The big story of the day is the swine flu, but the news about it keeps mutating every ten or fifteen minutes, so that by the time you read the NYT article below it will be outdated. As of post time, more than 140 people in Mexico have died of the new flu, but so far there are no deaths in the USA.
In other news, Sweden has gained a #1 position in the European Rape League.
The Capital Well is Running Dry and Some Economies Will Wither
The world is running out of capital. We cannot take it for granted that the global bond markets will prove deep enough to fund the $6 trillion or so needed for the Obama fiscal package, US-European bank bail-outs, and ballooning deficits almost everywhere.
Unless this capital is forthcoming, a clutch of countries will prove unable to roll over their debts at a bearable cost. Those that cannot print money to tide them through, either because they no longer have a national currency (Ireland, Club Med), or because they borrowed abroad (East Europe), run the biggest risk of default.
Traders already whisper that some governments are buying their own debt through proxies at bond auctions to keep up illusions — not to be confused with transparent buying by central banks under quantitative easing. This cannot continue for long.
Commerzbank said every European bond auction is turning into an “event risk”. Britain too finds itself some way down the AAA pecking order as it tries to sell £220bn of Gilts this year to irascible investors, astonished by 5pc deficits into the middle of the next decade.
US hedge fund Hayman Advisers is betting on the biggest wave of state bankruptcies and restructurings since 1934. The worst profiles are almost all in Europe — the epicentre of leverage, and denial. As the IMF said last week, Europe’s banks have written down 17pc of their losses — American banks have swallowed half.
“We have spent a good part of six months combing through the world’s sovereign balance sheets to understand how much leverage we are dealing with. The results are shocking,” said Hayman’s Kyle Bass.
It looked easy for Western governments during the credit bubble, when China, Russia, emerging Asia, and petro-powers were accumulating $1.3 trillion a year in reserves, recycling this wealth back into US Treasuries and agency debt, or European bonds.
The tap has been turned off. These countries have become net sellers. Central bank holdings have fallen by $248bn to $6.7 trillion over the last six months. The oil crash has forced both Russia and Venezuela to slash reserves by a third. China let slip last week that it would use more of its $40bn monthly surplus to shore up growth at home and invest in harder assets — perhaps mining companies.
The National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said last week that since UK debt topped 200pc of GDP after the Second World War, we can comfortably manage the debt-load in this debacle (80pc to 100pc). Variants of this argument are often made for the rest of the OECD club.
But our world is nothing like the late 1940s, when large families were rearing the workforce that would master the debt. Today we face demographic retreat. West and East are both tipping into old-aged atrophy (though the US is in best shape, nota bene).
Japan’s $1.5 trillion state pension fund — the world’s biggest — dropped a bombshell this month. It will start selling holdings of Japanese state bonds this year to cover a $40bn shortfall on its books. So how is the Ministry of Finance going to fund a sovereign debt expected to reach 200pc of GDP by 2010 — also the world’s biggest — even assuming that Japan’s industry recovers from its 38pc crash?
Japan is the first country to face a shrinking workforce in absolute terms, crossing the dreaded line in 2005. Its army of pensioners is dipping into the collective coffers. Japan’s savings rate has fallen from 14pc of GDP to 2pc since 1990. Such a fate looms for Germany, Italy, Korea, Eastern Europe, and eventually China as well.
So where is the $6 trillion going to come from this year, and beyond? For now we must fall back on the Fed, the Bank of England, and fellow central banks, relying on QE (printing money) to pay for our schools, roads, and administration. It is necessary, alas, to stave off debt deflation. But it is also a slippery slope, as Fed hawks keep reminding their chairman Ben Bernanke.
Threadneedle Street may soon have to double its dose to £150bn, increasing the Gilt load that must eventually be fed back onto the market. The longer this goes on, the bigger the headache later. The Fed is in much the same bind. One wonders if Mr Bernanke regrets saying so blithely that Washington can create unlimited dollars “at essentially no cost”.
Hayman Advisers says the default threat lies in the cocktail of spiralling public debt and the liabilities of banks — like RBS, Fortis, or Hypo Real — that are landing on sovereign ledger books.
“The crux of the problem is not sub-prime, or Alt-A mortgage loans, or this or that bank. Governments around the world allowed their banking systems to grow unchecked, in some cases growing into an untenable liability for the host country,” said Mr Bass.
A disturbing number of states look like Iceland once you dig into the entrails, and most are in Europe where liabilities average 4.2 times GDP, compared with 2pc for the US. “There could be a cluster of defaults over the next three years, possibly sooner,” he said.
Research by former IMF chief economist Ken Rogoff and professor Carmen Reinhart found that spasms of default occur every couple of generations, each time shattering the illusions of bondholders. Half the world succumbed in the 1830s and again in the 1930s.
The G20 deal to triple the IMF’s
fire-fighting fund to $750bn buys time for the likes of Ukraine and Argentina. But the deeper malaise is that so many of the IMF’s backers are themselves exhausting their credit lines and cultural reserves.
Great bankruptcies change the world. Spain’s defaults under Philip II ruined the Catholic banking dynasties of Italy and south Germany, shifting the locus of financial power to Amsterdam. Anglo-Dutch forces were able to halt the Counter-Reformation, free northern Europe from absolutism, and break into North America.
Who knows what revolution may come from this crisis if it ever reaches defaults. My hunch is that it would expose Europe’s deep fatigue — brutally so — reducing the Old World to a backwater. Whether US hegemony remains intact is an open question. I would bet on US-China condominium for a quarter century, or just G2 for short.
|— Hat tip: REP||[Return to headlines]|
U.S. Becoming History’s Largest Welfare State
Numbers reveal Obama driving U.S. into socialism
President Obama may be determined to use the current economic crisis as an excuse for “Obamanomics” to transform the United States into the world’s largest socialist state, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.
Data emerging from the Congressional Budget Office and various international agencies, including the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, or OECD, indicate the Obama administration’s $3.6 trillion federal budget will dramatically increase government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, or GDP, on a scale that rivals even the European Union social welfare states of France, Great Britain and Germany.
|— Hat tip: JD||[Return to headlines]|
USA: Immigrant Unemployment at Record High
Rate now exceeds native-born, a change from recent past
WASHINGTON (April 27, 2009) — A new report finds immigrant unemployment (legal and illegal) was higher in the first quarter of 2009 than at any time since 1994, when immigrants were first separated out in the monthly data. This represents a change from the recent past when native-born Americans tended to have higher unemployment rates. The findings show that immigrants have been harder hit by the recession than natives. Although data on immigrants is collected, it is generally not published by the government. This report is one of the few to examine this data.
The report, entitled, ‘Trends in Immigrant and Native Employment,’ is embargoed until Wednesday midnight, for publication on Thursday, April, 30. Advance copies are available to the media. The study will be available online at: www.cis.org.
The report also contains employment data for Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington State.
