Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/5/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/5/2009For some reason there is a clump of Somali pirate stories today, with various countries chasing, catching, failing to catch, or catching and releasing those pesky pirates off the Horn of Africa.

In other news, a blood feud seems to be the cause of a mass murder at a Turkish wedding, in which more than forty people were killed.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Henrik, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, Reinhard, TB, The Frozen North, Tuan Jim, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Blankley: Without Preparation or Response
Europe Must Learn From Japan’s Experience
Fiat’s Secret: Aggressive Restructuring
Bogus Documents Passed as Real Thing
‘Broken Gun’ Conviction Upheld by Court
‘Empathy’ Versus Law
Motives of American Muslims Debated at Republican Meeting in Fort Worth
President Obama: You’ve Paid for the Report, Now Read it
Teen Homeschooler Jailed Under Patriot Act
US Religious Freedom Commission Names 13 ‘Egregious’ Violators of Religious Freedom
Saw Tiny Fist in Toilet, Witness Tells Trial
Europe and the EU
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Lily-Livered Europe Has Surrendered to Islam
Bullied Swedish Schoolboy Given Bodyguard
Denmark: Judges and Police Oppose Government
Fiat’s Grand Plans Hit Resistance
Finland: Up to a Third of “Underage” Asylum Seekers Prove to be Older
Finland: Helsinki District Court Chief Judge Criticises Long Duration of Criminal Cases
Flags and Slogans Mark Libertas Congress in Rome
German Citizenship Applications Continue to Fall
Germany: Berlin May Day Rioters Held for Attempted Murder
Italy: “Graduates, Not Showgirls” Says Berlusconi “Here’s the Truth About Noemi’s Party”
Italy: Bishops Bash Berlusconis
Netherlands: Immigrants Nearly in Majority in Rotterdam
Netherlands: Muslim Lawyer Ordered to Stand Up
Netherlands: Woman Arrested for False Terror Alert
Netherlands: Violent Bus Passenger Arrested
Norway: Soldiers Suffer From Metal Fume Fever
Spain: 3 Chinese Ministers Accused of Crimes Against Humanity
UK ‘Least Wanted’ List Published
UK: Foreign Stand-in GP Has Third Victim After Leaving Two Patients Dead…
UK: Judge Condemns Police for Cautioning Convicted Sex Offender
UK: Labour MP Denis Macshane Blames ‘Xenophobic’ Tories for Rise of Far-Right BNP
UK: Personal Web Data to be Stored for a Year
UK: Police Clash With Anti-Capitalist Protesters in Brighton
UK: Think Tank: a Model of Brutality Britain Can Build on
UN: Secularism in Macedonia at Risk
North Africa
Algeria: Al-Qaeda Video Promotes Child Recruitment
Egypt: Swine Destruction Threatens Coptic-Run Industry
Israel and the Palestinians
Shock Find: Netanyahu Dividing Jerusalem
Middle East
Syria Backs Philippines on OIC Bid
UK Block on Afghan Surge Riles Army Chiefs
Who Carried Out Deadly Attack on Turkish Wedding?
The Rise and Rise of Russian Nationalism
Georgia Coup Attempt Foiled
South Asia
Bangladesh Child Jockeys Get Cash
Could Monsanto be Responsible for One Indian Farmer’s Death Every Thirty Minutes?
Doctors Allow Afghans to Die
Indonesia: Muslim Mayor Rescinds Construction Permit for Protestant Church
Pakistan: Taliban to Target Nuke Production?
Pakistan: Just Walk Away
Residents Flee as Pakistan’s Swat Truce Collapses
Sri Lanka: Jonathan Kay on the Legacy of Neelan Tiruchelvam: the Tamil Tigers Have Reaped What They’ve Sown
Sri Lanka: US Double Standards on India, Lanka
Sri Lanka: What Needs to be Done
Far East
Crisis of Vocations in the Philippines
N. Korean Defector’s Outcry
S. Korea: the Damage of Illegal Street Protests
Australia — Pacific
Australia: China a ‘Peaceful Force’ in Beijing’s Response to Defence Paper
Kevin Rudd Faces Biggest Boatpeople Spike Since Pacific Solution
New Zealand: Gang Member Extradited to Australia
Sub-Saharan Africa
Al Qaeda Exporting Jihad With a Hip-Hop Vibe
Doh! Pirates Captured After Attacking the Wrong Ship
German Elite Troop Abandons Plan to Free Pirate Hostages
NATO Warship Holds, Frees 19 Pirates After Foiling Attack
Ottawa’s Piracy Policy Flouts Law, Experts Say
S. Korean Destroyer Saves N. Korean Ship From Somali Pirates
Swede Held in Togo on Coup Suspicions
Zimbabwe: Ending Sanctions? Slowly Does it
UK: Each Illegal Immigrant Costs US £1m, Says Study as Government Faces Calls for Amnesty
Culture Wars
Next on Senate Agenda? ‘Pedophile Protection Act’

Financial Crisis

Blankley: Without Preparation or Response

News item No. 1 concerns the testimony of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 24. “[Deterioration of security in nuclear-armed Pakistan] poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world,” she said.

News Item No. 2: Headline in The Washington Post Page 1, top right, above the fold, May 4: “U.S. Options in Pakistan Limited” News item No. 3: Jackson Diehl’s Washington Post column May 4 : “A senior [Obama administration] official said “it’s not good when your national security interests are dependent on a country over which you have almost no influence.”

In the matter of two weeks, we have gone from the U.S. secretary of state testifying to Congress that a nuclear Pakistan run by Islamist radicals would be a “mortal threat” to America, to, yesterday, the admission by the administration that we have limited options to avoid such a “mortal threat.”

What are we to make of such a development? Does anyone take serious words seriously anymore here in Washington?

I and many others had previously warned of the dangers of a nuclear Talibanistan (which have been obvious and talked about for years). Experts I have talked to in the past week do not believe Mrs. Clinton overstates the case. Nor do I. She is very careful with her words — and they fit the danger.

If Pakistan’s nuclear weapons get into the hands of Taliban or al Qaeda, even unlaunched, they would provide the weapons-grade, fast-fissile material necessary to create a nuclear holocaust here in the United States or elsewhere.

How did it come to be that the government of the most powerful nation in the history of humanity (population 300 million plus, with a gross domestic product of $14 trillion, larger than next three economies — Japan, China and Germany — combined) confesses that its options are limited on a “mortal threat” to our nation?

And what are we going to do about it? I don’t blame the Obama administration — not yet. It inherited our current national military strength. But it has been obvious for years that we are not prepared to deal with a world that refuses to behave as we either predict or prefer. We need to start catching up with the growing contingent threats.

It was in understanding the inevitability of contingent or unexpected events to emerge that led Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, the great 19th-century Prussian field marshal and army chief of staff, famously to observe that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Thus, he believed that “War is a matter of expedients.” He was suspicious of “rigid, inflexible, and totalizing grand strategies and theories,” arguing instead for a strategy and preparations that provided for a series of plug-in points that could be shaped to meet the military challenges of the moment — as a war unfolded.

So too should we be materially prepared for world political events or be prepared to pay the consequences. That is why, a year ago, when I was writing my recent book “American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century,” I argued that we must face the reality that, given the growing threats in a rapidly morphing world, we will need a bigger army than our current all-volunteer force. “The questions that any statesman or strategist has to confront are obvious: What if our armed forces are suddenly needed to take out Iran’s nuclear program? What if Pakistan falls to the jihadists, and we need troops to secure that country’s nuclear weapons? What if China invades Taiwan? What if North Korea, in a desperate gambit launches an attack on South Korea? What if the vast resources of the North Pole spark a military rivalry between Russian, Canada, the United States and other countries? What if Saudi oil fields require protection? What if we have to secure our southern border from increasingly ambitious drug cartels or civil disturbances in Mexico?” (“American Grit,” page 32.)

Well, in the mere year since I wrote those words, three of those seven contingencies (Iran, Pakistan and Mexico) have gone from speculation to the daily headlines. The blood is not yet on the ground regarding them, but prudent investors would start buying coffins. And yet we plan not at all.

Our troop strength is so limited that President Obama has to move troops out of Iraq — risking turning inherited near-success into possible strategic failure — to slightly beef up Afghanistan. Now, while we may perhaps have some time, we should start a crash program to increase troop and material strength.

With the recession, we could probably induct more volunteers than seemed possible during prosperity. However, that is only a half-measure. We eventually will need more Army and Marine combat troops than will volunteer (and increased Navy and Air Force sea and air-lift and fighting capacity, which we could start building now).

It should be inadmissible for the U.S. government to identify a “mortal threat” without at least offering up a plan to defeat it. Where is the plan? Where is the public clamor for a plan?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe Must Learn From Japan’s Experience

Our Great Recession has been compared with several crises of the past, but Japan’s lost decade is perhaps most relevant. This is not because of the way the two crises developed — we do not yet know what will happen to us — but because of our failure to learn from Japan’s mistakes. Otto von Bismarck said only fools would learn from their own mistakes, while he preferred to learn from the mistakes of others. We are mostly fools.

I am particularly struck by the similarity of the policy responses in Japan then and Europe today. Adam Posen, deputy director of the Peterson Institute in Washington, made the following observation in a book* he published in 2000 about the parallels between Japan’s lost decade and US policy during the savings and loan crisis. He wrote: “Bank regulators issued a litany of announcements meant to be reassuring about the extent of the bad loan problem and the adequacy of Japanese banks’ capital, each of which was correctly disbelieved by other financial firms, foreign banks, and by Japanese savers as understating the problem.”

This is exactly what is happening in Europe today. Governments are not coming clean on the scale of the crisis. Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper, recently revealed an internal memo from Bafin, the country’s banking regulator, showing the estimated scale of write-offs would be more than €800bn ($1,061bn, £712bn), about a third of Germany’s annual gross domestic product. By comparison, the entire capital and reserves of its monetary

and financial institutions were only €441.5bn in February. If the leaked number is true, it would mean the German financial system is broke.

Bafin was outraged by the leak, and launched legal action. Senior officials tried to play down the significance of the number. This is what Dr Posen described in his critique of Japan.

Robert Glauber, now at Harvard University, wrote in the same book that “the government’s timidity in informing taxpayers of the full cost to resolve the crisis produced a large, unnecessary delay. The delay in both cases turned a relatively small cost into a staggering large one”. Again, this is happening today. Both the Geithner plan in the US, and the recently announced, but not yet detailed German financial rescue plan, pretend that the rescue can be largely cost-free to the taxpayer.

Japanese governments also made several attempts to resolve the crisis during the 1990s, but these plans were too timid. Japan’s lost decade ended only in 2002 after Heizo Takenaka, minister for financial services under Junichiro Koizumi, the former prime minister, forced the banks to write down bad debt, and to accept new capital from the government. Just like the Japanese, the US and European governments will do the right thing eventually. But just like the Japanese, they are determined to do all the wrong things first.

What could we learn from Japan’s fiscal policy? The purpose of increased government expenditure during a severe financial crisis is to break down the toxic feedback loops between the real economy and the financial sector. In that respect, the European stimulus programmes are much less satisfactory than US policy, not so much in terms of the gross headline numbers, but in terms of their net effect on economic growth. Just like Japan in the 1990s, the eurozone cannot deliver effective fiscal stimulus, in our case due an inflexible rule-based system of economic governance, heavy bureaucracy and an astonishing lack of co-ordination. I would not be surprised if the total economic effect of the US stimulus ended up twice as large as the total of the various European programmes.

The only European institution that seems to have grasped the need to learn from Japan’s experience is the European Central Bank. European money market rates are close to zero, and while one can always argue about the finer details of monetary policy, central banks on both sides of the Atlantic are close to having exhausted their freedom of manoeuvre. The ECB will this week cut official interest rates again, probably by another quarter point, but even further rate cuts will not make much difference to real world interest rates.

I consider myself agnostic about the benefits of quantitative easing, both in terms of its effectiveness in shifting long-term interest rates, and in terms of the difficulties central banks might encounter in the future. From the evidence I have seen from Japan, it was the resolution of the banking crisis more than the adoption of quantitative easing by the Bank of Japan that finally did the trick.

All this leaves Europe with a policy mix only slightly better than Japan’s in the 1990s. Yet, Europe faces an additional problem. While Japan had its crisis when the rest of the world was booming, Europe has no such luck. I see nothing in our situation or our policy response to persuade me that it will take less than a decade to get out of this.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Fiat’s Secret: Aggressive Restructuring

Europe’s largest carmaker Fiat, which was founded in Italy 110 years ago, was on the verge of collapse in 2004. Its accumulated deficit was around 12 billion U.S. dollars, and even General Motors, which owned a 20-percent stake, broke off ties with the company. Then Sergio Marchionne took over Fiat and introduced aggressive restructuring, laying off 10 percent of the automaker’s 20,000 office workers and hiring young talent. As a result, Fiat posted a surplus in 2005. After GM paid Fiat a penalty of two billion dollars for breaking their 2000 joint venture agreement, Fiat invested the money into developing and producing smaller cars.

