Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/16/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/16/2009The new president of the European Parliament has offered to mediate in a dispute between Hungary and Slovakia over the complaints of ethnic Hungarians who live in Slovakia.

In other news, Prime Minister Gordon Brown says that Britain must reduce public spending in order to ease its burden of debt. However, Mr. Brown also says that he will not cut spending on key public services. Mr. Brown has not yet indicated how he will reconcile these two conflicting goals.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, AP, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JCPA, JD, JP, Lurker from Tulsa, Natalie, Paul Green, Sean O’Brian, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
Cash for America
EU to Call for Sanctions on Excessive Bank Pay
Obama to Reassure G20 on Wall Street Reform: Aide
Politicizing California’s Bankruptcy Laws Won’t Save it
UK: Brown: Britain Must Cut Spending to Reduce Debts
UK: Brown Say He Will Not Cut Key Public Services
UK: Unions Fear Far-Right Advance in Downturn
US Industrial Production Better-Than-Expected in August
AA Employees Allegedly at Center of Airport Drug Ring
Cass Sunstein Drafted ‘New Deal Fairness Doctrine’
Celebrate the Constitution by Becoming an Activist
Finmeccanica: DRS Wins US Army Contract Worth 1.9bln USD
Keeping Up With Obama Lies
New Beginning With Muslims Can’t Happen Overnight: Hillary
No Evidence Ohio Muslim Family Abused Runaway Christian Convert Teen
Soros: Republic Enemy #1
Europe and the EU
Algerian Appeals Sentence Over Paris Metro Bombs
Cockroach Surprise for Swedish Property Mogul
Czech BIS Monitoring Company Over Ads Against U.S.Radar-Server
Denmark: Newspaper Publisher Releases Controversial Military Bio
Denmark: Politiken Editorial: Why We Published the Book.
Denmark: Soldiers’ Association Lambasts Politiken
EP Head’s Offer to Mediate Hungary-Slovakia Feud Called Historic
G8: Speaker of Egyptian Parliament, Appreciation of Fini
Gypsy Crime in Hungary: The Ghost of Yesteryear
History as an Instrument of Nationalism: Slovakia and Hungary
Hungary to Take in Single Former Guantanamo Inmate
Irish MEPs Clash With UKIP Over ‘Racist’ Leaflets
Italy: Sanaa: Carfagna, We Will Sue for Damages
Italy: Moroccan Man Accused of ‘Honour Killing’
Jobbik in Europe and in Hungary
Never as Much Opposition to EU Membership in Iceland
New Language Law in Slovakia is Source of Tensions
Norway’s Coalition Government Re-Elected
OSCE Official Says Slovak Law Not Necessarily Outside European Norms
Sikh Turban Safe in Belgium
Sweden: Teen Gangs Suspected in Stockholm Robberies
UK: Conservatives Oust Member Over EU Row
UK: Mohammed is Most Popular Name for Baby Boys in London
Israel: Lieberman Mission Begins in Serbia
Protesters Burn Photos of UN Judges in Sarajevo
Serbia-EU: Bildt, Interim Agreement, Then EU Application
Serbian, Israeli FMs Sign Visa-Free Deal
North Africa
Agriculture: Morocco, Record Production Season 2008-2009
Egypt: UN Candidate Regrets Attack on Israel
Egypt’s Mufti Says Women Can Wear Trousers
Healthcare: Algeria Mammography Obligatory for Over-40s
Israel and the Palestinians
Anti-Mixed Marriage TV Campaign Suspended
CBS: Israel’s Population Numbers 7,465,500
Ex-Mossad Chief: ‘PM Agreed to Golan Pullout’
Jonathan Spyer: Hamas Seeks New Doctrine After Gaza War Failures
Not Marrying a Jewish Woman? You’re ‘Lost’
Palestinians Throw Stones at Israeli Bus Near Hebron
Middle East
Banks: Turkey’s Kuwait Finance House to Open Shariah Banking
Defence: Turkey Buys New Patriot Missiles From US
Dore Gold: What Happened to the U.S. Deadline on Iran?
Hariri Accepts Re-Nomination for Lebanese Premiership
Iraqi ‘Shoe-Thrower’ Shot Dead by US Forces
New Saudi Department Planned to Combat Terrorism
Saudis Reject Extremism, Says King
Top Iranian Dissident Tells CBN: I’m Disappointed in President Obama
Turkey: Alcoholic Drinks Consumption on Rise in First Half
Turkey Asks UK Cops to Quiz Duchess of York
Lawyers: Alleged Arctic Sea Pirates Needed Help
Reports: Medvedev Wants to Meet US ‘Dissidents’
Russia to Equip Four Indian Subs With New Cruise Missiles
Female Suicide Bomber Injures 6 in Chechnya
Female Suicide Bomber Injures 6 in Chechnya
South Asia
Afghan War Reaches a Tipping Point
Dhaka: Christian Murdered for a Cellphone, Police Deny Version of Theft
EU Monitors Say 1.5 Million Afghan Votes Rigged
India to Become Member of Russia’s Dubna Jinr: Prof Rao
Indonesia: Mark of Conservatives
Pakistan-Punjab: Young Christian Man Accused of Blasphemy Killed in Prison
Pakistan: New Jihadi Training Camp Detected
Far East
‘China Bashing’ In the Indian Media
China Says Xinjiang Bomb Operation Uncovered
Korea Ready to Breed Tuna for Commercial Production: Experts
The Tension Between Delhi and Beijing Increases in the Kingdom of Cindia
West Appeasing China on Tibet, Says PM-in-Exile
Latin America
Brazil’s JBS to Take Majority Stake in Pilgrim’s Pride
Cuba OKs Organized Religious Services in Prisons
Venezuela: Spain to Represent Interests in Israel
Australian PM Rudd Defends Refugee Policies
Capitol Prayer Service Calls for End to Hatred of Immigrants
Farnesina: UN Appeal Not to Italy
France to Close Migrant ‘Jungle’
Italy: Protests Open School Year
‘Obama to Make Illegals Eligible for Health Care’
Singapore Will Slow Down Migrant Intake: Report
UK: Attorney General Baroness Scotland’s Housekeeper is an Illegal Immigrant
UN Criticizes Italy Migrant Action
UN: Stop Forced Returns; Italy, We Respect Rules
Culture Wars
The Paranoid Center
“Why Are Jews Liberal?”
Demographic Bomb Explodes

Financial Crisis

Cash for America

To meet his objective of bringing America closer to a socialist state, Obama needs to keep the country in a financial crisis by controlling the length and depth of the current recession. Taking full advantage of this crisis, as Rahm Emanuel implied, is paramount to Obama’s political agenda because he knows that he needs the majority of people, small businesses, and major corporations to be dependant upon the government for their financial security and stability. These government incentive programs are specifically designed by the Obama administration to carefully manipulate targeted sectors of the economy.

The desired outcome of these programs is to create misleading economic numbers intended to elicit false consumer confidence for the purpose of presenting President Obama as a proactive and innovative leader working to restore an ailing economy. Ultimately, these incentive programs are only being used to forward President Obama’s socialist agenda to, in his own words, “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” It will begin small and seem benign at first — even helpful, but as time goes on and people become more desperate in this ongoing recession, confused by false economic reports and fearful from the reality of their personal economic situations, the Obama administration will implement more government incentive programs involving specific consumer goods from carefully chosen industries to accelerate a socialist agenda.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

EU to Call for Sanctions on Excessive Bank Pay

BRUSSELS — European Union leaders plan to urge the world’s largest economies on Thursday to threaten sanctions on banks that pay excessive bonuses to executives and traders as part of a promised overhaul of the global financial system.

One year after banks across the world faced the worst financial crisis in 70 years, EU nations are eager to impose curbs on banking pay they say can trigger reckless risk-taking.

They also want to step up pressure on the United States and China to tackle global warming and commit to cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions at climate change talks later this year in Copenhagen.

In a draft statement expected to be approved at Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels, leaders of the 27 countries said the Group of 20 meeting of developing and rich nations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 24-25 should set binding rules for how banks reward employees. They want to curb a bonus culture that encouraged banks to take the excessive risks that triggered the financial crisis.

The statement, obtained by The Associated Press, also indicates the EU will urge the United States and other countries to keep up stimulus programs that are propping up economic growth and the financial industry. They want to talk about exit strategies now to coordinate how governments should pay back massive public debt when their economies recover.

The U.S. doesn’t share Europe’s zeal to regulate bonuses or to talk about exit strategies, asking instead for tougher global rules that require banks to hold more capital against potential losses. Europeans also want that — but say decisions should be made after the economic crisis has calmed down.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to walk out of the G-20 talks, if other nations don’t strike a deal on bonuses.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said Wednesday that governments need to legislate because banks are going back to business as usual as economies shows signs of recovery.

“We have some suggestions on how to get a better balance, so that we don’t encourage excessive risk taking. We think that was one of the major sources of creating this financial crisis,” he said.

Huge payoffs to bankers have become a hot-button issue on both sides of the Atlantic as governments stepped in with massive bailouts to prevent banks from collapsing late last year.

For instance, New York-based Citigroup Inc., which is now one-third owned by the U.S. government as a result of its bailout, gave 738 of its employees bonuses of at least $1 million each, even after it lost $18.7 billion during the year.

EU nations say they want to make sure that bankers’ pay is linked to the company’s long-term performance and can be clawed back if the business does badly. Pay and bonuses should be “set at an appropriate level” and made dependent on how the bank performs.

This aims to end so-called “guaranteed bonuses,” where a banker is paid a set amount that isn’t linked to the level of risk in the deals taken on, or how well those investments perform over time.

The EU leaders also want to stop stock options being exercised or sold for a certain amount of time, and are calling for far more transparency to require banks to publish more details on pay structures.

Bankers worry that the pay rules would put them at a competitive disadvantage in retaining talented employees. France also is concerned about this, demanding a global level playing field that would see other nations follow its moves to curb pay among major banks.

The French government this month brought in rules that will withhold at least half of a bonus, to be paid out over three years depending on performance. The government also will refuse to do business with banks that don’t toe the line.

On climate change, Sweden’s Reinfeldt said the EU wants to speed up global talks and is seeking “a clearer signal from the United States” on its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“We are worried because some of the initiatives taken so far are not enough to meet the 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) target we have agreed upon” to limit global warming, he said.

Essentially, that means seeking U.S. cash to help developing nations, if Washington can’t pledge carbon cuts.

The EU says poor countries need euro100 billion a year to restrict their own emissions and to adapt to a warming climate that could endanger the homes and food supply of billions of people.

In Europe, only Britain, France, Germany and Italy are official members of the G-20, but Spain, the Netherlands and EU officials will sit in on the talks. Most of the EU’s 27 nations are too small to be invited to the world’s new exclusive G-20 economic club.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Obama to Reassure G20 on Wall Street Reform: Aide

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Barack Obama will pledge U.S. action on financial regulatory reform at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh and underscore the need for global coordination on the issue, a senior aide said on Wednesday.

“It is urgent,” Michael Froman, Obama’s top negotiator for next week’s G20 gathering, told reporters.

He added that there must be “a consistent approach to regulation across jurisdictions” to avoid a “race to the bottom” in which financial players flock toward countries with more lenient oversight.

Obama used a high-profile speech on Wall Street on Monday to try to breathe new life into his proposals to fix regulatory gaps blamed for the 2008-2009 market panic that brought the financial system to the brink of collapse.

The speech coincided with the anniversary of the failure of Lehman Brothers, which triggered the worldwide crisis.

Some of Obama’s counterparts in the G20 blame the United States for the global recession that followed and worry that the effort to strengthen the U.S. regulatory system has moved too slowly.

Obama’s regulatory package hit resistance in Congress after being overshadowed by the health care debate but the White House says the president is committed to getting it back on track.

“I think he’ll be in a very strong position there to continue to push the regulatory agenda,” Froman said.

“He goes to Pittsburgh being able to say we’re serious about these issues, we’re taking action, we’re prepared to lead by example,” Froman said, listing the key issues for the summit as economic stimulus, funding for the International Monetary Fund and regulatory reform.

Froman said that at the September 24-25 gathering, the G20 would seek to highlight stabilization in the economy since the last summit in April but also pledge to keep stimulus measures in place to keep a recovery on track.

“Pittsburgh is not intended to be a victory lap. We will be underscoring the need to remain vigilant to avoid a premature withdrawal of stimulus,” he said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pushing for caps on huge bank bonuses that critics say encourage excessive risk-taking by financial players focused on short-term profits.

But the United States opposes that idea and says the issue of risk-taking and bonuses can be addressed in other ways, such as requiring transparency in compensation, improving corporate governance and encouraging pay structures that better align compensation with performance.

“The president has been pretty clear that he supports a robust approach to executive compensation but has been reluctant to set individual compensation levels,” Froman said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Politicizing California’s Bankruptcy Laws Won’t Save it

What happens when there is no money left for the government to spend? That’s what cities and counties in California are about to learn. A bill under consideration in the state Senate would require local governments to check with the state before filing for bankruptcy. While supported by public-sector unions as a way of protecting their members from the consequences of California’s catastrophic government spending binge of the past decade and the current economic downturn, it uses national taxpayers as human shields.

Rather than use bankruptcy as a way of providing debt relief to failing local governments, giving veto power to California’s Debt and Investment Advisory Commission turns what should be an impartial process into a political football. Whereas the law would be applied to all cities across the board, the bill would allow CDIAC to pick and choose which cities got permission to file.

And why wouldn’t it? The commission isn’t comprised of judges, but instead includes the governor or state director of finance, the state treasurer, the state controller, two state senators, two state assembly members and two local government representatives, one from a county and one from a city. In other words, forget about city autonomy from the state. And especially forget about due process for creditors in bankruptcy law.

Due process isn’t the point, of course. As Carroll Wills of the California Professional Firefighters union put it to the Sacramento Bee, the measure is “about the fact that there are many local agencies legitimately in crisis but there are also local agencies that, for whatever reason, might be looking for a way out [of labor contracts].”

But what else is a city supposed to do with its budget is under water? Yet for these special interests, protecting labor contracts is the first concern, and the cities’ ability to pay comes second. But what do public-sector unions have to gain if these governments find themselves unable to make payroll? Easy: Turn to Uncle Sam for a bailout.

Such a power grab is all that’s left for California politicians wholly unwilling or incapable of confronting the massive deficits they have compiled and cutting state spending. When the relationship between government and special interests becomes this clearly parasitic, it’s important to realize this fact: The host dies. There is a message there for Congress, too.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Brown: Britain Must Cut Spending to Reduce Debts

LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that hard economic times will mean substantial cuts to government spending on the country’s already strained public services.

The announcement, which reverses overly optimistic statements about economic growth, sets the stage for a bruising general election battle with the opposition Conservative Party over who can best manage the country’s dwindling financial resources.

“Labour will cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programs and cut lower priority budgets,” Brown told a conference of the Trades Union Congress in the northern English city of Liverpool.

Brown previously attacked plans set out by the Conservatives to cut public spending in order to lower government debt. He said in June that a looming national election, which Brown must call by June 2010, would be a contest between “Tory (Conservative) cuts versus Labour investment.”

George Osborne, Treasury spokesman for the main opposition Conservatives, said Brown was forced into an embarrassing reversal after allowing government debts to become unsustainable.

“He and his style of politics have been comprehensively defeated,” Osborne said.

An opinion poll published Tuesday indicated that half of British voters would prefer anyone other than Brown to lead the country. The Populus survey published Tuesday by The Times of London newspaper found 48 percent of those questioned agreed that “literally anyone” other than Brown would be a better national leader.

Support for Brown’s Labour Party was at 27 percent, behind the Conservatives on 41 percent.

Populus interviewed 1,504 adults by telephone Sept. 11-13. No margin of error was given, but in samples of a similar size it is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

At the end of July, Britain’s net debt stood at 800.8 billion pounds ($1.315 trillion), or about 57 percent of the value of the country’s total output.

Many economists fear that the country’s debt burden may actually exceed gross domestic product in the next couple of years amid mounting debt interest payments and rising unemployment costs.

Treasury chief Alistair Darling said in his April budget that the figure would likely peak just below 80 percent of GDP in 2013-2014, but his forecasts were due to be revised soon.

“We have a plan to halve the deficit over a four-year period,” Darling told BBC radio. “That does not mean you are going into some sort of dark age where the lights go off and nothing happens.”

Brown declined to specify in which areas spending cuts would be made, but said plans would be published in the coming months. “Labour will not support cuts in the vital front line services on which people depend,” he said, without identifying which programs would be protected.

The Conservatives have pledged not to make cuts to Britain’s health and international aid budgets.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Brown Say He Will Not Cut Key Public Services

LIVERPOOL (AFP) — Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Tuesday that his government will cut public spending, but not front-line services, as he sought to reassure traditional union allies before a general election.

In a closely-watched speech to an annual meeting of labour union leaders, he said Labour “will cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programmes and cut lower priority budgets.

“And when the plans are published in the coming months people will see that Labour will not support cuts in the vital front line services upon which people depend,” he told the Trades Union Congress in Liverpool.

Ahead of Brown’s speech, union leaders said Britain’s worst recession in years threatened to slash public spending on key services such as schools and hospitals.

Opinion polls suggest that the Conservatives will defeat Labour in a general election that must be held by mid-2010.

As they head into the election campaign, the two main parties must grapple with a ballooning budget deficit and soaring unemployment.

“The choice is between Labour who will not put the (economic) recovery at risk […] and a Conservative party which would reduce public services at the very time they are needed most,” Brown told TUC delegates.

Brown has sought to paint the Conservatives as planning huge spending cuts if they win power next year, in contrast to the substantial fiscal stimulus he has thrown at the crisis.

Ahead of Brown’s speech, the leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union raised the prospect of strikes or other workplace protests to resist any cuts.

“RMT is in no doubt that all the main parties are softening up the public in the run up to the election and that the real cuts that will be unleashed after the votes are counted will be more savage and more severe than any party leader is prepared to admit,” added RMT general secretary Bob Crow.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Unions Fear Far-Right Advance in Downturn

LIVERPOOL (AFP) — Unions used their annual conference here this week to underline the threat posed by the far-right, amid signs the economic crisis has fuelled growing support for ultra-nationalists.

In June the British National Party (BNP) scored a breakthrough in European Parliament elections, while more recently there has been violence at anti-Islam protests.

“It’s a huge concern,” unions chief Brendan Barber said of the rise of the BNP, which backs ending all immigration and does not allow black or Asian people to be members.

“The BNP try to promote divisions in communities and exploit the kind of economic problems that we’ve now got. So of course that makes more fertile breeding ground for their nasty messages,” he told AFP.

He was speaking at the annual meeting of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which brings together more than 50 unions representing about six million mostly public sector workers.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown — seeking to prevent a wipe-out for his Labour Party in a general election due by mid-2010 — told TUC delegates: “We will fight to defeat all racist parties and all racist politics.”

Concern about far-right groups has been fuelled by anti-Muslim protests which turned ugly in Birmingham, and London this month.

A new organisation called the English Defence League (EDL) meanwhile staged a counter-demonstration against a pro-Palestinian rally in central London last weekend.

At the TUC meeting in Liverpool, Barber called for urgent talks with the government about extending a current ban on BNP members working in the police and Prison Service to other sectors.

“The BNP is a poisonous organisation,” he said.

“We are desperately, desperately angry that they managed to make an electoral breakthrough with two members of the European parliament elected” in June including BNP leader Nick Griffin.

Barber also blamed the BNP’s rise on Labour supporters voting in small numbers at the polls.

Although the far-right party is unlikely to win a seat in parliament at the election because of the nature of the voting system, BNP members are able to sit on bodies that appoint teachers in schools.

“It’s absolutely dangerous… because it directly influences the lives of youngsters in our schools,” Steve White, senior member of the largest teachers’ union NASUWT told AFP in Liverpool.

The BNP denied that the party poisons democratic debate. A spokesman said Barber “can say what he wants but at the end of the day it is up to the people to decide”.

He called union attempts to ban BNP members working in schools “breath-taking” and “self-contradictory nonsense”.

While Britain is soon expected to follow France, Germany and Japan out of recession, Barber warned of a second wave of negative growth — and even more workers losing their jobs — if there are government spending cuts.

That prospect came closer to reality Tuesday when the prime minister acknowledged for the first time that there would be cost cutting — although he insisted not on front-line public services.

Barber said the government could curtail the BNP’s advance by not neglecting the needs of working-class Britons during the economic downturn.

“I think that it’s important that they are seen to be putting the needs of ordinary people absolutely centre stage,” he said.

The port city of Liverpool meanwhile was the scene of a high-profile, racially-motivated murder in 2005, although there is no suggestion that those found guilty of killing black teenager Anthony Walker were BNP members.

At the TUC conference, Barber joined hundreds of delegates for a daytime vigil in memory of Walker.

“I’m glad to see that what Anthony stood for has still an echo,” his mum Gee said more than four years after her son’s murder.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

US Industrial Production Better-Than-Expected in August

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories made more cars, clothing and other goods than expected in August, and inflation remained in check in the early stages of a broad economic recovery.

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities rose 0.8 percent in August. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a 0.6 percent increase. Last month’s gain marked the second straight increase after the global recession dried up the appetites of customers worldwide.

“The back to back gains in industrial production provide further evidence the recession ended around July,” Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note to clients.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that the so-called “core” Consumer Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 1.4 percent over the 12 months ending in August. That is well within the Fed’s comfort zone and means the central bank faces little pressure to raise its benchmark interest rate, a step it takes to ward off high inflation. The Fed has reduced the interest rate it charges banks for overnight loans to a record low of nearly zero in an effort to revive the economy.

Industrial production rose in a fairly broad-based pickup in August, according to the Fed data. The central bank also said production jumped 1 percent in July, twice as much as originally reported. Car manufacturing drove that gain.

Factory output — the single-biggest slice of overall industrial activity — also rose for the second straight month. It posted a 0.6 percent gain in August, following a 1.4 percent rise in July.

Auto production led the way, rising 5.5 percent last month due mainly to the government’s Cash for Clunkers program. That followed a whopping 20.1 percent gain in July as General Motors and Chrysler reopened many plants that had been closed in May and June as the companies restructured and emerged from bankruptcy.

Even with production of autos and parts stripped out, manufacturing activity increased 0.4 percent last month.

On the inflation front, the CPI rose 0.4 percent in August, after a flat reading in July. Wall Street economists expected a 0.3 percent increase, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. Prices fell 1.5 percent in the past year, as gas prices dropped sharply from record levels last summer.

The core price index rose 0.1 percent, matching expectations. The 1.4 percent gain over the last 12 months is the smallest such increase in more than five years.

A 1.3 percent drop in the price of cars last month, the steepest fall in nearly 37 years, held back the core index. Discounts stemming from the clunkers program — which provided rebates of up to $4,500 to consumers who traded in older cars for newer, more fuel-efficient models — caused the decline.

The stock markets rose modestly in morning trading. The Dow Jones industrial average added about 30 points, and broader indices edged up.

Gas prices rose 9.1 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis and accounted for 80 percent of the rise in the consumer price index. Still, gas prices are 30 percent below last year’s record levels, when prices at the pump topped $4 a gallon.

