Our IV of email has been reconnected, and tips from the usual suspects are trickling back in. Check out the news stories from the UK — the behavioral sink, the financial crisis, fears of civil disorder, and the decline of the Labour Party, all mixed together.
Thanks to Aeneas, C. Cantoni, Craig Karpel, Fjordman, Gaia, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, JD, KGS, Samhaldsfestarin, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Britain Faces Summer of Rage — Police
Middle-class anger at economic crisis could erupt into violence on streets
Police are preparing for a “summer of rage” as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions, the Guardian has learned.
Britain’s most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming “footsoldiers” in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.
Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police’s public order branch, told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year.
He said that banks, particularly those that still pay large bonuses despite receiving billions in taxpayer money, had become “viable targets”. So too had the headquarters of multinational companies and other financial institutions in the City which are being blamed for the financial crisis.
Hartshorn, who receives regular intelligence briefings on potential causes of civil unrest, said the mood at some demonstrations had changed recently, with activists increasingly “intent on coming on to the streets to create public disorder”.
The warning comes in the wake of often violent protests against the handling of the economy across Europe. In recent weeks Greek farmers have blocked roads over falling agricultural prices, a million workers in France joined demonstrations to demand greater protection for jobs and wages and Icelandic demonstrators have clashed with police in Reykjavik.
In the UK hundreds of oil refinery workers mounted wildcat strikes last month over the use of foreign workers.
Intelligence reports suggest that “known activists” are also returning to the streets, and police claim they will foment unrest. “Those people would be good at motivating people, but they haven’t had the ‘footsoldiers’ to actually carry out [protests],” Hartshorn said. “Obviously the downturn in the economy, unemployment, repossessions, changes that. Suddenly there is the opportunity for people to mass protest.
“It means that where we would possibly look at certain events and say, ‘yes there’ll be a lot of people there, there’ll be a lot of banner waving, but generally it will be peaceful’, [now] we have to make sure these elements don’t come out and hijack that event and turn that into disorder.”
Hartshorn identified April’s G20 meeting of the group of leading and developing nations in London as an event that could kick-start a challenging summer. “We’ve got G20 coming and I think that is being advertised on some of the sites as the highlight of what they see as a ‘summer of rage’,” he said.
His comments are likely to be met with disappointment by protest groups, who in recent weeks have complained that police are adopting a more confrontational approach at demonstrations. Officers have been accused of exaggerating the threat posed by activists to justify the use of resources spent on them.
Police were said to have been heavy-handed at Greek solidarity marches in London in December and, last month, at protests against Israel’s invasion of Gaza. In August 1,000 officers, helicopters and riot horses were drafted to Kent from 26 UK police forces to oversee the climate camp demonstration against the Kingsnorth power station. The massive operation to monitor the protesters cost £5.9m and resulted in 100 arrests. But in December the government was forced to apologise to parliament after the Guardian revealed that its claims that 70 officers had been hurt in violent clashes were wrong.
However, Hartshorn insisted: “Potentially there will be more industrial actions … History shows that some of those disputes — Wapping, the miners’ strike — have caused great tensions in the community and the police have had difficult times policing and maintaining law and order.”
Both “extreme rightwing and extreme leftwing” elements are looking to “use the fact that people are out of jobs” to galvanise support, he said.
A particularly worrying development was the re-emergence of individuals involved in the violent fascist organisation Combat 18, he said. “They are using the fact that there’s been lots of talk about eastern European people coming in and taking jobs on the Olympic sites,” he said. “They’re using those type of arguments to look at getting support.”
Hartshorn said he also expected large-scale demonstrations this year on environmental issues, with hardcore green activists “joining forces” with middle-class campaigners over issues such as airport expansion at Heathrow and Stansted. With the prospect of angry demonstrations against the economy, that could open the door to powerful coalitions.
“All you’ve got to do then is link in with the environmentalists, and look at the oil companies. They’re seen to be turning over billions of pounds profit in issues that are seen to be against the environment.”
Brown: World Needs ‘Global New Deal’
BERLIN, Germany (CNN) — The world needs a “global New Deal” to haul it out of the economic crisis it faces, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom said Sunday.
“We need a global New Deal — a grand bargain between the countries and continents of this world — so that the world economy can not only recover but… so the banking system can be based on… best principles,” he said, referring to the 1930s American plan to fight the Great Depression.
Brown was speaking as the leaders of Europe’s biggest economies met to try to forge a common position on the global financial crisis ahead of a major summit in London in April.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the world’s response to the global financial meltdown had to be profound and long-lasting, not just tinkering around the edges.
“Europe wants to see an overhaul of the system. We all agree on that. We’re not talking about superficial measures now or transitional measures — we’re talking about structural measure, which need to be taken,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the host of the meeting, urged nations of the world to work together to fight the problem.
“Confidence can only be restored if people in our countries feel that we are pulling in the same direction and have understood that we really must learn lessons from this crisis,” she said.
And she proposed that a new institution grow out of the crisis, “which will take on more responsibility for global [financial] mechanisms.”
The Europeans say they have agreed international financial markets must be regulated more thoroughly. That also means stricter rules for hedge funds and credit-rating agencies.
European and world leaders have been holding frequent summits as they struggle to cope with a financial crisis that has affected banks, homeowners, businesses and employees around the world.
Financial Fix? Abolish the Fed, Says Congressman
Paul: Constitution requires coin based on gold, silver
In just recent weeks, the federal government has designated billions of tax dollars for bank bailouts, including vast quantities to quasi-government agencies that helped create the economic crisis; billions more for automakers, and billions more for homeowners who default on their loans, so where will it end? Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas says he has at least part of the answer: abolish the Federal Reserve.
The congressman, a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, once again has introduced a bill that would get rid of the private organization that sets interest rates and establishes monetary priorities.
“Abolishing the Federal Reserve will allow Congress to reassert its constitutional authority over monetary policy,” Paul said in a statement at the time the proposal was introduced.
“The United States Constitution grants to Congress the authority to coin money and regulate the value of the currency,” Paul said. “The Constitution does not give Congress the authority to delegate control over monetary policy to a central bank. Furthermore, the Constitution certainly does not empower the federal government to erode the American standard of living via an inflationary monetary policy.”
Germany to Ask for Opel Bailout
Berlin — Germany’s new economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said in remarks published on Sunday he would lobby for Washington to rescue struggling GM’s European unit Opel during a US visit in March.
Obama’s Goal? Directed Chaos
When we think of the word “chaos,” normally we associate it with spontaneous acts of malcontents rebelling without a cause.
But most of the chaos in the world today is what I call “directed chaos” — usually government-directed and with one single-minded purpose: the consolidation of power.
That’s the way I interpret the so-called “economic stimulus” legislation approved by the Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by President Obama.
There is no way it will stimulate the economy. It will have the opposite effect — lengthening and deepening the economic crisis in which America finds itself.
Does anyone truly believe we’re in this mess because the U.S. government didn’t spend enough recently? Of course not. Congress and President Bush spent money like drunken sailors. They caused this calamity because of their irresponsibility and their disregard for the Constitution. Can the cure possibly more of the same? I don’t think so.
But take a look at how the money will be spent, for evidence of the “cure” is actually worse than the disease.
Poll Highlights Fears Over Street Riots
More than a third of voters believe the Army will have to be brought in to deal with riots on British streets as the recession bites, a poll showed today.
