools No One
UK: Arrested in Their Wedding Dresses: The Moment Foreign Brides Were Seized in ‘Bogus Marriage’ Raid
UK: Bogus College Action ‘Inadequate’
Culture Wars
Judges ‘Stealth Plan’ Promotes Same-Sex Marriage

Financial Crisis

Bernanke Says Fed Can Take on Supercop Role

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday fended off congressional skepticism about expanding the Fed’s duties to police big financial companies given the central bank’s failure to catch problems that led to the financial crisis.

Bernanke also faced some grilling from the House Financial Services Committee about taxpayer bailouts of financial companies, slow moving efforts to curb home foreclosures and concerns about the Fed’s track record in protecting consumers from abusive practices from lenders, credit card companies and other financial service providers.

“The Fed has made some big mistakes,” said the panel’s highest-ranking Republican, Spencer Bachus of Alabama. Letting the Fed become the financial supercop would be “just inviting a false sense of security” that would be shattered at taxpayers’ expense, he warned.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Book Review: Outplaying Your Partner Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler

When you buy for US$2 in New York an umbrella that’s made in China, you have to wonder how they do it. After all, the umbrella components have to cost something, there’s shipping, and there’s profit for numerous middlemen and the retailer. Among the economic miracles unfolding in China over the past two decades, the most mysterious may be how a country that skipped the Industrial Revolution, substituting the Cultural Revolution, became the low-cost factory floor to the world.

Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the Tactics Behind China’s Production Game provides fascinating and disturbing answers. Chinese manufacturers cut corners wherever they can, from product quality to factory equipment and maintenance. They unilaterally change product and packaging specifications to trim costs. They raise prices after the deal is signed, leaving the importer to absorb the added cost. They reproduce their customers’ products for sale at higher margins in other markets. With support from government, bankers, and networks of fellow manufacturers, they conduct manufacturing and customer relations as a game, treating the other party as a patsy not a partner, playing for the short term of making an extra penny at the risk of product quality but also taking a long-term, multidimensional outlook that outflanks the hapless customer.

Paul Midler, a self-styled version of Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe investigating on behalf of importers, shows readers the dark side of Chinese manufacturing. A Chinese-speaking American with more than a decade of experience in China and a Wharton MBA, Midler himself seems to have followed the relationship curve he describes for Chinese manufacturers and importers. It begins with infatuation and satisfaction beyond expectation, but turns into a source of constant frustration at a situation in which the Chinese manufacturer has the upper hand, taking advantage because the bond is now too difficult to sever.

Poorly Made in China provides ample evidence supporting the Hong Kong adage that once you sign a contract in China, that’s when the real negotiations begin.

To Midler, lead paint in toys and melamine in baby milk formula are not surprises but predictable outcomes from a manufacturing culture that takes customers for granted and assumes no responsibility for its outputs.

‘All we need is your sample’ Despite that approach, China for nearly a decade has been phenomenally attractive to importers, particularly Americans. Even though other countries can undersell it, China remains the top choice for contract manufacturing. China has better infrastructure and internal stability than low-cost producers such as Vietnam or India, so shipping channels are more reliable. It has a wide range of manufacturers, eager to make anything importers want, offering the equivalent of “no money down” deals, driven by the mantra, “All we need is your sample”.

Intangibles also boost the Middle Kingdom’s appeal to Westerners. China is exotic without being bizarre, romantically foreign yet as familiar as the local Chinatown. People may speak a different language and use that weird writing, but they wear familiar clothes, not robes or headdresses. Chinese don’t pray five times a day, sacrifice animals, or insist visitors adopt odd gestures such as bowing. While this 4,000-year-old civilization insists on its cultural uniqueness, modern China has also made conscious efforts to accommodate Western business. For example, Midler cites the widespread use of English names, in sharp contrast to Japan or India, where cultural barriers for foreigners begin with local names.

As more United States companies turned to China for contract manufacturing and Chinese goods became ubiquitous in the US, it became trendy to use China for production (just as Western exporters have felt compelled to have a China strategy to penetrate its market). Doing business in China is the sign of a savvy 21st century company.

Midler frames his tale around US importer Johnson Carter, supplying large chain stores with house-brand shampoo and soaps, run by a sharp salesman called Bernie. Midler finds it odd to manufacture products that are mostly water in China and ship them halfway around the world, but that’s not his business. The Chinese manufacturer is King Chemical, located outside Guangzhou, the trading center once known as Canton, owned by Sister and her husband A-Min. (Names in the book are altered, according to Midler, but the stories are genuine.)

Who’s fooling who? Bernie first called Midler to examine King Chemical’s factory. Midler reported to Bernie his suspicion that the production line had been arranged for his benefit and that the factory wasn’t actually making anything. Bernie said he suspected the same thing on his earlier visit. Rather than disqualifying King Chemicals, the charade made Bernie more anxious to do business with them. “They’re desperate for my business,” he observed. Bernie was a Syrian Jew, a group with a long, proud commercial history, and he thought he knew all the tricks of the trade. He was about to learn new tricks: even when making soap in China, one hand doesn’t wash the other.

Chinese manufacturers are dismal at marketing their products but are masters at winning deals then playing their importer customers. King Chemical’s initial ruse illustrates the lengths that Chinese factories go to capture business. Even Bernie found himself wondering how King Chemicals could make money selling him a bottle of shampoo for US$0.30, including the pump, label and contents.

One answer emerged when Midler accidentally heard about King’s “other factory”. That facility was making Bernie’s products but for an Australia importer paying a higher price than Bernie. The practice was common; factories took on clients for little or no profit to learn product formulas and designs that they could recycle into “second markets” such as Africa at higher margins. This model helps explain why many products cost less in rich countries where people can afford to pay more, and why Africans find bargains shopping in New York and London.

Non-profit business For Chinese manufacturers, a deal with an importer can be desirable even if it doesn’t appear profitable. Reasons range from domestic counterfeiting opportunities to status to customer contacts (for disintermediation — cutting out the importer to deal direct with retailers) — to cash flow or capital (secured by an enlarged plant) for other investments. While most small importers are playing checkers, focusing on profit on each contract, Chinese manufacturers are playing chess — and playing to win — Midler says.

Midler recounts how manufacturers outplay importers across the board, sometimes to shave costs, sometimes to save trouble, sometimes for the fun of the game. One explanation of Mattel’s lead paint debacle in 2007 was that the toy giant’s supplier’s supplier switched the paint as part of routine gamesmanship.

On Johnson Carter orders, without consulting Midler or Bernie, King Chemical switched to thinner bottles, flimsier packing cartons, different fragrances (because Sister said she didn’t like one soap’s smell), and new product formulas, one that caused itching and another that clotted at temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Sister gave away the clotting problem by asking about the weather in the shipment’s destination city, Chicago, but she wouldn’t reveal the ingredients of the altered formula when Johnson Carter tried to find a way to fix it.

King Chemical also tried to ship improperly filled and mislabeled bottles. In each instance, the factory suggested the importer take the shipment and deal with the fallout from customers, King Chemical only offering assurances to do better next time.

Doesn’t wash anymore Midler points how these games can turn dangerous. At King Chemical, poor factory oversight and lax employee discipline put people with skin infections on the production line, risking product contamination. Factories slap on quality-control stickers but they’re meaningless. Midler laughs at “No Animal Testing” labels on Johnson Carter products — because there’s no testing at all. Laboratories can only check for a specific substance in each costly test, and there’s no limit to the harmful substances that might have been introduced to a product, either accidentally or by changes to the product formula without the importer’s knowledge, so most importers just cross their fingers. While working with Johnson Carter, Midler became so paranoid that he stopped using soap.

Manufacturers get away with these stunts, including arbitrary price increases, because once an importer starts a contract manufacturing relationship with a supplier, it’s usually stuck. As with a marriage, it’s often generally better to try to work things out than break up. The cost and effort of finding another manufacturer — and networking between manufacturers to discourage poaching clients — mean that importers have few options, unless they’re ready to forego supply for several months. The longer the relationship, the more the factory takes the upper hand, according to Midler. Manufacturers expertly play importers’ anxieties, and the customer often winds up begging the factory to deliver the product.

For the factory, an established relationship becomes a one-way street, not a partnership. According to Midler, the Chinese side simply looks for all the advantage it can, using every tool at its disposal. The author sees that as a cautionary tale beyond the world of manufacturers and importers to the heart of US diplomacy with China. The prospect of the US being drawn into that kind of a relationship with a nuclear armed, numerically superior China holding trillions in US Treasury securities is a lot scarier than questionable body scrub. Midler has written a fascinating, funny and important book.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Akron Attack Victims Frustrated With Police Response

All John Alchier could do was sit and pray.

His call to 911 was put on hold, he said, as he sat in his wheelchair and watched a group of teens pummel his brother and friend.

Alchier, 40, had a front-row seat as the teens swarmed a family gathering on Girard Street following the June 27 fireworks show at Firestone Park. Helplessness overtook him as he prayed out loud.

Community leaders are now voicing disgust over the attack, which is an example of the city’s ballooning assault rate.

In police District 6, which includes Firestone Park, reports show that aggravated assaults have more than doubled this year compared with 2008.

The increase in aggravated assaults is even more dramatic in other areas of the city.

What happened on Girard Street is also a symbol of Akron’s hushed racial tension. The victims are white; their attackers are black.

The attack has ignited scores of reaction, including a call for justice for the victims by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

From his view, Alchier said there’s more to the story than has been told.

“The newspapers and the news is not telling the entire story. No one is,” Alchier said from his home in Akron.

Those who witnessed the assault or survived it say this was no isolated incident, and the beatings to Greg Alchier and his friend, Marty Marshall, extended farther than Girard Street that night. A third victim is identified in a police report. More are believed to have been treated for injuries.

“This happens every year; it just depends on which street they decide to go up,” said Greg Alchier, 39, who has attended the neighborhood fireworks show for more than 30 years.

“There’s always a bunch of kids trying to start fights with people. It happens every year, and nothing’s ever done about it. It’s just swept under the rug.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Did Radical Muslims Help Send Obama to Harvard?

White House refuses to release president’s law school records

President Obama’s unwillingness to allow the American public to see his records at Harvard Law School prevents resolution of a continuing controversy over whether radical Islamic influences promoted his admission and financed his legal education there.

In an appearance on the New York-produced “Inside City Hall” television show, octogenarian Harlem lawyer Percy Sutton — whose clients included Malcolm X — explained that Islamic radical Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour, “one of the world’s wealthiest men,” asked him to write a letter of recommendation to Harvard Law School for then relatively unknown Barack Obama.

[Comments from JD: Video of the Sutton interview at URL above.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Manhattan Moment: Regulation, Not Size, Is Health Care’s Biggest Problem

As the White House tries to get health-care reform through Congress, it has repeatedly pointed out that the health sector constitutes 16 percent of America’s GDP. The implication is that this is a bad thing.

But why? Officially, the logic is this: The larger health care’s share of the economy, the higher the per-unit cost of care to the government, to employers, and to you. In Canada, for instance, health care is just 10 percent of GDP. Further, our northern neighbor covers almost every citizen and we don’t. The U.S., then, seems to be paying far more to insure a smaller share of its population—to be paying more for less.

There are several flaws in this reasoning; first and foremost that a dollar spent is a dollar wasted. America’s health-care sector is larger partly because, unlike Canada’s, it includes for-profit corporations.

Consider the benefit: Companies invest billions each year developing innovative, life-saving drugs and devices. Are these expenses really something to lament? Similarly, is it a disadvantage that the U.S. has 11 percent more practicing doctors per capita than Canada? Or 15 percent more nurses?

Is it a problem that the United States has almost four times as many MRI scanners per capita as Canada does, or that we preventively test more of our population for common cancers? Hardly. The fact that America’s health-care system is larger, more advanced, and better staffed than a system with rationed care is an advantage. To pretend otherwise is just a tactic to make the reform pill easier to swallow.

So the American health sector doesn’t have to shrink. But it should certainly deliver care at a lower unit price. To see how, let’s stop comparing our health care with what’s available in Canada or Sweden or Mars and instead make some comparisons among various American health-care systems.

Take two very different states: Wisconsin and New York. In Wisconsin, a family can buy a health-insurance plan for as little as $3,000 a year. The price for a basic family plan in the Empire State: $12,000.

The stark difference has nothing to do with each state’s health sector as a share of its economy (14.8 percent in Wisconsin as of 2004, the most recent year for which data are available, and 13.9 percent in New York). Rather, the difference has to do with how each state’s insurance pools are regulated.

In New York State, politicians have tried to run the health-insurance system from Albany, forcing insurers to deliver complex Cadillac plans to every subscriber for political reasons, driving up costs. Wisconsin’s insurers are far freer to sell plans at prices consumers want.

The gulf in insurance-premium prices among American states is a sign that too much government intervention—not too little—is what’s distorting prices from one market to the next.

The key to reducing health-care costs for patients, then, is to promote competition, not to dictate insurance requirements from on high. Unfortunately, a government-run insurance plan is the core of ObamaCare.

America’s health system faces real challenges. But to get the treatment right, we need to get the diagnosis right. American health care isn’t too big—it’s too expensive. And to lower its costs, we don’t need more government in health care; we need more competition.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Mayo Clinic Calls House Plan Bad Medicine

A world-renowned clinic that President Obama held up as an example of good medicine said Monday that the American people would be “losers” under the House’s health care proposal, joining the growing chorus of critics the Obama administration is trying to fend off as the debate intensifies from Capitol Hill to Main Street.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Minnesota’s Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy Linked to Missing Somali Youths

Two on TiZA: Using taxpayer money for the Stealth Jihad?

TiZA is the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy. We told you about the Minnesota charter school before, here. Thanks to reader Mars for alerting us to them, below are two recent stories to bring us up to date on the ACLU lawsuit against the school and its founders—the Muslim America Society (MAS), Minnesota chapter. It might be useful for readers to first visit this 2004 article from the Chicago Tribune to understand how the MAS sprang from the Muslim Brotherhood in the US. The lengthy investigative report was one of the first things I read when I began studying the issue of Islam and its plans for us. I think you will be as stunned as I was to see what the goals are and for how long the stealth jihad has been going on in the US. The first of my two articles today is from Katherine Kersten who is obviously the expert on the TiZA. I can’t believe I am cheering for the ACLU..

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Racist Demagoguery

After reading Barack Obama’s speech at the 100th anniversary of the founding of the NAACP Thursday, there is no getting around it: The man is a racist. He is not a unifier, a healer, or a leader — he divides, incites, destroys. He foments animus and anger. The speech proves, yet again, that he does not (nor does he want to) represent all Americans. He is the most racist, divisive official we have ever elected to any high office, let alone the most powerful office in the world.

The speech was scandalous. The NAACP audience listened to the African-American president of the United States rail against discrimination in the country that elected him. His antagonist in the speech was the big white bogeymen, stealing the very lives and futures of black children, Muslims, Latinos and gays. Demagoguery. Obama complained that “more than half a century after Brown v. Board, the dream of a world-class education is still being deferred all across the country. African-American students are lagging behind white classmates in reading and math — an achievement gap that is growing in states that once led the way in the civil rights movement.”

Does Obama believe, and does he expect us to believe, that this “achievement gap” is due to white racism? If there is an “achievement gap,” it is because the left seized public education and destroyed it. No one, of whatever color, wants to send his or her kids to a public school. Affluent Americans opt out, and industrious Americans homeschool. But the Democrats deny school vouchers to the poor, which amounts to denying them an opportunity for a real education. The left wants to keep them down on the farm.


Of course, no Obama speech would be complete without the advancement of Islamic supremacism. He got applause for claiming that “Muslim Americans [are] viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God.” He made no mention of public Christian prayer (which can get you fired these days).

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obamacare: The Fast and the Furious

The health care testimony of the director of the Congressional Budget Office sounded almost desperate.

There was poor Douglas Elmendorf — Larry Summers’ protegé, Brookings Institution liberal, Pelosi-picked, Harvard mega-wonk — practically begging his bosses in Congress to just slow down a little.

Elmendorf wants actual health care reform — the kind that President Barack Obama used to talk about. The kind that covers the uninsured, gets people into doctors’ offices instead of emergency rooms, and is paid for in a responsible fashion.

But now the White House and the Democratic leadership in Congress will take whatever they can get as long as it happens fast. It took the legislative titans who cut their teeth on the New Deal six years to make Medicare. The president wants the colossal lightweights of the current Congress to deliver Obamacare in 12 weeks.

Conscientious folks on Capitol Hill are very worried as the train keeps picking up speed and no one will touch the brake. But the president knows that the current health care legislation, like cap and trade and his stimulus, will never pass if anyone stops to read it.

Witness the horror on Elmendorf’s face after having read as much of the plans as the House and Senate could throw together. Elmendorf made the mistake of also reading all the policy papers that were drummed up by the Obama campaign. That made it so much harder when the lazy, spendthrift Congress dropped 2,000 pages of shoddy health care legislation on his desk. And right there before the Senate Budget Committee, you could hear Elmendorf’s wonky heart breaking.

His predecessor, Peter Orszag, is now Obama’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. When he was advising Congress on budgetary matters, Orszag would have said the same thing as Elmendorf: The health care bills being considered are financial impossibilities. But in his new job, Orszag has been part of the quick trip from idealism to desperation at the Obama White House.