Consumers have cut sharply back on their spending in response to the worst recession since the 1930s. That has made it difficult for retailers and manufacturers to raise prices, keeping inflation at its lowest levels in decades. Last month, the department said consumer prices fell 2.1 percent in the 12 months ending in July, the steepest drop since 1950.

Still, there are signs the economy is recovering and consumers may be willing to spend again. Retail sales jumped 2.7 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, the biggest increase in more than three years.

With production rising, industrial companies idled less of their plants and equipment in August. The overall operating rate rose to 69.6 percent in, up from 69 percent in July.

Industrial companies are still operating well below capacity. The operating capacity in August was 11.3 percentage points below its average between 1972 and 2008. A healthy level is around 80 percent.

Because companies still have a lot of their plants unused, that also will be a force tamping down any inflation pressures.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday the recession is likely over, though he noted that the economy isn’t likely to grow fast enough to lower unemployment anytime soon. Most economists expect the jobless rate to top 10 percent next year, up from its current 9.7 percent.

“It’s still going to feel like a very weak economy for some time,” Bernanke said.

Separately, the deficit in the broadest measure of foreign trade shrank in the spring to the lowest level in relation to the total economy in 10 years, another dramatic sign of how much the recession had reduced America’s appetite for foreign goods.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday the deficit in the current account dropped to $98.8 billion in the April-June quarter. That represented 2.8 percent of the total economy as measured by the gross domestic product, the smallest percentage since the first quarter of 1999.

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


AA Employees Allegedly at Center of Airport Drug Ring

Nine American Airlines ground employees have been charged with allegedly helping ship drugs through the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, news organizations are reporting. One of the nine was based in Florida.

From the Associated Press story, American spokeswoman Minnette Velez said:

“We work with the authorities whenever we identify a situation like this, which is unacceptable. We work to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Here’s our story on

The announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice says that 23 people in all have been charged. The drug ring allegedly handled at least 9,000 kilograms, or nearly 10 tons, of cocaine in the past 10 years, Justice said.

According to the Justice press release, the defendants carried various AKAs like La Gorda (The Fat), La Silla (The Chair), La Rubia (The Blond), La Prieta (The Brown), Tony Finger, V-8 and Pucho (The Butt).

Wait, there’s more. There’s El Enano (The Dwarf), El Gallero (The Cockfighter), El Calvo (The Bald), Geraldo El Mecánico (Geraldo the Mechanic), Luisita El Mecánico (Luisita the Mechanic), Cancel and El Piso (The Floor).

(Anyone with Spanish fluency, please correct my translations, particularly if there was an obscenity amongst the nicknames.

Click here for the indictment. Keep reading for the entire release from Justice, plus a Drug Enforcement Administration press release. The releases say eight of the defendants are AA employees, as opposed to the nine in news stories.

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

Cass Sunstein Drafted ‘New Deal Fairness Doctrine’

Asserts government should regulate broadcasting as it imposed end to segregation

President Obama’s newly confirmed regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, drew up a “First Amendment New Deal,” a new “Fairness Doctrine” that would include the establishment of a panel of “nonpartisan experts” to ensure “diversity of view” on the airwaves, WND has learned.


Sunstein compares the need for the government to regulate broadcasting to the moral obligation of the government stepping in to end segregation.

Writes Sunstein: “The idea that government should be neutral among all forms of speech seems right in the abstract, but as frequently applied it is no more plausible than the idea that it should be neutral between the associational interests of blacks and those of whites under conditions of segregation.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Celebrate the Constitution by Becoming an Activist

Unfortunately, the rights enshrined in the Constitution are under constant attack. In fact, the protections and limitations on government power which were once so greatly prized by America’s Founders seem to be rapidly disappearing. Governmental tentacles now invade every facet of our lives. The president continues to expand his powers by centralizing power in his own office. And technology, which has developed at a rapid pace, offers those in government more invasive and awesome tools than ever before.

As government invariably, perhaps inevitably, oversteps its authority, Americans are faced with the pressing need to maintain the Constitution’s checks against governmental power and abuse. After all, it was not idle rhetoric that prompted the framers of the Constitution to begin with the words “We the people.”

If we are to maintain our freedoms, “we the people” need to become activists, even revolutionaries, for freedom. We forget the country started with a revolution. However, speaking truth to power is not an easy task. There can be no room for timidity or lukewarm emotions. We must meet the challenges of our day with passion, dedication and courage. And we must demand that our government respect our rights. Here are a few suggestions:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Finmeccanica: DRS Wins US Army Contract Worth 1.9bln USD

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, SEPTEMBER 14 — DRS Technologies, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, has won, together with another company, a contract worth 1.9 billion US dollars from the US Army for the supply of infrared technology. The news was announced in a statement. The contract awarded to DRS by the Army Communications and Electronics Command, includes orders for the army, the navy, the marines, the air force and the US special operations command. The DRS Driver’s Vision Enhancer (DVE) infrared technology, explains a note, allows combat and tactical-wheeled vehicle operators to operate securely in visibility conditions that are particularly bad caused by smoke, fog, sand and other factors. DRS won the first DVE contract in 2004. Since then, more than 40,000 units destined for a wide range of combat and tactical-wheeled vehicles, including combat vehicles Bradley, Stryker, Mrap, amphibious assault vehicles, Hmmwv vehicles and other medium and heavy tactical-wheeled vehicles, have been delivered.(ANSAmed).

2009-09-14 18:55

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Keeping Up With Obama Lies

The surprise was that nobody cried, “You lie,” when Obama said, “Under our plan no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” Anyone who follows this issue knows that all Democratic-sponsored bills cover abortion funding, and that the Hyde Amendment does not apply to the health-care bill because it only prohibits federal taxpayer funding of abortions financed through Medicaid.

Obama promised Planned Parenthood that: “In my mind, reproductive care is essential care. It is basic care, and so it is at the center, and at the heart of the plan that I propose.”

Obama also stated: “We’re going to set up a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don’t have health insurance. It’ll be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services.” Nobody disputes the fact that “reproductive services” include elective abortions.

Obviously, the feminists in Obama’s audience knew he was lying when he said that no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions. If they hadn’t believed Obama was lying, the feminists from Nancy Pelosi to Barbara Boxer to Barbara Mikulski would have erupted in audible protest.


Obama told another lie when he claimed that the Democrats’ health-care plan does not set up “panels of bureaucrats” with the authority to withhold life-sustaining treatment from elderly patients. He compounded his lie by accusing anybody who talks about such death panels of “a lie, plain and simple” (which everybody recognized as a not-so-subtle reference to Sarah Palin).

Another lie in Obama’s speech was saying that the plan does not jeopardize Medicare benefits that seniors currently receive. He plans to cut $500 billion out of Medicare “waste and inefficiency,” which can’t be done without reducing benefits.

Other lies in Obama’s speech included his claim that the health-care plan will not add to the deficit, that anyone who is satisfied with his current health plan can keep it and that his plan will not require raising taxes on people earning less than $250,000 a year.

The fundamental lie in all the Democrats’ plans is the pretense that they can insure an additional 50 million people without increasing costs and/or without reducing benefits for the other 250 million people who are basically satisfied with their current health care. People are protesting at tea parties and town meetings because they realize this is not possible no matter how many passionate speeches Obama gives.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New Beginning With Muslims Can’t Happen Overnight: Hillary

Washington, Sept 16 : US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said US is seeking a new beginning with Muslims around the world, but it won’t happen overnight.

‘Our nation seeks a new beginning with Muslims around the world, a relationship based on mutual interest and mutual respect. It’s a relationship that requires us to listen, share ideas, and find areas of common ground in order to expand a peaceful, prosperous future. Now, this will not happen overnight. We understand that. We are not looking for any magic solutions. We know that it’s going to take patience, persistence, and hard work. And naming a special representative is not an end in itself,’ Clinton said at the swearing-In ceremony of Farah Pandith as first Special Representative to Muslim Communities.

‘But it is apparent now more than ever that we have to do more to promote dialogue and diplomacy, and Farah will play a key role in that process for us. During this holy month of Ramadan, we reflect on Islam’s teachings of charity, community and cooperation. And I look forward to hosting, tonight, an Iftar that affirms our commitment to turn those common values into common ground and common action.

‘Now, we have established this new office of the special representative to make sure that we are fully engaged. Now, it is one thing if people know everything about you and conclude you are their enemy. It is something entirely different if they know very little or nothing about you except propaganda, stereotypes, and inaccurate generalizations, and conclude that we are an enemy.

‘This is a dialogue that is not going to focus solely on terrorism or radicalization, but instead, focus on what all of us have in common, what we all hope for our children, the kind of questions that are asked around every breakfast, lunch, and dinner table in the world about whether we’re going to have a peaceful, prosperous and stable world.

‘There are over 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. It is a population slightly greater than either China or India. The challenges of poverty, hunger, climate change, corruption are not unique to any part of the world, to any people, and certainly not to any faith. But they do require all of us, whoever we might be, to find an active role in forging solutions that will fulfill our obligations as people of faith — to those who are the least, the last, and the lost among us to — in order to reach out and create that common bond.

‘So in addition to these broad challenges, we have to focus on concerns of specific Muslim communities. How are we going to get more investment into Iraq and put people who want to work back to work? How are we going to engage with young Muslims in Europe who feel marginalized or disassociated from their communities? How do we make sure that the message we send from our country is not just government to government, but people to people, community to community? And Farah is well prepared to help us in this task,’ Clinton said.

Clinton said there is nothing called a monolithic Muslim world.

‘Now, we obviously recognize that there is no such thing as a monolithic Muslim world. We see it in the diversity here in our own country. We know that it cuts across many ethnic and racial identities. So we also hope to use online social media tools that have helped to engage Muslims in Europe to reach across the broader spectrum of communities in Asia, Africa, Middle East, everywhere. And then we’re going to try to follow up with concrete actions that help to combat discrimination and promote tolerance. Farah will work to bring faith leaders, civil society groups, policymakers together to amplify the chorus of Muslim voices that reject violence and extremism.

‘The richness of our different religions is one of humanity’s most precious inheritances. But falling back on my own faith tradition, it has never been easy. And I have been reminded time and time again how much work lies ahead of us,’ Clinton said in her speech.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

No Evidence Ohio Muslim Family Abused Runaway Christian Convert Teen

Christian runaway Rifqa Bary says she’ll be killed if she’s sent back to Ohio. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says there’s no “credible” reason to believe that.

Bary, 17, fled to Orlando from her home near Columbus in July because she thinks her Muslim family or someone in the Islamic community has to murder her in an “honor killing” because of her religious conversion. She has also accused her father of physical abuse in the past.

The FDLE’s report, though, which a judge in Orlando unsealed Monday evening, says there’s no evidence of any abuse, and also no indication that she’s in danger of being killed. The report calls that fear “a subjective and speculative concern.”

FDLE asked the girl’s father if he was going to kill her.

“Absolutely not,” Mohamed Bary told investigators.

[Comments from JD: There you are. You see, there is no danger at all! /sarcasm …This judge is an idiot.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Soros: Republic Enemy #1

Is it possible to lay the global financial meltdown, the radicalizing of the Democratic Party, and America’s moral decline, at the feet of one man?

It is indeed possible.

If George Soros isn’t the world’s preeminent “malignant messianic narcissist,” he’ll do until the real thing comes along. Move over, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. There’s a new kid on the block.

What we have in Soros, is a multi-billionaire atheist, with skewed moral values, and a sociopath’s lack of conscience. He considers himself to be a world class philosopher, despises capitalism, and just loves social engineering.

Uh oh. Can you say “trouble,” boys and girls?

Soros is a real life version of Dr. Evil—with Obama in the role of Mini-Me. Which is not as humorous as it might at first sound. In fact, it’s bone-deep chilling.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Algerian Appeals Sentence Over Paris Metro Bombs

PARIS (AFP) — An Algerian jailed for life for links to a wave of bomb attacks on the Paris metro that killed eight people in 1995 appeared in a French court on Wednesday to appeal his conviction.

Rachid Ramda, sporting a trim beard and leaning on crutches for a sprained ankle, replied in Arabic when asked to confirm his identity at the hearing attended by families of people who died in the bombings.

He is fighting a 2007 ruling that concluded he acted for the militant Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in funding three attacks on metro stations in which 200 people were also injured.

The most spectacular attack was on the Saint-Michel station in the heart of the capital that left eight people dead and 150 injured. The others, on the Musee d’Orsay and Maison-Blanche metro stations, left dozens injured.

“If he had something to say he would have said it in the first trial,” Mireille Glorion, whose 24-year-old daughter Sandrine died in the Saint-Michel attack, said before the hearing began.

“He’s a manipulator and we could well have done without a second trial that is going to plunge us all back into this drama,” she said.

Ramda was extradited from Britain in December 2005 after a 10-year legal battle. He had already been sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison by a separate French court on other charges related to the bombings.

Ramda, who will turn 40 on September 29, denies any connection with the bombings, for which two other men — Boualem Bensaid and Ait Ali Belkacem — are serving life sentences.

He was convicted in 2007 of channelling funds from London to the two perpetrators of the bomb plot, based on evidence that included a bank payment slip bearing his fingerprints.

In the latest appeal trial, his defence lawyers are expected to again argue that Algerian secret services manipulated events and set French investigators on false trails for domestic political reasons.

Algeria in the 1990s was in the throes of a brutal conflict, sparked by scrapped elections in 1992, that pitted Islamists against government forces and killed tens of thousands.

Ramda’s lawyers have also said they will ask for testimony from Jean-Louis Debre, who was France’s defence minister at the time of the metro bombings.

Investigators believe that in the early 1990s Ramda was a leading GIA operative in Europe, in regular touch with the group’s leader in Algeria Jamel Zeitouni who wished to punish France for its support of the Algiers government.

In 1993 Ramda was sentenced to death in absentia in Algiers after being convicted of a bomb attack on the city’s airport which killed nine people the year before.

He fled to Britain where he was kept under surveillance and was arrested in November 1995, but he evaded extradition for many years through a series of legal appeals.

His supporters argued against his extradition to France on the grounds that he might be unlawfully sent back to Algeria to face the death penalty, which the French authorities denied.

The delays were a source of friction between Britain and France, which accused the government in London of taking a soft line on Islamist terrorism.

His appeal trial is expected to last a month.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Cockroach Surprise for Swedish Property Mogul

A Stockholm-area investment executive received a package of live cockroaches in protest of his firm’s perceived negligence in upgrading run-down apartment buildings in Malmö’s Rosengärd neighbourhood.

Last Wednesday evening, police were called to the home of Simon Kling, vice president of Acta, a Norwegian investment firm which owns several rental property management companies in Sweden.

Upon arriving at Kling’s home in the upscale Stockholm suburb of Täby, police were directed to a mysterious package lying outside his front door.

When police opened the package they were startled to find 21 live cockroaches and a threatening note.

“Start renovating the buildings in Rosengard in Malmö immediately,” read the note, reports Hem & Hyra, a magazine published by the Swedish Tenants’ Union.

The note was signed by Antifascist Action (AFA), which later claimed responsibility for the stunt on its website.

AFA said it delivered the roaches to Kling because Acta, “has let several rental properties which they own fall into disrepair while the leadership lives well in their newly renovated houses”.

While refraining from commenting on the incident in detail, Kling confirmed to the magazine that he’d been threatened in his capacity as an employee with Acta, calling the matter “extremely unpleasant”.

Through a chain of subsidiaries, Acta owns several rental apartment properties in Herrgärden in Rosengärd which gained national attention last year following reports that the buildings were infested with cockroaches and fraught with mold.

The buildings’ apartments are in such bad shape that Malmö’s environmental department delivered an ultimatum to the owners over the summer threatening to levy fines if hundreds of bathrooms, toilets, and kitchens weren’t cleaned and renovated within ten months.

The foot dragging by Acta comes after one of its other property management companies was named Sweden’s worst landlord for 2008 by Hem & Hyra.

Altogether, Acta companies held six of the ten places on Hem & Hyra’s 2008 list of the worst rental management firms in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Czech BIS Monitoring Company Over Ads Against U.S.Radar-Server

Prague — The Czech counter-intelligence service BIS is monitoring activities of the Big Board advertising agency which has provided its advertising spaces to the No to Bases civic group free of charge, the Internet server said today, adding that BIS suspects Russia of using the company.

Russia allegedly uses the company to support its interests in the Czech Republic but it is probably unintentional cooperation, the server writes.

The management of the company, which is one of largest Czech advertising companies, dismissed the information as nonsense.

Last week, Big Board provided the opponents of the planned stationing of a U.S. missile defence radar on Czech soil from the No to Bases civic group with advertising space on its ten billboards, a service for which the group would otherwise had to pay hundreds of thousands of crowns.

The server said that the BIS points to the company’s activities in a secret version of its annual report for 2008.

“It is highly probable that Russia uses the company for active measures supporting Russian interests in the Czech Republic,” the BIS report allegedly says.

It says, however, that it cannot be ruled out that “the company is not aware of cooperating with foreign services,” writes.

Richard Fuxa, head of the Big Board Prague branch, said he considered the BIS’s interest in Big Board nonsensical.

“I do not know what has led the BIS to its position and on what it bases it,” Fuxa said.

He said that the provision of advertising spaces to the No to Bases was part of the company’s advertising strategy and that it provided similar services to other foundations and non-profit organisations.

It is not clear who owns the company that operates, apart from Prague, also in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

It is based in Luxembourg and according to the information of the Marketing & Media magazine, its annual sales last year were about 343 million crowns.

No to Bases spokesman Jan Majicek said that the company itself offered its advertising spaces to the civic group.

However, BIS also monitors No to Bases which enjoyed big support, especially leftist politicians, before last year’s regional and Senate elections.

Thanks to its positions and the style of functioning the group is an easy pray for the Russians but most of its members are not conscious collaborators of the Russian intelligence services, the BIS report allegedly says.

Majicek says this statement was illogical.

“Unless BIS submits some names or lists of our members who met with someone it is a mere political report,” he said.

In its annual report for 2008, BIS said that Russian agents were trying to push through their interests in the Czech Republic via politicians but also via civic groups.

“These movements and a crushing majority of their members are not intentional collaborators of the intelligence services of foreign power,” BIS said, adding that most of those involved were victims who have been “misused for quite different purposes under the veil of noble ideas.”

In its report for 2007 BIS said Russian agents mainly tried to influence the public opinion against the planned installation of a U.S. missile defence radar on Czech soil.

The military intelligence service has also registered concrete interest in the information on the possible stationing of a U.S. missile defence base or its part in the Czech Republic.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Newspaper Publisher Releases Controversial Military Bio

An injunction from the military will not prevent a former elite soldier’s book from being released

National newspaper Politiken has published the entire contents of a controversial book by an ex-Special Forces soldier that the military is fighting to ban.

According to the military, Thomas Rathsack’s book, ‘Jæger — i krig med eliten’ (‘Hunter — at war with the elite’), contains sensitive information which would create a security risk for the country if made public.

‘The military cannot use a general reference to national security as a means to determine which books should be published in Denmark or under what conditions the media may cover something or how we cover it,’ said Thøger Seidenfaden, Politiken’s editor in chief.

Publication of the supplement in today’s issue of Politiken comes as the book’s publisher, People’s Press, announced it would release the book, despite an injunction by the military.

The military has also threatened to sue Rathsack, claiming the soldier’s book violates the vow of confidentiality he made when joining the Special Forces.

Media legal expert Oluf Jørgensen said the military’s attempts to halt the book’s publication have come far too late.

‘They can’t stop the book from being published when it’s now already been done,’ he said. ‘I think the military’s agenda in this case is to scare other soldiers from attempting to write future books about their own experiences.’

Søren Gade, the defence minister, said he was ‘fed up’ with the affair.

‘I wish the military could have come to a solution with the publisher,’ he said. ‘There have been countless articles and books about the military’s operations, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq.’

‘But we have to acknowledge that there are of course some things that should not see the light of day for the sake of other people’s safety.’

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Politiken Editorial: Why We Published the Book.

We have chosen to print the entire text of the book in Wednesday’s edition to ensure and underline the public’s right to information.

Denmark is a nation at war

We took part in the Balkan wars already in the 1990’s and made a major and positive contribution.

Not least in taking part in NATO’s air war against Serbia and helping to save almost a million Kosova Albanians from death and exile.

Taking part in the Iraq War, without a U.N. mandate, was much more controversial and the soldiers were withdrawn when the involvement became unpopular in the United States in 2006.

The war in Afghanistan has widespread political support in Denmark, and a majority of the population supports a war that in many other NATO countries is meeting increasing opposition.

Even more people have respect and sympathy for the difficult job that Danish soldiers do under extremely dangerous conditions.

Military wants to ransack and question

The media — including Politiken — cooperates closely with the military and has full understanding for the considerations that have to be taken into account when Danish soldiers risk their lives.

We do not print operative information that can endanger military operations and we are thankful for the protection that Danish soldiers afford is when we cover the war.

In the light of this good and pragmatic cooperation it is even more regrettable that the military now wants to develop these reasoned considerations to include a general right to stop publications and information which the military, in a general sense, considers to be detrimental to national interests.

That, unfortunately, is what is happening in the case about a book written by a former commando.

The military is preparing an injunction against the publishers — an injunction upon which the Copenhagen Municipal Court will decide on Thursday.

At the same time, on behalf of the military, the Junior Counsel to the Treasury is seeking permission to ransack premises and to force the publisher’s employees to give evidence as to who is in possession of copies of the book.

At the same time, the Chief of Defence has written to the country’s media, demanding that we refrain from any further coverage of the book.

Encroachment on press freedoms

We cannot imagine that the Court will give the military the right to carry out such a blatant encroachment on the freedom of information and the press.

Irrespective, we have chosen to print the entire text of the book in today’s newspaper to ensure and underline the public’s right to remain informed — also when we are at war and when the authorities do not find it opportune.

We feel that we are thus doing our job, just as Danish soldiers do theirs when they carry out the tasks that the government has placed on their shoulders.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Soldiers’ Association Lambasts Politiken

The chairman of Denmark’s soldiers’ association has complained bitterly over a decision by Politiken to print a controversial book about Danish commandos.

The Chairman of the Danish Privates’ and Corporals’ Association has complained bitterly over Politiken’s decision to print a special supplement today with the full text of a controversial book about the operations of Denmark’s elite Special Operations Force unit.

“I am very anrgy. This is not a question of exercises at (the Danish exercise grounds at) Oksbøl, but Danish soldiers who are at war in Afghanistan. I fear that by printing the book, Politiken may have compromised their security,” says Association Chairman Flemming Vinther.


Denmark’s military has sought an injunction against the book, including demands to find all copies, an application for help from bailiffs to search all areas of the premises of the People’s Press publishers and to force People’s Press to divulge the names of journalists to whom review copies have been sent.

In a further development, Defence Chief Tim Sloth Jørgensen wrote a personal letter to Denmark’s editors-in-chief asking them to stop journalists reporting on the book.

An injunction hearing is to be heard in Copenhagen on Thursday of this week.


Politiken’s editorial management’s argument that it is important that the general public is given a realistic view of the conditions for Danish special forces when they operate in the world’s hotspots, does not rub off on Vinther.