Fiat’s turnaround is now set to evoke a seismic change in the world’s automotive landscape. After announcing its rescue of the bankrupt Chrysler, Fiat said yesterday that it has negotiated with the German government to acquire GM’s European operation, Opel. Fiat wants to spin off its car division to merge with Opel and Chrysler, something which would result in combined output of six million to seven million vehicles per year. If Fiat completes the deals, it will jump from ninth to third in global car production. The list of the world’s three biggest carmakers would then be Fiat (Italy), Toyota (Japan) and Volkswagen (Germany), instead of Toyota (Japan), GM and Ford (United States).

Korean carmakers such as Hyundai, Kia, GM Daewoo and Ssangyong need to reflect on Fiat’s example. The Italian company used to be smaller than the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, but can buy its competitors after painful restructuring. Korean carmakers have failed to introduce restructuring, cut costs and effectively deal with their unions. Not only high-ranking executives but also union officers opposed to management’s restructuring efforts are also responsible for the difficulties. When Hyundai Motor announced the need for emergency management measures, its union blasted the move as “a challenge” against it and threatened to strike and oppose management’s plans to change car models produced at plants. In light of Fiat’s success, what excuses will Hyundai’s union make? The unions of Ssangyong and GM Daewoo are no better than Hyundai’s.

Last year, more than 70 million vehicles were sold on the world market, but this year’s figure is expected to plunge to 60 million units due to the global financial crisis. Nevertheless, world carmakers have the capacity to produce a whopping 94 million vehicles. That means carmakers need to cut production more than 30 percent and conduct restructuring. Carmakers that have finished restructuring are emerging as world powerhouses by acquiring competitors. Those who have failed to aggressively restructure are subject to takeover by stronger counterparts. What kind of future will Korean carmakers choose?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Bogus Documents Passed as Real Thing

As of May 1, 2009, we are now 100 days into the Also Known As (AKA) Obama regime. So how are things going?

While the lamestream media is fawning all over AKA and falling all over themselves making sure that nothing makes it into the news deleterious to his image, the lamestream media has not been able to stop the exposure of the real AKA via the internet; a situation they hope to counter via the “fairness doctrine” better known as the doctrine to end free speech for anyone who dares think for themselves, tell it like they see it, who fails to tow the official party line of the left-wing Marxists.

According to a document released by the Department of Homeland Security on March 26, 2009, alternative media — the internet — is defined as …

“A term used to describe various information sources that provide a forum for interpretations of events and issues that differ radically from those presented in mass media products and outlets.”

Can’t have media that differs radically from the lamestream media; that just won’t do. The truth just might find voice!

Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini would be so proud.

[Return to headlines]

‘Broken Gun’ Conviction Upheld by Court

Rules government does not need to provide evidence to defendant

What a federal agent did during a testing procedure to result in “automatic” fire from an AR-15 has no bearing on the case of a man convicted of transferring a “machinegun” after he loaned to a prospective buyer the gun he considered a semi-automatic rifle, according to a ruling from a panel of appellate judges.

The ruling has come in the case of David Olofson, a Wisconsin man sent to prison for 30 months after a semi-automatic rifle he loaned to a prospective buyer unleashed several bursts of multiple rounds and then jammed.

His defense team had explained the case is about nothing more than a malfunctioning gun, and there was evidence to support that. But according to judges Daniel Manion, Michael Kanne and Virginia Kendall of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the weapon is a machinegun, and government information about the tests that determined that are not pertinent.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

‘Empathy’ Versus Law

Justice David Souter’s retirement from the Supreme Court presents President Barack Obama with his first opportunity to appoint someone to the high court. People who are speculating about whether the next nominee will be a woman, a Hispanic or whatever are missing the point.

That we are discussing the next Supreme Court justice in terms of group “representation” is a sign of how far we have already strayed from the purpose of law and the weighty responsibility of appointing someone to sit for life on the highest court in the land.

That President Obama has made “empathy” with certain groups one of his criteria for choosing a Supreme Court nominee is a dangerous sign of how much further the Supreme Court may be pushed away from the rule of law and toward even more arbitrary judicial edicts to advance the agenda of the left and set it in legal concrete, immune from the democratic process.

Would you want to go into court to appear before a judge with “empathy” for groups A, B and C, if you were a member of groups X, Y or Z? Nothing could be further from the rule of law. That would be bad news, even in a traffic court, much less in a court that has the last word on your rights under the Constitution of the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Motives of American Muslims Debated at Republican Meeting in Fort Worth

FORT WORTH — What are the intentions of Muslims in America? A local activist told a Republican club Monday night that Muslims are intent on overthrowing America. But the Tarrant County medical examiner, who is Muslim, denounced such remarks as hate speech.

Dorrie O’Brien was booked months ago to speak to the North Tarrant Republican Club. She riled local Muslims last month when she delivered a speech to a Republican club in Hurst in which she said most or all American Muslims support terrorism.

After hearing that O’Brien was going to give a similar presentation to another Republican club, Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani requested time to deliver a rebuttal, North Tarrant Republican Club president Paul Enlow said.

In her presentation to about 80 people, O’Brien said that Muslims are intent on converting the Western world to Islam. She described as “stealth jihad” a malicious effort by Muslims to subvert schools, local governments and banks throughout the country.

O’Brien reviewed the five pillars of Islam, noting that one of them is zakat, which means to give a percentage of one’s income to charity. “There is a tremendous amount of proof out there that the zakat is now funding terrorism,” she said.

O’Brien also compared the Quran to the Bible and dismissed any suggestion that atrocities committed by Christians in the past were relevant to a debate about the present.

“I am not going to get into a theological discussion tonight, but I will flatly say, no, there is no way we are praying to the same God,” she said.

O’Brien left the meeting before Peerwani’s talk.

He spent part of his speech correcting factual errors in O’Brien’s presentation and reminding the audience of the history of religious persecution, including the Holocaust.

“We need to be vigilant because hate speech can destroy our country,” Peerwani said. “I find out today I am part of a sleeper cell and some day someone is going to wake me up and I am going to declare jihad. That is news to me.”

Peerwani also said that much of his donations to charity went to groups such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Several attendees asked Peerwani why American Muslims haven’t denounced atrocities by terrorists in other countries. Peerwani said he and others have in the past but that it isn’t the responsibility of American Muslims to comment on every event that happens in the Middle East.

The club leadership encouraged everyone to be courteous throughout the evening.

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

President Obama: You’ve Paid for the Report, Now Read it

by Barry Rubin

The U.S. State Department has produced excellent research and analysis in its “Country Reports on Terrorism 2008” report just released. Now the only problem is to ensure the Obama administration reads and absorbs the contents.

What can this report teach U.S. policymakers?


Iran, their government has massive evidence of its continuing role as “the most significant state sponsor of terrorism.” Why is Iran doing this? According to the State Department, “To advance its key national security and foreign policy interests, which include regime survival, regional dominance, opposition to Arab-Israeli peace, and countering Western influence, particularly in the Middle East.” That’s right, and it’s not going to change, especially one Iran has nuclear weapons.

Not only does

Tehran use the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (the institution most supportive of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) “to clandestinely cultivate and support” Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizballah; plus radical Islamist groups in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and in Iraq against U.S. forces.

As for Syria, events highlighted its “ties to the world’s most notorious terrorists,” including the death of Hizballah Operations Chief Imad Mugniyah, killed while under Syrian government protection. “Among other atrocities, Mugniyah was wanted for the 1983 bombings of the Marine barracks and U.S. Embassy in Beirut, which killed over 350.” Moreover, as the report shows, Syria has been tightening its alliance with Iran and continued financing terrorism.


U.S. efforts reduced their numbers, terrorists destabilizing Iraq continued coming in “predominantly through Syria,” and “receiving weapons and training from Iran.”

Here’s the bottom line: Not only do

Syria and Iran believe that destabilizing the region, bullying or controlling their neighbors, and expelling U.S. influence is in their interest but they’re also directly involved in trying to kill Americans.

What about Hizballah, the Lebanese Shia terrorist group? The report has no illusions:

Hizballah “receives training, weapons, and explosives, as well as political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from

Iran, and diplomatic, political, and logistical support from Syria….The group generally follows the religious guidance of…Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Hizballah is closely allied with Iran and often acts at its behest, though it also acts independently….The group has helped Syria advance its political objectives in the region.”

It has been involved, “In numerous anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli terrorist attacks,” including, “The suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in 1984, and the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, during which a U.S. Navy diver was murdered.”

Now, “Hizballah has provided training to select Iraqi Shia militants, including the construction and use of shaped charge IEDs that can penetrate heavily-armored vehicles….”

So Hizballah is an ally of

Iran and Syria, involved in killing and kidnapping Americans. Should U.S. policy, then, not actively oppose Hizballah taking over Lebanon? And if Hizballah is part of the Lebanese government after the June elections shouldn’t the United States reject dealings and stop all aid to that regime?

Regarding Israel, the report says that in response to, “regular and indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.” Citing Israeli figures, the report notes, “Palestinian terrorist groups fired approximately 1,750 rockets and 1,528 mortars into Israel in 2008,” double the previous year’s total. “On December 18, HAMAS leadership announced the end of the ceasefire,” during which it had been firing without cease. Thereafter rockets of longer range and in larger quantities were shot at Israel, disrupting life in the country’s south. And this was the reason why Israel had no choice but to launch a major military operation in the Gaza Strip.

In looking at other terrorist threats, the report lists positive and negative developments. On the plus side, al-Qaida has “lost ground” in general and especially in

Iraq (“significant defections, lost key mobilization areas, suffered disruption of support infrastructure and funding….”).

But, on the minus side, al-Qaida is trying to launch operations in North Africa, its local affiliate is waging war in

Somalia, and the group operates freely in Pakistan areas across the border from Afghanistan. The Taliban’s threat is also increasing. Europe, too, is becoming an area of serious concern as radicalization continues there among “immigrant populations, youth and alienated minorities….” I think that means Muslims. “Terrorists and extremists [are] manipulating the grievances of alienated youth or immigrant populations, and then cynically exploiting those grievances to subvert legitimate authority and create unrest.”

How, according to the report, should terrorism be fought in the West? “Treat immigrant and youth populations not as a threat to be defended against, but as a target of enemy subversion to be protected and supported.” There’s a brief but interesting brief discussion on how to do this…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Teen Homeschooler Jailed Under Patriot Act

FBI holds 10th-grader for months with little contact from family

A 16-year-old homeschooled boy from North Carolina was taken away from his home in handcuffs two months ago and has been held by the FBI in Indiana ever since, a victim, his mother claims, of the Patriot Act spun out of control.

According to Annette Lundeby of Oxford, N.C., armed FBI agents and local police stormed her home around 10 p.m. on March 5, looking for her son, Ashton. The officers presented a federal search warrant and seized the tenth-grader’s computer, cell phone and bank statements.

Ashton was then taken to a juvenile facility in South Bend, Ind., charged with making a bomb threat in Indiana from his home computer.

His mother, however, told Raleigh’s WRAL-TV that she argued with the authorities, claiming someone must have hacked into her son’s IP address and used it to make crank calls. The agents’ search, she claims, also failed to uncover any trace of bomb-making materials.

“Undoubtedly, they were given false information,” Lundeby told the station, “or they would not have had 12 agents in my house with a widow and two children and three cats.”

Allowed little access to see her son over the last two months, facing a court date that keeps being pushed back and given no information by FBI agents sitting behind a gag order on the case, Lundeby now says the USA Patriot Act has unjustly imprisoned an innocent boy and stripped her son of due process.

“We have no rights under the Patriot Act to even defend them, because the Patriot Act basically supersedes the Constitution,” she told WRAL-TV. “It wasn’t intended to drag your barely 16-year-old, 120-pound son out in the middle of the night on a charge that we can’t even defend.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

US Religious Freedom Commission Names 13 ‘Egregious’ Violators of Religious Freedom

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on May 1 recommended that President Barack Obama designate 13 nations “countries of particular concern” because of their “egregious violations” of religious freedom. These 13 nations are Burma, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. With the exception of Nigeria, this list is identical to the previous year’s list.

In addition, the commission placed Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela on its watch list. “While not rising to the statutory level … requiring designation as a country of particular concern, these countries require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments,” the commission noted.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]


Saw Tiny Fist in Toilet, Witness Tells Trial

Angela Stieb walked into a department-store bathroom and saw a horrifying scene — a tiny, clenched fist sticking out of a toilet, a court heard yesterday at the trial of a woman accused of abandoning her newborn baby.

Ms. Stieb told the court she had gone into the bathroom with her own infant child.

“That’s when we found the mess,” she testified.

“I seen toilet paper in the toilet and a little hand sticking out… It was purple and the hand was clenched shut, like a fist.”

Her evidence was being heard at the trial of April Halkett, 22, who is accused of abandoning her baby in a toilet at a Walmart in Prince Albert on May 21, 2007.

Ms. Halkett has pleaded not guilty.

The child survived and has since been moved to a different community. A publication ban has been placed on his name and his home community.

As she listened to Ms. Stieb’s testimony, Ms. Halkett — who had been wiping tears from her eyes much of the morning — put her hands in front of her face and cried.

Ms. Stieb’s mother testified that she and her daughter reported what they had seen to the Walmart staff, and were told by a manager that staff was aware of the mess. Beatrice Stieb said she and her husband urged staff members to check out the stall immediately.

