Friday, August 21, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/21/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/21/2009Not everything that came while I was gone is included in this news feed. I had to leave out most of yesterday’s tips, but even with those gone, there are more than a hundred items tonight.

Concerning the brouhaha over the Swedish “blood libel” article: notice that the Swedish government is now vigorously defending freedom of the press. One might have wished for as principled a response to the Motoon crisis, during which Sweden joined much of the rest of the world in condemning Danish newspapers. Sauce for the goose and all that…

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Diana West, Fjordman, Insubria, JD, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, TB, Tuan Jim, TV, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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America Sits Back as Others Rush for Black Gold in Gulf
B. Hussein in History Wonderland
Beware Obama’s Fabian Window
Big Labor Administration Focused on 20 Million New DNC Union Thugs
Black Market, Here We Come
Christian Girl Begs State: Don’t Let Them Kill Me!
Health Care Reform Contains Hidden Gift to HMOs
In Government We Trust?
Islamization of Yale: A Partial Chronology
Judge Denies Request for GPS Monitoring for Convicted Child Rapist
Language Freedom Law Heads to Schwarzenegger
Obamacare Could Cost You $4,000 a Year
Oklahoma: Jenks Schools Gets $1.5 Million for ‘Chinese Initiative’
On Dishing it Out…
Senior Citizen’s “Death” Warrant
Text-and-Drive Bans Belong in State Legislatures
The Sotomayer Scare
‘Tintin’ Deemed Racist, Removed From Shelves
Trial Lawyers Are the Fourth Branch of Government
Trial Under Way in Black-on-White Carjacking Murders
Why Pharma Wants Obamacare
Woodstock’s Poisonous Legacy
Yes, Grandma, There is a Death Panel
You’re a Racist! The Ultimate Emotional Intimidation
Canada Flies NATO Flag in Arctic Showdown
This Just in From Mohamed Elmasry: Christian Slavery = Bad. Islamic Slavery = Empowering !
Europe and the EU
Anti-German Jihadist Videos Flood Internet
Antwerp: Report on Extremist Mosques and Organizations
Arctic Sea: Freed Russian Seamen Questioned in Remand Prison
Denmark: Lawyers Banned From Iraqi Interrogations
Denmark: Officer and Rapper Shot During Hash Fine
Denmark: Police Dog Killed in Shootout
Denmark: Scarcity of Workplace Prayer Rooms
Denmark: Burka Ban Causes Govt. Tumult
Finland: Severe Belt Tightening in Specialist Care
Finland: Coming Home: Registered Male
Finland: Coming Home: Rushing to Take a Breather
Finland: Coming Home: Good Bureaucrats
France: Workers Striking, Threatening to Poison Seine
Germany: Arranged Marriage Ends in Tragedy
Germany: Green Party Minister Angers German Auto Industry With Car Comments
Germany: Muslim Man Sentenced to Life in Jail After Killing His German-Born Wife Because She Was ‘Too Independent’
Ireland: Lobby Group Says Yes Vote Would Jeopardise Farm Succession Rights
Ireland: US Giant to Spend Thousands Backing ‘Yes’ Camp
Italy: Venice Cemetery Tourist Complaints
Muslims in Sweden Celebrate Ramadan
Netherlands: Muslim Group Republishes Punishable Cartoon
Netherlands: AEL Puts Holocaust Cartoon Back on Its Website
Netherlands: Low Language-Skill Children Get Cheaper Daycare
Norway: Pre Election: Information — Progress Party Candidate Commentary
Sweden: Girl, 14, Gang Raped on Internet Date
Sweden Summons Israeli Ambassador
Sweden: Bildt Rejects Israeli Call for Official Condemnation
Sweden Defends Press Freedom Amid Israeli Furor
Sweden: Israeli Minister Fires Up the Debate
Sweden: STIs a Sign of Manhood?
UK: BBC Race Row as Sikh Listeners Threaten Muslim Radio Presenter Who ‘Denigrated Holy Symbol’
UK: Oxford Won’t Fire Rotterdam’s Rejected Advisor
UK: Revealed: The Areas of Britain Where There Are More Migrants Chasing Jobs Than Locals
UK: Seven Charged Over Iraq Protest
UK: Two Charged Over BNP Members Leak
UK: Why Do We Keep Betraying the Victims of Terror?
UK: Why Are We Giving Child Molesters Viagra on the NHS?
World’s First Muslim Superheroes, The 99, Are Headed for British Television Screens
North Africa
Egyptian Coptic Priest Banned From Village, Under Death Threat
Lockerbie Bomber Home in Libya Amid US Anger
Lockerbie Bomber Returns to Libyaabdel Baset Al-Megrahi Returns Home to Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
Israeli Ambassador ‘Upset and Furious’
Israel Grapples With a New Kind of Violence
Middle East
Iran Missile Said to Pose Europe Threat in 3-4 Years
Iran ‘Minister’ On Interpol List
Iraq: Iranian Rockets Used in Attack on U.S.
Romans Didn’t Destroy Jerusalem
Leftist Journalist a Spy for Stalin
South Asia
French Tourist Freed in Pakistan
No Sign of Voters on Election Day in Afghanistan Despite Official Claims
SAS Escape as Chinook is Shot Down ‘By Enemy Fire’ In Afghanistan
Sri Lanka to Train Pakistani Army
Thailand: Man Shot Dead at Mosque
UK: BBC’s Flagship Asian Radio Station in New Race Row
Far East
China ‘Used U.S. Reporters’ Film to Crack Down on N. Koreans’
Japan to Celebrate Italy
Koreas: The Trouble With Hyun’s N. Korea Visit
South Korea: Ulchi Freedom Guardian
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Bligh Widens Abortion Law as Doctors Revolt
Australia: Farmers Flee as Turbines Trigger Despair
New Zealand: No Spanking Law Lifted?
NZ Votes Against Child Smack Ban
Latin America
Behind the Shadowy World of Narco-Terror
Brazil Calls Obama Over US Bases
17 Illegal Immigrants Land on Southern Sardinia
Algeria: 22 People Headed for Italy Stopped
Controversy in Italy After Death of 73 Eritreans
Finland: Challenging Asylum Cases for Finnish Authorities
Psychiatrist Gets 10 Months, Gave Fake Citizenship Waivers to 492
Remains of Immigrants Found
UN Shock at Migrant Boat Deaths
UN to Monitor Swedish Migration Board
Culture Wars
EU: Gynecologists in Spain Plan to Choose Jail Before Performing an Abortion
Obama Echoes Cain, Not Christ
Obama: ‘No Taxpayer-Funded Abortions in Health Bill’
7 Reasons to Skip Upgrade to Windows 7
Climate: UN: Re-Examine Agriculture Southern, Eastern Med
Economic Scene: Is Population Growth a Ponzi Scheme?
Not All Cultures Are Good
‘Save the Planet’ Sounds a Lovely Idea But…
The Web’s Masquerade Ball is Over


America Sits Back as Others Rush for Black Gold in Gulf

Major new offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico will soon be a reality. The big question is whether Americans will be part of it. Brazil, China, India, Norway, Spain and Russia have all signed agreements with Cuba and the Bahamas to initiate exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico within the next two years. So the prospect of seeing Russian oil rigs 45 miles off the Florida Keys — where American oil companies are now forbidden to drill — is a very real possibility.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the eastern Gulf region contains 3 billion barrels of oil and more than 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Last summer, President George W. Bush lifted the executive branch moratorium his father signed in 1990 on new drilling in 85 percent of America’s territorial waters.

The Democratic Congress then wisely let the congressional ban expire. So the only thing keeping U.S. firms from drilling off our own continental shelf is President Barack Obama and his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, who is slow-walking the approval process that must be cleared before work can begin. Meanwhile, foreign nations are jockeying for the best spots.

The Obama administration, incredibly enough, is giving Brazil a $2 billion loan from U.S. taxpayers to finance its development of offshore energy resources in the Atlantic Ocean.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, the development of America’s coastal oil and gas resources would generate more than $1.3 trillion in new government revenue and 160,000 high-paying jobs during the next two decades.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., are bipartisan co-sponsors of a bill that provides coastal states like Florida their fair share of revenue produced by offshore drilling and production. The same thing should be done for states on the East and West coasts. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California lawmakers hope to tap deposits off Santa Barbara to generate billions in royalties, and front-running gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has made drilling 50 miles off the Virginia coast a key component of his energy plan.

Many environmental objections to deepwater drilling have been overcome. For example, 4-D seismic surveys provide pinpoint accuracy for well location. New technology also enables one drilling platform to reach deposits 40 miles away in water up to 10,000-feet deep. (The same technology could help other nations drill just outside our coastal limits while tapping into resources inside the boundary.)

According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, less than 0.0001 percent of the 1.4 billion barrels of oil pumped offshore since 1980 has been spilled. That’s a remarkable safety record and a tribute to American energy ingenuity.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

B. Hussein in History Wonderland

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak arrived in Washington this week to press flesh with the president. In an interview, Mubarak told PBS television that Barack Obama’s speech had shown him that “America is not against Islam.”

The address Mubarak was referring to was delivered by a grandiose Obama in Egypt’s capital, early in June. There, the president prostrated himself before the Muslim world, offering up prolix praise for the religion of peace — a tradition that his predecessor established.

Frankly, I got the impression that Mubarak himself was a little wary of Islam — this is the Egyptian’s first sojourn to Washington since 2004, after breaking up with Bush. “W” would not stop bugging Mubarak about democratizing Egypt. Fortunately, Mubarak was not about to help catapult the Wahhabist Muslim Brotherhood to power, which would be the likely outcome of a democratic election in Egypt.

But I digress.

In that memorable speech, the president also lauded the compendious knowledge spread far and wide by the Al-Azhar and Cairo Universities. Nary a reference was made to “Islam’s bloody borders,” as Samuel P. Huntington put it in “The Clash of Civilizations?” Or, for that matter, to Al-Azhar’s bloody borders. According to Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, officiating as Grand Sheikh for this much-exalted institute of Islamic learning is a chap by the name of Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi. In the tradition of Islamic Enlightenment, Tantawi has given his approval — on strict Islamic grounds, mind you — to suicide bombing.

After mentioning the value and universality of human rights, our self-styled “student of history,” as the president had dubbed himself on the occasion (he also made a point of repeating his middle name a lot), B. Hussein went on to declare that “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles.”

The choice to draw parallels between a country and a faith was a curious one. Was Obama intimating that Islam, like America, was a political system? In that case, we are agreed about the project of Islam.

Still — and for all Obama’s heavy hinting to the contrary — Islam has no “human rights.” The ideas of individual rights and the dignity of man are distinctly Western, an outgrowth of the Enlightenment. And while dialogue is dignified; dhimmitude is not, even if it achieves a desired, if temporary, effect.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Beware Obama’s Fabian Window

If you feel the ground shaking under your feet; if the America you once knew seems to be changing daily; if you feel that you have less and less control over your life and the country is being governed from the top down, then you should take heed. Someone is “remoulding the world nearer his heart’s desire,” and he has the biggest hammer in the world. If you want to understand Obama’s agenda, you need to peer into the Fabian Window.

[Comments from JD: Click on the image of the stain glass window for a larger version.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Big Labor Administration Focused on 20 Million New DNC Union Thugs

While the nation is focused on stopping Obama’s Marxist health scare plan, Obama’s DHS is quietly moving forward on amnesty, free health care and voting rights for some 20 million illegal migrants.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Black Market, Here We Come

After I received an e-mail from my close friend David Axelrod, I dutifully glanced through the “Reality Check” about Obama’s health care plan, prompting hysterical laughter as I wondered how in the world the Obama camp thinks this will help their case. Of course, I had also just received an e-mail from my Ohio senator, Sherrod Brown, featuring more joking points.

Among Senator Brown’s claims was that since Big Insurance is fat and greedy, it really needs some healthy (no pun intended) competition. Guess where that’s going to come from? The federal government! As we all know, the feds are running a really tight ship these days.

Which brings to mind a prediction about Obamacare that has gotten little or no coverage: the likely creation of a black market.

This is virtually guaranteed, because industrious Americans are not going to sit still for this nonsense. Once the real “Reality Check” happens and Joe the Health Consumer sees that he has only pathetic options with Obamacare, he will begin to seek other choices. And side-lined health professionals in this country will figure out a way to give him some.


The irony is that, while it will be easy to get an abortion, under Obamacare some Americans will be told their premature newborns do not deserve costly neonatal intensive care. Mature Americas who are a long way from death will be denied knee replacements, bypass procedures and pacemakers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Christian Girl Begs State: Don’t Let Them Kill Me!

Judge decides fate of honor student, cheerleader who fled Muslim parents

A young Christian runaway in foster care awaits her hearing tomorrow when Florida authorities will decide whether she will be forced to return to her Muslim parents — whom she says will kill her for converting to Christianity.

Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, an honor student and cheerleader, was raised in a Muslim family in Columbus, Ohio. She became a Christian four years ago as a result of her interactions with children at school.

Atlas Shrugs’ Pamela Geller has followed Bary’s case closely, reporting that the girl’s friends accompanied her to the school counselor after they noticed bruises covering her arms and legs that allegedly resulted from beatings by her father and brother.

“The middle school, in a serious dereliction of duty, did not report these beatings to child welfare services,” Geller reported. “Beatings were random, violent, unprovoked. Take, for example, when Rifqa and her father Mohamed were driving in the car. He would force her to wear the hijab (head covering), which she hated. In her discomfort she would slouch down, embarrassed, and her father would haul off and sock her in the face so that she never forgot to sit up straight in her costume. The beatings were regular and so much a part of the landscape of Rifqa’s life, she became inured to them …”


Fox News reported that legal experts have said she will almost certainly be forced to return to her parents’ home in Ohio where she will be required to live with her parents since Ohio does not have an emancipation statute. According to the report, Florida has such a statute, but it requires parental consent.


Dr. Phyllis Chesler, author of “Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?” told Fox News Bary’s life will be in danger if she is forced to return to her parents.

“Anyone who converts from Islam is considered an apostate, and apostasy is a capital crime,” she said. “If she is returned to her family, if she is lucky, they will isolate her, beat her, threaten her, and if she is not ‘presuaded’ to return to Islam, they will kill her. They have no choice.”

Chesler continued, “She escaped from her family’s brutal tyranny and shamed her family further through public exposure. Muslim girls and women are killed for far less.”

Meanwhile, International Christian Concern is urging Florida officials to retain custody of Bary.

In a statement, ICC said it is concerned about Rifqa because the Columbus police officer who investigated the case told the press that Rifqa’s father “comes across to me as a loving, caring, worried father about the whereabouts and the health of his daughter.”

However, ICC reveals that a source who spoke with the same investigating officer said the officer indicated earlier that he has spoken with 20 different people who warned him that the girl’s life was in danger.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Health Care Reform Contains Hidden Gift to HMOs

Did you know that if your job-based HMO wrongly denies you coverage for a medical treatment and that denial leads to injury or death, federal law may protect that insurer from paying any damages to you or your family?

Did you know that House Democrats’ health care “reform” bill would cement this extraordinary legal immunity for health insurance companies?

Commerce Committee Republican Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona objected during the bill’s markup to a provision that benefits insurers at the expense of patients — namely, one that explicitly preserves insurers’ immunity when they harm patients by wrongly denying care.

HR 3200, the House “reform” bill, creates a “Health Insurance Exchange,” or heavily regulated markets in which individuals may buy insurance without going through their employers. Section 151(a) of the bill includes some legislative language about plans “not offered through the Health Insurance Exchange,” which largely means employer-provided health insurance.

Paragraph 1 of the section states that all the bill’s regulations and restrictions on the insurer do not supersede current regulations of health care. Paragraph 2 says, “Nothing in paragraph [1] shall be construed as affecting the application of section 514 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.”

What does that mean?

ERISA was the federal law that built upon the employer-based health insurance system that currently dominates today’s insurance market. Section 514 of the law made it clear that ERISA’s rules superseded state insurance regulations. In effect, states would regulate individually purchased insurance plans and Washington would regulate most employer-based health plans.

Touted as a consumer-protection regulation, ERISA had particularly perverse consequence that came to light when Florence Corcoran’s unborn child died in 1989.

A doctor had determined that Corcoran should be placed on bed rest in a hospital, with around-the-clock fetal monitoring because of medical problems that made hers a “high-risk pregnancy.”

Nine days after entering the hospital, Corcoran left after learning that UnitedHealth had denied coverage of her hospital stay. Two weeks later, her child went into distress and died. The Corcorans filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in Louisiana, claiming UnitedHealth’s negligence led to their child’s death.

But federal courts ruled that it didn’t matter if UnitedHealth caused the baby’s death, state courts had no jurisdiction over ERISA plans. Further, federal courts ruled that ERISA plans could only be sued under the rules specifically laid out in the 1974 ERISA law.

That law didn’t include any avenue for victims of HMO negligence to recover compensatory damages such as cash for wrongful death. Courts have consistently reached this conclusion in similar cases.

In short, this federal law immunized the health insurers whose denial of coverage caused harm or death. And now the House reform bill appears explicitly to preserve that immunity for employer-based plans.

Shadegg tried to strike this provision in the Commerce Committee markup last month. Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, expressed sympathy for Shadegg’s argument, but turned the amendment away on the grounds that ERISA was not under the committee’s jurisdiction.

Waxman’s office did not return a call asking about the provision. Waxman is second among House members for money from HMO political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The ERISA-immunity preservation might just be another negotiating point in the backroom dealings between Big Pharma and Big Insurance on one hand and Democratic “reformers” on the other hand. Or, it could just be an oversight. Or, Shadegg could be misreading the law.

In any event, ERISA immunity highlights another relevant lesson for “reformers” and their backers: Laws passed under the banner of protecting consumers and regulating industry typically end up helping industry and hurting consumers and small businesses.

Increasingly, health care “reform” is looking like good news for HMOs and bad news for the rest of us.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

In Government We Trust?

I believe Madoff’s massive and destructive breach of trust had an effect on the public mind that carried beyond the tragedy of its immediate victims. After Madoff, John Q. Public set the bar really high for anyone seeking a big commitment of trust with money. But that’s exactly what the ambitious Obama health plan did.

President Obama in his public pleas for the plan appears to be truly upset that his benign view of it isn’t obvious to all. In his op-ed Sunday for the New York Times he said, “We’ll cut hundreds of billions in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid.” Hundreds of billions? Just like that? This is nothing but an assertion by one man. It’s close to Peter Pan telling the children that thinking lovely thoughts will make them fly.

Most people are aware that the big three entitlements we’ve got are underfunded. Medicaid is wrecking state budgets, Medicare goes broke in eight years, followed by the flatlining of Social Security.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Islamization of Yale: A Partial Chronology

by Diana West

[click link to see photo]

No, I have not just raised the curtain on a new Mel Brooks musical number, with the “imam,” center stage, about to break out singing: “Autumn … at Ya-le … means Ram-adan….”

Behold Yale’s Coxe Cage where in October 2008 hundreds of area Muslims, including Yale students, gathered for an Islamic service. (Story and slide show here.) I found this stunning East-meets-absorbs-West image while researching this week’s column in which I make the case that Yale probably censored the Motoons in accordance with Islamic law to please potential Muslim donors who fund the extension and entrenchment of such law.

Along the way, I found a bumpy trail of disjointed factoids that, even though they don’t all connect, nonetheless mark an increasing accommodation of Islam, including jihad and sharia culture, at Yale. It is a progression that is impossible to assess without also assessing Yale’s disgraceful pursuit of money from the bastions of sharia — namely, from some of the world’s leading, if super-wealthy, Islamic villains, including UAE’s Maktoum family, & Saudi Arabia’s Talal bin Alwaleed — which I have also tried to track.

This Islamization of Yale is perhaps best captured by the absolutely surreal picture above. I call it “surreal” because there is a science fictional and, indeed, cartoonish aspect to this mass importation of a non-Western, anti-liberty society right smack into the middle of a once strongly defined and, by definition, extremely exclusive bastion of Western, pro-liberty society — Yale’s Coxe Cage, not only an athletic center since 1915, but also site of alumni luncheons in the fall…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Judge Denies Request for GPS Monitoring for Convicted Child Rapist

A Middlesex Superior Court judge today refused to order a convicted child rapist on probation to wear a GPS monitoring device, citing a ruling Tuesday by the Supreme Judicial Court.


A divided Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that sex offenders convicted before 2006 cannot automatically be forced to wear GPS devices because it creates an unconstitutional burden on their freedom. In a 4-to-3 decision, the court said a 2006 law mandating GPS devices on all sex offenders placed on probation cannot apply retroactively, the Globe reports today.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Language Freedom Law Heads to Schwarzenegger

California would protect the freedom of a person to speak any language he or she chooses in a business establishment under a measure approved by the state Legislature on Thursday.

The bill, authored by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, is the lawmaker’s response to a controversial proposal by the LPGA last fall requiring golfers to speak “effective English.” The organization scuttled the proposal after loud objections by Yee and others, and the Democrat says this legislation will ensure it does not happen again.

“No one in the state of California should be compelled to speak a particular language to get service,” Yee said. “It just boggles the mind that in the year 2009, when we are constantly talking about global trade and bringing customers from other countries to California, that we would not have a law that protects everyone’s ability to speak.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obamacare Could Cost You $4,000 a Year

If the public insurance option is dropped, that’s likely to leave many employees with a big bill for their coverage.

If the public option had evolved into a program resembling Medicare for most working Americans —what Conservatives feared and many Democrats wanted — it might have provided rich coverage, at bargain premiums, for people with moderate incomes.

That won’t happen with the proposed alternative, medical co-ops, because they won’t pack nearly the purchasing power of a government-run plan to push down prices. Nor will the co-ops get the government subsidies that would likely radically lower premiums under a public option, just as they do under Medicare.

So let’s dissect Obamacare by the numbers, assuming that Americans will not have the choice of a public option. The question is basic: Would middle-class Americans be better off with their existing plans or under the new regime? To answer that question, I’ll estimate what most middle-class employees pay today for coverage, and what they’re destined to pay if Obamacare becomes law.

The conclusion is shocking. Middle- and upper-middle class Americans could face an enormous increase in their premiums. The hit could easily approach $4,000 for someone earning less than $90,000 — or more than double that increase as soon as the worker’s pay hits six figures. That’s because Obama’s plan would collect hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes at the expense of medium earners, and re-channel the money into subsidies for the uninsured, low-income earners, and union retirees over age 55.

And those big new taxes would pay for gold-plated plans that would become required coverage for everyone, whether they like it or not. “This is a tax game designed to squeeze money out of the middle class,” says Joseph Antos, a health-care economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

[Comments from JD: If you live in the US — Read this article. It contains an excellent illustration of the numbers involved.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Oklahoma: Jenks Schools Gets $1.5 Million for ‘Chinese Initiative’

JENKS, OK — Jenks Public Schools has been awarded about $1.5 million to fund the first Chinese language immersion program in Oklahoma, according to Jenks Director of Communications Tara Thompson.

The grant is funded through a U.S. Department of Education program that develops intensive study of languages considered critical to U.S. national security.

The Jenks project, called “The Chinese Initiative,” will create a partial Chinese language immersion program at Southeast Elementary School. The immersion program will roll-out gradually over the next five years and eventually serve at least one class (30 students) per grade, kindergarten through fourth grade.

The grant will also provide teachers and administrators substantial professional development and training in immersion instruction from nationally acclaimed experts in the field, as well as train and certify the Chinese speaking teachers needed in the immersion program.

The project includes the development of a University of Oklahoma Chinese language curriculum so students can continue the intensive study through college level.

The school learned of the grant Wednesday from Senator Jim Inhofe, according to Thompson.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

On Dishing it Out…

What is weird about the liberal hysteria to the obstreperous (and occasionally rude) town meetings is the complete amnesia about what constitutes reckless public discourse.

At one time not so long ago, those on the Left, and mainstream Democrats as well, apparently believed inflammatory language, Hitler parallels, and perverse expressions of real hatred were acceptable means to the noble end of discrediting the Bush presidency.

During the bleak days of Iraq, demonstrators carried swastikas and Hitler portraits of Bush habitually. Nicholson Baker wrote a novel in which characters are contemplating killing Bush. Films were praised imagining the assassination of the president. Michael Moore, courted by the Democratic elite, lamented that bin Laden on 9/11 had hit a blue state — and once compared the killers of Americans in Iraq to Minutemen.

Al Gore customarily used excessive language like “brown shirts.” Senators Durbin, Kennedy, and others compared our soldiers to Saddamites, Pol Pot’s killers, and Nazis. Ward Churchill compared the victims in the Twin Tower to “little Eichmanns.” Sen. Robert Byrd likened Pres. George W. Bush’s policies to what transpired in Nazi Germany. Linda Ronstadt, Harold Pinter, Scott Ritter, Ted Rall, and George Soros agreed with Fidel Castro, the Iranians, and North Koreans in comparing Bush to Hitler.

Jonathan Chait wrote in the New Republic on why “I hate George W. Bush.” Garrison Keillor likened Bush’s Republicans to “brown shirts in pinstripes.” Even old hero Sen. John Glenn said of the Bush agenda: “It’s the old Hitler business.” In 1984, the Guardian’s Charles Brooker declared:

On November 2, the entire civilized world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod’s law dictates he’ll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?