“For me, it is enough that the book can compromise the safety of my members. So Politiken should have waited until the court had decided on the issue. The decision may also have been that it was OK to publish the book,” says Vinther, adding that soldiers, when they enlist, must realise that some of their activities should remain secret.

“When you choose to be a soldier, you also choose to enter a space in which there is a certain limit to your freedom of speech. This is only the case in a very few contexts and is not a problem in everyday activities,” says Vinther.


Politiken Editor-in-Chief Tøger Seidenfaden says the general ban on the book that the defence chief is seeking places extensive limits of the freedom of information and speech.

“The background to the defence force action view is unfortunately a completely general assertion that this book is detrimental to the security of the country. If we accept that the military is able to do something like this, then freedom of information and speech becomes seriously limited,” says Seidenfaden.

He adds that Politiken had already printed the most interesting passages from the book in its edition last Saturday, at which time the military had not reacted.

“If there is sensitive information, then it’s already out there — in other media too. So the military seems to be riding on a principle that it should decide overall what should be allowed to come into the public domain. I have difficulty seeing how that is compatible with Danish democracy and our tradition that the media is also able to be critical, even if the authorities don’t like it — also when we are at war,” says Seidenfaden.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

EP Head’s Offer to Mediate Hungary-Slovakia Feud Called Historic

Hungarian MEP Csaba Tabajdi has welcomed that the new president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, on Tuesday expressed readiness to mediate in settling Hungarian-Slovak tensions.

Tabajdi said the Buzek was ready to help settle the conflict that has developed among the ethnic Hungarians and the majority of the Slovak society.

The new EP president indicated in his inaugural address that, if need be, he would help in efforts aimed at settling the debate between Hungarian and Slovakia on minority rights along the lines of European values.

Tabajdi (Socialist) said the EP head’s initiative was “historic”.

“This is the first time that the head of a European institution is facing up to the problems of national minorities and offering to help instead of sweeping them under the carpet.” said Tabajdi.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

G8: Speaker of Egyptian Parliament, Appreciation of Fini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 14 — “I thank the Speaker of the House, Gianfranco Fini, for having called this meeting and for having worked towards strengthening the roles of parliaments”. The Speaker of Egypt’s Popular Assembly, Ahmed Fathi Sorour, has been speaking following the two days of meetings held in Rome with House Speakers from G8 countries and emerging economies (Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, China, India and Egypt). “I very much appreciate the work done by Fini in his role of Speaker of the Lower House and am glad of the strength given by his political leadership”, Sorour told ANSAmed before he left Italy. “With Fini, we have now established a good relationship. Egypt has political weight in the Middle East region and is a leader in the Arab world”. “When we tackle issues of social security, it is impossible do without the so-called emerging nations. Meeting my colleagues has given Egypt the opportunity to deepen its dialogue with the leading nations”. Apart from Fini, Sorour was also able to speak to the Speaker of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi: “On November 2 I shall be in Washington D.C. to attend the first ever world conference dedicated to electronic information exchange involving parliaments as well”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gypsy Crime in Hungary: The Ghost of Yesteryear

Back deep in bowels of the National Library of Hungary, actually called the Széchényi Library, is hiding a veritable treasure: a collection of 76 volumes, well really only 75 since one of them went missing God knows when, the handiwork of a country gentleman from somewhere in the vicinity of Kecskemét.

The first volume was started I think around 1878 and the last was compiled perhaps around 1886. The content is none other than a possibly complete collection of newspaper clippings of all anti-Jewish utterings of all newspapers. And there were many of them, at least forty dailies, if you only look at the larger ones, not counting the local gossip sheets in smaller towns. There were numerous funny papers as well, some of them constantly harping on the Jews. The name of the collection is Jüdische Delicatessen. The double entendre of this title could best be translated as “Jewish Delights.”

Our man of such “dedicated scholarship” read and kept everything, neatly cut out and pasted into albums, year after year until 1886, when the series stopped. (As I found out, the “author” of the volumes fought in the 1848-49 revolution, so he probably suspended the collection either when he became terminally ill or when he died. I imagine only death could wrench the scissors and gum arabic from his busy hands.)

Those were the heady days of the official Hungarian Antisemitic Party, with 17 MPs sitting in Parliament and the “movement” of official anti-Semitism led by GyÅ’zÅ’ Istöczy was enjoying wide and enthusiastic acceptance. In fact the Tiszaeszlár blood libel case in 1882-83 gave it unprecedented cache. Another prominent public figure, Gyula Verhovay, MP and newspaper publisher of the time, a figure as colourful as a rainbow-coloured popsicle, was particularly active in the movement and in his own paper the Egyetérte’s (Agreement, or Accord) was giving ample airing to Jewish misdeeds.The strongly and openly anti-Semitic press presumed to be finding the way to its readers’ hearts and minds most effectively if they showed off the Jews as actual criminals. The campaign against “Jewish crime” was in full flight by 1880.

Luckily, the times were much richer in fantasy and invention, so the available variety of crimes was much greater and far more amusing than nowadays. Not to mention that people were more ready to be scandalized in those years than they are today. No wonder that even today when we talk about those times we call them the “happy peace times.” The gamut of Jewish crimes ran from bankruptcy fraud, through simple stealing and forgery to sophisticated real estate fraud, usury and bigamy. For example, Magyarország, a daily, was reporting on July 8, 1880, that a happy newly-wed woman was visited by a poor miserable mother of four to announce that she was the other wife of the husband just wed. A few days later, on July 22, 1880, Magyarország reported another bigamy case. The same paper reported on July 11 of the the same year that the forger of fake coins was identified. He is a Jew.

Egyetérte’s, a daily paper, on July 16th reported the story of a Jew who was converted to Christianity in order to be hired by the civil service so he could have access to military officers and lend them money. The grand prize winner is the news item in Magyarország that appeared on July 25, 1880, telling breathlessly how a Jewish lawyer no less, Dr. Grünfeld, was caught stealing money and a pocket watch from another guest of the Rudas bath house and took to his heels right through a window. All these and many more did not disappear into thin air without a trace. The intent and the method survived and are revived again by the political right of Hungary. The press, printed, or electronic, is full of the rabble-rousing, gypsy-bashing criminality of the Roma people.

When I first heard the expression “Gypsy crime,” from Jobbik, I didn’t understand what were they talking about. My first reaction was: why would they oppose only Gypsy crime, why not crime in general. How naïve can I get? So, given the uphill battle they had to fight for the attention of the public, in the face of the initial general disapproval, they turned to the tricks of Magyarország and Egyetérte’s and the rest of the old anti-Semitic press: if it worked then it will work this time again. And it has! So much so that a few months ago even the police chief of the city of Miskolc, a socialist appointee, made a speech against Gypsy crime: even he was willing to buy into the myth.

In a few short years they not only introduced the theretofore unknown phrase into the public discourse, they also rallied a large number of people to support them. Just like the predecessors, they openly disclose their vicious racism, but find understanding and forgiveness, since the purported Gypsy criminality provides justification for it. But they are not settling for simple slander, that would not be modern enough for them, they also insist on punishing the crimes of Gypsies themselves.

I think here we find an admirable comparison between those happy peace times and our own as a measure of what modernity did for us. Beginning from the 1880s it took roughly sixty years until the first Jewish law, the anti-Semitic propaganda to bear fruit. Now, in our “high speed” world, a mere two or three years were enough to bring about the systematic murder of Gypsies and the marching of thugs in villages to blanket them with fear.

In the hysterically polarized public discourse of Hungary there is no way of stopping this madness for the moment. There is also an intentional lack of will to deal with it. The question is whether the murders committed in the last few months are horrendous enough for the public to step away from the brink and put a stop to the anti-Gypsy propaganda, or are they willing to allow an escalation of hatred to the degree that makes it institutional by letting the Jobbik enter it to Parliament next year as their official policy.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

History as an Instrument of Nationalism: Slovakia and Hungary

As I was writing about the mayor of Salgötarján and her incredible open letter to Robert Fico, prime minister of Slovakia, I became interested in the real history of the Hungarian and Slovak coats of arms. You may recall that the mayor generously stated that the Hungarians “don’t even want to take back such precious symbols from [the Slovaks] as the three mountains and the double cross,” today parts of both the Slovak and the Hungarian coats of arms. Well, I said to myself, that’s an interesting project: let’s see what the “real” situation is in this coat of arms controversy. Ah, the “real” story? That’s almost impossible to come up with. Because there are two conflicting versions and no definitive way to decide between them.

First, let’s take a look at the Slovak version. Here is the description of the coat of arms of Slovakia. It is composed of a silver double cross, elevated on the middle peak of a dark blue mountain consisting of three peaks. It is situated on a red early gothic shield. The double cross obviously has something to do with Christianity but even that is not so simple. According to the Slovak interpretation the three-peaked mountain represents the three symbolic Slovak mountains, Tatra, Fatra, Matra. As it turns out, the story of the mountains is not so simple either.

According to Slovak interpretation the double cross came to the area called Slovakia today by St. Cyril and St. Methodius, two missionaries from the Byzantine Empire. Apparently this double cross, known as the patriarchal cross, was used all over the Byzantine Empire already in the ninth century. According to the Slovaks Saint Stephen’s coins already contained this double cross in “rudimentary form.” Here is Stephen’s “denar” front and back. I must say that I don’t see the double cross, not even in “rudimentary form,” but perhaps others have better eyes. I further learned that Stephen before he became king was prince of the Principality of Nitra (Nyitra), a county and a town about 90 kilometers north of Komárno. Moreover, after his marriage to the Bavarian princess Gisella he and his wife actually lived in Nitra. Even after he was crowned as king of Hungary his court was in today’s Bratislava (Pozsony) that was called in those days PreÅ¡porok. I will return to this Principality of Nitra question later. Now I would like to present the Hungarian arguments.

According to the Hungarian version, the double cross first appeared in the Hungarian coat of arms only at the end of the twelfth century, during the reign of Béla III. Béla grew up in the Byzantine court and was for a period the official heir to the throne there. But even after his return to Hungary, in order to claim the throne from his younger brother Géza, he kept up very good relations with Byzantium. The Holy Crown of Hungary which consists of two main parts, the corona graeca and the corona latina, was also created during his reign, again under Byzantine influence. As far as the three mountains are concerned, the Hungarians claim that Hungarian heraldics didn’t like symbols that “floated,” i.e. were not anchored in some fashion. Apparently as late as the fourteenth century there are examples of the double cross under which there is only one mountain not three. But by the fifteenth century the anchor for the double cross is definitely a mountain with three peaks. So while the Slovaks are certain that these three peaks symbolize the three Slovak mountains (one of which happens to be within the current Hungarian borders) Hungarians disagree. Admittedly, the Slovak interpretation is not new. It appeared in several codices around the end of the fifteenth century and was spread widely by István WerbÅ’czy in his Tripartium in the first half of the sixteenth century. Most Hungarian heraldic experts think that the explanation of the three-peaked mountain is a kind of urban legend, mind you an old one, as is the belief that the four red and silver stripes in the Hungarian coat of arms represent the four Hungarian rivers: Duna, Tisza, Dráva, Száva.

Now let’s return to the Principality of Nitra because I must admit it was new to me that Stephen before he became king had actually lived there with his new wife Gisella. Even Slovak sources are a bit hesitant when trying to tell the story. Let me quote one source: “It may have been a separate principality in the 8-12th centuries that existed as an independent state… or it may have been a nascent state that merged into Greater Moravia and lost its separate existence around 900.” Here I will concentrate on the story of Nitra after the Hungarian conquest. As I mentioned the other day, there are very few written documents for these early years of Hungary’s history. I pretty well summarized the other day what we definitely know about St. Stephen and his country. And there I couldn’t find anything specific about Nitra. However, I most likely found the source of the story of Stephen and his young wife settling in Nitra after their marriage. The hypothesis appears in György Györffy, István király e’s műve (Budapest: Gondolat, 1977). According to Györffy (p. 115) recent archaeological excavations proved that the foundations of the cathedral at Nitra were laid only during the Age of the Arpads and not during Moravian times as had been earlier thought. They found the earlier church’s foundations not on the top of the hill but down on the plain. This new church was named after St. Emmeram who was the patron saint of Regensburg. Therefore, says Györffy, it is very likely that the cathedral was built after Gisella became the wife of Stephen. Because in the Middle Ages under the altar a relic had to be placed that belonged to the saint for whom the church was named, it is likely that the cathedral was built after Gisella’s arrival in Hungary. So far, so good, but can we say that therefore “Stephen most likely took his wife to the castle of Nitra”?

So these people can argue constantly about a time about which we know very little. How useful is this? Well, it keeps medieval historians busy, but I would rather put my faith into archaeology when it comes to this period. I think that the Moravian church that was built on the plain and the later cathedral on the hill is far more interesting and tangible than whether Stephen and Gisella lived in Nitra or not.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hungary to Take in Single Former Guantanamo Inmate

[I’m sending this isolated link to point out that this is the first comment that I notice mentioning ‘muslims’ on a board discussing Hungary’s interests. — HRW]

Hungary will receive one former inmate from the Guantanamo prison camp, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai announced on Wednesday.

Hungary will choose from a list the name of the prisoner who will be allowed to settle permanently in the country after an 18-month integration period, Bajnai said. He added that parliamentary parties have been informed of the government’s decision.

The prisoner is likely to be a Palestinian man, government spokesman Domokos Szollar said.


unbelieveble!!!! What is a palestinian man has to do in Hungary? Why should we take a prisoner from the US? So we going to build a strong and big moslim community too in Hungary, like in western europe. We can see what happened there to cities! If you don’t know visit Holland, Great britain ect and see for yourself. Read the about it, there is a lot of news on the web about this!

Géza at September 16, 2009 11:23 AM

We are taking in this prisoner because Hungary is like the fat kid on the playground… The kid that will do anything to be accepted.

The other kids know this. So they taunt him, humiliate him and get him to do things that he would not normally not do, just to be accepted.

That is why we taking in this Palestinian.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Irish MEPs Clash With UKIP Over ‘Racist’ Leaflets

NO CAMPAIGN: IRISH MEPS have clashed angrily with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) over the British party’s plan to post “racist” leaflets to all Irish homes attacking the Lisbon Treaty.

UKIP confirmed yesterday it had begun posting some 1.5 million leaflets, which should arrive in people’s letterboxes between September 17th and 21st. It also accused Irish MEP Marian Harkin of “hypocrisy” for inviting fellow MEPs to donate funds to the Yes to Lisbon campaign.

“Yet again, the hypocrisy of the Yes side knows no bounds. When someone from outside Ireland who is opposed to the treaty speaks out, then it is foreign interference. But here they are invited to do the same,” said UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who plans a visit to Ireland next week to campaign for a No vote in the referendum.

The UKIP leaflet on the Lisbon Treaty, which is reproduced on the website, alleges Lisbon gives the EU full control of immigration and warns that Turkey’s entry to the EU will lead to more mass migration of cheap labour. It portrays an image of a turkey with a medallion around its neck with the message: “Free movement for 75 million people.”

It also alleges that Lisbon may create an “EU supreme court to overrule our values”, transform Ireland into an “EU province” and damage the economy.

At the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Labour MEP Alan Kelly said UKIP was out of touch when it came to Europe and bordered on insanity if it thought Irish people would listen to them when they canvassed here. “I presume they’ll come over with their imperialist rhetoric. The thought of their smug smiles turns my stomach . . . 700 years was enough,” he said.

Ms Harkin said the image of a turkey in the UKIP leaflet was outrageous and racist. She rejected criticism made by Mr Farage that she was “hypocritical” for inviting fellow MEPs to donate to the Yes campaign.

The criticism from UKIP came after Ms Harkin sent an e-mail to all 736 MEPs asking them to consider contributing to a new campaign group called Europe for Ireland, which has been set up by Irish people in Brussels to lobby for a Yes vote. In the e-mail, Ms Harkin said many people had asked her if they could help in the referendum campaign.

“National referendums are, by definition, an internal national matter, even where, as in this case, the repercussions have an effect across Europe. That being said, Irish people resident in Belgium and indeed all over Europe have set up a Europe for Ireland group to promote a Yes vote to the Lisbon Treaty whatever way it can within the rules,” she added.

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Sanaa: Carfagna, We Will Sue for Damages

(AGI) — Rome, 16 Sep. — “A horrible crime, inhuman, unthinkable, the result of an absurd war of religion that has got inside our home. For this reason I will ask the state prosecutor to allow us to sue for damages, as soon as it begins.” This is how the Equal Opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna, has commented on the murder of Sanaa, the 18-year-old Moroccan girl from Pordenone who wanted to live with her Christian boyfriend. “Terrible cases such as this one encourage us to take the path of the ‘Italian model’ in integrating immigrants. Everyone in Italy must have the right to practice their own faith, but this country can only accept this if it respects human rights, including women’s rights, and the laws of the state.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Moroccan Man Accused of ‘Honour Killing’

Rome, 16 Sept. (AKI) — A Moroccan man is facing murder charges after allegedly stabbing his 18-year-old daughter to death for falling in love with an older man in a small northern Italian town. Sanaa Dafani was stabbed in the throat while she was sitting in a car with her 31-year-old boyfriend in Montereale Valcellina, northwest of Trieste, late Tuesday.

Her father, El Ketawi Dafani was later detained by police and interrogated overnight. Some Italian news reports said he had made some admissions about being present at the scene of the alleged crime but had also contradicted himself in relation to the evidence.

There is also widespread speculation that El Ketawi Dafani, believed to be a Muslim, objected to religious differences between his daughter and her boyfriend and their plans to live together.

According to media reports, the victim’s father blocked the car and threatened his daughter. Her boyfriend Massimo De Biasio tried to protect her from the attack and was injured in an alleged assault from the father.

De Biasio raised the alarm and was then taken to a local hospital in Pordenone where he underwent surgery for minor injuries to his abdomen and his hands.

Meanwhile, investigators have begun searching the forest near the scene of the crime in search of the murder weapon.

Police said locating the weapon was a crucial element in their investigation because it would help to confirm several key elements in helping to reconstruct the crime.

The case has already drawn comparisons with the controversial murder of a young Pakistani girl, Hina Saleem, who was killed by male relatives in August 2006.

Hina’s father Mohammed, confessed to slitting 20-year-old Hina’s throat for ‘dishonouring the family’ because she lived with an Italian man, wore jeans and worked in a pizzeria.

After the case, the previous centre-left Italian government issued a ‘charter of values’ for immigrants.

Mohammed and two male relatives were each sentenced last year to 30 years in jail for Hina’s murder.

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

Jobbik in Europe and in Hungary

I would never have thought that my simple little heraldic history would interest so many people and I’m almost tempted to continue, but there are other contemporary issues that came up. The first that concerns Slovak-Hungarian relations is the visit of Knut Vollebaek, commissioner in charge of minority affairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, to Budapest yesterday and today to Bratislava. However, I still don’t quite understand what position Vollebaek took in the Slovak-Hungarian controversy. Perhaps tomorrow we will know more.

On the other hand, we know only too well what Krisztina Morvai did in Brussels yesterday. My readers may recall that one member of the three-person Jobbik delegation, ElÅ’d Novák, appeared on the opening day of the European Parliament in the uniform of the banned Hungarian Guard. The Hungarian socialists were outraged and the head of the socialist delegation, Martin Schulz, made noises about wearing uniforms in the chamber. In the end it turned out that the rules and regulations say nothing about uniforms. The response of the Fidesz members was that there are so many members of parliament and the chamber is so vast that almost no one could see what the Jobbik member wore. And those who did see him might have thought he was a workman doing some repair work!

Well, if they didn’t notice ElÅ’d Novák’s uniform, they certainly noticed Krisztina Morvai’s tongue! Some people thought that Morvai was going to mellow in Brussels. After all, earlier she had an opportunity to learn something about international cooperation while representing Hungary as a member of the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee of the United Nations. I wasn’t so sure. Knowing the woman, not personally of course, I was certain that she would continue her less than truthful propaganda about Hungarian “dictatorship.” I was right.

According to her own statement she spoke in the European Parliament three times within the first day and a half! I can’t even imagine what kind of house rules allow such frequent speeches. However, she managed. Anyone interested in Krisztinai Morvai’s contributions can find them on her website. At the moment only the first speech is available which I assume she made in English. Unfortunately it is translated into Hungarian on the attached video by a woman whose Hungarian pronounciation is, how shall I say, a bit odd! This is about the Hungarian farmers’ plight. In this speech she claims that farmers are going bankrupt, they will have to sell their lands and these lands will be sold to foreigners. Hungary will become a colony! Her second speech was about the question of subsidies to the auto industry, specifically about the fate of Opel. Not suprisingly Ms Morvai didn’t want to give a penny to save these industries. After all, it is their fault that they are in trouble!

But the third speech was the best! She expressed her outrage that Kinga Göncz, former foreign minister of Hungary, became one of the vice-chairmen of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (EP LIBE). It is an outrage, said Krisztina Morvai, because on October 23, 2006, that Hungarian government ordered the police to attack peaceful demonstrators, ordinary pedestrians minding their own business, even foreign tourists just finishing their dinners at nearby restaurants. Many hundreds of people were hurt, the police using rubber bullets shot into the eyes of fourteen people, several of whom became blind. Hundreds were arrested and jailed, and court proceedings were rigged. Moreover, the prime minister praised the police for the “excellent” job. She asked the new speaker of the house, Jerzy Buzek, to dismiss Ms. Göncz.

I watched the coverage of these so-called peaceful demonstrators and I can assure everybody that not one-tenth of her story is true. The truth is that more policemen received serious injuries than those who attacked them. Surely there were some mistakes, mostly with people who out of curiosity got mixed up with the rock throwers, but nothing like Ms Morvai has been telling the world ever since.

Jerzy Buzek, according to Morvai, asked her to submit her complaints in writing, adding that he “is willing to meet with [her] personally.” But, continues Morvai, Kinga Göncz immediately approached Buzek and told him that Morvai “represents a neonazi party and that for the events of October 2006 the neo-nazis were also responsible.” Morvai called Göncz a liar and told Buzek that she would ask for an appointment in writing.

Morvai in her own description of the events doesn’t mention that Martin Schulz, the head of the socialist delegation, called her “the representative of a neo-nazi party” and that the number two man in the Jobbik delegation, Zoltán Balczö, called Schulz’s description of Jobbik as a fascist party “a slander.” Morvai also left out her “request to Jerzy Buzek to fight for the cessation of a continuous human-rights abuse that has existed ever since the fall of 2006 in Hungary.” Göncz rightly pointed out that if there were no democracy in Hungary Krisztina Morvai wouldn’t have been able to give her speech. She mentioned that an independent committee investigated the behavior of the police and although they found some abuses, on the whole the members of the committee found the work of the police satisfactory. She mentioned Jobbik’s activities in Hungary, its creation of a uniformed paramilitary organization whose goal is to frighten minority groups, gays, Jews and Gypsies and that “this party campaigned with rascist, homophobic, xenophobic slogans and tried to portray Hungary as a colony of the European Union.” Somehow I don’t think that Jobbik needed that. At least not in Brussels. Perhaps in Hungary they will receive additional votes as a result of their “humiliation” in Brussels.

