The Truth Puts on its Shoes

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

— Mark Twain

In the last few days a lot of virtual ink has been spilled describing the “neo-Nazi” connections of the German anti-Islamization coalition Pro-Köln.

Like similar allegations about Vlaams Belang in Belgium and Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden, these assertions are based on a mixture of falsehoods, fabrications, half-truths, and facts from the past that no longer apply to the current Pro-movement and its resistance against the Islamization of Germany.

Solidarity with IsraelCheck out the photo at right: if the members of the Pro-movement are “neo-Nazis”, what were they doing holding a “Solidarity with Israel” rally in Cologne on the January 10th, 2009? What on earth were they thinking of??

Some Nazis they turned out to be!

The truth is somewhat different. As Markus Wiener, one of the leaders of Pro-Köln, said, “The neo-Nazis in Germany hate us, because of our positive relations with Jews, Western immigrants, democracy, and freedom rights.”

Readers who understand German will want to watch the videos posted at Politically Incorrect that were recorded at another Pro Köln rally, this one from last December at the site of the proposed mosque in Cologne-Ehrenfeld. Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated the text of the accompanying report:

Together for diversity

The German flag alongside the Israeli flag. The Cross next to the Star of David. Christians next to Jews and atheists, buoyant Rhinelanders next to indigenous Saxons and well-integrated immigrants. At the Saturday demonstrations in Cologne-Ehrenfeld the diversity of our free modus vivendi can be seen, which is defending itself against standard Socialist gloom and Muslim monoculture.

Josef Intsiful and Manfred RouhsStupid August

This amazes even the silly August [Antifa “clown”]: just as the bogus giant Mr. Turtur [European Dove], Pro-Köln gives in close-up a completely different impression than what the well-oiled “stupefying machine” wants to make you believe — there they stand, Mayor Schramma’s “brown muck that belongs in the loo.”


Josef Intsiful, born in Kenya and well-integrated into Cologne, still has hope for the vestiges of the culture that once made up Germany. One has only to listen to take note of the arguments of others. The Turkish scarf squadron on the opposite side leads the dialogue according to its own rules and in accordance with the strategy of the Cologne communist leader Jörg Detjen, who doesn’t care a bit about the fate of his comrades in Iran, in Turkey, anywhere where the green flag of Muhammad flies: drumming on pots to make it impossible for people to understand one another.

– – – – – – – –


An anonymous “quality reporter” from the “Kölner Stadtanzeiger” [Cologne City Advertiser, a newspaper] will have hallucinations later of families of Cologne with children singing songs from Cologne. Since the DuMont Group [which has a newspaper monopoly and enthusiastically collaborated during the war] appointed Franz Sommerfeld as its chief editor, who once received his wages from the Stasi to spread lies, and finds it better to have the occasional misperceptions, so that he does not have to ask, like his colleagues of the Süddeutsche or WAZ-Group [publishers of newspapers that went through financial difficulty and fired many local reporters], for a new professional perspective.

Total demo

Of course “quality” journalism denies its subscribers any information about the arguments and thoughts of the demonstrators. At Politically Incorrect you can read excerpts from the original speech. Because freedom needs information.

  • Video # 1: Speech by Mr. Josef Intsiful
  • Video # 2: Talk by member of Parliament Henry Nitzsche
  • Video # 3: Speeches by Jörg Uckermann and Markus Beisicht
  • Video # 4: Speech by Manfred Rouhs (Part 1)
  • Video # 5: Speech by Manfred Rouhs (Part 2)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Let’s be clear: Pro-Köln has members with dubious connections in their pasts. There’s no argument about this fact.

But more important is what the organization does now. Organizations and people change, and the Pro-movement is no exception. By coming out in support of Israel and inviting anyone who opposes Islamization and supports traditional German values to join, the group has demonstrated that it is not about race.

The “Nazi” bogeyman is losing its power to frighten citizens into meek submission. More and more voters are unwilling to line up meekly behind the culture-destroying agenda of the Socialist Left and its Islamist allies. Common sense tells the man in the street that neo-Nazis are not the threat here.

Even so, the usual scare-mongering has done its work. The lie has already made it to the International Dateline.

But stick around: the truth is sitting up slowly and putting on its shoes.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/27/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/27/2009The 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.

Thanks to CIS, CSP, El Inglés, Fjordman, Gaia, Henrik, islam o’phobe, JCPA, JD, KGS, REP, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
The Capital Well is Running Dry and Some Economies Will Wither
U.S. Becoming History’s Largest Welfare State
USA: Immigrant Unemployment at Record High
Frank Gaffney on the Questionable Harold Koh: A Transnationalist Cannot ‘Uphold’ the Constitution
Jet Flyover in Lower Manhattan Sets Off Panic
Nation’s Talkers Meet on ‘Imminent Threat’
US Promotes Iran in Energy Market
Europe and the EU
EU Citizens Complain About Lack of Transparency
Netherlands: Vast Majority of Journalists Avoid “Certain Districts”
Sweden Tops European Rape League
UK: Every Phone Call, Email or Website Visit ‘to be Monitored’
UK: Firms Bidding for Government Contracts Face Equality Quotas, Signals Harriet Harman
Middle East
Al-Fowzan: Suicide Bombers in Name of Jihad Are Following Satan
Defensible Borders on the Golan Heights
Iraq PM: Deadly US Raid ‘Breach’ of Security Pact
Report: Obama Wants Aid to Go to PA Even if Hamas Joins Government
The Turkish Question
Turkey’s Main Kurdish Party Appeals for Help After Crackdown
South Asia
‘300 Taliban Suicide Bombers on Way to Islamabad, ‘ Claim Pakistan Officials
Australian Diggers Fighting Diet of Tasteless Gruel
Sub-Saharan Africa
Cruise Ship Fends Off Pirate Attack With Gunfire
Culture Wars
Chuck Norris: the Decline and Fall of Private Education
The Dark Side of Owning a Toyota Prius
W.H.O. Issues Higher Alert on Swine Flu, With Advice

Financial Crisis

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:

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

           — 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]

Europe and the EU

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]

Middle East

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]

South Asia

‘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]

Sub-Saharan Africa

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]

Culture Wars

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]

Kazakhstan: A Secular Muslim State

Our expatriate Russian correspondent Russkiy, after recently returning from Kazakhstan, sent Gates of Vienna a comprehensive report on what he experienced:

I just came back from Kazakhstan and would like to share with you and readership of GoV some of my experience there.

As I have stated before about Kazakhstan, they are a very secular Muslim majority country.

A quick introduction to their history:

The Kazakh nation was founded in 1456 by couple of khans from the region of current Uzbekistan in the territory of southern Kazakhstan. The tribes of Turkic-Mongol background that were living in that territory slowly came under the control of those two khans. Some of those tribes were already Muslim and some were of a shamanistic variety (currently there are very few Kazakhs who are from shamanistic background).

In the 17th century the Russian empire started to expand southeast, and from the east of Kazakh territory tribes of Jungars (who they are I am not sure, but Kazakhs tell me they are Muslim nomadic people from the Chinese territory, Chinese used them to gain control) started to push Kazakhs to the west. This development made Kazakh khans ask the Russian empire for protection. That started the process of Russification of the Kazakh steppe.

Currently Russian influence in Kazakhstan is extensive. The Russian language is utilised more than Kazakh, and there is a definite divide between the Kazakhs of the South (Kazakh-speaking Kazakhs) and Kazakhs of the North and East (Russian-speaking Kazakhs).

It is very interesting, so many conflicting emotions… on the one hand those people (Russian-speaking) are part of Russian culture — they speak Russian, eat Russian food, enjoy Russian humour and music — and on the other hand they still have their patriotism of the Kazakh variety. But this is complicated even more by the fact that a stereotype of a true Kazakh — that being a Kazakh of the south — is looked down upon by the Kazakhs of the north (and the feeling is mutual on the other side). The Kazakhs of north accuse southerners of being stupid barbarians who follow tribal habits and breed corruption.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I will try to describe the degree of religiosity amongst Kazakhs encountered by saying that the percentage of Muslim Kazakhs (who in theory are all Muslims) is about 60%, however, the number of hijabed women I encountered during the period of two weeks was approximately 4 (excluding old women who are none too representative, as old women among Russian Christians wear scarves too). Compare that to Amsterdam, where I stayed for half a day on my return, and where there were hundreds and hundreds of hijabed women.

– – – – – – – –

Another interesting fact I have noticed is the pride of Kazakhs in their European heritage. They like to say that their genotype is a mixed one, with about 50% Indo-European, and they are proud of that. They really resent it when someone calls them Asians (even if they look Asian). They often make derogatory statements about African Americans that I will not utter here.

Another interesting phenomenon I found here is that although they love Europe and the West, they make fun of its masochistic behaviour that all well educated Kazakhs observe when travel to Europe. I would not have any reservations saying the following to a Kazakh: “Those stupid Brits letting all those Pakistanis into their country, look what mess they have made, all the terrorism…” As long as I don’t make Islam the factor in my bashing of some ethnic group, everything would be fine.

I was discussing American emigration policy with respect to Latinos with one Kazakh, and he sounded like Rush Limbaugh in his attitude.

On a negative note, during the few times I watched TV — and on a few local analytical programs that discussed the economic crisis — a member of the audience (in that case a young, fashionably dressed, Kazakh girl) started talking about Islamic banking, and asking why is it not used in the country and saying that countries like the Emirates who use Islamic banking weren’t hit by the crisis as hard, etc.

Another time they showed a bank that received funds from Islamic countries to loan under Islamic conditions.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

As I mentioned before, Kazakhs like the West, but they also love Timur (Timurlane), whom they consider one of their own. I have heard this sentiment twice from two different people, and it may be fairly widespread. The sentiment is that Timur saved the world… How? you may ask. By attacking the Ottoman Turks, and preventing them from taking over Europe when Europe was weak, and therefore allowing the Renaissance to occur. I know it is fascinating, only because one group of Muslim Turks are supporting Europe against another bunch of Muslim Turks.

As you understand, I had to be extra careful not to say anything I would have regretted, but I did say that the Indians didn’t share their enthusiasm for Timur. They did concede that he killed a lot of people, but after all, they said, those were different times.

On the other occasion, I talked to two Kazakh women in their late 20s and early 30s (friends of my wife). They have traveled through Middle East and Turkey, and were commenting on how badly men in those countries behaved towards women. They also commented on the poor state of the affairs in those countries even compared to Kazakhstan. Then one of the girls told me that she started to read Qur’an after coming back from the Middle East, because she felt embarrassed because she didn’t know anything about their religion.

I told her not to go into it too much, as it is obvious that degree of religiosity is proportionate to the poor state of affairs and poor treatment of women in those countries. And I think she listened to me.

Another Kazakh complained that he was going to become a Buddhist, because he did not like Islam very much. He complained that “mullahs are bloody corrupt and that it seems Islam only breeds terrorism and misery.”

You must understand that I was talking to people from a middle class, Russified background, one may say not real Kazakhs, but I think this attitude in various degrees is prevalent in a large part of the Kazakh population.

I do feel that many of them make a connection between Middle East and other Muslim countries and backwardness and terrorism. These people, unless they have some idealistic, left-wing views, have very racist attitude towards Africans, Gypsies, Chinese, other Central Asians (not so much, but sometimes make statements that indicate such attitudes), Turks (from Turkey, as they are themselves Turks), and Middle Easterners. Basically, I didn’t detect any solidarity towards other Third-Worlders or other Muslims.

I did not found much anti-Semitism there (the same degree that is encountered in Russia, one may argue that Russia is full of anti-Semites, and you do get skinheads who hate Jews, but there are hundreds of thousands of Jews who live there in relative safety, as safe as it is for other Russians, and the majority of Russians, if they do not love them, at least respect them for their contribution to society) at least not as much as amongst many other Muslims I have met over the years. At most people joke about cunningness of Jews and their love of money, but the same joke is applied to another Turkic group there, the Tatars.

Another interesting development there is that in recent years there have been many more interethnic unions between Russian men and Kazakh women. Before they were fairly rare, as compared to marriages where the man is a Kazakh and the wife is Russian.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

A final anecdote about my conversation with the local mullah.

The family I was staying with visited a local mullah. When I was told that he was coming, I started to imagine to myself a bearded old man. I was wrong on that account, that mullah couldn’t even grow one; I think he would have been executed under Taliban in Afghanistan.

I started my conversation with him on the wrong foot — earlier on he read an opening verse of the Qur’an in Arabic, so when I addressed him in Arabic I was hoping he would answer. He just looked at me confused and told me that he doesn’t speak Arabic, he just learned certain verses of the Qur’an by heart in the seminary. From my conversation with him I gathered that he was preaching “righteous Islamic lifestyle” to the fellow Kazakhs but with all respect, his preaching was falling on deaf ears. I think because I started addressing him in Arabic he must have thought that I was a Muslim since he was consulting with me on some issues in the Qur’an. I really felt strange — I wanted to debate that guy; I didn’t want to reassure him in his belief system, but it wasn’t easy to do if I wanted to maintain a good relationship with those people, because if I gave them my criticism they would have gotten upset.

In some ways it is harder to argue about religion with cultural non-Arab Muslims, as they have a totally different idea of what Islam actually is. The majority of Muslims in Kazakhstan believe that all religions are the same, even Hindus and Buddhists; the understanding of what is Halal and what is Haram is completely absent.

The mullah has undertaken the Hajj, and was rather impressed with Saudi Arabia. I asked him what he thought of the strict rules there and he replied that they live by the rule of God’s law. I didn’t manage to get him to criticise anything in Saudi Arabia.

I asked him how successful he was in preaching, etc. He told me that it was very difficult, as the sinful ways of the Kazakhs are so ingrained and that they don’t listen to him and don’t go to the mosque.

This brings me to a question I was wondering about for a while: if you ignore foreign Muslims from Arabia or countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan etc, who influence the behaviour of converts to Islam in Western countries, would the converts actually behave the in same backward way the Third World Muslims do? I mean, they have been brought up in Western culture, where their mothers, sisters etc, had complete freedom, and if they are female converts, how can they turn into Muslim stereotypes without the influence of foreign Muslims?

In a country like Kazakhstan, where I spent two weeks, you don’t even think you are amongst Muslims. I saw more churches there than mosques. So it is definitely the case that it is possible to have a country with a majority Muslim population and also have a very secular non-religious population who are not interested for most part in anything like what they have in the Middle East.


Fjordman: Why We Need Germany

Fjordman’s latest essay has been posted at the Brussels Journal. Some excerpts are below:

I’m tired of people who are busy losing this world war because they are still obsessed with the pfrevious one, which ended generations ago. Anti-Nazism has mutated into a permanent witch-hunt on an imaginary enemy. The notion that “neo-Nazis” constitute a prominent group today is nonsense. The most dangerous people by far are those running the European Union, who are busy dismantling European civilization and enlarging the borders of the EU to include the Middle East and North Africa, thus flooding their own countries with tens of millions of Muslims and other hostile aliens without consulting the native population. This makes the EU the largest criminal entity on the planet, preoccupied with destroying an entire continent, dismantling the greatest civilization that has ever existed and replacing the native population with others. I have described this in my book Defeating Eurabia , which is available online.

Next to the EU, the most dangerous people are the Leftists all over the Western world who are waging a Jihad to destroy their own civilization and have teamed up with Muslims to achieve this goal. Unlike neo-Nazis, these people are not only far more numerous but socially accepted and disproportionately represented in the media and the education system, where they systematically silence “racist” dissenters by destroying their livelihoods and reputations. They use an imaginary “far-Right” threat to crush people they don’t like. According to Dr Aidan Rankin, “anti-Fascism” is the new Fascism. The so-called anti-racists and Multiculturalists are aggressors with totalitarian leanings; the people they unfairly attack are victims of a failed social experiment and one of the greatest betrayals in history.

– – – – – – – –

I am aware of the fact that there are anti-German feelings still prevalent in some quarters, but I do not share these feelings. My country was once occupied by Nazi Germany, but I see no rational reason to blame young Germans for this. I realize that the situation today is radically different from what it was back then, and I derive no pleasure from seeing Germans being humiliated at home by members of backward tribes. The entire European continent is now under siege. The groups who insult and harass the inhabitants of Berlin and Hamburg do the same in Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Rome and Athens. Germans are not “Nazis” or “extremists” if they say that they do not want more Muslim immigration, period; they are merely exercising their right to retain their own land and shape their destiny as a people. Germans do have that right, just as much as Thais, Indians, Kenyans, Frenchmen and Italians do. Those who say otherwise are evil and should be denounced as such.

Europe is not complete without German culture. There is nothing that can be done about the past so we need to concentrate on the future. There is no reason to single out the Germans as the bad guys this time around. They now have a golden opportunity to redeem themselves and play a positive role as defenders of European civilization, something which their population size and historical achievements entitle them to.

If anything, precisely because of her history, Germany has an even greater responsibility than others to stop the spread of Jew hatred that follows inevitably from Muslim immigration. The defenders of Multiculturalism are directly responsible for the current spread of Nazi-like ideologies in the Western world and are shameless hypocrites for claiming otherwise. Opposition to Islamization in Germany is good not just for Germany, but for Europe. For this reason, we should support the Anti-Islamization Congress in Cologne on May 9th.

Read the rest at the Brussels Journal.

The Mosque of Notre Dame

Sebastien from Paris sends the following information about the publication of a Counterjihad novel in French translation:

The Mosque of Notre DameThe Mosque of Notre Dame, a best-selling book by Elena Chudinova, has been translated into French from Russian, and, after initially being available as a free downloadable pdf, has finally been published by Tatamis in France.

This book is set in the year 2048 in Paris after France has been taken over by Wahhabite Islam, and the Vatican no longer exists. The novel starts with a public stoning on the Place de l’Arc de Triomphe and focuses on the lives of non-Muslims living in ghettos, families that have converted to ensure a good position in this new world, a pre-Vatican II Catholic resistance group, and an active resistance cell.

You won’t be able to put down this novel, and it is imperative that it gets the widest possible publicity. The publisher would really like to see an English language version and for this to happen, we need to start generating interest among the general public.

The book launch that took place on the 18th of April was of course not in a Catholic meeting place, because the Catholic Church, after years of Islamo-Christian dialogue, will never publicly offend the “Religion of Peace”.

– – – – – – – –

This was never more obvious than on the following Tuesday, when the publisher, along with celebrated Islamologue Anne-Marie Delcambre, were disinvited from an interview they were scheduled to do on Radio Notre Dame, the main French Catholic radio station.

The publisher is planning to have readings from the novel performed in front of Notre Dame and he even mentioned selling the book as people leave Mass.

The publisher, Jean Robin, like the Islamologue Anne-Marie Delcambre and the author Elena Chudinova, are very courageous and deserve all the publicity and support they can get.

More information can be found on the Galliawatch site.

Those Israeli Kids

It’s such a relief to see a new invention with such simplicity and potential. Forget those wind turbines that spoil Tedddy Kennedy’s view and the solar panels that only work when the sun’s out. They will go the way of the buggy whip.

When we get real innovation in any area, it will look like this one: simple and with wide applications.

And no doubt it will be done by another Israeli teenager, or an Indian, or any citizen of a country that gives its citizens free rein to think and dream.

Socialists of the world, untie.

Hat tip: Yid with Lid, who has lots more detail on this story, and Vlad Tepes.

[post ends here]

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/26/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/26/2009We have so many news tipsters now that some sets of two-letter initials are being repeated.

If you are sending us tips, and want us to use a unique nickname for you rather than initials, please send it with the next tip.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, CB, Gaia, IH, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, Nilk, TB, The Frozen North, TSJ, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

100 Days in Office, Coronated Messiah
Terrorists on Tour
Europe and the EU
Al-Qaeda Group in Threat to Kill British Hostage Unless Abu Qatada Freed
Berliners Vote on Religious Education
EU Judges Want Sharia Law Applied in British Courts
Flemish Jews Irked by State-Funded ‘Anti-Israel’ Samson Opera
‘Nazi’ Cattle Being Bred in UK
UK: Police Spy on Activist Groups
UK: Terror Preacher Abu Hamza Gets Round Hunger Strike With Crisps
Israel and the Palestinians
Dissolving in the Two-State Solution
Russian Death Squads ‘Pulverise’ Chechens
South Asia
Pakistani Taliban Shave Men Listening to Music
Taliban Gunmen Shooting Couple Dead for Adultery Caught on Camera
Australia — Pacific
Police Top Brass’ Secret Plan to Reduce Area Commands
Young Father Stabbed and Beaten to Death With a Baseball Bat in Sydney’s South-West
Sub-Saharan Africa
Israeli Guards Drive Off Somali Pirates
Italy Ship Thwarts Pirate Attack
Latin America
Ahmadinejad to Visit Latin America Next Month
Third Refugee Boat in Fortnight Intercepted
UK: Field Hits Out Over Immigration Levels
Culture Wars
Germany: Public Resistance Against Homosexualization of Society
Conficker Virus Begins to Attack PCs


100 Days in Office, Coronated Messiah

Arms outstretched, he wears crown of thorns on his brow

On his 100th day in office, President Obama will be “crowned” in messianic imagery at New York City’s Union Square.

Artist Michael D’Antuono’s painting “The Truth” — featuring Obama with his arms outstretched and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head — will be unveiled on April 29 at the Square’s South Plaza.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Terrorists on Tour

Bill Ayers’ terrorist associate Mark Rudd said on Wednesday that News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch paid him $50,000 ($25,000 in advance and $25,000 on completion) to write his memoir about his days as a member of the Weather Underground. But “Fifteen percent went to my agent and the rest went up my nose for coke.”


In his talk, Rudd made it clear that his communist ideology had not changed and reiterated his support for Communist Vietnam and Communist Cuba.


During a previous appearance in Berkeley, California, at a left-wing bookstore, Rudd had declared that the election of Barack Obama was a major “advance” and provides an “opening” for the far-left to continue making gains. Rudd serves on the board, with Ayers and his wife, fellow terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, of the “Movement for a Democratic Society,” which hopes to resurrect a “new SDS” on the college campuses. The SDS was the predecessor of the Weathermen and the Weather Underground.


Because of the presence at Cal State East Bay of about 10 critics of Rudd, including this columnist, who passed out fliers about his involvement in a group that killed at least four police officers, university officials ordered seven members of the campus police to stand by. Two police were actually in the room, which was in the university library, and others were posted outside. But they never had to intervene. In fact, the police seemed disgusted they had to be there to protect someone who had specialized in calling police “pigs” and whose organization bombed police stations and killed police officers.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Al-Qaeda Group in Threat to Kill British Hostage Unless Abu Qatada Freed

Al-Qaeda in North Africa has threated to kill a British hostage unless the UK government releases Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim preacher in custody in a British jail.

The terror group said in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site today that it will execute the tourist, who has been held by the group since late January, if Abu Qatada is not freed within 20 days.

Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-Jordanian, was jailed in Britain in 2002 accused of links with militant groups but was released in 2005. He was re-arrested and is pending deportation to Jordan where he was sentenced to life in prison in absentia.

Four tourists, including two Swiss, a German woman and a British man, were kidnapped by gunmen on January 22 in Niger, their tour operator said. It is understood that they was seized near the border between Niger and Mali while they were returning from a music festival in the Sahara desert.

Al-Qaeda in North Africa grew out of an earlier Islamist organisation based in Algeria called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

It has been praised by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy, but appears to operate independent of bin Laden’s control.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Berliners Vote on Religious Education

Berliners voted Sunday in a referendum on religious education in schools that goes to the heart of how Germany’s sizeable Muslim minority is integrated into modern society, reports AFP’s Simon Sturdee.

Germany’s biggest city, described by one sociologist as “the world capital of atheism,” got a wake-up call in 2005 with an “honour killing” of a woman from the country’s Turkish community by her brother.

Shocked by how such a crime could occur in the capital of a country that aspires to be a modern, multicultural success story, its left-wing city hall decided that schoolchildren needed a lesson in ethics.

The idea was to foster common values in schools in a city where over 40 percent of children come from immigrant families, most of them Muslims, and nip dangerous radicalism in the bud.

Germany, which opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has around 3,700 troops in Afghanistan under NATO command, has managed to escape terror attacks by Islamic radicals but authorities say there is still a serious threat.

Following the honour killing of Hatun Surucu, the city introduced ethics classes in 2006-7 that all secondary school students — from whatever background — in Berlin have to attend.

But now, many people are angry and that rage led to 265,000 people signing a petition which forced Sunday’s referendum organised by a group called Pro Reli.

The group wants children to be able to opt out of ethics and take religion classes instead.

This is the case in most of the rest of Germany. Pro Reli — “Reli” being the nickname among German kids for religion classes — says that the whole idea behind the compulsory ethics classes is wrong-headed.

Learning more about Islam, not less — and openly, not behind closed doors — will help stop young Muslims turning into radicals, Pro Reli claims.

Leaders from other religious groups say children must be steeped in teachings from their own faith in order to understand the beliefs of others.

Supporters of the compulsory ethics classes counter that allowing children to choose between either ethics or religion lessons would split classes up and mean less integration, not more.

And they say that hot-button issues such as abortion, women’s rights and sexuality should be aired in a secular forum where all sides can be considered.

“Particularly when it comes to fostering values, children should not be separated on religious grounds and classes split,” according to a leaflet from the city’s ruling Social Democrats.

This “would be bad for integration in Berlin and bad for the education of our children,” it says.

The campaign has seen billboards plastered up all over Berlin — many of which have been vandalised — and it has drawn in celebrities from the worlds of politics, sport and entertainment on both sides of a lively and sometimes heated debate.

According to a recent survey, a wafer-thin majority — 51 percent — of people support a “yes” vote in Pro Reli’s favour, but high turnout is key for the result to carry.

Polls were due to close at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) with preliminary results expected around two hours later.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

EU Judges Want Sharia Law Applied in British Courts

Judges could be forced to bow to Sharia law in some divorce cases heard in Britain.

An EU plan calls for family courts across Europe to hear cases using the laws of whichever country the couple involved have close links to.

That could mean a court in England handling a case within the French legal framework, or even applying the laws of Saudi Arabia to a husband and wife living in Britain.

The Centre for Social Justice think tank today attacked the so-called Rome III reform as ludicrous.

It warned it would slow down cases, increase costs and lead to unjust results.

However, in a report it says existing arrangements are ‘anti-family’.

Currently, a couple from different EU states can have their divorce heard in the first country where one of them files divorce papers.

Because different states offer varying financial advantages to spouses in terms of division of wealth, the resulting ‘race to court’ in the best jurisdiction discourages couples from trying to save their marriage, it says.

The report calls for a simpler solution, with each country applying its own laws and cases being heard in the country where the couple have the closest connection.

At least nine EU states — not including the UK — are said to want to push ahead with the Rome III plan.

           — Hat tip: CB [Return to headlines]

Flemish Jews Irked by State-Funded ‘Anti-Israel’ Samson Opera

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haarez Correspondent

Prominent figures from the Jewish community in Belgium and Israel have harshly criticized the Flemish Opera for staging what they regard as an anti-Israeli, political event disguised as a première. The contested show was created by two Israelis.

The production of Samson and Delilah is scheduled to premiere Tuesday, along with a political debate. The community has condemned the opera — directed by Omri Nitzan and Amir Nizar Zuabi — for dressing the Philistine conquerors in Western clothing while Hebrew fighters like Samson wear Arab clothes.

Samson, who lived in the 11th century BCE, was a partisan living under occupation of the Philistines — a powerful and technologically-advanced people of European roots. The bible says he died in Philistine hands while killing many of his captors.

Zuabi and Nitzan’s reverse-role adaptation of his love story with a Philistine woman leads Samson to become “history’s first shaheed” (or martyr, in the Islamic tradition), the say. “Samson is a shaheed, and Delilah is his lover from the enemy camp,” the directors explained.

“This isn’t the first time public Flemish culture institutions stage unabashedly anti-Israel events,” David Lowy, founder of the JOBI group for Belgian youth in Israel, told Haaretz. “Israel is misunderstood in Belgium and distorting bible stories will only compound this. The analogy’s ludicrous and state-funded bodies mustn’t help it.”

Guido Joris from the Dutch-language Jewish-affairs newspaper Joods Actueel condemned the event’s political character, and a planned screening of a film calling Israel’s 2002 military operation in the West Bank a “blood bath” at the event.

The paper also criticized the involvement of a state-funded institution in the show. “I imagine we are in store for Israeli flags burned, as we’ve seen in the past in Belgium,” Joris said.

Nitzan insists that the opera’s political messages are not an attempt to jump on Europe’s pro-Palestinian bandwagon. A spokesperson from Flanders Opera said his institution isn’t anti-Israeli and that the criticism is “premature,” adding: “We may argue about the Mideast conflict, but there will be no flag burning.”

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

‘Nazi’ Cattle Being Bred in UK


A Devon farmer has succeeded in introducing a breed of cattle that has not been seen in the UK for over 4,000 years.

During the Second World War, the Heck cow was a symbol of Nazi ambitions to rule the world.

           — Hat tip: TSJ [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Spy on Activist Groups

POLICE are using a network of hundreds of paid informants to feed them information about protest groups, according to secret recordings made by a potential recruit.

A member of the climate-change protest group, Plane Stupid, has released a series of recorded discussions with officers apparently offering her money to spy on fellow activists.

Matilda Gifford, 24, says she was approached by Strathclyde Police last month after being released on bail following a demonstration at Aberdeen airport.

In a series of discussions with police, recorded by Miss Gifford, an officer attempting to recruit her is quoted as saying “UK plc can afford more than 20 quid”.

The tax-free cash would be in exchange for information on individuals within the climate-change protest group and would not be paid into her bank account for fear of leaving an audit trail.

She was also told that her continued involvement with Plane Stupid could lead to her having difficulties finding employment in the future if she ended up with a criminal record.

In one section of the recording a police officer states hundreds of informants are on police books giving them information on a spectrum of organisations ranging from terror cells to environmental activists.

The officer is quoted as saying: “We work with hundreds of people, believe me, ranging from terrorist organisations right through to whatever. To the others as we like to call them. Environmentalists.

“We have people who give us information on environmentalism, leftwing extremism, rightwing — you name it, we have the whole spectrum of reporting.”

Strathclyde Police stated the force “had a responsibility to gather intelligence” after admitting officers had had meetings with Plane Stupid activists.

The Assistant Chief Constable of Strathcylde Police, George Hamilton, said: “Officers from Strathclyde Police have been in contact with a number of protesters who were involved with the Plane Stupid protests including Aberdeen airport.”

He added that the purpose of the meetings was to make sure future protests were carried out within the law and respected the rights of all concerned.

Plane Stupid, a direct action group fighting against airport expansion since 2005, maintains the attempted police infiltration of the group was an attempt to curtail people’s right to protest.

Lawyers for Plane Stupid have been able to identify the officers invovled.

A statement from Plane Stupid reads: “Our civil liberties were invaded and our right to peaceful protest called into question simply to defend the interests of big business.”

The group’s first protest was to release a barrage of rape alarms attached to helium balloons disrupting an international aviation conference being held in London.

In a statement in its website Plane Stupid states it welcomed any actions in its name “provided they are non-violent and accountable and help further the struggle against airport expansion and greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Terror Preacher Abu Hamza Gets Round Hunger Strike With Crisps

HOOK-HANDED cleric Abu Hamza is cheating his way through a prison “hunger strike” by gorging on crisps.

The terrorist and his al-Qaeda followers in the High Security Unit in Belmarsh have refused to eat prison food all week.

They took objection to a strip search on an inmate and have refused cooked food from kitchen staff since.

But the protesters have been eating food from the prison shop and scoffing snacks during meetings with solicitors.

Hamza was spotted eating crisps and chocolate in his cell after calling on the Muslims Boys Gang to go on a hunger strike.

The weak-willed backlash came after a Muslim prisoner objected to a strip search along with two other inmates. All three lashed out and were placed in the segregation unit.

The officer who tried to search them received death threats and was moved to a new job.

A source said: “It is almost funny. They have been refusing food from the hot plate, but are still snacking on everything else.

“Hamza has been sneaking crisps and chocolate into his cell.” A Ministry of Justice spokes man said: “Prisoners in Belmarsh are not on hunger strike.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Dissolving in the Two-State Solution

by Barry Rubin

Ring! Ring! The Israeli prime minister’s alarm clock went off. He quickly sat up in bed and immediately shouted out: “Yes! I’m for a two-state solution!”

At breakfast, lunch, and dinner, during his talks and all his meetings, in greeting his staff as he walked down the corridor to the office, endless he repeated that phrase.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the world seems to want from Israeli policy.

But the fact is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution back in 1997 when he took over in the midst of the Oslo agreement peace process and committed himself to all preceding agreements.

This is not the real issue. The real issue is this: much of the world wants Israel to agree in advance to give the Palestinian Authority (PA) what they think it wants without any concessions or demonstration of serious intent on its part.

The first problem is that the demand is totally one-sided. Does the PA truly accept a two-state solution? That isn’t what it tells its own people in officials’ speeches, documents of the ruling Fatah group, schools, the sermons of PA-appointed clerics, and the PA-controlled media.

The second problem is that PA compliance with its earlier commitments is pretty miserable, though this is a point that almost always goes unmentioned in Western diplomatic declarations and media.

More often than not the PA’s performance could be called one of anti-confidence-building measures. In other words, what it does makes Israel and Israelis less certain that it is ever going to make a stable and lasting peace.

The third problem is that this leaves no room for asking the question: what does Israel want in exchange for accepting a Palestinian state, leaving West Bank territory, or even agreeing to a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.

How about recognizing Israel as a Jewish state since, after all, the PA Constitution defines its country-to-be as an Arab Muslim state and the PA makes clear that all Jews who have come to live there since 1967 must leave. These stances don’t bother me in principle only the hypocrisy of doing one thing and demanding Israel do another.

How about agreeing-which any nationalist movement should be eager to do-that all Palestinian refugees be resettled in the state of Palestine.

How about accepting that a two-state solution would permanently end the conflict?

How about stopping daily incitement to kill Israelis and destroy Israel in PA institutions?

How about being open to border modifications or security guarantees like not bringing foreign troops onto Palestinian soil?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]


Russian Death Squads ‘Pulverise’ Chechens

Elite commandos have broken their silence to reveal how they torture, execute and then blow captives to atoms to obliterate the grisly evidence

THE hunt for a nest of female suicide bombers in Chechnya led an elite group of Russian special forces commandos to a small village deep in the countryside. There they surrounded a modest house just before dawn to be sure of catching their quarry unawares.

When the order came to storm the single-storey property, dozens of heavily armed men in masks and camouflage uniforms — unmarked to conceal their identity — had no difficulty in overwhelming the three women inside. Their captives were driven to a military base.