The widespread fear of serious unrest was disclosed as a senior police officer warned activists were planning a “summer of rage” and could find rioters easier to recruit because of the credit crunch.
Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan Police’s public order branch, said known activists were planning a return to the streets centred on April’s G20 summit of world leaders in London.
And intelligence shows they may be able to call on more “footsoldiers” than normal due to the unprecedented conditions — which have led to youth violence in Greece and mass protests elsewhere in Europe.
YouGov polling for Prospect magazine found 37 per cent thought such “serious social unrest in several British cities” was certain or likely — although a slim majority (51 per cent) disagreed.
Almost three quarters (73 per cent) said they feared a sustained return to mass unemployment.
And a clear majority (64 per cent) also favoured forcing the under-25s to do a year of full-time, modestly-paid community service such as working with the sick and elderly or helping with environmental projects.
Labour MP Frank Field told Prospect the main political parties should join forces to develop the idea.
“The time has come to look at this idea. A new bipartisan commission should be established to look into how it could be done, perhaps led by figures as respected as David Blunkett or David Davis,” he said.
Although the biggest support for a compulsory scheme was among the older generations, a majority of 18-30 year olds (52 per cent) also gave it their backing.
Talking about the prospect of disorder, Mr Hartshorn told the Guardian: “Those people would be good at motivating people, but they haven’t had the ‘footsoldiers’ to actually carry out [protests].
“Obviously the downturn in the economy, unemployment, repossessions, changes that. Suddenly there is the opportunity for people to mass protest.
“We’ve got G20 coming and I think that is being advertised on some of the sites as the highlight of what they see as a ‘summer of rage’,” he told the newspaper.
The Foreclosure Five
When President Obama discusses his $275 billion mortgage bailout, he talks as if it was a national problem, caused by a national decline in home prices. “We must stem the spread of foreclosures and falling home values for all Americans,” he says. But there is no national market for homes and no national price for homes. Instead, most of the United States will pay for the folly of few.
The beneficiaries of taxpayer charity will be highly concentrated in just five states — California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Michigan. That is not because the subsidized homeowners are poor (Californians with $700,000 mortgages are not poor), but because they took on too much debt, often by refinancing in risky ways to “cash out” thousands more than the original loan. Nearly all subprime loans were for refinancing, not buying a home.
UK: Desperate Gordon Brown Plans £500 Billion Bank Gamble
A £500 billion banking bail-out will be at the centre of a rescue package announced by Gordon Brown this week amid desperation over the Government’s failure to save the economy.
The Prime Minister is to unveil a series of key measures that will see the Government insure the ‘toxic assets’ of major lenders and pump around £14 billion into the mortgage market through Northern Rock.
Five months after Mr Brown’s first bank bail-out, there is a growing acceptance in Downing Street that it has not worked — beyond stopping the total collapse of the banks.
Businesses are continuing to go bust and workers are losing their jobs as the financial crisis continues to deepen and banks refuse to start lending.
The Government has drawn up a new rescue package that will start today with an announcement that Northern Rock, which was nationalised last year, will increase mortgage lending by up to £14 billion over the next two years.
Ministers will this week also pave the way for “quantitative easing” — the so-called printing money option — with £150 billion being spent on buying bonds and gilts from banks.
On Thursday, the Treasury is expected to announce plans to form a “toxic bank”, using taxpayers’ money to insure £500 billion of bad debt.
In addition, Mr Brown has signalled that he wants a return to more ‘sober’ banking practices, with a possible ban on 100 per cent mortgages to ensure people must save a deposit before buying a house.
European leaders meeting in Berlin yesterday agreed that there also needed to be greater regulation of all financial markets, including hedge funds — a move that could adversley affect the city’s pre-eminence. The meeting was in advance of the G20 economic summit being held in London on 2 April.
Mr Brown said: “We have got to show together that we can restructure the banking system around sound banking principles that deliver the integrity and the trust and the openness and transparency that is essential for people to once again trust the banks.”
Next week Mr Brown will travel to Washington for a meeting with Barack Obama to discuss the agenda for the London summit which the Prime Minister has placed so much emphasis on.
This week’s package of measures represents Mr Brown’s third attempt to save the economy. Despite the £37 billion bail out in October and measures in January aimed at getting banks lending again, they have been stubbornly refusing to lend in anything like the volume necessary.
Labour has been sliding in the polls despite Mr Brown’s initial “bounce” after the first banking bail out. His party now stands 20 points behind the Tories.
Last week the Sir John Gieve, the outgoing deputy governor of the Bank of England, warned Britain is at “serious risk” of entering a decade-long recession similar to that experienced by Japan in the 1990s.
Figures showed that Britain’s national debt could more than double to almost £2 trillion later this year.
On Monday, Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, will outline the new business plan for Northern Rock to ensure it again becomes a big player in the mortgage market.
Under the plans, Northern Rock will undertake around £5 billion of new mortgage lending in 2009 and up to £9 billion from 2010 onwards. The new lending will be on commercial terms so it represents a good deal for the taxpayer, the Chancellor will say.
This week the Treasury is expected to announce it will take a step closer to allowing “quantitative easing”. This would see the Bank of England writing cheques to banks in exchange for gilts and bonds, effectively putting more money into circulation.
Stephen Timms, the Treasury Secretary, hinted that quantitative easing could happen “quite soon” and Treasury sources said the first steps towards it were likely to happen this week when officials meet with the Bank of England to discuss the necessary details of any buying up the assets.
The amount that was being suggested was £150 billion. Ministers deny that it is “printing money” and instead say it would encourage banks to lend to consumers again. Those customers would in turn have more money to spend, so stimulating the economy.
The removal of toxic assets from banks, under an “asset protection” scheme, expected to be announced by the Treasury on Thursday, will also have that effect, it is hoped. It will effectively be a “bad bank” with those bad assets underwritten by the Treasury.
The banks likely to use the scheme immediately include Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). It is understood that RBS will place at least £250 million of toxic assets in the scheme to protect it against future losses.
Lloyds and Barclays are also likely to put assets into the scheme with some estimating that the total then covered by the taxpayer in the form of guarantees will be pushed to more than £500 billion.
The move will mean that the banks do not have to be fully nationalised.
Mr Brown made a plea over the weekend for a return to more prudent banking and Downing Street briefed that the Prime Minister would ask the Financial Services Authority to look at whether 100 per cent mortgages should be banned.
Mr Brown said: “We do want to see the reinvention of the traditional savings and mortgage bank in Britain, for loans to be made on prudent and careful terms, not just to people with large deposits, but to those on middle and modest incomes who wish to buy their home but who have not been able to save a huge deposit,” the Prime Minister said.
“We have got to get the balance right between serving home owners better and encouraging responsibility in the housing market.”
But Philip Hammond, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury said the Government was acting too late.
He said: “Gordon Brown is trying to shut the stable door on irresponsible lending long after the horse has bolted. It was his regulatory system that failed to spot the boom and allowed 125 per cent mortgages from Northern Rock and HBOS.”
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, added: “Until very recently Gordon Brown was trying to justify 100 per cent mortgages. He was seriously behind the curve since even the industry is no longer making such products available.”
Lord Myners, the Banking Minister, said banks were “foolish” to offer 100 per cent mortgages.