Let’s see what Jobbik’s situation is at the moment in Hungary. A new poll was taken (Progresszöv Intézet and Publicus) about people’s attitudes toward extremism and conservatism. The poll is interesting enough to spend a little more time on it, but here I just want to mention one question posed out of the many: “Which party is considered to be extremist in Hungary?” Sixty-eight percent named Jobbik and that sounds quite good but one has to keep in mind that when people were asked whether there was any extremist party in Hungary, twenty-four percent of the population claimed that there wasn’t. The percentage among Fidesz voters was higher (29%) while among MSZP voters it was lower, only 16%. Thus, if this poll tells us anything it is about the openness of about one third of the population toward extreme right propaganda. So it just a question of how well Jobbik manages its affairs until the next elections.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Never as Much Opposition to EU Membership in Iceland

A new opinion poll was published today in Iceland showing more opposition to membership of the European Union than has ever been seen before. The poll was produced by Capacent Gallup for the Federation of Icelandic Industries but its leadership favours joining the EU.

According to the poll 43.2 percent of Icelanders are unhappy with the EU application the Icelandic government delivered in July after it was being accepted narrowly by the Althing, the Icelandic parliament. 39.6 percent are happy with the application.

More than half of Icelanders, or 50.2 percent, are opposed to joining the EU while 32.7 percent favour the step. In another poll by Capacent Gallup published in August where the same question was asked 48.5 percent were against EU membership and 34.7 percent were in favour.

Finally 61.5 percent said they would vote against EU membership if a referendum was held now, 38.5 percent said they would vote in favour. Of those 38.6 percent said they would definitely vote against but only 16.1% said they would definitely vote in favour.

The poll was produced from August 25 to September 10, 1649 people were polled and 52.3 percent participated.

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

New Language Law in Slovakia is Source of Tensions

NOVE ZAMKY, Slovakia — In a borderless European Union that boasts 23 official languages, one member, Slovakia, has enacted a law that limits the use of the languages of some fellow EU members.

The extraordinary step has roots in animosities that go back to the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and has Slovakia’s large Hungarian minority afraid of being pursued by the language police.

Slovakia was once part of Hungary and is home to a population of 520,000 ethnic Hungarians who complain of discrimination by the Slovak government.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has said the law does not apply to private individuals — only to officials and state institutions — but there are clear signs the legislation has started to affect everyday life.

“Some people are beginning to abuse this law,” said Eva Szucs, a saleswoman at a shopping mall in Nove Zamky, a Slovak town with a large Hungarian population some 35 kilometers (21 miles) north of the border with Hungary.

Since the law came into force on Sept. 1, Szucs said she’d been involved in several incidents at her workplace. On one occasion, she was at the cash register and speaking in Hungarian to one of the buyers when someone in line warned her about her choice of language.

“She said ‘In Slovakia, Slovakian,’“ recalled Szucs, adding that she had never before faced such problems since she started working at the mall in 1971. “There are plenty of people who want to provoke and cause conflicts now.”

The law, which took effect on Sept. 1, limits the use of Hungarian and Slovakia’s other minority languages, in public and calls for fines of up to euro5,000 ($7,300) for anyone “misusing” language. The terms of the law are ambiguous, and officials have yet to spell out what constitutes an infraction.

Tensions between Slovakia and Hungary over the law have had serious diplomatic consequences, such as an unprecedented ban last month on a private visit to Slovakia by Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom.

Friction dates back to the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when Slovakia was absorbed into the sprawling state ruled by Hapsburgs from Vienna and Budapest.

Hungary lost around half of its population and two-thirds of its territory when the empire crumbled at the end of World War I, a painful issue for many Hungarian even nearly 90 years later.

Recently, relations between the countries took a hit when Jan Slota’s ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party became part of Slovakia’s government coalition in 2006.

Fico and Gordon Bajnai, his Hungarian counterpart, met last week in a town on the Hungarian side of the border and while they agreed to a series a measures meant to improve relations, political tensions were palpable.

While many Hungarians in Slovakia criticized the language law, most also blamed politicians for the squabbles.

“We have become a lightning rod for a political storm and it is difficult,” said Denes Bolcskei, a 34-year-old bookstore owner in Komarno, a city with a majority Hungarian population on the shores of the Danube River, which separates the two countries.

Bolcskei said that because of the new language law, he will change some of the signs in his shop — where 60 percent of his inventory consists of Slovak and Czech books and the rest Hungarian — to always have Slovak listed first.

Kurt Vollebaek, the OSCE High Commissioner for Minorities, visited Hungary this week and also met with Slovak officials on Wednesday in Bratislava, the Slovak capital.

He told reporters after the Wednesday’s meeting that it is “essential” that different provisions of the law are not misinterpreted and arbitrarily implemented.

“Striking the right balance between the rights of the minorities and the interest of the state is a difficult task and requires patience and understanding from all parties involved,” Vollebaek said.

Vollebaek has said that while the basic aspects of the Slovak language law conform with international standards, some parts of the legislation, especially the intent to levy fines, could be problematic.

“The imposition of fines might easily create or exacerbate tensions and should in principle be avoided,” Vollebaek said in his opinion on the language law issued in July.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Norway’s Coalition Government Re-Elected

Norway’s ruling red/green (centre-left) coalition government under Labour’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was re-elected in Monday’s general elections, winning 86 seats in Parliament (Stortinget), against 83 for the non-socialist opposition parties. (With new updates)

It is the first time a Norwegian government has survived an election in 16 years.

As the Prime Minister announced his victory at the main party rally in Oslo around midnight, his jubilant supporters chanted “Four more years!” — “Four more years!” in the background.

Stoltenberg’s Labour Party was the big winner with 35.5 per cent of the votes and 64 seats in the new Storting (+3). Coalition party Socialist Left Party (SV) dropped 2.7 per cent and ended with 6.1 per cent of the votes, less than expected, and 11 seats (-4). The third coalition party, the Agrarians (Senterpartiet) ended up with 6.2 per cent of the votes, down 0.2 points, and 11 seats, the same as before.

The Conservatives (Hoeyre) was also a winner, were rewarded for their spirited election campaign, and received 17.2 per cent of the votes, up 3.1 points, and 30 seats in Parliament (+7).

The largest oposition party, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet), did not do as well as had been predicted, but still ended up with 22.9 per cent of the votes, up 0.9 points, and 41 seats in the Storting, 3 more than before.

The losers of the election were the Liberal Left which dropped 2.1 points, to 3.8 per cent and only 2 seats (-8), (see separate story) and the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti — KrF).

KrF received 5.5 per cent of the votes, a drop by 1.2 points, and 10 seats, a loss of one seat. However, they won a contested key seat in the county of Akershus.

The left party Red received 1.3 per cent of the votes (-0.4) and no seats.

39 per cent of the MPs in the new Storting are women. One of them, Tadja Hajek (Labour) from Oslo will be the only MP with a multi-cultural background.

The youngest MP will be Mette Hanekamhaug (FrP) from Molde in Moere og Romsdal. She is 22. The average age of Norwegian MPs is 46.2.

73.8 per cent of the electorate participated in the election, the lowest participation since 1927, according to NRK.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

OSCE Official Says Slovak Law Not Necessarily Outside European Norms

Slovakia’s recently adopted language law amendment does not necessarily contravene international or European norms, Knut Vollebaek, the OSCE’s minority commissioner told a news conference in Budapest on Tuesday.

Vollebaek, High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said it was important to draw a distinction between the law’s political and legal aspects.

“The way in which the language law amendment was passed in Slovakia does not contribute to a good political atmosphere, but that does not mean to say that the law in itself clashes with international law,” said Vollebaek.

“It is undoubtedly the case that certain paragraphs of the law are hazy and are, in several ways, open to interpretation, and this is why it is important to work out the law’s implementation to prevent any misunderstandings,” he said.

Every citizen — and this applies to members of a minority too — has basic rights, Vollebaek said after attending a session of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“As the commissioner for minorities of the OSCE, my job is to look out for the rights of minorities, but this task goes hand in hand with helping minorities to integrate into the societies of the countries in which they live,” he said.

“If we look at the current situation, then my opinion is that it is important you work together with the Slovak government, and the Slovak government has a right to create governing principles for which the amended language law is the basis for practice which must take into account every international regulation and minority rights,” he said.

Vollebaek welcomed the fact that the two countries prime ministers had held talks and that Slovakia had agreed to accept his official opinions and recommendations.

He promised Hungarian lawmakers that he personally and his office would continue to work on the issue with the Slovak authorities so as to find a practical implementation of the law which takes into consideration the interests of the minorities living there and which eases tensions which have arisen between Hungary and Slovakia.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sikh Turban Safe in Belgium

Belgium schools have made the decision to ban the Muslim headscarf.

Sikhs in Belgium were worried that this decision would impact on their children who wore turbans, but the ruling does not apply to Sikhs.

France banned wearing turbans and Muslim headscarves in its public schools in 2004, saying it was aimed at checking what they said was the rising influence of radical Islam among France’s large Muslim population. Sikhs say the ban denies them religious freedom. This resolution will impact about one fifth of all schools in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region “This decision promotes the feeling of equality and prevents group formation or segregation on the basis of external symbols of life philosophy,” said a statement from the schools, which number about 700, Reuters has reported

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Teen Gangs Suspected in Stockholm Robberies

Police in Stockholm are tracking a criminal gang of 14 to 17-year-olds suspected of carrying out a number of violent robberies in the city’s southern districts.

In the past two weeks, police have arrested three young people believed to belong to a gang calling themselves the Black Scorpions, the Metro newspaper reports.

In one recent arrest, police apprehended a 17-year-old boy who had robbed a grocery store at gun point and then assaulted an older man who tried to intervene.

Police hope the arrest will help them gather more leads about the Black Scorpions, which they believe to be a youth feeder gang for the Black Cobras, a criminal gang with roots in the Danish capital of Copenhagen which has spread to Sweden in recent months.

“Arresting him is an important step in breaking the upward trend of serious robberies in the southern districts,” the police’s Johan Gustavsson told the newspaper.

Neighbourhoods in the south of Stockholm have been hit by a wave of violent thefts recently, with members of youth gangs high on the police’s list of suspects.

Police investigators continue to map out the various criminal networks, some of which they believe have members as young as 14-years-old, complicating the prospects for prosecution.

In Sweden, young people under the age of 15 cannot be criminally prosecuted, while offenders between 15 and 18 years old are only sentenced to prison for particularly heinous crimes.

Police suspect the robberies are part of the initiation process for gaining membership in the Black Cobra criminal gang.

“We’re gathering data on these young people through different types of surveillance. We’re using undercover surveillance, but we’re also finding youth suspected of belonging to different bands of thieves,” Gustavsson told Metro.

According to Danish press reports, the Black Cobras have been in existence for around ten years. The gang is believed to have been formed in Roskilde by Palestinian immigrants but has since also come to encompass criminals from a number of ethnic backgrounds, including Danish.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Conservatives Oust Member Over EU Row

LONDON (AFP) — A leading member of the main opposition Conservatives was expelled from the party following a row over the formation of a right-wing bloc in the European Parliament.

Edward McMillan-Scott, a veteran member of the European Parliament (MEP), has been critical of the party’s decision to form the European Conservatives and Reformists bloc with Polish, Czech and other right-wing parties.

McMillan-Scott claimed the grouping’s Polish leader Michal Kaminski has had “anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links,” charges he denies.

He angered the Conservative leadership in July by standing for one of the European Parliament’s vice president posts, ruining an apparent deal in which Kaminski would be backed for the job.

McMillan-Scott said he would appeal the expulsion decision, adding that he would not be made a “scapegoat” for widespread criticism of the Conservatives for forming the new alliance.

“After 42 years in the party, 25 as an MEP and four years as Leader of the MEPs the party should trust me not to make political mistakes,” he said in a statement Tuesday, confirming the expulsion.

Conservatives leader David Cameron, widely tipped to win a general election within nine months, pulled his MEPs from the centre-right European People’s Party after elections in June, deeming it to be too EU-friendly.

The new European Conservatives and Reformist Group (ECR) wants to see decision-making powers concentrated more in the member states and less in Brussels.

With 54 MEPs signed up from eight countries, the ECR is the fifth largest group in the 736-seat European legislature.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Mohammed is Most Popular Name for Baby Boys in London

Mohammed is now the most common name for baby boys born in London and three other English regions, official Government figures have shown.

The Islamic name overtook traditional choices like Jack, Thomas and Daniel to become the number one name in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the North West, as well as in the capital, in 2008.

The figures emerged in a detailed regional breakdown of figures published last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is the first time that the Muslim name has been shown to the top choice for parents in any part of the UK. In previous years no regional figures were disclosed, only nationwide totals.

When various spellings of the Islamic prophet are added together — including Muhammad, Mohammad, Mohamed and Muhammed — the name is now more than twice as popular in London as the capital’s second-ranked boys name, Daniel. There were 1,828 baby boys given the name Mohammed, including varients, in 2008, compared with only 844 who were called Daniel.

London is not the first European capital to see Mohammed become the number one name for baby boys. In Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo the name has already gained the top slot.

The way in which the true figures emerged, days after the official publication, will fuel claims that Government statisticians tried to play down the increasing popularity of the Muslim name. The official announcement by the ONS, which does not take varient spellings into account, states that Mohammed was only the third most popular name in London.

In the West Midlands, 1,399 baby boys were given the name Mohammed last year, including varient spellings, almost twice as many as the next most popular name, Jack, with 768.

In the North West 1,337 boys were named Mohammed, including varients, beating Jack into second place with 1,154. And in Yorkshire and the Humber there were 1,255 babies registered with the name Mohammed, including varients, with Jack again second with 854.

Throughout England and Wales Mohammed, including its varient spellings, was the third most popular name, with 6,591 newborns given the religious name, behind Jack with 8,007 and Oliver with 7,413.

Nationwide the most popular name for baby girls was Olivia, with 5,317 given the name, followed by 4,924 named Ruby and 4,874 called Emily.

In recent years the ONS has refused to divulge regional lists of popular baby names. It is likely that Mohammed has been the most popular choice in the capital for a number of years already, but it has never been demonstrated conclusively until now.

Experts believe that internationally around 15 million people are called Mohammed, making it the most popular male name in the world.

Murtaza Shibli of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was not surprised to find Mohammed had become the most popular boys name in parts of the country.

“People choose it because of their love of the prophet Mohammed, and they believe the name will bring happiness and abundance,” he said.

“Also because of its meaning — the praised one. Also there is a belief that if you do name your children Mohammed they will follow the good example of the prophet.

“There are so many spellings because it is an Arabic name and there are different ways of translating it into English.”

Other ONS data from its July to September 2008 Labour Force Survey shows the Muslim population is growing 10 times faster than the rest of the population. Last year more than 2.4 million people identified themselves as Muslims, according to the survey’s findings, up more than 500,000 in four years. In the same period the number of Christians fell by more than 2 million, to 42.6 million.

[Return to headlines]


Israel: Lieberman Mission Begins in Serbia

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 14 — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Balkan mission starts today with a visit to Serbia. It is the first mission by a high-ranking government official from Israel to the former Yugoslavia since the bloody dissolution of the country. The news was announced via an official announcement which said that Lieberman will visit Croatia and Montenegro in the coming days. For Israel it is another piece in its strategy to gain a great political presence in territories that have been out of the spotlight in recent years. It is understood that Lieberman will meet political leaders in Belgrade, Zagreb and Podgorica. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Protesters Burn Photos of UN Judges in Sarajevo

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Protesters have set photos of several U.N. war crimes tribunal judges on fire in Sarajevo to oppose the shortening of the genocide indictment against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

About 150 members of war victim associations demonstrated in front of the U.N. office in the Bosnian capital on Wednesday.

Prosecutors have trimmed the indictment against Karadzic by cutting the number of crime sites from 45 to 27, and the U.N. tribunal judges in The Hague, Netherlands, want that done further to speed up the trial.

Karadzic is accused of masterminding Bosnian Serb atrocities during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, including the siege of Sarajevo and the 1996 slaying of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica, Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Serbia-EU: Bildt, Interim Agreement, Then EU Application

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 14 — Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has said that Serbia’s application for membership of the EU could be presented only once the interim trade agreement between Brussels and Belgrade has come into force. Sweden holds the current EU rotating presidency until the end of the year. In recent days the Serbian government has said on a number of occasions that it intends to present its formal application for entry in the EU by the end of the year. “Until the transitory agreement comes into force, we cannot talk about concrete timing for the presentation of Serbia’s application for membership,” said Bildt in an interview published today in the Belgrade Blic daily paper. The interim trade agreement, considered a fundamental step on Serbia’s path to the EU, was adopted unilaterally by Belgrade at the beginning of the year, but it has been frozen in Brussels due to opposition from Holland, which continues to ask Serbia for the arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague. Mladic is the former military head of the Bosnian Serbs accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. The trade agreement, which came into force in Serbia at the end of January and which provides for a general reduction in prices of goods from EU countries, is part of the wider Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), which is another important stage in Belgrade’s road to the EU.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbian, Israeli FMs Sign Visa-Free Deal

BELGRADE — Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremia and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman have signed an agreement to abolish visas between the two countries.

The two ministers welcomed the signing, stating that it was an important step in the development of bilateral relations.

“This removes the obstacle to Serbian businesspeople and tourists that want to come to Israel,” Lieberman said.

Jeremia and Lieberman said that only new negotiations between Belgrade and Priština could yield a permanent solution to the Kosovo status question.

The Serbian minister said that he thanked Lieberman for Israel’s firm position regarding Kosovo.

“I am very thankful to Israel for its position on Kosovo, and especially to Mr. Lieberman personally for his part in making such a decision. Israel does not recognize the unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence and that is something that we appreciate greatly, especially given the pressure that Israel has been under,” Jeremia told a joint press conference.

Lieberman said that through direct talks between the two sides, a peaceful solution could be found to the Kosovo problem.

Asked whether Israel was under pressure to recognize Kosovo, Lieberman said that Israel “has been under pressure on many issues since 1948 and can handle it.”

The two ministers agreed that relations between the two countries on all issues were good, and that relations would further improve with the visa agreement.

He said that economic cooperation was also good and that Israeli investment in Serbia was on the rise, despite the financial crisis.

Lieberman will also be meeting with President Boris Tadia, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovia and Defense Minister Dragan Åutanovac.

As part of a Balkan tour, the Israeli foreign minister visited Croatia on Tuesday and will head to Montenegro on Thursday, which will be the first visit by an Israeli official to Montenegro since it gained independence.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Agriculture: Morocco, Record Production Season 2008-2009

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 14 — Thanks to the abundant rains of 2008 and the affordable prices of materials, there has been an excellent harvest of the 2008-2009 season in Morocco with an increase of 98.3% in the production of cereal crops. The website reports that 43.4 million tonnes of soft wheat was produced, alongside 37.8 million tonnes of barley and 20.3 million tonnes of hard wheat, making a total of 102 million tonnes of cereals. The most productive region was Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz. In the same period there was an increase of 12% in the production of first fruits and vegetables, which reached 1.9 million tonnes. Citrus fruit was up +10% and 1.4 million tonnes and the production of olives, +17% and producing one million tonnes. The Agriculture Ministry is also optimistic about the next season which is looking promising.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: UN Candidate Regrets Attack on Israel

Rome, 16 Sept. (AKI) — An Egyptian minister who is seeking the top job at a major United Nations body has apologised for provocative statements he made attacking Israel, ahead of a crucial vote. Farouk Hosny, Egypt’s minister for culture, is seeking the post of director-general at the UN’s Educational Scientific and Cultural organisation, or UNESCO which is expected to be decided on Thursday.

Hosny issued a statement to the media in a bid to clarify controversial remarks regarding Israel as well as his support for the Palestinian cause.

In May 2008, 71 year-old Hosny is reported to have told an Egyptian parliamentarian that he would burn any Hebrew-language textbooks found in the library and cultural centre at Alexandria.

“I was expressing angry feelings at what is happening to an entire people deprived of its land and rights,” Hosny said referring to the Palestinian people, in the statement.

“What human conscience can be indifferent to such a tragedy?”

Hosny reiterated his support for the Palestinian people and the “suffering and injustice” they have suffered.

“I never, throughout my life, humiliated or meant to hurt anyone,” Hosny said.

“Although the words themselves are charged with extreme cruelty, they should be seen in context.

“I would also like to recall that for years I have been serving as minister of culture in a state that made peace with Israel and is persistently endeavouring to give precedence to dialogue over violence.”

While Hosny previously expressed regret over his comments, European and Israeli intellectuals such as Elie Wiesel and Bernard Henry-Levy have criticised his candidacy.

The government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew its opposition to Hosny’s candidacy after a meeting with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in May.

But the US-based Anti-Defamation League issued an open letter on Monday urging UNESCO member states to reject Hosny’s candidacy.

“As Egyptian culture minister for over two decades, Mr. Hosni has a long history of expressing hostility toward Israeli culture and opposing cultural exchanges with Israel,” said the ADL in an open letter to UNESCO member states.

The league accused Hosny of stifling “cultural and intellectual freedom of expression.”

Hosny will face off against eight other candidates for the top job at UNESCO, replacing the current head of the organisation Koichiro Matsuura.

He said his candidacy was supported by the Arab League, the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

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

Egypt’s Mufti Says Women Can Wear Trousers

Egypt’s top Islamic authority defended women’s rights to wear trousers in public following a high profile court case in neighboring Sudan were women were flogged for dressing in pants, the local press reported Wednesday.

Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said in response to a question during a public lecture that trousers covering women’s bodies are permitted, though they should be loose and not see through. He specified that “stretch” pants were in particular unacceptable.

Gomaa described the question as “strange and weird” and smiled as he responded. He is the top religious authority of Egypt and appointed by the government.

Sudan caused a stir when it flogged 10 women for wearing trousers. One woman, Lubna Hussein contested penalty and was let off with a fine for public indecency in a trial that garnered international attention.

Ever since her arrest in July, the 43-year-old Hussein used her case to draw attention to Sudan’s indecency law, which allows flogging as a punishment for any acts or clothing that is seen as offending morals. The law follows a strict interpretation of Islamic laws. Human rights campaigners criticize the law as vague.

Egypt also has vaguely worded indecency laws that can be widely applied, but women are given quite a bit of leeway in their attire. Unlike Sudan, no moral police is entrusted with implementing the law.

While the vast majority of Egyptian women wear headscarves and loose flowing robes, Western style dress, including trousers, is also quite common.