Democrats were furious that Rush Limbaugh wanted Obama’s agenda to fail, but I think it was their National Chairman Howard Dean himself who went way beyond Limbaugh when he said publicly, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for,” and, “This is a struggle of good and evil. And we’re the good.”

Didn’t NAACP chairman Julian Bond once declare of the Bush administration, “Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side?”

In comparison to all that, the outrage of a few private citizens — none of them in government, prominent in the arts, or political commentators — seems rather mild. In truth, the 2000s marked the liberal reversion to the hateful speech of the 1950s extreme Right, but with a twist. In the 1950s, there were liberal humanists who rose up to deplore the cheap slurs of Joe McCarthy & Co.; by 2001, there were none to object to the above sort of speech.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Senior Citizen’s “Death” Warrant

Within a quietly inserted piece of Legislation which was touted a needing immediate passage, (remember, the one of many that no one read) lured an addition that also was formed and funded called in the Bill “TITLE XIII— HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY” which creates the “AGENCY FOR HEALTHCARE RESEARCH AND QUALITY”. The purpose of this inclusion (from the Bill)” That the funding appropriated in this paragraph shall be used to accelerate the development and dissemination of research assessing the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies, through efforts that: (1) conduct, support, or synthesize research that compares the clinical outcomes, effectiveness, and appropriateness of items, services, and procedures that are used to prevent, diagnose, or treat diseases, disorders, and other health conditions; and (2) encourage the development and use of clinical registries, clinical data networks, and other forms of electronic health data that can be used to generate or obtain outcomes data:” This is the beginning of our execution warrants. The Government still says that they plan to cut $500,000,000 + from Medicare and Medicaid. Where will the adjustments be made, with the senior population increasing around 30%(baby boomers)?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Text-and-Drive Bans Belong in State Legislatures

Six months into their term, the 111th Congress is hard at work trampling over the states. Congress is again using the highway reauthorization bill to force states to enact their pet legislation.

Recently, Senators Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced legislation mandating states to enact bans on text messaging and driving, or lose a portion of federal highway funding. Not to be outdone, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently called for a national conference on texting while driving.

Only 14 states have banned texting while driving. The reason many states have rejected these laws is because they have already criminalized distracted driving. If a person is swerving in and out of lanes while driving and talking on a cell phone, combing their hair, or eating a cheeseburger-they will be ticketed. This is just one reason why a number of states have chosen not to enact bans on texting, but unfortunately, if Congress has their say the states will lose the right to make this decision.

It is unfortunate that the federal government continues to coerce states to enact policies by dangling transportation dollars in front of them. This was clearly not Congress’ intent in 1956 when it created the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

In fact, at the time the Trust Fund was created it was only “temporary,” allegedly for a 13-year period to help construct the national highway system. However, like most programs in Washington, D.C., this program now has an infinite life-span.

Congress continues to create more and more requirements for states to receive federal highway funds. To name just a few, Congress currently mandates that states enact seat-belt laws, establish a drinking age of twenty-one, establish a .08 blood alcohol standard for drinking and driving, pay prevailing wages on road construction projects, establish drug-free workplaces, and maintain a problem driver points system.

While some of these may be good laws that states should adopt, do we need or want the federal government constantly preempting our state and local elected officials? And doesn’t this sort of coercion undermine the role of the states and the federal government established by the Founding Fathers?

There is a good reason the Founding Fathers inserted the Tenth Amendment in the Constitution, which reserves to the states all powers not designated to the federal government. They believed state lawmakers were better equipped to create their own laws.

The founders never intended for the Tenth Amendment to be circumvented by using transportation funding to micromanage the states. Even more outrageous is that the very transportation dollars the federal government is threatening to take away from states came from taxpayers in the states paying gas taxes.

In fact, under the current system, the federal government is really only a middleman who collects gas taxes from the states and redistributes them in an uneven manner. A number of states like Arizona and Texas pay more money into the Transportation Trust Fund than they get back.

Issues like texting while driving should be left to state lawmakers. Washington should stop circumventing the Tenth Amendment by coercing states.

The Transportation Trust Fund should be used to improve our roads and not as the federal government’s tool to write state laws. Doesn’t the federal government have enough to worry about already?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

The Sotomayer Scare

Certainly we should care about who sits on the US S CT bench. However, the time has come in our Confederate Republic (the USA) to acknowledge and understand that the power to govern ourselves justly and constitutionally is in the hands of the people of the several states of America—NOT in the hands of the branches of federal government. What most people in America have been duped to believe is that the US S CT is the final arbiter in all matters concerning government actions related to the US Constitution.

When it comes to US S CT rulings that contradict the US Constitution and that reject the historical facts and principles of our Republic, people feel hopeless and think that regaining freedom somehow means replacing the “liberal” judges with “conservative” judges. Such an approach to preserving freedom is not only un-American; it is fruitless and ineffectual. History now proves this. Additionally, this approach proves that the vast majority of Americans have been indoctrinated into the centralist-ideology imposed on us by not-so-innocent advocates of such a political belief system.

Let me state this clearly: the US Constitution does not grant to the US S CT the power to interpret the Constitution in contradiction to the terms of the Constitution, and it does not strip the powers of the States to actively arrest and resist tyrannical federal actions. The US S CT can no more violate the Constitution than the Legislative and Executive branches can. What sense does it make that the US S CT is bound by an oath to support and defend the Constitution and then has the power to interpret it however the heck they want to? Do you think our founders were so near-sighted and unlearned that they would have given to the US S CT this unchecked and unlimited power in the very document that states its purpose is “to secure the blessings of liberty”?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Tintin’ Deemed Racist, Removed From Shelves

A banned book in Brooklyn, New York City, NY, USA? In a move that pushes us closer to totalitarianism, Brooklyn’s chief librarian condemned ‘Tintin Au Congo,’ one book in the nearly 80-year-old series by Georges (Herge) Remi, the Daily News reports.

After a reader complained that it was “racially offensive,” library authorities decided the book depicted Africans as “monkeys” and chose to remove it from library shelves. It is now locked behind secret doors in Brooklyn’s central library and can be viewed only by appointment.

While it’s true that Herge’s work seems to promote an imperialist and racist attitude towards African people, what’s more offensive is that librarians don’t think readers are mature enough to understand the racism as a product of its time. The Tintin books are beloved classics, and their racist elements can in fact be instructive. The News quotes Brooklyn resident Karina Estedan, who supports the ban, as saying, “The public library caters to the sensitivity of the community. People are trying to erase the mistakes of the past.” Those “mistakes” are still alive in the present, and erasing their documentation dooms us to repeat them.

It’s no secret that classic—and modern—works of literature depict and even condone offensive attitudes. The Odyssey, that greatest of great texts, supports a misogynistic attitude. Even Sixteen Candles, the John Hughes classic, portrays an Asian exchange student in an extremely and relentlessly racist manner. Banning one book isn’t going to solve anything.

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

Trial Lawyers Are the Fourth Branch of Government

Ten years ago, notorious trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs, apparently frustrated with elected officials’ inaction on health care, decided to take matters into his own hands, filing class-action lawsuits against HMOs.

Reporting on the suits, Time magazine asked Scruggs whether the plaintiffs’ bar was trying to run America. His response, accompanied by laughter, was, “Somebody’s got to do it.”

Today, even though Scruggs is in jail, his manifest-destiny vision of private lawyers making public policy has become a troubling reality. To borrow a phrase from author and legal commentator Walter Olsen, trial lawyers have become “an unelected fourth branch of government.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyers, cloaking themselves in the veil of “public interest,” have earned billions from class-action and other private suits aimed at imposing new taxes or regulations. But these lawyers have found that bringing the same types of suits on behalf of public entities, instead of private individuals, is a far more effective and lucrative way to advance their policy agendas.

Scruggs certainly understood this. In the 1990s, he and a cadre of other lawyers sold their anti-tobacco litigation strategy, and their professional services, to state attorneys general on a contingency basis (i.e., fees paid only upon victory).

The states’ embrace of these crusading lawyers, and their win-at-all-costs tactics, legitimized public officials’ delegation of sovereign power to attorney mercenaries. Plaintiffs’ lawyers now routinely lobby state and local officials, holding out the promise that their aggressive lawsuits can transfer millions from businesses to ailing government treasuries.

This plaintiffs’ bar-government alliance presents defendants with unprecedented challenges, and many targets simply settle. Some businesses, though, have fought back, and a small but growing number of state courts have rejected trial lawyer-government arrangements as contrary to state laws or constitutional provisions.

Last year, one judge in Pennsylvania decided to swim against the tide by affirming an especially egregious agreement between the state and out-of-state trial lawyers. In 2006, Gov. Ed Rendell hired Houston’s Bailey Perrin & Bailey on a contingency-fee basis to sue drugmaker Janssen Pharmaceutica based on a flimsy legal theory the firm had concocted.

The representation contract provides Bailey Perrin & Bailey with virtually unchecked authority to manage the suit. And perhaps worst of all, Pennsylvania awarded the contract without going through a competitive bidding process. This is especially troublesome considering the more than $100,000 Bailey Perrin & Bailey partner Kenneth Bailey contributed to Rendell and a partisan governors’ association prior to finalizing the contract.

After the trial judge rejected Janssen’s motion to disqualify Bailey Perrin & Bailey from the litigation, the company successfully appealed to the state Supreme Court. Oral arguments are set for Oct. 21.

Washington Legal Foundation filed a brief in the case last week, arguing that Rendell’s contingency-fee contract makes a mockery of limits that Pennsylvania law and its constitution place on the “exercise of contractual favoritism by members of the executive branch.”

The legal foundation brief also emphasizes that attorneys acting on the government’s behalf “must be held to a higher standard than the ordinary lawyer.”

Public officials claim that contingency-fee litigation is a cost-effective way to recoup allegedly lost government revenue. But if government-endorsed suits succeed, states or cities must pay millions in fees and costs to trial lawyers — money that could instead fund public programs.

It’s certainly possible that government lawyers could bring such suits just as effectively, and at a lower cost. One of America’s most aggressive state attorneys general, Eliot Spitzer, never delegated law enforcement out to contingency-fee lawyers.

Contracting out activist litigation has a seriously corrosive effect on the economy. Governments’ embrace of trial lawyers and their job-killing lawsuits increase legal risks for commerce and deter companies’ desire to build plants or do business in certain states or localities.

Our judges must protect the rule of law and reject these trial lawyer-government alliances. But ultimately, the public must demand that willfully reticent politicians step forward and recapture their constitutional authority.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Trial Under Way in Black-on-White Carjacking Murders

Man set on fire, girlfriend repeatedly raped, doused with bleach to destroy evidence

Jurors in Knoxville, Tenn., have begun hearing arguments in a trial over the grisly deaths of a white couple — allegedly at the hands of a gang of black men and one woman who tried to conceal DNA evidence by dousing one victim with bleach.

The victims of what apparently started out as a carjacking were Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23. Authorities have said the couple was out on a Jan. 6, 2007, date and were in the process of leaving a friend’s apartment complex.

Christian reportedly was sitting at the wheel of her Toyota SUV and Newsom was at her side in the open door, kissing her, when they were attacked by the armed gang members.

According to court documents, the two were tied up, blindfolded and taken to one defendant’s rental home. Shortly thereafter, Newsom was sexually assaulted, shot in the head, set on fire and his body was left beside railroad tracks. The attackers allegedly took 24 hours to kill Christian, raping her multiple times and spraying bleach in her mouth to destroy evidence before stuffing her in plastic and dumping her in a closed trash can.

The case has stirred further controversy by its conspicuous lack of coverage in many national media outlets. While local news agencies have covered the attack, few national outlets have documented the alleged attack by a black gang on the white couple.

Media critics have noted the massive coverage given to the alleged white-on-black Duke lacrosse rape case that had developed about the same time.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Pharma Wants Obamacare

Despite all the Sturm und Drang emanating from town hall meetings, there’s still a very good chance some kind of health care reform bill will pass this year. And one of the biggest forces working toward that goal is America’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, which are expected to pour as much as $150 million into advertisements supporting the reform effort.

If that last sentence makes you flash back to Bill Murray’s line in Ghostbusters about the end times, mass hysteria, and dogs and cats living together, you’re not alone. On Tuesday, John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, issued an open letter in which he implored drug companies “to halt this short-sighted, misguided campaign and listen to the American people, rather than continue to collaborate on an effort to spin them.”

The only reason anybody is shocked is because they weren’t paying attention. The truth is that the drug industry is fundamentally different than it was in 1993, when Big Pharma was a powerful enemy of Hillary Clinton’s 1,000-page plan to reform health care. This time, drug companies aren’t likely to be hurt by any politically feasible plan and are unlikely to contribute to growing health care costs. This might even repair their broken reputation, at least a little. And whatever landscape emerges from health care reform may actually be more hospitable to drug companies.

The reason: The drug industry has transformed from a business that tries to sell pills to the masses to one that markets very expensive treatments to small groups of sick people—and that changes everything.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Woodstock’s Poisonous Legacy

The media has already begun unrolling its wave of commemorations for Woodstock, or what is euphemistically referred to as “The Legacy of Woodstock”, which for some reason is described in vague terms as “Peace and Love”, instead of more accurately, hundreds of injuries, of which only three were fatalities, not counting the miscarriages, the rapes, the drug addictions and all of Sullivan County being shut down.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Yes, Grandma, There is a Death Panel

Brother O and the Democrat Party’s media propagandists and Internet lackeys are promoting disinformation and parroting half-truths concerning the Obamacare “death panel”—an overseers board of bureaucrats that determines the value of a person’s continued existence and whether treatment will be cost-effective.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

You’re a Racist! The Ultimate Emotional Intimidation

I am on the email list of a dear black friend of 20 years. He is a minister, writer, and professor. He has mentored and advised me with great wisdom on numerous occasions. With me being a black conservative Republican and he a Democrat, we avoid talking politics. Since the election of Obama, my friend will talk about nothing else. He is in Baltimore. I’m in Florida. Every time he calls me, he turns the conversation into trashing all who oppose Obama’s agenda. Thank God for caller ID.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Canada Flies NATO Flag in Arctic Showdown

It has all the trappings of the Cold War except a vituperative war of words, or dark hints of Armageddon. Canada’s show of military might north of its icy shores is a flag-waving exercise to assert not only Canadian sovereignty but also NATO’s rights over the arctic territory. The audience? Russian military in their full paraphernalia of hardware, also engaged in more or less similar pursuits.

Of all the nations currently ensconced in the arctic, Russia is the only power outside NATO or Western alliances. It is the only arctic neighbor Canada has had angry exchanges with in recent months.


Canada wants to demonstrate it is fully capable of controlling its northern territory and warding off Russian advances. Senior Canadian government leaders exchanged heated words with Russian counterparts after accusing Russia of bullying and airspace violations.

Canadian officials warned Moscow they would counter any Russian incursions with superior — albeit American — air power.

Everything that happens in the arctic can potentially impact Canada’s national security, say analysts. The arctic represents 40 percent of Canada’s landmass, and more than 36,000 islands in the Arctic Archipelago hold about 13,000 Canadian citizens.

Critics of Prime Minister Stephen Harper have urged restraint on ministers engaged in inflammatory attacks on Russia, lest things get out of hand, Cold War-style.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

This Just in From Mohamed Elmasry: Christian Slavery = Bad. Islamic Slavery = Empowering !

By Jonathan Kay

This just in from former Canadian Islamic Congress chief Mohamed Elmasry: Islamic slavery wasn’t all that bad.

Writing in The Canadian Charger — a newly formed internet-based grab bag of anti-Western articles published by hard left Canadian activists — Elmasry works hard to distinguish the evils of Christian slavery from the purportedly enlightened race-mixing that resulted from its Islamic equivalent.

Some snippets: “Islam, with no church, teaches that all humans, irrespective of their gender, skin color, and ethnic origin are capable of doing good; there is no original sin. The One God is the Lord of all, not of special people or tribe … Islam and Africa have made something of each other that is quite extraordinary … Islam teaches that slaves, who were then the result of wars, Africans or not, should be treated well and set free as soon as possible … Islam also teaches that slaves can buy their freedom in-kind. Thus many of them excelled to be teachers and even scholars … Islam teaches a slave is a victim of circumstances who should be helped to be free and treated fairly in the mean time. Trading in slaves is a sin. This is in contrast to the teachings of the Bible, ‘Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.’ … The Arab Muslims called Africans Zanji (hence the island of Zanjibar or Zanzibar), Habashi (from Habasha, Arabic for Ethiopian) or Sudani (Arabic for black). Such names “were not derogatory but simply ethnographic … Some [slaves] achieved high rank and status …” And so on.

The basic theme is that Islamic slavery — to the extent it was bad at all (and it’s not really clear that Elmasry thinks it was) — was an enlightened, almost consensual, win-win exercise in regional multiculturalism. In his characteristically absurd elevation of Islam over Christianity, he makes no mention of the fact that religious Christians led the abolition movement in the West — while slavery persisted wholesale in the Arab world until late in the 20th century, and still survives in parts of Islamic Africa, including Sudan. Indeed, one wonders what the Christian tribespeople from southern Sudan who have been abducted, forcibly converted to Islam, and enslaved by Arab Muslims in recent years would make of Elmasry’s historical fantasies.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Our Christian leaders seem to do nothing but apologize these days — for every historical sin under the sun. But here you have a man who recently led the most prominent Muslim activist group in Canada, and he thinks it’s just dandy that his Arab forebears colonized and enslaved great swathes of Africa over the course of many centuries — a colonial situation that essentially persists in Sudan and regions of the Maghreb.

Remember this the next Elmasry or one of his fellow travelers denounces Western “imperialism.”

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-German Jihadist Videos Flood Internet

With just over a month to go before Germany’s general election, daily newspaper Die Welt reported on Friday that an unprecedented number of Islamist videos encouraging holy war against the country have flooded the internet.

Most recently, two Moroccan brothers from Bonn have appeared in terrorist propaganda videos online. The two men, 27-year-old Mounir Chouka and 24-year-old Yassin Chouka, are thought to be currently in hiding on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The brothers have produced several videos for the terrorist organisation the Islamic Jihadist Union dressed in military outfits and white robes, but the latest is the first in which they show their faces, the newspaper reported. The are part of growing trend of online Islamist threats intended to encourage Germany to pull its troops out of Afghanistan.

Preaching under the names Abu Adam and Abu Ibrahim since the start of the year, the brothers attack the infidel American and European occupation forces in Muslim nations. They speak in German with Turkish and Albanian subtitles.

“Come and die an honourable death,” proclaims Mounir, encouraging his German Islamist brothers and sisters. Yassin Chouka then encourages all German Muslims to swear allegiance to the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar.

Jihadists in Afghanistan would “delight to stand in a hail of bullets from NATO or under German Tornado planes,” his brother adds.

According to the paper, the brothers are known to have come from the suburb of Kessenich in Bonn, taking a journey of radicalisation that led them to the Hindu Kush mountain range on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, in the majority of cases, the real names of German Muslims in such videos remain unknown. Most choose pseudonyms such as “Abu Abdullah,” “Ahmad” or “Commander Mohammed,” reported the newspaper. The latter of these is seen in one video to announce “Ich bin kein Berliner,” in a sarcastic reference to John F. Kennedy’s famous declaration of solidarity with the residents of West Berlin.

Much of this information has been published in a 15-page report produced by the Israeli International Institute for Counter Terrorism, based in Herzliya. Keen to make the trend for aggressive references to Germany known, the group’s report lists a range of videos and Muslim forums making specific reference to Germany.

The latest wave of propaganda attacks began in January with videos published by another German of Moroccan origin, Bekkay Harrach. The newspaper reported that the 31-year-old Harrach appears on a video announcing in German that he would “blow himself up for Allah.”

His appearance in an al-Qaida video, entitled “The Rescue Package for Germany,” has reportedly caused concern for the German security services. In it he makes a specific reference to September’s election as the point when the German people will decide their own fate.

“Recently, more people have been travelling from Germany to ‘terror camps’,” Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning told the newspaper. He said this trend poses a threat not only to the German armed forces stationed in Afghanistan “but also for us in Germany.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Antwerp: Report on Extremist Mosques and Organizations

The following report was written by the Flemish Committee for Ex-Muslims and posted by Filip Dewinter, of Vlaams Belang, on his site. It’s a long report and so I will break it up into several parts.

It is obvious this was written by one person and not by a ‘committee’. My guess would be that this comes from P., a Flemish convert to Islam, who seems to be the source of most news about extremist Islam in Antwerp. Belgian Dutch-language weekly Knack published a similar report last year (see Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (1) and Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (2)), based on interviews with P. This report repeats much of the same information but it is much more detailed.


Extremist mosques and organizations in Antwerp

Almost half of the Antwerp mosques are in the hands of the fundamentalist Islamic movement Deobandi, which calls on Muslims to ‘shed blood’ for Allah and whose leaders reject Western norms and values, and disdain Jews, Christians and Hindus. The Deobandi sermons are impregnated by deep-rooted hatred towards Western society, admiration for the Taliban and martyrdom. Deobandi forbid art, television, sport and music; demand that women be completely covered and see football as a ‘cancerous tumor infecting our youth’ (frightening, keeping in mind the candidacy of Belgium as co-organizer of the World Cup 2018). In sermons it is said that music is a method of Jews to weave the ‘satanic web’ to lead young Muslims down the wrong path…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Arctic Sea: Freed Russian Seamen Questioned in Remand Prison

Russia flew the crew and hijackers of the hijacked freight vessel, the Arctic Sea, from Cape Verde to Moscow in three military planes on Thursday.

Russian television showed footage in which the crew briefly told about their ordeal.

One crew member said that the captain had been forced at gunpoint to cancel an earlier emergency call.

The crew members were not allowed to go home on Thursday: like the hijackers they were taken to the Lefortovo remand prison for questioning.

In Arkhangelsk the families of the crew waited for their loved ones with their eyes glued to their televisions. However, there was no indication of when the men would get home.

“I only know what was said on television. I hope that I can se my husband as soon as possible”, said mechanic Vladimir Kazhinin’s wife Olga to Helsingin Sanomat by telephone.

Vazir Fazylov, the father of seaman Dmitri Fazylov was surprised that his son was not even allowed to call home. “Nobody is saying anything. We’re just watching TV. This is stupid.”

The company Solchart Archangelsk is responsible for the operations of the Arctic Sea. The owner and CEO of the Finnish shipping company Solchart Management, Viktor Matvejev, is also from Archangelsk.

Solchart Archangelsk was not established until October last year. Before that, the Arctic Sea was operated by the Latvian company Aquaship.

On Thursday, Solchart Archangelsk director and shareholder Nikolai Karpenkov was making preparations in his office to send a new crew to the ship. However, he was still waiting for the go-ahead from the Russian Navy.

So why didn’t Karpenkov insist that the ship should have proceeded to the nearest port after the hijacking that took place in Swedish waters.

“The captain said that the ship was not damaged. We did not suspect that the hijackers were still on board.”

Karpenkov says that the communications equipment of the Arctic Sea was in working order until the ship had left the English Channel on August 1st. “Until then we followed the movements of the ship every day, and nothing appeared to be going wrong.”

On August 2nd the ship disappeared, and this is the point where Karpenkov clams up. “I will not comment on what happened after that.”

The task of reassuring the families of the crew members was left to Alexandr Krasnoshtan, chairman of the Archangelsk Seamen’s Union, who praised the initiative shown by the wives of the missing crew.

“When the ship disappeared, the wives were active and sent messages to the prosecutor. Thanks to the wives, the state apparatus started to work”, he says.

According to Krasnoshtan, Solchart Management and Sergei Zaretski, the captain of the Arctic Sea, have good reputations in maritime circles. Zaretski was left on the ship on Thursday, along with three members of the crew.

Russia said that the ship would proceed to Novorossiiski on the Black Sea for inspection.

Krasnoshtan says that it will be interesting to see who pays Stora Enso the insurance compensation for the cargo if the ship ends up in Russia.

“If the ship continues to Russia without stopping in Algeria first, it could be possible that suspicions of a secret cargo might be true.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Lawyers Banned From Iraqi Interrogations

Rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers have been refused the support of their lawyers in meetings with an Iraqi delegation.

Rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers, who are to be presented before an Iraqi investigation delegation in Denmark, are not to be allowed to have their court-appointed Danish lawyers present at interrogations.

Two of the court-appointed lawyers, who represent several of the Iraqis incarcerated at the Sandholm Camp, say the decision is a major problem. Both have unsuccessfully applied to be present during interrogations.

“We want to be in there to ensure just treatment for our clients. We have no idea what goes on in the room, and it is important to be a fly on the wall and make sure that the interrogations are carried out properly and in a civilised tone,” says Lawyer Kåre Traberg Smidt.

What’s going on

Traberg Smidt represents 10 of the Iraqis, including several of those whom police evicted from the Brorson’s Church in Copenhagen last week.

“Denmark is party to all of the conventions on the protection of individuals and minorities. So we also need to know what goes on when we allow a delegation to interrogate people in a closed room without witnesses,” Traberg Smidt says.