The report is coauthored by Dr. Steven Camarota, the Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies and Karen Jensenius a Research Demographer at the Center.
For more information, contact Steven Camarota at (202) 466-8185 or email@example.com
|— Hat tip: CIS||[Return to headlines]|
Frank Gaffney on the Questionable Harold Koh: A Transnationalist Cannot ‘Uphold’ the Constitution
Tuesday afternoon, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have an opportunity to demonstrate why the Framers gave the Senate the constitutional power to confirm presidential appointees. If they fail to exercise that power vigorously with respect to the nomination of Harold Koh to be the top State Department lawyer, they will not only have been derelict. They will be accomplices to an assault on our Constitution that will ultimately result in an unprecedented, and likely permanent, derogation of the Senate’s vital role and responsibilities.
After all, Mr. Koh is one of the nation’s most prominent — and aggressive — proponents of a set of hoary notions that, for shorthand, can be described as “universal jurisprudence.” Reduced to its essence, adherents to Koh’s school of transnationalism believe that the Constitution of the United States and the laws that flow from it must be continuously “improved” in extra-constitutional ways.
|— Hat tip: CSP||[Return to headlines]|
Jet Flyover in Lower Manhattan Sets Off Panic
NEW YORK (AP) — An airliner and supersonic fighter jet zoomed past the lower Manhattan skyline in a flash just as the work day was beginning Monday. Within minutes, startled financial workers streamed out of their offices, fearing a nightmarish replay of Sept. 11.
For a half-hour, the Boeing 747 and F-16 jet circled the Statue of Liberty and the lower Manhattan skyline near the World Trade Center site. Offices evacuated. Dispatchers were inundated with calls. Witnesses thought the planes were flying dangerously low.
But the flyover was nothing but a photo op, apparently one of a series of flights to get pictures of the plane in front of national landmarks.
It was carried out by the Defense Department with little warning, infuriating New York officials and putting the White House on the defense. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t know about it, and he later called it “insensitive” to fly so near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The director of the White House military office, Louis Caldera, took the blame a few hours later. One of the planes was a 747 that is called Air Force One when used by the president.
“Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision,” Caldera said. “While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.”
When told of the flight, President Barack Obama was furious, a White House official said on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Still, federal officials provided few details and wouldn’t say why the public and area building security managers weren’t notified. They also wouldn’t address why someone thought it was a wise decision to send two jets into New York City, all for a few photos with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop.
An administration official said the purpose of the photo op was to update file photos of the president’s plane near the Lady Liberty.
This official said the White House military office told the Federal Aviation Administration that it was updating file photos of Air Force One near national landmarks, such as the statute in the New York harbor and the Grand Canyon. The official requested anonymity to give more details than the official White House announcement.
An Air Force combat photographer took pictures from one of the fighter jets, administration officials said.
The photo op was combined with a training exercise to save money, according to another administration official who also spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the behind-the-scenes discussions about the flight.
The FAA notified the New York Police Department of the flyover, telling them photos of the Air Force One jet would be taken about 1,500 feet above the Statue of Liberty around 10 a.m. Monday. It had a classified footnote that said “information in this document shall not be released to the public or the media.”
“Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies the imagination,” Bloomberg said. “Poor judgment would be a nice ways to phrase it. … Had I known about it, I would have called them right away and asked them not to.”
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said typically a flight like this would be publicized to avoid causing a panic, but they were under orders not to in this case. They regularly get requests for flyovers, but without secrecy restrictions.
The FAA also alerted an official in the mayor’s office, but he didn’t tell Bloomberg, who said he first learned about it when his “BlackBerry went off crazy with people complaining about it.”
The Bloomberg official who was notified was Marc Mugnos, director of operations for the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management. Mugnos didn’t immediately respond to questions about why he didn’t tell the mayor; Bloomberg’s spokesman Stu Loeser issued a statement saying: “He has been reprimanded and a disciplinary letter will be placed in his file.”
Workers in lower Manhattan were stunned by what they saw.
John Leitner, a floor trader at the New York Mercantile Exchange Building, said about 1,000 people “went into a total panic” and ran out of the building around 10 a.m. after seeing the planes whiz nearby.
“We were informed after we cleared out of there,” Leitner said. “I kind of think heads should roll a little bit on that.”
Employees of the Wall Street Journal also left their desks to see what was going on.
Kathleen Seagriff, a staff assistant, said workers heard the roar of the engines and then saw the planes from their windows.
“They went down the Hudson, turned around and came back by the building,” she said. “It was a scary scene, especially for those of us who were there on 9/11.”
Air Force spokesman Vince King said the “photo mission” involved one of two VC-25 aircraft. The aircraft is part of the Presidential Airlift Wing, based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
The F-16 jet that flew alongside came from the D.C. National Guard’s 113th fighter wing.
“This was a photo shoot. There was no need for surprise,” Sen. Charles Schumer said. “There was no need to scare thousands of New Yorkers who still have the vivid memory of 9/11.”
|[Return to headlines]|
Nation’s Talkers Meet on ‘Imminent Threat’
Top hosts hold unprecedented summit to stop efforts at government control
WASHINGTON — Putting aside their own competitive interests, representatives of more than two dozen of the nation’s top talk shows held an unprecedented private meeting over the weekend to brainstorm strategies against what they agreed are government plans by to squelch critical political speech on radio.
A daylong discussion today focused on what was described as the “imminent threat” of so-called “localism” requirements that will subject radio programming to the review by panels of community activists who will evaluate station content. These panels will be empowered to make recommendations for programming changes and challenge at the Federal Communications Commission the licenses renewals of stations that don’t heed their advice.
|— Hat tip: JD||[Return to headlines]|
US Promotes Iran in Energy Market
Last week, the Barack Obama administration made its first major move in the geopolitics of Eurasia with the appointment of Richard Morningstar as the special envoy for Eurasian energy. The brilliant, devastatingly effective diplomat of the Bill Clinton administration is back on his old beat.
Curiously, despite its extensive ties to Big Oil, the George W Bush administration’s performance in energy politics reads dismally. Russia’s Vladimir Putin outsmarted the United States in the Caspian. Enter Morningstar. He served the Clinton administration as special advisor to the president and secretary of state on the former Soviet Union, special advisor on Caspian basin energy diplomacy and ambassador to the European Union (EU). He was a key figure in pushing through — against great odds — the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which stands out as an enduring achievement for US energy diplomacy in the post-Soviet period.
The US is indeed probing all options. In a hugely surprising move, while speaking to reporters after the Sofia conference, Morningstar spoke of Iran as a potential gas supplier for Nabucco. “Obviously, right now, gas from Iran creates some difficulties for the United States as well as for other countries involved,” he admitted.
