Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/27/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/27/2009Mass immigration into Europe masks the fact that most European countries are facing a drastic decline in population. The problem is more evident, however, in those countries that don’t allow much immigration. Serbia, for example, expects 700 villages — populated now mainly by old people — to disappear within the next fifteen years. By 2032, the population of Serbia is expected to drop by 10%.

In other news, a Hindu man in Mumbai has been arrested and charged with having six wives. After he was taken into custody, he complained to reporters that it’s not fair, because Indian Muslims are allowed to have lots of wives when Hindus are not.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, AA, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, Israel Matzav, JD, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, TB, Tuan Jim, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
China Tears Up America’s Credit Cards
Secret Process Benefits Pet Projects
The Storm Upon Us
Cool Summer Chilling the Killers?
Feds Go Hog Wild Promoting Swine-Flu Shots
‘Frank’ Democrats Censor GOP Mail
Glenn Beck’s Fear of Obama: Seize Power Overnight
Liberal Lies About National Health Care, Part 2
‘More People Were Killed at Chappaquiddick Than at Three Mile Island’ — Car Bumper Sticker Says it All
Obama Czar Advocating Genocide Against Americans?
The Media-Government Incest Brothel
The Real Ted Kennedy Legacy
The War on Terror is Over
US Students Under Fire for Anti-Islam Shirts
What the President’s Attack on the CIA Really Means
White House Stonewalls on ‘Radical’ Adviser
Europe and the EU
Anti-Trust Probe Into Google Italy
Baby Boom Pushes Britain’s Population Past 61m in Biggest Jump for Almost Half a Century
Belgium: Staying Together for the Children
Britons Accused Over Saddam Oil
Denmark: Neighbours Turn Nasty
Denmark: Bishop: State and Church Division Likely
Denmark: Drug Addict Orgy of Violence
Finland: Police Survey: Officers Must Intervene to Curb Public Disorder
Finland: YLE Survey: Teachers Sometimes Display Racism
Finland: Helsinki Councillor Jussi Halla-Aho Attracts Dozens of Supporters to Courthouse
Finland: Academic Pressured by “Useful Idiots” During Finlandisation Period
Germany: Schäuble Sees No Increased Terrorist Threat
Germany: Muslim Group Fields Candidates in Local Elections
Ghosts of Empire Haunting Europe
Greenland May Turn Back on Climate
Have You Heard About the Company That Runs Britain?
Hungary: ‘We Can Either Set Up an Army or Flee’
Italy: Berlusconi-Linked Teen Upset by Daughter’s Remarks
Italy: PM to Attend L’aquila ‘Festival of Forgiveness’
Italy: Berlusconi to Dine With Vatican No.2
Italy-Libya: USA Not Troubled by Premier’s Visit, Frattini
Italy: Mourinho Tackled in Ramadan Fasting Row
Italy: Rome Council Steps Up Surveillance After Gay Attacks
Madonna Booed in Bucharest for Defending Gypsies
Madonna Booed in Bucharest for Criticizing Discrimination Against Roma
Netherlands: Integration Street Parties Only Attract White People
Netherlands: Islamic School to Lose Government Funding
Poland Without Missile Defence
Report: U.S. To Scrap E. Europe Missile Shield Bases
Sweden: Stockholm Rabbi: Large Muslim Population Intimidates Local Jews
UK: ‘Cruel and Neglectful’ Care of One Million NHS Patients Exposed
UK: Abused Toddler Sanam Navsarka ‘Largely Invisible’ To Social Services
UK: Climate Change Supercomputer Makes Met Building One of Britain’s Most Polluted
UK: Dumbed-Down Defenders of Their Own Turf
UK: Muslim Leader Kidnapped at Knifepoint and Ordered to Stop Community Prayers After BNP Leaflet Campaign
UK: Strathclyde Police ‘Could Have Protected Lockerbie Bomber in Scotland’
UK: Sex Attack Deportation Man Jailed
UK: The Climate Camp’s in Town — and It’s All So Taxing…
UK: Why Welfare is Gordon Brown’s Greatest Failure
US to Abandon Polish-Czech Missile Shield, Lobbyist Says
EU Commission: 39 Mln in Aid to Bosnia Herzegovina
Serbia: 700 Villages to be Abandoned in 15 Years
Violent Protests Against EU Mission in Kosovo
North Africa
Algeria: 3:000 Dogs Eliminated in 2009 in Tizi Ouzou
Confiscated Boat: Owner, It Was in International Waters
Italy-Libya: La Russa, Surprised by Controversy
Italy-Libya: Govt. Out Only for Gain, Repatriated Italians
Italy-Libya: Frattini Sees No Problem With Air Display Team
Report: Americans in Egypt to Destroy Gaza Tunnels
Swiss Hostages to Leave Libya
Terrorism: Algeria, 4 Killed in Attacks
Israel and the Palestinians
Aftonbladet Article, Israel Restricts Swedish Press
Chief Palestinian Justice: Temples Never Existed
Minister ‘Does Not Fear USA’, Rebuked by Premier
Minister Corrects Slur to U.S., Pacifists
Netanyahu-Mitchell, Peace Process Closer
Settlements: Netanyahu-Mitchell Meeting on Wed
Shalit: Appeal to Carter and ‘Wise Men’ Delegation
Middle East
Health: Americans Prefer Turkey for Low-Cost Services
Iran: Iraqi Shia Leader Dies of Cancer in Tehran
Iranian Protesters ‘Not Agents’
Saudi Arabia: Italian Steelmaker Seals $213.3 Million Deal
Syria: A Good European Neighbour?
Turkey: Ex Husband Kills Wife and Five Family Members
Arctic Sea’s ‘Hijackers’ Charged
Rumours Circulate in Russia on Whereabouts of Arctic Sea Crew
Russia’s Historical Campaign
Russia: Five Years on, Beslan’s Survivors Feel Forsaken
South Asia
Afghanistan: US Envoy ‘In Angry Karzai Talks’
Balkanization of India: A Roadmap of Beijing?
Indian Arrested Over ‘Six Wives’
Mohamad Jibril: “Mastermind” Of the Attacks on Jakarta Hotels, Arrested
Muslims Banned From Black Eyed Peas Concert in Malaysia Because Event is Organised by Guinness
The United States Puts India on “Watch List”: Religious Freedom at Risk
Far East
N Koreans Toiling in Russia’s Timber Camps
Philippines: Customs to Probe Alleged Gunrunning Bid
S. Korea: Gov. Recall Vote on Jeju Island
Australia — Pacific
Terrorism Accused Trio Refused Bail
Sub-Saharan Africa
Mali Women Must Obey Their Husbands
Anchor Babies: The Educational Chaos
Finland: Internet Group Plans New Anti-Immigration Political Party
Follower of Radical Islamic Movement Granted Asylum in Australia
Hungary: Several Hundred Roma Ask for Help With Migration After Killings
IDV: Deal With Libya Useful Only for Tripoli
Italy: Cota, Mons. Marchetto Showed Political Prejudice
Muslim Immigration: The Most Radical Change in European History
New Sea Rescue and Fresh Italy-Malta Row
Sarkozy’s (Anti-Immigrant, Anti-European, Anti-Gay) Crony
Switzerland: Population Hits 7.7 Million on Immigration Wave
Thanks and Gratitude Between Libya and Malta
Culture Wars
Faceoff! Cops Versus Preachers on Public Sidewalk
Climate Fear Promoters Greatest Fear! ‘The Truth’
Sauve Qui Peut

Financial Crisis

China Tears Up America’s Credit Cards

Government data released for June 2009 shows that China has begun to make good on it’s forecast to start reducing exposure to US government debt. This was not done for ideological or political reasons, as some may claim, but rather because of an honest risk vs. reward assessment and internal forces threatening to tear the rosy veneer from China’s economy.

In February of 2009, The People’s Republic of China (a communist country) once again broadcast to the world that they were growing increasingly uneasy with the amount of US treasuries they were buying and holding. At that point they owned more than $744.2 Billion in US government debt, with additional large holdings of private US debt in the form of corporate bonds. In an article published in Reuters. Luo Ping, director-general at the China Banking Regulatory Commission (a communist), broadcast the increasing discomfort China had with its mounting US debt.

“Except for U.S. Treasuries, what can you hold?” Luo was cited by the paper as saying. “Gold? You don’t hold Japanese government bonds or UK bonds. U.S. Treasuries are the safe haven. For everyone, including China, it is the only option.” In further remarks, Mr. Luo stated, “There will be no bottom-fishing of financial institutions, particularly in the U.S., because there is a lot of uncertainty about the quality of the books,” the paper quoted Luo as saying; “We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 trillion-$2 trillion… we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys but there is nothing much we can do.”

Though Mr. Luo is a minor communist functionary (he does not speak for the party) he did telegraph the growing systemic Chinese unease with US fiscal insanity. China has dramatically improved their internal economy in the traditional Asian fashion, through a massive export driven system. In return they have used the long-term imbalance of trade coupled with an artificially low national currency to stockpile huge reserves that the plowed back into debt of the governments of nations they did business with. To China this made common sense, they wanted to help continue to fuel their expansion by recycling their dollars and at the same time show their commitment to their trading partners.

This created huge distortions in world economies, especially in the US where it helped fuel out of control government spending of the Bush era. Once the facade started to crumble in 2007, our Chinese creditors were suddenly left with the realization that the US was not as credit worthy as originally thought.

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

Secret Process Benefits Pet Projects

WASHINGTON — A sleepy Montana checkpoint along the Canadian border that sees about three travelers a day will get $15 million under President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan. A government priority list ranked the project as marginal, but two powerful Democratic senators persuaded the administration to make it happen.

Despite Obama’s promises that the stimulus plan would be transparent and free of politics, the government is handing out $720 million for border upgrades under a process that is both secretive and susceptible to political influence. This allowed low-priority projects such as the checkpoint in Whitetail, Mont., to skip ahead of more pressing concerns, according to documents revealed to The Associated Press.

A House oversight committee has added the checkpoint projects to its investigation into how the stimulus money is being spent. The top Republican on that committee, California’s Rep. Darrell Issa, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday, questioning why some projects leapfrogged others.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. In 2004, Congress ordered Homeland Security to create a list, updated annually, of the most important repairs at checkpoints nationwide. But the Obama administration continued a Bush administration practice of considering other, more subjective factors when deciding which projects get money.

The results:

_ A border station in Napolitano’s home state of Arizona is getting $199 million, five times more than any other border station. The busy Nogales checkpoint has required repairs for years but was not rated among the neediest projects on the master list reviewed by the AP. Napolitano credited her lobbying as Arizona governor for getting the project near the front of the line for funding under the Bush administration. All it needed was money, which the stimulus provided.

_ A checkpoint in Laredo, Texas, which serves more than 55,000 travelers and 4,200 trucks a day, is rated among the government’s highest priorities but was passed over for stimulus money.

_ The Westhope, N.D., checkpoint, which serves about 73 people a day and is among the lowest-priority projects, is set to get nearly $15 million for renovations.

The Whitetail project, which involves building a border station the size and cost of a Hollywood mansion, benefited from two key allies, Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester. Both pressed Napolitano to finance projects in their state. Tester’s office boasted of that effort in an April news release, crediting Baucus and his seat at the head of the “powerful Senate Finance Committee.”

Customs officials would not discuss that claim. Asked to explain Whitetail’s windfall, they provided a one-page fact sheet that contains no information about Whitetail’s needs and is almost identical to the fact sheet for every other Montana project.

It’s hardly a recent phenomenon for politicians to use their influence to steer money to their home states. Yet Obama said the stimulus would be different. He banned “earmarks,” which lawmakers routinely slip into bills to pay for pet projects, and he told agencies to “develop transparent, merit-based selection criteria” for spending.

Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security agency overseeing border projects, allowed the AP to review the list but will not make it public or explain its justifications for deviating from it.

Releasing that information would allow the public to see whether less important projects are getting money. The Transportation Department, for instance, recently was criticized by its internal watchdog for not following its standards when handing out money for 50 airport construction projects. Now the full $1.1 billion airport construction program is under scrutiny.

Without the lists, the public and members of Congress don’t know when the administration bumps a project ahead of others ranked more important.

Customs officials said they wouldn’t release the master list because it was just a starting point and subject to misunderstanding. They acknowledged there’s no way for the public to know whether they are cherry-picking projects.

“There’s a certain level of trust here,” said Robert Jacksta, a deputy customs commissioner.

Some discrepancies between the stimulus plan and the priority list can be attributed to Congress, which set aside separate pools of money for large and small border stations. That guaranteed that a few small, probably lower-rated projects would be chosen ahead of bigger, higher-priority projects. But it doesn’t explain all the discrepancies, because even within the two pools, Homeland Security sometimes reached way down on the list when selecting projects.

Many of the nation’s 163 border checkpoints, known as land ports, are more than 40 years old and in need of upgrade and repairs. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, those needs became more pressing and complex as officials beefed up border security. There is far more work to be done than money to complete it.

To prioritize, officials score each project on traffic volume, security vulnerability, construction needs and other factors. The resulting list represents “an objective and fair method for prioritizing projects,” officials wrote in a 2005 summary.

That’s the process the Obama administration described in a news release announcing $720 million in stimulus money for borders. But it didn’t say that officials can choose projects out of order for many reasons.

Trent Frazier, who oversees the border projects, said the list Congress required is more like a meal plan. The administration can decide when to eat each dish, as long as everything eventually gets eaten.

Explaining why one project might get pushed ahead, Frazier said, “You just really liked pizza and you wanted to accelerate it.”

In the case of the stimulus, officials said the Nogales, Ariz., project was construction-ready, a requirement of the recovery law. Officials also consider the economy, which means if the government expects local businesses to close and border traffic to decrease, it can delay paying for that project.

In one instance, officials said they reached deep into the list to provide $39 million for repairs in Van Buren, Maine, because flooding made the facility a safety hazard. In another, they are spending $30 million in Blaine, Wash., a lower-rated project that is unusual because it includes covering the costs of a state road project. With the 2010 Olympics coming to nearby Vancouver, Canada, officials worried the border would be strained without the project.

Officials said they could similarly justify every decision they’ve made. They would not provide those justifications to the AP. Frazier said the department would answer questions on a case-by-case basis, working through Congress to explain decisions to the public.

But even some in Congress say they aren’t getting answers. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said he has yet to hear a good explanation about why highly ranked projects such as Laredo were snubbed.

More than $116 billion in freight passed through Laredo last year, according to the Transportation Department. It is one of the busiest border stations in the country. Unemployment in the metropolitan area is 9.4 percent.

“For the sake of fairness, if you have a list, there’s some sort of expectation that you’re going to follow that list,” Cuellar said.

Tester, who said he pressed the Obama administration to get money for Montana projects, said border crossings in his state had been unfairly ignored.

“The northern border tends to be forgotten, and it shouldn’t be,” Tester told the Great Falls Tribune after announcing $77 million for Montana posts in the stimulus.

Whitetail, Mont., an unincorporated town with a population of 71, saw only about $63,000 in freight cross its border last year. County unemployment is an enviable 4 percent.

“I think, absolutely, it’s going to create jobs and build the infrastructure,” Tester said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

The Storm Upon Us

One of three possible scenarios is currently being played out in the United States. Obama Administration is the most corrupt, dishonest, and inept Administration that America

The first option, is simply that the Obama Administration is the most corrupt, dishonest, and inept Administration that America has ever been burdened with.

That is the “best case” scenario. Unfortunately, this is the option that I think least likely.

I suppose it is possible that Obama has simply had a phenomenal run of bad luck; that the various bills and laws passed by his Administration have, by some fluke, been accidentally anti-small business, anti-free enterprise, economically suicidal, and have worsened the economic crisis, not ended it.

I might also mention that there has been a, how shall I say this—lackadaisical —attitude towards an American debt of biblical proportions. Obama Administration despises individual freedom, capitalism, free-enterprise

The second option, is that the Obama Administration despises individual freedom, capitalism, free-enterprise, and is hell-bent on transforming the United States into a fascist/communist collective—a regime that will be run by a venal, ruthless, power-hungry elite.

That actually sounds more plausible to me. Obama Administration is part of a global restructuring process, New World Order

The third option is, that the Obama Administration is part of a global restructuring process (New World Order), in which the world will be turned into a fascist/communist collective—run by a venal, ruthless, power-hungry elite.

My guess is—take your pick between options two and three.

If you’re surprised by my analysis, then you haven’t been paying attention to what has happened, and is happening, to the United States.

Let me roll out some facts and figures for you.

The SEIU (Service Employees International Union) is run by Andy Stern, a militant Far-Left thug, and Anna Burger, another Far-Left radical. The SEIU has increased its size and power through, arm-twisting intimidation tactics, and other nefarious means.

Two years ago Obama said before an SEIU rally, “I’ve spent my entire adult life working with SEIU.”

That is not good news. Once you’ve looked into the corruption, ruthlessness, and Far-Left agenda of the SEIU leadership, you will know that it is not good news at all.

Obama has appointed two stalwart friends of SEIU to high level positions: Kathleen Selibus (D-Kansas) as head of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Hilda Solis to head the Department of Labor.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Cool Summer Chilling the Killers?

Homicides are down dramatically in the District and other cities across America at the same time many parts of the nation are experiencing the coolest summer in decades. That has some experts wondering if the big chill is allowing cooler heads to prevail on city streets.

“The hard science is not conclusive,” said George Washington University criminologist Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor. But “it’s probably true that the cooler weather is responsible for the drop in violent crime. Any beat cop will tell you that a cooler summer means safer streets.”

Police leaders like D.C. Chief Cathy Lanier bristle at the suggestion that cool weather is chilling the bad guys out.

“It’s idiotic,” she said. “We’re working really hard.”

But the numbers are intriguing. There have been 89 killings in the District this year. That’s down more than 25 percent from last year — after two years of increases. If the trend continues, the District will have its lowest homicide count since John F. Kennedy took office. That dramatic downtown has occurred as the city has experienced an abnormally cool summer with average temperatures for May, June and July being a full three degrees below average for the past three decades.

Lanier said her efforts to improve the department’s anti-crime technology have allowed her officers to respond quickly to crimes and get the suspects before they cause more harm.

But Butler said Lanier would have a stronger case if hers was the only city experiencing a drop in crime.

“The fact that it’s L.A., New York, Philadelphia and Chicago suggests that it’s not any one police strategy,” he said. “Because all of those cities have different police chiefs and police strategies.”

According to meteorology service Accuweather, cities around the country set record lows more than 3,100 times this summer. July was the coolest measured in the U.S. by the National Weather Service in 15 years. At the same time, crime has dipped nearly everywhere.

A notable exception to the trend is Houston, which remains as soupy as ever but has seen a 11 percent drop in homicides.

Heritage Foundation criminologist Dave Muhlhausen said he “doesn’t buy into” the notion that weather and violence are related.

“I would suspect that there’s a lot of factors. We really don’t understand why homicides dip or increase,” he said.

One factor that is essential, he said, is making arrests.

“The more criminals you put behind bars, the less crime you’re going to have,” he said.

But others say the connection between the weather and violence should not be discounted. Florida International University criminal justice professor Ellen G. Cohn said there was no direct link between weather and homicides, but cooler temperatures often correlated to fewer violent crimes — and even less violent attitudes.

When it’s hot, “horn honking and property crimes are going up, with rape, riots, robberies and 911 calls in general.”


The big chill? At the same time cities are enjoying cool summers, they’re seeing homicides plummet: “ Los Angeles: Homicides down 33 percent (had 40 straight days of below-average temperatures from May to June).

“ St. Louis: Homicides down 29 percent (only three days of 90-degree heat in July).

“ D.C.: Homicides down 26 percent (fewest 90-degree days in May and June — two — since 1985).

“ New York: Homicides down 20 percent (coolest summer in 100 years).

“ Chicago: Homicides down 16 percent (coolest summer in 42 years; went through July without hitting 90 degrees for the first time in a century).

“ Boston: Homicides down 10 percent (coolest June-July since 1903).

“ Philadelphia: Homicides down 8 percent (coolest June and July since 2000).

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Feds Go Hog Wild Promoting Swine-Flu Shots

CDC spends $16 million on ‘outreach’ to convince Americans to get vaccine

With plush swine-flu toys stocked on its gift-shop shelves, citizens earning $50 to attend forums on the virus and an additional $50 for those willing to take a vaccine, it’s a $16 million swine-flu shot bonanza hosted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As part of a massive public relations and research campaign, the CDC has been hosting as many as 10 swine flu forums in nine U.S. cities before Labor Day — and it is shelling out as much as $50,000 for a program that pays citizens $50 when they register early and attend the events.

CDC pays forum attendees

The city of Somerville, Mass., announced it has been selected as one of the 10 national sites. Its full-day “H1N1 vaccination strategy and information session” will take place this Saturday and is open to 100 residents who register. Each participant will also receive a continental breakfast, lunch and snacks. For those who don’t speak English, the events provide interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and Haitian Creole.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Frank’ Democrats Censor GOP Mail

An Arizona congressman says liberals on the “Franking Commission” have deliberately tried to censor mail that conservative Republican House members are attempting to send out to their constituents.

Democrats on the bipartisan Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards have been blocking Republicans from sending out franked mailings to constituents that refer to the cap-and-trade bill as “cap and tax,” the stimulus bill as the “so-called stimulus,” and the healthcare reform bill as “socialized medicine.”

Representative Trent Franks (R-Arizona) says the Franking Commission even told him to stop using the phrase “Democratic majority” in his newsletters, and to use “majority” instead.

“For instance, I can say ‘the Speaker,’ but I can’t say ‘Speaker Pelosi’ because that’s too inflammatory. Well, you know, I understand their problem — they don’t want people to really identify the Democratic Party with Nancy Pelosi,” he notes. “But the point is, we are forced to change our vernacular and how we say things in order to comport with their attitudes and their way of believing [how] we should say it.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Glenn Beck’s Fear of Obama: Seize Power Overnight

Rush: ‘Most dangerous time in my life for freedom and liberty in this country’

Will President Obama “seize power overnight” in a move to consolidate White House control of the U.S. government?

That’s the fear of Fox News anchor Glenn Beck who discussed the issue at length today with another broadcasting powerhouse, radio’s Rush Limbaugh.

“I fear this government, this administration has so much framework already prepared, that they will seize power overnight before anybody even gives it a second thought,” Beck said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Liberal Lies About National Health Care, Part 2

With the Democrats getting slaughtered — or should I say, “receiving mandatory end-of-life counseling” — in the debate over national health care, the Obama administration has decided to change the subject by indicting CIA interrogators for talking tough to three of the world’s leading Muslim terrorists.

Had I been asked, I would have advised them against reinforcing the idea that Democrats are hysterical bed-wetters who can’t be trusted with national defense while also reminding people of the one thing everyone still admires about President George W. Bush.

But I guess the Democrats really want to change the subject. Thus, here is Part 2 in our series of liberal lies about national health care.

6) There will be no rationing under national health care.

Anyone who says that is a liar. And all Democrats are saying it. (Hey, look — I have two-thirds of a syllogism!)

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘More People Were Killed at Chappaquiddick Than at Three Mile Island’ — Car Bumper Sticker Says it All

“Senator, you were expelled from Harvard for cheating, then you left a woman to drown in your car at Chappaquiddick. What makes you think you have what it takes to be President?” That was the opening question of an interview with the late Senator Edward Kennedy during his unsuccessful bid to secure the Democratic nomination for the US presidency. It might equally now serve as an obituary.

The answer to that embarrassing question, of course, can be given in one word: entitlement. The Kennedy dynasty has long assumed a divine right to high office and privilege that accords ill with the spirit of the American constitution. We saw it yet again, earlier this year, with the attempt to shoo-in the totally inexperienced Caroline Kennedy as successor to Hillary Clinton representing New York in the Senate. It failed: the Kennedy clan, as used to be said of effete Chinese dynasties, has exhausted the mandate of heaven.


What is it that motivates people in so-called democratic societies to create reverential myths around hollow idols with feet of clay? America is the one country on earth where only the rich are socialists. That East Coast tribe will now indulge in false hero worship and wild hyperbole about a man who, if his surname had been anything other than Kennedy, would have provoked widespread distaste and social ostracism. This time, the liberal elite is burying not just an individual but the political aspirations of a dynasty whose objectives were incompatible with the best interests of America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Czar Advocating Genocide Against Americans?

On 10 June 2008 at the National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) in Minneapolis, MN, the now Obama FCC “Diversity” Czar Mark Lloyd spoke for the “Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.” Thanks to Glenn Beck, this chilling two-part video on the benefits of using the media to more quickly accomplish one’s goals to oppress and subjugate a country and its people (aka “social change”) has been brought into the light of day.


Lloyd initially speaks casually and then exhibits smiles as he continues when he says: “State radio in Rwanda was taken over by one tribe-one group-and they began to put out propaganda so that the Tutsis were targeted. And what resulted…was essentially genocide in Rwanda. The State, or this particular tribe which controlled the radio, very purposefully moved to ensure they could ‘do things’. Uh, their social change. Uh, in Venezuela and with Chavez —really an incredible revolution ‘democratic’ revolution—to begin to put in place things that are going to have an impact on the people of Venezuela. The property owners and the folks then controlling the media of Venezuela rebelled, worked frankly with folks here in the US government—worked to oust him. But, he came back in another revolution!”

Translation: “We need to take a look at how the Hutus handled their opposition and use it as a potential model for the USA. After all, if those who oppose us are dead they can’t warn the people we’re planning to crush by telling the truth about us. And, we need to use all of the class envy we can! We need to get rid of property ownership—maybe force people out of their homes via too high adjustable rate mortgages so that we can foreclosure on their homes? We MUST Make those who own property the enemies of the State and, if they don’t play ball with us, slaughter ‘em and steal everything they own!”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Media-Government Incest Brothel

America was designed with a watchdog press that the founders believed would naturally allay itself with the citizens against government excess. Why? Because the press was composed of small, individual businesses, most often printers. That’s why the founders specifically protected the press from the government by including it in the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, the founders failed to see several rather nasty developments:

  • The rise of media conglomerates, which absorbed most of the nation’s once-independent voices (which has been encouraged by government);
  • Ongoing incest between the conglomeratized press corps and the government itself (the revolving door);
  • The infestation of the press by special-interest groups, including government itself.

A perfect example of this is Jon Leibowitz, a top federal regulator, and his wife, Ruth Marcus, a columnist for the Washington Post. Of course, they use different last names in real life. Now the federal regulator will be hosting a panel on the press’ role in America. Bloomberg, to its great credit, had the decency to mention the relationship in its reporting on the upcoming conference.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Real Ted Kennedy Legacy

Nevertheless, maybe because of his alcohol-addled brain or his unfulfilled ego, occasionally Ted Kennedy has demonstrated a kind of candor that is in short supply in Washington.

It may have been intellectual frustration that caused Kennedy to admit what he was 14 years ago — and what he remained until his death.

Ted Kennedy always was a socialist — and he actually admitted it on the floor of the Senate Jan. 20, 1995.

I’ve never seen this revelation before, though it has been a matter of public record all these years — published, as it were, in the Congressional Record. I was amazed to find it in a book by Republican political consultant Marc Nuttle called “Moment of Truth.”

Here is how the Kennedy admission came about.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The War on Terror is Over

Shakespeare wrote, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” As we know, that didn’t happen. Four hundred years later, they’re killing us with the smothering pillow of hyper-proceduralism. Now the lawyers are about to smother the war on terror.