The soldiers were responding to a tip-off that the eldest of the three, who was in her forties, had been indoctrinating women to sacrifice themselves in Chechnya’s ferocious war between Islamic militants and the Russians. The others captured with her were her latest recruits. One was barely 15.

“At first the older one denied everything,” said a senior special forces officer last week. “Then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head.

“We disposed of her body in a field. We placed an artillery shell between her legs and one over her chest, added several 200-gram TNT blocks and blew her to smithereens. The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem.” The technique was known as pulverisation.

The young recruits were taken away by another unit for further interrogation before they, too, were executed.

The account is one of a series given to The Sunday Times by two special forces officers who fought the militants in Chechnya over a period of 10 years. Their testimony, the first of its kind to a foreign journalist, provides startling insights into the operation of secret Russian death squads during one of the most brutal conflicts since the second world war.

The men, decorated veterans of more than 40 tours of duty in Chechnya, said not only suspected rebels but also people close to them were systematically tracked, abducted, tortured and killed. Intelligence was often extracted by breaking their limbs with a hammer, administering electric shocks and forcing men to perform sexual acts on each other. The bodies were either buried in unmarked pits or pulverised.

Far from being the work of a few ruthless mavericks, such methods were widely used among special forces, the men said. They were backed by their superiors on the understanding that operations were to be carried out covertly and that any officers who were caught risked prosecution: the Russian government publicly condemns torture and extrajudicial killings and denies that its army committed war crimes in Chechnya.

In practice, said Andrei and Vladimir, the second officer, the Kremlin turned a blind eye. “Anyone in power who took the slightest interest in the war knows this was going on,” Andrei said. “Our only aim was to wipe out the terrorists.”

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistani Taliban Shave Men Listening to Music

Taliban posters order women not to go shopping

Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northwest Buner district shaved the heads and moustaches of four Pakistani men as punishment for listening to music , one of the victims said late on Saturday.

“I was with three other friends in my car, listening to music when armed Taliban stopped us and, after smashing cassettes and the cassette player, they shaved half our heads and moustaches,” a young man from Buner told AFP by telephone, requesting not to be identified.

“The Taliban also beat us and asked us not to listen to music ever again,” said the terrified man. Local police said they had no information about the incident.

The victim said neither he nor his friends lodged a complaint with police, as this would have been “useless.”

“It might have annoyed the Taliban further and I fear for my life,” the man said.

Buner has been subject to huge U.S. concern after hundreds of Taliban fighters advanced into the area from the neighboring Swat, where the hardliners fought a brutal, nearly two-year insurgency to enforce Islamic law.

Although Taliban and local officials said the fighters retreated from Buner by Saturday, local members of the movement remain. Residents said many fighters were still present in the hilly outskirts of the district.

Women ordered not to go shopping

Residents in Mingora, the main town in Swat, said Taliban posters had been put up in streets and markets ordering women not to go shopping. The posters had appeared after the Taliban’s controversial agreement with the government to enforce Islamic law in the region.

“We will take action against women who go out shopping in the markets and any shopkeeper seen dealing with women shoppers will be dealt with severely,” read the poster from the Swat branch of Tehreek-e-Taliban.

“The peace agreement does not mean that obscenity should be re-born,” it added.

Hardline Islamists in the extremist Taliban consider it “obscene” for women to leave their homes, and ban females from venturing out in public without an immediate male relative—namely a father, brother, son or husband.

For years, Swat was a popular ski resort frequented by Westerners but the Pakistani government effectively lost control of the mountainous district after the violent Taliban campaign to enforce Sharia law.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Taliban Gunmen Shooting Couple Dead for Adultery Caught on Camera

Taliban gunmen have been filmed executing a surprised couple whom they repeatedly shot for the alleged crime of adultery.

Their deaths were squalid, riddled with bullets in a field near their home by Taliban gunmen as the execution was captured on a mobile telephone.

In footage which is being watched with horror by Pakistanis, the couple try to flee when they realise what is about to happen. But a gunman casually shoots the man and then the woman in the back with a burst of gunfire, leaving them bleeding in the dirt.

Moments later, when others in the execution party shout out that they are still alive, he returns to coldly finish them with a few more rounds.

Their “crime” was an alleged affair in their remote mountain village controlled by militants in an area that was only recently under the government’s sway. It was the kind of barbarity that has become increasingly familiar across Pakistan as the Taliban tide has spread.

But this time, with black-turbaned gunmen almost at the gates of Islamabad, the rare footage has shown urban Pakistanis what could now await them.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that Islamic extremists could take over the nation.

In the past few days the footage has circulated among Pakistanis who usually show little interest in the rough ways of the distant frontier regions.

They have now started to wake up to the fear that al-Qaeda-linked rebels from the frontier could take over their nation.

The killings happened in Hangu district, in North West Frontier Province, about two hours drive from the regional capital Peshawar. The punishment was administered by a local group of the Pakistani Taliban, the Islamic militia which has swept across the NWFP towards the capital Islamabad.

Last week, the Taliban had reached within 60 miles of Islamabad, in Buner district. Their takeover sparked panic in the West, which was already appalled by a peace deal that the government had signed this month with Taliban in adjacent the Swat valley.

In an extraordinary move, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called on the people of Pakistan to defy their government, saying they “need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents”.

The Taliban had agreed a withdrawal, in the last couple of days, to their stronghold of Swat. That will scarcely make the government and elite in the capital Islamabad feel much safer, as Swat is only 100 miles from them.

“The Taliban are steady and confident, the government is weak and faltering,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University and one of Pakistan’s leading intellectuals.

“A Taliban victory will enslave our women, destroy Pakistan’s rich historical and cultural heritage, make education and science impossible, and make the lives of its citizens impossibly difficult. Some are already contemplating an exodus.”

Pakistan today stands on a knife-edge, threatened with anarchy. The desperate deal signed with the Taliban in Swat looks set to fall apart. The result will almost certainly be violence. An army convoy heading into Swat on Saturday morning was stopped by the Taliban and forced to turn back, in a naked display of their power.

They seem to have been only emboldened by the peace agreement. Many believe that a bloody military operation now looks inevitable,

For those in areas falling under Taliban control, their harsh rule is terrifying.

An SOS text message sent out on Friday by a terrified local resident, in an area of Swat called Bahrain, says that the Taliban have established total control. Asking not be named for fear of reprisal, he said that they have set up check posts at the entrance to Bahrain, from where they kidnap those they want, including young women.

“They’ve even warned the local schools to close the girl classes or face dire consequences. Yet the government says its writ is in Swat.”

Another Swat resident said: “Every day I see armed Taliban move around freely. At the time of prayer, if they see anyone in his shop or walking about, they whip him with a stick.”

The Pakistani Taliban, a copy of the Afghan extremist movement, have long controlled the tribal area along the Afghan border, which is a sanctuary for militants, including al-Qaeda. But it is their march into the heart of the country that has horrified ordinary Pakistanis, and the wider world. And the threat comes not just from the Taliban to the west. Islamic extremists, who are not part of the Taliban, are already entrenched in Islamabad and across the Punjab, the most populous province, seemingly ready to surface when their moment comes.

Islamabad’s defences are being hurriedly fortified, with paramilitary troops stationed on the Margalla Hills, which overlook the city from the West. In the capital, there are thousands of followers of the radical Red Mosque, where there are now open calls for Islamic revolution at the weekly Friday prayers.

“The Taliban will not stop at Swat. They will come towards Islamabad,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst based in Lahore. “If the army is to take action against them, it is going to be a really bloody battle. And then civil government will be knocked out.”

“Extremist groups based in Islamabad will move from within and they (Taliban) will build pressure from outside.”

The footage Pakistanis have been watching shows them what they could expect.

A local journalist was invited to witness the execution, who filmed it with his mobile phone for a Pakistani channel, Dawn News. The Sunday Telegraph is showing the footage in the West for the first time.

There were no names for the two victims.

“Using the media is part of their (the Taliban’s) psychological warfare,” said Imtiaz Gul, chairman of Centre for Research and Security Studies, an independent think tank in Islamabad. “This way, they inject fear into the minds of people who might oppose them, keeping the majority silent.”

After the couple were shot, the family were told to take their bodies away for burial. The punishment was administered by a local group of the Pakistani Taliban linked to warlord Baitullah Mehsud.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Police Top Brass’ Secret Plan to Reduce Area Commands

HE police force has revealed a secret proposal to amalgamate commands, six months after it denied those plans were afoot.

The number of commands will be cut from 80 to 70 — all believed to be in Sydney — but the force has refused to reveal further details.

Commissioner Andrew Scipione said no stations would close but that it would “reduce management numbers”, “increase flexibility” and “put more police on the street”.

His spokesman would not answer further questions as to which commands would be amalgamated or when the process would start.

Former police commissioner Peter Ryan tried to amalgamate the commands in 1999 but came under heavy criticism with the plan aborted by then police minister Michael Costa in 2001.

The force revealed the latest attempt last week during pay negotiations with the NSW Police Association.

See what police on the beat were offered and why they

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Young Father Stabbed and Beaten to Death With a Baseball Bat in Sydney’s South-West

A YOUNG father was stabbed and savagely beaten to death with a baseball bat by a mob of up to 15 people who turned on him in Sydney’s south-west yesterday.

Wayne Boyce, 23, from Bonnyrigg, was set upon in Trevanna St, Busby, just after 3am.

The father of two infant boys had driven to the address after a friend, known as Joel, called him for help when the angry group turned up at his house, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Neighbours said they awoke to the sound of smashed windows, as members of the group shouted for Joel to “come outside”.

A car parked in the driveway was also badly damaged by the men, who had allegedly come after Joel for reasons which are still unclear.

It is understood he had called Mr Boyce, a long-time friend, who at first dismissed the problem, saying he should just tell the men to “go away”. Eventually the dangerous situation became clear and Mr Boyce rushed over from his home in Bonnyrigg.

His brother-in-law, Mohammed, said the moment Mr Boyce arrived at the Busby address and got out of his car, the group turned its anger onto him.

He attempted to escape, but was stabbed in his lower back and fell to the floor where his killers continued to bash him with bats and metal poles.

Paramedics were called and attempted to revive him at the scene, but he died a short time later from his injuries at Liverpool Hospital.

Police yesterday formed Strike Force Harney to help track down his killers, who had fled the scene, and forensic officers and local detectives later secured evidence.

Authorities said the trouble had occurred as a result of an altercation between “two groups of men” outside the home.

Friends and family gathered at the home of Mr Boyce’s parents, just metres away from where the attack occurred, to offer support.

His girlfriend, Casey Tyrell, 19, was too distraught to speak yesterday, but her mother described him as a beautiful soul who should not have died in such a senseless way.

“Wayne loved my daughter and my daughter loved him,” Sharon Tyrell said.

“She loved him so much.”

She said it was incomprehensible why he had to die.

“It was just a fight — they didn’t have to bloody stab him,” she said.

Police continue to appeal for witnesses to come forward with information or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Israeli Guards Drive Off Somali Pirates

Israeli private security guards exchanged fire with pirates who attacked an Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board far off the coast of Somalia, and drove them away, the ship’s commander said Sunday.

Cmdr. Ciro Pinto told Italian state radio that six men in a small white boat approached the Msc Melody and opened fire Saturday night, but retreated after the Israeli security officers aboard the cruise ship returned fire.

“It felt like we were in war,” Pinto said.

None of the roughly 1,000 passengers and 500 crew members were hurt, Melody owner Msc Cruises said in a statement issued by its German branch.

Domenico Pellegrino, head of the Italian cruise line, said Msc hired the Israelis because they were the best trained security agents, the ANSA news agency reported.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Italy Ship Thwarts Pirate Attack

A captain of an Italian cruise ship has given the BBC a dramatic account of how his crew fended off a pirate attack near the coast of Somalia.

Capt Ciro Pinto said six pirates in a speedboat approached his Melody ship and opened fire, but then fled after security men fired in the air.

He said his crew also sprayed water on the gunmen when they tried to climb aboard using a ladder.

No-one was hurt in Saturday’s incident. Some 1,500 people were on the vessel.

Somali pirates have also seized an empty Yemeni oil tanker and clashed with coast guards on Sunday, a Yemeni official said.

Two pirates were killed in the action as the Yemeni coast guard tried to free the vessel, a Yemeni government official was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

The official said three pirates and two Yemeni coast guards were also wounded in the exchange.

See map of how piracy is affecting the region and countries around the world

Last year, pirates attacked more than 100 ships in the region, demanding huge ransom for their release. Their attacks have intensified recently.

‘Throwing chairs’

Capt Pinto told the BBC that the pirates tried to hijack his ship late on Saturday, about 290km (180 miles) north of Victoria in the Seychelles.

“One white small boat with six people on board approached the port [left] side of the ship and started shooting..”

The captain said the pirates fired some 200 rounds of shots on the vessel.

His said “our security started shooting in the air… and also we started spraying some water” to beat off the attackers.

Capt Pinto said the pirates were forced to give up after about five minutes of shooting and a high-speed chase.

Samantha Hendey from Durban, South Africa, told the BBC that her sister Tabitha Nicholson was on board the ship during the attack and the situation was “pretty dramatic”.

“She said that there were lots of passengers on deck watching it unfold and they even took action themselves by throwing chairs overboard, trying to hit the pirates,” Samantha said.

“She said there were lots of bullet holes in the ship but that they were not serious enough to force it to return to port.”

The head of the Italy’s MSC Cruises, which owns the Meloday, credited the captain for his “cool-headed” handling of the incident, Italy’s Ansa news agency reported.

The ship was on a cruise from South Africa to Italy. It was now headed as scheduled for the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

Somali pirates have hijacked about a dozen ships since the start of April, despite the presence of around 20 foreign naval vessels in the area.

International warships have been patrolling the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden in recent months as part of an effort to counter piracy.

They have freed a number of ships, but attacks have continued.

Somalia has been without an effective administration since 1991, fuelling the lawlessness which has allowed piracy to thrive.

Shipping companies last year handed over about $80m (£54m) in ransom payments to the gangs.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Ahmadinejad to Visit Latin America Next Month

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is slated to go on a three-nation tour of Latin America early May.

Sources said that the Iranian president will likely have a short stop in Syria on his way to Latin America.

Sources also named Brazil as among the Latino nations to be visited by President Ahmadinejad.

Iran and Brazil recently agreed to boost mutual cooperation in building power plants and developing oil and gas fields.

The agreement was made in meetings between Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Hamid Chitchian and Deputy Energy Minister Hossein Noqrekaar Shirazi and Brazilian deputy mine and energy minister.

At the meetings, the two sides agreed that Iranian companies introduce their plans for building power plants in Brazil, given the existing potentials in the Latin country for exploiting water and thermal resources.

It was also agreed that the Brazilian companies expand their investments in gas, oil and petrochemical fields in northern and southern Iran, and Iranian companies, in turn, run activity in Brazil’s oil fields.

The issue is to go under further discussions during an upcoming trip to Brazil by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next month.

           — Hat tip: IH [Return to headlines]


Third Refugee Boat in Fortnight Intercepted

Another boat load of asylum seekers has been intercepted off the Australian north-west coastline, in the same region a vessel exploded less than two weeks ago, killing five refugees. The vessel, carrying more than 50 passengers and two crew, was intercepted yesterday 90 nautical miles south-west of Ashmore Reef, about 900km from Darwin, by a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat.

It is the eighth boat of asylum seekers to approach Australian waters this year and the 15th boat to be intercepted since last August when Labor made changes to Australia’s immigration policy, including the scrapping of temporary protection visas.

Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus said in a statement the boat was in international waters and the group voluntarily transferred from their boat to the HMAS Albany.

It is believed the boat was travelling from Indonesia and the passengers were most likely Afghans.

It is also understood the vessel was not being tracked by Australian authorities, although its sighting was confirmed by a Customs and Border Protection Command Dash 8 aircraft following an alert by an oil rig tender vessel. Within an hour of receiving the alert, the navy had made contact with the boat, Mr Debus said. The interception demonstrated the effectiveness of Border Protection Commands surveillance, he said. The interception came as another boatload of asylum seekers was transferred to Christmas Island.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

UK: Field Hits Out Over Immigration Levels

THE United Kingdom will have to build one house every six minutes, day and night, seven days a week for the next 20 years to meet the current scale of immigration, Labour MP and former minister Frank Field warned yesterday.

He said immigration would account for 70% of population growth in the next 20 years — that is seven million, or seven times the population of Birmingham. In 2007, immigrants were arriving at the rate of almost one every minute.

Field, MP for Birkenhead, issued his stark warning in an article in parliament’s The House Magazine.

He recalled that he and Tory MP Nicholas Soames had established a cross-party group on balanced migration, designed to stimulate and inform a non-partisan and calm debate about the issue.

“For many years, probably a generation, immigration has been a no-go area to British politics. ‘Racist’, ‘Little Englander’, ‘xenophobe’ — those who have raised the subject have been insulted, abused and, all too often, silenced.”

Field went on: “The beneficiaries of this have been the extremists, lurking in the wings, eager to piggyback on the public’s concern for their own despicable ends. The losers have been the citizens of this country.”

He said that over the past few years immigration had reached unprecedented levels. “Net migration — the number of people coming to the UK minus the people leaving — has more than quadrupled since 1997.”

In 2007, 502,000 migrants arrived in the UK — almost one every minute, Field said. “Our population is officially projected to reach 70 million by 2028 and 80 million in mid-century, with immigration the main driver and the only one that the government can directly influence.

Field said that these projections were based on the Government’s own net immigration assumptions. “But cold statistics do not paint the whole picture,” he said.

“Delve beneath ‘seven new Birminghams’ and we see that in the next 20 years, one-third of projected household formations will be a result of immigration, meaning we will need to build 260 houses a day for the next 20 years to meet the requirement.”

And he warned: “If the Government does not adopt the policy of balanced migration, or something close to it, our population is set to rise to a level to which the vast majority of people are strongly opposed. They are not opposed to immigration or immigrants, but to the present scale of immigration, which is bound to have a negative aspect on life in Britain.”

           — Hat tip: The Frozen North [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Public Resistance Against Homosexualization of Society

Preparations for a conference on psychotherapy set for May in Marburg, Germany are being disrupted by an “action alliance of queer, feminist, and anti-fascist and anti-sexist” groups that want two Christian therapists removed from the roster of speakers.

In response, a group of at least 600 prominent German professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds has issued a public statement and petition to protest the “totalitarian aspirations of the gay and lesbian associations.” These organizations, they said, are trying to suppress freedom of expression and academic inquiry at the upcoming 6th International Congress for Psychotherapy and Counseling in Marburg.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Conficker Virus Begins to Attack PCs

A malicious software program known as Conficker that many feared would wreak havoc on April 1 is slowly being activated, weeks after being dismissed as a false alarm, security experts said.

Conficker, also known as Downadup or Kido, is quietly turning thousands of personal computers into servers of e-mail spam and installing spyware, they said.

The worm started spreading late last year, infecting millions of computers and turning them into “slaves” that respond to commands sent from a remote server that effectively controls an army of computers known as a botnet.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Where Are Headed in Afghanistan?

Diana West weighs in on the current mess in Afghanistan:

Afghan Taliban …the United States is getting a lot of bang for a lot of buck but not much else. Don’t get me wrong: If killing small bands of Taliban is in the best interest of the United States, I’m for it. But I do not believe it is — and certainly not as part of the grand strategy conceived first by the Bush administration and now expanded by the Obama administration to turn Afghanistan into a state capable of warding off what is daintily known as “extremism,” but is, in fact, bona-fide jihad to advance Sharia (Islamic law).

Anybody remember Sisyphus? Well, trying to transform Afghanistan into an anti-jihad, anti-Sharia player — let alone functional nation — is like trying to roll Sisyphus’ rock up the hill.

She could be right: this Sisyphean task may eventually get us flattened under that rock. Afghan is too lawless, far more tribal than Iraq could ever think of being, and has crushed more than one power which tried to rule it in the past.

Ms. West continues:

…sinking all possible men, materiel and bureaucracy into Afghanistan, as the Obama people and most conservatives favor, to try to bring a corrupt Islamic culture into working modernity while simultaneously fighting Taliban and wading deep into treacherous Pakistani wars is no way to victory — at least not to U.S. victory. On the contrary, it is the best way to bleed and further degrade U.S. military capabilities. Indeed, if I were a jihad chieftain, I couldn’t imagine a better strategy than to entrap tens of thousands of America’s very best young men in an open-ended war of mortal hide-and-seek in the North West Frontier.

But does it have to be an “open-ended war”? Yes, we need personnel and materiel, but we also need a long-term strategy and some tactics that would allow regular people in Afghnistan to ally with the Coalition Forces. They will never do so if they think we will not stay for the long haul but will abandon them to the sadistic cruelty of the terrorists. America has faced that shameful mistake before. I beg that we not repeat it.

We have the potential for this commitment if we think it through and plan carefully. Iraq was Bush’s war, and no matter how shaky that country seems – and right now it does – the surge will remain imprinted in the national consciousness of the US as a “win”.

Now the roulette wheel spins and Afghanistan is Obama’s war. As his predecessors were, the President is a hostage to the fortunes of his times, and lawless Afghanistan belongs to him.
– – – – – – – –
I believe that is why he has retained Secretary of Defense Gates and General Petraeus, though I doubt there is little love lost between the President and his military leadership. Obama’s experience is limited to community organizing, sitting on the boards of foundations, and dexterous campaigning. Those are slim credentials for strategizing about the Badlands. Without Gates and Petraeus, Obama is left to roll that rock all by himself. Besides, if and when things go thoroughly sideways, and they well might, the President has these two to blame for his losses.

When Ms. West asked Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely for his recommendations on Afghanistan, he said:

“Basically, let it go”.


“There’s nothing to win there,” he explained, engaging in an all-too-exotic display of common sense. “What do you get for it? What’s the return? Well, the return’s all negative for the United States.”

The general continued: “This doesn’t mean giving up battle. What it means is you transition to a more realistic, affordable strategy that keeps them (the jihadist enemy) from spreading.”

The problem I see with this is that if we let Afghanistan go, we might as well kiss Pakistan goodbye, also. Like it or not, these lawless, backward hell holes are a two-fer. Lose one – or let it go – and we will have a radioactive Taliban in short order.

Think of what pulling out would mean for our relationship with India, just to name one disaster. A connected mess is India’s help with Israel, which she would have to abandon as troops massed on the border with Pakistan.

Not that the General’s idea isn’t intriguing. He told Ms. West:

Such a strategy…relies on “the maximum use of unconventional forces,” such as Navy SEALS and other special forces, who can be deployed as needed from what are known in military parlance as “lily pads” — outposts or jumping-off points in friendly countries (Israel, Northern Kurdistan, India, Philippines, Italy, Djibouti … ) and from U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups. Such strike groups generally include eight to 10 vessels “with more fire power…than most nations.” These lily pads become “bases we can launch from any time we want to…”


“There’s no permanent force…that’s the beauty of it.” We watch, we wait and when U.S. interests are threatened, “we basically use our strike forces to take them out, target by target.” This would work whether the threat came from Al Qaeda, Pakistani nukes or anything else.

I agree with Ms. West and the General that nation-building is problematic in a place like Afghanistan, or Pakistan for that matter. India, with her years of British colonial preparation, still has her work cut out for her – work that is hampered every day by Islamic terrorists and by poverty. However, India is blessed with an industrious, intelligent people and most especially, she operates under the rule of law.

If we have learned nothing else in the years since September 11th 2001, we have gained much knowledge regarding the difficulty (if not impossibility) of bringing the rule of law to a culture that is severely hampered by tribal fiat.

It remains to be seen what our new President will “do with” Afghanistan. As he so famously remarked to someone who questioned one of his plans, “I won”.

You certainly did win, sir. And one of your prizes was Afghanistan.

Good luck with that, Mr. President.

Germs? Who Cares About Stinkin’ Germs? Not Canada’s HRC

What Ezra Levant reports in this video is enough to make one queasy. Were I Canadian, I’d choose to eat at home.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is downright scary, especially considering our current health problems. From the CDC:

Human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in the United States. Human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection also have been identified internationally.


Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection and whether additional people have been infected with swine influenza viruses.

CDC is working very closely with officials in states where human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) have been identified, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization. This includes deploying staff domestically and internationally to provide guidance and technical support. CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate this investigation.

Laboratory testing has found the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir and has issued interim guidance for the use of these drugs to treat and prevent infection with swine influenza viruses. CDC also has prepared interim guidance on how to care for people who are sick and interim guidance on the use of face masks in a community setting where spread of this swine flu virus has been detected. This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC will provide new information as it becomes available.

There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective. [my emphasis – D]
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

I wonder what the Canadian equivalent of the CDC is, and if anyone has told them of the ruling the Human Rights Commission made – i.e., that you don’t have to wash your hands if you handle food for the public. An employer’s demand to do so is a violation of your rights.

Workers with dirty hands, rise up and demand your civil liberties! So what if a few hundred people die for your freedom from hygienic practices?

I hope the health authorities in Canada are in contact with the misguided bureaucrats at the Human Rights Commission. They certainly do need to be brought up to speed on the germ theory. Or is that too 20th century for the forward-looking HRC?

Here are the latest statistics from the CDC:
– – – – – – – –

Swine flu

These are just the identified cases in the US. Mexico has been particularly hard hit and I expect to see more outbreaks in the southwestern part of the country due to our porous and perilous border situation.

The US government has finally declared the outbreak to be a problem and will be taking bureaucratic measures, as yet unspecified.

Mexico City has closed its schools.

I won’t try to update this information as it will be changing rapidly in the next few days. It appears to be an international outbreak.

However, Gateway Pundit will keep up with things, so check in over there to see how this is progressing. Jim’s latest post says:

South Korea and Japan are screening flights coming from US and Mexico.

DHS Secretary Napolitano says US will not screen flights coming from Mexico.

President Obama went golfing today.

If any of our Canadian readers know what the Human Rights Commission is permitting Canada’s citizens to do in the face of this pandemic, please let us know in the comments.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/25/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/25/2009If you glance through the “Financial Crisis” section tonight, three seemingly unrelated items may stand out:

1.   Credit Suisse is alarmed by government interference in the financial system;
2.   China has acknowledged that it has been buying up gold reserves; and
3.   Also from Switzerland come possible plans for a new global currency.

So it looks like the long-expected flight from the dollar is about to begin.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Diana West, El Inglés, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, JR, Nilk, TB, The Observer, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Credit Suisse Warns of ‘Excessive’ State Action
European Commission Backs Support for Serbia
France: From Today Special Sales in Large Stores
Italy: Almost 2.5 Million Living in Absolute Poverty
Portugal: Public Humiliation for Hardened Debtors
Spain: Protest Against Immigrants, Shipyard Blocked
The Tower of BIS Basel: Secretive Plans for the Issuing of a New Global Currency
California Considers Constitutional Convention
Democrats Refuse to Allow Skeptic to Testify Alongside Gore at Congressional Hearing
Diana West: Shariah Goes to Harvard
High-Seas Pirate Tries to Adjust to NY Prison Cell
Obama’s Bootlicking Backfires
Obama Appoints Muslim Advisor
The Knock at the Door
U.S. Plans to Accept Several Chinese Muslims From Guantanamo
Europe and the EU
2,800 Crime Gangs Ravage UK Streets
EU: Ferrero Waldner, No to Closer Relations With Israel
EU-Turkey: Ferrero-Waldner, It’s a European Decision
Italy: Protests Grow at Milan Anti-Kebab Law
‘Quiet’ Copenhagen Cracks Down on Deadly Gang War
Spain: Bishops Oppose Genetic Selection
TV: Spain, Tax on Private TV Will Finance Public TV
UK: Home Office Civil Servant Sacked
EU-Montenegro: Brussels, Word on Nomination in 14-16 Months
Kosovo: Tadic, Justice Court Verdict in at Least a Year
Kosovo: Turkey Offers Help for Cultural Heritage
Serbia-Montenegro: Police Cooperation to be Strengthened
Serbia: Building of Corridor 10 to Begin by End of 2009
University: Croatia, Tuition Fee Protest Spreads
Mediterranean Union
Jordan-Italy: Amman Embassy Launches Appointment System
North Africa
TLC: Tunisia, Indian Interest for Third Operator
Israel and the Palestinians
Netanyahu: EU Ties Should Not Involve Palestinians
Topolanek for Strengthened Israel-EU Relations
Middle East
Egypt-Israel; Spokesperson, Lieberman Not Invited
Energy: Turkey a Natural Gas Artery of Europe, Gul Says
Lebanon: Hariri Case; Press, ‘Key Witness’ Arrested
School: Ambitious Saudi Programme for Women’s Education
Syria: Damascus Citadel Gallery Opens After Restoration
Telecoms: Italian Temix to Rebuild TLC Network in Iraq
Turkey-Armenia: Babacan, Normalization is Not a Dream
Veil and Beret, Police in Kuwait Go Pink
South Asia
Aussie Soldiers Take 100 Taliban
Let Afghanistan Go
Pakistan: Taliban Executes 2 Christians
Far East
China Admits to Building Up Stockpile of Gold
Australia — Pacific
Judges Slug Taxpayers $100,000 for Tour of China
France: Catholic Bishops Promote Dialogue With Muslims
Pinar: Italy and Malta Cash in EU Aid

Financial Crisis

Credit Suisse Warns of ‘Excessive’ State Action

Governments injecting funds already giving rise to ‘2-tiered banking system’

The chairman of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse on Friday warned against excessive government intervention in the lending policies of banks that have been bailed out by the state.

“In view of the growing number of banks relying on government support, however, I have concerns that excessive state intervention regarding the lending policies of banks or the realignment of their structures could have negative implications for the entire sector,” said Walter Kielholz.

Many of Credit Suisse’s competitors, including local rival UBS, US banks Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, have received state funding to weather the financial crisis.

Credit Suisse has turned to private investors, but has not taken government funds.

Kielholz acknowledged during the bank’s annual general meeting that state intervention had been necessary to prevent a meltdown of the entire financial sector.

However, he said the action by governments to inject funds into banks was already giving rise to a “two-tiered banking system.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

European Commission Backs Support for Serbia

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 20 — The European Commission agrees in principle with the idea of supplying a form of budget support for Serbia facing the impact of the economic crisis, “to mitigate” the country’s “problems”, said European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn after his meeting in Brussels with the Serbian Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic. “The European Union will take care of Serbia in this difficult situation” said the commissioner, explaining that the procedure to obtain the funds “is still in progress”. The Serbian government had asked the EU for around 120 million euros in a meeting at the end of March. The money regards part of the pre-accession funds which the Commission allocates every year to specific projects for initiatives of third States, in view of their future membership of the Union. With respect to the possible opening of European borders to the Balkans, leaving behind the need for visas to travel, Commissioner Rehn said he believes that he will conclude his inspections in the five Balkan countries involved (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia) by June, when the Czech presidency of the EU will end. After that he will make possible recommendations to the Council for the countries that qualified. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

France: From Today Special Sales in Large Stores

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 22 — Le Galeries Lafayette, Fnac, Printemps and other big Paris stores today start their April sales: they have organised a week of “extraordinary” sales thanks to a new law which allows shopkeepers to pick two weeks per year which will be deducted from the end-of-season sale. “As of today people can buy the spring collection for bargain prices. We offer discounts up to 50%” explained Pierre Pellarey, director of Printemps. “The only difference” to the end-of-season sale “is that this period is shorter” Pellarey added. “Our goal is to speed up stores’ turnover” said Christophe Cann, sales director of Galeries Lafayette. “In this period of crisis many people postpone their acquisitions. We had to send a positive signal offering a good price for quality and more sales”, added Cann. However, despite the posters in the underground stations and the ads sent via text messages and e-mail, many buyers are still unaware of the sales.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Almost 2.5 Million Living in Absolute Poverty

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 22 — In Italy, about 2.5 million people are living below the poverty line. “The poor among the poor”, about 975 thousand families, or 4.5% of households in the country, currently live in these conditions, according to ISTAT (National Statistics Institute), which presented its report on extreme poverty referring to 2007. It was underlined that compared to 2005, “absolute poverty remained stable and substantially unchanged”. Absolute poverty is highly concentrated in the south, where levels reached 5.8%, compared to 3.5% in the north, and 2.9% in the central regions. Absolute poverty affects numerous families (3.1% of families with only one child living in absolute poverty rose to 3.8% and to 10.5% for families with two or more children) more than families with less children, compared to the elderly (5.4%) and families in which women are the heads of the household (4.9%). With today’s report, ISTAT introduced a new methodology in which they estimate the poverty threshold, taking into account the minimum monthly salary needed to buy a basket of essential goods and services. This threshold varied according to age, family composition, and residency location. For example, for a family made up of only one person between the age of 18 and 59, living in a metropolitan area in the north, the threshold is 724.29 euros. Instead, if the same person lives in a smaller town, the threshold is 650.04 euros. If the same person lives in a large town in the south, the threshold drops to 520.18 euros. The poverty intensity, or the percentage of family monthly expenses for extremely poor families under the extreme poverty line, was equal to 16.3% and reached 18.2% for families residing in the south. (ANSAmed).