“We [US] reached out to Iran, we want to engage with Iran, but it also takes two to go to the dance and we are hoping that there will be positive responses from Iran,” Morningstar said. He reportedly said Nabucco could well exist without Iranian gas, but the US was really trying to reach out to Tehran.. He was hopeful about the prospects since a possible “carrot” would be the development of Iran’s energy sector with Western technology if there is a thaw in US-Iran relations. He implied that Iran stands to hugely benefit as the Obama administration is deeply committed to Europe’s energy security.
Interestingly, even as Morningstar spoke in Sofia, the US delegate at the conference in Ashgabat, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Krol, made yet another proposal involving Iran in his speech. He said the US remained open to the prospect of gas from Central Asia being exported to Europe via Iran, which borders Turkmenistan to the south. Krol’s audience included Iranian delegates.
Evidently, Iran had anticipated the inevitability of such a shift in US thinking. In February, Iran signed a tentative agreement to develop the massive Yolotan-Osman gas fields near eastern Turkmenistan. Iran also sealed a deal to increase its annual purchases of Turkmen gas to 10 billion cubic meters (bcm), which itself amounts to one-fifth of what Russia buys from Turkmenistan. Iran has also been discussing with Turkey the routing of Turkmen gas to Europe via the existing Iran-Turkey gas pipeline. The US had earlier opposed Turkish cooperation with Iran on this front, but now there is a paradigm shift, with Washington promoting precisely such cooperation and itself soliciting Iranian gas to ensure the energy security of its European allies.
But, a question mark arises in terms of the US competing head-to-head with China for access to Turkmen (and Iranian) gas. China is close to completing a gas pipeline through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan (which can also be extended to Iran) that will allow for natural gas exports of 30 bcm within the next two years. Beijing says it is confident that work on the 7,000 kilometer pipeline project could be finished by the end of the current year. Turkmenistan has promised to optimally supply 40 bcm of gas via this pipeline.
Curiously, Morningstar took a differentiated approach to China. With regard to the South Stream, he was unsparing in voicing his discontent. He bluntly said, “We have doubts about South Stream … We do have serious questions.” But when it came to China, he was an altogether changed man.
“We want to develop cooperative relationships with all the countries that are involved,” said Morningstar. “We are living in a time of financial crisis that is really a problem for all of us. We can’t afford to be fighting about these issues, and we need to try to be constructive, and try to deal with the common issues together.
“China is a country that I think we in the United States want to engage with, with respect to energy issues. I don’t think it is a bad idea that China is involved in Central Asia. I think it helps the Central Asian countries. Maybe there are opportunities that we can cooperate — European companies, American companies, European countries, the United States — maybe we can cooperate with China in that part of the world and it’s something that we at least need to explore as an area of possible cooperation.”
Only a week into his new job, Morningstar has begun to sprint. He has outlined an ambitious blueprint of US energy diplomacy in the Caspian that all but takes EU energy security under American wings and aims at neutralizing Russia’s gains in the Caspian energy sweepstakes during the Bush era. But he sees China’s inroads into Central Asia positively as they serve the US’s geopolitical interests in isolating Russia and rubbishing Moscow’s claims over the region as its sphere of influence.
Clearly, Washington will adopt a highly pragmatic approach to Iran. It is signaling its willingness to jettison US sanctions against Iran and instead keenly promote Iran as Russia’s competitor in the European gas market both as a supplier and as a transit country for Central Asian gas. Few annals of modern diplomatic history would match US realism.
Washington thereby hopes to build US-Iran relations as well. Tehran badly needs to modernize its energy industry and develop its liquefied natural gas sector, which provides highly lucrative business opportunities for hi-tech American oil companies. No doubt, it is a “win-win” situation for Washington and Tehran.
|— Hat tip: islam o’phobe||[Return to headlines]|
EU Citizens Complain About Lack of Transparency
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Lack of transparency remained the key topic of EU citizens’ complaints to the European ombudsman last year, with Maltese, Luxembourg, Cypriot and Belgian citizens having the most grumbles.
European ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros, whose job it is to deal with complaints from member state citizens concerning the European institutions, received 3,406 complaints in 2008 (up from 3,211 in 2007), with 36 percent of the cases opened concerning transparency issues, such as access to documents.
Other complaints in the ombudsman’s annual report for 2008 concerned abuse of power (20%), negligence (8%) and discrimination (5%).
His office managed to close 355 of the cases throughout the year, the highest ever, with most (129) resulting in a friendly solution. But institutions were found to have behaved incorrectly in 53 cases, and the ombudsman gave a black mark to 44 of the cases closed.
This is down from the 55 cases closed with a critical note in 2007, but there were still “too many,” says Mr Diamandouros.
Last year also saw a hike in the number of NGOs and businesses lodging complaints with the ombudsman’s office, with grievances often concerning late or non-payment of bills by the institutions.
The European Commission received the most complaints (66%), deemed as “normal” by the ombudsman, as it takes the most decisions affecting EU citizens’ lives. The parliament received 10 percent of complaints, while the office handling applications for EU jobs came in third, with seven percent.
Age and language discrimination
The highest number of complaints came from Germany (16%) followed by Spain and Poland (10%). But in terms of complaints relative to the size of their population, the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta clocked in at number one.
Complaints ranged from age discrimination to language discrimination and lack of transparency concerning MEPs’ salaries.
A typical complaint concerned a Belgian freelance interpreter who worked for the EU institutions for over three decades but suddenly found himself out of work when he turned 65. Another involved a Spanish citizen objecting to a European-Investment-Bank-backed project for a high-speed railway in Barcelona who said that a proper environment impact assessment had not been carried out.
Mr Diamandouros said an “accountable and transparent EU administration is key to building citizens’ trust in the EU.”
He called on the commission to “amend its proposals to reform the legislation on public access to documents.”
The European Parliament and commission are currently trying to work out a compromise on updating its 2001 transparency law.
The transparency law in practise
MEPs in March made the original commission proposal more ambitious, extending it to cover all electronic documents and requiring that officials release requested documents more quickly.
An agreement is expected later this year under the Swedish EU presidency which has promised to make transparency a priority issue.
Meanwhile, transparency pressure groups earlier this month strongly criticised an internal memo to officials working in the commission’s trade unit on how to deal with the transparency rules.