UK: This Slump is Stirring a Political Storm
From Japan and France to Swanley, the effects of recession will be felt not only in the economy
Fascism feeds on a sense of personal injustice. Swanley St Mary’s sounds like one of those quiet English villages in which Miss Marple might have detected a murder. In fact, it is a ward of Sevenoaks District Council that has usually been a comfortable Labour seat. In recent years, the number of black and Asian residents has increased and racial resentment has been rising.
The Independent interviewed Lesley Dyall, the retiring Labour councillor in last Thursday’s by-election. She was shocked to see voters chanting racial slogans as they went into and out of the polling station: “They were chanting ‘blacks out’ as they came out of the community centre… it was very distressing to witness something like that in a local election. I just feel sorry for any black people who might have heard or seen that — it was shocking and disgusting.”
The result was a victory for Paul Golding, an unemployed lorry driver who was the British National Party candidate. The votes cast were BNP 408, Labour 332 and the Conservatives 247.
Labour has to be worried about the Swanley result. The BNP tends to attract working-class voters who feel that their interests have been neglected by Labour. At the next general election, the loss of a few hundred votes to the BNP in a number of Labour marginals could be significant in what might still be a hung Parliament. More immediately, Labour would be embarrassed if the BNP were to win seats in the European elections next June. Labour already expects a very bad European result, as it had in the last European elections in 2004.
Alan Keyes: Stop Obama or U.S. Will Cease to Exist
Claims ‘communist usurper’ plunges country into chaos
Alan Keyes, a 2008 presidential candidate who is also a plaintiff in one of the many lawsuits challenging Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility to occupy the Oval Office, charged at a pro-life rally that unless Obama’s social and economic policies are stopped, the United States as we know it is over.
“I’m not sure he’s even president of the United States,” Keyes continued, “neither are many of our military people now who are now going to court to ask the question, ‘Do we have to obey a man who is not qualified under the constitution?’ We are in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen, and if we don’t stop laughing about it and deal with it, we’re going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion and civil war.”
“We are claiming that a bankrupt government can save a bankrupt banking system,” Keyes said. “The fact that we have just elected an individual — who may or may not be qualified — and he presents silly ideas like this and says, ‘Let’s move forward now,’ and we’re all acting like the laws of economics have been repealed and we can actually afford to foot the bill with money nobody’s got, this is insane.
“It’s got to lead to the collapse of our economy,” Keys declared, “and it’s going to.”
Collect a Rock, Lose Your Car
Ominous forfeiture provisions in new bill restricting use of federal land
WASHINGTON — A land management bill that swept through the U.S. Senate last month and is headed for a House vote this week punishes rock collectors and paleontologists with arrest and expropriation of their cars and other equipment for even unknowingly disturbing fossils on public land, say critics.
In the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, a “forfeiture” provision would let the government confiscate “all vehicles and equipment of any person” who digs up or removes a rock or a bone from federal land that meets the bill’s broad definition of “paleontological resource,” says a report by Jon Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
“The seizures could take place even before a person and even if the person didn’t know they were taking or digging up a ‘paleontological resource,” writes Berlau. “And the bill specifically allows the ‘transfer of seized resources’ to ‘federal or non-federal’ institutions, giving the government and some private actors great incentive to egg on the takings.”
Heads Will Roll
Let’s see. We have a Muslim couple founding and operating a Muslim TV network out of New York with the ostensible purpose of promoting understanding between Muslim and Western cultures.
Only “Mo” and the police know, and they’re not talking. All officials say is that it was “domestic violence.”
Sure it was. Just a plain, ordinary, Western civilization domestic violence case, like all the others that cross police blotters.
The big problem is this isn’t the Middle East. This isn’t an Islamic nation, and we do not practice Shariah law. But despite that, multicultural political correctness has entered the picture. News media avoid calling it an “honor killing.” It’s just “domestic violence.”
Obama’s $300 Billion-a-Year Climate-Change Plan
Budget to include taxes on emissions of ‘greenhouse gases’
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama plans to include in his 2010 budget the introduction of a massive energy cap-and-trade system designed to raise $300 billion a year for the federal government in a bid to get industry to curtail emissions of so-called “greenhouse gases.”
The plan would force companies to buy permits from the government for greenhouse gas emissions above a certain cap.
Acknowledging that businesses would have no choice but to pass their costs on to customers, resulting in skyrocketing utility bills for homeowners and offices, the administration is pledging to redistribute most of the revenue back to in the form of government relief.
Senator Questions Obama Eligibility
Shelby: ‘They said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate’
WASHINGTON — A U.S. senator has weighed in on the continuing controversy over Barack Obama’s eligibility for office by saying he has never seen proof the new president was actually born in Hawaii.
“Well, his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told constituents in Cullman County. “You have to be born in America to be president.”
Denmark: Military Mary Makes Lieutenant
Whilst Mary is best known for her good looks, fashion sense and charity work, she is very much at home in the military
Crown Princess Mary was award the rank of lieutenant in the Danish Home Guard yesterday after completing additional training at officer school.
This is the second time within the space of a year that the crown princess has undertaken training with the Home Guard, the voluntary military unit concerned with domestic defence.
Mary has followed in the footsteps of other members of the royal family, including Queen Margrethe II, who achieved the rank of major in an earlier form of the Air Force Home Guard, and Prince Joachim, who remains active in the defence reserves as a major.
Her husband, Crown Prince Frederik has also completed extensive military training in the naval, armed and air forces, notably completely the arduous training required to be a member of the elite naval special forces Frogman Corps.
General Major Jan S. Norgaard heads the Home Guard and said Mary’s participation gave recognition for the work of all volunteer members.
A statement from the royal household said that Mary was trained in the art of command, primarily in the area of security and surveillance. The new lieutenant will now be attached to the Total Defence Region Copenhagen, which encompasses the Copenhagen area, North Zealand and the island of Bornholm.
European MPs Earning £1 Million Profits in a Term, Report Finds
Members of the European Parliament are earning up to £1 million in profit in just one five-year term in office through expenses and allowances, a leaked report has revealed.
The report sparked calls for a police investigation into the systematic abuse of taxpayers’ money.
The internal report into the system of allowances — conducted by Robert Galvin, a European Union internal audit official — was kept secret when it was carried out last year.
But a leaked copy of the 92-page document details the full extent of “corruption, dodgy dealing and poor financial controls” in the European Parliament, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance. It revealed that some MEPs claimed money for assistants that were neither accredited nor registered with the parliament.
Invasion of £1-an-Hour Migrants
The European Commission launches a new agency which could see thousands of asylum seekers from Africa transferred directly to the UK. Brussels wants Britain to “share the burden” of dealing with 70,000 asylum seekers who cross the Mediterranean from Africa each year to countries such as Italy and Malta. “We know that Britain offers free accommodation and food, but we also want to work. We are certain we’ll get to Britain. It’s easy. All we have to do after that is start earning.” If they fail, they simply wait for their next chance. The scene is replicated in up to half-a-dozen ports, with 2,000 migrants sleeping rough in the Calais region alone. Another migrant calling himself Iqbar and claiming he was 19 and from Iraq said: “We just want to get started. We have great respect for the English, but believe that in the end it is the people who are prepared to work the hardest who should get the jobs. If the British can’t compete with £1 an hour then that’s their problem.” Few of the dozens of migrants spoken to by the Sunday Express have passports. While many will claim asylum when they get to Britain, others will simply disappear into the black economy. “We’ve all suffered persecution, so a low-paid job doesn’t bother us,” said Omhar, who said he was a 20-year-old Iranian. “Once we are established we will bring our families over. We know everybody is welcome and it’s easy to get over if you keep trying.” The European Commission has drawn up plans to create a European Asylum Support Office to “harmonise” asylum laws across the EU. Home Affairs Commissioner Jacques Barrot said the agency, to be set up next year, would also arrange “intra-community transfers”, shifting asylum seekers from hotspots like Italy to countries like the UK.