So now, he sallies forth for the president to explain that while it seems like a bad idea for a country in an economic slough and already borrowing its way to oblivion to add on a cripplingly expensive new health care entitlement with huge new costs for employers, it’s actually a brilliant plan.

What Elmendorf didn’t factor in, Orszag explained to Chris Wallace, was the independent commission. Why, an independent commission will make everything work out fine. It’s better than a blue-ribbon panel and stronger than a board of advisers.

In the Obama version of the future, Congress will pick a commission that will then propose draconian cuts to the programs that provide health care for senior citizens. Congress will then vote to enact those cuts even as its most politically active constituents rise up in outrage. That’s not naïve. That’s just a cover story.

Orszag, who once sent thrills up the legs of the think tank crowd, is now tasked with recycling talking points about long-term savings that will somehow occur without rationing care. In Massachusetts, the laboratory for American universal health insurance, the state health plan is an economic basket case. So lawmakers are getting ready to pay doctors for patient care by the year, instead of the treatment.

Good luck getting that second, “just-to-make-sure” test if your doctor is getting a flat rate and has been shielded from medical malpractice suits.

If he were being honest, Orszag would agree with Elmendorf that the only way to remake the system is to quit exempting employee health benefits from taxes. If Americans had catastrophic insurance and paid for regular treatments out of their own pockets, people would ration their own care instead of having commissioners do it for them.

And even that might be too risky a play with a sputtering economy.

Obamacare was supposed to be a Brookings Institution kind of proposal: a conscientiously liberal plan crafted and executed with care. Instead it is being done as a rush order by a president pretending to be a tough guy. I’m half-expecting to hear Obama say “smoke ‘em out” and “bring ‘em on” at his news conference Wednesday.

But Obama’s not talking about a war or even a financial crisis, so the urgency seems out of place.

What the Doug Elmendorfs of the world don’t understand is that this isn’t about health care anymore. This is about winning at any cost.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Republican Delays U.S. Nominees Over Honduras Policy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A Republican senator unhappy with U.S. policy on Honduras delayed on Tuesday a committee vote to confirm the nominee to head the State Department’s bureau of western hemisphere affairs.


At the hearing, DeMint asked why Washington would want to be on the same side as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro, in the Honduran crisis.

“President Obama rushed to side with Chavez and Castro before getting the facts. Now it’s clear that the people of Honduras were defending the rule of law,” DeMint said on Tuesday, through his spokesman.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Christians United for Israel Conference

Dear friends,

Pastor John Hagee founded Christians United for Israel in 2006 as a way for Christians and Jews to come together in support of Israel. Judging by the group’s annual conference — which is being held at the Washington Convention Center this week — his vision is being realized.

Several prominent Christian and Jewish lawmakers, journalists and media personalities have taken the stage to stand together for Israel in this time of unprecedented threats to its survival. Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rep. Eric Cantor, Fox News’s Fred Barnes, and talk radio hosts Michael Medved and Dennis Prager have all delivered addresses during the 4-day event.

Highlights Tuesday included a live satellite appearance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a speech by Israel’s new ambassador to the US, Michael Oren.

To watch my report on the conference, see the link above.

[Return to headlines]

The Politics of Distraction

Former New York Times editorial page editor John Swinton said to a gathering of journalists: “There is no such thing in America as an independent press. You know it and I know it. The business of the New York journalist is to destroy the proof, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to sell his country for his daily bread. We are the tools of vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. We are intellectual prostitutes.” The media, which was given First Amendment rights by the Founders and expected to be watchdogs is, instead, in the politics of distraction. Walter Cronkite was no exception. He promoted global governance and felt the voters were too stupid to make educated choices on election day especially when they voted Republican. Let’s review what has taken place in the last few weeks that went unreported in the mainline media…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Canada a Key Source of Tamil Tiger Funding

Canada was one of the top sources of funding for Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers rebels, providing up to $12-million a year, says a secret intelligence report obtained by the National Post.

The Tamil Tigers were defeated in May, ending Sri Lanka’s long civil war, but in a classified report last year federal officials wrote that the rebels were getting much of their money from Canada.

The rebels are also known as the LTTE.

“Canada’s Tamil community has been among the LTTE’s largest sources of funds, having contributed up to $10- to $12-million annually in past years,” the report says.

A copy of the report was released to the Post under the Access to Information Act. It was written last June, during the final months of a decisive Sri Lankan military offensive.

Until recently, the Tamil Tigers controlled a quarter of Sri Lanka, a former British colony once known as Ceylon, situated off the southern tip of India. The rebels were fighting for independence for the country’s ethnic Tamil minority, a cause shared by many in Toronto’s large Canadian Tamil diaspora.

The RCMP began investigating Tamil Tigers fundraising efforts in Canada in 2002. Police believe the rebels raised money in Toronto and Montreal to finance weapons purchases, but investigators have never said the dollar figures were so high.

“The LTTE through its many front organizations in other countries, including Canada, has conducted extensive fundraising and other activities to support its efforts in Sri Lanka,” the report says.

The tactics used to collect money were “often coercive,” it said, naming the Toronto-based World Tamil Movement as the rebels’ leading front in Canada.

“As such, the WTM has been instrumental in fundraising in Canada on behalf of the LTTE.”

Police searched the World Tamil Movement offices in Ontario and Quebec in 2006. Last year, the government banned the group under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Federal lawyers are now in court trying to seize its properties and bank accounts. The organization has denied any wrongdoing.

The Intelligence Assessment was written by the Ottawa-based Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, which consists of representatives of CSIS, RCMP, Foreign Affairs, the military and other agencies.

A second intelligence report written last year downplayed the possibility of violence in Canada stemming from the Sri Lankan war, noting rebel activities in this country were limited to fundraising and propaganda. “The LTTE’s primary interest in Canada is as a major source of funds, mostly contributed by the large Canadian Tamil population,” said the report, classified “Secret” and titled “LTTE Threat to Canada.”

In May, demonstrators waving flags bearing the Tamil Tigers emblem blocked streets in downtown Toronto to draw attention to human rights abuses by the Sri Lanka Army. A Buddhist temple and Sri Lankan restaurant suffered fire damage but police have not made any arrests.

The civil war ended May 18, after the Army captured thousands of rebels and killed their top leaders. Some 300,000 ethnic Tamils are now detained in government-run camps, awaiting permission to return to their homes.

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs says four Canadians are among them. George Julius of Brampton, Ont., is being held at a camp for ex-combatants. His parents said he left Canada in 2007 to visit his aunt and find a bride in the rebel capital Kilinochchi.

From the camp where he is now held, he told British journalist Kath Noble he had been forced to join the rebels. Another Briton, Felix Vicet said he had also met the Canadian.

“In the course of this conversation he mentioned the fact that he had come to Kilinochchi to visit relatives and had been forcibly recruited by the LTTE,” he wrote in a letter.

Mr. Vicet wrote that Mr. Julius “seemed keen to talk” and that the “the conversation was entirely free.” But the Canadian Tamil Congress has detainee confessions should be treated with caution since they could have been made under duress.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Terry Glavin: Sheltering Hate While Preaching Tolerance Among Canadian Muslims

It’s all for the sake of our edification, and for the sake of some elucidation of fascinating revivals and reform movements down through Islamic history, says the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought, about which I reported here yesterday. So, for the sake of fairness, and for the sake of argument, let’s begin by giving the Al-Fauz institute the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s say the institute’s patrons and principals are actually quite serious about embarking upon a nation-wide campaign to raise up a new, outward-looking generation of Muslims in Canada. Let’s say they’re not kidding when they say their plan is to train Canada’s young Muslims in the application of Islamic ideas to Canada’s “pluralistic” society, and that when they say their aim is to “prepare young minds that will take up the mantle of the Muslim community” in this country, they mean it. Let’s also say they’re dead serious about presenting Canadians with “a balanced and comprehensive vision of Islam.”

First some questions, then some necessary background, and then a modest suggestion of my own.

Of all the choices they could have made for a showcase “academic” to begin such an ambitious undertaking, in a cultural minefield, in a realm of contentious debate that is so fraught with misunderstanding, stereotype and prejudice, why on earth did the Al-Fauz institute pick the notorious Azzam Tamimi? Why did they choose to launch what is essentially a proselytizing and public relations campaign in Canada with a shouting Hamas demagogue and unabashed suicide-bombing enthusiast who declared, only three months ago in Dublin: “With regard to their attitudes to liberation I say, Long live the Taliban”?

Not a few Canadians (and perhaps most Muslim-Canadians) are justifiably inclined to deep misgivings about the influence of certain “Islamic scholars” upon the already marginalized and often disaffected young Muslims of this country. Moreover, we are persistently admonished by certain Islamic “leaders” in Canada that Islam is really a religion of peace, love and understanding, and that suicide-bomb fetishists, Islamic Jihad partisans and Koran-thumping lunatics are really just Islamophobic caricatures.

So why has the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought been busy building a Canadian platform for Azzam Tamimi, a self-parody of the hoarse-throated, west-loathing, Israel-hating crank that they tell us is so untypical and unrepresentative of the Muslim leadership? Are the people behind the Al-Fauz institute really unaware that there are tens of thousands of Afghan-Canadian Muslims and relatives of Canadian soldiers who have lost loved ones to the savagery of the Taliban?

What the hell were they thinking?

These are the sorts of questions I put to the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought. I spoke with the institute’s senior patron, Iqbal Masood Nadvi. I spoke with Hamid Slimi, the chairman of the Canadian Council of Imams and the best known of the five Canadian clerics the institute lists along with Tamimi as its faculty. I spoke with Junaid Mirza, the institute’s coordinator. I report their answers in today’s National Post, but I’ll provide some deeper background here.

For all the disturbing inferences one might draw — and there are quite a few — a conclusion one might still reasonably reach is that there is a single, straightforward answer to each of the questions I’ve raised. A charitable way of putting it would be that for an outfit that calls itself the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought, there was surprisingly little thought that went into any of it. I admit that this is the answer I would prefer. I confess that there is a problem with it.

If it’s all just about misunderstandings, mistakes, and matters of poor judgment, there remains this awkward business of presenting Tamimi as if he were merely a tweedy British academic whose only eccentricity is perhaps a predisposition to intense bookishness. The problem is that this leaves us with even more disturbing questions. For starters: Who do they think they’re kidding? Why are they even trying?

There is a way to explain this, too, and it goes something like this: Once you take the green pill, you won’t even notice the blue pill’s effects. Lurid theology unavoidably bleeds into toxic ideology. As Tarek Fatah suggests, perhaps we should not expect perfectly candid answers from the institute’s principals in the first place because there’s more going on here than we’re meant to know.

But what is it that’s so unmentionable about the currents that Fatah and others have rather exhausively shown to be ubiquitous in certain Canadian mosques? Why no public scrutiny, no political debates about the Canadian iterations of Islam’s clerical-fascist wellspring, the Muslim Brotherhood, or about its subsidiaries, not least of which are Hamas and Jamaat-e-Islami? Fatah: “The racist right will talk about these things to frighten people about immigrants. The liberal-left has abandoned its responsibility to fight medievalism. And nobody wants to talk about what is really happening here.”

By way of some more background, Hamid Slimi has built a reputation for himself over the years as a paragon of inter-faith dialogue, moderation, and Muslim integration. He has denounced jihadist terrorism as a heresy against Islam, which he calls the religion of “justice, peace and love.” Slimi’s immediate response to my questions about the Al-Fauz institute and Tamimi was that he knew nothing about it. Then, after some quick back-and-forth by telephone between Slimi and Iqbal Nadvi, the Al-Fauz institute’s senior patron, Slimi told me he was probably just behind in checking his emails, although he still insisted he wasn’t even sure he knew who Azzam Tamimi is.

When I spoke with Nadvi, he said Slimi’s apparent surprise in being associated with the institute was due to a simple misunderstanding. There had been a full discussion about the institute and Tamimi’s engagement among and between the institute’s imams, but the institute wasn’t supposed to be formally announced until later this month.

Nadvi says he knows nothing about Tamimi’s unseemly politics or his frequent, bloodcurdling pronouncements, but Nadvi is no naive, backcountry cleric. He’s said to be one of the few Muslim scholars in Canada with the authority to issue a fatwa — an Islamic legal ruling. He’s the director of the Al-Falah Islamic School in the Toronto suburb of Oakville. He’s reported to have memorized the entire Koran. He’s a senior member of Canada’s Islamic Finance Advisory Board, which promotes “sharia-compliant” banking in Canada. Which brings us to the Al-Fauz institute’s coordinator, Junaid Mirza.

A junior associate at the Islamic Finance Advisory Board, Mirza is a chartered accountant and former spokesman for Young Muslims Canada. Mirza, 26, told me that it was more or less his idea to engage Tamimi with the institute, but everyone else was nonetheless fully on board. Mirza’s a big fan of Tamimi. But is he also in agreement with, say, Tamimi’s public praise for the bloodthirsty Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, which has murdered more than 100 Israeli civilians over the past 20 years?

“Azzam Tamimi is a Palestinian,” said Mirza, “but he isn’t saying that Muslims in the west all have an obligation of jihad. He doesn’t say that Muslims here should go and pick up the gun.”

Let’s set aside the fact that this explanation isn’t in itself particularly reassuring and move on. How does Tamimi’s “Long Live The Taliban” huzzah fit within Canada’s “pluralistic” society, exactly? “His defence of the Taliban is a complicated one,” Mirza explained. “It’s not a blanket defence. . . . It’s whether it’s justified, whether a former government of a nation has the right to fight back after an invasion.” When asked, Mirza said he personally does not believe that the Taliban is right to slaughter Afghan civilians or kill Canadian soldiers.

It was good to have that cleared up, but I won’t be told that I’m insinuating anything or “smearing” anyone by noticing that Mirza has taken courses from Tamimi, and is therefore unencumbered by any sort of unworldliness about who Tamimi is and what Tamimi is all about. Nadvi, meanwhile, spent several years teaching sharia law and jurisprudence at King Saud University in Riyadh. Is it so unreasonable to suppose that Nadvi and Mirza might have been at least vaguely aware that the celebrity “academic person” they’d just brought aboard the institute they’d just set up is widely known, and not for nothing, as perhaps the shrewdest Hamas propagandist in the English-speaking world? As for Slimi, perhaps he should check his emails more often, and maybe he did have some trouble placing Tamimi’s name. But Slimi will certainly not be unfamiliar with the name Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Qaradawi is a senior Muslim Brotherhood fatwa-maker. He once issued a fatwa against the game “Pokemon” on the grounds that it’s a Zionist plot that uses subliminal Masonic messages to teach evolution. He first chastised and then congratulated the Taliban for blowing up the grand and ancient Buddha statutes at Bamiyan. He has eulogized Saddam Hussein. He counsels suicide-bombings that target Israeli civilians, and his idea of inter-faith dialogue is to summon the wrath of Allah upon the Jews, to “kill them, down to the very last one.”

Slimi studied under Qaradawi back in the 1980s. But that was then, you could say. Fine. This is now: Qaradawi serves as a member of the board of advisors with Tamimi’s own London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought. Another of Tamimi’s IIPT advisors is Khurshid Ahmad, a Jamaat-e-Islami bigshot. On Tamimi’s “supervisory board” is Basheer Nafi, a founder of Islamic Jihad.

If the Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought wants to be associated with this kind of clerical-fascist depravity, then fine, it’s a free country. As usual, Canada’s young Muslims will just have to sort it all out more or less by themselves. But if the Al-Fauz institute and its Canadian faculty members are honestly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood’s derangements, then they can clear up any unresolved questions quite easily. If, for example, Al-Fauz faculty member Ayub Hamid’s Muslim-focussed Canadian Institute of Policy Studies is really and truly all about “fostering goodness, shunning evil and ensuring justice, equality and peace,” as it claims, the solution is a simple one. It’s readily available, and it is the only suggestion I feel saucy enough to offer.

Ditch Tamimi. Make a full accounting of how the hell it came to pass that Azzam Tamimi found such a comfortable sinecure for himself, in such august company, on the Al-Fauz faculty. But ditch him.

This is not like the case of Iran’s Press TV scab George Galloway, who encountered legal difficulties in his planned engagements in Canada after falling afoul of Section 34(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Galloway failed to secure the red carpet he’d wanted on account of having admitted to being a bagman for Hamas (and not “just because he brought aid to bombed-out Gaza”, the propaganda fiction you will still find in circulation in some of Canada’s otherwise reputable newspapers). The law in Tamimi’s case might not be so clear, so any effort to keep Canada’s doors closed to him might be in vain at the get-go and counter-productive in the bargain. This is just as well. The upside is that this gives the Al-Fauz institute an opportunity to come clean all on its own.

Unless it disowns Tamimi and everything he stands for, the Al-Fauz institute will be carrying his bad smell around wherever it goes. It will pervade everyone associated with the enterprise, and no amount of subject-changing complaints about “Islamophobia,” hadith-splitting about the Taliban or any other such theological backchat will make it go away.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Biden Says U.S. Still Backs Ukraine in NATO

KIEV, Ukraine — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Tuesday that the United States would continue to support Ukraine’s bid to join NATO despite Russia’s objections.

Mr. Biden’s visit to the region — taking place only two weeks after President Obama’s summit meeting with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia — was intended to ease fears in Georgia and Ukraine over whether the Obama administration might withdraw support for their pro-Western governments to improve ties with Russia. Russian officials have been increasingly angered by deepening Western alliances in what it terms its “zone of privileged interests,” and especially the proposed expansion of NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia, which were once part of the Soviet Union. Mr. Biden made it clear that the United States remained enthusiastic about the proposal.