2009-04-22 15:36

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Portugal: Public Humiliation for Hardened Debtors

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — No debt-collection companies, or long and often fruitless legal proceedings: in Portugal the name of the debtor and they amount they owe is put on display for all to see. With the economic crisis sparing no one, in several towns in Portugal, businesses have invented a last resource: a publically displayed list of clients in default from whom they have lost almost all hope of getting their money back. Naturally, the measure, cited by the Spanish press, already adopted in cities such as Viana do Costelo in the northern part of the country, or O Fundao, near Porto, has created controversy and divisions between citizens and businesses. The latter have assured that this has proven to be the most efficient method to get non-payers to settle their debts. In storefront windows, next to the mannequins, you can find the inevitable bad debtor lists with the names and addresses of those who owe money, regardless of privacy regulations. In many cases debts going back 7 to 8 years that have not yet been paid off are posted. The owner of a clothing store, Druge, in Viana Do Costelo, who asked to remain anonymous gave the following explanation: “I called them on the phone, I sent the invoices, I went to their home, but they just fobbed me off with excuses.” Then, recently, she made a list of names who aren’t allowed in the store, with their phone numbers, addresses, and the amount of money they owe. “After putting out this list, three of them paid me, but I don’t think I can get the money from the others,” explained the women. The situation was worse at a jewellery store in the same town, which, despite the debtors list, which totalled 15,000 euros, did not manage to avoid closing. Some local businesses have adopted this ‘anything goes’ approach to get the credit that they granted their customers back, regardless of privacy regulations, as a last desperate act in order to avoid closing their doors. There are some that believe it to be useful: “It’s true that the majority of debtors continue not to pay back the money that they owe,” observed Aires Duarte, the owner of a photography store, “but they must know that they risk leaving people in financial ruin. Then, there is also a positive effect that at least everyone knows who they should not grant credit, because they are broke.” Duarte, in order to get his money back, put a small olive tree in his storefront window with the names of all of the ‘caloteiros’ attached like pieces of fruit. However, there are numerous business owners who are conscientious objectors to the initiative, calling it “too radical”. “It’s true that these are difficult times for businesses, but this cannot be the solution,” said some professional organisations. In Portugal, like Spain, there are people who are taking advantage of the financial crisis to make great business deals. ‘El hombre in frac’ or the man in coat-tails, is scarier than the devil at this point. Derby hat and briefcase in hand, the collector from credit companies follows the shadow of his victims everywhere, while leaving their home, in the office, to the gym, in front of school, and even to the grave, humiliating debtors, demanding money. The business of the so-called ‘cobrador del frac’, which for decades has worked on the Iberian peninsula, has increased it business by 40% and has reported astronomical amounts of debt, with over 9 million euros per month just in the Valencia area, which have been accumulated by construction companies. Now, for the ever-growing array of debtors, as if creditors were not enough, public debtor lists have also arrived. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Protest Against Immigrants, Shipyard Blocked

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — As has happened previously in the UK, record unemployment figures in Spain are causing a war amongst the poor, with immigrant workers as the target. Picket lines of subcontracted workers today paralysed all activities at the La Naval shipyard, in the port of Sestao (Bilbao), to protest against cheap labour from Portugal and Romania. Trade union sources quoted on the online portal of El Mundo reported that today at dawn around 200 Spanish subcontracted workers of La Naval blocked access to the shipyard to around a thousand workers and subcontracted workers from the morning shift. The demonstrators are protesting against the decision of the management to dismiss around twenty workers and replace them with cheap foreign labour. After a meeting between trade unions and company management, the management decided to suspend all work today. The shipyard remains guarded by the Basque police and no incidents have been reported so far. But sources of Comisiones Obreras warn that “a situation of unfair competition is developing which could turn out to be unsustainable”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Tower of BIS Basel: Secretive Plans for the Issuing of a New Global Currency

The power of the BIS to make or break economies was demonstrated in 1988, when it issued a Basel Accord raising bank capital requirements from 6% to 8%. By then, Japan had emerged as the world’s largest creditor; but Japan’s banks were less well capitalized than other major international banks. Raising the capital requirement forced them to cut back on lending, creating a recession in Japan like that suffered in the U.S. today. Property prices fell and loans went into default as the security for them shriveled up. A downward spiral followed, ending with the total bankruptcy of the banks, which had to be nationalized — although that word was not used, in order to avoid criticism.6

Among other collateral damage produced by the Basel Accords was a spate of suicides among Indian farmers unable to get loans. The BIS capital adequacy standards required loans to private borrowers to be “risk-weighted,” with the degree of risk determined by private rating agencies; and farmers and small business owners could not afford the agencies’ fees. Banks therefore assigned 100 percent risk to the loans, and then resisted extending credit to these “high-risk” borrowers because more capital was required to cover the loans. When the conscience of the nation was aroused by the Indian suicides, the government, lamenting the neglect of farmers by commercial banks, established a policy of ending the “financial exclusion” of the weak; but this step had little real effect on lending practices, due largely to the strictures imposed by the BIS from abroad.7

Similar complaints have come from Korea.


When governments fell into the trap of accepting loans in foreign currencies, however, they became “debtor nations” subject to IMF and BIS regulation. They were forced to divert their production to exports, just to earn the foreign currency necessary to pay the interest on their loans. National banks deemed “capital inadequate” had to deal with strictures comparable to the “conditionalities” imposed by the IMF on debtor nations: “escalating capital requirement, loan writeoffs and liquidation, and restructuring through selloffs, layoffs, downsizing, cost-cutting and freeze on capital spending.”


While banks in developing nations were being penalized for falling short of the BIS capital requirements, large international banks managed to escape the rules, although they actually carried enormous risk because of their derivative exposure. The mega-banks succeeded in avoiding the Basel rules by separating the “risk” of default out from the loans and selling it off to investors, using a form of derivative known as “credit default swaps.”


However, it was not in the game plan that U.S. banks should escape the BIS net. When they managed to sidestep the first Basel Accord, a second set of rules was imposed known as Basel II. The new rules were established in 2004, but they were not levied on U.S. banks until November 2007, the month after the Dow passed 14,000 to reach its all-time high. The economy was all downhill from there. Basel II had the same effect on U.S. banks that Basel I had on Japanese banks: they have been struggling ever since to survive.8

Basel II requires banks to adjust the value of their marketable securities to the “market price” of the security, a rule called “mark to market.”9 The rule has theoretical merit, but the problem is timing: it was imposed ex post facto, after the banks already had the hard-to-market assets on their books.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


California Considers Constitutional Convention

‘It’s reasonable to expect that voters would be very scared of the idea’

[Comments from JD: Constitutional convention would be used to shred the constitution and replace it with a version more suitable for PC globalists.]

Fed up with the budget crises and partisan battles that have paralyzed California for years, some influential voices believe it’s time to tear open the state constitution and start anew.

Once dismissed as a hokey gimmick, support for a proposed constitutional convention has been building in the nation’s most populous state. Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has indicated he would back an effort to retool the document to make state government function more smoothly.

Opponents of the step say it’s just a ruse to raise taxes and could expose the constitution to a host of ideological and special interest-driven changes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Democrats Refuse to Allow Skeptic to Testify Alongside Gore at Congressional Hearing

UK’s Lord Christopher Monckton, a former science advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, claimed House Democrats have refused to allow him to appear alongside former Vice President Al Gore at a high profile global warming hearing on Friday April 24, 2009 at 10am in Washington. Monckton told Climate Depot that the Democrats rescinded his scheduled joint appearance at the House Energy and Commerce hearing on Friday. Monckton said he was informed that he would not be allowed to testify alongside Gore when his plane landed from England Thursday afternoon.

“The House Democrats don’t want Gore humiliated, so they slammed the door of the Capitol in my face,” Monckton told Climate Depot in an exclusive interview. “They are cowards.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Diana West: Shariah Goes to Harvard

What do Pakistan’s Swat Valley and Harvard University have in common?

Their leading Islamic authorities uphold the Shariah (Islamic law) tradition of punishing those who leave Islam with death.

There are differences, of course. For one thing, Shariah actually rules the Swat Valley, while Shariah’s traditions, as promulgated by Harvard Muslim chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser, retain a more or less theoretical caste. In a recently publicized e-mail, for example, Mr. Abdul-Basser approvingly explained to a student the traditional Islamic practice of executing converts from Islam.

As the chaplain put it: “There is great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment), and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human-rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand.”

Certainly, one should not dismiss Mr. Abdul-Basser out of hand — or the chilling implications of what it means to have a religious leader at Harvard validate the ultimate act of Islamic religious persecution. But dismissing — or, rather, ignoring — this controversy is precisely what Harvard is doing in what appears to be an institutional strategy to make it go away. No one from the public-affairs office I contacted would answer questions or return phone calls. The lady who unguardedly answered the phone at the Harvard Chaplains’ office couldn’t get off fast enough, offering by way of answers a faxed “On Inquiry Statement” prepared by Mr. Abdul-Basser in which he issued a raft of denials unrelated to the e-mail statements in question…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

High-Seas Pirate Tries to Adjust to NY Prison Cell

The wound on Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse’s slim hand, where he was stabbed by a crew member during his pirate attack on a U.S. cargo ship, has been redressed. He’s been given painkillers and antibiotics for his injuries and a Quran to use in prayer.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Bootlicking Backfires

Exclusive: Henry Lamb asserts prez has a ‘vision of America that is not American’

Did anyone squirm or feel embarrassed when President Obama allowed dictator Chavez to give him a book about the evils of the United States? The initial diplomatic handshake could be overlooked, but it was definitely embarrassing to watch Obama accepting, with a smile, a gift from this guy who had previously called him an “ignoramus”, and had called another U.S. president “el Diablo” at the United Nations.

This blunder, on the heels of his European fiasco where he apologized for the United States’ policies before he took office, raises serious questions about his vision and understanding of what America is all about. Some critics attribute this ineptitude to naivety, but when viewed in the context of such additional actions as deliberately overriding his CIA advisers and releasing memos about interrogation methods, Obama’s agenda has to be seriously questioned.

The Obama news consortium justifies these missteps as necessary to the “restart” process through which Obama will re-establish the United States as a respected partner in the international community. This is, after all, what he promised during the campaign, when he said he would engage in direct discussions with Iran without preconditions.

The idiocy of this policy was revealed when Obama’s bootlicking backfired in Geneva during the U.N. conference on racism. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must not have been impressed by Obama’s apologies and promises. This Iranian president didn’t turn down the volume one bit on his vicious, racist attacks on Israel or the United States. Incidentally, he didn’t slow his quest to process uranium, either. In fact, despite Obama’s promises and groveling, Ahmadinejad spit in Obama’s face earlier this month by announcing Iran’s first nuclear Fuel Manufacturing Plant.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Appoints Muslim Advisor

Egyptians are cautiously rejoicing over the recent appointment of a veiled Egyptian American Muslim woman as an advisor to President Obama. Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, was appointed this month to Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Arabs are closely watching for signs that the new leadership in Washington is making efforts to improve relations with Islam, which many Muslims believe were severely damaged during the eight years of the Bush administration. The selection of Mogahed is viewed by many in the Middle East as a step by Obama to move beyond the stereotypes and prejudices that Muslims believe they have encountered since the attacks Sept. 11, 2001. “Dalia Mogahed is the best example of a successful Muslim woman. She proves that the Muslim should be successful in all fields, at least in [her] area of specialization,” a commentator wrote on the website of the independent daily Al Masry al Youm.

The Egyptian-born Mogahed moved with her family to the United States almost 30 years ago. Recently, she co-wrote the book “Who Speaks for Islam?” with John Esposito, an American political science professor who has been criticized by some as an Islamic apologist. Mogahed and Esposito published an opinion piece this month in The Times on American ignorance of Islam and the Muslim world.

“My work focuses on studying Muslims, the way they think and their views,” Mogahed was quoted as saying on the website of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite news channel. “Then I should tell the president about their problems and needs, especially that lately Muslims have been perceived as a source of problems and as incapable of taking part in solving international problems and that they should work on themselves. Now we want to say that Muslims are capable of providing solutions.”

Yet, Mogahed’s declaration that her loyalty goes first to the United States, published Monday in an interview with Al Masry al Youm, disappointed some people. “I wish your loyalty was to your Islam first, Egypt second and your Arabism third and then to anything else,” wrote a reader identifying himself as the Tiger of Arabs. “I am afraid that they might make a fool out of you and use you as a cover for policies that don’t serve Egypt and the Arab and Muslim world.”

Source: The Times Cairo (Noha El-Hennawy)

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

The Knock at the Door

It is rare in history that government moves to achieve its ultimate goals in one fell swoop. More often, particularly in the U.S., government grabs power from the people and usurps constitutionally protected liberties in small stages over time.

The intent of Barack Obama’s words, which he borrowed from Defense Secretary Robert Gates in laying out a vision for “a civilian national security force” bigger and as well-funded as our military services, taken in conjunction with the “Give Act,” are clear. He wants to create something very new in the history of the United States — something ill-defined, nebulous, yet frightening in the context of our nation’s heritage.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

U.S. Plans to Accept Several Chinese Muslims From Guantanamo

Reporting from Washington — The Obama administration is preparing to admit into the United States as many as seven Chinese Muslims who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in the first release of any of the detainees into this country, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Their release is seen as a crucial step to plans, announced by President Obama during his first week in office, to close the prison and relocate the detainees. Administration officials also believe that settling some of them in American communities will set an example, helping to persuade other nations to accept Guantanamo detainees too.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

2,800 Crime Gangs Ravage UK Streets

Police have identified 2,800 organised criminal gangs, nearly three times the number previously acknowledged, and admit that British law enforcement is ill-equipped to deal with the threat that they pose.

The Times has obtained an official report revealing the finding by intelligence analysts. It was completed six months ago but marked “restricted” and circulated only to ministers and police chiefs. After a freedom of information request, it was made available this month in edited form.

Issued by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, it is the first time that officials have disclosed the true scale of the gangland threat and made the frank admission that they are struggling to cope with it.

The report states: “The UK law enforcement community now knows more about organised criminality than ever before. Worryingly, though, this increased knowledge has highlighted the need for a more effective response by the police and other agencies. The reach of organised criminality is more extensive than previously acknowledged . . . from local teams of criminals engaged in drug dealing and acquisitive crime through to international gangs committing acts of large-scale importation, kidnap, fraud and corruption.”

The report, Getting Organised, predicts that the threat from organised crime will increase, with syndicates using the London 2012 Olympics to exploit opportunities for sex trafficking and illegal immigration.

About 60 per cent of gangs are involved in drug dealing, two thirds engage in a range of criminal activities and all are characterised by an “ever-present willingness to use extreme violence to secure and protect profits”.

The report contrasts the nationwide spread of organised crime — from the inner cities to the shires — with the disjointed reaction of police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). Britain’s response is described as “blighted” by a lack of direction, inadequate surveillance and under-investment in intelligence, analysis and enforcement.

Passages edited out before publication are understood to include critical assessments of the ability of some police forces to deal with organised crime. The report does state: “The capability of individual forces is extremely variable . . . there is much work to be done.” There is no direct criticism of Soca, launched in 2006, but the findings add up to a scathing verdict on its failure to satisfy live up to its billing as Britain’s FBI.

The biggest concentrations of crime syndicates are in London and the North West, with criminals there controlling satellite gangs elsewhere in the country.

The scale of the threat is better understood but there is no firm grasp of how the gangs operate and interact.

The law enforcement approach is also found to lack cohesion and co-ordination. The report says: “A number of groups and bodies are competing to set directions and priorities for the service, reporting to different Home Office directorates and, in the case of HM Revenue and Customs, a different ministry.” Without a national approach to the organised crime threat, the policing response would be “reactive, localised and ultimately ineffective”.

The model of national leadership and collaboration pioneered in counter-terrorism should be copied to deal with organised crime, the report says.

Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, said that he had earmarked £3 million for the areas facing the worst organised crime threat after reading the report. “I am determined to protect the public from serious organised crime. We have also brought together law enforcement partners through the Organised Crime Partnership Board to drive improvements in this area. A cross-government ministerial group will ensure that good progress is made,” he said.

A Soca spokesman said that the report was “a welcome contribution to the debate about how law enforcement can best tackle the complex and wideranging threats posed to the UK by organised crime”.

           — Hat tip: El Inglés [Return to headlines]

EU: Ferrero Waldner, No to Closer Relations With Israel

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 23 — Benita Ferrero Waldner, the EU Commissioner for External Relations, stated today: ‘I don’t believe that we have reached the time for closer relations with Israel. We want to see the new government’s commitment towards a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, in particular the two-state solution”. The commissioner, who presented a report today on the progress in reforms in European policy towards its neighbours, explained that the position taken by the new Israeli government regarding the conflict ‘is still not altogether clear”. In Ferrero Waldner’s opinion, a relationship based on good faith is essential with Israel but in order to pass to the stronger partnership that Israel requested ‘concrete results are needed as well as a halt to actions, like the settlements in Palestinian territory, that undermine the peace process”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU-Israel, Not the Right Time to Strengthen Ties

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 24 — “This is not the best moment to strengthen ties between EU and Israel” said European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner today in a forum at ANSA. The commissioner added that the European Union wants the two-State solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Regarding Tehran, Ferrero-Waldner believes “we must continue the dialogue” with Iran, “we must stay united”. The Commissioner underlined that Iran has participated in two international conferences. “There is movement on the multilateral front” she said. Commenting on the choice to participate in the recent UN summit ‘Durban 2’ — in which Italy did not take part — Ferrero-Waldner said that it was “better to be there than not to be there” and that the EU did “well to leave after the speech of Iran”. Regarding the final statement, Ferrero-Waldner said that “it was not the best text possible, but it is acceptable”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU-Turkey: Ferrero-Waldner, It’s a European Decision

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 24 — The decision on the acceptance of Turkey to join the EU is an European decision, said European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner in a forum at ANSA. Commenting on US President Barack Obama supporting Turkey in its EU membership the Commissioner explained: “it’s true that it’s an European decision, but we all know the position of the USA”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Protests Grow at Milan Anti-Kebab Law

Centre-left to gather in Via Borsieri on Thursday. Della Vedova calls regulations populist and punitive for small businesses

MILAN — Controversy surrounds the by-law passed by the Lombardy regional council last Tuesday to impose restrictions on retail businesses involved in the direct sale of foodstuffs, such as kebab shops, pastry shops, ice cream shops, rotisseries, takeaway pizza shops and delicatessens in general. One of the limitations is a closing time of no later than one in the morning, unless individual municipal authorities decide exemptions. Consumption of food on the pavement outside shops will also be prohibited. Facebook and other social networks are now buzzing as word spreads of Lombardy and Milan councillors’ “gastronomic disobedience” date at 12.30 pm on Thursday for the consumption of kerbside kebabs and ice creams in Via Borsieri.

NORTHERN LEAGUE SAYS INTERPRETATION IS TENDENTIOUS — Meanwhile, the regional council has issued clarification. The by-law does not prohibit the consumption of ice cream, croissants, kebabs or pizzas outside shops but it does ban small food businesses from placing furniture such as tables and umbrellas on the pavement. The council also points out that fines for failure to comply, which range from 150 to 1,000 euros, will be issued to traders, not their customers…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Quiet’ Copenhagen Cracks Down on Deadly Gang War

COPENHAGEN (AFP) — A grenade tossed into a cafe, gunfire in the street, dead bodies splayed on the pavement, residents living in fear — all sounds out of sync with the medieval cobbled streets and copper roofs of the Danish capital.

But a bloody gang war between bikers and youths of immigrant origin has shattered Copenhagen’s customary calm and jolted officials to boost action against violence that has left three dead and 17 wounded in seven months.

Two more attacks this week — one Friday using a hand grenade — heightened alarm, even if police would not immediately link them to gangs.

“We won’t accept this settling of scores between gangs that is frightening the population,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said earlier this month before stepping down as prime minister to become NATO secretary general.

Officials, he vowed, would “take all necessary means to halt the escalating violence,” as Copenhagen’s police chief promised to use “Al Capone-like tactics” to go after the gangs.

The battle over drug sales, revenge and wounded honour pits Hells Angels bikers and their offshoot called AK81 against gangs of mainly second and third-generation immigrant youths.

The long-simmering conflict exploded into full-blown war last August, after a 19-year-old man of Turkish origin named Osam Nuri Dogan, who was armed and wearing a bullet-proof vest, was executed on the street.

His body was riddled with 25 bullets in front of a Copenhagen pizza parlour.

A member of AK81 suspected of the killing was arrested but quickly released for lack of evidence.

Since then, violent acts of retaliation have become almost a daily occurrence in the capital — and raised concern of fueling anti-immigrant sentiment in a country long skeptical of Muslims where tightening immigration has been the cornerstone of government policy.

Early Friday, an unknown assailant launched a grenade at a packed cafe patronized by bikers in Christiania, Copenhagen’s giant squat and repair of free spirits and marginals since the 1970s. Four were wounded, including a 22-year-old man whose cheek was ripped out by the blast. “It was an odious attack… and a miracle that no one was killed,” a city deputy police commissioner, Boris Jensen, told AFP.

It came a week after another attack in Christiania in which an AK81 member shot and seriously wounded a 30-year-old man in the stomach. Tabloids said it was gangs settling scores but police, again, would not confirm this.

The majority of attacks — including one Wednesday in which police said “two men on a motorcycle” shot and wounded a 29-year-old man of Egyptian-Eritrean descent — have occurred in the heavily immigrant Noerrebro neighborhood.

The sound of gunfire there has become all too common but residents were shocked out of complacency two months ago when three separate shootings in as many days killed two people with no links to gangs and wounded four others.

Protesters dressed in mourning as for a funeral have repeatedly marched through the capital demanding a “gun-free zone” in Noerrebro so people can take a walk “without worrying about being killed by a stray bullet”.

Rasmussen personally visited a Noerrebro school in early April to try to calm nerves. “You shouldn’t have to have a knot of fear in your stomach when you go outside,” he told a worried 16-year-old.

Police have dramatically increased their presence in trouble zones.

           — Hat tip: JR [Return to headlines]

Spain: Bishops Oppose Genetic Selection

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — “You cannot eliminate one person to cure another one”, says Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesperson for the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE), commenting on today’s decision by the National commission for assisted human reproduction to authorise two cases of genetic embryo selection to avoid forms of cancer. During a press conference held at the end of the Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference he defined genetic selection as a “eugenetic technique”. He noted that “You cannot do good at the price of radical evil, of killing”. The spokesperson also pointed to last Monday’s condemnation of abortion by Madrid’s archbishop and Episcopal conference president Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, who at the opening of the bishops’ Assembly said that “In recent decades Spain has seen itself immersed in the process of deterioration of moral conscience which touches the sacred value of human life. As of 1983 the situation has gradually worsened both in legal and practical terms”. Vice-premier Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega avoided falling into controversy with the bishops during the customary post-cabinet meeting press conference. De la Vega said that “as a rule the executive will not confront the Episcopal Conference” because the two institutions lie ‘in different areas of the constitution”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

TV: Spain, Tax on Private TV Will Finance Public TV

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, APRIL 23 — Spain’s government is looking into a new tax on private television networks that would amount to 3% of their yearly revenues. According to a report by El Pais, tax revenues will be used to compensate the loss of revenue which followed the complete elimination of ads from national public television which was recently announced by the executive. And it will in addition to the 5% tax that commercial television networks are already paying to finance the production of Spanish and European tv shows and movies. This new funding method was announced last week by premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and provides for a ‘drastic cut” to tv ads on public national tv networks. The reform being examined by the government is reminiscent of the one implemented in France by president Nicolas Sarkozy who, in addition to applying a further tax on private networks, is setting up a 0.9% tax on revenues obtained by telecoms operators who distribute audiovisual services such as internet tv or mobile phone tv. Unlike the French, the Spanish executive is categorically excluding the creation of a licence fee which currently does not exist in Spain and which costs approximately 150 euros in France. According to the schedule announced by the government, ads could completely disappear from public broadcasts this July. In order to maintain the current offer of content, with 2 general tv channels, 6 digital channels, five radio stations and 6,400 employees, TVE needs a budget of 1.1 billion euros. Of this, half would be supplied by the State coffers, 250 million by the tax on airwaves, 190 million by telecoms companies which offer television services and 140 by private television networks, which will benefit from the elimination of ads from public television. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Home Office Civil Servant Sacked

Christopher Galley admitted leaking a document that revealed thousands of illegal immigrants were given clearance to work in the security industry.

Christopher Galley, a junior official in the Home Office, lost his job following a disciplinary hearing this morning.

Mr Galley and Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green were arrested by police investigating leaks from the department but were told last week they would not face charges.

Mr Galley was suspended on full pay after his arrest in November but disciplinary proceedings were put on hold while the criminal investigation was concluded.

The 26-year-old admitted leaking four documents, including one which revealed thousands of illegal immigrants were given clearance to work in the security industry.

After he learned he would not face charges, Mr Galley was defiant about his actions, claiming he leaked the documents because he was shocked at the incompetence he discoverd.

“I did it because what I saw happening was wrong,” he said.

Sir David Normington, the most senior civil servant at the Home Office, has written to officials in the department reminding them of their duty to work for whoever is in Government, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The letter said: “When we sign up to work in the civil service we agree to work to the best of our ability for the democratically-elected government of the day.

“It is not for any civil servant to put his or her personal preferences of political opinion ahead of that duty.”

A week ago the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said the string of leaks were not damaging enough to require criminal charges.

He rejected the suggestion by senior civil servants that the leaks damaged national security.

Mr Green’s arrest and detention provoked outrage in Westminster as his Commons office was searched along with his home and constituency office.

The five-month inquiry reportedly cost £5m.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


EU-Montenegro: Brussels, Word on Nomination in 14-16 Months

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 24 — “A 14 to 16 month period will be needed” for the European Commission to draw up its “rigorous assessment” of Montenegro’s official application to join the EU which was passed on to the executive by the European Council yesterday. EC spokesperson Amadeu Altafaj Tardio proffered this timeframe, basing it on “past experience” with applications submitted by other Countries. Montenegro’s official application was presented to the French presidency of the EU on December 15, but the procedure was held up for months because of opposition within the 27 to further enlargement of the Union. Once it is approved by the Council, the procedure provides for the dossier to be examined by the Commission, which has to then draft an opinion on the opportunity of granting or not granting the status of official candidate. The final decision lies in the hands of the Member States, which will then determine whether and when to open application negotiations. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Tadic, Justice Court Verdict in at Least a Year

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 22 — The International Court of Justice in the Hague will give its verdict on the legitimacy of Kosovo’s proclamation of independence in at least a year’s time, said Serbian president Boris Tadic today. As he spoke with journalists today in Belgrade, Tadic said he is confident on the fact that the court will resist political pressure from countries that have recognised Kosovo’s independence. “There is no doubt that there will be political pressure, but we are absolutely sure that the International Court of Justice will show the highest level of independence and a juridical approach to this matter”, said the president. Tadic reckons that “it won’t be so much the number of countries that present a written opinion to the court that is important, rather the quality and the issues” in the reasons behind them. “We are confident and retain that international law is on Serbia’s side in the Kosovo issue”, observed the Serbian president. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Turkey Offers Help for Cultural Heritage

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, APRIL 24 — Turkey’s commitment to helping the restoration and conservation of Kosovo’s cultural and historical heritage has been emphasised by Turkey’s minister for Culture and Tourism, Ertugul Gunay, on a visit to Pristina today. The minister stated that Ankara is ready to actively cooperate in the restoration of ancient works of art and historical buildings present in Kosovo. He also said that a Turkish cultural centre and a Turkish university will soon be opened in Kosovo. Gunay, who met with his counterpart in Kosovo, Valton Beqiri, and with the president of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu, said that “Kosovo is making an effort for the current multicultural model, a model that is very important for the rest of the world”. Minister Beqiri, speaking during another press conference that was held today in Pristina, stated that the protection and promotion of the cultural and historical heritage is one of the government’s top priorities. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognise Kosovo’s independence. The Turkish community represents 2% of Kosovo’s population. In recent days Serb Foreign minister Vuk Jeremic has protested against an attempt made by the government in Pristina to register monasteries and Serb orthodox churches located in Kosovo with Unesco, listing them as part of Kosovo’s mediaeval culture. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Serbia-Montenegro: Police Cooperation to be Strengthened

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 22 — Director of Montenegro’s police Veselin Veljovic and Director of Serbia’s Milorad Veljovic, respectively evaluated in Podgorica today that the cooperation between the two police forces is at a high level, but that it should be more concrete and stronger, which is in the interest of citizens of both states, reports Tanjug news agency. Veselin Veljovic underscored that the connection between Serbia’s and Montenegro’s criminal groups obliges the two countries’ police forces to develop stronger and more concrete cooperation, mainly in their fight against organized crime. “Organized crime is the cancer of the society as a whole and the Serbian police is determined to eradicate criminal groups in cooperation with other state organs and we are going to do it,” said Milorad Veljovic at a press conference in Podgorica. He underscored that no police may solve the problem of organized crime alone, but that this requires joint work and full support of the state. The director of the Montenegrin police pointed out that the bilateral police cooperation between the two countries is based on trust and partnership. He said that Montenegro is committed to its European integration, noting that security integrations are very important for the process. Director of the Serbian police Milorad Veljovic met with Montenegrin Interior Minister Jusuf Kalamerovic to discuss the police cooperation between the two states, their fight against organized crime and border control.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Serbia: Building of Corridor 10 to Begin by End of 2009

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 24 — The construction of the bypass around Dimitrovgrad, which is part of the Corridor 10 pan-European motorway, should start at the end of 2009, said Nenad Ivanisevic, a member of the board of directors of the Corridor 10 company, reports BETA news agency . Speaking at the presentation of the Corridor in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, he said that design documents should be completed in about one month’s time. “The initial invitation for building from World Bank funds will be announced at the start of May, after which the tender procedure will commence, that is, the pre-qualification of contractors,” Ivanisevic said. In his words, the expropriation of land in the relevant area is nearly complete, so this will not represent an obstacle to the work. Ivanisevic announced that a World Bank delegation will visit Belgrade at the beginning of May, to negotiate a USD 388 million loan for Corridor 10.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

University: Croatia, Tuition Fee Protest Spreads

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, APRIL 24 — Student protests with thousands of demonstrators calling for the elimination of university tuition fees has spread to about ten other departments across Croatia and obtained the support from unions and some teachers. The protest started Monday with the occupation of Zagreb’s Arts and Philosophy department. Education Minister Dragan Primorac commented on the matter only yesterday on the fourth day or protests, with unexpected support of the students, saying that he was in favour of abolishing tuition fees, but placed the responsibility on the universities themselves “who decide on whether to impose the charge and its amount”. According to experts’ estimates, for the complete elimination of university tuition fees, the Croatian government would have to assure another 100 million euros in financing per year. A decision that seems improbable, given that just one month ago, due to the economic crisis, a revision to the public budget cut 300 million euros with salary reductions for public-sector workers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Jordan-Italy: Amman Embassy Launches Appointment System

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 22 — Jordanians who wish to apply for a visa to Italy no longer need to stand in ques for hours after the Italian embassy a 24-hour online appointment system on the web, according to an embassy statement. The new service started as of April 15 on and clicking on “book a visit, said the statement. “The service, which is voluntary and optional, is designed to avoid unnecessary queues and long waits, ensure that appointments are fixed at a precise time, and to facilitate access to the embassy offices in a well-organised manner,” the statement said. Embassy personnel will be available for any needed information, which can be also found on the constantly-updated website, which is currently available in Italian and English, and soon in Arabic. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

TLC: Tunisia, Indian Interest for Third Operator

(ANSAmed) — TUNISI, APRIL 23 — The licence that will be issued for a third mobile phone operator in Tunisia has raised the interest of an Indian group. According to news collected in the economic areas of Tunis, Indian national operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (Bsnl) is apparently interested in submitting an offer together with another public company, Telecommunications Consultants of India (Tcil). Bsnl, which at the end of February counted 49.9 million subscribers, is India’s fourth largest mobile phone operator. Tcil is instead a consulting company that offers back-office services to the telecoms industry. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Netanyahu: EU Ties Should Not Involve Palestinians

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, APRIL 24 — “It is not appropriate to link relations between Israel and the European Union to those between Israel and the Palestinians”, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, according to reports in daily newspaper Haaretz. Netanyahu was reacting to a previous statement made by EU External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero Waldner, who had proposed a halt to plans to strengthen relations with Israel if the Netanyahu government does not start making steps towards realising the “two States for two peoples” formula. In a meeting in Jerusalem yesterday, Netanyahu told Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek that “Europe should not dictate conditions to Israel” adding that “peace is in Israel’s interest no less that it is in Europe’s interest”. When the Czech premier quizzed Netanyahu over whether he would be ready to bring an end to settlement creation in the West Bank, the Israeli leader replied that he was not planning any new settlements but could not stop pre-existing building projects. Since the West Bank is a “contested territory”, Netanyahu thinks it unacceptable that only a single party be asked to stop its building plans. If, as Netanyahu pointed out, the Israelis are blocked from building new houses ahead of a definitive policy decision, the same condition should apply to the Palestinians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Topolanek for Strengthened Israel-EU Relations

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 24 — “The Czech Republic will work to prevent those in Europe who wish to slow down or halt relations with Israel. Israel will always be able to count on the sustained support of the Czech Republic”. The statement was made by Mirek Topolanek, the Czech premier, speaking at a meeting in Jerusalem with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, today. Topolanek continued, “we will work towards the strengthening of ties between Israel and the European Union, and to avoid the creation of opposing viewpoints”. The Czech Republic will continue it’s EU Presidency until July. Peres said in the meeting that the Middle East was in dire need of symbolic gestures, more than formal agreements. He cited the occasion when in November of 1977 the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat travelled to Jerusalem to speak at the Knesset. “In only one hour, the course of history changed more than hours of negotiation and mediation might hope to achieve”. Peres assured that Israel “remains committed to continuing the peace processes in Palestine,” and he expressed the opinion that the Arab peace initiative — launched in Beirut in 2002 and later reproposed at other moments — might act as an adequate base for future talks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Egypt-Israel; Spokesperson, Lieberman Not Invited

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 23 — Egypt has not invited Israel’s Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to visit Cairo. The news disseminated yesterday by an Israeli source ‘is groundless” because the head of Egypt’s intelligence services, Omar Suleiman, who visited Israel yesterday, only carried one invitation for the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The statement was made today by the spokesperson of Egypt’s ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hossam Zaki, who also said that Suleiman invited Netanyahu to visit Egypt on a date that should be agreed on in brief in order to carry out further consultations on attempts to find peace between Israel and Palestinians. This morning during a speech Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stated that usually government leaders who visit Egypt “come by themselves or in the company of their chief of staff”, negatively hinting at the presence of the Foreign minister. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Energy: Turkey a Natural Gas Artery of Europe, Gul Says

(ANSAmed) — SOGIA, 24 APR — Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said that being the fourth main natural gas artery of Europe was one of the main targets of his country. “Turkey attaches great importance to implementing the Nabucco Project,” Gul said during an energy summit on ‘Natural Gas for Europe: Security and Partnership’ in Sofia, as Anatolia news agency reports from the Bulgarian capital. The Nabucco pipeline is a planned natural gas pipeline that will transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary with total length of 3,300 kilometres. It will be connected near Erzurum with the Tabriz-Erzurum pipeline, and with the South Caucasus Pipeline, connecting Nabucco Pipeline with the planned Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline. Gul reiterated his belief that cooperation in energy would contribute to regional stability, peace and welfare. Turkey was a significant energy consumer, but also it had a strategic location between the countries that owned almost two-thirds of world natural gas reserves and the giant markets in the West, Gul said. The Turkish president also said that a refinery, petrochemical and LNG facilities planned to be established in the Turkish southern town of Ceyhan would have an important role in Turkey’s access to the world markets, and called on foreign firms to invest in Ceyhan. The goal of the summit is to shape a new European energy policy; to seek new international arrangements and ensure durable guarantees for the energy security of Bulgaria, the region, and Europe as a whole; to help implement strategic energy resource transmission projects; to help mitigate crisis situations related to oil and natural gas supplies to Europe. The summit will end on April 25. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Hariri Case; Press, ‘Key Witness’ Arrested