Defence lawyer Ajay Krishan thanked Beatrice Stieb for insisting Walmart staff hurry into the bathroom.

“You probably saved that child’s life.”

Police have said store manager Chad Fraser discovered a barely moving newborn boy, partially sticking out of the toilet and covered with paper towels, but no sign of the mother.

Mr. Fraser cleared the baby’s airways and massaged his chest until emergency services arrived. An ambulance service spokesman said the infant had been carried for a full term and weighed seven or eight pounds.

Paramedics rushed the child to a hospital in Saskatoon, where he received medical care for eight days.

Ms. Stieb was not the only customer to walk in on a disturbing scene in the washroom, the court heard.

Earlier, Terry Sparks, a resident of Melfort, Sask., had also stopped to use the washroom.

She testified yesterday that she saw clothing and shoes but no feet in one of the stalls. Then, she noticed blood on the floor.

“There was just little bits of blood dropping there,” she testified. “Then it got bigger.”

She also heard grunting coming from the stall. “I couldn’t identify words or anything,” Ms. Sparks said.

She alerted store staff. “I was scared but I also wanted to help,” Ms. Sparks testified.

Linda Sinclair, an assistant store manager at the time, testified that after a customer came to the service desk, she went into the bathroom to ask if the person in the stall needed assistance.

The person said she was OK, said Ms. Sinclair, who noticed pants and running shoes on the floor pushed toward the front of the stall.

Ms. Sinclair said she asked again if the person needed help or if there was anyone she could call. The woman said she was with someone and that she was OK, Ms. Sinclair told the court.

“It wasn’t normal that she refused help,” Ms. Sinclair testified. “There was a lot of blood on the floor.”

She said she waited near the till across from the washroom for the person to come out. After helping customers and not seeing anyone leave the bathroom, Ms. Sinclair said she told the store manager what was happening.

Also testifying yesterday was Constable Shawn Stubbs of the Prince Albert Police Service.

Const. Stubbs said he first went to the hospital after receiving the call and then to Walmart. He took pictures of the bathroom, which was covered with “red stains” of what he said he believed to be blood. There were also paper towels covered with “red stains.”

“It looked like someone had tried to clean up,” he testified.

He checked the bathroom for fingerprints, but could not get any. The bathroom was “well-used,” he said.

Police also watched the store’s surveillance video. Const. Stubbs said approximately 15 minutes passed from the time Ms. Halkett entered the store to when she walked out.

The trial is scheduled for one week.

Depending on how the prosecutor chooses to proceed, the maximum sentence for child abandonment can be 18 months or five years.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Lily-Livered Europe Has Surrendered to Islam

In 2006, I had a debate with Tariq Ramadan, the author of Western Muslims and the future of Islam. In the hypothetical event of a war between Egypt and Switzerland, for which community would he be prepared to die, I asked him.

Mr Ramadan has dual citizenship. He’s an Egyptian by birth and a Swiss by naturalisation. His response was one of rage on different levels. Above all I think he was outraged that one should ask such a question. He refused to answer.

Mr Ramadan, like many other Muslims, may have two or more citizenships. From all that he expresses both in person and on paper, it is clear that his loyalty, above all, is to Islam. I do not doubt that he would die for Islam, like most Muslims, and that’s his prerogative. But what European countries have done is give citizenship to individuals who feel no obligation to share in their societies for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer and in the event of a catastrophe, sacrifice themselves.

In this way, they evade one of the chief criteria of citizenship. Political allegiance to the constitution of your country is the minimum requirement. It is this state of affairs that makes Christopher Caldwell’s book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration and the West (Allen Lane, £17.99), which opens with the sentence, “Western Europe became a multi-ethnic society in a fit of absence of mind,” a chilling read.

This absence of mind, which Caldwell lays bare, is reflected in Europe’s immigration policies and especially in its response to Islam. No debate today is more explosive, more sensitive, more confusing and more frightening than the debate on the future of Islam in Europe…

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

Bullied Swedish Schoolboy Given Bodyguard

The parents of a Swedish schoolboy have employed a bodyguard to accompany their son to school to protect him from the bullies in his class.

The boy, who is 11-years-old, attends Gäverängeskolan in Ockelbo in northern Sweden. The school has long had problems with bullying but the situation has escalated in recent months, writes local newspaper Arbetarbladet.

The boy’s parents, tired of what they consider the school’s lack of action to address the problem, decided to take the matter into their own hands and employed a bodyguard to accompany their son to school.

“We are desperate, the boy is in a sensitive age. He is 11-years-old and he should be able to go to school without being scared,” they told the newspaper.

“He (the bodyguard) is educated and has worked with problem children before. As long as he is there, then the boy won’t be subjected to violence.”

Sylvia Bergroth, the school’s principal, rejects accusations that the school is not acting to deal with the problem.

The school plans to hold meetings with the social and student support services and has taken measures to stop the violence, Bergroth said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Judges and Police Oppose Government

[Comment from Tuan Jim: On the surface this seems a little confusing, but digging a little deeper, it looks like the objections being raised are much like the ones we have in the US regarding hate crime legislation — extra penalties for incidents in a certain time frame, or belonging to a certain organization (ie. having certain opinions/thoughts), etc.]

Judges, prosecutors and the police bitterly reject the Danish government’s anti-gang proposals. Simply signal politics.

The Danish centre-right government has put its proposals for new anti-gang legislation out for hearings among interested parties — and responses from the courts, prosecutors and police have been harsh .

Among other proposals, the package suggests introducing politically determined minimum sentences and remand for petty crime.

The presidents of both the Eastern High Court and the Copenhagen District Court have directly warned against introducing minimum sentences, and the Court Administration says that the proposals will simply add further strain to an already strained court system.

Prosecutors The prosecutor-general says that the anti-gang proposals, if elevated to legislation, can result in verdicts ‘that are difficult to explain’. Public prosecutors, for their part, also question whether the package will make any difference at all on the streets.

Several public prosecutors and police forces also question the government’s idea of doubling sentences for crimes committed during the current gang warfare.

Signals Prosecutors say it will be difficult to prove when a clash is current, when it is between equal parties and how to prove that a crime is part of gang warfare.

Copenhagen’s Police Director Hanne Bech Hansen delivers the heftiest criticism saying that the proposal ‘seemingly only has value as a purely political signal’.

The prosecutor-general concludes that:”It is highly unsure what practical use the proposal will have.”

Another proposal — to curb the liberty of gang members who are waiting for their sentences — is also questioned.

“Presumably, in practice, this would only be used in a limited number of cases,” the prosecutor-general says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Fiat’s Grand Plans Hit Resistance

BERLIN (AFP) — A drive by Italy’s Fiat to create a global car giant from the remnants of General Motors in Europe and Chrysler hit the skids on Tuesday as fierce resistance emerged on both sides of the Atlantic.

Unions expressed fears that Fiat head Sergio Marchionne would close plants and slash thousands of jobs if what he calls his “marriage made in heaven” to form the world’s second-biggest automaker after Toyota becomes reality.

Marchionne told the German daily Bild that he would not close any factories in Germany, where GM Europe employs about half of its 56,000 European workers at Opel.

But he added: “Opel can never make money in its current size, and if you don’t make money you won’t survive… The workforce of course has to be reduced. No one can change that.”

“Statements like this are 10 a penny,” Rainer Einenkel, head of the works council at Opel’s Bochum plant in Germany, said on NDR public radio.

In Britain, the head the country’s main carworkers’ union Unite said he feared that Vauxhall — part of GM Europe, employing over 5,000 workers in Britain — could be “given away” if Marchionne got his way.

“Quite frankly this move sends shivers down my spine… These proposals are not so much a sale as a giveaway,” Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley said.

Unions were unhappy too in Italy, where Fiat is by far the country’s biggest private sector employer, paying the wages of more than 82,000 people including 30,000 in its auto division at five assembly plants.

Fresh from securing a 20-percent stake in the bankrupt Chrysler last week, Marchionne also has his eye on snapping up GM’s European business to create a new giant making between six and seven million vehicles every year.

GM is expected by analysts to follow fellow Detroit “Big Three” behemoth Chrysler into bankruptcy soon and has been trying to offload some of its European operations, based on Opel and Vauxhall, for some time.

Industry sources told AFP on Tuesday that Fiat is also looking at snapping up GM’s operations in Latin America where the US firm sold 1.2 million vehicles last year.

On Monday a smiling Marchionne was in Berlin touting his plans to ministers in the hope that the German government would help the takeover become reality with state guarantees that one newspaper defined as a “dowry.”

German ministers were somewhat sceptical too, with Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg saying that although Fiat’s plans were “interesting” he needed more details and that there were other interested parties.

Hendrik Hering, economy minister in the state Rhineland-Palatinate where Opel employs 3,000 people at an engine factory that might not form part of Marchionne’s vision, went further, calling Fiat’s scheme “unacceptable.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has reportedly drawn up a 14-point list of criteria that any buyer of GM Europe has to fulfil before Berlin opens its cheque book.

Frank Schwope, auto analyst at NordLB bank, said that Fiat also has its work cut out winning over GM executives in Detroit to its idea, telling AFP that “GM, at the most, will allow Fiat to take a minority stake in Opel.”

Germany’s press also gave Fiat’s plans a cool reception, with a Sueddeutsche Zeitung editorial calling them “far too ambitious”. The Frankfurter Allgemeine warned though that Opel is “not entitled to issue big-mouthed demands.”

Fiat is also not the only show in town.

The Financial Times reported that as many as six others including sovereign wealth funds from Abu Dhabi and Singapore and three private equity groups were eyeing GM Europe too.

Also waiting in the wings is Canadian car parts giant Magna, reportedly teaming up with Russian automaker GAZ, controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, and Russia’s biggest lender Sberbank.

Events on the other side of the Atlantic may also cause Marchionne a headache, with a group of disgruntled Chrysler creditors launching a bid on Monday to block the US firm’s “illegal” and “fatally flawed” restructuring.

Under a plan announced on Thursday by US President Barack Obama, Chrysler aims for a “surgical” bankruptcy to wipe out a portion of its debts, allowing the creation of a new firm owned by unions, governments — and Fiat.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Up to a Third of “Underage” Asylum Seekers Prove to be Older

Up to a third of the asylum seekers who have been placed in refugee reception centres set up at the beginning of the year for unaccompanied underage would-be refugees have proven to be older than they claimed. Some of those who understated their age were found out in medical age determination tests, while personal information of others has been found in other EU countries. Some have even admitted to having previously lied about their age. “Quite recently a resident of the Parikkala reception centre came and said voluntarily that he was of adult age. The motive was not clear”, says Henry Reponen of the South Karelia police in Imatra. “Could it be that the asylum seeker wants to get into a facility for adults in a more lively community?” At the beginning of the year, reception centres were set up in the South Karelian community of Parikkala, and the North Ostrobothnia community of Pudasjärvi for underage asylum seekers arriving in Finland alone. The centres have about 150 residents, mainly from Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

In Parikkala, police have interviewed all 80 residents of the reception centre. Reponen says that a third of the applicants proved to be adults. Another third were so-called “Dublin cases”, who had come to Finland from another EU country — usually Greece, Italy, or Malta. “Some are both. One, who claimed to be 15 years old, had been granted a residence permit in Italy as a 25-year-old”, Reponen says, adding that less than half of the asylum seekers housed in Parikkala were what they said that they were — underage asylum seekers for whom Finland was the first EU country that they had entered. At the reception centre in Pudasjärvi, in North Ostrobothnia, a third of the 65 residents there have been interviewed. Juha Häkkinen of the local police, says that the experiences do not “significantly” differ from those in Parikkala. “Here, only one has conceded to being an adult. Those whose outward appearance suggests that they are adults are sent to age determination tests. The results are not back yet”, Häkkinen says.

A police officer who interviewed the asylum seekers says that Finnish social benefits, which are better than in many EU countries, attract some of them to Finland. An asylum seeker in Finland gets over EUR 300 a month in welfare payments, which is nearly ten times the amount that they would get in Germany. “It seems that the level of Finnish social benefits is better known by them, than by our own civil servants. Very many say openly that they have come to Finland for money. They are very open especially when they know that they will have to leave Finland”, Henry Reponen says. “Some boys say that they can get money for discos in Finland. Others say that they send money back home. Many live on minimum food, and then they can send some money back home.”

Last year the number of unaccompanied minors coming to Finland exploded. There were 706 applicants in 2008, while there were fewer than 100 in the previous year. The growth has led to suspicions of the use of “anchor children”; minors are granted asylum more easily than adults, and are entitled to get their parents and Siblings to Finland. The government decided to commission a study on how asylum policy should be developed, and whether or not there are factors that especially attract asylum seekers to Finland. The study is to be completed by the end of May.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Helsinki District Court Chief Judge Criticises Long Duration of Criminal Cases

Takkunen sees situation as threat to rule of law

Eero Takkunen, Chief Judge at the Helsinki District Court, says that the long duration of the handling of legal matters could place the rule of law in Finland in an awkward light. “Finland sees itself as a country with the rule of law, but these decisions by the Human Rights Court suggest something very different. There is no justice in having to wait for seven or eight years”, Takkunen points out. Takkunen was speaking on Monday when Helsinki District Court gave its decision in the longest and most extensive criminal case in Finnish history. In addition to taking a couple of years, the handling of the case, involving tax evasion in the construction industry, cost more than EUR 1.7 million in taxpayers’ money.