The memo warned officials to be careful about what they write in emails and advised them on how to narrowly interpret requests for information.
|— Hat tip: islam o’phobe||[Return to headlines]|
Netherlands: Vast Majority of Journalists Avoid “Certain Districts”
A large majority of Dutch journalists say that they no longer work in certain neighbourhoods because they fear they will be targets for violence, shows a survey held on behalf of journalists’ union NVJ. NVJ asked criminologist Frank Bovenkerk to examine the nature and scale of aggression against journalists on the streets. Of the 691 journalists who filled in Bovenkerk’s questionnaire, 492 said they now avoided certain neighbourhoods when doing their work, the NVJ disclosed on Friday. At some time in their career, 374 of the 691 journalists had been confronted with physical aggression or threats. Those working for regional media were most often the victims of violence, in particular cameramen and photographers. A total of 75 journalists reported damage to their equipment or vehicles. There were 36 who reported physical assault, leading to hospital admission in 6 cases. Strikingly, the NVJ itself seems to play down the results. It did not wish in its press release to conclude that aggression against journalists has increased, but only that there is a “feeling” that this has increased. The press release makes no mention at all of violence by young Moroccans, although this was the reason for carrying out the survey. The NVJ does say, though that “many journalists and photographers remarked that they were hampered the most by the police, who often seem unimpressed by press cards.” Bovenkerk will present his full report on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day. “He will also discuss whether the freedom of the press in the Netherlands is at risk,” said the NVJ, which refuses to draw this conclusion itself.
|— Hat tip: Fjordman||[Return to headlines]|
Sweden Tops European Rape League
Sweden has the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe — twice as many as “runner up” the UK, a new study shows.
Researchers behind the EU study, which will be presented on Tuesday, conclude that rape appears to be a more common occurrence in Sweden than in continental European countries.
In Sweden, 46 incidents of rape are reported per 100,000 residents.
This figure is double as many as in the UK which reports 23 cases, and four times that of the other Nordic countries, Germany and France. The figure is up to 20 times the figure for certain countries in southern and eastern Europe.
The study, which is financed by the Brussels-based EU fund Daphne II, compared how the respective judicial systems managed rape cases across eleven EU countries. Sweden is shown in an unfavourable light, according to the study.
The high figures in Sweden are not only due to an increased tendency to report rapes, and even other more minor sexual offences.
The opposite is in fact the case, the researchers argue; rape simply appears to be a more common occurrence in Sweden than in the other EU countries studied.
Over 5,000 rapes are reported in Sweden per annum while reports in other countries of a comparable size amounted to only a few hundred.
The figures can however be somewhat distorted as it is often only assault rapes by strangers and aggravated acquaintance rapes that are reported in many of these countries — as was the case in Sweden 40 years ago.
The high incidence of rape in Sweden has a strong connection to nightlife and partying, specifically after-club parties in private homes.
Early sexual debuts, high alcohol consumption, “free sexuality” and the “right to say no” quite simply results in more rapes, the study concludes.
The Daphne II fund ran from 2004-2008 and was set up by the European Parliament as a specific programme to prevent and combat violence against children, young people and women and to protect victims and groups at risk.
In 2007 Daphne III was launched to continue the work and is funded up to 2013.
|— Hat tip: KGS||[Return to headlines]|
UK: Every Phone Call, Email or Website Visit ‘to be Monitored’
Every phone call, email or website visit will be monitored by the state under plans to be unveiled next week.
The proposals will give police and security services the power to snoop on every single communication made by the public with the data then likely to be stored in an enormous national database.
The precise content of calls and other communications would not be accessible but even text messages and visits to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter would be tracked.
The move has alarmed civil liberty campaigners, and the country’s data protection watchdog last night warned the proposals would be “unacceptable”.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will argue the powers are needed to target terrorists and serious criminals who are taking advantage of the increasing complex nature of communications to plot atrocities and crimes.
A consultation document on the plans, known in Whitehall as the Interception Modernisation Programme, is likely to put great emphasis on the threat facing Britain and warn the alternative to the powers would be a massive expansion of surveillance.
But that will fuel concerns among critics that the Government is using a climate of fear to expand the surveillance state.
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, the country’s data watchdog, told the Daily Telegraph: “I have no problem with the targeted surveillance of terrorist suspects.
“But a Government database of the records of everyone’s communications — if that is to be proposed — is not likely to be acceptable to the British public. Remember that records — who? when? where? — can be highly intrusive even if no content is collected.”
It is understood Mr Thomas is concerned that even details on who people contact or sites they visit could intrude on their privacy, such as data showing an individual visiting a website selling Viagra.
Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, last month revealed he was considering lobbying ministers over the proposal, which he described as “overkill”.
The proposed powers will allow police and security services to monitor communication “traffic”, which is who calls, texts, emails who, when and where but not what is said.
Similarly they will be able to see which websites someone visits, when and from where but not the content of those visits.
However, if the data sets alarm bells ringing, officials can request a ministerial warrant to intercept exactly what is being sent, including the content.
The consultation is expected to include three options on how the “traffic” information is then stored: a “super database” held by the Government, a database held and run by a quango or private company at arms’ length, or an order to communication providers to store every detail in their own systems, which can then be accessed by the security services is necessary.
A memo written by sources close to the project and leaked last year revealed it was fraught with technical difficulties.
Ms Smith has already claimed local authorities will not have access to the data but the Tories have warned of the “exponential increase in the powers of the state”, while the Liberal Democrats have dubbed the plans “Orwellian” and deeply worrying.
Security services fear a failure to monitor all forms of communications effectively will hamper their ability to combat terrorists and serious criminals. Sir Stephen Lander, chairman of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, said: “Any significant reduction in the capability of law enforcement agencies to acquire and exploit intercept intelligence and evidential communications data would lead to more unsolved murders, more firearms on our streets, more successful robberies, more unresolved kidnaps, more harm from the use of Class A drugs, more illegal immigration and more unsolved serious crime.”
|— Hat tip: TB||[Return to headlines]|
UK: Firms Bidding for Government Contracts Face Equality Quotas, Signals Harriet Harman
Companies could be required to meet quotas on number of women or ethnic minority workers they employ in order to be win Government contracts, under new rules.
New laws planned by Harriet Harman, the equalities minister, mean that firms tendering for taxpayer-funded work could be judged on new criteria including the gender and race of their staff.
Miss Harman said her new Equalities Bill will mean the annual £175 billion public procurement budget is used to promote “equality”.
The draft bill will also pave the way for “gender pay audits” in large companies, obliging employers to disclose the average hourly pay they award male and female workers.
It will also allow employers to give preference to female or non-white job applicants over equally-qualified white men.
Business leaders said the new rules will make life harder for companies already struggling with the recession. Miss Harman rejected that criticism, insisting that her new measures would actually help British firms.
Ministers are also pressing ahead with Miss Harman’s plan to put a new legal obligation on public bodies to try to narrow the economic gap between different social classes.
Within that wider legal obligation, Miss Harman suggested that Government contracts should be awarded on social as well as economic grounds.
She said: “All other things being equal, if there are two companies bidding for a contract and one has a much better equality record, then it would be down to the procuring authority to choose that one.”
She went on to suggest that contracts could be made conditional on criteria including the number of women employed.
She said: “[Public bodies] could actually say when they are tendering: ‘This is what we would like all of those who apply for this contract to be prepared to do’. It could be the amount of women working on this particular contract.”
She has launched a consultation exercise on how the new procurement rules would work. Ministers including Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, are said to be privately resisting setting new conditions on contracts.
Existing rules mean tendering firms can be asked about their general policy on diversity issues and any previous tribunal cases of discrimination.