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

Healthcare: Algeria, Mammography Obligatory for Over-40s

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, SEPTEMBER 14 — Women aged over forty in Algeria will soon receive automatic call-ups to attend mammography examinations, a basic screening to prevent breast cancer. The announcement came from Labour Minister, Tayeb Louh, who said that the examinations would be paid for out of the national pension fund. A APS reports, Louh said that: “A programme is being prepared to affect all women enrolled in the national insurance plan. They will be called upon to undergo an examination as soon as they reach the age of forty”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Anti-Mixed Marriage TV Campaign Suspended

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, SEPTEMBER 9 — The President of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, has ordered the immediate suspension of a controversial TV campaign launched to raise public awareness on the risks represented by mixed marriages in the Jewish Diaspora, reports settlers’ radio station, Channel 7. Sharansky explained that on one hand “to fight against assimilation, it is necessary to strengthen ties between the Jewish Diaspora and Israel”. “But we have to be careful to not hurt the feelings of the Jewish Diaspora,” he added, probably referring to the immediate protest caused by the advertising campaign. Last week, the Jewish Agency, a state-run group with the responsibility of supporting immigration to Israel, reported that mixed marriage levels in the Jewish Diaspora are over 50%, resulting in a decline of the Jewish population worldwide. With a series of advertisements, the Jewish Agency was encouraging Israelis to give the names of their acquaintances abroad to operators, who would later call these people to dissuade them from entering into mixed marriages. They were also being offered a trip to Israel in order to strengthen their Jewish roots. But the impact of the operation seems to have been negative and Sharansky suspended the campaign. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

CBS: Israel’s Population Numbers 7,465,500

[May Christians & Jews in Israel procreate “rabidly” & live free, long happy lives in prosperity and peace! Hag Sameach, Israel, Shanna Tova! happy new year from A Greek friend of Israel]

Israel’s population numbers 7,465,500 — some 5,634,300 Jews, 1,513,200 Arabs and 318,000 others — according to the annual pre-Rosh Hashana report released by the Central Bureau of Statistics Wednesday.

President Shimon Peres was presented with the report and thanked the CBS for its work.

“The data you presented is a product of very important work,” he said upon receiving the report. “I give you my blessing and wish all of us a happy and successful year.”

The report found that Israel’s population has been growing at a steady annual rate of 1.8% since 2003.

It showed that the growth rate among Jews in 2008 was 1.7%, and among Arabs 2.6%. The growth rate of the ‘others’ dropped to 0.5%, compared with 1.8% in 2007 and 3% on average between 2003-2006.

Life expectancy continued to rise, to 79.1 years among men and 83 years among women. Compared with 2007, life expectancy among men went up by 0.4 years, and among women 0.6 years. The life expectancy was 3.7 years greater among Jewish men and women than among Arabs.

The national expenditure on education went up by 3% in 2008, compared with a 4% average rise between 2006-2007

It also emerged that Israel has a relatively young population compared to the West. In 2008, the percentage of children between 0-14 in Israel was 28.4%, compared with the 17% Western average, while the percentage of those aged 65 and up was 9.7%, compared with the West’s figure of 15%.

The number of Israelis 75 and older has risen steadily over the years, particularly among Jews — 5.6% in 2008, compared with 3.8% at the start of the 90s.

Also according to the 2008 figures, there were 979 men to every 1,000 women in Israel.

It further emerged that among Jews there was a tendency to push off marriage, with 32% of men and 42% of women between the ages of 25-29 being bachelors. Among the Muslim population for the same age group, the figure was 39% for men and 15.5% for women.

The proportion of Israeli-born Jewish members of the population continued to rise, standing at 70.7% (3.9 million) at the end of 2008, compared with 35% when the state was established.

At the end of 2008, 2.2 million people — 37.9% of the Jews and ‘others’ — had originated from Europe and the US.

Regarding geographical trends, about half of Israel’s Jewish population is concentrated in central Israel, while less than 10% of Israeli Jews live in the North.

On the other hand, some 60% of the Arab population live the North, and 11% in the South.

The Central District saw the most internal migration in 2008, following a decades-old trend, adding 11,700 people to the population in 2008, compared with 12,600 in 2007. The number of residents of Judea and Samaria rose by 3,900 in 2008, compared with 4,900 in 2007.

One of the most striking statistics in the report is the number of people who have apparently been priced out of the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv regions. The population of the former area dropped by 4,200 and of the latter by 5,700. The Tel Aviv area negative migration is the largest since the end of the 90s.

In all the five biggest cities — those with a population of 200,000 or more — negative migrations were recorded, the smallest being in Rishon Lezion (600) and the largest in Jerusalem (4,900). In Tel Aviv, the figure was 3,200, in Haifa 1,400 and in Ashdod 900.

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

Ex-Mossad Chief: ‘PM Agreed to Golan Pullout’

Danny Yatom, who was head of Mossad during Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s first term in 1996, said Thursday that the premier then agreed to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights in exchange for a peace deal with Syria and the normalization of ties between Jerusalem and Damascus.

Yatom told Israel Radio that the proof for his claim was a document that appears in his new book, in which Ron Lauder, Netanyahu’s special envoy for talks with Syria at the time, reported the prime minister’s agreement to then-US president Bill Clinton.

The former Mossad chief said that although Netanyahu’s agreement didn’t bind him now, 11 years later, “he has to admit” that he did agree to withdraw from the territory.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) told the radio station that the prime minister had not agreed to such a pullout and had repeated it on numerous occasions. Erdan said that in any event, there was no reason to bring up the past.

Meanwhile, on the Iranian issue, Yatom told Army Radio on Wednesday night that only a military strike would stop the Islamic republic from attaining nuclear arms.

“Today, I don’t see the world, led by the US, ready to take the risks involved with a strike on Teheran’s atomic facilities,” he said.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos in Jerusalem, Wednesday.

Photo: GPO

When asked whether that meant that he had come to the conclusion that only military action would stop Iran’s nuclear pursuit, the former Mossad chief said, “Correct, that’s the conclusion I have drawn, and the world must understand that an Iranian bomb will put it [the world] in danger. Israel won’t be able to sit back and watch Teheran become a nuclear power.”

On Wednesday night, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos told President Shimon Peres that Syrian President Bashar Assad was “optimistic about restarting the Israel-Syria peace process..”

During a late meeting in Jerusalem, Moratinos and Peres also spoke of combining the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with the Arab peace initiative, with the Spanish foreign minister citing a “definite momentum for peace.”

The president expressed hope that “the renewal of the peace process” would be announced during the UN General Assembly in New York later in September.

On the Iranian nuclear threat, Moratinos said that Teheran’s proposals for new talks with the West were insufficient, and promised to push for harsher sanctions against the Islamic republic.

At the end of the meeting, Peres stressed the importance of relations between Jerusalem and Madrid, and noted the “historic bond” between the Jews and Spain.

Earlier on Wednesday, opposition leader Tzipi Livni met with Moratinos, and expressed her appreciation for Madrid’s move to ban lawsuits against IDF officials due to actions taken as part of Israel’s war on terror.

Livni urged Moratinos to continue to act to bolster Israeli-European relations.

According to her office, Livni called the upgrade in ties an Israeli interest and offered her help on the issue.

The Spanish foreign minister also met with Netanyahu during his visit.

Despite Moratinos’ optimism regarding the Israel-Syria peace process, Israel Radio quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem as saying Wednesday that Israel was not interested in making peace.

Speaking at the Arab League in Cairo, Moallem also accused Israel of starving the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and slammed continued settlement construction.

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

Jonathan Spyer: Hamas Seeks New Doctrine After Gaza War Failures

Hamas has undertaken a major process of examination and investigation into its deeply flawed performance in the course of Operation Cast Lead, sources say. The review process is aimed at developing a new doctrine for Hamas to enable it to achieve its ambition of rivaling Hizbullah in its abilities. It remains to be seen if the reforms will deliver an improved result in renewed future hostilities with Israel or whether, as with Operation Cast Lead, Israel will once again display an ability to frustrate and set Hamas back on the tactical level.

Hamas carried out the first review of its performance immediately following the conclusion of hostilities. This was followed by a second major investigation in the spring, amid harsh criticism of the group’s performance from its Iranian and Syrian sponsors. Izzadin al-Kassam Brigades leader Ahmed al-Ja’abari, and northern brigade commander Ahmed al-Ghandour were particularly singled out for criticism.

The cull of senior Hamas operatives in the course of Operation Cast Lead was heavy. Politburo members Nizar Rayyan and Said Siyam were killed. Senior commanders of the Executive Force, like Salah Abu Shareh (who headed the EF’s security apparatus) and Mahmoud Watfah (head of its military wing), also lost their lives. Around 50 explosives experts are reported to have died. Operatives at this level are not easily replaced. But more fundamentally, the defensive doctrines developed by Hamas prior to Cast Lead comprehensively failed the test.

All of its strategically important attempts to kidnap IDF soldiers in the course of the fighting were unsuccessful (at least three close calls were reported). Its failure to score any success against the IDF’s heavy armor was particularly noted. This was in stark contrast to the Second Lebanon War in 2006, in which Hizbullah’s relative success in damaging a large number of tanks formed an important part of its claim of “divine victory.”…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Not Marrying a Jewish Woman? You’re ‘Lost’

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, SEPTEMBER 8 — Joel Fine has disappeared. Rather, he is ‘lost’, because Joel’s friends and family know exactly where he is. He is far from Israel, preparing to marry a woman that is not Jewish. A picture of Joel with ‘Lost’ written on it marks the opening of a campaign by Masa (an organisation which works with the Israeli government and Jewish agencies around the world), which traditionally brings the youth of the Diaspora to Israel for a 6 to 12 month period to discover their own identity and roots. But this time Masa has adopted a new strategy: in addition to beefing up migratory flows to Israel, it is working to boost the link to religion of those living abroad who risk assimilation, also in the form of inter-religious marriages. Even though the awareness ad does not explicitly mention these unions, during an introductory press conference Masa stated that its main objective is people who marry a partner that is not Jewish. A subtitle saying “More than 50% of the youth of the Diaspora end up assimilated and we lose them forever” accompanies the faces of missing’ boys. The message then adds an appeal. “Do you know any young Jews living abroad? Call us, together we will strengthen his bond with Israel”. This marks the opening of phase 2 of Masa’s initiative. In effects, the organisation goes beyond the dissemination of data, it has a decidedly operational approach. In substance, if one of Joel’s friends decides that he cannot move away from his people by marrying a goy woman, all he has to do is pick up the phone and call Masa, which in turn will contact the future husband, inviting him to spend a certain amount of time in the land of his fathers. The hope is that this bath of Hebraism will wash away Joel’s marriage plans, possibly with the help of the kosher smile of a nice Israeli girl. The operation, which is scheduled to last 10 days, has already raised controversy in Israeli public opinion, and especially among the interested parties, boys who express themselves on blogs. Esther wrote “If people are treated as lost to Judaism, then they will truly be lost”. The press is also sceptical, when not outright critical. An example is given by the Jerusalem Post, which is not hostile to the current government, which speaks of a “counterproductive campaign”. A column by Shmuel Rosner states that nobody can win over the hearts of young Jews “with an ad which implies than inter-religious marriage is a form of genocide”. However, project leaders claim that “with a 0.5% growth rate and an assimilation rate equal to 80% in Countries such as the former soviet republics, the Jewish communities (of the Diaspora) are nearing the point of no return”. As justification, they say that “this campaign represents an attempt to bring the issue back into the public agenda as a matter of great importance”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinians Throw Stones at Israeli Bus Near Hebron

[anybody said still “stone age for muslim-pals”]

Palestinians pelted an Israeli bus with stones near town of El Fouar, southeast of Hebron. No injuries were reported, but the bus sustained damage.

IDF units conducted searches in the area for the culprits.

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

Middle East

Banks: Turkey’s Kuwait Finance House to Open Shariah Banking

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 14 — Turkey’s Kuwait Finance House got license to introduce Sharia-compliant banking services in Germany, local media reported. Islamic lender Kuwait Finance House (KFH) said its Turkish unit has obtained a licence to operate in Germany and will be opening a financial services branch in Mannheim. “The new branch in Mannheim aims to cover the financial requirements of a wide customer base in the German market, especially since there is a growing demand for Islamic services and products”, the bank said. KFH-Turkey plans to open more branches in Germany and expand into other European countries, the statement added. KFH-Turkey, which currently has a 113 branch network offering banking, commercial and investment services in various Turkish town and cities, intends to expand its network to 125 branches.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Defence: Turkey Buys New Patriot Missiles From US

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 14 — Turkey has decided to buy 13 Patriot air-defense systems and 72 missiles in a package worth as much as $7.8 billion, Vatan daily newspaper reports addiung that the US administration has submitted the missile deal with Turkey to the US Congress for approval. US defense expert Steven Hildreth is reported by Vatan as saying that the new generation missile system will provide Turkey some capability to defend against short-range Iranian SCUD missiles with a range of 500 km to more than 800 km. The first part of the missile delivery is expected in 2010. Two of the new missile systems will be deployed in Ankara and Istanbul. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Dore Gold: What Happened to the U.S. Deadline on Iran?

  • Iran’s new proposal to the West did not provide any opening for serious negotiations on the nuclear issue, but rather vague formulations for the agenda of any future talks. Back in July, when the G-8 announced that the opening of the UN General Assembly “would be an occasion for taking stock of the situation in Iran,” most international observers understood that there was a hard September deadline that Iran had to meet to begin serious nuclear negotiations. Unfortunately, at this stage, there is little evidence that the Obama administration is about to adopt effective action in a timely manner in light of Iran’s policy of rejectionism, setting aside diplomatic engagement and moving to a policy of severe sanctions.
  • Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recently acknowledged that the Iranian stockpile of low-enriched uranium has already reached a sufficient level so that it was possible to talk about Tehran having “a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity.” Tehran undoubtedly observed that no serious action was taken against North Korea for its nuclear breakout, either by the Bush or Obama administrations.
  • The common assumption in Washington policy circles today is that even if Iran reaches the nuclear finish-line, the U.S. can fall back on the same Cold War deterrence that was used against the Soviet nuclear arsenal. However, Iran is a true revolutionary power whose aspirations extend into the oil-producing states. It is involved in both the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, while its support for terrorism reaches into Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. With Iran threatening the flow of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz as well, through which roughly 40 percent of the world’s oil flows, the nuclearization of Iran has global — and not just Middle Eastern — implications.
  • In 2003-2005, Tehran engaged with the EU-3 for two years, exploiting the talks to race ahead with construction of key uranium enrichment facilities, while fending off punitive measures by the UN Security Council for three entire years. Iran today is far more advanced than it was then and the time for diplomatic experimentation is extremely limited…

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]

Hariri Accepts Re-Nomination for Lebanese Premiership

Beirut, Sep 16 : Saad Hariri Wednesday accepted re-nomination for the post of Lebanese prime minister after getting backing from 71 MPs of his majority party and two from the opposition Armenian Tashnag party.

His nomination for the second time since the June parliamentary elections was sure to restart the debate between opposition groups and the majority over the planned makeup of the cabinet.

“I have accepted the task of forming a new cabinet,” Hariri said after meeting President Michel Suleiman.

“I promise I will commit to the constitution, work to secure the participation of all parties in the cabinet and adopt dialogue as the sole means to solve political disputes,” Hariri said.

He added that his deliberation with the various parliamentary blocs will start after post-Ramzan feasting ends at the weekend.

“My decision to step down last week took the country out of political stalemate and gave way to a new round of political dialogue,” Hariri said.

He stepped down last Thursday after accusing the Hezbollah-led opposition of hampering his efforts to form a national unity government.

According to the lineup Hariri presented before he stepped down, 15 ministers would be from the majority, 10 from the opposition and five independents loyal to President Michel Suleiman, in order to give the president the tipping vote.

But, during deliberations for the past two days between parliamentarians and Suleiman, opposition parties and their ally, Christian leader Michel Aoun, withheld support from Hariri because, they said, Hariri “did not commit to form a cabinet based on the 15-10-5 formula”.

According to the Lebanese constitution, Hariri has to name a cabinet which includes all the rival Lebanese factions and have a balanced representation in accordance with the country’s religious system.

Since Hariri holds a parliamentary majority, his party has the upper hand in naming a premier, usually a Sunni Muslim according to the constitution.

On Monday Hariri said: “when I get appointed I will start negotiating, and [then] I would assess the level of cooperation by political parties.”

Hariri’s allies said that it was up to the new premier-designate to decide upon the continued validity of the 15-10-5 formula, stressing the need to resume deliberations on the cabinet issue from scratch.

“I have kept my hand extended but [the opposition] has always rejected our open approach,” he said.

Hariri is the son of late premier Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a car bomb blast in 2005 along with 20 others

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iraqi ‘Shoe-Thrower’ Shot Dead by US Forces

An Iraqi man who witnesses said shouted abuse before throwing a shoe at a US army vehicle was shot dead on Wednesday in what the American military said was a suspected grenade attack.

Residents told an AFP reporter in Fallujah that Ahmed Latif, 32, whom they said was mentally disturbed, insulted the soldiers as they patrolled in the centre of the city, and then hurled a shoe at them.

The US military told AFP that a convoy in Fallujah had been attacked with a suspected grenade.

“Positive identification of the attacker was made, and US forces fired in self-defence wounding the attacker,” the army said in a statement.

“Local Iraqi police secured the scene and transported the wounded attacker to a local hospital for medical care,” it added.

Dr Ali Hatam of Fallujah hospital confirmed that Latif died of gunshot wounds.

The incident came a day after Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi was freed after spending nine months in jail for throwing his shoes at former US president George W. Bush during a visit to Baghdad.

           — Hat tip: AP[Return to headlines]

New Saudi Department Planned to Combat Terrorism

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia will soon open a special department for combating terrorism, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Prince Naif announced on Tuesday night.

He said the department would be established on the basis of a well thought-out strategy. “The Interior Ministry, along with the Shoura Council, has worked out a strategy to combat extremism and terrorism,” said Prince Naif at a sahoor party at the residence of Abdul Rahman Faqeeh, a prominent Makkah businessman.

The prince said the new specialized academic department for combating terror would be the first of its kind in the world. “We have taken this step out of our conviction that thought should be confronted by thought and through reasoning,” he added.

Prince Naif said the plan to open the department was one of several measures taken by the government as part of its anti-terror campaign. He said the Kingdom would continue its efforts to convince Al-Qaeda militants to return to the right path.

He said the offices of senior officials would be kept open despite the recent assassination attempt on Prince Muhammad bin Naif, assistant interior minister for security affairs. A wanted terrorist blew himself up in Prince Muhammad’s residence last month as the prince was receiving Ramadan well-wishers.

The interior minister said by implementing Shariah and with the efforts of security officers, Saudi Arabia had been successful in ensuring security for the millions of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah. He also referred to the Kingdom’s successful anti-terror campaign, which has thwarted many terrorist operations and led to the arrest of many Al-Qaeda militants.

Prince Naif highlighted the Kingdom’s remarkable development in education, health and other sectors. “In 1373H when I was governor of Riyadh, the number of secondary school graduates was just six. Now this number has reached hundreds of thousands. We now have 20 government-run universities. Many Saudis now hold master’s and doctorate degrees in different specializations,” he pointed out.

In his welcome address, businessman Faqeeh congratulated Prince Naif on the escape of his son Prince Muhammad from the assassin. “We as citizens thank the government for its efforts to combat terror. This has helped security and stability prevail all over the country and enabled citizens and residents to sleep peacefully,” Faqeeh said.

He emphasized the importance of security in boosting development and attracting both domestic and foreign investment.

Prince Naif, who is chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, later met Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsy, undersecretaries at the ministry and heads of Tawafa organizations, and other Haj-related agencies to discuss preparations for the upcoming pilgrimage season.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Saudis Reject Extremism, Says King

MAKKAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah emphasized on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and its people subscribe to only moderate thoughts and ideas and reject all forms of extremism.

He highlighted the important role being played by King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center in strengthening national unity and spreading love and brotherhood in society.

“The center also serves as a venue for discussing vital national issues, allowing citizens to express their views and present their constructive proposals,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted the king as saying.

King Abdullah made the comments while receiving a copy of the center’s annual report from Saleh Al-Hosain, president of the organization, in the presence of senior officials of the center.

“King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center aims at fighting fanaticism and extremism by spreading enlightened views,” the king said.

He said the present situation required joint efforts to formulate a national strategy that would enable young men and women to understand the appropriate way of doing things and enlighten them about the Islamic values of moderation, tolerance and brotherhood and protect them from deviant thoughts and ideologies. The center’s officials briefed the king on the next dialogue forum that will focus on “Health services: Dialogue between the society and health institutions,” which will be held in the southern province of Najran.

During the meeting, Al-Hosain commended King Abdullah’s efforts to promote cultural dialogue at national and international levels. “This reflects the king’s desire to spread the noble humanitarian values of justice and tolerance all over the world,” he said.

Faisal bin Muammar, secretary-general of the center, said King Abdullah had shown great interest in promoting a culture of dialogue among Saudis. “The king wanted dialogue among all members of the society and institutions,” he added.

Last year the center trained 1,200 men and women to promote a culture of dialogue in the society, he said, adding that they had spoken to more than 160,000 people in 42 Saudi cities. The center plans to hold an intellectual forum shortly on Saudi culture.

King Abdullah also received a documentary book prepared by the center on interfaith dialogue. He urged the officials to build the center’s new headquarters as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, King Abdullah received a number of Muslim leaders who are currently visiting Saudi Arabia at the government’s invitation, including Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, who praised the king’s efforts in the service of Islam and Muslims, especially for improving facilities for pilgrims at the Two Holy Mosques.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Top Iranian Dissident Tells CBN: I’m Disappointed in President Obama

by Erick Stakelbeck

I recently sat down with leading Iranian dissident Amir Fakhravar to discuss the latest developments inside Iran.

Fakhravar spent years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where he was brutally tortured by the regime’s thugs.

He told me that he is “disappointed” in the Obama administration’s response to the widespread protests inside Iran against the regime this summer. And that was just the beginning of his criticism.

You can watch it at the link above.

[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Alcoholic Drinks Consumption on Rise in First Half

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 14 — Turkish people consumed 4.5 million liters of alcoholic beverages more in the first half of 2009 if compared to the same period of 2008, Anatolia agency reports. According to figures of Turkey’s Regulatory Committee for Tobacco Products and Alcoholic Beverages Market (TAPDK), Turkish people drank 536.2 million liters of alcoholic beverages in the first six months of 2009. The consumption was 453 million liters in the first half of 2006, 465 million in the same period of 2007 and 531.7 million liters in the first half of 2008. Turks preferred mostly beer, raki, wine and vodka. Sales of alcoholic drinks were made mostly in major cities and summer holiday resorts of Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Asks UK Cops to Quiz Duchess of York

FURIOUS authorities in Turkey want to extradite the Duchess of York and put her on charges which could end in jail, The Sun can reveal.

Fergie is accused of breaking the country’s strict privacy laws while making a secret TV documentary on neglected children in orphanages.

And the Duchess could face FOUR-AND-A-HALF YEARS in prison if convicted by a local court.

Turkish authorities have officially approached the Home Office in London and lodged a formal request for “Mutual Legal Assistance”.

They are now gathering documents to back up the application, which is the first step in the extradition process that could see Fergie in the dock.

The MLA request is expected to be granted by the Home Office.

Fergie would then be quizzed by British police acting on behalf of their Turkish counterparts. And she could be arrested and extradited to Turkey if she is charged.

A Home Office source said last night: “We have had a request from the Turkish government for an MLA in relation to the Duchess of York. We are now awaiting the necessary paperwork but it seems likely the request will be granted.”

Another source added: “If, following a police investigation, charges are laid in Turkey, the Duchess could be arrested and extradited to appear in court in Turkey. That is how international law works.”

Fergie’s daughters Beatrice and Eugenie are fifth and sixth in line to the British throne — and any attempt to extradite her would be unprecedented.

The Home Office said: “We never confirm or deny the existence of MLA or extradition requests.”

Earlier this year Fergie, 49, cancelled her annual ski trip amid fears she could be detained in Switzerland. Neither Switzerland nor Turkey are part of the EU, and it was feared there was a greater risk of her being arrested.