“The whole concept of protection under the law has been eroded. It is a stigma”, Takkunen says. The Chief Judge of Finland’s largest district court was making reference to the cases in which the European Court of Human Rights voted against it. Under rules set by the European Union, a person must not be kept under suspicion of a crime for more than seven years. Finland has received more than 100 reprimands from the court this decade, most of which have involved excessive duration of a legal case. Most of the cases were originally argued in the Helsinki region.

The receipt fraud trial that was wound up at Helsinki District Court on Monday began in the fall of 2007, after long preparation, and the actual trial proceedings lasted around six months, with nearly 100 court sessions. District Prosecutor Heikki Poukka says that there are a few cases each year in Finland that require more than three months to handle. These are usually in the Helsinki region. Chief Judge Takkunen says that in the bigger cases it is usually impossible to reach a final verdict in less than seven years from the very beginning of the investigation.

In the most difficult cases, the matter is likely to go to the Court of Appeals, and possibly even the Supreme Court for handling. “If the preliminary investigation takes 4 to 5 years, the matter simply cannot go through the legal process in time.” Takkunen feels that cooperation between the police and prosecutors should improve, so that those who are indicted could get a decision in an appropriate amount of time. He says that the time of the court is often spent on going over matters that should have been cleared up during preliminary police investigations.

The number of trials at Helsinki District Court taking more than one day have tripled over the past three years. The time that judges put on large cases has doubled. Takkunen sees this as a permanent change. “Crooks network as well”, he notes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Flags and Slogans Mark Libertas Congress in Rome

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Fledgling pan-European political group Libertas held its first ever convention on Friday (1 May), attracting over 1,000 people, including Polish Nobel Prize laureate Lech Walesa, but sending a somewhat fuzzy message to “Brussels bureaucrats.”

Gathered in Rome, speakers talked in generalities about themes such as democracy, liberty and transparency while pledging to never accept the Lisbon treaty.

Declan Ganley, Irish businessman and the founder of the political movement, said Libertas has four policies which only it can deliver to voters in June’s EU elections — accountability, value for money, full disclosure and elected politicians making EU law.

“There has never been a more important European election than this one. It is, quite simply, the last chance we have to ensure that our voice — Europe’s voice — is heard,” said the man who spear-headed the successful No camp in Ireland’s vote on Lisbon last year.

“People who never have to face a ballot box make most of our laws,” he went on, referring to the “unelected elite” in Brussels and saying that Libertas opponents are “afraid of democracy.”

Other speakers included Philippe de Villiers, the head of the nationalist Mouvement Pour La France; former Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts; Eline van den Broek, the head of the Dutch anti-EU constitution movement; and centre-right Czech MP Vlastimil Tlusty, who recently led a no-confidence vote resulting in the fall of the Czech government.

Their speeches were heavy on big words such as democracy and liberty but light on policy detail, especially on the burning topic of the moment — the state of Europe’s economy.

“What unites us is the will to push Europe out of its economic crisis,” said Mr Krasts, noting that sound democratic pillars would provide a “solid base for dynamic market development.”

Most of the speakers, who come from diverse backgrounds and who often campaign on different issues on home turf, stuck to the agreed Libertas topics, but some let their personal bugbears shine through.

Mr de Villiers said that the “roots of Europe are here,” making the point that people from all 27 member states had come to the congress, a fact established by a shout-for-your-country session earlier in the day and plenty of national flags in the crowd.

The French politician said the perimeters of Europe must be defined “once and for all” and that it is “out of the question” for Turkey to join.

The Greek Libertas representative, Emmanuil Kalligiannis, compared Europe to a “whore,” saying it would be neither “decent” nor “moral” to negotiate with Turkey, which is “militarily occupying” 40 percent of Cyprus.

Former Slovak prime minister Jan Carnogursky likened the EU to Communism, which tried to “replace the sovereignty and culture of nations.”

Star turn

In a surprise public relations coup, the founder of Poland’s anti-Communist Solidarity movement, Lech Walesa also gave a speech in praise of Libertas.

“I see a place for you. There is a place in Europe for different ideas. Too few people take part in elections, programmes are poor, there’s too much bureaucracy, so I agree with your diagnosis,” he said. “I wish you success. May you stay on God’s path.”

Mr Walesa came one day after his public appearance at the Warsaw congress of Libertas’ political rival, the pro-treaty, pro-integration, European People’s Party.

His presence prompted the single most concrete policy proposal of the Libertas convention, from Mr Ganley himself.

The Irishman pledged to “ensure that the shipyards in Gdansk stay open,” in reference to the place where Mr Walesa launched Solidarity, but which faces an uncertain future.

The Libertas convention was moderated by the telegenic Eline Van den Broek and ended with Libertas representatives from all member states signing an electronic petition for a new referendum.

“We, in the name of a stronger Europe, pledge that no new European treaty can be implemented without a referendum,” the plea said.

Bungled finale

Despite their enthusiasm, several signed under the wrong country. The Bulgarian representative filled in for Finland by mistake, something Ms Van den Broek took as a sign of how “European” Libertas is.

Although it has had its first congress and Mr Ganley felt “humbled” by the support, his movement has yet to produce an election manifesto.

Its website says it will be published “in a few weeks,” with the European elections to take place in just over a month’s time on 4-7 June.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

German Citizenship Applications Continue to Fall

A persistent fall in the number of immigrants becoming naturalized German citizens has seen politicians in Berlin reignite the debate about cultural integration and citizenship tests.

Some 187,000 foreigners were naturalized as German citizens in 2000. By 2007 that number had dropped about 40 percent to just 113,000.

Official figures for 2008 haven’t yet been published, but Sevim Dagdelen, a parliamentarian from Germany’s Left party, has done her own research and calculations. She estimates the number of immigrants who chose to become German citizens last year fell by another 18 percent last year.

“The federal government keeps talking about Germany as a land of integration, with a welcoming culture of naturalization,” Dagdelen told Deutsche Welle. “But it’s clearly untrue. Many foreigners aren’t even applying for German citizenship because they’re worried they won’t be accepted, because the hurdles are set too high.”

Tough criteria

To be granted German citizenship, an immigrant must have lived in Germany legally for at least eight years. They have to prove they have an independent income, don’t require social welfare or unemployment benefits, and have a good grasp of the German language.

Additional rules introduced in 2007 require applicants who have not graduated from a German school to pass a controversial “citizenship test”.

The examination costs 25 euros and consists of 33 multiple choice items selected from a catalog of 310 questions about German history, culture and the political system. Would-be Germans must provide at least 17 correct answers to pass, otherwise they can try again and re-sit the examination at a later date.

The federal government says extremely low failure rates (around one percent) prove the test is a success. But critics say the authorities have got it wrong.

The left-wing Berlin state senate’s commissioner for integration, Guenter Piening, says many immigrants from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds are so worried by the test that they haven’t dared to apply for German citizenship.

“These are the people we really want to include in our society,” Piening told Deutsche Welle. “The middle-class, educated immigrants who confidently decide they want to become German aren’t a problem. The people we really want to appeal to are the immigrants who’ve until now have been unsure about naturalization, but do want to commit to our society. And it’s precisely these people who are being put off by mixed signals.”

Language barriers

The government’s new language test is particularly unpopular among immigrants. Applicants can’t get by on basic phrases communicating where they live and who they know. They have to be able to describe their dreams and justify their opinions.

“We should make exceptions for older, first-generation immigrants,” Piening said, adding that the current testing regime is especially challenging for people who never attended a German school.

The federal government’s commissioner for integration, Maria Boehmer, however, is opposed to lowering standards even in the face of falling naturalization numbers.

“In Hamburg I took part in a podium discussion. There was an immigrant who’d spent more than 30 years in Germany. He told me that without a good grasp of the German language, he would still be little more than a spectator on the edge of society;” she told Deutsche Welle.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Boehmer, a Christian Democrat, says the plunge in the number of foreigners taking up German citizenship needs to be carefully examined because a number of factors are at play.

One is a rule that came into force in 2000. It states that a child born to an immigrant parent who’s been living in Germany for more than eight years is automatically granted German citizenship — so there’s no need for an application.

However, critics point out that such children only remain German if they choose to give up their foreign nationality when they reach 18 years of age. They say this forced decision puts youths with immigrant backgrounds under a lot of pressure.

So far calls for Germany to lift its general ban on dual citizenship have found little support among Germany’s major political parties — and there’s little to suggest their position will change any time soon.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Germany: Berlin May Day Rioters Held for Attempted Murder

Four youths who took part in violent May Day riots in the German capital are in custody on suspicion of attempting to murder police officers, a Berlin prosecutor’s office spokesman said on Sunday.

A further 21 youths were still being held on other charges after Friday’s events, described by police as the worst rioting in Berlin for several years. The annual violence is attributed to a loose anarchist movement said to have about 5,800 members around Germany.

The four detained youths are alleged to have thrown petrol-filled explosives at police officers in Berlin’s left-leaning Kreuzberg neighborhood in the early hours of Saturday.Rioters were also said to have tried setting officers on fire using flammable liquids and matches.

Police chief Dieter Glietsch said no police were injured in the attempted firebombings, but that 273 officers — more than double last year’s figure — were treated for other injuries, mostly minor, after brawling and stone-throwing broke out.

“The number of the violent criminals was higher this year, the acts of violence began earlier and the attacks against police officers were more violent,” Glietsch said.

Last year, 112 police were injured in May Day protests.

Mass arrests

Police said officers carrying shields, clubs, tear gas and pepper spray confronted around 2,500 rioters on streets around Kreuzberg. Around 290 people were arrested amidst the violence, while warrants were issued for a further 44 people stemming from the unrest.

Protest organizers said at least 136 people were injured in the riots, 50 of which needed to be hospitalized.

“It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed in these riots,” said Konrad Freiberg, leader of the GdP police union.

Rainer Wendt, head of another police union, criticized police tactics as too mild. He said police should make a more visible show of strength and use water cannons to repel violent rioters.

Several movements, ranging from anarchists to neo-Nazis, hold their main assemblies on May 1, Europe’s Labor Day.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Italy: “Graduates, Not Showgirls” Says Berlusconi “Here’s the Truth About Noemi’s Party”

Prime minister: “Veronica was hoodwinked. She’ll have to apologise publicly”

Arcore, Sunday evening. On this very different Sunday from all the others, Silvio Berlusconi is upset. “I’m fuming”, her mutters. It was a surprise when he found out that his wife intended to divorce him. A veritable bolt from the blue. “Veronica has been hoodwinked. And I know who advised her. Or rather, put her up to it. The truth will out, don’t worry”. Prime minister, do you think that this time, as on other occasions, a relationship that has lasted almost 30 years, 19 as man and wife, can be salvaged? “I don’t think so. I don’t know whether I want to this time. Veronica will have to apologise publicly. And I don’t know if it will be enough. It’s the third time she’s pulled something like this during an election campaign. It’s just too much”.

What about the children? Shouldn’t you be thinking about your three children, and then there’s another grandchild on the way? “My children are on my side”. “Do you know my name for what’s been going on in the past few days? Media-vehicled crime”. Prime minister, La Repubblica and La Stampa newspapers were only doing their job. And I can’t tell you how much it hurts. No, the premier insists there is a plot. A manoeuvre to put him in difficulty and expose him to ridicule at the very time when his popularity is soaring. He thinks his wife has been an unwitting accomplice. “Veronica has simply been hoodwinked by the media”. Yes, but you did include those showgirls on the list of candidates, and after your wife’s letter to the ANSA press agency (“brazen-faced trash, I and my children are victims…”), didn’t you remove them? “Look, I want to say once and for all, very clearly. We did not include any showgirls on the list and the three that were dropped at the last minute were all excellent, well-educated young women. A far cry from television totty. Veronica believed a lot of the inaccuracies in the press, unfortunately”.

What about the three young women who have actually been included among the candidates for the European elections? “Lara Comi has two degrees, she coordinated the People of Freedom youth in Lombardy and is a manager with the Giochi Preziosi company. She’s never been on TV. Licia Ronzulli is a top-level healthcare manager and in charge of health professions and operating theatres at the Galeazzi hospital. Healthcare entrepreneur Giuseppe Rotelli has a high opinion of her and she goes to Bangladesh twice a year. Barbara Matera has a degree in political science. Gianni Letta recommended her; she’s the girlfriend of the son of a prefect he knows. She did have a part in Carabinieri 7 on Canale 5 but she’s never been a showgirl. Believe me, it’s a put-up job. We’re talking about three able young women out of 72 candidates. What harm is there if they’re good-looking? We can’t nominate a string of Rosy Bindis”…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Bishops Bash Berlusconis

Daily raps couple for media use of ‘starlet’ spat

(ANSA) — Rome, May 5 — The Italian bishops association on Tuesday rapped Premier Silvio Berlusconi and his wife Veronica Lario for feeding a marriage-ending spat to the media.