Sandra Wallace, a partner at DLA Piper, a law firm, said setting a minimum number of women workers was a “massive departure” from the current situation.
She said: “It’s a big step towards positive discrimination and it will come as a shock to companies.”
Business leaders said that Miss Harman’s bill will hurt the UK economy.
Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “Harriet Harman must be the only person in Britain to believe that in the midst of some of the most difficult business conditions in years, introducing yet more regulation is a way of ‘boosting economic recovery’.
But Miss Harman insisted: “We don’t see this as anti-competitiveness — it actually underpins competitiveness. Equality and opportunity underpins a meritocracy. This does not hold business back, this helps business.”
|— Hat tip: El Inglés||[Return to headlines]|
Al-Fowzan: Suicide Bombers in Name of Jihad Are Following Satan
By Abdullah Ad-Dani
JEDDAH — Sheikh Dr. Saleh Bin Fowzan Al-Fowzan, member of the Board of Senior Ulema and the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Verdicts (Ifta) has described those who claim to be engaging in jihad for the sake of Allah by killing themselves as “committing suicide” and “Mujahideen for the sake of Satan.”
Al-Fowzan said: “Those who have fallen into this Fitnah (trial or temptation) have not asked the religious scholars (Ulema), nor have they gained religious knowledge from them. Instead they isolated themselves from other Muslims and turned to people considered human tyrants who brainwashed them, and so they deviated from the right path followed by the majority. They consider other Muslims to be infidels, in what is known as “Takfir”. They kill them, blow up buildings and other facilities. They kill the young and old, male and female, and Muslim and Al-Mu’ahid, Al-Dhimmi and Al-Musta’man, due to this deviant belief. These are the consequences for whoever inclines towards evildoers.”
Al-Fowzan quoted the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the seditions and trials (Fitan) of the late eras. “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that there would be callers at the gates of Hellfire and whoever obeyed them would be thrown into Hellfire.”
Sheikh Al-Fowzan said that this was reality now.
“Everybody rejoices at their misfortune and hates them for their deeds, even non-Muslims, let alone Muslims,” Sheikh Fowzan said. “Nobody is satisfied with their deeds except those who are like them. This is a great trial (Fitnah) and a Muslim should be alert and contemplate it. He should not be hasty, and should ask religious scholars and pray to Allah for guidance.”
“He should not trust people without knowing their real intentions and make sure they are upright, even though they may appear to be upright, righteous and showing zeal and concern for Islam. On the other hand, whoever seems to be following the right path and is doing good deeds but is an unknown person, we must neither be hasty in our judgment about him nor should we trust him unless we know the truth about him, and know his true conduct and past.
“Without foresight and without consulting the learned, deviant groups fell into the abyss due to hasty judgments on people, ignorance, mixing with evil people, trusting them and distancing themselves from Muslims and their Ulema. They have dropped out of schools and stayed away from the Ulema and their families and homes. Muslim youth should learn lessons from what has happened to these people.
“Successful is he who learns a lesson from others’ misdeeds. We must learn lessons from these events, never go beyond the limits, abide by the Muslim consensus and obey the ruler.”
|— Hat tip: Henrik||[Return to headlines]|
Defensible Borders on the Golan Heights
by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland
In the years 1999-2000, Israeli-Syrian negotiations reached the stage of discussion over details that included security arrangements intended to compensate Israel for the loss of the Golan Heights. When indirect Israeli-Syrian negotiations were renewed in 2008 under Turkish auspices, they were conducted under the assumption that there was a military solution that would compensate Israel for the loss of the Golan.
The idea of security arrangements was intended to bridge the gap between conceding the Golan and creating a situation that would guarantee that in case of war, IDF forces could return to the place where they are currently stationed. The idea was based on the Golan being totally demilitarized, with the Syrian divisions moved back eastward to the region of Damascus and even further.
This analysis demonstrates that Israel does not possess a plausible solution to its security needs without the Golan Heights. Not only was the “solution” proposed in the year 2000 implausible at the time, but changing circumstances, both strategic and operative, have rendered Israel’s forfeiture of the Golan today an even more reckless act
|— Hat tip: JCPA||[Return to headlines]|
Iraq PM: Deadly US Raid ‘Breach’ of Security Pact
BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said a US raid on Sunday in which a policeman and a woman were shot dead was a “breach” of a landmark security pact with Washington.
“The prime minister condemns the killings which are in breach of the (US-Iraqi) security pact,” Maliki said in a statement carried by Iraqi state TV. The premier “wants those responsible to be put on trial,” it added..
It is the first time either Washington or Baghdad has accused the other of violating the landmark pact, which requires US troops to leave all cities and major towns by June 30 and completely withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
The US military, however, insisted the pre-dawn raid in the southern town of Kut near the Iranian border was “fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government.”
The Status Of Forces Agreement, which was signed in November, requires all military operations in Iraq to have government approval and to be “fully coordinated” with local authorities.
The accord allows Iraqi authorities to try US soldiers under certain circumstances but not for alleged crimes committed during combat missions.
Iraq had earlier detained two army commanders after the defence ministry said Baghdad had no knowledge of the operation in the southern town of Kut in which another six people were arrested.
Defence ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari said the army officers are accused of “permitting an American military force to carry out a security operation… without the knowledge of the defence ministry or the Iraqi government,” adding that the six detainees have since been released.
An Iraqi security official in Kut confirmed that US forces had shot dead a woman and policeman during the operation and said those arrested included a police captain and a tribal leader.
Iraq’s interior ministry — which controls the police force — sent a special delegation to Kut to investigate.
The US military said the raid led to the arrest of six alleged members of Shiite militant groups it suspects of having received funding, arms and training from Iran.
“In an operation fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government, coalition forces targeted a network financier, who is also responsible for smuggling weapons into the country,” it said in a statement.
“As forces approached (the financier’s) residence, an individual with a weapon came out of the home. Forces assessed him to be hostile and they engaged the man, killing him.”
It said the woman killed during the raid “moved into the line of fire” and died of her gunshot wounds after receiving treatment from an army medic.
In June 2008, US forces arrested six men they accused of being part of an Iranian-trained militia in Kut, a mostly Shiite town.
The US military has long accused Iran of supporting sectarian militias in Iraq, a charge denied by Tehran.
In a joint operation elsewhere on Sunday, US and Iraqi forces swept into a suspected Al-Qaeda hideout north of Baghdad, killing at least seven fighters in a gunbattle, Iraqi officials said.
The fighting erupted in a densely wooded area where Al-Qaeda had been regrouping, according to Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Khalaf, the police chief in the nearby town of Dhuluiyah.
Some of those killed were from other Arab countries, he said without naming them, adding that the bodies had been sent to the main hospital in the northern city of Tikrit for identification.
US and Iraqi forces have allied with local tribes and ex-insurgents over the past two years to drive Al-Qaeda out of most of its former strongholds.
