Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/5/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/5/2009The wildcat strike in the UK has been settled. If you remember, workers had gone on strike in protest against the hiring of foreign workers at an oil refinery.

The refinery reached a settlement with the workers in true “stimulus” fashion: they couldn’t legally lay off the foreign workers, so they simply created enough additional jobs and hired the same number of native Britons.

Make-work for thousands of new employees, lower productivity, higher costs to the consumer, fiscal insanity — and everybody’s happy. Cool Brittania!

Thanks to C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Holger Danske, Insubria, JD, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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All the President’s Tax Cheats
AP Alleges Copyright Infringement of Obama Image
Author of Shocking Iraq Study Accused of Bad Ethics
Demint: Stimulus is a ‘Mugging’
Detention Camps? in America?
Global Warming and the Media
Hackers Clone Passports in Drive-by RFID Heist
Madoff’s Brother Said to Audit Firm’s Investments, Tipster Says
NJ: All Charges Dropped Against Armanious Slaying Suspect
‘No Prospect for a Profit’ on Fed’s Bear [Sterns] Assets
Our I Won President
Republicans as Democrats
RFK Jr.: Hog Farmers Bigger Threat Than Osama
Senate Surgeon Takes Scalpel to Stimulus
What Obama Could Learn From Germany
Canada: Group Slams Tigers’ Toronto ‘Terrorism’
Europe and the EU
Afghan Murder Trial
Arrested Dutch Cartoonist Speaks Out in Denmark
Bill Gates Releases Mosquitoes on Conference Audience
EU: Parliament Calls for Ex-Guantanamo Detainees to be Resettled
Finland: Finnish Men Victims of Sexism?
German’s Terror Trial to Close
Italy: FM Frattini Calls for UN ‘Revitalisation’
Netherlands: Five Towns Win Extra Bus Protection
Norway: Hijab Permitted With Police Uniform
Sweden: DNA Evidence Insufficient for Rape Conviction
Sweden: Officers Reassigned After Racist Remarks
Sweden: Shoe Thrown at Israel’s Ambassador in Stockholm
UK Oil Plant Protest Over
UK: Blunkett Bobbies Are ‘Glorified Security Guards’, Says Scotland Yard Report
UK: David Cameron’s ‘Moral’ Capitalism is No Better Than Socialism
Mediterranean Union
Books: ‘The Maghreb of Books’ in Paris, Focus on Morocco
Crisis: Tunisia Forum, Appeal to Mediterranean Union
Spain-Morocco: Future Leaders From a Sole University
North Africa
Nazi Hunters Brand Claims That SS War Criminal Albert Heim is Dead as ‘Too Perfect’…
Terrorism: Algeria, 5 Soldiers Injured in Explosion
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Kadima Minister Wants Haniyeh ‘‘the Terrorist’’ Dead
Israel: Video
Mid East: Abbas Hopes for National Unity Gov. by End of 2009
Middle East
A Conflict With Turkey Would Mean the Suicide of Israel
Gulf: Delicate Balance Between Market and Cultural Identity
Media: Arab World, Digital Media and TV on Mobile Emerging
Tumours: Saudi Arabia Possible Objective of Expansion, Eio
Russia Retreats From Costly Bail-Outs
South Asia
Indonesia: Burmese Refugees Found Adrift Over Coast
Rescue for 198 Rohingya Refugees Abandoned by Thailand in Open Sea
Far East
Korea: Pyongyang Ready to Test-Fire a New Missile With Nuclear Warhead
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Crisis Picks Up Speed
Sub-Saharan Africa
Dutch to Pick Up Pirates
Latin America
Fossil of 43-Foot Super-Snake Titanoboa Found in Colombia
16 Illegals Sue Rancher Who Catches Them on His Land
Amnesty Kills Democracy and Creates One Party System
Arizona: Inmates Marched to Segregated Area of Tent City
Doctor Migrant ‘Snoop’ Move Slammed
Finland: Growing Education Need for Young Immigrants
France: Permits for Those Who Report Traffickers
Immigrants: Maroni, Clandestine Problem, We Need to be Strict
Italian Bishops Defend Immigrant Rights
Libya: Transit Country to Import Manpower
Culture Wars
Another Look-Alike ‘Marriage’ Proposed for ‘Gays’
Homeschoolers Under Attack — Again!
Legislators Tell Feds to Back Off
Obama’s Justice Pick Supports Porn ‘Rights’
United Nations’ Threat: No More Parental Rights


All the President’s Tax Cheats

You never get a second chance to make a first post-inaugural impression. Less than three weeks into his first 100 days, Barack Obama has left an indelible mark on his nascent presidency: the mark of incompetence and hubris. Despite the administration’s much-touted wealth of bright minds and high bars, the transition has been a complete disaster.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

AP Alleges Copyright Infringement of Obama Image

NEW YORK (AP) — On buttons, posters and Web sites, the image was everywhere during last year’s presidential campaign: a pensive Barack Obama looking upward, as if to the future, splashed in a Warholesque red, white and blue and underlined with the caption HOPE.

Designed by Shepard Fairey, a Los-Angeles based street artist, the image has led to sales of hundreds of thousands of posters and stickers, and has become so much in demand that copies signed by Fairey have been purchased for thousands of dollars on eBay.

The image, Fairey has acknowledged, is based on an Associated Press photograph, taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club in Washington.

The AP says it owns the copyright, and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Author of Shocking Iraq Study Accused of Bad Ethics

WASHINGTON — A prominent group of polling researchers has accused the lead author of a 2006 study suggesting massive civilian deaths in Iraq of violating the polling profession’s codes and ethics.

The Executive Council of the American Association for Public Opinion Research said Dr. Gilbert Burnham, a Johns Hopkins University professor, had repeatedly refused to cooperate with an eight-month investigation into his research on the Iraqi death toll that made headlines in October 2006 when it was published by The Lancet, a British medical journal.

The widely publicized study headed by Burnham contended that nearly 655,000 Iraqis had died because of the U.S.-led invasion and war in Iraq.

“When asked to provide several basic facts about this research, Burnham refused,” the council said in a statement. It noted that the group’s Code of Professional Ethics and Practices calls for researchers to disclose their methodology when survey findings are made public so they can be independently evaluated and verified.

“Dr. Burnham provided only partial information and explicitly refused to provide complete information about the basic elements of his research,” said Mary Losch, chair of the association’s Standards Committee.

The group made no judgment on whether Burnham’s findings were accurate but said his refusal to fully cooperate with the probe “violates the fundamental standards of science, seriously undermines open public debate on critical issues and undermines the credibility of all survey and public opinion research.”

Burnham is the co-director of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He could not be reached for comment.

Tim Parsons, a spokesman for the school said: “We are disappointed AAPOR has chosen to find Dr. Burnham in violation of the organization’s ethics code. However, neither Dr. Burnham nor the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are members of AAPOR.”

Burnham’s research was based on interviews of households and not a body count. It found that about 600,000 Iraqis had died from violence, mostly gunfire. It also found a small increase in deaths from other causes such as heart disease and cancer.

He contended that as of the date of his study, deaths were occurring in Iraq at a rate more than three times higher than before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Burnham’s research, released just weeks before congressional midterm elections, was immediately questioned by some experts who said the figures appeared too high. An accurate count of Iraqi deaths has been difficult to obtain, but one respected group put its rough estimate at the time of Burnham’s study closer to 50,000.

An AP survey found about 151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the three years since the United States invaded.

Burnham said at the time that his estimate was much higher than others because it was derived from a house-to-house survey rather than approaches that depend on body counts or media reports.

The Association for Public Opinion Research said it began investigating Burnham’s findings in March 2008 after one of its members complained. It said it had several times formally requested basic information about the survey, including the wording of questions asked and instructions and explanations given to respondents. It said Burnham refused to provide the information.

Burnham is not a member of the group, which says it has nearly 2,200 members from government agencies, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, media corporations and commercial polling firms.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Christian Right Challenges Obama’s Justice Picks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Christian conservatives are challenging President Barack Obama’s picks for top Justice Department positions, charging that past clients like Playboy taint their resumes.

The criticism comes ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing Thursday for David Ogden, Obama’s pick for deputy attorney general, the No. 2 position at the Justice Department.

Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, was confirmed by the Senate on Monday and started work the next day. As he waits for confirmation of his top aides, many on the religious right are questioning the nominee’s backgrounds, saying they have promoted far left, pro-abortion, pro-gay policies.

“Ogden has been an activist in the support of a right to pornography, a right of abortion and the rights of homosexuals,” said Patrick Trueman, a former Justice Department official during the first Bush presidency who is now in private practice.

“It isn’t so much that he’s represented pornographers or that he’s been a porn attorney, but it’s his world view, and his world view reflects President Obama’s world view,” said Trueman, echoing criticism from conservative activist groups like the American Family Association and Focus on the Family.

While a private attorney, Ogden argued on behalf of Playboy and librarians fighting congressionally mandated Internet filtering software. His clients also include corporate giants such as an oil company and the pharmaceutical industry.

The challenge to Obama’s Justice picks come as conservative evangelicals seek to limit the power of the new Democratic administration and maintain their own within the Republican Party.

Some Republicans believe a tight embrace of social conservative values turns off independents and moderates, but many Christian right leaders resist compromise and contend that, if anything, the GOP has strayed too far from its principles.

Besides Ogden, conservatives also have taken aim at two other Justice picks — Indiana University professor Dawn Johnsen for her association with an abortion rights group, and Thomas Perrelli, who represented the husband of Terry Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman at the center of a right-to-die case that energized evangelical groups across the country.

Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland and a past colleague of the three during the Clinton administration, said the conservatives’ criticism of the trio is unusual and unwarranted.

“Usually, you may have a fight over who the attorney general is, but this is not par for the course, picking off next to the attorney general three of his top appointments,” Greenberger said. “This is harassment and it is an attempt to reverse the election.”

Accusations of political manipulation at the Justice Department are not new. Over the past two years, the Bush administration has been investigated and excoriated by Democrats for making firing and hiring decisions based on political considerations.

Tom Minnery, a vice president at Focus on the Family, charges that through the nominations, the new Democratic administration is not depoliticizing, but re-politicizing the Justice Department.

“They take our breath away the more we learn about these people,” said Minnery. “This is left-wing politicization of the Justice Department. This is not a Justice Department that looks like America.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Demint: Stimulus is a ‘Mugging’

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said that he likes President Obama but has no love for his stimulus plan.

“This bill is not a stimulus, ladies and gentlemen; it is a mugging. It is a fraud,” DeMint said during a speech at The Heritage Foundation on Thursday, TalkingPointsMemo reported.

DeMint said that the bill was “the worst piece of economic legislation Congress has considered in a hundred years.”

“Not since the passage in 1909 of the 16th Amendment — which cleared the way for a federal income tax — has the United States seriously entertained a policy so comprehensively hostile to economic freedom, nor so arrogantly indifferent to economic reality,” he added.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Detention Camps? in America?

What goes on here?

Jerome Corsi’s breathtaking story in WND earlier this week is giving me heart palpitations.

In case you missed it, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., a former judge impeached in 1981 by a Democratic House of Representatives and only the sixth federal judge ever to be removed by the U.S. Senate, has introduced a bill to establish at least six emergency centers for U.S. civilians in the event of some future, unspecified crisis.

“The bill also appears to expand the president’s emergency power, much as the executive order signed by President Bush on May 9, 2007, that, as WND reported, gave the president the authority to declare an emergency and take over the direction of all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments without even consulting Congress,” the story continues.

And here’s some further context: “As WND also reported, DHS has awarded a $385 million contract to Houston-based KBR, Halliburton’s former engineering and construction subsidiary, to build temporary detention centers on an ‘as-needed’ basis in national emergency situations.”

I don’t like it.

I don’t trust Washington.

And I sure don’t trust Alcee Hastings.

In 1981, the former judge, appointed by Jimmy Carter, was charged with accepting a $150,000 bribe in exchange for a lenient sentence and a return of seized assets for 21 counts of racketeering by Frank and Thomas Romano, and of perjury in his testimony about the case. He was acquitted by a jury after his alleged co-conspirator, William Borders, refused to testify. Borders went to jail.

In 1988, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives took up the case, and Hastings was impeached for bribery and perjury by a vote of 413-3. Even Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers and Charlie Rangel voted to impeach Hastings. He was then easily convicted by the U.S. Senate and removed from office.

The Senate had the option to forbid Hastings from ever seeking federal office again, but — unwisely — did not do so.

So Hastings came back in 1993 to win his House seat.

Now he is promoting the building of “camps” for U.S. civilians.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Global Warming and the Media

Give Us All the Facts

You may have noticed that some of President Obama’s most ardent supporters speak of him in almost messianic terms. But there’s one public figure who apparently means it literally: James Hansen of NASA.

Hansen, who is the “father” of the global warming movement, recently told the U.K. Guardian that the new President “has only four years to save the world.” Unless we implement drastic measures like a “moratorium on new power plants that burn coal” and a hefty “carbon tax,” we face an apocalyptic future —”global flooding, wide-spread species loss and major disruptions of weather patterns.”

Of course, Hansen’s warnings made headlines around the world. Not only because “doom and gloom” sells, but because the mainstream media treats any claim about man-made global warming with the utmost credulity.

Thus, last summer, when a “researcher” claimed that global warming might lead to more violent earthquakes, news outlets trumpeted the story.

In their haste, they neither asked how warmer temperatures can cause earthquakes nor checked the researcher’s credentials. These included previous pieces on something called the “Thiaoouba Prophecy” and reading auras. Really. The story was quickly deleted from the outlets’ websites without retraction or comment.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Hackers Clone Passports in Drive-by RFID Heist

[Comment from JD: using RFID for passports is a bad idea.]

A British hacker has shown how easy it is to clone US passport cards that use RFID by conducting a drive-by test on the streets of San Francisco.

Chris Paget, director of research and development at Seattle-based IOActive, used a US$250 Motorola RFID reader and an antenna mounted in a car’s side window and drove for 20 minutes around San Francisco, with a colleague videoing the demonstration.

During the demonstration he picked up the details of two US passport cards, which are fitted with RFID chips and can be used instead of traditional passports for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

“I personally believe that RFID is very unsuitable for tagging people,” he said.

“I don’t believe we should have any kind of identity document with RFID tags in them. My ultimate goal here would be, my dream for this research, would be to see the entire Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative be scrapped.”

Using the data gleaned it would be relatively simple to make cloned passport cards he said. Real passport cards also support a ‘kill code’ (which can wipe the card’s data) and a ‘lock code’ that prevents the tag’s data being changed.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Madoff’s Brother Said to Audit Firm’s Investments, Tipster Says

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) — Bernard Madoff rejected an investment fund demand for an outside audit of his performance, saying only his brother Peter was allowed to do that “for reasons of secrecy,” a certified fraud examiner testified to Congress.

Harry Markopolos, who sought for nine years to persuade U.S. regulators that Bernard Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme, told U.S. lawmakers today that “a fund of funds representing Arab money” had been told by Madoff that it could not have an international accounting firm verify his performance. The tip was contained in documents released as part of Markopolos’s testimony to a House Financial Services Committee panel.