About face

A court decision was required before the Iraqis could be forced to appear before the Iraqi delegation, and in court hearings in which lawyers Traberg Smidt and Helge Nørrung took part, police representatives said there was no reason not to allow counsel to be present during hearings.

But Traberg Smidt and Nørrung say police have since changed their minds, and in order to stop the interrogations, one of the cases has now been appealed.


Several of the Iraqis involved — among them 23-year-old Shalaw Jaza — say they feel unsafe having to meet the delegation.

“I don’t know why I have to talk to them. I don’t trust them. They do nothing for Iraqis in Denmark, that’s for sure,” Jaza says.

He adds that he does not believe that the Iraqi delegation will tell the truth about the security situation in Iraq.

“They say that Iraq is safe. But that’s not true. They can’t control the situation. If Iraq is safe, then why are so many people killed each day?” asks Jaza.

The Police Department for Aliens has not been available for comment.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Officer and Rapper Shot During Hash Fine

Nationwide search for gunmen who shot and wounded an officer and a civilian.

An officer was wounded and an innocent civilian bystander injured in the Copenhagen district of Nørrebro during the night when a banale body search for hash developed into a shooting episode.

A nationwide search is under way for the unidentified gunmen, whom police say were seen running from the scene, while other witnesses suggest were in a vehicle.

The plain clothes police officer, who is reported to have been shot in the arm and stomach is said to be stable. The civilian, who is reported to be a well-known rap artist, has been treated for a graze wound to the face.

“We are interested in all witnesses coming forward. Anyone who has seen anything . Did the gunmen leave on a bicycle , did they run away or did they get into a car. Anyone who knows anything,” Police Spokesman Tommy Keil tells


Trouble is said to have started when plain clothes officers stopped a small group of young men to search them for narcotics. As one officer drew one young man aside in order to issue a fine for a small amount of hash, shots rang out.

“Officers saw the shadows of two or three men running away. First of all it was as if time stood still, and then chaos broke loose,” Keil says.

Rapper says that the civilian who was also grazed by a projectile was the well-known Northern Jutland rapper Niarn.

Immediately prior to the events in Nørrebro, another shooting episode took place in Tingbjerg, a few kilometres from Nørrebro when 20-30 shots were fired, but no-one was hit. It is not clear whether the Tingbjerg incident was an attempt to draw police away from Nørrebro.

Anyone with information on the night’s incidents can contact police on 3314 1448.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Police Dog Killed in Shootout

There has been shooting in connection with an armed robbery near Århus. A police dog has been killed.

Shots were exchanged this morning between robbers and police following an armed bank robbery at a Nordea bank branch near Århus. A police dog was killed during the exchange, which took place as the robbers made their getaway.

A large number of officers had been sent to Hasle, which is just west of Århus, during the bank robbery at the Nordea branch on Hasle Torv (square). The police dog was killed during the chase following the robbery.

It is unclear how much money was taken from the bank, although there have been reports that the proceeds were wrecked by security ink. The area between Denmark’s School of Journalism and the Hasle ringroad has been cordoned off as police search the area.

Police say a 32-year-old Lithuanian was detained after the robbers dumped their Audi vehicle and ran off on foot. Another two suspects are being sought — both believed to be from Eastern Europe.

On Tuesday of this week, the Danske Bank branch in Lystrup north of Århus was the target of an armed robbery by three French-speaking men. Their torched vehicle was eventually found in Holland after a Europe-wide search.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Scarcity of Workplace Prayer Rooms

Only four of the country’s 20 largest companies supply a room where employees can practice worship

As the Islamic holiday of Ramadan begins today, Muslims across the country are preparing for a month of prayer and fasting.

According to public broadcaster DR however, only four of Denmark’s 20 largest companies offer prayer room facilities at work for employees wishing to pray during their working day.

Danfoss, Ecco, TDC and AP Møller Mærsk all have rooms available for Muslim employees working in Denmark. Integration and employment researcher Anika Liversage at the Danish National Centre for Social Research was disappointed by the low number of prayer rooms and praised those who had introduced them.

‘It’s a very good signal to send to Muslim colleagues,’ said Liversage. ‘It makes them feel welcome and not feel like they have to hide part of their personality from their co-workers.’

Ecco said it had an employee prayer room because a large part of production had moved to Asia and the company had become more globalised.

Danish Crown on the other hand said it had no plans to introduce a prayer room at the workplace, even though one of their factories employees 49 different nationalities.

A spokesperson said that the company didn’t focus on the differences between staff members but rather that they were all employees.

The news comes just days after the government’s Conservative Party launched a controversial integration policy, which included banning women from wearing a burka.

As part of their policy, the Conservatives said they wanted to ban prayer rooms at schools because, ‘they are a way of pressuring students that don’t want to be part of a religious environment while in school.’

The party also recommended that schoolchildren not be forced to fast during Ramadan as it had given rise to religious bullying at many schools.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Burka Ban Causes Govt. Tumult

Senior government politicians are in uproar over the prime minister’s decision to order a commission on whether to ban the burka in Denmark.

The decision by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Lib) to set up a commission to study his Conservative minority coalition partner’s proposal to introduce a ban on the Muslim burka and niqab, has caused dismay within his own Liberal Party.

“More than50,000 people have lost their jobs in the past six months and we may be seeing a further 100,000 in the next nine months. We have an economic crisis that has to be handled, we have a climate conference, we have people who cannot be treated due to waiting lists, we have children with psychological problems who can’t be treated, we have a gang war in which people are shooting at each other — an officer was shot last night — and people are wasting time talking about burkas. It’s out of all proportion,” says former Liberal integration spokesman and current Environment Spokesman Eyvind Vesselbo.

Schall Holberg Another senior Liberal politician, Former Home Affairs and Agriculture Minister Britta Schall Holberg, says ‘we’ve reached rock bottom’.

“While hundreds of people are losing their jobs. While many farmers and other companies are at their knees and battling each day to survive. While young people are unable to get traineeships and too few get an education. While the government is gearing up for a budget that for the first time shows a deficit — almost of the size that toppled Anker Jørgensen’s (Soc. Dem.) government in 1982, the government sets up a burka commission,” Schall Holberg says in an e-mail to Ritzau.

Conservatives At the same time, what was billed as Conservative parliamentary group unity on the ban issue was broken today when the party’s Ecclesiastical and Education Spokeswoman Charlotte Dyremose turned her back on the proposal, which appears to have been fostered by the party’s newcomer and newly-appointed Integration Spokesman Naser Khader.

Dyremose tells Berlingske Tidende that she fears that a burka ban will do more harm than good for the relatively small number of women who wear the burka or niqab, adding that some of the most important Danish rights are those of the freedom of religion and speech.

Conservative Parliamentary Group Chairwoman Henriette Kjær, says she is surprised at Dyremose’s statement.

“I don’t understand it. After a longer debate during our group meeting (last) Friday I concluded as Group Chair that as a group we supported a ban on the burka. And no-one objected. Hers is a strange attitude. But she’ll have to take it alone,” Kjær tells Berlingske Tidende.

Dyremose says she made her views clear to the party leadership prior to its announcement of the ban proposal.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Severe Belt Tightening in Specialist Care

Hospitals offering specialised medical care will have to make deep cuts in spending this year.

The special care centres of the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District provide services to well over 700,000 people. Over the past few days, negotiations on savings measures have gone through the operations of its clinics one by one. Seven million euros in costs must be trimmed from this year’s budget. There is talk of staff layoffs and of closing some wards. Management wants to restructure operations. The Board of Directors will decide where and how the cuts will be made on Monday.

Local governments are no longer willing to pay make up budget deficits in specialised medical care services. The toughest situation is being faced by the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), where operational costs have already pushed the budget 35 million euros into the red.

HUS is trying to find a solution in more centralization of services.

A significant share of the nationwide problem springs from higher prices for medications and other care supplies. This means, that for example in Oulu, an even closer look is being given at the need for angioplasties and pacemakers. Planned equipment purchases are being reviewed with an eye to meet care criteria, but to eliminate “extras”.

Many hospitals will be reopening wards next week that were closed for the summer months. New closures, as a cost savings measure, are being planned, for example during autumn school holiday. And, over the Christmas holidays this year, no hospital will be providing specialised care for any but seriously ill patients.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Coming Home: Registered Male

A former foreign correspondent sees things back home through new eyes

After my return to Finland, one of the first things I had to do was to get a season ticket for the buses, trams, and Metro of Helsinki City Transport.

At the point of sale, the official behind the desk asked me my name. This seemed a bit odd, but I obliged.

The person behind the counter-window tapped a few keystrokes into her computer terminal and then looked up and said:

“And your official place of residence is still…”

I was gobsmacked.

Well, yes, it is. But why do you know that? You sell bus tickets!

More registers reared their heads when I went to renew my department store loyalty card.

The customer service clerk did a bit of tap-dancing on the keys and announced:

“Your credit details seem to be all in order.”

Oh. Well, thank you for telling me. I don’t have the faintest idea how I would go about getting my own credit rating details, but it is nice to know that it can be done quite so efficiently.

I got the card, and silently swore to myself that I would never use it.

I came back to Finland from China, a country that is described as authoritarian, bureaucratic, and “controlled”.

It seems odd that only back here in Finland have I had the feeling that somebody wants to write down every move I make in some register or other.

Of course, this is not to say that the authorities in China did not show any interest in my doings there. In the archives of the Ministry of State Security in Beijing there is a file with my name on it that undoubtedly contains more information about me than I would care to divulge.

But one thing about China — you can buy a bus pass there without having to show a personal ID.

In Finland that ID has already been required in several everyday situations: borrowing books at the library, checking in to a hotel, or when I try to have a flutter at an online betting site.

It gives me the sensation that my entire life is in The System somewhere. In an instant, any and every official could whisk up out of the registers all the details of my life to date.

And hey, it doesn’t have to be an “official” as such. A shop assistant will do just nicely.

“Have you got an S-bonus card?” It is such a common question in modern Finland — and not just in shops but also in bars — that it might well have been the first sentence in Finnish I ever learnt, if I didn’t speak the language already.

I have not got myself into the bonus card thing. If I did, then The System would also know exactly what I have been buying, and where and when.

In China I used to lie quite a bit. I would never have dreamed of giving my correct personal details when asked.

If I was obliged to show my passport and at the same time fill in some form or other, I tried to fudge it by writing doctor-style so that my handwriting was almost illegible and indecipherable.

That was born out of a lack of confidence. As with many Chinese citizens, I believed that somebody would in any event be misusing my personal or contact details.

At the very least I would get a bunch of contact attempts from eager-beaver Chinese entrepreneurs suggesting some common business venture.

There is no fear of this in Finland.

And I suppose no other fear, really.

And that is a very nice thing. We all agree to feed our details into the gaping mouth of The System, because we trust it. We trust the State and above all we trust other people.

When buying my bus pass, in the end I did not put up any resistance — I’m a Finn, after all — but told the sales clerk everything she wanted to know.

All the same, I’m still not completely sure what purpose the information serves.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Coming Home: Rushing to Take a Breather

A former foreign correspondent sees things back home through new eyes

Here in Finland, everybody talks about busy-busy-busy. People complain about the insane rush at work, and even in their free time things are so hectic that they don’t have time even to read the newspaper or look after the flowerbeds, let alone nurture their personal relationships.

What the hell are they on about?

People in Finland are always free, or so it seems.

The working days are reasonably short, Sundays are a day off for most people, and every so often the calendar throws up some odd religious holiday that further shortens the working week.

When I study my acquaintances, the impression is that half of the Finnish population are constantly on some kind of maternity- paternity-, job alternation-, official-, or some other kind of leave from their workplace.

As for annual vacations, the Finns have them by the weekload, and in some cases by the monthload.

A Chinese worker would get about as much time off in a decade.

In China, people have statutory leave from work of ten days a year — and this includes public holidays. Many workers in factories or on construction sites effectively do not have any time off.

If they want to rest, they quit work.

It’s quite awful.

Then again, it’s easy for the Finns to have a rest, in a finished society.

The 1.3 billion people in China are living through a complete upheaval in the society, and that’s enough to keep head, hands, and feet busy.

The hardworking nature of life means that the Chinese society is dynamic.

It also lives every day to the full and well into the evening. In the view of the Chinese it would be completely senseless to keep shops and restaurants closed at just the times when people have the time to frequent them.

There is in the hard work also an aspect of the different attitude to life in Asia.

Japan may already be a developed society, but to the Japanese the Finnish — or Nordic — lack of haste in life is a tourist sight.

Many a Japanese tourist comes here specifically to wonder at the Finns’ ability to take it easy.

Oh look at that, look how they live in peace in their pine forests with their animals all around them. What harmony!

By contrast with the Chinese model, the restful nature of life in Finland lends itself towards stagnation and inactivity.

Given that frame of mind, it suddenly seems quite normal and natural that one would spend a quarter of a century mulling over whether or not it is worth building a Western Metro out to Espoo.

When I worked in China, it was always safe to come home to Finland for a holiday.

There was never any sense of excitement or worry that something might have changed while I’d been away.

The same bars were all there where they used to be, and they all had the same names. One knew to avoid certain construction sites, because they were still in the same place they’d been a couple of years before.

The government changed, but the politics didn’t.

When I eventually moved back to stay, I thumbed through the evening tabloids with some interest, only to find the same old familiar names were there: Matti [Nykänen], Spede [Pasanen], Kirka, Juice [Leskinen]…

This gave me a funny turn: weren’t Spede, Kirka, and Juice all dead — in fact, hadn’t they all turned up their toes quite some time ago?*

I could just about understand that Saturday night TV still included a Finnish Have I got News For You. But how to explain the fact that Happy Days was still being shown, or those old Der Alte cop series — German police in their pastel 80’s blazers.

Popeda are still being played on the radio.

Yup, the 1980s are still going strong in Finland.

Naturally, when it comes down to it, it’s all good.

You’d imagine more people would pick a laid-back life over one of constant hurry and pressures, if they had the choice to make.

A Chinese acquaintance nevertheless said that whilst Finland is a very nice country, he still couldn’t take living here.

“Altogether too peaceful for me.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Coming Home: Good Bureaucrats

When I moved back to Finland from Russia, I had to take care of a tax matter.

I was flabbergasted when I discovered that I did not have to go in person to the local tax office. I could do it all perfectly easily over the phone! Amazing!

Finnish bureaucracy works. People are not endlessly bounced from one office or department to the next, and the official does not require more and more papers in triplicate. Getting one matter sorted does not take an entire day as it does in St. Petersburg or Moscow.

Someone who has lived the entire time in Finland might beg to differ, but at least from the viewpoint of a returnee, Finland still enjoys relatively good public services.

For example, simply the post-natal clinic system is an adequate reason for a family with kids to return to Finland from abroad. And you can get to the clinic on the bus with a pram — free!

On the other hand… Finland’s bureaucracy is somewhat short on flexibility. If there is a rule, then it will be adhered to.

For instance, I had to time my return to Finland such that at least six months would pass before the calculated date of the birth of my child. Otherwise I would not qualify for any paternity benefits.

Then at some summer event, the security staff brusquely tossed our family out of an area licensed to serve alcohol.

The reason was that we sinners had with us our 7-month-old baby, who was underage.

The security gonzos could also have added to our list of wrongdoings that the infant in question had come into the area equipped with her own beverages — in her mother’s breasts.

In Russia, bureaucrats are horrible creatures and exercise their own arbitrary personal power, but there is always room for negotiation with them.

In its most brutal form this means providing a pecuniary reward for the civil servant’s time and services.

A Russian would be quite unable to understand for instance the fuss that is raging around the bribery allegations against the state-owned arms supplier Patria.

The company’s lads pulled off some excellent deals with Slovenia as far as Finland is concerned, and then the national broadcaster goes and blabs on about some bribery nonsense.

Laws in Russia are strict, but obeying them is a more liberal matter.

The laws exist there only for safety’s sake — in order that everyone can if the need arises be shoved into prison.

For this reason, the Russians would prefer that as little as possible is known about them. Name, home address, and telephone number are often jealously guarded secrets.

In Finland, everything is wide open. Nearly everyone’s mobile number can be found from directory enquiries or over the Net.

A car’s owner — for example if you’ve bumped him or suspect he’s bumped you in the car park — can be got in an instant with an SMS message to the registration people, and you can even access tax information via the Net.

And the mailbox actually has the home-owner’s name on it.

Wild stuff!

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

France: Workers Striking, Threatening to Poison Seine

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 20 — About sixty workers from the French transport company Serta, which is about to declare bankruptcy, have threatened to dump 8,000 litres of toxic products into the Seine near Rouen, Normandy, in order to get severance pay of 15,000 euros, according to union sources. “It is the only weapon we have,” explained Jean-Pierre Villemin, a union representative of the workers, on strike since the end of last week, “we are not making an ultimatum, and we are not about to carry out the threat, but we are asking for 15,000 euros per worker.” Workers have threatened to poison the waters of the Cailly river, which passes near the plant and flows into the Seine. “We are making this threat,” said the unionist, “because everything we say falls on deaf ears and blind eyes.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Arranged Marriage Ends in Tragedy

Brutal Murder Case Reveals Immigrant Culture Clash

A Kurdish man killed his German-born wife, who was also his cousin, because she was too independent. He stabbed her in the eyes, beat her with a billiard cue and then ran over her in his car. His mother-in-law had told him to be “strict” with her strong-willed daughter.

“Damn it, we’re not on some television court show here! You keep your mouth shut!”

The presiding judge is shouting like a trucker. A foreign spectator had called out something in the direction of the bench, something harmless and not insulting.

One of the Kurdish witnesses was in the courtroom at the beginning of the trial, which is not permitted under German law. He is related to the defendant and the victim. “This is a case that involves my family. I have to be here,” he said, explaining his presence.

“You don’t have to do anything!” the presiding judge said, interrupting the man. “You need to stay home until you’re summoned.”

This isn’t a TV courtroom, but the courtroom of the judge presiding over the 10th Higher Criminal Chamber of the Bielefeld District Court, Jutta Albert, a woman with peroxide blonde hair and a voice capable of grinding stone. The way she treats people from different cultures is a little strange, to say the least.

‘Or Else You Can Go Back to Turkey!’

As she walks out of the courtroom just before a half-hour recess, the mother of the victim turns around, faces the defendant, and screams: “You disgraceful murderer! You pimp!”

After the break, the judge serves up her next reprimand. “One more remark from you and you’ll be removed!” she says. “Do you think you can behave here as if you were in a Turkish bazaar? We won’t let you treat us with such a lack of respect! Our proceedings are conducted in accordance with German laws, and if you are in this courtroom, you will abide by those laws. Or else you can go back to Turkey!”

This isn’t the way to reassure agitated people who have lost a daughter, a niece, a sister, and who have no other outlet for their feelings of hatred, sadness and perhaps even shame. This trial is dragging things out into the open that the family has always kept quiet, shining a bright light on its failings and on the fact that it has brought dishonor and shame upon itself.

At the beginning of the trial, young men with grim expressions on their faces and weeping girls are sitting in the visitors’ gallery. The mother of the murdered victim reacts to the court with disdain, turning her back on the judge. She seems consumed by hatred, and perhaps by self-loathing and desperation over the notion that she was partly responsible for provoking the incident. The police keep a close watch on the potentially explosive scene.

Stabbed in the Eyeballs

The defendant is a 27-year-old Kurd identified only as Önder B., who was never officially a resident of Germany. According to the indictment, on New Year’s Eve 2008 he stabbed his 18-year-old wife Müjde 46 times and beat her with a billiard cue. And, as he later told a psychiatrist, because she was already so disfigured from the stabbing and beating that she would hate him for the rest of her life, he got into his car and ran over her body several times.

It was an excessive act, an unparalleled outbreak of violence. Was it a crime so inconceivable that it must have been committed in a state of temporary insanity? Twice, the presiding judge pointed out that she was considering a conviction both for murder arising from base motives and cruelty, because the defendant stabbed his wife in both eyeballs while she was still alive, causing them to leak out of their sockets.

One of the details of the conflict-laden background to the crime is that Önder’s father is the older brother of Müjde’s father. The two men arranged the marriage after Önder saw the 15-year-old girl on a wedding video. When asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Müjde’s father said: “Yes, but my daughter has to agree.”

But the girl, born and raised in Germany, wasn’t interested in marriage. At the same time, she didn’t want to oppose her parents. She was uncertain and undecided. But for the father, her apprehension was no cause for concern. Things will turn out for the best once the two are married, he thought to himself. After all, he reasoned, we are all part of the same family.

Considering Himself Perfect

Although Önder finished school, he doesn’t have any vocational qualifications and never learned a trade. What kind of a person is he? “He’s my nephew,” says one witness. “I don’t know anything bad about him.” “He believes his thoughts are correct,” says another uncle. Önder tells the psychiatrist that he considers himself “perfect.”

The defendant came to Germany for the first time, as an asylum seeker, in 2001. He was 19 and Müjde was 11 at the time. He married a Turkish woman 10 years his senior, but the couple soon separated. He returned home to Turkey in 2003, where he performed his mandatory military service. He lived in a hostel for unmarried Kurdish men in Istanbul for a while.

Önder returned to Germany to visit an uncle on his father’s side, followed by a visit to France to stay with a maternal uncle. Then he went back to Germany, then to Turkey to see his parents and, finally, returned to Germany. He visited Müjde’s family for three days in 2006. The two got along “fantastically,” he says, even though he was too “embarrassed” to talk to her. He sent her a text message asking whether she would like to get to know him. She responded that this wasn’t possible, but then she asked when he was going to come to visit her.

This went on for an entire year. On the one hand, says Önder, she wanted him to visit her. On the other hand, she didn’t want him. This offended him, he says.

Reports of Rape

Müjde’s parents were also sending mixed signals. The mother was not very enthusiastic about Önder at first. Nevertheless, the girl was sent alone to Turkey in May 2007 to visit relatives. The couple was married in a civil ceremony in Turkey two weeks later. By the time Müjde’s parents arrived, “the whole thing was over,” one witness said.

A paternal uncle told the court that Müjde wanted to marry Önder. But others say that Müjde had talked about rape.

When the victim’s 17-year-old sister is called to testify, her father orders her to leave the courtroom. This prompts another loud outburst from the judge, who says: “You have nothing to say here! Your daughter ought to be allowed to make her own decisions!” The judge’s disconcertingly sharp tone doesn’t exactly help to alleviate the tense mood in the courtroom.

On July 24, 2007, the young woman returned, disappointed, to Germany. Being married was not what she had expected. Önder apparently behaved the way men usually behave in places where a marriage is a contract between two families, and where the woman becomes the man’s property.

Önder remained in Turkey while Müjde stayed in Germany. From then on, they only communicated with each other via the Internet. Önder berated Müjde and her parents. Were his words threats or merely macho ranting? Müjde reported him to the police.

Her mother informed relatives that the wedding celebration they had planned to hold in Germany for friends and family had been cancelled. When Önder heard the news, he attempted to commit suicide. When he returned to Germany, Müjde went with him to an attorney so that he could apply for a residency permit. She also had hymen reconstruction surgery, perhaps to prepare herself for a future relationship — but with whom?

A Tragic New Year’s Eve

It was an emotional roller coaster ride for the estranged couple and their families. In October 2008, Önder wanted to take Müjde to Turkey with him so that they could have a “proper” wedding. He threw himself at his mother-in-law’s feet and humbly and respectfully begged her forgiveness for his mistakes. His appeal was successful. Müjde’s mother urged him not to give up and told him to be strict with her daughter.

Önder didn’t understand — or simply refused to believe — that the game had been over for a long time. Müjde spoke on the telephone with people he didn’t know, and she refused to bow to his authority, which convention required him to exert. It drove him crazy. Where he comes from, decent woman don’t behave the way she was behaving. He became obsessed with the notion that she was seeing someone else.

Despite their differences, they became engaged a second time. At the ceremony, Müjde was wearing a gold-colored gown as she put on their engagement rings. An uncle urged the couple to try to get along.

It was the end of 2008. Müjde, who had stopped wearing her engagement ring, went to a New Year’s Eve party without Önder. When he turned up at the party, she told him to go away, but then she followed him to another party at an uncle’s house. Önder said: “Next year the party will be at our house.”

He killed her as they were driving home that night.

Moral Values

He claims it was because she had turned up the car stereo when he tried to speak to her, that she had given him an incorrect PIN three times when he tried to check the calls on her mobile phone, and that she had refused to answer him when he asked whether she had been unfaithful. Perhaps she said nothing because she was scared to death.

He had taken along a knife from the uncle’s party, a fruit knife with a short blade. He stabbed her with such fury that the blade broke off in her skull.

He turned himself in after the murder. “The striking thing was that he desperately wanted to know whether it was possible to determine when and with whom she had last had sexual intercourse,” says a police witness.

His lawyer, Detlev Otto Binder, confronted the psychiatric expert witness with the diverse views of renowned forensic psychiatrists on the subject of “profound consciousness disorder” — an official defense under German law — and accused him of not knowing enough about the subject.