But attacks against security forces and civilians bearing the hallmarks of the terror group are still common in some parts of the country, including the capital.
At least 150 people were killed in attacks in Iraq over the past week, including 65 people who died in a twin suicide bombing on Friday outside Baghdad’s most holy Shiite shrine.
|— Hat tip: islam o’phobe||[Return to headlines]|
Report: Obama Wants Aid to Go to PA Even if Hamas Joins Government
The Obama administration has asked Congress to amend U.S. law to enable the Palestinians to receive federal aid even if it forms a unity coalition with Hamas, the L.A. Times reported on Monday.
Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces in a bloody 2007 coup, has been deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. and therefore cannot not legally receive U.S. government aid.
The U.S. has presented an $830.4-billion emergency spending bill, comprising funding for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill would also allocate $840 million to the Palestinian Authority and for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s three-week offensive there earlier this year.
Because none of the Gaza aid can legally reach Hamas, it will be difficult to ensure its delivery to the coastal territory.
The U.S. has refused to grant aid to Hamas unless the group agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violence and agreeing to follow past accords secured between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The administration’s request for the minor changes to aid measures is unlikely to come into fruition, as no concrete plans are yet underway for a Palestinian unity government. Reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah have been ongoing, but have so far yielded no results.
Still, the move has stirred controversy among pro-Israel U.S. officials, according to the L.A. Times.
Republican Representative Mark Steven Kirk told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a House hearing last week that the proposal was tantamount to supporting a government with “only has a few Nazis in it,” the L.A. Times said.
Democratic Representative Adam B. Schiff called the proposal “completely unworkable,” even if Hamas were to agree to abide by the U.S.’ preconditions, according to the L.A. Times.
“You couldn’t have the leadership of a terrorist organization pick the ministers in the government, with the power to appoint and withdraw them, and answering to them,” the L.A. Times quoted him as saying.
Clinton has defended the proposal, saying that the U.S. has continued to fund other governments in which designated terror groups are represented, including the Lebanese government which includes officials from the Hezbollah militant organization.
The secretary of state urged the government to work to change the attitudes of Hamas, rather than cutting of all possibility of dealing with them should they join the ruling Palestinian coalition.
“We don’t want to . . . bind our hands in the event that such an agreement is reached, and the government that they are part of agrees to our principles,” she said
|— Hat tip: Fjordman||[Return to headlines]|
The Turkish Question
1914, on the very eve of the Great War, G.K. Chesterton published his humorous novel The Flying Inn. The story concerned a Turkish plot to invade England, all with the connivance of Britain’s progressive elite. At the superficial level, Chesterton’s fears of the Ottoman Empire must have seemed preposterous. Turkey had long been the “sick man of Europe,” and it would emerge from the coming military cataclysm with only its core in Asia Minor and a strip of land in Europe that permitted control of the Bosporus. The great writer’s underlying aim, however, went far beyond contemporary power politics.
Chesterton sought to convey the central truth that seemingly fantastic turns of events can come about through spiritual collapse. This assertion was proved correct outside the pages of his book. As Europeans, supremely confident of their material civilization, plunged into industrial-scale suicide, hindsight shows us that physical disaster was preceded by disaster in higher realms. Philosophers, statesmen and scientists rejected their ancient Christian faith to exalt the seemingly limitless potential of man. It is therefore ironic that the very circumstances of The Flying Inn hint at correspondence with today’s geopolitics. A century later, Turkey is ascendant, and Islamic inroads into Europe are aided and abetted by the ruling classes of the West.
With this context in mind, it shouldn’t surprise us that America is intensively courting Turkey as an enhanced strategic ally. When President Barack Obama delivered a speech before the Turkish parliament on April 6th, he wasn’t simply seeking to smooth feathers ruffled from the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The president included his usual appeals to “common dreams” and “coming together,” but also outlined substantive aspects of the U.S.-Turkish relationship. The White House’s vision for an alliance is expansive; it seeks to harness Ankara’s growing influence in multiple regions. Policy planners in Washington appreciate Turkey’s rising power and hope to channel it in their designs for Eurasia, the Islamic world and even Europe.
Turkey is proving attractive to U.S. policymakers for a number of reasons. The first of these is the country’s geographic centrality. As their Ottoman predecessors extended political, economic and cultural influence from the Middle East to Central Asia and from the Caucasus to the Balkans, so too can modern-day Turks. Washington needs Turkey for its strategic agenda in Eurasia. Ankara would be a major participant in U.S. efforts to undermine Russia’s sphere of influence and secure a “new Silk Road” of energy pipelines from Central Asia to Europe that bypass Moscow. The Turks would also play a key role in countering Iranian ambitions in the Middle East.
It is perhaps because of Turkey’s cultural character that US foreign policy elites are so insistent upon the country’s integration into the EU. Washington’s strategy in the Balkans, which is predicated on empowering Muslim Albanians and Bosnians, offers a remarkable parallel to Ottoman rule. It would also be a prelude to empowering Turkey in Europe. Eliminating the already flimsy European frontier with Turkey would further undermine the nations of the continent, especially in terms of demography. How many Turks would travel, unimpeded, to join their almost 3 million compatriots already residing in the cities of a Germany reproducing below replacement levels? Fellow Turks in Europe are to remain wholly Turkis, as Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan has emphasized. Liberal fantasies about the assimilation of incompatible cultures can be put to rest.
U.S. advocacy of Turkey’s integration into Europe is just one facet of a long-held revolutionary dream that has shaped the leaders of Western societies. This vision seeks to overturn natural order in favor of an atomizing egalitarianism that can conceive of nothing above economic expediency and the whims of the sovereign will. Every measure of its progress leads individuals and entire nations further into dissolution. Sufficient tragedy has already resulted from European governing classes’ abandonment of religious tradition and its cultural vessels, from mass politics and mechanized slaughter to crime-infested third world ghettoes that abut red light districts. There is little reason to allow Turkey into Europe if a spiritually bankrupt modern West is to someday have a chance at renewal.
America’s Turkish gambit will produce a series of unintended consequences. U.S. foreign policy is assisting the reemergence of a pivotal Muslim state with an imperial past and a growing capability for power projection. The Turks are unlikely to do Washington’s bidding for long; even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Ottoman sultans had controlled an empire on three continents for almost three hundred years. Debates over “moderate” Islam and “radical” Islam are entirely uninformed by historical experience and miss the point, as the dwindling grip of the secular Kemalists will be seen as an aberration. Turkey is an Islamic power with its own interests, its own civilization and its own cultural mission. NATO allies or not, Ankara’s Christian neighbors in Greece, the Balkans and the Caucasus know this fact well.. Their peaceful acceptance of Turkish regional primacy will be unlikely.