“Amazingly, this London-based fund of funds invested over $200 million of their Arab client’s money anyway because the low volatility of returns was so attractive,” Markopolos told the SEC in 2000, according to a summary of his presentation, which listed the allegation among “hearsay” tips he’d passed on.

Markopolos summarized the allegation in a paragraph titled: “Madoff does not allow outside performance audits.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

NJ: All Charges Dropped Against Armanious Slaying Suspect

All charges have been dropped against Hamilton Sanchez, the suspected accomplice in the Armanious family slaying in Jersey City, Jersey Journal reporter Michaelangelo Conte reports from the Hudson County courthouse.

No physical evidence had connected Sanchez to the brutal killings and Edward McDonald, who was convicted of felony murder in the case, refused to testify against his co-defendant.

Sanchez has been held for nearly four years, having been arrested in March 2005, without begin brought to trial.

In a jailhouse interview with The Jersey Journal published in June, he said halfway house records proved he was innocent.

Each member of the Armanious family — Hossam Armanious, 47; his wife, Amal Garas, 37; and their two daughters, Sylvia, 16, and Monica, 9 — was stabbed multiple times while bound and gagged with duct tape in their Oakland Avenue home during a botched robbery on Jan. 11, 2005.

Their bodies were found days later in their two-family residence when concerned relatives went to police after being unable to contact the family.

McDonald was the Armanious family’s upstairs tenant.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

‘No Prospect for a Profit’ on Fed’s Bear [Sterns] Assets

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) — U.S. taxpayers may be stuck with losses on $30 billion of Bear Stearns Cos. assets owned by the Federal Reserve even though the central bank has said otherwise, according to Robert A. Eisenbeis, Cumberland Associates Inc.’s chief monetary economist.

“There is no prospect for a profit on the assets,” Eisenbeis wrote in a report yesterday. “Losses are mounting.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Our I Won President

I won. — President Barack Obama

Having Barack Obama as our first black president is analogous to Dennis Rodman having been America’s first black basketball player. No one can deny Mr. Rodman’s credentials as an outstanding basketball player, unless one is a mental deficient. However, no one can deny that he is also a skanky creep, unless one is a mental deficient bereft of any character whatsoever.

He’s from Hawaii, OK? He likes it warm. — Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, referencing Obama’s predilection for keeping the Oval Office at greenhouse temperatures

This from the man who admonished that Americans “can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times” while campaigning in Oregon in 2008.

This vile hypocrisy, arrogance, elitism and debasement of America’s core philosophy is typical of what many have come to expect from the far left.

First (as I illustrated last week in this space), President Obama ordered our military detention center in Cuba closed, hamstrung the CIA as regards methods used against captured enemy combatants, affirmed the undeclared war on conservative media and imprudently kowtowed to radical Islam — all within two weeks after the most expensive inaugural in American history.

Then, this pretentious clown (and I mean that in the most Ringling Brothers sort of way) publicly ripped into corporate executives for the economic problems the world is facing to perpetuate the myth that they are responsible, when he knows — he knows — that the Barney Frank and Chris Dodd (the only senator to take more from Fannie Mae than Obama himself) contingent in Congress actually brought it all about. It is his own party that gingerly and eagerly flicked the first domino with its augmentation of the Community Reinvestment Act.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Red Faces About ‘Green’ Jobs

It’s red faces for those claiming government should subsidize “green” jobs for American workers.

According to new reports, they’re not very well-paying jobs, and many could be exported to overseas workers. Plus, many of the other jobs from the bill would go to illegal immigrants!

President Obama and others such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want to subsidize alternative energy to the tune of $15 billion of taxpayers’ money each year for 10 years. They claim it will produce 5 million “green jobs.” Basically, it’s billions in “walking around” money to help their political allies hire people.


The “good news” about green jobs may be that the Institute for Energy Research says it will require 600,000 new government bureaucrats to administer the program. Just that thought may turn some people’s faces green!

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Republicans as Democrats

A brief glimmer of sanity among Congressional Republicans has been followed, almost immediately, by a return to the more traditional Washington insanity.. Last week, every single Republican in the House of Representatives voted against the Obama administration’s “stimulus” package — which had stimulated an orgy of runaway spending by Congressional Democrats on everything from sports arenas to sexually transmitted diseases.

This was a rare smart move by the Republicans. If the Republicans had gone along, pursuing the will o’ the wisp of “bipartisanship,” then if the stimulus had by some miracle succeeded, it would have been a bill for which Democrats would claim credit at the next election.


Within 24 hours, however, Republicans in the Senate came out with a plan to have the government fix mortgage interest rates at four percent — and use taxpayers’ money to cover the losses that lenders would otherwise sustain.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

RFK Jr.: Hog Farmers Bigger Threat Than Osama

Environmental lawyer turns committee hearing into diatribe against pork

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. today turned a congressional subcommittee hearing into a diatribe on the dangers faced by the United States, affirming that hog producers are a far greater threat to the nation’s future than Osama bin Laden and his terror network.

Kennedy’s comments came in response to a question from U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

King asked whether a comment attributed to Kennedy in a published Iowa report in 2002 was accurate. According to the report, Kennedy stated, “Large-scale hog producers are a greater threat to the United States and U.S. democracy than Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.”

“Is that an accurate quote?” asked King, whose state includes thousands of small businesses producing pork.

“I believe it and I support it,” Kennedy said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Senate Surgeon Takes Scalpel to Stimulus

Just when you thought it was impossible to stop the Obama administration and Congress from going on an uncontrolled spending spree with our tax dollars, a lowly junior senator with no political aspirations has stepped up to defend us.

While Republicans have offered an alternate to the so-called economic stimulus bill that has zero chance of being enacted, and the infamous gang of 14 moderates (some say 20) is meeting to come up with a pork-lite compromise, Tom Coburn, the only practicing doctor in the United States Senate, is doing what he does best — taking a scalpel to the massive bill in an effort to carve it down to size.


Dr. Coburn, who is a self-appointed taxpayer watchdog, has term-limited himself. He is the kind of lawmaker our Founding Fathers had in mind when they designed our system of government. He is the only federal legislator who still goes home to a “real” job on weekends.

The first tumor he successfully removed from the bill was an outrageous $246 million earmark for Hollywood’s movie moguls. This was a thinly veiled payoff to some of Obama’s biggest supporters. While most industries are suffering, this one is raking in record profits.

Here’s a partial list of other amendments he plans to offer:

* Require that all money given to states be in the form of a loan that must be repaid;

* Require the “making work pay” tax credit to families be non-refundable ( a true tax credit and not an expansion of welfare);

* Strike the $2 billion for the FutureGen clean coal power plant to be built in the president’s home state of Illinois (Last year, the government pulled the plug on this spending boondoggle because it is not cost-effective);

* No funds may go to a public or private institution of higher education that has an endowment of more than $15 billion and/or spends more than $100,000 on lobbying annually;

* Allow no more that $1 billion for federal agency projects inside the Beltway;

* Require that all contracts must be subject to competitive bids;

* Strike the $3.25 billion for Workforce Investment Act programs since the WIA has not been reauthorized and the GAO has found it duplicates job-training programs across eight different federal agencies;

* Convert the $9 billion for broadband into loans for Internet service providers and telecom companies for infrastructure in market-sustainable areas;

* Prohibit any money from going to Corps of Engineer projects until all the unfinished projects have been completed;

* Prohibit funds for new federal buildings until the government reduces its inventory of surplus real property by 50 percent.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Godless Stimulus

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…unless your institution of higher learning is getting part of the massive (nearly $900-billion and counting) Obama/Reid/Pelosi stimulus proposal.

Both versions of the bill, the House version (H.R. 1) that passed on Jan. 28 by a 244-188 margin, without a single Republican vote, and the Senate version (S. 336), which will probably be voted on in the next few days — include language that would “prohibit” modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities:

(i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or (ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission

Such language is regrettable and could leave some institutions of higher learning susceptible to a legal action by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) according to a spokesman from South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s office.

“This is an ACLU stimulus, because any school that gets funds to upgrade a student center or building where Bible studies or religious meetings may be held will be slapped with a lawsuit,” Wesley Denton, spokesman for DeMint, told the Culture and Media Institute. “This bill declares a war on prayer at college campuses in this country. Students have constitutional right to use public facilities regardless of their religious views, and President Obama needs to step in to ask Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi to stop this attack on students of faith.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

What Obama Could Learn From Germany

The United States is experiencing its worst crisis in decades. Obama is trying to fight it by preparing one gigantic economic stimulus program after the other. But the hangover is inevitable, and if the desired economic miracle doesn’t materialize, it will be a massive one.

The most attractive thing about globalization is that it has enabled us to develop international tastes in our shopping. Our wine comes from France, our flat-screen televisions from Korea and our elegant shoes from Italy.

But you can also find good ideas for governing by shopping for them around the world. The catalogue of ideas is packed. Indeed, many countries have answers to the question on everyone’s mind these days: “How do I rescue my economy?”

But the new US president prefers American-made products. And even if the Senate has watered down the internationally contested protectionist provisions in the US economic stimulus package, “Buy American” remains a popular term in the heartland as Washington navigates the muddy waters of this crisis. For Obama, the obvious course was to opt for an XXL-sized stimulus package complete with a job-creation program, even if that meant a huge deficit. It is a concept that was developed and tested by former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s.

FDR, as the Depression- and World War II-era president is commonly known, remains popular in the United States today. Obama describes him as his role model.

The idea works like this: You take money that you don’t have, you let it rain down on the people and public construction projects start to spring up all across the country. Under FDR, the country built 900,000 kilometers of new roads, 77,000 new bridges and 285 additional airports. Under Obama, the country will see millions of new high-speed Internet connections, health insurance companies will obtain modern computer systems and the parks on Capitol Hill will be freshly landscaped.

It’s a shame, though, that Obama hasn’t shopped around a bit more. He could have looked to Germany for ideas — its competing plan for rescuing the economy is certainly worth a look. It’s cheaper and has a longer shelf life than a lot of the other products currently available on the intellectual market. It originated in the 1950s and is referred to as a “culture of stability.”

It was the handiwork of former German Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard, better known as the father of the country’s post-war Wirtschaftswunder (“economic miracle”). Erhard’s model not only functions differently from FDR’s, it also smells different — namely of sweat.

His plan shuns excessive debt. His argument was that people would first make an effort when money became tight and, thus, more valuable. You get the best results, he found, if, in the tried and true manner of our forefathers, you work hard and don’t forget to save. “The state can’t afford anything that doesn’t come from the strength of its own people,” was the message. He also could have said: No pain, no gain.

The Roosevelt model is more generous in this respect — one could also say more careless. The same rules apply which were standard until the beginning of the American real estate crisis: we’ll give you the keys today, no down-payment necessary, we’ll send you the bill later. Of course you can pay in installments…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Canada: Group Slams Tigers’ Toronto ‘Terrorism’

Sri Lankan Canadians accuse local Tamils of using extortion, intimidation tactics

Intimidation and extortion continues in Toronto’s Sri Lankan community despite a government ban on fundraising for the Tamil Tigers, an impassioned group of Sri Lankan Canadians said yesterday.

“There is homegrown terrorism here against people. The collection of money is still going on,” said Hasaka Rathnamalala of the Sri Lankan United National Association of Canada, which called a news conference to counter claims of Tamil genocide made last week during a massive demonstration in Toronto.

“The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) has killed more Tamil people than anyone else,” he said. “Sri Lankans are suffering. The only way to stop it is to finish the LTTE. They created the war.”

Although Tamils, who are Hindu, are the minority in Sri Lanka to the Buddhist Sinhalese majority, they form the majority of the 200,000-strong Sri Lankan community in Greater Toronto. The 25-year war in Sri Lanka hit a new and bloodier stage last week as troops of the Sinhalese-dominated government cornered the Tigers in the northeast, the stronghold of the Tigers who have been fighting for a separate country.

The group showed a video shot outside Kaveri Supermarket in Mississauga last Nov. 27, a day the Tamil community designates as the annual Maaveerar Remembrance Day to honour “fallen freedom fighters” and which Rathnamalala says glorifies suicide bombers. Supermarket workers said they were told by Tamil organizers to close for the event.

Rathnamalala said intimidation tactics have included smashed car windshields, looted homes, computerized identity theft and threats to shut down businesses.

His organization helped lobby the Conservative government last year to ban the World Tamil Movement, a Canadian group that is alleged to raise money for the Tigers. In 2006, the Canadian government had declared the Tigers a terrorist organization. Human Rights Watch has documented intimidation tactics used on Tamils in Toronto to donate to the Tiger cause.

His face covered with a bandana and sunglasses, a 23-year-old Toronto student who is a Sinhalese Sri Lankan said he feared reprisals from Tamil students for his denunciation of the Tigers yesterday.

Sashya Karunanayake had no such qualms. The 17-year-old student at L’Amoreaux Collegiate in Agincourt, a Sinhalese Sri Lankan, said she has “loads of” Tamil friends. “I admire their enthusiasm, but I wish they weren’t just taking their cues from their parents.”

While the news focuses on the war, she said, she wanted to be on the side “of the people fighting to keep Sri Lanka together. Giving away the north would be just like Canada giving Quebec away.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Afghan Murder Trial

Doubts About German ‘Honor Killing’

The murder of a 16-year-old Afghan girl by her brother in May sparked media speculation that yet another honor killing had happened in Germany. Now, with the trial coming to a close, it seems likely the crime was the product of sibling rivalry.

There are words that act like sparks, and some words form the single spark that can trigger a deadly explosion.

He just wanted to talk to her, says Ahmad-Sobair O., 24, who now faces murder charges. He says he just wanted to ask her whether she was prostituting herself, and whether the things they were saying about her were true. She responded to his questions with that one fateful sentence. It would be her last sentence, and her tone was probably flippant or even contemptuous. “It’s none of your goddamned business!”

That was when he stabbed her. Morsal, his 16-year-old sister, fell to the ground. She managed to pull herself up again, and as she stumbled toward him, he stabbed her again and again, a total of 23 times. He stabbed her in the chest, in the lungs, in the legs and in the back. By that point he no longer knew what part of her body he was stabbing.

He described how he panicked and ran to the subway, bleeding, because Morsal had defended herself. When he left the train, he took a taxi and told the driver to drive around the streets. He then bought alcohol at a gas station, got out of the cab and called his girlfriend, who was sleeping. He was beside himself. When the young woman found him in a park, she didn’t know what to do next. Then she could hardly believe what he was telling her.

In the night of May 15, 2008, at the scene of the crime, a parking lot at the Berliner Tor subway station in Hamburg, emergency doctors spent half an hour trying to save Morsal’s life. She had lost a lot of blood, and she died en route to the hospital. When her mother learned of the killing, she shouted: “You have killed everyone, my son!”

The news of the murder had hardly been released before the media machinery began churning out the usual catchphrases: immigration background, honor killings, failed integration. The older brother, born in 1984 in Kabul, Afghanistan, a “killer,” had killed his attractive sister Morsal because of her Western lifestyle, the media reported, suggesting it may have been on the family’s orders. That was the way things usually happened in these cases, and the authorities had probably failed, once again.