At the time her spokesman denied that was the reason for axing the trip at short notice, but the MLA request has now shown just how seriously the Turkish complaint is being treated.

Fergie caused outrage in Turkey when she put on a black wig and headscarf and went undercover to visit an orphanage housing 700 disabled children for ITV1’s Tonight.

She and Eugenie, 19 — who co-presented the documentary — allegedly broke privacy laws by filming children left tied to their beds in the state-run institution.

Social Affairs Minister Nimet Cubukcu said at the time: “It is very clear that Mrs Sarah Ferguson has bad intentions. She is obviously in a campaign to blacken Turkey’s name.” Fergie’s spokesman hit back, saying: “The Duchess has no political motivation. This is all about the welfare of children.”

When the film was broadcast this year, Tonight said: “Our covert filming was in the public interest.”

Turkey’s privacy laws have become far stricter in recent years.

And punishments are especially harsh for journalists and film-makers because a 2005 law states jail sentences must be increased by 50 per cent if the offence was committed for the purposes of publication.

A journalist who violates “rights to privacy of communications” — for example by secretly recording a conversation — faces up to four-and-a-half years. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned appalling conditions in Turkish jails.

Fergie has also faced controversy over her UK documentary efforts.

Her first show, which saw her help a Hull family discover healthy eating, was almost axed when a man died at their home after a suspected drug overdose.

And she was accused of betraying residents after she said there was an “air of misery” on the Northern Moor estate in Wythenshawe, Manchester — made famous by TV’s Shameless.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Lawyers: Alleged Arctic Sea Pirates Needed Help

MOSCOW — Lawyers for eight men accused of hijacking the Arctic Sea freighter as it passed through the Baltic Sea said Wednesday their clients are peaceful seamen who were merely practicing maritime skills when their boat ran into trouble.

They said the eight defendants who have been charged in a Russian court with abduction and piracy had done nothing wrong and only climbed onto the freighter off Sweden to seek help because their inflatable rubber boat was taking on water.

The comments were the latest addition to the saga of the Arctic Sea, whose alleged hijacking, subsequent disappearance and rescue by Russian naval ship prompted wide speculation about the ship’s cargo and its destination.

Russian authorities have said the freighter, loaded with Finnish timber, was boarded July 24 by armed men, who beat the crew and forced them into submission before leaving in an inflatable boat.

Six days later, the ship disappeared after passing through the English Channel.

The Kremlin then announced on Aug. 17 that a Russian frigate had intercepted it off western Africa, thousands of kilometers from the Algerian port where it was supposed to deliver its load of timber two weeks earlier.

A Russian shipping expert and an EU anti-piracy official have speculated that the vessel was carrying clandestine cargo, possibly surface-to-air missiles for Iran or Syria. Russian officials have dismissed the allegations.

One of the lawyers, Omar Akhmedov, told reporters that the suspects were practicing navigation in the Baltic Sea when they got lost and their rubber boat began taking on water. They accidentally reached the Arctic Sea and asked for help, he said.

Akhmedov said his client, Dmitry Savins, and the others were trying to practice their seafaring skills before applying for job with a Spanish environmental protection company. He wouldn’t name the company.

Another lawyer, Egon Rusanovs, said that Savins and others were desperate to find new jobs amid high unemployment in the Baltic nations. Most of the eight come from Estonia and Latvia.

The eight are being held in Moscow’s high-security Lefortovo prison; lawyers argued that keeping the suspects in custody violated Russian law.

Meanwhile, Russian investigators who had remained on board the Arctic Sea to inspect it as part of the official investigation, prepared to hand the ship over to authorities of Malta, whose flag the freighter was flying. The federal Investigative Committee said the transfer will take place on the Canary Islands over the next two days.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Reports: Medvedev Wants to Meet US ‘Dissidents’

MOSCOW — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says he would like to meet with “dissidents” when he visits the U.S. next week.

Russian news agencies quote him as telling a group of visiting foreign experts that “I believe there are dissidents in the United States.”

ITAR-Tass quotes him as saying: “Let them tell me what problems the United States has. That won’t be bad, considering the Soviet experience.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the comment Tuesday was a subtle dig at the U.S., which has frequently criticized Russia for backsliding on democracy.

Medvedev has retained the Kremlin-dominated political system developed under former President Vladimir Putin. But he’s also shown some signs of positioning himself as less of a hard-liner.

           — Hat tip: Natalie[Return to headlines]

Russia to Equip Four Indian Subs With New Cruise Missiles

Moscow, Sep 16 : Russia’s Zvezdochka shipyard today said it will install Club-S cruise missile systems on four Kilo class diesel submarines in service with the Indian navy in the next five years.

“The new missile system will be installed on the INS Sindhuratna, INS Sindhuraj, INS Sindhushastra, and INS Sindhuvir. The retrofit will be carried out at Indian shipyards,” the shipyard in northern Russia said in a statement.

“Zvezdochka will finish this work in the next five years,” the statement said.

Russia has built ten Kilo class submarines for India. Only two of them — the INS Sindhughosh and INS Sindhuvijay — have reportedly been equipped with the Club-S (SS-N-27) cruise missiles to date.

The Club-S subsonic cruise missile is designed for launch from a 533 mm torpedo tube, or a vertical launch tube. It has a range of 160 nautical miles (about 300 km). It uses an ARGS-54 active radar seeker and Glonass satellite and inertial guidance.

In addition, Zvezdochka is getting ready to overhaul another Indian Kilo class submarine — the INS Sindhurakshak- under a deal which is expected to be signed in spring 2010.

“The submarine will be delivered to Severodvinsk in June 2010,” the shipyard said.

Russia agreed in 2001 to upgrade all 10 Indian Kilo class submarines and has previously overhauled four subs at the Zvezdochka shipyard.

The upgrade programme includes a complete overhaul of the submarines, including their hull structures, as well as improved control systems, sonar, electronic warfare systems, and an integrated weapon control system.

The upgrades are reported to be costing about 80 million Dollars.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Female Suicide Bomber Injures 6 in Chechnya

A suicide bomber wounded six people in the capital of Chechnya on Wednesday, officials said — the latest in a series of attacks undermining Kremlin claims that stability is returning to the southern Russian region.

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov said the bomber was a woman — a fact that harkened back to the early 1990s, when female suicide bombers called “black widows” became a hallmark of the Chechen insurgency. Two Russian passenger airliners were destroyed by “black widows” and others committed fatal bombings near Red Square and at a Moscow subway station.

Wednesday’s attacker detonated her belt when two police officers walked by, seriously injuring them and wounding four civilians in a nearby car, officials said.

Earlier reports said the two policemen had been killed.

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

Female Suicide Bomber Injures 6 in Chechnya

GROZNY, Russia — A suicide bomber wounded six people in the capital of Chechnya on Wednesday, officials said — the latest in a series of attacks undermining Kremlin claims that stability is returning to the southern Russian region.

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov said the bomber was a woman — a fact that harkened back to the early 1990s, when female suicide bombers called “black widows” became a hallmark of the Chechen insurgency. Two Russian passenger airliners were destroyed by “black widows” and others committed fatal bombings near Red Square and at a Moscow subway station.

Wednesday’s attacker detonated her belt when two police officers walked by, seriously injuring them and wounding four civilians in a nearby car, officials said. Earlier reports said the two policemen had been killed.

Meanwhile in Dagestan, a region bordering Chechnya to the east, police killed a militant fighter on the outskirts of the capital, Makhachkala, a regional Interior Ministry official said.

The blast in Grozny was another symbolic blow to the Chechen capital, much of which was reduced to rubble in the two wars between separatist rebels and Russian troops over the past 15 years.

Russia has poured vast amounts of money into reconstructing Grozny and the city’s center is the showpiece of the program. Wednesday’s explosion occurred downtown at the corner of Peace Street and Putin Avenue, named after former President Vladimir Putin, who launched the second Chechen war in 1999.

Suicide bombings were rare in Chechnya in recent years, but at least six have occurred since late July, killing at least 12 people.

There has been a general spike in violence throughout Russia’s North Caucasus, including the suicide truck bombing of a police compound in neighboring Ingushetia and a suicide bombing that seriously wounded that republic’s president.

Despite the rise in violence, Russian officials insist that Caucasus insurgents are being brought under control and some have suggested the rise in attacks reflects desperation from losing a battle.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, in an interview in the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, denied that security in Chechnya was worsening.

“There are explosions. But there are explosions in London, in America — explosions everywhere,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan War Reaches a Tipping Point

By M K Bhadrakumar

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) handed down to the Taliban a big political victory as a result of the air strikes in the northern province of Kunduz on Friday, which left over 100 people dead and injured. The Taliban propaganda portrayed the incident as “an intentional massacre”.

However, the political impact is felt on several planes. These include, first and foremost, the sense of shock in Germany, where well over two-thirds of people already favor a withdrawal of the 4,500-strong German contingent from Afghanistan. Given the burden of history that Germany is fated to carry, the mere suggestion of the Bundeswehr having committed a war crime abroad becomes a sensitive issue. The political class in Berlin will keenly watch how the groundswell of public opinion pans out in the federal election due on September 27.

Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded on Sunday that the international community needed to “apply pressure [on Kabul] in order to find a way to get the Afghans to appreciate that they have to take responsibility step by step … so that the international engagement can be reduced”.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir of the center-left Social Democratic Party, who is Merkel’s main challenger in the election, has been saying for a while that if his party emerges victorious, “As chancellor, I would push for us to develop plans with the new Afghan government to establish a clear perspective for the duration and end of the military engagement.”

Steinmeir said Berlin would push such an agenda during the forthcoming negotiations over the extension of the so-called Afghan Compact, the international aid treaty which expires next year. Steinmeir said that while it may seem “irresponsible” to set an absolute date for German withdrawal from the war, he wanted to negotiate a “concrete schedule” and he thoroughly disagreed with the stance of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union that the Bundeswehr may have to stay in Afghanistan for another five to 10 years.

But Berlin’s policies will influence other European countries. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday, quoting defense sources in London, that both the United States and British governments no longer expected any of NATO’s main partner nations to send more troops to serve in the combat zones in southern Afghanistan.

Indeed, a pall of gloom descended on the two-day European Union (EU) foreign ministers meeting in Stockholm over the weekend. According to reports, the EU ministers showed “no optimism or idealism” in their speeches, which were laced with depressing and “occasionally grisly anecdotal evidence” of the war that is going horribly wrong. The disputed presidential elections in Afghanistan and growing Afghan intolerance toward foreign involvement — and now the Kunduz incident — dominated the Stockholm discussions.

Bundeswehr draws blood

The Kunduz incident has triggered a US-German rift as to whether the German commanders or the US pilot were at fault. The German ground commander ordered the strike after assessing the “target” on the basis of the image relayed by the US aircraft, whereas, according to the rules of business, the US pilot has the ultimate discretion to ignore if he isn’t convinced about the “target”. The issue may become an inner-NATO tussle. The Germans are on the defensive to explain why they ordered an airstrike at all. They and US officials have tried to deflect the blame.

No military likes to be branded as cowardly, yet that is what US critics insinuate about the Bundeswehr’s record in northern Afghanistan. Military analyst Anthony Cordesman, who advises the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, lost no time in lampooning the Bundeswehr’s record in northern Afghanistan.

Cordesman said German soldiers lacked “situational and combat experience” to confront the Taliban on the ground. “They’re as oriented toward staying in their armored vehicles as any group I’ve met. They’re not active enough to present much of a threat to the Taliban most of the time,” Cordesman mocked. The German Defense Ministry pushed back the US criticism, saying it was self-serving. These are unusual public exchanges for two NATO allies. Merkel’s statement on Sunday suggests that Germany will take to the high ground rather than be the butt of ridicule.

Meanwhile, the ground reality is that the situation in northeastern Afghanistan has dramatically worsened in the past two-year period and the German contingent is now taking the blame. The Germans used to think that the war was far away as the northern region has been tranquil so far. They often taunted US commanders in southeastern Afghanistan that the war against terror could also be fought through peaceful means. This thesis has now been blown to pieces, as Kunduz province has become a dangerous place for German soldiers.

To quote Germany’s mass circulation daily Bild, “The Americans — who still have the massive German criticism of them ringing in their ears — can barely conceal their schadenfreude: look the good Germans too are responsible for killing civilians.”

The Germans never wanted to get involved in combat, but they now find themselves in the thick of it. “We are involved in gun battles every other day. We are being shot at and we are shooting back, and we are killing a few of them,” Der Spiegel quoted a German officer as saying. As the weekly put it, “The Bundeswehr must now come to terms with the fact that Germans have previously found difficult to accept: winning the war in Afghanistan requires engaging in active combat.”

Taliban strategy

On the other hand, the Taliban are spreading their wings in the northern provinces, all according to a plan. The stage has come when it is important for the Taliban to demonstrate in political terms that they can expand the war to places of their choice. In military terms, the Taliban tactic aims at overstretching NATO.

Again, the Taliban are establishing a presence on the routes through which NATO’s supply lines pass from the north — from Russia and Central Asian states. They are copying a tactic effectively used by the Afghan mujahideen in the jihad against Soviet forces in the 1980s.

The Taliban are also moving “foreign fighters” to the north as part of a calculated strategy, rather than this happening due to pressure from the Pakistani military in the tribal areas in the south and southeast. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesmen have confirmed the arrest of foreign nationals in Kunduz and have speculated that cadres of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are involved. If so, it goes to underscore that there is a grand Taliban/al-Qaeda design towards the Central Asian region, especially towards Uzbekistan, which has been cozying up to the US lately.

No one needs to explain to the Taliban the strategic importance of Kunduz, which used to be center of their military command in northern Afghanistan before their ouster in October 2001. The demographic structure of the region provides an ideal platform for the Taliban’s political work.

The scattered Pashtun, Uzbek and Tajik (and Hazara and Arab) communities and their intra-ethnic and intra-tribal tensions are open to exploitation by the Taliban to broaden their political base. Despite his great skills as a politico-military strategist, Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud incrementally began ceding Kunduz province to the Taliban by 1999. This helped the Taliban on the one hand to consolidate their control over the whole of the Shomali plain that stretches up from Kabul to the mouth of the Panjshir Valley, and on the other hand to effectively intercept Northern Alliance supply lines from Tajikistan.

Call Dostum back!

As the northern provinces get engulfed in a full-blown insurgency, NATO faces the grim reality that trying to contain an insurgency in a region like Kunduz is going to be beyond its capacity. The US did a smart thing to engage Northern Alliance “warlords” to do the job of evicting the Taliban from Kunduz in 2001, rather than committing American troops.

Equally, the US (and NATO) may have no choice but to seek erstwhile mujahideen commanders whom they decry presently as “warlords” — Mohammed Fahim, Rashid Dostum, Mohmmed Mohaqiq and Ismail Khan, among others — if the Taliban’s march towards the northern and western provinces is to be effectively countered. This is where President Hamid Karzai’s political strategy to work with the established local power groups may prove correct.

The complex ethnic makeup of the region around Kunduz and in the Amu Darya region to the west is such that NATO will have no alternative but to quickly “Afghanize” the war. There can be no effective anti-Taliban strategy in the Amu Darya region without active local participation. The various ethnic groups live as interspersed communities. Kunduz, in particular, is a tinder box.

For the foreseeable future, therefore, if and when a professional Afghan army finally takes shape, any “Afghanization” in northern and western Afghanistan will have to depend heavily on local forces that can offer resistance to the Taliban.

Merkel seemed to be anticipating the looming crisis when she forcefully stated on Sunday in Berlin that “the time has come” to Afghanize the war. She unveiled a joint proposal in consultation with Britain and France calling for an international conference on Afghanistan as soon as the next government is formed in Kabul, to press the point with the newly elected Afghan leadership and “to create some momentum”.

Merkel will be jointly writing, along with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon to convene an international conference on Afghanistan at an early date.

Peacemaking initiatives

Several templates have appeared simultaneously. Germany has lost its innocence in the Afghan war. For a country carrying a huge historical burden, foreign wars are never going to be easy. On the other hand, Germany has taken a well-thought-out, long-term decision to assume an “internationalist” role in conflict situations worldwide in line with its aspirations to play an influential role in world politics; there is no going back merely because it is accused of taking 100 or so innocent Afghan lives.

Germany is well aware that wars abroad are a serious business. In Afghanistan, in particular, the war has far-reaching consequences, being vastly more than a mere fight against international terrorism; it is also about NATO’s future role as a global political organization and the “unfinished business” of the Cold War, as well as about defining the new world order.

Isolationism, therefore, is most certainly not being considered by the leadership in Berlin. All the same, the Kunduz incident has forced the compulsion, which has been felt for a while already in Berlin, to redefine the German role in Afghanistan. It is against this backdrop that the weekend’s German-British-French initiative on Afghanistan was born.

The initiative may appear a European one, but it has evidently taken place in consultation with Washington and therefore has the added advantage of evolving a trans-Atlantic position on the coming new phase of Afghan strategy that will provide an underpinning for the new strategy being contemplated by the Barack Obama administration.

Britain will feel gratified that it has played the cementing role in Europe for the US — which in today’s circumstances for Brown has the added virtue of assuaging an increasingly strident domestic public opinion. In this perception, his government is blundering in the Hindu Kush and precious young British lives are needlessly being wasted in a war that no longer makes sense.

The big question is whether Merkel will insist on a European — and within that, a German — lead role in any Afghan settlement as a quid pro quo by Washington for Berlin’s continued active participation in the war. Surely, there is also the related Russian question. Russia, with which Germany is fostering close ties, will be keenly watching. Moscow has made it clear that it, too, is ready to play a role “politically” in Afghanistan as there is a congruence of interests with NATO in this sphere. Moscow and Berlin consult regularly on Afghanistan.

Moscow is counting on the changing of the guard at NATO headquarters in Brussels last month to bring in new thinking about the alliance’s ties with Russia. Meanwhile, a body of opinion has also surfaced lately in influential quarters in the US — Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, etc — that there is nothing abominable — as the Cold Warriors might think — if NATO cooperates with the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization and takes Russia’s help in stabilizing Afghanistan. The ball, clearly, is in Obama’s court.

The Kunduz incident has displayed a ghastly truth. There is Afghan blood equally on the hands of all NATO countries. Conceivably, those who kill will also insist on having the right to have a say in the downstream of the killing. Friday’s incident in Kunduz may well prove the tipping point in the war.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

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

Dhaka: Christian Murdered for a Cellphone, Police Deny Version of Theft

Swopon Mondol, a Baptist, died in hospital from serious injuries sustained during the beating. Police officer accuses “groups of students” from University of Dhaka of “committing violence.” Blackmail and threats to his wife for reporting episode.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Beaten by a group of young students from the University of Dhaka for an — alleged — theft of a mobile phone, he died after a few hours from serious injuries sustained during the beating. The victim is Swopon Mondol, a Christian from the Free Christian Baptist Churches of Bangladesh. His body was found the evening of 12 September on the university campus. Rushed to hospital, he died shortly after midnight on September 13, his wife, who rushed to his side, has been threatened by the attackers not to report the crime.

Police have opened an investigation into the matter and seem to have identified the culprits. Mohammed Wahid, a police officer from Sahabag station cites internal sources according to whom “a group of students from Mohasin Hall in Dhaka University, led by Mohammed Rajan” brutally tortured and killed the young Christian, husband and father of a child of 10.

“On 12 September — said Mohammed Wahid — around 8 o’clock in the evening I received a call from a source, who noted the presence of a man seriously injured near the park of Suhrawardi. When I saw the condition of man, I ordered his transfer to the Medical College in Dhaka, where his wife also arrived”.

The officer (pictured) adds he knew the young man involved and does not believe the “thesis of the stolen phone”. He confirms recent cases of “aggression from the University of Dhaka,” perpetrated by “groups of violent students” who use “excuses” such as the theft of a phone “to harass innocent people.” “He was a good and kind person — highlights Wahid — and he was killed in a brutal manner”.

“In the hospital — adds Lucky Modolo, wife of the victim Diptoo, and mother of a boy of 10 — some young people surrounded me, asking me for money as compensation for the theft of mobile phones. My husband was struggling between life and death, I felt hopeless. “

The woman admits to “being afraid” to ask for an investigation, “the fear of retaliation: they could also kill me”. Her thoughts now go to her young son and “how we are going to survive” because “my husband was the only one who earned money.” Swopon Mondol was buried on 13 September; his sister Sulekha is “seeking justice” for the murder.

The Free Christian Churches of Bangladesh has 320 churches and more than 30 thousand faithful, and has been present in the country for more than 25 years. The movement has faced attacks during the second Gulf War and several times members have suffered persecution. “Swopon Mondol was a very active member of the church — emphasizes Baptist bishop Alberti P Mirdha — his death has shocked us. Minorities are not safe in Bangladesh. “

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

EU Monitors Say 1.5 Million Afghan Votes Rigged

Kabul, Sep 16 : European Union (EU) election monitors said Wednesday that up to 1.5 million votes, one quarter of all ballots, had been subject to manipulation or were suspected of having been subjected to tampering.

Deputy mission head Dimitra Ioannou said 1.1 million of the suspect votes were in favour of incumbent President Hamid Karzai and 300,000 were cast for his main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

“All of them need to be investigated,” she added.

In total, 5.5 million votes were cast in the Aug 20 presidential polls. According to the latest preliminary results, Karzai leads the polls with 54.3 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a run-off. Abdullah received 28.1 percent.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC), which conducted the poll, was to announce its final preliminary result Wednesday evening.

EU chief election monitor Philippe Morillon criticized the planned announcement as a mistake. The EU mission called on the IEC to refrain from announcing more results before all accusations of vote rigging have been investigated.

At this point, any claim for victory would not be credible, Morillon argued. “We tried to deter from massive fraud. We did not succeed,” he said.

However, it was within the responsibility of the Afghans, and not the foreigners, to judge the election’s legitimacy, he added.

On Tuesday, the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (EEC) ordered a review of almost one in every 10 polling stations. Ballots from 2,516 of the more than 26,000 polling stations, where turnout was unusually high or one candidate got almost all the votes, have to be investigated, the commission said.

EEC chief Grant Kippen said Monday the Afghan elections commission must not release an official final results before the EEC finishes investigating the more than 2,000 complaints it received.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

India to Become Member of Russia’s Dubna Jinr: Prof Rao

Moscow, Sep 16 : India will soon become a member of Russia’s prestigious Dubna Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), Co-Chairman of Indo-Russian ILTP CNR Rao said here.

“India will become a member of the Dubna programme,” said Prof Rao, who was on a visit to co-chair the Joint Council of the Indo-Russian Integrated Long-Term Programme (ILTP) on bilateral scientific and technological cooperation.

The Indian delegation for ILTP session in Moscow, included the Secretary, Department of Science and Technology(DST), Dr T Ramasami and CSIR Director General S K Brahmachari.

Prof Rao said the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was conducting necessary talks with the Russian side on India becoming a member of the nuclear research institute.

He said two Indian delegations have already visited Dubna, near Moscow.

JINR is an international inter-governmental organisation for nuclear research, with activities incorporating fundamental research of the structure of matter, development and application of high technologies, and university education in the relevant fields.