Sweden’s Air Force ‘Can’t Send Secret Messages’
A prominent Riksdag member has expressed outrage upon learning that Sweden’s new Jas Gripen fighter jets can’t receive encrypted communications.
As a consequence, an enemy would be able to hear any orders Swedish commanders sent to pilots in a time of war.
“This is extremely serious,” said Allan Widman, a Liberal Party member of the Riksdag’s defence committee, to Sveriges Radio (SR).
An earlier version of the Gripen used by Sweden, set to be taken out of service in 2011, has the capability to receive messages on Sweden’s own encryption system.
In 2007, the Riksdag authorized the military to purchase a newer version of the Swedish-made fighter jet outfitted with new technology to facilitate communication with Nato aircraft.
As a result of the upgrade, however, the new Gripens aren’t equipped to receive communications from Sweden’s encryption system, leaving open communications as the only way for Swedish commanders on the ground to give orders to pilots in the air.
“It’s obviously a very sad situation we find ourselves in when we can no longer securely and secretly command our combat aircraft,” said Widman.
“The big problem is that any future combatant would know in part what we’re thinking of doing and its also obviously much easier for him to disrupt our communications.”
According to Torgny Fälthammar, head of development for the Swedish Air Force, the military won’t be able to upgrade the new Gripen’s communications capability until 2015 because of cutbacks on defence spending.
Widman is especially upset that no one in the military informed the Riksdag of the new aircraft’s diminished capability at the time of the purchase.
“I’m saying we must demand responsibility from the people who managed this process without making it clear the costs involved with transitioning to only the latest version of the Gripen,” he told SR, adding that the generals involved ought to consider resigning.
“This this happened in any other country, that is exactly what the consequence would be,” he said.
Widman is now proposing that the earlier version of the Gripen be kept in service until the newer versions can be upgraded.
Swiss to Vote on Controls That Would End Tradition of Keeping Army Guns in Private Homes
GENEVA (AP) — Campaigners said Monday they have collected enough signatures to force a referendum in Switzerland on whether to confine army weapons to military compounds.
Service in the country’s militia army is compulsory for men, and conscripts have to take their guns home between call-ups.
“Almost every day a person commits suicide with a firearm in Switzerland,” said Josef Lang, a parliament member for the Green Party who is campaigning for the proposal alongside the Social Democrats, rights groups and others.
The referendum, a date for which has yet to be set, would also ask voters to decide whether to set up a countrywide firearms register and forbid citizens from buying particularly dangerous guns, such as pump-action rifles or automatic weapons, for personal use.It goes far beyond a 2007 law that requires military ammunition to be stored on base — a move that was seen by many as the first step to dismantling the guns-at-home tradition.
Anita Fetz, a lawmaker for the Social Democrat Party, said a register would lead to more security and was worth the cost, which opponents claim would be immense. “Every single car and every cow in Switzerland are registered. Of course that costs something,” she said.
U.S. Says it Respects Danish PM
The American defence minister Robert Gates says he has great respect for the Danish prime minister as indications grow that Fogh Rasmussen could be in the running for NATO’s secretary- generalship.
The American government has fanned the flames of conjecture that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in the running for the post of Secretary-General of NATO, despite the prime minister’s denials.
Commenting on a question regarding Fogh Rasmussen’s possible candidacy, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Anders Fogh Rasmussen could be a good candidate.
“I have a lot of respect for your prime minister, and I have a lot of respect for your defence minister. But there, of course, are other names being mooted,” Gates said.
Gates added that it was hoped that a new secretary-general could be found before the NATO summit at the beginning of April.
“I hope that we can solve this issue in time for the summit. But the most important thing is that it is a person who has the broadest possible support from the countries in the Alliance, and that it is a person who has the necessary managerial experience to lead such a large and complex organization,” Gates said.
Denmark’s Defence Minister Søren Gade, who is also at the NATO defence ministers meeting in Krakow in Poland, suggested earlier today that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen had been mentioned in informal discussions at the NATO dinner on Thursday evening.
“I would look silly if I didn’t admit that the prime minister was among the names mentioned,” Gade said.
UK: Guantánamo Detainee Returns to Britain
LONDON: A Guantánamo detainee at the center of a long standoff between the United States and Britain was freed and returned to Britain on Monday after almost seven years in American custody.
The detainee, Binyam Mohamed, was captured in Pakistan in April 2002; American officials said that he was part of a conspiracy to detonate a dirty bomb on American soil. But all charges against him were eventually dismissed. He has said he was held for 18 months in Morocco, where he says he was tortured, then moved to Afghanistan and then to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The CIA has repeatedly declined to say if he was ever held in Morocco and has steadfastly denied that Mohamed, or anyone else in its custody, was ever tortured. Britain, where Mohamed established residence 15 years ago, has been seeking his release since August 2007. The United States and Britain have wrangled in court over what documents related to his case can be released. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was “pleased” that Mohamed had been released, and that it had come after “intense negotiations.”
Mohamed was greeted by his sister Zahram, who flew in from Virginia, where she has lived for many years. He also has a brother in Michigan and another sister in Georgia.
“I’m so excited, I don’t know what to say, I can’t put it in words,” Mohammed said in an interview before her brother arrived.
Statement from Binyam Mohamed
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Mohamed made no direct statement when he landed. But in remarks issued by Reprieve, the nongovernmental organization that has worked for his release and the release of other detainees, Mohamed said: “I hope you will understand that after everything I have been through I am neither physically nor mentally capable of facing the media.”
“I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares,” the statement said. “Before this ordeal, torture was an abstract word.” His lawyers said at a news conference 12 days ago that Mohamed had been on a hunger strike since Jan. 5 and was being fed through a tube.
Mohamed will eventually sit down for an interview with Britain’s intelligence agency, according to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith..
He will also eventually speak to the press, the lawyer said.
Mohamed has agreed to voluntary restrictions, including a lifetime prohibition on travel to the United States, according to people who have seen the restrictions. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms of Mohamed’s release had not been publicly disclosed.
UK: Brown Dragging Labour Vote Down, Poll Shows
Gordon Brown’s leadership is dragging Labour’s vote down, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. By a majority of more than two to one, voters say that the party would do better at the next election if it was led by someone else.
The poll — which also shows the Conservatives maintaining a steady double-digit lead — is likely to increase pressure on the prime minister following a week of speculation over leadership manoeuvring by cabinet ministers and a succession of bleak headlines about the rapidly worsening state of the economy.
It finds that only 28% of voters think Brown is the leader most likely to attract support to Labour on polling day. Meanwhile, 63%, think the party would do better with another leader.
Even Labour supporters are not convinced. Among people who voted for the party in 2005, 45% pick Brown and 49% another leader. Among people who still stay they intend to vote Labour next time the split is 48% to 47%.
The breakdown of the Guardian/ICM poll
The results will come as a blow to Brown who has sought to present himself as the statesman best equipped to lead the world out of the financial crisis. Labour had hoped that the G20 in London in April would showcase his global role.
But nor are there signs of a Conservative breakthrough. Tory support stands at 42%, down two points on last month’s Guardian/ICM poll, although up two on another more recent poll from the same firm.