Müjde’s parents, for their part, refused to testify in court. Who will explain to them and their extended family that they must modify their moral values and give up their traditions if they want to live in Germany? Certainly not a court that shouts people down.

On Aug. 17, the court in Bielefeld sentenced Önder B. to life in prison for murder.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Germany: Green Party Minister Angers German Auto Industry With Car Comments

Renate Kuenast, one of the Green Party’s top candidates for the 2009 elections, angered the German auto industry Thursday when comments she made were interpreted as a call for Germans to buy Japanese cars.

In the interview with the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper, Kuenast said that people should look to the German Motor Club’s (VCD) list of the most environmentally-friendly cars when choosing their next vehicle.

The top ten list features Japanese cars in the first six places.

“As a member of the Green Party I want people to buy modern cars with the lowest CO2 emissions,” she said, suggesting that the VCD list was a good reference point for these cars. She expressed regret that the highest-placed German car came in at number seven — the two-seater Smart car — and added that German manufacturers “should act as quickly as possible to provide different cars and to secure jobs.”

Kuenast found herself in similar trouble two years ago when she called on people to buy the Toyota Prius hybrid car for its low environmental impact in comparison to other cars. Her statement was seen as a vote of no-confidence in the German car industry.

She also said that she was annoyed with the executive committees at German auto manufacturers which continued to fight at a European level to keep CO2 emissions for cars at the highest level possible.

“If the Germans are too stupid to build modern cars, then one must recommend that people should buy a Toyota Prius,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Germany: Muslim Man Sentenced to Life in Jail After Killing His German-Born Wife Because She Was ‘Too Independent’

A Muslim asylum seeker has been sentenced to life in prison after killing his German-born wife because she was ‘too independent’, a court in Germany heard today.

The 27-year-old Kurdish man, identified only as Onder B, was found guilty today of stabbing his wife in the eyes, beating her with a billiard cue and then running over her in his car.

His mother-in-law had once told him to be ‘strict’ with her strong-willed daughter, Mujde — who was also Onder’s cousin.

On New Year’s Eve 2008 he stabbed his 18-year-old wife Mujde 46 times and beat her with a billiard cue.

And because she was ‘already so disfigured from the stabbing and beating that she would hate me for the rest of her life,’ he got into his car and ran over her body several times.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Lobby Group Says Yes Vote Would Jeopardise Farm Succession Rights

A YES vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum would jeopardise farm succession rights and would also lead to a massive influx of Turkish farmers into the European Union, according to a farm lobby group which is campaigning against the treaty.

[Return to headlines]

Ireland: US Giant to Spend Thousands Backing ‘Yes’ Camp

A multi-national technology giant will spend hundreds of thousands of euro campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

The Irish boss of Intel — one of the country’s largest employers — said he wanted to send a clear message that a ‘Yes’ vote matters to the future prosperity and growth of Ireland.

Despite planning to spend a six-figure sum on campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote, the company claims it is not getting involved in the political argument, but simply putting the business case.

Intel Ireland general manager Jim O’Hara said there was a strong link between Ireland’s EU membership and the level of inward foreign direct investment.


“Since Ireland voted to support the single European market, international investment has grown immensely. Ireland has become an important destination for inward investment into Europe,” he said.

“This has happened for many reasons — an English-speaking, well-educated workforce, low corporate tax and pro-business government policies.

“Most importantly, it has happened because of Ireland’s connectedness to Europe, along with free access to vast EU markets,” he said.

Admitting it was an unusual move for a company of this type to back a campaign, Mr O’Hara said Intel would be spending “a few hundred thousand euros” on its publicity campaign for Lisbon. He said he had informed the State ethics watchdog, the Standards in Public Office Commission, of its intentions and there was “absolutely no issue”.

Although Mr O’Hara did not object to any questions being put to him about the treaty’s contents and his company’s activities, Intel’s PR person attempted to block questions from the media.

“Jim is here today just to speak on the business perspective of the Lisbon referendum. We don’t want to get into the political side of the debate, nor do we want to broaden that debate,” the spokesman said.

Intel does produce computer chips, which have a military application. ‘No’ campaigners say the passing of the Lisbon Treaty means a drive towards the militarisation of Europe and greater military spending.

Mr O’Hara said he had no view on the militarisation arguments put forward by the ‘No’ campaign.

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Venice Cemetery Tourist Complaints

‘Island of Dead’ disturbed by visitors to famous graves

(ANSA) — Venice, August 20 — The enthusiasm of Venice’s tourists is trying the patience of some locals, angry with disturbances at the city’s so-called cemetery island. A growing number of visitors are now making the trip to the Isola di San Michele, known to locals as The Island of the Dead, which houses the remains of various well-known figures, as well as a beautiful chapel. Tourists are drawn by the tombs of US modernist poet Ezra Pound, who lived in Venice, and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky among others, but now local residents are complaining about the commotion when they visit the graves of loved ones. A local councillor, Sebastiano Bonzio of the Communist Refoundation party, has launched a plea for action to restore the peace. Speaking during council proceedings, he said he had received several reports asking him to address the issue. “People travelling to the cemetery to visit their loved ones have been disturbed by mass arrivals of groups with a guide,” he said. “Residents have asked me to protest on their behalf”.

Bruno Padoan, head of Venice’s cemetery services department, admitted there had been a growing number of tourists visiting the island in recent years. He attributed the increase to the fact the site now appeared in more guides than in the past, meaning there was a greater awareness of the famous people buried there. But he insisted that people visiting the island were usually educated individuals, interested in art and culture, rather than rowdy tourists insensitive to locals. “These are people interested in learning about the treasures the island has to offer: its church, which is currently being restored and the funerary monuments of various individuals,” he said. Furthermore, Padoan explained, the size of the island meant the only way to prevent disturbances would be to put an end to all visits. “It is simply impossible to monitor an area this big, in order to make sure no one’s ducked behind a tomb for a ham sandwich or is taking advantage of the quiet for a moment of relaxation,” he said. The stir over the Isola di San Michele is not the first clash between tourists and residents in Venice. In 2007, the council started a crackdown on behaviour deemed unacceptable on the part of tourists visiting St Mark’s Square. Under the rules, tourists who go bare-chested, sit on the pavement or eat sandwiches in the famous square can be issued with fines.

A team of seven women, known as ‘guardians of decorum’, seek to enforce the rules through gentle persuasion but have the power to call police to issue fines if tourists fail to comply. The team is part of Venice’s strategy to ensure the city stays clean and maintains its charm despite the presence of 20 million visitors a year.

It is also working on laws to stop the sale of fast food in the piazza so as to limit the amount of rubbish that accumulates there and which street cleaners can only remove once a day.

photo: the ‘guardians of decorum’ in St Mark’s square

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslims in Sweden Celebrate Ramadan

This is the beginning of Ramadan — the month of fasting for Muslims all over the world and for the 300.000 Muslims living in Sweden.

A salute to the profit Mohammed and his revelations and a time for good deeds and the donation of money to the poor.

It’s also a time when many Mulsim families everywhere stack up on food for those big evening meals following the day-light hour fasts — and for preparations for the big 3-day festivities at the end of Ramadan.

“Store owners neglect Ramadan…”

Speaking to Swedish Radio news Muslim Amina Daher — who lives in the immigrant-rich Stockholm suburb of Tensta — confirms that purchase of dates, meat, other fruit and vegetables are greatly increased because of all the expected guests.

But some observers note that the Swedish food chains are slow in reaping the benefits of what should be millions of dollars in extra sales.

With Ramadan coming early this year, many unprepared stores are still pushing that for Mulsims-forbidden pork on sale for those last-of-the-season grill parties so loved by the native Swedes — and this means the shortages of the Moslem favorite lamb are resulting in soaring prices and lost sales.

Meta Troell of the Swedish trade and commerce association maintains that says some Swedish store owners are getting a bit better when it comes to sizing up the special needs of the immigrant communities — but not much.

She agrees that some stores are bringing in extra supplies — but that they do not always advertise to the different consumer groups …relying on standard Swedish approaches that doesn’t always work.

And she concludes that there are still Swedish stores who don’t know what Ramadan and post-parties really mean for potential sales.

Other store owners in other branches area also missing Ramadan potential.

In that Tensta suburb, clothes, toys and gift-shop owner Berishi Muhammed confirms gladly that his sales boom with Ramadan enthusiasm — especially for the children.

But more Swedish shop owners will no doubt become more Ramadan-savy as the Swedish news media covers the event.

Some news stories note how some Muslim parents are concerned that younger siblings are too eager to follow older brothers and sisters into those day- time fasts — when perhaps their very young bodies are not ready for a long school day without food.

Others foresee growing worries over a Ramadan each year sliding ever deeper into the summer here — with the long, Nordic daylight squeezing out those evening hours of darkness … so that those Moslems living in the far north of Sweden will be facing a summer hot Ramadan with the midnight sun burning away all the time for meals.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Muslim Group Republishes Punishable Cartoon

AMSTERDAM, 20/08/09 — The Arab European League (AEL) says political motives are behind the Public Prosecutor (OM)’s decision not to prosecute the organisation for publishing a controversial cartoon. In order to provoke the OM into taking the AEL to court after all, the Islamic group has republished the cartoon on its website.

On Tuesday, the OM decided that a cartoon showing two Jews ‘inventing’ the Holocaust is a punishable offence. Nevertheless, the OM decided not to prosecute the AEL, which made and published the cartoon on its website over three years ago.

The condition attached to this dismissal was that the website would not republish the cartoon. But in the meantime, the AEL has published the cartoon on its website a second time.

The AEL is republishing the cartoon in protest against the OM’s simultaneous decision, also announced on Tuesday, that cartoons portraying the Islamic prophet Mohammed are permitted. These are the political cartoons that were originally published in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

According to the OM, the ‘Danish cartoons’ are not punishable because they concern the prophet Mohammed and say nothing about Muslims as a group. “None of the cartoons is offensive towards Muslims or incite hatred, discrimination or violence against Muslims. Therefore their publication or distribution is not punishable either”, stated the OM.

On the other hand, the AEL cartoon about the ‘invented Holocaust’ is punishable. “By claiming that they invented the murder of six million Jews, Jews are being insulted as a group”, according to OM.

This explanation did not go down well with the AEL. Spokesperson Abdou Bouzerda is especially angry because the Danish cartoons were republished in the Netherlands by anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders.

“Wilders is judged right and may continue to publish cartoons that one and a half billion people perceive as offensive. While we have to remove political cartoons that could be offensive to Jews”, Bouzerda sneered.

Bouzerda claims that the OM is not prosecuting the AEL out of fear of Muslims. “The OM merely wished to prevent angry Muslim reactions if it became evident that we were being prosecuted and Wilders was not”.

Due to this “hypocrisy”, the AEL republished its cartoon. In doing so it implicitly provokes the OM into taking the matter to court. “Let the OM prosecute us by all means; we want a court verdict “.

The OM had in fact initially received the request to take the AEL to court from the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI). Following Tuesday’s OM decision not to prosecute the AEL despite its alleged crime, CIDI director Ron Naftaniel is starting an Article 12 procedure, which means he is appealing the OM’s decision not to prosecute.

Naftaniel considers it “disgraceful” that the OM took three and a half years to pass judgement on the AEL cartoons. He is also disgruntled that the OM deems another AEL cartoon as legal. This cartoon portrays Adolf Hitler in bed with Anne Frank. “A nightmare for the thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors still alive.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: AEL Puts Holocaust Cartoon Back on Its Website

The Arab European League (AEL) has republished a controversial cartoon on the Dutch version of its website, despite an agreement with the public prosecutor for the removal of the image. The cartoon portrays two Jews inventing figures about the Holocaust.

On Tuesday the public prosecutor’s office ruled that AEL was liable to prosecution for publishing the cartoon, but no charges would be brought if the campaign group permanently removed the image from its website. Initially AEL appeared to have complied with this demand.

However, at the same time the public prosecutor’s office also ruled that there was nothing illegal about the publication of the controversial Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad on the website of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders in 2006. Likewise, it decided that the TV programme Nova, which also showed the cartoons, had not broken the law.

The public prosecutor’s office concluded that the Danish drawings were not offensive to Muslims as a group and were not an incitement to discrimination or violence against them. However, it said the cartoon on the AEL website was indeed offensive to Jews as a group.

In response to this ruling, AEL decided to republish the cartoon. On its website, AEL chairman Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda accuses the public prosecutor’s office of applying double standards, adding that “Given the decision not to interpret the Muhammad cartoon as offensive to Muslims, the decision that the publication of the AEL cartoon is liable to prosecution is incomprehensible.” AEL claims the cartoon does not express its views and is not intended to offend a specific group.

The public prosecutors office says charges will be brought if AEL fails to remove the cartoon from its website within two weeks.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Low Language-Skill Children Get Cheaper Daycare

Toddlers with language deficiencies will be able to attend child daycare centres at lower rates, owing to a new subsidy by the Education Ministry.

Instead of the usual tariff of 645 euros a year, considered too expensive by many parents, they will only have to pay 105 euros. Attending daycare centres is thought to improve children’s linguistic abilities through guided play and learning.

Deputy Education Minister Sharon Dijksma is setting aside 20 million euros for the support measure. She says too many children arrive at primary schools with insufficient language skills because their parents found preschool daycare too costly.

The measure will be implemented at local authority level, rather than centrally by the ministry.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Norway: Pre Election: Information — Progress Party Candidate Commentary

On September 14th there will be elections to the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) and to the Sami Assembly in Norway. The Norway Post will try to present information and comments. Today: The political situation as seen by a Progress Party MP: Just three weeks before the election, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, Member of Parliament for the Progress Party asks the following question:


(It should be noted that Soria Moria to Norwegians is both a fairy-tale castle glimmering over the horizon, and the name of the hotel where the present red/green coalition government set down their political programme. Ed. note)

As the September general election is fast approaching, the socialist Norwegian government is trying to convince the public that it is delivering on its promises made at the fairy tale hotel of Soria Moria four years ago. The Soria Moria government declaration contained grand classical socialist statements such as liminating poverty by redistributing income through higer taxes, make jobs available for everyone and laying the foundation for sustainable development in all parts of the country. The Government also promised to create a green economy and to introduce a more “humane and generous immigration policy” . The Government assured us that it would build on what they defined as “the Norwegian model”, where the forces of the market would be replaced by Government interventions by pouring petrodollars at every conceivable challenge.

Let’s assume that Government is delivering on its promises, and that things are moving in the right direction in Norway, as Prime Minister Stoltenberg claims. Why is it that most of us experience an underlying discontent among the public of where we as a nation is moving? Why is an increasing number of people worried about the future, despite the financial riches of this nation? Are the people mistaken? Don’t we understand our own best interest? Of course we do! The truth is that the people long has realized that the challenges the Norwegian society faces first of all is of a structural and cultural character, and that such fundamental challenges can not be solved by public spending alone.

Let me give you some examples. In Norway today there are more than 700 000 people between the ages of 18 — 67 who in different ways recieve their income from the Government through the social security system. This number is far higher than any other comparable European nation, and the number is growing by an accelerating speed! It is of little comfort that Norway is experiencing a low rate of registered unemployment (3%), when 25% of the population receives its main income from different forms of government benefits. This fact is one of the untold consequences of the socialist ideology put forth in the Soria Moria declaration.

Under the soscialist left Government, Norway is receiving about 20 000 immigrants from non western nations every year. About 5000 are being granted permission to stay through the asylumseeker process, while the greatest number arrive in Norway through the process of “familiy re-union”, where immigration through marriage constitutes a large number. Non-Western immigrants do often lack basic education, many are even illitterate on arrival, and they do in large pick Norway as their destination of choice due to our generous welfare system. At the same time many groups of immigrants have introduced cultural and religious practices which are challenging our fundamental values. In particular, values such as freedom of speech, equality between the sexes and individual liberties. The Governments policy of allowing a growing number of immigrants into Norway has resulted in an unsustainable demographic development which is not just undermining our welfare society, but is also challenging over values and our way of life. The long term consequences of this naive policy may be distratrous to our culture and to our nation. This fact is another of the untold consequences of the socialist ideology put forth in the Soria Moria declaration.

Norway is among the biggest spenders on public education. Our spending per student is among the highest in the world. At the same time, international comparisons conducted by the OECD show that Norwegian students are scoring poorly on knowledge based testing. The same tests however, show that Norwegian students are doing really well when it comes to measuring levels of disturbance and noise in the classroom. These students are the innovators of tomorrow. These are the ones that shall enable us to finance our welfare. It is not promising. This is also one of the untold consequences of the socialist ideology put forth in the Soria Moria declaration.

The incidences of violent crime is on the rise in Norway. The crime has also become more brutal and unscrupulous. Despite this development, the government insists on its policy of short prison sentences, focusing on rehabilitation of the offender, rather than being on the side of the victims of crime. Foreign criminals have so far had the opporunity to serve their time in Norwegian prisons, serial criminals are being offered shorter sentences than what the law implies and prison inmates are being released before their time due to lack of prison cells. At the same time, the police is lacking money and people, forcing investigators to make unacceptable compromises, even in cases where a perpetrator of a crime is known to the police. This is another untold consequence of the socialist ideology put forth in the Soria Moria declaration.

I have mentioned four fundamentally important political areas where the government is not able to deliver. Not because it is not possible, but because effective policies will violate socialisms dogmatic rethoric of solidarity. And I could have kept on. Today we have 270 000 Norwegians standing in line to receive a required treatment at a hospital, our public infrastructure is decaying, our communication infrastructure is one the least developed in Europe and according to our former Inspector General of the Army, is our Army barely able to defend a small area of Oslo if it was taken to the test. In order not to deliver these services, the socialist government is insisting on maintaining a high level of taxes, while our fees and duties are continously breaking new records.

The truth is that the Soria Moria declaration is not discussing the developments that most Norwegians find troublesome. The declaration is pompous in its message about community and solidarity, but does not mention that the solidarity in reality means that a growing number of people will be depended on government welfare. The declaration has an isolated focus on implementing new rights, but says nothing about what the society will demand in return.

While Prime Minister Stoltenberg and Finance Minister Halvorsen are busy implementing the Soria Moria declaration, are a majority of Norwegians dreaming about another society. A society where effort and creativity are being rewarded, a society where it is possible to make a decent living on your own income, a society where a sustainable immigration policy is being implemented, a society where our schools again will focus on disiplin and knowledge and a society where criminal behaviour will lead to fast trials and deterrence. These same people wish for a visionary government that will increase peoples possibility to choose, a government that appreciates private initiative and who will use our enormous oil and gas income to create a world class infrastructure. The Soria Moria declaration will never be able to deliver any of that.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Girl, 14, Gang Raped on Internet Date

A 14-year-old girl was raped on Wednesday evening by at least two people in a bush by Grönkullagatan in Helsingborg.

The girl, who comes from outside of the city, had arranged on the internet to meet a boy.

But when she and a 14-year-old friend came to Helsingborg to meet the boy they were instead met by a gang of five men, all around 18-years-old.

According to initial reports the 14-year-old was raped by at least two of the men. Her friend witnessed the attack and called the police.

The police, with the help of dogs, managed to trace and locate the gang of men a short distance from the scene of the crime. The five men have been taken in for questioning and are all suspected of rape.

“We have secured samples and when the analysis is complete the various roles played by the men will become clear,” Peter Martin at Skåne police told the TT news agency.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden Summons Israeli Ambassador

Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan, has been summoned by Sweden’s foreign office to discuss the diplomatic discord following an article in a national newspaper claiming Israeli soldiers harvest the organs of dead Palestinians.

The meeting, with the foreign ministry cabinet secretary Frank Belfrage, had already been planned to discuss routine matters but has now taken on an altogether different importance, according to a TT news agency source.

The diplomatic spat has its source in the decision by the Aftonbladet newspaper to publish the article which details allegations of the systematic harvesting of the organs of Palestinian men.

The argument has escalated further after comments on Thursday by the Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman slamming Stockholm for distancing itself from a statement by Sweden’s Ambassador to Israel Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier expressing outrage at the article.

Lieberman compared the allegations in the article to old antisemitic lies, such as Jews offering up Christian children for the ritual sacrifice to collect their blood.

“It is regrettable that the Swedish foreign ministry does not intervene when it comes to a blood libel against Jews, which reminds one of Sweden’s conduct during World War II when it also did not intervene,” a Israeli government statement quoted Lieberman as saying.

The comments have caused irritation at the Swedish foreign ministry, according to the TT source.

Lieberman stated that he intended to send a strongly worded protest to Sweden’s foreign minster Carl Bildt, but this protest had not been received by midday on Friday.

Avigdor Lieberman, who is also the leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, also issued a sweeping criticism of Sweden and the foreign ministry over moves to distance itself from comments made by the Swedish ambassador to Israel, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, in which she condemned the newspaper’s decision to publish.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Bildt Rejects Israeli Call for Official Condemnation

Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt has rejected calls from Israel for the government to distance itself from an article in a national newspaper which claimed Israeli soldiers harvest the organs of dead Palestinians.

Writing on his blog, Bildt argued that Sweden’s free press and tradition of free speech are the best defence against “breaches of judgement, bad taste and transgressions of core societal values.”

“There are calls from some quarters in Israel that we in some way or another should take an official position to distance ourselves from this article or even to intervene to prevent such an article being published,” Bildt wrote on Thursday.

“But our country does not work that way — and neither should it.”

Bildt argues that were he to go in and correct all the eccentric contributions to debates in various media then he would have little time left over for anything else. He also argued that criticism against some could be understood as approval of others.

Carl Bildt drew parallels to the debate around the Muhammad cartoons that raged in a similar fashion in 2006. He argued that on that occasion Sweden gained respect for the position that tolerance and understanding are best constructed through an open society.

Bildt however expressed understanding for the feelings of the Israeli people over the article penned by photojournalist Donald Bodström in which he alleged that the Israeli Defence Force systematically removed and traded the organs of dead Palestinian men.

“That the accusations of the article’s author awoke strong feelings in Israel is not difficult to understand. Bitter historical experience has led to a natural and strong sensitivity to implications or accusations which could give anti-Semitism a chance to develop,” Bildt wrote.

The foreign minister concluded by defending the importance of maintaining a free press and protecting freedom of speech but said that there were lessons to be learned from both this and the Muhammad cartoon debate.

“We live in a world where the public debate spills over old boundaries and where we all in various contexts would be wise to be aware of the historical, national and religious sensitivities.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden Defends Press Freedom Amid Israeli Furor

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Friday played down a diplomatic row with Israel sparked by a Swedish newspaper’s claims that Israeli soldiers stole organs from dead Palestinians.

But Bildt declined to condemn the piece, saying the government has to respect the Swedish constitution’s principles on freedom of expression.

“As a member of the Swedish government, acting on the Swedish constitution I have to respect the freedom of the speech, irrespective of the personal views that I might have,” he said.When asked by reporters if the report published by the Aftonbladet tabloid would sour relations between the two countries, Bildt said: “I don’t think so.”

“We have very strong state relationship between Israel and our government. We are both open and democratic societies,” he told reporters during a meeting of Nordic and Baltic foreign ministers in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik.

Anti-SemitismOn Thursday, Stockholm distanced itself from a statement by Sweden’s Ambassador to Israel Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier expressing outrage at the article, drawing a stinging response from the Israeli foreign ministry.

“It is regrettable that the Swedish foreign ministry does not intervene when it comes to a blood libel against Jews, which reminds one of Sweden’s conduct during World War II when it also did not intervene,” it said in a statement.

Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper sparked the row on Monday when it published a report claiming Israeli soldiers snatched Palestinian youths to steal their organs and returned their dismembered bodies a few days later.

The article implied a link between charges of organ theft from Palestinians and the recent arrest in the United States of an American Jew suspected of illicit organ trafficking.

Headlined “Our sons are plundered for their organs,” the story made news in Israel, where officials described it as racist and accused it of using “vile anti-Semitic themes.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he planned to make a “serious protest” to Bildt over the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s previous decision not to comment on the article.

“A country that truly wants to defend democratic values must strongly condemn deceitful reports with an odor of anti-Semitism of the kind published this week in Aftonbladet,” Lieberman said in a statement.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would look into suing the reporter for libel.

Bildt rejected claims that Sweden harbors anti-Semitic feelings, adding that the condemnation of anti-Semitism was the only issue on which there has ever been complete unity in the Swedish Parliament.

Tensions between the two countries have been strained in recent years.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Israeli Minister Fires Up the Debate

The conflict over a Swedish newspaper’s article about Israeli organ trade is continuing to heat up diplomatic relations between the two countries. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has condemned the Swedish government’s decision to not comment on the article, likening Sweden’s silence with the spread of anti-Semitic rumors in Old Europe, including how Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children for their blood.

Moreover, the Foreign Minister equated the affair with “Sweden’s actions during the Second World War, when they didn’t intervene either,” reports Swedish news wire TT.

The article, published by the newspaper Aftonbladet, accused Israeli authorities of being aware of soldiers murdering Palestinians for their organs. But regardless of its content, the Swedish government has said that it won’t comment on it out of respect for the freedom of the press.