The trial against Ahmad began in December 2008, before the criminal division of the Hamburg District Court. It was a stroke of luck that the presiding judge in this emotionally charged criminal matter, a case bound to trigger outrage and consternation, was Wolfgang Backen, a sensitive and fair-minded judge. After a few days of hearings, he managed to develop a picture of the circumstances leading up to the horrible crime that would disprove the usual stereotypes.

He heard how the crime was not committed by a willing tool of a family clan clinging to archaic values, but by an extremely aggressive, unstable young man. Since childhood, he had tried to compensate for his feelings of inferiority and fear of failure with violent, frightening behavior. It was not the fault of his genes or of the fact that he was born in Kabul. But his behavior did reflect his experiences at home. He had allegedly learned firsthand that problems were solved by scratching and biting, hitting and kicking.

The parents had been prosperous when the family lived in Afghanistan. They were respected people. The father, trained in the Soviet Union as a military pilot, flew sorties against the increasingly powerful mujaheddin in legendary MIG-21 fighter jets. His very young wife cared for Ahmad and the second child, a daughter.

When the Soviets withdrew in the late 1980s, the father fled to Moscow. His wife and the children moved to Ukraine, where they stayed with an uncle. Morsal was born in 1991. In 1992, the father went to Germany and settled in Hamburg, where an Afghan refugee community had formed. He brought his wife and children to Germany in 1994. By then the fighter pilot had become a bus driver.

Ahmad, only 10 at the time, had already been uprooted twice. He was finally sent to school, where he was unruly and even attacked teachers, and he soon developed a violent reputation. Whenever he was teased for being small, he would lash out at his tormentors. He took growth hormones and testosterone for several years. He was expelled from school in 1995. He barely managed to make it through a special school for students with learning disabilities. He had trouble finishing things.

Beginning in 2001, the family was in constant contact with social service agencies. Ahmad became delinquent. In an effort to escape his father’s violent outbursts, he sought protection from a social worker. “He said that he couldn’t go back home, and that he would sleep in my office if he had to,” the social worker said, testifying at his trial. He was admitted to a youth shelter. “Did you ever try to examine the reasons for his criminality?” the presiding judge asked. “He didn’t talk about it,” the woman responded. “He used his charm to get his way, and he was convinced that he could manage on his own.”

Morsal, his younger sister, was said to have admired Ahmad for having found a way out of his ongoing conflict with their powerless parents. Through her, the bright, self-confident little sister, who was accepted in school and respected for fearlessly standing up for weaker fellow students, Ahmad suddenly acquired an important role in the family: To protect Morsal from their parents, who responded to the problems of their adolescent children with stereotypical violence. Ahmad called Morsal “my star.”

In many families, the children’s adolescent years are marked by conflict and a mutual lack of understanding, even without an “immigration background.” Morsal began to dress differently, and to smoke and wear makeup, which the parents tolerated, but only reluctantly. But she was not required to wear a headscarf and she was permitted to take part in physical education and class trips. Soon she began spending nights away from the family’s apartment. Testifying at the trial, the social worker said: “She was only 15. Even when we got her a spot in the girls’ shelter, she wouldn’t go there. It was certainly worrying.”

Morsal didn’t last long anywhere. She stayed at the apartment of her brother, who was no longer under any restraint. She sought refuge several times with the Hamburg children’s and adolescent emergency service agency, and she repeatedly returned home. Was she too young for a life outside the family? She could see how her helpless parents were destroying themselves. Was she afraid to leave her mother alone? “She was very ambivalent. But she didn’t want to talk about it,” says the social worker. The two siblings didn’t discuss the family. Perhaps they lacked the right words, or perhaps they were ashamed.

But Morsal also said almost nothing about the nine months her parents had forced her to spend in Afghanistan, where they wanted her to witness the arduous lives of women there. Who brought her back? Her father? Her brother? An uncle? Did they send her there to cure her of her unruliness? All sorts of rumors circulated.

In 2008, she received a place at Hopeful Hearts, a youth welfare facility in Brunsholm, a town in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. The parents reportedly approved of her placement there but her stay ended after two weeks. The staff at the facility attempted to take away her mobile phone, which she had used to stay in touch with people who were considered a bad influence, and not just by the family. Friends later reported that Morsal had become irritable and short-tempered.

By that time she was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, and coming and going as she pleased. Her grades slipped and she became moody. She cut herself deliberately. Her mother was concerned because Morsal had money that she had not received at home. Ahmad tried to find out when she left school and where she went. But she acted as if he meant nothing to him. She loved him, and yet she was afraid of him. It was described as a highly ambivalent relationship. By then he was hitting her, following in the footsteps of their father, mother, older sister and younger brother.

On the day of the murder, Ahmad saw his sister with a group of young men under a covered walkway at Hamburg’s main train station. He met friends at a bar, and four girls joined them. Ahmad asked them whether they knew where his sister was getting her money. One said that Morsal was probably turning tricks. His little sister! In tears, he responded: “But we’re not in Afghanistan anymore.” As it turned out, the irresponsible gossip was nothing but hot air.

Nevertheless, Ahmad called his mother. He was distraught and she tried to calm him down. “Stay out of this,” she said, “it’s our business!” Ahmad called a cousin and asked him to bring Morsal to the Berliner Tor station in the evening, saying that he wanted to talk to her. If Ahmad had not been carrying a knife (he had been knifed once himself), Morsal would probably still be alive.

The judges rejected a favorable report on the defendant by Michael Kreißig, a psychiatrist who had been trained in the former East Germany. In the report, Kreißig wrote: “The crime of which he is accused was embedded in and the culmination of an unparalleled history of suffering on the part of Morsal, in which the person being assessed was an active participant and was probably involved with the parents’ approval.” But the conclusion was erroneous. The defense attorneys, Thomas Bliwier and Hartmut Jacobi, also rejected Kreißig’s testimony, arguing that they were concerned that he could be biased.

The court replaced Kreißig with Marianne Röhl, a psychiatrist with a reputation at the Hamburg district attorney’s office for being too biased toward defendants. But in the Morsal case, her conclusions could hardly be overlooked. She diagnosed the emotionally unstable defendant with a narcissistic personality disorder and found clear evidence that the murder was a crime of passion at the end of a long-smoldering conflict between the siblings.

The district attorney’s office questioned the findings and demanded “another expert witness.” But the court is unlikely to grant the request simply because the district attorney’s office is unhappy with the second psychiatrist’s conclusions.

According to Röhl, there were no indications of a murder plan. Ahmad asked Morsal a question that she could have answered differently. He told the court that her words — “It’s none of your goddamned business” — had caused him to experience a “tremendous emotional breakthrough.” If Ahmad had wanted to kill her, Röhl believes, he would not have asked.

The court plans to announce, on Feb. 5, whether it will allow Röhl’s testimony.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Arrested Dutch Cartoonist Speaks Out in Denmark

COPENHAGEN, 05/02/09 — For the first time since his arrest, Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot has spoken in public. This did not take place in the Netherlands though but in Denmark, at the invitation of the Free Press Society.

The organisation wished to give Nekschot a platform in Copenhagen in protest against “that shameless Netherlands, with that shameless government, which is endangering freedom to speech,” the president of the Free Press Society, Lars Hedegaard, said in De Volkskrant newspaper yesterday.

The Dutch cartoonist wore an Islamic all-enveloping robe in Copenhagen, making him totally unrecognisable. He chose a nikab as a statement against Islam as a suffocating ideology, but also to show that he has been living in “a prison” for almost a year although he has not been physically locked up.

The then relatively unknown cartoonist was arrested in his home in Amsterdam on 13 May 2008 for causing offence and inciting to hatred. He is still awaiting a decision from the Public Prosecutors’ Office (OM) on whether he will be prosecuted.

Nekschot, who has never dared to show his face or reveal his true name in the media, stated the arrest has put him in danger. His anonymity is at risk; if he is prosecuted, everyone will know who he is — including Muslim extremists. “Look what happened to Theo van Gogh,” De Volkskrant quoted him as saying.

After the Danish cartoon riots, the Dutch government set up an ‘Interdepartmental Work Group on Cartoon Problems’. Nekschot says he was arrested by this group — “the most ridiculous institution ever in Dutch history” — as a gesture to the Arab world.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Bill Gates Releases Mosquitoes on Conference Audience

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder turned philanthropist, released a swarm of mosquitoes at a technology conference to make a point about the deadly sting of malaria.

“Malaria is spread by mosquitoes,” Mr Gates said while opening a jar onstage at a gathering known to attract technology kings, politicians, and Hollywood stars.

“I brought some. Here I’ll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected.”

Mr Gates waited a minute or so before assuring the audience the liberated insects were malaria-free.

The Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference curator, Chris Anderson joked that the headline for the video of Mr Gates’s talk to be posted online at would be “Gates releases more bugs into the world”.

Mr Gates detailed the strides made in dealing with malaria in affluent countries and the need to fight the disease in impoverished nations.

“There is more money put into baldness drugs than into malaria,” he quipped. “Now, baldness is a terrible thing and rich men are afflicted. That is why that priority has been set.”

He called for aggressive distribution of insect netting and other gear proven to protect people from disease-transmitting stings.

He also shared that a malaria vaccine backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation should start Phase Three testing in a few months.

“I am an optimist; I think any tough problem can be solved,” Mr Gates said.

“The market does not drive scientists, thinkers, or governments to do the right things. Only by paying attention and making people care can we make as much progress as we need to.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

EU: Parliament Calls for Ex-Guantanamo Detainees to be Resettled

Strasbourg, 4 Feb. (AKI) — The European parliament has endorsed President Barack Obama’s decision to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and called on member states to accept detainees for resettlement.

Last week European Union foreign ministers said they wanted to help on humanitarian grounds, but would not respond until the US could show that the prisoners were not a security risk.

The European parliament on Wednesday adopted a resolution welcoming Obama’s decision to close the prison within a year saying that the US bore the prime responsibility for the future of the detainees held there.

“The inmates have been denied their fundamental human rights, notably the right of fair trial, and have been subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, which amount to torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment,” the resolution noted.

“Those who are not to be charged and cannot be repatriated — (due to the) real risk of torture or persecution in his home country — should be given the opportunity to be admitted to the United States and afforded redress.”

However the parliament called on member states to “be prepared” to accept Guantanamo inmates. The resolution was endorsed with 542 in favour, 55 against and 51 abstentions.

“MEPs also call on the member states, should the United States administration so request, to cooperate in finding solutions, to be prepared to accept Guantanamo inmates in the EU,” it said.

“Member states have a duty of loyal cooperation to consult each other on possible repercussions on public security throughout the EU,” the resolution said.

A US task force has been given 30 days to recommend where the 242 detainees should go — so far no formal request have come from the European Union.

Albania is the only country to have so far accepted Guantanamo detainees on humanitarian grounds, taking in five members of China’s Uighur ethnic minority in 2006.

Portugal and Ireland are among the countries believed to be considering the prospect of accepting former Guantanamo prisoners (photo).

The controversial prison camp was set up in January 2002 to hold terrorism suspects captured after the 9/11 attacks.

Many of the prisoners have been held for years without trial and the US wants to try about 80 of the prisoners on terrorism charges.

Fifty other Guantanamo detainees have been cleared of charges but cannot be returned to their home countries as there are fears they could be persecuted there.

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

Finland: Finnish Men Victims of Sexism?

A new doctoral thesis claims that almost all men in Finland at some point in their lives are the victims of sex discrimination.

According to Pasi Malmi, a Licentiate in Administrative Sciences, the discrimination gets side-stepped in the name of sexual equality.

Malmi is a board member of the Finnish Society for Men’s Studies and a vice chair of Gender Equality for Men in Finland. He currently works as an information technology consultant, while conducting research on the side.

Malmi’s research looks at 800 complaints and a number of surveys on gender equality discrimination. Malmi says sex discrimination takes place both in and outside of the work place.

Malmi’s thesis is being examined at the University of Lapland today.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

German’s Terror Trial to Close

Verdict Expected in Djerba Bombing Case

The Djerba bombing trial is drawing to a close at the end of this week in Paris. The sole German defendant claims he is innocent, but he is likely to be sentenced nonetheless on charges of being a member of al-Qaida.

Christian Ganczarski is sitting in the front left-hand corner of a glass box with rectangular ventilation slits. Five armed gendarmes are standing behind him. The 42-year-old is wearing a gray suit jacket with a light green shirt, long sideburns and a neatly trimmed beard. He has made himself comfortable in this aquarium in the middle of the courtroom.

Ganczarski sits on a wooden bench, with an assortment of materials he is using during his trial lined up next to him. They include a Koran in German translation, documents from the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation’s (BKA’s) investigation of him, files in a plastic shopping bag from a supermarket chain and a bottle of water.

He’s a combative defendant. He corrects the translators and holds up his original testimony in German, quotes from the Koran and accuses the judge of bias. A suspected confidant of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, he waves cheerfully to his former BKA interrogators. He has learned a few words of French, including “merci,” “exactement” and “bonjour.” But when he speaks German, Ganczarski still sounds like a soccer player from Germany’s industrial Ruhr region.

Less than seven years after the April 11, 2002 attack on the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian resort island of Djerba, in which 21 people, including 14 Germans, were burned to death, Muslim convert Ganczarski is on trial in Paris. He stands accused of being one of the masterminds of the attack, of involvement in many murders and attempted murders, and of membership in the al-Qaida terrorist organization…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Italy: FM Frattini Calls for UN ‘Revitalisation’

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 3 — An Italian proposal for the reform of the United Nations Security Council must be accompanied by a “revitalisation” of the UN as a whole, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday. Speaking two days ahead of a meeting in Italy of 50 foreign ministers to discuss reform proposals, Frattini said the process would be based on “the criteria of democracy, representation and transparency”. “An integral part of Italy’s position is based on the principle that the reform of the Security Council must be accompanied by a more general revitalisation of the principal organs of the United Nations, beginning with the general assembly,” Frattini said. “Italy has always been committed to a relaunch of efficient multilateralism,” he added. Italy has long been pushing for Security Council reform with a proposal that focuses on increasing the council’s members on the basis of regional representation rather than as single nations. Frattini said earlier this month that Italy will also call for wider consensus on decisions taken by the General Assembly in order to make the voting process “more democratic”. He said Italy will also press for the establishment of “objective criteria” on UN intervention in world trouble spots, which is currently made on a case-by-case basis “using varying criteria”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Five Towns Win Extra Bus Protection

Following talks between bus companies and the Council of Police Chiefs, it has been decided that bus services in and around five towns will be provided with extra security. In Tilburg, Dordrecht, Den Bosch, Gouda and Almere, buses are often subject to aggressive behaviour from passengers.

Police officers will provide the extra security by travelling on the buses in plain clothes and by following them in unmarked cars. They will also, under certain circumstances, travel on the buses dressed as “stewards” so that offenders can be arrested immediately if they cause trouble.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Norway: Hijab Permitted With Police Uniform

The Police Directorate has decided that it will be permitted to wear hijab with the Norwegian police uniform. Police Director Ingelin Killengreen says the move is part of a desire to secure broad recruitmet. Killengren points to the fact that among new immigrants there is a large number of women who for religious reasons wear hijab.