Labour, on 30%, are also down two on the Guardian’s January poll and up two on the more recent survey. The score is also better than several recent results from other pollsters putting the party below 30%.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat hopes are on hold. The party scores 18%, up two on the last Guardian poll but down four on a high recent ICM result. Support for other parties is 10%.
The Conservatives have led by 12 points in all three ICM polls so far this year — enough for a solid working majority. The party is picking up support from the Lib Dems, 23% of whose voters from 2005 say they are thinking of voting Tory, and from Labour, 15% of whose supporters have switched.
The latest poll figures and evidence of a strong public aversion to Brown are unlikely to trigger a leadership challenge since many in the party feel they flirted with the option last summer, and no credible alternative to Brown emerged. But the poll will intensify the calls for the PM to adopt a different approach.
Labour can draw comfort from the fact that public alarm about the economic crisis has levelled out. Asked about their personal financial circumstances, 51% say they are fairly or very confident — up from 43% in December. Only 48% say they are not confident.
Anxiety seems greatest among poorest voters who are most immediately exposed to the recession and least likely benefit from low interest rates: 62% of people in the DE economic category are worried.
The economy is the defining political issue. Today’s poll, which asks voters rank their concerns by importance, can be measured against similar Guardian/ICM findings from the 2005 election. Then, only 14% of voters said the economy was the issue that most affected their vote; now 35% say so.
Public services such as health, education and law and order have slipped down the agenda. In 2005, health was picked by 21% as the leading issue — now it has fallen to third place on 11%.
Fears that the recession would push issues such as immigration up the political agenda are backed by today’s figures. It lies fourth equal in importance, cited as a priority by 9%.
The poll records the Conservative advance across a range of policy areas. Asked to choose between the three main parties, Labour led on a majority of issues in 2005. Now it lags behind on most.
The shift has been dramatic on the general handling of the economy: in 2005 Labour was 22 points ahead of the Conservatives — now it is six points behind. Labour closes the gap on handling of the specific economic crisis, with the Tories only two points ahead.
On education, a 13-point Labour lead has become a one point deficit and on law and order the Conservative lead has grown from two points to seven.
Labour’s strength remains the health service, where a 13-point lead in 2005 has shrunk to eight points.
The Tories also lag behind on terrorism and the environment — where the Conservatives are third behind the Lib Dems.
Those weaknesses do not seem to be enough to stop the Conservatives in a contest where the economy is the overwhelming issue.
… ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ by telephone between 20 —22 February 2009. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Percentages may not add to 100 because of rounding. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
UK: Muslim Peer Claims Politicians Are Scared of Discussing Polygamy
Politicians are too scared to discuss multiple marriages in case they offend Muslims, shadow minister for Community Cohesion Baroness Warsi has claimed.
The Muslim peer blamed “cultural sensitivity” for the failure to tackle the problem of polygamy.
She wants the Government to consider ordering that all religious marriages must be registered, as civil ceremonies are, in order to stop men marrying more than one wife.
More than 1,000 British men are thought to have more than one wife. Although bigamy is illegal in the UK, those who have moved here after marrying more than one woman in Islamic countries are allowed to remain in polygamous partnerships — and can even claim benefits for their additional spouses.
Lady Warsi, the shadow minister for community cohesion, told the BBC: “There has been a failure on the part of policymakers to respond to this situation.
“Some of it has been done in the name of cultural sensitivity and we’ve just avoided either discussing or dealing with this matter head-on.
“There has to be a culture change and that has to brought about by policymakers taking a very clear stance on this issue, saying that in this country, one married man is allowed to marry one woman.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice insisted: “It is government policy to prevent the formation of polygamous households in the United Kingdom.
“Polygamous marriages that have been contracted in overseas countries are legally recognised, although immigration rules prevent a man from bringing more than one wife to settle with him in the UK.
“It is not the role of government to take a position on the rites, beliefs or practices of any particular religious faith, other than where these give rise to conflict with the common law.”
It is not the first time that British politicians have been accused of failing to tackle problems among Muslims for fear of causing offence.
Last year Ann Cryer, a veteran Labour MP, claimed those whose constituencies have high Muslim populations are afraid to speak out against forced marriage in case they lose votes.
UK: Man Charged Over Terror Information
A man has been charged with sending terrorist material by email, Scotland Yard said.
Mohammed Gul, 20, will appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday accused of two counts of transmitting of a terrorist publication in January.
He is also charged with possessing a document containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
Mr Gul, of Elm Park Avenue, Hornchurch, east London was charged with the offences on Monday evening.
He was arrested by anti-terror police on February 10 at an address in Hornchurch, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.
The force would not reveal details of the document allegedly found in Mr Gul’s possession.
UK: Man ‘Waged Urine-Spray Campaign’
Mr Daifallah is accused of leaving a “trail of stench” with his actions
A man sprayed a mixture of urine and faeces in two supermarkets, a pub and a bookshop in Gloucestershire, a jury at Bristol Crown Court has heard.
Sahnoun Daifallah, 42, of Bibury Road, Gloucester, is alleged to have caused damage estimated at £700,000 last May.
Mr Daifallah pleaded not guilty to four charges of contaminating goods and two of damaging property.
He also denied possession of material to contaminate goods and possession of an offensive weapon.
The court heard he visited the Air Balloon pub near Cheltenham on 14 May 2008 where police were called after he asked a barmaid how much it would cost to rape her.
This was his little calling card because he did not like the way he had been treated
When officers arrived Mr Daifallah was longer there but he had left a “trail of stench” behind him, the court was told.
Stephen Dent, prosecuting, told the jury: “This was his little calling card because he did not like the way he had been treated.”
He then moved on to Waterstones bookstore in Cirencester where it is alleged he sprayed the substance from a spray container all over a toilet in the coffee shop. In total 706 books were contaminated.
On 16 May 2008 Mr Daifallah is said to have visited Tesco in Quedgley where a shopper noticed him acting suspiciously with a laptop bag in the frozen food aisle.
The prosecution told the court a customer saw Mr Daifallah reach into his bag and produce a jet of fluid which smelt like urine over the frozen chips.
He then moved on to the wine section where a member of staff saw a fine vapour come out of his bag and on to the wine, leaving brown fluid over the shelves, the court heard.
The store was closed for two days for cleaning.
He is then alleged to have driven to Morrisons in Abbeydale.
An employee saw Mr Daifallah acting strangely in the wine section.
He said Mr Daifallah “absolutely stunk” and that he had to stop himself from gagging because of the strong smell of ammonia and urine.
The trial continues.
UK: NHS Blunders Are Behind a Spate of ‘Vaccine Overloads’
Children are being given the wrong vaccinations and repeat doses of jabs they have already had due to mix-ups at GPs’ surgeries.
Nearly 1,000 safety incidents involving child immunisations were reported in a single year.
Of those studied in detail, more than a third involved babies and children given a different vaccine to the one they were supposed to have.
UK: Police Still Failing in Race Reforms
Sidiq Khan, minister for communities, launches report which highlights three key areas of reform still not met
The police have fallen short on three key areas of reform on race that were demanded a decade ago by the landmark Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the government conceded yesterday.
A government report published today admits that stop and search rates remain higher for African-Caribbean Britons than for whites, targets to recruit more ethnic minority police officers have been missed, and, if they do join, black and Asian officers are more likely to leave the service earlier than their white counterparts.