A front-page editorial in L’Avvenire, the bishops’ daily, chided Lario, 52, for voicing her disapproval of alleged moves to field showgirls in the European elections in a letter to ANSA and then turning to two of Italy’s top dailies, Corriere della Sera and La Stampa, to announce divorce plans.

The editorial then claimed there was a contradiction between 72-year-old Berlusconi’s use of a playboy image for political ends and his appeal for privacy over what he has called a leftwing plot to end his marriage.

In the affair, it said, “politics and showbiz, in a deathly attack, have shown the worst of themselves”.

“The flamboyant premier, with his declared weakness for young actresses…after choosing bravado as an artifice for consensus, all of a sudden appeals for a low profile and privacy, while screaming about a plot”.

It went on to comment on what it called the “candidature waltz,” in which several young women with a showbiz background were reportedly groomed as prospective Euro-MPs only to be pulled at the last minute after Lario’s outburst about what she called a “shamelessly trashy” stunt.

“We’ll never know whether showgirls or starlets were lined up but the very idea of using girls as electoral bait had a depressing ring to it,” the editorial said.

“The conception of women as mere objects is unacceptable: the supposed candidate has to be pretty, young, attractive and if possible amenable…perhaps only in strangers’ eyes, but everyone knows that appearances count; and these reveal a sometimes unscrupulous approach to power”.

Leaders should largely be judged on their achievements, Avvenire said, “but the ‘stuff’ of a leader, his style and the values with which he concretely fills his life, are not inconsequential. They cannot be”.

It called for “a premier who, with sobriety, is able to be the mirror of his country’s soul”.

Catholic politicians praised the bishops for taking Berlusconi to task with centrist Catholic leader Pierferdinando Casini branding Berlusconi’s ‘plot’ claims as “laughable”.

The Democratic Left, Italy’s largest opposition party, said the bishops had “rapped the table” to call the centre-right premier to order.

Catholic marriage lawyers said the Berlusconis had made a mistake in “washing their dirty linen in public”. Berlusconi fell in love with the actress Lario, his second wife, when he saw her performing topless in 1980 at a theatre he owned.

The media magnate, currently Italy’s second-richest man, divorced his first wife in 1990 to marry her.

The couple have had three children. His two children from his first marriage occupy senior positions in his business empire. Berlusconi on Monday he wouldn’t patch things up with his wife and demanded a public apology.

He told Corriere della Sera he might file a counter-suit if Lario went ahead with plans to divorce him. Asked if his 19-year marriage to Lario could survive, he replied: “I don’t think so, and I don’t know if I want it this time. Veronica will have to publicly apologise to me, and I don’t know if that will be enough”. “It’s the third time she’s played a trick like this during an election campaign. It’s really too much’. In a separate interview with La Stampa, the premier said there might “even be grounds for defamation” after she told another newspaper, La Repubblica, that she “(could) not stay with a man who consorted with minors”. “Those insinuations about me consorting with minors are unreadable,” Berlusconi told La Stampa, saying he would have been “mad” to attend the birthday party of the 18-year-old daughter of a business associate “if there had been anything sordid behind it”.

Berlusconi family daily Il Giornale on Tuesday published photos of Berlusconi with the girl and her parents, “tied to the premier by a longstanding friendship”.

In Monday’s press interviews, Berlusconi also defended his party’s selection of the allegedly ‘showgirl’ EP candidates, saying all six young women were qualified for the job, including the three that were pulled at the last minute. Only one of the remaining three had worked on TV, as an announcer and actress, he told both papers. Politicians from both sides of the political fence appeared to agree with Berlusconi Monday that the spat, which has claimed headlines in Italy and abroad, should be treated as a private affair. But Democratic Party leader Dario Franceschini said Berlusconi should stop his “pathetic” claims about a leftwing plot. The Berlusconis had another highly publicised spat two years ago when Lario demanded, and obtained, a public apology after he reportedly flirted with young women, one of whom is now his equal opportunities minister. A year previously, Lario annoyed Berlusconi by coming out publicly against his government’s restrictive

assisted fertility laws ahead of a referendum. photo: the Berlusconis in 2007

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Immigrants Nearly in Majority in Rotterdam

ROTTERDAM, 05/05/09 — Rotterdam is approaching the point at which white Dutch will form a minority in the city. Based on the trend, it could have an ‘ethnic majority’ in 2012, Algemeen Dagblad reported yesterday.

Currently, 52 percent of the population are ‘indigenous’ and 48 percent, immigrant. According to the official definition, immigrants are persons with at least one parent born abroad.

According to Rotterdam city council’s Centre for Research and Statistics (COS), Rotterdam was still 60 percent indigenous in 1990. COS researcher Marco Hoppesteyn did not venture to predict the point at which the share of the indigenous in Rotterdam would be less than 50 percent. Based on the trend in this decade, this could be in 2012. “But various uncertainty factors play a role.”

On 1 April, Rotterdam had 588.398 residents, 1,237 more than on 31 December 2008. Completely against the growth trend of the past decade, indigenous numbers declined in Rotterdam. The city had 44,000 fewer people with Dutch roots on 1 April than in 1990.

The ‘colouring’ of Rotterdam is occurring to a large extent ‘from bottom up.’ Among those in their 20s and 30s, immigrants are already in the majority. And in the 0-14 category, as much as 62 percent are immigrant.

After the ‘original’ Dutch, the Surinamese form the biggest ethnic group on Rotterdam, followed by Turks and Moroccans. Not counting east Europeans, population growth is strongest among Antilleans and Moroccans. Rotterdam now has 30 percent more Antilleans (at 20,261) than 10 years ago. The number of Rotterdammers with Moroccan roots grew by 26 percent in the same period to 38,100.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Muslim Lawyer Ordered to Stand Up

The Netherlands bar association’s disciplinary council has reprimanded a Muslim lawyer who refuses to stand up for the judge.

Rotterdam lawyer Mohammed Enait, an orthodox Muslim, claims his faith does not allow him to stand up for a judge, because all people are equal under Islam. However, the disciplinary council ruled on Monday that Enait’s behaviour was unacceptable, as is the Muslim taqiyah cap he inists on wearing in court. It also condemned his public criticism of a court verdict.

Enait first made headlines in 2006 when he was turned down for a job at Rotterdam’s city council because he refused to shake hands with women, also on religious grounds.

As a result of Monday’s decision, Enait will be suspended if he persists in refusing to stand up for the judge. Enait has already indicated that he has no intention of complying with the council’s decision, and if necessary he is prepared to take his case to the European court of human rights.

In the meantime, Enait intends to avoid the problem by pleading only minor cases where he is not required to rise.

Enait claims he is “fighting for the rights of orthodox Muslims”. He says he is “a victim of political persecution”.

A Rotterdam court last year ruled in favour of Enait, arguing that an exception could be made on the basis of deep religious conviction. But the judge was later overruled by the council for the judiciary, which said all lawyers must demonstrate their respect for the rule of law and exceptions are not acceptable.

The initial ruling was heavily criticised by members of the Dutch parliament at the time. “It is unacceptable that one individual with extreme beliefs can challenge [our] general rules of conduct,” said Christian democrat Sybrand van Haersma Buma.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Woman Arrested for False Terror Alert

A woman suspected of setting off the false alarm that caused the arrest of seven people in Amsterdam in March was apprehended herself on Monday, the police said.

An anonymous woman calling from Brussels on March 11 warned police that three men were planning to carry out a terror attack in an Ikea store and several other department stores in Amsterdam. She mentioned a family link to one of the perpetrators of the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

Following the tip, six men and one woman were arrested in Amsterdam and the shopping area near the Ajax football stadium was sealed off. Police released all seven suspects in little over 24 hours and no explosives were found in the stores or at their homes.

The 48-year-old woman arrested on Monday is being accused of making a false bomb and terrorism threat. She is due to appear before a judge in Rotterdam on Thursday.

A police spokesperson at the time said the caller was a woman who spoke Dutch with a French accent and seemed to be consulting with someone during the 10-minute conversation. After the threat of a terrorist attack in Amsterdam evaporated, police were criticised for using unreasonable force during the arrests and for going public with the Moroccan heritage of the suspects.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Violent Bus Passenger Arrested

Police have arrested a man who assaulted a bus driver in Amsterdam on Monday afternoon. The man reported voluntarily to a police station later in the day. He beat up the driver, who had said the man’s ticket did not entitle him to travel across zone boundaries on the bus route.

The victim sustained head injuries and had to be taken to hospital.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Norway: Soldiers Suffer From Metal Fume Fever

In a preliminary report Norwegian defence experts have concluded that health problems among a large number of Norwegian soldiers may be caused by so-called metal fume fever. Many soldiers have become ill after they have used what is considered environmental-friendly ammunition for the standard army rifle HK416, the newspaper Dagbladet reports.

The soldiers have suffered chest pains, sore throats and coughing for several hours after the shooting practice is over.

According to the Norwegian Defence Research Center, repeated contractions of metal fume fever could result in permanent harm to one’s health.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Spain: 3 Chinese Ministers Accused of Crimes Against Humanity

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 5 — Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz has accused three Chinese government ministers of committing crimes against humanity in Tibet during March 2008. Press agency EFE reports that the National Court judge has accused the three of having carried out “a generalised and systematic attack” on the Tibetan population beginning on March 10 2008. The attack, says the judge, caused 203 deaths and thousands of serious injuries, as well as the illegal detention or ‘disappearance’ of 5,972 Tibetans. Using the universal jurisdiction to press charges of crimes against humanity, Judge Pedraz has also accused a further five Chinese politicians of the same crimes, including: the Secretary of the Chinese Communist Part in the autonomous region of Tibet; a member of the Beijing Politbureau; the leader of the Lhasa Popular Liberation Army; and the Chengdu military commando political leader. Furthermore, Pedraz has also requested permission to go to China and interrogate the three accused ministers, who between them hold the Defence, Security, and Public Safety portfolios. The indefeasible principle of universal jurisdiction, affirmed by Spain in 2005, recognises universal competence in cases of crimes against humanity, genocide, torture or terrorism. Pedraz’s initiative brings the number of investigations opened in Spain in the last 48 hours up to three, and has led to as many diplomatic battlegrounds for the Spanish government to face up to. The other two cases are: the confirmation of the investigation into Israel’s air raids on Gaza in 2002, which caused the death of 15 civilians and wounded 150 more, opened by Judge Fernando Andreu; and the investigation of Judge Eloy Velasco into the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK ‘Least Wanted’ List Published

The names of some of the people barred from entering the UK for fostering extremism or hatred have been published for the first time.

Islamic extremists, white supremacists and a US radio host are among the 16 of 22 excluded in the five months to March to have been named by the Home Office.

Since 2005, the UK has been able to ban people who promote hatred, terrorist violence or serious criminal activity.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said coming to the UK should be a privilege.

Ms Smith said “the public interest was against naming” the remaining six, for example on the grounds it could reveal the type of information being held about them.

The Muslim Council of Britain says the government should not act against people — whatever their views — unless they have broken the law.

‘Against our values’

However, Ms Smith said granting free speech did not provide a licence to preach hatred and that those banned had “clearly overstepped the mark” with the attitudes they had expressed.

“[Naming them] enables people to see the sorts of unacceptable behaviour we are not willing to have in this country.

“Coming to this country is a privilege. We won’t allow people into this country who are going to propagate the sort of views… that fundamentally go against our values.”

Ms Smith had announced in October the tightening of rules determining who could come to the UK.

A “presumption in favour of exclusion” was introduced that meant it would be up to the individual concerned to prove they would not “stir up tension” after arrival.

On the list of those banned between October and March are Hamas MP Yunis Al-Astal and Jewish extremist Mike Guzovsky.

Also excluded are two leaders of a violent Russian skinhead gang, ex-Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Stephen ‘Don’ Black and neo-Nazi Erich Gliebe.

Fred Waldron Phelps Snr, a 79-year-old American Baptist pastor, and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper are barred for their anti-gay comments.

Both have picketed the funerals of Aids victims and celebrated the deaths of US soldiers as “punishment” for US tolerance of homosexuality.

Talk show host Michael Savage — real name Michael Weiner — is also excluded. His views on immigration, Islam, rape and autism have caused great offence in America.

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, told BBC Radio 5 Live that people should be free to enter the country, regardless of their views.

“If they step over the line and break the law, it’s at that moment the law should be enacted, not beforehand.

“If people are keeping their odious views to themselves, that’s their business. We should not be in the business of policing people’s minds.”

He added that internet broadcasts meant that speeches could be screened from abroad into UK meetings anyway.

In recent years, individuals from a range of backgrounds have been prevented from entering the UK.

They have included animal rights activists, rap singers such as Snoop Dogg and even a lifestyle “guru” — Martha Stewart.

She was kept out after being jailed in the US for lying to investigators about a share sale.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

UK: Foreign Stand-in GP Has Third Victim After Leaving Two Patients Dead…

…but will escape British justice despite admitting manslaughter

A foreign doctor who killed two elderly patients after flying in to provide out-of-hours care hospitalised a third patient with ‘inappropriate’ treatment, it has emerged.

The woman was visited by Daniel Ubani just before he killed kidney patient David Gray by injecting him with ten times the maximum recommended dose of morphine.