This Monday, the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder named a special prosecutor to investigate persons who conducted the CIA’s interrogations in the war on terror, Scotland’s Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill stood before his parliament and gave this defense for releasing convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi:

“It was not based on political, diplomatic or economic considerations. . . . My decision was made following due process, and according to the law of Scotland. I stand by the law and values of Scotland.”

Faced with a similarly fastidious assertion of the law’s triumphal self-regard in “Oliver Twist,” Mr. Bumble replied: “If the law supposed that, the law is a ass-a idiot.” Mr. Bumble added something acutely relevant to what is happening to the war on terror: “The worst I wish the law,” said Mr. Bumble, “is that his eye may be opened by experience-by experience.”

The experience of a world beset by terror eludes the eyes of a Kenny MacAskill, Eric Holder and others in the Obama administration. The rest of us may suffer for it.

In a May speech at the National Archives, President Obama, mirroring Kenny MacAskill’s remarks, said we had to “update our institutions” to deal with terrorism but “do so with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process.”

That “update” is upon us. The smothering pillows have arrived.

Attorney General Holder named Connecticut prosecutor John Durham to conduct an investigation into whether interrogations by CIA employees warrant a criminal inquiry. It has been shown repeatedly the past 25 years that an office of independent counsel or special prosecutor nearly always puts in motion an Inspector Javert-like hunt for an indictable defendant.

Mr. Holder’s justification, that his own reading of the “available facts” gave him no choice, is close to a preordained conclusion that Mr. Durham will cite one of these CIA guys for criminal prosecution.

The day of Mr. Holder’s announcement, CIA Director Leon Panetta said his agency received “multiple written assurances its methods were lawful.” It’s now clear that even playing by the rules cannot stop erosion by legal challenge.

That day also brought the release of CIA Inspector General John Helgerson’s 2004 report on the agency’s detention and interrogation of terror suspects. Both sides to this argument say the report supports their view of the CIA. No matter. What the release of the Helgerson report mainly does is open the dams on detainee lawsuits.

This litigation nightmare, together with the chilling effect of the special prosecutor’s potential indictments, has as its goal making the price of aggressive interrogation too high under any circumstance, including a one-hour-bomb scenario.

To supervise future interrogations, the administration is creating something called a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group. Interrogation techniques will be limited to those in the Army Field Manual or that are “noncoercive,” which suggests more constrained than a big-city police department. Authority is being moved from the CIA to the FBI.

This means that the class of person who blows up skyscrapers, American embassies or the USS Cole would spend less time under a bare light bulb than a domestic robbery suspect. The Los Angeles Times reported in May that the goal of a proposed administration “global justice initiative” would be to get all terror suspects into a U.S. or foreign court.

Eric Holder cited the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Responsibility as influencing his decision to proceed with a CIA special prosecutor. This is the legal office that is expected to release its long-awaited report on whether former Bush Justice lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury should be cited for misconduct for providing the CIA with legal opinions about these interrogations. If, as expected, the OPR cites the lawyers, legal groups will try to disbar them. After that, no lawyer will go near the war on terror.

Individually, some of this may be arguable. In toto, it’s a death sentence for an effective war on terror. It makes what’s left of the war-telephone wiretaps or monitoring money transfers-vulnerable to a steady stream of congressional and legal objection. That lets the Obama administration evade political responsibility by letting others wind down the war on terror.

The message of Scotland’s release and the Holder decision is that the will born in the wake of 9/11 is waning. The war on terror is being downgraded to not much more than tough talk. Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Iranians, not yet converts to the West’s caricature of its own legal traditions, will take note. In time, they will be back. The second war on terror is in the future.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

US Students Under Fire for Anti-Islam Shirts

A handful of school students in the American state of Florida were sent home this week for wearing t-shirts with the words “Islam is of the Devil” printed on the back in red and refusing to change out of them or cover the message.

The controversy started after members of a local church, the Dove World Outreach Center, which printed the shirts, showed up for the first day of school wearing the controversial t-shirts, which officials said violated a ban on clothing that may offend or distract other students and “disrupt the learning process.”

“Students have a right of free speech, and we have allowed students to come to school wearing clothes with messages,” school district staff attorney Tom Wittmer told Florida’s the Gainesville Sun newspaper, adding “but this message is a divisive message that is likely to offend students.”

“The next kid might show up with a shirt saying ‘Christianity is of the Devil,’“ Wittmer said, which Dove church members said they would not like but said every student has the right to do as they please.

Dove’s Senior pastor, Terry Jones, said he believed spreading the church’s message was more important than education and told the paper no local company “had the guts” to print the shirts, forcing him to go online to have them made.

“People can be saved”Gainesville High student, 15-year-old Emily Sapp, was sent home after she refused to change her clothes.

Sapp said she wore the shirt to promote her Christian beliefs, when asked about the offensive statement Sapp said it was aimed at the religion and not its members.

“The people are fine,” the paper quoted her as saying. “The people are people. They can be saved like anyone else.”

The front of the controversial shirts are emblazoned with “Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me,” coupled with “I stand in trust with Dove Outreach Center.”

The anti-Islam message “Islam is of the Devil” is written on the back in bold red letters.

For the president of the Muslim Association of North Central Florida, Saeed R. Khan, the offensive shirts should not be accepted “particularly in a school setting where you are trying to create an atmosphere where people are supposed to respect each other and live with each other, where we have people of every ethnicity and every religion.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

What the President’s Attack on the CIA Really Means

There is now just one group of people exempt from President Obama’s worldwide ban on torture: the men and women of the CIA.

By authorizing Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether a full criminal investigation of CIA employees and contractors is warranted for the manner in which they interrogated captured terrorists, the President has thrown his power and support behind those far-left ideologues — in Congress and elsewhere — who believe that the CIA is a bigger threat to our country than al Qaeda.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

White House Stonewalls on ‘Radical’ Adviser

Won’t explain how admitted ‘rowdy communist’ became ‘green jobs czar’

More than five months after the Obama administration announced the hiring of its “green jobs czar,” Van Jones, the White House has refused to explain whether it knew of Jones admitted black nationalist and radical communist history and just who hired the adviser.

Also questions continue to fester about how Jones, who has an arrest history, passed security clearances for his White House position.

Cliff Kincaid, an editor at Accuracy in Media, attempted to answer some of these questions when he used the Freedom of Information Act in April to request immediate access to all documents relating to the appointment of Jones to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where he serves as special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Trust Probe Into Google Italy

Search engine may have undue influence on online advertising

(ANSA) — Rome, August 27 — Italy’s anti-trust authority has opened a probe to determine whether Google Italy has abused its position as the world’s leading Internet search engine.

The action follows a complaint filed by the Italian newspaper publishers federation FIEG which claims that Google does not allow them a voice in deciding what news from their websites is used by Google News Italia nor how it is used.

According to FIEG, if member sites do not want their news to appear on Google News Italia or if their coverage is not picked up they are automatically excluded from Google’s search engine, by far the most used in the world.

The anti-trust authority said on Thursday that the aim of its probe was to determine whether this practice has a negative impact on the online advertising market.

The probe will be carried out in collaboration with the Finance Guard.

In its complaint, FIEG said that Google News Italia, by choosing what news from other sites it wanted to post on its own site, had a negative impact on the ability of online publishers to attract advertising and investment on members’ home pages.

The Italian news sites, FIEG observed, receive no compensation for the news picked up by Google News Italia and if they do not appear on a Google search they are denied access to thousands of potential ‘visitors’ who generate advertising income.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Baby Boom Pushes Britain’s Population Past 61m in Biggest Jump for Almost Half a Century

A baby boom fuelled by the highest fertility rates in a generation has pushed Britain’s population above 61 million for the first time.

There were 408,000 more people living here in 2008, the Office for National Statistics said.

That takes the total population to 61.4 million — an increase of more than two million over 2001.

It is the first time in nearly a decade that natural changes to the population caused by shifts in birth and death rates have overtaken immigration as the biggest factor affecting population growth.

But immigration is still impacting on population growth because 56% of the increase in births last year was from non-UK born mothers.

The vast wave of immigrants who came here from Eastern Europe after the EU expanded in 2004 has slowed to a trickle, as the recession took hold, the figures showed.

Arrivals from Eastern Europe fell by more than a quarter — 28 per cent — from 109,000 to 79,000 during 2008.

More Eastern European immigrants went home in the same period — up by more than 50% to 66,000.

Overall migration levels — the numbers arriving minus those leaving — fell 44per cent to 118,000 — the lowest since EU enlargement.

Chief statistician Karen Dunnell said the emigration was probably due to the economic downturn.

She said: ‘You have to say that probably the unemployment and the economic situation, given that quite a lot of people from the A8 (Eastern European) countries are coming to work, is probably having an impact.’

The last time there was a growth of this size was in 1962, when the population rose by 484,000. The largest ever increase was in the 1947 post-war baby boom when population levels grew by 551,000.

The surge in Eastern Europeans returning home and the decline in arrivals meant they added only 13,000 to the total population last year.


The ageing population meant there were a record number of mid-octogenarians. There are now 1.3 million over 85s, making up 2% of the total.

Statisticians said the increase in birth rates was caused in part by higher fertility rates among British nationals, and in part by immigration, as foreign-born mothers tend to have more children. There are also more women of child bearing age.

There were 708,711 babies born in the UK last year, an increase of 18,698 on a year earlier, and almost twice the rise seen at the start of the decade.

ONS statistician Roma Chappell highlighted the significance of the shift: “That’s actually quite exciting because it’s the highest fertility rate we have seen in the UK for some time.

“You have to go all the way back to 1993 to find a time when the fertility rate went higher.

“For the first time in a decade natural change exceeded net migration as the main driver of population change.”

“Prior to 1998 natural change was higher than net migration. This isn’t a new phenomenon for the UK.

“If you go back it was quite common for natural change to exceed net migration as a driver of population growth.”

She added: “The balance is still positive so the population is still growing due to net migration but the increase is the lowest it has been since accession in 2004.”

“What has driven this is the emigration of non-British citizens especially citizens of the A8 countries.”

The population is now growing by a rate of 0.7% every year, more than double the rate in the 1990s and three times the level of the 1980s.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the figures showed migrants were coming here to work then returning home.

He said: “The fall in net migration is further proof that migrants come to the UK for short periods of time, work, contribute to the economy and then return home.

“Our new flexible points based system gives us greater control on those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain needs can come.

“Britain’s borders are stronger than ever before. Our border controls in northern France are stopping record numbers of migrants reaching our shores — 28,000 in 2008.

“We are rolling out ID cards to foreign nationals, we have introduced civil penalties for those employing illegal workers and from the end of next year our electronic border system will monitor 95% of journeys in and out of the UK.”

“The British people can be confident that immigration is under control.”

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Staying Together for the Children

These days could be considered as the Flemish-National season. Last weekend there was the ‘IJzerwake’, a pilgrimage where Flemish-nationalists remember the Flemish soldiers that were discriminated within the Belgian army during the First World War and claim an independent Flemish state. Next week there is another — and less radical — pilgrimage, the ‘IJzerbedevaart’.

On September 6th, there is ‘De Gordel’, a day when thousands of Flemings walk and bike in the green Flemish communities around Brussels. Most people see it as a sports event, but it originated as sort of a Flemish-nationalist protest march and a lot of French speaking people keep on seeing it that way.

At the IJzerwake, last Sunday a strange thing happened. Guest speaker Frans Crols, a former editor in chief of the business weekly Trends, asked the militants in front of him to ‘let Brussels go’ in order to turn Flanders into an independent state.

In the Flemish-nationalist tradition this is not done. Historically Brussels was a Flemish city, not a French speaking one, and it is nowadays completely surrounded by the Flemish region. But I think what Crols said is interesting, because it makes clear what the Belgian problem is about.

The big difficulty about Belgian politics is that there is a catch 22. There are two problems. If you try to solve one, you increase the other.

Problem 1 is that Belgium isn’t a democracy, it’s two democracies. Flemings and French speaking Belgians don’t watch the same television channels, they don’t read the same newspapers and magazines and for that reason don’t have a clue what is going on in the other part of the country.

Add to that fact that Flemings (I’m making abastraction of the situation in Brussels for a moment) can only vote for Flemish politicians, who for that reason have no incentive whatsoever to communicate with the French speaking part of the country and you get the picture.

Add to this that three out of four Flemings votes on a political party that is center or right wing, and that three out of four French speaking voters vote on a left wing or center party and the picture gets even clearer. You have two public opinions, each with its group of politicians reacting to it.

You could solve this problem by splitting the country.

But there is also Problem 2. Brussels is the capital of the country, it hosts the headquarters of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the NATO, and it creates one fifth of Belgian GDP. It’s the only part of the country where French speaking and Dutch speaking Belgians have to live together. This has led to an extremely difficult organization of government, which is a waste of money and squanders the big potential of the city.

The thing is, if you want to make Brussels work, you need Flemings and French speaking people to cooperate. You don’t need the country to split, you need it to reunite again.

When a new crisis makes Belgian politics shake, foreign correspondents often ask if the country will split. The answer is always no, because neither the Flemings nor the French speaking politicians wants to lose Brussels. In a way, Belgium is like a married couple who are fed up with each other and want to divorce, but stay together for the children.

What Frans Crols at the IJzerwake said was: maybe we have to say: ‘you can have the children. I’m off.’

— Bart Haeck

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Britons Accused Over Saddam Oil

Two British oil traders have been charged with breaching United Nations sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Aftab Al Hassan, 65, from north London, appeared at City of London Magistrates on Thursday accused of funnelling $1.6m into accounts controlled by Saddam.

A second man, Riad el Tahir, 70, from Esher, Surrey, appeared on 19 August. Neither man has yet entered a plea.

Their arrests followed an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into misuse of Iraq’s oil-for-food programme.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, triggering the first Gulf War, the UN imposed strict sanctions on the country.

In an effort to help ordinary citizens, the UN set up the oil-for-food programme to allow Iraq to sell oil in exchange for some badly needed humanitarian goods.

But Saddam Hussein’s government allegedly embezzled millions of dollars from the scheme, causing major embarrassment to the UN.


Mr Al Hassan, from Finchley, is accused of 13 counts of breaching sanctions between January 2001 and April 2002.

Des Jenson, Mr Hassan’s lawyer, told the Financial Times newspaper his client denied all the allegations.

“Our client’s defence is that any payment he made was perfectly legal,” he said.

Mr Al Hassan’s case was adjourned for four weeks.

The charges against both men relate to their activities as sole traders in the oil market.

In 2005, a UN report named more than 2,000 companies from 40 countries that allegedly paid “commission” fees to the Iraqi government in the 1990s.

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

Denmark: Neighbours Turn Nasty

One family’s aggressive behaviour is forcing 23 other families out of an apartment block in Helsingør

A tiff between neighbours has turned into a horror movie for 23 families who face being moved out of an apartment building in Helsingør due to the aggressive behaviour of one other family.

Life has reportedly been hell for the 23 families since the family in question moved into Lejerbo housing association’s Unit 32 rental flats on Belvederevej last October.

The residents have allegedly faced harassment, violence and threats from the family on a daily basis.

The conflict peaked on Monday while the family accused of the rotten behaviour was entertaining relatives. Their children reportedly began throwing rocks and spitting at other families in the building’s playground area. When they were told to stop, their parents came down to the playground armed with knives and clubs.

A melee ensued and two residents were injured and taken to hospital, while one man was arrested.

Threats have since followed the incident, including the Lebanese family spray painting, ‘We’ve killed a man. Watch your step. Ha ha!’ on the sidewalk outside the building.

But instead of the aggressive family being forced to move out, Lejerbo housing association has instead volunteered to relocate the other families at no charge. The reason is that the one family cannot be evicted until the matter is settled through a court order.

Birgitte Wittendorff, head of Helsingør’s social services department, said the city did not have the power to negotiate solutions in household or neighbour disputes. But the city would step in and evict the family as soon as it had the legal means to do so.

The 23 families previously filed their case with the Tenant Complaints Board and the family was ‘evicted’ by the board — a decision that must be upheld in the court before it can be actualised.

In the meantime, many of the building’s residents were reportedly living in fear, especially those who testifying in the eviction case.

Lejerbo’s attorney said he was trying to get the case heard in the courts as soon as possible, but that could take weeks or even months.

The association’s Steffen Boel Jørgensen said it was ‘ridiculous that the 23 families had to move, but tenants were calling up and they had been forced out of their apartment to seek refuge with family and friends.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Bishop: State and Church Division Likely

Copenhagen’s retiring bishop says that pressure on the national Evangelical-Lutheran church will be so great in coming years that a division of church and state is likely.

Copenhagen’s Bishop Erik Norman Svendsen foresees a division between the State and the national Danish Evangelical-Lutheran Church.

“I don’t think that the Church can maintain its special status,” Norman Svendsen says in an interview with Kristeligt Dagblad, adding that society has changed.

“We have suffered a loss of traditions, we have a lot of citizens of other religious affiliations. We also have a lot of members of Parliament who are not members of the Church. Almost all of the political youth organisations support a division of the Church and State,” Norman Svendsen says.

He adds he believes that the constitutional wording that the Evangelical-Lutheran Church is the Danish national church will be removed from the constitution at its next amendment, although the development need not be negative.

“The Swedish church did actually lose a lot of members when it was split off from the State at the beginning of the millennium. But I feel that it became more confident as a church,” Normal Svendsen says.

“The church can and must get used to having to take more decisions, share funds and shoulder responsibility itself,” the bishop says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Drug Addict Orgy of Violence

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Cultural enrichment?]

A couple kidnapped on the island of Mors were confronted with an overdose, a chain saw and forced to dig their own graves. Six arrested.

Five men and a woman are appearing in a remand hearing in Nykøbing on the island of Mors charged with attempted murder, aggravated violence and kidnapping following an orgy of violence against a couple over some missing jewellery.

The entire group is known to the police and said to be part of the drug addict environment on Mors.

“The attackers threatened the couple with a syringe with something in it and said it was an overdose. The victims were stuck in the arm several times, but they apparently couldn’t hit a blood vessel,” says Chief Inspector Andreas Søgaard of the Central and Western Jutland Police Force.

Monday The couple — a 49-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man — were forced into a vehicle and abducted on Monday and taken to a house near Eslev where they were abused for hours.

“This was extreme violence,” Søgaard says.

Jewellery Police say the abuse was the result of claims that the couple had stolen jewellery from two of the assailants. The jewellery was said to be private possessions and not the proceeds from a robbery.

The couple were subjected to threats for hours, which apart from the threat of an overdose included threats of being sawed in two with a chain saw and having their fingers cut off. The couple was also forced to dig their own grave. The man was repeatedly branded with hot tools.

Thought they would die The couple were first able to escape and call for help on Tuesday morning.

“They clearly thought they were going to die. They are now in contact with their own doctor and a crisis psychologist,” Søgaard says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Police Survey: Officers Must Intervene to Curb Public Disorder

A survey carried out by the Finnish police indicates many people hope officers would intervene to prevent disorder in the country’s towns and cities.

The police security survey reveals that residents of larger urban centers are particularly concerned about disorderly youths and vandalism.

Regional differences were observed, though. In the Pirkanmaa District, young people consider themselves to be safer than older people. However, in Helsinki, over 40 percent of people surveyed considered disorderly behavior by youths to be either a moderate or severe nuisance.

A surprise finding was among young adults who were disturbed by the misbehavior of teenage youths.
However, only a quarter of senior citizens were perturbed by teens behaving loudly in public places.

Helsinki residents said litter, vandalism and public drinking all contributed to a feeling of insecurity.

The survey indicated no general shift in public opinion either towards the police or in attitudes of public safety. Previous surveys were conducted in 2003 and 2006.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: YLE Survey: Teachers Sometimes Display Racism

Teachers in Finnish schools are sometimes perceived to behave in a racist manner. Many immigrant children perceive aspects of teachers’ behaviour to be racist, even when no such intention is involved.

In an attitude survey conducted by YLE last week, directors of multicultural meeting points around Finland related immigrants’ experiences of racist behaviour in schools today. According to the findings, racist name-calling is often not recognised as such; in the upper grades issues such as bullying are not taken up, and even some teachers continue to use racially charged expressions.

Researcher Anna Rastas of Tampere University is not surprised at the racist attitudes among teachers.

“I train many teachers, and I have met attitudes, actions, and manners of speech, which I feel were racist”, Rastas says.

In her view the biggest problem is that teachers often do not recognise racism, and that people working in schools do not know how immigrants experience the words spoken by a teacher.

“There are many teachers in Finland who have not needed to ponder racism in their own lives, and who have not encountered these matters in their teacher training either”, Rastas says.

“Teachers Sometimes Crush Immigrants’ Ambitions”

After living in Finland for six years, 22-year-old Najma Abdirahman nods when asked if there is racism in Finnish schools, and if teachers display prejudice. Abdirahman says that immigrant children are often blamed first in cases of bullying.

Abdirahman also says that teachers often do not encourage immigrant children to excel.

“Some children have been told, for instance, that there is no point for them to dream of a career in medicine, because they are immigrants. ‘you shouldn’t have such expectations’ a teacher might say.”

Union Leader Wants More Multicultural Training

Erkki Kangasniemi, the Chairman of the Trade Union of Education in Finland, does not see racism among teachers to be a serious problem. Kangasniemi believes that the issue partly involves misunderstandings. However, he admits that teachers need more training in multicultural issues.

“In spite of all our demands, the employers are not investing in these kinds of matters. Perhaps today, these kinds of things are taken up in teacher training to some degree, but 20 years ago, this kind of thing did not exist.

Somali-born Nadma Abdirahman says that Finns should be getting used to foreigners by now, and the fact that this is not the case is even more surprising when teachers are involved.

“Racism from a teacher or a police officer is worse than when it comes from someone on the street. A teacher should be a person who promotes fair play in this world,” Abdirahman says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Helsinki Councillor Jussi Halla-Aho Attracts Dozens of Supporters to Courthouse

Prosecutor demands suspended prison sentence on incitement charges

An unusually large crowd of fans had come to support the Helsinki councillor Jussi Halla-aho (True Finns/Independent) in court proceedings that began on the fourth floor of the Helsinki District courthouse yesterday — Tuesday. Most of the supporters were youngish adult men.

Halla-aho is being charged at the Helsinki District Court with violation of the freedom of worship and incitement to racial hatred.

The charges were sparked by Halla-aho’s Internet blog writings more than a year ago.

In his blog entry, Halla-aho made two statements that violated the law, the prosecutor said.

In one of the entries Halla-aho linked Islam to paedophilia, and in another he commented that spongeing off taxpayers could be one of the genetic features of the Somalis.

As many as 50 people would have liked to get into the courtroom to follow the hearing. Most of them were supporters of Halla-aho, while some were members of his family and others were representatives of the media. However, only 30 people could be seated in the courtroom.

According to the prosecutor, Halla-aho publicly insulted and disgraced things that the Islam communities regard as sacred.

Halla-aho’s remark concerning the Somalis was discriminatory and strongly generalised, insulting their human dignity, the prosecutor noted.

“This is bigotry-related xenophobic demagogy”, declared district prosecutor Simo Kolehmainen, who is to conduct the case, even though the charges against Halla-aho were initially pressed by Deputy Prosecutor General Jorma Kalske.

In the prosecutor’s opinion the court should consider passing a suspended prison sentence, if the defendant is found guilty as charged.

However, prison sentences are very rare in connection with crimes involving freedom of speech. In such cases the court normally imposes a pecuniary penalty following a guilty verdict.

Halla-aho pleaded not guilty, responding to the charges without a lawyer.

In Halla-aho’s view, the prosecutor had misinterpreted his Internet blog writings, taking extracts from the factual texts inappropriately.

The purpose of his writings was to discuss freedom of speech sarcastically, while commenting on the fact that the media and authorities treat people unequally, Halla-aho argued.

The remarks about Islam and Somalis were just illustrative examples, Halla-aho claimed.

The Helsinki District Court is to give its decision on the matter in two weeks.

Last autumn, the national women’s organisation of the Green League Party Vihreät Naiset (“Green Women”) filed a report of an offence against Jussi Halla-aho over his Internet blog writings, in which he talked about immigrants and rapes.

While investigating the matter, the police read Halla-aho’s blog a little more thoroughly, and eventually the actual charges were pressed as a result of another piece of writing.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Academic Pressured by “Useful Idiots” During Finlandisation Period

Tauno Tiusanen saw decay of Soviet system before recognising it was politically acceptable

Tauno Tiusanen was the Professor Emeritus at the universities of Glasgow and Lappeenranta, who brought upon himself reactions of disgust and horror ever since he was a young scholar in the late 1970s, by saying what everyone else could have seen if only they had dared look. The emperor had no clothes.

The official truth proclaimed by Moscow spoke that Marxism-Leninism had finally broken the obstacles to human happiness. In the Soviet system social equality, a harmony of nationalities, prosperity, enduring peace, and a dazzling economic growth were being implemented without the ecological disaster typical of capitalist exploitation.

Tiusanen is part of the school of comparative economics, which saw as its mission the examination of the reality of the Soviet Union, using the same scale that Western research examines all other realties.

The method showed that the prevailing reality of the Soviet system was one of psychological and physical terror, oppression aimed at the destruction of minority nationalities, material want, technological backwardness, totalitarian militarism, the waste of natural resources, and the destruction of the environment.

In the West, all of this was no more than an observation confirming old experience-based information. Orwellian terror and blatant propaganda have managed to stifle human thinking in the past as well.

But when Tiusanen put forward these observations of his in Finland during the Cold War, it was seen as a sacrilege and a threat to the nation. It simply was not possible for some whipper-snapper with a master’s degree to know more than the top leadership of a superpower, which had good will toward Finland.

It was not only the fundamentalist communists who felt this way. Many career-oriented conservatives and bottom-line oriented businessmen with a vested interest in trade with the Soviet Union felt this way.

Tiusanen faced difficulties in Finland. He made his way into the core of an international research community in comparative economics, got his doctorate, and was invited to one of the leading institutions in the field, Glasgow University, as a professor.

Tiusanen established an extensive network of researchers in the field, some of whom were also in the Soviet Union. He travelled all around the Soviet block, and also collected information from the grass roots.

His message did not become more moderate, but it did get some international resonance. Attitudes of Finnish experts began to change. Tiusanen became the attraction of seminars held behind closed doors on trade with the east, but that was hardly ever mentioned.

The most enlightened journalists began to use Tiusanen as a source of information, but his name, which raised the wrath of some, was often not mentioned in the stories. He could only be interviewed for current affairs programmes of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) with the specific permission of the company’s director-general.

Tiusanen had a group of supporters who understood him. Some of the names were surprising. In the late 1980s President Mauno Koivisto invited him into his background groups evaluating developments in the east. The most positive evaluation of Tiusanen’s books in the early 1990s was in Kansan Uutiset, the organ of the moderate majority faction of the Finnish Communist Party.

Tiuisanen has much to say in his book, which disperses the structure of the densely-written work somewhat. A determined rewrite, or even just a tough edit to eliminate repetitions would have done much good.

Nevertheless, Tiusanen is able to describe the theoretical structures and development of the Soviet system and its economy with an unusual degree of clarity. The Soviet system was not a creation of Karl Marx, but rather one of Josif Stalin. It was only called Marxism-Leninism.