The new report, which maps how different racial groups are faring in Britain, was published to mark today’s 10th anniversary of the report by Lord Macpherson into the bungled investigation of the 18-year-old’s murder in south London in 1993. The inquiry found institutional racism had contributed to the killers of the black teenager not being caught.
Launching the report yesterday, Sadiq Khan, the minister for communities, race and faith, said the police had made much progress, but areas of concern remained: “We have not reached the stage where we can say ‘mission accomplished’. There are still huge challenges and we are determined to meet them.”
After the Macpherson report was published the police were given a decade to recruit many more ethnic minority officers, and set a target of 7%, which in 1999 was the proportion of black and Asian people in the British population. This has now risen to 10%, but they make up 5.3% of the police force. The government report said: “There has been steady progress, albeit slower than we would have liked …”
Khan said the target had been “ambitious”, and part of the problem had been the very low turnover of police staff.
Today’s report also found Asian and black officers who join are more likely to leave early or be dismissed, especially in their first six months. It also noted that when the Macpherson report came out, Asian and black citizens were six times more likely to be stopped and searched by police — it now stands at seven times.
Khan said he had seen “no evidence” this was due to police prejudice. A decade ago the Macpherson report said higher rates of stop and search for black people was in part because of police prejudice: “The majority of police officers who testified before us accepted that an element of disparity was the result of discrimination,” the 1999 report said.
Today’s anniversary of the report will be marked by a conference on British race relations in the past decade. Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan police commissioner, will speak, as will Stephen’s mother, Doreen Lawrence and the justice secretary Jack Straw, who ordered the Macpherson inquiry.
Today’s conference will also hear from the authors of two reports on the progress the police have made. A report from Portsmouth University says the Lawrence case has changed policing in Britain forever and had an “awesome” effect on the criminal justice system, altering the way in which race hate crimes are pursued. The report is written by the former top Met officer John Grieve, Nathan Hall and Stephen Savage.
“We suggest the legacy of Lawrence amounts to nothing less than a watershed in British policing — and beyond,” Grieve said. A report by Richard Stone, an advisor to Lord Macpherson, reaches a more critical conclusion: “Black citizens and police employees have been failed … almost nothing has changed in ten years.”
No fresh leads
The murder of Stephen Lawrence is no longer under active investigation, 10 years after Lord Macpherson’s report laid bare police failings. In late 2007 it was leaked that the Metropolitan police had made a breakthrough, with new forensic techniques. But sources with knowledge of the case say the development has not proved as conclusive as investigators want. Stephen’s mother Doreen told the Guardian she believes the five suspects will not face court again. Neil Acourt, 33, has changed his name and claims that he has been forced to live as a recluse because of the publicity surrounding the case. His brother, Jamie, 32, has moved to Sidcup with his partner and son. He is said to want to move to Spain. Dave Norris, 32, had to leave the £800,000 home owned by his drug-dealing father, Clifford, three years ago after a legal dispute with Revenue and Customs. Gary Dobson lives with his partner and son in Woolwich. Luke Knight, 32, asked unsuccessfully to be rehoused by Greenwich council a few years ago, claiming he had been harassed by anti-racists.
UK: Spy Planes That Track the Taliban May Soon Hover Over Your Home
Remote-controlled drones are already used widely by the military. Now ministers believe they are likely to become ‘increasingly useful’ for police work.
Pilotless planes used to track the Taliban could soon be hovering over our streets, it has emerged.
Remote-controlled drones are already used widely by the military. Now ministers believe they are likely to become ‘increasingly useful’ for police work.
Armed with heat-seeking cameras, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would hover hundreds of feet in the air, gathering intelligence and watching suspects.
UK: Two-Month-Old Baby Crushed to Death in His Pushchair After Gp’s Car Mounted Pavement
A doctor killed a two-month-old boy in a pushchair after his car swerved on to a pavement, a court heard yesterday.
Dr Mohammed Hussain, 63, was trying to overtake another car but changed his mind at the last moment when he saw an oncoming vehicle, it is alleged.
He swerved, mounting the pavement of a quiet residential street and hitting Sacha Mason, fatally injuring him, the court heard.
Witnesses heard Sacha’s mother, 33- year-old Miriana Weston, screaming.
‘The lady was crying and screaming, “my baby, my baby”,’ Sharifa Ahmed, who had been driving her son to football practice and stopped to help, told Harrow Crown Court, North-West London.
‘I telephoned the ambulance service and they told me to check if the baby was breathing and I could see the baby’s lips were blue.
‘I turned the baby’s head and the colour came back into his face and he was breathing.
‘His eyes were closed but he was gasping for air.’
Miss Ahmed was close to tears as she described how she saw blood running down Sacha’s neck from his ear.
The baby was taken to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, but he died shortly afterwards.
Dr Hussain, a GP from Pinner in North-West London, denies one charge of causing death by dangerous driving. The incident occurred in August 2007 as Miss Weston was pushing Sacha’s buggy along a street in Willesden Green.
Robert Whittaker, prosecuting, said: ‘This is a very sad case.
‘All cases of death by dangerous driving are tragic and sad but this is perhaps particularly so because the young man whose death, the prosecution say, is caused by dangerous driving of Dr Hussain was a very young child only two months old at the time of this incident.’
Mr Whittaker claimed that Dr Hussain said during a police interview-that a fault had caused the car to swerve on to the pavement and it had failed to stop when he pressed the brake.
But Mr Whittaker said that detectives had examined the Ford Fiesta after the incident and found that neither the brakes nor steering were defective.
PC Stephen Sayer told the jury it was likely that Dr Hussain had mistakenly pressed the clutch and the accelerator instead of the brake, as he could find no evidence of brake or skid marks.
Dr Hussain qualified at Dhaka University in his native Bangladesh in 1969 and later moved to Britain. Speaking outside his £700,000 four-bedroom home in Pinner before the trial, he expressed sympathy for Sacha’s parents, saying: ‘I do feel very bad for them.’
The case continues.
UK: White Schoolboy in Race Claim
A schoolboy left for dead after a playground hammer attack by a gang is fighting to prove the violence was racial and that he was failed by his school.
Henry Webster, 15, was assaulted by a group of 13 Asian boys, one armed with a claw hammer, at his school in Swindon in January 2007.
The attack at Ridgeway School was captured on mobile phone and described to a jury as resembling “something out of a Quentin Tarantino film”.
His attackers were given prison terms by a judge at Bristol Crown Court last year, but there was no racial element to the charges.
After a two-year battle by his family for an inquiry into the school’s behaviour, a Serious Case Review will now be held by the town’s Safeguarding Children Board.
Mr Webster, now 17, told Channel 4 news he believes the attack was racially motivated and the charges should have reflected that.
His mother Liz said she thought the school should have done more to prevent what she also sees as a racially motivated attack. No teachers were around to stop the violence.
A text message sent between the gang also suggested there was tension between Asians and whites, she said.
She added: “[The school] didn’t offer us any support or explanation. All we were met with was aggression.”
The jury heard last year that Mr Webster had had a disagreement with an single Asian youth in the school corridor. Mr Webster thought he was facing a fair “one on one fight”. Instead the gang descended upon him, fracturing his skull in three places and leaving him with permanent brain injury.
French Teen Killed by Cairo Bomb Was on Class Trip
CAIRO (AP) — The French teenagers had finished a day touring Cairo’s 650-year-old Khan el-Khalili bazaar, gathering in its main square to board a bus back to their hotel. Then the blast went off.