At present, it has 18 member-states including Russia, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and some European countries.

The ILTP, which is to expire in 2010, is expected to be extended for another 10 years up to 2020, Prof Rao said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Mark of Conservatives

JAKARTA — A NEW law passed in Aceh to stone to death married people who commit adultery as well as whip homosexuals who have sex is being seen as a last-ditch move by conservative Islamic lawmakers to impose their preferences on society.

Almost a third of Aceh’s provincial lawmakers now come from the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and National Mandate Party (PAN). They will finish their five-year term on Sept 30.

The lawmakers agreed on Monday that adultery and homosexuality — already considered mortal sins in this devout Muslim province — would carry harsher punishments. Rape, the consumption of alcohol and gambling would also carry higher penalties of up to 400 lashes of the whip.

This new law in Aceh has caused fears that it will inspire conservative Muslims elsewhere in Indonesia to push for syariah law on a national level.

Already, Aceh has been following some syariah rules since 2001. Headscarves for women are mandatory, and those convicted of drinking alcohol and gambling have been caned publicly.

The Indonesian government, which has always maintained that laws should stay secular even though 90 per cent of Indonesians are Muslim, allowed syariah law to take root in its westernmost province in the hope that it would quell separatist tension.

Ironically, the separatist rebels who spent over two decades till 2005 fighting for Acehnese independence from Indonesia never lobbied hard for it.

It was always the pet project of the conservative Islamic parties which have dominated Aceh’s legislature because they have more hardline interpretations of the Quran.

Rights activists have condemned the law as cruel and degrading.

It undermines the secular basis of Indonesia’s law, National Commission on Human Rights head Ifdhal Kasim told Agence France-Presse, adding that the rights group was appealing to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to review the legislation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Pakistan-Punjab: Young Christian Man Accused of Blasphemy Killed in Prison

Fanish, 20, was arrested last Saturday. His death was “judicial murder” according to human rights activist. The day before a Muslim mob attacked members of the dead man’s Christian community, setting fire to their church. Pakistani extremists are funded by Saudi “charities.”

Sialkot (AsiaNews) — The young Christian man who was arrested on 12 September in a village in Punjab accused of blasphemy was killed last night in prison. Police had Fanish, 20, remanded into their custody in order to continue their investigation. This morning prison guards in Sialkot district prison found the lifeless body of the young man with visible signs of injuries.

For Nadeem Anthony, member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), his death was judicial murder. Condemning in the strongest terms the latest anti-Christian outrage, the activist told AsiaNews that for police the young committed suicide by hanging himself in jail, something that for him does not make sense. Instead, “it is a torture killing” because “we can see signs of torture on his body in the picture.”

AsiaNews also received photos of the lifeless body. In it the type of injuries that can be seen appear unrelated to strangulation by hanging.

The body is at the disposal of the legal authority, which has ordered an autopsy at Sialkot’s Civil Hospital.

Fanish (pictured in prison) was arrested last Saturday after accusations of blasphemy were made against him. A day earlier a Muslim mob had gathered in front of the church in the village of Jaithikey, not far from the town of Samberial, in the district of Sialkot (Punjab), to teach the local Christian community a “lesson”.

Extremists damaged the building before setting it on fire. They also pillaged two homes near the church.

A relationship between the 20-year-old Christian man and a young Muslim woman appears to be the cause of the turn of events.

Fanish was accused of provoking the young woman and of throwing away a copy of the Qur’an she had in her hands.

Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church, said that “Muslims cannot stand the idea that a Muslim woman might fall in love with a Christian.”

Yesterday the NCJP expressed “grave concern’ over the rising tide of violence against religious minorities, all in the name of the blasphemy law.

For Catholic activists, urgent government measures are need. It is increasingly clear that profanations of the Qur’an are just excuses used to attack non-Muslims, who are increasingly victimised and persecuted by Islamic fundamentalists.

In another incident, also last Saturday but reported only today, a Christian settlement in Ghaziabad, a neighbourhood in Orangi Town, near Karachi (Sindh), was attacked by a mob of Muslims, enraged by blasphemy charges against a 40-year-old Christian man called Lawrence.

After repeatedly attacking the man’s house with stones and rocks, the mob attacked local Christians and tried to storm the local Catholic Church. Only a quick intervention by police prevented a blood bath. Still police arrested Lawrence’s nephew, Shahkeel. The accused man went into hiding.

Violence action by Pakistani Islamists is funded by foreign jihadist organisations. In fact, the Arab Herald recently reported that a Saudi charity gave 15 million dollars to a pro al-Qaeda militant organisation.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is said to be preparing to strike Punjab’s main cities.

In conjunction with the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the TTP is also planning to attack Pakistani Shiites.

Sources told AsiaNews that the al-Qaeda-linked SSP was involved in the anti-Christian attacks in Gojra where several people were killed.

The Al-Haramain Foundation, an organisation banned by the UN Security Council for its links to al-Qaeda, reportedly funded the attacks.

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

Pakistan: New Jihadi Training Camp Detected

Pakistan site dispatching fighters into Afghanistan

LONDON — Agents working for the MI6 intelligence agency in Pakistan have established that British-born al-Qaida bomb mastermind Rashid Rauf, who helped plan the “liquid bombs” plot to attack planes as they flew between Britain and North America, has set up a huge training base in Pakistan, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

It is described as probably the largest in the region “and raises serious questions about the Pakistan’s government’s commitment to fighting the war on terrorism,” said a senior intelligence officer in London.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

‘China Bashing’ In the Indian Media

It’s the silly season in India-China relations. If you’ve tuned into one of the more hawkish Indian television channels or are reading the views of the many experts on India and China, it might seem like the two countries are at each other’s throats.

There has been a spate of denials from the Indian foreign ministry, the border guards and even the Indian air force. All insist that there have been no clashes and no violations of Indian air space.

“A media report about two ITBP [Indo-Tibetan Border Police] jawans [soldiers] having been injured due to firing from across the Line of Actual Control has come to notice. It is factually incorrect,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

And here is what the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman had to say about the same incident: “I have not heard of the scenario you mentioned… I have noticed, however, that Indian media has been releasing some groundless information recently. I wonder what their intention is.”

‘Without pause’

But China’s concerns about accuracy do not seem to bother a large chunk of the Indian media, which is engaged in a rather serious bout of “China-bashing” these days.

Such China “stories” continue without pause.

Facts do not seem to matter as some Indian media organisations believe that this is the best way to grab a larger market share.

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

China Says Xinjiang Bomb Operation Uncovered

BEIJING — Chinese security forces uncovered a bomb-making operation in the volatile western region of Xinjiang, foiling plans to carry out attacks including suicide bombings, police said Wednesday.

Forces arrested six suspects and seized large amounts of bomb-making materials in the raids, according to a notice posted on the Public Security Ministry Web site.

Initial investigations showed the suspects had begun making bombs following deadly ethnic rioting in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi in July, the notice said. It did not say when the arrests were made and calls to Xinjiang regional police headquarters rang unanswered.

The ministry said the gang had set up three bomb making workshops on the outskirts of the city of Aksu, about 430 miles (700 kilometers) southwest of Urumqi, and had already assembled 20 explosive devices, the ministry said.

The gang had planned to place bombs on cars, motorcycles, and people and “carry out terrorist sabotage activities,” but were prevented from doing so by the timely police action, the notice said.

The names of two men described by Xinhua as the gang’s ringleaders, Seyitamut Obul and Tasin Mehmut, appeared to identify them as members of the Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group, radicals among which have long fought Chinese rule in Xinjiang.

In the run-up to last year’s Beijing Olympics, Chinese authorities announced they had foiled a series of Xinjiang-based plots to carry out terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a commercial airliner. Little hard evidence was ever presented and some critics say China exaggerates the threat from armed groups to justify repressive policies against Uighurs.

Responding to the police announcement, Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, called for an independent investigation and claimed authorities in the Aksu area had rounded up 143 Uighurs for violating restrictions on fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The claim could not be verified and China denies violating Uighur religious rights.

Xinjiang remains on edge over the July rioting that began with Uighur attacks on members of China’s dominant Han ethnic group and killed almost 200 people. A string of recent syringe attacks on non-Uighurs has further unnerved residents, prompting massive street demonstrations in Urumqi earlier this month by Han demanding better security.

Huge numbers of paramilitary troops have been called out to bolster the region’s police force and on Tuesday authorities banned the transport of weapons, ammunition, explosives and radioactive goods into or within Xinjiang until Oct. 8.

Uighurs are culturally distinct from China’s majority Han group who dominate life in Urumqi and positions of power, despite the fact that Uighurs make up the majority of the population in the wider region of Xinjiang.

As with Tibetans, many Uighurs resent the heavy Chinese presence in their native land and claim they were essentially independent from Beijing for much of their history.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Korea Ready to Breed Tuna for Commercial Production: Experts

TONGYEONG, South Korea, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) — South Korea is ready to breed bluefin tuna to better meet global consumer demand and cope with dwindling stocks that have triggered calls for fishing restrictions, local aquaculture experts said Tuesday.

Experts from the state-run National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) said local tuna farming, which first began in 2007 with just 11 fish, has since expanded to 300 bluefins being raised in three net cages off Yokji Island about 520km southeast of Seoul on the country’s southern coast.

The first commercial sales of tuna raised in special cages should take place in around 2015, with good potential for overseas sales to countries like Japan and China, they said.The tuna being raised are between 10kg to 40kg in size and have been caught for the past three years directly from the sea. Those that have been successfully moved from nets to the holding cages are being held for observation and research purposes.

“At present, researchers can only catch juvenile fish weighing less than 3kg and raise them in specially-built net cages, but efforts are under way to breed the fish directly from tuna held in captivity,” said Kim Eung-oh, director of the NFRDI’s South Sea Fisheries Research Institute.

He said researchers may be able to start collecting fertilized eggs from the tuna as early as next year if the conditions are right.

“The goal is to establish a complete aquaculture system that will permit less wild tuna to be caught from the sea,” he said. Kim added this would allow the country to sidestep any moves to limit fishing and bolster the incomes of local fishermen.

The effort may prove especially profitable if the European Union puts the bluefin on the endangered species list. Last week Brussels provisionally backed a proposal by Monaco to ban fishing of the bluefin in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, but it will need to seek the approval of all EU member countries.

At present only Japan has been successful in breeding tuna in captivity, with Spain, Croatia, Australia and Mexico catching juvenile fish and raising them for the market through a so-called fattening process. Most tuna raised in this manner are sold in 3-4 years after they reach 50kg.

Kim said that while South Korea is a relative late starter compared to Japan, researchers are confident they will be able to catch up with their neighbor.

“In many areas South Korea’s aquaculture technology is world-class and it would not be difficult to develop techniques on par with those being used in Japan,” the director said.

Essential areas include the development of suitable feeds that can help growth, the reduction of of mercury levels in tuna that have been cited for posing health risks, and increase the survival rate of artificially raised fish.

“Out of the 10-30 million eggs that a single fish can produce just 0.3-0.5 percent reach 0.5-1kg sizes, and countermeasures must be developed to prevent fish from killing themselves by ramming the cages and to deal with red tides that can devastate fish farms,” Kim said.

Reflecting the market potential for artificially raised bluefin tuna, Hong Seok-nam, president of the Insung Marine Product Co. said aquaculture is a viable alternative to fishing.

He said that of the 4.35 million tons of tuna caught worldwide every year, bluefins, which are prized for their taste and texture, make up just 1 percent or 50,000 tons.

“A 50kg bluefin can fetch 3 million won (US$2,462) on the market with profit levels for the grower reaching up to 30 percent,” he said, citing reports published in Japan.

The executive, who caught a record 600t of tuna in one haul in the early 1990s, said South Korea is ideally situated to sell its fish to neighboring countries — something that could help the country’s exports.

“Japan consumes 3,720g of tuna per person on an annual basis making it the largest consumer market in the world, and demand is rising rapidly in China,” he said. An average South Korean consumes 57g of tuna on an annual basis.

He added that compared to juvenile fish, a fully grown tuna can fetch 10-20 times more.

Hong said that his company spent 300 million won on the joint project with NFRDI and asked for more state research and development support to push forward the country’s tuna aquaculture knowhow.

Park Chong-guk, deputy minister for fisheries policies, said 1.6 billion won will be used in 2010 to help aqua-farming for tuna. Of the total, 1.2 billion won will come from the central and regional governments, with the rest to be generated from the private sector.

He said that while climate change has increased the number of tuna caught in South Korean waters from 833t in 2006 to 1,543t last year, international pressure to limit national quotas is making aquaculture a necessary alternative.

Overfishing have reduced the size of the worldwide tuna stocks as much as 90 percent in some waters with concerns rising that the Atlantic bluefin will become extinct in the next couple of years unless remedial actions are taken.

“We have bought several artificially grown tuna from Japan for 100,000 won per fish, but want to be fully independent in the breeding process,” the official from the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said.

He declined to say when the country will be able to develop a full aquaculture system for tuna but hinted it could take place within the next few years if fertilized eggs can be retrieved and grown in laboratories.

South Korea already farms sea breams, flounders and mackerels, with the ministry taking steps to conduct feasibility tests on raising pollacks that are very difficult to raise.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

The Tension Between Delhi and Beijing Increases in the Kingdom of Cindia

So far the clashes were between the two armies on the borders. But now with the Dalia Lama; the competition in the African markets; the over friendliness with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar; the invasion of Chinese products in the Indian markets. India’s strong points: democracy and the use of the English language. But the collaboration in the informatics industry continues.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — While the world places its hopes in the kingdom of Cindia (the union of the Indian and Chinese markets), in order to overcome the global economic crisis, there seems to be an increasing differences between the two Asian giants. Certainly, the competition between India and China goes back a long way: and was related to the boundaries and military differences. But lately, with their entry in the international commercial and business field, Delhi and Beijing have begun to have many differences regarding a number of problems.

In the last few weeks there have been various reports regarding the Chinese military violating the boundaries, the last on the 13th of September in the northern state of Uttarkanth. The Indian government tries to downplay this in order to keep away from the spotlights reasons for tensions and not give the opposition a chance for criticizing. But the facts demonstrate that along the so called Line of Control (LOC), the two armies not only control each other. Today the Indian army reported that 2 officials from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have been injured during clashes with the Chinese military along the borders in Sikkim. This incident occurred on the 30th of August and is a indicator of the disorienting situation.

The map of India was drawn by the British officers when China was a subdued nation. The British had their own interest in putting the demarcations of the boundaries as outer as possible. When they left, India inherited the boundaries of a “conquered” empire.

As soon as the Chinese communist army was in a position to affirm their rights, in 1962, they invaded from the north-east and India was not prepared to stop them. From that bitter experience, the India of the non-violent Gandhi, was compelled to start the arms race till the atomic bomb in 1974. Since kilometers of these boundaries are on the high mountains of Himalaya it is very difficult to demarcate them and still more difficult to keep them under control. This explains the continuous clashes between the two armies.

In last few years the conflict has increased between the two countries. India and China differ strongly on many issues: — their respective position at the WTO (World Trade Organisation) — export of Chinese toys to India — competition in African markets and resources — China’s less transparent deals with Islamabad — support to the Dalai lama and Tibetan cause — Chinese firms’ investments in certain sectors in India — issuing visas to Indian businessmen.

The latest argument is about the planned visit of the Dalai lama to the state of Arunachala Pradesh and the deployment of fighter planes, Sukhois, in Tezpur. Arunachala has a good number of Buddhist population and that justify the visit of the Dalai lama, but China consider this land as part of Tibet and so of China. For this reason India plans to be ready to defend it. Now that Pakistan is busy fighting terrorism on the Afghan border, India con redeploy his fighter planes on the East. To keep the North-East border safe from hostile forces, a full complement of MKI variant of the Su30 warplanes will be deployed at the Tezpur airbase in Assam by October. This will be followed by a further deployment at the Chabua base in eastern Assam and also at Bagdogra in West Bengal.

This competition is bound to increase now that both of them, Chindia, had become the driving engines of the financial recovery after the great economic crisis. A showdown is on the cards now that India knows that Chinese-made toys have captured at least 60% of India’s market. Can two countries competing for the same slot of Asian superpower and future world power ever be good neighbours and trusted business partners?

The common feeling in India is that China is encircling India from Pakistan to Myanmar, from Malacca and Colombo. Indians fear that China wants to flood the Indian market with cheap products, probably made by prison labour.

In January India imposed a six month ban on the import of Chinese toys and China threatened to drag India to WTO for “unfair trade restriction”. Indian traders, particularly the small ones, are worried about Chinese toys. “Now they are making even traditional Indian things like Ganesha. Their products are cheaper and sturdy. We have no chance of competing with them” said Prakash Bansal, a Delhi based toymaker whose business had suffer huge losses recently.

It is well-known that China’s communist bosses have always regarded India’s democracy with contempt. But Indian leaders believe that in the long run democracy will prevail and when the taste of freedom will take place among the Chinese people the stability of Chinese establishment will suffer and turmoil will slow down the economic growth. Another big advantage is the knowledge of the English language that India has inherited from the British era.

The ideal recipe for an ideal cooperation will be to complement each other as it is already happening: the hardware for computer are mainly produces in the Chinese world, while the software are mainly produces in India or by Indians in the silicon valley. Could it be the model for the future?

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

West Appeasing China on Tibet, Says PM-in-Exile

DHARAMSHALA, India — Tibetan prime minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche on Tuesday accused the United States and other Western nations of appeasing China in regard to the mountain territory.

The charge came after aides to The Dalai Lama said the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader would not meet President Barack Obama on a planned visit to Washington next month.

Every US president since George H.W. Bush in 1991 has met the Dalai Lama, who enjoys a wide US following. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was reportedly hoping to see Obama in the United States.

“A lot of nations are adopting a policy of appeasement,” Rinpoche told a group of journalists late Tuesday.

He was speaking in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, which has been home to the government-in-exile since the Dalai Lama fled to India 50 years ago after China crushed an uprising in Tibet.

“Even the US government is doing some kind of appeasement,” Rinpoche said.

“Today, economic interests are much greater than other interests,” Rinpoche went on to say.

Analysts say a meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama before the US president’s maiden trip to Beijing in November would be sure to spark an angry response from China.

It would potentially undermine Obama’s hopes of building stronger ties with China, they say.

On Monday, the Dalai Lama’s office said in a statement the spiritual leader was “looking forward to meeting President Obama after his visit to China”.

The statement came after a US delegation visited the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala on Monday to brief him about US policy on Tibet.

The US team, led by White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, was the most senior group of American officials to travel to Dharamshala since March 2008, when Tibet was swept by a wave of unrest.

China considers the Dalai Lama a “splittist,” despite his calls for autonomy rather than independence for Tibet, and has stepped up pressure on world leaders, including Obama, not to meet him.

On Tuesday China criticised the US delegation’s visit, saying Beijing opposed any meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign officials, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

Rinpoche said no meeting with Obama had been fixed. He said he understood why Obama was not meeting the Dalai Lama before his Chinese trip, calling it “common sense”.

Obama should “not irritate the Chinese leadership.

“China’s (greatest) irritation is His Holiness, wherever he goes,” Rinpoche said.

Beijing strongly opposed a visit by the Dalai Lama to Taiwan earlier this month and warned of a setback in ties between the mainland and Taiwan.

The Dalai Lama is also courting controversy with a plan to visit the disputed northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in November.

Beijing claims a large swathe of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory and Indian media have lately reported incursions by Chinese soldiers along the border.

Rinpoche said the trip to the border state was “absolutely religious” and noted the Dalai Lama had visited it in the past.

“India is a sovereign independent nation and people living in the country have every right to go where they wish in India,” he said.

Indian analysts say allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh would reaffirm India’s claim to the state.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil’s JBS to Take Majority Stake in Pilgrim’s Pride

Confirming rumors that have swirled for weeks, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. said early Wednesday that it agreed to sell 64 percent of the company to Brazilian beef giant JBS SA in a deal that values the company at about $2.8 billion.

The sale, if approved by a bankruptcy judge, would give JBS a major stake in the U.S. poultry business, which would operate alongside its existing U.S. beef and pork business.

But that meaty combination might be enough to attract antitrust scrutiny.

Under the terms of the deal, JBS — through its subsidiary JBS USA Holdings Inc. — would acquire most of Pilgrim’s Pride for $800 million in cash. Existing stockholders of the Pittsburg, Tex.-based chicken processor would receive new shares representing 36 percent of the reorganized Pilgrim’s Pride.

Pilgrim’s Pride spokesman Ray Atkinson said the company expects to “operate as a separate business unit from beef and pork under the JBS umbrella. There will be some integration of our corporate functions into the JBS organization. Over the next several months, Pilgrim’s Pride and JBS will develop an integration plan that lays out how that will take place.”

He said it is too early to say whether any jobs from the company’s longtime headquarters would move to Greeley, Colo., JBS USA’s home base.

Pilgrim’s Pride, once the nation’s largest chicken processor, filed for bankruptcy protection in December as it labored under a heavy debt load brought on by acquisitions, rising feed costs and falling chicken prices.

Under the terms of Pilgrim’s proposed bankruptcy exit plan, “all creditors of the debtors holding allowed claims will be paid in full, either in cash or by issuance of a new note,” the company said — a highly unusual occurrence in a bankruptcy case.

The plan also calls for a $1.75 billion exit facility to be provided by a group of lenders arranged by CoBank, ACB and Rabobank.

Pilgrim’s Pride said it expects the plan to be confirmed by the bankruptcy court in time for the company to emerge from bankruptcy before the end of December.

JBS SA bills itself as the world’s largest beef producer with a daily harvesting capacity of 73,900 head of cattle. Pilgrim’s Pride has chicken processing plants and prepared-foods facilities in 12 states and had 2008 sales of $8.5 billion.

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

Cuba OKs Organized Religious Services in Prisons

HAVANA — Cuba will allow inmates to attend Roman Catholic Mass and Protestant services inside prisons, a top religious leader said Tuesday, in a significant easing of the communist government’s policy toward organized religion.

Authorities from the religious affairs wing of the Cuban Communist Party agreed to authorize organized worship behind bars after a meeting with prison officials and the Protestant Cuban Church Council last week, said Jose Aurelio Paz, a council spokesman who attended the gathering.

Paz said Cuban prisoners could previously worship “on a personal level.” When inmates sought guidance from a Catholic or Protestant leader, they were allowed to meet with one individually.

“Now they are going to not only be able to meet, but also use hymn books, Bibles and crosses as part of ceremonies,” Paz said by telephone.

The policy change follows a 2007 request by representatives from the Latin American council of Catholic bishops for the right to celebrate Mass in Cuba’s prisons.

The decision only applies to prisoners of Catholic or Protestant faiths, but communist officials said they were considering extending the relaxed rules to Jewish inmates and those belonging to other religions, including the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria, according to Paz.

Council of Churches President Miguel Hernandez confirmed the government’s decision, but declined to comment further. The Communist Party also did not comment.

Relations between the church and Cuba’s government have often been strained. The single-party state never outlawed religion but openly harassed and even expelled priests and closed religious schools after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

Tensions eased in the early 1990s when the government removed references to atheism in the constitution. They warmed more with a historic visit to the island by Pope John Paul II.