Yesterday the Daily Mail learned that, hours later,Iris Edward , 86, died of a heart attack two hours after being given medication by the Nigerian-born doctor.


Despite the inquiries, however, it seems unlikely that Ubani will face British justice.

He has already admitted Mr Gray’s manslaughter before a German court and received a suspended sentence, meaning he cannot be tried again under the double jeopardy rule.

And the Crown Prosecution Service has already decided not to bring charges in the case of the 86-year-old woman.

The two deaths have exposed glaring flaws in the out-of-hours care system which relies on foreign doctors commuting into Britain to earn £150 an hour on evenings, weekends and bank holidays despite their being unfamiliar with British practices and having no previous knowledge of their patients.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Judge Condemns Police for Cautioning Convicted Sex Offender

A judge has condemned police for only cautioning a convicted sex offender who breached a court order before going on to abuse more children.

Craig Mason, 21, was given a sexual offences prevention order in December 2004 for having sex with underage girls.

But after breaching the order he was only given a caution by police and was allowed to remain free.

Sex offender Mason went on to breach the order a further three times between April 2005 and March 2007 and commit four sexual acts against children.

Judge Charles Wide, sitting at Northampton Crown Court [last week — 1/5/09], criticised police for letting Mason off with a caution.

He said: “I’m very concerned that someone was cautioned in these circumstances and at the same time he was committing these serious offences.”

Mason admitted four charges of sexual acts against children, including two of intercourse, as well as three other breaches of the prevention order.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of a sexual act with a child under 16 and admitted two more charges of a sexual act with a child.

He denied two charges of sexual touching.

He breached his sexual offences prevention order on three occasions between April 30 2005 and March 01 2007, between October 28 2005 and July 1 2006, and between January 31 2006 and April 1 2006.

The court heard that Mason, of Irthlingborough, Northants, had previous convictions for three indecent assaults and two of sexual intercourse with underage girls.

A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said they would not comment on ongoing cases.

A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “If the police issued him with a caution for the initial breach that matter would have been considered dealt with.”

Mason was released on bail and the case adjourned for sentencing until May 28.

Michele Elliott, director of children’s charity Kidscape, said: “The reality is that you might as well spit into the wind when it comes to cautioning sex offenders.

“If there are no consequences for their actions there is no deterrent and these people will re-offend, which leaves vulnerable children at risk.”

Sandra Brown, founder of children’s campaign group The Moira Anderson Foundation, said: “It really underlines the need for monitoring arrangements to be absolutely clear cut.

“I do not think we can afford to err on the side of laxity at all.

“Unfortunately there are still examples of occasional leniency that have horrifying repercussions.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Labour MP Denis Macshane Blames ‘Xenophobic’ Tories for Rise of Far-Right BNP

A senior Labour MP has prompted outrage by claiming that the Conservatives had ‘prepared the ground’ for a surge by the British National Party.

Former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane said the Tories”xenophobic’ attacks on the EU would be to blame if the far-Right party made ground in next month’s European elections.

But his extraordinary claim was attacked by the Conservatives, who argued it was Labour’s failings which had caused a disillusionment with mainstream politics.

Mr MacShane’s analysis also appears at odds with warnings from senior Labour politicians that Government infighting risked allowing a BNP breakthrough.

There are mounting fears the party could win as many as six seats in European Parliament elections on June 4.

That would transform the BNP from a

fringe participant in local elections to a national organisation, with up to £2million of EU funding.

Mr MacShane, Labour’s former Europe minister, said: ‘Slowly, the European election is coming to the boil.

‘It was the Greens in 1989, UKIP in 2004, so perhaps in 2009 it will be the BNP. The Tories have prepared the ground with their constant xenophobic attacks on Europe.’

But Baroness Warsi, Tory community cohesion spokesman, accused Mr MacShane of a ‘lazy cop-out’.

‘It’s much easier to blame somebody else than address the failings and shortcomings of the Government, which means some voters feel that a fringe party is an attractive alternative,’ she said.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard [Return to headlines]

UK: Personal Web Data to be Stored for a Year

The mobile calls, emails and website visits of every person in Britain will be stored for a year under sweeping new powers which come into force on Monday. Privacy campaigners warned last night that the information would be used by the Government to create a giant “Big Brother” super-database containing a map of everyone’s private life.

The new powers will, for the first time, place a legal duty on internet companies to store private information, including email traffic and website browsing histories.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Clash With Anti-Capitalist Protesters in Brighton

Anti-capitalist protesters brought Bank Holiday chaos to Brighton yesterday.

Mounted police were forced to retreat as masked demonstrators among a 2,000-strong crowd hurled bricks and bottles. Several missiles were seen to hit police officers and their horses.

Three officers suffered minor injuries and a man in his twenties was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.

The arrest was filmed by about a dozen people, some of whom shouted abuse at police relating to the death of Ian Tomlinson, 47, who was pushed to the ground by police during the G20 protests in London last month.

Demonstrators descended on the Royal Bank of Scotland, EDO, the weapons components manufacturer that has a factory in Brighton, and the French arms group Thales.

Red paint was thrown at buildings and police vans, and outside McDonald’s a gas canister was discharged as riot police pushed back protesters.

Visitors to the Brighton Festival were forced to run for cover and traffic ground to a halt as protesters surged through the main streets. The protest was organised by the campaign group Smash EDO.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Think Tank: a Model of Brutality Britain Can Build on

On May 12, the two key architects of Canada’s fiscal reforms of the 1990s are coming to London. Senior politicians and top civil servants are keen to meet them. For good reason.

By the early 1990s Canada was running a budget deficit of 9.1% of GDP — virtually identical to that announced in the UK’s budget. Canada’s public debt was 70% of GDP and rising; its currency was weak and it faced the real prospect of being crippled by debt if investors lost further confidence. The fascinating sequel is how Canada turned itself around.

First, here’s what didn’t work. Between 1984 and 1993, the Canadian government implemented no fewer than 15 initiatives to control or reduce expenditure. During this time accumulated debt tripled. The hard lesson seems to be that “efficiency gains” just don’t deliver what’s needed.

But in 1994 the recently elected Chrétien government tore up the textbook and introduced a totally different approach. The result? Canada’s eyewatering budget deficit was cut to zero within three years and public debt was cut by a third in five years. Central government departmental budgets were reduced on average by 20% within four years. Canada’s top civil servant and one of the visitors to London, Jocelyne Bourgon, said at the time, “an exceptional story about reinventing the role of government is being written in Canada”.

Three factors explain the Canadian turnaround. None makes particularly comfortable reading for British politicians. First, a collapse in the Mexican currency brought unwelcome attention to the weakness of the Canadian dollar and the sustainability of its debt. This moved cutting the deficit from an aspiration into an urgent necessity. Speculation against sterling and a spiralling of the cost of borrowing could easily do the same to the UK.

Second, the Canadians ran a brutal process called Program Review to identify “what needs to be done by government and what we can afford to do”, as Marcel Massé, the then cabinet office minister, put it. Spending that could be delivered in some other way, or that was not essential for government to do, was cut. Third, the prime minister, treasury and cabinet office ministers spoke with one voice.

In practical terms, Program Review required government departments to identify a long list of programmes and activities as prime targets for cuts or transfer out of central government. A committee of permanent secretaries chaired by Bourgon reviewed submissions and coordinated the process. Next, a group of ministers chaired by Massé reviewed the recommendations and final proposals were endorsed by the prime minister and cabinet.

Cuts were not evenly spread. Transport subsidies, international aid and agricultural subsidies were cut especially hard, but this allowed other kinds of spending to be protected or even increased. For example, benefits for the elderly were increased by more than 15%.

One of the fears in the current context is that cuts risk deepening the recession and slowing growth in the years to come. On this, the Canadian evidence offers some comfort. In the period 1995 to 2000, immediately after Program Review, the Canadian economy grew at just under 4% per year — significantly above the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average of 3.2% and above that of both the US and Britain over the same period. This doesn’t prove that Canada wouldn’t have grown without the review, but it does suggest that public expenditure can be contained without dragging down the economy.

On the downside, while the review did deliver, there was criticism that it was ultimately “unscientific” in what was cut and driven by urgency rather than careful analysis. There were also political costs, with MPs — and two cabinet ministers — subsequently losing their seats in constituencies where the cuts fell hardest. Yet, overall, the gamble paid off — Chrétien was later returned to office with a clear, though reduced, majority.

In advance of the private seminar to be held at the new Institute for Government in London, Bourgon commented that “although the Program Review was exactly what Canada had to do at that time, I would recommend another approach today”.

She feels that the real challenge — and opportunity — is to turn the exercise into “a process of modernisation of public institutions including the role of the centre of government, the role of departments and rethinking of the relationship with citizens”.

Massé, the other Canadian visitor, may offer a tougher assessment. Speaking before the start of the Program Review process, he said “over time, governments collectively have promised more than they could deliver and delivered more than they could afford”.

Some may feel the same is now true of the UK.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


UN: Secularism in Macedonia at Risk

The two largest religious communities in Macedonia are so powerful they could breach the state’s constitutional secularism, a UN official visiting Skopje said on Wednesday.

The Macedonian Orthodox Church, MPC, and the Islamic community have a substantial influence over Macedonian politics, the special reporter on freedom of religion and belief for the United Nations Human Rights Council, Asma Jahangir, told local press.

She mentioned the latest wave of protests against the Constitutional Court’s ruling to ban religious teaching from high schools as an example.

“It is of vital importance to respect the independence of the judiciary and the ability of the courts to make rulings on religious issues without fear or putting somebody in favorable position,” Jahangir said.

Her findings will be added to a report on the situation in Macedonia to be put before the UN council.

During the past two weeks, the ruling conservative VMRO DPMNE , which wanted to introduce religious teaching, blamed the constitutional court for making a “political decision” and conspiring with the country’s left wing opposition.

After this, a series of accusations from various religious and student organisations followed. Yesterday the student’s parliament of Skopje University was the last to stage a protest in front of the court.

The MPC also condemned the ruling. Archbishop Stefan said in an interview that the church will lobby for “all obstacles standing in the way of the religious classes to be removed”.

Local media interpreted this as an open call for changing the constitution, which prohibits religion from interfering with the state.

Despite the controversy, the government said it is also committed to building a church in Skopje’s main square. The plan is also to be ruled on by the Constitutional Court, which will decide whether the state can finance religious buildings.

Macedonia’s biggest religious community is Orthodox Christians. Most ethnic Albanians, who make up one quarter of the population, are Muslim.

(Reporting by Sinisa-Jakov Marusic)

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

North Africa

Algeria: Al-Qaeda Video Promotes Child Recruitment

Algiers, 29 April (AKI) — A documentary-style video from Al-Qaeda’s North African branch released on the Internet shows children promoting jihad or holy war and inviting others to join them. The video also contains footage of previous messages by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al-Libi.

At the end of the video, three children raise their fists in the air.

The eldest child, who calls himself Abu Dajana Sufiyan says: “I am a mujahid, (a Muslim who is engages in jihad) son of a mujahid, and I tell all Muslims and particularly young Muslims to fight against the Crusaders and their heretic allies.”

Abu Dajana, who presumably is 13 years old is shown in the video with two other very young children, one who calls himself Osama and another who calls himself Muadh Abdel Salam. All three are seen holding rifles.

It is presumed from the video that the other children are sons of other militants that have been operating for years in the ranks of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and who are hiding in the caves in the mountainous areas of Algeria.

This would confirm recent Algerian media reports about the decision of militants to bring their wives to their hiding places in the mountains.

The presence of families among Al-Qaeda’s mujahideen could be a means to counter recent reports that some terrorist turncoats have spoken of sexual violence by local ‘emirs’ against young female recruits as well as the rampant spread of homosexuality among isolated cells.

The video also shows testimony from seven suicide bombers who carried out attacks last year, among them the testimony of Al-Qaeda’s oldest militant, 64-year-old Abu Uthman Ibrahim.

Abu Uthman is responsible for an attack against the headquarters of the United Nations refugee agency in the Algerian capital Algiers in December 2007 during which he drove a truck bomb containing over 800 kilogrammes of explosive material.

More than 60 people died in that attack.

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

Egypt: Swine Destruction Threatens Coptic-Run Industry

Government vows to continue slaughter in spite of international criticism.

CAIRO, Egypt, May 5 (Compass Direct News) — Authorities yesterday pressed ahead with the slaughter of Egypt’s pigs — crippling the livelihood of thousands of swine breeders, nearly all Coptic Christians — in spite of World Health Organization (WHO) criticism that the measure was unnecessary for fighting the A(H1-N1) flu strain.

No cases of the so-called “swine flu” have been reported in Egypt, but the government last week ordered the slaughter of the country’s pigs as a precautionary measure, which Copts saw as an attack on the minority Christian population. After WHO criticized the move as unnecessary, the government rebranded the slaughter as “a general public health measure.”

Egyptian human rights lawyer Nadia Tawfiq told Compass the pig slaughter was a form of attack on Christians.

“All of that business is Christian,” she said. “You know that for Muslims, the devil is in the pig.”

An estimated 300 to 400 residents of the Manshiyat Nasr area of Cairo, nearly all of them Coptic, took to the streets on Sunday (May 3) and set up blockades to try to keep government teams from removing their animals. The protest took place in an area where mostly Coptic Christian scrap merchants known as zabaleen raise pigs to eke out a living.