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 20 — The UAE newspaper Gulf News reports that the Syrian national, Mohammad Zuheir al Siddiq, one of the leading suspects in the investigation into the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has been arrested in the emirate of Sharjah. Siddiq, who has been considered a “key witness” in the Hariri case for some time after confirming that he was an officer in the Syrian secret services, was charged in absentia in October 2005 by the Lebanese judicial authorities for the assassination of the former prime minister eight months earlier. Siddiq was arrested in France on an international warrant, but Paris refused to extradite him to Lebanon on the grounds that he would risk the death penalty. Freed in 2006, he left France in 2008 for an unknown destination. Many Lebanese political representatives accuse Syria of being behind Hariri’s assassination, as Syria had political and military control over Lebanon at the time. Damascus rejects all the accusations and in turn accuses Siddiq of making false statements to the investigators. According to UN investigators, high-ranking Lebanese and Syrian security officials were involved in the assassination, and four Lebanese generals are currently in prison for the roles they are suspected to have played. A special UN Tribunal for Lebanon, presided over by the Italian judge, Antonio Cassese, was set up in The Hague earlier in the month, in order to try the alleged perpetrators of the attack on February 14, 2005 in Beirut, which killed Hariri and 22 other people. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

School: Ambitious Saudi Programme for Women’s Education

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, APRIL 23 — By 2014 Saudi Arabia will have built 39 institutes for the vocational training of girls only. The project, according to the Saudi authorities, includes the creation of a university campus for women for around two billion dollars. As a whole, the project for vocational training of girls and boys includes — according to a statement issued by the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Riyadh — the creation of new institutes in the coming years for a total of 120,000 students. The Saudi government has allocated more than sufficient funds for the project (the 2009 budget is even higher than in 2008) but there are not enough qualified teachers, not only in Saudi Arabia but also in other Arab countries. It is estimated that the Arab countries have significant problems with youth unemployment (+17% among boys and +24% among girls). Thought there are no reliable official figures available on the present unemployment among women in Saudi Arabia, it is likely that its percentage is higher than in other Arab countries. The ICE points out that the fact that “during the ‘reshuffling’ of the Council of Minister in February the country for the first time appointed a woman as deputy minister for Women’s Education”, a sign that some progress is being made. By the end of February the Council of Ministers promised to “take more measures to increase opportunities for women to work, including the introduction of courses for teleworking using the internet”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria: Damascus Citadel Gallery Opens After Restoration

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, APRIL 21 — The Citadel gallery in Damascus has opened today, in the presence of the wife of the President of the Republic of Syria, Asma Al Assad, after being restored with funds from the Cooperazione italiana. A statement from the Italian Embassy in Damascus reports that the museum has brought together a series of Byzantine mosaic panels restored by the Fondazione Ravenna Antica. Taking part in the ceremony, alongside the Italian ambassador, Achille Amerio, and the Syrian Minister of Culture, were experts and scholars and the group of Syrian restorers who worked on the mosaics in a specially built workshop under the guidance of the Fondazione Ravenna Antica. The statement went on to explain that “the event is part of the effort to draw attention to the importance of the project which came about in collaboration with the Cooperazione italiana and which saw a majestic, but inert, structure transformed into a dynamic resource for cultural promotion and tourist interest.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Telecoms: Italian Temix to Rebuild TLC Network in Iraq

(ANSAmed) — CATANIA — An Italian company from Catania, Temix, will rebuild the telecommunications network in Iraq. An agreement with Iraqi Republic Railways, the pool of Iraqi businesses authorised to organise the reconstruction of the telecommunications infrastructural network, will be officially signed tomorrow in Catania. The project calls for the new network to serve all of Iraq, and new facilities in the cities of Baghdad, Wasset, and Missan, and will cover over 10 million inhabitants. The plan calls for three distinct projects, with the second phase alone worth 13 million euros. Temix, founded in 2003 with 30 employees and 6 million euros in turnover per year, is the only Italian company involved in the reconstruction of the telecommunications sector in Iraq.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey-Armenia: Babacan, Normalization is Not a Dream

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 24 — Turkish foreign minister Ali Babacan said Friday they had been exerting intense efforts for the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan, “We have a goal and we believe that it is attainable. We believe that this is not a mere dream. Our task is not easy but we are moving forward step by step just as in a chess play,” Ali Babacan told an Istanbul meeting of the Aspen Atlantic Group as Anatolia news agency reports. Babacan said solution of the issues between Turkey and Armenia, and Armenia and Azerbaijan would create a new geopolitical order in the Caucasus. Also participating in the meeting there is also the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Veil and Beret, Police in Kuwait Go Pink

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 23 — Amongst the explicit and subtle contradictions of a social fabric which remains conservative and extremely cautious to maintain the separation of the sexes, women in Kuwait have won their latest battle in the war for professional equality: the first 16 female cadets from the Saad Abdullah Police academy have graduated as police officers, and taken part with heads held high in the graduation parade in front of the Emir Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah. Wearing a jacket, white beret, trousers and a black veil, the uniform which has been put under great scrutiny so that it does not offend traditional sensibilities, the newly graduated police officers were greeted with a formal handshake with the Emir, a gesture which is by no means the norm between a man and a woman in the oil-rich country. At least not without some hesitation and doubts. But for the moment, despite the fact that their training taught them how to handle weapons and conflict situations, “in full respect of the laws of Islam,” the agents will be assigned roles that do not openly entail conflict with society’s traditions and which do not put women in highly visible contexts: the training of other cadets, security tasks in airports and prison security. These are limits to their duties which do not in any case appease the Islamists, who represent the majority in parliament and who are likely to maintain their position in the next round of elections in a few weeks time. Entire pages of newspapers have been bought up in local newspapers to publicise the edict which condemns “a man to greet a women of a superior-ranking,” since this would represent a “violation of social and tribal laws.” Kuwait is one of the Arab countries in the Gulf with the highest level of female presence in the labour market (24%), whilst the number of women on company managing boards is higher than in Italy (2.7% as against 2% according to estimates from the Financial Times), but in any case, resistance to political and social climbing remains high. Despite the fact that in 2005 women were allowed to take part in politics, none of the 57 candidates who stood for elections in 2006 and 2008 gained enough votes to enter parliament. And this comes despite the fact that the majority of voters are female, despite the Prime Minister’s open calls to support female candidates. The upcoming elections on May 16 will offer a further chance to see how women politicians are valued. Meanwhile, female faces in Kuwaiti politics have been guaranteed in the past from the president’s nomination of female ministers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Aussie Soldiers Take 100 Taliban

AUSSIE soldiers have killed more than 100 Taliban fighters and disrupted enemy networks in two of the most successful operations of the six-year Afghan campaign.

Details of the offensive were revealed during a secret visit to Afghanistan for Anzac Day by Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon who was accompanied by News Limited .

Operation Aabitoorah or Blue Sword began on March 19 in the northern Helmand province, south of the Australian base in Oruzgan Province and involved Dutch, British, American, Australian and Afghani forces.

The second, called Operation Shak Hawel or Mysterious Area, was fought by troops from the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force between April 3 and 15 around Patrol Base Buman in the Chora Valley north of Tarin Kowt.

More than 200 Diggers or almost half of the battle group led by Darwin based Lieutenant Colonel Shane Gabriel took part with an Afghan National Army battalion.

During the biggest battle on April 12 dozens of Taliban fighters perished as they attempted to defeat the diggers from Combat Team Tusk in the fertile green belt.

“They tried to stop us doing what we wanted to do and they came off second best,’’ Lt Colonel Gabriel told News Limited.

Troops from the task force have been engaged in numerous heavy fire fights during offensive patrols to mentor and instruct their Afghan comrades.

Mr Fitzgibbon received full details of the operations and spoke to the troops during a secret two-day tour of Australian bases in the lead up to Anzac Day at Tarin Kowt where Vietnam war hero and Victoria Cross holder Keith Payne was the guest of honour.

Mr Fitzgibbon became the first Australian minister to venture “outside the wire’’ flying in a Chinook chopper low along the fertile valleys to forward operating bases framed by snow capped peaks, to judge the progress for himself.

Australian commander Major General Mark Kelly said Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) troops from the Perth based SAS Regiment and Sydney based Commando Regiment operated deep inside a Taliban stronghold for 26 days during “Blue Sword”.

He said the number of enemy dead was not a measure of success, but he told News Limited that the tally was in excess of 80.

“It is a significant achievement by our soldiers over an extended combat mission.

“It has really disrupted the insurgent network in this part of regional command south,’’ General Kelly said.

The specialist Diggers were attacked by roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenades, mortars and small arms fire and despite the intensity of the action just one Australian, Sydney based bomb disposal expert Sergeant Brett Till, was killed and four others wounded including one who lost his legs.

In addition to the number of enemy casualties, including bomb maker and leader Mullah Abdul Bari, the Australians uncovered numerous weapons caches and up to 14 improvised explosive devices in a day.

Mr Fitzgibbon, who toured Australian built hospitals and schools as well as fighting bases, said the latest operations were a major setback for the Taliban.

He said it was vital for the Australian people to understand these intense and deadly operations and just how dangerous and challenging the job was for the Diggers.

“We are making real progress in Afghanistan.

“I wish to thank every man and woman in the Australian Defence Force who is making a contribution to what is a very important campaign,’’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Commander of Regional Command South Dutch Major-General Mart de Kraif said the operation had disrupted insurgent activities including the drugs trade.

He said Australian special-forces troops had applied massive pressure to the insurgent leadership.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Let Afghanistan Go

by Diana West

Saw an unforgettably stark photo of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, the same province Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen visited this week: Eight robed, turbaned fighters, a sandy ridge, a cloudy sky. All that was missing was the incoming American drone strike to turn the men into dust.

Question: Should the United States call in that strike? How great a security threat to the United States do these eight barbarians pose? How many dollars, how much blood is it worth to our nation to pulverize them into that lunar-like landscape?

I recently read a military e-mail from Afghanistan that marveled over a similar scene: “As far as BDA (battle damage assessment) goes, check this one out. 2 GBU 36’s (bomblets) dropped the other day on estimated 6 guys!!!! That is half a million dollars on 6 guys!!!!” The e-mailer guessed that all the sniper ammunition the jihadists have used in the whole war hasn’t cost close to that.

The point is, the United States is getting a lot of bang for a lot of buck but not much else. Don’t get me wrong: If killing small bands of Taliban is in the best interest of the United States, I’m for it. But I do not believe it is — and certainly not as part of the grand strategy conceived first by the Bush administration and now expanded by the Obama administration to turn Afghanistan into a state capable of warding off what is daintily known as “extremism,” but is, in fact, bona-fide jihad to advance Sharia (Islamic law). Anybody remember Sisyphus? Well, trying to transform Afghanistan into an anti-jihad, anti-Sharia player — let alone functional nation — is like trying to roll Sisyphus’ rock up the hill.

This is not to suggest that there is no war or enemies to fight, which is what both the Left and the Paleo-Right will say; there most certainly are. But sinking all possible men, materiel and bureaucracy into Afghanistan, as the Obama people and most conservatives favor, to try to bring a corrupt Islamic culture into working modernity while simultaneously fighting Taliban and wading deep into treacherous Pakistani wars is no way to victory — at least not to U.S. victory…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Taliban Executes 2 Christians

Believers were protesting demand they accept Islam

Taliban Islamic radicals have attacked a community of Christians, executing two of them following a rally that protested Muslim graffiti in their neighborhood that ordered them to accept Islam or die, according to an international Christian organization.

The attack in Pakistan follows only by days an expansion of the territory occupied by the Islamic Taliban members.

The report from International Christian Concern said it happened in Taseer Town in Karachi.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Far East

China Admits to Building Up Stockpile of Gold

‘Buying via government channels from South Africa, Russia and South America’

China revealed on Friday that it had secretly raised its gold reserves by three-quarters since 2003, increasing its holdings to 1,054 tonnes — or a pot worth about US$30.9-billion — and confirming years of speculation it had been buying.

Hu Xiaolian, head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, told Xinhua news agency in an interview that the country’s reserves had risen by 454 tonnes from 600 tonnes since 2003, when China last adjusted its state gold reserves figure.

The confirmation of its surreptitious stockpiling is likely to fuel market talk about Beijing’s ability to buy secretly and its ambitions for spending its nearly US$2-trillion pile of savings. And not just in gold: copper and other metals markets are booming thanks to China’s barely-visible hand.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Judges Slug Taxpayers $100,000 for Tour of China

QUEENSLAND’S top judge and four colleagues are taking their partners on a three-week China educational tour at a cost of about $100,000 to taxpayers.

The Courier-Mail has learnt Chief Justice Paul de Jersey will head the 10-person delegation next month that will include Supreme Court judges Peter Dutney, Henry Fryberg and Debra Mullins and Court of Appeal judge John Muir.

They will be joined by their partners — including Justice Dutney’s wife, magistrate Bronwyn Springer — as they visit Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and X’ian for seminars, court inspections and to “establish links” with their Chinese counterparts.

Details of the trip have emerged a day after Premier Anna Bligh unveiled a two-week trade mission to Europe and the Middle East ahead of a horror state Budget expected to include plunging revenues.

The judges are entitled to the travel, including costs for spouses and any level of air fare, as part of their allowances. Justice de Jersey will be overseas for 11 days while his colleagues will travel for 21 days enjoying business and first class air fares.

Justice de Jersey said he could not detail how much his trip would cost but his previous sojourns for similar lengths of time had cost taxpayers between $20,000 to $40,000.

He said the expedition came about after invitations from the Chinese dating back to 2007.

“These trends are obviously significant in the context of Queensland’s comprehensive relationship with China,” Justice de Jersey said.

“It is important to foster Queensland-China relations at all levels of government, including the judiciary.”

The Queensland judges will learn about the use of advanced IT in Chinese courts, about the operation of two of the most advanced judicial training colleges in the world, and how Chinese courts deal with problems Queensland also has.

China is regularly under fire over human rights abuses including detaining people without trial, persecuting civil rights activists and the death penalty.

Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O’Gorman said yesterday that he hoped the judges’ trip helped improve human rights in China.

“Anything that can be done to make China’s judges more aware of the law in relation to human rights should be welcomed,” he said.

In Beijing, the judges will visit a variety of courts, pop into the National Judicial Training Centre, and participate in a seminar with Beijing judges.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]


France: Catholic Bishops Promote Dialogue With Muslims

Bordeaux, 23 April (AKI) — Catholic bishops have invited Muslim leaders to attend a two-day conference designed to build better relations and interreligious dialogue. The convention, organised by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), is scheduled to begin on Monday in the French city of Bordeaux next week.

Delegates will also look at the contribution of Muslim migrants and their offspring in several countries, including Italy.

“The presence of Muslims in Europe is diversified, with some countries where the Muslim presence is part of ancient tradition and others which have seen an increase in Muslim presence especially following migrations”, said CCEE general secretary, Duarte da Cunha.

“In recent years among bishops’ conferences, too, attention on this dialogue has grown and has become an ordinary element [of their work].

Da Cunha said it seemed appropriate to gather for the first time those responsible for relations with the Muslim world to examine dialogue with Muslim communities in Europe and the challenges Islam raises in European society.

“It is not a meeting about theological issues,” Da Cunha said. “But an opportunity to compare matters and map out the Catholic institutions (research centres, social and aid agencies, educative works) present in Europe and define possible areas of common work.”

The conference will be hosted by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, the archbishop of Bordeaux.

The CCEE, based in the Swiss city of St. Gallen, includes the presidents of 33 European bishops’ conferences as well as Luxembourg, Monaco and Moldova.

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

Pinar: Italy and Malta Cash in EU Aid

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Italy and Malta, who have been summoned to Brussels, are to receive financial aid to support the fight against illegal immigration. The EU Commission will propose binding regulations to the 27 member states to divide the burden of immigrants and to strengthen FRONTEX, the European Union agency for external border security, to whom Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has proposed to entrust the creation of reception centres and the management of immigrants. In order to resolve the problem of illegal immigration, “we need more EU solidarity” and “a binding directive from the Commission for all member countries”, said Maroni at the end of the meeting with the Justice and Freedom Commissioner, Jacques Barrot, and the Maltese Interior Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici. Maroni believes that there are three tasks that the EU must undertake: an initiative on countries of origin in the southern Mediterranean, a strengthening of FRONTEX’s role who, in his opinion, should not simply block incoming illegal immigrants but concentrate also on their repatriation, and thirdly the creation of a system to share the burden of immigration amongst all EU member countries. Maroni also requested the creation of “EU centres for repatriation managed by FRONTEX, because repatriation is a European problem and not just Italy and Malta’s problem”. The minister believes that, if Europe shares the burden of the influx, “the problem will solve itself”, and cases such as the one involving the Pinar “will not even present themselves”. For this reason, he specified, “we are insisting on an initiative from the Commission that results in a binding directive”. As regards the case of the Pinar, which was “closed when Italy accepted her passengers”, there is still no solution: “the case is closed, we still haven’t found a solution because there are various interpretations”. The EU Commission for its part is ready to help Italy and Malta from a financial point of view and to propose an obligatory solidarity mechanism to member states: “Sooner or later, all the EU countries will be affected by immigrants who arrive on the Italian and Maltese coasts, and for this reason we will propose a principle of obligatory solidarity to all the Interior Ministers of the 27 member states, even though we don’t know whether it will be accepted,” said Barrot.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Modern European Fascism

This is what real fascism looks like in Europe today.

Modern fascism does not originate on the right wing, nor does it involve neo-Nazis.

It arises within the ruling social democratic establishment, and its goal is the intimidation, harassment, and suppression of any organized opposition to its oligarchic rule. Its victims include any party that questions political correctness, Multiculturalism, mass immigration, or the supremacy of the European Union and its compliant functionaries within the “provinces” of Europe.

This is an account of the struggle of Vlaams Belang against the fascism of the Belgian state:

Hat tip: Aeneas.

[Nothing follows]

Lies, Damned Lies, and LGF

In the past, I have stated that I was through writing about the depredations of Charles Johnson and Little Green Footballs. However, what I should have realized is that his scurrilous attacks against people of integrity are not going to stop. He is caught in some fantasy world of enemies that he creates and then attempts to destroy.

In this case, he has posted a dishonest piece of photoshopping that cannot be permitted to go unanswered. It smears people of integrity in an attempt to damage the careers of several of my friends and colleagues.

Back in December 2007 I described Charles Johnson as the “Dan Rather of the Blogosphere”. But he has extended his reach since then, and has become the blogosphere’s AP, AFP, and Reuters as well.

During the war between Israel and Hizbullah in the summer of 2006, LGF was one of a group of major blogs that exposed the staged and manufactured photographs coming out of Lebanon. These images were used by the major news services to discredit Israel, but many of them had been doctored. Some of the fakes were quite amateurish, but the MSM retailed them as if they were authentic.

Charles Johnson was one of the prominent bloggers who brought so much attention to bear on this propaganda “fauxtography” that the wire services were forced to back down and withdraw some of the images.

But now it seems that Mr. Johnson is hoist with his own petard. Last night, as part of a series of posts aimed at discrediting Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Paul Belien for their association with the “neo-Nazis” of Pro-Köln, LGF posted a “photograph” of Filip Dewinter and Marcus Beisicht shaking hands at what is assumed to be a neo-Nazi rally.

The only problem is that Charles has been taken in by the same sort of fauxtography that gulled the wire services back in 2006. Compare the version posted at LGF (left) with the actual photo (right):

Filip Dewinter and Markus Beisicht

[Update (via PI): The original photo was taken in Brussels on June 19th 2008 — see this article.]

Robert Spencer notes:

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, in his attempt to portray the German anti-jihad group Pro-Köln as neo-Nazi and to smear me in the process, has fallen for the same Photoshop techniques that he has unmasked when Leftists and jihadists use them in the mainstream media.

And here’s an excerpt from Pamela’s take on this sordid event:

One might be surprised that johnson could fall for so simple a photoshop but don’t be. He took the credit for the “fauxtography” and “rathergate” stories when it was, in fact, both were discovered by readers (the latter at Powerline).

What is so disturbing and malevolent is the lengths chuckie goes to destroy the true and the brave. Think about that. Those fighting for Western values, against Islamic supremacism are his target. What does that tell you? The exposure of Johnson is a life lesson for all.

Charles has belatedly acknowledged the fact that a photo has been altered. But which one? He doesn’t deign to make a choice:

Which one is the real photo and which is the altered one? It’s not obvious from examining the pictures, but clearly, one of them was altered.

The accompanying headline should be: “Charles Johnson Climbs Into Toaster, Pushes Down on Handle”.
– – – – – – – –

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Since I do a lot of image editing myself, I took a professional interest in the technical aspects of this particular fauxtograph. The first thing I noticed was that there is direct sunlight in the original image, shining on the figures in the foreground as well as the buildings in the background. But in the fake, the background shows no evidence of sunlight. This is an obvious discrepancy, and leaves no doubt that we have a doctored photo.

However, this story is about much more than the “faux” nature of the image.

Antifa fauxWhat’s interesting is the photoshopper’s choice of background. It’s obvious to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the current political scene in Europe that the event behind the two men is a demonstration by Antifascistische Aktion (Antifa), the anarchist “anti-Fascists” who attempt to disrupt, intimidate, and silence any politician or group that is even slightly conservative. The Antifa logos are clearly visible on the red flags, as are the demonstrating “blackhoods” carrying them.

Antifa Logos

In other words, the participants in this rally are actually the sworn enemies of Filip Dewinter and Markus Beisicht.

Antifa goons regularly disrupt Pro-Köln events, a notable example being last September’s anti-Islamization congress in Cologne. Their cadres have physically attacked Vlaams Belang and Pro-Köln in the past.

And we are supposed to believe that Messrs. Dewinter and Beisicht calmly stood and shook hands in front of a group of people who, given the chance, would have torn them to pieces?

This is yet another example of the massive and profound ignorance displayed by Charles Johnson concerning all matters European. In a word, he hasn’t the faintest idea what he is talking about.

Given the nature of the photoshopped background, one must assume that this image — like most of the other smear material concerning European conservatives peddled by Charles Johnson — was supplied to Little Green Footballs by elements of the far Left in Europe. And Charles, as always, fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

And to top it all off, he now says it doesn’t matter whether the image was photoshopped. In other words, it’s “fake but accurate”.

Do we need any further evidence that Charles Johnson has finally morphed into Dan Rather?

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I’d like to think that with this ignoble act LGF has at last greased the skids for its final slide into oblivion. But, based on past experience, mere facts are unlikely to provide any significant obstacle to LGF and its devoted followers.

There is a substantial contingent of people here in the United States, even within conservative circles, who are convinced that a renascent fascism is the greatest political threat to Europe. If you believe them, the neo-Nazi comeback lies just around the corner, and we must be ever-vigilant to ensure that we provide no assistance to it by associating with any European who is even slightly right-wing.

Real Nazis in Europe are marginalized, insignificant, and the object of ridicule. They have no more hope of attaining political power than does the Flat Earth Society. They also despise Vlaams Belang and Pro-Köln, and consider them tools of the Zionists.

The real hardcore anti-Semites are on the Left. Charles got one thing right: the demonstrators in the background of that fauxtograph are almost certainly dedicated Jew-haters. They just happen to be anarchists, and not Nazis.

So the imminent rebirth of European fascism is a phantasm, but there’s no sign that mere facts will deter its believers from their pursuit of it.

Americans who suffer from this delusion will cling to it at all costs. Any evidence that supports it, no matter how spurious, will be accepted. Any evidence to the contrary, no matter how convincing, will be summarily rejected.

It seems to be a form of collective delusion.

And it has created an entire army of Dan Rathers.

Melanie Phillips in Copenhagen

Melanie Phillips spoke to the Danish Free Press Society in Copenhagen on Thursday. The video of her speech has been posted on YouTube in six parts, so I won’t embed it here. But Steen has all six videos embedded in this post.

Some choice quotes:

  • “You might call this onslaught against free speech ‘the Jihad of the Word’.”
  • “The battleground that we’re actually on is the battleground of the mind.”
  • “Liberalism is in danger of disappearing up its own backside.”
  • “For those transnational progressives, the obstacle to Utopia is the nation. For the Left, the obstacle to Utopia is American exceptionalism. For the Western intelligentsia, it’s Israel. And for the Islamic world, it’s all of the above — and the entire un-Islamic world as an obstacle to Utopia.”

Watch Ms. Phillips’ entire hard-hitting speech at Snaphanen.

[Post ends here]

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/24/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/24/2009The most under-reported story of the last few weeks concerns the two American journalists who were arrested and are in effect being held hostage in North Korea. Neither the American media nor the current administration are making much noise about this atrocious state of affairs.

In other news, part of a man’s jaw was blown off, and other customers were injured, by a grenade attack on the outdoor tables a Danish restaurant.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CSP, Fjordman, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
EU: Mediterranean, Few Reforms in 2008, Slump and Mideast
Germany’s Slump Risks ‘Explosive’ Mood as Second Banking Crisis Looms
Germany Warned of Unrest as French Protesters Turn Violent
Government Watchdogs Warn of Lack of Oversight for Trillions in President’s New Spending Programs
Border Incursions Rocket 359%
Judge Throws Out Dole “Bananeros” Cases, Citing Fraud
Kia Auto Plant ‘A Winning Ticket’ for U.S. Town
Many Contra Costa Crooks Won’t be Prosecuted
Obama Positioning for Backdoor Gun Control
Obama Legal Team Wants Defendants’ Rights Limited
The Honeymoon is Over — President Barack Obama Has to Show That He is a World Leader
What Are US Students Learning About Islam?
Will Obama Seize the Radio Stations Next?
Can You Belong to More Than One Nation?
Chris Selley: Rethinking Refugees
Woman Facing Deportation Fears Honour Killing
Europe and the EU
Berlin Doctors Remove 18-Kilo Bone Tumour
British Police Officer Admits to Being a ‘Jedi’
Brussels Quietly Trains a Foreign Service
Cyprus: Republic of Northern Cyprus, Nationalists Win
Cyprus: One Billion Euros Pumped Into Banking System
Defense: Italian Company to Set Up a Plant in Malta
Denmark: Army Honours Fallen Major
Denmark: Man’s Jaw Blown Off in Grenade Attack
Denmark: High Court: Starthelp Benefit Not Discriminatory
EU: Budget Surplus, Cyprus to Receive 2.4 Million Euro
Frattini: Italy is Not a Racist Country
Frattini Blasts EC VP Over Fiat
Italy: Police Arrest 10 for Keeping Young ‘Slave’
Italy ‘Made 670 Rescues in Malta Waters’
Mussolini Secret Son Film at Cannes
Netherlands: Government to Receive Dalai Lama “as Religious Leader”
Netherlands: Freedom of School Choice Meets Its Limits
Netherlands: ‘Teen Repellent’ is a Mixed Success in Rotterdam
Netherlands: Orange Headscarves for Dutch Muslims
Parents: Required Sex Ed Violates Daughter’s Rights
Spain: in September Mausoleum Will be Memory Centre
Spain: Service Sales Fall, Peak in Repossessions
Sweden: Stockholm Taxis to Double as Ambulances
Switzerland: Georgian Gangs Behind Rise in Geneva Burglaries
Switzerland: Minaret Initiative Divides Opinions
Switzerland: Identity of Abandoned Woman is Determined
The Life and/or Death of the Euro
UK: Gurkha Immigration Policy Condemned as ‘a Sham’
UK: Home Office Whistleblower Sacked Over Leaks to Tory MP
UK: RBS Demands £40,000 Damages From Unemployed Teenage Girl Who Smashed Bank Window During G20 Protest
UK: Woman Who Fractured Baby’s Skull is Freed by Judge, Saying She Had Suffered Enough
Croatia: Morales Murder Plot Suspect ‘Wanted to Form Separatist Army’
Kosovo: Amnesty Asks NATO to Investigate Bombs on Serb TV
Mediterranean Union
Italy: Algeria is Number One African Client
North Africa
Algeria: Christian Churches Reopen
Egypt-Israel, Netanyahu Invited to Cairo
US: Obama Urged to Resolve Sahara Conflict
Israel and the Palestinians
Lieberman: For Peace Initiative in Our Hands
West Bank, Joseph’s Burial Site Desecrated
Middle East
David Frum: Israel’s Insidious Plot Against America
Turkey Offers Libya Free Trade Agreement, Minister Says
Turkey, Armenia Agree on a ‘Framework’ to Normalise Ties
Turkey: Cash From Credit Card as Last Resort
Turkey-Armenia: Roadmap for Normalisation Agreed
UAE: Dubai Denies Laundering Pirate Funds
No Foreign Military to Join Ukraine’s Sea Breeze Exercises — Navy
South Asia
Extraordinary Security Measures for Celebrations of 60th Anniversary of Chinese Navy
Indonesia Nabs Terror Suspect
Pakistan: Parties Re-Evaluate Swat Deal
Terrorism: Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons ‘At Risk’
The ISI Surge Against India
Far East
[Editorial] N. Korea as a Hostage Taker
China Parades Naval Might
Korea: North Says it Will Put 2 U.S. Journalists on Trial
Korea: Leftwing Groups Wake Up to Abuses in N.Korea
Korea: U.S. Changes Course on N.Korea
Australia — Pacific
Anzac Day Cartoon
Australia: Sydney Man Shot 34 Times in Head With Nail Gun
Australia: Tribute Paid to All War Dead at Mass
Australia: No Right to Silence Refugee Debate
NZ: Anzac’s Changing Face
People Smugglers Use Chaos in UN Office to Get Asylum Seekers to Australia
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sudan: President Beshir: “Charges Against Me Have United Arabs and Africans”
Latin America
Obama Goes South: an Analysis of the Summit of the Americas
Finland: EU Survey: Half of Somali Immigrants Regard Discrimination as Widespread in Finland
Finland: Poll: Nordics Satisfied With Immigration Policy
Germany: Refugee Kids Build New Lives in Europe
Italy: Dedalo Project, Young Tunisian Gardeners at Monreale
Culture Wars
Judiciary Committee Greenlights ‘Hate Crimes’
“Hijacked” UN Racism Conference

Financial Crisis

EU: Mediterranean, Few Reforms in 2008, Slump and Mideast

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 23 — First came the economic slump and financial crisis, then the war in Gaza. These were the two factors that weighed most heavily in determining a general slowdown in the pace of reforms for countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean during 2008. This is the finding of the annual report issued by the EU Commission on progress toward reform in countries forming part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). 2008 ‘was a difficult year” said EU Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero Waldner, with ‘democratic reforms” showing the most marked slowdown. But political crises, too, such as the one blocking Lebanon which ‘was tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bogged the reform process down. And the effects of war in Gaza are still being felt. ‘I do not think that the time has come to deepen relations with Israel,” the Commissioner said, ‘ we first want to see what commitment the new government has towards resolving the conflict with the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution”. According to the Brussels report, while reforms in the direction of human rights and freedom of expression are foundering on the ground on the southern shore, in terms of trade, 2008 saw increases in Egypt’s, Jordan’s and Lebanon’s exports to the EU, while negotiations on agriculture and fisheries have been sealed with Egypt and Israel and are still underway with Morocco and Tunisia. Other accords have been signed in the area of air transport with Israel and Jordan. Overall, the portion of EU assistance under the ENP last year neared 1.71 billion euros, as against the 1.67 in 2007. Here are some figures highlighted from the report: ISRAEL: limited collaboration in seeking a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians and limited progress in terms of democracy, constitutional law, human rights and humanitarian rights. Greater efforts needed to improve the lot of the Arab minority. PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: political reform and institution building suffering from division between West Bank and Gaza. LEBANON: stalemate at institutional level, with various normative projects not discussed by Parliament (for example, that on VAT and competition). Slow progress on human rights, judicial, social and administrative reforms. EGYPT: no progress on the independence of the judiciary. Limited progress in the fight against corruption, freedom of expression and religious rights, rights of assembly and of association. MOROCCO: greater dialogue attained on the fight against illegal immigration and strengthened cooperation over energy. Freedom of press, freedom of expression and justice reforms a priority; TUNISIA: significant increases in illegal immigration flows towards the EU. Missed targets of increasing freedom of association and of expression. JORDAN: needs more protection for the rights of immigrant workers and to work towards the independence of the judiciary. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Germany’s Slump Risks ‘Explosive’ Mood as Second Banking Crisis Looms

A clutch of political and labour leaders in Germany have raised the spectre of civil unrest after the country’s leading institutes forecast a 6pc contraction of gross domestic product this year, a slump reminiscent of 1931 and bad enough to drive unemployment to 4.7m by 2010.

Michael Sommer, leader of the DGB trade union federation, called the latest wave of sackings a “declaration of war” against Germany’s workers. “Social unrest can no longer be ruled out,” he said.

Gesine Swann, presidential candidate for the Social Democrats, said “the mood could turn explosive” over the next three months unless the government takes drastic action.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Germany Warned of Unrest as French Protesters Turn Violent

In the wake of violent worker protests in France, rhetoric over social unrest in Germany is growing as the economic crisis continues to take its toll.

German presidential candidate Gesine Schwan added her voice to that of top union leader Michael Sommer late on Wednesday, when she warned that the ongoing economic crisis could unleash violent reactions from a distraught population.

“I can well imagine that in two or three months, people’s anger will grow considerably,” Schwan told the Muenchener Merkur newspaper. That’s when some of the government’s measures to cushion the blow from the recession — such as filling in the pay gap for people who are forced into shortened work hours — are due to run out.

“If there is no sign of hope for things to improve, then the mood can turn explosive,” she added.

Schwan’s comments followed those of Sommer, who heads the Federation of German Trade Unions (DGB) umbrella group.

In an intervew with Germany’s ARD television, Sommer warned of social unrest comparable to that in the 1930s — when widespread poverty paved the way for the Nazi regime’s rise to power.

Fraying tempers in France

The projected economic contraction of up to six percent is comparable with data from the years 1930, 1931 and 1932, Sommer said.

Making the rounds of the German press, Sommer told the Nordwest Zeitung newspaper that if there are mass layoffs, it would be “a provocation for workers and the unions,” indicating that “social unrest could no longer be discounted” in Germany.

The seams of civil restraint are already beginning to fray in France — a country known for frequent strikes and an active labor movment.

On Tuesday, a French court rejected a motion brought by employees of a factory run by Germany’s Continental AG to block the plant’s planned 2010 closure. Citing the steep drop in demand in the automobile sector, Continental announced in March plans to shutter the factory in Clairoix, north of Paris, which employs 1,120.

Smashed windows, destroyed equipment

Workers responded to the ruling by smashing windows and destroying equipment at the factory and regional administrative offices in nearby Compiegne.

On Wednesday, factory management distributed fliers reading: “We have no other choice but to suspend production as well as the whole of the site’s activities until further notice.”