“If you choose to be part of Euro-Atlantic integration, which I believe you have, then we strongly support that,” Mr. Biden said after a meeting with the Ukrainian president, Viktor A. Yushchenko. “We do not recognize — and I want to reiterate it — any sphere of influence. We do not recognize anyone else’s right to dictate to you or any other country what alliances you seek to belong to or what bilateral relationships you have.”

The visit gave substance to the American view of the reinvigorated relationship with Russia. While Russian leaders are willing to cooperate on arms control and the military effort in Afghanistan, they see American policy on Russia’s borders as the real test of whether Washington is taking a new approach. Mr. Biden laid out a different vision: as other cooperative ventures with Russia proceed, he said, competition in the post-Soviet regions will fade away — to the benefit of everyone, including Georgia and Ukraine.

“The more substantive relationship we have with Moscow, the more we can defuse the zero-sum thinking about our relations with Russia’s neighbors,” he said.

In Moscow, a Foreign Ministry spokesman called on the United States to consider the historical and cultural ties between Russia and its post-Soviet neighbors. The spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, said it was Ukraine’s sovereign right to choose its allies, but he noted that “it is important that this is implemented transparently, without any ‘backdoor games’ and not at the cost of somebody else’s interests.”

In a briefing after the talks here, Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, said he hoped that Russia would view American policy as an effort to build a “multipartner world” and to shore up the stability of the entire region.

“We’re not trying to build our own sphere of influence,” he said. “The partnerships aren’t being built against anyone. They’re being built for the purpose of addressing common challenges that Russia also faces.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Danes Saving Malmö Economy

Shoppers crossing the strait to Malmö’s are helping the city’s economy to thrive while many retailers in Copenhagen are struggling

Those wanting to take advantage of the recently-instituted free bus service over the Øresund bridge to Malmö have a long wait ahead of them.

Ever since starting the service in mid-June, the Swedish Jägersro Center shopping centre has had to increase the number of its bus departures to keep up with the soaring demand. Seats on the busses are already fully booked for the next month.

The Swedish krone is at a record low against its Danish counterpart. And, according to many Malmö businesses, the hoards of Danes crossing the strait to shop has almost single-handedly saved the Swedish city’s economy during the financial crisis.

‘We aren’t as affected by the crisis as other parts of Sweden,’ Marcus Odelstig, city director of business and development organisation Malmö Citysamverkan, told Politiken newspaper. ‘Sales are up and this summer looks like it will be better than last year. And we can thank the Danes for that.’

Figures for those who are willing to pay to travel over to Malmö have also sharply increased in recent months. Øresundsbron, the company responsible for the operation of the Øresund Bridge, indicated that weekend travel in particular by Danes to Malmö has risen by 44 percent across the bridge.

A recent poll taken by the organisation on a train from Copenhagen to Malmö found that 85 percent of the passengers were headed across the strait to shop — 25 percent of whom had never before been to the Swedish city.

‘Danes probably make up at least 70 percent of our customers and are responsible for about 80 percent of our earnings,’ said Patrik Johansson of Malmö clothing store Selected.

On this side of the strait, businesses are going belly-up at a record-setting pace in Copenhagen. In May and June nearly 1,100 businesses closed their doors in the city.

But Jan Michael Hansen, head of retail business association Københavns City Center, said the effect of people crossing the strait to shop is minimal for the organisation’s members.

‘The financial crisis has made things tougher for us, but I don’t think our problems are due to Danes going over to Sweden,’ he said.

At the time of going to press, the Swedish krona was valued at 0.69 Danish krone and 0.09 euro.

           — Hat tip: Zonka[Return to headlines]

France: Corsica Police Station Car-Bombed

A car bomb has exploded outside a police station on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.

“It’s a miracle there was only material damage. People could have been killed,” a Corsican government spokesman told the AFP news agency.

He said attackers had rigged up a gas bottle in the car and detonated it at around 0600 local time (0400 GMT).

The car was blown to pieces by the force of the blast, which also knocked the son of a gendarme off his bicycle.

Corsica suffers infrequent small-scale attacks by separatists opposed to French rule.

Wednesday’s attack in the northern town of Vescovato was the first car bomb on the island since 2006, AFP said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux called a “totally irresponsible act.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Germany: HIV-Positive Man Gets Further Eight Years for Unprotected Sex

An HIV-positive man was sentenced on Wednesday to eight years in prison after having unprotected sex with three women, including a 13-year-old girl.

The 41-year-old, identified as Kennedy O., was found guilty of eight counts of attempted assault and the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old-girl after he slept with her and two girlfriends — a housewife and a hairdresser — without disclosing he had the virus that can cause AIDS. None are known to be infected.

The eight-year sentence was added on to a five-and-a-half-year sentence the Kenyan man, who works as a DJ, has been serving for having unprotected sex with seven other women, none of whom he told about his illness, since 2007. Two of those women were infected.

“He knew of his illness but did not acknowledge it,” said the main judge presiding over the trial in a Würzburg, Bavaria, district court. “The accused made victims of his intimate partners without scruples.”

Prosecutors requested the man be imprisoned for a further 10 years, while the defense asked for six-and-a-half years.

Court reports said Kennedy O. showed regret during the sentencing hearing, at which he said he never meant to harm anyone through his actions. He has vowed to never have sex without a condom again.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Germany: Deutsche Bank Admits to Four Spying Cases

Deutsche Bank has admitted uncovering four suspected cases of spying carried out by companies it hired but stressed the incidents were “isolated”.

The four cases involved “questionable investigative or surveillance activities” with regard to a supervisory board member and a journalist, a shareholder, a person who threatened board members, and a management board member, a bank statement released on Wednesday said.

Two department heads have been fired following an investigation, the bank added.

The incidents dating back to 1998 “raise legal issues such as data protection or privacy concerns,” the bank said.

“In all incidents, the activities arose out of certain mandates performed by external service providers on behalf of the Bank’s Corporate Security Department,” it said.

“The incidents were isolated and no systemic misbehaviour has been found.”

Corporate surveillence of employees and others touches a sensitive nerve in Germany owing to abuses suffered during the Nazi and communist GDR periods.

The report was carried out by law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton on the bank’s behalf. State prosecutors are now checking whether the evidence warrants a formal investigation.

“All four incidents originated from mandates initiated to achieve legitimate goals, but, during the course of these mandates, the external service providers retained by the bank engaged in questionable activities,” the statement said.

“Deutsche Bank has informed all persons affected by the aforementioned activities (with the exception of the private individual whose whereabouts are unknown) and expressed its sincere regrets.”

Deutsche Bank said that in the first case it had sought to identify “the source of a leak of confidential information to a journalist” to prevent it from happening again.

In the last case, the bank said it had sought to test the protection of a senior director, whom reports identified as chief operating officer Hermann-Josef Lamberti.

According to the Wall Street Journal, detectives tried unsuccessfully to plant a GPS locating device on Lamberti’s car.

Flowers were also sent to his home with a non-functioning microphone hidden among them to see if it would be found, the newspaper said.

In the third case, detectives tried to photograph the person who allegedly threatened board members, but “the person could not be traced,” the bank said.

Finally, the second incident involved a shareholder who had demonstrated “litigious conduct” towards the bank, which in the end could not determine his motivations.

The events revived fresh memories of alleged spying at other German companies, including the national railway Deutsche Bahn and telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Blasphemy Provisions Clash With Constitution

OPINION: THE PRESIDENT has very few unconstrained powers, and the Council of State is convened only rarely, but this evening they will all move centre stage, when the council convenes to advise the President whether to refer two controversial Bills to the Supreme Court. Whatever she does about the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, 2009, she should certainly refer the blasphemy provisions of the Defamation Bill, 2006, writes EOIN O’DELL

The common law historically punished blasphemy against Christianity as one aspect of the crime of libel… In a successful prosecution against Gay News magazine in 1977, the English courts confirmed the continuing existence of the crime. In an unsuccessful attempt to begin proceedings against Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses in 1991, they held that it did not protect Islam. Most recently, in another unsuccessful attempt to commence a prosecution against Jerry Springer — The Opera in 2007, they held that the modern justification for the crime lies in the risk of public disorder.

The European Court of Human Rights has held that, although blasphemy can infringe the right to freedom of expression, it can be justified, provided that there is a good reason for the infringement. In the Jerry Springer case, the court held that this reason must be the risk of public disorder, and not the mere fact of insulting religious beliefs, however deeply held.

The blasphemy provisions of the Defamation Bill make it an offence to cause outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of a religion by intentionally publishing material that grossly abuses or insults matters held sacred by their religion.

This is actually quite narrowly drawn, and there is a further saver for publications of genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value. Moreover, the maximum â‚25,000 fine is relatively light.

It is therefore neither a trap for the unwary, nor a charter for religious cranks, nor even a check upon valuable public discourse.

Nevertheless, the offence is still of dubious constitutionality.

There is a very big gap between outrage and public disorder, and although the Bill punishes outrage, the Jerry Springer case suggests that it is only if the outrage goes further and carries a risk of public disorder that a blasphemy restriction can be held compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Like the convention, the Constitution also protects freedom of expression, but the last sentence of the Constitution’s free speech clause provides that the publication of blasphemous matter is an offence punishable by law. Only one case has considered this sentence, and it reached the Supreme Court 10 years ago next week.

The court declined to allow a prosecution against the Sunday Independent for publishing, in the wake of the divorce referendum in 1995, a cartoon caricaturing a priest failing to give communion to unwilling politicians.

The court queried the compatibility of a wide common law crime of blasphemous libel with the constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion. It held that the common law crime was so uncertain that it was impossible to say what its elements were. And it concluded that the task of defining the crime was for the Oireachtas rather than the courts.

The blasphemy provisions of the Defamation Bill are an attempt by the Oireachtas to respond to this conclusion. Nevertheless, although the Constitution requires some crime of blasphemy, it does not necessarily follow that it requires these provisions.

As the Supreme Court emphasised in the cartoon case, the law must still be compatible with other provisions of the Constitution, such as freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of expression.

Moreover, the Supreme Court has held that it will take the same approach to freedom of expression under the Constitution as the European Court of Human Rights takes to the Convention.

As we have seen, the English Courts in the Jerry Springer case have held that, for a blasphemy provision to be compatible with the convention, the offence must require not merely outrage but also the risk of public disorder.

The blasphemy provisions in the Defamation Bill do not go that far, and must therefore be questionable not only under the convention but also under the Constitution…

The Council of State should advise the President accordingly; she should refer these provisions to the Supreme Court; and they should find them unconstitutional.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Irish Foreign Minister: ‘Wouldn’t a Dictatorship be Simpler?’

In an interview with the German daily FAZ, Ireland’s foreign minister regrets the necessity of democracy. “Wouldn’t a dictatorship be delightfully simple?” asks Micheál Martin wistfully. “It was easier with the introduction of the euro” (Hat-tip Open Europe).

Yes, alright, it was a joke — or at least one of those telling half-jokes. Mr Martin has always struck me as a decent sort, and I don’t imagine for a moment that he harbours autocratic tendencies.

But the fact is that he’s on to something. Democracy and the EU sit uneasily together. All the main transfers of power from the national capitals to Brussels have been effected without popular consent. When the foreign minister points out that “‘it was easier with the introduction of the euro”, he is dead right. That’s because the single currency was introduced without any referendums. Indeed, it was rejected in the only two countries where popular votes were held, Denmark and Sweden — and deferred indefinitely in the third country where a referendum had been promised, the United Kingdom.

(Incidentally, had Irish people had their chance to vote against the euro, they might be better off today. Throughout the boom years, Irish economists pointed out that conditions demanded a stiff rise in interest rates and that, such a rise being impossible within monetary union, a terrible crash was inevitable. That crash has now come and, since it could not be absorbed in a floating exchange rate, it has been felt in output, wages and jobs. But I digress.)

I don’t want to pick on the EU. The fact is that no supra-national state has been a successful democracy. You can hold different peoples together within an authoritarian system: the Habsburg or Ottoman empires, Yugoslavia, the USSR. But you generally find that, the moment the subject peoples of those states are given the vote, they opt for separation.

Indeed, in order to keep an essentially undemocratic project in operation, the 27 member states are obliged to surrender a measure of their internal democracy, too. It’s the phenomenon I call the EU’s “hideous strength”.

Thus, in the case of Ireland, the Pro-Treaty Forces have secured changes in the referendum rules, which used to provide for equal airtime for both sides. This means, of course, that all future Irish referendums, not just those on European integration, will be less balanced. Thus does the the EU serve to vitiate democracy within its participating members.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Norway/TV: ‘The Wanted’: Set Aside Your Apprehensions

While most people are probably familiar with that phrase “the banality of evil,” “evil” can have a pathetic buffoonery to it as well. The first of the bad guys to be tracked down on “The Wanted,” NBC’s new real-life espionage series that launches a different manhunt each week, is sometimes known as “Bin Laden 2.0” — the title a twisted testimonial to his abilities as a murderer.

His name, Mullah Krekar — founder of an international terrorist organization called Ansar al-Islam — sounds very much, when spoken, like “Moolah Cracker,” and it is noted that his ricky-ticky whiskers are iconic to an organization whose claims to infamy include the boast that it “leads the world in beheadings.” Time marches on — yet simultaneously races backward as well.

Very little of “The Wanted” is dramatized or re-enacted, because in the new era of guerrilla television, the bad guys and good guys play themselves. It wasn’t very hard to track down Mr. Cracker because he lives openly in Norway, even though the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled him a threat to national security and ordered that he be deported. The crack team of investigative journalists that produces “The Wanted” spent more than four hours with Krekar but appears to have come away somewhat dumbfounded. It is typical of terrorist organizations to exploit the freedoms of open societies that they would happily destroy and replace with totalitarian regimes. And so Krekar parades around Norway a relatively “free” man, while “The Wanted” team does what it can to trip him up.

Is this actual journalism or some kind of crazed commando reportage? A half-century or so ago, Edward R. Murrow produced a television program in which, he hoped, Sen. Joe McCarthy, given enough rope, would tie himself into a frenzied pretzel. Murrow did not, however, wait outside McCarthy’s office so he could pounce on him with a camera crew while shouting “J’accuse!” “The Wanted” goes to almost that extreme, and if it’s to be commended for making the basic conflict graphic and comprehensible, it’s also to be treated with a certain degree of wary skepticism.

Perhaps the times have changed to such an extreme that the old rules have to change as well. In any case, the crack team of journalists and producers behind “The Wanted” take their jobs with sobering seriousness. These soldiers of fortune include Roger Carstens, an expert on counter-intelligence and counter-insurgency; Scott Tyler, a former Navy SEAL and expert on “urban reconnaissance and unconventional warfare”; former U.S. intelligence official David Crane; and co-executive producers Adam Ciralsky and Charlie Ebersol. Ciralsky is an Emmy-winning journalist, and Ebersol — son of NBC Sports President (and Olympics producer) Dick Ebersol — says of the new venture, “The pairing of rigorous investigative journalism with high-end production values has resulted in a fast-paced show which we hope will leave viewers wanting more.”

Those “high-end production values” include an array of glitzy techniques designed to enhance the show’s kinetic oomph — a dubious goal. It should also be noted that “The Wanted” is not produced by NBC News and therefore is not subject to the rules and regulations of the news division (not that NBC’s are the strictest rules in town).

Whatever theoretical quibbles one might make with the show’s style, its substance is strong and the overall effect is a highly charged knockout. “The Wanted” could also prove to be “The Needed.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Norwegian Gov’t Response

Comments from the Norwegian Government on the programme “The Wanted” Broadcast by NBC on 20 July 2009

The issues raised in the programme are of high priority for the Norwegian Government. However, there is very little new information in the programme, except for a document allegedly providing a solution to the issues. The programme deals with a serious matter in a superficial manner.

Here are the key facts:

1. Mullah Krekar will be expelled from Norway, in accordance with the expulsion order against him.

2. The expulsion will take place as soon as the necessary conditions are met. These include credible and effective guarantees against execution, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment.

3. Neither the document presented in the programme nor the present situation in Iraq meet these conditions under international and Norwegian law. However, Norway and Iraq are in dialogue about the return issue.

At the end of the broadcast it was stated: “Only hours before this broadcast, the Foreign Minister of Norway went on national television to announce that his country has entered into direct negotiations with Iraq to find a way to extradite Mullah Krekar. He vowed: ‘Mullah Krekar will be deported from Norway’. Is this correct?

The Foreign Minister has only reiterated Norway’s long-standing position on the return of Mullah Krekar: He will be expelled from Norway, in accordance with the expulsion order against him. The expulsion will take place as soon as the necessary conditions are met. These include credible and effective guarantees against execution, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment. Why has Mullah Krekar not been returned to Iraq?

The Norwegian Government’s view is crystal clear: we want to return the person known as Mullah Krekar to Iraq as soon as this is feasible. There is an expulsion order against him. He is considered to pose a threat to national security. We are assessing the situation in Iraq on an ongoing basis with a view to returning him as soon as possible. Mullah Krekar will be returned to Iraq as soon as we can do this without breaching our obligations under international law. We are assessing the situation on an ongoing basis and are in contact with the Iraqi authorities on this issue. What is required for Norway to return Mullah Krekar to Iraq?