– By refusing to allow these to wear their headdress, we would in reality exclude in particular these groups from serving in the police force, the Police Director says.

– The police depend on trust to create security and prevent and fight crime. It is therefore important that all parts of our society should feel equal in their relations with the police, she says.

The head of the Policemen’s Union. Arne Johannessen, is surprised and disappointed by the decision:

– We have police force which is supposed to symbolize neutrality while in uniform, Johanessen says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gangsters Threatening Shop Owners at Stockholm Mall

Criminal gangs have tried to blackmail shop owners and managers at one of the Stockholm area’s most popular shopping centres, according to employees at the mall.

“The same gang has come to us three times in two months,” said an employee from the Kista Galleria mall, located north of Stockholm, to TV4.

The employee added that a colleague of his was punched for not giving the gang members money.

“He didn’t come back to work after that.”

The employee, who wished to remain anonymous, added that when he tried to intervene in the matter, he felt that one of the men had a bulletproof vest.

He wishes police would do more to counteract the problem.

“Just having police walk by means a lot. The police should be a bit tougher, then this wouldn’t have been any problem,” he said.

The head of Kista Galleria, Gunnar Mässing, said that the arrival of the gangs is a relatively recent phenomenon.

“They first turned up here in 2008. Tenants came to us and said that they were being bothered by organizations and people whom they felt threatened by,” Mässing told TV4.

Kista Galleria has about 50,000 visitors a day and an annual turnover of 2.2 billion kronor ($264 million).

Mässing said that, as of yet, mall management doesn’t know of any criminal gangs that have succeeded in establishing ties to the shopping centre’s stores.

Nevertheless he remains concerned that several stores remain vulnerable for extortion.

“The tenants who are the primary targets for these sorts of visits are restaurants, cafes, dry cleaners; that is to say, stores which have a high volume of cash transactions,” he said, adding that he has alerted tenants that mall management will do what it can to help them deal with the unwanted guests.

“We’re managing the situation with the utmost seriousness because we know what these types of organizations are capable of doing.”

But the mall employee remains concerned for his safety.

“Gangs are here all the time. I’m worried that they’ll be waiting for me in the garage or at home,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: DNA Evidence Insufficient for Rape Conviction

Rape charges against a 19-year-old man in Sweden have been dropped despite the existence of DNA evidence on a bloody glove found near the crime scene.

The man was suspected of having attacked a 29-year-old woman in Lund on the night of the Lucia holiday in December 2007.

The woman defended herself by biting her attacker so hard in the thumb that she broke two of her teeth.

The Lund District Court, however, ruled that the DNA evidence was insufficient because National Laboratory of Forensic Science (SKL) only analyzed one sample from the glove from near the wrist, according the Skånska Dagbladet newspaper.

No tests were performed near the thumb, however, where the women said she had bitten the assailant.

The glove has since been destroyed, but could, according to the court, have been used by someone other than the 19-year-old.

As a result, the man was convicted for sexual assault and assault on another occasion and sentence to a fine equivalent to 80 days’ pay.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Officers Reassigned After Racist Remarks

Three Malmö police officers have been reassigned for yelling racial slurs in reference to a suspect detained during disturbances which hit the city’s Rosengård district in December.

Riot police called young people in the predominantly immigrant district “blattejävlar”, an ethnic slur which translates roughly into “damn coloured people” or “damn immigrants”.

On its own, “blatte” is a derogatory Swedish term often used in reference to an immigrant.

What police who uttered the comments didn’t know was that their statements had been caught on the police’s own video recordings, the Sydsvenskan newspaper reports.

“I’m completely outraged,” said Sweden’s national police chief Bengt Svensson to the TT news agency, who added that officers who hold views suggested by the choice of words aren’t welcome within the Swedish police force.

However, he said he doubted that the views expressed by the officers in question reflects the views held by the majority of Swedish police officers.

The video was played recently during the trial of a 21-year-old who stands charged for violent rioting in connection with the Rosengård demonstrations.

On the tape, listeners can hear internal chatter between police discussing the suspect.

“You little ape son of a bitch. Should I make him sterile when I catch him?” said one police officer on the tape.

“Yeah, he’s going to get beat so well that he won’t be able to stand on his own legs,” answered a colleague.

Later another officer chimes in, referencing a figure from an ad campaign for the Ica grocery store chain and adding his own racist twist.

“Yeah, I agree with that guy from Ica, ‘You’ve come to the wrong city, damn immigrant’,” he said.

Now the police are set to be reported for their offensive language, said the highest ranking police chief in Malmö, Ulf Sempert, who is distraught over his colleagues’ comments.

“I can only apologize to these young people,” Sempert told Sydsvenskan.

“I obviously don’t accept that they threw rocks, if they were involved in throwing rocks at police officers, but just because of that they don’t deserve to be treated this way by Swedish police.”

The officers’ comments even prompted a statement from Sweden’s Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask.

“I became extremely upset when I heard this on the news this morning. I know that police leadership is just as upset, and plan to report it,” she said.

“Every time a police officer makes a mistake and this isn’t a mistake, this is a huge mistake, the whole organization suffers because of it.”

The three officers featured in the video were identified during the day on Thursday and reassigned to jobs in which they are barred from interacting with the public.

“I have had a long conversation with one of the and he is deeply saddened by what he said,” Sempert said in a statement released on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Man Sentenced for ‘Torturing’ Wife and Lover

A 30-year-old Malmö resident who held his wife and lover an apartment and abused and raped them for years was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years in prison.

According to the district court ruling, the man held the two women in “slave-like conditions”, writes the City newspaper.

The man began abusing his wife in 2002, hitting and raping her daily and threatening to kill her and the children of she left him.

After several years, he started a new relationship with a young woman he met on the internet. The woman ended up moving into the man’s apartment where she suffered the same treatment as the man’s wife.

The man forced the women to have sex with one another and whip each other. In addition, he tattooed his initials into each woman’s body using a hot knife.

In the end, the women finally alerted authorities to what the court described as the “raw and reckless torture” they had endured.

The 30-year-old was convicted of aggravated rape and gross violation of a woman’s integrity, as well as for abusing and threatening his two oldest sons.

The man admits to having a relationship with both women simultaneously, but denies that he committed any crimes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Shoe Thrown at Israel’s Ambassador in Stockholm

Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan, was the victim of a shoe-throwing incident at a lecture at Stockholm University on Wednesday afternoon.

The incident took place as Dagan was delivering a speech about Israel’s upcoming elections.

At the time, there were about 50 spectators in the lecture hall, which was also being guarded by police.

“Two of the spectators suddenly began throwing objects at the ambassador. It was a shoe and one or several books. One of the objects did hit the ambassador,” said police spokesperson Bengt Hellström to the TT news agency.

The two people, a 35-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman, were arrested immediately following the incident, according to police.

They are suspected of assault and creating a public disturbance.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK Oil Plant Protest Over

Case spurred Anglo- Italian freedom of labour debate

(ANSA) — London, February 5 — A protest against foreign workers that raised tensions between Italy and the UK ended Thursday when unions accepted a deal to hire British workers.

Under the deal, some 100 extra jobs will be created for British workers at French fuels group Total’s Lindsey Oil refinery near Grimsby in north-eastern England.

Union sources stressed that none of the 900 Italians or 200 Portuguese originally signed on by Italian contractor IREM will lose their jobs.

Total’s UK HQ issued a statement saying the solution showed its ‘‘commitment to creating local jobs’’.

It said the additional workers would be employed in new positions alongside those of IREM.

‘‘No one will lose his job in the wake of this accord,’’ it said. IREM said it was ‘‘happy’’ that the stand-off had been settled but said it still needed some ‘‘clarification’’ from Total about how the deal might affect its 200-million-euro contract to build a new unit.

‘‘But we are optimistic about the future and we don’t think the turnaround will have negative repercussions on IREM or the Italian workers,’’ said IREM Deputy Chairman Giovanni Musso.

‘‘I think our workers will return to work Monday and finally the construction site will get into full swing’’. The week of wildcat strikes that forced IREM’s men off the job stirred controversy in Italy where officials noted that free movement of labour is a keystone of the European Union market.

Some members of Italy’s centre-right government rattled sabres about retaliation but leaders voiced confidence relations would not be strained.

British Premier Gordon Brown stressed that workers must be allowed to move freely within the EU.

IREM pointed out that it had 100 British workers on its books in the north of Italy.

Despite the settlement of the Grimsby dispute, protests against the use of foreign workers at other British power plants appear set to continue.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Blunkett Bobbies Are ‘Glorified Security Guards’, Says Scotland Yard Report

Police community support officers are causing disciplinary problems because they are bored and see themselves as ‘glorified security guards’, a damning internal report reveals. The controversial civilian street patrol officers — dubbed ‘Blunkett’s bobbies’ by critics — account for more than half of all gross misconduct cases in Britain’s largest police force even though they make up only a fifth of the workforce.

The report to the Metropolitan Police Authority highlights problems among CSOs including drink-driving, misusing police computers, poor personal hygiene and arriving late to work. Senior officers at Scotland Yard agreed to review the civilian role after they found a disproportionate number of CSOs were being disciplined.

A report from Martin Tiplady, the Met’s director of human resources, said boredom and reduced motivation were partly responsible for indiscipline. He said some CSOs did not recognise the authority of their managers and did not understand the strict policing hierarchy within the force. And he warned that the policy of encouraging applicants who failed to make the grade as police constables to train as CSOs instead was a recipe for dissatisfaction and low morale.

He told how some CSOs ‘felt as though they were glorified security guards and as such were not able to use all of their life skills and experience.’ The report will further embarrass ministers following years of opposition to the CSOs — which were introduced by former Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2004 as a ‘reassuring uniformed presence’ on the streets.

CSOs are supposed to tackle low-level crime and anti-social behaviour, with limited powers to hand out fines. They have no powers of arrest or search — although they can detain a suspect until a real policeman arrives.

Critics have condemned them as ‘policing on the cheap’, claiming the public would be less reassured by the presence of CSOs if they understood how little training they had, or how limited their powers were.

Dissatisfaction peaked last year when it emerged that two CSOs who came across a young boy drowning in a pond in Wigan chose not to enter the water and instead waited until a ‘real’ police officer arrived, by which time the boy, 10-year-old Jordon Lyon, was dead.

The Metropolitan Police report said 35 CSOs were found guilty last year of gross misconduct, including cases of making false allegations, inappropriate behaviour and committing crimes such as motoring offences.

Twenty of them were sacked, with the remainder facing formal reprimands, while a further 20 cases of less serious misconduct by CSOs were recorded.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron’s ‘Moral’ Capitalism is No Better Than Socialism

Because of the disaster Gordon Brown has made of our economy, ensuring that we (according to the International Monetary Fund) have the worst recession of any developed country, it may now be difficult for him to win an election. Therefore interest turns to what the Conservative Party might do were it in power. Let us mark one thing: that a Conservative victory some time in the next 16 months will have nothing to do with the alternative that party offers to the electorate, other than the specific alternative of its not being the Labour Party.

In case you think I am merely being beastly to Mr Cameron again, please do me one courtesy. Go to the internet and type “Cameron moral capitalism” into Google. Within moments you will read the text of a speech the putative next prime minister gave at Davos last week to an audience of people who, unlike him, must make serious and informed decisions about the use of capital every day.

I understate my case to say that it is one of the most shallow speeches by a supposedly serious politician that I have ever read. It should also terrify anyone who might feel he or she should vote Conservative at the next election, because it promises that what we should get would in most respects be little better than what we have.

My first thought was the quizzical one about Mr Cameron’s speaking on this subject in the first place. In pure terms it is a tautology. Capitalism is deeply moral and hardly needs the adjective to qualify it. It is moral because it is about the exercise of free will between buyers and sellers: and few things can be more moral than allowing someone to be free. Capitalism is about the link between effort and reward. It is about the creation of wealth according to the quality of one’s enterprise. Without wealth creation there is no scope for the taxation that enables the functions society deems moral: a welfare state, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of law and order. So anybody who feels he needs to make a speech about capitalism while qualifying it in this way at once raises the suspicion that he is being in some degree specious.

I hope you have read the speech, but if not I shall try to give a fair summary of it. Mr Cameron argued that the “old orthodoxy” appeared to have failed; and though it had its good aspects, it manifestly also had bad ones. In the ideal world that he, but few actual capitalists, inhabit, it would be desirable to remove the bad aspects (the activities of something he calls “the global corporate juggernaut”) and have only the good ones (“vibrant local economies”, whatever the hell that means).

It is a typical, all-things-to-all-men, Cameron speech. He claims he supports business: and then suggests an operation of “capitalism” that would make it impossible for business as conventional capitalism understands it to function effectively. I can only construe from his words that this is a world where, for example, there are more corner shops and fewer Tescos. But why is Tesco so powerful? Because its customers, exercising their free will, have made it so. We clearly need to bring an end to that.

Given his lack of intellectualism, Mr Cameron may not have read Atlas Shrugged, the epic novel by the American philosopher Ayn Rand in which a man discovers the secret of perpetual motion and becomes excessively rich by putting many of his less intelligent competitors out of business. The newly poor — poor because they failed to give the public what they wanted at a price they were prepared to pay — demand a Fair Shares Law, whereby they are compensated for their lack of brains and risk-taking by the enterprises who do make money. And, lo, Mr Cameron complains about our capitalism having been “winner takes all”, an assertion that is fundamentally untrue (for capitalism has enriched almost everyone in the free world to some degree) but would not be immoral even if it were. After all, those who take the risks and have the superior judgment should have the rewards: anything else is communism.

“People are angry with capitalism,” he says, showing again that what drives him is not an attachment to principle but an obsession with focus groups. “We’ve got a lot of capital but not many capitalists and people rightly think that isn’t fair.” For pity’s sake, has he actually thought about what those words mean? Not only are they not what most people would understand as “Conservative”; they are some way to the left of Mr Brown.

He complains about the “absence of a moral framework” from capitalism. It shows his profound misunderstanding of the term “capitalism”; it echoes the misunderstanding that he and his decerebrated shadow chancellor have had of this crisis ever since it began to develop.

All he wants is for the state to regulate capitalism more or less out of existence: and it won’t do to say that he is pro-business, because everything else he says contradicts that.

“Markets are a means to an end, not an end in themselves,” he says, in one of the clichés that pepper this speech and reveal the collection of small minds that were at work on it (“the stakes are high” and “the devil is in the details” are two more depressing examples).

But markets are the place in which the exercise of the free will of buyers and sellers takes place. How else would Mr Cameron have it? It can only be that free will should be restrained by some means or other; and how will that make us happier, when it will make us, in the end, a socialist-style wealth-limiting, freedom-starved command economy?

The Davos speech terrifies for what it says about the Tories’ approach to the government in which they may quite soon find themselves. Yet it is also meaningless, for the obtuse and infantile understanding Mr Cameron and his friends appear to have of the operation of capitalism would soon be corrected by global realities.