About 600,000 Cubans are believed to belong to Protestant churches and the council has 47 official churches and other places of worship. The government does not release figures on the number or prisoners in Cuba.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Venezuela: Spain to Represent Interests in Israel

President Hugo Chavez’s government said Spain will represent Venezuela’s diplomatic interests in Israel.

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said its consular affairs will be conducted through the Spanish diplomatic mission. Late Tuesday’s statement says the agreement was reached during Chavez’s trip to Spain last week and it will be formalized “in the coming hours.”

Venezuela broke off diplomatic ties with Israel in January to protest its military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

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


Australian PM Rudd Defends Refugee Policies

SYDNEY (AFP) — Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd defended his refugee policies Wednesday, after authorities intercepted a fourth illegal boat in a little over a week, with 58 suspected asylum-seekers on board.

A navy patrol vessel stopped the boat early Tuesday, bringing to 213 the number of apparent illegal immigrants found in the area since September 7.

The conservative opposition was quick to seize on the latest incident, saying in parliament that Rudd’s two-year centre-left government had “lost control” of people smuggling.

But Rudd said there had been more than 13,000 unauthorised arrivals during the 11-year administration of former leader John Howard.

“In the period that this government has been in office it’s 1,181 (arrivals),” he said.

Rudd said a parliamentary committee had recommended he roll back Howard’s punishing refugee regime, which resulted in the locking-up for years of asylum-seekers including children.

His move towards a “more humane” policy had also received bipartisan support, Rudd added.

Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor said the latest group would be transferred to Australia’s high-security processing centre on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

“They will undergo security, identity and health checks as well as establish their reasons for travel,” O’Connor said in a statement.

“Situations around the world mean that large numbers of displaced persons are looking for settlement in wealthy, developed nations like Australia and can be targeted by, and fall prey to, people-smugglers,” he added.

Australia has detained more than 1,000 would-be refugees at sea this year and the government warned that there are thousands more waiting in neighbouring Indonesia, a key staging post for people-smugglers.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans told parliament the offshore processing centre on Christmas Island was presently holding about 650 detainees and there were contingency plans were it to exceed its 800 capacity

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Capitol Prayer Service Calls for End to Hatred of Immigrants

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Outside the Capitol Sept. 15 bishops of three denominations led a brief prayer service for an end to hate, particularly hatred toward immigrants.

“We must clearly say shame, shame, shame on those who depend on our immigrant brothers and sisters, use them and often abuse them, and then turn against them with their racism and hatred,” said Bishop Minerva Carcano of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“The current environment dehumanizes our fellow human beings and diminishes us as a nation,” said Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., said that as an immigrant himself (from India) he takes very seriously the Christian call to treat one another with love. He prayed that the nation would be proud of “how we treat the most vulnerable among us, especially at a time of hate.”


Frank Sharry, director of the organization America’s Voice, which hosted the teleconference, said, “Washington has to stop being bullied by a very small but very vocal minority of people that like to scream and yell, but offer no solutions to some of our country’s most pressing problems.”

“We can fix these problems, including our broken immigration system, by working hard and looking at the facts, not by preying on people’s fears,” he concluded.

At the prayer service, Yvette Schock of the United Methodist Church said the event was organized partly to call attention to the background of FAIR, “because they are often quoted in the mainstream press as if they are mainstream and middle-of-the-road.”

Dale Schwartz, chairman of the public policy committee of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, told of being struck at another interfaith prayer service by the commonality of teachings to care for one’s neighbors found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“The theme of being kind to one’s neighbors runs through the great religions of Western society,” he said.

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

Farnesina: UN Appeal Not to Italy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 14 — “The appeal over violations of International rights is clearly not addressed to Italy” runs the statement issued by Italy’s Foreign Ministry, “concerning the UN’s highlighting today of repulsions,” in that “the rules of international rights are a corner-stone of the actions of the Italian Government, which hopes for and promotes a common commitment that they are complied with on all sides and that each side plays its part”. “Regarding the statements made concerning repulsions by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, we can only share the justified concerns which led to them, with respect to the sacredness of human life” the Italian Foreign Ministry continues, pointing out that “Italy is the country that has saved the most human lives in the Mediterranean”. And for this reason, the Ministry continues, “Italy has played and shall continue to play its part, and in the coming hours the Representative of the Italian Government in Geneva will present a detailed report in exact terms of Italy’s efforts in abiding by international laws and regulations both with regard to migrants and to those applying for political asylum”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France to Close Migrant ‘Jungle’

France has said it intends to close the camp in Calais known as “the jungle”, where migrants gather to try to reach the UK.

Immigration Minister Eric Besson told French television that the illegal gathering of tents and shelters should close imminently.

The jungle has replaced official camps like Sangatte as a gathering point.

Mr Besson said the closure would send a strong message that people traffickers could no longer use Calais.

‘Humane operation’

Mr Besson is due to hold talks on the issue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday.

He said it would be the local Calais authorities who would set the exact date for clearing the makeshift camps near the port but added that in any case it would be closed before the end of next week.

Some 1,500 migrants are now living in insanitary settlements in Calais and neighbouring areas, hoping to cross to Britain.

The minister promised that the operation would be carried out humanely and that each illegal immigrant would be offered the chance to apply for asylum or to return voluntarily to their country of origin.

Many of the migrants come from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The minister insisted they would not be forcibly returned.

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

Italy: Protests Open School Year

Minister considering 30% cap on foreign students

(ANSA) — Rome, September 14 — As eight million children in Italy returned to school Monday, Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said the government was considering a 30% limit on immigrant students in Italian classrooms. “In some cases the presence of immigrants is close to 100%,” Gelmini told Italian TV on the first day of the school year. “It’s clear that those aren’t the ideal conditions to foster integration”. The minister also stressed the importance of new civics classes targeted primarily at immigrants. “This new subject, the introduction of citizenship classes and the study of the Italian Constitution, is significant”. “It will boost our childrens’ and immigrants’ knowledge of the basic principles of civilised life”.

At an elementary school in Rome with 82% foreign enrollment, a number of parents said they were in favor of the idea.

Of 16 parents interviewed by ANSA Monday, only one of them Italian, 14 said they would prefer their children to be in classes with more Italians to improve their grasp of the language.

But one of Rome’s city bureau vice presidents Antonio Vannisanti said that a limit on foreign students would deny parents the freedom of signing their children up at the school of their choice.

TEACHER PROTESTS The school year kicked off with a rash of teacher protests against cuts on education spending.

An estimated 16,000 untenured teachers face unemployment this year as result of a cap on short-term contracts introduced by the education ministry.

As students headed back to school, teachers around the country held demonstrations accusing the government of selling the Italian school system short.

The opposition Democratic Party’s pointwoman on education, Mariangela Bastico, said Monday that “getting rid of contract teachers means crowded classrooms and high student-teacher ratios”.

‘There’s hardly a city in Italy that won’t see protests today,” the senator added.

Protests included a hunger strike by a pair of teachers in the Sicilian city of Messina who have been camped in front of the local city hall since the weekend. In a letter asking city authorities to intervene, teacher’s union representatives noted that 40% of cuts to personnel are concentrated in the country’s economically lagging south.

Student activist group “Rete degli studenti” said Monday that “Gelmini can keep talking about reforms” but that until Italy starts investing as much in education as other European countries, “there won’t be any results”.

Gelmini rebutted that the government had “inherited an enormous number” of untenured teachers, all of whom it hoped to place “within a few years”.

In an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the education minister blamed criticism of the government’s education reforms on “a minority of teachers and administrators who confuse the classroom with the political arena”.

Gelmini added that “teachers who want to talk about politics should leave the classroom and run for office”. In June, the cabinet gave the green light to grade school reforms aimed at streamlining the number of curricula on offer and better preparing students to join the workforce.

Apart from the budget cuts, reforms will be phased in gradually to be fully applied in 2013.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Obama to Make Illegals Eligible for Health Care’

Upcoming immigration bill seen as ‘backdoor’ to bring millions into plan

The Obama administration intends to “backdoor” illegal immigrants into its proposed health-care plan by passing an immigration reform bill that would give legal status to as many as 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., charged Radio America talk-radio host Rodger Hedgecock today in Washington, D.C.

Calling comprehensive immigration reform the Obama administration’s “second act,” Hedgecock said illegal immigrants initially would be excluded from the health care plan but would have access to it once comprehensive immigration reform is passed by Congress.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Singapore Will Slow Down Migrant Intake: Report

SINGAPORE — Singapore plans to slow its intake of foreigners to ease discontent at home but needs sustained immigration in the long term, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in remarks published Wednesday.

“We know we cannot take in unlimited numbers of foreign workers,” Lee said at a dialogue with university students late Tuesday, according to The Straits Times newspaper.

“We already have almost a million foreigners working here. I cannot imagine simply expanding year after year, and having two million workers here one day.”

Singapore is undergoing its worst recession since independence in 1965 and more than a million foreign workers and their family members now live in the city-state out of a total population of 4.8 million in 2008.

It does not produce enough babies to replenish the local population and lacks skilled manpower particularly in the services sector, forcing firms to recruit overseas staff, many of whom end up staying permanently.

In letters to newspapers and online chat forums, some Singaporeans have openly questioned the massive influx in recent years and expressed fears of losing out to newcomers in the workplace, schools and social services.

“I understand and empathise with these concerns. Worries have grown because of large inflows in the last few years,” said Lee.

But he said Singapore’s long-term economic prosperity and vibrancy as a business hub was dependent on its ability to draw talented foreign migrants.

“Singapore will need new immigrants for the indefinite future,” he said.

Modern Singapore’s founding father and first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had said previously the country needs foreigners to survive in the long-term.

“Without new citizens and permanent residents, we are going to be ‘The Last of the Mohicans’. We will disappear,” Lee Kuan Yew told an audience at a local university earlier this year.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Attorney General Baroness Scotland’s Housekeeper is an Illegal Immigrant

The minister in charge of prosecuting criminals has been employing an illegal immigrant.

For the past six months Attorney General Baroness Scotland has paid Loloahi Tapui, 27, from Tonga, to look after her large family home in West London. using the National Insurance number issued to her as a student.

Last night Lady Scotland denied knowing of her illegal status and fired her immediately.

But Lady Scotland could theoretically be prosecuted under laws that she is paid to enforce.

Even unknowingly employing an illegal is still an offence, punishable by a £10,000 fine, under legislation that she helped steer through Parliament as a Home Office minister in 2006.

As the most senior lawyer in England and Wales, the Attorney General is legal adviser to the Government and supervises all criminal prosecutions.

Confronted at Lady Scotland’s home yesterday, Miss Tapui admitted she had overstayed her visa and was working illegally.

She confirmed that she had worked for the Attorney General for about six months and said the job was arranged by Lady Scotland’s personal assistant.

Miss Tapui and Lady Scotland both confirmed that the housekeeper did pay tax and National Insurance on her wages.

The fact that Britain’s top law officer could be so easily hoodwinked highlights the lax controls that critics claim are a feature of Labour’s immigration policy.

The revelations are a grave personal embarrassment for Caribbean-born Lady Scotland — the first-ever female Attorney General — and could lead to calls for her to resign.

The case has echoes of former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who quit the cabinet in 2004 after it emerged that he sought to fast-track the visa application of his lover’s Filipina nanny.

Two of Bill Clinton’s nominees as U.S. Attorney General — both women — had to withdraw in 1993 after it emerged that they employed illegal immigrants as nannies and a home help.

Miss Tapui grew up on the remote island of Vava’u. As a citizen of Tonga — formerly part of the British Empire — she does not need a visa to spend fewer than six months in Britain as a tourist.

She was living in the UK in 2003 and successfully applied for a student visa, which entitled her to work legally.

However, her application a year later for an extension was turned down and she was told she should leave the country.

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

UN Criticizes Italy Migrant Action

Govt angered by criticism from UN human rights chief

(ANSA) — Geneva, September 14 — Italy’s treatment of boat migrants arriving from North Africa came under fire from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday. In an address to mark the opening of this year’s session of the UN Human Rights Council, Pillay criticized the practice of forcibly escorting migrants at sea back to their point of departure and referred to a recent incident in which nearly 75 people died after their boat ran out of fuel.

“In a tragic repetition last month, the deaths of migrants at sea, as well as the hardship of those who are left stranded near the shores of Libya, Malta, and Italy, once again drew attention to the plight of migrants and refugees,” the commissioner said. “In many cases, authorities reject these migrants and leave them to face hardship and peril, if not death, as though they were turning away ships laden with dangerous waste”.

Although Pillay did not specifically refer to Italy’s controversial new ‘push-back’ policy, her remarks were interpreted as a rebuke for the initiative, under which migrants and asylum seekers approaching Italian shores are forcibly escorted back to Libya. Her speech drew an angry response from the centre-right government in Rome but praise from the opposition. Programs Implementation Minister Gianfranco Rotondi said the government’s immigration policy was “in line with the rest of Europe”.

“Italy is the stepping point between the Middle East and West, and the government has tackled the sensitive issue of immigration in a clear and responsible manner,” he said. “The UN should bear in mind the efforts made by the [Silvio] Berlusconi government and the brilliant results it has achieved”. The spokesperson of Premier Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, Daniele Capezzone, said Pillay’s “all too frequent” criticisms of Italy were “politically unacceptable”. “It is not clear why Italy should be criticized for having created a policy — of welcoming regular migrants, while being tough on illegal immigration — that is identical to that of all western governments, whatever their political persuasion,” he said. Another PdL member, the parliamentary Schengen Committee Chair Margherita Boniver, said the commissioner should back up her claims with facts. “It is unthinkable that such slanderous accusations are being levelled at Italy, which has always respected international law and which, compared to other European nations, has granted a proportionally higher number of political refugees,” she said. “Such generic accusations unsupported by any facts damage and weaken the UN’s image”.

But opposition heavyweight Rosy Bindi, Deputy Speaker of the House, said the UN commissioner was simply acknowledging the reality of the situation. “She has pronounced a severe sentence on Italy for its immoral push-back policy and its criminalization of immigrants”, said the former minister. “Italy’s image and prestige have already been irreparably damaged. The facts speak for themselves”.

The Senator whip for the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party, said Pillay’s remarks were the latest condemnation in a stream of criticism of government policy. “The Italian government is violating fundamental human rights,” said Anna Finocchiaro. “It cannot ignore the pile of criticism relating to its push-back policy that continues to arrive from extremely authoritative sources”. Last week, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said the policy had resulted in a 90% drop in migrant arrivals since it was launched in May “From May 1 to August 31 2008 more than 15,000 migrants who set out from Libya landed in Italy. During the same period this year, we had 1,400 people, a 90% drop,” Maroni said.

Before this year Italy rescued and brought ashore thousands of people who got into difficulty while making the sea crossing from the North African coast.

But since May more than 1,000 people intercepted in international waters have been sent back to Libya.

Under the agreement with Libya, which is the main departure point in North Africa for migrants heading for Italy, asylum seekers can present their claims from there.

However, the policy has been heavily criticized by the centre-left opposition in Italy, the Catholic Church, humanitarian organizations and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

The UNHCR has complained that Libya does not recognize the agency and does not allow its representatives to visit migrant holding centres in the country.

Critics have also pointed out that Libya does not have a law on asylum, is not a party to 1951 Refugee Convention and does not have a system to process pleas from refugees fleeing conflicts in Africa.

The spokesperson for EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot declined to comment on Pillay’s comments on Monday but said the Italian government had provided a written response to the European Commission’s requests for further information about its push-back policy. “For now, the Commission’s offices are analyzing the content,” said spokesperson Michele Cercone.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UN: Stop Forced Returns; Italy, We Respect Rules

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 14 — Italy has officially answered the sharp admonition by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Pillay, of countries that apply the policy of the forced return of illegal immigrants. The Italian Foreign Ministry said that “the rules of international law constitute the cornerstone of action by the Italian Government, which promotes and hopes for common engagement in order that the rules are respected by everyone and that everyone plays their part.” A note from the Foreign Ministry, which underlines that Italy of course shares Pillay’s words, and “the real concern that animates it, relating to the respect of the sacred nature of human life.” But Italy, said the Foreign Ministry, “is the country that has saved the largest number of human lives in the Mediterranean” and “has done and will continue to do its part.” For Navi Pillay, “the practice of detaining illegal immigrants, their criminalisation and maltreatment in the context of border controls must cease”, saying that, “in many cases, the authorities force these immigrants to return and they leave them to face poverty and danger, if not death itself, as if they were returning boats laden with dangerous waste.” Many Italian politicians from all parties have taken a stance on Pillay’s statements and these of course vary from party to party: attacks on Government action by the Democratic Party (PD), the Christian Democratic Union (UDC) party and Italy of Values; defence and counterattacks by the ruling People of Freedom party (PDL) and the Northern League.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

The Paranoid Center

How the panic over right-wing violence is being used to marginalize peaceful dissent

On June 10, 2009, an elderly man entered the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, raised a rifle, and opened fire, killing a security guard named Stephen Tyrone Johns. Two other guards shot back, wounding the gunman before he could end any more lives.

The killer was soon identified as James Wenneker von Brunn, an 88-year-old neo-Nazi. Von Brunn acted alone, but there was no shortage of voices eager to spread the blame for his crime. The murder was quickly linked, in a free-associative way, to the assassination 10 days earlier of the Kansas abortionist George Tiller. This, we were told, was a “pattern” of “rising right-wing violence.”

More imaginative pundits tried to tie the two slayings to a smattering of other crimes, from an April shootout in Pittsburgh that killed three cops to a year-old double murder at a Knoxville Unitarian church. The longest such list, assembled by the liberal blogger Sara Robinson, included nine diverse incidents linked only by the fact that the criminals all hailed from one corner or another of the paranoid right. One of the episodes involved a mentally disturbed anti-Semite who had stalked a former classmate for two years before killing her in May. “This is how terrorism begins,” Robinson warned.

Crime wave thus established, the analysts moved on to denounce the unindicted instigators. Bonnie Erbe of U.S. News and World Report pinned the museum guard’s death on “promoters of hate,” adding, “If yesterday’s Holocaust Museum slaying of security guard and national hero Stephen Tyrone Johns is not a clarion call for banning hate speech, I don’t know what is.” In The New York Times, columnist Bob Herbert wrote that he “can’t help feeling” the crimes “were just the beginning and that worse is to come”—thanks in part to “the over-the-top rhetoric of the National Rifle Association.” His Times colleague Paul Krugman warned that “right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.” Another Timesman, Frank Rich, announced that “homicide-saturated vituperation is endemic among mini-Limbaughs.” After the museum murder, Rich wrote, the talk show host Glenn Beck “rushed onto Fox News to describe the Obama-hating killer as a ‘lone gunman nutjob.’ Yet in the same show Beck also said von Brunn was a symptom that ‘the pot in America is boiling,’ as if Beck himself were not the boiling pot cheering the kettle on.”

When critics blamed pro-life partisans for the death of George Tiller, there at least was a coherent connection between the pundits’ anti-abortion rhetoric and the assassin’s target. Say what you will about Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, but neither is known for railing against the Holocaust museum. If Beck, to borrow Rich’s mixed metaphor, is cheering on a kettle, it isn’t the kettle that produced James von Brunn.

We’ve heard ample warnings about extremist paranoia in the months since Barack Obama became president, and we’re sure to hear many more throughout his term. But we’ve heard almost nothing about the paranoia of the political center. When mainstream commentators treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a grand, malevolent movement, they unwittingly echo the very conspiracy theories they denounce. Both brands of connect-the-dots fantasy reflect the tellers’ anxieties much more than any order actually emerging in the world.

When such a story is directed at those who oppose the politicians in power, it has an additional effect. The list of dangerous forces that need to be marginalized inevitably expands to include peaceful, legitimate critics.

The Paranoid Style in Center-Left Politics

This isn’t the first time the establishment has been overrun with paranoia about paranoiacs…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]


“Why Are Jews Liberal?”

New York Times 13.09.2009 (USA)

In his latest book “Why Are Jews Liberal”, the neocon thinker Norman Podhoretz is baffled by the fact that, since 1928, on average 75 percent of American Jews vote “against their own interests”. It’s against their interests, says Podhoretz (more here). Leon Wieseltier can’t understand him. He can imagine what Jewish interests might be with respect to Israel, but not in relation to taxes, arms, abortion, environment. “Podhoretz’s book was conceived as the solution to the puzzle that Milton Himmelfarb wittily formulated many years ago: ‘Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.’ I have never understood the reputation of this joke. Why should Jews vote like Episcopalians? We are not Episcopalians. The implication of the joke is that political affiliation should be determined by social position, by levels of affluence. In living rich but voting poor, the Jews of America have failed to demonstrate class solidarity.”

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

Demographic Bomb Explodes

With a birthrate of 1.25 (2.17 is needed just to replace current population), Japan has one of the 10 lowest birthrates in the world.

As a result, it also has the fastest-aging population. Japanese over 60 went from 11.6 percent of the nation in 1989, to 21.2 percent today. It’s estimated that Japan’s workforce will shrink 20 percent by 2030. Throughout history, there has never been an instance of economic growth coupled with declining birthrates.

The new documentary “Demographic Bomb: Demography Is Destiny” (sequel to “Demographic Winter: The Decline of The Human Family”) focuses on the economic consequences of rapidly falling fertility, and the contribution of the population-control movement to the coming demographic train wreck.

In the United States — with a birthrate right around replacement — Demographic Winter has still contributed to the current recession. Baby boomers (76.7 million) are the largest demographic group in our history, followed by the much smaller Gen Xers (49.1 million).

The early boomers are approaching retirement. Many are well beyond their peak spending years. With empty nests, they no longer need large houses and are looking to downsize. Our economy is driven by domestic spending. A much smaller number of Gen Xers can’t pick up the boomers’ slack…

Despite the contribution of falling birthrates to a failing economy, the international population-control movement is in high gear…

With a dedicated ideologue in the White House and friends with political and financial clout, the neo-Malthusians are back with a vengeance, witness the following…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Zenster said...

Lawyers: Alleged Arctic Sea Pirates Needed Help

This steaming pile reeks!

Thrasymachus said...

RE: Jobbik in Europe and in Hungary
I really am getting sick of the left-wing blogger, Eva Balogh, and her disgraceful continued attempts to dismiss the significance and reality of events in Budapest on 23rd October 2006. As she does yet again in the article quoted here, 'Jobbik in Europe and in Hungary.' Like Lenin she seems convinced that, “a lie told often enough, becomes truth.” To quote her, "I watched the coverage of these so-called peaceful demonstrators and I can assure everybody that not one-tenth of her [i.e. Jobbik MEP Krisztina Morvai’s claims about police brutality] story is true."

That Kinga Göncz [the Hungarian Socialist MEP] continued in her campaign of calling the Hungarian Nationalist movement, Neo-Nazi, is not surprising. What remains astonishing however, is the continued behaviour of the EU. The following report was submitted to them and Human Rights bodies immediately after the events of that night. I urge all those interested in reading about the events from first hand witness statements, to read it; before paying too much attention to either Morvai’s rhetoric or Balogh’s misinformation. A Crisis in Hungary – The road to dictatorship?

For the straight dope on these events, and their significance, one could do much worse than read this authoritative article from George Schöpflin (wikipedia him) from 14th November 2006, ”Hungary's cold civil war”.