In the current situation, no Western countries are returning persons to Iraq who face accusations similar to those Mullah Krekar faces. Here we are in line with all other countries that are bound by fundamental human rights obligations. The Norwegian authorities have an obligation to make an independent assessment of whether the conditions for the return of Mullah Krekar to Iraq are fulfilled. This assessment is being made on an ongoing basis. In addition, the Iraqi authorities must have provided sufficient guarantees that he will not be executed or subjected to torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment, and these guarantees must be binding under international law. The Norwegian authorities must also have observed Iraqi practice over time, and have made an independent assessment of the situation before they can make a decision based on such binding guarantees provided by the Iraqi authorities. But NBC obtained a guarantee from Iraq that Mullah Krekar will not be executed or subjected to torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment?

The document in question has not been issued by the central authorities in Iraq, but appears to have been signed by a representative of the regional authorities in northern Iraq. Consequently, the document does not provide any diplomatic guarantee against abuse or against the implementation of a death sentence against Mullah Krekar, and it does therefore not change the conditions for the return of Mullah Krekar to Iraq. Why did Norway decline to accept the document that according to NBC contained new guarantees from the Iraqi authorities that Mullah Krekar will be given decent treatment?

This is a serious case where Norway has clear obligations under international law. It is therefore not possible to accept and proceed with such a document in a proper manner in an interview situation in front of a camera. During the recording of the programme, the Norwegian authorities repeatedly tried to get more information about the alleged guarantees from NBC. These requests were declined by NBC, but on Friday 17 July the Ministry of Foreign Affairs got a copy of the document through the Norwegian media. The document has been published on the Ministry’s website. What basis does Norway have for claiming that the situation in Iraq does not at present warrant returning Mullah Krekar to Iraq?

The human rights situation in Iraq has not improved as quickly as there was reason to hope, but the situation varies greatly between regions. Important progress has been made in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. However, according to reports by the UN and other independent sources, instances of torture and other abuse against persons who are suspected of being involved in the activities of radical groups in northern Iraq still occur. Shouldn’t national security considerations weigh more heavily than the possible risk involved in returning Mullah Krekar to Iraq?

Norway protects fundamental human rights also in cases concerning the expulsion of foreign nationals. We cannot return anybody if there is a is a real risk that the person will be subjected to torture or execution. In several similar cases, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against relaxing the conditions for return due to national security considerations. In order to improve control of persons who pose a threat to national security, the Government has proposed legislative amendments so that such persons could be obliged to report to the police regularly in person, or take up residence at a specified domicile if they cannot be forcibly returned to their country of origin.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Bruce Anderson: The British Admire Their Army — But They Don’t Understand It

No organisation in history has devoted so much care to training its members

There is a paradox. The modern British public has never admired its armed forces more, or understood them less. The incomprehension has been reinforced by social and cultural changes. In the first place, personal contact with the services is increasingly rare. You would need to be well over 80 to have fought in the last War, while the youngest former national servicemen are approaching their 70th birthdays — and since the IRA, off-duty soldiers have rarely worn their uniforms.

Though always warlike, we British have never been militaristic. We had peacetime conscription for a much shorter period than any other major power. But in the Fifties and Sixties, the forces were part of everyday life. Almost every family included someone who had served. Even after conscription, the Cold War ensured that the services were much larger than they are today. Now, we are returning to the 19th century, when the relatively small armed forces were much more cut off from the rest of society than they were from the Boer War until the last phase of the 20th century.

There is a further factor; the decline in belief in an afterlife. At the end of the Chanson de Roland, as the last Frankish knights are overwhelmed, Archbishop Turpin assures them that he and they will shortly be feasting in Heaven. Few of us now think that our fallen heroes will be similarly compensated. At the same time, fewer and fewer people have exhausting and dangerous jobs. By volunteering for discipline, hardship and danger, the forces stand apart.

This has lead to a widespread misconception. Confronted by this willingness to risk death and eschew comfort, far too many otherwise intelligent people have reached an ignorant and stupid conclusion: that soldiers volunteer because they are thick. Over the past few weeks, a number of journalists who should have known better have expressed surprise at meeting soldiers who could do joined-up talking.

The hacks in question should get out more. In the average officers’ mess today, they all read books and some of them intend to write one or two. The table-talk is lively and stimulating, as one would expect, given the context of modern military operations. The phrase “pol-mil”, short for political-military, is in regular use, because today’s soldiers — even when much junior to Richard Dannatt — always have to be aware of political factors.

That does not only apply to the officers. Owing to lack of opportunity, those in the ranks are usually less well-educated. This does not mean that they lack either intellect or intellectual curiosity. They ask probing questions and expect thoughtful answers. They want to know what they are doing and why.

The NCOs are the backbone of any good army. They effectively train the young officers. But so do the men. It is not easy to lead thinking soldiers, which brings us to another common misconception. A lot of people who know nothing about the military assume that officers have an easy life. No need to worry about trade unions or contracts of employment; just bark out your orders, and the automata will obey.

The reality is more complex. It is true that basic training instils obedience. It is equally true that no officer will get the best out of his men unless they respect him. Any officer who cannot earn that respect will not last long. All regiments have time-honoured ways of squashing youngsters fresh from Sandhurst who are foolish enough to think that because they have been commissioned, they must know a thing or two. The Greenjackets will tell a new officer that although he has passed the driving test, they will now teach him to drive.

All this brings out the best in young platoon commanders. When he was Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Guthrie rejected the suggestion of an all-graduate officer entry. He argued that plenty of useful 18-year-old boys were fed-up with book-work. So let them spend a few years jumping out of armoured vehicles and helicopters — if they can find one — or leading their platoon up a wadi.

Then, if the boy is serious about soldiering, there will be the junior division of the Staff College, followed by Staff College itself, to teach him to think about the profession of arms. Charles Guthrie was right. We do not need to insist that all officers are graduates. The Army already ensures that almost everyone promoted beyond Captain is of good graduate quality.

With the possible exception of the Jesuits, no organisation in history has devoted so much care to training its members as the modern British armed forces. In that respect, over-stretched budgets have their uses. Because their resources are so limited, the forces have learned to make maximum use of everything: their manpower above all. In the 1650s, Cromwell’s Army was the best in the world. A couple of years ago, today’s Army could have made a similar claim, at least on a man-for-man basis.

In recent months, however, there has been a difficulty. This is nothing to do with the calibre of the men, which is as high as ever. But the equipment shortages are imposing a cost. In Iraq, we found it increasing hard to keep up with the Americans: in Basra during the Charge of the Knights, embarrassingly so. Something similar is happening in Afghanistan, and there is a further problem.

The British Army has another age-old custom: patronising the Yanks, along the lines of a pre-war story. American warships arrive in Hong-Kong harbour, and their flagship signals to ours: “How is the second-biggest Navy in the world this morning?” The reply was instantaneous : “We’re fine. How is the second best?”

Apropos of Iraq and Afghanistan, one heard the same story. The Americans were splendid fellows and their muscle was indispensable. What a pity they could not do hearts and minds.

That may no longer be applicable. As often happens under the stress of conflict, American military doctrine has evolved. They have adapted to the terrain and they are now better at hearts and minds. Not only has British humour failed to keep up with these developments: the Yanks are aware of what we say about them, and they do not like it. There is not yet a crisis. But if the Americans were to conclude that we were better at bitching about them than at joining in the heavy lifting, a defence partnership that once seemed unbreakable could be in jeopardy.

We urgently need a defence review, and not in order to produce further economies. Although there is scope for re-deployments, there is no scope for reducing the defence budget — unless we want to imperil our ability to conduct high-intensity warfare. We have to think through the relationship between resources and commitments. That will not happen under this brain-dead Government. Perhaps the Tories should ask General Dannatt to undertake the task, once he retires.

In the meantime, there is one conclusion to be drawn. Anyone tempted to despair of our country’s future should consider the armed forces, and think again.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: How Labour Keeps the Lower Classes in Their Place

State schools have been wrecked and now it is the turn of our best universities, says Simon Heffer.

The Department of the Bleeding Obvious is one of the most cash-hungry in Government. It employs politicians and bureaucrats at huge expense to inquire into the failings of society, and discuss how they might be put right. It has just published another report, of an inquiry led by Alan Milburn, the former cabinet minister, into the lack of social mobility for the lower classes. Various reasons are advanced in this DBO tract, such as the children of the lower classes lacking ambitious parents, or contacts who can get them work experience, or who might advise them how to undertake a university or job interview. But it wouldn’t be the DBO if there weren’t something even more bleeding obvious at fault, which is our shocking state education system, and the handling of our universities.

It is a tribute to 12 years of the Blair and Brown Terrors that social mobility has declined, and that the professions appear to be open only to those from the “right” schools and therefore the “right” universities. In an interview yesterday Mr Milburn was asked precisely the sort of question the DBO dislikes intensely, which was whether the winding-up of so many grammar schools since the heyday of social mobility in the 1950s had had a damaging effect. He couldn’t possibly admit that it had: he said they were fine when only a small elite was needed for the professions, but argued that our country now required a much higher number of educated people than the grammar schools could have provided. In part he was right, but in part his logic is bogus.

Mr Milburn spoke of 2.5 million people going to university. What he did not speak of was the proportion of those who turn up inadequately educated to use a university properly; or the proportion that goes to establishments offering courses of such limited rigour that their degrees are probably worth less than the A-levels of the 1950s and 1960s. As with so much of what the DBO does, stating the obvious goes hand-in-hand with failing to understand it and its causes; and there is rarely a chance of getting the right solution.

I am sure we need more professionally qualified people than in the 1950s, because we are a more developed economy. Yet there is no point sending people to university for the sake of it. Labour’s target of 50 per cent of people having a tertiary education was a rhetorical device rather than a practical policy. It would be wonderful if 50, 60 or even 70 per cent of people went to university, provided they had been educated to a standard where they could benefit from teaching that would be of an appropriately high and demanding standard. We are some way from both of those things, and the Government still contrives to make the situation worse.

Many intelligent young people are denied a place at university or in the professions because their schools fail to develop their talent. This was routine a century ago. It is an outrage now, after decades of welfarism and the superb framework established by the 1944 Education Act. Mr Milburn says there wouldn’t have been enough grammar schools to cope with all the people we need. Then, quite simply, open more; a lot more. Nor would this harm those who didn’t make the cut. In Northern Ireland, which still has grammar schools, not only are the results from the selective schools superb — so are those from the non-selective ones, where teachers concentrate on developing the particular aptitudes of children in specific ranges of ability. Ladders that existed in the 1950s, and which still exist in a few fortunate parts of the country, have been pulled up. If we want social mobility, particularly from inner cities, we must drop them down.

But there are even more serious questions about universities, towards which the Government’s policies are shameful in their dereliction. The benefit of what the best of these institutions do for the nation and wider world is, again, bleeding obvious: yet the Charity Commission, which I wrote here last week is seeking under Dame Suzi Leather (its card-carrying Labour supporter chairman) to close down parts of the private school sector, is now turning its attention to three of our finest universities — Oxford, Cambridge and Durham. All are collegiate, and the colleges have hitherto been exempt charities. However, under the Charities Act of 2006 the colleges must register with the Charity Commission and be subject to its brand of politically “independent” scrutiny. For good measure, a Cambridge college bursar told me last week that HM Revenue and Customs is investigating the subsidised accommodation and food that colleges have historically given to fellows as a perk on top of their meagre salaries. We know how Gordon Brown ignorantly regards these places as bastions of English upper-middle class privilege — who can forget his bigoted attack on Oxford after the failure of a girl from the north of England to win a place to read medicine there? What further damage does he hope to do to them before he leaves office?

Those who overcome the hurdles put in their way by the state education system and get into Oxbridge should be aware of the cost borne by the universities, because the Government isn’t. King’s College Cambridge says it subsidises students to the tune of £6,000 a year each. Corpus is £3,500; Emmanuel £2,000. Tuition fees are £3,225 a year, but there are bursaries paid by the university (and largely funded by Trinity, which is almost the only truly wealthy establishment in the university) of up to £3,250 a year. Many colleges are raising money from old members to top up their endowments to enable not the quaffing of port at high table, but the provision of money to many more undergraduates from poor backgrounds who otherwise could not afford to come to Cambridge. Endowment income has collapsed for many colleges because of the credit crunch and near-zero interest rates. The Government will not let universities charge what they like for courses, which is the only sensible way forward: it would raise money from abroad, it would stop universities being a benefit match for the middle classes, and would bring in funds to allow colleges to be generous to many clever but impecunious students. No one would ever be denied a university education, or a shot at one of the professions that often follows on from it, because of hardship. But for the moment the universities’ hands are tied. At Oxbridge, the rate of subsidy will entail some colleges reducing admissions or going broke within three or four decades.

The Government probably cannot, or will not, understand that letting universities charge what they like would be the best way to guarantee not just their survival, but also the grant of the widest possible access to students of whatever means. There was a story last weekend about a 20 per cent cut in university funding being possible under a Tory government, because of the dire economic situation. Perhaps every cloud has a silver lining; for if such a cut forced the hand of a government into deregulating universities, then it would be one of the greatest advances in social mobility imaginable.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: I Made Friends With Death: Nurse’s Graphic Account of Ten-Day Kidnap Nightmare in the Boot of a Car

A kidnapped nurse who spent ten days trapped in the boot of her car has told how she ‘made friends with death’ during her ordeal.

Magdeline Makola, 38, was bound and blindfolded without food or drink in what she described as ‘her coffin’ as temperatures outside plunged to below freezing.

She was so thirsty that she tried to drink condensation, and all the while was in abject fear that her abductor — a violent illegal immigrant — would return and strangle her with the rope he had left around her neck.

‘I thought that the minute he’s finished with my money he’s going to come back and pull it. So I just started to make friends with death.’

Drifting in and out of consciousness, Miss Makola kicked out at the Vauxhall Astra’s bodywork in order to try to catch the attention of people walking past.

‘One day I heard no sound outside and concluded it was Christmas Day,’ she said.

‘I decided to curl up and try to relax and enjoy Christmas in the boot. I sang and prayed to myself. I just started giving up on life and I was picturing myself in the coffin.’

Miss Makola spoke as her abductor Justice Ngema, 35, was jailed for eight years and told that on his release he will be deported to his home country of South Africa.

He abducted Miss Makola, who worked at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, from her flat in Livingstone on December 16 last year.

He had met the cardiology nurse, who is also South African-born, a handful of times socially and believed she would be an easy source of money.

He punched her in the head, threatened her with a knife and when she screamed told her: ‘I’m a professional in this job. I kill people. You shut up right now.’ Ngema then bundled her into his car.

After taking his victim’s credit and cash cards, Ngema bound her neck, arms and feet. He then covered her mouth with tape, tied a scarf around her eyes and dumped the car outside Drumgelloch railway station in rural Lanarkshire.

Talking to Sky News yesterday, the nurse said: ‘I tried to squeeze some condensation from the boot interior in the hope it would relieve my thirst but it was no good because of the tape on my mouth.’

It was not until Boxing Day that Miss Makola was finally discovered by two passing policemen.

She said: ‘I could hear two men talking so I lifted my head to the gap in the boot and shouted “Please help me!” I heard the footsteps come towards me and when they opened the boot and said they were the police, I thought “Thank God, I’ve been rescued”.’

The court heard how Miss Makola screamed in pain as the blindfold was taken off. Doctors found her fingers were white and lifeless from the tying up and her wrists, ankles and feet were cut and scratched. She was also suffering from hypothermia and dehydration which had severely affected her kidneys and circulation.

Doctors said that if she hadn’t had been found, she probably would have died within 48 hours.

The High Court in Glasgow heard that after entering the UK illegally, Ngema tried to claim asylum in 2001 but his application was rejected. He was deported on May 2002.

However, just three months later he re-entered the country using his brother’s passport.

He had stayed in the UK illegally since then, working occasionally as a security guard and a carer in a nursing home.

While his victim was in his car, Ngema used her bank cards to spend £2,600 on a shopping spree, including champagne and cocktails in expensive bars, trips with his girlfriend and Christmas presents for himself.

Ngema’s lawyer claimed that his client had ‘got carried away’ and left the car outside the station in the hope that Miss Makola would be found, but did not intend for her to die.

Judge Lord Menzies yesterday gave Ngema an eight-year jail term as well as a recommendation that he be deported on his release.

In case he is not deported, the judge issued an order which would see him remain behind bars as long as psychiatrists rule that he poses a risk.

The judge told him: ‘What you did was to inflict a truly dreadful physical and mental ordeal on a young woman who had done you no harm at all. You dumped her in the boot of a car and left her there with no food or water or heat for ten days. It’s quite remarkable that she survived for so long.

‘If the weather conditions had been different or if she hadn’t been so strong, the medical evidence suggests that she wouldn’t have survived another two days.

‘It must have been incredibly uncomfortable and completely horrific for Miss Makola — it was the stuff of nightmares.

‘I cannot imagine a greater disrespect for another human being than the way you treated your victim.’

The judge said it was ‘particularly chilling’ that the abductor carried on with life as normal as his victim lay in the car.

Ngema pleaded guilty to abduction, fraud, attempted fraud and theft earlier this year. A further 13 charges were ordered to lie on file.

Miss Makola said that she felt no anger, only pity towards her abductor, and that she would pray for him.

Yesterday a UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘This was a shocking crime and following his sentence we will seek to remove this individual from the UK.’