I just wish he would work out why this crisis has happened, but he still hasn’t. There was a massive expansion of the money supply in western economies and in the developing ones too, whether China, India or Brazil. This expansion, which was the fault of governments because it is they who control the money supply, put trillions of dollars of cheap money at the disposal of bankers and other institutions who make a living by buying cheap — in this case buying money cheap — and selling dear.

Hundreds of millions of mortgagors, entrepreneurs and other consumers then took individual decisions about exercising their free will to borrow this money from those institutions. The institutions frequently made the mistake (and capitalism is, as much as any risk-taking activity, about the right to make a mistake) of lending to people who couldn’t pay it back. This does not mean that capitalism itself is bad: it means that many who practise it are reckless (though they have learnt a lesson now), and that those who control money supplies and regulate banks were reckless too.

Sovietising capitalism out of existence, as Mr Cameron proposes, is nowhere near the answer. Until he works out what the answer might be, he would do us all, but especially himself, a great favour by resuming his period of embarrassed silence.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Golly: Now We Know What’s Truly Offensive

In sacking Carol Thatcher for saying ‘golliwog’ while off air, but allowing Jonathan Ross to remain in his job, the BBC has revealed its contempt for those who are forced to fund it , says Charles Moore.

Commenting on the BBC’s decision to sack Carol Thatcher from The One Show because she described a tennis player as looking like a “golliwog”, a spokesman for the corporation said: “The BBC considers any language of a racist nature wholly unacceptable.”

This raises a few questions. First, how can he/she be so sure that the remark was “racist”? All through Carol Thatcher’s childhood — indeed, until into her thirties — golliwogs were popular toys. Robertson’s jam marketed itself with a golliwog, which appeared on every jar. You could collect golliwog stickers and send them off, and then you got a smart metal golliwog badge.

Carol Thatcher liked the jam and she liked the golliwog. When she said that the mixed-race Jo-Wilfried Tsonga resembled a golly, she was making a friendly joke, rather as someone of the same generation might say, “Ooh, he looks just like Rupert Bear” (or Captain Pugwash, or Noggin the Nog).

To get the measure of how Carol talks and thinks, you need to understand that she is not at all like her mother — except that both women speak their mind. Carol is not full of opinions or highly conscious of politics or deeply serious. She is a friendly, spontaneous, amused person, who, for someone who has been so close to power, is attractively unsophisticated. She is certainly not politically correct, but nor is she determinedly, fiercely, politically incorrect, as her father, Denis, was. She is, for want of a better word, normal. The idea that she feels racial malice is absurd.

If Carol used the supposedly shocking word “golliwog”, you can be quite sure that she used it without malice — indeed, with good will. The worst that you could possibly say about her was that her choice of words was thoughtless.

But, before you say that, you come to the second question. Since when has the BBC decided that what is said off screen, in the studio, is a matter of career life or death? I have spent more hours than I care to remember sitting in BBC studios, and the remarks I have heard in them, often delivered by household names, have frequently strayed — I am putting this politely — from the standards supposedly demanded by the BBC on air. I have heard racism (usually against Americans), sexism (usually against Carol’s mother), blasphemy, obscenity, rage, bias. If I had decided to profess myself “shocked” (as Adrian Chiles, the presenter of The One Show, did), and if I had then sneaked to the authorities, would the speaker have been thrown out of his job? Should he have been?

A BBC executive might argue — though I would disagree — that the word “golliwog” is so offensive that it should never be broadcast. As an experienced broadcaster herself, Carol Thatcher might be expected to be aware of that sensitivity and be careful about it. But she was not broadcasting. She committed no offence, professional or moral — not even, since the person she described was not in the room, an offence of manners.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell, the “telescreen” compulsorily present in every house is not only a television broadcasting from the outside, but a sort of CCTV camera, observing the people in the room, shouting at them if they fail to meet the standards ordained by the state of which Big Brother is the dictator, always watching them. The BBC would appear to have adapted this concept for everyone who comes under its roof.

A third question arises for the corporation. We have it from its spokesman’s own lips that any racist language is “wholly unacceptable”. How does that square with its fervent commitment, constantly repeated in the affair of Jonathan Ross, to “cutting edge” comedy?

The justification of being “edgy” is that offence is necessary to “push the boundaries” of creativity. It is thus considered appropriate to use the F-word, sometimes as much as 25 times in one programme, although — or rather, because — that word, when used in public, upsets millions of people. The word “golliwog”, on the other hand, is so unbearably wicked that its user must be punished, even when only a few other people, who happened to be sitting in the room, actually heard it.

You and I might think that the joys of “edgy” comedy are overrated, but if we are to have it, wouldn’t it be edgier to have words like “golliwog” scattered about as well? Why not antagonise Disgusted of Brixton, as well as Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells?

Jonathan Ross asked David Cameron, on television, whether he ever masturbated about Lady Thatcher. For this, and similar sallies of consummate edginess, Ross is paid £6 million a year, which is more than any other employee of the BBC in the whole of its history.

Since his return, he has encouraged a man on his radio programme to go and have sexual intercourse with a woman in her eighties who has Alzheimer’s.

Even when Ross rang up Andrew Sachs, a 78-year-old Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, and left obscene (broadcast) messages about how Russell Brand had slept with his granddaughter, his punishment was a mere three months’ suspension. But of course he would never do anything really nasty, like use the word “g———g” in private. Ross stays, and gets rich. “Wholly unacceptable” Carol is out.

So this affair enables us to understand better what the BBC is really up to when it pays Jonathan Ross so much money to swear and talk on screen about bodily functions and sex with octogenarians for hours on end. It is not engaged in a brave, if misguided, attempt to challenge the conventional opinions of viewers in general in order to shake them out of their complacency and strike a blow for artistic innovation. If that were the case, it would also insult homosexuals, the prophet Mohammed, President Obama, racial minorities, and anyone else who qualifies for the strangely assorted club of those who earn special deference from our modern elites.

No, what the BBC is doing is the cultural target-bombing of people who are very numerous, but whose attitudes do not accord with those of its senior executives — old people, white people, Christian people, monarchist people, people who value politeness, conservative people, provincial people, suburban people, rural people — many people, I suspect, who are reading this article.

As bombing campaigns go, the BBC’s culture war is unique in history, because it makes the victims pay for its attacks. Pay £139.50, and Ross is dropped on you from a great height. My feeble little form of passive resistance, as I cower in my shelter, is to refuse to pay for the privilege.

Just after the Second World War, the Left-wing firebrand Aneurin Bevan called the Tories “lower than vermin”. Conservatives, fired up, started a Vermin Club, with badges, to boast of their defiance. Thousands signed up. The young Margaret Roberts (soon to be Thatcher) was a member. Carol could claim a much nicer symbol than a rodent. I think she should start a Golliwog Club to defy the BBC, and I think we should all join.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Books: ‘The Maghreb of Books’ in Paris, Focus on Morocco

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 4 — More than 130 authors from the Magreb will meet the Paris public on Saturday and Sunday, during the ‘Maghreb of Books’, literary event organised by the Coup de Soleil association. The star of the show, which this year is into its fifteenth edition, will be Morocco, with tens of authors coming to speak about their poems, essays and comics out in bookshops in 2008, both in France and in Morocco. The event’s rich programme includes meetings of authors tied together by dealing with the same themes in their works, but also includes debates and round tables. It is to be held in the town hall in the 13th arrondissement. A round table is to be dedicated to the topic: “Mediterranean Union: How Much Space for Culture?”, whilst particular homage will be paid to Tunisia’s Mohamed Charfi, who died last June and was a jurist, former education minister, ex-president of the Tunisian Human Rights League and author of numerous writings on Islam. Various literary prizes will be awarded in the course of the event, including the “Beur FM Mediterranee” and the “Coup de coeur de Coup de soleil”. 5,000 visitors are expected for the event. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Crisis: Tunisia Forum, Appeal to Mediterranean Union

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 4 — The countries taking part in the Union for the Mediterranean must be aware of the seriousness of the situation as concerns the world economy. This was the appeal launched in Tunis as part of a meeting gathering together North African and French economists and university professors. The latter also stressed the need to “make all decisions which may speed up the economic integration of the Euro-Mediterranean area”. And, taking into account “present and future tensions, special effort must be made for agriculture, energy and finance”. Tunisian Prime Minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, receiving a delegation of those underwriting the appeal, said that in his opinion, to bring about their integration into the Euro-Mediterranean area, countries lining the sea’s southern shore should benefit from the sort of large-scale financing which countries such as Spain and Portugal received during the transition period to becoming part of the European Union. This is why, according to the Tunis appeal, the Union “urgently needs” to create, without any further delay, a “financial institution for the Euro-Mediterranean partnership”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain-Morocco: Future Leaders From a Sole University

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 4 — The Two Kings University, part of a Spanish-Morocco collaboration project, will be based in Tetuan in Morocco and will offer, amongst other programmes, courses in tourism development, healthcare, economics, agro-food engineering and heritage conservation, as well as ones in Spanish and Arabic. The university will represent a common training platform for Spain and Morocco, and will aim to strengthen dialogue and cooperation across the Mediterranean as well as to train future leaders. Pilar Aranda, the executive secretary of the Euro-Arab Foundation, has announced to the media that, that “the university will provide training to between 10,000 and 12,000 long-term students”, and is part of the National Plan for the Alliance of Civilisation, as promoted by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Through partnership with the University of Granada, the Foundation will be responsible for the technical side of the university courses project, in collaboration with the Clinic Foundation. The curriculum, to be finalised by July, will be based on the need for training in northern Morocco, and Aranda added that “it will take into account socio-economic development as well as being in the interest of the Moroccan and Spanish governments”. The Two Kings University is the most ambitious project that the Euro-Arab Foundation is responsible for, as part of the governing programme of the Civilisation Alliance. The project should in fact already have been operative in 2008, according to the agreement signed two years ago by the then Spanish Education Minister, Maria Jesus Sansegundo, and by her Moroccan counterpart, Habib el Malki. Since then, a joint commission of eight university professors, four per country, has decided on the academic and financial plans for the institution. However, although the teaching material has been confirmed, there has yet to be any announcement of an opening date. Collaboration between Spain and Morocco in its post-university training, in their respective locations, will be the basis of the Two Kings University, the name of which refers to the Spanish monarch Juan Carlos and the Moroccan Mohamed VI. The future campus is to offer degree courses within the European framework of higher education, with official Spanish accreditation for undergraduate and graduate degrees in line with the Bologna agreement which planned for similar academic awards amongst European universities, so that qualifications can be recognised beyond the borders of the two neighbouring countries. It is thought that the university will initially open degree courses to around 3,000 students, which in the long term could number as many as 12,000. It will offer significant prospects to the 50,000 secondary education students who currently study Spanish in Morocco, as well as to the 3,000 enrolled in the languages departments of Moroccan universities. According to the agreement procedure signed in 2006, the university will help to strengthen scientific, economic and political links between the two countries, as well as to formally value their shared heritage, by contributing to further education training schemes. It will be made up of faculties, institutes and centres for teaching and research. Access to the university will be available to Spanish and Moroccan students “holding the necessary academic qualifications”, but there will also be study grants, financed by businesses and private groups which will help to fund the public institution. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Nazi Hunters Brand Claims That SS War Criminal Albert Heim is Dead as ‘Too Perfect’…

…and vow: ‘We will find Dr Death’

Nazi hunters who have spent decades searching for a death camp doctor who performed hideous medical experiments on inmates expressed ‘serious doubts’ yesterday over claims that he is dead.

Police in Germany also said they would continue to investigate whether Dr Aribert Heim, the perverted physician of the Mauthausen concentration camp known as ‘Dr Death’, did indeed die in Cairo 17 years ago to be buried in a pauper’s grave.

An American newspaper and a German TV station broke the news of his ‘death’ and his conversion to Islam — but it has not shaken those still on his trail.

Heim has headed the list of ‘Operation Last Chance’ — the name given to the hunt for the top ten surviving war criminals from Nazi Germany — for the last two years.

“The story raises more questions than it answers,’ said Efraim Zuroff, head Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Israel.

‘There’s no body, no corpse, no DNA, no grave — we can’t sign off on a story like this because of some semi-plausible explanation.

‘Keep in mind these people have a vested interested in being declared dead — it’s a perfectly crafted story; that’s the problem, it’s too perfect.’

Zuroff said ‘there was no doubt’ Heim had lived in Egypt.

‘But the question is whether he died in Egypt. We have serious doubts about that.’

He said German police had told him they had also not shut the case on Heim, the most notorious of surviving perpetrators of the Nazi killings of 6 million Jews during the war, who has been missing since evading German police in 1962.

Heim has been accused of killing hundreds of inmates at the Mauthausen concentration in Austria by injecting petrol into their hearts, performing surgery and severing organs without anaesthesia, crimes which he documented himself, Zuroff said.

German TV station ZDF, in footage from a documentary being aired yesterday, showed Heim’s son Ruediger saying his father had died of cancer on August 10, 1992, after having spent 30 years in Cairo under an assumed name.

Zuroff said news of Heim’s death came as the Wiesenthal Centre was preparing to triple its reward for locating him to 1 million euros, but that he was sceptical due to the lack of evidence and family interests in seeing the case closed.

Heim earned his position as the most wanted on Zuroff’s list with a CV that sends shivers down the spine.

At Mauthausen, Heim moved like a veritable angel of death among the prisoners who were terrified of falling ill and having to be treated by him.

Survivor Karl Lotter, who worked in his clinic as an orderly, told war crimes investigators after the war, about a young prisoner not earmarked for death who came to see Heim with a swollen foot.

‘I think I have an infection,’ said the young man.

‘An infection, ah, well, we’ll see what we can do about that,’ said the doctor.

What he did about that was to anaesthetise him. He then castrated the boy, dissected a kidney and removed the second, then decapitated him.

The head was boiled to remove the flesh so the doctor could use the skull as a paperweight.

Lotter said: ‘Of all the camp doctors in Mauthausen, Dr Heim was the most horrible.’

Dr Aribert Heim, at the time, was just 27 years old. So steeped was he in the twisted ideology of the Third Reich that he was known to all inmates simply as ‘Dr. Death.’

Aided by an SS pharmacist, Erich Wasicky, he murdered hundreds of inmates by injecting them with various liquids, including petrol, phenol, water and poison, all in the interests of seeing which killed them fastest.

He used a stopwatch to time the results, recording them meticulously in a ledger. Heim, whose experimentation was compared to that of the Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, also carried out amputations on prisoners without anaesthetic to see what level of pain a human could endure before expiring.

Organs were removed from conscious patients, including one case where the liver, spleen and bowel were excised. In another case, Heim removed the tattooed flesh of a prisoner to make seat coverings for the camp commandant’s flat.

A court that sentenced him in absentia in 1979 said he’wallowed in the fear of death suffered by his victims while performing lethal operations on them without anaesthetics.”

Justice evaded Dr. Death at war’s end, as it did for so many of his countrymen. He didn’t even bother to flee at first, returning to Germany where he took up gynaecology.

But the past did catch up with him eventually. In the 1960’s, he was forced to flee Germany as prosecutors finally pieced together his crimes.