The protesters threw stones and bottles at riot police, who reportedly responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. Eight protesters were reportedly hurt, including two that were bloodied as police dragged them away.

An estimated 250,000 mainly poor Christians in Cairo reportedly make their living from collecting garbage and raising pigs in slum areas.

The government’s decision to destroy as many as 400,000 pigs was also lambasted by the United Nations as having little no or warrant, fueling speculation that the directive was motivated by the Islamic prohibition of pig consumption and the fact that Egypt’s pork industry is run almost entirely by Copts.

“They were not so radical against the birds [during the bird flu scare] as they are now against the pigs,” said the president of the Society for the Protection of Animal Rights Egypt, Amina Abaza. “We would like to ask them, ‘Why?’ Is there a special reason?”

A U.S.-based Coptic rights group has condemned the slaughter as a deliberate targeting of defenseless Christians and a continuation of a long campaign of discrimination against the Coptic community.

“Destroying these families’ livelihood without proper compensation is a clear example of discrimination and a violation of human rights, because it directly threatens the existence of an already impoverished population,” the Coptic Assembly of America said in a press statement.

Copts make up 10 to 12 percent of Egypt’s population, and although the community comprises some of Cairo’s richest residents, it also includes some of the nation’s poorest.

Those in the pig industry say that the slaughter cannot be justified on health grounds; they note that their livestock are healthy and pose no hygienic threat.

“Health comes first, absolutely,” said Helena Morcos of Morcos Charcuteries, a delicatessen with four branches in Cairo and its own small breeding farm. “Health comes before business, money, everything. If it had been proven there was a danger with the pigs, we would have slaughtered them readily.”

Animal rights activist Abaza, who is a Muslim, said she has no qualms about protecting pigs and knows likeminded people who are willing to help.

“Why are we so eager to destroy such a fortune and the people who live with their pigs?” she said. “I think we should give them a chance to raise their pigs in better circumstances with better food. I even have persons who are ready to pay for this, and I am one of them.”

Ripple Effect

The government has denied that the swine slaughter is related to Muslim prohibitions against pork, saying that more hygienic pig farming will begin in two years using imported animals.

Confusion over proposed compensation for the slaughtered swine was compounded by the sentiment that any amount would not equal the sustained livelihood that breeding pigs provides.

The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper suggested that pig owners would receive 1,000 Egyptian pounds (US$180) per head, but there were varying reports about how much the government would actually pay and under what conditions.

“I called the chief vet, and he said they were paying 100 pounds [US$18] for a mature pig, and 50 [US$9] for a baby,” said Abaza. “The real cost of a mature animal is 1,000 Egyptian pounds, so look at the loss.”

Egypt’s agricultural minister has suggested that meat from butchered pigs could be sold, thus rendering compensation unnecessary. This idea is impractical, said pig breeder and delicatessen owner Morcos.

“We are not well experienced in freezing this large an amount of meat,” said Morcos. “We are not sure if many storage houses would agree to rent space for the storage of pork.”

As pigs are considered “unclean” in Islam, finding that freezer space outside of the Christian community might be hard work. Were this possible, there would still be the problem of a saturated meat market and the resulting fall in profits.

Egyptian officials have begun killing hundreds of pigs and maintain that they will continue the slaughter in spite of international criticism, including WHO’s statement that pork is safe to eat.

Girgis Youssef Boulis, head of pork producer Ramsis Meats, told The Associated Press that the slaughter will result in layoffs in the largely Christian-run industry, affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands farmers, producers and meat delivery drivers, among other industry workers.

Although the pig keepers will feel the effects of the slaughter most keenly, Morcos told Compass that businesses such as hers, which offers a wide range of pork products, will also suffer.

“How is this affecting us?” said Morcos. “It could ruin our business.”

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Shock Find: Netanyahu Dividing Jerusalem

Quietly building barrier blocking Jewish neighborhood from capital city

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government quietly has begun constructing the country’s security barrier along a controversial route that will effectively block off Jewish property and an important Jewish neighborhood from the rest of Jerusalem, WND has learned.


Jews barred from sections of Jerusalem

In another recent development, Israeli Jews, including local property owners, have been almost entirely barred from entering Kfar Akeb, Qalandiya and Samir Amis, while Israeli Arabs can freely enter.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Syria Backs Philippines on OIC Bid

Syria said it would support the Philippine bid for an observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)—something the government needs to help bring peace to Mindanao, Malacañang announced Tuesday.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad backed the Philippines in its OIC bid after meeting President Gloria Arroyo on Monday at the Al Ashaab Palace in Damascus.

Syria became the second country to express support for the Philippine bid, following a similar announcement Monday by Eqypt, which the President visited before flying to Damascus.

Remonde said Syria also invited Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to attend the conference’s ministerial meeting in Damascus from May 23 to 25.

The Philippines applied for an observer status in the 57-member Muslim bloc in 2003, and officials said they hope the application would be approved during the group’s ministerial meeting later this month. A committee of the bloc was reportedly finalizing the procedures and criteria for admitting new members.

With observer status, the Philippines hopes to gain broader support from the member-countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference in bringing about lasting peace and meaningful development in Mindanao, officials said.

The group, through Malaysia, plays an important role in facilitating peace negotiations between the Philippine government and rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Interfaith dialogue partner

Besides the support for the observer-status bid, the Philippines found an ally in Syria in the promotion of broader interfaith dialogue to ensure global peace.

President Arroyo told Bashar that Syria plays a key role in dialogues among civilizations and diverse cultural groups, because his country has been part of the early history of both the Christian and Islamic religions, Remonde said.

Mrs. Arroyo also invited Syria to attend the Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue for Cooperation, Peace and Development to be held in Manila this year.

The Philippines is the leading proponent of interfaith dialogue and strongly promotes the same to bring peace and development in Mindanao.

In 2004, the UN General Assembly adopted the Philippines resolution on interfaith dialogue as another option in realizing sustainable peace….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK Block on Afghan Surge Riles Army Chiefs

Britain’s army chiefs are incensed at Gordon Brown’s decision to block a long-term surge in UK forces in Afghanistan, arguing that a troop increase is vital to the success of the mission in troubled Helmand province.

As Britain marked the official end of its military mission in Iraq yesterday, attention was focused on the completion of the operation in the southern city of Basra that has cost 179 British lives since the US-led invasion in 2003. But behind the scenes, this week also marks the end of a crossdepartmental battle over Britain’s military operation in Helmand, one which has ended with Mr Brown rejecting a recommendation from service chiefs for 2,000 more UK troops to be sent on a mission to the province.

“People are pretty angry about the decision around here,” a senior defence figure told the Financial Times yesterday. “We’re not in a situation where generals are thinking of resigning. But the outcome announced by Number 10 this week has come as something of a surprise to people.”

In recent months the ministry of defence, the Treasury and Number 10 have been locked in a dispute over whether Britain should increase the number of troops it has in Afghanistan, currently numbering 8,300.

Army generals have told Mr Brown that Britain is making progress in Helmand, creating security zones in which Afghans can live without intimidation from the Taliban.

But the army believes the 5,000 troops in Task Force Helmand are stretched in the province,which is widely seen as the front line in the battle against the Taliban. Backed by John Hutton, the defence secretary, they have insisted that the UK should increase its deployment permanently by 2,000 troops to 10,300.

“If we are going to be in Helmand then we urgen-tly need to resource the campaign properly,” said a senior army figure. “We need to thicken up on the ground and get ourselves on a sustained campaign -footing.”

On Wednesday, Mr Brown unveiled a fresh government strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That had been seen by service chiefs as the critical junction at which a long-term increase would have to approved. But Mr Brown rejected the calls. The prime minister announced that Britain will send 900 troops to Afghanistan this autumn to help provide security for the elections but that after three months they would be brought home.

“The 900 increase might have been palatable if it had been permanent,” said a defence source yesterday, “but we didn’t even get that.”

Some Whitehall officials argue that the UK operation in Afghanistan iswell resourced. They note that the operation will cost a projected £3bn ($4bn, €3.4bn) in 2009-10, while the cost of UK operations in southern Iraq never rose above £1.5bn.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Who Carried Out Deadly Attack on Turkish Wedding?

(Reuters) — Gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades attacked a wedding party in southeastern Turkey on Monday, killing at least 45 people.

The acting governor of the province of Mardin, Ahmet Ferhat Ozen, told Reuters by telephone the assailants, wearing masks, stormed a building in Bilge village near Sultankoy, some 20 km (12 miles) from Mardin, and opened fire on wedding guests.

Local media said the families of the bride and the groom included members of state-sponsored village guards.


The guards stem from a controversial policy established in 1985 to set up a paramilitary force to protect villages against attacks by Kurdish rebels, patrol the rugged mountains and help fight the separatists.

But their right to carry arms, to inform on suspected separatist activities and to kill in the name of the state has made them a force within the region, while critics say they use their status to settle family scores and take over land.

Many of their kin view them as traitors. They number up to 60,000.


Interior Minister Besir Atalay said initial evidence did not point to terrorism, suggesting he was ruling out involvement of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Television broadcasters said there had been a blood feud in the village in recent years. Such feuds between families are not uncommon in the region.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic Kurdish homeland in the southeast. Some 40,000 people have been killed in conflict.

Much of the southeast is divided into pro and anti-PKK supporters, although the majority of the region has sympathy for the cause behind the PKK rebels.

Kurds in the southeast complain of cultural and political discrimination by the Turkish state, which has in recent years improved rights as it seeks to join the European Union.

The government is currently working on a project to bring investment to the impoverished southeast.

The PKK has been significantly weakened over the past two years by a military offensive inside Turkey and across in northern Iraq. The military suffered a setback last month when the PKK attacked a military convoy, killing nine soldiers.


Blood feuds are often started in southeast Turkey as a result of squabbles over property or marriages. Some of them are resolved through peaceful means, though they can often erupt into sudden violence when feuding clans meet.

Local rivalry spilling into deadly feuds are not unheard of in southeast Turkey, although it is rare for the death toll to be as high as in this attack.

Squabbles over property or marriages in religiously conservative and predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey are the main cause for blood feuds. The area has been stricken by poverty and violence for decades.

Families in the region are often defined by loyalties either to the PKK and to security forces. Village guards in the past have been accused of using their status to carry out attacks on rival clans, sometimes PKK sympathisers, while PKK supporters are frequently suspected of carrying out attacks on village guards and their families.


If the attack is as media say linked to a blood feud it poses little danger to broader security in the region. However, if the attack was carried out by the PKK, even though Atalay suggested they appeared not to be involved, it may lead to increased military operations against suspected PKK positions and detention of politicians suspected of links to the PKK.

Tensions are already running high in the southeast after police detained scores of Democratic Society Party (DTP) members and activists in raids across Turkey that authorities said were aimed at isolating the PKK.

Deputies and mayors of the DTP, Turkey’s main Kurdish party represented in parliament, started a hunger strike on Sunday to protest at the detention of party members accused of links to the separatist Kurdish rebel group PKK.

The DTP says the arrests were revenge for the party’s success in the southeast in last month’s local elections, in which it beat the ruling party AKP despite government overtures to Kurds.

[Return to headlines]


The Rise and Rise of Russian Nationalism

Long tolerated by the authorities, right-wing groups are now being seen as a serious threat to national security. Shaun Walker reports from Moscow

There have been a number of threats to Russia’s security in recent years, from Chechen terrorism to the country’s worrying demographic decline. But according to sources close to the Russian security services, what the authorities fear most in these times of economic crisis is the very thing that many Russians see as the country’s saviour — nationalism.

Amid a dizzying array of May Day marches, featuring various groups from across the political spectrum, all eyes were on the nationalists. They gathered around a metro station in north Moscow, as well as in other cities across the country, calling for all immigrants to be deported and a “Russia for the Russians”. In the event, the Moscow meeting passed off peacefully; police arrested a few demonstrators for the possession of knives, and the rest dispersed without incident. But with a huge migrant population, poverty and unemployment among locals, and with the high oil prices that fuelled the economic boom of the past few years a fast-receding memory, many feel the time for Russia’s nationalists to take the political initiative is coming soon.

Then there’s Alexander Belov, Moscow’s answer to the BNP’s Nick Griffin. Dressed in a sharp black suit, the light of a Bluetooth receptor constantly winking over his left ear, he fingers a set of Orthodox Christian prayer beads and sips a freshly squeezed orange juice, looking like one of the thousands of well-to-do businessmen who have made decent money as Russia boomed over the past decade. But as well as being successful in the construction industry, Mr Belov is also Russia’s most famous racist. He believes that the time for the nationalists to take the limelight is coming soon.

“What I want is very simple,” he says, in a quiet and measured voice. “I don’t want parts of Moscow to be ghettos. This city is already full of places where Russians aren’t welcome, and it’s unacceptable. This is a Russian city and should remain that way.”

An erudite and self-assured man who heads a group of skinheads with a reputation for violence, he leads the Movement Against Illegal Immigration — the DPNI, as it’s known by its Russian initials — one of Russia’s largest far-right groups. One of its main policies is that Russia should introduce a visa regime for migrants from the former Soviet republics, sending most of the millions of Gastarbeiters (Russians use the German term to refer to guest-workers) back home.