The Soviet satellites were not monolithic constructions. The differences between the Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, and Polish systems both with the Soviet system, and with each other are dramatic to read. There are subtleties even in totalitarianism.

Tiusanen was pained by the mindless attitudes of Finnish superficial politics and the media. On the other hand, the attitude of Soviet officials toward this somewhat odd researcher was primarily one of concerned interest.

Quite a few officials of a number of socialist countries were buzzing around Tiusanen, trying to guide the victim of capitalist indoctrination to see the light.

Tiusanen describes in a delectable manner, how political operatives of those countries, who made a living of lying, would squirm on the inside, as not all of them were stupid. They knew who was really right.

Tiusanen never received actual threats from his foreign minders. The pressure was usually in the form of either friendly-sounding advice, or at times arrogant attempts at censorship. Attempts to silence him, and death threats came from Finnish zealots. Tiusanen revels in referring to them as useful idiots, just as the great Lenin once taught.

Tiusanen is burdened by the legacy of Finlandisation to the extent that he does not mention any of them by name.

Judging from the conditions described, one could guess that one of those who tried to shut him up is a minister in the present government [see link].

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Germany: Schäuble Sees No Increased Terrorist Threat

Interior Ministry Wolfgang Schäuble on Thursday downplayed the threat of an imminent terrorist attack in Germany before the general election in September.

“We have no knowledge of any concrete plans for an attack,” Schäuble told the daily newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt.

The minister also rejected, however, suggestions made by the opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP) that the government’s repeated terror warnings lead to a de-sensitisation of the German people.

“Germany lies at a crossroads for international terrorism. Citizens have a right to be informed on this matter by security forces. If I know that terrorists are considering whether it would be possible to bomb Germans out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible, then I have to take their debate seriously,” Schäuble said.

The minister from the conservative Christian Democrats also urged changing the German constitution to allow the army greater powers in the struggle against international terrorism.

“At the moment the police are responsible, by law,” said Schäuble.

“But there can be places just as dangerous abroad as there are at home — places in which the operations of the army should be allowed to compliment the work of the police. For that, we have to give the army the right foundations by changing the constitution.”

But such a change faces resistance from the centre-left Social Democrats and the smaller opposition parties in parliament. Schäuble insisted, though, that he was in agreement about the matter with his fellow conservative Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Germany: Muslim Group Fields Candidates in Local Elections

Under the motto “United, not Divided”, the first Muslim voters association in Germany was formally launched in Bonn on June 30.

Two months later, 32 candidates from the so-called “Alliance for Peace and Fairness” are on the ballot for the former German capital’s upcoming municipal elections.

At the center of their campaign is a contentious issue that the candidates themselves know well from their own experience: integration. And they believe they have something unique to offer if elected to public office.

“On this issue, I think we are very competent, because we have an immigrant background and we are more familiar with the problems of these people,” says Asuman Bayraci, one of eight women candidates for the Muslim Alliance. “We know both cultures very well. We are German — most of us were born here or at least grew-up here. But, of course, we also know the culture of our parents.”

Not a Muslim-only party

However, leading candidate and alliance chairman, Haluk Yildiz, stresses that, unlike some other Muslim groups, the Alliance for Peace and Fairness is not out to promote a Muslim agenda. He says their platform is to promote dialogue on important issues for all of Bonn’s residents.

“We understand that integration is an issue that effects all of society, and finding a solution shouldn’t be left solely to immigrants. Instead, everyone should get involved,” says Yildiz.

The Muslim Council in Bonn, founded three years ago, initiated the Muslim voters’ association after members realized that many of the issues they faced were part of broader societal problems, and could not be solved by Muslims alone. They also felt their concerns were not being heard clearly enough by the broader public.

“The main idea here is that we have to create a platform where we can all sit around a table and come up with solutions together. We don’t want immigrants to be talked about — but, rather to be talked to — so they can participate in discussions about integration,” Yildez explained.

Integration must be promoted

Despite being one year too young to vote, 15-year-old Matthias Kloeckner believes the issue of integration should receive more attention from politicians.

“Because our world is becoming more integrated and we have to live together in our globalized world, we can no longer have a “me-first” attitude,” says Kloeckner. “The nationalist mentality doesn’t work anymore. It prevents us from finding answers to issues like integration. I don’t think any of the political parties have really taken this up.”

Why not join a German party?

However, some are very skeptical of a Muslim political party. Critics argue that since Muslims participate in German life and are part of German society, they should be active in existing political parties, not creating their own.

“I think that the Alliance for Peace and Fairness should not be a party primarily for Muslims, but for everybody,” says Kemal Astare while attending a campaign rally.

As part of their campaign manifesto, the Muslim Alliance says it rejects any form of discrimination, terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism. The alliance, which consists of some 50 members so far, is also calling on city authorities to hire more people with an immigrant background and to include training courses on intercultural communication for the city staff.

Though the party is still new, the abolition of the five percent vote threshold means that the Alliance for Peace and Fairness stands a good chance of picking up a number of seats in Bonn’s local elections on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ghosts of Empire Haunting Europe

Europe was supposed to have consigned national minority questions to history. A spat between Hungary and Slovakia over the last few days, slight in itself, shows otherwise. It illuminates a wider trend: Europe’s peace-building project is flagging, just as the issue of national minorities is returning on the continent’s borderlands.

On Monday, Slovakia’s ambassador was called in by the foreign ministry of Hungary, a fellow EU member, to explain why Slovakia had refused entry to Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom a few days earlier, turning him back as he crossed the Danube to the Hungarian-speaking town of Komarno.

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico claimed Mr Solyom’s visit — to attend the unveiling of a statue of Hungary’s founder Saint Stephen — was intended to stir up trouble among Slovakia’s Hungarian minority (10 per cent of the total). Its timing — on the anniversary of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia in which Hungarian forces took part — was insensitive. Mr Fico warned of the risk of a “violation of Slovakia’s sovereignty”.

The spat has a hinterland: Budapest has long sought to strengthen ties with Magyar kin in neighbouring Romania and Slovakia, granting them special rights in Hungary proper. Bratislava sees this as revanchist, reminiscent of interwar German policy in the Sudetenland. But the proximate cause of tension is a harsh Slovak law, to enter force next week, imposing swingeing fines for breaches of vague rules on promoting Slovakian. Hungarian-speakers say this contravenes their linguistic rights.

Komarno is not Mostar; this is not the Balkans. But the row raises questions about the Schengen agreement (supposed to open most European borders), the OSCE (unable to defuse the dispute) and the EU (which refused to get involved). It overshadowed the arrest of Hungarians for the savage murder of six Roma — Europe’s most oppressed minority. EU membership has internalised these problems, not solved them.

Things are much worse to the south and east. There, EU enlargement has stalled. Russia uses minorities as stalking horses and stooges to assert itself in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics and the Caucasus. The Kremlin has proposed a law facilitating armed intervention to defend Russian citizens abroad.

Complacency on minorities is dangerous. Problems can gestate for years before exploding. Europe must demand protection of minorities — inside and outside the EU — but strongly criticise their use as proxies by meddlesome outsiders.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Greenland May Turn Back on Climate

Greenland is considering joining the G-77 countries rather than Denmark at the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

Greenland is considering allowing the G-77 countries rather than Denmark to represent it at the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit in December unless it receives a status as a developing country with reduced requirements on CO2 emissions, according to a report in Berlingske Tidende.

“Greenland reserves the right to stay outside an agreement if the conditions of the agreement result in economic sanctions on developing countries such as Greenland who are trying to develop their peoples and societies,” Greenland’s Prime Minister Kupik Kleist tells Berlingske Tidende.

He adds, however, that he hopes that Denmark and Greenland can reach a mutually acceptable agreement before the summit. Greenland is not an internationally accepted sovereign country and as such is represented by Denmark in international negotiations.

Under an agreement with Denmark in 2001 Greenland must reduce its CO2 emissions by eight percent from 2008-2012 relative to a base year of 1990. But in order to develop the territory, Greenland, which is as large as all of Europe put together and with a population of only 50,000, wants to emit more CO2.

Denmark, however, is currently unwilling to allow Greenland to emit more CO2 unless its industries compensate in the form of expensive CO2 quotas.

According to the report, Greenland’s CO2 emissions per capita are almost the same as Denmark’s, although there are said to be fears that when raw material extraction in Greenland takes off, emissions per capita will increase dramatically. Plans, for example, for an aluminium smelter are said to be likely to increase CO2 emissions by 75 percent.

Greenland, much of which is covered by perma-frost, is frequently used by the Danish government as an example of the effects of global warming on arctic regions.

Despite the threats, however, Denmark’s Conservative Party Energy and Greenland Spokesman Per Ørum Jørgensen says it is ‘hypothetical’ that Greenland and Denmark will fail to reach agreement before the Climate Summit.

“We will find a solution,” the junior governing coalition partner spokesman tells Berlingske Tidende.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Have You Heard About the Company That Runs Britain?

It inspects schools, trains our armed forces, helps protect our borders, maintains our nuclear weapons, runs our trains and operates our prisons.

Most of the public will never have heard of Serco, a FTSE 100 company that does all of the above and more.

Led by South African Chris Hyman, Serco is also making money doing it and today underlined it is proving one of the recession winners. Profits in the first six months of the year — one of the toughest the UK economy has faced for decades — jumped 33pc to £83.4m.

However, Serco’s journey into the DNA of Britain’s public infrastructure, like those of rival support services companies Capita and Interserve, began before the recession arrived.

All have benefited from the growing culture of outsourcing services under Labour, and Serco expects this trend to continue as the gaping hole in the public finances forces the Government to cut back.

Serco has secured a record number of contracts in 2009 so far, worth £4bn, as its revenues climbed 30pc to £1.95bn.

The deals includes a contract to design, build and operate Boris Johnson’s cycle hire scheme for London and to operate two new prisons at Belmarsh in London and Maghull in Liverpool.

These come on top of Serco’s existing services, which include operating London’s Docklands Light Railway, running the Northern Rail and Merseyrail train networks, providing the Ministry of Defence with air surveillance and control systems, and delivering infrastructure and intelligence to the UK Border Agency.

To complete the list, Serco also has a six-year contract with Ofsted to run inspections in the Midlands at schools and further education colleges. In defence, the company is battling to win the rights to run the Army’s recruitment programme and already helps to train armed forces about using Britain’s fleet of aircraft, such as the Chinook and Apache helicopters.

In partnership with Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering, Serco also manages the Atomic Weapons Establishment, which provides and maintains Britain’s atomic warheads.

Revenues from civil government work increased 49pc in the period and a bullish Serco expects this trend to continue, giving it even more control of Britain’s infrastructure. The company estimates that local authorities have endured a £4bn deficit in income for over the last two years as a result of the recession and that, by 2012 it will have revenues of £5bn.

In the results, Mr Hyman says: “The financial crisis and subsequent economic slowdown means that governments around the world are contending with increasing demand for high quality services whilst also facing a sharp deterioration in public finances. They continue to experience growing demand for quality services from their citizens.

“We believe this is also leading to a greater acceptance of innovative ways of achieving these changes, a broader range of markets to be addressed, and an increase in the size and term of change programmes in order to achieve the scale of efficiencies required.

Not surprisingly, the shares rose 4pc following the results.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Hungary: ‘We Can Either Set Up an Army or Flee’

Roma Killings Expose Social Tensions in Hungary

Four neo-Nazis were arrested in recent days for a spate of horrific killings of Roma in Hungary, where economic woes and the rise of race-bating right-wing parties has exacerbated existing ethnic tensions. Now, the Roma minority is moving to organize its defense.

The men of the Roma community in Gyöngyöspata take turns patrolling their neighborhood. Every night at 6 p.m. they go around the village in two cars, driving very slowly through the winding streets where the Roma live.

“The houses without fences are the most vulnerable,” Tamás Bangó, a large and talkative man who is part of the vigilante group in Gyöngyöspata, said while driving through the village. “It gives people a sense of security to know that we’re out there.”

Nine Attacks

Between the front seats he had an expandable metal baton and a knife. “I have never had to use them, but I’m ready,” Bangó said. He emphasized that his group stays within the limits of the law. The group’s most powerful weapon is the mobile phone.

On the surface there seemed to be little here to warrant such vigilance. In the twilight, the detached homes on the edge of this sleepy village, an hour’s drive northeast of Budapest, looked as peaceful as could be.

But the Roma community in Hungary is frightened after a recent series of killings. Six Roma have been killed in nine attacks since November.

The latest incident occurred on Aug. 3, when a Roma woman, Maria Balogh, was killed in her sleep and her 13-year-old daughter seriously injured in the town of Kisleta in eastern Hungary.

In February, a father and his five-year-old son were shot dead when they ran from their house in Tatarszentgyörgy in central Hungary after it had been set on fire.

Last Friday, police arrested four men suspected of being behind the Roma killings. On Tuesday, police said they had found the DNA of two of the men at several of the murder sites. They said the murders were racially motivated and had been carefully planned. According to the Hungarian media they had swastikas tattooed on their bodies and they were known as Roma-haters.

The attacks have exposed and stoked up the growing social tensions within Hungary.

Growing Segregation

In the kitchen of a house belonging to János Farkas, the head of the Roma self-government in the region, a group of men were talking agitatedly. “It may seem peaceful in Hungary,” said Farkas, a small man with a bristly moustache and a sleeveless Puma shirt. “But at the same time children are being brutally murdered. We have to organize our defense.”

Despite a lack of reliable statistics, there are many signs that the divide between Roma and non-Roma in Hungary is widening.

“The segregation is growing,” said János Ladányi, a professor at Budapest’s Corvinus University who specializes in the Roma. Under communism everybody in Hungary had a job and the social differences were manageable. But since the 1990s, many low-skilled unemployed have been pushed out of the cities to so-called “ghetto villages,” further reducing their chances of finding jobs. In this category the elderly and the Roma are overrepresented.

As the Hungarian population ages and thins out, the young Roma population is growing, said Ladányi. On top of the structural problems come discrimination and the urge to look for a scapegoat. The economic crisis only serves to enhance the problem.

During the European Parliament elections in June the far-right party Jobbik got nearly 15 percent of the vote in Hungary. Jobbik’s main campaign promise was a tough approach of “gypsy criminality.”

The Hungarian Guard, a recently banned paramilitary group linked to Jobbik, regularly marches through Roma neighborhoods in their black-and-white uniforms. According to the European Roma Rights Center, the group has also turned up in parts of Romania where a Hungarian minority is having problems with the Romanians.

‘They’re Taking Over’

“They are unstoppable,” said Tomás Polgár, who goes by the alias Tomcat. Polgár is the man behind Bombagyar (bomb factory), the most popular blog in Hungary. He makes a living by printing t-shirts among other things. His last order was from the Hungarian Guard. He held up a black t-shirt with a large silver lion on it as young men with broad shoulders and short hair drifted in and out of his office.

“The gypsies only have themselves to blame,” said Polgár. “They are criminals and they are a threat to us, the majority. They make more children, they’re taking over.”

Polgár said he doesn’t see killing as the answer. The superior Hungarians have to take the Roma by the hand like children and “teach them how to behave”. But in the short term he foresees more violence, with casualties on both sides. “It’s a war,” he said.

Viktória Mohácsi, a Hungarian Roma and until June a member of the European Parliament, agreed. “I feel like I’m in a war,” she said with teary eyes. Just that morning she had received another death threat. “I get more than a thousand threatening e-mails every day.”

The Roma are organizing themselves, Mohácsi said, and they are using the wakes for the murder victims to do so. “Roma leaders call me up and say they want to organize against the neo-Nazis. But what do they expect me to do? I’m a woman who weighs 40 kilograms and has no weapons or money.”

Still, she admitted, there are not too many options. “We can either set up an army or flee.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi-Linked Teen Upset by Daughter’s Remarks

Naples, 25 August (AKI) — Noemi Letizia, the teenage lingerie model linked to Italy’s scandal-plagued prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has described as “unkind” remarks made by his daughter Barbara in a recent magazine interview that she dated old men.

“I have never frequented old people — not in the unkind way she meant,” Letizia told journalists.

“What does it mean to ‘frequent’ the elderly? I also ‘frequent’ my grandparents,” Letizia said, quoted by the Italian daily, La Repubblica.

She was speaking to journalists late Monday at the Valva international short film festival in the southern province of Salerno, where she won an award for her role in the short film, Scattomatto, directed by Carlo Fumo.

Few people were reported to have attended the award ceremony in the village of Valva.

La Repubblica cited an unnamed local resident as saying Letizia had wrecked Berlusconi’s marriage with his estranged wife Veronica Lario.

Asked if Berlusconi had congratulated her on her win, Letizia said: “He has or he will do — I’m not saying which, as these are personal questions.”

In an interview with the Italian edition of Vanity Fair earlier this month, Barbara Berlusconi commented on her father’s alleged relationship with Letizia, saying: “That astonished me and it is not something I can relate to. I don’t go out with old men.”

After Berlusconi was pictured attending her 18th birthday party in late April, Letizia told the media she called the prime minister ‘papi’ or daddy and went to meet him in Rome and Milan whenever he telephoned her.

Berlusconi denied ever having an improper relationship with Letizia, after Lario accused him of “frequenting minors”.

Berlusconi said he never had “relations with minors” and only attended parties that were morally acceptable.

Soon after Letizia’s birthday party, Lario announced plans to divorce her husband , saying he was “unwell” and “frequented minors”.

Newspapers backed by Berlusconi subsequently published articles denigrating Lario.

Barbara Berlusconi, the prime minister’s eldest daughter from his marriage with Lario, reportedly threatened to break off relations with her father after the newspaper reports on her mother.

The 72-year-old premier’s private life has been at the centre of a furore over his relationship with women, most recently with the release of audio tapes purportedly recorded while he allegedly spent the night with the prostitute Patrizia D’Addario at his official Rome residence last November.

D’Addario has supplied prosecutors with audio tapes and photos to back up her claims.

Left-leaning daily La Repubblica and its sister weekly L’Espresso last month published several of the audio tapes on their websites.

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

Italy: PM to Attend L’aquila ‘Festival of Forgiveness’

Aquila, 25 August (AKI) — Italy’s sex scandal-plagued prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will on Friday attend the annual Catholic Festival of Forgiveness in the quake-stricken city of L’Aquila, an MP from his conservative People of Freedom Party, Paola Pelino, announced.

“The prime minister will attend, unless institutional commitments prevent him from doing so,” Pelino said, presenting L’Aquila’s Festival of Forgiveness.

Berlusconi’s attendance at the festival is being seen by observers as an attempt to rehabilitate his relationship with the Catholic Church.

Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone will open the 700-year-old festival, which dates from the time of the Crusades. Known as La Perdonanza in Italian, the ritual gives sinners plenary indulgence or the chance of redemption if they repent.

Catholic bishops in their newspaper, Avvenire, and the Catholic magazine La Famiglia Cristiana have in recent months strongly criticised Berlusconi amid allegations he gave parties filled with attractive young women.

The tension continued after the left-leaning L’Espresso weekly published audio tapes purportedly recorded while he had sex with prostitute, Patrizia D’Addario.

“There must be limits,” said La Famiglia Cristiana. “Those limits of decency have been exceeded. Those who have power, even with wide popular mandate, cannot claim they are in ethics-free territory.”

The Catholic church previously urged more sober behaviour from Berlusconi after his wife Veronica Lario filed for divorce in May saying he was “unwell” and “frequented minors”.

Berlusconi was photographed in late April attending the 18th birthday party of Naples lingerie model Noemi Letizia, who calls him ‘Daddy’ and said she visited him in Rome and Milan whenever he telephoned her.

Berlusconi denied having had “improper relations” and claims the Italian bishops “have been taken in by left-wing lies”.

The L’Aquila festival has become a major tourist spectacle since the original indulgence issued by Pope Celestine V in 1294 is transported from L’Aquila’s Piazza del Palazzo to a one of the city’s basilicas. There the document is read out and the doors of the cathedral are opened to the masses.

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

Italy: Berlusconi to Dine With Vatican No.2

Rome and L’Aquila, 26 August (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio will on Friday dine with Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone in the quake-hit city of L’Aquila, Italian media reported. The dinner will take place after the medieval Catholic ‘Festival of Forgiveness’, which absolves all believers who genuinely repent their sins.

The scandal-plagues premier’s attendance at the dinner has reportedly stunned the 700-year-old festival’s organisers.

“Normally, an undersecretary from the regional government attends,” said one of the organising committee members.

Berlusconi will be accompanied by his top aide Gianni Letta, who has reportedly been waging an intense diplomatic campaign with the Vatican to obtain an audience for the prime minister with Pope Benedict XVI — a request that has yet to be granted.

Berlusconi’s attendance at the festival is being seen by observers as an attempt to rehabilitate his relationship with the Catholic Church, although the Vatican says it did not request that he dine with Bertone.

“Their meeting at the Festival of Forgiveness will have no effect unless the premier changes his ways,” said an unnamed Vatican source quoted by La Repubblica daily.

According to the newspaper, Berlusconi is said to still be reeling from a searing editorial published in mid-August by the Catholic bishops’ daily Avvenire deploring his “arrogant omission of sober conduct.”

Vatican officials and the Catholic weekly La Famiglia Cristiana have in recent months strongly criticised Berlusconi amid allegations he gave parties filled with attractive young women and slept with a prostitute at his Rome residence last November.

Eyebrows have also been raised by Berlusconi’s attendance in late April at the 18th birthday party of Naples lingerie model Noemi Letizia, who calls him ‘Daddy’ and said she visited him in Rome and Milan whenever he telephoned her.

Some have blamed Letizia for the breakdown of Berlusconi’s marriage.

Days after daily La Repubblica published photos of the premier at Letizia’s birthday party, his wife Veronica Lario filed for divorce saying her husband was “unwell” and “frequented minors”.

During his dinner with Bertone, Berlusconi may also seek to ease tensions with the Vatican over his government’s hardline policies to curb illegal immigration, which Vatican officials have strongly criticised on humanitarian grounds.

Most recently, the Vatican has slated an Italian-Libyan accord allowing Italian patrols in the Mediterranean to turn back to Libya boatloads of would-be immigrants intercepted in international waters.

Vatican officials have said the repatriations violate the rights of political refugees seeking asylum.

The policy has also drawn criticism from the United Nations and rights groups.

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

Italy-Libya: USA Not Troubled by Premier’s Visit, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — The USA “is not at all concerned” about Silvio Berlusconi’s imminent visit to Tripoli, said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on ‘Radio Tre’. Frattini mentioned the discussion regarding the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force (Frecce Tricolore), explaining that “they will perform in front of all African leaders” and not only for Muammar Gaddafi. Frattini stressed that he is not “troubled” by the show of “our national pride” in the presence of 52 African Presidents, in Libya for a meeting of the African Union, “legitimately chaired by Gaddafi.” It shows “all Africa the important role Italy plays in the continent.” “Prodi and D’Alema” he continued “have tried to negotiate with Gaddafi for years but we have succeeded in doing so, and now that we have they reprimand us for it.” The row seems to be a question of “domestic politics, because our role is recognised outside our borders.” The USA too “recognises our important role in relations with Libya, also to moderate certain positions” of the colonel. “With Hillary Clinton I have personally discussed” Frattini added “the interest of the US in a relaxation of relations with Tripoli”. It is clear that the Lockerbie attacker, “even though he has cancer, should not have been given a hero’s welcome. But this has nothing to do with the American concerns regarding our relations with Libya.” “We have said that we don’t agree with the infringements regarding our exiles, the compensation payments, the fishing boats impounded by Libya. But writing behind the scenes with anonymous sources while Barack Obama stresses the friendly relations with Italy” is not “credible,” concluded the foreign minister referring to some press articles.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Mourinho Tackled in Ramadan Fasting Row

Inter Milan football coach Jose Mourinho has been criticised by an Italian Muslim leader for suggesting religious fasting marred a player’s performance.

Inter midfielder Sulley Muntari was substituted in the first half of his team’s 1-1 Serie A draw with Bari on Sunday.

Former Chelsea boss Mourinho said the Ghanaian was possibly lacking energy because of the fast he is observing for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Millions around the world are abstaining from eating or drinking in daylight hours during the ninth month in the Islamic calendar.

“I think Mourinho could talk a little less,” Mohamed Nour Dachan, president of the Union of the Islamic community and organisations in Italy, told Sky television.

“A practising (Muslim) player is not weakened because we know from the Institute of Sports Medicine that mental and psychological stability can give a sportsman an extra edge on the field.

“A player who believes in Christianity, Judaism or Islam will definitely have a very calm psychological disposition and it will help him more.”

Speaking after the match, Mourinho had said: “Muntari had some problems related to Ramadan, perhaps with this heat it’s not good for him to be doing this (fasting).”

He even suggested the player would be dropped for this weekend’s crucial Milan derby due to the timing of the match.

Saturday’s derby kicks-off at 8.45pm, but with sundown occurring at just before 8pm, it would not give Muntari much time to rehydrate and get some energy into his body.

Siena striker Abdelkader Ghezzal, who scored in his team’s 2-1 defeat at home to AC Milan at the weekend, revealed he simply cannot fast and play at the same time.

“I observe the fast during my days off, when there are no games or training,” the Algerian said.

“I’ve always observed Ramadan but I have had to change my habits for health reasons from the first year that I became a professional.”

Udinese’s Swiss midfielder Gokhan Inler, a Muslim of Turkish origin, is another who is not fasting this month, while Genoa’s Moroccan midfielder Houssine Kharja does respect Ramadan.

Both Ghezzal and Inler played 90 minutes at the weekend but Kharja never got off the bench.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Council Steps Up Surveillance After Gay Attacks

Rome, 26 August (AKI) — Rome’s conservative mayor Gianni Alemanno has ordered more security cameras to be installed at city’s main gay venues following several recent homophobic attacks in the city. On Tuesday, a gay disco in Rome’s northeastern Tibertina district was set alight and last Saturday two young gay men were attacked at one of the city’s main summer venues in the southern EUR district.

An extra security camera as already been installed at EUR’s ‘Gay Village’ since Saturday’s attack, in which one of the gay men was stabbed and the other struck with a glass bottle.

The new camera is connected around the clock to the local police station.

Following consultations with Rome’s gay community, the city council has also agreed to create and fund an observatory on sexual intolerance, to be run jointly with the city’s gay associations.

The city council has also agreed to sponsor a bill that would make sexual intolerance an ‘aggravating factor’ in crimes committed against individuals.

“Repecting the law and the individual must be a value for absolutely everyone,” Alemanno said on Wednesday.

He denied that homophobic violence was growing in Rome.

“Rome is a tolerant city, but we need to go after and punish a small minority of dangerously intolerant individuals,” he stressed.

One of Rome’s main gay organisations, the Mario Mieli Circle disagreed with Alemanno’s assessment, describing the recent attacks as “intimidating”.

“We are certain they stem from blindly violent attitudes to the gay, lesbian and transexual community.

“But our community will not be cowed by the general climate of fanatical intolerance. We urge the government and security forces to bring to justice the perpetrators of these vandalous acts towards people and property,” the association added.

It will on 12 September organise a special ‘Killer Cow’ disco called ‘White Party — More Culture, Less Fear’ in Rome’s Marconi district. The event coincides with Rome’s ‘White Night’ when many museums and monuments are open to the public all night.

Noone was injured in Tuesday’s arson attempt against Tiburtina’s Qube discoteque. It was closed for maintenance at the time of the attack and firemen managed to extinguish the blaze before it spread through the building.