French government officials condemned the workers’ rampage, calling it “unacceptable.”

Continental workers have drawn nationwide attention, meeting with top government officials at the presidential palace, burning tires in the streets of the capital and leading weeks of protests.

Their actions are part of a wave of increasingly radical employee movements to fight layoffs and cutbacks prompted by France’s worst economic performance in 30 years. Workers have held managers hostage and blocked production at sites around the country.

On Tuesday, workers in southwest France released two bosses held for two days over plans to shut a subsidiary of American automotive company Molex.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon criticized what he called a small minority of “very violent” workers who are hijacking peaceful union mediation efforts. He called for charges to be laid against the rampaging workers, the AP news agency reported.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Government Watchdogs Warn of Lack of Oversight for Trillions in President’s New Spending Programs

The Government Accountability Office today issued a report on the $787 billion stimulus bill called “RECOVERY ACT: As Initial Implementation Unfolds in States and Localities, Continued Attention to Accountability Issues Is Essential.”

The GAO study asserts that officials from most of the states surveyed “expressed concerns regarding the lack of Recovery Act funding provided for accountability and oversight. Due to fiscal constraints, many states reported significant declines in the number of oversight staff — limiting their ability to ensure proper implementation and management of Recovery Act funds.”

Because the economic downturn has led to “fiscal constraints, many states reported significant declines in the number of oversight staff, limiting their ability to ensure proper implementation and management of Recovery Act funds.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Border Incursions Rocket 359%

‘Our agents are being attacked and our sovereignty violated at alarming rates’

Foreign government incursions into the United States rocketed 359 percent from 2007 to 2008, and the nation is under attack in San Diego, according to a new report from Judicial Watch.

“These new Homeland Security documents indisputably show there is a crisis on our border with Mexico,” said Tom Fitton, president of the Washington watchdog organization.

“Our agents are being attacked and our sovereignty violated at alarming rates,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Judge Throws Out Dole “Bananeros” Cases, Citing Fraud

LOS ANGELES, April 23 (Reuters) — A California judge on Thursday threw out two pesticide lawsuits against Dole Food Co and other companies by plaintiffs claiming to be banana farm workers, citing a “pervasive conspiracy” by plaintiffs’ attorneys and Nicaraguan judges.

The ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney puts in doubt $2 billion in pending judgments in dozens of similar lawsuits. Chaney also said she would refer the matter to states’ bar associations and to prosecutorial agencies.

The plantiffs, known as bananeros, have won judgments against Dole in Nicaraguan courts after claiming they were made sterile by the chemical DBCP, which was banned in the United States but was used by Dole to control fungus. The other defendants were Dow Chemical (DOW.N) and AMVAC.

Privately-owned Dole, is the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables.

Chaney made the ruling after a three-day hearing on fraud allegations that cropped up during the first of about 40 toxic tort lawsuits to be tried in her court involving thousands of plaintiffs from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras and the Ivory Coast .

“What a sad commentary that somebody thought that they were free to bring this fraud in the U.S. courts,” Chaney said. “What a sad commentary for individuals who will not be able to come to this court or any court for redress of wrongs that have been committed against them.”

A federal judge in Miami, who is considering whether to enforce a $97 million judgment, behind which sits another judgment for $800 million won by bananeros in a Nicaraguan court, had been waiting for the outcome of the California fraud hearing to rule on his case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Robinson, a major fraud prosecutor who acted as lead counsel in the Justice Department’s case against the Milberg Weiss law firm, attended the hearing but had no comment about whether an investigation had been opened.


More than 10,000 plaintiffs have brought cases against Dole and other defendants over exposure to DBCP in U.S. and Nicaraguan courts, Dole attorney Scott Edelman said in his closing argument on Thursday.

Chaney found evidence “that the proof of employment and medical evidence presented to me that came out of Nicaragua was manufactured and not honestly so by certain individuals in Nicaragua,” Chaney said.

“I find that there is and was a pervasive conspiracy to defraud American and Nicaraguan courts, to defraud the defendants, to extort money from not just these defendants — but all manufacturers of DBCP and all growers or operators of plantations in Nicaragua between 1970 and 1980,” she said.

Plaintiffs attorneys Juan Dominguez of Los Angeles and Antonio Ordenana of Nicaragua, accused Dole of bribing witnesses but put on almost no defense to the allegations during the hearing.

They did not appear at the hearing but their co-counsel Mike Axline, presented little evidence at the hearing. He had no comment after the hearing.

Edelman argued during the Los Angeles hearing this week that a special Nicaraguan law passed in 2001 to address the pesticide cases has brought “intense political pressure to bear on judges … who have ceded to that pressure.”

Edelman said Special Law 364 also has spawned an industry in which local attorneys have recruited thousands of men to pose as bananeros in a wave of lawsuits that hit U.S. companies, including Dole, Shell Chemical and Dow in recent years.

Edelman showed videotaped testimony from witnesses who said they were approached or recruited by plaintiffs attorneys to pose as bananeros, promised rich rewards, and threatened with harm if they revealed the scheme to Dole investigators.

The lawyers charged the plaintiffs on a monthly basis to attend seminars where they were trained to be convincing as banana workers, Edelman said.

But problems began surfacing in depositions with Dole’s lawyers and medical exams, which resulted in more than half of the plaintiffs in the three lead cases being dismissed from the cases by their own lawyers, Edelman said.

“These plaintiffs are unable to testify to basic farm facts … they just hadn’t studied hard enough,” Edelman told the court.

The cases are Mejia v. Dole Food Co et al, BC340079, and Rivera v. Dole Food Co et al, BC379820, in Los Angeles Superior Court.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Kia Auto Plant ‘A Winning Ticket’ for U.S. Town

Residents in the little town of West Point in Georgia are insulated against the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression thanks to a new Kia Motors manufacturing plant that opens at the end of this year.

“Kia’s is the only car factory scheduled to open in the country, drawing workers to one of the few regions now with concrete hopes of quickly escaping the economic downturn,” the New York Times said Wednesday.

“While much of the rest of the country remains mired in the depressing gray of recession, this rural town of fewer than 3,500 people on the Georgia-Alabama border, about 80 miles southwest of Atlanta, has somehow managed to draw the winning ticket in the nation’s economic lottery,” the daily added.

Kia plans to manufacture the Sorento SUV here. About 43,000 American workers have so far applied for 2,500 assembly-line jobs that will open late this year, a competition ratio of 17:1. Many applicants were laid off in Michigan, where U.S. automakers are clustered. Kia’s subcontractors will employ another 7,500 workers.

“We’re the only place in the nation that is fixing to put between 7,000 and 10,000 manufacturing jobs online,” Mayor Drew Ferguson told the paper. “We are the place that has the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Three years ago, Ferguson persuaded Kia to move to his town by offering incentives worth US$400 million including tax benefits.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Many Contra Costa Crooks Won’t be Prosecuted

Misdemeanors such as assaults, thefts and burglaries will no longer be prosecuted in Contra Costa County because of budget cuts, the county’s top prosecutor said Tuesday.

District Attorney Robert Kochly also said that beginning May 4, his office will no longer prosecute felony drug cases involving smaller amounts of narcotics. That means anyone caught with less than a gram of methamphetamine or cocaine, less than 0.5 grams of heroin and fewer than five pills of ecstasy, OxyContin or Vicodin won’t be charged.

People who are suspected of misdemeanor drug crimes, break minor traffic laws, shoplift, trespass or commit misdemeanor vandalism will also be in the clear. Those crimes won’t be prosecuted, either.

“We had to make very, very difficult choices, and we had to try to prioritize things. There are no good choices to be made here,” said Kochly, a 35-year veteran prosecutor. “It’s trying to choose the lesser of certain evils in deciding what we can and cannot do.”

Barry Grove, a deputy district attorney who is president of the Contra Costa County District Attorneys Association, said, “There’s no question that these kinds of crimes are going to drastically affect the quality of life for all the citizens of Contra Costa County.”

The decision not to go after any perpetrators of certain offenses, Grove said, amounts to “holding up a sign and advertising to the criminal element to come to Contra Costa County, because we’re no longer going to prosecute you.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Positioning for Backdoor Gun Control

On his recent trip to Central America, President Barack Obama did more than cozy up to Marxist dictators; he also signed onto an international treaty that could, in effect, be used as backdoor gun control. It appears that Obama wants to use international treaties to do what congressional legislation is not able to do: further restrict the right of the American people to keep and bear arms.

Obama is using the oft-disproved contention that “90% of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States” as the stated basis of his support for the international treaty he is promoting. The treaty is formally known as the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA) treaty. The Bill Clinton administration signed the treaty back in 1997, but the U.S. Senate has never ratified the treaty. Obama intends to change that.


In addition, CIFTA would authorize the U.S. federal government (and open the door to international entities) to supervise and regulate virtually the entire American firearms industry. Making matters worse is the fact that, as a treaty, this Act does not have to be passed by both houses of Congress, nor is it subject to judicial oversight. All Obama needs to do in order to enact this unconstitutional and egregious form of gun control is convince a Democratic-controlled Senate to pass it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Legal Team Wants Defendants’ Rights Limited

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overrule long-standing law that stops police from initiating questions unless a defendant’s lawyer is present, another stark example of the White House seeking to limit rather than expand rights.

The administration’s action — and several others — have disappointed civil rights and civil liberties groups that expected President Barack Obama to reverse the policies of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, after the Democrat’s call for change during the 2008 campaign.

Since taking office, Obama has drawn criticism for backing the continued imprisonment of enemy combatants in Afghanistan without trial, invoking the “state secrets” privilege to avoid releasing information in lawsuits and limiting the rights of prisoners to test genetic evidence used to convict them.

The case at issue is Michigan v. Jackson, in which the Supreme Court said in 1986 that police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one, unless the attorney is present. The decision applies even to defendants who agree to talk to the authorities without their lawyers.

Anything police learn through such questioning cannot be used against the defendant at trial. The opinion was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the only current justice who was on the court at the time.

The justices could decide as early as Friday whether they want to hear arguments on the issue as they wrestle with an ongoing case from Louisiana that involves police questioning of an indigent defendant that led to a murder confession and a death sentence.

The Justice Department, in a brief signed by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, said the 1986 decision “serves no real purpose” and offers only “meager benefits.” The government said defendants who don’t wish to talk to police don’t have to and that officers must respect that decision. But it said there is no reason a defendant who wants to should not be able to respond to officers’ questions.

At the same time, the administration acknowledges that the decision “only occasionally prevents federal prosecutors from obtaining appropriate convictions.”

The administration’s legal move is a reminder that Obama, who has moved from campaigning to governing, now speaks for federal prosecutors.

The administration’s position assumes a level playing field, with equally savvy police and criminal suspects, lawyers on the other side of the case said. But the protection offered by the court in Stevens’ 1986 opinion is especially important for vulnerable defendants, including the mentally and developmentally disabled, addicts, juveniles and the poor, the lawyers said.

“Your right to assistance of counsel can be undermined if somebody on the other side who is much more sophisticated than you are comes and talks to you and asks for information,” said Sidney Rosdeitcher, a New York lawyer who advises the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

Stephen B. Bright, a lawyer who works with poor defendants at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said the administration’s position “is disappointing, no question.”

Bright said that poor defendants’ constitutional right to a lawyer, spelled out by the high court in 1965, has been neglected in recent years. “I would hope that this administration would be doing things to shore up the right to counsel for poor people accused of crimes,” said Bright, whose group joined with the Brennan Center and other rights organizations in a court filing opposing the administration’s position.

Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and former FBI Director William Sessions are among 19 one-time judges and prosecutors urging the court to leave the decision in place because it has been incorporated into routine police practice and establishes a rule on interrogations that is easy to follow.

Eleven states also are echoing the administration’s call to overrule the 1986 case.

Justice Samuel Alito first raised the prospect of overruling the decision at arguments in January over the rights of Jesse Montejo, the Louisiana death row inmate.

Montejo’s lawyer, Donald Verrilli, urged the court not to do it. Since then, Verrilli has joined the Justice Department, but played no role in the department’s brief.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

The Honeymoon is Over — President Barack Obama Has to Show That He is a World Leader

The Taliban continues its menacing advance on the Pakistani capital. The Iranian president reiterates his hateful anti-Israeli rhetoric, while Israel’s newly elected Right-wing prime minister makes veiled threats about launching military action to prevent a second Holocaust. Yet the only subject that appears to concern Barack Obama is whether or not senior officials from the previous administration should face prosecution for the harsh interrogation techniques used against terror suspects in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Mr Obama has attracted much international goodwill since he took up residence in the White House — not least in Europe, where his youthful charm and conciliatory approach are seen as a refreshing change from his predecessor’s hectoring and arrogant attitude. But even the most propitious honeymoons have to end sometime, and that moment seems to be fast approaching, as Mr Obama finds that his international standing has been weakened by a domestic scandal of his own making.

Mr Obama no doubt believed that by exposing some of the darker secrets from the annals of the Bush administration, he might be able to consolidate his moral authority. Instead, he has found himself mired in a made-for-Washington controversy over waterboarding and other dubious techniques employed by the CIA against al-Qaeda detainees five years ago.

It is not just the damage this unnecessary intervention has inflicted on the CIA’s morale that gives cause for concern. Whether a president supports a policy of hard power, as did George W Bush, or one of soft power, which appears to be Mr Obama’s preferred option, it is nevertheless important that the White House projects the sense of global leadership that goes with being the world’s largest military superpower.

This is particularly true in the current climate, in which there is no shortage of rogue nations and terror groups seeking to challenge America’s global hegemony. The dramatic territorial gains made by the Taliban this week in North-West Pakistan, which have brought the radical Islamist group to within 60 miles of the Pakistani capital, is a good example of what happens when there appears to be an absence of strong and decisive leadership in Washington.

Pro-Western Pakistani politicians argue, with some justification, that a major factor in the rapid growth in support for the Taliban in the tribal areas has been America’s use of unmanned Predator aircraft to attack Islamist militants. American commanders insist that Predator strikes have played a significant role in killing al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders and disrupting their infrastructure. But they have also been responsible for high levels of civilian casualties, which have led to significant sections of the indigenous Pashtun population switching their support to the Taliban.

The Pakistani government now finds itself in the invidious position of surrendering sovereignty over large tracts of the country. This has allowed the Taliban to implement its particularly brutal interpretation of sharia, which earlier this month saw a 14-year-old girl executed by firing squad for planning to elope with her lover.

It is all very well for Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to call on the Pakistani people “to speak out forcefully” against the Taliban’s power grab. But the Pakistanis would be in a far stronger position to reassert their sovereignty if the White House was fully focused on addressing this potentially calamitous development.

The same goes for Iran, where Mr Obama’s appeal to the hardline regime to “unclench its fist” appears to have fallen on stony ground. Although Tehran has hinted that it is prepared to resume talks with the West over its uranium-enrichment programme, the more telling response has been the jailing of a US-Iranian journalist on trumped-up spying charges. This is a classic Iranian ploy to pressure Western governments. During the 1980s, when Iran sought to undermine US involvement in the Lebanese civil war, Tehran ordered the radical Shia Muslim militia Hizbollah to kidnap scores of Western citizens, who were only released once hostilities were concluded in Tehran’s favour.

Now the fate of Roxana Saberi, who earlier this week was jailed for eight years for espionage, will most likely depend on the outcome of any future negotiations between Washington and Tehran on the nuclear issue, another subject that appears to be beyond the Obama administration’s grasp.

For once there is unanimity within the West’s intelligence community about the progress Iran is making with its uranium enrichment programme, which should give it sufficient quantities of fissile material to build an atom bomb by the end of the year. Time, then, is of the essence — but rather than taking a firm grasp of the issue, the Obama administration is split between those who want to force Iran to declare its hand now and those who argue that it is best to wait until after June’s presidential election, so as not to play into the hands of anti-American hardliners during the election campaign.

In another age, putting off an inevitable confrontation to keep the peace was called appeasement: a charge that will soon be levelled against Mr Obama, unless he starts to demonstrate the true qualities of leadership that his office requires.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

What Are US Students Learning About Islam?

In the same way, students today are being taught a distorted view of Islam. Having been on the front lines in the struggle to achieve the best education for our children, I understand that change will come only when teachers’ and parents’ voices are heard. Teachers need courage in overcoming political correctness by talking candidly about controversial topics like Islam. Parents must be engaged in their children’s education by participating on curriculum committees and communicating with teachers. Parents also should communicate with their members of Congress to ensure that textbook publishers are not being pressured to present a false account of history. Feel-good distortions of history don’t help our kids; they just help those who wish to do us harm.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Will Obama Seize the Radio Stations Next?

So when the Senate recently voted 87-11 in favor of an amendment prohibiting reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, with obvious White House approval resulting in the support of all those Senate Democrats, I immediately started looking for the other shoe to drop. What is the real plan to shut down conservative talk radio and Christian broadcasts? Where is Obama hiding the peanut this time?

FCC Regulation The standard playbook for revolutionaries is to seize all the television and radio stations first, and announce the rebels are the new government. The Left has already done this in America. Except for a couple of holdouts — conservative talk radio and Christian broadcasts.


The main frontal attack is not going to come through Congress, where talk radio audiences and Christian grassroots can be mobilized to stop it. It is going to come through regulations issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which already has all the legal authority it needs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Can You Belong to More Than One Nation?

by Margaret Wente

A few weeks ago, I ran into a traffic jam in downtown Toronto. Thousands of people were thronging the streets and waving colourful banners. Many were families with small children. Perhaps it was a religious festival, I thought — just another piece of the kaleidoscope that makes up our multicultural city.

I should be ashamed of my ignorance. But I suspect it’s shared by most Canadians. It’s safe to say that not one in 50 would be able to explain who these people are and what they want — even though, on Tuesday, more than 30,000 of them staged one of the biggest demonstrations that Parliament Hill has seen in years. “Canada don’t fail your people,” the signs demanded.

The people in question are Tamil Canadians. The banners they have long waved are the colours of the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist group banned in Canada whose goals (if not methods) are supported by most of Canada’s 200,000-strong Tamil community. They want Canada to intervene in the bloody civil war that may now be in its final stages, as the Sri Lankan government bears down on the Tigers’ last stronghold.

Is this our fight? I’d say no. But Tamil Canadians see it differently. Their relatives are being massacred as Canada stands by. Their government should be acting on their behalf. Otherwise, it will have blood on its hands.

In this new, transnational era, issues of identity and politics spill over national borders. And questions of citizenship and belonging become increasingly blurred. Tamil Canadians “belong to more than one nation,” says R. Cheran, a Tamil poet and sociology professor at the University of Windsor.

The Tamils are just one of several large ethnic groups that have sprung up in the urban ring around Toronto. Today, they are the biggest Tamil diaspora in the world. With their own newspapers, TV and radio stations (all pro-Tiger), strong community networks and Tamil-language services, they are a little world within a world. They are also a major source of funding for the Tamil Tigers, who, for decades, have been extracting “war taxes” from the willing and the unwilling alike — sometimes by threatening to harm relatives back home if people don’t pay.

The Tamils’ nationalism isn’t fading with the second generation. Instead, it’s more passionate than ever. Most of the demonstrators are second- or even third-generation Tamils. “There’s an important change taking place,” says Prof. Cheran. “They are reaffirming their ethnic identity. Their attachment to the collectivity has become much stronger.”

According to research by sociologist Jeffrey Reitz and others, this trend is increasingly pronounced among the second generation of immigrant visible-minority groups. Compared with their parents, they feel less, not more, “Canadian.” That doesn’t mean Tamil Canadians don’t engage in mainstream politics. They do — and they’re acquiring a lot of clout.

Stories about the Tamils often centre on the Tamil Tigers, who are infamous for pioneering the use of suicide bombing, recruiting child soldiers and massacring innocent civilians. To most Tamils, the Tigers are their only protection against a brutal government that has oppressed the Tamil population for years and killed its own share of civilians. But the real question for Canada is not about good guys or bad guys — it’s to what extent our government will respond to the pressures of transnational ethnic groups, as these groups become ever more influential.

There’s another question: How will Canada evolve when so many people have multiple allegiances, to homeland and to host land? “I believe it is possible for people to be loyal to more than one nation, one history and one idea,” says Prof. Cheran, who thinks we should embrace the idea of transnational citizenship.

I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know this. There are many mini-nations in our midst. And most of us don’t know anything about them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Chris Selley: Rethinking Refugees

Here’s a fun fact: in 2008, the seventh-biggest source of refugee claimants in Canada was the Czech Republic-bigger than Somalia, Afghanistan, or the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is ridiculous, and not because there aren’t bona fide asylum-seekers in Eastern Europe, where the Roma face a level of exclusion and persecution that really has no analogue in North America. Rather, it’s ridiculous because no system that purports to help the world’s most downtrodden should be expending more resources on Czech citizens than on, say, Somali, Zimbabwean, Iraqi or Burmese citizens, just to pick four weatherbeaten nations out of a hat. As I’ve argued many times before, our refugee system directs far too many resources towards those who can manage to get their feet on Canadian soil, and not nearly enough towards those who most need to.

Why can Czech Roma suddenly claim asylum in Canada, when before they couldn’t? Because they don’t need tourist visas anymore. Why don’t they need tourist visas anymore? Because in 2007, Brussels pitched a minor fit and demanded the requirement be lifted, else Canadians might face retaliatory visa requirements across the European Union. Why did Czechs need tourist visas in the first place? Because of all the Roma refugee claimants who came to Canada in the 1990s. Like the Griswolds in European Vacation, we’re stuck on a roundabout.

It’s safe to say Jason Kenney is more likely to fix this problem, or to try to address it anyway, than any predecessor immigration minister in recent memory. He has no problem calling out “false refugee claimants,” or accusing vast numbers of Mexicans of abusing the system-of de facto immigration “queue jumping.” He seems to have some actual ideas, too, on immigration in general if not on refugees per se, as he demonstrated in a solid, serious speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce last week. And as has widely been noted, he actually relishes the slurs and catcalls awaiting any Conservative politician wading into this issue.

On refugees, though, he’s well and truly up against it. As illustrated by a recent Embassy magazine article, simply banning claims from certain countries outright-theoretically the simplest solution to the problem-would unleash a torrent of negative headlines. Domestically, refugee advocates would complain legitimate refugees were being kept out, and they would be entirely correct. It’s true Mexico is the largest source of failed refugee claims in Canada, but it’s also the third-largest source of successful claims, and you don’t have to be a world-renowned Mexicologist to figure our why. Banning claims from people of certain nationalities might also create diplomatic tensions, because you can’t designate certain countries “safe” without implicitly labelling others “unsafe.” For example, creating a list of “no-refugee” nations that didn’t include Mexico-far and away our largest source of refugee claimants-would ostensibly anger the Mexican government and risk all sorts of repercussions. (I’ve never totally understood this, since the fact Canada is in fact accepting scores of Mexican refugees should be far more embarrassing. But that’s the conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom is the most powerful force in Ottawa.) Nevertheless, even if Kenney could somehow establish such a “safe list,” it would be a muddy, deeply flawed solution.

In his Calgary speech, Kenney laid out a compelling case that the more Canada-centric our immigration system is, the more beneficial it will be to immigrants. If we don’t need cardiologists, there’s no point bringing them here to drive taxis. And if we do need cardiologists, there’s no point bringing them here just because they’re cardiologists without knowing if their skills are sufficient, or sufficiently promising, to be of use in the Canadian medical system. Ideally, it’s always seemed to me, that determination should be made overseas, as early on in the immigration process as possible.

I think a similar approach could help the refugee system enormously. Canada currently allows war-torn citizens of Sierra Leone, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia to apply for resettlement in Canada without having left home. Why not extend that approach to other nations Ottawa deems a priority? Among other benefits, it would redirect resources towards the most oppressed and imperiled people, and away from people who can afford a plane ticket, false documents and other things they might use to get to Canada even though their refugee claims have no merit.

Naturally, this would require a massive expediting of the system overall, as the only thing more unconscionable than leaving refugees in limbo for years in Canada would be leaving them in limbo in the country they’re trying to flee. First, the government would at the very least have to fill the inexplicably numerous vacancies on the Immigration and Refugee Board, so the system can run at its intended capacity. Second, we obviously need a blanket ban on refugee claims from nations whose “safety” is painfully obvious, and I’m not talking about Mexico. Citizenship and Immigration Canada normally considers imposing a visa requirement on citizens of a given country if it contributes more than two per cent of the total refugee claims in a given year. In 2008, an astounding 2.7 per cent of those claims were from Americans-nearly 1,000 in all, and more even than from the Czech Republic. Third, a person’s mere presence in Canada should no longer grant him an absolute right to a refugee claim. If we started allowing Mexicans (again, just for example) to apply while still in Mexico, we would need to be able to deport those who arrive in Canada back home, without prejudice, with instructions to make their claim there.

I think the most crucial precondition for logical reform, however, would be an international agreement that certain countries or regions should be primarily responsible for certain refugees. I sympathize with the Roma, but if they can find no safe or prosperous home in Europe, then surely that’s more an issue for the European Union and its considerable human rights infrastructure than it is for Canada. The refugee system is supposed to rescue the world’s most desperate people from untenable situations, not necessarily scatter them throughout the world to their most preferred destinations. It’s not just Canada’s refugee system that makes no sense, in my view, but the whole idea of forcing the world’s most persecuted people to scratch, claw and connive their way to safety however possible. The developed world can’t save all of them, unfortunately, but surely it can deploy its considerable resources far more coherently than it currently does.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Woman Facing Deportation Fears Honour Killing

TORONTO — A Muslim woman who says she’ll be slain in the name of honour if deported to Pakistan finds out her fate next Monday.

“It feels like I am dying a slow death,” said Roohi Tabassum, of Brampton. “Waiting to find out what happens is like a death sentence.”

A federal court judge will decide on Monday if Tabassum should be deported. A federal immigration department review of her case is also pending.

“I know I will be killed if I am sent back,” Tabassum, 44, said, referring to her ex-husband, Faisal Javed. “My nerves are bad and I can’t eat or sleep.’“

According to court documents, Javed is outraged Tabassum works in a salon where she cuts men’s hair.

Tabassum says Javed, a businessman and Sunni community leader, will seek revenge.


Her cousin was the victim of an honour killing after she refused to submit to an arranged wedding to an older man.

Officials of the Canada Border Services Agency said Tabassum has had her hearings and must leave.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlin Doctors Remove 18-Kilo Bone Tumour

A Saudi Arabian woman now weighs just 37 kilogrammes (81 pounds) after doctors in Berlin removed an 18-kilogramme (40-pound) bone tumour from her pelvis, the hospital said on Friday.

According to the private Capital Health Hospital Group, it was the largest such tumor ever to be removed worldwide.

The 35-year-old mother of three has been undergoing chemotherapy in Berlin since September 2008 to shrink the tumour enough for safe removal.

Removing the growth — which was one-third of the woman’s body weight — required five operations, the hospital said.

The woman, diagnosed with a malignant bone cancer called chondrosarcoma in 2003, came to the Berlin hospital after refusing to have part of her pelvis amputated.

By the time she reached Berlin, the tumour had gotten so big that the woman could no longer walk. The growth was tearing through her skin and threatened to obstruct her bowels.

“She was in a desolate state,” head surgeon Dr. Heinz R. Zurbrügg told journalists on Friday.

When the follow up examinations show no further tumours, the woman will have a missing section of her pelvis replaced with a tailored implant and an artificial hip joint, the hospital said.

Appearing before journalists in a traditional Arab abaya, the woman said she felt “born again,” and looked forward to standing before the doctors in her home of Kuwait who told her there was “no hope.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

British Police Officer Admits to Being a ‘Jedi’

A police officer in Scotland has confessed to following the Jedi faith beloved of Star Wars film fans, respected policing analysis group Jane’s reported Thursday.

Pam Fleming, a 45-year-old beat officer in Glasgow for Strathclyde Police, said that she thought all police officers “should be Jedis,” when interviewed by Jane’s Police Review.

“For me, it is not a joke,” she said. “Being a Jedi is a way of life.”

“I love the Star Wars films and the concept of being a Jedi, that the faith is not divisive.”

Fleming said she knew of other Jedis in Strathclyde Police — the force apparently has eight in total.

According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, a total of 390,000 people in England and Wales listed their religion as Jedi in the most recent census in 2001. Scotland has a reported 14,000 followers.

But it noted that this may have been largely due to an Internet campaign launched in the run-up to the census. Jedi followers are grouped under atheist.

Jedis are fictional creations from George Lucas’ popular Star Wars movies. They are an ancient monastic organization fighting for peace and justice, known for their observance of the Force. They specifically use the “Light Side” of the force and reject the “Dark Side” of the Force, as well as the Dark Side’s adherents, the Sith.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Brussels Quietly Trains a Foreign Service

A number of eurocrats will soon form part of an EU diplomatic corps, if European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso has anything to say about it. He’s looking forward to the day when the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect — and the EU has to build embassies.

The European Union, for now, lacks most trappings of central government because it has no constitution. Most “EU diplomats” are in fact diplomats from EU member nations, not from Brussels itself. Even Javier Solana, the EU’s high representative for the common foreign and security policy, can’t technically call himself a “foreign minister.” Instead, he is generally referred to in the media as the EU’s foreign policy chief. But European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is quietly working for the day when he can.

Hundreds of bureaucrats at Barroso’s European Commission, the EU’s executive body, are being educated in the diplomatic arts, taking courses at universities and international academies on “Political Analysis” and “Handling the Media” to prepare for a new role that would be created under the imperilled Lisbon Treaty. Among the key provisions of the treaty is the creation of a European External Action Service and the appointment of a “foreign minister,” though the title has been renamed as the “high representative of the Union,” as well as an EU president. The idea is to groom an EU diplomatic service so it can start its work the day the treaty — once known, and rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands, as the “EU constitution” — goes into effect.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Republic of Northern Cyprus, Nationalists Win

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, APRIL 20 — The National Unity Party (UBP) won 44% of the vote in the elections of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Ankara. According to the definitive results, after the UPB, which was the opposition until now, was the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), which was in power until now, with 20% of the vote. The Democratic Party (DP) took 10% of the vote. The UPB should be able to form a single party government after having won 26 of the 50 seats in the Parliament of the small ‘republic’. Nationalist leader Dervis Eroglu, a former Premier, said to journalists that it is his intention to proceed with negotiations for a possible reunification with Greek Cyprus. “It will be one of the priorities of the UPB,” he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Cyprus: One Billion Euros Pumped Into Banking System

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, APRIL 20 — Cyprus will inject an additional liquidity of 1 billion euro in the banking system in a bid to stimulate the decline of interest rates and to refinance expiring public dept, Famagusta Gazette daily reported quoting Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis. Speaking after a meeting with Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Antonis Paschalides and representatives of the island’s commercial banks and cooperative societies, Stavrakis said the government will issue a short-term bond to Cypriot banks worth 1 billion euro, which expires in late December, at a rate of 1.5%. According to Stavrakis, this bond can be used by the Cypriot banks as collateral to pump liquidity from the European Central Bank at a rate of 1.25%, while the government will deposit these funds in the Cypriot banks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Defense: Italian Company to Set Up a Plant in Malta

(ANSAmed) — LA VALLETTA, 16 APR — International Aviation Supply, a Brindisi based company which manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, is to set up a plant in Malta with an initial investment of euro 2.7 million. The 2,000 square metre Malta plant, which will employ 15 people, is to be based in Safi, near the Medavia aviation company. Malta Industrial Parks, which manages industrial estates, has applied for additional land in Safi with the intention of creating an aviation park to cater for other similar companies. Finance Minister Tonio Fenech told The Times Business: “We believe there is a huge potential in the aviation sector and such a company gives Malta high value added. We are very well placed in the market to service such industries and we are also in discussions with other aviation companies which could set up a plant in Malta. Our agreement with International Aviation Supply is very good news particularly in view of the current economic climate.” The Italian company, which conducts research and prototype testing of unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as the manufacture of drones, is to retain its Brindisi plant, which employs 35 people. While the Italian plant will continue to manufacture large drones, the Malta plant will manufacture smaller ones and will also conduct research into unmanned aircraft. International Aviation Supply caters for both civilian and military clients. It was founded in 1985 and started off as a worldwide spare parts supplier and in 2005 it invested into research for the promotion and use of unmanned civilian aircrafts. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Army Honours Fallen Major

The military has named an army academy class after a fallen soldier for the first time since World War II

At a military parade early this week, the armed forces honoured a solider that lost his life in Afghanistan by naming a new military class at the Royal Danish Army Officers Academy after him.

It was the first time since World War II that such an honour has been bestowed. Previous officer classes were named after exceptional officers from the 19-century Schleswig Wars and World War II.

Major Anders Storrud lost his life in a mortar attack in Afghanistan 18 months ago and was honoured at Frederiksberg Castle on Wednesday. His widow Susie Storrud gave a moving speech to the 500 assembled soldiers about her ‘hero’.

‘Anders was dedicated to and believed in what he did. That’s why he was my hero,’ said Storrud, adding that while his military mission was important, his journey towards the goal and his comrades were more important to him.

Berlingske Tidende reports that the first ever ‘Class Storrud’ will begin at the Officers Academy in September.

Wednesday would have been Major Storrud’s 36th birthday. His death in Afghanistan made him the highest ranking Danish officer to be lost in combat since the Schleswig War of 1848.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Man’s Jaw Blown Off in Grenade Attack

A number of people were injured — one seriously — when a hand grenade was thrown at them outside a Christiania café

A young man had part of his jaw blown off in an indiscriminate attack last night in the Christiania area of Copenhagen.

The 22-year-old and four friends were sitting at a picnic table outside Café Nemoland when a hand grenade landed near them shortly after midnight.

The man’s face was badly injured when he was hit by shrapnel, but his condition was described as stable last night.

Three of his companions received less severe injuries to their backs and legs, while one escaped injury in the attack. The three have been discharged from hospital.

Henrik Vedel from the Copenhagen Police called it an ‘unscrupulous attack, where the perpetrator had no qualms about who was hit’. Vedel said the hand grenade had been thrown from a darkened area behind the restaurant, but so far police have found no trace of the attacker.

No motive has yet been established for the attack and police said none of the five people at the table were previously known to authorities. They have appealed for witnesses to the attack to come forward with any information.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Denmark: High Court: Starthelp Benefit Not Discriminatory

A court ruling today found that the starting welfare allowance is not discriminatory even though it is less than other unemployment benefits

An Afghan man has lost his High Court case against Egedal city council in northern Zealand which alleged the state’s Starthelp welfare benefit programme was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Starthelp is a monthly sum paid out primarily to immigrants and refugees who arrived in Denmark after 1 July 2002. The government intended the sum — which ranges from 2,525 kroner for people under 25 who live with their parents to 6,124 kroner for single people 25 and over — to encourage them to enter the workforce.