A Lothian and Borders police spokesman said: ‘It is clear that (Ngema) is an individual who has no qualms about preying on others for personal gain and it is typical of his character that he has shown no remorse for his actions.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: MOD Rejected Three Deals to Buy Black Hawk Helicopters

Defence ministers spurned three separate deals to buy American Black Hawk helicopters which would have helped to plug the dangerous shortage facing British troops in Afghanistan. The most recent rejection came only days ago, the Observer can reveal.

A letter sent last week by the defence equipment minister, Quentin Davies, to Sikorsky, the US manufacturer of the Black Hawk, appears to admit that snubbing its latest offer could delay the introduction of desperately needed helicopters into Afghanistan.

Davies admits that rather than opt for the “earlier acquisition of another helicopter”, the government chose to pursue the heavily criticised refit of Britain’s ageing Puma fleet.

The minister’s letter is dated 7 July, the day trooper Christopher Whiteside, 20, died on foot patrol in Helmand after being hit by a hidden explosive device. Military figures say that lives are being lost in Afghanistan because troops have to travel by land, making them vulnerable to roadside bombs.

Defence industry sources have also revealed that under the initial offer from Connecticut-based Sikorsky in 2007, 60 Black Hawks would already have been available for British forces in Helmand province, where they have sustained heavy casualties from roadside bombs in their renewed offensive against the Taliban.

The damaging revelations come days after the head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, was forced to use an American-forces Black Hawk on a visit to Afghanistan due to the shortage of British helicopters.

James Arbuthnot, chairman of the defence committee, whose report last week condemned the Puma refit and expressed concern over its “poor survivability” in combat, said: “The Black Hawks are extremely good, they could be acquired in large numbers and the cost of running them would be low.”

The former chief of the defence staff, Lord Guthrie, branded the MoD’s procurement strategy as “incompetent”. Citing his experience as head of the armed forces, he confirmed there had been political pressure to favour British companies even if the equipment was inferior. “In the past, ministers wanted to buy British at all cost, sometimes at the expense of not having the kit we desperately needed,” he said.

The Tory MP Douglas Carswell, a long-time critic of defence procurement policies, denounced what he termed a virtual “monopoly” reliance on a small group of UK defence firms, pointing out that he had warned in a Commons debate nearly a year ago that this was being “paid for in English blood in Helmand”.

“This would be bad enough if it only meant higher bills for the taxpayer,” he said last night. “But we have sent brave troops to fight, and have failed to give them the most important military tool in modern counter-insurgency: a sufficient helicopter force.”

The first of Sikorsky’s three offers to the MoD, defence industry sources reveal, came in 2007. Sixty Black Hawk UH60 “L model” aircraft were offered. Under the deal, which included the training of British aircrews, nearly half would have been delivered “straight off the assembly line” during 2008, with the remainder by the end of this year. The total cost, at the then-favourable pound-dollar exchange rate, would have been roughly £480m.

A second Sikorsky offer was lodged last year following an approach by the government. This would have involved delivery of 12 Black Hawk S70Is with six to have been delivered in 2011 and the remainder in 2012.

Last month, after Davies revealed the government was engaged in an “11th-hour” reassessment of whether to go ahead with refitting the Puma, MoD officials asked Sikorsky for a further bid. It proposed supplying 60 of the latest M-model Black Hawks, the first five of them next year, a further 13 in 2011 and the remainder in “staggered deliveries” by the end of 2013. The firm received the rejection letter from Davies last week.

The MoD said last night that rejecting the Puma refit for a new aircraft would have worsened the helicopter shortage in Helmand. A spokesman said cancelling Puma would lead “to a capability gap placing unacceptable risk on operational commitments”. In response to Sikorsky’s 2007 offer, he said that the MoD was already signed up to buying 62 new “Future Lynx” helicopters, from the UK-Italian company AgustaWestland. They are not due to enter service until 2014 and will cost around £1bn.

Sikorsky’s spokesman Paul Jackson refused to discuss “any specific offers to the British government or any correspondence between us”, saying only that the company remained “ready, willing and able to work with the British government at any given time”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: School Bully Who Drove Girl, 14, To Brink of Suicide With Racist Taunts is Convicted in Landmark Case

A teenage boy has been found guilty of racially harassing a 14-year-old classmate in a landmark legal case after the girl was driven to the brink of suicide by his vile taunts.

It is the first time a pupil has been convicted of racially aggravated harassment against a student from the same school.

The bully’s victim suffered months of racist name-calling by him — and magistrates heard how the abuse made her ‘want to die’.

She was so traumatised that she took a mixture of stress pills and painkillers in January before writing a note telling her family that she did not want a ‘sad funeral’.

Her tormentor who went to the same Lincolnshire school but cannot be identified, targeted the teenager calling her a host of sickening racist names.

His victim, who had already moved schools once because of racial abuse, was forced to endure chants of ‘White, white, white is right, kick them out, fight, fight, fight’ — taken from a film about football hooliganism.

On one occasion the bully also told the girl: ‘Go back to your own country, you don’t belong here.’

Raymond Wildsmith, prosecuting, told Lincoln Magistrates Court the insults happened ‘again and again and again’ — anything up to four times a week.

The girl was subjected to six months of the racist abuse, but only revealed her torment after she tried to kill herself.

Mr Wildsmith said: ‘To an extent she suffered this abuse in silence, but suffered it she undoubtedly did.

‘She was reluctant to report it to the school authorities for fear of marking it worse.

‘But things reached such a pass that she made an attempt to take her own life such was the despair she was in.’

Giving evidence by video link, the girl told a police officer the abuse made her ‘want to die.’ ‘I wanted to die because of everything that was happening at school,’ she said.

‘I thought, “do I want to do this?” And then I thought, “Yes, I don’t want to be here.” ‘

Now she and her family have moved away from the Lincoln area.

Her 15-year-old racist tormentor, who denied the charge, was convicted of racially aggravated harassment following a six-hour trial.

He will be sentenced on August 13.

His solicitor Sunil Khanna said ‘He has no previous convictions recorded against him. He has now moved school and settled in well.’

A second 15-year -old was cleared of the same charge.

A spokesman for the Crime Prosecution Service, which confirmed it was a landmark case, said: ‘Under the circumstances it is unique because it was in school.’

Lincolnshire Education Authority declined to comment.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Somali Gangster Jailed for Life for Killing Policewoman Sharon Beshenivsky

A gangster who fled to his native Somalia after taking part in a bungled robbery in Bradford in which Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was shot dead was jailed for life today.

Mustaf Jama, 29, was told that he would have to serve at least 35 years for the murder of Ms Beshenivsky, the first female police officer killed on duty since Pc Yvonne Fletcher was shot outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.

Jama was convicted at Newcastle Crown Court following a re-trial after a jury failed to reach a verdict at a hearing in January. Sentencing him, Mr Justice Openshaw said he was one of a “team of ruthless and dangerous men”.

Jama was described as Britain’s most wanted man after the raid but used a friend’s passport to flee to Somalia, where his father, a former MP, is said to be a warlord. He went into hiding in Somaliland but was brought back to the UK to face justice in 2007 after an undercover operation to smuggle him out of Africa. Pc Beshenivsky, 38, was a mother of three with two stepchildren. She was shot and killed on her youngest daughter’s fourth birthday as she responded to an alarm call.

Her colleague Pc Teresa Milburn was also gunned down in the street as the robbers escaped with little more than £5,000.

Jama was one of three raiders who entered the premises, believing that up to £100,000 could be inside. The thugs terrified staff with a pistol and machine gun but panicked when they saw police outside.

The gang’s ringleader, Muzzaker Shah, and Jama’s younger brother, Yusuf, were caught soon afterwards and both were jailed for life for murdering the officer, and must serve at least 35 years each.

Shah was believed to have been the gunman, although Yusuf Jama claimed he fired the shots. The prosecution said even if Mustaf Jama did not fire the bullets, he was “as much guilty of murder” as the gunman.

Three other gang members who did not enter the travel agents were jailed for a range of offences. Piran Ditta Khan, the 60-year-old architect of the robbery, disappeared afterwards and remains at large, believed to be in Pakistan.

As the jury returned the guilty verdict, Pc Beshenivsky’s widower, Paul, comforted Pc Milburn in the public gallery.

Jama remained unemotional as he was convicted of all the charges but made an aggressive hand gesture towards the police gathered in the public gallery.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ukraine General ‘Killed Reporter’

A former Ukrainian general suspected of carrying out the high-profile murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze has reportedly confessed to the killing.

A senior police official said Oleksiy Pukach had also implicated senior political figures in the murder.

Mr Gongadze’s decapitated body was found in a forest in September 2000.

Three others — all former policemen — were jailed for the murder last year but Gen Pukach remained on the run until his capture on Tuesday.

Mr Gongadze was an investigative journalist who had exposed high-level corruption.

He was abducted in 2000 and his body was found months later. He had been beaten and strangled, his body doused in petrol and burned.

Prosecutors allege that Gen Pukach — who was detained near the capital, Kiev — organised the abduction and personally strangled Mr Gongadze.

Gen Pukach was the chief of the interior ministry’s surveillance department at the time of the killing.

Three others were jailed for the murder last year.

Mykola Protasov was given a sentence of 13 years, while Valeriy Kostenko and Oleksandr Popovych were each handed 12-year terms.

Tape recordings

But Mr Gongadze’s family has always claimed someone more senior was behind the killing.

His widow, Myroslava, told the BBC’s Europe Today programme: “For me and Ukraine it’s a very important step in bringing justice to my husband… and generally to society. It’s a cleansing process.

“He knows the name of people who ordered the crime,” she went on.

“The thing is, it’s easy to mention names, but it’s not that easy to collect all the evidence to present in court against instigators and organisers.”

Secret tape recordings released soon after the killing appeared to implicate the then-President, Leonid Kuchma.

In the recordings — made secretly by a member of his personal guard and then released by an opposition politician — Mr Kuchma allegedly discussed ways of removing the journalist, with a former interior minister, Yuri Kravchenko.

The latter was later found dead and was said to have committed suicide.

Mr Kuchma did not deny the voice in the recordings was his, but insisted it was doctored to make him appear to say things he did not actually say.

The scandal prompted massive street protests against Mr Kuchma’s government. He was later overturned in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Croatia: Tito’s Island-Prison Turned Into Natural Paradise

(by Frank Dota) (ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, JULY 21 — For almost 40 years, from 1949 to 1988, the island of Goli Otok, in the Northern Adriatic sea, was the island-prison of socialist Yugoslavia, first for the detention of political opponents, then for ordinary prisoners, a place both ill-famed and hated. Today, twenty years since the fall of the regime and the rise of democracy, Croatia is still unsure of the future of this unspoilt natural reserve, with its stretches of beach untouched by tourism, a land that has avoided all of the environmental and urban destruction of the last few years. The only structures present on the 4.7 square kilometres island, are the prisons and bunkers, abandoned and decrepit. There are no bedrooms or camping sites and the very few visitors are only allowed to stay for half a day, as part of their excursion to nearby Arbe (Rab), one of the most famous summer destinations on the Croatian coast. There are no brochures or guided visits. But there isn’t any monument either, to commemorate the almost 30,000 political prisoners of former Yugoslavia, of all ethnicities, who were deported to the Goli Otok’s prisons and sentenced to convict labour. Until 1956, it was mostly Tito’s political opponents that where imprisoned on the island, those that sided with Stalin in 1948, at the time of the fracture between Belgrade and Moscow. Since 1956 the prison was destined to ordinary convicts, those that were found guilty of the most severe crimes, and in 1988 it was closed for good and civilians were admitted on the island for the first time. Since then, local authorities, various non-government organizations and public and private initiatives have put forward a multitude of proposals on how to exploit the rocky and deserted island. Many of these proposals gained the approval of the central government, but eventually nothing came of any of them. A few years ago, a group of young people from Rijeka suggested to turn it into haven for artists and writers from all over the world and in particular from former Yugoslavia and various European countries, including Italy: citizens of all of these countries had in fact been inmates on the island, during the regime. The prison blocks and bunkers could be turned into art pavilions, “something like the Biennale in Venice,” said Damir Cargonja, one of the promoters of the initiative, “where every country has its own place of reference”. Other initiatives had shocked public opinion, such as the idea to recreate the atmosphere of the old prison and offer “a political prisoner’s holiday”, with fake guards, fake convict labour and isolation cells. The only realistic proposal came from a group of tour operators who saw the chance to create on the island a centre for extreme sports, such as free climbing and water sports but the idea was never turned into reality due to lack of funding and the unresolved requests of local population that wanted to see the land, confiscated in 1945, returned to its original owners. Former inmates’ associations would like to see the island turned into a memorial site for the victims of Tito’s communist regime, an idea that has the full support of local authorities, even though they have not yet given up on the initiatives for touristic use of the island. But as for now, the only real ‘project’ that has seen the light on the island, and which was given a lot of space in the Croatian press, was the production of a series of porn movies, shot without permission by foreign production companies. (ANSAmed).

2009-07-21 17:21

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo NGOs Protest Perceived Visa Snub

Several Kosovo civil society organisations have sent a letter to the EU calling for a review of the “impalpable and discriminatory”decision to exclude Kosovo from the current visa-liberalisation process.

Of the five regional states involved in the visa-liberalisation process, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro have been approved for visa-free travel within the EU, as of January 2010. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania have been told that they might receive EU visa-free status later.

Kosovo, on the other hand, has not been included in the process, as five of the 27 members of the EU have not recognised Kosovo’s independence.

In the letter to the EU, the NGOs state that Kosovo’s exclusion from the visa-liberalisation process threatens to transform Kosovo “into a ghetto without any way out”.

The head of the Club for Foreign Policy and co-signatory of the letter, Veton Surroi said that Kosovo’s citizens would be further isolated by the EU’s decision, hindering the integration of the country.

“Today, one of the [factors] which impinge on the dignity of Kosovo’s citizens […] is the issue of visas. Go to any embassy in Kosovo or in Skopje today and you will see how degrading the approach towards Kosovo’s citizens has become… And today we are worse off than we were 15-20 years ago”, Surroi said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Surroi also accused the government for not doing their part in ensuring Kosovo would participate in the visa-liberalisation process, given that one of the prerequisites is the issuing of biometric passports, which the government did not do.

Rada Trajkovic, a Kosovo Serb politician, also signed the letter. She said that Kosovo’s exclusion from the process causes division, and can be viewed as offensive by the Kosovo population, particularly Serbs.

“The European Commission’s proposition devalues our efforts to develop an open and multiethnic Kosovo,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Economy: Tunisia Receives EU Funds for Neighbourhood Project

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 21 — Tunisia is among the countries which are set to benefit from the 70 million euros from the European Commission as part of their financing of investment projects in partner countries of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The projects concern the sectors of energy, transport and the environment, as well as the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and the social sector. The sum that has been allocated is included in the 2009 budget that the European Commission has made available to the Neighbourhood Investment Fund (NIF). Alongside Tunisia, operations involving NIF and based on an action plan with the EU in the area of the ENP, include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, the Republic of Moldova, Morocco, the occupied Palestinian Territories and Ukraine. (ANSAmed).

2009-07-21 13:18

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

‘Au Revoir’ To France and ‘Shalom’ To Israel

( France’s Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim blessed 220 French Jews before they left Paris and flew to their new home of Israel Tuesday on a special El Al flight. On Wednesday, they will follow other groups in a ceremony at the Western Wall (Kotel), where they will receive their Israeli identity cards, certifying their citizenship.

Newly-elected Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, former prisoner of Zion, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu) will be on hand to welcome them.

More than 700 French Jews are expected to move to the Jewish State this summer and approximately 2,000 before the end of the year, a 10 percent increase compared with 2008.

France’s 600,000 Jewish population is the third largest in the world, following Israel and the United States, and also is Europe’s largest source of olim (new immigrants), according to Jewish Agency aliyah official Oren Toledano. “French Jews are very Zionist, that’s part of their culture, history and religious practice. Israel is an essential value for the Jewish community in France,” he told the French news agency AFP.

Twenty other special olim flights are expected to touch down at Ben Gurion Airport during the summer, bringing 3,000 new immigrants to Israel from the U.S., Canada, Britain, the former Soviet Bloc countries, South America, Africa and Ethiopia. Another 2,000 olim will arrive on other flights.

The Jewish Agency expects a 15 percent increase in aliyah this year compared with 2008.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

France: 2,000 Jews to Leave Country for Israel in 2009

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JULY 21 — Some 2,000 Jews in France will make Aliyah this year. Making Aliyah means going to live in Israel. This is 150 more people than in 2008 when 1,850 left France for Israel. According to data from the Jewish Agency, those leaving are chiefly young people, pensioners and families with children. Today 250 Jews will leave on a special flight from Paris following months of preparation and the blessing of the Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim. France has the most consistent Jewish community in Europe with 500,000 people, and it is the country with the greatest number of departures for Israel. For Orean Toledano, director of the Aliyah department for the Jewish Agency, this can be explained because French Jews “are very Zionist, a factor linked to their culture, to their history, to their religious practice. Israel is a fundamental value for them.” The phenomenon is not new in France (departures in 2007 were 2,659, and 2,802 in 2006) and it has seen peaks linked to moments of particular tension for the Jewish community. The most recent incident which shocked France was the kidnapping and murder of a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi, near Paris in 2006. Halimi was brutally tortured for three weeks by the so-called “Barbarians” gang, before being found dead in the street. The case, which led to a life sentence for the gang leader, Youssouf Fofana, is now under appeal. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israeli Textbooks to Drop ‘Nakba’

Israel’s education ministry is to drop from an Arabic language textbook a term describing the creation of the state of Israel as “the catastrophe”.