Police on Tuesday arrested a 40-year-old former boxer in connection with Saturday’s EUR attack. He is known locally as ‘Swastika’ for his predilection for carving the Nazi symbol on local park benches.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Madonna Booed in Bucharest for Defending Gypsies

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — At first, fans politely applauded the Roma performers sharing a stage with Madonna. Then the pop star condemned widespread discrimination against Roma, or Gypsies — and the cheers gave way to jeers.

The sharp mood change that swept the crowd of 60,000, who had packed a park for Wednesday night’s concert, underscores how prejudice against Gypsies remains deeply entrenched across Eastern Europe.

Despite long-standing efforts to stamp out rampant bias, human rights advocates say Roma probably suffer more humiliation and endure more discrimination than any other people group on the continent.

Sometimes, it can be deadly: In neighboring Hungary, six Roma have been killed and several wounded in a recent series of apparently racially motivated attacks targeting small countryside villages predominantly settled by Gypsies.

“There is generally widespread resentment against Gypsies in Eastern Europe. They have historically been the underdog,” Radu Motoc, an official with the Soros Foundation Romania, said yesterday.

Roma, or Gypsies, are a nomadic ethnic group believed to have their roots in the Indian subcontinent. They live mostly in southern and eastern Europe, but hundreds of thousands have migrated west over the past few decades in search of jobs and better living conditions.

Romania has the largest number of Roma in the region. Some say the population could be as high as 2 million, although official data put it at 500,000.

Until the 19th century, Romanian Gypsies were slaves, and they’ve gotten a mixed response ever since: While discrimination is widespread, many East Europeans are enthusiastic about Gypsy music and dance, which they embrace as part of the region’s cultural heritage.

That explains why the Roma musicians and a dancer who had briefly joined Madonna onstage got enthusiastic applause. And it also may explain why some in the crowd turned on Madonna when she paused during the two-hour show — a stop on her worldwide “Sticky and Sweet” tour — to touch on their plight.

“It has been brought to my attention … that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe,” she said. “It made me feel very sad.”

Thousands booed and jeered her.

A few cheered when she added: “We don’t believe in discrimination … we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone.” But she got more boos when she mentioned discrimination against homosexuals and others.

“I jeered her because it seemed false what she was telling us. What business does she have telling us these things?” said Ionut Dinu, 23.

Madonna did not react and carried on with her concert, held near the hulking palace of the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Her publicist, Lizz Rosenberg, said Madonna and other had told her there were cheers as well as jeers.

“Madonna has been touring with a phenomenal troupe of Roma musicians who made her aware of the discrimination toward them in several countries so she felt compelled to make a brief statement,” Rosenberg said in an e-mail. “She will not be issuing a further statement.”

One Roma musician said the attitude toward Gypsies is contradictory.

“Romanians watch Gypsy soap operas, they like Gypsy music and go to Gypsy concerts,” said Damian Draghici, a Grammy Award-winner who has performed with James Brown and Joe Cocker.

“But there has been a wave of aggression against Roma people in Italy, Hungary and Romania, which shows me something is not OK,” he told the AP in an interview. “The politicians have to do something about it. People have to be educated not to be prejudiced. All people are equal, and that is the message politicians must give.”

Nearly one in two of Europe’s estimated 12 million Roma claimed to have suffered an act of discrimination over the past 12 months, according to a recent report by the Vienna-based EU Fundamental Rights Agency. The group says Roma face “overt discrimination” in housing, health care and education.

Many do not have official identification, which means they cannot get social benefits, are undereducated and struggle to find decent jobs.

Roma children are more likely to drop out of school than their peers from other ethnic groups. Many Romanians label Gypsies as thieves, and many are outraged by those who beg or commit petty crimes in Western Europe, believing they spoil Romania’s image abroad.

In May 2007, Romanian President Traian Basescu was heard to call a Romanian journalist a “stinky Gypsy” during a conversation with his wife. Romania’s anti-discrimination board criticized Basescu, who later apologized.

Human rights activists say the attacks in Hungary, which began in July 2008, may be tied to that country’s economic crisis and the rising popularity of far-right vigilantes angered by a rash of petty thefts and other so-called “Gypsy crime.” Last week, police arrested four suspects in a nightclub in the eastern city of Debrecen.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia also have been criticized for widespread bias against Roma.

Madonna’s outrage touched a nerve in Romania, but it seems doubtful it will change anything, said the Soros Foundation’s Motoc.

“Madonna is a pop star. She is not an expert on interethnic relations,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Madonna Booed in Bucharest for Criticizing Discrimination Against Roma

Thousands of fans have booed pop star Madonna after she spoke out against the discrimination of Gypsies in eastern Europe during one of her concerts. Madonna paused in the two-hour concert in Bucharest to say that Gypsies, also known as Roma, were discriminated against in eastern Europe. She said that made her “sad” and nobody should be discriminated against. Thousands in the crowd of 60,000 booed her. She did not react. Roma musicians and a Roma dancer were featured in her show, held just yards from the giant palace of ex-communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Their performances were applauded by the crowd. There are officially some 500,000 Roma in Romania, but the real number could be around two million. They face prejudice and discrimination in Romania and other east European nations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Integration Street Parties Only Attract White People

UTRECHT, 27/08/09 — Subsidised local festivities to promote the integration of immigrants attract very few immigrants. A study by sociologist Ruben Bino reveals that in Utrecht, immigrants were underrepresented at 95 percent of the festivities.

Bino researched how over 300 local street parties organised by residents in 2008 with subsidies totalling 200,000 euros from Utrecht municipality’s ‘liveability fund’ affected a neighbourhood. This fund is for resident’s initiatives aimed at improving integration and social cohesion within the neighbourhood.

The requests for subsidy came almost exclusively from white residents, usually highly educated. Considering the population composition of the neighbourhood, immigrants were under-represented at 95 percent of these street parties.

Most of the parties were organised in districts with few immigrants. But in areas where the majority are immigrants, such as Overvecht and Kanaleneiland, the street parties were also predominantly a ‘white’ phenomenon.

Bino concludes that the objective to bring various population groups in the city closer together is not being reached. Utrecht municipality disagrees. According to a spokesperson, 89 percent of the organisers observe improved contact between local residents a week after a party.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Islamic School to Lose Government Funding

Deputy Education Minister Sharon Dijksma is partly cutting the funding of an islamic primary school in Amsterdam.

She said in a statement she is doing this following a critical report by the government’s Education Inspectorate which found that the As Siddieq school is not doing enough to integrate its pupils in society, nor does it sufficiently respect and instil basic values of democracy.

As Siddieq has been given until 1 March to introduce improvements.

The Deputy Minister’s decision follows similar steps by local government, also on Thursday. Amsterdam councillor Lodewijk Asscher, who is in charge of education, withdrew the municipal subsidy to As Siddieq. He has lost confidence in the school board, he told board members in a town hall meeting.

The As Siddieq school had been subjected to regular criticism. A former teacher had told the authorities that there appeared to be “no room for other cultures” at the islamic school.

As Saddieq is running three schools in Amsterdam’s De Baarsjes, Noord and Zeeburg quarters.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Poland Without Missile Defence

The US plans for building elements of the missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic are virtually certain to be abandoned, say Gazeta’s sources in Washington.

‘The signals that the generals in the Pentagon are sending are absolutely clear: as far as missile defence is concerned, the current US administration is searching for other solutions than the previously bases in Poland ad the Czech Republic,’ Riki Ellison, chairman of the Missile Defence Advocacy Alliance, a Washington-based lobby group.

Mr Ellison took part last week in an industry conference on missile defence where the Pentagon talked about its plans to defence industry executives. Gazeta reported that Boeing had proposed there — instead of a base in Poland — mobile interceptor missile (anti-missile) launchers.

During the conference, Mr Ellison stresses, the ‘generals never mentioned the original plan concerning Poland and the Czech Republic.’ Instead of a plan, negotiated by the George W. Bush administration and the Polish and Czech governments, of locating anti-missile installations in those two countries, the Barack Obama administration prefers installing interceptor missiles on ships, as well as on bases in Israel, Turkey, and perhaps somewhere in the Balkans.

Shortly after Mr Obama took over, the White House started a strategic review of the missile defence project. In theory, the review hasn’t yet been completed but Mr Ellison believes that in fact the decision has already been made. A credible source in the Congress says the same: ‘The administration has been sounding out for a couple of weeks now how the Congress will react when the plans for building the missile defence in Poland and the Czech Republic are dumped.’

‘The debate within the Obama administration is nearing an end,’ adds a well-known Washington expert on defence matters and an adviser to the current administration.

The outcome of this debate, it has been increasingly clear, will see the Polish and Czech option abandoned. Riki Ellison at the MDAA believes that the main reason for this change of strategy is that the ‘new administration pays more attention to Russia’s arguments.’ Other sources that Gazeta has talked to, although they agree this is an important factor, say that the key issue is that of the project’s price tag and Mr Obama’s key aides’ doubts about whether the system would really work.

‘Obama’s people believe that many global problems will be more easily solved together with Moscow,’ says Mr Ellison. ‘It’s about priorities. For many Democrats, disarmament is a priority and to reach a new strategic weapons reduction agreement with Russia, they are prepared to sacrifice a lot. Which doesn’t mean that they are soft and naive,’ explains the lobbyist.

‘The Obama administration will negotiate firmly with the Russians, trying to bargain as much as possible in return for its concessions,’ says Mr Ellison.

But a new approach to both Russia and missile defence is a fact.

Gen Kevin Chilton, head of the US Strategic Command, had a lengthy speech at the conference about how difficult to swallow for Moscow a missile defence base in Poland would be. It is clear that Russia’s feelings are being taken into account in Washington.

According to Gazeta’s sources, the US government will announce the conclusions of the strategic review only when it has prepared Warsaw and Prague for the change of plans and secured maximum possible concessions from Moscow.

Gazeta asked the State Department for permission to interview one of the high-ranking diplomats about Polish-US relations but was refused — until the strategic review of the missile defence project is completed.

Negotiations with the George W. Bush administration were started by the PiS administration and completed, after many perturbations, by the incumbent one. The missile defence was to protect Nato allies against missiles from countries like North Korea or Iran.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Report: U.S. To Scrap E. Europe Missile Shield Bases

WARSAW, Poland — Washington will scrap plans to put anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and is looking at alternatives including Israel and Turkey, a Polish newspaper reported Aug. 27, citing U.S. officials.

The U.S. plan, intended for defense against attacks from Iran, has met with fierce objections from Russia, which regarded the eastern European bases as a threat to its own security.

Related TopicsEurope


Air Warfare

Leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza cited administration officials and lobbyists in Washington in support of its story.

Pro-missile shield lobbyist Riki Ellison said the signals from the Pentagon were “absolutely clear,” with U.S. authorities scouting for alternatives sites, the paper reported.

No immediate comment was available from U.S., Polish or Czech officials.

Gazeta Wyborcza said Washington was now considering deploying anti-missile interceptors on naval vessels and at bases in Israel and Turkey, as well as potentially in the Balkans.

Ellison told the paper that a conference last week, U.S. generals “never once” mentioned the plan, which was initiated by the previous U.S. administration of President George W. Bush.

After taking office this year, Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, launched a review of the controversial system.

Gazeta Wyborcza cited a source at the U.S. Congress, whom it did not identify, as saying that Washington had been “testing the water” among lawmakers for weeks about scrapping the eastern European part of the plan.

In 2008, Warsaw and Washington struck a deal on deploying 10 U.S. long-range interceptor missiles in Poland as part of a global air-defense system.

The system, which was meant to be operational by 2013, also foresaw a radar base in the Czech Republic, Poland’s southern neighbor.

Washington said the goal was to ward off potential Iranian attacks, pointing to Tehran’s nuclear program.

But Moscow condemned what it said was a U.S. threat on its doorstep and threatened to train nuclear warheads on Poland and the Czech Republic.

Warsaw and Prague broke from the crumbling communist bloc in 1989 and joined NATO 10 years later.

           — Hat tip: Israel Matzav[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Stockholm Rabbi: Large Muslim Population Intimidates Local Jews

‘There are plenty of educated people who … have remained quiet’

The strong Muslim presence in Stockholm makes the Jewish community there apprehensive about taking a public stand against the recent article in the Aftonbladet tabloid reporting Palestinian claims that IDF soldiers stole body organs from Palestinians, Rabbi Isak Nachman, the spiritual leader of two Orthodox synagogues in the Swedish capital, said on Sunday.

“We want to combat this type of thing, but some Jews here are afraid — there are between 400,000 and 500,000 Muslims out of a population of about nine million,” said Nachman, a member of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Cruel and Neglectful’ Care of One Million NHS Patients Exposed

One million NHS patients have been the victims of appalling care in hospitals across Britain, according to a major report released today.

In the last six years, the Patients Association claims hundreds of thousands have suffered from poor standards of nursing, often with ‘neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel’ treatment.

The charity has disclosed a horrifying catalogue of elderly people left in pain, in soiled bed clothes, denied adequate food and drink, and suffering from repeatedly cancelled operations, missed diagnoses and dismissive staff.

The Patients Association said the dossier proves that while the scale of the scandal at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust — where up to 1,200 people died through failings in urgent care — was a one off, there are repeated examples they have uncovered of the same appalling standards throughout the NHS.

While the criticisms cover all aspects of hospital care, the treatment and attitude of nurses stands out as a repeated theme across almost all of the cases.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Abused Toddler Sanam Navsarka ‘Largely Invisible’ To Social Services

A toddler who was murdered by her mother’s partner was “largely invisible” to social services who failed to properly follow-up concerns about her welfare, an inquiry found.

Two-year-old Sanam Navsarka, of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, died in May 2008 after weeks of abuse at the hands of Subhan Anwar, 21, who was convicted of killing her earlier this year.

The jury at his trial heard that the little girl had suffered more than 100 injuries in the weeks before her death and that her hand prints and blood were found inside cupboards where she had been put as a punishment.

Sanam’s mother, Zahbeena Navsarka, 21, was jailed for nine years for manslaughter.

Today, a serious case review found that while Anwar and Navsarka were responsible for Sanam’s death, there were failures by professionals at Kirklees Council that may have changed the “eventual outcome”.

The report said that four weeks before the toddler’s death, Zahbeena Navsarka’s sister told staff at the Looked After Children Service that she was worried about Sanam.

Staff were told that she had been seen on separate occasions with a bruise and a mark to her head and that Anwar was suspected of hitting her.

Social services were already working with the family at the time, but were focused on other members including Sanam’s mother rather than her daughter, who was not on the child protection register, or Anwar, who was not known to authorities.

The information about Sanam was not recorded or passed on to child protection officers.

The review, by Diane Jerwood, an Assistant Director of the NSPCC, said: “Despite a raft of agency involvement, the child was not the focus of intervention, which was instead directed towards the adults, or towards other young people within the family for whom staff had a particular responsibility.

“She is largely invisible in this review. Professionals failed to see the situation from a child’s point of view: she was never seen to have a need of her own, so assessment and intervention was never directed specifically towards her.”

The review found that these failings meant that opportunities to assess Sanam’s situation and put protective measures in place were missed.

It said: “There were some significant departures from professional good practice and procedures.

“Most notable of these was the failure by individual professionals to report appropriately concerns about the child’s welfare. If those concerns had been reported, it is likely that protective measures would have been initiated that may have changed the eventual outcome.”

The report also found that previous child protection concerns about the wider family were identified by health and housing services but were not followed through appropriately by children’s social workers.

A separate serious case review into Kirklees social workers’ involvement with Shannon Matthews, who was removed from the at-risk register five years before being kidnapped by her mother in 2008, is ongoing.

Alison O’Sullivan, director for the Children and Young People’s Service at Kirklees Council, said that three members of staff had been subject to disciplinary procedures as a result of the Sanam case and two of these had received “very serious sanctions”.

She said that the local authority fully accepted the findings of the review and apologised for the department’s failings.

Karen Hemsworth, vice chair of Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board and assistant director for Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults, NHS Kirklees, said: “While the review finds that agencies acted appropriately in identifying and providing services to the mother, it is clear that there were faults in the recording of concerns about Sanam’s welfare.

“We are taking steps to ensure robust systems are in place to better monitor supervision and to improve the competency of all staff in child protection issues.”

The trial of Navsarka and Anwar at Bradford Crown Court earlier this year heard how Sanam, who had fractures to all four limbs, died after fatty deposits from her broken thigh bones entered her bloodstream.

A metal pole was used to shatter Sanam’s leg and she was bruised and battered repeatedly in the four weeks before her death.

The judge told the pair: “Your deliberate cruelty is beyond belief.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Climate Change Supercomputer Makes Met Building One of Britain’s Most Polluted

The Met Office’s new supercomputer has scored its second own goal since it was unveiled with much fanfare in May.

After tempting the nation into holidaying in Britain by wrongly forecasting a “barbecue Summer”, it has now earned the Met Office’s Exeter headquarters the shame of being named as one of the most polluting buildings in Britain.

By the time it reaches peak performance in 2011 the £30 million machine’s massive processing power — it can perform 125 trillion calculations per second — will require 1.2 megawatts of power to run, enough energy to power a small town.

As a result it will contribute 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the problem of global warming every year.

That places the Met Office HQ close to the top of the list of carbon emitters — 103rd out of 28,259 UK public buildings assessed for their carbon footprint by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Barry Gromett, a Met Office spokesman, came to the defence of the machine, claiming that its severe weather warnings could help to save lives and its predictions for the airline industry helped to save 20 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. He also defended the Met Office building.

“Our supercomputer is vital for predictions of weather and climate change,” said Mr Gromett.

“By failing to discriminate between office and supercomputing facilities the process reflects badly on the entire Met Office site. In fact, the general office space is rated excellent and has consistently done so since the Met Office building in Exeter was completed in 2003.”

The supercomputer analyses data from satellite images and sea temperature gauges. Its supporters say it will be able to predict previously unforeseeable weather events, such as the 1987 hurricane that unexpectedly devastated Britain.

By 2011 it will offer processing power approaching 1 PetaFlop — equivalent to more than 100,000 PCs and over 30 times more powerful than what is currently in place.

Maurice Spurway, a Friends of the Earth spokesman, said it was wryly amusing that the Met Office had been fingered for damaging the climate.

“Life is full of ironies and I think this is one of those situations,” he said.

Manchester University’s Oxford Road campus was named the most polluting building in Britain in the government survey, followed by the Royal London Hospital and Scarborough Sports Centre.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Dumbed-Down Defenders of Their Own Turf

The Armed Forces deserve strong, single-minded leadership. Instead the MoD has a culture of delay, inexperience and fear

Britain is at war, but one would never know it walking around Whitehall. For too many politicians it is merely another day of awkward things happening in far away places. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan appear no more than inconvenient blips — something to be muddled through until things return to normal.

And muddle is the word, as was manifest in a scathing report into defence procurement leaked this week. Its author, the former Labour adviser Bernard Gray, an experienced observer of the defence scene, blamed incompetence and “political fudge” for £35 billion of defence project overspending.

Moreover, The Times revealed that poor decisions about software have kept eight Chinook helicopters, costing a total of £259 million, in climate-controlled hangars during the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. Such an error would never happen in the private sector without dismissals and a plain identification of where the buck stopped.

The revelation is all the more appalling because Chinooks are lifesavers. They are the safest way to evacuate injured soldiers from the battlefield — and a brilliant tactical device to get behind Taleban lines to confuse and mystify the enemy. Chinooks also help resupply and reinforcement where land movement is dangerous.

That we have insufficient available for our needs in Afghanistan is best explained by the size and structure of the Ministry of Defence. The department employs 87,000 civilian staff for 175,000 servicemen and women. At the head of this unwieldy edifice are six ministers, each enjoying a private office and their own staff — six private empires, with their own turf to be jealously guarded. Sadly, bigger does not mean more efficient; usually quite the opposite.

Ministers change, but permanent staff ought to be there to provide continuity and experience. Unfortunately, too many senior civil servants in today’s MoD lack a defence background. Instead, they are parachuted in to lead this complex department with little idea of how it works.

Granted, the notion that a good civil servant can manage any department regardless of specialist knowledge has merit, but few people of that calibre exist in the dumbed-down modern Civil Service.

Things are made worse by the proliferation of political special advisers, who confuse the chain of command and wield huge power in unscrupulous ways. Yet ministers are sometimes more comfortable with these inexperienced young people than with senior staff.

None of this provides the suppleness needed to meet the changing demands of war. Defence ministers sit frozen in indecision, nervous of making mistakes, but unwilling to delegate. Delay and avoidance of decision-making eventually creates insurmountable financial problems. All the time the Treasury breathes down their necks, interfering in the minutiae of defence procurement.

Duplication of jobs is everywhere. We have the permanent joint headquarters at Northwood, Middlesex, for day-to-day running of military operations. All too often, however, the MoD gives in to the temptation to interfere.

Stodgy bureaucracy is one problem bedevilling the services. The other is money. In recent years the Treasury has been unsympathetic to defence, especially under Gordon Brown.

When the British economy prospered, other departments had big budget increases lavished upon them. Yes, military budgets have increased year-on-year in real terms, but not enough for extra commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have to invest in defence when times are good. Manufacturing extra helicopters, armoured vehicles and new radio sets takes time. You can’t equip people within weeks; buying in an emergency is costly.

Of course, no one pretends that defence procurement is a perfect science, even when well managed. You must forecast where future crises will erupt, which is difficult. We didn’t anticipate the Falklands, the size of the task in Northern Ireland or operations in Sierra Leone. Equally, we could never have imagined action on the scale of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It takes time to bring cutting-edge equipment into service. During development, threats change and specifications must be altered. The longer it takes to produce an item, the more people change their mind about what they want.

Nevertheless, our Forces needed better equipment than they got in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is true that the British soldier’s personal kit — clothing, body armour, weapons — is now superior to that provided at the start of the Afghan war and compares favourably with other nations. But they still lack helicopters and armoured vehicles, although things are improving.

I and other former chiefs of defence have repeatedly warned ministers. Against his natural inclinations, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the outgoing Chief of the General Staff, felt obliged to speak out; he had responsibilities to his subordinates as well as his superiors.

There have, of course, been efforts to reform the MoD. Expensive consultants have been brought in, recommendations have been made, but little has changed. Few good ministers are around long enough to make a difference, and things carry on as they always have.

Unless a lot more money is available in coming years we have to make difficult choices about where cuts occur. Failure to do so risks making our Services good at nothing and losing a national asset that cannot be replaced.

Conflicts with the asymmetric nature of Afghanistan are more likely than the resurgence of Russia or China as enemies. Indeed, a big war is more likely if these counterinsurgency operations fail.

More than that, attitudes must change and minds must be concentrated. The military feels its requirements are not understood and its views unwelcome. The Treasury and some civil servants say the Services have unrealistic expectations. Friction can be helpful, but it should not reach the stage where people feel they are on different sides.

Politicians ordered the Army into Iraq and Afghanistan, but they did not give soldiers the wherewithal to succeed. Gordon Brown writes about courage, and can be eloquent and sincere when expressing sympathy for bereaved Service families, but words are not enough.

The crumbling of tax revenues after the credit crunch means there is less money to go round all government departments. Defence is likely to take more than its fair share of pain. And yet still we have our commitments in Helmand and elsewhere. We will only succeed if strong management, single-minded determination and clear leadership prevail.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Leader Kidnapped at Knifepoint and Ordered to Stop Community Prayers After BNP Leaflet Campaign

A Muslim community leader has been kidnapped from his home at knifepoint and ordered to stop his religious work after a BNP hate campaign against his prayer sessions.

Noor Ramjanally, 35, said he was abducted by two men, bundled into a car boot and driven to Epping Forest in Essex.

Mr Ramjanally, whose home in nearby Loughton was firebombed last month, feared he was about to be murdered when the car stopped and one of the kidnappers said: ‘Let’s do it here’.

‘I thought that my life was over, that I was going to get killed,’ he said.

The pair marched him deep into the forest in silence before warning him: ‘We don’t want the Islamic group in Loughton’.

Mr Ramjanally said: ‘I was scared. I feared for my life. They said, “If you don’t stop, we’ll come back”.’

Since starting prayer sessions at a community centre in March, Mr Ramjanally has received hate mail threatening his family as well as the arson attack.

The BNP has been accused of whipping up racial tensions in the area after it issued an inflammatory leaflet about Mr Ramjanally’s Islamic community group the first in Loughton.

In the latest edition of the BNP’s Epping Forest Patriot newsletter, delivered to many households in Loughton, it attacked Mr Ramjanally’s hiring of a local hall on Friday afternoons for two hour Jumu’ah prayer sessions.

Under a picture of a union flag being eaten away by the Islamic moon and crescent, the leaflet said: ‘In parts of neighbouring Redbridge and east London the Islamification process is almost complete. Cockney culture destroyed and East End community spirit just a fading memory.

‘The BNP love Loughton and we’ll do all in our power to prevent Islam creeping into our town.’

The BNP, which has four councillors in the area, believes the Islamic group is a prelude to building a mosque.

Its leaflet is headed in capital letters: ‘No mosques in Loughton.’

Essex Police have confirmed they are treating the kidnapping as a hate crime and are linking it to the two previous incidents and the group’s use of Murray Hall.

The BNP strongly denies any responsibility for the crimes.

Married father-of-one Mr Ramjanally, who now fears for his life, said: ‘The men did not say anything about the BNP or who they were.

‘But it is only the BNP who want my Islamic group out of Loughton.

‘I believe the BNP campaign has inspired the violence.’

Mr Ramjanally was at home alone in his flat fasting for Ramadan at 12.15pm on Monday when his doorbell rang repeatedly.

He said: ‘I was expecting the council to come to fix my shed. But when I opened the door, two men just grabbed me by my wrists and pulled me outside.

‘It was two white men. They put a knife upon my stomach and said: “Do what you are told or you will get hurt”.

‘I was in shock. I did not know what to do.’

After the men left Mr Ramjanally in the forest, he was able to borrow a passer-by’s mobile phone to dial 999.

He said he and his family were terrified after being targeted three times but defiantly vowed to continue the prayer sessions.

‘I am really shaken. These people know where I live,’ Mr Ramjanally said.

‘My family are not opening the door to anyone at all at the moment.

‘We don’t deserve to be going through all this stress. We just want somewhere to pray.

‘The prayer sessions are no different to those taking place at other mosques and community halls up and down the country.

‘We are a very peaceful, sincere group and we respect every other culture.’

He said if not for his prayer sessions, Muslims would have to travel four miles to South Woodford.

‘I have got the whole UK Muslim community behind me know. I am not just on my own.’

The prayer sessions began on March 27 with nine people worshipping and now up to 80 people attend.

On July 2, Mr Ramjanally received an anonymous, hand-delivered typed letter addressed to him that read: ‘We don’t want you to carry on at this. We know which school your kid goes to and which car you drive.’ The next day, his front door and flooring were damaged by a petrol bomb.

Mr Ramjanally met high-profile community figures, including Loughton Mayor Ken Angold-Stephens, religious leaders, teachers and members of the police, when they attended the hall in a show of support after the arson attack.

Superintendent Simon Williams, of Essex Police, said: ‘We are treating these offences with the utmost seriousness and are putting considerable resources into the investigation.

‘While that investigation continues, we will be working with the whole population of Loughton to ensure that all members of the community are free to practise their religion and beliefs safely and freely.’