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on his blog on Thursday that certain voices in Israel have called on the Swedish government to distance itself from the article and even take action so that such an article can’t be published in the future. “But our country doesn’t work like that-and it won’t work like that either,” he writes in reply, appealing to Sweden’s traditions of free press.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I understand freedom of the press, but aren’t there also slander/libel laws in Sweden when folks print blatantly false or deceitful articles? I don’t understand any of the comparisons I’ve seen between this article and the Mo-toons.]

Officials at the Swedish Foreign met with Israel’s ambassador to Sweden Benny Dogan on Friday to discuss the issue. Although the ambassador wouldn’t comment on the content of the meeting, he strongly criticized newspaper Aftonbladet when asked in an interview with TT if Israel would investigate the newspaper’s claims.

He said that it’s impossible to defend Israel against absurd allegations.

“Why don’t we investigate if Jews lay behind the attacks on the World Trade Center? Why don’t we investigate if Jews spread AIDS in Arab countries? Why don’t we investigate if Jews kill Jewish children in order to take their blood and organs? Why don’t your newspapers investigate all that? Those would certainly be good articles.”

The Swedish Foreign Ministry still would not comment on the case, saying instead that they stand by the freedom of the press.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sweden: STIs a Sign of Manhood?

Some young men consider sexually transmitted infections a sign of manhood, new Swedish research suggests. A number of men become more careful after contracting a STI, while others just chalk it up to bad luck; a third group sees it as a sign of great seducer.

Kina Hammarlund, a researcher at Skövde College, based the study on interviews with men and women between 13 and 30 years old. She maintains that the positive attitude towards STIs is only found among men. “There are no girls who think that. Girls still obtain their sexual experiences in the dark,” she told news agency TT.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: BBC Race Row as Sikh Listeners Threaten Muslim Radio Presenter Who ‘Denigrated Holy Symbol’

The BBC’s Asian Network has become embroiled in a race row after Sikh listeners accused the flagship digital radio station of being insensitive towards their religion.

The BBC was forced to remove a show from its website after Muslim presenter Adil Ray received threats from Sikhs who said he had denigrated one of their religious symbols.

Members of the Sikh community complained that Mr Ray had been disparaging about whether they really needed to carry kirpan daggers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Oxford Won’t Fire Rotterdam’s Rejected Advisor

Oxford University says it sees no reason to break off ties with Islamologist Tariq Ramadan, who was fired earlier this week as a community advisor by the city of Rotterdam.

The city government said his work as a presenter of a state-sponsored programme on Iranian television was incompatible with his duties in Rotterdam.

Mr Ramadan is a professor of Contemporary Islam Studies at Oxford, a post which he has held for the past four years. The British university said in a statement that freedom of expression is a fundamental right. Yet the university adds that it disagrees with Mr Ramadan’s views.

The Swiss-Egyptian islamologist also lost his job as a visiting professor at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University. Mr Ramadan is furious about his dismissal from his jobs in Rotterdam and is taking the city to court. In his view, the decisions were politically motivated and inspired by the current wave of anti-Islamic sentiments in the Netherlands.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Revealed: The Areas of Britain Where There Are More Migrants Chasing Jobs Than Locals

The true extent of the huge influx of foreign workers into Britain is revealed in an investigation by the Daily Mail.

In some parts of the UK there are more migrants searching for jobs than native Britons — even at this time of soaring unemployment.

Nearly three quarters of a million National Insurance Numbers (NINOs), a prerequisite for getting employment, were handed out to foreign nationals last year.

The figure exposes as a sham the New Labour pledge of ‘British jobs for British workers’.

While a NINO can be used to access social benefits, most newcomers from abroad are not eligible for these payouts and use the number only to seek work. Therefore, it gives a highly accurate estimate of foreigners entering the job market.

The number of migrants receiving NINOs rose by more than a fifth in some areas in 2008.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Seven Charged Over Iraq Protest

Seven people have been charged with public order offences over disturbances at a parade in Bedfordshire for soldiers returning home from Iraq.

Anti-war protests erupted as soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment paraded through Luton town centre on 10 March.

The seven will appear at Luton Magistrates’ Court on 16 September.

A further 12 people have been charged in connection with another disturbance in Luton town centre on 24 May.

They will appear at the court on 25 September.

All have been released on bail until their court appearances.

The seven charged over the parade are all from Luton and have been named.

They are Jalal Ahmed, 21, of Cavendish Road, Yousaf Bashir, 29, of Dane Road, Ibrahim Anderson, 32, of Warwick Road West, Jubair Ahmed, 19, of Beech Road, Ziaur Rahman, 33, of Nunnery Lane, Shajjadar Choudhury, 30, of Essex Close and Munim Abdul, 28, of Highbury Road.

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

UK: Two Charged Over BNP Members Leak

Two people have been charged with breaching the Data Protection Act after a British National Party membership list was leaked on the internet.

Dyfed-Powys Police said a man aged 27 and a woman aged 30 were arrested in Brinsley, Nottinghamshire, on Thursday and will appear in court next month.

The names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of some 10,000 party supporters were leaked in November.

The BNP said it was “a serious offence” that had caused “a lot of distress”.

The list included the names of current and former servicemen, police officers, teachers and doctors.

The BNP said it dated from 2007 and many of those named were no longer members.


Party leader Nick Griffin lodged a complaint with Dyfed-Powys, his local force, on the grounds that publishing the list breached human rights and data protection laws, and could put at risk those who were named.

He called the leak as “a disgraceful act of treachery” by former BNP members who were subsequently sacked.

Earlier last year, the party obtained an injunction from the High Court in Manchester banning any publication of the list.

A police spokesman said the man and woman had been arrested following a joint investigation with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

They have been charged under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998, which makes it a criminal offence to “knowingly or recklessly obtain or disclose” personal information without consent.

A BNP spokesman said on Friday: “We are glad the police and the CPS have taken this seriously.

“It’s a serious offence and has caused a lot of distress.”

The pair will appear before magistrates in Nottingham on 1 September.

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

UK: Why Do We Keep Betraying the Victims of Terror?

Shut up, move on and preferably forget. That is what society seems to expect of victims of terrorism.

They are lectured by politicians about the need to look at the big picture, preached at by churchmen about the virtues of forgiveness, and regarded by our liberal elite as emotionally incontinent because they harp on about the need for justice.

Yesterday, in freeing Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said loftily that because the Scots defined themselves by their humanity, he was happy to show compassion to a dying man by returning him to Libya and his family.


To their credit — because they take terrorist victims seriously — the U.S. authorities kicked up so much fuss behind the scenes that the UK Government was afraid to deliver its side of the deal.

But now, full of puffed-up nationalist anti-Americanism, the holier-than-thou Scottish executive has spurned the pleas of Al Megrahi’s victims and sent him home anyway.

‘The Libyans will be laughing,’ said one U.S. widow. ‘They will see this as weakness.’

And so they will, for our Government has been craven.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Are We Giving Child Molesters Viagra on the NHS?

If I’d written a spoof column about a serial paedophile given Viagra on the NHS and then being freed by a court after he was convicted of molesting an 11-year-old girl, you’d think I’d finally taken leave of my senses.

Steady on, Rich. You’ve gone too far this time, even by your standards. We all know things are bad, but this is Fantasy Island stuff.

Sadly not. Roger Martin appeared at Peterborough Crown Court this week and pleaded guilty to ‘inappropriately touching’ a girl who was cleaning his sheltered accommodation to earn some pocket money.

Martin, 71, has a string of convictions for assaults on minors, dating back to 1978 when he was caught having sex with a 15-year-old babysitter.

It was revealed in court that he was being prescribed Viagra by his GP to treat diabetes. The probation service said it had no powers or any inclination to stop him taking the drug.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

World’s First Muslim Superheroes, The 99, Are Headed for British Television Screens

The world’s first Muslim cartoon superheroes have taken the Arab world by storm, and now they are headed for British television screens.

Named the 99, as each possesses one of Allah’s 99 attributes, the characters include a burka-clad woman named Batina the Hidden and a Saudi Arabian Hulk-type man named Jabbar the Powerful.

They have proved a hit from Morocco to Indonesia and were recently named as one of the top 20 trends sweeping the world by Forbes magazine.

Now they are being brought to British television by Endemol, the production company behind Big Brother, with a mission to instill Islamic values in children across all faiths.

Until now, the superhero market has been dominated by the likes of Batman, Spiderman and Superman who have typically limited their crime-fighting abilities to America and the Western world.

They were created by Dr Naif al-Mutawa, a clinical psychologist from Kuwait, who felt Muslim children needed a new set of heroes to look up to, to counter jihadist role models.

“It hit me that the stories I was hearing were from men who grew up believing that their leader, Saddam, was a hero, a role model — only to one day be tortured by him,” he told The Times. “I decided the Arab world needed better role models.”

However, despite being called the 99, there will never be a full cast of 99 superheroes since it is forbidden to depict all Allah’s attributes

Dr al-Mutawa hopes the cartoons will have a universal appeal.

He said: “It is based on attributes such as generosity and mercy. These are not things that Islam has a monopoly over.”

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Coptic Priest Banned From Village, Under Death Threat

By Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — On August 14 Rev. Estefanos Shehata, a Coptic priest, sent a letter to the Middle East Christian Association (MECA) stating the Muslim elders of his village have issued a death Fatwa (religious edict) against him, and have banned him from entering his village because he wants to convert part of his family home into a hall where he can carry out funeral rites and marriage ceremonies. The village of Upper Ezbet Dawoud Yousef is 200 kilometers south of Cairo, in the Minya Governorate, and has no church; religious functions for the 800 Coptic Christians are performed on the street.

Rev. Estefanos said that after converting the 100 square meter room in his family’s home in the village into a prayer hall two years ago, he went to the state security to get the necessary permit, but has not been given an answer nor the permit.

“I finally went to the state security to get a definite answer to the permit application. They told me I need to obtain ‘permission’ of the village Muslims, as they (state security) want no problems in the village,” Father Estefanos told Waguih Yacoub of MECA, “I told them that I see no problems in getting this permission as we have always had good relations with the village Muslims and we love and consider them as our brothers.”

When he informed the Muslim villagers of his plan, they called for a meeting with the elders of the neighboring villages. “They were extremely angry at my proposal and instead of giving their permission, they issued a Fatwa calling for my death. They told the Copts in the village that it takes just one bullet to get rid of me since there is no ‘blood money’ for killing a Christian. I have been banned from my village for over a month now, I cannot even go my mother.”

In a video interview with Free Copts, a Coptic advocacy group, Rev. Estefanos said “Enough humiliation and persecution of the Copts, I do not fear death and issuing a Fatwa to spill my blood is an honor for me.” The interview is available on

“The Muslim elders also said that it is through grace on their part that we are allowed to go to the neighboring village to pray,” said Rev. Estefanos. The nearest church is five kilometers in the village of El-Tayebah.

He went on to express his dismay with his Muslims neighbors, asking “What harm is it to you if we have a hall? What harm is it to you if we build a church? This is one question. Secondly, why do we have to conduct a funeral in the street? Why do we have to celebrate weddings, with the bride and groom standing in the street? This is definitely not right. Why are Muslims angry when Christians want to pray?”

According to United Copts Great Britain, the Patriarch of the Coptic church, H.H. Coptic Pope Shenouda III, upon hearing of this news asked his secretary to contact Rev. Estefanos to get the details of the case.

The International Organization for Human Rights, based in Frankfurt, Germany issued a press release condemning the fatwa.

Minya Governorate has had the lion’s share of sectarian strife and violations against the Copts this year.

In view of the policy of impunity towards the Muslims perpetrators, Egypt has seen a new and escalating phenomenon of Muslim villagers who have given themselves the right to collectively prevent their Christian neighbours from praying even in a house. In

In June and July of this year the Upper Egyptian villages of Ezbet Bouchra, Ezbet Guirgis Bey, Ezbet Bassilious, El-Foqaii and El-Hawasla saw Muslim vigilante mobs, turning out in great numbers to destroy Christian properties they ‘suspect’ is being used for prayers, under the pretext that these properties do not have a ‘license for prayer’.

[Return to headlines]

Lockerbie Bomber Home in Libya Amid US Anger

The terminally ill Libyan convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing arrived home from Scotland on Thursday after being freed on compassionate grounds despite U.S. anger over the decision.

Hundreds of young people waving Libyan and Scottish flags greeted the aircraft carrying Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi as it landed in Tripoli amid heavy security and to the sound of patriotic music.

Loudspeakers pumped out patriotic songs ahead of a celebration later in the heart of the Libyan capital that Megrahi was expected to attend, said a source in the delegation that accompanied him from Scotland.

U.S. disappointmentMegrahi, the only person found guilty of blowing up a U.S. Boeing 747 airliner and killing 270 people, said earlier he was “very relieved” to be freed, but described his original conviction as a “disgrace.”

But the release was immediately condemned by the U.S. government, which asked Libya not to give a “hero’s welcome” to the Lockerbie bomber.

U.S. President Barack Obama said that the release of the dying Lockerbie bomber by the Scottish government was a “mistake” and that he should be placed under house arrest on return to Libya.

“We have been in contact with the Scottish government, indicating that we objected to this, and we thought it was a mistake,” Obama told a U.S. radio journalist, giving his first reaction to the decision.

“We’re now in contact with the Libyan government and want to make sure that if, in fact, this transfer has taken place, that he’s not welcomed back in some way, but instead, should be under house arrest.”

Justive vs mercyAskillScotland’s justice minister announced Thursday that he had granted release on compassionate grounds to the Libyan man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, Britain’s worst terrorist attack.

Kenny MacAskill said al-Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, could return to Libya to die because Scottish law required that “justice be served but mercy be shown.”

“For these reasons, and these reasons alone, it is my decision that (Megrahi)… be released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return to Libya to die,” he said.

The United States fiercely opposed the release of Megrahi, jailed for 27 years over the murder of 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown from the skies over the Scottish town of Lockerbie late on December 21, 1988.

Compassion and mercyAskillBut the Scottish minister insisted he had not taken political pressures into consideration.

“Our justice system demands that justice be imposed but compassion be available, our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown,” he said.

And he added: “Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.”

“It’s my decision and my decision alone … We have done so on the basis of following due process. I know that there will be those who disagree,” he said, adding that he made the decision “without political or economic consideration.”

U.S. expresses regretMeanwhile, the United States expressed deep regret and disappointment after the Scottish government ignored pleas from Washington and freed the dying Libyan man.

“The United States deeply regrets the decision by the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement issued within minutes of the decision being made public.

“On this day, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live every day with the loss of their loved ones. We recognize the effects of such a loss weigh upon a family forever.”

As the Scottish government weighed whether to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, the Obama administration made repeated and blunt calls for him to stay in the jail.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Lockerbie Bomber Returns to Libyaabdel Baset Al-Megrahi Returns Home to Libya

EDINBURGH, Scotland (Aug. 20) — The only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 returned home to Libya to die after he was released from a Scottish prison Thursday, a decision that outraged some relatives of the 270 people killed when the jetliner blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, more than two decades ago.

President Barack Obama said the Scottish decision to free terminally ill Abdel Baset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds was a mistake and said he should be under house arrest. Obama warned Libya not to give him a hero’s welcome.

Despite the warning, at the military airport in Tripoli where al-Megrahi’s plane touched down thousands of youths were on hand to warmly greet him. He left the plane wearing a dark suit and a tie and accompanied by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. They immediately sped off in a convoy of all-white vehicles.

At home, al-Megrahi is seen as an innocent scapegoat the West used to turn this African nation into a pariah, and his return is a cause for celebration. There was a festive atmosphere with some wearing T-shirts with al-Megrahi’s picture and waving Libyan and miniature blue-and-white Scottish flags. Libyan songs blared in the background.

“I think it’s appalling, disgusting and so sickening I can hardly find words to describe it,” said Susan Cohen, of Cape May Court House, N.J., whose 20-year-old daughter, Theodora, died in the attack. “This isn’t about compassionate release. This is part of give-Gadhafi-what-he-wants-so-we-can-have-the-oil.”

But many in Libya view his homecoming as a moral victory for the African country and an end to a long-standing humiliation at the hands of the West. They say Libya was forced to surrender al-Megrahi to end years of crippling sanctions.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi lobbied hard for the return of al-Megrahi, an issue which took on an added sense of urgency when al-Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. He was recently given only months to live.

The 57-year-old former Libyan intelligence officer served only eight years of his life sentence.

Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of taking part in the bombing on Dec. 21, 1988, and sentenced to life in prison. The airliner exploded over Scotland and all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground died when it crashed into the town of Lockerbie.

He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 27 years in a Scottish prison for Britain’s deadliest terrorist attack. But a 2007 review of his case found grounds for an appeal of his conviction, and many in Britain believe he is innocent.

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Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who announced the release, said although al-Megrahi had not shown compassion to his victims — many of whom were American college students flying home to New York for Christmas — MacAskill was motivated by Scottish values to show mercy.

“Some hurts can never heal, some scars can never fade,” MacAskill said. “Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive … However, Mr. al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power.”

He said he stood by al-Megrahi’s conviction and the sentence for “the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed on U.K. soil.”

He added that he had ruled out sending the bomber back to Libya under a prisoner-transfer agreement, saying the U.S. victims had been given assurances that al-Megrahi would serve out his sentence in Scotland. But he said that as a prisoner given less than three months to live by doctors, al-Megrahi was eligible for compassionate release.

But U.S. family members of Lockerbie victims expressed outrage.

“I don’t understand how the Scots can show compassion. It’s an utter insult and utterly disgusting,” said Kara Weipz, of Mount Laurel, N.J. Her 20-year-old brother Richard Monetti was on board the doomed flight. “It’s horrible. I don’t show compassion for someone who showed no remorse.”

As his white van rolled down street outside Greenock Prison on his way to the airport in Glasgow, Scotland, some men on the roadside made obscene gestures. Al-Megrahi later appeared on the airport tarmac dressed in a white tracksuit, black shirt and white baseball cap. He covered his mouth with a white scarf as he slowly climbed the stairs up to an Airbus plane aided by a cane.

In a statement following his release, al-Megrahi stood by his insistence that he was wrongfully convicted.

“I say in the clearest possible terms, which I hope every person in every land will hear — all of this I have had to endure for something that I did not do,” he said.

He also said he believed the truth behind the Lockerbie bombing may now never be known.

“I had most to gain and nothing to lose about the whole truth coming out — until my diagnosis of cancer,” he said, referring to an appeal against his conviction that he dropped in order to be freed. “To those victims’ relatives who can bear to hear me say this, they continue to have my sincere sympathy for the unimaginable loss that they have suffered.”

Al-Megrahi’s conviction was largely based on the testimony of a shopkeeper who identified him as having bought a man’s shirt in his store in Malta. Scraps of the garment were later found wrapped around a timing device discovered in the wreckage of the airliner. Critics of al-Megrahi’s conviction question the reliability of the store owner’s evidence.

A letter published Thursday showed that Libya had invoked human rights concerns in appealing to Scotland for al-Megrahi’s release.

Abdulati Alobidi, Libya’s Secretary of European Affairs, said under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — a U.N. treaty — all those deprived of liberty must be “treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

Gadhafi engineered a rapprochement with his former critics following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He renounced terrorism, dismantled Libya’s secret nuclear program, accepted his government’s responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and paid compensation to the victims’ families.

Western energy companies — including Britain’s BP PLC — have moved into Libya in an effort to tap the country’s vast oil and gas wealth.

Al-Megrahi was a well-known figure in the Scottish community near his prison, receiving regular treatment at the hospital and visited often by his wife and children, who lived in Scotland for several years.

Briton Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died on Flight 103, welcomed the Libyan’s release, saying many questions remained about what led to the bomb that exploded in the cargo hold.

“I think he should be able to go straight home to his family and spend his last days there,” Swire told the BBC. “I don’t believe for a moment this man was involved in the way he was found to be involved.”

Among the Lockerbie victims was John Mulroy, the AP’s director of international communication, who died along with five members of his family.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Ambassador ‘Upset and Furious’

Israel’s Ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan, has expressed fury at a Swedish newspaper article accusing Israel of trading in the internal organs of dead Palestinians.

The Ambassador says he is unable to fathom a decision by Sweden’s largest circulation newspaper Aftonbladet to publish a two-page spread alleging Israeli Defence Force and medical sector complicity in a sinister organ-harvesting ring.

“What’s the motivation behind publishing something like this, which implicates Israel, Jews, doctors and the authorities in a sort of vague conspiracy? What if somebody were to be stabbed now in Stockholm or Malmö. Are they trying to encourage that kind of act?

“You don’t have to be paranoid to draw comparisons with similar accusations made against Jews in the past, killing Christian for their blood, for example,” says Dagan.

The Aftonbladet article, published in its culture section on Monday, refers to a case in 1992 when a young Palestinian man was allegedly returned to his family five days after his death at the hands of Israeli soldiers.

Writer and photographer Donald Boström says the body had been dissected and stitched back together in the intervening period. He claims to have spoken to families who were certain that young Palestinian men were being used as involuntary organ donors for Israel, a charge Ambassador Dagan dismisses as absurd.

“Where is the meat here? Can you really hide something like that in a democratic country without there being criminal repercussions. Of course you can’t.”

Dagan questions whether the newspaper would have published similar accusations against non-Jews.

“It plays into a certain mode of thinking. And when you see how the article is phrased, how can you not be reminded of the sort of things that were published 60 or 70 years ago?”

The Israeli ambassador says he is sure that “not all Swedes agree with this kind of garbage” and hopes that people will speak out against the publication.

“It calls for real reflection and criticism on the part of quality, responsible journalists and Swedes on the whole. People might say that Aftonbladet has published things like this before but it’s about time to stop tolerating it.”

Dagan says he remains optimistic towards the possibility of a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“With Obama we are currently on the threshold of a resumption of talks. What is the aim of publishing this article? To hamper such a development.”

Benny Dagan has worked in the Israeli foreign service since 1985. He has been stationed abroad on numerous occasions, including twice in the United States. He says he has enjoyed his first year in Stockholm but is dismayed by this week’s developments.

“Unfortunately we see a lot of articles like this in the Arab media, and often people don’t expect much more from undemocratic countries. But I don’t understand how it can happen here in Sweden, a country that has long been a beacon of democracy and human rights.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel Grapples With a New Kind of Violence

Good, old-fashioned murder catches off-guard a country always prepared for war

TEL BARUCH, Israel — It may surprise you to learn that many Israelis are only now realizing they live in a violent place. And they’re freaking out.

Not the terrorist violence for which Israel is something of a byword. The murderous gang beating type of violence. The dismembered women kind of violence. The homophobic hate crime sort of violence.

Earlier this month, an as-yet unknown masked gunman shot down two men at a Tel Aviv gay hangout. Two women’s bodies were last week uncovered chopped into pieces — one in a dumpster near Tel Aviv and the other in a river further north. This week, a landlady showing a potential tenant around a Jerusalem apartment was stabbed to death by the man she intended to evict.

But the biggest headlines were for the beating death of Aryeh Karp on the Tel Baruch beach, just north of Tel Aviv…

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran Missile Said to Pose Europe Threat in 3-4 Years

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Aug 20 (Reuters) — Iran could have the ability to strike most of Europe with a ballistic missile within three or four years if it made an all-out push, the former head of Israel’s missile defense program said on Thursday.

If correct, the timeline cited by Uzi Rubin, a leading authority on Iran’s program, puts a fresh note of urgency into a diplomatically thorny debate over building a multibillion-dollar anti-missile shield in Europe.

U.S. officials have cast the timeline further out, leaving longer to sort out defenses.

“If they push it — put all the budget, put all the engineers — three or four years” is all it would take to give Iran’s existing ballistic missile a range of 3,900 kilometers (2,438 miles), enough to hit London, Rubin told a U.S. Army-sponsored missile-defense conference in Huntsville, Alabama. “Will they do it? I’m not sure.”

The U.S. Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center said in a report made public in June that Iran, with support from outside sources, could produce an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States within six years.

“Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs and, with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” the report said.


Rubin said Iran had achieved “a technological and strategic breakthrough” with its Sejjil, a two-stage, solid propellant missile. On May 20, Iran test-fired the Sejjil 2, which is said by Tehran to have a range of about 2,000 kilometers.

“Based on its demonstrated achievement in solid propulsion and staging, Iran will face no technological challenges” in close to doubling its range with a one-ton warhead, said Rubin, who oversaw development of Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system while running the Jewish state’s missile defense effort from 1991 to 1999.

“The predictions (about Iran’s growing missile reach) are coming true, perhaps sooner than anyone thought,” he added in reply to a question after a presentation. “I think there was an underestimation of Iranian capability.”

By contrast, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles by countries like Iran and North Korea was taking longer than the United States had predicted.

Cartwright’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

David Wright, a leading missile-defense critic, said the timeline advanced by Rubin “doesn’t sound crazy if Iran poured resources into it.”

“But there is a lot we don’t know about the program, and technical problems could stretch out the time,” said Wright, senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent research group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fitting any nuclear warhead to a missile is likely to take Iran six years or longer, experts agree.

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

Iran ‘Minister’ On Interpol List

Iran’s defence minister-designate is on an Interpol “wanted” list over the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina, the agency has confirmed.