The Arabic word “nakba” has been used with Israeli-Arab pupils since 2007. It does not appear in Hebrew textbooks.

Education Minister Gideon Saar said no state could be expected to portray its own foundation as a catastrophe.

Israeli Arab MP Hana Sweid called the move an attack on Palestinian identity and collective memory.

The passage in question, which occurs in one textbook aimed at Arab children aged eight or nine, describes the 1948 war, which resulted in Israel’s creation, in the following terms: “The Arabs call the war the Nakba — a war of catastrophe, loss and humiliation — and the Jews call it the Independence War.”

The sentence was introduced when Yuli Tamir of the centre-left Labour party was education minister.

Ms Tamir’s successor in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing administration, Mr Saar, said: “There is no reason that the official curriculum of the state of Israel should present the establishment of the state as a ‘holocaust’ or ‘catastrophe’…”

Mr Saar added that state education for children was not supposed entail the de-legitimising of that state.

“Including the term in the official curriculum of the Arab sector was a mistake, a mistake that will not repeat itself in the new curriculum, which is currently being revised,” he concluded.

Correspondents say most Hebrew-language history books, especially when written for schoolchildren, focus on the heroism of Israeli forces in 1948 and gloss over the mass exile of Palestinians.

If it is mentioned at all it is attributed to a voluntary flight, rather than the deliberate expulsion which later revisionist historians claim to have uncovered from archive sources.

The term Nakba is usually applied to the loss suffered by millions of Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and subsequent conflicts; their fate remains a key factor in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Jafar Farrah, director of Israeli-Arab advocacy group Moussawa, told the BBC that removing the word Nakba from textbooks would not stop Arabs from using it, but it would complicate relations.

Far-right members of the Israeli government are pursuing legislation to make it illegal in Israel to commemorate the Nakba, as Palestinians and their supporters do every 15 May.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Israel to Use Hitler Shot for PR

Israeli embassies are being instructed to use for public relations purposes an infamous photograph of Adolf Hitler meeting a top Palestinian cleric.

Far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has personally requested that the photo be sent to missions around the world, a senior official said.

The 1941 shot shows the Nazi leader meeting the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

The US is pressuring Israel to end a Jewish building project at a hotel once owned by the cleric, Amin al-Husseini.

AFP news agency quoted an Israeli official as saying the move by Mr Lieberman was linked to the row over the Shepherd Hotel.

“It is important that the world know the facts,” a spokesperson for Mr Lieberman told the BBC, without giving further detail.

Haj Amin al-Husseini was a Palestinian nationalist leader who led violent campaigns against Jewish immigrants and the British authorities in what was then British-ruled Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s.

He fled the territory in 1937, but continued his campaign to oppose British plans to set up a Jewish State in Palestine, allying himself with the Nazis during World War II. He died in Lebanon in 1974.

The meeting with Hitler took place in November 1941 in Berlin, during which Husseini asked Hitler unsuccessfully to back Arab independence and publicly oppose the future creation of Israel.

Last week US officials reportedly summoned Israel’s ambassador to Washington and requested a stop to the project to build 20 apartments at the Shepherd Hotel site in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

It was bought in 1985 by American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Outpost Evacuation, Fight on Saturday Permitted, Rabbi

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JULY 21 — The duty of the ‘Sabbath rest’ could be ignored if it is necessary to stop the removal of Jewish outposts in the West Bank. One of the rabbis most closely followed by the settlers movement, Don Lior, was speaking in reaction to news reported in the press today regarding an allegedly imminent operation by the Israeli army. The Sabbath rest holds a fundamental significance in Judaism. Among other things, it includes a ban of using electricity, motors and telephones. For this reason, settlers in the West Bank fear that the Israeli army could take advantage of a Saturday for a surprise evacuation of illegal outposts. In January, the army carried out a surprise dismantling of the legal outpost of Shvut Ami on a Saturday. This brought about protests from Chief Military Rabbi Avi Runtzky. The ethical issue has however been submitted by settlers to Rabbi Don Lior who replied without hesitation that if troop movements were noted in the area on Saturday leading to the assumption that outpost removal was about to take place, religious settlers could certainly request support by telephone. “The fight for the protection of the land of Israel is of greater importance,” said the rabbi. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Press: Israeli Army Prepare to Dismantle 23 Outposts

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — The Israeli army has put together a plan to clear out 23 illegal outposts, where 1,200 Jews live, in the West Bank in just one day. The news is reported by the daily newspaper Haaretz today. According to the paper, a large-scale exercise was carried out last week involving units from the army, the police and the border patrol. The paper added that the army has been finalising logistical plans over recent days. If confirmed, it would be the largest operation by the Israeli army against the settler movement since the summer of 2005 when, on Ariel Sharon’s order, 8,000 settlers were evicted from the Gaza Strip. But in a first comment on the issue, military radio has denied any such plans being put together. The broadcaster confirmed that an exercise was carried out last week but added that it was a small-scale operation. The settler movement has already announced that it will resist any attempt to forcefully dismantle outposts. “Blood will be shed,” warned extreme-right MP Arieh Eldad. Yesterday army units demolished several prefabricated buildings in three outposts in the West Bank. No incidents were reported as a result of these operations. But in other areas of the West Bank, groups of settlers have resorted to violence against Palestinians, such as arson attacks on fields and throwing rocks, as a sign of protest.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Faith and Worship Exhibit to be Held in Abu Dhabi

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, JULY 21 — The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture organises an art exhibition entitled ‘Islam: Faith and Worship’ on July 22-October 10, 2009 at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, Middle East online reports. The exhibition includes nearly 150 art works, some of which were displayed for the first time, compiled from seven museums and national libraries in Turkey especially for the exhibition. The exhibition includes many works that portray the emergence of Arab crafts through the ages, in addition to examples of the use of Arab calligraphy in decoration on metal surfaces, wood work, and weaving. Miniature drawings and manuscripts were also displayed. The themes include the biography of Prophet Muhammad, the emergence of Islam, elements of faith and worship in Islam, and many other issues. A range of non-standard methods of presenting Arab calligraphy are on display, including scripts on clothes which reflect symbolism in Islamic art. There are also on the sidelines of the exhibition a number of cultural events, like Sufi shows and workshops on hand-made Islamic crafts.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

GCC to Continue With US Currency Peg, Analyst Says

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JULY 21 — GCC economies were likely to continue to peg their currencies to the US dollar despite it being in their interests to diversify their foreign currency reserves away from the greenback, according to an economist with Gulf Finance House, Arabian Business online reports. “The US dollar is the undisputed reserve currency and will remain so for as far as one can see, but the question is is it losing some of its market share to the euro? “It’s in the interests of surplus economies to diversify their reserves and portfolios to protect their values,” according to Alàa Al-Yousuf, chief economist at Gulf Finance House in London. With five of the six Arab states that comprise the GCC — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman — pegging their currencies to the dollar, the region is a big buyer of US dollar-denominated assets. The sixth, Kuwait, uses a basket heavily weighted in dollars. During his visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE last week, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he received reassurances from GCC officials that the dollar would remain the region’s main reserve currency despite calls from some quarters to drop the dollar peg. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraq: UN Calls for More Protection for Christians

Baghdad, 14 July (AKI) — The top United Nations envoy to Iraq has called for more efforts to protect the country’s Christians, as well as other minority communities. The secretary general’s special representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, said that those responsible for the attacks were trying to terrorise small groups making it more difficult to coexist peacefully.

Melkert was speaking as the northern Iraqi city of Mosul ended a temporary curfew in its Christian neighbourhoods, imposed on Monday, following bomb attacks against churches in Baghdad at the weekend.

“This campaign is aimed at terrorising vulnerable groups and preventing the peaceful coexistence of different religious groups in what is one of the world’s cradles of religious and ethnic diversity,” said Melkert.

The curfew was in place in the suburbs of the city on Monday in an attempt to prevent bombings like those in Baghdad in the northern city.

The city of Mosul has the highest proportion of Christians in Iraq, and even has several ancient churches, some of which date back to the early centuries of Christianity.

Bombs exploded outside several Christian Churches in Baghdad on Sunday.

Four people were killed and 30 others were injured in the attacks which were believed to have been a co-ordinated assault.

However, a car bomb near a church in eastern Baghdad caused the most serious damage, killing four people and injuring 21.

Melkert, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, called on all parties, including the government, to redouble their efforts to protect minorities in the country.

The United Nations said an upsurge in attacks, threats and intimidation had forced more than 12,000 Christians to flee Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — in October 2008.

Some of them returned after hearing that the security situation had improved.

Iraqi Christians are believed to total around 750,000 and are a minority in a country that is mostly Muslim of around 28 million people. Christians have randomly been targeted in attacks around Iraq, mostly in Baghdad and Mosul, which has caused many to flee the country.

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

Jordan Rebuffs Right Wing Jews Plan to Buy Land in Kingdom

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN JULY 21 — The Jordanian government on Tuesday rebuffed plans by a right wing Israeli activist to purchase large sizes of property in the kingdom, saying the legal system requires government approval to sell big sizes of land to foreigners. Earlier this week, chairman of the influential Israel Land Fund, Arieh King, said his organization bought hundreds of houses and property in the West Bank and Jerusalem and will do similar measures in the kingdom. The declaration caused major concern among Jordanian officials at a time when politicians are attempting to persuade the US administration that Jordan can not be made as an alternative homeland for Palestinians. “Foreigners seeking to purchase lands bigger than 10 dunums need approval of the cabinet,” said government spokesman Nabil Sharif, whose remarks were carried on front pages of all major dailies. The minister however admitted that Jews have deeds of property in Jordan dated to the early years of the past century, before the kingdom was announced as an emirate by the British authorities. But Sharif insisted the ownership is null and void. “There were thousands of Jewish properties purchased during the Ottoman era and under the British mandate, but became null and void after Transjordan issued the Lands Law in 1933 cancelling all ownerships registered under Ottoman law,” said Sharif. Right wing Israeli activists say Jordan is a historic part of Palestine and have been reportedly buying huge amounts of land through local or foreign agents. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Anti-UNIFIL Terror Cell Dismantled

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JULY 21 — Lebanese army security services have dismantled a terrorist cell preparing attacks against the UN peace-keeping force in Lebanon, the Lebanese army said in a statement. The network smashed, consisting of 10 people from different Arab nations, “aimed at creating terror cells charged with planning the monitoring of UNIFIL forces and the Lebanese Army with a view to carrying out terrorist operations against them.” The statement, which did not specify when the network was dismantled, said the group planned to carry out “security operations against foreign objectives, starting from Lebanon.” Lebanese army intelligence also announced in May that they had dismantled since the start of the year other terrorist cells operating in the south of the country. In October 2008, the Beirut press sounded the alarm about possible attacks by unidentified terrorist groups against Unifil, which includes some 200 Italian service personnel. Until today, since the creation of the Unifil-2 contingent, after the summer 2006 war between Israel and the Shiite Hezbollah movement, three attacks have been carried out against the “blue helmets” — the bloodiest was on June 24, 2007 when six soldiers from the Spanish contingent were killed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Russians Poised for Confrontation With Muslims

Southern republics reportedly on precipice of explosion

Muslim radicals have stepped up their attacks across Russia’s southern tier of the North Caucasus, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Observers now believe the region is on the precipice of explosion as more provinces come under Islamist influence, giving Moscow reason to be alarmed about security in its southern republics.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Police Ban Radical Indonesian Cleric in Aftermath of Jakarta Bombings

Hard-line preacher Abu Bakar Bashir was reportedly barred by police on Tuesday from delivering a sermon in Malang, East Java, after complaints from local residents marked the second major public rejection of Bashir’s hard-line push for an Islamic state.

Wahyudin, the director of the Al Mukmin Islamic Boarding School, known as Ngruki, in Central Java, said that he regretted the police decision to prevent Bashir, the school’s founder, from spreading his message.

The ban was announced after residents of the second-largest city in the province reportedly said Bashir was a threat to Islamic unity.

It is unclear if the decision was in response to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Jakarta and the complete rejection of violence by most religious organizations, or if the Malang decision was part of a wider police effort to muzzle Bashir, at least in the immediate aftermath of the Jakarta attacks.

“The police action is baseless,” Wahyudin said. “It shows how the government apparently dislikes what [Abu Bakar Bashir] is doing to implement Shariah law correctly.”

In 2003, Bashir was jailed for involvement in the 2002 Bali bombing conspiracy, which claimed the lives of 202 people, but the conviction was overturned in 2006.

Bashir once headed the Indonesian Mujahideen Council, an organization advocating the implementation of Shariah law in Indonesia. He resigned last year, however, following a disagreement with rivals in the group.

He has also been accused of serving as the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network, though he denies that the group exists.

He has been reported as saying that if Westerners want peace, they must accept Islam.

In June, residents of one Surabaya neighborhood — in what was described at the time as an indication that Indonesians had become tired of hard-line Islamic views — barred the doors of a mosque that they believed was being used to promote hard-line Islamist teachings, including regular speeches by Bashir.

Residents of Jalan Sidotopo IV in the city shut down the Al Ihsan Sabilillah Mosque for three full days before agreeing to re-open it. The dispute came to an end only after a meeting with the head of the mosque and local authorities at the Sukolilo subdistrict office.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Marriott Bomber Singled Out Mining Meeting

THE three Australians killed in the Marriott hotel attack took the worst of the blast having sat at the corner of the breakfast table closest to the doorway the suicide bomber used to enter the room.

Mining executive Garth McEvoy, diplomat Craig Senger and human resources manager Nathan Verity never stood a chance — and would not have seen the bomber enter the room behind them. Those at the head of the table were more fortunate, shielded from the explosion by two large pillars.

Also killed inside the Marriott lounge were New Zealand businessman Tim McKay and Indonesian head waiter Evert Mokodompit. Numerous people, including the ANZ’s Scott Merrillees, were wounded.

One of the men inside the room, the former head of Rio Tinto’s Indonesian operations and member of the Australian-Indonesian Business Council, Noke Kiroyan, had no doubt the Marriott bomber had directly targeted the 19 businessmen who had gathered.

“That meeting was specifically for a single purpose,” Mr Kiroyan said. “I would say the guy didn’t turn left to the Sailendra coffee shop but turned right to the JW Marriott lounge, which is exclusively used by our group for these discussions.”

A US embassy source confirmed Mr Kiroyan’s view that the businessmen were targeted.

“The way it was described to me, he had a backpack strapped on the front and he had a stroller bag, like a pull-carriage (suitcase),” the embassy official told The Australian.

“The pull-carriage is the one that did all the damage to a close colleague of mine. It basically ripped everyone through the floor and that’s why all the legs are shattered and the impacts are in the lower extremities. The upper one (bomb) basically blew the suicide bomber apart and anything that came out of that hit people from the top.

“The ones that were closest to the door had the highest impact. The ones that were further away in the back of the room, obviously they were impacted by the blow, but not any of the skin damage and the shrapnel.”

A hotel source said a security guard had challenged the bomber before he entered the lounge but was told: “I’ve got to deliver something to my boss.”

The US embassy source said the Marriott, and the other hotel that was attacked, the Ritz-Carlton, had been designated as high security for visiting diplomats and anyone associated with Western embassies.

“The fact is that a distinguished group of executives were in the room that was most affected,” the source said. “It is adjacent to the bigger coffee

shop. I would think that someone had enough information to go down there and walk the halls.” The business group called itself the Indonesian Country Program and the weekly breakfasts were chaired by American James Castle, head of CastleAsia, which connects foreign businesses to Indonesian companies.

Mr Castle, who was also in the Marriott when it was hit by terrorists in 2003, was at the head of the table and was admitted to hospital with minor injuries.

The group meets every Friday and alternates between hosting the chief executives of mining and oil and gas companies. Last Friday’s breakfast was with the miners.

Mr Kiroyan said the businessmen had gathered around sofas in the room and that Mr Castle had called everyone to the breakfast table shortly after 7.30am.

“I remember the seconds before the bomb went off,” he said. “I received a message on my BlackBerry from my wife. Just then I sensed this loud … people say it was a boom but it just sounded ‘bang’.

“There was a flash and the next thing I knew — I must have passed out — I was lying on the floor and I couldn’t see anything. It was dark and there was a lot of dust. I vaguely saw light and I walked to the light. Someone grabbed both my arms and took me to the sidewalk.”

Mr Kiroyan, who suffered only a black eye, said he was shielded from the blast by two concrete pillars but those at the other end of the table were not so lucky.

“This is a heinous act,” he said. “It is something that everybody should despise.”

The US embassy source said the attack appeared a “rather surgical plan to target this meeting room”.

“If you look at the list of names, if you want to send a message, go through the list of names that were there,” the source said.

In the room were American, Australian, New Zealand, Italian, Dutch and Indonesian energy, mining, recruitment and telecommunications chiefs, along with consultants and government mission representatives. Mr Kiroyan said the meetings were always “no holds barred” forums.

“I make it a point to attend; I want to know what’s going on,” Mr Kiroyan said. “If you attend, you have a very good picture of the state of the business world in Indonesia.”

Mr Kiroyan said head waiter Mr Mokodompit, who he described as a “very fine man”, had just served him his usual two fried eggs when the bomber entered the room.