The explosion killed a 17-year-old girl with the group and wounded 24 other people, most of them fellow students. According to the government accounted released Monday, a bomb had been planted underneath a stone bench on which the girl was sitting.
The Sunday night blast was the first attack in three years targeting foreigners in Egypt, and it raised fears of a blow to the country’s vital tourism industry, which is already suffering from the global economic downturn.
The attack shocked the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, hometown of the more than 40 high school students who were on a tour of Egypt. “We are faced with a dreadful drama,” the suburb’s mayor Patrick Balkany told France’s RTL radio on Monday.
The teens had spent the day wandering Khan el-Khalili’s labyrinth of narrow alleys. The market is usually packed with tourists and Egyptians who buy trinkets from shops selling everything from belly dance outfits to pharaonic statues, or drink tea and smoke waterpipes at the numerous cafes.
At 6:45 p.m., the students gathered in the square in front of one of Cairo’s most revered shrines, the Hussein mosque, one of the students told The Associated Press.
“That was the last thing, that was our meeting point,” she said, her leg bandaged from shrapnel wounds. Then: “I have no idea, there was nothing but a boom and a light. I couldn’t see anything,” she said, speaking at the hotel Monday. She refused to give her name to avoid publicity.
The attack left blood splattered on the marble paving stones in front of the mosque. Government spokesman Magdy Radi said a second bomb was found soon after under a nearby bench and defused.
The wounded included 17 French, three Egyptians, three Saudis and a German tourist, Radi said, according to the state news agency MENA. At least 13 of the French students were injured, most of them lightly by shrapnel and flying glass. But three remained in intensive care in an Egyptian hospital Monday.
The rest of the French students returned home Monday, some of them suffering psychological shock from the “horror” of the experience, Balkany said.
Three people were detained for questioning in the attack, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Several experts on Islamic militants said the bombing may have been carried out by extremists angry at what some in the Arab world viewed as Egypt’s failure to help Palestinians during Israel’s devastating offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Congressman’s Aide Sneaks Secret Terrorist Rendezvous
Undercover meeting with Hamas called illegal by State Department
JERUSALEM — An aide to a member of the U.S. Congress held a secret meeting in the Gaza Strip with leaders of the Hamas terrorist organization, according to information obtained by WND.
Iran’s Strategic Nuclear Deception
Tehran has lulled the West into believing that Iranian nukes will only threaten Israel. No way.
by Craig Karpel
Iran’s satellite launch earlier this month should have been a wake-up call. Instead, the West has reached over and hit the snooze button.
Swift, vigorous measures need to be taken to deal with the new reality that Iranians, who could possess a nuclear weapon by the end of next year, have demonstrated that their Safir 2 rocket, which was used as the launch vehicle, is able to deliver a warhead to southern Europe.
The New York Times reported…
India: Majority of Drugs Coming From Afghanistan, UN Says
New Delhi, 20 Feb. (AKI/Asian Age) — More than 55 percent of the heroin which is being smuggled into India is coming from Afghanistan through Pakistan, claims a report by the United Nations.
The UN said the Taliban is earning millions of dollars annually from a surcharge it levies on illegal trade in that country.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that “the Taliban have an annual revenue of between $200-300 million dollars from a surcharge levied on illicit drug trade”.
This was revealed by International Narcotics Control Board in its report for the year 2008. The report was released on Thursday.
The report said security is “weak” in southern provinces of Afghanistan and an “overwhelming” majority of villages are involved in illegal opium poppy cultivation. It, however, said the illegal opium cultivation has dropped by 19 percent from its record level of 193,000 hectares in 2007 to 157,000 hectares last year. Despite this, the country accounts for 90 percent of illegal opium in the world.
The eradication efforts in Afghanistan are being “hampered” by a lack of security, the report said.
Do Not Target Foreigners in Hard Times, UN Envoy Says
INCREASING levels of xenophobia and more refugees seeking to come to Australia are inevitable consequences of the world financial meltdown, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.
At a media conference where the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, announced cuts to permanent skilled migration, Antonio Guterres warned against making foreigners a scapegoat when economic conditions deteriorated. “When things go wrong in a country, there are two potential targets. One is the government, the other is the foreigners,” he said.
Senator Evans yesterday confirmed speculation Australia would cut its skilled migration intake in the budget in May. “I expect the numbers of our program to drop next year … as a reaction to the economic circumstances,” he said.
In the next few weeks the Government will review occupations on the critical skills list, which gives priority to migrants willing to do jobs that are difficult to fill. Calls by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to remove construction jobs from the list would be considered, he said.
Mr Guterres condemned Australia’s detention policies that continued offshore processing and incarceration at Christmas Island, but he praised resettlement programs as among the world’s best.
He said economic instability accelerated triggers such as war and political unrest that forced people to flee their homelands. Another consequence was a fortress mentality in countries that take refugees. Mr Guterres forecast refugee numbers to increase “dramatically” in 2009.
Senator Evans pledged to receiving a strong humanitarian intake in the next year. The number of refugees Australia accepts is determined separately from the quota on skilled migrants.
Amnesty International Australia’s refugee co-ordinator, Graham Thom, said the separation was important. “The distinction should be kept between people who are suffering and those arriving for family or financial reasons,” he said.
Australia’s humanitarian intake is expected to rise by 250 people to 13,750 in 2009-10.
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Refugee Law to Embrace More
AUSTRALIA will extend protection to people who are threatened with torture and death in their homelands but do not fall under the definition of “refugee”.
The Government is to change the law to accommodate people not specifically included by regulations drafted to contend with the mass displacement of Europeans after World War II.
Under the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951, refugees must demonstrate they are subject to persecution on the basis of their race, political alignment, religion or nationality.
This means that in Australia those persecuted for other reasons or who are stateless are not offered protection or are, at best, put in prolonged detention.
The Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, is considering offering such people what is known as complementary protection, which immigration lawyers say could save many lives.
“The Rudd Government is committed to humanity, fairness and integrity in its refugee policies,” Senator Evans told the Herald.
New laws would ensure Australia was meeting its human rights obligations, he said.
It is understood Australian laws would offer those owed complementary protection the same rights as those deemed refugees, avoiding a two-tiered system.
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Fleeing From South Africa
Another largely unnoticed problem is the growing number of attacks on South Africa’s white farmers. As in neighboring Zimbabwe, some of the attacks appear to be racially motivated. Others seem simply opportunistic, but the result is that white farmers’ numbers continue to decrease, leading to fears that despite the government’s good intentions, a Zimbabwe-style crisis—where the flight of skilled farmers led to an agricultural collapse—is possible here too.
Somali Suicide Bomber Who Attacked Peacekeeping Base Was Local With Regular Access
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — A suicide bomber who attacked an African Union peacekeeping base in the Somali capital was a local who regularly delivered supplies to the soldiers inside, an official said Monday.
Eleven Burundian soldiers were killed in the attack Sunday in Mogadishu, for which an extremist Islamic group called al-Shabab has claimed responsibility. It was the deadliest attack on African Union forces during the two-year deployment in Somalia, Geofrey Mugumya, director of the African Union’s Peace and Security Department, said Monday.
The suicide bomber was a Somali contractor who delivered supplies and had easy access to the base, Mugumya said.
“When soldiers converged to get the supplies as usual, then the bomb was detonated,” Mugumya said.