It is the individual city councils that determine Starthelp eligibility. But although the sum is lower than regular unemployment benefits, the Eastern High Court ruled that the programme was not discriminatory.

The Documentation and Counselling Centre for Race Discrimination (DRC) has provided financial assistance to the Afghan man to pursue his case. Niels-Erik Hansen, head of DRC, said he was not surprised by the decision and would appeal to the Supreme Court.

‘We fully expected the case would go to the Supreme Court,’ he told TV2 News. ‘We hope the decision will be reversed, but in the end this is all about international conventions.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

EU: Budget Surplus, Cyprus to Receive 2.4 Million Euro

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, APRIL 20 — The European Union 2008 budget has a surplus amounting to 1.79bn euro, that will be returned to member states. Cyprus will receive 2.4 million euro. As Famagusta Gazette reported, according to a European Commission press release, in 2008, member states’ contributions to the European Union budget almost exactly matched agreed spending for the year. With just over 1.5% of the overall EU budget unspent, the high implementation rate of funds has left another record low surplus, reflecting effective budgetary management and ongoing efforts only to call on member states for payments that are strictly necessary. The end-of-year surplus — the difference between all EU budget revenue and spending — amounted to 1.79bn euro of the total euro115.771bn budget in 2008 and will be returned to member states. This 1.5% compares to 16% in 2001, when the EU budget surplus was at its peak.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Frattini: Italy is Not a Racist Country

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 22 — Italy “is a country in which the people are strongly opposed to all intolerance and episode of racism” as shown by the Italian government in the Pinar ship affair, said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during question-time in parliament. “We did not hesitate to rescue 150 immigrants that were definitely illegal, because human solidarity correctly prevailed over rules of sea rescue, which was not Italy’s duty in this case”, he continued. The minister came under intense scrutiny on the issue and the treatment of the migrant workers from experts from the International Labour Organisation and the European Council during the parliamentary session. The Italian government strongly distinguishes between “legality and illegality” but at the same time “is ready to let human solidarity prevail when even a single person is in danger. This means that our country is absolutely not racist”, he concluded. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Frattini Blasts EC VP Over Fiat

Verheugen accused of interfering in possible Fiat- Opel link

(ANSA) — Rome, April 23 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Friday blasted European Commission Vice President Guenter Verheugen for allegedly interfering in private business decisions.

The attack came after Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne verbally sparred with Verheugen over the possibility of Fiat acquiring a stake in German carmaker Opel, currently owned by General Motors.

Germany’s representative in the European Union executive fired the opening shot by questioning Fiat’s ability to strike an accord which would make it a partner of Chrysler and, at the same time, make a deal with its Detroit rival GM for a stake in Opel.

Verheugen, who is responsible for industry in EC, also questioned where Fiat could find the capital needed given its debts and the fact that it is “not exactly the European carmaker that is doing the best”, implying that Germany’s Volkswagen was.

Marchionne responded to what he viewed as clearly partisan remarks by saying he was “astounded by the tone and the content” of Verheugen’s statements.

“I would have expected him to engage in constructive dialogue with the European car industry on issues which are negatively impacting our industry today, rather than issuing death sentences or unilaterally deciding who will survive,” Marchionne said.

This prompted Verheugen to explain that he was “in no way contrary” to Fiat being interested in Opel but that “too many questions remained unanswered”.

“I had no intention of being discourteous, but we need to know more about the operation. It is still too early to judge,” he added.

SCAJOLA SAID EU COMMISSIONER WAS ‘OUT OF LINE’ At this point Frattini, who until taking his post last year was also an EC vice president, stepped in and accused Verheugen of “unacceptable interference”.

Frattini said he was “very surprised” by his former colleague’s statements which he considered “interference in industrial decisions between private subjects. This becomes even more unacceptable when one of the companies involved is of the same nationality as he is”.

The foreign minister went on to recall that the EC’s job was to ensure that EU regulations are respected by all, including those regarding the single market and open competition.

Frattini added that he hoped EC President Jose’ Manuel Durao Barroso would correct Verheugen’s position.

Italy’s industry minister, Claudio Scajola, also got into the rumble and branded Verheugen’s remarks as “unacceptable and totally out of line”.

“I understand how it must be very difficult for a German politician to accept the help of an Italian company like Fiat to save an American-German company like Opel. But the commissioner’s statements were unacceptable and totally out of line,” Scajola said.

According to the industry minister, “it is not a European commissioner’s job to intervene in negotiations between companies belonging to two EU member states”.

The EC, he added, can only review an accord between private companies once the agreement has been finalised and this in the framework of its established responsibilities. Fiat officially has not expressed an interest in buying a share of Opel, which GM is spinning and putting up for sale to avoid bankruptcy, although many pundits see this as a ‘Plan B’ for the Italian automaker should its deal with Chrysler fall through.

Other experts think Fiat will seek to pull off both deals in order to reach the size that Marchionne has indicated will be necessary to survive in the future.

Observers noted that, in contrast to Verheugen’s position, Fiat has been given the full support o US President Barack Obama to hook up with Chrysler. Opel’s unions are sharply opposed to joining up with Fiat because, due to product overlapping, it would surely mean job cuts and plant closures.

Because of this, the question has taken on political overtones in Germany where federal elections will take place in five months.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Police Arrest 10 for Keeping Young ‘Slave’

Milan, 23 April (AKI) — Italian police on Thursday arrested 10 family members of a young woman who claims they kept her as a slave for years in a Roma-Gypsy camp in the northern city of Milan. The young woman, a Romanian Roma-Gypsy, said before arriving in Italy, she lived and studied in Germany, where she had a relatively normal life.

Then she moved to Italy together with her extended family and lived in a Roma-Gypsy camp on the outskirts of Milan.

After moving to Italy, the woman’ said her living situation went awry and she was forbidden to go to school.

She said she was beaten every day because she refused to go with others to steal from shops.

The girl said she was forced to live inside the camp and allowed to leave only if accompanied by some of her uncles, as they feared she would flee.

She claimed she was insulted and beaten every day by cousins and uncles, who reprimanded her for not wanting to dress in traditional Gypsy clothing.

She also alleged her father intended to sell her to another man who would have paid 20,000 euros and a certain quantity of gold for her.

The young woman said her father punished her by sexually abusing her.

She contacted local police and is now in a protected community managed by the local council.

At least two family members, among them the father and an aunt managed to escape. Police say they could be hiding in Bosnia.

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

Italy ‘Made 670 Rescues in Malta Waters’

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 21 — Italy has carried out 670 search and rescue operations in waters controlled by Malta since the beginning of 2007, according to a dossier Italy presented to the European Commission in a dispute between the two countries. Italy reiterated in the dossier that Turkish freighter Pinar with 240 migrants aboard was in Maltese waters when it launched a distress signal Thursday and it should have been up to Malta to rescue it. After a four-day stand-off, Italy intervened for humanitarian reasons but has brought the case to the EC. Malta contends the freighter was closer to Italy and was under Italian jurisdiction. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mussolini Secret Son Film at Cannes

Marco Bellocchio in sixth bid for Palme d’Or

(ANSA) — Rome, April 23 — A film about the secret son of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini is Italy’s only entry for this year’s Cannes Film festival.

The film, Vincere, will be the sixth bid for the Palme d’Or for director Marco Bellocchio, 68. As Bellocchio recounts, the future Fascist strongman was an ardent Socialist when he met and married Ida Dalser, a Milanese beauty salon owner who supported the often penniless political agitator.

First one of his many mistresses, Dalser became Mussolini’s first wife in 1914 and bore him Benito Albino Mussolini in 1915.

They would both end up ‘non-persons’ in the Fascist years and eventually die in internment after Dalser’s untiring efforts to have have her son recognised.

“What fascinated me about Ida Dalser was that heroines are usually sympathetic characters while she was a real ballbreaker,” Bellocchio said Thursday.

Dalser split with Mussolini the same year Albino was born when he got hitched to second wife Rachele Guidi.

After numerous dalliances with intellectuals, Mussolini chose a more down-to-earth, hometown woman to become his ‘official’ wife.

Guidi bore him two daughters and three sons including the concert-pianist father of today’s rightwing MP Alessandra Mussolini.


Mussolini at first recognised Dalser’s son, Benito Albino, but after his rise to power had him and later Dalser interned.

The son died in a Milan asylum in 1942 at the age of 27, five years after his mother, who had been sent to a Venetian island after threatening to expose unsavoury details about Mussolini’s past.

The Fascist cover-up was so effective that proof of their existence and the marriage was only clinched by an investigative journalist in 2005.

The second part of Bellocchio’s film highlights the increasing desperation of Dalser, played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno, and her son, played by Filippo Timi, and Mussolini appears mainly in newsreel footage — although Timi plays him earlier on.

A similar mix was used by Bellocchio in his acclaimed retelling of the kidnapping and murder of Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro, Buongiorno Notte (Good Morning, Night, 2003). The title of the film, Win! was one of Mussolini’s favourite battle cries when he threw his weight behind WWI as a young Socialist newspaper editor, later going to fight at the front.

Bellocchio is a leftwing director who first broke through with an anti-establishment picture called Fists In The Pocket in 1965 and has made a number of controversial films since.

He won a ‘little Golden Lion’ in Venice for Buongiorno, Notte, one of five of his films that have received nominations for the top prize at Cannes.

Bellocchio faces competition from, among others, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards, Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, Pedro Almodovar’s Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces), Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric (about a soccer-mad postman who gets life training from Eric Cantona), and Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.

Italian actress Asia Argento is on the jury led by French actress Isabelle Huppert. The fest runs from May 13 to 24. The official poster is an iconic image of Monica Vitti in Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Government to Receive Dalai Lama “as Religious Leader”

THE HAGUE, 24/04/09 — Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen will receive the Dalai Lama. He will be welcomed as a leader of Buddhism, but not as the leader of Tibet, it emerged yesterday in a Lower House debate.

As already announced, the Dalai Lama is visiting the Netherlands on 5 June. He was invited by an independent foundation. The Lower House said last week it will go ahead and receive the Tibetan leader after China told the House in a letter that this would be damaging to relations with the Netherlands.

The question remained whether the government would show resistance to the Chinese pressure as well. Verhagen said yesterday that he will receive the Dalai Lama at a meeting along with other religious leaders. He stressed that the Dutch government will not meet him as leader of Tibet. “The Netherlands does not support the independence struggle of Tibet,” he said. It is not clear whether Premier Jan Peter Balkenende will be present as well.

There are concerns in the business world about trade relations with China. Verhagen takes these concerns seriously. “But it is completely clear that it is up to the government to weigh up whether and in what way it receives the Dalai Lama as religious leader,” said Verhagen. This also applies to parliament, he informed the Chinese ambassador in “clear terms.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Freedom of School Choice Meets Its Limits

A new study reveals that one in three Dutch schools are segregated. Attempts to discourage ‘black’ and ‘white’ schools often clash with the constitutional right to freedom of education.

The Dutch take their constitution seriously. A few articles jump out: article 1, about the principle of equality, and article 23, about freedom of education. Article 23 is so important that professor emeritus Dick Mentink made a career out of it.

Mentink, who taught educational law at Rotterdam’s Erasmus university until his retirement, says article 23 is unique in the world. “The Netherlands are the only country in the world where the state is constitutionally bound to finance confessional schools in the same way it finances public schools.”

The Dutch state, says Mentink, “recognises that all parents must have the unlimited freedom to give their children the education they want. Article 23 guarantees that the state cannot force parents to send their kids to a school against their will.”

The Nijmegen challenge

The adoption of article 23 in 1917 was seen at the time as a compromise between liberals and confessionals. Then prime minister Pieter Cort van der Linden, a Liberal, felt that the state ought to be only minimally involved in organising education, but that it had a duty to facilitate free competition between the different educational and philosophical views in Dutch society. Article 23 also says the state cannot intervene with the fundamentals of confessional schools; its only role is to finance all schools equally.

In 2009, Dutch society is profoundly changed. Because of immigration, confessional schools — traditionally Catholic or Protestant — have come to include Muslim and even Hinduist schools. Added to the distinction between public and confessional schools is the distinction between ‘black’ (ethnic minority) and ‘white’ (native Dutch) schools.

According to some people, it is a perverse effect of article 23 that the freedom of education now allows Dutch parents to cycle across town just to send their kids to that one good — usually white — school. These schools have long waiting lists, while other schools become more and more populated with immigrant children.


The city of Nijmegen has recently decided to challenge article 23 in an effort to fight the increasing ghettoisation of its primary school system. Starting next school year, parents in Nijmegen will be allowed to name up to six preferred schools, after which a central committee will determine to which school the child will be admitted.

The committee will use several criteria to determine the choice of school, but the first criterium is that children must be encouraged to go to school in their own neighbourhoods. If parents name faraway schools they decrease the chance that their child will be able to attend the school of their choice, because children living near those schools will be given preference.

The second criterium is to strive for a better balance between disadvantaged and mainstream children. Research shows a ratio of 30 percent disadvantaged children to 70 percent mainstream children is beneficial to both groups: it encourages disadvantaged children to do better without lowering the quality of education in the process.

The right to choose

The two criteria are sometimes at odds with each other because the demographics of the neighbourhoods are not always desirable. In those cases preference is given to sending kids to schools in their own neighbourhoods.

Nijmegen denies that its policy is a violation of the freedom of education principle. Article 23 only guarantees the right to choose a kind of school, based on its denominational or educational fundamentals, the city says. It does not guarantee the right to choose a specific school establishment.

The right-wing liberal party VVD in the Dutch parliament objected to the new policy because it could force parents to send their children to Islamic schools against their will. The city authority says all parents have to do is not to list Islamic schools among their preferred schools.

Nijmegen is not the only local authority in the Netherlands to have challenged article 23. In the town of Tiel, parents have to report to either the public, protestant or catholic school system, after which their children are assigned to a school in their own neighbourhood. Tiel does not use a ratio of disadvantaged to mainstream children, which means that Tiel schools better reflect the demographics of the neighbourhood they’re in. Another difference is that Nijmegen assigns children to one specific school; in Tiel, parents can choose between any school of the same denomination within the same neighbourhood.

There has been little protest in Tiel, but the changes in Nijmegen are more controversial. Educational columnist Leo Prick wrote in NRC Handelsblad that the city is “riding roughshod over the fundamental right of parents to send their children to a school of their choice.”

Closing achievement gaps

Mentink disagrees. He says article 23 has often been misinterpreted in the past. “Article 23 was never about the consumer’s right to choose. It is about the right to organise education”, he says. And former prime minister Cort van der Linden’s interpretation that “no child shall be forced to attend a school that doesn’t respect the religious convictions of its parents” stands unchallenged, says Mentink. “Parents in Nijmegen can still chose the denomination of the school their kids are sent to.”

At issue is whether local authorities have the right to spread out pupils in their efforts to fight ghettoisation. Doing so is illegal when it is based on nationality or ethnic background, but it is compulsory when it comes to closing achievement gaps. Article 167a of the law on primary education says local authorities have to consult with the schools in order to prevent segregation and spread out struggling pupils equally.

But is the Tiel or Nijmegen approach applicable to all areas, especially to the big cities? Tiel has only one “very weak” primary school. Amsterdam and Rotterdam have fourteen “very weak” primary schools.

Christian Democrat member of parliament Jan Jacob van Dijk is not opposed to the Nijmegen experiment. But what if all the schools in your neighbourhood are marked as very weak? he asks. “I wonder if one can force parents to send their kids to an obviously underperforming school. The system can only work if the quality of education is guaranteed across the board.”


Study reveals primary school segregation

The Knowledge Centre for Mixed Schools says one third of primary schools in the Netherlands do not reflect the ethnic backgrounds of their local communities. The observation is based on a survey of over 2,000 primary schools in nearly 40 municipal districts. The centre presented its report to deputy education minister Sharon Dijksma on Wednesday.

The centre, which promotes desegregation in education and is subsidised by the education ministry, believes that schools should reflect the ethnic and social make-up of their areas. It says research shows that this is not the case in one third of all primary schools. They have mostly either immigrant or Dutch-background pupils, while their local areas are much more diverse.

The centre describes the results of its research as “shocking”, pointing out that the children are not learning to get along with people from other nationalities and religions. The cities with the worst results according to the survey were Lelystad, Leiden and Almelo.

The study reflects ongoing concerns about the degree of ethnic segregation in Dutch schools, caused by ethnically Dutch parents opting to send their children to schools where the pupils have a similar background to their own, even if the school is outside their neighbourhood. This has led to the intake at schools in some neighbourhoods becoming dominated by pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds. Such schools are officially termed “black schools”. ]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: ‘Teen Repellent’ is a Mixed Success in Rotterdam

The mosquito — or ‘teen repellent’ — is meant to discourage groups of kids from loitering in the streets and making a nuisance of themselves. “It’s a free country isn’t it?”

“It sucks! It gives me a headache,” 10-year-old Mohammed says about the mosquito — a device that emits an annoying sound with a frequency that can generally be heard only by people under the age of 25. His friends Ercan, Anass and Nordin agree. “It’s like when you’ve been listening to loud music for a long time and then you stop. This buzzing sound.”

The kids all live in the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Oud Charlois, where mosquitoes first appeared a year ago. We take a walk from the Wolphaertsbocht to an interior court off Clemens Street. Within this small perimeter there are no less than six mosquitoes: above snackbar Marlena, clothing shop Hans, the bakery and the supermarket, and on the courtyard itself.

The mosquito — or ‘teen repellent’ — is meant to discourage groups of kids from loitering in the streets and making a nuisance of themselves. Opinions about its efficiency diverge. A group of older kids are willing to comment. “It hurts my ears but I’ve grown used to it. We’re still here,” says one. “It’s like swimming under water but we’re used to it,” says another.

There is just as little enthusiasm among local shop owners. “It hasn’t changed anything,” says sales clerk Ingrid Rotermundt at Hans’ clothing shop. “I never saw why we needed it in the first place. Things are not that bad over here. Sure, someone threw a brick through the window the other day, but I don’t know who did that.”

Less work for the police

At Marlene’s snackbar they’ve noticed that more and more kids prefer to hang out inside the premises since last winter — a result of the mosquitoes buzzing outside? “I don’t know. All I know is they can be very annoying. They throw food around.”

By contrast, the local authority of Charlois is extremely pleased with the mosquitoes. “We were getting complaints about intimidation and vandalism,” says borough president Dick Lockhorst. “The nuisance has diminished by 70 to 80 percent. That means less work for the police.”

The importer of mosquitoes for the Netherlands says he has installed some five-hundred devices in 120 municipalities. Nuisance has diminished in nearly all the locations, says general manager Donald van der Laan of the Rhine Consulting Group. He knows the Woplhaertsbocht in Rotterdam. “Before, it was not the kind of place I would go after dark. But it has improved a lot.”

The use of the mosquito is controversial. An often-heard criticism is that the device affects everyone within a twenty-metres radius, including people who are not creating a nuisance. Like sisters Saloua and Keltoum Azerkane and their friend Marwa Massali. “Whenever we pass by here we get a headache,” they say.

Move the problem

At our request, school principal Henny de Koning asks eighty kids on the second floor of the Charlois international primary school if the mosquito outside the school premises bothers them. Twenty kids say they have heard it on occasion. “But it doesn’t bother them much.” Except for a girl who lives above the bakery. She can sometimes hear it inside the house.

Social workers in Charlois are extremely negative. Jan Schellekens: “It makes the kids irritable and aggressive. It makes the want to tear the device from the wall.” Schellekens feels the mosquito is the wrong tool. “All it does is move the problem. Young offenders are forced even more underground so that they are even harder to reach. And there is so little for the kids to do anyway. They don’t have a place to go except the street. And now they are being chased off the street.”

The kids agree. “Where are we supposed to hang out?” they say. “People say we are menacing. But we don”t do anything. It’s a free country isn’t it?”

Home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst (Labour) is not a fan of the mosquito. Her department’s lawyers fear it might even be unconstitutional, but since nobody has tested the law so far Ter Horst cannot stop local authorities from installing the device. At parliament’s request she has started negotiations with the association of local authorities to establish ground rules for the use of the mosquito.

No-go area

The left-wing Socialist Party is dead set against the mosquito. It has adopted a party motion prohibiting individuals to install mosquitoes. The party’s youth organisation is lobbying for a national ban. “To declare the street a no-go area is simply unacceptable,” says party official Leon Botter.

The city of Rotterdam has asked the land’s advocate, an adviser to the government on legal issues, for guidance. He wrote to Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb that he sees no legal objections. But that doesn’t mean that we should flood the country with mosquitoes, his spokesperson says. “We should see it as a last resort.” Rotterdam is now working on a plan of action. In the meantime, a moratorium on new mosquitoes is in place.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Orange Headscarves for Dutch Muslims

This year, Muslim women in Haarlem will be able to celebrate Queen’s Day appropriately dressed. A group of students will hand out more than 5,000 orange headscarves on 30 April to promote tolerance in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The orange headscarves will allow Muslim women to express their loyalty to their faith as well as to the queen.

The two students who thought up the idea say they are annoyed by politicians and others indulging in rabble-rousing rhetoric about Islamic headscarves. The orange headscarves have been partly paid for from a 3,000 euro prize awarded by Haarlem council to the two students for their initiative.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Parents: Required Sex Ed Violates Daughter’s Rights

Challenging school program for teaching kids ‘feel good’ promiscuity

Parents of a school-age girl in Germany who were convicted and fined for refusing to allow her to take a mandatory sex-ed class and preventing her from participating in a required “body” play are appealing their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The case involving Eduard and Elisabeth Elscheidt is being handled by the Alliance Defense Fund, which has assigned attorney Roger Kiska to defend the family. Kiska told WND the case provides a good opportunity to further challenge Germany’s opposition to parental influence in their children’s education and the government’s totalitarian-type ban on homeschooling.

“Parents, not the government, are the ones ultimately responsible for making educational choices for their children,” Kiska said. “These parents were well within their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights to opt to teach their children a view of sexuality that is in accordance with their own religious beliefs instead of sending them to a class and stageplay they found objectionable.

“These types of cases are crucial battles in the effort to keep bad decisions overseas from being relied upon by activists who attack parental rights in America,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Spain: in September Mausoleum Will be Memory Centre

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 22 — By the end of September, the Valle de los Caidos, a mausoleum close to San Lorenzo dell’Escorial where the remains of the dictator Francisco Franco and the Phalange founder Primo de Rivera are buried, is expected to be transformed into a “centre of historical memory”. The news was taken in a motion approved yesterday by a majority in congress following Izquierda Unida’s (IU — United Left) lead, with opposition votes from the Popular Party and the Popular Navarre Union. The idea had already been raised in the law for historical memory, which parliament approved in December 2007. But quoted in the press today, IU is hoping to put the plan into action. The foundation which manages the Valle de los Caidos now has six months to include amongst its objectives: “the honouring and readdressing of the memory of all those who fell in the Civil War and in the repression that followed,” so that the mausoleum becomes a “centre for memory and reconciliation.” Congress has further asked the government to approve the scientific and multidisciplinary procedure for properly exhuming the mass graves of the victims of the Civil War and repression under Franco in the next six months. The motion also asks the government to produce a map of existing mass graves throughout Spanish territory in six months, so that it is made available to all citizens who are interested in recovering the remains of family members. The autonomous regions and city councils will be required to provide a list of the remaining signs of the Civil War and period of dictatorship, so as to hasten the removal of emblems, signs, plaques and other objects “which exalt the military insurrection of the generals which preceded the Civil War and the dictatorship.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Service Sales Fall, Peak in Repossessions

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 20 — The Spanish services sector has recorded a tenth consecutive fall in sales in February, with a loss of 20.5% against the same month in 2008, according to statistics released by the national statistics institute, INE. The economic and real-estate crisis led to a 55.6% rise in home repossessions in the region of Madrid. In 2008, 1,912 properties were put under the hammer by courts after home-owners were unable to keep up with mortgage repayments, compared to 1,229 cases in the previous year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Stockholm Taxis to Double as Ambulances

[Comment from Tuan Jim: any chance this is intended to address the issue of attacks on emergency service providers…or am I just reading too much into things?]

Stockholm taxis are to be deployed to respond to emergency calls and drivers trained to treat cardiac arrest using defibrillators, medical and taxi officials said on Friday.

More than 100 Stockholm taxis will be equipped with the defibrillators and deployed to respond to emergency calls when they have no customers, according to Jeanette Lindström, who heads the project at Stockholm’s biggest taxi company Taxi Stockholm.

“The sooner the patients get help the greater their chances of survival. We are out on the roads 24 hours a day. In the event of an emergency, we can get there quickly and begin life-saving measures,” Lindström said.

But “we are absolutely not going to replace ambulances,” she added.

The initiative is a collaboration with Stockholm hospital Södersjukhuset.

“Every minute that passes reduces the chance of survival without any lasting injury by 10 percent. So this project increases patients’ chances significantly,” the head doctor at emergency rescue service SOS Alarm, Lars Engerström, told Sveriges Radio (SR).

One Taxi Stockholm driver taking part in the project, Joakim Svendsen, said the defibrillator was simple to use.

“It’s incredibly easy. You just lift the lid, push the on-off button, and it starts giving you instructions,” he told SR, adding that with his own background as a nursing assistant he hoped to be able to help someone in an emergency.

“I would probably be incredibly nervous. You’re standing there and have the chance to save a life,” he said.

The defibrillators will only be used when the patient’s heart has stopped and there is no pulse.

Several dozen security guards and their vans will also be equipped with defibrillators.

According to the Swedish Heart and Lung Association, 11,000 Swedes die every year of acute cardiac arrest.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Georgian Gangs Behind Rise in Geneva Burglaries

Georgian criminal gangs are chiefly responsible for the large rise in burglaries in French-speaking Switzerland over the past year, the Geneva police have confirmed. Ten additional officers have been assigned to tackle the rising number of burglaries of apartments and villas in canton Geneva — up by 21 per cent in 2008 over the previous year, said the police on Tuesday at a presentation of their 2008 annual report.

In all, some 5,934 attempted or successful break-ins were reported in canton Geneva in 2008, compared with 4,878 in 2007. The region experienced peaks in August and December 2008, with over 400 reported burglaries each month.

Georgian nationals carried out a large proportion of these crimes, say police. Of the 305 burglars arrested in Geneva in 2008, 69 came from Georgia. A further 30 came from Moldova, Lithuania and Russia.

Out of a total of 100 people arrested for burglaries in Geneva so far this year, 40 are Georgians, the police say.

“It’s clearly organised crime — with mafia-like structures. They are very well organised at every level,” Jean Sanchez, deputy head of the Geneva police, told swissinfo.

“They have people who commit the burglaries, others who handle the stolen goods, and a rear base for recycling or laundering the money.”

The Georgian gangs are fairly well known to police forces in the rest of Europe but their presence in French-speaking Switzerland has only been registered since last year, said the deputy head.

But it’s also difficult to work out how many people are involved as some move from gang to gang, he added…

…Ne me Tase pas, mec! The Geneva force also announced on Monday that it had become the first canton in French-speaking Switzerland to acquire Taser stun guns.

In all, it has purchased three Taser stun guns that would be used by trained officers in “exceptional” circumstances, such as during a prison riot, or to disable a criminal with a gun or someone who was about to commit suicide.

According to the police, only a dozen such incidents would have warranted the use of a Taser in Geneva last year.

On “no account” would a Taser be used during the expulsion of a rejected asylum-seeker, added Laurent Moutinot, Geneva’s justice and police minister.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: And what precipitated this statement exactly???]

Tasers are already authorised by several other Swiss cantons (cantons Zurich, Bern, Basel City, Aargau, Appenzell Inner Rhodes, Nidwalden, Schwyz, St Gallen, Thurgau and Lucerne, as well as by the Zurich and Zug municipal police), all of which have widespread autonomy for their police work.

50,000 volts The Taser uses a temporary high-voltage low-current electrical discharge to override the body’s muscle-triggering mechanisms.

Two barbed darts embed themselves into the skin and deliver a series of around 50,000-volt electrical pulses for up to five seconds. The maximum range of the darts is ten metres.

Experts say a shock lasting half a second will cause intense pain and muscle contractions. Two to three seconds will often cause the subject to become dazed and drop to the ground. More than three seconds will usually completely disorient and ground someone for up to 15 minutes.

Employing a Taser avoids the need for physical force or a firearm and prevents injuries, the Geneva police claim.

But a report by Amnesty International in December 2008 found 334 people died in the United States between 2001 and 2008 after a stun gun was used on them. Voltage from the guns “provoked or contributed” towards death in around 50 cases.

The report found that around 90 per cent of the people who died after being stunned had not been armed and had not seemed to pose a serious threat to anyone.

Amnesty says it is not opposed in principle to their usage, but believes that a Taser is a lethal weapon, and should be considered the same as a firearm.

“This is bad news, even if it is only three Taser stun guns,” said Manon Schick, spokeswoman for Amnesty Switzerland.

“We had asked for a suspension of their use and of new purchases of Tasers in Switzerland. We would like the police not to use them until there is an exhaustive, impartial study into deaths using Tasers.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Minaret Initiative Divides Opinions

A proposal by rightwing political parties to ban the construction of minarets appears to have limited backing among the Swiss. Around 37 per cent of respondents said they agreed with the ban, while nearly 50 per cent came out against the proposal, according to a survey published on Friday.

A further 14 per cent of those interviewed said they were undecided.

The poll was carried out among 1,000 people in the German and French-speaking regions a month ago on behalf of the Protestant church newspaper, Reformiert.

The report says most supporters of the proposal consider themselves close to the Swiss People’s Party.

The House of Representatives in March overwhelmingly recommended rejection of the proposal, but no date has been set for the nationwide vote.

In Switzerland, only the mosques in Geneva, Zurich, Wangen near Olten and Winterthur have minarets.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Identity of Abandoned Woman is Determined

A woman dumped outside a hospital in northeastern Switzerland on Tuesday has been identified as a 43-year-old Macedonian. Police inquiries discovered that the woman, suffering from cancer, had been living illegally for some time at an acquaintance’s home in the nearby town of Kreuzlingen.

Authorities at Münsterlingen Hospital, where she was found emaciated and wrapped in a blanket, say the woman’s condition remains serious but stable.

It is still unclear how the woman came to be in the hospital’s car park and local authorities are continuing an investigation.

Police say it was evident from her condition that she could not have reached the hospital on her own, adding the woman must have been ill for several weeks or months.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

The Life and/or Death of the Euro

Is the euro zone, 10 years old this year, going to live or die?

As this article of mine from Poland suggests, reports of its death are greatly exaggerated, at least in the sense that anyone is abandoning it. In fact, Polish business would be delighted to ditch the zloty tomorrow and adopt the euro instead. Yet the financial crisis has highlighted a paradox of the euro: a bunch of countries want in, while — arguably — some might benefit from getting out.

Getting whipsawed by unruly currency markets is no fun at all. Since the euro has fared a lot better than currencies outside the 16-member union, its appeal has risen.

Just ask Iceland, whose krona collapsed last year as the country faced what the prime minister called “national bankruptcy.” Now his successor is predicting euro adoption in four years. In Denmark, a well-governed country that has felt the market’s pressure, the euro may be closer than ever. The Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia desperately want to adopt the euro. Slovakia got in under the wire: it became the 16th member of the euro zone on Jan. 1.

Being inside a currency union has its disadvantages as well.

Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain — now waggishly called the PIIGS by some commentators — face steep, in some cases, debt-driven downturns. (See here for the Greek example.) Their sin has been to watch their competitiveness decline vis-à-vis fellow euro-users like Germany. Since they cannot devalue their currencies, they have to regain lost ground by letting wages stagnate or fall in real terms. (They do, however, benefit tremendously from the euro’s credibility by being able to borrow more cheaply than they would outside the euro area, something not lost on finance ministers.)

The American economist Martin Feldstein famously predicted 10 years ago that the euro could not succeed for these reasons. As its 10th birthday arrived, Mr. Feldstein amended his comments in a recent speech that essentially argued that he was right — just not yet.

So which side will win? The answer may be that the euro zone will get bigger before it comes apart — if, indeed, it ever comes apart…

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: Gurkha Immigration Policy Condemned as ‘a Sham’

Gurkhas who risked their lives for Britain suffered a major blow today in their attempts to win the right to settle here.

The Home Office announced that after a High Court ruling 10,000 more former soldiers and family members would be eligible to live permanently in Britain, but campaigners say that in reality the new rules may help fewer than 100 men.

David Enright, a solicitor acting on behalf of the Gurkhas, said: “They have set criteria that are unattainable. They require a Gurkha to serve for 20 years — but a rifleman is only permitted to serve for 15 years.

“It’s a sham and an absolute disgrace. It’s far more restrictive than the old policy.”

The Home Secretary agreed to announce a new policy on the right of Gurkhas to settle in Britain after campaigners returned to court last month to enforce a legal ruling won at the Royal Courts of Justice in September. A High Court judge had ruled that the Government’s existing immigration policy, excluding veterans from settling, was unlawful.

Campaigners, including the actress Joanna Lumley, said that today’s announcement was disingenuous and offensive. “The Gurkhas cannot meet these new criteria. It makes me ashamed of our government,” Lumley said. “We will fight on. We don’t stop. This has been a setback but that is all.”

The Home Office said that it would will allow in around 4,300 more former Gurkhas out of a total of 36,000 who served in Britain’s Armed Forces prior to July 1997.

Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, said: “This guidance honours the service, commitment and gallantry of those who served with the Brigade of Gurkhas. Now, another 10,000 Gurkhas and family members will be able to benefit from our revised guidance.”

He denied that the Government had betrayed the Gurkhas.

“What we’ve done today is to allow even more people in without setting a precedent that would create a massive pressure, in my view, on the immigration service, which I don’t think the public would want me to grant,” he told the BBC.

Rules introduced in 2004 allowed serving Gurkhas with at least four years’ service to settle in the UK but they did not apply to Gurkhas discharged from the British Army before July 1, 1997.

Under the new guidelines Gurkhas and their families will be allowed to settle if they meet one of five criteria: they have three years’ continuous residence in the UK during or after their service; they have close family in the UK; they received a level 1-3 bravery award, including the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross; they served for 20 years or more; or they suffer from a chronic or long-term medical condition caused by, or aggravated by, service in the brigade.

In addition Gurkhas will normally be allowed to settle in Britain if they meet two or more of the following criteria: they were previously awarded an MoD disability pension but no longer have a chronic medical condition; they were mentioned in dispatches; they served for 10 years; or they received a campaign medal for active service in the brigade.

The brigade was formed after the partition of India in 1947, but Nepalese Gurkha soldiers have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years.