Police have branded the BNP leaflet ‘unhelpful’ but not illegal.

Epping Forest BNP group leader Councillor Pat Richardson defended the leafleting campaign, which took place in late July.

She said of the prayer group: ‘It shouldn’t be in a community centre and I don’t think it’s appropriate in a BNP ward.

‘It brings all sorts of problems and we don’t want problems in this area.

‘It’s not really natural for the area because there are so few Muslims.

‘I was wondering whether it was a ploy to attract more Muslims to the area to try and vote out the BNP councillors.’

She said her party was not behind the attacks on Mr Ramjanally.

‘Firebombing is not a British method. A brick through the window is a British method but firebombing is not a way of showing displeasure,’ Cr Richardson said.

‘I told the police we want to object that fingers were being pointed in our direction.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Strathclyde Police ‘Could Have Protected Lockerbie Bomber in Scotland’

Scotland’s biggest police force appeared to cast doubt last night on a key part of the explanation given by the country’s Justice Secretary for freeing the Lockerbie bomber.

Strathclyde Police said that it was not asked if it could manage the security implications of transferring Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi from prison to a secure residence in Scotland. The force said that, if asked, it would have provided appropriate personnel.

In a statement to The Times, the force appeared to contradict Kenny MacAskill. The Justice Secretary told MSPs on Monday that he had been told by Strathclyde Police that the security implications would be “severe” and on advice from senior officers, he had ruled out such a move, instead letting al-Megrahi return to Libya.

But in the Strathclyde Police statement, a spokeswoman said: “If a decision had been made to release Mr al-Megrahi in Scotland, we would have provided whatever security was required. We were asked how many officers would be required, and we provided that advice.

“We were asked about the level of level of security required for Mr al-Megrahi, members of his family and the local community, should he be released.

“We were asked how many it would take in our opinion, in terms of guidance. We were not asked whether we could do this.”

On Monday, in a parliamentary statement, Mr MacAskill said: “It had been suggested Mr al-Megrahi could be released to reside elsewhere in Scotland. Clear advice from the Deputy Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police was that the security implications of such a move would be severe.”

After contact with the Scottish government, the force issued a second statement denying any difference of position between itself and the Justice Secretary.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Sex Attack Deportation Man Jailed

A convicted sex attacker who assaulted two women after he should have been deported has been jailed.

Andrew Rowe, a Jamaican national, was jailed for 18 months in 2000 after he admitted indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl in south London.

He should have been deported after his release but managed to remain in the UK and attacked two 18-year-old women in 2005 and January this year.

Rowe, 36, was given an indeterminate sentence at Southwark Crown Court.

His solicitor admitted to the court Rowe had failed to sign the sex offenders’ register in an attempt to avoid deportation.

Judge John Price said in both the two attacks Rowe approached his victims and charmed them, persuading them to get into his car in south London.

He then drove them to empty flats before assaulting them.

Rowe, of no fixed address, was convicted of rape, assault by penetration and attempted rape at a hearing earlier this year. He had denied all the charges.

He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, possession of drugs and failure to register as a sex offender.

Sentencing him, Judge Price said: “When the girls don’t do what you want them to do, you get angry. You get violent with them.

“You won’t be released until those assessing you think you are safe to be released.”

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

UK: The Climate Camp’s in Town — and It’s All So Taxing…

Having scoured every report of their activities, I can find no clue as to what these climate change protestors actual demands are, writes Melissa Kite.

They came with their flowery skirts and silly hats. They romped on sofas plonked not very environmentally on parkland, and staged other supposedly witty stunts such as parading kitchen sinks around.

They talked in an earnest way about their social consciences, then vowed to “kill the pigs”. Did they mean Gloucestershire Old Spots or the police? Either way, it didn’t sound very ethical.

Yet what really confused me about the climate change protesters who are camping out in south-east London was this: what do they want? Having scoured every report of their activities, I can find no clue as to what their actual demands are.

They pronounce that “climate change is the biggest issue facing humanity today” and that “nothing is being done” — because, says Ed Thompson, a 23-year-old teacher from Canterbury, “governments and financiers all have their own agenda”.

This seems rather odd, because from where the rest of us are camped, it feels very much as if the whole world is following Mr Thompson’s agenda. It feels like ordinary citizens are being taxed and regulated almost out of existence in order to satiate the floppy-hatted, tofu-munching eco-brigade.

To cite just one meagre example, most of us now pay half a dozen taxes on our car, almost all of them linked to the environment. We pay tax when we buy it, we pay tax to license it, we pay the congestion charge to drive it into London, we pay VAT and congestion levies to park it at work. We even have to buy something called an “emissions permit” in order to park outside our own houses.

If I never drove my car anywhere, it would still cost me more than £500 a year in taxes enthusiastically levied by central and local government under the banner of action against climate change. And yet the people in flowery skirts and combat trousers on Blackheath say that their agenda is being ignored.

I find it not only baffling, but staggeringly ungrateful. In my book, if you persuade the governments of every developed nation on earth to swallow your agenda whole and have millions of people taxed until the pips squeak, the least you can do is to jolly well stop whingeing — and putting up unsightly tents…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Welfare is Gordon Brown’s Greatest Failure

Who said this? “The development of an underclass of people, cut off from society’s mainstream, living often in poverty, the black economy, crime and family instability, is a moral and economic evil.” It was Tony Blair in 1996, when, as leader of the Opposition, he visited Singapore to look at that country’s “stakeholder” society, in an attempt to convince us that he was serious about reforming the welfare state.

Now who said this? “It is the social breakdown in our most deprived communities that creates the environment in which crime can flourish… Family breakdown has reached a scale where many young people grow up with no vestige of stability in their lives and no concept of family-focused upbringing.” That was Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, speaking on Tuesday in a speech comparing the social breakdown in parts of Britain to that seen on the US TV series The Wire.

What happened during the 13 years in between; and will the next 13 be any better?

Today, Theresa May, the Conservative social security spokesman, will highlight figures that show millions of people of working age remain locked in dependency on state benefits, with little incentive to get off them, and are able to exploit a system that encourages fecklessness. “Labour has built a wall between the working and the workless, hoping to keep their failure out of sight,” she will say. The Tory analysis is spot on, just as Blair’s was in the 1990s. We know what is wrong; and we know pretty much how to go about trying to fix it. The big question is whether anyone has the political will to make a difference. If the Tories are serious about this, they should learn from what has been Labour’s biggest policy failure.

Blair’s mistake in 1997 was to cede near total control of domestic social policy to Gordon Brown at the Treasury. Brown quickly set up a tax and benefits task force to find a way “to streamline and modernise the system to fulfil the objectives of promoting work incentives, reducing poverty and welfare dependency, and strengthening community and family life.”

Harriet Harman, then the social security secretary, said: “We are determined to tackle the scandal of one in five households of people of working age having no work. Work is the best form of welfare for people of working age. We will be exploring the scope for the tax and benefit systems to act as an incentive to move off benefit and into work. We want to tear down the barriers that keep people out of jobs and trapped on benefit.”

Brown saw himself as a cut above the normal jobbing chancellor. He wanted to be a reformer in the Lloyd George mould, and his Big Idea was the tax credit. He was determined to press ahead with this, despite work of a different kind being undertaken at the Social Security department, principally by Frank Field, the minister for welfare reform. Before joining the government, Field had developed a bundle of ideas, such as ending means-testing, scrapping tax for the low paid, and personal welfare funds topped up by National Insurance contributions or tax allowances payable into savings plans. Field was kept in the dark about what was going on at the Treasury, before finally being forced out.

“I would learn about these announcements when they appeared in the press,” Field later said. “He and Blair went on about ending child poverty within 20 years, without ever asking me whether this was realisable. I wasn’t allowed to see the papers. That is how Gordon operates. The more you do that the less anyone has the chance to say, ‘Hold on Gordon, will that work?’ That is meant to be the point of having discussions with colleagues. Working for him meant getting the thing up and running rather than getting more money into the hands of poor people, getting it to the right people and saving taxpayers’ money.”

The problems were compounded by an incessant, almost compulsive, tinkering. From 1999 onwards, the government — ie the Treasury — abolished family credit, introduced working families’ tax credit, introduced the disabled person’s tax credit, introduced a childcare tax credit, introduced an employment credit, abolished the married couple’s tax allowance, introduced the children’s tax credit, introduced a baby tax credit, abolished the working families’ tax credit, abolished the disabled person’s tax credit, abolished the children’s tax credit, abolished the baby tax credit, introduced a child tax credit, abolished the employment credit and introduced a working tax credit.

The tax credit was essentially a benefit, but was grafted on to an inflexible tax system that could not respond easily to people’s changing needs. Coupled with the usual IT fiasco, it turned into a massively expensive way of putting money into the pockets of poor people. Studies show that the British taxpayer and benefit recipient get less from each pound spent than almost anyone else in Europe. Our welfare state is expensive, inefficient, bureaucratic and fails to deliver what it is supposed to. The tax credits also changed behaviour, since couples had to work much longer to obtain the same benefit as a single parent. What message did that send out to young mothers, at a time when the number of single parent families in this country was rising steeply?

Labour in the 1990s wanted to reform welfare, not simply because of its baleful impact on society, but because it cost so much. Blair said then that “we have reached the limits of the public’s willingness simply to fund an unreformed welfare system through ever higher taxes and spending”. His government would “cut the bills of social failure” and use the money saved for schools and hospitals. With rights would go responsibilities; and something would not be given for nothing unless the recipient was incapable of doing anything. Benefits would be linked to work and work would be rewarded, not discouraged by tax and poverty traps.

The fact that little of this happened was masked by a long period of economic growth and low unemployment, which has now come to an end. None of the putative savings were forthcoming, but buoyant tax revenues ensured the extra money could be spent anyway — even if this helped bring about the deep indebtedness we now face. Far from diverting money from welfare to schooling, we spend more on benefit than on education.

Very late in the day, Labour has proposed changes in incapacity benefit, which in pilot schemes have rendered some 90 per cent of recipients ineligible. But 13 years after Blair’s fine words, five per cent of British men aged under 50 are still classified as ill or disabled — three times higher than in Germany; and three in four benefit payments are still made on a something-for-nothing basis.

The Labour Left would have you believe that their party’s failure to do many of the things it promised in 1997 can be attributed to the dominance of the Blairites. In reality, throughout this period the policy was in the hands of the current Prime Minister. If he wants a monument to his years in power, the failure effectively to reform welfare provides it. Can David Cameron avoid the same epitaph?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

US to Abandon Polish-Czech Missile Shield, Lobbyist Says

The United States has all-but abandoned plans to house anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech republic, according to a senior White House lobbyist.

Riki Ellison, the chairman of the 10,000 member-strong Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said in Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Thursday (26 August) that the US has changed its mind to avoid a rift with Russia and is now looking at Israel, Turkey, the Balkans or ship-borne facilities instead.

“The signals given by generals from the Pentagon are clear: the current US government is looking for different solutions on the question of missile defence than Poland and the Czech republic,” he said.

“The new [US] team is paying more attention to Russian arguments,” he added.

“Obama’s people believe that many problems in the world can be more easily solved together with Moscow …it’s a question of priorities. For many Democrats, the priority is disarmament and they are capable of sacrificing a lot in order to achieve a new agreement with Russia on the reduction of strategic [nuclear] weapons.”

President Barack Obama ordered a review of the Bush-era missile shield plan shortly after coming into office this year.

He unveiled his vision for a nuclear weapons-free world at a major foreign policy speech in Prague in April, while sounding a note of scepticism over the value of the shield.

“As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defence system that is cost effective and proven,” he said.

The multi-billion dollar project was to install 10 interceptor missiles at a facility in Poland and a radar base in the Czech republic. It also envisaged placing US Patriot missiles in Poland.

Russia said the scheme was aimed at degrading its nuclear capability and could trigger a new Cold War.

Many ordinary people in the Czech Republic also said they were against the shield in opinion polls.

But the Polish and Czech centre-right political elite saw it as US gold-plating of anti-Russian security guarantees offered by Nato.

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


EU Commission: 39 Mln in Aid to Bosnia Herzegovina

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 11 — The European Commission has given its go-ahead for a 39-million-euro aid package for Bosnia Herzegovina to deal with the consequences of the financial economic crisis. The financial aid approved by Brussels will be aimed at the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and will finance large-scale investments in infrastructure for the transport, environmental and energy sectors. Some funds will instead be allocated for the agency guaranteeing bank deposits, in order to prevent the exit from the country of capital following the financial crisis. In addition, the European Commission’s contribution will be used to bring in large loans from international financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau. The 39-million-euro package is part of the pre-accession funds for Bosnia Herzegovina, but another programme for the country, to continue institutional reinforcement, will be brought in by the European Commission in autumn. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: 700 Villages to be Abandoned in 15 Years

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 26 — In the coming 15 years around 700 rural villages in Serbia will be abandoned. The country’s office of rural studies reports that the problem regards more than 15% of the total of 4,512 rural communities in Serbia. “Around 700 villages are about to disappear, since they are only inhabited by very old people,” said a representative of the study office, Djura Stevanovic, quoted today by the Beta press agency. In his opinion, the government has no concrete plan to resolve the problem of the abandonment of rural areas, despite the fact that 50% of the Serbian population lives in these areas, including 40% of young people. According to Stevanovic, the State must take urgent measures to create infrastructures and improve the countryside’s living conditions. Based on recent data issued by the national statistics institute, by 2032 Serbia — on a population of almost 10.5 million — will lose one million people. At the same time the population will slowly move from the countryside to the big cities, which offer better opportunities for work and housing. In 1991 just over 1,602,000 lived in Belgrade, in 2008 the capital’s population was estimated at 1,621,000. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Violent Protests Against EU Mission in Kosovo

The European Union’s law enforcement mission in Kosovo (EULEX) was on Tuesday (25 August) the target of violent protests by Albanians opposed to the presence of the international community in the country.

Twenty eight EULEX vehicles near a youth centre in downtown Pristina were damaged during the events, organised by the Vetevendosja (Self-Determination) group, which launched its assault in reaction to co-operation between EULEX and Belgrade.

The vehicles were attacked with sticks and stones or overturned.

Kosovo police arrested 21 members of the group, which said that the demonstration was organised against “the EULEX presence and all its actions in Kosovo including the protocol agreement with Serbia.”

A protocol on police co-operation between EULEX and Serbian Interior Ministry is set to be signed in the coming days.

One member of the group and three police officers were wounded in the melee.

The EU mission, deployed in 2008, condemned the violence.

“EULEX strongly condemns the action taken earlier today in the center of Pristina when a number of EULEX vehicles were damaged,” the mission said in a statement.

“Whilst EULEX supports the idea of peaceful protest as an important element in any democratic society, committing criminal damage does not further the interests or the arguments of any such protestors.”

In a separate incident, clashes between Serbs and Albanian Kosovars in Mitrovica, home to a concentration of Serbs, in northern Kosovo resulted in seven people being injured.

According to reports, the violence broke out following a rally of around 100 Serbs protesting the reconstruction of Albanian buildings that had been hit during the war in the late 1990s.

Stones were thrown at Albanian construction workers and a hand grenade went off. At some point the two sides exchanged shotgun fire, the BBC reports.

EU forces then used tear gas to calm the situation.

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

North Africa

Algeria: 3:000 Dogs Eliminated in 2009 in Tizi Ouzou

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 26 — More than 3,000 dogs were killed early this year in Tizi Ouzou, the capital of Kabylie, Algeria. Algerian assistance agency AAF, specialised in urban cleanups, announced that several operations have been carried out to put down the dogs “in 16 municipalities in Tizi Ouzou, where on 3,000 dogs 3 cases of rabies have been found.” “We have eliminated around 10,000 stray dogs in the past three years” explained AAF’s Benarab Kaci quoted by El Watan. There are no kennels in Kabylie and hardly any in the rest of the North African country, where dogs are considered to be unclean animals. Cats are the only animals allowed to enter mosques in the country but if a believer touches a dog he or must repeat the ablution before prayers. Islam allows people to own dogs but only to make use of them, for example as guard or sheep dog. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Confiscated Boat: Owner, It Was in International Waters

(ANSAmed) — MAZARA DEL VALLO (TRAPANI), AUGUST 25 — “First Libya and now Tunisia. I cannot bear being a ship-owner any longer. What’s happening is really unacceptable. I don’t understand why everyone is allowed to fish in Mediterranean waters other than the Italians,” said Francesco Campo, discouraged. Campo is the ship-owner of ‘Chiaraluna’, the fishing boat confiscated this morning by the Tunisian army in the Strait of Sicily and taken to the Sfax harbour. “This morning, around 7 òclock, I spoke to the captain and he asked me what should he do. Even though they could have easily fled, I told them not to, because thieves flee while we were not doing anything wrong. The fishing boat was in the suburbs of the Mammellone, so to speak, about 40 miles off the coast of Lampedusa and almost 90 miles from Tunisia, therefore it was in international waters and it did not even have any fish onboard. The Tunisian army, though, came onboard and, holding the crew at gunpoint, they forced my men to follow them into the harbour”. After being released by Libya last March, the Chiaraluna was left in a shipyard for months. This is the second time it ventured out at sea for a fishing expedition. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Libya: La Russa, Surprised by Controversy

(AGI) — Rimini, 25 Aug. — “I am really surprised about this whole controversy”, said Italian Defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, replying to centre-left accusations of celebrating the Libyan regime by allowing the Frecce Tricolori to perform in Tripoli. “The Prime Minister will visit the country, the Foreign minister has already visited the country and I have taken part in a meeting in Libya, together with ministers of five other countries ,” La Russa said, “I don’t see why the Frecce Tricolori should not be allowed in Libya, considering they are one of our most prized possessions”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Libya: Govt. Out Only for Gain, Repatriated Italians

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 25 — The decision taken by Italy’s Prime Minister Berlusconi ‘despite everything” to attend the festivities marking the anniversary of the “so-called historical bilateral Treaty” and to involve “an exhibition by our extraordinary air display team, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Libyan revolution” shows “that our government intends to use whatever means it can to follow policies based exclusively on economic advantage, without recalling its ancient debt to those who have lost everything, not just material goods”. This statement comes from the association of Italians repatriated from Libya, in recalling how in 1970, when Italians were being ‘hunted out’ of Tripoli, there was no sign of any “ships or military aircraft being sent to ease the process of repatriation”. Now those who were then repatriated to Italy await “with confidence the Cabinet’s approval of the proposal submitted by Minister Ignazio La Russa, with the aim of obtaining a degree of compensation for the goods lost which may be a little less humiliating that what was granted in January”. “We, too,” Giovanna Ortu concludes, ‘have a significant anniversary to commemorate: October 7 2010 will mark the fortieth anniversary of our being booted out — which up until last year was celebrated in Libya as ‘the day of revengé. We, however, should be able to celebrate it as the completion of our redemption in our homeland”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Libya: Frattini Sees No Problem With Air Display Team

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 25 — “The Frecce Tricolori (Tricolour Arrows, air display team of the Italian Air Force) represent the pride of Italy and I believe it is only right that the African leaders,” gathered in Tripoli partly for an African Union summit, “should see them streak by”. So Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini defends as “opportune” the decision to deploy Italy’s air acrobatic display team to mark the 40th anniversary of the Libyan Revolution on September 1. The decision has unleashed a torrent of controversy in Italy, with various opposition groupings also critical of Berlusconi’s planned visit to Tripoli on August 30. News of the squadron’s deployment to Libya on September 1 sparked heated protests from members of the opposition who questioned the cost and propriety of a performance commemorating the coup d’etat which brought Colonel Muammar al-Ghadaffi to power in 1969. “It is shameful for the pride of our armed forces to be sent to Libya by the orders of that dictator Ghadaffi,” said senator Felice Belisario on Monday, of the opposition Italy of Values party, who accused the government of pandering to the Libyan leader. “After financing international terrorism, systematically violating human rights and offending our nation during his visit, Ghadaffi is honoured and revered by (Premier Silvio) Berlusconi and (Defense Minister Ignazio) La Russa”. The secretary of the centrist opposition UDC party Lorenzo Cesa, threatened today that unless Berlusconi cancelled his trip to Tripoli, the UDC would stage a protest outside the Libyan embassy in Rome. But as far as the head of the country’s Foreign Office is concerned, the premier’s visit “is useful and also necessary to cement even further the ties between Italy and Africa, which at this time — and this is something which may displease the opposition, but it is so — is expressed in Libya as President of the African Union”. “Foreign policy,” Frattini continued, “is a serious matter and international rules have to be complied to. The African Union is a body of increasing importance and we want to respect it”. As for the accord made between Italy and Libya to tackle irregular migration, Frattini sees it as having acheived “exceptional results”, with an emptied “reception centre on the island of Lampedusa”, something that “hasn’t happened for many years”. Asked whether Tripoli should make greater efforts, Frattini replied: “Libya, in committing itself as it is doing, has reduced the number of embarkations to much fewer than a hundredth of what it was last year. We can say that it can and has to make a greater effort, but the results attained are exceptional results”. On being questioned by the Chair of Italy’s Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, on whether the terrorist Al Zomar, who was behind the attack on Rome’s synagogue in 1982, should be extradited from Tripoli to serve his life sentence in Italy, Frattini’s reply was that Libya “is an independent state and the rules of Libyan justice have not up to now provided for the extradition” of Al Zomar. “If we bear in mind that Libya is an independent state, and that it has its own organs of justice, then we have to call on those organs of justice as to whether the extradition could be granted and whether it is possible. But if we still think of Libya as an Italian colony, then wéll grab this person and try him in Italy”. But Libya, Frattini concluded, “has made it known to us that this person is not going to be extradited”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Report: Americans in Egypt to Destroy Gaza Tunnels

( A delegation of experts from the United States is in Egypt to help wage war on Gaza smuggling tunnels, according to an anonymous Egyptian official quoted by the Arab media outlet Ma’an. The delegation landed in El-Arish on Tuesday, he said.

The experts are now on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafiah. They are under heavy guard, the source reported.

Among the experts are U.S. military officers, who are in the region under the auspices of an American program that provides military aid to Egypt.

The delegates met with Egyptian military experts, who detailed the steps they are currently taking in order to locate and destroy smuggling tunnels under the city. After hearing from the Egyptians, the Americans proposed further steps that could be taken to prevent smuggling, with American aid.

The steps would be funded by the U.S. — the American Congress has already voted to approve an aid package to Egypt to be used along the narrow Gaza-Egypt border.

Gaza residents have built hundreds of tunnels under the 3.5-kilometer strip of land connecting Gaza to Egypt. The tunnels are used to smuggle in both black-market goods and weapons. The weapons, including bombs, rockets, and according to some, anti-aircraft missiles, are then passed along to various local terrorist groups.

Israel destroyed many of the tunnels during the three week long Cast Lead counterterror offensive in Gaza. However, tunnel operators began rebuilding shortly after the operation concluded, and they claim to have restored their tunnel system to what it was prior to Cast Lead.

After largely ignoring Rafiah’s tunnels for months, Israel bombed one tunnel on Tuesday in response to a mortar shell attack the day before. Three smugglers were reportedly killed in the strike.

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

Swiss Hostages to Leave Libya

Two Swiss detained for more than a year in Libya have received exit visas, nearly a week after a controversial diplomatic mission by Switzerland’s president. Authorities said on Wednesday that the men still needed the permission of Libya’s judicial authorities before they can leave. They confirmed a Swiss government jet had landed in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday.

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz received a written note from the Libyan prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi, on Wednesday assuring him it was “a matter of time” before the men would be allowed out of the country, Merz’s finance ministry said.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, the ministry said a Swiss delegation had met the two men in Tripoli late on Tuesday.

“During the course of the evening, the passports and exit visas were handed over to both of the detainees. The final hurdle is that of obtaining the approval of the justice authorities for the departure,” it said.

The return of the two Swiss businessmen is linked to an agreement Merz signed after a meeting with the Libyan prime minister last Tuesday.

The Swiss president apologised for the “unjustified” arrest of leader Moammar Gaddafi’s son and daughter-in-law in Geneva in July 2008.

The pact between the two countries — Merz signed versions in English and Arabic — prompted an outcry and sparked concerns about violations of national law and rules governing the collective decision-making process of the government.

Tricky politics The Swiss presidency is a rotating post and the president has a ceremonial role, which does not allow him or her to act without approval from the cabinet’s six other members.

Merz said his visit had resolved the central issue preventing any improvement in relations between Libya and Switzerland, which deteriorated sharply since the arrest.

The cabinet had known about the trip but not about the contents of the agreement, which are now a part of Switzerland’s international obligations to Libya.

Merz returned with assurances from the Libyan prime minister that the businessmen would be released before September 1 — the 40th anniversary of Gaddafi’s bloodless coup. Amnesties are to be granted to a large number of prisoners to mark the occasion.

Merz was widely criticised in Switzerland not only for apologising to Libya, but also for returning without the two men. Many commentators pointed out that the North African state consistently refused to link the detention of the two Swiss with the arrest of Gaddafi’s son, Hannibal.

Had they had gone back with Merz, it would have implied a connection.

Hannibal Gaddafi was arrested in a Geneva hotel by the Geneva police, along with his heavily pregnant wife Aline, on charges of beating two of their servants. They were later released on bail, and left the country.

The servants involved withdrew their complaints, after receiving compensation.

Controversy In the aftermath of the affair, Tripoli took a number of economic sanctions, including limiting trade and reducing, then stopping, flights between Libya and Switzerland. Swiss businesses were forced to close their offices.

Two Swiss businessmen, one of them employed by the ABB engineering group, were imprisoned on charges of visa violations. Although they were released from jail after just over a week, they were not allowed to leave the country.

In May, Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey visited the two men during a three-day trip to Libya, to check on their physical and mental health. She was accompanied by the detainees’ wives and a doctor.

The foreign ministry noted “significant progress” but released no details.

The widespread concern and indignation in Switzerland about the detention of the businessmen led some people to accept that Merz’s apology was a necessary evil.

Some critics accused him not only of grovelling before an unreliable authoritarian regime while others attacked him for allegedly violating the sovereignty of canton Geneva, which backed the actions of its police.

Concern has also been expressed that an independent arbitration panel will investigate the incident. Some critics say this undermines Swiss law and its federalist system, which gives the cantons wide-ranging autonomy.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Algeria, 4 Killed in Attacks

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 26 — Three members of security forces and one civilian have been killed in two seperate attacks over the past 24 hours in different regions of Algeria. In Kabylie, a former city council guard, 37 years old, was assassinated by a commando, according to the Algerian press. The man was shot and killed while in a village café. On Monday, an armed group with Islamic roots raided a village El Guemaichia (near Ain Delfa in the western part of the country), and after having killed a civilian hid a bomb underneath the body. When rescue services arrived, the bomb was blown up, killing two gendarme and injuring two others. A large sweep-up operation got underway in the Ain Defla region immediately after the attack, while in Kabylie, considered an Al-Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb hideout, there is an ever greater military presence. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Aftonbladet Article, Israel Restricts Swedish Press

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 24 — Israel, according to reports on military radio, has announced restrictions on the Swedish press in reaction to the publication in Stockholm’s Aftonbladet of an article considered “defamatory” by the Israeli government. According to the military radio, the government press office (GPO) has refused to give temporary press passes to two Aftonbladet journalists who had just arrived in Israel and who had been planning on going to Gaza. The issuing of the passes, according to reports, could take as long as 90 days and without the documents they will not be able to get into Gaza. Israeli Minister for Internal Affairs Ely Ishai (from the Shas party) has decided to halt issuing of stay permits for Swedish journalists interested in working in Sweden. The Aftonbladet article — which claims that in previous years Israeli soldiers took organs from dead Palestinians after having captured them — gave rise to indignation in Israel. Maariv reported that in 2001 the author of the article published similar accusations in a book on the intifada financed — according to the Israeli paper — by the Swedish foreign ministry. In a comment, Maariv reported a sort of “blond racism” which is thought to be spreading in Sweden, in part due to influence from the strong Islamic minority. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Chief Palestinian Justice: Temples Never Existed

Slams rabbis as ‘liars,’ claims Jews have no historic tie to Jerusalem

The Jewish temples never existed, and Jews have no historic connection to Jerusalem, declared chief Palestinian justice Sheik Taysir Tamimi today.