Washington’s complicity in the rise of Turkish power will be on the level of the “blowback” created by U.S. support for the Shah and the Iranian Islamic Revolution. The case of Turkey, even without dramatic events in the near term, will be of greater significance. While Iran would like to lead the Muslim world, Turkey is the strongest candidate. It is, after all, Sunni, not Shia, and Ankara’s political and economic relations with the Arab states of the Middle East have a solid foundation from the Ottoman period. By virtue of strategic geography, the Turks can also pursue their foreign policy along multiple vectors. The professionalism and capabilities of today’s Turkish military, the second largest in NATO, give form to what Hilaire Belloc foresaw in 1929:
Islam was [once] our superior, especially in military art. There is no reason why its recent inferiority in mechanical construction, whether military or civilian, should continue indefinitely. Even a slight accession of material power would make the further control of Islam by an alien culture difficult. A little more and there will cease that which our time has taken for granted, the physical domination of Islam by the disintegrated Christendom we know.
Among other arms acquisitions, Turkey is planning to receive delivery of 100 advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighters beginning in 2014. Belloc’s prediction is already coming to pass.
The United States has for the better part of a decade been engaged in poorly defined actions against jihadists guided by a universalist, liberal creed. By forging a strategic alliance with Turkey, U.S policymakers betray the same willful blindness and illusory hopes imposed by such a limited worldview. Our elites’ “democracy” advocacy and fanciful projections of Islam are leading again to disaster. Through its celebrated partnership with Turkey, Washington is helping to materially revive Islamic power from its centuries of slumber. As the Turks make their return to the arena of great states, the ages-old enmity between Islam and the West will assume dimensions previously unimagined.
The U.S. embrace of Turkey is symptomatic of our secular elites’ disdain for the roots of Western culture, and their desire to replace it with something wholly alien. Such are the wages of an empty and world-flattening humanism. Rather than explore our natural bonds with the Orthodox Christian nations to better confront the challenges of Islam and China, Washington antagonizes and attempts to encircle a Russia still scarred from the ravages of Communist rule. Who will protect the tattered remnants of Christendom and aid in its recovery? Elected officials, bureaucrats, corporate executives and judges on both sides of the Atlantic are engaged in an unceasing campaign to destroy any traces of its vitality.
Chesterton’s Flying Inn closes on a hopeful note. With the help of some tipsy eccentrics, the people of England mount a revolt and defeat the sultan’s army of occupation. Faith, tradition and the organic integrity of culture prevail. The moralistic social engineer who hoped to inaugurate a new, enlightened era in Britain was revealed to be insane precisely because of his warped ideological program. Today’s ruling classes are long entrenched and still wield great power, but their ruinous policies are catching up with them. With grace and good will, the peoples of the West may yet arise, shake off the absurdism of our establishment, and restore sanity to the land.
|— Hat tip: islam o’phobe||[Return to headlines]|
Turkey’s Main Kurdish Party Appeals for Help After Crackdown
Hundreds of activists arrested after surprise success in local elections
Turkey’s main Kurdish political party has appealed for international support after hundreds of its officials were arrested in a crackdown by Turkish authorities.
The Democratic Society party (DTP) has written to members of the European parliament asking them to speak out against the arrests, which follow the party’s surprise success in last month’s local elections. The DTP, the fourth largest party in the Turkish parliament with 20 seats, fears that the arrests will radicalise the Kurdish minority and make a solution to the Kurdish problem even more elusive.
About 40,000 people have died in the 25-year conflict between the Turkish authorities and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). The DTP insists that the campaign for Kurdish language and cultural rights be pursued through political means, but the Turkish military considers the party a PKK front.
The DTP almost doubled the number of municipalities under its control from 56 to 98 in last month’s elections and came first in 10 provinces in eastern and south-eastern Turkey.
The results were a blow to Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Justice and Development party (AKP). The party won almost 39% of the vote, eight points less than in a general election two years ago, and lost 15 mayoralties. Erdogan had described the election as a referendum on his leadership and said that anything less than 47% of the vote would be a failure.
The poll setback came despite a strong drive against the DTP in its strongholds in the south-east. Allegations were made of unfair practices, including handing out washing machines and other gifts to voters to persuade them not to vote for the DTP. Unable to defeat the DTP at the ballot box, the AKP was now resorting to rougher measures, analysts said.
“Before the election, the AKP were talking about having good relations with Kurdish regional governments, an economic development plan and some cultural reforms,” said Mesut Yegen of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. “But they wanted to do so from a position of strength; they do not recognise the PKK and the DTP as legitimate actors. Erdogan has not grasped the seriousness of the Kurdish question.”
A Turkish court last week sentenced the mayor of Diyarbakir, Osman Baydemir, and the mayor of Batman, Nejdet Atalay, to 10 months in jail for spreading PKK propaganda. In condemning a Turkish military incursion against PKK bases in neighbouring Iraq in February last year, Baydemir had said that “neither soldiers nor guerrillas should die”. For using the word “guerrillas” he was charged with “spreading PKK propaganda” and “inciting separatism” under Turkey’s strict laws on freedom of speech.
The DTP is also facing the threat of being shut down in a case before the constitutional court. Analysts say it is hard to see how the latest moves against the DTP will not influence the case, even though the evidence has already been compiled.
Ahmet Turk, the president of the DTP, struck a defiant note at a talk at Chatham House in London last week. He told journalists: “They may put me in prison, they may kill me, but the struggle for Kurdish rights will continue.”
Human rights groups have expressed concern at the targeting of the DTP. “The secrecy order on the investigation prevents us from knowing what the precise evidence consists of, but this is not a very constructive approach to the issue of minority rights in Turkey, an area that has seen very little progress in its negotiations on EU membership,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Istanbul.
Britain, a strong backer of Turkey’s EU membership bid, said the arrests were a matter for the Turkish courts, but added that it supported pluralism.
|— Hat tip: Henrik||[Return to headlines]|
‘300 Taliban Suicide Bombers on Way to Islamabad, ‘ Claim Pakistan Officials
300 suicide bombers are on their way to Islamabad, Pakistan and plan to attack the capital and certain local officials of foreign embassies there, Interior Ministry sources said.
The suicide bombers also plan to attack Rawalpindi and Lahore and are being led by five top Taliban commanders who are close aides of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the country’s unified Taliban movement, according to the sources.
The commanders have left North Waziristan for Islamabad and would supervise the terrorist operations planned by Baitullah Mehsud in these cities, the sources added.
Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah confirmed the report, saying that security measures had been adopted to thwart such threats. The law enforcement agencies have planned counter strategies to deal with the situation, the secretary said.
Kamal Shah added that the Northern Areas Scouts (NAS), a paramilitary force under the Army command, would reach Islamabad within a couple of days to help the civil administration in maintaining peace in the capital.
The sources said an intelligence agency provided information to the government regarding the Taliban activities, alleging that simultaneous suicide bombings followed by sniper attacks could occur.
The five Taliban commanders are identified by intelligence agencies as Shikaari, Inayatullah, Walid, Mujahid and Abdali, Interior Ministry sources said. They said all the terrorist commanders were close aides of Baitullah Mehsud.