More than 200,000 Gurkhas fought for the Allies during the First and Second World Wars, with 43,000 giving their lives. There are currently around 3,500 serving Gurkhas.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: A couple key reader comments following the article:

It makes me so angry that there could be any question for the Gurkhas and their families to stay in the UK. They fight and die for us and we reward them by denying them any of the rights their military colleagues have. And yet we will open the door to absolutely everyone else in the world!

Martin, Bristol, UK

If you are as ashamed and incensed as I am at the way the Gurkhas are being treated please spare a couple of minutes to sign the petition at

Thank you

Frank March, Southampton, UK]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Home Office Whistleblower Sacked Over Leaks to Tory MP

[Comment from Tuan Jim: No whistleblower protection in the UK?]

The Home Office whistleblower who sparked a police probe by leaking information to a top Conservative MP has been sacked, it was revealed today. Christopher Galley, 26, lost his job as a junior member of staff in the Government department after a disciplinary hearing this morning.

The decision comes just over a week after prosecutors decided to drop the case against Mr Galley and the shadow frontbencher Damian Green. Home Office officials told police they had caused ‘considerable damage to national security’, prompting a full-scale investigation. But in fact, the revelations represented no risk of any kind to the country and were simply embarrassing to the Home Secretary.

Officers raided Mr Green’s Commons office and home and both men were arrested and placed on police bail until the case was dropped last week.

The decision not to pursue it left Jacqui Smith’s political future hanging by a thread and she is now expected to be demoted in a June Cabinet reshuffle. After it was shelved, Mr Galley — in an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail — said he would have done exactly the same again despite the fallout.

He said he had decided to leak the documents after being shocked by the incompetence he uncovered. ‘I did it because what I saw happening was wrong, ‘ he added. He also revealed extraordinary details of the heavy-handed operation against him by anti-terror police, who raided his flat at 5. 30am last November 19. Mr Galley recalls how one officer immediately told him: ‘We are offering no deals. You can get life imprisonment for this.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: RBS Demands £40,000 Damages From Unemployed Teenage Girl Who Smashed Bank Window During G20 Protest

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Great photos!]

A 17-year-old girl caught smashing up bank computer equipment during the G20 protests has been hit with a demand for £40,000 of damage by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was caught red-handed in the bank’s Threadneedle Street branch and pleaded guilty to burglary and criminal damage.

She admitted following friends into the branch after its windows were smashed and joining them as they damaged property during angry demonstrations on April 1.

The cost of the damage, including three broken plate glass windows and several pieces of computer hardware, was estimated at £40,000, West London Youth Court heard today.

Prosecutor Ann Crighton said the bank wanted to recover all of its losses from the teenage environmental activist.

But her solicitor, Miranda Ching, said the Scottish-born teenager, who lives in Brighton, is unemployed, does not claim benefits and lives on hand-outs from friends and family.

She said: ‘RBS have gone for compensation in the sum of £40,000. In my view, this is wholly unjustified.

‘It may well be that a substantial amount of criminal damage was caused as a whole by other people on April 1.

‘We must look at what my client is charged with and that is IT equipment.

‘That seems to be, at most, one computer keyboard and one computer monitor.’

The teenager was sentenced to an eight-month referral order which may include a smaller sum of compensation, a letter of apology and an agreement not to commit further crimes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Who Fractured Baby’s Skull is Freed by Judge, Saying She Had Suffered Enough

A woman who battered a nine-week-old baby in an horrific attack has avoided jail after a judge decided she had already suffered enough. Claire Thompson, 32, who had been entrusted with looking after the infant, was found guilty in March of fracturing its skull, breaking a rib and inflicting up to three leg fractures. An expert at her trial said the skull fracture was probably caused by the baby’s head hitting a hard surface with force, the rib was probably broken by severe squeezing and the the leg bones were likely to have been fractured by forceful pulling or twisting, or by violent shaking. But yesterday Judge David Goodin spared Thompson from prison, handing her a nine-month suspended prison sentence, ordering her to do 200 hours of community service and telling her to pay £500 costs. Hearing that she had ‘lost everything’ following the assault, he heaped praise on her character and told her she had already suffered more than any sentence he could impose on her. Judge Goodin said: ‘All evidence simply confirms you to be an industrious, decent and placid well-liked young woman who was slow to anger and disinclined to confrontation.’ He added: ‘The only sensible explanation for these injuries must have been a sudden and momentary loss of control.’ Thompson, of Sudbury, Suffolk, was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to a baby she was looking after — but was cleared of causing the injuries intentionally. Despite denying both charges, Thompson admitted she was one of three people who could have injured the infant. Lindsay Cox, defending Thompson, told Ipswich Crown Court yesterday: ‘She was engaged and lost that. The home that she had with a former partner was again lost to her.’ He added: ‘She was working in the retail industry in a job that would bring her into contact with children. Although she has not been told that she is fired, she has not gone back to work, and I cannot in all honesty think that she could keep that appointment.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Croatia: Morales Murder Plot Suspect ‘Wanted to Form Separatist Army’

Zagreb, 22 April (AKI) — A Croat allegedly involved in a plot to kill leftwing Bolivian president Evo Morales said in an interview that he travelled to Bolivia to form a secessionist army in the country’s mineral-rich Santa Cruz region.

“They called me from Bolivia, from Santa Cruz, they told me to come home, because the motherland calls,” Eduardo Rosza Flores said in a Hungarian media interview.

The interview was recorded last September and excerpts from it were published on Wednesday by Croatian daily Jutarnji.

Flores, who had dual Bolivian-Croatian nationality, was killed last week in Bolivia in a gunfight with police.

“My task is to form an army in Santa Cruz as soon as possible and to be its leader,” Flores said. “I’m not a mercenary, nor will I ever be, but if motherland needs me I’m going,” said Bolivian-born Flores.

In the interview, recorded just before he travelled to Bolivia, Flores said the Santa Cruz region opposed Morales’ rule and was fighting for autonomy.

“Only if autonomy doesn’t succeed by peaceful means, will we proclaim independence,” he concluded in the interview.

Flores, 49, a Bolivian of Croatian origins, said that his trip to Bolivia was well organised, including his air tickets and illegal crossing of the border from Brazil.

Flores, nicknamed Chico, went to Croatia in 1991, to fight in the secessionist war against the former Yugoslavia.

After the war ended with Croatia’s independence in 1995, he retired from the army with the rank of major and lived in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

Apart from Flores, an Irishman, Dwyer Michael Martin, and a Romanian, Arpad Magyarosi were killed in a shootout with police in the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

Two other suspected plotters, Elot Toaso, a Hungarian, and another Bolivian of Croat descent, Mario Francisco Tadic, were arrested during the gunfight.

Morales said they were members of a gang planning to kill him and several other officials. The Bolivian press linked the plotters to an opposition leader in Santa Cruz, Branko Marinkovic, who is also of Croatian descent.

The discovery of the alleged plot raised concern in Croatia about the fate of a sizeable Croat community in Bolivia after Croats were described in the media as separatists and fascists.

Some Bolivian newspapers have made a link with the World War II fake or quisling state in Croatia that was formed by the leader of the separatist Ustashe movement, Ante Pavelic, under the auspices of Hitler and Mussolini.

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

Kosovo: Amnesty Asks NATO to Investigate Bombs on Serb TV

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 23 — Amnesty International invited NATO to open an investigation for ‘war crimes” related to the air raid that exactly 10 years ago, on the night between April 22 and 23 of 1999, targeted the headquarters of Serb television (Rts) in Belgrade, causing the deaths of 16 people. In a statement quoted today by Serb media, Amnesty International said that “Ten years after NATO’s bombing of the Serb television building nobody has been brought to trial for this major violation of international human rights”, adding that ‘the bombing of Rts headquarters represents a deliberate attack on a civilian target, and as such it constitutes a war crime”. Because of this, Amnesty asked NATO and member countries to guarantee ‘independent investigations”, take on ‘full responsibility” for the event, and guarantee that damages will be paid to victims and their families. The attack occurred during air raids which NATO decided to launch against Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia to force Belgrade to put an end to the campaign in Kosovo based on terror and ethnic cleansing. Amnesty International stated that NATO had selected the television network as a target because of its propagandà activities, but failed to announce the strike despite being aware of the presence of civilians within the building. SEEMO, a Vienna-based international organisation that protects free press in south eastern Europe, also asked NATO to open an investigation into the air raid on the Serb tv network. Today the families and relatives of the 16 victims commemorated the tragic event of 10 years ago by gathering in front of the memorial monument that was built close to the Rts building, the same that was bombed in April of 1999. Today ‘Politika’, Belgrade’s most authoritative newspaper, published the pictures of the 16 people killed by the NATO air raid on a full page. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy: Algeria is Number One African Client

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 21 — According to the Italian national statistics office (ISTAT), in 2008 there was a 62.7% rise in Italian exports to Algeria, making Italy the second largest supplier to the North African country after France. These figures also confirm Italy’s position as Algeria’s second most important trade partner after the United States. The Italian Foreign Trade Commission (ICE) reports in a statement that this is “a constant increase, which began in 2004, to reach 3 billion euros in 2008, a historical record for our exports to Algeria.” Algeria, the ICE continues, “has become our top export market for the first time ever, replacing Italy’s historical trade partners such as Egypt and Tunisia, which used to be the major destinations. The boom in exports is due to the significant rise in iron and steel industry products (+117%) to around 875 million euros, and auxiliary goods for the production and harnessing of mechanical energy (+65%) to around 409 million euros.” After the United States, Italy is Algeria’s top source of imports, for a total of 8.6 billion euros. Compared to 2007, Italian imports have grown 41% in 2008, 99% made up of the acquisition of natural gas and refined oil products, which reached record prices in 2008 and had a significantly negative effect on Italian trade balance. In 2008, Italian trade with Algeria rose 32%, to reach 11.6 billion euros (as against 8 billion euros in 2007). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Christian Churches Reopen

Algiers, 23 April (AKI) — Twenty-two Christian churches closed by Algerian authorities last year have reopened. According to a report in the Algerian daily, Ech-Chourouk citing an American Christian group called Open Doors, the protestant churches were among 26 churches shut down in 2006 because they were considered outside a law governing religious practice.

Based on the newspaper report published on Thursday, it seems that the 22 churches have obtained the permits required by Algerian authorities for Christian worship.

In recent months many politicians and Muslim religious leaders have criticised the activities of Christian missionaries in Algeria, stressing the opening of new evangelical churches, particularly in the area of Cabilia.

Several French and American religious groups have recently been accused of pressing Algerians to convert to Christianity in exchange for help to emigrate elsewhere.

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

Egypt-Israel, Netanyahu Invited to Cairo

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has invited Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Cairo. Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman handed a message from Mubarak to Netyanyahu when the two met in Jerusalem Wednesday. The spokesman said the visit might take place in the next few weeks. Yesterday’s was the first meeting between Netanyahu and General Suleiman, an official who has had a major role in the Middle East peace process all the time. Many Israeli officials have paid visits to Cairo since the two countries signed the peace treaty in 1979. Mubarak, on the contrary, has never been in Israel. Speaking at a military ceremony in Ismailiya, Mubarak said “the Israeli Prime Minister’s visit to Egypt will take place in May. To those who say that he will bring his Foreign Minister with him, I say that it is normal for the heads of Israeli governments to come alone or to travel with the directors of their cabinet, as has always happened when heads of the Israeli government have come to Egypt in the past.” Mubarak went on, “but first of all, the Palestinians must find some cohesion, because their internal division will never bring about the creation of two states. If the Palestinians are happy with their current situation, then they must present themselves to the international community and say that they want two Palestinian states, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza, and Israel will certainly be happier with this outcome”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

US: Obama Urged to Resolve Sahara Conflict

A total of 229 US legislators have asked president Barack Obama to resolve the long-running conflict in the Western Sahara and support Morocco’s autonomy.

Washington, 24 April(AKI) — The Algerian-backed Polisario Front movement has been seeking independence for the Western Sahara since it was occupied by Morocco in the 1970s. Peace talks over the status of the region have been stalled since July 2003 and last year militants threatened to resume their armed struggle if there was no progress in a UN-brokered peace plan.

This is the letter that US lawmakers recently sent to president Barack Obama.

“Vital US interests in North Africa are increasingly challenged by growing regional instability. Terrorist incidents in the Maghreb have increased by more than 400 percent since September 11, 2001, and the emergence of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has led to a spike in terror attacks against both symbols of national government and institutions reflecting cooperation between the Arab world and the West.

The single greatest obstacle impeding the security cooperation necessary to combat this transnational threat is the unresolved territorial dispute over the Western Sahara.

In addition to bringing peace to the people of Morocco and to the Saharawi, and shrinking the space for global terrorist elements to recruit and operate, resolving the conflict in the Western Sahara would have considerable economic benefits and improve the lives of millions of Africans.

The entire Maghreb would finally be free to pursue serious economic integration, attract increased foreign investment, and realise the potential for regional trade and cooperation. All of these important goals are currently blocked by the continued conflict and the tension it creates between states in the region.

In 2007, at the urging of the United States and the United Nations, Morocco , our oldest ally and partner for peace in the Middle East, initiated a ground-breaking autonomy plan to resolve the more than 30 year-old conflict within the framework of self-determination for the Western Sahara.

The Moroccan compromise plan received widespread support from the international community as a critical breakthrough for achieving peace and led to four rounds of UN mediated negotiations.

The UN Security Council, in resolution 1813 (2008), described Morocco’s compromise efforts as “serious and credible.” In pressing for adoption of the resolution the United States reaffirmed the policy initiated under president Clinton, and continued under president Bush, that: “Genuine autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution.”

After the four rounds of negotiations did not produce any real progress, the UN secretary general’s personal envoy for the Western Sahara , Mr Peter van Walsum, issued an assessment to the Security Council in April 2008.

He said, “My conclusion is that an independent Western Sahara is not an attainable goal that is relevant today because it lies at the root of the current negotiation process,” and he urged that future rounds of talks be held only on the subject of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

Unfortunately, following this bold statement the negotiations process stalled. Mr. van Walsum has been replaced by ambassador Christopher Ross as the new UN personal envoy. We are hopeful that Ambassador Ross’s appointment will result in the continuation of the talks based on Mr. van Walsum’s assessment.

We remain convinced that the US position, favouring autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution.

We urge you to both sustain this longstanding policy, and to make clear, in both words and actions, that the United States will work to ensure that the UN process continues to support this framework as the only realistic compromise that can bring this unfortunate and longstanding conflict to an end.

We look forward to working with you towards the success of this policy.”

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Lieberman: For Peace Initiative in Our Hands

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — The new Israeli government intends to go ahead with the peace process with the Palestinians, but it intends take the initiative into its own hands. These were the words of the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, speaking on military radio today, following the stir raised yesterday when he spoke out against the Saudi regional peace initiative and the previous initiatives for an Israel-Palestine agreement arising from Annapolis in 2007, which were signed under American supervision and focused on bilateral commitment to a two-state solution. Lieberman reassured that, “we are interested in taking the initiatives into our own hands and moving on with it,” adding, “there is no sense in wasting time, we want to lead and not be led.” When questioned about his negative reaction to the Saudi initiative, which puts Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories as the price for the collective recognition of the Jewish state by Arab nations, Lieberman confirmed that he was against the proposal, in particular the recognition of the “right to return” for all Palestinian refugees, which he described as being “out of the question.” The Foreign Minister added that the Annapolis agreement was too far removed from the reality of the struggle against terrorism, stating, “I have not seen the Palestinians manage to disband a single terrorist organisation.” Yesterday in Jerusalem Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met for the first time Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who handed him a message from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak with an invitation to go to Cairo in the next few weeks. Suleiman has also met Defence Minister Ehud Barak and handed him, too, an invitation to go to Egypt. Many Israeli officials have paid visits to Cairo since the two countries signed the peace treaty in 1979. Mubarak, on the contrary, has never been in Israel.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

West Bank, Joseph’s Burial Site Desecrated

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 23 — The burial site of biblical patriarch Joseph, which lies close to Nablus in the West Bank (Palestinian territories) and is venerated in Jewish tradition, was desecrated last night by persons unknown. Today Israeli sources reported that it was found littered and laid waste. The believers who arrived there in the morning for prayers discovered the place covered in anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas, as well as burns and damage to the tombstone. The site is venerated almost daily by the inhabitants of orthodox Hebrew settlements inserted in the Nablus area, and is viewed as a sort of symbol of the presence of settlers in the heart of Palestinian territory by the Arab population. Recently restored, it had already been the object of desecration in the past. Gershon Mesika, who works with the coordination of Jewish settlements in Samaria, commented that ‘only barbarians can carry out such acts of violence” and called on Israel’s authorities to promptly repair the site. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

David Frum: Israel’s Insidious Plot Against America

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Different side of the story than I’ve seen in the wire reports so far.]

Sometimes in Washington, what is most scandalous is the attempt to create a scandal where none exists.

Let me give you a current example.

Maybe you’ve heard about an allegation of scandal against Jane Harman, the California Democrat who served with great distinction on the House Select Committee on Intelligence until Nancy Pelosi gave her the heave-ho.

The story is almost insanely complicated. But the deeper you delve into the details, the more you see that if there is any wrongdoing in the case, it was done by Harman’s accusers.

Some background:

Elements within the FBI and other U.S. agencies have been convinced for years that Israeli spy agencies have penetrated the U.S. government. These anti-Israel elements responded with what spy types call a “mole hunt”-a ferocious search for the suspected infiltrator. Again and again, the search has turned up empty. But from the point of view of a mole hunter, nothing is more damning than the absence of evidence: The inability to discover the mole only proves the mole’s vicious cunning!

Then, at last, in October 2005 the mole hunters found their man: a career Defense Department employee named Larry Franklin. Franklin’s offense? Brace yourself …

Franklin had learned of U.S. intelligence reports that Iranian sabotage teams were operating inside Iraqi Kurdistan. These reports were being disregarded for a reason very familiar in the Bush years: They contained uncomfortable news that higher-ups did not wish to know.

Franklin, however, thought the information important-maybe vitally important. He thought it needed to be pushed up the organization chart. Lacking the clout to move the information himself, he decided to do what frustrated officials often do: He leaked it.

Specifically, he leaked the information to two employees-American citizens both-of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in the hope that they could galvanize a response from their contacts in the White House. The two, Steve Rosen and Kenneth Weissman, shared Franklin’s information with journalists, colleagues, and the Israeli embassy.

For this action, all three were charged with criminal offenses. Investigators squeezed Franklin’s point of vulnerability: He had a seriously ill wife and could not afford the loss of his government health-care coverage. He pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information and was sentenced to almost 13 years in prison. Rosen and Weissman go to trial in June for violating the Espionage Act of 1917.

Two months after Franklin’s sentencing, another leak of classified information hit the newspapers. On Dec. 16, 2005, The New York Times reported the existence of a vast, unknown National Security Agency program to intercept foreign electronic communications.

Unlike the Franklin leak, which was intended to jolt an unwilling bureaucracy into action to defend the country, the Times leak was intended (by the leakers) to sabotage a program integral to that defense. The leak lethally compromised a vital intelligence-collection effort. In terms of its direct and immediate usefulness to America’s enemies, the Times story may count as the worst betrayal of vital national information in a generation.

Needless to say, nobody has ever been prosecuted for that or for any of the other leaks that have done actual damage to American security since 9/11, such as The Washington Post leak that revealed the locations of prisons in which high-value al Qaida detainees were being held.

The stories of these two leaks converged in Jane Harman’s office.

The Franklin prosecution appalled and disturbed many people who care intensely about national security. A campaign was launched to help raise awareness of the Franklin case. Sometime in October 2005, a call was placed by a Franklin supporter to Harman. (This as-yet-unnamed supporter is described in some accounts as a suspected Israeli agent; but by October 2005, of course, the anti-Franklin prosecutors were convinced that Washington was half-filled with Israeli agents.) The Franklin supporter offered Harman a political proposition: If she would take up the case of Franklin and the two AIPAC officials, the supporter would undertake to mobilize political support for Harman’s campaign to keep her job as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee.

Harman seems never to have acted on this proposition. But the fact that she had taken the call persuaded the mole-hunters that she, too, was part of the Israeli conspiracy in Washington. Department of Justice prosecutors determined to file charges against her. Those charges were promptly vetoed by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He pointed out that Harman was working fiercely to persuade the Times not to publish the NSA intercept story. “We need Jane,” he said.

There’s no evidence of a deal or trade between Harman and Gonzales. No suggestion that she was motivated to lobby the Times for reasons other than her own initiative. No suggestion that Harman’s actions stemmed from anything except a public-spirited effort to stop a newspaper from compromising the country’s security in order to achieve the thrill of a scoop.

And yet for acting public-spiritedly and responsibly, Jane Harman is now being treated like some kind of corrupt dealmaker.

In fact, this whole bundle of stories is one in which the designated targets of outrage are those who have behaved well-while those who behaved badly escape entirely.

Franklin’s leak intended to safeguard the nation? Espionage.

The Times’ leak that intensely damaged the nation? A prize-winner.

Harman’s deal-making to keep her highly deserved seat on the Intel committee? A scandal.

Nancy Pelosi’s dealmaking to force Harman off and replace her with either Alcee Hastings (a former federal judge impeached on corruption charges) or the very lightly knowledgeable Silvester Reyes? Business as usual.

The “Israel Lobby’s” support for Franklin and Harman and other hawkish Democrats? A sinister conspiracy of intergalactic proportions.

The anti-Israel mole-hunters’ eagerness to prosecute Franklin and give a pass to the many more damaging leakers who have done actual harm to the country? Solid policework.

We have here a situation in which patriots are being treated like traitors-while people who have done the country more harm than many traitors are being treated like patriots.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Turkey Offers Libya Free Trade Agreement, Minister Says

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, APRIL 22 — Turkish state minister for foreign trade said that Turkey had offered Libya to sign a free trade agreement, as Anatolia news agency reports from Tripoli. “We have proposed a free trade agreement and pledged to sign it in September, on the 40th anniversary of the Libyan revolution, at a ceremony which would be participated by the Turkish prime minister,” Kursad Tuzmen told reporters after a meeting with Muhammad Ali al-Huwayz, Libyan trade and investment minister, as part of his contacts in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Tuzmen said the proposed agreement would increase the trade volume and mutual investments between the two countries. The Turkish minister later met with Shokri Ghanem, head of the Libyan National Oil Corp.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey, Armenia Agree on a ‘Framework’ to Normalise Ties

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 23 — Turkey and Armenia have agreed on a “framework” to normalise their bilateral relations, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. The two countries are in high-level talks to restore ties and reopen their borders that were closed in 1993. “The two parties have achieved tangible progress and mutual understanding in this process and they have agreed on a comprehensive framework for the normalisation of their bilateral relations,” a statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said late Wednesday. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Cash From Credit Card as Last Resort

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 22 — Turkish people are increasingly drawing cash on their credit cards, taking on high interest rates to meet pressing needs, as banks began to implement tighter policies to lend loans due to the global crisis and prefer to have commercial relations with the customers that do not face problems in payment. As daily Hurriyet reports today, cash withdrawals on credit cards rose 22% to 5.1 billion Turkish Liras ($3.1 billion) in the first quarter of the year over the same period of 2008, according to figures from the Interbank Card Center, or BKM, which monitors transactions. Meanwhile, the consumer loan volume of banks declined 644 million liras during the first quarter of the year. Since the end of October, when the crisis was fired up, the banks’ consumer loans have contracted $2.6 billion liras. The amount of cash advance rose to 12.2 billion liras over the period. Those who cannot access consumer loans, whose rate range between 1.5 and 2%, are orienting toward cash advances, which have a monthly interest of 4 to 4.5%. But this has made it difficult for consumers to pay back their debts, with unemployed people and those who have no hope for being awarded a bank loan constitute a substantial proportion of cash withdrawals on credit cards. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey-Armenia: Roadmap for Normalisation Agreed

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 23 — Thanks to Swiss mediation, Turkey and Armenia have agreed a ‘roadmap’ to the normalisation of bilateral relations between the two countries, according to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry. A communiqué reveals that the talks have led to “real progress and a reciprocal understanding” and have brought about an “all-encompassing” agreement “for the normalisation of bilateral relations, which is satisfactory to both parties”. “In this context”, continues the statement, “it has been decided to set out a ‘roadmap’“. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 out of solidarity with Azerbaijan, a Muslim and Turkish-speaking nation which was in conflict with Armenia at the time for control of the Nagorni Karabakh region, an Armenian enclave in Azeri territory. A normalisation of relations between the two countries has been on the cards for some time. Rumours of forthcoming detente between the two countries grew stronger after American President Barack Obama’s visit on April 6, who wanted to meet the foreign ministers of Turkey (Ali Babacan), Armenia (Edward Nalbandian) and Switzerland (Micheline Calmy-Rey).(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UAE: Dubai Denies Laundering Pirate Funds

Dubai, 23 April (AKI) — The emirate of Dubai has rejected a British newspaper report suggesting pirates have laundered their ransom money through banks in the Gulf city-state. A report in Al Emarat Al Youm newspaper quoted Maj. Gen. Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina as saying Dubai has strict laws to prevent money laundering.

The Arabic language newspaper has close ties to Dubai’s ruling family.

Al-Mazeina was responding to Tuesday’s report in the British daily, The Independent, that quoted investigators hired by the shipping industry who said organised piracy syndicates in Dubai and other Gulf states have laundered large amounts of ransom money.

The Independent said that much of the 80 million dollar ransoms that pirates had received in 2008 for the release of ships they had hijacked off the coast of Somalia and the Horn of African was transferred to piracy ‘godfathers’ based in Dubai and other gulf states.

The British newspaper quoted Christopher Ledger, a former Royal Marine officer, as saying that “syndicates based in the Persian Gulf — some in Dubai — play a significant role in the piracy which is taking place off the African coast.”

Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates is the Arab world’s second largest economy and is considered the most liberal of the federation of seven Emirates.

Dubai is also host to 3 million expatriates who comprise at least 85 per cent of the population.

In recent years, Dubai has become a commercial hub, where the world’s property developers and wealthy have vied with one other to acquire real estate, steadily driving up its value.

The UAE is a federation made up of seven emirates, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm al-Quwain and Ras al-Khaimah.

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


No Foreign Military to Join Ukraine’s Sea Breeze Exercises — Navy

KIEV, April 24 (RIA Novosti) — There will be no foreign military involvement in this summer’s Sea Breeze military exercises in Ukraine’s Crimea, a first deputy Ukrainian navy commander said Friday.

The Sea Breeze exercises have been taking place annually in the Crimea since 1997, and have seen occasionally violent anti-NATO protests in recent years.

Last year’s Sea Breeze drills saw protesters set up camps along the Black Sea coast, and reportedly attempt to prevent foreign warships participating in the exercises from leaving the port of Odessa.

“Sea Breeze 2009 does not envision the stay of foreign military units on the territory of the Crimea,” Vice Admiral Viktor Maksimov said, adding that, “only Ukrainian Armed Forces units” would take part.

He also said that media reports suggesting that the exercises would see the involvement of U.S. and other NATO forces were false.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Extraordinary Security Measures for Celebrations of 60th Anniversary of Chinese Navy

The three-day celebration begins tomorrow in Qingdao. There is tight security around the entire area, partly in order to protect the many foreign leaders. Naval representatives from various countries have been invited, but not from Japan.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The strictest possible security measures are in place around the port of Qingdao, where a naval parade will take place tomorrow to begin three days of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Chinese navy.

21 ships from 14 countries are scheduled for the parade, and the leaders and military officials of many countries will be present. In recent days, uniformed naval officers from a number of countries have been seen in the city, drawing the attention of citizens and tourists. There will also be seminars and exchanges of information. The high number of officials from foreign countries increases the risk of attacks.

Every point of entry to the port is being guarded by navy personnel, and control of the surrounding area is also high. Local sources tell the South China Morning Post that the police have even “asked” taxi drivers not to bring foreigners into the area near the port, or to tell the police as soon as they have dropped them off at their destination. There are also heavy restrictions on the media.

Beijing is proud of celebrating its new naval power: in 1949, it was nothing but a force for coastal defense, while today it is capable of carrying out missions all over the world. The country is also recalling that 115 years ago, at the delta of the Yalu river in the Yellow Sea, its fleet from the North Sea, considered the most powerful in Asia, was defeated in a few hours by the Japanese navy, which was more efficient and better trained. This defeat marked the beginning of Japanese aggression against its larger neighbor, and decades of war. The Japanese navy has not been invited to the celebrations, while India, Pakistan, the United States, and Russia have been.

The projects underway include the creation of a submarine, with a titanium skeleton covered by a special plastic capable of operating at depths of up to 7,000 meters, which the engineer Zhao Junhai of the China Ship Scientific Research Centre hopes can be launched between 2009 and the beginning of 2010. Zhao says that the submarine, which is superior to the current models of the United States and Japan, can sustain pressure of up to 700 kilograms per square centimeter.

Experts nevertheless maintain that China is still far behind the world’s greatest naval powers. Its greatest task is the creation of an aircraft carrier capable of competing with those of the United States.

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

Indonesia Nabs Terror Suspect

JAKARTA — AN ISLAMIC extremist accused of murdering a Christian professor in 2004 has been arrested in Indonesia, police said on Friday. Spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said the suspect, Amirullah, was a member of a terrorist organisation but he would not confirm reports he was affiliated to the Jemaah Islamiyah regional militant network.

‘Amirullah, also known as Kana, 30, was nabbed on Monday in South Sulawesi.

He is a fugitive wanted by Central Sulawesi police,’ Nataprawira said.

He allegedly shot dead a professor of Sintuwu Maroso university in Poso, in Central Sulawesi, with a revolver.

Jemaah Islamiyah veterans who fought in Afghanistan and the southern Philippines are suspected of recruiting and training extremists in Central Sulawesi province.

Fighting between Muslims and Christians in Poso and surrounding districts claimed about 1,000 lives in 2000-2001. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Parties Re-Evaluate Swat Deal

Peshawar, 24 April (AKI/DAWN) — An All Parties’ Conference was being held on Friday in Peshawar, the provincial capital of the North West Frontier Province, to discuss the Swat peace deal under which militants agreed to lay down their arms in exchange for the implementation of Islamic (Sharia) law in the Swat valley and the surrounding Malakand division.

According to sources, the meeting discussed the Taliban incursions beyond Malakand and the future course of action if the Taliban refuse to disarm and continue their offensive into districts adjoining Swat.

After the recent Taliban incursions into Buner, a backlash to the Swat peace deal is unfolding across NWFP province and the rest of the country, especially among its political leadership. Islamic tribal leaders had threatened to pull out the peace deal unless Sharia law was rapidly implemented.

The United States expressed extreme concern on Thursday about advances by the Taliban in Pakistan and said the issue was taking up a significant amount of president Barack Obama’s time.

On Wednesday, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned in extremely strong language that Pakistan, a key US anti-terror ally, was ‘basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists’ with an agreement permitting Sharia law in the Swat valley.

The meeting of Pakistan’s various political parties is important as it was preceded by a high level meeting late on Thursday between the NWFP governor, its chief minister and high ranking army officials.

The possibility of restarting the military offensive against the emboldened Taliban was also discussed during the meeting, sources added.

The historic Swat peace deal was signed in February between the NWFP government and Taliban-led militants. It brought to an end two years of bloodletting in which hundreds of people died and tens of thousands fled their homes.

Once one of Pakistan’s most popular holiday destinations, the Swat valley came under Taliban control after an insurgency began there in 2007 following the siege of Islamabad’s Red Mosque in which over 100 people died.

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

Terrorism: Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons ‘At Risk’

Rome, 24 April (AKI) — Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be at risk if militants took control of the government, a leading international terrorism expert has told Adnkronos. However, Brian Michael Jenkins, an advisor to the American Rand Corporation and international security expert, said Pakistan was a “failing state” but was not in danger of imminent collapse.

Jenkins was visiting the Italian capital Rome at the request of the Italian government as part of the country’s rotating presidency of the Group of Eight of the world’s top economies plus Russia ahead of their forthcoming July summit.

He took part in a conference of Italian and foreign officials at Italy’s foreign ministry, on “Transnational threats and destabilising factors” before visiting the Rome headquarters of the GMC-Adnkronos media group where he met president, Giuseppe Marra.

“There is concern that if there is a radical takeover of Pakistan itself, the armed forces will behave like the Iranian forces and simply say ‘This is the new government, we are part of the new government’ and therefore the nuclear arsenal could become part of a more radical government,” said Jenkins in an exclusive interview with Adnkronos.

Jenkins said while claims of the government’s imminent collapse was an “overstatement”, the long-term outlook is bleak.

“I see this much more as a slow descent which can be arrested,” he said.

“I think some of these headlines that we have seen such as ‘on the verge of collapse’ are overstatements, nonetheless, the long term trends are not good.

“This is not a failed state, this is not a state that is going to fail tomorrow, but this is a gradually failing state.”

Jenkins also said that there has been an escalation of violence in Pakistan which is moving from the tribal areas into the cities and the government does not know how to handle the threat.

“What we see now is both a geographic escalation of the fighting in Pakistan. Before it was confined to the tribal areas, now we see the violence moving into the settled areas, into the major cities,” he said.

“Now we see the increasing use of large scale terrorist attacks, in many cases involving suicide bombers, this is new and extremely serious. In fact, the Pakistani authorities have not known quite how to deal with it.”

In addition, Jenkins said the Pakistani government’s strategy of either confronting the Taliban militarily or making deals with the militants has failed and will require “decades” to overcome.

“Neither strategy has worked well thus far and so there is a long-term challenge here that the Pakistan government with international help is going to be dealing with for many years, this is a task of decades,” concluded Jenkins.

A former US army Green Beret in Vietnam, Jenkins has advised the US government and many others around the world on terrorism and security issues. He is the author of numerous books, including ‘Unconquerable Nation’ and his latest ‘Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?’.

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

The ISI Surge Against India

Mandeep Singh Bajwa

There has been a spate of fresh infiltration attempts into the Kashmir Valley in recent weeks. The Indian security forces bolstered by good intelligence attained through penetration of the insurgent groups, sigint and heightened vigilance have achieved notable successes albeit at a high cost in killed and wounded. Pakistan is thus waging a war on two fronts though of course one has one’s doubts whether the country’s establishment is indeed serious about the war on terror or against the Jihadi alliance. So what are are the Pakistani Army and ISI really up to and what are their plans?