Tamimi condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for stressing in Europe this week the long Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

Tamimi claimed “all Jewish rabbis and extremist organizations” as well as Netanyahu are lying when they state Jerusalem was a historically Jewish city.

He called such claims “baseless and untrue.”

“Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic city and it always has been so,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Minister ‘Does Not Fear USA’, Rebuked by Premier

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 20 — Today Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu criticised controversial statements made by the Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Bughi) Yaalon, who asserted “the right of the Jews to reside anywhere in the (biblical) land of Israel” and said that “he does not fear the Americans”. Netanyahu set a meeting with the minister so he could clarify his comments on Tuesday after a brief vacation with his family. Yaalon, who was addressing an extreme right-wing forum yesterday composed of Likud members and headed by Moshe Feiglin, a political adversary of the premier, launched a harsh attack on the media, the ‘elite’, and the United States, culprits in his eyes of opposing Jewish settlements in the West Bank. “Petty politicians,” he said, “bring us the olive branch and then its up to the army to clean up what is left behind.” “In order to save the state,” he continued, “we must face the issue of the virus, which is Peace Now (the Israeli pacifist movement) and, if you will, the elite, who have inflicted grave damages. From my point of view, the Jews should live anywhere in the land of Israel (understood as the biblical confines, which include the West Bank, editor’s note) forever.” To the question as to whether he fears reactions from the United States, Yaalon said “I don’t fear the Americans”. Yaalon’s statements were widely reported throughout the Israeli press and were harshly criticised, while in a statement, the premier said that “he does not agree with the substance or the language” of the minister’s statements. Yaalon, a former Chief of Staff, has recently entered into the political world, accepting Netanyahu’s offer to join Likud just before the last elections. Yaalon, in addition to being the Minister of Strategic Affairs, is also the Vice-Premier, and a member of the forum of six ministers who weigh in on important decisions related to defence and foreign policy. Yaalon already angered the premier for visiting, along with three other extreme right-wing ministers, one of the illegal outposts that Israel promised the US that it would clear out. Yesterday Yaalon was the guest of honour for the Jewish Leadership Movement, led by Feiglin. Netanyahu has tried to distance Feiglin from Likud but has not been successful. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Minister Corrects Slur to U.S., Pacifists

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, 21 AUG — The affair of the minister and former Israeli chief of staff Moshe ‘Bughi’ Yaalon apparently has been resolved with a half step back from the declarations he made challenging the United States and making veiled threats to Israeli pacifists from the left and the intellectual establishment. Summoned yesterday evening for a clarifying conversation by an irritated and embarrassed Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, who also is head of his right-wing Likud party, Yaalon, online media report today, has claimed he was misquoted, insisting that his words were “extrapolated from their context.” Yaalon, speaking Wednesday to members of the more extreme Likud faction, had been quoted by Israeli newspapers as telling his audience “not to be scared of the United States” and rejecting any concession by the Jewish state to Barack Obama’s administration on the freezing of Jewish colonies in Palestinian territory. That is a question on which Netanyahu, although contrary to the total freeze on colonies called for by Washington, is seeking a compromise with the United States. The minister also was quoted as making offensive remarks to pacifists, the left and the Israeli intelligentsia including terming as a “virus” the Peace Now movement committed in favour of peace with the Palestinians. Such attitudes were echoed by Dany Danon, a second-rank Likud deputy, who went so far as to call on authorities to close down Peace Now, which he accused of receiving foreign funding. Tzali Reshef, a veterean of the movement, for his part recalled that in 1983 an analogous campaign was followed by the murder in Jerusalem of a pacifist activist, Emile Gruenzweig, by ultra right-wing Israeli extremists. Other observers for their part recalled the attacks in 1995, also by Likud members, against the then Labour Prime Minister and former war hero Yitzhak Rabin, caricatured in Arab dress and even as a clone of Adolf Hitler for having signed the Oslo peace accords. Those attacks preceded the assassination of Rabin in Tel Aviv by a young terrorist from the extreme right of Jewish nationalism.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu-Mitchell, Peace Process Closer

(by Patrizio Nissirio) (ANSAmed) — LONDON, AUGUST 26 — They talked for four hours, and afterwards released only a short, general statement: Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama’s Special Envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell, had an intense discussion today on how to restart the peace process with the Palestinians. There was no sensational announcement, no change, but the signs of optimism are growing, and the feeling that pressure from Washington, which is focused on the thorny issue of the freezing of Israeli settlements in the Territories, is starting to bear fruit. “It is necessary to begin constructive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to move towards a regional peace agreement” says the joint statement, which calls on all sides for “concrete measures to allow peace to make progress”. US and Israeli negotiators will meet next week in the United States, the statement continued. But before his talks with Mitchell, Netanyahu said this morning that “we are making progress. My government has made steps in words and deeds, to move forward. Our objective is a comprehensive peace, and this is an objective which we share with the Americans”. And while the meeting was still under way, Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said that hopes of a resumption of talks is “a work in progress. I think we are getting close”. Regev hinted that an agreement with Washington could be a matter of weeks: “The aim is to find common ground with the American administration over a context which could allow a peace process with new energy to restart. I hope that in the coming weeks we can return to the energised peace process, that it can be meaningful… and the Arab world must be part of it”. Following his visit to London, Netanyahu is expected in Germany, and is committed to not building any new settlements in the territories, but plans to allow what he calls “natural growth” of the existing settlements. According to the Guardian, which cites US, European and Israeli sources, the resumption of talks is around the corner, thanks to efforts by the Obama administration. In return, the USA, together with the UK and France, would commit to strict sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme; Israel would accept a partial freezing of the building of settlements, and during these months of suspension, talks would be resumed, with possible steps towards the normalisation of relations with Israel by the Arab states. The newspaper reports that Obama would announce the resumption of the peace process either at the meeting of international leaders at the UN General Assembly, which starts on September 23, or at the G20 summit on 24 and 25 September in Pittsburgh. Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would stand with him. Obama would like a final agreement within two years, but many analysts see this timetable as “unrealistic”, adds the Guardian. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Settlements: Netanyahu-Mitchell Meeting on Wed

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 24 — The issue of a freeze on settlement building in the West Bank will be under discussion on Wednesday in London in a meeting between Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu and Obama’s envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell. Palestinian National Authority president Mahmoud Abbas holds the freeze to be a pre-condition for any sort of resumption of peace talks with Israel. According to the local press, the positions of Israel and the United States drew closer after a mission to Washington of two Israeli envoys (Mike Herzog and Yitzhak Molco). According to the online site Ynet, the United States have now agreed to Israel’s finishing building projects already underway in the West Bank so long as no new projects are started. In exchange, Israel expects reconciliatory measures on the part of Palestinians and Arab states. Some analysts have said, however, that the Netanyahu-Mitchell talks will be simply a preliminary stage and that for any sort of definitive agreement the Israeli premier will have to meet with US president Obama again. Meanwhile, the Peace Now movement has made it known that in East Jerusalem another Jewish area is being planned inside the Palestinian zone of Ras El-Amud. The Jerusalem city council has said that the plan has not yet been assessed by its experts. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Shalit: Appeal to Carter and ‘Wise Men’ Delegation

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 25 — An appeal for personal intervention to free Ghilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured three years ago by Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip, was made today to former President Jimmy Carter and the delegation of former heads of state and Nobel prizewinners, who are currently on yet another visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Carter, wearing the traditional Jewish head covering (kipah), discussed the Shalit case this morning with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Israeli Sephardi party Shas. Present at the meeting were other members of the delegation of ‘wise men’, which includes South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, former Irish President Mary Robinson, and former Brazilian leader Fernando Cardoso. “We need you and the other leaders to make efforts in this phase, and everything possible to obtain Shalit’s release” Yosef told Carter. “You can influence” the outcome of the saga. His words seem to indicate a specific opportunity, while Israeli newspaper Haaretz today reports rumours of a possible positive change, speaking of signs of greater flexibility on the part of Hamas. Similar announcement in recent weeks and months have not been followed by concrete action over the laborious negotiations — which were begun with the mediation of Egypt — over an exchange between Shalit and several hundred Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. An exchange in which Israel has shown itself to be willing to include several prisoners sentenced for acts of terrorism, but who then put the brakes over the names of about twenty prisoners accused of brutal crimes. Today, a group of Israeli demonstrators blocked the families of Palestinian prisoners from entering a prison, in retaliation for Hamas’ holding of Shalit in isolation, and preventing him from receiving visits from the International Red Cross. The Hamas government in Gaza described this as “a show of weakness” by Israel, warning that similar initiatives would have no impact on the negotiations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Health: Americans Prefer Turkey for Low-Cost Services

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 18 — People who lost their jobs and can no longer benefit from health insurance in the US have discovered Turkey and its offer of health services at reasonable prices and Turkish health tourism has reached a business volume of $150 million, daily Hurriyet reports. The country is preferred by people from EU member countries but US citizens have also started to show interest after the global crisis. “The arriving patient profile has changed amid the crisis and the number of American patients has surpassed the number of Europeans”, Health Tourism Turkey Coordinator, Gul Soydan, said. “Turkey not only has advantages in terms of prices but it is also much ahead of Europe with its investments in technology”, Selin Yildirim, deputy-managing director of the World Eye Centers, said, adding that “its technology is used in some advanced hospitals in Germany and the US. We are much ahead of Scandinavia, the Balkans and Central Europe”. Turkey’s health tourism is expected to cover 36% of its overall tourism revenues, which totaled $21.9 billion last year. Around 30,000 to 40,000 tourists arrive in Turkey for health tourism and the goal is to attain one million foreign patients and $8 billion in revenue by 2020, the report issued by Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD), revealed. “Open-heart surgery, which costs $150,000 in the US, is around $12,000 to $15,000 in Turkey”, Mahir Turan, managing director of the Goztepe Medical Park Hospital in Istanbul, said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran: Iraqi Shia Leader Dies of Cancer in Tehran

Tehran, 26 August (AKI) — Aziz al-Hakim, leader of one of Iraq’s most powerful Shia Muslim parties on Wednesday died of lung cancer in hospital in the Iranian capital, Tehran, his family announced. Al-Hakim led the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), Iraq’s ruling Shia alliance, which includes prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party.

Al-Hakim had not held any government post in Iraq’s government since the overthrow of the country’s late president Saddam Hussein, but he was an important power broker.

The SIIC has several senior cabinet members, and its militia — the Badr Brigade — wields considerable influence in Iraq’s security establishment.

Al-Hakim’s son Ammar announced his father’s death and praised him for his role in opposing Saddam’s rule and building unity in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Ammar Al-Hakim is tipped to takeover the SIIC leadership from his late father. SIIC announced this week it would lead a new political grouping and run in January’s polls without Maliki.

Al-Hakim was born in 1950 and became head of the SIIC in 2003 after his brother, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim, was killed with around 100 followers in a massive car bombing in the holy city of Najaf.

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

Iranian Protesters ‘Not Agents’

Iran’s supreme leader says he has seen no proof that opposition leaders blamed for the post-election unrest were agents of foreign powers.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments contradict accusations which have frequently been made by hardliners.

A number of senior opposition figures are currently on trial in Tehran accused of conspiring with foreign powers to organise unrest.

But the ayatollah appears to be trying to reduce tensions, say correspondents.

“I do not accuse the leaders of the recent incidents to be subordinate to the foreigners, like the United States and Britain, since this issue has not been proven for me,” said Ayatollah Khamenei, in a statement read out on Iranian television.

But he said there was “no doubt” the mass demonstrations, in which at least 30 people died, had been planned in advance, “whether its leaders know or not”.

“This plot was defeated, since fortunately our enemies still do not understand the issue in Iran,” he said.

“Our enemies were given a slap in the face by the Iranian nation, but they are still hopeful and they are pursuing the issue.”

‘Suspicions and rumours’

Opposition leaders say dozens of people were killed and hundreds arrested during the protests after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the presidential election.

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

Saudi Arabia: Italian Steelmaker Seals $213.3 Million Deal

Riyadh, 24 August (AKI) — Italian foundry equipment maker Danieli has been awarded a contract to build a new steel plant in Saudi Arabia. The firm’s Saudi client, Al-Rajhi Steel announced the deal worth 800 million riyals (213.3 million dollars) at the weekend.

Al-Rajhi Steel, one of Saudi Arabia’s three largest steel firms, endorsed the deal with Danieli for the one million tonne per year steel rebar plant on Thursday.

The plant, which will be located in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, will take almost two years to complete and production is expected to begin in November 2011.

Danieli is among the three largest suppliers in the metals industry of equipment and plants worldwide

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

Syria: A Good European Neighbour?

As Syria’s international rehabilitation continues, Britain has called for “a new beginning” with the previously isolated Ba’athist regime. This would include bringing Syria into the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

The move is part of a wider western strategy to tempt Syria away from Iran and continue its co-operation in Iraq and Lebanon, but are we witnessing another example of human rights and democracy being sacrificed for political expediency?

The ENP aims to build relationships with Europe’s neighbours based “upon a mutual commitment to common values (democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development)”.

Ostensibly, Syria has not made any such commitment since talks about joining the ENP were frozen in 2005. Human rights violations continue and the ruling regime has shown no serious moves towards democratisation. Similarly, there has been no renunciation of chemical weapons — a demand that Britain had previously made during negotiations in 2004 and has now dropped.

Those in favour of a Syrian association agreement argue that the long term political benefits for the EU outweigh this oversight of principle. Syria expert Joshua Landis argues that US sanctions and international isolation have not worked, so a new approach should be tried. The proposed EU agreement, he suggests, would tie Syria into the global economy and discourage it from siding with those that undermine the global order, notably Iran. Similarly, the economic benefits of such a pact would help develop a larger Syrian middle class who would, in turn, promote greater international co-operation, as has happened in China.

Some supporters go further and argue that there is no compromise of principle as this pact could aid internal liberalisation. Syrian reformers suggest that economic openness could prompt greater social liberalism, as seen in the Asian tiger economies. This view is clearly shared by Britain and France, who claim a clause in the treaty will facilitate greater dialogue on issues such as human rights.

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

Turkey: Ex Husband Kills Wife and Five Family Members

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 21 — An ex-husband has killed his wife and members of her family in the Zonguldaq province of northern Turkey, the Turkish Cihan Agency reported. Shafaq Koksal killed his former wife, Aisha Koksal, who lived in the Chayjum village, along with her parents, brothers and sisters. After the crime he voluntarily surrendered to the police. The motive for the murder was his wife’s refusal to reconcile with her former spouse. At the investigation Koksal said that he killed his wife’s relatives because they had tried to prevent his conversation with his wife. Shafaq and Aishi Koksal have a five-month old child. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Arctic Sea’s ‘Hijackers’ Charged

Eight men accused of hijacking the Arctic Sea cargo ship have been charged with hijacking and piracy, Russian prosecutors have said.

The men are suspected of seizing the ship and its 15-man Russian crew after raiding it disguised as police.

The ship vanished last month days after leaving Finland with a cargo of timber. The alleged hijackers, mainly from Estonia, were taken to Russia after the ship was found nearly three weeks later off the west coast of Africa.

It was spotted up 300 miles (480km) off Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean on 16 August.

Observers have questioned why the alleged hijackers would risk seizing the Arctic Sea in one of Europe’s busiest shipping lanes for a relatively inexpensive cargo.

There has been speculation that the ship, which was scheduled to travel to the Algerian port of Bejaia, may have been carrying an illicit cargo, possibly arms.

The investigative committee of Russian prosecutors said on Thursday that seven of the men had been charged with participation in the alleged hijacking, and an eighth with masterminding the operation.

“After hijacking the ship, the suspects held the crew in separate berths, in isolation, to prevent any possibility of resistance,” a statement from the committee said.

“Their roles were set out and the plan worked out in advance.

“They equipped themselves ahead of time with arms to put down resistance by the ship’s crew and also masks and black clothing marked with the word ‘POLICE’.”

The suspects have previously said they were environmentalists who boarded the ship for safety during a storm.

The 4,000-tonne Maltese-flagged Arctic Sea set sail from Finland in July with a crew of 15, and was said to have been carrying timber worth $1.8m (£1.1m).

A Russian official said this week that the ship would be searched to ensure “that there are no dark spots in this story”.

On Thursday, a spokesman for the prosecutors’ committee was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying there was “no information that the vessel might be carrying any forbidden cargo”.

Authorities have kept the 11 crew members who returned to Russia in Moscow while the investigation continues.

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

Rumours Circulate in Russia on Whereabouts of Arctic Sea Crew

Algerians call Finland about cargo

Contradictory reports have been circulating in Russia on the whereabouts of the crew of the recently hijacked cargo ship, the Arctic Sea. Officials say that everything is in order, but some of the family members say that they have still not heard from their loved ones.

The Russian prosecution service on Wednesday denied reports that the members of the crew are being kept in a prison.

According to a statement issued on Wednesday, the members of the crew are staying at a hotel in Moscow, and have been allowed to telephone their families. Both the crew, and the hijackers, who are being kept at Lefortovo Prison, are being questioned almost daily.

The prosecution service insists that the crew are not under suspicion of any crime.

Director Nikolai Karpenkov of Solchart Archangelsk, which recruited the crew for the Finnish-owned Arctic Sea, has not been able to contact the men.

“They are not answering their mobile phones in Moscow.”

Helsingin Sanomat reached some of the family members of the crew in Archangelsk on Wednesday. The families knew nothing about the whereabouts of their relatives, and have not spoken to them.

The prosecution service said on Wednesday that the Arctic Seais now under Russian administration.

Russian armed forces commander Nikolai Makarov says that the ship is being taken to the harbour of Novorossijsk in the Black Sea, where it will arrive sometime in the first ten days of September.

Quoted by the news agency Ria novosti, Makarov said that the ship will be thoroughly examined in the harbour.

Russian officials have put out contradictory information on the cargo of the ship in recent days.

On Tuesday the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the ship was only carrying wood. The prosecution service had no knowledge of any secret cargo, such as weapons. Rumours have been rife of something more valuable or sensitive having been aboard — timber does not appear on the face of it to be a cargo worthy of all the effort involved.

On Wednesday, Alexandr Bastrykin, the head of the investigation, said that there may have been something else. Commander Makarov also does not rule out the possibility of smuggling.

“We want to make sure that the ship really had nothing other than lumber. The motivation for the hijacking has not really come out”, Makarov said.

He added that after the inspection, the ship will probably be returned to its legal owners.

Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) feels that it is likely that the cargo really is limited to wood.

“I am no ship expert, but a detailed and close search of the ship requires that it is done in port and not at sea”, said Rabbe von Hertzen of the NBI.

The original destination of the Arctic Sea was Algeria. The Algerian buyers of the load of wood contacted Finland to ask about the goods on Wednesday.

Kari Naumanen, director of Rets Timber, which is responsible for the cargo, said that a phone all came on Wednesday. “If the cargo is unloaded in the Black Sea, it will make the transport more complicated”, he said.

Naumanen had no knowledge of the present location of the ship, but he said that he believes that it is being towed by the Russian Navy.

“I am surprised that the ship wasn’t refuelled in Cape Verde. Fuel is available in all harbours. Perhaps the navy wants to keep the ship in its own hands.”

A further mystery to emerge on Wednesday was the claim in some media outlets that the Foreign Ministry in Moscow had reported that the Arctic Sea’s captain had tried to pass the ship off as a North Korean vessel when it was stopped by the Russian Navy.

This is apparently the first time that investigators have implicated the crew in the strange tale of the Arctic Sea.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Russia’s Historical Campaign

A series of articles about the policies of the Soviet Union and certain European countries towards Hitler’s Germany have appeared in the Russian electronic and paper media since June, and especially in late August in connection with the approaching seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. In these articles, Russian historians, political scientists and journalists, as well as high-ranking state officials and representatives of the secret services and the armed forces, presented arguments which largely repeated the cliche’s of Soviet historiography. They justified and positively assessed the USSR’s policy in the late 1930s, and accused Poland, the Baltic States, Great Britain and Ukrainian nationalists of having supported Nazi Germany. The publications appear to be an organised propaganda campaign steered by the Russian authorities. They are also part of the increasingly intensive efforts to promote the concepts behind Russia’s emerging new state ideology, while at the same time serving the short and long-term objectives of Russia’s foreign policy, in particular with regard to Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine. Among other goals, Moscow is apparently seeking to influence the outcome of the campaign ahead of the Ukrainian presidential election, and to discredit the Baltic States and Poland on the European stage in order to undermine their influence on the EU and NATO’s eastern policies.

The campaign

The Russian media have published numerous texts on historical issues in recent weeks. Apart from publications by Russian historians and political scientists (including Prof. Anatoly Torkunov, rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MGIMO), and head of the Polish-Russian commission for questionable issues), the texts include statements and articles by high-ranking state officials and politicians. The collection of papers published in the August special edition of Vestnik MGIMO, with an editorial by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, is one of the most important publications in this context. The papers’ authors include the foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, the head of the Federation Council Sergei Mironov, as well as Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian commission appointed this May to combat the falsification of history, and head of the Presidential Administration. In addition to the publications in the press and the Internet, Russian state television aired a series of documentaries which were in fact propaganda material, including a film entitled The Secrets of the Confidential Protocols, broadcast on 20 August by the state television channel Rossiya. The film was prepared with the assistance of general Alexandr Zdanovich, the long-time Federal Security Service spokesman. The claims presented in the articles and films are supposedly substantiated by the collections of documents on the geopolitical situation around the Baltic States on the eve of the war, declassified by the archives of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) on 17 August. On 31 August, the SVR will present another set of documents concerning “the secrets of Poland’s foreign policy in the years 1935-1945”.

The materials communicate a consistent message which largely refers back to the propagandistic concepts of Soviet-era historiography. Most of them manipulate facts taken out of context and expressing biased views, in order to justify and positively assess the policy of the Soviet Union on the eve of the war, to put the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact in a positive light, and to accuse Poland, the Baltic States, Great Britain and the Ukrainian nationalists of having supported Nazi Germany in the 1930s (see Appendix 1 for more information). They also strongly criticise the historical policies of today’s Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States and even Georgia, by accusing these countries of falsifying history, and claiming that an ‘information war’ is being waged against Russia.

What is Russia’s objective?

The Russian media publications about the seventieth anniversary of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the outbreak of World War II are not incidental, nor are they an expression of the interests of the media concerned. They make up a whole series of diverse publications, which add up to an organised propaganda campaign involving (directly or indirectly) the state structures of Russia and high-ranking state officials. The campaign is therefore an expression of the political will of the current state leadership of Russia. It serves different objectives concerning both the Russian public and the outside world.

Firstly, the publications are a continuation, in more aggressive form (see Appendix 2), of measures to promote the concepts that form part of the emerging new state ideology of Russia. This ideology involves, among other elements, the rehabilitation and glorification of the Soviet Union’s great power policy. At its core is the emphasis on the USSR’s great victory over Nazi Germany (and its decisive importance for the fate of World War II), intended to integrate both the Russian public around its own government, and the post-Soviet societies around Russia. The facts and historical assessments which contradict this vision, and are often raised in the Central and Eastern European States, therefore come in for increasingly violent criticism in Russia. Moscow is also concerned that the historical views of those states in Europe which fell victim to Soviet expansionism are being increasingly taken into account in the European political and historical discourse. For example, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly resolution of 1 July 2009, which put the crimes of Stalinism alongside the crimes of Nazi Germany, has been fiercely criticised by the Russian authorities. Secondly, the current historical campaign is meant to serve the immediate and long-term objectives of Russia’s foreign policy with regard to certain states and regions, in particular the Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine. One of the issues is that Moscow fears potential compensation claims from the victim-states of Stalinist policy, and seeks to avert them in advance. Russia’s attack against the concepts of Ukraine’s historical policy, endorsed mainly by Ukraine’s president Viktor Yushchenko, is clearly part of Russia’s growing involvement in the campaign before the Ukrainian presidential election in January 2010, and its objective is to weaken and discredit the Ukrainian president and state, both internally and also on the European stage. Moscow’s attacks on the governments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, including its allegations that the Baltic States have been rehabilitating Nazism and exaggerating the impact of Stalinism, are in line with Russia’s long-standing policy of discrediting the Baltic States on the European stage in order to undermine their influence on the eastern policies of the EU and NATO. The objective of Russia’s propaganda attack against Poland is similar, but in this case it appears that there is also another, immediate goal of creating a scandal in connection with prime minister Vladimir Putin’s participation in the celebrations of the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, to be held on 1 September in Gdansk. The Russian authorities are apparently aiming to provoke a reaction from the Polish public opinion and leadership that will be unfavourable to Russia, or to humiliate the Polish authorities. In the extreme case, Russia’s intention might even be to cancel the Russian prime minister’s visit to Poland and blame this on the Polish side. All this demonstrates that Russia is increasingly tending to use historical manipulation as an instrument of its internal and foreign policy.

Marek Menkiszak, Agata Dubas

Appendix 1 The major historical concepts promoted in Russia on the eve of the seventieth anniversary of World War II

- A positive representation of the Soviet state leadership’s policy in the 1930s. It is claimed that the Soviet Union was the only state that consistently tried to prevent the war, unlike the West, which either collaborated with Germany or was unable to strike a lasting alliance with the USSR for ideological reasons, and was guided solely by its mercantile interests.

- A positive view of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The pact is presented as being largely a historical myth, and an instrument used by other states to build a negative international image of Russia; in reality, according to this interpretation, the pact was the only move by which the USSR could avoid having to fight on two fronts (with Nazi Germany and Japan), and gain time to prepare for the war with the Nazis with the intention of liberating all Europe.

- The Soviet army as a liberating force and the rescuer of many small nations. The Soviet aggression against Poland on 17 September 1939 is claimed to have been a measure to defend Poland against Nazi occupation. Stalin allegedly had no plans to seize Eastern Europe, but simply wanted to stop the Germans as far as possible from the Soviet border. The Soviet forces entered Poland only because the Polish government was no longer present on its territory, and there would be no other way of stopping Hitler from, for instance, creating a puppet state in western Ukraine.

- The negative role of Poland, the Baltic States and Great Britain. It is claimed that all these countries were allies and collaborators of the Nazis at different periods. It is alleged that Poland became one of the first allies of Hitler’s Germany (having signed the non-aggression pact with Germany in 1934, the two countries supposedly started a secret co-operation, the objectives of which included a Polish occupation of Soviet Ukraine and Carpathian Ruthenia, as well as joint actions against the USSR), and ultimately lost the most as a result of this collaboration.