Ever since he has been on the run, leaving behind an intriguing fortune, property and a divided family — divided between those who accuse his pursuers of a witch-hunt and those who want to know the truth, however painful that may be.

Following the allegations of his death back in 1992, the Baden-Wuerttemberg state police unit that investigates Nazi-era crimes is preparing a request asking Egyptian authorities to allow them to pursue the case in Cairo.

‘We want to attempt to find the body,’ said a spokesman for the German sleuths. Heim’s son Ruediger told Germany’s ZDF television that his father fled to Egypt after authorities tried to arrest him at his Baden-Baden home.

The younger Heim contradicted previous statements that he had never had any contact with his father since that time, telling ZDF that he had met with him several times in Cairo, starting in the mid-1970s.

Last summer, Ruediger Heim tried to have his father declared legally dead so that he could take control of an estimated €1.2 million in investments in his name, saying that he would donate the money to charity.

The report said Heim was living under a pseudonym and had converted to Islam by the time of his death from intestinal cancer. If still alive, he would be 94 today.

It was reported yesterday that a certified copy of a death certificate obtained from Egyptian authorities confirmed witness accounts that the man called Heim is believed to have used the name Tarek Hussein Farid. The Egyptian official record states that Farid died in 1992.

‘Tarek Hussein Farid is the name my father took when he converted to Islam,’ said Rüdiger Heim. In an interview in the family’s villa in Baden-Baden, Mr Heim, 53, admitted publicly for the first time that he was with his father in Egypt at the time of his death from rectal cancer.

He said: ‘It was during the Olympics. There was a television in the room, and he was watching the Olympics. It distracted him. He must have been suffering from serious pain.’ Guy Walters, author of Nazi war criminal book Hunting Evil, said: ‘Heim is one of the major criminals of the last century, and if true this revelation is hugely significant. ‘His experiments that he carried out on concentration camp victims were disgusting and he was currently being hunted for his crimes.

‘We like to think of South America as being the sanctuary of Nazis, but this proves that Islamic states were just as happy to play host to them after the war. ‘This was partly because some Islamic states agreed with the Nazis’ hatred of the Jews and also these people were wanted for their scientific knowledge.

‘There were always rumours during the 1950s that Egypt had Nazi scientists and they were working on weapons to launch against Israel.’

Although he was captured in a general round-up of leading Nazis by US forces in March 1945, he was released because his name did not appear on any of the lists of war criminals the Allies had quickly drawn up. Heim became a gynaecologist in West Germany until 1962, when his past caught up with him in the form of the Austrian police, who were finally investigating him for his war crimes. Heim was tipped off and he escaped, reportedly to Spain and then to Uruguay, where he opened up a gynaecological practice. Since the 1960s, Heim had been able to live a relatively unmolested life, and quietly amassed a small fortune. Leading Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said he had not seen the documents, but if true, would be ‘earth shattering’ news. Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal tipped of Israeli intelligence that Adolf Eichmann, credited for being the architect of the Holocaust, was living in Argentina. In 1960, Mossad agents captured Eichmann, smuggled him to Israel where he stood trial and was executed for war crimes. An estimated 6million Jews died in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Algeria, 5 Soldiers Injured in Explosion

(ANSAmed)- ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 3 — Five soldiers, including two Algerian army captains, were seriously hurt when a home-made bomb exploded yesterday close to Iflissen, 60 km north east of Tizi Ouzou, the main city of Kabylie. Local press reports that the device was detonated by remote control as the convoy of soldiers passed, on a round-up operation in the region. El Watan reports that security forces have started a massive operation following information supplied by Ali Ben Touati, also known as Abu Tamim, an ‘emir’ of one of the major networks of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (former Salafita group for preaching and fighting), who gave himself up to the authorities close to Yakouren in the same area of Kabylie a few days ago, 100 km east of Algiers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: UN Accuses Hamas of Confiscating Aid Lorry

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, FEBRUARY 4 — Humanitarian aid from the UN agency for refugees in Palestine (Unrwa) was confiscated yesterday by Hamas police in the Gaza Strip, according to the Unrwa, who said that this was the first example of an explicit confiscation of UN goods by the radical Islamic movement, which has been in power in Gaza for more than a year and a half. The Hamas police confiscated 3,500 blankets and 450 food items destined for those left homeless by the damage caused during the Israeli military operation ‘Cast Lead’. Hamas leaders, who have been working in recent days to distribute food and aid to the population and maintain the consensus of its sympathisers — while their rivals the Palestinian National Authority (Pna) are announcing a campaign of aid in the Gaza Strip funded mainly by foreign donations — have so far failed to give any justification for their hostile action towards the UN.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaza: Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Intervention Was a Crime

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 4 — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has repeated to the European Parliament that the Israeli intervention in Gaza should be treated as a crime. Restating his condemnation of the rocket launches on Israel, “which do not help peace or stability”, the Palestinian president appealed to the international community to agree that military intervention by Israel in Gaza is considered “a crime”. “One thousand five hundred dead, 5,000 injured, 30,000 homes destroyed, and 80,000 homeless. What name should we give all this? You must find a definition”, stated Abbas. “You need to stop treating Israel as if it was above the law” he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaza: Kadima Minister Wants Haniyeh ‘‘the Terrorist’’ Dead

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — ‘‘The next phase must be the elimination of the terrorist Ismail Haniyeh,’’ was the statement made today by the Israeli Minister for Construction, Zeev Boim (Kadima). The minister was commenting on the recent rocket launching from Gaza at Israeli territory and the need for a military reaction. ‘‘The head of the Hamas government in Gaza must be our target,’’ insisted Boim. ‘‘So as long as Hamas controls Gaza and activates terrorism from there, not only against Israel but also against the local population, rockets will continue to explode in Israel.’’ The newspaper Maariv has also reported that the second in command of Hamas in Gaza, Mahmud al-Zahar, had taken refuge in the Egyptian Sinai. An unidentified diplomatic source has told the newspaper that al-Zahar had shaved off his beard to avoid recognition. The news has not yet been confirmed. Over the past few weeks there have been reports that al-Zahar was injured during Operation Cast Lead and was hospitalized in Egypt, but there has been no confirmation of this news yet, either. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel: Video

UNRWA — Lords of Misery

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mid East: Abbas Hopes for National Unity Gov. by End of 2009

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 4 — The President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), has told a press conference at the European Parliament that he hopes that a government of national unity can be put in place by the end of 2009. His speech was greeted by a standing ovation. “We don’t want a situation without war, we want peace”, affirmed the Palestinian president, saying that “the doors remain open” for a government of national unity which will “manage the state and the reconstruction as well as organising parliamentary and presidential elections”. “If we can achieve this by the end of 2009, the Middle East will be able to live in peace and security for centuries. Without this, there would be an endless tragedy”, stressed Abbas, according to whom Hamas is also interested in having “this kind of government”. In answer to questions from journalists, the Palestinian president said that he thinks the fundamentalist organisation is “capable” of respecting ‘calm’’ periods, as it has done so in the past. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Conflict With Turkey Would Mean the Suicide of Israel


Let’s have a flashback about the Palestine cause:

Israel played the world like a fish and made itself seem like a big playmaker by holding the initiative consistently.


Does Israel have its back against the wall?

Israel lost the war in Lebanon in 2006 in military aspects and lost the war in Gaza (2008) in ethical aspects. If we consider domestic politics in Israel, it seems as though political parties will not meet their expectations in terms of collecting votes. Maybe Israel will achieve the political aims it has planned in the short term, but it will suffer because of its image as a “murderer state” in the long term. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan communicatively expressed “the truth that all the people on the planet agree on” to Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos. Actually his reaction to the Israeli president in Davos created a bigger impression than leaving the Davos meeting. In diplomatic language, the phone call made by Israeli President Peres to Erdogan indicating that he was not offended by what happened can only be evaluated as the desire to shift from the image of a “murderer state” to a more personal one. We should underscore that predictions about the future that await Israel are not definite. Israel incited the reaction of the world with the barbarian slaughter it carried out, and it appears that Israel’s propaganda, which deliberatively reduces Gaza to “Hamas,” cannot be handled even by Nobel Peace Prize winner Peres.

As long as Israel does not trigger a new process after the crime against humanity it committed in Gaza, it will start to eat up its own energy internally. Above all, a political crisis with Turkey in this period would mean the suicide of Israel. The Israeli policy that drives the country forward is its friction with “radical Iran” and its challenges against Iran. So, a conflict with Prime Minister Erdogan, who takes initiative for stability and peace in the region and who has become one of the most respected leaders in the world — a conflict with Turkey — would be the end of Israel’s survival strategy in the region. Can Israel take such risk, which may cause it to turn from a country that holds the initiative and produces policy into a country that is shaped by others’ policies? Essentially the situation is that. At this stage, it should be stated that Israel may find itself in such a situation whether it wants to or not, since international developments that are likely to take place imply that this may take place. Peres’ phone call to Erdogan to express his sorrow over what happened was not for nothing. The thing that Peres could not handle, more than Erdogan’s personality, was the strength and success of Turkish diplomacy under the leadership of Erdogan.

Is the Davos crisis a great chance for Turkey?

The point at which Israel has arrived can be defined as “go farther and fare worse.” Israel may recognize itself as having achieved certain aims (especially political aims) through the operation in Gaza, which was planned considering the nature of the soil there — an operation that was planned very well tactically just before the Obama administration took office. But Israel’s policy of producing tension in the region is taking a jab starting from today. Now there is a peaceful country, Turkey, between Israel and Iran (the country Israel has continuously used as a foundation for its legitimacy). Turkish diplomats know how to bring Hamas and Israel together at the same table through their practices of peace and shuttle diplomacy, and now this has turned into a strong barrier for Israel. Turkey can succeed in limiting Israel by taking the initiative in the region and bridling both Palestine and Israel and another actor in the region, Iran. Moves that weaken the hand of Israel politically are made by Turkey. Turkey can turn the crisis in Davos into an opportunity, and this has become possible because of a historical turning point in the meeting in Davos that occurred when Mr. Erdogan (as he should have) left a panel discussion after an argument with the Israeli president. While the Turkish media discuss whether the behavior of Prime Minister Erdogan was right, Erdogan’s action, which can be defined as active, smart and not to be outdone, has carried Turkey into a key position. Now, what is the probability that this attitude and this occasion will be turned into a stable one in the international arena? This aspect of the issue deserves to be discussed. One of the things that bothers Israel most is the possibility that Turkey may work out a stable peace between Hamas and Fatah. This is one of the opportunities that await Turkey, and Turkey will increase its influence through its success in this. We should not be surprised if we witness such an initiative by Turkey.

[*] Ahmet Turan Ayhan is a political analyst.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Gulf: Delicate Balance Between Market and Cultural Identity

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed)- DUBAI, FEBRUARY 4 — Arab countries of the Gulf are hoping to find a balance between the needs of the economy and a demographic situation which mirrors regional identity. The foreign work force has reached “worrying proportions” in the area, with peaks of up to 97%, as in the case of Dubai. First oil, and then strategies for economic diversification, have left the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Coucil (GCC, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman) with little choice but to import human resources — both labour and professional — in order to support and guide their emerging economies. Now the foreign workforce numbers well above 50% in most of the GCC countries, with Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) above 80%. During the conference dedicated to human resources in the Gulf, which concluded today in Abu Dhabi, the Saudi minister for work stressed that the Kingdom has already prepared “a series of studies to correct the (demographic) distortion without neglecting the market’s needs”. Such measures have already been taken by the other oil-producing kingdoms, who have started to analyse the situation and make national proposals, leading to a common regional policiy on the issue. The President of the UAE, Khalifa Al Nayan, had declared that 2008 was to be a year of ‘Emirate-isation’ in order to highlight the need to deal with the demographic inbalances through research, debates and conferences. Now that the problem has been focused in the minds of the oil kingdom’s leaders, they have agreed that they need to invest in younger generations — both in terms of quality and quantity — in order to gradually transfer professional jobs back from foreigners to locals. “Arab workers are amongst the least productive in the world”, warned Antoine Zahalan, a political consultant from Lebanon, underlining that “the challenge can only be overcome through better quality, better productivity, and better technology”. A three day meeting organised by the Abu Dhabi Centre for Strategic Studies has found that another fundamental aspect for restoring social and productive equilibrium can be found in the issue of female employment. Women, who already occupy important positions in the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, can help to fill roles of greater responsibility and further reduce the dependence on foreign labour. At the moment, women form between 15 and 24% in the GCC (with Kuwait and Barhain in the lead), but in order to make women effectively reconcile the traditional female role of mother with the role of professional or worker, it is necessary to ensure greater guarantees for their rights, beginning with maternity concessions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Media: Arab World, Digital Media and TV on Mobile Emerging

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 3 — Digital media and television on mobile phones: these are the two emerging communication sectors in the Arab world according to the Arab Media Outlook 2008-2012, presented today in Dubai. “The Arab countries have one of the highest communication growth rates in the world”, said Marcel Fenez, director of Pw’c Entertainment & Media Pratice who carried out the survey together with the Press Club of Dubai. Fenez sees “a significant growth in the coming five years despite the current global crisis”. The “net generation”, young people between 15 and 25 years old, makes up around half the population in the Arab world. The report, after analysing 12 countries, points out that the lack of low price broadband access could slow growth in most of the markets studied. More money must be invested to expand regional internet connections. Another aspect that needs attention is “a scientific study of the audience” said Amina AlRustamani, CEO of Tecom Businee Park, to know who the users are. This is good to know for those who develop content and for advertising agencies. Between 2008 and 2012 income from advertising should rise by between 5 and 25%, mainly thanks to the continuous expansion of online advertising. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tumours: Saudi Arabia Possible Objective of Expansion, Eio

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, JULY 17 — Saudi Arabia could also be among the objectives for expansion abroad of the European Institute of Oncology (EIO) in which the Italian excellence would shine in the field of medicine but nowadays the institute founded by Umberto Veronesi continues looking at Italy with concrete projects, EIO announced during the presentation of the data of the 2007 activity. Data which reveal operating results for 8.9 million euro fully invested in research and an increase in the hospitalisations which is to touch 20,000. New chairman of the EIO group, Carlo Buora, specified that the institute after a recent meeting in Jeddah with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, could “make an offer for an oncological unit for a city which will be built in the nothing and which will welcome some 2 million residents”. The regions of the Far East still are not considered interesting by the group, where the market conditions are less advantageous for many foreign companies of the medical sector. In Italy EIO which was created 14 years ago by an idea of Umberto Veronesi and banker Enrico Cuccia, wants to open, not before one year, EIO centres in already existing outpatients clinics focusing on cardiac-oncological check ups. “Our objective is to open 2 or 3 centres per year all over Italy”, CEO of the institute, Carlo Ciani, specified. EIO2 will be launched in Milan by a few months. It will be a day centre with 40 beds and over 200 employees, and later a Residence directed to post-hospitalisation assistance will be launched. The total structure, also counting the campus already opened partly in 2007, from 28,900 square metres in 1994 will become 58,000 in 2010. The foreign countries continue being one of the objectives of the institute because, Ciani explained, “we have cooperation agreements not only for study but also aimed at granting the creation of new oncological activities”. “The oneness of EIO is in its main founding principle. The members invest possible incomes in research, dividends are not paid. From the setting up until today the members, now 20, have contributed with 163.9 million euro for research and development of the clinical activities”, Buora concluded. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Russia Retreats From Costly Bail-Outs

The euro has fallen sharply on mounting fears of a financial crisis in Eastern Europe after Kazakhstan devalued by a fifth and Fitch Ratings cut Russia’s debt to BBB, just two notches above junk.