It is learnt that the ISI has in place or is in the process of putting into position some 50 deep-penetration groups of infiltrators, saboteurs and intelligence modules in the depth areas on the Indian side from Gulmarg in South West Kashmir to Akhnur in Jammu province. Many of the personnel of these groups are from the SSG some serving most retired. While some of these modules are active the majority it is learnt are sleeper cells to be activated when the time comes (which may be very soon). At present there is a major surge of training in camps both in POK and NWFP of mixed teams of infiltrators for deep penetration into Kashmir and Muslim majority areas of the Jammu region. These comprise both serving personnel from the SSG and infantry of the Pakistan Army and elements of the Taliban. Now this is a new phenomenon which needs closer investigation. Hitherto the Taliban had not been noticed fighting in Kashmir. Is Pakistan trying to side-track the Taliban or is the ISI simply running out of the usual Punjabi recruits for the Jihad in Kashmir?

The infiltration into North Kashmir through the traditional routes in the areas of Kupwara and Gurez is again active. The object is to take advantage of the deep snow and the tough terrain. I’ve already mentioned the current advantages the Indians posses by obtaining good intelligence on routes, launching pads and dates of infiltration. In addition the use of special forces to lay ambushes based on actionable intelligence and aggressive patrolling has proved successful. The main aim of these infiltrations and the positioning of deep-penetration teams is to:-

Sabotage the ongoing elections to the Indian Parliament. It’s noteworthy that elections to the J&K State Assembly were successfully held in Dec 2008 with a high voter turnout dealing a severe blow to the aspirations of overground and underground militants.

Prevent any sort of democratic, political activity

Curb the growing assertiveness of the Kashmiri people. They’re no longer in thrall to the militants or their political counterparts.

Keep the Kashmir issue alive with the international community through acts of violence and political defiance.

So much for keeping the jihad alive in Kashmir. The ISI also keeps the offensive against Indian interests in Afghanistan. Braving terrorist strikes, kidnappings, beheadings and numerous difficulties the Indian paramilitary engineering organisation the BRO was able to complete the construction of the 219 km long strategically important Zaranj-Dilaram highway which provides Afghanistan access to the ports of the Persian Gulf. However the ISI is not deterred and plans more attacks on Indian companies and Govt officials working in the country. Adam Khan, Head of Station, Kabul has already been identified as the organiser of attacks on Indian personnel in Afghanistan notably Kabul. Colonel Ashfaq Afridi, commander of the ISI detachment at Peshawar coordinates the operations targeting Indian interests in the eastern part of the troubled nation. He is believed to be a retired officer re-employed for this specific purpose and belongs to Kohat. Again this is attributed to knowledgeable sources.

Within the country apart from the main ISI station within the embassy in Kabul, the major saboteurs, organisers of raids on Indian interests and general trouble makers from the ISI including officers, JCOs and civilian staff are based in the Pakistani consulates at heart and Mazar-i-Sharif which are somehow, perhaps because of their geographic location considered less suspect by the Afghan authorities.

Pakistan continues its strategic offensive against India whether against a growing move for peace and internal settlement of the Kashmir problem or to curb increasing Indian influence in what is considers its strategic backyard. Will the ISI attacks and amplified violence stagger Indian moves to encircle Pakistan strategically or deny it a potential to interfere within its territory? We can’t really say given the Indian reluctance to adopt aggressive postures. What is certain is that ISI attacks on India will continue whether through surrogates planting bombs in Indian cities or mercenaries targeting Indian companies. The latest round of attacks by Leftist guerrillas aimed at thwarting elections in the Red Corridor in Central and North Central India have raised hopes within Pakistani strategic circles that they (the Naxalite rebels) could do their job for them. We might well see in coming months Pakistani aid albeit through covert means to these Leftist extremists. Stranger things have happened before.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Far East

[Editorial] N. Korea as a Hostage Taker

North Korea has demanded that South Korean companies raise wages for North Korean workers in the industrial complex in Kaesong to 70-75 U.S. dollars a month and for the South to pay rent for land four years ahead of time. Pyongyang also unilaterally demanded that Seoul sign a new land lease though they had agreed that South Korean companies use the land for 50 years. It was suggested as a demand for renegotiation but virtually constituted a unilateral notice. While again claiming that Seoul’s participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative constitutes a declaration of war, the North linked the issue with the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong out of the blue. The North also failed to mention the Hyundai Asan employee who has been detained for 25 days.

The Seoul delegation hurriedly headed to Kaesong in early morning in its attempt to use the encounter as official bilateral talks. As the North delayed the meeting for as long as 11 hours, however, the meeting lasted for just 22 minutes, which was truly embarrassing. The Seoul delegation did not even have a chance to see the Hyundai Asan employee who was detained in the building where the meeting was held. Still, the presidential office in Seoul tried to give meaning to the talks, saying, “We can construe the occasion as a momentum for dialogue.” South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek remained low key in making his post-meeting comments, saying, “We will carefully consider the proposal for renegotiation.”

It might be important for Seoul to try to keep the momentum for dialogue going amid the sorry state of inter-Korean relations. What is more important, however, is for Seoul to figure out Pyongyang’s intent accurately and cope with it wisely. Considering the string of measures taken and demands made by Pyongyang following South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s inauguration, has the North initiated a plot to close the industrial complex after judging it has no more use for its interest? Pyongyang’s demand is being seen as a threat against the South to continue the complex by paying hefty prices or shut it down on its own.

The move could also be Pyongyang’s ploy to hand over the risks to the South, as it will have to take responsibility, make compensation, and face intense criticism if the North unilaterally shuts down the complex.

The Kaesong complex was glorified as a symbol of inter-Korean compromise and a beachhead for inter-Korean economic exchange under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. The complex, however, is now a hostage being used by North Korea against the South. Seoul must carefully examine the utility of the complex in light of inter-Korean relations and the economic impact from the very basics. It needs to send to the North a clear signal that it can give up the complex if Pyongyang makes excessive demands.

Attempted wheeling and dealing to demand more money by taking a South Korean staff member hostage is nothing other than kidnapping. Seoul should never give the impression that it is at the North’s disposal. It should make it clear that it cannot hold renegotiations with Pyongyang in any circumstances as long as a South Korean staff is taken hostage. Seoul said its participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative has nothing to do with its relations with Pyongyang, but it has postponed its participation three times due to the North, which is a mistake. The South must now repeat the hopeless behavior of putting itself at the North’s disposal again because of the industrial complex.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

China Parades Naval Might

China paraded its warships and nuclear submarines on Thursday in an unprecedented display of maritime might attended by 14 other nations to mark the 60th anniversary of its navy.

Fifty-six Chinese subs, destroyers, frigates, missile boats and planes were displayed off the eastern port city of Qingdao just weeks after tensions flared following a naval stand-off with the United States in the South China Sea.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Korea: North Says it Will Put 2 U.S. Journalists on Trial

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Has anyone even heard a single thing out of the White House (much less the president) regarding these two hostage US citizens in the month since they were captured — before, during and after the missile crisis???]

North Korea said yesterday it will put the two American journalists detained in the country on trial to face criminal charges.

“A competent organ of the DPRK [North Korea] concluded the investigation into the journalists of the United States. The organ formally decided to refer them to a trial on the basis of the confirmed crimes committed by them,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said yesterday without providing further details.

On March 17, Euna Lee, a Korean-American, and Laura Ling, a Chinese-American, were captured near the China-North Korea border on the Tumen River. Working for San Francisco-based Current TV, Lee and Ling were in China to report on the plight of North Korean refugees.

The U.S. State Department wasn’t immediately available for comment yesterday. But its spokesman Robert Wood said last week the department was “working through a number of different diplomatic channels to try to see what we can do to get these folks released.” The United States doesn’t have formal diplomatic ties with North Korea. Instead, the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang has been acting as the U.S. representative.

On March 31, North Korea announced that it was planning to put Lee and Ling on trial, saying, “[The journalists’] suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements, according to the results of an intermediary investigation conducted by a competent organ.” At the time, the Korean Central News Agency said Lee and Ling would be granted consular access and treated according to international law.

The announcement comes as a South Korean worker at the Kaesong Industrial Complex remains in detention for allegedly criticizing the North Korean political regime and encouraging a North Korean worker to defect.

South Korea has attempted to gain access to the man, mostly recently at the abbreviated inter-Korean talks on Tuesday, but North Korea has not cooperated. In light of the North’s announcement of the trial, the Unification Ministry in Seoul yesterday wouldn’t speculate on the fate of the worker.

“It’s obviously a serious situation but [the U.S. journalists’ trial and the South Korean worker’s detention] are two separate issues that took place in different areas,” said Kim Ho-nyoun, spokesman with the Unification Ministry. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to speculate what’s going to happen to our citizen based on this recent development with the Americans.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Korea: Leftwing Groups Wake Up to Abuses in N.Korea

Ahead of the UN Human Rights Commission’s review of North Korea’s human rights record later this year, leftwing groups in South Korea including the Sarangbang Group for Human Rights and PeaceNetwork on Wednesday said they compiled their own report to publicize their views of the situation.

The groups said they submitted their report to the UNHCR on Monday. So far leftwing groups in South Korea have ignored human rights abuses in North Korea and accused people of harboring “impure” political motives whenever they raised the matter.

But in their introduction to the report, the groups say there are “alarming” areas in the activities of South Korean groups seeking to improve human rights in the North as they are using their work to justify or conceal human rights abuses in South Korea. They have got things backwards. Every time the appalling human rights situation in North Korea is highlighted, leftwing groups in South Korea try to stifle the issue by raising human rights problems in the South.

The report says even considering the realities of North Korean society, it is true that there are areas of concern. The groups say they are “deeply concerned” about the North Korean government’s view, as stated in the official Rodong Shinmun daily on Jan. 18, 2008, which says human rights are “impossible to even mention.”

Freedom of ideology and conscience are “not completely” guaranteed in North Korea, the report says, due to the wide application of criminal laws banning political activity, such as Article 61 on “Anti-State Propaganda” and Article 67 on “Treason.” The groups said North Korea was using the death sentence to generate fear and called on the regime to conduct an independent study of its concentration camps and unveil the results. That is certainly a step in the right direction.

But the report is too abstract, making it impossible to recognize the true conditions in North Korea. This is especially clear when comparing it to the U.S. State Department’s report on North Korean human rights issued in February. On the first page of its report, the State Department says extra-judicial executions, missing people, arbitrary confinement, torture and political prisoners are constantly brought to the attention of human rights watch groups. The U.S. report cites specific accounts of such abuses based on the testimonies of North Korean defectors, those who have visited the communist country and officials with international organizations.

The reason leftwing South Korean groups have begun to address North Korean human rights abuses is probably because they are in a situation where they can no longer ignore that issue. They should use this opportunity to start looking at human rights abuses in North Korea from a humanitarian perspective rather than an ideological one.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Korea: U.S. Changes Course on N.Korea

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has apparently decided on a different North Korea policy from the one she planned three months ago. At a hearing by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, Clinton clarified the administration’s position on stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, Taliban expansion in Pakistan, Middle East issues, and Iran’s nuclear development program. But she said nothing about North Korea, nor did she mention the six-party nuclear talks.

In her confirmation hearing on Jan. 13, she said, “We will… act with urgency to prevent proliferation in North Korea and Iran, secure loose nuclear weapons and materials, and shut down the market for selling them.” At the time, she said there could be a chance for the U.S. to have a bilateral meeting with North Korea through the six-party talks.

But on Wednesday, in a reply to a question by Republican Rep. Dan Burton, she said, “I think we have to be strong, patient, persistent and not give in to the kind of back-and-forth, the unpredictable behavior of the North Korean regime.” Three months ago, North Korea was a potential dialogue partner. Now it is now a country which the U.S. should not give in to.

“Nobody can rule out that North Korea will launch some provocation in time with President Lee Myung-bak’s scheduled visit to the U.S. in June,” a diplomat in Washington speculated.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Anzac Day Cartoon

[See link]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia: Sydney Man Shot 34 Times in Head With Nail Gun

CANBERRA (Reuters) — Australian police released Friday a shocking x-ray photo showing the skull of a murdered Chinese immigrant shot 34 times in the head and neck with a high-power nail gun.

The body of Chen Liu, 27, was found by two children last year in marshland in south Sydney, wrapped in a carpet and bound with electrical wire.

Detectives said the weapon used was a standard gas nail gun widely available and used in construction, firing nails up to 85mm (3.3 inches) long.

“In 36 years, I’ve never seen a murder of this nature,” Homicide Squad Superintendent Geoff Beresford told reporters.

Liu arrived in Australia in 2000 and was reported missing last year.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia: Tribute Paid to All War Dead at Mass

MORE than 1000 people, including veterans of World War II and Vietnam, came to Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on the eve of Anzac Day.

They came to remember the sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women and honour those who continue to defend their country.

The nation’s most senior Catholic priest, Archbishop of Sydney George Pell, celebrated the Solemn Vigil Mass of Remembrance held last night.

At the opening of the service, which was attended by senior state and federal politicians and NSW Governor Marie Bashir, and lasted more than an hour, Cardinal Pell said the mass would “commemorate war dead of all conflicts”.

The service also offered support and prayers to those serving in the Australian Defence Force, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The chalice used during the celebration of the eucharist was the same as used by Australian soldiers at Gallipoli and the Somme during World War I.

Royal Australian Navy fleet chaplain Paddy Sykes delivered a moving homily in which he referred to the emotional turbulence of serving overseas.

“Many people who have been in international conflicts never come home,” he said. “They are buried overseas.”

Father Sykes offered a prayer for the “peace we enjoy in our country” but warned it often came at the highest price.

“Peace is the fruit of hard work and sometimes loss of human life … I’m not sure how much light many of the men would have seen at Anzac Cove,” he said.

“We serve our country … If we follow Jesus we must be prepared to share his cross.”

Father Sykes also referred to the basic “human need to respect the dead” and mentioned the “closure” brought by the discovery in March last year of HMAS Sydney, which was lost on November 19, 1941, with 645 crew on board.

He added that the possible recent discovery of the resting place of the last Australian service personnel thought missing in action in Vietnam — Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver — would help bring a sense closure to their families.

At the close of the mass the Last Post was played by Corporal Ian Stenning from the University of NSW Regiment Band.

The Reveille was then played as the flags of the three services — the RAAF Ensign, the White Ensign of the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian flag representing the army — were slowly carried out of the cathedral.

The Anzac eve vigil mass has been held for more than 20 years in different venues in Sydney. Last year it was attended by Kevin Rudd.

Professor Bashir gave the first reading from Isaiah 9: 1-6, while Brigadier Shane Caughey CSC, Chief of Staff Land Headquarters, gave the second reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 1: 18-25.

The gospel reading by Father John McKnight was from the gospel of John 12: 23-28.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia: No Right to Silence Refugee Debate

REMEMBER when bipartisanship was the new political black? Then when a boat carrying 47 asylum-seekers exploded off Ashmore Reef last Thursday, it was clear that this season’s new runaway success is the politicisation of sensitive issues. Avoiding politicisation, that is.

For maximum effect, the phrase must be uttered with a pained look and as much confected moral outrage as possible. The undisputed winner in this category in recent days has to be the Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus when he responded to Opposition spokeswoman Sharman Stone’s view that the Rudd Government’s softer immigration policy may have induced the latest boat to head for Australia.

With a hint of quiver in his voice and an injured puppy-dog look, Debus said: “I am not going to allow this particular incident to be politicised as some incidents have been politicised in the past, often to our national shame.”

As an example of thespian skill, it was masterful. But the politics were even more sensational. It evoked children overboard without even using the words. Having harnessed the high moral ground, Debus was able to completely avoid the critical — and difficult — questions while still leaving the adoring press gallery baying for more.

Debus had to buy time to avoid tough questions about whether the Government’s new immigration policies have indeed acted as a come-hither message to people-smugglers. Putting aside the hypocrisy of the Government’s plea against politicisation of an issue it regularly whipped up into an emotional and political frenzy, this is an issue that worries Australians. And rightly so.

It will not go away. The “don’t you dare politicise this issue” rhetoric of the Rudd Government will work for a while. But eventually even the fawning throngs in the Canberra press gallery must eventually realise — as they did with the PM’s demands for bipartisanship when what he really meant was supine obedience — that hard questions need to be asked.

Is it really true that increased boat arrivals are just down to so-called push factors and that changes in Australian government policy are virtually irrelevant? Those peddling this line would have us believe that in comparison with the halcyon days of 2005 and 2006, violence and oppression has suddenly escalated in Afghanistan, Iraq and other home countries of asylum seekers, leading to a rapid increase in boat arrivals.

In fact, it is not cheap politicisation to ask whether it is much more likely that changes in immigration policy do have a significant effect. Playing politics himself, in order to sidestep the more important questions, the Prime Minister was quick to describe people-smugglers as “the vilest form of life”.

Vile they may be, but people-smugglers are running a business. We may excoriate the morals of these low-lifes but Rudd and his ministers make a very grave mistake if they underestimate the rationality, indeed intellect, of people-smugglers. They respond to changes in their regulatory environment, to alterations in their risk-reward trade-off and to general perceptions within their target market just as any other business does, criminal or otherwise. And it is indisputable that they perceive increased rewards — and reduced risks — in the Australian people-smuggling business.

While The Age’s Michelle Grattan is convinced that it is a “long bow to make too much of Kevin Rudd’s limited changes removing the harsher edges of earlier policy”, the facts suggest otherwise. As The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday — a story ignored by large sections of the media — the Australian Federal Police provided secret intelligence briefings to Rudd government ministers weeks ago warning that canny people-smugglers had noticed Australia’s softer border protection laws.

To be sure, we must distinguish between people-smugglers, who are rational and well informed, and refugees, who are often neither. It takes a longer time for accurate information about policy changes to be disseminated among refugees but people-smugglers learn fast and with precision.

So what then are the tough questions that need to be addressed about refugees? Let’s start with a couple of basic propositions. Let’s start by pointing out that the scale of human misery is vast. Australia cannot possibly deal with it all, let alone cure it.

Australia can maximise its efforts to alleviate misery by controlling and targeting its responses. Undisciplined, uncontrolled responses are wasteful, help fewer people and jeopardise critical political support needed to support immigration.

If we must say no to thousands, nay millions, of heart-wrenching stories every year, how do we choose among competing claimants? It is neither moral nor rational to choose according to those who make the most noise.

Ignoring those who wait in camps in favour of those within range of our nightly news bulletins, those backed by articulate advocates or those with the money to pay people-smugglers or lawyers, is immoral. More important, it drains the goodwill available in Australia for the benefit of all refugees. We are entitled to focus on helping the most deserving cases, not the queue jumpers or media manipulators. We are entitled to ask why those asylum seekers who land safely in Indonesia, where they are free from the oppression and persecution in their home countries, do not apply for refugee status in Indonesia. We are entitled to prefer a refugee program that we control rather than one controlled by people-smugglers.

And we are entitled to ask whether the Government’s preferred option of outsourcing this issue to Indonesia — though a pragmatic and politically astute solution — is just a bigger Pacific solution. If our concern is genuinely about the wellbeing of refugees, how certain are we that Indonesian authorities will treat refugees humanely?

But to read much of the media in the past few days is to step back into a time warp when legitimate and important debates about immigration were deemed immoral and divisive by the moralising elites. Predictably, David Marr would have us believe that this issue taps the “deep pool of xenophobic hostility there to be exploited”.

Similarly, Grattan says we are “facing a fresh divisive debate about asylum seekers”. In fact, the evidence shows that when the Howard government took a firm approach towards illegal immigration, Australians grew more comfortable with immigration. Immigration rates duly increased. Oh, and the rickety boats that endangered the lives of asylum seekers stopped coming.

That was then. Regrettably there is a growing internal inconsistency towards this issue. Many Australians loathe people-smugglers but do not have the stomach to take the steps necessary to deter them. This issue demands an honest debate followed by courageous leadership to reconcile this dilemma. While it may suit the Rudd Government — and many in the media — to try to shut down this debate by describing any legitimate questions as unseemly politicisation, history says that won’t work.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

NZ: Anzac’s Changing Face

Thousands will rise in the dark tomorrow and make their way to a dawn service to commemorate our fallen in war. It’s a sombre ritual, one deeply wed with notions of nationhood, that continues to grow even though the last of the World War I veterans have passed away, and the tragic events at Gallipoli recede further into history. It’s a day when an increasing number of New Zealanders take the opportunity to reflect on difficult issues like loss, sacrifice and loyalty. Jock Phillips, a historian and general editor of Te Ara, The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, believes the growing profile of Anzac Day is due to a growth in interest in what it means to be a New Zealander over the past 15 years.

“It is arguably the closest ceremony of nationalism which we have in New Zealand — far more than Waitangi Day I believe. The schools have also encouraged this awareness. For younger people participation in war is now associated with grandparents or even great grandparents and the activities of grandparents always have a real interest for young people, far more than the activities of parents which young people are inclined to reject and dismiss. In addition the experience of war is something so foreign to young people that it has a certain fascination. The Great War in particular was by far the worst experience which New Zealanders have ever suffered, so it deserves attention by that fact alone, but it is also very different and distant for young people today — so the thought that their grandparents actually took part demands their interest.”

Anzac Day was first commemorated on April 30 1915, soon after news of the tragic events at Gallipoli reached New Zealand. A half-day holiday was declared. In 1916 some saw potential profits from using the term Anzac to promote their products but after complaints by returned soldiers, the use of the word Anzac was prohibited for business purposes — a ban that continues today.

For the vast majority however the events at Gallipoli were regarded with horror and shock and the first response was to build memorials. The first was a marble statue built in Kaitaia in 1916 and similar monuments stand today in most towns and cities. The status of Anzac Day was unclear until 1921, and it was only after lobbying by the RSA that a public holiday was finally declared. Phillips has watched with interest the changing attitudes towards our sacred holiday, as our social and political landscape has shifted.

“When I was a kid in the 1950s Anzac Day was an opportunity for returned soldiers to parade in front of their community and as they marched people applauded because they remembered the two wars and were genuinely grateful. The focus was very much on the returned soldiers rather than on remembering the dead whose names were on the war memorials. In the 60s and 70s Anzac Day became contested ground as my generation came of age and went into the streets to protest against the Vietnam war. For us Anzac Day was seen as a justification for war; it was seen as a pro-war ceremony and therefore as implicitly a justification for involvement in Vietnam. In the last twenty years people have begun to read and see TV programmes about the experiences of war, and Anzac Day has shifted from being a celebration of war to a genuine recognition of the terrible costs of war. There has been more focus on remembering the dead and the sufferings of those who went rather than as an opportunity to glorify our war traditions.”

How the day will be commemorated in the future will depend, says Phillips, on the political situation of the time.

“If we are again involved in war then it will be commemorated with that in mind. If we retain a strong commitment to an anti-nuclear peacekeeping role then it will be remembered for the deaths and the suffering which war has brought to this nation. Whatever, Anzac Day will be remembered because New Zealanders are increasingly interested in collective rituals and ceremonies. We have not had many of these in the past, and we have begun to treasure them — from Maori language week to Conservation week to Matariki we are increasingly commemorating our diverse culture and history, and this will undoubtedly continue.”

George Davis, a researcher at Otago University, who is working on a PhD on Anzac Day, believes that the status of the day has moved from the political to the personal, a shift which explains the lack of substantial protests in recent years.

“Anzac Day was, in the period 1960-1980, faced by gritty issues of contestation. Protests have diminished not because there is nothing to protest about but because the focus of protest has shifted. In the 1960s and 1970s the Vietnam War stimulated protest about war generally. Protesters often identified old soldiers as representatives of a warlike world. This was far from the truth from the returned servicemen’s point of view. In the late 1970s and early 1980s some women protested about rape in war. Both of these movements were related to possession of the landscape of Anzac Day. That issue has been addressed. Anzac Day now belongs to the whole society, not just to a few.”

Over the last decade there’s also been an increasing spiritual component to the day, with one clergyman calling it our major religious festival, one which comes complete with it’s own, latterly controversial, pilgrimage to the Gallipoli battlefield.

Davis believes young people especially are attracted to the spiritual aspect of the day.

“Young people have always been seekers for the indefinable, and Anzac Day provides connections with the standards and attitudes of the past. The dawn ceremony is intensely moving and it is this quality of spirit that resonates with the young. In an age where secularism has been too loosely defined in terms of a rejection of institutional religious values, there are many people who do recognise that issues of spirit, such as are presented on Anzac Day, are worth understanding. I think this partially accounts for why so many young parents and their children turn up to the dawn ceremony. The New Zealand take on Anzac Day is that it does not reflect doom and gloom, but provides hope. There is a general realisation that the diggers who fought and died did so to ensure a better future.”

Davis doesn’t see the events at Gallipoli the way many Australians see it — as “the forge of nationhood”.

“For New Zealand, it rather depends on when you think we became a distinct nation, comfortable in our own skin,” he says. “That development did not happen until the 1970s when we realised Britain had cut us loose as she moved further into the European community and away from her old dominions in the south-west Pacific. Is Gallipoli important? My word, yes. Kiwis hold the sacrifice made at Gallipoli in high regard. It was the standard for New Zealand forces from that moment on.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

People Smugglers Use Chaos in UN Office to Get Asylum Seekers to Australia

PEOPLE smugglers are using the chaotic registration process of the UNHCR to make it easier for asylum seekers to get to Australia by boat.

Since the beginning of March, 483 Afghan asylum seekers have turned up at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jakarta but none has been formally registered with Indonesian authorities. The Indonesians were unaware precisely where the asylum seekers were living and, in some instances, had not even been told they had arrived, said Ade Endang Dachlan, a senior Indonesian immigration intelligence officer who heads the department’s Bogor office.

“This should not happen,” Mr Dachlan said. “The UNHCR office should only issue refugee processing status based on the recommendation from the immigration office.

“Since we can’t get hold of them [the asylum seekers] and closely monitor their whereabouts, they have plenty of chance to escape and use illegal ways to enter a third country such as Australia.”

Raids this month in Bogor netted 22 asylum seekers who carried genuine UNHCR papers but were not registered with the Department of Immigration. Mr Dachlan said it was only the tip of the iceberg, adding that people smugglers were exploiting the “loophole” — staying in touch with asylum seekers until “such time as the syndicates can get them access to Australian borders”.

Ali Khatri, one of the Afghans snared in the Bogor raid, said a people smuggler had given him the address of the UNHCR office, told him to go straight there when he arrived in Jakarta, and he was assured that, by turning up, he would have protection as a refugee. He denied he planned to go to Australia, though others at the same villa said they were prepared to make the crossing. They asked not to be named.

“The UNHCR gave us some papers, like an appointment slip,” Mr Khatri said, adding he was not told to register with Indonesian police or immigration. “We just left and went back to our hotel in Jakarta. Then we came to Bogor because it was cheaper.”

Bogor is a mountainous holiday area 11/2 hours’ drive from Jakarta and a favoured hideout for asylum seekers.

The 22 caught in Bogor were only a small fraction of an estimated 2000 Afghans in Indonesia looking to come to Australia.

A spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Jakarta, Anita Restu, said 483 Afghans had come to its Jakarta office in the past seven weeks alone. “Because of this influx, we have just given them appointment slips,” she said.

They were not formally registered because “it takes too long to go through our system and there’s so many people”.

Even if Indonesian authorities were told of the arrivals, “we cannot give out the address of the asylum seeker”, she said.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan: President Beshir: “Charges Against Me Have United Arabs and Africans”

The arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudan’s president Omar Hassan al Beshir “has been a good event for Sudan, which was able to note that regional bodies such as the Arab League and the African Union rallying in its support”, said president el-Beshir during a press conference in Addis Abeba. As for the internal situation, “we have all watched the spontaneous street demonstrations from people to challenge foreign interference in the country” said the head of state in his speech. For his part, Ethiopian president Meles Zenawi, reiterated that “the ICC accusations against al-Beshir have in no way affected relations between Ethiopia and Sudan” asking the international organism “to revise its positions”. This was Beshir’s 6th trip abroad since he was handed the ICC arrest warrant, last March 4th, alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

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

Latin America

Obama Goes South: an Analysis of the Summit of the Americas

By Sol Sanders, Grady Means

For more than a half century, dating from FDR and Cordell Hull’s “Good Neighbor” policies, U.S. diplomacy in Latin America has been focused on encouraging democracy, free markets, and economic development. Over those five decades there have been huge successes — and there have been dramatic failures.

An historical perspective, however, shows remarkable overall progress:

The 1980 map of Latin America was largely one of authoritarian, often military governments, generally controlled by small oligarchies, with hyper-cyclical, commodity-based economies, nearly all plagued by huge debt and hyper-inflation.

However, by 2000, Latin America was largely an array of broad-based popularly elected regimes, structured and diversified economies with low to moderate inflation and manageable debt. The problems of severe poverty, economic inequity, and drug cartels remained, but significant progress had been made.

The U.S., as the largest foreign direct investor and the largest supplier of development aid and offering the largest market for Latin American exports, as well as the most active supporter of centrist democratic movements, played a significant role in this massive transition…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]


Finland: EU Survey: Half of Somali Immigrants Regard Discrimination as Widespread in Finland

According to a recent survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), one in three Somalis in the Greater Helsinki area reports that he or she has been a victim of racially motivated crimes in the course of the past 12 months.

Of all the groups surveyed by the FRA, Finland’s Somali immigrants reported the second-highest levels of racist crime. The survey involved 45 selected ethnic minority and immigrant groups in all member-states of the European Union. The crimes covered by the survey included for example thefts and serious harassment. In some sections of the survey, Finland’s Somalis were among those ten minority groups who had personally experienced the highest levels of discrimination. Roma minorities in Eastern Europe and Africans in various countries reported the highest levels of discrimination. When it comes to treatment at a bank or a shop, Finland’s Somalis emerged among the groups most discriminated against. However, compared with other countries’ minorities the Finnish Somalis were more informed of competent authorities who could give them support or advice. Yet some 69 per cent of the interviewed Finnish Somalis said that they did not know of any organisation that could offer support services to victims of discrimination.

Half of the Finnish Somali respondents think that discrimination is widespread in the country, while half or other ethnic minorities regarded discrimination as even more common. A total of 23,500 persons of ethnic minority or immigrant background were interviewed for the survey in all member-states of the Euroopean Union in 2008. In Finland, 484 immigrants of Somali origin and 562 immigrants of Russian background were interviewed in the Greater Helsinki area.

In its report, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights acknowledges that because of the large differences between the interviewed groups, the results of the survey on immigrant and ethnic minority groups’ experiences of discrimination and racist crime should be interpreted with some caution.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Poll: Nordics Satisfied With Immigration Policy

Most Nordic residents are satisfied with their countries’ refugee policies.

More than half of respondents in Finland, Sweden and Denmark find the number of refugees to be acceptable, according to a survey by Nordic public broadcasters.

Norwegians were the toughest in their attitudes about immigration policy, with 46 percent saying the amount of refugees was appropriate. However, 42 percent of Norwegian respondents said too many refugees were being allowed into their country.

In Sweden 32 percent said they thought there were too many refugees — as did 29 percent of Finns.

In Denmark, however, 25 percent said there are too few refugees. In Finland, Norway and Sweden 11 to 12 percent of those polled thought there are too few refugees.

Iceland did not participate in the poll.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Germany: Refugee Kids Build New Lives in Europe

Some come to escape the brutality and horror of war — others are sent by parents who hope they will one day send them money. The number of unaccompanied youth refugees from Africa and Iraq to Europe is increasing. They are part of a massive trend in global migration.

It was bombs that caused a young Iraqi to lose his home. It was an earthquake in the case of a Chinese teenager who is now no longer certain where he belongs. It was war in the case of a former child soldier from Sierra Leone who is plagued by recurrent nightmares.

This is the story of three boys who made it to Germany on their own in a physical sense but in many ways took longer to get here in mental and emotional terms…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Italy: Dedalo Project, Young Tunisian Gardeners at Monreale

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, APRIL 21 — Seven young Tunisians (including one woman) are working as gardeners to restore park areas in the historic centre of Monreale (Palermo). The initiative is part of the Dedalo project financed by the Ministry of Labour and which focuses on socio-employment integration for non-EU young people who have immigrated to Sicily. The headquarters of the programme is the House of Smiles (Casa del Sorriso) community in Monreale. “Italy, and especially Sicily”, said Monreale Mayor Toti Gullo speaking at a press conference to introduce the initiative, “has traditionally always welcomed different ethnic groups, that is why we immediately embraced the project and decided to entrust some green areas in Monreale to these young immigrants”. “Dedalo is an ambitious project”, added Giuseppe Pitti, director of the initiative, “but not so presumptuous as to think it can solve the problem of immigration. The strong desire is to create a replicable model by experimenting with training programmes for non-EU young people and also for those working in the sector”. “Currently”, concluded Michele Crapitti, Dedalo project manager, “we have involved 3,000 young people in workshop activities all over Sicily and 80 community workers, 50 teachers in public schools, and 65 young immigrants who are already working. Dedalo will finish at the end of 2009 but the results up to now are more than positive”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Judiciary Committee Greenlights ‘Hate Crimes’

Members refuse to protect Christian pastors from charges

Members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee today rejected an opportunity to protect Christian pastors who preach the biblical condemnation of homosexuality and approved on a 15-12 vote a “hate crimes” bill that supporters admit could be used to bring charges against religious leaders.

The bill, H.R. 1913, now will be considered by the full House of Representatives.


“The federal hate crimes bill is bad news for everyone,” said Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute, who testified in Congress against the bill two years ago.

“Instead of treating all crime victims equally, it creates a caste system where select groups, such as gays and lesbians, are given greater priority in the criminal justice system. This is not progress; it is political correctness. In other nations and states, the adoption of hate crimes legislation has been the first step toward widespread suppression of speech and ideas critical of homosexuality,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


“Hijacked” UN Racism Conference

GENEVA — Rather than addressing rampant forms of racism, the UN conference on racism has largely been hijacked by groups determined to undermine any criticism of Israel, leaving all key issues on agenda sidelined.

“Many issues are not being taken seriously like colonialism, slavery and reparations,” Fatima Doubakil, of the Sweden-based Muslim Human Rights Committee, told

Countries, organizations and NGOs from across the world are participating in the five-day Geneva conference, the UN’s first global racism conference in eight years.

Participants were expected to review progress in combating racism since the first meeting which was held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.

But the final communiqué was endorsed on Tuesday, April 20, three days before the end of the conference.

This infuriated many of the participating organizations and NGOs who complain that key issues were not discussed and debated before the text was rubberstamped.

“The Conference is not taking Islamophobia seriously,” says Masoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in Britain.

“Muslim communities in Europe already don’t believe they are full citizens; this will alienate them.”

Islamophobia has been at the heart of a debate about blasphemy or defamation of religions.

In a report released last year, the Organization of Islamic Conference warned that defamation of Islam and racial intolerance of Muslims were on the rise in western societies.

The same concerns were voiced a year earlier by UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance Doudou Diene.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]