Appendix 2 Main manifestations of Russia’s historical policy Since 2005, the year when the Russians celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II with great pomp, historical policy has been gaining importance in Russia. This has mainly manifested itself in the following ways: — statements made by politicians on the occasions celebrations commemorating various historical events (especially Victory Day on 9 May), — the activities of pro-Kremlin youth movements (such as the protests against the relocation of the Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn in May 2007), — the active position taken by Russia in international historical debates (for example, the Russian parliament’s statement of 7 July 2009, condemning the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly resolution which put the crimes of Stalinism alongside the crimes of Nazi Germany), — the provisions of key state documents including the National Security Strategy endorsed on 12 May 2009 by President Medvedev, in which the attempts at revising the role and place of Russia in history are regarded as a threat to national security, — the creation of bodies tasked directly with producing historical propaganda, such as the commission for the combating of falsification of history to the detriment of Russia, appointed in May 2009. Most of the commission’s members are representatives of the government (Presidential Administration and government) and the institutions of force (the Federal Security Service, the Foreign Intelligence Service, the General Staff, the Security Council) as well as political scientists engaged in political activity, who promote the vision of Russia as a world power (such as Natalia Narochnitskaya and Sergei Markov).

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Russia: Five Years on, Beslan’s Survivors Feel Forsaken

Half a decade after the Beslan hostage crisis, the survivors and families of the victims feel abandoned by the Russian state. The authorities don’t want to be reminded of the failure of Russian security forces to deal with a terror attack that left so many children dead.

It was a sweltering summer day when Alan Adyrkhayev, a doctor, received a letter from his 11-year-old daughter Emilia. It was an unusual letter, because, for one thing, the father and daughter live in the same house in Beslan, a small, dusty city in North Ossetia, nestled in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. But Emilia’s request was sufficiently important to merit writing a letter.

“This is dedicated to our mother Ira,” the girl had scrawled in her child’s handwriting. “The years have passed, but we will never forget your smile, your eyes and your tenderness.” Emilia’s declaration of love for her dead mother ended with a cry for revenge: “The Russians should kill the Ingushetians, just as they killed our Beslan.”It was Ingushetian terrorists, as well as a few Chechens, who overran School No. 1 in Beslan, on Sept. 1, 2004, taking 1,127 pupils, teachers and parents hostage. The Russian authorities, unprepared for such an act, spent little time negotiating before cold-bloodedly launching a rescue effort that ended in bloody chaos.

Never before had a terrorist attack claimed the lives of so many children. Of the 334 dead, 186 were pupils at the school or siblings of pupils. Seventeen children lost both parents, and 72 still have severe disabilities. Adyrkhayev’s wife, also a physician, died in the attack. Beslan was Russia’s Sept. 11.

‘An Act of Despair’

“I don’t want my daughter to go through life with such hatred,” says Adyrkhayev, “but I feel helpless.” A man with short black hair and sad eyes, he is sitting in his office on the second floor of the municipal hospital. Adyrkhayev is more intimately familiar with the long-term consequences of the tragedy than any of Beslan’s 36,000 residents. He sees them in his patients, including 12-year-old Kristina, who he treated on the morning of the interview, and whose blood pressure was 160. Another 12-year-old patient, Vladimir, had cut his own hand with a knife. “It wasn’t a suicide attempt,” the doctor explains, “but an act of despair. He is probably unconsciously tortured by the feeling that he doesn’t deserve to be alive after so many of his classmates died.”

Adyrkhayev describes another one of his patients, Karina Kussova, a pretty 13-year-old girl whose left leg is disfigured by burns from the foot to the hip. With their combined income of roughly €250 ($355) a month, her father, a construction worker, and her mother, a crane operator, cannot afford the weekly expense of 540 rubles, or €12, for a healing ointment, let alone the €5,000 cost of a skin transplant and removal of four pieces of shrapnel, surgery that would have to be performed in Moscow.

But what the girl, with her long, brown hair, needs even more is psychological help. At night, she imagines her stuffed animals being transformed into terrorists wearing black masks. One night, Karina woke up screaming, after dreaming that her injured leg had been severed from her thin body and was lying, lifeless, next to her in bed.

‘The Government Does Nothing’

In the aftermath of the brutal, 52-hour hostage crisis, Beslan was inundated with a wave of compassion and offers of assistance. Packages and aid shipments arrived from around the world, from Australia to Jordan, including 46 television sets, 19 microwave ovens, 196 telephones, 35 video cameras and “enough stuffed animals to fill the rooms of every child in the province,” as a teacher who survived the ordeal reports.

The mayor of Moscow had two modern schools built, celebrities from the Russian entertainment world gave benefit concerts, banks sponsored the construction of playgrounds, and the government and private donors paid the equivalent of about €30,000 in compensation for each person killed and €20,000 for anyone seriously injured in the incident — no small sums in the poverty-stricken Caucasus.

Five years later, however, many of the survivors and family members of victims feel forsaken. It is part of the legacy of the Soviet health care system that very few Beslan residents have health insurance. “The government does nothing,” says Adyrkhayev. “There are no regular examinations, and there is no central government office for those seeking help.”

The new hospital, with its bright white walls and shiny blue roof — as attractive and foreign-looking as if it had fallen from the skies over the Caucasus — was built two years ago on the outskirts of Beslan. It is the most expensive hospital in the region, but it has two problems. First, a lack of funds and licenses means that the sparkling new hospital still hasn’t opened its doors. Second, a pediatric psychology department is not part of the initial plan. “Does this mean that my young patients will have to wait until they’re grown up?” Adyrkhayev grumbles.

Meanwhile, one in two of the existing municipal hospital’s 60 beds must remain empty because there is no money to renovate the dilapidated building. At the beginning of the month, the city administration reduced the salaries of doctors and nurses by 20 percent. Before that, Adyrkhayev was making up to 9,000 rubles, or about €200, a month, but only by working many night shifts.

Suppressing Memories of the Bloodbath

It seems that Russia, which has the world’s third-largest currency reserves, would prefer to simply suppress the memories of the Beslan bloodbath, just as it has forgotten about the massacre of more than 170 people by Chechen terrorists at a Moscow theater in October 2002. Beslan has become a synonym for the destruction of children as a “demonstration of power completely devoid of remorse,” says Russian author Victor Erofeyev. It also signifies that Russians now experience any use of violence “as a phenomenon of a metaphysical order.”

Vladimir Putin, who was president at the time of the Beslan tragedy, only visited the scene of the crime once, in the immediate aftermath of the massacre. Those responsible for the Russian security forces’ amateurish storming of the school building have yet to be prosecuted, and some have even been promoted. There are still doubts as to whether there were in fact only 32 hostage-takers, or whether some terrorists managed to escape, as most Beslan residents believe.

The subject is more or less taboo on state-controlled television in Russia. Members of a group called the Mothers of Beslan complain that they have spent years unsuccessfully trying to present their case on a major TV talk show. This has prompted the group’s leader, Susanna Dudieva, to characterize the Beslan incident and its aftermath as a “double disgrace.” Even though the government had information about the possibility of an imminent terrorist attacks in the days leading up to the hostage crisis, it was unable to protect the children, says Dudieva. And now, she adds, it has forgotten them.

There is a photo album in a corner of her small office near the destroyed school. One of the photos depicts the burned torso of her son Saur. He was sitting directly underneath one of the explosive charges the hostage-takers had attached to the basketball hoop in the school’s gymnasium. The hostages sat crouched there, herded together in the scorching heat and with no water to drink. The children were forced to watch as the terrorists shot sports teacher Ivan Kanidi before their eyes.

The Long-Term Costs

“Anyone who saw that is traumatized for life,” says Adyrkhayev. The doctor says that some of his patients complain of constant headaches, for which he has no explanation. His own daughters, Emilia and Milana, can only sleep with the light on. There is a list on his desk with the names of eight children who urgently need operations, but there is no money to pay for the surgeries. The name Fatima Dzgoeva is at the top of the list.

Fatima is 15, but her relatives say that they are delighted if she manages to add up the numbers 20 and 20. When Russian elite units stormed the school, a piece of shrapnel pierced her forehead and reemerged from the back of her head. Miraculously, she survived, but only after lying in a coma for 19 days. She spent the next three years lying in bed, wearing diapers and unable to say a word. After five operations, two of them at Berlin’s Charité Hospital, she can now walk and say a few words.

Fatima’s brother Georgiy, who was born after the hostage crisis, is playing in the sand in front of the red brick building where the family lives. Her Aunt Lana, who gave up her job as a kindergarten teacher to help her severely disabled niece, is talking frantically on the phone with provincial doctors, because the medication that reduces Fatima’s intracranial pressure is nowhere to be found in the region. She brought it with her from Germany, but now she has only a few days’ supply left.

Russia’s Most Beautiful Cemetery

Fatima’s aunt had written to the governor in the provincial capital, Vladikavkaz, 21 kilometers (13 miles) from Beslan to raise the money for her operation and treatment in Berlin. “I am so thankful that the government helped us,” she says. But indifference set in soon afterwards. No one wanted to pay for the long-term consequences, and the ailing survivors were relegated to the status of supplicants.

It is not only the children, but also the traumatized adults who need help. Within view of the new but still useless hospital is the “City of Angels,” Russia’s most beautiful and well-tended cemetery, with its 268 graves.

Cemetery director Kaspolat Ramonov placed red roses on his daughter’s grave early in the morning. She was in the 10th grade when she died, and she would have turned 20 today. “Mariana was everything to me,” he says.

He speaks quietly, only raising his voice and expressing his outrage when asked how long he has been working at this cemetery. “I don’t work here,” he says, “I live here.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: US Envoy ‘In Angry Karzai Talks’

The US special envoy to Afghanistan has held an “explosive” meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the country’s election, the BBC has learnt.

Richard Holbrooke raised concerns about ballot-stuffing and fraud, by a number of candidates’ teams, sources say.

The US envoy also said a second-round run-off could make the election process more credible, the sources said.

Concerns have already been raised about Afghanistan’s election, although final results are not due until September.

A number of senior sources have confirmed the details of a meeting between Mr Holbrooke and Mr Karzai held on 21 August, one day after the election.

The meeting was described as “explosive” and “a dramatic bust-up”.

Mr Holbrooke is said to have twice raised the idea of holding a second round run-off because of concerns about the voting process.

He is believed to have complained about the use of fraud and ballot stuffing by some members of the president’s campaign team, as well as other candidates.

Mr Karzai reacted very angrily and the meeting ended shortly afterwards, the sources said.

However, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Kabul denied there had been any shouting or that Mr Holbrooke had stormed out.

She refused to discuss the details of the meeting.

A spokesman for the presidential palace denied the account of the conversation.

There have been many doubts raised about the Afghan presidential election, about the turnout and irregularities.

But this is the first time that a leading Western official has apparently expressed it quite so openly.

It will raise more questions about the credibility of the whole process and could well make the plan to establish a meaningful government in a stable country all the harder to achieve.

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

Balkanization of India: A Roadmap of Beijing?

An article on a “semi-official” Chinese site details a roadmap to divide India in 20 or more little states, giving support to nationalists, separatists, Tamilians, Srilankans and Bangladeshis. New Delhi is worried. But India, shaken by many tensions still hold together.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The government of New Dehli made an official protest for the content of an article appeared on a Chinese site that aims to divide India in “20-30 small states” giving support to guerillas and nationalist movements present on the territory of the great nation or abroad.

Posted on April 8 on the website (International Institute for Strategic Studies) the article detailed a roadmap for breaking up India. There it is stated: “To split India, China can bring into its fold countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan, support ULFA in attaining its goal in Assam’ independence, back aspirations of Indian nationalities like Tamil and Nagas, encourage Bangladesh to give a push to the independence of West Bengal and lastly recover the 90,000 sq km territory in southern Tibet.”

The Government of India made inquiries about how much this website has the support of the Chinese Government and logged a protest. The Indian media spoke of a “quasi-official Chinese website”.

This idea of balkanization of India is old as the Indian state itself. After independence, in 1947, in the political circles of Europe many observers were predicting that India, after the tragic start with partition, will not hold together. After all India had never been a single political unit. The British Empire put it together and marked the boundaries from east, north and west. India does not have a common language. Immediately after independence there were internal fighting to redraw the boundaries of the different Indian states. The criterion of division according to the different languages was accepted. But many states are still quarrelling for the boundaries and for the utilization of rivers water.

Chennai and Tamil Nadu are more concerned with Tamilian brothers of Sri Lanka and of Bangalore. The seven states of the north-east consider themselves as colonies under the military rule of Delhi and guerilla is going on in all of them. Kashmir is in turmoil since 25 years for separation or a better autonomy. An in many central states the Maoist-Naxalite guerilla is going on since decades.

All this may give the idea to an outsider that the cohesion of India is very week and its break-up possible. Up till now India had survived doomsday predictions of its balkanization but the Chinese are still harping on it.

The article posted on the website continues: “In view of the above, China in its own interest and the progress of the hole Asia, should join forces with different nationalities like Assamese, Tamil and Kashmiris, and support the latter in establishing independent nation-states of their own, out of India.” And all this must be done for the sake of change and progress in the subcontinent: “Only after India has been broken up into 20-30 pieces will there be any real reform or social change in the country.”

An article like this will convince the hardliners in India about Beijing’s gameplan to encircle India in alliance with regimes in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, by supporting insurgent groups.

After a few days, following the protest from New Delhi, Kang Lingyi, the founding editor of the said that he edits the site on his own without any government backing and the article was a web posting by an anonymous user.

But D S Rajan, director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, who translated the article from Chinese and published it, said: “The Chinese are speaking to India in several voices. This second voice is part-official but not completely so. It gives the Chinese Government deniability, but there has been a long stream of similar sounding statements”.

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

Indian Arrested Over ‘Six Wives’

Police in the Indian city of Mumbai say they have arrested a man for forgery and polygamy after he married at least six women over the past two years.

Tushar Waghmare, an engineer with Air India, allegedly kept all his wives in the dark about their counterparts.

He was arrested after his sixth wife went to the police when she discovered he was married to someone else.

Mr Waghmare is being kept in custody until 29 August. He says he married three times and never deceived anyone.


Police said Mr Waghmare had told his wives he was divorced and had shown them a fake legal document.

“It is surprising that none of his previous wives did a background check on his antecedents,” Mumbai (Bombay) police officer RM Vatkar told the BBC.

He would tell them he was travelling and then go on to another wife’s home, Mr Vatkar said. Police say that some of his wives were well-educated and had jobs to support themselves.

But his latest wife became suspicious about his frequent travels and, after investigating his whereabouts, discovered he had another wife.

When she lodged a complaint with the police, details about his other marriages emerged.

Some newspaper reports say Mr Waghmare has married 14 women since 2006. But police told the BBC that they were only aware of six wives.

Mr Waghmare complained about different treatment for Hindus and Muslims.

“Muslims are allowed to marry a lot of times while Hindus aren’t allowed to do so,” he told Reuters television outside a Mumbai police station.

“Why do we have such a law present here?

“I didn’t force them to have sex with me nor did I ever dupe them. I have married only thrice till now.”

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

Mohamad Jibril: “Mastermind” Of the Attacks on Jakarta Hotels, Arrested

He is director of an Islamic web portal engaged in fundraising and propaganda for the jihad. Also captured a Saudi citizen who financed the massacre.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesian security forces have arrested Mohamad Jibril, who is suspected of having masterminded the massacres in Marriott and Ritz Carlton Hotel on 17 July in Jakarta. The arrest was carried out yesterday while the man — also known as Muhamad Ricky Ardhan — was travelling to the house of his father in Pamulang in the regency of South Tangerang, a suburb of the capital.

Police spokesman, inspector Sukarnan Nanan, has not clarified the details of the arrest, carried out by an unidentified commando. “We are awaiting further details about the operation — he added — before we can talk to the press.”

Jibril is director of an information portal, a point of reference for the local Islamic community. He apparently has two birth certificates, which bear different places and times. According to the first he was born in the province of South Borneo December 3, 1979, in the second he was born in East Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara province, on 28 May 1989. The police spokesman added that “he is suspected of collecting funds from abroad” to finance the Islamic extremist movement.

Last July it was the site that published the vindication of the attacks on hotels in the capital, behind which there is the hand of the Malaysian terrorist Noordin Moh Top. Fachri Mohamad, one of the closest collaborators of Jibril, denies any wrongdoing, insisting that it is “an baseless accusation to say that it is Jibril behind the bombings”. He adds that the arrest was “an attempt to politicize Islam” and stop the “propaganda via the internet” of faith.

There have been contrasting reactions to the news of Jibril’s arrest among Indonesian Muslims. The moderate wing — which includes religious minorities — has distanced itself from the fundamentalist propaganda website and its sectarian and extremist line that protects the jihadis in their fight against the enemies of Islam. Others, however, regard as unfounded the accusations and appreciate the news spread by

Fauzan Al-Anshari, ex responsabile dell’Indonesian Mujahidin Council, bolla l’arresto come “azione ridicola” e rivela presunti debiti che graverebbero sulla gestione del sito di informazione. Tale fatto che contrasta con quanto asserito dalla polizia, secondo la quale il sito e il suo direttore sono uno dei crocevia per finanziare il Jihad in Indonesia.

Investigators have also revealed the name of a Saudi citizen, accused of funding the bomb attacks in Jakarta. This is Mohammad Ali Abdillah, who has lived for a time in a city of the province of West Java, the same city where Ibrohim Boim, or the “florist”, the perpetrator of the attacks on the hotels, was born. The funds arrived in Indonesia in June, through the Middle East.

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

Muslims Banned From Black Eyed Peas Concert in Malaysia Because Event is Organised by Guinness

The U.S. hip-hop stars are due to perform at a theme park near Kuala Lumpur next month as part of worldwide celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of Guinness’ flagship brewery in Dublin.

The show will be one of five taking place across the globe to celebrate the landmark birthday.

The event’s Malaysian website read: ‘The party is only open to non-Muslims aged 18 years and above.’

A Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture official said: ‘Muslims cannot attend. Non-Muslims can go and have fun.’

She said the September 25 concert would not normally have been permitted, because government regulations forbid alcohol companies from organising concerts. She said that authorities made an exception in the hope the event would boost tourism.

Guinness must not use its logo in concert publicity material, she added.

It was not immediately clear how the ban on Muslims is likely to be enforced. Concert organisers did not respond to a request for comments.

Past major pop concerts in Malaysia, including one by the Black Eyed Peas in 2007, have been open to all residents, however shows by Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne in recent years faced protests by conservative Muslims over their immodest clothing, forcing the artists to wear attire that revealed little skin.

In family and personal matters, Muslims in Malaysia are governed by Sharia or Islamic law, which forbids the consumption of alcohol.

The concert ban follows a crackdown on alcohol consumption among Malaysia’s Muslim majority.

A Muslim woman who drank beer in public was sentenced to caning by an Islamic court last month, though authorities this week agreed to review the penalty.

Officials also recently curbed retail sales of liquor in a central state.

Ethnic Malays make up nearly 60 percent of Malaysia’s 28million population and are all legally considered Muslim. The rest of the country is mainly ethnic Chinese and Indians, most of whom are Buddhist, Christian or Hindu.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]

The United States Puts India on “Watch List”: Religious Freedom at Risk

The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom denounces the inertia of the Government of India before the serious discrimination against religious minorities. Angry reaction in New Delhi: “Undue Interference”. For the Indian Church it is a sign of the international community’s concern over the growth of religious intolerance in the country.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has placed India on the so-called Watch list, which includes countries in which religious and ethnic minorities suffer severe discrimination. The USCIRF are asking President Barak Obama put pressure on the government in New Delhi that “deserves” to be placed on the list for the “largely inadequate response” to fundamentalist violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and Christians in Orissa in 2008 — 2009.

India’s reaction has been one of anger at finding itself compared to countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Somalia and Cuba. Vishnu Prakash, spokesperson for the Indian Foreign Ministry, described the inclusion in the so-called Watch List “aberrant” and an “undue interference” in internal affairs of the country.

Fr. Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Indian Bishops’ Conference (CBCI), explains to AsiaNews that the USCIRF decision “is a clear indication of the growing concern of the international community to the repeated failure of India to take decisive corrective measures to curb religious intolerance “.

Relations between India and the U.S. in matters of religious freedom have long been troubled. The Annual Report on Religious Freedom by USCIRF presented in Washington May 1st spoke of “positive signals” from India. In July, however, the Commission asked to visit Orissa to check the situation of Christian refugees in the area and their conditions after the Hindu pogrom of August 2008. The Indian authorities denied entry visas arousing controversy. Now the government in New Delhi finds itself included in the Watch list.

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

Far East

N Koreans Toiling in Russia’s Timber Camps

To the West, North Korea is a pariah state, best known for its secrecy, famines, belligerent politics and its leader’s brutality.

At home, North Koreans live under total government control and the watchful eye of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il.

But in the Amur region of Russia, almost 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from the border, North Korea has created a home away from home at a series of remote logging camps in which nearly 1,500 workers are employed.

I travelled to one of the camps deep in the forest. A giant monument bearing the words “Our greatest leader Kim Il-sung lives with us forever” stood in the middle.

One of the buildings had a sign which read “Laboratory of Kim Il-sung’s Theory” a commonly used slogan found on North Korean administration blocks. The camp even had its own theatre.

Further into the forest we found a group of North Koreans hard at work. They lived in a mobile wagon, decorated with portraits of the North Korean leaders.

Although reluctant to speak, one told me that he earned the equivalent of $200 per month. Another said that he earned $1 for each truck he loaded and that he could load up to nine per day, but he had not been paid since May.

Production targets

To try to find out who employed the North Koreans I travelled to Tynda, where the headquarters of the region’s logging operations are based.

I met Sergey Sarnavsky, the director of a small local timber firm which has a contract with Association No 2, a state-owned North Korean organisation.

“The Koreans work year round with two days off per year,” he told me. “All the other days are working days no matter what the weather conditions, they always work.

“The Koreans work for the government and their communist party, they’ve got production targets,” he said. “If the quota is filled then everything is ok. If it is not fulfilled, well then they’ve got their Communist Party of North Korea, and everybody gets punished from the managers down to the worker who didn’t fulfil the quota.”


Many North Korean labourers have tried to escape the camps. Over the last two decades thousands have abandoned their work and now live in constant fear of arrest and deportation to North Korea.

Branded enemies of the people by their homeland they are wanted by Russian police and their own country’s security services.

One worker, who ran away in the 1990s and had been given refuge by a Russian family, told me about life working in the camps, where winter temperatures regularly drop to 30C below zero:

“I was working endless hours. Twelve hours is normal in North Korea, but working 12 hours at the camps is very hard. In winter it’s very cold… It’s hard to work on an empty stomach. But the living conditions were the worst part.

“The logs cause injuries. The drivers drop logs and people get killed. Because people are so cold, they can’t avoid falling trees and are killed.”

‘Treated as traitors’

Russian human rights organisations are working with North Korean defectors. They say that often, after months of work, the labourers are underpaid and sometimes not paid at all.

Svetlana Gannushkina’s organisation is assisting some two dozen former loggers who escaped before 2001 and are now living in hiding. I asked her what would happen if they were handed over to the North Korean authorities.

“They can expect terrible suffering, they can expect a cruel death,” she said. “We know of cases when people in the moment of their detention have simply, killed themselves. These people and their families become pariahs in their own country. They are treated as traitors.”

Commercial benefits

So who benefits commercially now from North Korean labour in Russia’s Far East?

The North Korean state, which provides the labour through Association No 2, take 35% of the proceeds from their logging operations in Russia — approximately $7m per year.

The remainder goes to a firm called Tynda Les, who are owned by the Russian Timber Group — the largest logging firm in the region with around 1,400 North Koreans working on its sites.

The Russian Timber Group was founded in 2004 by British businessman, Peter Hambro and a Russian business partner. Together they bought up a number of forestry rights across Russia covering an area roughly the size of Belgium.

I asked Russian Timber Group’s CEO, Peter Hambro’s son Leo, if they had any control over the loggers’ welfare.

He told me that the Russian Timber Group makes sure that the company which provides the workers complies with the Russian labour code and that they get regularly inspected. He also said that Russian Timber Group had no involvement in how much the workers are paid.

“There is always going to be criticism… of any involvement with North Korea, especially as its been flagged by people like President Obama as an axis of evil,” he told me.

“It is not in our interest — in our public relations interest — to continue our involvement with the North Korean workers. But at the moment our product sells… and we are happy to continue our involvement because they are workers who are prepared to work while there is timber to be sold at good values.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Philippines: Customs to Probe Alleged Gunrunning Bid

MANILA, Philippines-Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales Monday formed an eight-member board to investigate the alleged smuggling of an estimated P100-million worth of high-powered firearms in Bataan last week.

Morales appointed Simplicio Domingo, chief of the Bureau of Customs’ legal department, to head the panel and gave him 30 days to put together a strong case against those behind the smuggling of the assault rifles.

The large cache of illegal firearms, mostly Indonesian-made Galil rifles, was discovered when customs police boarded a Panamanian-registered ship off the port of Mariveles on Thursday. Authorities confiscated 54 rifles worth about P25 million in five crates but noted 15 empty crates.

Arrested were 14 crew members of the MV Captain Ufuk but the ship’s British captain and his local contacts reportedly escaped on board a private yacht “just minutes” before the raid.

Morales stressed the importance of the swift resolution of the case “since this might affect our peace and order situation.”

“Imagine what would happen if a terrorist group got hold of those powerful weapons. It would certainly affect our internal security,” he said.

Customs intelligence chief Fernandino Tuason had speculated that the arms may have been bound for the private armies of politicians intent on running in next year’s election.

Solid evidence, not hearsay

“The fact-finding committee will ensure air-tight criminal cases based on solid evidence, and not just hearsay, are filed in order to convict (suspects),” Morales told the Inquirer.

Morales did not say if any of the Filipino contacts of the foreign arms smugglers had been identified.

“I want the investigation to proceed without delay. If the evidence so warrant, the fact-finding team should hold all other persons involved criminally,” he added.

The BOC has already filed cases for violation of the Tariffs and Customs Code of the Philippines and the country’s immigration laws against the ship’s South African captain and 13 Georgian crew members.

The South African, Lawrence John, claimed he had taken over as captain of the ship when the ship’s real captain, British national Bruce Jones, left on a yacht just minutes before the raid.

Morales later said the yacht was suspected to be the M/Y Mou Man Tai, registered under the name of one David Smith with his office address in Mandaue City, Cebu.

Coast Guard chief, Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo, earlier told the Inquirer that they were alerted by customs personnel about the presence of the suspected arms smuggling ship Thursday morning. The raid, however, did not take place until 4 p.m. that day.

Morales said he would ask Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa to temporarily hold the application for amnesty of all owners of Galil-type firearms and 9mm pistols, saying one of the empty wooden boxes which they recovered from the ship could have contained handguns of that caliber.

Morales said he has also sought the help of the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Coast Guard to locate the Mou Man Tai.

Morales’ said his latest information was that the yacht was spotted somewhere near Palawan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

S. Korea: Gov. Recall Vote on Jeju Island

A public recall vote for Jeju Island Governor Kim Tae-hwan was held yesterday. He retained his post, however, as the recall vote failed to get the required one-third support from eligible voters. Though it is lamentable that the head of the country’s first self-governing province had to undergo a recall vote due to dispute over the construction of a naval base on the tourist island, this unfortunate event will hopefully turn into a blessing as Jeju citizens wisely chose to retain him.