It says it has had a “red notice” for Ahmad Vahidi since 2007 over the Buenos Aires attack that killed 85 people.

Interpol uses red notices to inform its 187 member countries that an arrest warrant has been issued for an individual by a judicial authority.

Israel and Argentina have expressed concern over Mr Vahidi’s nomination.

“This is yet another of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s actions that prove he is a person you cannot deal with,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Andy David told Bloomberg.

“It’s significant, this nomination, but no surprising,” Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman told the Associated Press.

“Iran has always protected terrorists, giving them government posts, but I think never one as high as this one,” he said.

Tehran rejected the criticism as a “Zionist plot”.

Iranian lawmakers still have to confirm the 21-member cabinet proposed on Wednesday by Mr Ahmadinejad — the declared winner of June’s disputed presidential elections.

But the nomination of Mr Vahidi is another sign of Mr Ahmadinejad’s defiance of the West, the BBC’s Caroline Hawley says.

‘Key participant’

Interpol says that Mr Vahidi has been on its “red notice” list since November 2007.

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

Iraq: Iranian Rockets Used in Attack on U.S.

New evidence of Tehran’s support for terrorists in Iraq

New evidence is surfacing in the Middle East documenting Iran’s continuing support of terrorist activity in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Shiite insurgents fired Iranian-made rockets in an Aug. 17 attack on a U.S. military base near the southern Iraqi city of Basra, according to the World Tribune.

Iraqi security forces found in the eastern portion of Basra a launcher that appears to have been smuggled into Iraq from Iran with 13 Iranian rockets.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Romans Didn’t Destroy Jerusalem

Speaking of the Roman attack of Jerusalem, Publius Cornelius Tacitus a senator and an important historian of this period, details the specific legions and the peoples that primarily composed the attacking army:

Titus Caesar … found in Judaea three legions, the 5th, the 10th, and the 15th. … To these he added the 12th from Syria, and some men belonging to the 18th and 3rd, whom he had withdrawn from Alexandria. This force was accompanied … by a strong contingent of Arabs, who hated the Jews with the usual hatred of neighbors. …

“There are several important bits of information that we can gain from this reference. First, we learn the Roman legions that were used to attack Jerusalem had been stationed in Judea, Syria and Egypt. Secondly, we learn that beyond the Roman legions, there was also “a strong contingent of Arabs, who hated the Jews” and accompanied the soldiers. Little seems to have changed since the first century regarding the general Arab hatred of the Jewish people.”

Next there is the testimony of Titus Flavius Josephus, another irreplaceable historian from this period who also confirms the report of Tacitus:

“So Vespasian sent his son Titus [who], came by land into Syria, where he gathered together the Roman forces, with a considerable number of auxiliaries from the kings in that neighborhood.”

Once again, Josephus reveals the Roman legions used to attack Jerusalem were stationed in Syria. He also details that “a considerable number” of auxiliaries, or volunteers, from Syria and its proximate “neighborhood” were also gathered for the attack. Later, Josephus also tells us that there were over 6,000 Arabs who volunteered to join the attack. While the numbers of men that composed a legion fluctuated, during this time period, a legion contained approximately 5,000 men. So there were enough Arab volunteer soldiers to compose more than a full legion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Leftist Journalist a Spy for Stalin

Highly classified Soviet intelligence documents have recently proved that American writer I.F. Stone, an intellectual icon of the American political left, lived a secret, parallel life as a paid agent of the Soviet KGB and its predecessor, the NKVD. Unfortunately, many of Stone’s devotees have been unable to face this ugly truth and continue to depict him as a hero. Certainly that is true of D.D. Guttenplan, London correspondent for The Nation and author of the book “American Radical: The Life and Times of I.F. Stone.” Other commentators may not promote Stone’s cause so openly, but many of them are — perhaps unwittingly — putting forth flawed arguments in his defense.

Consider the Washington Post’s recent review of Guttenplan’s book. In it, reviewer Michael Kimmage, assistant professor of history at the Catholic University of America, points out that the book fails to answer the charges that Stone spent most of his professional life as a paid Soviet agent. That was a good start, but then he lets Guttenplan — and Stone — off the hook by writing: “If Stone was a spy, he was not a significant one.”

That argument, which frequently turns up in defenses of Stone, reflects a misperception about Soviet espionage. For most people, “spying” means stealing secrets. Soviet espionage, however, placed just as much emphasis on changing minds. Influence the media and you influence the public. Change enough minds among the public, and political policies will change as well. Changing minds constituted an extremely important part of NKVD/KGB operations. Changing minds was also Stone’s main task as a spy, and he was good at it.


Stone was a prominent writer in his day, and he was certainly a prize catch for the NKVD/KGB. It is more than coincidental that after 1944 his articles expressed the position of the Soviet Union on so many issues: criticizing U.S. efforts to prevent communist expansion in Vietnam; belittling the FBI and embarrassing J. Edgar Hoover; blasting Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s efforts to remove Communists from the government; maligning Pope Pius XII and faulting the Catholic Church for the Nazi persecution of Jews; supporting the Kremlin’s efforts to persuade the world that there was no Soviet involvement in the JFK assassination; demonizing the Korean policies of John Forster Dulles, Gen. MacArthur and President Truman; and many, many similar issues. Stone raised a number of issues for which he might be hailed today, including opposition to racial discrimination, but his arguments were really more about criticizing U.S. policies and therefore fell right in line with the Soviet position.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

French Tourist Freed in Pakistan

A French tourist who had been abducted in south-western Pakistan three months ago has been freed.

The 41-year-old Frenchman, Antoine Falsaperla, was released in the district of Dalbandin in Balochistan province, officials said.

He had been taken hostage in May by gunmen from a vehicle in which he was travelling with other tourists.

It is not clear who the kidnappers were or whether any ransom was paid for his release.

“He has been released this morning, he is safe and sound with Pakistani officials,” news agency AFP quoted an unnamed official as saying.

The agency quoted officials as saying that the tourist had been taken hostage by “local criminals” and not militants.

Officials said local elders helped secure the release.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his “deep relief” that the tourist had been freed, news agency Associated Press reported.

A statement from the president’s office thanked Pakistani authorities for their “decisive help” in securing the man’s release, it said.

The Frenchman was kidnapped on 23 May from the area where al-Qaeda and Taliban militants are active.

Western embassies and the Pakistani authorities advise foreigners against travelling in the area.

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

No Sign of Voters on Election Day in Afghanistan Despite Official Claims

At 8am, an hour after the Afghanistan’s presidential polls opened, the polling station at the Haji Janat Gul High School, a dusty collection half-finished buildings designated for use by Kuchi nomads, was entirely empty of voters.

But the apparent lack of voter activity was deceptive, insisted election officials; the ballot boxes were already full almost to the brim. “The people have already come. They came here with lorries at 7 o’clock, now they have gone to the fields with their sheep” said Lawan Geen proudly.

The grey bearded election worker from the Independent Election Commission seemed rather less than happy at the unannounced arrival of two Times journalists at his polling centre just outside Kabul.

The absence of voters witnessed by The Times yesterday in this centre on the edge of the capital was replicated across the country, with fearful Afghans staying away from the polls after repeated threats from the Taleban.

But the polling station in Pul-e-Charki painted a suspiciously different picture. In total 5,530 votes had already been cast for the Presidential Elections, according to the records being kept by the election staff beside each ballot box. In each box there were an oddly uniform 500 to 510 votes. More impressive still, some 3,025 of the ballots were women’s votes.

Assuming that the last voter disappeared at least two minutes before the Times arrived at 7.55am, the staff working on the 12 separate ballot boxes at the site must have been processing at least 100 voters per minute since polling began.

There were no sign of any election monitors at the site and nor were there any female staff to oversee the women’s ballot boxes, as the electoral commission required.

For an hour The Times waited at the polling site. The polling staff fidgeted. But no one came to vote.

“This area is controlled by Haji Mullah Lewani Khan. He is the chief of the Tarokhail tribe and an MP,” said Lawan Geen, the election official. “He said that there is a threat from the Taleban to cut the fingers off the people. So people came early in the morning,” he added, hopping from one foot to the other, looking uncomfortable.

The tribal chief, he confided, was a supporter of President Karzai. “All the people here are Tarokhail, they are all voting for Karzai.” His co-workers were unhelpful. “You are not allowed to see these things, this is a woman’s area” said one male worker as The Times asked to see the lists of voter card numbers for ballots already cast.

Suddenly a lorry chugged into view. “Look there are voters!” shouted Lawan Geen, scampering towards the approaching vehicle. About thirty men were helped off the lorry, several were elderly and one was almost entirely blind. They trooped into the polling station and prepared to vote.

A burly middle-aged man called Lal Mohammad stepped forward and held out two voting cards. At the sight the election officials went into collective convulsion and shooed one back into his pocket.

After he had voted he explained that he had voted for President Karzai. Asked about the second voting card in his pocket he showed the contents of his several other pockets before finally pulling out the card. “It is my wife’s,” he said. “I will bring her later.”

Other voters also said they were voting for Mr Karzai. “If Doctor Abdullah wins it will be a shame on all Pashtun people because he is a Tajik,” said Haji Abdullah, a pistol-toting young man who looked about 16 but whose voter registration card put him at 21. He insisted that he was old enough to vote, pointing out that he had voted in 2004. “Maybe Afghanistan will be destroyed if he wins,” he added. “Certainly there will be fighting.”

As the thirty voters each made their way to the ballot box it became evident that the staff were able to process a maximum four voters every three minutes, or at best 80 voters per ballot box per hour, or 960 for the entire polling centre per hour. How was it possible then to process 5,530 in an hour, The Times wondered. Did the election officials suspect any sort of fraud?

Lawan Geen pursed his lips. “Maybe there has been a little bit by some people. Maybe 5 per cent,” he ventured.

Outside the polling station five policemen stood guard. They had been at the station since the night before and explained what they had seen. “At about 4am the IEC staff came to the polling station,” said one policeman named Iqbal. “Since then we haven’t seen a lot of people. Maybe four lorries of people and three or four Corolla cars. I have not seen any women here.” The other policemen corroborated the tale.

A mile away The Times found the tribal chief Haji Mullah Lewani Khan MP in his grand, high-walled compound. Thirty metres from his front door was another polling station in the Haji Janat Gul Madrassa. Both were buildings originally built by Mr Lewani in memory of his father.

Outside the madrassa polling centre stood half a dozen armed men, supporters of Mr Lewani. One of them wore a badge with Mr Karzai’s face on it.

Mr Lewani, a diminutive 35-year-old with a regal air, welcomed The Times with a large group of retainers at his shoulder, several of whom wore the blue armbands, meant to mark them out as Independent Election Commission workers. All such workers are supposed to be vetted for their impartiality.

“They are helping the IEC just for today,” said Haji Mullah casually. “They are not getting any wages.” His two phones rang continuously. “We need more ballot papers,” he shouted into one. “Call the election commission and tell them we need more.” Asked if he had voted, the MP replied: “Of course, for Karzai.” Oddly none of his fingers displayed any of the indelible ink used to identify those who had voted. “I washed my hands,” he said.

What did he think of suggestions that vote rigging might be taking place locally, wondered The Times. “These claims of corruption are just shit, maybe they are publicity against us by Dr Abdullah supporters,” he said without blinking.

An hour after voting closed last night sources from the Independent Election Commission admitted that an investigation had begun into allegations that up to 70,000 illegal votes had been cast in polling centres around the Haji Janat Gul polling centre, east of Kabul.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

SAS Escape as Chinook is Shot Down ‘By Enemy Fire’ In Afghanistan

A secret SAS patrol in Afghanistan came close to disaster when their RAF Chinook helicopter was shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade.

The aircraft came under fire as it touched down under cover of darkness in Helmand Province late on Wednesday night.

As the elite troops disembarked the enemy rocket slammed into the side of the helicopter. Nobody was injured.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka to Train Pakistani Army

Sri Lanka’s army has said it will be happy to give training to members of the Pakistani military.

It says Islamabad has requested the training because of the country’s success in defeating the Tamil Tigers.

In May, the government announced the end to a decades-long war with the rebel group.

The army’s new commander told the BBC that Pakistan had already asked if it could send its military cadets to train in counter-insurgency operations.

“We’ll give a favourable response,” Lt Gen Jagath Jayasuriya said of the request.

He said the Sri Lankan military envisaged specialist courses lasting up to six weeks, directed towards small groups from interested armies.

Lt Gen Jayasuriya said there was external interest in how the military had defeated the rebel group in practical terms.

The army now wished to construct a written military doctrine in English.

Mutual support

He said Sri Lanka had offered similar training, through diplomatic channels, to other countries including the United States, India, Bangladesh and The Philippines.

He dismissed reports that the Pakistanis might receive military training in newly recaptured parts of northern Sri Lanka, saying it would be more likely in the south-east.

But he did say new permanent military bases would be set up in those northern areas including the rebels’ former headquarters, Kilinochchi.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan have long enjoyed warm relations.

In late May, Pakistan — like India, China and Russia — helped Colombo defeat a motion at the UN which would have criticised both the government and the rebels for allegedly violating humanitarian law during the war.

But India, which is highly influential here, might well be uncomfortable at this news of the Pakistanis’ interest in being trained.

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

Thailand: Man Shot Dead at Mosque

YALA — A MUSLIM village chief was shot dead as he entered a mosque in Thailand’s deep south on Friday, police said, the latest in a series of drive-by killings in a region plagued by separatist unrest.

The attack took place before morning prayers in Pattani, one of three mainly Muslim provinces near the Malaysian border, where close to 3,500 people have died in violence since 2004.

A Buddhist man was gunned down outside his shop in the same province on Thursday, police said. A bomb left next to the body was detonated as investigators arrived, but no one was hurt.

A Buddhist defence volunteer and a female Burmese migrant worker were also killed by gunmen on motorcycles earlier this week. Police blamed Muslim insurgents for the attacks.

Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces were part of a Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by Buddhist Thailand a century ago, and separatist tensions have simmered ever since.

Local Muslims largely oppose the presence of tens of thousands of police, soldiers and state-armed Buddhist guards in the rubber-rich region and many suspect the authorities of carrying out extrajudicial killings. — REUTERS

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: BBC’s Flagship Asian Radio Station in New Race Row

The BBC’s Asian Network is at the centre of a race row after Sikhs accused the digital radio station of being insensitive towards their religion.

The BBC were forced to remove a show from their website after Adil Ray, a popular Muslim presenter, received threats from Sikh listeners who accused him of denigrating one of their religious symbols.

The row centres around a show broadcast earlier this month in which Ray discussed a Punjabi music concert in Canada where police had banned a number of Sikhs who refused to remove their “kirpan” dagger.

A number of listeners believed that Ray had been disparaging about whether Sikhs really needed to carry their kirpan — a ceremonial symbol that baptised Sikhs are expected to wear at all times — and began making complaints and threats against him.

The Birmingham-based network has strongly denied the accusations or any suggestion that Ray meant to mock Sikhism.

The row has nonetheless raised fresh questions over whether the digital network, which was set up eight years ago after the BBC’s then director general Greg Dyke described the corporation as “hideously white”, is serving its Asian listeners.

Earlier this year, the BBC Trust told the network that it needed to attract more listeners after its audience fell from half a million to 405,000 in a year.

Last year the Labour peer Lord Ahmed accused the network of being biased against Muslims in favour of Sikhs and Hindus, although an internal investigation by the BBC later exonerated it.

The Sikh Media Monitoring Group has written to the BBC asking for a full transcript of Adil Ray’s show and accused the station of being insensitive towards Sikh listeners.

“We should not be paying a licence fee for promoting the ignorance-based ramblings of those bent on self-promotion who sneer at Asian religion and culture,” Hardeep Singh, a spokesman for the group told The Independent.

A spokesman for the Asian Network told the newspaper: “Adil Ray did not make any judgement about people’s faith or the rights and wrongs of wearing the kirpan. We welcome the fact that Adil has listeners of all faiths who enjoy his humour and presentation.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

China ‘Used U.S. Reporters’ Film to Crack Down on N. Koreans’

Video footage shot by two TV journalists who were detained in North Korea after filming on the Chinese border was used by China to round up on North Korean refugees. China also deported one South Korean human rights activist who is seen in the footage and closed five orphanages that had protected North Korean children.

The two reporters were sentenced to 12 years hard labor but freed after a visit to North Korea by former U.S. president Bill Clinton on Aug. 5.

Chinese police also confiscated related materials including list of activists working for North Korean refugees in China, data on North Korean orphans, and video footage showing North Korean women who were sold into the Chinese countryside or appeared in porn videos.

The claims were made Thursday by Lee Chan-woo (71), a pastor with the Durihana Mission, a South Korean organization that aids North Korean defectors. Lee was caught and deported by Chinese police for helping the two reporters, who worked for former U.S. vice president Al Gore’s Internet news channel Current TV.

Lee said Laura Ling, Euna Lee and a man named Mitch Koss met him at a hotel in Yanji, in China’s Jilin Province, on March 14. They said they wanted to gather information about North Korean women who were working in adult videos at the North Korean-Chinese border area and on other North Korean women who were sold into the Chinese countryside.

They also wanted to know about children born to North Korean women and Chinese men. At the time, Lee was protecting some 21 children who had been abandoned by their Chinese families after their mothers were taken back to the North at five orphanages.

“I allowed them to collect information about the children on condition that they would not film their faces,” he said.

The three visited an orphanage the following day. Euna Lee, who speaks fluent Korean, asked children to send video messages to their mothers who had been deported to the North, and to bow to their mothers in front of the camera. But Lee said he stopped them from filming the scene.

The next day, the journalists filmed North Korean women at the border. They crossed the border and were arrested by North Korean soldiers on March 17. Ling and Lee were taken to North Korea, but Koss made it back and was arrested by Chinese border guards and handed over the video footage he was carrying.

On the early morning of Mar. 19, Chinese police raided Lee’s house and confiscated his computer, camera and various documents. “The documents contained the personal information of 25 North Korean orphans in addition to the children staying at the orphanages, and the phone numbers and addresses of human rights activists and their future plans,” he said. “I was interrogated intensively by three Korean-Chinese police officers until March 26. It was during interrogation that I found out that Chinese police had confiscated the video.”

Lee was deported to South Korea on April 8 after paying a fine of 20,000 yuan (approximately W4 million). “The five orphanages were forced to close down one by one,” he said. “I found Chinese relatives for 17 of the 21 orphans and a safe shelter for the remaining four, who have no relatives there.”

Koss declined to comment, and it was not possible to contact Euna Lee.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Japan to Celebrate Italy

More than 160 events kick off in September

(ANSA) — Tokyo, August 18 — The Japanese capital is gearing up for an autumn of festivities celebrating Italy and its links to the Land of the Rising Sun.

More than 160 events are planned over the course of three months, taking in the economy, tourism and culture. The initiative officially gets under way on September 17, with the inauguration of the largest exhibition on Ancient Rome ever staged in Asia.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will attend the opening of the exhibit, whose star attractions will include a bronze statue of the goddess Minerva, thought to date to the 3rd century BC.

Unearthed in the Tuscan town of Arezzo in 1541, this will mark the first trip abroad for the statue, which has recently undergone an eight-year restoration.

This is the third edition of the ‘Italy In Japan’ celebration, which was first staged in 2001 and enjoyed a hugely successful follow-up in 2007. Unveiling details of the 2009 initiative, the Italian Ambassador to Tokyo, Vincenzo Petrone, explained there was a widespread fascination with Italian life in Japan. The previous events were so popular that 97% of the 35-million-euro bill for this edition is being footed by Japanese sponsors, he said. “And from this year onwards, we plan to make ‘Italy In Japan’ a biennial initiative,” the ambassador added. An array of different events are scheduled for autumn but the biggest draws are likely to be some of the cultural highlights. A tour by Milan’s La Scala opera house will bring performances of Aida and Don Carlos to Tokyo, and there are several exhibitions planned. Those exploring the past include ‘The Legacy of the Roman Empire’, which runs in Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art until December 13, and a show on Turin’s collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, which is the second largest in the world.

Among the art events is an exhibition on the Macchiaioli, the Italian precursors of Impressionism, and a selection of 47 masterpieces from Rome’s prestigious Borghese Gallery, including work by Raphael and Caravaggio.

A show on mobility technology, named ‘Zig Zag’, has been organised by Italy’s Foreign Trade Institute, which has also planned a string of food and fashion events. The business side of ‘Italy In Japan’ will include the 21st assembly of the Italy-Japan Business Group, a bilateral initiative aimed at developing technical, business and scientific relations. The Automative and Aerospace Industry Project will feature around 20 events in the fields of science, technology and investments. Italy In Japan will close with a gala evening devoted to fashion in the Italian Embassy in December, which will showcase a series of dresses designed by top stylists and inspired by opera singer Maria Callas.

At least 2.5 million Japanese are expected to attend or participate in the event over the three-month period.

photo: an 1861 work by Macchiaioli artist Vincenzo Cabianca

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Koreas: The Trouble With Hyun’s N. Korea Visit

Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, during her recent visit to North Korea, won a five-point agreement from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, promising to resume package tours to Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong and reunions of families separated by the Korean War, and put the Kaesong Industrial Complex back on track. But the visit creates more problems than it solves.

The biggest problem is that Hyun made the accord strictly in her private capacity without consulting the government. Package tours to Mt. Kumgang, Kaesong and Mt. Baekdu and the revitalization of the joint Kaesong industrial park all require government decisions and management. Investments are made by businesses, but it is the government that is responsible for the personal security of citizens taking part in the projects.

It was irresponsible for the Hyundai Group to agree to the resumption of the package tours before the fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist in the Mt. Kumgang resort and the detention of a South Korean staffer at the Kaesong industrial park have been properly resolved. Tours of Mt. Kumgang should not resume until the government’s demands — a joint investigation of the shooting death, an apology from Pyongyang and a pledge that such an incident will not happen again — are met.

With regard to the Kaesong Industrial Complex, cast-iron official guarantees must be worked out to prevent future arbitrary arrest of South Koreans.

Hyun’s North Korea visit compares to former U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s meeting in Pyongyang with Kim Il-sung during the 1994 nuclear crisis. The Carter intervention amid the tightening of sanctions against the North by the Bill Clinton administration only sapped the strength of the pressure and failed to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program. The Clinton administration was embarrassed and indignant by Carter’s visit, with some officials slamming it as near-treason. Clinton was so upset that he told Carter on arrival in Seoul not to visit Washington or telephone him.

During his own visit to the North, Clinton simply fulfilled his private humanitarian mission to win the release of two American journalists. He quietly brought them back without any written accord with the North. Although he briefed President Barack Obama on his meeting with Kim Jong-il, he evidently took care not to burden the Obama administration, probably because he remembered the Carter debacle.

Hyun’s visit seems only to result in helping North Korea, strapped for cash due to the sanctions, secure profitable business packages from the South Korean government. Thus, it must not set a precedent in inter-Korean dialogue. Due process is no less important than objectives in dialogue between the South and the North. It is because due process was thrown out of the window that the June 15, 2000 inter-Korean summit was criticized as being bought with money.

Needless to say, a major achievement of Hyun’s visit is that it proved that the North can no longer afford to boycott dialogue with Seoul. This shows that the South’s consistent North Korea policy and firm UN sanctions are working.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Korea: Ulchi Freedom Guardian

Ulchi Freedom Guardian is a joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States running Aug. 17-27. The drill is preparation for the handover of wartime operational command to Seoul in 2012. Ulchi is designed to improve joint operational capabilities to enable joint operations without difficulty even after the transfer. In short, the goal of the exercise is protecting the South Korean people’s right to live. Nevertheless, certain left-wing organizations claiming to stand for “anti-war and peace” are demanding an end to Ulchi, calling it a war exercise.

Fundamentally, an army is created for war. That means it should prepare for armed conflict. What matters is whether Ulchi is an exercise for attack or defense. The origin of the drill shows it is defensive in nature. Seoul and Washington began conducting the Ulchi Focus Lens exercise led by the U.N. Command in 1954, a year after the armistice ending the Korean War was signed. After North Korean commandos infiltrated the presidential office in South Korea in 1968, South Korea and the U.S. began an exercise that evolved into Ulchi Freedom Guardian. The claim by pro-North Korea groups that Seoul and Washington are conducting a war drill is groundless, just like the notion that their military exercises are preparation for an attack on North Korea.

This year’s exercise will see participation by 56,000 South Korean forces and 10,000 American troops in a computerized war game. Ulchi Freedom Guardian also includes drills to defend South Korea from North Korea’s cyber and terrorist attacks of bombs, chemical warfare, and biological and radioactive weapons. A series of provocations by Pyongyang have encouraged Seoul and Washington to strengthen such exercises. As in the past, the U.N. Command informed North Korea of the exercise last month. Yet Pyongyang blasted it as an “exercise for nuclear war” and threatened to retaliate with “ruthless and exterminatory attacks.” Pro-North Korea groups look as if they have joined forces with North Korea, saying they support “anti-war and peace” but never criticizing Pyongyang’s nuclear threat.

The Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, the Korea Alliance for Progressive Movement and the Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of (South) Korea even held a protest against the exercise Monday. “Ulchi Freedom Guardian is the world’s most aggressive war drill designed to topple North Korea,” they said in a statement. They even claimed President Lee Myung-bak pursued the exercise even after proposing reduction of conventional weapons in his Liberation Day speech. A proposal usually does not result in an immediate cut in weapons, however. The two Koreas should find practicable measures on arms reduction based on mutuality.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Bligh Widens Abortion Law as Doctors Revolt

THE Queensland government will rewrite part of its contentious law on abortion to avert a revolt by public hospital doctors refusing to perform drug-induced terminations.

Premier Anna Bligh signalled yesterday that a section of the Criminal Code, providing the basis of the common-law defence for doctors to sidestep a statutory ban on abortion, would be widened to cover the authorised use of drugs such as the abortion pill RU486.

But she insisted the government would not bow to pressure from doctors’ groups and the pro-choice lobby to decriminalise abortion in Queensland, in line with last year’s move by Victoria and the ACT.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Paul Lucas told The Weekend Australian: “The government is not looking at revisiting the issue of abortion law in Queensland generally.

“If that was what we were seeking, it would only make it all the more difficult to resolve.”

The issue has been building since police charged a Cairns couple in March with illegally procuring an abortion, allegedly with contraband RU486.

It was brought to a head this week when obstetricians at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital suspended its medical abortion service.

This carries out about 80 medical abortions a year, mainly on women having terminations later in pregnancy because of medical complications or the discovery of birth abnormalities in the fetus. Elective abortions are generally performed in the first trimester of pregnancy,

and in Queensland take place

in private clinics, not public hospitals.

As reported by The Australian yesterday, specialists at RBWH’s Maternal Fetal Medicine Service acted after seeking advice from the Queensland Solicitor-General on a court ruling that raised fresh concern about whether section 282 of the Criminal Code, allowing doctors to perform otherwise banned “surgical” abortions to preserve the life or health of the mother, extended to recently developed medical terminations with drugs.

The Weekend Australian understands the section will be revised to take in wording covering medical terminations.

“What we are looking at is where a doctor provides medicine that is authorised for any purpose, that they should be entitled to the same protection already provided under the Criminal Code for any authorised surgery, whether it is in relation to termination of pregnancy or indeed any other surgery,” Ms Bligh said.

Queensland Health officials yesterday met doctors from RBWH, the state’s biggest hospital, to appeal to them to resume medical abortions.

A spokesman for NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said any approach from Queensland to refer patients to hospitals south of the border would be considered individually “on clinical merits”. Victoria said mechanisms existed for Queensland to be billed if women were sent there for treatment.

A second medical abortion service, attached to the Cairns Base Hospital, is understood to be reviewing its position and will seek legal advice from the state government on Monday. The obstetricians at RBWH are still considering their next move.

“We have got some private legal advice from a criminal barrister who says it’s probably OK what we are doing, but then we have other advice saying it isn’t OK,” a senior practitioner with the Cairns service said.

“Trying to figure it out is very difficult. It is such a grey area … we have had a couple of premiers and attorneys-general say, ‘It’s all OK, trust us and it will be fine’, but they won’t actually release any legal advice.”

Queensland Deputy Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the Liberal National Party would be prepared to support a limited amendment of section 282 to cover medical terminations, provided this did not make abortion more readily available.

But the Australian Christian Lobby said it would not let Ms Bligh off the hook on a commitment made ahead of the state election last March not to pursue wider abortion law reform.

“It was a very high-profile issue and the government made a clear statement that it wouldn’t change the existing laws,” said ACL head Jim Wallace.

The position Ms Bligh has adopted is an uncomfortable one: while she freely admits to being on the record as being personally in favour of decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland, and willing to vote for private members’ legislation to that effect, the former women’s activist says neither she nor her government would introduce such a bill.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia: Farmers Flee as Turbines Trigger Despair

FOR 35 years, Noel and Janine Dean lived on a small western Victorian farm, where they raised crops, cattle and three children.

They planned to spend the rest of their lives on that lush, green plot of land, but that would change three years ago, when an executive driving a red BMW approached the gates of their property, wound down his window and asked: “You got anything against wind farms?”

“As long as they’re not noisy I don’t,” replied Mr Dean, who had no objection to his Waubra neighbours — most of them struggling farmers — earning tens of thousands of dollars a year leasing their pastures to Spanish-based renewable energy company Acciona.

Three months ago the first of 128 turbines started turning and almost instantly Mr Dean became sick. He started waking with headaches, initially dull but, over time, sharp and debilitating.

“I was waking up two days in a row with headaches, I’d have to take Panadol but they’d be gone by dinner time,” he said. “When the wind is blowing north I got a thumping headache, like someone belted me over the head with a plank of wood and I didn’t know whether to go to the hospital or what to do. You couldn’t really work.”

His wife also began experiencing an inexplicable malaise. At first she put her nausea, sleeplessness and uneasiness down to a new diet. Then she thought it might be menopause. It was only after the 57-year-old couple travelled to their other property, in Donald, in northern Victoria, and instantly felt well again, that they wondered whether the turbines were churning away at their health.

Now the couple have packed up and moved permanently to nearby Ballarat. They want the energy companies and policy-makers to stop and consider the possible health effects of wind farms before meandering lines of turbines start popping up across the countryside to meet the government’s 2020 renewable energy target endorsed by the Senate this week. In Waubra alone, a further 60 turbines are flagged for instalment.

US doctor Nina Pierpont has coined the term “wind-turbine syndrome” for a raft of symptoms, including insomnia, headaches, dizziness, nausea and depression, experienced by people living in close proximity to wind farms. The problems are said to be caused by constant exposure to low-frequency vibrations and inaudible sound pressure, as well as the constant flicker of light generated by the spinning blades.

To better understand the noises and vibrations being generated by the wind farm, Mr Dean purchased a decibel, or sound pressure, reader. In consultation with Graeme Hood, an engineer with the University of Ballarat, Mr Dean conducted tests over several days in his bedroom.

When he measured the sound pressure for audible noise the wind turbines registered a mere 20 decibels, equivalent to the sound of a whisper or the rustle of leaves. But when Mr Dean set the reader on another frequency, measuring audible and inaudible noises, he said the sound pressure from the turbines registered between 70 and 80 decibels, akin to being within proximity of a vacuum cleaner or power drill.

Now Mr Hood is undertaking a series of control tests of his own to determine more clearly how much sound pressure the wind turbines are creating in Waubra. “There is a possibility they (the turbines) are generating frequencies below audible tones,” Mr Hood said. “Many people say that if you can’t hear it, you’re not affected by it, but other people say things like infrasound — or inaudible noise — can resonate in body cavities and cause other types of problems.”

It is a notion that Acciona, the energy company behind the Waubra wind farm, firmly rejects. In a statement to The Weekend Australian, a spokesman said: “There is no clear, consistent scientific data, nor a peer-reviewed expert scientific consensus, to confirm a causal association between modern wind turbines, low-frequency noise and health concerns. That is the position of Acciona Energy in response to a resident’s allegation of ill health said to be associated with claimed low-frequency noise, or infrasound, generated by the company’s Waubra wind farm.”

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett last month released a wind farm policy statement to help energy companies navigate the layers of state and federal legislation relating to energy levels. As chair of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, Mr Garrett will also work with state and territory governments to develop a set of guidelines for wind farms for consideration next year. His office was not able to say yesterday whether the council has considered regulating the level of low-frequency, sub-audible noise generated by wind farms as well as the audible noise.

In Waubra, it is not just the Deans who are experiencing worrying symptoms since the turbines began spinning. Chef Trish Godfrey ploughed her superannuation into a 4ha block at Waubra nine years ago. Like the Deans, she was paid a visit by the same executive who asked her if she would oppose a wind farm.

“We anticipated that there would be about 15 turbines around us, and that we could plant trees to screen them. All of the farmers around us wanted the wind farm and we didn’t want to argue,” she said.

Now, as Ms Godfrey prepares food for delivery from her kitchen inside her dream home, she looks out on 65 turbines that surround her on all flanks. She is convinced her health is suffering. “It feels like I have a head-cold coming the whole time. It’s like motion sickness that never goes away. Some days it’s worse than others. I am a very energetic person and by mid-afternoon all I want to do is sleep,” she said.

Ms Godfrey is devastated that the value of her property — now, as she describes, in the eye of an industrial estate — would have dropped through the floor. “We have no quality of life and who would want to buy our house now? What was to be our superannuation has now gone,” she said, sobbing.

Neighbour Maggie Reid, whose blood pressure has soared in the past three months, said the wind farm has been a sorely divisive venture for the community.

“It’s split the community into the haves and the have-nots. You try to raise your concerns and all you hear is, ‘You’re just jealous you don’t have them’,” Ms Reid said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

New Zealand: No Spanking Law Lifted?

WELLINGTON (New Zealand) — NEW Zealanders voted overwhelmingly to overturn a law that prohibits parents from hitting children, according to the results of a nationwide referendum released on Friday, but the government says the law is working and won’t be changed.

Opponents of the 2007 law claim it is overly intrusive and could turn thousands of good parents into criminals. They won the right to hold the referendum, which is not binding, by signing up 300,000 eligible voters in support of it. They also drew up the question.

But the ballot measure has drawn widespread criticism, with Prime Minister John Key and main opposition Labour leader Phil Goff refusing to vote. Both said the question was so skewed as to make the results meaningless.

In a postal vote that closed Friday, 87.6 per ent of voters responded ‘No’ to the question: ‘Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offense in New Zealand?’

Just 11.81 per cent of voters said ‘Yes,’ according to the nation’s electoral office. About 54 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot. The final result will be declared on Tuesday.

‘John Key cannot ignore this result. The attempt by politicians to dismiss the referendum as ambiguous and irrelevant has also been rebuked by the voters,’ Family First director Bob McCoskrie, who advocated for changing the law.

He said the government should amend the law to allow light smacking and set up a royal commission of inquiry into child abuse. Mr Key said he would take note of the referendum result but won’t change a law ‘that is working.’ He would, however, take a proposal to the nation’s Cabinet on Monday to reassure parents they will not be criminalised. He did not elaborate on whether the proposal would alter the law — or how its applied.

The law, which Parliament passed overwhelmingly, prohibits parents from using force to discipline their children but gives police the discretion not to prosecute complaints ‘where the offense is considered so inconsequential there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.’ No prosecutions have succeeded under the new law.

Deborah Morris-Travers, a spokeswoman for the Yes-vote coalition, was ‘unsurprised’ by the result.

‘We always expected it would go in favor of the no-vote because of the way that the question was phrased — it was loaded and misleading … suggesting that good parents are being criminalised when in fact they are not,’ she said. Police statistics show only serious cases are pursued and parents who lightly smack their children are left alone, she said. — AP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

NZ Votes Against Child Smack Ban

New Zealanders have voted by a wide margin in favour of allowing parents to smack their children, two years after a law banned discipline by force.

The legislation was brought in two years ago to try to lower the country’s high rate of child abuse.

The referendum asked: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

The referendum is non-binding, and Prime Minister John Key has said he will not change the existing law.

Based on preliminary results, 54% of the voting population took part in the referendum, with nearly 90% responding No, the election commission said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, said in 2003 that New Zealand had the third-worst rate of child abuse and neglect of the OECD group of countries.

‘Ambiguous question’

The vote was held following a campaign by opponents of the 2007 legislation, which removed a provision allowing parents “reasonable force” to discipline their children.

The legal change was to stop people using “parental discipline” as a defence against assault changes but allowed police wide latitude to not prosecute cases seen as trivial.

Opponents of the law said it would result in good parents being prosecuted.

Referendum campaigner Larry Baldock said he was ecstatic at the vote’s result and hoped it would send a strong message to the prime minister that the current law was not working.

“There are an incredible number of people all over the country tonight who will be feeling really great about what they helped bring about with their vote.”

Many critics of the referendum, including the prime minister, said the question was loaded and ambiguous.

Mr Key, who did not cast a vote, said he would put some proposals on the issue to his cabinet on Monday.

“I think they will give New Zealand parents added comfort that the law is working,” he said.

The issue has provoked heated debate in the country, but the postal vote — at a cost of $6.1m (£3.7m) — is considered by many to have been a waste of time and money.

New Zealand is one of six countries to have banned corporal punishment of children in 2007.

The first country to take the step was Sweden in 1979, followed by Finland in 1983 and Norway in 1987.

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

Latin America

Behind the Shadowy World of Narco-Terror

WASHINGTON — Last week’s brief “Three Amigos” summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, has been all but forgotten in the growing storm over “health-care reform.” That may be what the three North American heads of state, Presidents Felipe Calderon and Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, wanted. All three leaders did their best to ignore the skunk at their picnic — the serious threat posed to all of us by narco-terrorism. If comments after the confab reflect their thinking, thousands of dead and wounded at the hands of violent drug cartels warrant less attention than the “threat” of global warming and the H1N1 virus.

In his closing statement at the summit, Calderon devoted one sentence, just 43 words, to stopping “the traffic of weapons and of money that go from north to south that strengthen and nourish organized crime gangs.” Harper, who spoke first in French and then in English, said that Canada “recognizes the courageous commitment taken by President Calderon to combat organized crime in Mexico.” In English, he substituted “drug traffickers” for “organized crime.” That was it.

Mr. Obama did better, noting that the three leaders “resolved to continue confronting the urgent threat to our common security from the drug cartels that are causing so much violence and death in our countries.” He went on to assure that “Mexico has the support it needs to dismantle and defeat the cartels,” emphasizing “our commitment to reduce the demand for drugs” and promising “to stem the illegal southbound flow of American guns and cash that helps fuel this extraordinary violence.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Brazil Calls Obama Over US Bases

Brazil’s leader has called on US President Barack Obama to meet South American leaders to calm fears about the US military presence in Colombia.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed his concerns in a phone call to President Obama, Brazil’s foreign minister said.

He wants guarantees that US troops will be restricted to fighting drugs and terrorists within Colombia only.

The US and Colombia are finalising an agreement to give the US military greater access to seven bases.

‘Winds of war’

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said President Lula told Mr Obama it was “very important” that he attend a South American summit in Argentina starting next Friday.

The Unasur meeting has been specifically called to address the Colombian bases issue.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to calm fears by saying the US would not establish its own bases and would not increase troop levels in Colombia, where 800 US soldiers and 600 US contractors are already based.

Mrs Clinton said the accord would respect Colombian sovereignty and other countries would not be affected.

Venezuela and Ecuador had expressed fears the move amounts to preparation for an invasion of their countries by US forces.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned that “the winds of war were beginning to blow” across the region.

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


17 Illegal Immigrants Land on Southern Sardinia

(ANSAmed) — CAGLIARI, AUGUST 20 — Landings by illegal immigrants have resumed on the south-western coasts of Sardinia, and over the night Italian semi-militarised Carabinieri found 17 immigrants, presumably of Tunisian nationality, whose boat had landed on the island shortly before. The 17 illegal immigrants have been taken to the Elmas immigrant holding centre to be identified and given food and water.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: 22 People Headed for Italy Stopped

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 19 — Twenty-two illegal migrants were stopped by the Algerian Coast Guard off the coast of Annaba in eastern Algeria, where many boats headed to Sardinia leave from, reports APS, citing the head of the Maritime Station in Abbaba, Abdelaziz Zaidi. The migrants, all Algerians aged 20-70, departed last night onboard a small handcrafted boat. The price of the voyage, explained Zaidi, was between 80,000 and 120,000 dinars (800 and 1,200 euros), which the would-be migrants confessed paying before boarding. Since January about 300 people have been intercepted at sea off the eastern coast of Algeria while attempting to reach Italy.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Controversy in Italy After Death of 73 Eritreans

(ANSAmed) — ROME — “The West has its eyes closed” it does not want to see the immigrant boats that arrive, just as during Nazism no one saw the trains filled with Jews go to the concentration camps. After the death of 73 Eritreans at sea, reported by the 5 survivors rescued yesterday on Lampedusa, Avvenire compared the indifference of the illegal immigrants lost at sea to that of people during the Shoah with an editorial on the front page. There is, according to the Catholic paper, “at least an ambiguity in which it is not possible to fall. No immigration control policy allows the international community to leave a boat full of castaways to its fate. The law reads: at sea one is rescued”. On land one can look at the “right of asylum, acceptance or expulsion”. But first “the lives must be saved”. But “the empty boat” that arrived on the coast of Lampedusa shows that today it is “another law” that is respected, “don’t stop, keep going”, the “new law of not noticing”. “An ancient law has been violated”, it concluded, and this “threatens our very roots. Our foundation. The idea of what a man is and how much he infinitely values”. The vessel was intercepted on the border between territorial waters, after a signal from Maltese authorities to Italian authorities engaged in Frontex activities. The alarm was sounded only at dawn, when the boat was at the limit of Italian waters, risking the explosion of another diplomatic case between Malta and Italy. The tale of the castaways, particularly the lack of rescue from the crews of numerous vessels, is now in the hands of the prefect of Agrigento, in light of the international navigation code. The Agrigento prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation to look into the possible presence of human traffickers aboard. One of the many tragedies to have taken place in the Sicilian Channel, the event has already caused the reaction of numerous humanitarian organisations, from Save the Children to the UN High Commission for Refugees. “It is alarming”, Laura Boldrini, spokesperson in Italy for the UNHCR, “that for over 20 days these people drifted in the Mediterranean without being rescued, as if the message was passed that arriving by sea is a sort of “black hole”. “After the first repulsion that took place last May”, stated Christopher Hein, director of the Italian Council for Refugees, “the number of vessels has decreased drastically, but Italy told the European Commission in July that it would no longer resort to these tactics and it is not true, because has been reported that in the first part of August other repulsions took place. The same immigrants reported the events after being pushed back to Libya, where an immigration centre is present”. The controversy has inevitable repercussions on political forces: if Minister Roberto Calderoli defended the “hard line” stressing that thanks to repulsions, illegal immigration has “decreased sharply”, the secretary of the Italian Democratic Party, Dario Franceschini, said that he felt “horror” in the face of the tale of the 5 survivors, and invited the government “to clear up what happened in parliament”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Finland: Challenging Asylum Cases for Finnish Authorities

Finnish immigration authorities report an increase in the number of asylum seekers this year. Officials are struggling to balance the treatment meted out to immigrants with authentic asylum claims, against dealing with opportunists looking for greener pastures.

Finnish authorities have reported a marked increase in the number of asylum seekers. Last year immigration services received applications from 4,035 asylum seekers, while in just the first six months of 2009, the number reached 2,679.

In most cases, refugees are coming from conflict “hotspots” and have valid claims for protection. The first six months of 2009 repeated a pattern observed last year, with most applicants coming from war zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

However, another group of asylum seekers is attracting the attention of the authorities. So far this year, some 200 Bulgarians entered Finland asking for official protection, in spite of the fact that, coming from another EU country, their applications are likely to be rejected, says Marjo Mäkelä of the Finnish Immigration Services.

EU Nationals Seeking Asylum

“When a EU member state citizen seeks asylum in any member state, it’s considered a safe country of origin and we follow an accelerated procedure. And as far as I know we have not yet granted asylum to any EU citizen or any Roma ethnic group who has arrived recently to Finland,” she explains.

The Immigration Services official said most of the applicants in the group coming from Bulgaria belong to the Roma ethnic group. She points out that although their claims for asylum may be considered weak, there may be strong incentives for them to seek greener pastures outside their homeland.

“They can also work, without a special work permit after 3 months after lodging the application. They are also eligible for free accommodation. Maybe people also know that the waiting time has been a bit longer because of all the applications. So they know that have a longer time to be here.”

At the same time, Mäkelä points out that the number of EU citizens seeking asylum in Finland has remained more or less constant over the past few years.

Mäkelä says that Finnish immigration authorities are working hard to reduce the processing time for applicants waiting in the system. Currently some 4,500 asylum seekers reside at Finland’s reception centres, with roughly another 700 living in other accommodations, such as the homes of friends and relatives.

Finnish authorities are also trying to expand reception centre capacity, by introducing new reception centres in Helsinki, Imatra and Oulu, while 30 new employees have been recruited to the asylum unit to help speed up processing times.

Quick Decisions for Third Country Asylum Seekers

Apart from potential opportunists entering the system, officials are keeping an eye on people who have previously filed an application in another EU country and are still awaiting decisions.

Mäkelä explains that more so-called third country nationals are coming to Finland through Greece and Italy, and in the past some have come from Malta. Currently, however, no applicants have been reported from Portugal, Spain and the Canary Islands, or other locations where the asylum process is lengthy and strictly enforced.

For Finnish authorities, the rules here are clear — these applicants are usually deported to the country in which their original applications were filed. However, some advocates say there may be a compelling case to apply some exceptions to this rule.

Sanna Rummakko, Information Officer with the Finnish Refugee Advice Centre, says that the real situation for many of such refugees is very difficult.

“In a country like Greece for example, in reality they have no access to the asylum procedure; they can’t have their cases processed. There are no decent reception centres, so most of the asylum seekers are living on the streets,” Rummakko expands.

Asylum Process Not Evenly Applied

Rummakko says that regulations such as the Dublin Regulation, which requires EU members to return refugees to the country in which their original applications were lodged, is based on the assumption that the asylum process is consistent across the EU.

But this is an assumption that she contests: “Asylum seekers in many countries don’t really have access to the procedure and it should be guaranteed that the asylum seeker has a right to be heard and to have their case investigated,” she points out.

The Refugee Advice official added that authorities should be aware that in countries such as Italy, Greece and Malta, the commitment to a fair and transparent process is weak, and noted that NGOs in Finland and Europe are lobbying on many fronts for a fair process.

Meanwhile, the official channels represented by officers such as Mäkelä say that in Finland at least, all refugees, including those coming first through other EU states can be sure that they will have a fair shot at refuge.

“Each case is examined on its own merits. Our officials are experts in the areas that the applicants come from, and each case is examined individually to ensure a fair hearing,” she concludes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Psychiatrist Gets 10 Months, Gave Fake Citizenship Waivers to 492

A West Bloomfield psychiatrist was sentenced to 10 months in prison today for conspiring to commit naturalization fraud, admitting he falsified diagnoses to help people gain U.S. citizenship without passing the English proficiency portions of naturalization exams.

Between 1999 and 2001, Chilakamarri Ramesh, 55, worked at a Dearborn immigration clinic called Four A’s Hope Global Psychological Evaluation Center and performed psychiatric evaluations on naturalization applicants, according to federal agents.

Ramesh falsely diagnosed applicants with mental retardation, post-traumatic stress disorder, learning disabilities and dementia.

According to the indictment in U.S. District Court in Detroit, Ramesh signed 953 false and fraudulent naturalization waiver forms for 492 citizenship applicants in Dearborn, Cleveland, St. Louis and Chicago. He pleaded guilty May 18 in front of Judge Julian Cook.

“We must be vigilant to prevent fraud in connection with citizenship applications,” said U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg. “Those who seek the privilege of becoming U.S. citizens must do so honestly and without any misrepresentations.”

Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office for Michigan and Ohio, said: “American citizenship is a privilege, not a right. Obtaining citizenship through fraud is an affront to every person who has played by the rules.

Ramesh has been an assistant professor at Wayne State University since 1990 and was chairman of the St. John Hospital department of psychiatry in 1995-2000.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leonid Feller and Jonathan Tukel.

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

Remains of Immigrants Found

Eritreans say Maltese patrol stopped them on Tuesday

(ANSA) — Rome, 21 August — Italian coastal patrols continued the search on Friday for the remains of 73 migrants reported to have died aboard a boat which ran out of fuel while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

The search got underway following the rescue of five Eritreans off the coast of the southern island of Lampedusa on Thursday who said that their fellow passengers had died of hunger and thirst during the three weeks in which their ship was adrift at sea. The five survivors said they had cast the bodies of overboard.

The migrants had set off from Libya — the usual departure point for boats trying to reach southern Italy — on July 28.

Maltese authorities confirmed Friday that border patrol aircraft had spotted eight bodies but that they had drifted into Lybian territory and could not be recovered.

The migrants said on Friday that a patrol boat from another country had intercepted them prior to their rescue on Thursday them but failed to help. One of the migrants told Italian officials that the crew of an unidentified patrol boat intercepted them on Tuesday — two days before the Italian coast guard — gave them fuel and told them to continue towards Lampedusa. He said he could not identify their nationality, saying only that they wore “shorts and dark-coloured shirts”. “They even provided us with five life jackets… one of the crew turned on the motor because we were too weak, and then indicated the route we were to follow. Then, mindless of our condition, they left.” Speaking to Italian rescue workers on Thursday, the migrants said several other boats had spotted them during their twenty days at sea, but had not stopped to help.

Italian coastal patrols pulled the five from the 12-metre-long boat on Thursday morning, as soon as Maltese authorities reported a sighting. Officials in Valletta told ANSA on Friday that a Maltese patrol boat had intercepted the migrants after they were spotted by a plane flying for the EU border agency Frontex. “The required assistance was provided, in keeping with Malta’s international obligations…Maltese officials did not influence the (boat’s) destination,” he said. The Italian interior ministry stressed in a statement on Friday that Italian patrol boats in the Mediterranean had not spotted the migrants prior to Malta’s alert. Italian boats carried out 13 rescue missions from June 1 to August 20 in the waters off Sicily and Sardinia, helping 420 people, the statement said. The ministry said it had asked prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Agrigento and police to investigate the migrants’ report.