Mugumya, a Ugandan diplomat, said two Somalis were in the vehicle. He said the African Union will investigate the attack and the peacekeeping force will be more vigilant.
In Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, Nicolas Bwakira, the union’s envoy to Somalia, said 22 soldiers have been killed in Somalia to date.
The group’s Peace and Security Council met in the Ethiopian capital in an emergency session for three hours Monday but its deliberations were closed to reporters.
Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed “has requested us to continue to support his government and to increase the number of troops,” Bwakira told journalists in Nairobi. “And indeed we are in the process of doing that.”
Bwakira said the African Union will soon increase its troops to 8,000 from the current 3,500, though in the past such promises by officials have not always been borne out.
The peacekeeping force has a restricted mandate to guard key government installations in Mogadishu. It has not been involved in fighting Islamic militants in the capital, battles that have killed thousands of civilians over the past two years.
But hardline groups still view the peacekeepers as an occupying force.
Al-Shabab has threatened to focus attacks on African Union troops, now that Ethiopian forces have left Mogadishu after two years. The U.S. State Department considers al-Shabab a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida, something the group has denied.
The Somali government controls virtually no territory.
In Somalia, a security official said gunmen released a Pakistani man Monday they had kidnapped a day earlier. No ransom was paid and the gunmen freed the man after elders talked to the kidnappers, said Abdullahi Said Samatar, security minister for the semiautonomous northeastern region of Puntland. Samatar said he did not have any details about the man who was kidnapped.
Associated Press writers Malkhadir M. Muhumed in Nairobi, Kenya and Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu, Somalia contributed to this report.
Families of Immigrant Workers Could be Banned From the UK Unless They Take Jobs
Jacqui Smith hinted yesterday at new curbs on the rights of immigrant workers to bring their families into Britain.
The Home Secretary suggested that families may be kept out unless wives and other dependants are prepared to work.
The prospect of restrictions on immigration by families came as Miss Smith launched her high-profile tightening of immigration rules, which she says will ‘raise the bar’ on immigration from outside the EU.
Miss Smith echoed Gordon Brown’s controversial promise of ‘British jobs for British workers’, saying the changes were based ‘on a judgment about what is best for the British economy, for British workers.’
Her new rules are expected to cut the number of migrants coming to Britain under the new points-based work permit system by more than 12 per cent. Last year a record number of work permits, 151,000, were handed out.
The latest move comes amid deepening tension over scarce jobs going to foreign workers and follows the wave of wildcat strikes over the employment of foreign workers at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire.
Miss Smith called for an inquiry by the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee into ‘the economic contribution made by the dependants of points-based system migrants and their role in the labour market’.
She told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘There are all sorts of questions that we might want to ask here: their access to the labour market, the extent to which they as well as the people that they are coming with need to demonstrate the contribution that they are going to make to the UK economy.
‘I haven’t made a decision on that yet. It is important that we base that on evidence and that’s why I have asked the Migration Advisory Committee to do the work.’
The new rules will put fresh limits on highly-skilled workers who are not required to have a job before they come to Britain.
From April, they will have to have at least a master’s degree — rather than a bachelor’s degree — and a previous salary of at least £20,000 to qualify.
The Home Office estimates that it will almost halve the numbers coming in from 26,000 to 14,000.
High Court to Rule Whether Immigrants Must be Told They Face Deportation if They Plead Guilty
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide a frequently recurring question involving immigrants: whether they must be told by their lawyers that they face deportation if they plead guilty to serious crimes.
The justices stepped into a case from Kentucky involving a Honduran national who pleaded guilty to trafficking in marijuana after his lawyer assured him he would not face deportation. Jose Padilla is a Vietnam-era veteran who has lived in the United States for decades, although he never became a U.S. citizen.
Padilla’s lawyer was mistaken and the federal government began proceedings to deport Padilla because trafficking is regarded as an “aggravated felony,” for which deportation is mandatory.
When he realized the consequences of his plea, Padilla sought to withdraw it. A Kentucky appeals court ruled in his favor, but the state Supreme Court said criminal lawyers have no duty to advise their clients about immigration issues. State and federal courts around the country have come to differing conclusions about immigrants’ rights under the Sixth Amendment to effective legal representation. But the issue arises often in U.S. courts, particularly since Congress tightened the rules in the mid-1990s to make deportation automatic for many crimes.
The U.S. high court will hear arguments in the fall.
The case is Padilla v. Kentucky, 08-651.
UK: Parents Told Avoid Morality in Sex Lessons
PARENTS should avoid trying to convince their teenage children of the difference between right and wrong when talking to them about sex, a new government leaflet is to advise.
Instead, any discussion of values should be kept “light” to encourage teenagers to form their own views, according to the brochure, which one critic has called “amoral”.
Talking to Your Teenager About Sex and Relationships will be distributed in pharmacies from next month as part of an initiative led by Beverley Hughes, the children’s minister.
Arctic Sea Ice Underestimated Due to Faulty Sensor
Glitch causing California-size error goes undetected for weeks
A glitch in satellite sensors caused scientists to underestimate the extent of Arctic sea ice by 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), a California- size area, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said.
The error, due to a problem called “sensor drift,” began in early January and caused a slowly growing underestimation of sea ice extent until mid-February. That’s when “puzzled readers” alerted the NSIDC about data showing ice-covered areas as stretches of open ocean, the Boulder, Colorado-based group said on its Web site.
Get Ready to Spot Comet Lulin
Get ready for the night of the comet.
Comet Lulin, a strange, backward-traveling, greenish-hued ball of ice and gas, will make its closest approach to Earth on the evening of Monday, Feb. 23.
It’ll still be 38 million miles away, but should be visible with the naked eye in dark locations, and with binoculars or a telescope in more lit-up locations.
Skygazers in North America should look to the west-southwest, where Lulin will be just a bit to the right of Saturn, between the constellations of Virgo and Leo.
This week will probably be humanity’s only chance to see Lulin, which was discovered in 2007 by Chinese and Taiwanese astronomers. The comet appears to be on its way out of the solar system for good.
Going Wobbly in the West
By Mark Steyn
“It is hard to understand this deal,” said Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy. And, if the special envoy of the so-called smartest and most impressive administration in living memory can’t understand it, what chance do the rest of us have?
Nevertheless, let’s try. In the Swat Valley, where a young Winston Churchill once served with the Malakand Field Force battling Muslim insurgents, his successors have concluded the game isn’t worth the candle. In return for a temporary ceasefire, the Pakistani government agreed to let the local franchise of the Taliban impose its industrial strength version of sharia across the whole of Malakand Region. If “region” sounds a bit of an imprecise term, Malakand has over five million people, all of whom are now living under a murderous theocracy. Still, peace rallies have broken out all over the Swat Valley, and, at a Swat peace rally, it helps to stand well back: As one headline put it, “Journalist Killed While Covering Peace Rally.”
But don’t worry about Pakistani nukes falling into the hands of “extremists”: The Swat Valley is a good hundred miles from the “nation”‘s capital, Islamabad — or about as far as Northern Vermont is from Southern Vermont. And, of course, Islamabad is safely under the control of the famously moderate Ali Zardari. A few days before the Swat deal, Mr. Zardari marked the dawn of the Obama era by releasing from house arrest A. Q. Khan, the celebrated scientist and one-stop shop for all your Islamic nuclear needs, for whose generosity North Korea and Iran are especially grateful…