A security officer said the Taliban commanders had left North Waziristan on April 11 for Islamabad, along with an explosives-laden Toyota Corolla. But the law-enforcement agencies were totally unaware whether they had reached their destination or postponed their operation, the officer said.
Quoting the intelligence report, the source said about 300 terrorist shooters and suicide bombers would reach Islamabad, along with the five commanders.
To counter serious threats to Islamabad, the federal government has called troops of the NAS to assist the civil administration to protect prominent personalities as well as sensitive installations of the capital city, the Interior Ministry sources said.
‘At least 20 companies of the NAS are required to deal with the possible untoward situation,’ the source said.
|— Hat tip: Gaia||[Return to headlines]|
Australian Diggers Fighting Diet of Tasteless Gruel
AUSTRALIAN Diggers risking all on the deadly battlefields of Afghanistan are fighting on a diet of tasteless gruel.
Soldiers bombarded Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon with complaints when he made a secret Anzac Day visit to Oruzgan Province on Friday, prompting him to pledge to fix the problem.
Senior officers have conceded the poor diet is affecting morale and soldiers’ health, and have ordered a study into the nutritional value of the food.
The Herald Sun took the taste test on Friday at the Dutch-run mess at Tarin Kowt military base after learning of complaints about food quality.
The tasteless slab of roast pork was submerged in a sea of equally flavour-challenged gravy, and the pumpkin had long since morphed from a solid vegetable to liquid gruel.
The other choice was an equally inedible turkey slice.
As Diggers from the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force confront a limited daily diet, just up the road their comrades from the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) enjoy fresh vegetables and quality cooking.
The difference was obvious at an Anzac Day breakfast hosted by SOTG, as our exclusive images show.
Mr Fitzgibbon heard plenty of complaints about the food and vowed to act.
Numerous soldiers and senior officers told him the “kings versus paupers” attitude was divisive and unfair.
Special forces troops eat in a mess that is financed and run separately from the normal army channels.
The “special” mess employs qualified cooks and uses only fresh ingredients.
For the troops of the MRTF, it is Dutch gruel or a hamburger.
The issue is bigger than just the Diggers complaining to their partners at home.
Commanding officer Lt-Col Shane Gabriel said the difference in food had affected both nutrition and morale..
He has commissioned a study into the nutritional value of the MRTF food.
The SOTG runs its own tight supply lines and team of cooks, while the Dutch mess runs at half capacity and is forced to import prepared meals.
After several complaints back home, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Force chiefs are also now involved and want the problem fixed.
|— Hat tip: islam o’phobe||[Return to headlines]|
Cruise Ship Fends Off Pirate Attack With Gunfire
An Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board fended off a pirate attack far off the coast of Somalia when its Israeli private security forces exchanged fire with the bandits.
Six men in a small, white Zodiac-type boat approached the Msc Melody at about 1730 GMT Saturday and opened fire with automatic weapons, Msc Cruises director Domenico Pellegrino said. They retreated after the security officers returned fire and sprayed them with water hoses. The ship continued its journey with its windows darkened.
|— Hat tip: JD||[Return to headlines]|
Chuck Norris: the Decline and Fall of Private Education
The reason that government is cracking down on private instruction has more to do with suppressing alternative education than assuring educational standards. The rationale is quite simple, though rarely if ever stated: control future generations and you control the future. So rather than letting parents be the primary educators of their children — either directly or by educating their children in the private schools of their choice — [government] want[s] to deny parental rights, establish an educational monopoly run by the state, and limit private education options. It is so simple any socialist can understand it. As Joseph Stalin once stated, ‘Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.’
|— Hat tip: JD||[Return to headlines]|
The Dark Side of Owning a Toyota Prius
Sometimes the cars accelerate on their own. Sometimes they stop dead. Drivers of the hybrid Prius have discovered they can be an unexpected adventure.
|— Hat tip: JD||[Return to headlines]|
W.H.O. Issues Higher Alert on Swine Flu, With Advice
While confirmed cases of swine flu increased only slightly on Monday, the World Health Organization voted to raise its global pandemic flu alert level, but at the same time it recommended that borders not be closed nor travel bans imposed.
The W.H.O.’s emergency committee, after meeting until 10:30 p.m. in Geneva, also recommended abandoning efforts to contain the flu’s spread.
“Because the virus is already quite widespread in different locations, containment is not a feasible option,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the organization’s deputy director general.
The W.H.O. also recommended that vaccine makers keep making the seasonal flu vaccine instead of switching over to a new one that matches the swine flu strain, but it urged them to start the process of picking a pandemic strain, weakening it and making large batches of it, which could take six months.
Dr. Fukuda emphasized that the committee thought that “a pandemic is not inevitable — the situation is fluid and will continue to evolve.”
In Mexico, state health authorities looking for the initial source of the outbreak toured a million-pig hog farm in Perote, in Veracruz State. The plant is half-owned by Smithfield Foods, an American company and the world’s largest pork producer.
Mexico’s first known swine flu case, which was later confirmed, was from Perote, according to Health Minister José Ángel Córdova. The case involved a 5-year-old boy who recovered.
But a spokesman for the plant said the boy was not related to a plant worker, that none of its workers were sick and that its hogs were vaccinated against flu.
American officials said their response to the epidemic was already aggressive, and the W.H.O.’s decision to raise its pandemic alert to level 4 from level 3 would not change their plans. Level 4 means that there has been sustained human-to-human transmission.
The W.H.O. decision offered some official guidance to a world that, at least for the day, seemed swept by confusion that unnerved international travelers and the financial markets. European and Asian markets fell, and stock in airlines and the travel industry fell while those in pharmaceutical companies rose.
Pharmacies in New York reported runs on Tamiflu, an antiflu drug — something that public health officials badly want to avoid because the drug could eventually be needed for the truly ill.
For now supplies of Tamiflu and Relenza, another antiflu drug, remain adequate, the manufacturers said, but both were increasing production and expressed anxiety that shortages could develop if governments placed huge orders.
The travel issue was the most confusing. On Monday morning, the European Union appeared to issue and then rescind a ban on travel to the United States, drawing a rebuke from American officials, who themselves later suggested that Americans drop all nonessential travel to Mexico.
The number of deaths in Mexico for which flu is believed responsible climbed to 149. The number of confirmed cases in the United States increased to 45, with 28 of them from one New York City school.
None of the American cases have been serious, but Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he “would not rest on that fact.”
“I expect that we will see additional cases, and I expect that the spectrum of disease will expand,” he said at a news conference.
Asked why the W.H.O. had waited so long to raise its alert level, Dr. Fukuda said it was done on technical grounds, that there was evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of a new virus and movement of that virus to new areas. But he conceded that “the committee is very aware that changes have quite significant political and economic effects on countries.”
|[Return to headlines]|