Russia’s finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, told reporters in London that the Kremlin was preparing a fresh rescue for the banks, injecting $40bn in core capital. But he gave warning that it would not squander taxpayers’ money saving every Russian company in distress. “The government is not responsible for private sector risks,” he said.

This is a major shift in policy. Mr Kudrin had been mulling blanket guarantees for some 260 companies, but the Kremlin has clearly awoken to the danger that global investors will not underwrite such a strategy.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Burmese Refugees Found Adrift Over Coast

Jakarta, 3 Feb. (AKI) — Around 200 Rohingya people fleeing Burma have been found adrift off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra after three weeks at sea. They claim to be part of a group of more than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims who were abandoned at sea by Thai security forces.

Nasruddin Abu Bakar, deputy leader of the region of East Aceh, told Adnkronos International (AKI) there were 198 people in the group and all were Rohingya, or members of the Muslim minority persecuted in Burma.

“They are all men. There is also a 13-year-old boy among the group,” he told AKI. “At least 20 are in a serious condition and have been taken to hospital.”

According to the refugees, 22 members of the group died during the voyage.

Some media reports said they also showed scars to Indonesian naval officers which they claimed came from beatings by Thai forces. Thailand denied the allegations.

The group of Rohingya is the second to arrive in the Indonesian province of Aceh this year.

On 7 January this year 170 ethnic Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis were found by Indonesian fishermen adrift at sea off Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra.

They claimed they were abandoned by Thai authorities in boats without engines or food, after they were first detained and beaten when they landed in Thailand. Bangkok denied the claims.

Despite the denials, several sources have estimated around 1000 refugees have been left in the open sea around Thailand between 18 and 30 December last year. There are fears that many of them drowned.

The Indonesian government said the refugees are ‘economic migrants’ and therefore should be repatriated.

Radical Islamic groups who are usually very vocal in their support for Muslims around the world, seem to have accepted Jakarta’s decision in silence.

Human rights groups say that the Rohingya suffer discrimination in Burma and are not considered citizens because they are Muslim.

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

Rescue for 198 Rohingya Refugees Abandoned by Thailand in Open Sea

The refugees drifted for three weeks without water and food during which time 22 died. Thai authorities had denied them entry, leaving them on board a boat without an engine. A Thai committee blames the problem on human traffickers as refugees prefer death to going back to Myanmar.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) — An Indonesian fishing boat found 198 Rohingya off the coast of Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. They were hungry, dehydrated, forced to stand for three weeks in a rickety boat.

According to an Indonesian naval officer, the refugees spent three weeks in the ocean after Thai authorities denied them entry into Thailand, leaving them in the open sea in a 12-metre boat that had no engine.

Survivors said that 22 other refugees died, unable to withstand hunger and fatigue. Almost half of those who made it is now in hospital suffering from the effects of malnutrition and dehydration.

This is the second time the Indonesian Navy rescues a group of desperate refugees in a month.

The Rohingya are a Muslim group living in Myanmar but are persecuted by that country’s government. So far they have found no place willing to take them in.

According to a Thai security committee the refugees are the victims of an international human trafficking ring that is using Thailand as a staging point to take the refugees to other countries.

Police sources confirmed that it found phone numbers among the personal effects of some refugees that were allegedly used to contact members of the Rohingya community based in Thailand, especially in the province of Ranong and Nakhon Ratchasima, near the border with Myanmar.

The international community is putting pressure on Bangkok, accused of “inhumanity” and being “cold-blooded” for its refusal to grant Rohingya refugee status.

Thai police recently arrested 126 other refugees for illegal entry. Nothing is known of their fate or whereabouts.

Narjif, Rohingya leader in Ranong province, said that he came legally to Thailand 30 years ago and that he is now earning a living “sorting garbage and collecting plastic bottles and metal cans for sale.”

In his adopted home he set up a school for Rohingya children. His community now consists of “68 people, aged 12 to 40, who legally live here as foreign labourers working in construction in Ranong province.”

“Our residence permits will expire in October,” Narjif said, “but we want to stay. Going back makes no sense because the [Burmese] military make us work without paying us.”

He said that the international focus on the plight of Rohingya refugees is a good thing, because “we can now see the real situation of our people. The international community should help us solve the problem at its root cause.”

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

Thailand: Bangkok Denies Mistreatment Allegations by Rohingya Refugees

Thailand’s foreign minister wants refugee allegations checked; tells media to wait the results of Indonesian government investigation. Refugees are also threatened by international human traffickers.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Thailand rejected accusations that it has mistreated Rohingya refugees. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said that eyewitness accounts by the 198 refugees rescued off the coast of Thailand on Monday “have not yet been verified.” Any charges will “have to wait for an official investigation of the Indonesian government,” he said. The minister’s statement came after an outcry in the international media.

Found off the coast of Aceh, Rohingya refugees were rescued by Indonesian fishermen who said the former had wounds caused by Thai soldiers who abandoned them in the open sea after mistreating them.

Mr Kasit said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) met 12 other Rohingya boat people detained in Ranong, Thailand and that his government was in talks with the United Nations to decide their fate.

Rohingya refugees also face the danger of international human trafficking. Some of them have been bought by Thailand-based agents who act as intermediaries between refugees and buyers.

The luckiest ones are “sold” to ethnic Rohingya in Thailand who buy them for a hefty price in order to free them and give them work.

Many others are instead sent to Malaysia, Indonesia or other parts of Thailand where they are forced to work for their owners.

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

Far East

Korea: Pyongyang Ready to Test-Fire a New Missile With Nuclear Warhead

It is a long-distance ballistic missile capable of carrying a 500-kg nuclear payload and reaching the US West Coast. It was tested in July 2006 to dismal results. In South Korea poll indicates two-thirds of South Koreans back President Lee’s aid-for-denuclearisation policy vis-à-vis Pyongyang.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) — North Korea is preparing to test-fire its longest-range missile with a capability of delivering a nuclear warhead, official South Korean sources reported today. US and South Korean intelligence officials have recently spotted a North Korean train carrying what is believed to be a Taepodong-2 missile, which is capable of delivering a payload of up to 500 kilograms as far as Alaska and the US West Coast.

A launch is expected in a month or two. But Japanese intelligence sources suggest that a launch could be “imminent.”

North Korea test-fired a Taepodong-2 missile on 5 July 2006 but its launch failed. The rocket exploded after 40 seconds of flight.

The report increases tensions on the Korean peninsula. In recent days Pyongyang announced its intention of cancelling all inter-Korean political and military agreements, blaming Seoul for pursuing an allegedly ‘hostile” policy of “confrontation”, which it warned “may lead to an uncontrollable” outcome.

For its part South Korea is still interested in a diplomatic solution to the crisis but will not be bullied on the nuclear question and will continue to make economic aid and assistance dependent on progress in North Korea’s denuclearisation.

More than two-thirds of South Koreans said they support their South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s policy linking economic aid to Pyongyang’s denuclearization

The poll, by the Korea Economic Research Institute, found that 68.4 per cent of 800 respondents said they were supportive of the aid-for-denuclearisation policy by the South Korean government against 27.2 per cent who said they didn’t support the government’s hard-line stance, according to Yonhap News.

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

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Crisis Picks Up Speed

AS THE Federal Government and the Reserve Bank take unprecedented steps to keep the economy pumping, their efforts are being frustrated by a slew of bad news streaming out of corporate Australia — profits are slumping and job cuts deepening.

For business, the speed of the downturn underscores the limited ability of regulators to insulate Australia from a global crisis that is rapidly spreading beyond the banking system and is starting to take hold across almost every sector of the economy.

Only days into the company reporting season, a grim picture is emerging, and more bad news is expected.

Lending giant GE Money, which yesterday detailed plans to cut more than 400 jobs at operations in Melbourne and Sydney, warned Australia was only now catching up to the world.

“Australia is going to experience its credit crunch in the first half of this year,” GE’s Australian chief executive, Steve Sargent, said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Dutch to Pick Up Pirates

A Dutch military aircraft is to pick up five Somali pirates being held on a Danish warship in Bahrain.

A month-long legal wrangle between Denmark and the Netherlands over the fate of five Somali pirates being held on the Danish warship Absalon appears nearing its end. According to reports in Denmark, a Dutch military aircraft is to pick up the five men sometime next week and transport them to the Netherlands where they are to stand trial.

The five were detained by the Absalon on December 31, 2008 after unsuccessfully attempting to hijack a Dutch Antilles-flagged vessel off the coast of Somalia.

According to the reports, Bahrain has agreed to allow the Dutch aircraft to land and remove the five pirates.

The Dutch public prosecutor has issued an international arrest warrant on the five men, since the vessel they attacked was flagged in an autonomous region of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Fossil of 43-Foot Super-Snake Titanoboa Found in Colombia

At 2,500 pounds and as long as a school bus, Titanoboa could swallow crocodiles. It lived after dinosaurs died out, and changes scientists’ ideas about ‘how big a snake can be.’

It was the mother of all snakes, a nightmarish behemoth as long as a school bus and as heavy as a Volkswagen Beetle that ruled the ancient Amazonian rain forest for 2 million years before slithering into nonexistence.

Now this monster, which weighed in at 2,500 pounds, has resurfaced in fossils taken from an open-pit coal mine in Colombia, a startling example of growth gone wild.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


16 Illegals Sue Rancher Who Catches Them on His Land

Aliens claim American violated civil rights, inflicted emotional distress

[Comment from JD: This case will be used to intimidate anyone from stopping illegals crossing their land. Just like those two border guards were politically prosecuted.]

A group of 16 illegal aliens is suing an Arizona rancher, claiming he violated their civil rights, falsely imprisoned them and inflicted emotional distress by holding them at gunpoint on his property along the border.

The federal lawsuit against Douglas, Ariz., rancher Roger Barnett, his wife, Barbara, and his brother, Donald, is taking place before Judge John Roll in U.S. District Court and will run through Feb. 13. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, is representing the five female and 11 male illegals.


Al Garza, National Executive Director for Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, attended the first day of hearings on Monday. While the plaintiffs allege that Barnett attacked them because he is racist, Garza, an American of Mexican descent, said Barnett has never shown any hostility toward him.

“There is no racist agenda here, or I wouldn’t be a part of it because I am and American of Hispanic descent,” Garza said. “We don’t hate anyone from any particular country. We just want our laws enforced. This is not about color..”


Barnett allegedly detained the trespassing illegals until Border Patrol agents arrived.

But Garza said their testimonies don’t add up.

“I saw yesterday that these stories were fabricated,” he said. “They were coerced into saying things that would ordinarily not be said by an illegal immigrant with no education.”

Garza said Barnett’s dog has never been vicious and that Barnett did not kick the woman. He also said one female witness told the court the group had been robbed in Mexico and that the only time the feared for their lives was when Barnett accosted them.

“She said she was not afraid in Mexico because there were only four men, and there was only one gun, and the way that they robbed them was in a very nice, very polite fashion,” he said. “But when Barnett came into the picture, she said he was very vicious and he wanted to kill them. So they were more afraid of one American defending his property than four robbers on their side.”


In March, the same judge refused to have the lawsuit thrown out, because he said he believed the family denied the aliens’ right to interstate travel and that the detention was racially motivated.


In the interview, Barnett said he has tried to contact his representatives about the wave of illegals coming across his property.

“They won’t listen,” he said. “They’re useless.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Amnesty Kills Democracy and Creates One Party System

Are Democrats anti-American?

That’s the question crack journalist Xelan Bonn asked recently in a conversation with yours truly.

“If Congress amnesties 12-24 million criminal immigrants, then, under current law, they would have the right to bring in their families as well, which could happen over the next few years,” Bonn said. “The average immigrant would be expected to bring in four family members. If we assume there are only 20 million criminal immigrants in the US now that will get amnesty, then that means 80 million more get to come in for a total hit of 100 million—-most in the poverty class, most a burden on society and taxpayers, yes, but the worse part… democracy dies and a one party system is created..”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Arizona: Inmates Marched to Segregated Area of Tent City

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio marched 220 chained illegal immigrant inmates into a segregated enclosure of Tent City Wednesday afternoon, despite protests from some County officials and civil rights groups who thought the procession violated human rights.

The 220 inmates walked from the Durango Jail complex to Tent City near 35th Avenue and Durango Street in Phoenix about 1 p.m. Wednesday. The inmates were chained at the feet and wore handcuffs while carrying bags full of personal belongings. The procession took about 15 minutes.

According to Arpaio the inmates will not be treated any differently than other inmates with two exceptions: Arpaio plans to have the inmates instructed in U.S. immigration law and have the inmates who violate jail rules put in a chain gang to work to clean areas of the Valley affected by human trafficking…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Doctor Migrant ‘Snoop’ Move Slammed

Crime bill asks hospital staff to report illegals

(ANSA) — Rome, February 5 — The Italian parliament on Thursday approved a measure requiring doctors to report illegal immigrants, unleashing a barrage of criticism.

The measure, which would lift confidentiality provisions for illegals who need hospital care, was contained in a crime bill passed by the Senate to the Chamber of Deputies.

The Italian association of hospital doctors has criticised the measure and said its members will not act as ‘‘spies’’.

The opposition described the measure, which was put into the bill by the regionalist Northern League, as ‘‘racist’’ and ‘‘fascist’’.

The Italian branch of Doctors Without Borders warned it could keep illegal immigrants away from hospitals with health risks for society.

It appealed to the lower house to stave off ‘‘the dangerous healthcare marginalisation of a swathe of the foreign population’’.

The largest opposition party, the Democratic Party (PD), led the criticism in parliament. Democratic Party (PD) Senate whip Anna Finocchiaro said the measure would ‘‘spread fear among people who will no longer go to hospital to give birth or seek treatment for their children, or will hide diseases even if they are contagious’’.

‘‘You have crossed the line from law-making to persecution,’’ she told the government, arguing that the measure would fuel racism.

Finocchiaro also noted that the government was defeated three times on the bill Wednesday despite its overwhelming majority, an alleged indication that many in the ruling parties thought the measure went too far. EXTREME RIGHT SLAMS MEASURE TOO.

Italy’s only black MP, Congo-born Jean-Leonard Touadi, also in the PD, called the measure ‘‘a return to fascist-era snooping’’ and said many illegals would choose death over expulsion.

‘‘I therefore ask my colleagues in the majority: where are the Christian values whose flag they have wrapped themselves in? Where is the right to life, bandied around so much at the moment,’’ he said, referring to a landmark right-to-die ruling the government and the Catholic Church is fighting against. The hard-left Communist Refoundation party called the measure ‘‘clearly neo-Nazi and, most of all, stupid,’’ while the extreme-right New Force party said it was ‘‘spine-chilling’’.