News of the tragedy sparked a wave of condemnation from the Church and migrant organizations. The President of the Episcopal Commission on Immigration Mons. Bruno Schettino told reporters on Friday that the death of immigrants trying to reach Sicily “represented a grave offence to the Christian value of life”.

Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano observed that helping immigrants in distress was a moral duty and expressed concern about possible “violations of human rights” and over the “indifference” of those who could have given them aid.

In a front-page editorial in its Friday edition, Italian Catholic daily Avvenire accused the West of closing its eyes to the plight of immigrants at sea just as it had towards the victims of the Holocaust. “When we read about the deportation of the Jews during the Holocaust, we ask ourselves how anyone could say they didn’t notice the voices and cries coming from the trains at stations along the way.

“Then it was terror and totalitarianism which shut their eyes. Today it is quiet indifference, if not irritated distaste.” Christopher Hein of the Italian Refugee Council has suggested that it was improbable for “a 12-metre-long boat to remain adrift for so long without anyone noticing”.

“These people were deliberately left to meet their fate,” Hein said. A spokesperson for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Andrj Mahemic, expressed concern on Friday that Italy’s tough new immigration policies were discouraging ship captains from stopping to help boats carrying immigrants.

Boat migrant landings in Italy have dropped significantly since the start of the government’s new ‘push-back’ policy in May. Nearly a thousand people have been sent back to Libya so far as part of an agreement between Rome and Tripoli.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UN Shock at Migrant Boat Deaths

The UN Refugee Agency has expressed shock at reports that other vessels passed by and did not help as a boat sank carrying illegal immigrants.

About 75 illegal immigrants from Africa died while travelling on a crowded rubber dinghy between Libya and Italy.

It is thought many succumbed to hunger or thirst. Five Eritreans survived the journey and said no-one offered help.

The UN said the failure of other ships to stop and help represented a betrayal of maritime tradition.

Earlier this year, Italy and Libya began joint naval patrols in the Mediterranean to try to prevent the passage of illegal migrants.

Italian coastguards picked up the five survivors from the 12ft vessel, found drifting in Italian waters between Malta and the tiny island of Lampedusa.

The five — a woman, a child and three men — told rescuers that they had set out from the Libyan coast three weeks ago but had run out of food, water and fuel.

They said many people had died after drinking sea water and their bodies had been thrown overboard.

‘Shocking tragedy’

A spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency — the UNHCR — said the survivors had told them that a fishing boat which came across their stranded vessel offered them some bread and water, but then left them.

Other vessels simply passed by, the survivors reported.

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

UN to Monitor Swedish Migration Board

The United Nations refugee organ, the UNHCR, plans to spend nine months closely monitoring the work methods of the Migration Board (Migrationsverket). The UNHCR regularly directs criticism at Swedish migration policies.

An official from the UNHCR is set to spend nine months following 200 asylum cases on site at the Migration Board, and then formulate a report with recommendations based on the experience.

“This is an evaluation project where we invite the UNHCR to follow up our asylum decisions,” the board’s legal head Michael Ribbenvik told the TT news agency.

Together with a reference group, including staff from the board and the United Nations, the official will follow the handling of cases through to their conclusion, as well as participating in inquiries and decisions.

The UNHCR has previous been a stern critic of Swedish migration policies, specifically since deportations to Iraq were resumed.

The organ has directed criticism over deportations to Baghdad, among other places, which the UNHCR did not consider to be sufficiently safe.

But according to Ribbenvik, there are no existing conflicts at all between the UN organ and his own authority.

“We work together on a daily basis, and have the whole time been in agreement over the situation in Baghdad. UNHCR criticizes the actions of states, and this is to be welcomed, but we can not always follow the recommendations due to the nature of Swedish legislation,” Ribbenvik said.

“I can not think of a better partner in a development cooperation than the UNHCR,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

EU: Gynecologists in Spain Plan to Choose Jail Before Performing an Abortion

Dr. Esteban Rodriguez, spokesman for the organization Right to Life (Derecho a Vivir) in Spain, responded yesterday to comments by the country’s Minister of Justice, Francisco Caamano, who said there was no room for a conscience clause in the new law on abortion.

“We are willing to go to jail rather than following a criminal law, Rodriguez said, “and we are willing to commit the supposed crime of disobedience before the crime of abortion.”

“We will not kill our patients, nor will we commit a crime against the public health deliberately harming the heath of women, no matter how much the Minister of Justice threatens us and abuses his power,” the doctor said.

“We doctors are not soldiers, nor policemen, nor executioners. There is no civil disobedience in the refusal to kill a human being, but rather the fulfilling of our professional obligation,” he added.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Echoes Cain, Not Christ

Wednesday, in a telephone conference call, Barack Obama spoke with faith-based groups in an effort to scare up support for his planned socialist takeover of the nation’s health care system. In a telling illustration of his idiosyncratic Christian walk, he referenced the biblical commandment against perjury to call opponents of his plan liars because they assert that the takeover would lead to “death panels” curtailing care to the elderly, or to expansive taxpayer funding of abortion.

By and large, Obama’s critics (like Tom Sowell in this recent WND article or FRCAction in this summary of evidence regarding abortion funding) have used facts and careful reasoning to substantiate their concern over the threat Obama’s takeover scheme poses to seniors and infants in the womb. What’s required to answer their concerns is an equally careful presentation of facts and reasoning. After all, the biblical standard is respect for truth. If you conscientiously seek and present reasonable grounds for your statements or observations, you may still be wrong, but you’re not bearing false witness. But Obama couldn’t help talking down to people of faith. He assumed that with them, bludgeoning his opponents with a little biblical rhetoric was good enough. Like so many socialist disciples of scientific materialism, he appears to assume that people of faith have abandoned rational thought.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama: ‘No Taxpayer-Funded Abortions in Health Bill’

Pro-life group calls president dishonest on coverage of procedure

In a conference call with his supporters Wednesday evening, President Obama accused critics of his health care “reform” of spreading falsehoods when they claim the plan would result in “government funding of abortions.”


Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, or NRLC, said Obama brazenly misrepresented the abortion-related component of the health care legislation.

Johnson noted that according to the Capps-Waxman amendment passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 30, H.R. 3200 explicitly authorizes the government plan to cover all elective abortions.

“Obama apparently seeks to hide behind a technical distinction between tax funds and government-collected premiums,” Johnson said in a statement. “But these are merely two types of public funds, collected and spent by government agencies. The Obama-backed legislation makes it explicitly clear that no citizen would be allowed to enroll in the government plan unless he or she is willing to give the federal agency an extra amount calculated to cover the cost of all elective abortions — this would not be optional. The abortionists would bill the federal government and would be paid by the federal government. These are public funds, and this is government funding of abortion.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


7 Reasons to Skip Upgrade to Windows 7

‘Still has all the security of a drunken teenager in a sports car’

Windows 7, which hits stores in October, is shaping up to be the best version of Microsoft’s widely used operating system yet.

But nothing’s perfect. Windows 7, like any product, has flaws — some of them big ones. on Tuesday laid out a list of good reasons to upgrade to Windows 7, including an enhanced user interface, improved compatibility with newer hardware and a seamless entertainment experience. (For even more background, see our first look at Windows 7.)

Now let’s look at the other side of the story: The reasons you might consider skipping this upgrade altogether.


Built-In Support for Egregious Hardware-Based DRM Paranoid XP users won’t wish to upgrade to Windows 7 for the same reason they didn’t switch to Vista: Like Vista, Windows 7 includes support for digital rights management technologies that could potentially regulate how you use your media. Though some alarmists have called Microsoft’s DRM “draconian,” the implemented DRM hasn’t proved to bear significant consequences yet.

Ars Technica provides a thorough explanation of the DRM in question. In short, the technologies called Protected Video Path (PVP) and Protected User Mode Audio (PUMA) provide secure playback of video and audio media, respectively. “Little or no media actually demands the use of the protected paths, so on most users’ systems, Windows never invokes them,” wrote Ars Technica’s Peter Bright. “Play back unprotected media on a Vista machine, and the DRM subsystems simply don’t get used.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Climate: UN: Re-Examine Agriculture Southern, Eastern Med

(by Chiara Spegni) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 19 — Less available water, reduced fertility, and desertification are some of the phenomena that are hitting the Mediterranean region, where climate change in the coming years will have an increased impact, hurting the area’s agricultural sector. The southern and eastern shores will be affected most severely by the climate emergency, where in most of the countries over half of the rural population work in the primary sector of the economy, including about 45 million people in 2005 in the agricultural giants of Turkey and Egypt alone. Differently than the countries on the northern shore, the rural population in the southern and eastern areas of the Mediterranean region will continue to increase until 2020. This was reported in an expert analysis by Blue Plan, a research centre part of the UN environmental programme for the Mediterranean, according to which, it is necessary to provide political and technical responses in order to assist an adaptation of the agricultural sector to the scenarios forecast by scientist, with incentives in particular for the research and development sectors, and encouraging the collective training and organisation of the region’s farmers. According to the Blue Plan document, the surface area irrigated in the countries of the Mediterranean basin have doubled over the past 40 years, exceeding 26 million hectares in 2005 while there are structure-related water deficit problems on the southern shore and in the eastern countries, as well as an increase, from now until 2070, of the areas that will undergo severe water stress on the northern shore, increasing from 19% to 35%. In the meanwhile, from 1961-2007, citrus production volume has increased fivefold, cereal production has increased threefold, and vegetable production has increased two and a half-fold. This is occurring while the land is increasingly fragile. The annual increase in the yield of cultivated land in the past 20 years has declined, cut in half for cereals, and declining by 20% for vegetables. In the coming decades, climate change projections for the southern Mediterranean countries forecast collapses in production. For example, a 30% decline in cereal production in Morocco has been forecast for 2030, while on average estimates indicate a 5.7% decrease in yields, with an almost 14% decline in Algeria. In a report on the climate emergency, Egypt estimates an 11% decrease in rice production in the 2020-2050 period. Erosion, loss of microorganisms, salinisation, and desertification have all worked to diminish the general health of the land in the past years. Since the beginning of the ‘60s, arable land available for each inhabitant in the Mediterranean region has been halved. All this while the region’s global food dependence continues to increase: in 2008, Egypt looked for new partners to rent land that could be cultivated or for large-scale cereal imports. Therefore, the primary sector should be modified and corrected. Although they are among the least paid, according to the World Bank the sector is four times more efficient compared to other sectors of the economy in combating poverty. In the Mediterranean region, agriculture is mainly a family-run activity: over 80% of businesses have less than 10 hectares. Also in light of the recent food crisis, according to UN experts, it is necessary to reaffirm the productive function of the agricultural sector. Climate changes are destined to accentuate the aridity of the Mediterranean countries with lands that have been cultivated for centuries. The ability of countries in the Mediterranean region to face the emergency will depend on technology, which today is not able to effectively sustain demographic growth, as well as their social and economic ability to adapt, which experts consider to be decidedly insufficient.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Economic Scene: Is Population Growth a Ponzi Scheme?

Forty-five nations face a population “bust” that has some leaders wringing their hands. They worry about the costs of supporting an aging society and the loss of national and economic power.

When US Vice President Joe Biden spoke of Russia’s “withering” population last month, Russian leaders bristled.

But notions that population growth is a boon for prosperity — or that national political success depends on it — are “Ponzi demography,” says Joseph Chamie, former director of the population division of the United Nations.

The profits of growth go to the few, and everyone else picks up the tab.

Here’s a look at the numbers: By 2050, countries as diverse as Cuba, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, and Russia will lose at least 10 percent of their people, UN estimates suggest.

This trend toward fewer births is accelerating.

In the rich, developed nations, the average age is rising at the fastest pace ever, UN demographers note. Today they have 264 million aged 60 or over. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to 416 million.

By that time, the world’s population should stabilize, if UN predictions are correct. The population surge in poor countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East would be offset by declines in much of the developed world.

Some nations facing decline are fighting back with incentives for families to have more children. The United States is bucking the trend with its relatively high immigration rate.

Growth, whether through immigration or natural increase, is a plus for some groups. For business, it means a boost in the demand for products. It also means a surge in low- and high-skilled workers, which can keep a lid on wage pressures. Religious and ethnic groups want more immigrants of their own faith and ethnicity to raise their political and social clout. The military regards young immigrants as potential recruits.

But the public pays a cost for a bigger population.

Mr. Chamie speaks of more congestion on highways, more farmland turned into housing developments, more environmental damage, including the output of pollutants associated with climate change.

In the current healthcare debate in the US, one costly question is whether the insurance covers some 11 million illegal immigrants.

Of course, there are also costs for countries with stable or declining populations.

They will need to spend more looking after older citizens and, yes, some industries like housing will shrink. But governments won’t have to spend as much on children. And any labor shortage would fade if increasingly healthy older people worked an extra year or two before retiring to maintain their standard of living.

Raising the average retirement age does far more to increase the working population than increasing immigration levels, says Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank opposed to high immigration. Industrial nations with large service industries have plenty of employment opportunities for seniors, as opposed to poor countries where many jobs — say, planting rice or other crops — are hard work.

The goal should be gradual population stabilization, Chamie says. The costs of an aging but stable population would be more manageable than those of a population boom.

He asks: Does America really need more than its current 309 million people? With immigration at present levels, it will have 439 million by 2050.

A stable or falling population, he says, “is not a disaster. It is a success.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Not All Cultures Are Good

“WHEN I hear the word culture, I reach for my pistol.” Whether Hermann Goering or someone else spoke those words is immaterial; the sentiment is clear. I feel the same when I hear the word multicultural. By now the language police will have concluded that I am a rabid racist not fit to mix in polite society. It is the standard epithet hurled at those who question multiculturalism. How has it come to this?

I became involved in politics almost 50 years ago with the prime motivation of fighting racism. However, I am aghast at the way multicultural advocates have taken control of the race debate by denouncing as racist anyone who disagrees with their view of the future of Australian society.

At this point it may be apposite if I detail my family’s ethnic mix. It includes Polish and Lithuanian Jews via South Africa, Celts from Scotland and Ireland, a handful of Thais and the very best British bloodstock.

Born in Griffith in 1935, by the time I was five World War II was well under way. At the time Australia was 97.5 per cent Anglo-Celtic and Christian. Those sectarian differences that did exist then were between Catholics and Protestants, many of whom were not far removed from the battles for Irish independence. As a small Jewish boy I wasn’t a threat; more of an oddity, really.

I first experienced anti-Semitism when sent to a Sydney boarding school to study for my bar mitzvah. On my first day at school I was involved in three fights with boys who had greeted me with the welcoming words, “You dirty f***ing Jew.” Hence my lifetime commitment to fight prejudice.

Sure, there were further incidents, often at the most unexpected times, but I remain convinced that Australia is one of the least racist countries.

It is not in the least surprising nonetheless that when Australia, under Ben Chifley, abandoned its practice of only seeking migrants from Britain, and turned to Europe there was some apprehension about how it would work. It was, as we know, a great success. First came the Italians, Poles, Germans, Balts, Dutch and others, followed by those from wherever there was suffering. Millions sought safe haven from wars, oppression, famine or poverty. They came to a country that offered the freedoms they had been denied, provided them with the opportunity to earn a decent living and enabled them to rear a family free from the threat of violence.

Each new wave of migrants followed the same pattern. Arriving with little, they gravitated to areas with cheap accommodation among people who spoke the same language, ate the same food, worshipped at the same church and were familiar with the same culture. Older Australians had doubts about these cultural “ghettoes” but in time they not only got used to them but grew to cherish them. Eventually there was hardly a nationality, religion, race or creed that didn’t have its own cultural identity and community in Australia. With a few exceptions the integration was seamless and tensions were rare. Adult immigrants found it hardest to assimilate into the local community. Differences became less obvious with each passing generation. Each group made their contribution towards a new, constantly changing Australian culture.

So why, I hear you ask, do I bridle at the word multiculturalism? We are a multiracial society and a harmonious one. What I object to is the idea promoted by the multicultural lobby that not only should we be a society of a hundred cultures but it is the government’s duty, nay obligation, to see that we remain permanently culturally divided. If some groups wish to remain separate from mainstream Australia, then that is their choice, but they should not expect governments to aid and abet those divisions.

Governments have a responsibility to assist new arrivals to settle in by helping them to find work, learn English, obtain housing and, if necessary, provide welfare. They should not help create the society from whence they escaped.

In return, migrants have a responsibility to learn about Australia’s history and culture, including indigenous Australia and those of Anglo-Celtic origin, which was the dominant culture for 150 years.

Strangely, it is the Anglo-Celtic culture that is continually denigrated. No culture is perfect but few can match the British tradition of equality before the law, respect for minority views, freedom of speech and association, political and civil rights and above all, democracy. The word that best fits that heritage is “tolerance”. Oddly, those most critical of that culture often come from the most oppressive and repulsive regimes, those ruled by feudal monarchies, military and theocratic dictatorships and one-party states.

The idea that all cultures are equally good is arrant nonsense. A glance at Freedom House’s annual rankings of freedom will attest to that. Australia ranks among the very best.

To those who believe it is the government’s responsibility to re-create the culture from whence they have escaped, I suggest they consider other options. Ours is a multiracial and tolerant society, and our culture should be a gradually evolving one, free from government interference and guidance. Let it remain so.

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

‘Save the Planet’ Sounds a Lovely Idea But…

…if we try to deal with climate change by turning our backs on economic growth, the poor will pay the heaviest price

I took part in a Radio 3 discussion recently about the new age of austerity. A poet on the programme argued for the simple virtues. The recession, he said, would give consumers in rich societies an opportunity to rediscover thrift and conservation. The future of the planet depended on a curb to materialism and acquisitiveness.

That message is today’s green orthodoxy, and its advocates have a reassuring air of humanitarian concern. But it is a reactionary notion. To the student of economic history, it recalls nothing so much as the pocket sermons of the original do-nothing Republican, President Herbert Hoover. As the global economy succumbed to the Great Depression, Hoover looked on the bright side of financial panic. “It will purge the rottenness out of the system,” he declared. “High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life.”

Anti-materialism has perennial appeal, and there is a fringe of the modern green movement that specialises in smug jeremiad. “This time around,” writes a founder of Greenpeace International, “we’re not going to recover from global recession by consuming more resources and energy. Growth cannot solve the problems created by growth.”

Shome mishtake, shurely? A recession is, by definition, consecutive quarters of negative growth. Personal consumption is the biggest component of national income. If we consume more, then recovery will come. The question that less strident environmentalists raise is whether the use of resources can be made sustainable, so that present and future human needs are met while the environment is preserved. That sounds a moderate aim but it’s full of problems.

Green campaigners are rightly concerned with environmental degradation. There is copious evidence of global warming due to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat. The pace of glacial retreat and a rise in sea levels confirm it. The journalists and politicians who take issue with the science are no more credible than the ones (sometimes the same people) who dispute Darwin. Climate change poses not only environmental hazards. The desperately poor state of Bangladesh faces twin threats of catastrophic flooding and Islamist militancy. Amid the devastation of low-lying areas and a mass flight to higher ground, malevolent extremism might thrive.

For all that, environmentalism is a flawed idea. Its weakness is not that it lacks justice, but that it lacks a sense of priorities. How do you rank global warming relative to women’s rights in Afghanistan or the prevention of genocide in Darfur? “Save the planet” is an exhortation, not a policy, and it doesn’t get you far. In particular, it gives no guidance on how to weigh present needs, such as eradicating poverty in the developing world, against future constraints on natural resources. In short, it does not deal with trade-offs. That is a big omission.

If the planet faced catastrophe on the scale envisaged by the theorists of the “limits to growth”, then all public policy ought indeed to be subordinated to preventing it. But not even greens, beyond a few dystopian survivalists, argue that case. They instead invoke the Precautionary Principle (the capital letters are important, apparently).

Oddly, this has no fixed definition but is cited widely and vaguely by organisations such as Unesco as a strategy for guarding against serious, and especially irreversible, damage to natural resources. The problem, as Dick Taverne, the Liberal Democrat peer, has pointed out, is that because the Precautionary Principle “operates asymmetrically and emphasises possible harm, not benefit, it is bound to tilt the balance against innovation”. And if there is one resource that is almost infinitely renewable, it is human inventiveness.

It is not fanciful to expect substitutes for fossil fuels to be developed, to the benefit of the environment. It has happened continually. The alternative to environmentalist prescriptions is not the Pollyanna Principle. It is a recognition that our knowledge of the effects of climate change is limited, and that solutions do occur as innovation substitutes new products for old. If we elevate environmental concerns above all other goals, as a matter of policy, then there will be costs. Greens should be open that the biggest costs will almost inevitably be borne by the poorest people.

As the international economy recovers, policymakers will seek to stimulate domestic demand in the rapidly industrialising nations of China and India. Making people richer in previously poor nations is a good thing. But it will increase pollution and carbon emissions.

The relationship between living standards and pollution is complex. Some economists believe the relationship is like an inverted U-curve, in which pollution increases as per capita incomes in a developing country increase, but then declines once a certain standard of living is reached. It makes intuitive sense that people value the environment more when they have enough to eat and various material wants are satisfied.

If this is right, then the most effective long-term route to preserving the environment will be to encourage growth in the developing world. Insisting on unrealistic pollution targets now will work against that goal. But in any event, there is a short-run trade-off between environmental standards and an increase in economic welfare in the developing world.

It is far from obvious that the environment takes precedence. And there are ominous protectionist currents in green campaigns. The former Vice-President Al Gore has argued that “weak and ineffectual enforcement of pollution control measures should also be included in the definition of unfair trading practices”.

No, it shouldn’t. Integration into the global trading system benefits poor countries. They can specialise in what they produce, become more productive and thereby get richer.

That is also the long-term route to a cleaner environment. Closed economies in the developing world do not benefit from the advanced clean technologies used by multinational companies. China under Mao was an extreme case of a self-sufficient economy that emphasised local production and it was an environmental disaster. A blast furnace in every village produced unusable steel and toxic fumes. Growth and open trade are the route to a better quality of life. It is a surpassing irony that today’s green evangelists won’t recognise it.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

The Web’s Masquerade Ball is Over

The fate of “Skanks in NYC” sends a message to anonymous posters: It’s time to shed your masks and start being yourself online.

Ever put on a Halloween costume and find yourself saying and doing things you’d never be comfortable with if you were just being yourself? It’s fun. Once a year, we show a different or imagined side of our personalities. Then we quietly pack away those masks and resume being responsible human beings. Online, however, people wear masks all the time. They have fake usernames (or “handles”), fake photos, and incomplete, inaccurate, or shaded descriptions of themselves. As soon as they put on these digital masks, they feel comfortable saying and doing virtually anything.

Not everyone uses a fake name or handle to do naughty things. For some, it’s a bulwark against identify theft. The less people know about you online, the less likely they can cobble together all the details of your life and assume your identity. But there are, as far as I’m concerned, too many people who use online anonymity as a license to say and do things they’d never do in the real world.

Anonymity is such an ingrained part of our online experience, people think it’ll never change. But like our polar ice caps, the certainty that we have the right to remain anonymous online may be slowly melting away. Just this week, a New York Supreme Court judge ordered Google to reveal the IP and e-mail address of one of its Blogger platform users. The blogger used a Google-powered blog to launch a site called “Skanks in NYC,” with the apparent purpose of conducting a vicious verbal attack on a magazine model. I won’t go into the details here beyond saying that it was harsh. Whoever launched the blog did not use a real name. The model’s lawyer fought to learn the identity of the blogger and Google pulled the site, and, when ordered, handed over the information.

While some experts note that forcing ISPs and other online intermediaries to deliver information for people who cross the line from free speech to bullying or worse, it is a slippery slope. The threshold for what’s considered abuse is a moving target.

Inevitably, this latest action helps set a precedent. It’s less likely that people will feel comfortable hiding behind the moniker “fancyman34” as they post mean-spirited comments on blogs or on sites like YouTube and Digg. Have you ever read any of those comments? They can be incredibly cruel and profane. Imagine someone walking up to you on the street and talking to you that way, or a co-worker venting like that in the office. Public discourse doesn’t work like this (though, sadly, I’m beginning to see some of it bleed over into everyday life—it isn’t pretty). As with most other forums and countless blogs, virtually all the posters have handles that tell you nothing about who they are—profile pages are usually fact-free, as well.

I can understand the free speech proponents who worry that there will be a chilling effect if anyone can be unmasked at any time. Insurgents living in oppressed societies might stop speaking out online. Maybe. On the other hand, that’s the minority. The majority doesn’t need the anonymity and often abuses it. If people had to represent themselves online, those who wanted to say something biting or controversial would be showing something akin to courage. The person who created “Skanks in NYC” was not courageous—just angry.

So let Google give up that information. As they say, if you have something to say to me, say it to my face. Just be sure to remove that mask first.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]