Mr Mokodompit’s father, Victor, tried most of Friday to ring his son to tell him that his wife, Ratna, was in labour but wasn’t able to contact him.

Ratna delivered a boy on Saturday morning and the hospital said last night that the family had not yet told her the news of her husband’s death.

Indonesian man Sudargo, an electrician, is recovering from head injuries in Jakarta’s Metropolitan Medical Centre. Mr Sudargo, 52, said he had been working in the lobby of the Marriott and had noticed a man carrying two bags through the hotel. He thinks he may have been the bomber, but he could not say for sure.

“I don’t really remember it,” he said. “When the explosion happened, the ceiling crashed on my head. I’m OK but I need further surgery.”

He said he did not know what to think of the bombers because he did not know their motives.

Yoga Turwanto, 20, was working as a waiter in the general breakfast room of the Marriott. He said he was too distressed to talk.

Cho Insan, also known as Toh Shin Woo, who describes himself as a fashion producer, was in Jakarta from Seoul with an entourage of models, designers and performers to present a major Korean fashion showcase. The event was to climax last night with parades and a concert at the Ritz-Carlton.

“I was at breakfast and suddenly, bang,” he said. “I fell down and some staff of Ritz-Carlton hotel helped me standing up.”

He said his Korean colleagues had been still in their rooms when he was thrown down and hit in the leg with shrapnel. “It was only me. I’m OK,” Mr Cho said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Terror Hits Home for Family

EVERT Mocodompis, a waiter at Jakarta’s JW Marriott hotel, was serving breakfast on Friday when a bomb went off, killing him and at least four others.

A day later, his wife Ratna gave birth to their son, still unaware that she had become a widow at the hands of terrorists.

By yesterday she had been informed but, according to relatives, she remained in hospital and was too weak and distressed to attend the funeral.

His father Vikto was there — a vision of grief among other relatives, work colleagues and friends as Mr Mocodompis’ mutilated body was lowered into a grave in South Jakarta.

Vikto Mocodompis could not find the words to describe the murder of his son, who in 2003 had also been working at the Marriott when the hotel was first bombed, but by chance he had taken the day off. “He considered himself very lucky back then,” his father said.

Asked what he felt about the terrorists behind Friday’s bombings, Mr Mocodompis said:

“I do not want to hold grudges until the sun goes down.”

The terrorists targeted Western businesspeople in two five-star hotels, but at the graveside in South Jakarta yesterday, it was evident they have also destroyed the lives of ordinary, battling Indonesians.

Mr Mocodompis’ work colleagues wailed in grief as they sprinkled rose petals on his grave and then huddled together, calling for each other to be calm.

His widow told friends that it would have been better if she had died too.

The couple’s three-year-old daughter, Angel, doesn’t yet understand what has happened to her father, who was a deeply religious Christian.

When she was taken to look at his remains yesterday, she could not comprehend that what she was seeing was her father. “She’s too young. It’s just so tragic,” a relative said.

His mother, Ida, collapsed yesterday morning, before the body was taken in a police-escorted convoy to the cemetery.

Evert Mocodompis, 32, was, by all accounts, a kind, polite and hard-working family man.

Businessman Noke Kiroyan was one of the last people to speak with Mr Mocodompis during the fateful breakfast gathering of top businesspeople targeted by the terrorists.

Mr Kiroyan said Mr Mocodompis always remembered his order at the Friday functions. “The usual?” he would ask, meaning fried eggs and yoghurt were on the way.

Friend Geoffrey Rorene said Mr Mocodompis worked hard to help youth in their local church. “His heart was open to everyone,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Terrorist Delivers What Boss Ordered

THE terrorist knew exactly where to go.

Seventeen of Indonesia’s top business executives had just been served breakfast in a private lounge at the end of a corridor off the main lobby of Jakarta’s JW Marriott Hotel.

Noke Kiroyan remembers the exact time — 7.45am — as he was opening a text message from his wife, after finishing his fried eggs and yoghurt.

“It was a long message and as I was reading it there was a loud bang and then a red flash in my eyes,” said Mr Kiroyan, a former president of the Indonesia-Australia Business Council.

A few minutes earlier Didik Taufik, one of the hotel’s security guards, thought it odd that a man wearing a backpack on his chest and dragging a suitcase was walking towards the breakfast gathering, which had become a Friday morning ritual for the heads of many of Indonesia’s big foreign corporations.

“Good morning, what can I do for you?” Mr Taufik asked the man, who replied that he wanted to meet his boss.

“Who is your boss and where is he?” Mr Taufik asked.

The man avoided the question. “I want to deliver what my boss ordered,” the man said, continuing to drag towards the meeting what we now know to be a suitcase packed with explosives, nails and metal screws.

Mr Taufik did not want to delay one of the hotel’s high-powered breakfast guests receiving his delivery.

The man appeared calm, not like somebody about to kill himself and as many people as he could possibly get near.

Security footage shows he was wearing a baseball cap pulled slightly over his face. He was 172 centimetres tall with an oval face. He spoke with an Indonesian accent.

Mr Taufik indicated to Dadang, another security guard, that he should accompany the man to the breakfast.

Dutch businessman Roy Widosuwito, president of Perfetti Van Melle, a company that makes sweets, never noticed the terrorist walk into the room. By luck, he was sitting at a table furthest from the entrance, next to American James Castle, a long-time Jakarta political lobbyist and business consultant, whose company CastleAsia hosted the breakfast gatherings.

Mr Widosuwito said he was sipping coffee when he glanced towards the entrance and saw a fireball.

“I covered my face and thought, ‘Oh my God, I am going to die’,” he told Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper. “I recognised this was a bomb because I’ve lived here for quite some time, so you know about these things,” he said.

“Immediately the whole room was full of dust and smoke … a few seconds later, I opened my eyes and I couldn’t see anything. But I could move my hands and I thought, ‘Hey, I’m not dead’.”

Mr Kiroyan said he must have been knocked out by the blast because he found himself on the floor in darkness.

Water was falling on his face: the massive blast had activated the hotel’s sprinklers.

Fear flashed through Mr Kiroyan’s mind that he would never see again. “I’m blind. I’m blind,” he called out in English. He heard somebody screaming the same thing.

Somewhere in the blackness, he heard somebody groaning, “Allahu akbar” (God is great).

He thinks this was one of his Indonesian colleagues, who also thought he was going to die.

Mr Kiroyan eventually saw a light in the distance.

“There was debris everywhere … I stepped over things and made it to the entrance,” he said.

US businessman Gary Ford, who suffered severe burns and whose trousers had been blown off, staggered out of the room about the same time.

Somehow, Adrianto Machribie, a former head of the mining company Freeport, also made it out of the room, despite severe injuries.

Mr Kiroyan saw a rescuer cradling his head.

“The hotel staff were great … one of them grabbed me by the arm and led me outside to the pavement,” said Mr Kiroyan, who counts himself lucky to have suffered only a burst eardrum and black eye.

At least four of the nine people killed in Friday’s twin blasts in Jakarta were at Mr Castle’s breakfast: Australian trade official Craig Senger, Australian businessmen Nathan Verity and Garth McEvoy and New Zealand businessman Tim MacKay.

The dead also include Indonesians such as Evert, the hotel waiter, who Mr Kiroyan said never had to be reminded what he liked for breakfast.

Friends say Mr Castle, a former president of the American Chamber of Commerce who suffered minor injuries, is devastated by what happened.

It was the second time he has come close to death at the Marriott.

In August 2003 Mr Castle was having lunch in one of the hotel’s restaurants when a car bomb exploded outside. He suffered minor injuries on that occasion as well.

Mr Widosuwito, who suffered ear injuries and had to have a metal screw removed from his thigh, said he felt lucky to be alive but also angry at what has happened to Indonesia.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Takes Hard Line Against Uyghurs, Local Authorities to Adopt Special Anti-Separatism Law

The authorities in Xinjiang are preparing a special law. In China special law and order legislation means more powers to the police and less freedom to the people.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Xinjiang wants to quickly pass special laws to deal with separatism in the autonomous region, Chinese newspapers reported yesterday without any explanation. This is a sign that the protests that broke out on 5 July will be met with harsh measures. Officially 197 people died during the violent clashes and more 1,700 were wounded.

Analysts note that China already has some of the toughest anti-secession laws on the books; any new law will simply give more powers to the police and increase already harsh penalties, thus further limiting civil liberties.

Speaking to Xinhua Eligen Imibakhi, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People’s Congress, said that this month’s protests were caused by the “three forces,” namely “extremism, separatism and terrorism”.

For years China has used this unholy trinity to justify its persecution of Uyghurs, charging them with being dangerous terrorists.

Chinese authorities insist that demonstrations in early July were organised by secessionist groups, not the spontaneous action of ordinary people.

The mouthpiece of the Communist Party, the People’s Daily, yesterday blamed foreign groups like the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and exiled Uyghyr leader Rebiya Kadeer for masterminding the violence, an accusation which Xinhua reprinted today.

Uyghurs have dismissed Chinese charges, saying the protests were peaceful until police intervened.

Instead WUC representative in Japan Ilham Mahmut called on China to allow a third party to hold an independent investigation into the incidents.

Meanwhile Xingjian’s capital of Urumqi remains an ethnically-divided powder keg.

Uyghurs have become a minority in their own city, restricted to the poorest neighbourhoods.

Ethnic Han Chinese now make up more than 70 per cent of the city’s 2.3 million residents, encouraged to settle in this faraway outpost through incentives and promises of positions of power.

The violent demonstrations have traumatised both groups; each claiming that media coverage of the events has distorted what actually happened.

Officially, 1,400 Uyghurs have been arrested for their involvement in the protests, a figure treated with scorn by Uyghurs, some of whom claim that as many 20,000 have been detained, including innocent passers-by caught up in the events.

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

China Says Falun Gong Ban ‘Works’

A Chinese official says the country has been successful in efforts to crack down on the spiritual movement Falun Gong, 10 years after it was banned.

Li Anping, from the China Anti-Cult Association, told a national newspaper that people now realised the true nature of the movement.

But Falun Gong still exists, and has organised protest events outside China to mark the anniversary.

Falun Gong was banned in China in 1999 for carrying out “illegal activities”.

‘Violent campaign’

The Chinese government is not keen to mark this anniversary and there has been little mention of Falun Gong in the media over the past few days.

But Mr Li told China’s Global Times: “As people have realised the true essence of the cult, it’s [now] impossible for them to organise a massive activity.”

His association is a non-governmental body made up of volunteers, although it receives government backing.

But the Falun Gong information centre, based in New York, puts forward a different picture.

It says the Chinese government has carried out a violent campaign against practitioners over the last 10 years.

It claims that more than 3,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands tortured in China’s crackdown on the movement.

“This anniversary is a time of commemoration for the millions whose lives have been unalterably changed by this violent campaign,” said Levi Browde, executive director of the centre, in a statement earlier this month.

In China, the centre’s claims are almost impossible to verify.

Falun Gong was initially tolerated in China, but was banned after 10,000 practitioners staged a protest outside the central government’s leadership compound in Beijing.

Officials said the ban was introduced because the group carried out illegal activities, promoted superstition and disrupted social order.

It is often referred to by the government as an “evil cult”.

Since then the Chinese government has waged a relentless publicity campaign against Falun Gong and its followers.

But it is clear that some Chinese people continue to support the movement, which is based on breathing and meditation exercises.

Although the group is banned in mainland China, it is legal in Hong Kong, which was returned to China in 1997.

There have also been demonstrations against China’s crackdown on the movement in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States over recent days.

And there are still people in the mainland who ignore their government’s ban and continue to practise in secret.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Family Wants Action on Melbourne Crime

The family of a Canadian man fatally injured in a brawl outside a Melbourne hotel has called for decisive government action to halt the city’s escalating culture of violence.

Victorian police said 25-year-old Cain Anthony Aguiar became involved in an altercation with a group of men as he left the Blarney Stone Hotel, on Anderson Street, in Yarraville, on July 9, after drinking there alone.

The dual Canadian-Australian citizen was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he died five days later with his family by his side.

Three men have been charged with murder over the incident.

In an open letter released by Victoria Police from Mr Aguiar’s mother Issy, his father Tony and sister Tonya, the family called for “strong leadership, commitment and more resources” to fight street crime.

“A month ago we said farewell to our son and brother as he set off to Australia,” the letter said.

“As a dual citizen, he was considering making a life for himself here and was exploring his options. As a family we never imagined we would be here in Melbourne to hold his hand as he died.

“Cain had an affinity with Melbourne and frequently commented: ‘I just love the people here; they’re so nice’.

“He was looking forward to making friends in Melbourne. He felt safe in this city, and with the intention of meeting new people and getting to know locals, went to a nearby pub to grab a drink. In a vicious assault, Cain was critically injured and subsequently taken away from us.

“More has been lost than an innocent life. We all risk losing our right to safety unless we can address violence in the community.

“There are serious ramifications if we don’t give this issue the attention it deserves. It is going to take strong leadership, commitment, and significant resources to make a change.

“If Cain’s death can be used to focus attention on this serious issue of violence in the community, then some good will emerge from our pain.”

Sioeli Seau, 19, of Sunshine North, Fostar Akoteu, 22, of Burnside, and Jacob Palutele, 23, of Seddon, have been charged with murder.

The men were remanded in custody by Magistrate Jelena Popovich on July 16 to reappear in court on November.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Latin America

The Legionaries’ Last Stand. An Exclusive Interview With Fr. Thomas Berg

The Vatican is investigating the Legionaries of Christ, which is reeling from the transgressions of its founder. And for the first time, one of their authoritative members breaks the silence on the crucial problems that have exploded in the congregation

ROME, July 13, 2009 — In two days, the announced apostolic visitation of the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ will begin.

The visitors appointed by the Holy See are the following five bishops:

  • Ricardo Watti Urquidi, bishop of Tepic in Mexico, in charge of the visitation in Mexico and Central America, where the Legionaries have 44 houses with 250 priests and 115-120 religious and aspiring priests;
  • Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Denver, responsible for the United States and Canada, where the Legionaries have 24 houses with 130 priests and 260 religious and aspiring priests;
  • Giuseppe Versaldi, bishop of Alexandria, responsible for Italy, Israel, the Philippines, and South Korea, where the Legionaries have 16 houses with 200 priests and 420 religious and aspiring priests;
  • Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, archbishop of Concepción in Chile, in charge of Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela, where the Legionaries have 20 houses with 122 priests and 120 religious and aspiring priests;
  • Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, bishop of Bilbao, responsible for Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Holland, Poland, Austria, and Hungary, where the Legionaries have 20 houses with 105 priests and 160 religious and aspiring priests.

The investiture of the five visitors took place at the Vatican on the morning of Saturday, June 27, in a meeting with the cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, William J. Levada, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and Franc Rodé, prefect of the congregation for institutes of religious life.

At the meeting, the five were read the conclusions of the Vatican investigation that led in 2006 to the condemnation of the priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ and of the lay movement Regnum Christi connected to it, for the sexual abuse of many of his young disciples, over the span of several decades.

After his death in 2008, at the age of 88, it was discovered that Maciel also had a daughter, who is now about twenty years old and lives in Spain, born from a relationship between the priest and a Mexican lover.

For a religious congregation that had its undisputed model in Maciel, the disorientation has been extremely severe. This has led to the Vatican decision to proceed with an apostolic visitation. At the end of the investigation, the visitors will deliver a report to the Holy See, which will decide on the basis of it.

The request for an apostolic visitation had been advanced, in the early months of this year, by some of the most prominent Legionaries themselves.

One of these is the American Thomas Berg (in the photo), a member of the Legionaries of Christ since 1986, a priest since 2000, professor and confessor at the Legion seminary in Thornwood, New York, and very involved in formation activities. In April, he left the congregation, and asked to be incardinated into the archdiocese of New York. Archbishop Timothy Dolan made him a vicar of the parish of St. Columba in Hopewell Junction. Berg is also the director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.

In this interview, Fr. Berg explains in measured terms what is truly at stake, what are the strong and weak points of the congregation under investigation, what must be demolished and what rebuilt. He denounces the cult of personality that still surrounds the figure of Maciel. He criticizes the reasons why obedience to superiors often degenerates into blind submission. And he highlights the fundamental question: how it is possible that so many good things have come out of an institution that has been shown to be so full of flaws.

It is the first time that an authoritative member of the Legionaries of Christ, a member for many years, has spoken publicly and candidly about the crucial problems that have exploded in this congregation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Finland: Many Immigrants Trapped in Language Courses

Immigrants trying to adapt to Finnish life and find work often get stuck in language courses that lead nowhere, according to research done at the University of Jyväskylä.

University researcher Sari Pöyhönen says that in general, immigrants’ motivation to learn Finnish is very strong, but that taking the next step into the unknown is often difficult.

“Many stay in courses and can’t move on. How can we motivate them to get out of the classroom? There should be more guidance to encourage students with enough language skill to leave the class and enter the labour force,” says Pöyhönen says.

Courses Unrealistic?

Often, immigrants stay in the safety of the classroom, and the threshold for entering the workforce grows with each new class they take, says social worker Eija Piipparinen.

She adds that the teaching methods should also be scrutinized, since many immigrants feel the courses haven’t really taught them very much. Spoken Finnish, for example, is often very different from what students learn in class.

In addition, she says, many students are refugees with traumatic experiences or unfamiliarity with long school days.