Thirty-five civic groups in the province demanded a recall vote for Kim, saying he failed to collect the opinions of residents and resolve conflicts on the base’s construction in the village of Gangjeong, which is near the island’s capital of Seogwipo. The base, however, is critical for strengthening naval capabilities and securing sea transport routes. Kim approved the project after thoroughly listening to Jeju residents through public hearings and surveys. In this regard, the recall vote was a farfetched idea in the first place.

The public recall system took effect in May 2007 as a means to help grassroots democracy grow in the country by enhancing the power of provincial governments and encourage their democratic handling of public affairs. The system has its weaknesses, however, because it does not clarify reasons for a recall vote, paving the way for citizens to dismiss provincial chiefs for their legitimate exercise of their authority. The mayor of Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, Kim Hwang-sik, also faced dismissal by a recall vote in 2007 when his city agreed to build a crematorium. A revision to the system is needed to prevent provincial heads from falling victim to regional selfishness and political disputes.

A certain portion of Jeju residents still oppose the construction of the naval base, warning that it will undermine the province’s reputation as a “peaceful island.” To maintain peace in both national and Jeju waters, however, the base is necessary. Given that Hawaii remains one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations despite housing a U.S. naval base, Jeju’s tourism industry will likely benefit from the base. Preferably, the base can double as a port for cruise ships under an agreement with the central government reached in April. Slated for completion in December, the base will not only enhance national security but also significantly contribute to invigorating Jeju’s economy.

Hopefully, the result of Jeju’s recall vote will end unnecessary conflict and confrontation over the construction of the naval base.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Terrorism Accused Trio Refused Bail

A Melbourne magistrate has refused bail for three of the five men accused of plotting to attack an army base in Sydney.

The bail application for Yacqub Khayre, Saney Aweys and Nayef El Sayed took twice as long as expected.

The prosecution alleged the men, who are charged with terrorism offences, may flee the country or re-offend if they were released.

But the defence argued the men were being kept in the harshest prison regime in Victoria and may not face trial for two or three years.

Magistrate Peter Reardon refused bail for the three accused.

Mr Reardon ruled the conditions the men were being held in were not desirable and not what the public would expect.

But he said that did not justify the granting of bail.

The men waved to their supporters as they were taken in to custody after the four day bail application.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mali Women Must Obey Their Husbands

Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Touré has returned a new family law that would have granted women more rights to parliament for review. Although President Touré supports the legislation, he decided not to sign it after it was rejected by the country’s High Islamic Council.

There have been demonstrations against the legislation since it was adopted by the National Assembly at the beginning of the month. On Saturday, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the capital Bamako against the law.

A provision which sparked particular controversy was the replacement of an article stipulating that a wife has to obey her husband with the phrase that once married, husbands and wives owe each other “loyalty, protection, help and assistance”.

President of the High Islamic Council Mahmud Dicko says that in Mali: “The head of the family is the man, and everyone has to obey him.” The law also raises the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18, defines marriage as a secular institution and gives widows and children born outside wedlock greater inheritance rights.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Anchor Babies: The Educational Chaos

Those 400,000 anchor babies cost taxpayers big time! At $6,000.00 per delivery in our hospitals where those pregnant alien mothers take themselves to birth their children X’s 400,000 annually: $2.4 billion annually. Year after year after year! If the child suffers from autism, Down’s Syndrome, myocardial septal defect (hole in heart), deformity, premature birth in ICU or other problems—the costs may hit $1 million and more.

Remember also, that the mother becomes a ward of the welfare rolls in assisted housing, food stamps, medical care, welfare payments—all on the taxpayer’s dollar. Instead of 400,000 dependents, the actual number doubles to 900,000. Additionally, as that mother births more children, the costs rise dramatically.

Once the child reaches age five, it begins a 13 year educational journey that costs taxpayers on average $9,644.00 annually depending on school districts within the United States. When you add in ‘free’ breakfasts and lunches for those disadvantaged children, the costs rise into the billions of dollars. Finally, English as a Second Language costs taxpayers according to economist Edwin Rubenstein:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Finland: Internet Group Plans New Anti-Immigration Political Party

An internet based group plans to establish a new political party known as “Change 2011” with the aim of challenging current policies on immigration.

The group now plans to collect the required 5,000 names needed to gain a place on the register of political parties.

According to the group’s leader Juha Mäki-Ketelä, it aims to win three seats in parliament in elections to be held in 2011.

The group claims its objectives include the prevention of immigration for economic advantage. It also wants a referendum on the issue of immigration.

Mäki-Ketälä says the group will target those members of the True Finns Party who are critical of current immigration policy.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Follower of Radical Islamic Movement Granted Asylum in Australia

A FOLLOWER of a radical Islamic movement that seeks to introduce sharia law and has been linked to terrorist groups is being granted asylum in Australia.

The Refugee Review Tribunal has recommended a protection visa for an Egyptian man, who is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political group with links to al-Qaida.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed in several countries, including Egypt.

It seeks to establish a pan-Islamic state ruled by sharia law and is committed to the destruction of Israel.

The Egyptian man initially was denied a protection visa by the Department of Immigration, but the decision was overturned by the tribunal.

“The tribunal is of the view that the applicant’s decision to abandon ship, insistence on his rights not to return to Egypt for medical treatment, and behaviour towards his captain, if combined with his support for the Muslim Brotherhood, his low-level political activities and past expression of anti-government political views, would generate a profile that could attract the adverse attention of the authorities and focus their attention on his sympathies for the brotherhood,” it found.

“On this basis, the tribunal is of the opinion that there is a real chance that this could place the applicant at risk of facing arrest, detention and ill-treatment.”

Prof Greg Barton of Monash University said the Muslim Brotherhood had been linked to terrorist attacks, such as the Luxor bus bombing in 1997, but had since denounced violence, though many of its goals had been taken up by terrorist groups.

“Al-Qaida and other militant groups have benefited greatly from their ideas so it is true that the ideas produced by the brotherhood are taken further by more militant groups,” he said.

“The brotherhood connection for anybody would automatically give Australian authorities a reason to check into their background.”

Jeremy Jones, director of international affairs with the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council, said the brotherhood presented a threat to democratic countries.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned in many countries for good reason,” he said. “It’s not just it’s attitude towards Israel that’s of concern. It has strands that are very sympathetic towards terrorism.”

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said she would write to Mr Evans asking to have the decision overturned.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the man would have a rigorous security check before a visa was granted.

“Should there be an adverse security assessment, the department cannot grant a visa,” he said.

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

Hungary: Several Hundred Roma Ask for Help With Migration After Killings

Budapest, August 25 (MTI) — Several hundred Roma have put their signatures to a petition handed to the National Roma Self-Government (OCO) asking for help to migrate from Hungary in order to avoid the risk of attacks and discrimination due to their race, OCO Chairman Orban Kolompar told MTI on Tuesday.

Kolompar said that people of Roma origin had asked him to provide certification that they are potential targets of political and serial terror attacks in Hungary.

MTI has also received a copy of the petition signed by about 150 people with personal data included. It contains a request to leave Hungary. Their preferred destinations are Canada, UK, Sweden, Denmark, US and Belgium.

One of the signatories, Andras Bader, told MTI that his family and relatives were living in fear due to the recent suspected serial murders of Gypsies and experienced discrimination day to day.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

IDV: Deal With Libya Useful Only for Tripoli

(AGI) — Rome, 25 Aug. — “The agreement with Libya is only of use to Tripoli. Rafts loaded with desperate people continue to arrive from Libya, which shows that the Gaddafi is not complying with the accords: Gaddafi got the money he wanted but has no intention of helping those trying to escape from war and hunger to a better future,” said the chairman of Italia dei Valori senators Felice Belisario, commenting on the statements made by Foreign Minister Frattini today on Radio Anch’Io.

“Frattini,” noted Belisario,” refuses to see what is clear to all: that Gaddafi is not reliable and has no intention of complying with the agreements he signed with Italy. And Berlusconi, despite it all, will be going to Tripoli on August 30 to pay homage to the leader, proof of a sort of unprecedented ignoring of what is clearly in front of us.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Cota, Mons. Marchetto Showed Political Prejudice

(AGI) — Rome, 25 Aug. — “Monsignor Marchetto’s statements are only personal opinions and they express a clear political prejudice and are not in any way related to religion. Those that release such statements are the so-called ‘catholic-communists’, but in reality they have lost their catholic side and are just plain communists. After all, with all due respect, Monsignor Marchetto is inventing new commandments without having the authority to do so”, said the leader of the Lega at the Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Cota, criticizing the words of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Vatican secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, who spoke about the crime of clandestinity. “The crime of clandestinity,” Cota added, “is well recognized in other European countries and no one is complaining about it. Furthermore, those that contrast clandestinity are also contrasting any form of human exploitation and this is additional evidence of the mala fide that lurks behind certain stances”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslim Immigration: The Most Radical Change in European History

I know I go on about Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe a bit much, but it’s only because I believe it’s going to be one of the most influential political books of the next two decades. The benefits of mass immigration are the Emperor’s New Clothes and Caldwell is the little boy who sees the truth, which is why I urge everyone to read it. A friend of mine, who was initially less sceptical than I was about immigration, said the book was so well-written and eye-opening it filled a void in his life that had been left by his finishing The Sopranos and The Wire.

Here’s my review of it in this week’s Catholic Herald:

You might not hear much about this book much in the next month, nor even in the next year, but it will affect your life in some way, and that of our country and continent.

Christopher Caldwell is a mild-mannered Financial Times journalist who over the past decade has covered continental Europe (France especially) and its relationship with Islam in particular.

That Caldwell is so mainstream, well-respected and analytical makes his conclusion all the more devastating — that the mass migration of Africans and Asians into Europe since the Second World War was an unprecedented, economically unnecessary and ill-thought-out plan that has had a profoundly negative impact on our way of life.

Furthermore, he says, the mass importation of Muslims at a time when Europe has lost its own faith and Islam has developed a dangerous and powerful radicalism threatens the very freedom of Europe.

Enoch Powell was right, at least in terms of accuracy if not the morality of his chosen words. His 1968 prediction about a non-white population of 4.5 million by 2002 was mocked — in reality it was 4.6 million by 2001. In 1970 he was again scorned for suggesting that Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Inner London would be between a fifth and a quarter non-white by the turn of the century. The figures were 22.2 per cent, 29.6 per cent and 34.4 per cent respectively — and rising.

But Powell’s vision of “rivers of blood” turned out to be inaccurate so far because he was out of step; the Tory MP was a passionate believer in the British Empire, while most of his political contemporaries were riddled with liberal white guilt over colonialism and the Holocaust.

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

New Sea Rescue and Fresh Italy-Malta Row

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 25 — Following the rescuing of 57 migrants on board a dinghy ten sea miles off Lampedusa by the Italian authorities, the diplomatic row between Italy and Malta over who is responsible for migrants at sea has been re-ignited. The discourse being conducted between the two countries is taking the form of a “war” of filmed shots and stills: the action carried out by the patrol boat belonging to Italy’s excise police, the Guardia di Finanza who came to the assistance of the vessel in difficulty, was filmed from a Maltese motor launch which had been ‘escorting’ the vessel as far as the limits of the country’s territorial waters. When the Italian service personnel noticed that their operation was being filmed, they decided in turn to “document” the presence of their Maltese counterparts, immortalising the unit with the flag of the island state. Meanwhile, some life-jackets have been found on board the dinghy of the same type that are used by the Maltese navy. The Maltese confirmed that they had given those on board some food supplies, but had done no more because the migrants wanted to carry on to Lampedusa. This version of events, however, does not fit with the stories being told by some of the Eritreans who disembarked at Lampedusa: “we left Tripoli last Wednesday, but we ran out of petrol after three days,” he said, “We asked some fishing boats for assistance but they refused to help us. Yesterday, a motor launch approached us: they gave us some life jackets and some fuel an told us to carry on, saying that we would be rescued”. During last Thursday’s action, as well, when the Guardia di Finanza pulled five Eritreans from their dinghy, life-jackets were found on board which had been given by a Maltese motor launch, which also supplied them with fuel. The fact has been noted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Agrigento, which has been charged with conducting an inquiry into the incident, and which has also listed the five survivors as suspects of the crime of illegal immigration. This was a matter of “due process”, the magistrates explain, and the charges would be dropped if the Eritreans are granted the status of political exiles. Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, has been defending the Government line today, in face of criticism from the Vatican. Over recent days, the Chair of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, Msg. Antonio Maria Vegliò, has expressed his “pain” at the “continual repetition” of the deaths at sea, exhorting “developed society” always to “respect the rights of migrants” and not to “shroud themselves in egoism”. Msg. Antonio Maria Vegliò today pointed out that he was speaking on behalf of the Holy See. Frattini has today stressed that the right to life “is not being questioned for anyone”, but that “it is a different matter to apply European regulations, which are in place, on repulsions of those who enter without abiding by the law in Italy, or in any other European country”. The minister also stated that the accord with Libya had achieved “exceptional results”. “The Centre (the reception centre) on Lampedusa today stands empty, something that has not happened in many a year”, Frattini pointed out, adding that “making the level of effort it is making, Libya has reduced the number of embarkations to much less than a hundredth of what they were last year. We can say that it can try harder and should do more, but the results attained are exceptional results”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy’s (Anti-Immigrant, Anti-European, Anti-Gay) Crony

The President is keen to reach out to the right. But is Philippe de Villiers a step too far? John Lichfield reports

France’s anything-but-red baron, Philippe de Villiers, has described President Nicolas Sarkozy as an “imposter”, “a liar” and a “Duracell bunny”. That was in the distant, political past — a couple of months ago.

Next month Viscount de Villiers — a virulently anti-European, anti-immigrant, anti-gay populist and Catholic fundamentalist — will become the latest addition to President Sarkozy’s political menagerie, stretching from the soft, well-meaning left to the borders of the far-right.

Mr de Villiers, or Vicomte Philippe Le Jolis de Villiers de Saintignon, has let it be known that he expects to sign up in September for Mr Sarkozy’s “electoral coordinating committee” for the regional elections next year and, implicitly, for the next presidential election in 2012.

The president’s tactical motives in bringing Mr De Villiers, 60, into his broad political coalition are clear enough. With more than half his five-year term still to go, Mr Sarkozy is mocking the divided French left by tightening his effortless control over the right and centre. By allying himself with the Catholic conservative De Villiers, the twice-divorced, half-foreign, non-church-going president is reassuring the many traditionalist, haut-bourgeois voters who support him but mistrust him.

Ideologically, however, the new alliance is bizarre and, to some of the president’s supporters, disturbing.

Mr Sarkozy likes to present himself as a pragmatic pro-European, the saviour of the Lisbon treaty on EU reform and a man determined to break down social and racial barriers. Mr De Villiers is a Europhobe, the man who coined the phrase “Polish plumber” to describe the alleged threat to France from the Lisbon treaty and European enlargement.

Although avoiding (just) the outright racial fear-mongering of Jean-Marie Le Pen, Mr de Villiers often makes exaggerated claims about the “islamisation” of France. He has accused Islam, not just radical Islam, of being engaged in a de facto “war” with the West. (“Islam is the breeding ground of radical Islam and radical Islam is the breeding ground of terrorism.”)

He is also a vituperative campaigner for “family values” and against gay rights. France’s successful civil partnership law or PACS which allows gay partners — and others — to make formal commitments to one another, is, he says, a “return to barbarism”.

For 28 years, Mr de Villiers has manoeuvred on the fringes of the traditional right without ever creating a personal following of more than 4 or 5 per cent of the electorate.

But Mr de Villiers has justified his decision to join forces with Mr Sarkozy as the best way to move his ideas from the margins of French politics into the heart of government. There are rumours, not yet denied by the Elysée Palace, that President Sarkozy may be considering a junior ministerial role for Mr de Villiers.

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

Switzerland: Population Hits 7.7 Million on Immigration Wave

Switzerland’s population experienced the largest increase in nearly 50 years last year to place the country among Europe’s fastest growing nations. The permanent population in 2008 stood at 7,701,900 people, according to definitive figures released by the Federal Statistics Office on Thursday. That is 108,400 more people, or 1.4 per cent, over the previous year. Nearly 90 per cent of the new residents were immigrants.

Laws allowing citizens of the European Union to live in Switzerland and vice versa were introduced in 2007 and have helped fuel the increase.

For the first time since 1997 the jump in the number of Swiss citizens was the result not only of naturalisations but also of the number of births. Slightly more than 600 Swiss babies were born last year compared to the number of Swiss who died.

Net births among all groups totaled 15,500 last year, accounting for less than ten per cent of the population increase.

Nevertheless, the overall growth rate is the most significant leap observed since 1961. The number of new residents last year is roughly equal to the population of canton Zug near Zurich.

The growth rate for urban areas (1.6 per cent) was higher than in rural areas (1 per cent).

On the European level, only Luxembourg and Ireland grew faster than Switzerland in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Thanks and Gratitude Between Libya and Malta

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA (MALTA), AUGUST 25 — “Libya understands the difficult situation which Malta faces over illegal immigration”, said Libya’s Foreign Secretary, Suleiman Shoumi, on an official visit to Valletta. The Libyan official met Malta’s Foreign Minister, Tonio Borg, who expressed his “gratitude” on behalf of the Valletta Government for “the efforts and commitments” taken by Tripoli to control the phenomenon “through patrols at sea”. There is to be an official visit soon by Libyan leader Gaddafi, while the Maltese President George Abela will be in Tripoli on September 1, on the 40th anniversary of the Libyan revolution.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Faceoff! Cops Versus Preachers on Public Sidewalk

Christians arrested 7 times for signs declaring homosexuality a sin

A street preacher is accusing police of violating his constitutional rights after officers arrested him for not having a parade permit while he spoke out against homosexuality on a public sidewalk in Manchester, Ga.

Chris Pettigrew and Pastor Billy Ball and of Faith Baptist Church in Primrose, Ga., were arrested multiple times Aug 24 after they held signs on a public street corner telling people to repent and declaring homosexuality a sin.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Climate Fear Promoters Greatest Fear! ‘The Truth’

‘Series of inconvenient developments for promoters global warming fears continues unabated’

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has shocked the global warming debate by its formal call to hold a public global warming trial to decide on the “evidence” that mankind is driving a climate catastrophe. The Chamber seeks to have a complete trial “complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.” Some are referring to the potential for a global warming trial as the “U.S. Chamber of Commerce wanting to put AGW (anthropogenic global warming) creationism on trial.”

Brenda Ekwurzel of the environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists, is discouraging the idea of a trial. This is the same Ekwurzel who claimed global warming made it “less cool” this summer. See: Climate Fear Promoters Try to Spin Record Cold and Snow: ‘Global warming made it less cool’ — July 27, 2009

More significantly, it is the same Ekwurzel who badly lost a public debate over man-made climate fears in 2007. See: Scientific Smackdown: Skeptics Voted The Clear Winners Against Global Warming Believers in Heated NYC Debate — March 16, 2007 & see: Climate Fear Promoters Avoid Debates and Lose When They Engage in Them)

No wonder the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called for a full trial on global warming claims. Desperation time has arrived for the promoters of man-made global warming fears, as the science of man-made climate fears continues to collapse.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sauve Qui Peut

By David Solway

However one looks at our current cultural and geopolitical situation, whatever symbol or metaphor one uses to clarify our dilemma, one remains with a sinking feeling. The story of Noah’s Ark is no longer relevant for our times except as a children’s fable. For the Ark has been replaced in our unconscious, as it has in our collective destiny, by another emblematic vessel.

The Titanic is foundering. Captain, crew and passengers have together conspired to set course directly for the iceberg while irrationally refusing to admit its existence. The ship of state, having been transformed into a ship of fools, may not be able to be hauled into port and retrofitted. Everything considered, perhaps its adversaries might be better off leaving the West to its own devices, as a civilization set on auto-destruct.

Even should we be spared the worst, the prognosis is not good. The task force of the Western mind seems to have been permanently disbanded and succeeded by such self-serving and ostentatious groups as Nelson Mandela’s Council of Elders, foregrounding a vespiary of professional appeasers of an anti-American and, of course, acridly anti-Israeli pedigree like Jimmy Carter, Fernando Cardoso, Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Kofi Annan. (They are, as I write, busy spreading the gospel in Israel!) Such people are collaborators of the first order, giving aid and succour to the enemies of the West in the guise of a rather flocculent peace deputation.

There is no doubt that the major, long-term threat to the civilizational life of the West—though by no means the only one—emanates from theocratic Islam. Christopher Caldwell brings up an interesting idea in his 2009 book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, suggesting that the undeniable success of Islam may compel Europe to re-examine its religious and cultural roots. “Everywhere Islam has asserted itself in recent years,” he writes, “it has provoked reflections among Christians.”

As a result, Islam deserves a measure of gratitude since its effect, however unintentional, has been to revive the moribund intellectual and metaphysical life of the West, allowing us to “talk about God once more, even if in someone else’s language.”…

[Return to headlines]


James Higham said...

This is a question very much to the fore over our way. I have had two responses from the Islamic Schools and they appear at my place, nicely fisked by commenters. Today I'll collate the responses.

It's clear that the ordinary citizen [the indigenous] wishes the Muslims to assimilate and be subject to our own laws, not go off and start their own but of course, that is not their idea at all.

Banning the burqua may seem draconian but it is a statement by a nation - not a soverign nation becasue of the EU monster - but by a people trying to hold on to a vestige of their own culture.

Afonso Henriques said...

"Mass immigration into Europe masks the fact that most European countries are facing a drastic decline in population. The problem is more evident, however, in those countries that don’t allow much immigration. Serbia, for example, expects 700 villages — populated now mainly by old people — to disappear within the next fifteen years. By 2032, the population of Serbia is expected to drop by 10%."

Right on Baron.
Here the population is expected to drop by 10% in the following 50 years and we still are receiving mass immigration of about some 50 thousand anually. And no one knows how many Gypsies from Romania have come here. In my area they are now more than the local Gypsies.

According to the statistics, our natural growth would be negative if it wasn't for the immigrant famalies.
The average Brazilian immigrant pattern of thinking is that they are saving the country for their mere presence, young population, and relatively high index of fecunidity. And that they are so good in doing that instead of killikg us and enslaving us like we did to people in Brazil.

In the interior whole villages are only inhabited by old people and are doomed to disapear.
Historically we had many "frontier sentinell" cities, guarding the border with Spain, we have no more. We only have populated places on the cost and in some capitals of district that have absorbed all the young people left in the interior that did not move to the cost or to foreign lands.
As you can see in this density population map of Portugal and Galiza most of the interior is deserted (Yellow is less than 50 people per Square Kilometer).

The funny thing is that still, we are poor as hell.
It's not that we do not live well but too many people do not. Everybody is in debt. Everybody has to pay more than half of their salary to taxes and the banks right as soon as they are paid.
Still, some 18% of the people are qualified as poor and another 30% are not qualified as poor because they live with statal subsidies.

To add even another view to it, we are recieving mass immigration.
But, the statistics also say that for every 15 new immigrants, 100 people left the country wether to work or to establish themselves as immigrants.

Our entrepeneurs are harmed if they found a company in Portugal.
Foreign investiment is not attracted as it should (Spain is the bigger country, thus Portugal should have been the more dynamic one, like Ireland did with the UK, at least in taxes and government impulsion).
All the people in the border, except the border with Galiza go buy things in Spain. While in Galiza many Portuguese go there to work because they can't find a job south of the border.

The gas stations close to the border with Spain have all closed. The Sapnish gas stations closer to the border are always full. An average Portuguese with his small car can save 20 or 30 €uros for each time he puts gas in Spain instead of in his own country.

In a way, it doesn't really matters, does it?

Rocha said...


To say to you the truth 50 person per kilometer is a pretty high number, that is not whorisome, what is problematic is that you are being colonised, there a population substituition on course, like the one Brazil did in the end of XIX century.

Portugal will dissapear if it stay in this course. As for Brazilians what would "we" think? These ("you") people cannont even reproduce thenselves! All that is old die and in this case sadly Portugal is dying to make way for a Brazilian-African nation (wich Brazil? I think you know the answer).

As for the Luso-Brazilian relations read this i do not agree with everything but the marxists had a huge influence in our late century and new century education. If you read Olavo de Carvalho you know what i'm talking about.

Cities have a history of sucking population and resources since the time of Rome. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte did the same thing in Brazil. When i do go to Paraná to my wife's town all what you find is children and 40 years and older people i think you know what will happens there. The problem of the XXI century will be natality boom and colapse. And it's ethnic, cultural and linguistic consequences.

Caleb Posner said...

With respect to the Serb population, I'm glad to see you make mention of this considerable problem. Of course, it is worth noting that partially at fault are the Wars of Yugoslav Secession, where contrary to American propaganda, a huge portion of the civilian victims were Serb. For instance, in the period leading up to the so called massacre at Srebrenica, Oric and his jihadi forces killed over 3000 Serbs, regularly destroying entire Serb communities.

For more see (shameless self-promotion):

Afonso Henriques said...

Rocha, I just wanted you to know that this is one of those sad lonely Fridays. It's midnight and before I opened Gates of Vienna, I opened Olavo de and have him right here in another window ;)

Concerning Brazilians, as you know, I was just talking about the average ones who are here. And you know who they are.
Especially the young ones... you just have to read some Youtube comments - even of neutral videos - and you'll see that the "we're brothers" like comments will be as much as the "you deaserve to pay for what you did".
Other minorities don't feel this hatred Rocha, it's true.

Rocha, of course I know what you mean, and you know what I mean. I agree with your comment but the 50 person by square kilometer.
It's not high because that yellow is "less" than 50 people per square kilometer.

Traditionally, in most regions North of the Tagus there are few areas whith only one or two villages per square mile. I mean, except some areas of woods (bosques).
And that means that there are many, many square kilometers that have less than 50 people.


And now that I think I may have been denigrating Brazilians, let me tell you that I have had some positive experiences with some.
For instance, yesterday I went to play snucker and there were two very polite Brazilians who also transmited a good vibe. And if you want to know, I don't know how they can be classified as "pardos" once they were darker than most Africans that we have here....

So, my view is that Brazil(ians) is a country of extremes. It has the best and the worst. Our relations are very good, but also have very bitter moments.
And I just think it's sad because we could easily have better relations and, in my view, the bitterness is derived from a way of thinking that derives from a lack of sense/reason/serious thinking.

Rocha said...


The way i see the two countries do indeed have good relations but our historiography do have its grudges agaisnt Portugal specially for the period of Maria I and a few things before. The thing is the marxists reject our cultural inheritance and talks only about the land. They can't see that a indian was an alien thing, to them they are brazilians opressed by the foreign opressor, how can they see that patchwork of nations as "Brazil" i do not know. Because indians today do not consider thenselves brazilians i.e. they are Cayapos, Guajajaras first.
These people are the only voice you find in the humanities field, for at least 40 years! And they educated us in their way of thinking that's why our typical happiness is being substituted by rancor agaisnt the yankeess or the portuguese. Did you see "Turistas" ? Well people got angry agaisnt the movie, but i DO SEE that kind of thinking almost everyday now.

Rocha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Watching Eagle said...

Concerning Serbia,

it is likely that the decline is after taking into account the migration of serbs into Serbia. From say, Bosnia, Monternegro, Kosovo, and Croatia. This means that these areas will likely be surrendered to the Muslims.