‘‘It’s not by forcing doctors to betray their Hippocratic oath that you’re going to combat immigration,’’ said New Force official Paolo Caratossidis, stressing that ‘‘everyone has the right to medical treatment’’.

The measure was also condemned by leftwing union CGIL which said it ‘‘shows the cultural, political and ethical degradation of the majority’’.

CGIL said its medical chapters would look at ‘‘all necessary means’’ to stop the measure being applied.

The leader of the small leftwing Democratic Left party, EuroMP Claudio Fava, linked the doctors’ measure to other parts of the crime bill including the registration of street people and the approval of citizen’s crimewatch patrols.

‘‘With this bill, (Premier Silvio) Berlusconi’s Italy has effectively moved beyond the bounds of the European Union,’’ he said, announcing an appeal to Brussels to open a formal procedure against the government’s ‘‘manifest xenophobia…like (late rightwing leader Georg) Haider’s Austria’’. ‘ITALIANS RIGHTS COME FIRST’.

The government insists the measure is needed to help crack down on illegal immigration, which has risen steadily in recent years and has been linked to high-profile crimes.

The Senate whip for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, Maurizio Gasparri, rejected suggestions that the crime bill was largely the work of the Northern League, saying: ‘‘the bill is backed by the entire majority because we are convinced that the rights of Italians must take first place’’.

Arguing that the bill would help combat people trafficking, he said: ‘‘There is no racism here. There was racism by progressive mayors who allowed shanty towns to spread, where babies die at night because of fires’’. The Northern League hailed the vote as ‘‘a victory for our militants’’ and pooh-poohed the opposition’s strictures. ‘‘You are with the foreigners, you defend foreigners and you’re against Italians,’’ said League Senate whip Federico Bricolo, answering shouts of ‘‘xenophobia’’ from the opposition benches.

‘‘You can call us xenophobic all you like, it only wins us more votes’’.

Before passing into law, the bill must be approved by the lower house.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Finland: Growing Education Need for Young Immigrants

In response to a growing number of young asylum seekers in Finland, Alkio College in Korpilahti is one of the first in the country to start education for under age immigrants.

In response to a growing number of young asylum seekers in Finland, Alkio College in Korpilahti is one of the first in the country to start education for under age immigrants.

Rector Jorma Keränen explains that the education is mainly focused on learning Finnish, but also caters to other needs of the students, including studies in maths, English, physical education and information technology. The aim is to help integration into Finnish society and culture.

Taking part in the new education the first month are sixteen pupils from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, who all arrived in Finland over the last year.

“Their backgrounds are very diverse, but they all know how to read and write. All but one have been to school in their home countries, some even in secondary school,” says Keränen.

The Ministry of the Interior has approved of the programme and Alkio College is set to continue the education.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

France: Permits for Those Who Report Traffickers

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 4 — Temporary stay permits will be granted to illegal immigrants who traffickers and collaborate with police as a part of the new measure announced today by the French Minister of Immigration, Eric Besson. Illegal immigrants “currently don’t have the right to report their sad conditions, because they don’t have legal documents”, Besson said to ‘Europe 1’ radio. “With the new system”, he added, “they can obtain a temporary stay permit and cooperate with the police”. The aim is to “dismantle the illegal immigration networks”, specified the minister, announcing that just yesterday police were able to put a stop to an organisation of Asian origin which dealt with trafficking illegal immigrants. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Immigrants: Maroni, Clandestine Problem, We Need to be Strict

(AGI) — Avellino, 2 Feb. — “I have been accused by sometime good guys as making jokes in northern bars, as being a member of the northern racists who don’t care about the rights of the poor. But to me this conciliatory attitude doesn’t matter because if it is true that there is no security problem, it must be true that the real problem is that of illegal immigration”. So states the Minister of Internal Affairs, Roberto Maroni, speaking at ‘Governincontra’. To counter illegal immigration and all of the trouble it brings we should be the bad guys not the good guys, we need to be determined to maintain the severity of the law”. The discussion by Maroni both on the fight against illegal immigration and on the necessity for a reconciliation between north and south was highly applauded by the audience.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italian Bishops Defend Immigrant Rights

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, FEBRUARY 3 — Italy must respect the fundamental rights of immigrants, the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI) said Tuesday. CEI Secretary-General Msgr Mariano Crociata said it was important to strike a balance between “welcome and legality”, but stressed that the welcome should never be “reduced”. “Once on our national territory, immigrants are people to be welcomed and their fundamental rights must be defended and respected,” he said. Crociata defended immigrants’ rights to “practise their religion in accordance with Italy’s democratic and constitutional legislation”. He approved the building of new mosques in the country “in a manner proportionate to quantitative and qualitative needs”. Reacting to a call on Monday from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to stamp out xenophobia in Italy after an Indian immigrant was beaten and set alight at a station near Rome, Crociata said such violence was more of a “cultural” problem. Rather than attributing attacks on foreigners to “a particular growth of xenophobia”, he said they were connected to “a general malaise” and “lack of values” in Italy. “The tensions of a difficult moment (for society) end up being unleashed in these brutal attacks, which find foreigners as victims,” he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya: Transit Country to Import Manpower

(by Francesca Spinola) (ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 4 — Libya, a land of transit for tens of thousands of migrants willing to face the risks of sea crossings, “will be importing” labour from Sri Lanka. However, this is not the only decision made by the Tripoli government as concerns manpower, since men nearing the retirement age have been asked in no uncertain terms to make way for the younger generation. Unemployment, immigration and manpower are the most talked-about issues at the beginning of this February in Libya, where today the Italian Minister for Internal Affairs, Roberto Maroni, has arrived to discuss immigration-related themes. The Tripoli government has signed an agreement with its Sri Lankan counterpart to take in 100,000 of the island’s citizens per year, to whom work and stable contracts will be ensured in various productive sectors. The announcement was made, by way of an independent television broadcaster in Sri Lanka, by the Sri Lankan government spokesman for Defence and Security, Keheliya Rambukwella, who also announced an upcoming visit to Libya by the president of the republic, Mahinda Rajapaksa. And while Libya is about to send its manpower abroad, the secretary of the Peoplés General Commission for Libyan Labour, Mohamed Maatoug, has issued a memo asking Libyan and foreign companies in the country to consider 65 as the retirement age for men and 60 for women. The official reason for this move was given as the desire to contrast unemployment in the young with the necessary studies. The new measures are already in force and soon, after a census of workers, men and women eligible for retirement will have to step aside for the new recruits, and maybe also a few Sri Lankans with degrees/qualifications. All of these measures bear witness to Libya’s becoming ever more a destination in and of itself, and not only a “transit country” for those million and a half migrants passing through, according to a recent survey conducted by the World Emigration Organization. And so, while Italy is trying to find a way to work with Libya on fighting illegal immigration, Libya is regulating migration onto its own soil with a number of countries, as well as reorganising its labour market. The development plans of the country make it clear that Libya will need an ever greater amount of manpower. In a Master Plan for the development of the tourism sector to be presented in the spring by Tourism Minister Ammar Eltaif, we can see the desire to transform Libya ever more from a “new “ destination into a “prime” one by 2025. Fifteen years for the country to build the necessary infrastructure for business and traditional forms or tourism: airports, roads, hotels, resorts and trained staff. From its current 2,200 rooms Libya expects to be able to offer 50,000. Building sites are up and running and Tripoli alone counts over 25. Luxury hotels, including the new Intercontinental with its 500 rooms, two Starwood Hotels, a series of towers, including the Korean Daewoo Tower, with business centres and commercial ones are in the Master Plan, as is the development of the spectacular coastal area, which at the moment is entirely lacking in tourist facilities. And so, we will see more rooms, more to offer, more visitors and more infrastructure, including a new airport in Tripoli on which work has already begun, able to see 3 million visitors pass through per year. Libyans, according to the last census figures (from 2006) number 5,673,000. Considering the fact that not more than 40% of the population is in working age, the choice to look into the labour market seems amply justified. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Another Look-Alike ‘Marriage’ Proposed for ‘Gays’

Washington lawmakers to debate plan to give homosexuals all privileges

The organization’s spokesman, Russell Johnson, told WND the legislative plans “essentially would be a gay marriage equivalent, and afford all of the rights of traditional marriage to domestic partners without technically giving them the name marriage.”

He said the state’s definition of marriage now is one man and one woman, and its protections for the traditional institution have been upheld by the state Supreme Court.

However, recent legislatures have “chipped away” at the protections for marriage, and this year the full agenda to give same-sex duos the same status as married man-and-wife couples is being attempted.

Johnson said that’s at a time when his organization’s surveys reveal that public support for same-sex “marriage” is declining.

He also cited the vote just a few months ago in California where residents rejected a provision to allow “marriage” for same-sex duos.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Bankrupt California Buys Ads for ‘Gay’ Adoptions

Facing $42 billion deficit, state pushes homosexual guardianship

SACRAMENTO — Facing a $42 billion deficit and a state debt that grows by $28,000 every minute, California has managed to find enough room in its budget to sponsor an elaborate statewide campaign to promote homosexual adoption.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has partnered with the California Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County to promote a “Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Family” campaign that invites homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals to adopt children.

According to a Campaign for Children and Families report, the state has sponsored two billboards promoting “gay” adoption in West Hollywood and Alameda County.

In April 2007, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed John Wagner as director of the Department of Social Services. Wagner is openly “gay” and is an advisory member of the Human Rights Campaign.


While the campaign claims to be acting in the interest of more than 100,000 U.S. children waiting to be adopted by loving families, none of its promotional images feature heterosexual parents. It lists adoption agencies in 15 states that are currently participating in the initiative and are “committed to implementing policies and practices that welcome, affirm and support LGBT foster and adoptive parents.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Homeschoolers Under Attack — Again!

Proposal would require review by ‘credentialed educator’

Homeschoolers in recent months have weathered the turmoil of a California court opinion that appeared to ban the activity, and while the threat later was removed, proposals that would hinder parents who want to teach their own children remain pending.

That’s according to the Home School Legal Defense Association, which monitors the situations closely. The newest warning, the organization said today, comes from New Hampshire.

Pending in the state legislature is a plan by Rep. Judith Day that would “radically” rewrite the testing and assessment demands under the state’s existing laws.

“If passed, New Hampshire would have one of the most restrictive homeschool laws in the nation,” said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney for HSLDA.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Legislators Tell Feds to Back Off

New speech, press, gun or ammunition limits ‘altogether void’

Lawmakers in New Hampshire are telling the federal government to back off because plans for a federal handgun license, “hate crimes” laws to regulate Christians’ speech about their own religious beliefs on homosexuality, President Obama’s youth corps for mandatory public service and the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” to “balance” talk radio are none of them constitutional.

Such plans by the bureaucrats and administrators in Washington, D.C., are “altogether void” and if mandated, “shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States,” the lawmakers are warning.

The terse alarm is contained in House Concurrent Resolution 6, which has been introduced for debate. It affirms states’ rights “based on Jeffersonian principles.”


New Hampshire Rep. Dan Itse, a sponsor of the resolution, said he wants New Hampshire to be among the states “standing up to the federal government, enforcing the Constitution.”

He called the current status in the United States, with federal rules and regulations reaching into virtually every facet of a state citizen’s life, “a usurpation by the federal judiciary of the people’s right of self-government.”

“What I see happening is a growing disregard for the rights of individuals and the rights of the states. At some point you have to draw the line,” he told WND.

The resolution then, he said, is a warning.

“If you’re in a marriage, and things are going rotten, it’s not right just to all of a sudden hand the other party divorce papers. The right thing to do is say, ‘there’s a problem. Let’s go to counseling.’ This is in essence telling the general government if you continue down this road — you will have nullified the Constitution,” he told WND.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Justice Pick Supports Porn ‘Rights’

Ogden’s clientele, legal arguments, raise alarms

President Obama has expressed his belief the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted through the lens of current events, and now he’s apparently preparing to install as a senior official at the U.S. Justice Department a lawyer who goes one step further, advocating for constitutional protections for abortionists, pornographers and protesters.

The evaluation of Justice Department nominee David Ogden, who would be deputy to Attorney General Eric Holder, comes from Fidelis, a consortium of organizations working to promote religious freedom, values of human life and the institutions of marriage and the family.

“Ogden is an abortion-on-demand absolutist. He opposes common sense restrictions on abortion, including policies that have significant support from the American people, such as parental notification by minors,” the organizations said in a report today.

Also, “Ogden is an absolutist on pornography and obscenity. He opposes common sense restrictions on the ability of pornography peddlers to sell their products. He believes pornography users have a constitutional right to view pornography at a public library.”

Additionally, “He believes private property owners’ right to exclude protesters from their property must yield to the protesters’ free speech right.”

And he “supports a ‘living Constitution’ that changes to fit the latest fad of the intelligentsia,” the report said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

O’Malley Proposes Extending Health Benefits to Gays

Governor would include same-sex domestic partners of state employees

Gov. Martin O’Malley has proposed extending health care benefits to same-sex partners of state employees, fulfilling a campaign promise to gay-rights activists despite this year’s strapped budget.

The Democratic governor’s proposal would allow state workers and retirees to add domestic partners and their dependents to health, dental and prescription drug plans, essentially putting gay couples on par with married spouses.

As many as 300 employees in a state work force of more than 70,000 are expected to sign up, at a cost of $1 million to $3 million.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

United Nations’ Threat: No More Parental Rights

Expert: Pact would ban spankings, homeschooling if children object

A United Nations human rights treaty that could prohibit children from being spanked or homeschooled, ban youngsters from facing the death penalty and forbid parents from deciding their families’ religion is on America’s doorstep, a legal expert warns.

Michael Farris of Purcellville, Va., is president of, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association and chancellor of Patrick Henry College. He told WND that under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC, every decision a parent makes can be reviewed by the government to determine whether it is in the child’s best interest.

“It’s definitely on our doorstep,” he said. “The left wants to make the Obama-Clinton era permanent. Treaties are a way to make it as permanent as stuff gets. It is very difficult to extract yourself from a treaty once you begin it. If they can put all of their left-wing socialist policies into treaty form, we’re stuck with it even if they lose the next election.”

The 1990s-era document was ratified quickly by 193 nations worldwide, but not the United States or Somalia. In Somalia, there was then no recognized government to do the formal recognition, and in the United States there’s been opposition to its power. Countries that ratify the treaty are bound to it by international law.


According to the Parental Rights website, the substance of the CRC dictates the following:

* Parents would no longer be able to administer reasonable spankings to their children.

* A murderer aged 17 years, 11 months and 29 days at the time of his crime could no longer be sentenced to life in prison.

* Children would have the ability to choose their own religion while parents would only have the authority to give their children advice about religion.

* The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision.

* A child’s “right to be heard” would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed.

* According to existing interpretation, it would be illegal for a nation to spend more on national defense than it does on children’s welfare.

* Children would acquire a legally enforceable right to leisure.

* Teaching children about Christianity in schools has been held to be out of compliance with the CRC.

* Allowing parents to opt their children out of sex education has been held to be out of compliance with the CRC.

* Children would have the right to reproductive health information and services, including abortions, without parental knowledge or consent.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]