“Some immigrants aren’t even used to sitting at a pulpit, so the standard teaching methods may not be the best possible,” says Piiparinen

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Greece: Five Migrant Reception Units on Cards

Police set sights on clearing city squats

Police officers oversee the evacuation of the last few migrants from the premises of the old Athens appeals court in the city center yesterday. The building, in which some 600 migrants had been living for months in squalid conditions, was disinfected by municipal workers after the clear-out. Authorities said other squats will be raided in coming weeks.

As police evacuated the last few illegal immigrants from the premises of the old Athens appeals court in the city center yesterday, Alternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis announced a series of similar raids on occupied derelict buildings, as reports emerged of government plans to create five new reception centers for migrants nationwide.

Markoyiannakis said the summer would see police entering dozens more vacant buildings in Athens where hundreds of undocumented migrants are living in squalid conditions, some reverting to drug dealing to eke out a living. He said police would use “effective but safe” tactics to remove them. After the police operation on the old appeals court building on Socratous Street yesterday, a City of Athens unit moved in to disinfect the premises.

Meanwhile, sources told Kathimerini that the Interior Ministry is planning the creation of five new centers to accommodate thousands of illegal immigrants. The centers are slated for construction in Rio, in the Peloponnese; in Evros, near the Turkish border; in Ritsona on Evia; in Keramoti near Kavala and in Aspropyrgos, in northwestern Attica. Though the camps are expected to spark vehement protests by locals, the ministry is reportedly intent on pushing through the projects, sorely needed following the evacuation of some 1,500 Afghans from a makeshift settlement in the western port of Patra and about 600 immigrants from the Socratous Street squat. Legislation outlining the operation of these camps is expected to be submitted in Parliament over the next few days.

But residents and local authority officials are already up in arms, sources say. “There is going to be conflict,” said the mayor of Keramoti, Grigoris Triantafyllidis. Municipal authorities have drafted petitions, opposing the creation of “migrant concentration camps” in their areas. Meanwhile, a joint press conference by 13 migrant rights groups condemned the government for “compromising the rights of migrants and refugees.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Illegal Immigration a Crime. A Long List of Italian Intellectuals Have Protested Vociferously

MicroMega 02.07.2009 (Italy)

The Italian parliament has just passed a law which makes illegal immigration a crime (more here). A long list of Italian intellectuals — among them Andrea Camilleri, Antonio Tabucchi, Dario Fo and his wife Franca Rame — have protested vociferously against the new law. Let’s hope that a European scandal ensues: “Women who are illegal immigrants in Italy are now no longer allowed to register the births of their children. This means that the children of ‘non-registered’ foreign women will spend their entire lives branded as children of unknown parents according to the will of a temporary majority. The new law can be used to separate them from their mothers at birth and put them into state custody. Not even fascism went this far! The race laws which the regime introduced in 1938 did not separate children from their Jewish parents, nor did they force women to have abortions to avoid having their children taken away by the state. We would not be turning to the European public if this were not an issue that transcends national borders. Anyone who believes in humanity must raise his voice! Europe cannot accept that one of its founding states is regressing to the most primitive level of social organisation, thereby violating international law and the very principles of the European Union.” To date the petition has over 10.000 signatories.

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

Italy: Doctors Line Up for Jobs Abroad

“Higher salaries, promotion on merit and better opportunities. That’s why we’re saying ‘Arrivederci, Italy’“

BOLOGNA — It’s so hot in the street you’d think you were already in Dubai. But the air conditioning in the I Portici hotel lets you breathe — and dream — more easily. Discreet lighting, a smell of cleanness, shiny lifts, good signage and obliging reception staff are waiting for the 400 or so doctors, nurses and obstetricians vying for 100 hospital jobs in the United States, Canada and the Emirates. The hopefuls come from all over Italy: Rome, Genoa, Palermo, Belluno, Arezzo, Ascoli Piceno and Padua. But are they all Italians? Not quite all of them. There are a few foreigners and a fair number of immigrants to Italy now ready to move on for a better offer. “It’s globalisation affecting healthcare”, shrugs one doctor from Trentino. One hundred jobs up for grabs in Barbados, as well as London and Doha. Candidates who are not selected go on a special list and could be called if the need arises. In other words, there’s a second chance.

INTERVIEW — The candidates all turned up with carefully polished CVs and a single aim: to get out of Italy. They’re not resentful but they are attracted by the salaries, the homes with swimming pools and above all by a new professional experience. Each files into the interview room and in ten minutes, tells the panel, specially flown out from the United Kingdom, about his or her life and ambitions. The session is a joint initiative involving Idea Lavoro, a leading personnel agency in the healthcare sector, and HCL International, a beacon enterprise in international professional medical placements. Successful candidates will receive permanent contracts and various benefits. “We’ve been interviewing for 16 years and we’ve seen a growth in demand. More than 1,600 Italians have moved abroad. And they’re unlikely to come back to Italy”, says Idea Lavoro’s Massimo Zivelli.

THE HOPEFULS — Monica comes from a town in the south that she prefers not to name. She completed a doctorate at a town in the south she prefers not to name. Now, she’s decided to work in “UK”, as she calls it. She wants to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. But she feels we ought to know that: “In my case, there was no merit principle at all. Where I live, people are simply nominated for jobs in advance”. Everyone complains about jobs not being assigned on merit. A paediatrician from Padua and a doctor from Palermo say the same thing. Even a Jordan-born nurse with an Italian passport complains. One Palestinian doctor is less harsh: “I want to give it a go. I’m happy in Italy but you can always better yourself, can’t you?” One nurse from Rome, who prefers to remain anonymous, has turned up for the interview as if he is popping into the tobacconist’s for a Superenalotto ticket. “Children?” he enquires. “How could I afford any? Not on my salary of 1,400 euros a month”. Giulia is another nurse from Rome with clear ideas: “To leave is to die a little, but staying isn’t that great either, believe me. I’ve made up my mind. I want to make a new life for myself”. Never have so many people eager to get out of Italy gathered in just 300 square metres. Even the reception staff are sounding out the better-looking medics in the hope of a ticket to somewhere else so they too can say: “Arrivederci, Italy”.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Migrants ‘Afraid to Seek Medical Care’ Due to New Laws

Rome, 2 July (AKI) — Many immigrants are afraid to seek medical care in Italy because they fear they will be expelled from the country, according to a survey by the Italian-based human rights group EveryOne. The group’s survey was released on Thursday as the Italian parliament approved a law making illegal immigration a crime.

“Reports have confirmed the recent sharp drop in the number of migrants seeking medical care for serious illnesses,” said Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, co-presidents of the EveryOne Group in a media statement.

The new Italian law provides for anti-crime patrols in towns and cities and triples the amount of time illegal immigrants can be detained in holding centres from two to six months.

Apart from doctors and school principals, every one is required under the law to report illegal migrants to the authorities.

According to EveryOne’s survey of major hospitals in the Italian capital, Rome, and the northern city of Milan, the number of migrants seeking medical care at their emergency departments fell dramatically by nearly 35 percent in the past three weeks.

However, at a major Milan hospital, San Paolo, the number of immigrants seeking help fell by 75 percent.

One dramatic example reported by EveryOne was the case of a 39-year-old Ukrainian carer, who died after having a miscarriage.

“On 10 June a 39-year-old Ukrainian carer without a legal visa was found to have died of massive haemorrhage after a miscarriage in the Torre a Mare apartment where she had finally found employment,” the report said.

“She was said to have suddenly felt ill and began bleeding but refused to call for help, since she was afraid of losing her job or being denounced as an illegal migrant,” said the report.

“Similar episodes take place every day,” Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau said.

The rights group said that if migrants refuse to seek medical care, contagious diseases could affect the broader community and could “unleash an uncontrollable epidemic.”

Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi won office for the third time in April 2008 on an anti-crime platform and vowed to curb illegal immigration.

According to some surveys, many Italians associate immigrants with a growing security problem in their towns and cities.

In the latest report by Italy’s central statistics agency, ISTAT, the largest groups of immigrants outside the European Union living in Italy, are Albanians, Moroccans, Chinese, Ukrainians, Filipinos, Tunisians, Macedonians and Indians.

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

James Jay Carafano: “Smart and Tough” Immigration Enforcement Fools No One

In his diary, the president wrote, “Immigration bill now in conference committee. Decided we could not accept—bill will probably die. Too, bad, because we’ve lost control of our borders.” The president was Ronald Reagan. The year was 1982. Four years later, he took another shot at solving the problem—and got the bill he wanted. Reagan’s three-piece solution to comprehensive reform was: * a mass amnesty, * followed by serious workplace and border enforcement, * paired with effective temporary worker programs. As it turned out, we got the amnesty—and nothing else. At the time of the ‘86 reforms, the illegal population was about 3 million. Now it is around 11 million. In retrospect, many of Reagan’s closest advisors, including former Attorney General Edwin Meese, acknowledged it was a bad plan. And when the Bush administration offered up pretty much the same formula for comprehensive reform in 2007, Meese told them it was a bad plan. Bush paid no heed, but widespread public opposition ultimately forced Congress to reject it. Now, just two years later, we’re seeing plenty of signs that the Obama administration plans to resurrect the same, failed approach yet again. But the administration has already damaged the prospects for serious reform. Their early actions have undermined public confidence that they intend to seriously enforce workplace and immigration laws. Their efforts at “smart and tough” enforcement so far look like neither. Last week Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano was on Capitol Hill, testifying in support of a bill that would gut REAL ID, a program to set security standards for driver’s licenses. REAL ID was one of the key national security recommendations from the 9-11 Commission. It would also be a powerful tool for combating unlawful presence in the U.S. Vitiating the program is neither smart nor tough. Earlier, Napolitano announced that her department intends to rescind the 2007 Social Security No-Match Rule, a rule designed to clarify employer obligations to assure they don’t knowingly hiring unauthorized aliens. As a result, the department will be doing less workplace enforcement—not more. That is unacceptable. The department also announced plans to restructure 287(g), a program that allows state and local governments to cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement. Henceforth, Homeland Security will restrict the cooperative approach authorized under the program to only a handful of crimes. The great strength of the 287(g) program was that it let state and local law enforcement negotiate with the department to build mutually agreeable programs. The resulting agreements served the needs of both the federal government and local communities. Now that flexibility looks to be lost. Many communities will probably lose interest in the initiative. Instead, they will do nothing. The department is also being criticized for pulling decision-making out of the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection. These agencies have the experts who understand best what needs to be done on the border. Instead, policy-making is being centralized under officials with little practical border experience and a cadre that followed Napolitano from the Arizona governor’s office to Washington. Finally, the department’s “outreach” has been almost all one-sided. DHS officials have consulted extensively with “open border” advocates and illegal-immigrant rights groups to address their concerns. But dialogue with other interested communities has been virtually non-existent. The department’s Orwellian effort to promote its enforcement policies as “smart and tough” is likely to fool no one. And if Americans don’t feel confident their government will enforce the law, they won’t be interested in immigration “reform.” That is a tragedy. America needs to jump start its economy. Part of the answer is getting employers the legal work force they need, so that they can grow their businesses—which in turn will grow more jobs, the high-paying rewarding jobs Americans want. Rather than pave the way for serious immigration reform, the department appears to be kowtowing to constituencies and playing politics—an approach that compromises both our security and our prosperity.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Arrested in Their Wedding Dresses: The Moment Foreign Brides Were Seized in ‘Bogus Marriage’ Raid

It looked like it was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives.

But instead of walking down the aisle with bouquets of flowers in their hands, two brides and their grooms were handcuffed and taken to a police station.

The arrests were part of a coordinated operation investigating an international bogus marriage scam to allow immigrants to stay in the country.

Police and immigration officers raided two homes and arrested the Slovakian brides and Nigerian grooms before they reached the churches yesterday.

Another four men from Nigeria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, who are believed to be making up to £15,000 for each sham wedding, were also arrested. A further six Nigerian men were also detained on suspected immigration offences.

The arrests were centred around two gangs in Manchester and Bradford, west Yorkshire.

Officers waited until the Nigerian gang drove from Manchester to Bradford before arresting them in a service station just hours before the two weddings were due to take place.

Detective Sergeant Peter Gallagher, who led the operation, said: ‘We believe we have cracked an organised conspiracy in which marriage fixers and European brides were making money from Nigerian grooms desperate to find a way to stay in the UK.’

The Churches believed to have been targeted by the gangs are St Philip & St James in Scholes, South Yorkshire, and St Lukes in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire.

UK Border Agency regional director Jeremy Oppenheim said: ‘We will not tolerate immigration abuse and will punish those who break the immigration laws.

‘Over recent years we have clamped down on sham marriages introducing Certificates of Approval, family permits and encouraged registrars to highlight suspicious cases.

‘That’s why suspected sham marriages fell from over 3,500 in 2004 to under 400 in 2008. Under the tougher rules, anyone trying to play the system can expect to face imprisonment for up to seven years.’

It follows a vicar being charged with conspiracy to aid unlawful entry to the UK by helping to organise more than 180 ‘sham’ weddings for illegal immigrants earlier this month.

Reverend Alex Brown, 60, was arrested in a dawn raid on his rectory home in St Leonards, East Sussex, and his church, St Peters, 200 yards away.

He is accused of holding a ‘conveyor belt’ of services to allow African and Eastern European immigrants from outside the European Union to marry those with the right to stay in the UK.

When a migrant completes a bogus marriage, they can remain in Britain and move freely in the EU.

Those with residency rights in the UK, often from other EU countries, are paid up to £2,000 a time to take part in the sham weddings.

Labour toughened marriage laws in February 2005 after the number of suspect ceremonies — often arranged by criminal gangs who could earn £10,000 a time — reached 3,700 per year. Migrants were made to get a special certificate to marry if they lived outside the EU, or had only limited rights to live in the UK.

Those with only three months’ leave to remain were routinely refused on the grounds that the ceremony was performed just to avoid removal from the country.

The number of sham weddings has since fallen to around 300 a year. But the crackdown was left in tatters after the Law Lords ruled it breaches migrants’ human rights.

Law Lords said forcing a migrant to prove a relationship is genuine is ‘arbitrary and unjust’, even if they were getting married only weeks before their permission to stay in Britain ran out.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Bogus College Action ‘Inadequate’

The government is still not dealing adequately with bogus colleges which supply fraudulent student visas, says a report by the home affairs committee.

MPs on the committee said tens of thousands of foreign nationals may have entered the UK illegally in this way.

In a critical report, they said the word “college” should be restricted to institutions accredited by the state.

The government said new regulations meant only genuine foreign students could now obtain a visa.

The MPs said they were “extremely disappointed” that the government had ignored repeated warnings from the education sector about the problem of bogus colleges.

Since March this year, there has been a more tightly controlled register of institutions which are allowed to recruit students from outside the EU.

The committee found that around 2,200 colleges were not transferred to this new list, and it said it suspected a significant proportion of these were bogus.


The new points-based register now contains around 1,500 colleges, which must be accredited and also inspected by the UK Border Agency.

The committee welcomed this “more effective” regime, but said it was “deeply concerned” that the agency was giving colleges notice of its inspection visits.

It said ministers had been very slow to act when warned about the whole problem, and that this was “unacceptable”.

Its report said: “Firm enforcement action must be taken against any individual whose student visa has expired to ensure that they leave the country, as well as against those who have set up bogus colleges to perpetrate visa fraud.

“We have received no evidence that the Home Office has made adequate preparations to deal with this issue.”

It went on: “While the new sponsorship system under the points-based immigration system should help to prevent bogus colleges, we consider that a more complete means of prevention requires the compulsory regulation of private further education colleges and English language schools by the state.”


Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: “Bogus colleges may have allowed tens of thousands of foreign nationals to enter the country illegally.

“The government has been aware of their existence for 10 years and done nothing to stop them.

“This is totally unacceptable and frankly, quite unbelievable.”

He said immediate action was needed: “The government must restrict the term ‘college’, to prevent any premises above a fish and chip shop from being able to claim it is a reputed educational institution.”

The MPs said this would protect students from coming to sub-standard, unregulated places.

But they did not find any substantial evidence of the alleged link between bogus colleges and terrorist activity.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: “No institution can bring students into the country unless we are satisfied they are genuine — this includes approval by an accredited body, and assessment of their premises, courses and teaching staff.

“Since April, the UK Border Agency has carried out nearly 100 unannounced checks on institutions throughout the UK and they are doing more every week.”

“Before we tightened controls around 4,000 UK institutions offered courses to foreign students, but under the new system only around 1,600 can currently bring students into the country from outside Europe.

“We have already rejected over 500 establishments’ applications.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Judges ‘Stealth Plan’ Promotes Same-Sex Marriage

Lawmakers being asked to let people vote on dispute

A legal analysis has found that judges in many states have engaged in a stealth plan in their “alarming propensity” to bestow privileges on homosexuals, and a public policy organization in West Virginia is now lobbying the state legislature to let the people vote on such “rights.”

In one recent West Virginia judicial ruling, according to the analysis by Liberty Counsel, “the court created new rights [for homosexuals] where none had been recognized by the legislature, thereby usurping the authority of the duly elected legislature.”

In a second case, the court dissed a traditional foster family in favor of a “same-sex couple,” the analysis said.

According to opponents of such activism, various court task forces have been assembled in more than 40 states already, as well as Washington and Puerto Rico, to address and make recommendations about so-called “discrimination” over “gender” issues.

The task forces describe their goals as the elimination of discriminatory rulings, but opponents say the efforts actually have been used to promote homosexuality.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]