Talking to Mr Belov and his DPNI associates is alarming. One minute they are complaining that the Russian government is corrupt, and that under Vladimir Putin civil society has been muffled and the people should be given more chance to express their democratic will (words that could come straight from the mouths of liberal opposition politicians such as the former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov). The next minute, they are suddenly talking about cleansing Moscow of anyone who doesn’t have white skin, and ranking races according to their “cultural level”.

“Migrants should only be allowed if they are in the interests of society; if they have a particular skill that no locals possess, which is very unusual,” says Viktor Yakushev, a giant man with a shaven head, who claims to have two higher degrees and is the DPNI’s chief ideologue. “There’s no denying the fact that different races have different cultural levels. You just have to look at how many black people are in prison in America, and that’s after all these years of positive discrimination. Here, take Azerbaijan, for example, from where we have a lot of migrants. The society is feudal. They are unsophisticated people; they don’t understand European civilisation.”

The rhetoric is unpleasant, but it finds resonance among great swathes of Russian society, which is notoriously racist towards anyone with non-Slavic features. These xenophobic leanings can manifest themselves in an ugly and tasteless way, such as the tanning salons that employ African students to stand outside wearing grass skirts and holding signs that read: “I got my tan here.” There is also a more sinister side to Russian racism, as evidenced by the multitude of attacks on immigrants in Moscow and across Russia.

According to Alexander Brod, the director of the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights and one of Russia’s leading anti-racism campaigners, racist attacks have risen fourfold in the past five years, and may increase more sharply as the economic crisis deepens. His organisation monitors hate crimes in the country, keeping a log on its website that makes for scary reading. For one randomly selected week in April, the data shows that a Tajik citizen was murdered, citizens of Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan were attacked, graves were vandalised at a Jewish cemetery, and a swastika was found freshly painted on to the wall of an apartment block.

In 2008, there were 293 racist attacks, according to official statistics, including 122 deaths, but as Mr Brod points out, those that make it to the record are just the tip of the iceberg. Given that many migrant workers are in Russia illegally, they are afraid to report attacks, and indeed many see the police as more of a threat than the skinheads. Nobody knows how many attacks there really are, but most immigrants have stories of being threatened, at the very least, during their time in Russia.

Russia has more than 10 million immigrants by some estimates, giving it the second-largest immigrant population in the world, after the United States. Most of them are from the impoverished former Soviet republics of central Asia and the Caucasus, who come to Russia to earn cash to send to their families back home. Now, with the financial crisis bringing Russia’s economic boom to a grinding halt, hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers who were the engine behind the construction frenzy that overtook Moscow and other Russian cities find themselves out of work. At the same time, unemployment and anger are on the rise among ethnic Russians. Analysts say it could be a dangerous combination, and people such as Mr Belov believe their moment is nigh.

He has come to the interview straight from a hearing in a court case, where he stands accused of inciting racial hatred and faces up to a year and a half in prison if convicted. It seems to be one of many signs that the Russian authorities, who for a long time have at the very least turned a blind eye to nationalist movements, are beginning to get worried. Whereas the DPNI and groups such as the Slavic Union used to have powerful backers among members of Russia’s Duma, and according to rumours, even within the presidential administration, it now seems that the word has gone out that the nationalists should be muffled. While nationalist posturing towards the West and Nato is a mainstay of Russian foreign policy, there is now a growing realisation that nationalism within the country could be a dangerous force if it gets out of control.

“There is mass unemployment in the country, and the economic crisis is getting worse,” Mr Belov says. “The authorities are scared of people who find a common language with the masses and tell the truth.” He claims that he preaches an ideology of non-violence: “By trying to sideline me, they will only promote a real wave of violence,” he says.

“I’ve heard from sources in the Moscow FSB [Federal Security Service] that they have been told that in this time of economic crisis, nationalism is a bigger threat to national security than terrorism,” says Andrei Soldatov, one of the leading experts on the Russian security services.

A recent mockumentary film called Russia 88, which so far has failed to find a cinema chain in Russia willing to show it, highlights the issue. Shot using grainy footage from handheld cameras, the film follows a group of Russian skinheads as they beat up immigrants in the metro and on the street. The skinheads are played by actors, says the director, Pavel Bardin, but all the neo-Nazi clothing and paraphernalia was bought from real Russian online shops, many of the words are taken from internet forums, and the on-street vox pop, where many people are seen voicing racist statements and declaring that “Russia is for the Russians”, is real.

While genuine neo-Nazis will remain on the periphery and never gain widespread popularity in a country that still feels immense pride in its role in the defeat of fascism during the Second World War, the casual racism and hatred of immigrants that could provoke a nationalist uprising are certainly there in abundance. Indeed, some surveys show that up to 60 per cent of Russians agree with the slogan “Russia for the Russians”, the catchphrase of Russian nationalists.

“There is no legal way for people to express their dislike for immigrants,” Mr Yakushev says. “This means there will be increasing street violence. There will be killings and bombs.”

The latest attempts by the authorities to silence people like Mr Belov are overdue, but are unlikely to be effective, rights campaigners say.

“Racism is like a dragon, where you cut off one head and another simply grows back in its place,” Mr Brod says. “The authorities are trying to fight xenophobia with punitive measures, but the only way to do it properly is to combine this with solutions to the root causes of nationalism — poverty, unemployment, and young people who have no prospects.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Georgia Coup Attempt Foiled

Georgia says it has foiled an attempted coup. The alleged coup was reportedly planned at a military base near the capital Tbilisi. The Georgian authorities claim the Russian intelligence service played a role in the plot, including the provision of funding. They say the plotters intended to kill President Michael Saakashvili. Several officers have been arrested. Russia has denied any involvement.

Relations between Georgia and Russia have been tense for years, and culminated in last year’s brief war over two breakaway regions in Georgia. Tbilisi is seeking closer relations with the West, much to the displeasure of the Russians. This week, Georgia hosts a NATO exercise, a move which has been fiercely opposed by Russia.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bangladesh Child Jockeys Get Cash

A delegation from the United Arab Emirates has paid $1.43m in compensation to hundreds of former child camel jockeys in Bangladesh.

The money will be distributed by the Bangladesh home ministry to 879 former jockeys who will each receive between $1,000 to $10,000, officials say.

The children eligible for payments have been identified by the UN children’s agency in a country-wide survey.

The UAE says the money will help the children to re-integrate into society.

In 2005, the UAE government agreed with the UN Children agency, Unicef, to co-operate on the “repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration” of children involved in the sport.

About 1,100 were returned home over the following two years to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan and Mauritania.

The use of children under 15 as camel jockeys was banned in the UAE 2002. They were later replaced by robots.

Racing injuries

Bangladesh Home Minister Sahara Khatun said that the amount of compensation received by each former jockey will depend on the level of suffering they experienced while in the UAE and on the amount of time they spent there.

She said that money will only be paid to children who worked as camel jockeys after January 1993.

In 2005 researchers in Qatar said that the risk of serious injury, disability and death was “shockingly high” among child jockeys in camel races in Gulf countries.

The researchers looked at 275 boys, many younger than nine and some as young as five, who were treated for camel racing injuries.

They discovered that before a race, child riders sometimes went without food for a week, not as punishment but to keep their weight down, meaning they were often malnourished.

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

Could Monsanto be Responsible for One Indian Farmer’s Death Every Thirty Minutes?

Over 1,500 farmers in the agricultural Indian state of Chattisgarh have committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure. The state was hit hard by falling water levels.

Bharatendu Prakash, of the Organic Farming Association of India, said that, “Farmers’ suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death.”

But there’s more to the story than that. Farmer suicides can be attributed to, “something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops,” the UK’s Daily Mail reports.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiraling debts — and no income.

So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

[Return to headlines]

Doctors Allow Afghans to Die

Foreign doctors in Afghanistan allow locals to die but treat soldiers with the same wounds.

Danish and foreign doctors have decided to let seriously wounded Afghan men die of wounds that coalition soldiers would have treated, according to Jyllands-Posten.

According the report, civilian and military Afghans, who are so badly wounded that it would have major consequences for their future civilian lives, are given pain killers and allowed to die.

Stopping treatment “If an Afghan, for example, has serious internal bleeding or a broken back so that he would be paralysed from the neck down, we stop treatment,” says the head of Danish medical services at Kandahar Airfield, Dr. Christian Tollund.

“If it is a Danish or international soldier we continue treatment and send that person back home. In Denmark people who are confined to a wheelchair have a completely different set of options. In Afghanistan, there is no social system and in many cases no help for the wounded — so we take the decision,” he says.

Agreement Seventy international doctors and nurses are posted to Kandahar Airfield, six of whom are Danish.

“The decision to stop the treatment of Afghans earlier than that of (international) soldiers has been taken by the doctors in consensus. We are in agreement,” Tollund says.

He refutes suggestions that the decision is in contravention of the Hippocratic oath.

“The (Danish doctors’) oath does not prescribe that we have to keep patients alive for years. We must alleviate pain, give comfort and, if possible, heal. But we heal in order to give a patient a dignified life. That is not possible in Afghanistan. If we are able to, we include the family in decisions,” Tollund says.

Intensive There is currently a civilian Afghan in the intensive ward at Kandahar with a pelvis that is so damaged that doctors have stopped their treatment. A Danish soldier would probably have been confined to a life in a wheelchair.

The hospital is unable to provide figures on how many treatments have been abrogated.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Muslim Mayor Rescinds Construction Permit for Protestant Church

Christians in Depok have been trying to build a church for many years. When they were granted a building permit they decided to postpone construction so as not to irk local Muslims. But for the local Christians synod the decision to rescind the permit is “illegal” because the mayor, whom some say has extremist views, cannot revoke it.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The Christian Synod in Depok is strongly opposed to the sudden decision by the local mayor, Nur Mahmudi Ismail, to rescind the permit to build a church in Puri Pesanggrahan IV, a subdistrict of Cinere, Limo (Depok, West Java). Rev Simon Todingallo, head of the synod, slammed the decision, saying that it is the result of “sporadic pressure” from a few people who do not want a church in the area, whereas the “entire Christian community of Depok” wants to see it built and have the mayor reverse his decision.

The mayor’s action came without any explanations, justified only on the ground that the authorities have the right to cancel any prior decision, including building permits.

For Reverend Todingallo the measure is instead illegal because “any issue relating to a new church building must go to the local Interfaith Dialogue Forum.” Thus the mayor has no right to decide alone, in part because the power to decide lies in a higher authority, namely a ministerial decree jointly signed by the Religious Affairs and Internal Affairs Ministries.

For the past nine years local Christians have been trying to build a church. Initially the main obstacle was financial. But now money is no longer a problem, said project manager Betty Sitompul; enough funds are available to start construction, but protests began when people who “are not from Limo; outsiders from Pondok Cabe,” ten kilometres away, got involved.

Because of such protests, then Mayor Badrul Kamal asked Christians to suspend rebuilding for a short period of time.

In January and then June 2008 Christians wrote to the mayor informing him of their intention of starting again. But they got no answer.

They went back again last February to discuss the issue, but other people wrote to the mayor they did not want a church at Limo.

Building churches with a permit in Indonesia is a must since so many have been demolished or set on fire by Islamic extremists because of the lack of a permit. And none of church destroyers have ever been prosecuted.

Major Nur Mahmudi was the local leader of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an extremist political party accused by minorities of being against them and non Muslims.

For some analysts the PKS is a den of Islamists, influenced by Middle Eastern Wahhabis, even if the party’s former leader Hidayat Nurwahid, a possible vice-presidential candidate, has always denied any connection with Wahhabi groups.

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

Pakistan: Taliban to Target Nuke Production?

Weapons stockpile protected, but other links vulnerable

The international community, alarmed over the deteriorating conditions in Pakistan and worried whether the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons could fall into Taliban hands, has been assured by both Pakistani and U.S. officials that’s unlikely at this point, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

But there have been no such assurances regarding the research and production facilities where materials are processed and bombs are assembled.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Just Walk Away


WHAT Washington calls “strategy” is usually just inertia: We can’t imagine not supporting Pakistan because we’ve “always” supported Pakistan.

No matter how shamelessly Pakistan’s leaders looted their own country, protected the Taliban, sponsored terror attacks on India, demanded aid and told us to kiss off when we asked for help, we had to back the Paks.

Because that’s just the way things are.

Well, now that Islamist marauders are sweeping the country with violence as the generals in Rawalpindi mull “To be or not to be” and President Ali Asif Zardari knocks back another scotch behind closed doors, perhaps we should consider an alternative approach to this splintering, renegade state.

A better strategy’s obvious. But Washington has trouble with the obvious. At our pathetic State Department, habit trumps innovation every time. And the Pentagon can’t seem to see beyond the immediate battlefield.

What should we do? Dump Pakistan. Back India.

Washington’s deep thinkers will cry, “But China might move in!”

If China wants Pakistan, let Beijing have it. That would be fun to watch. Take on the Taliban? Given China’s ghastly ineptitude in dealing with its Uighur Muslims, more power to ‘em.

Anyway, China knows that India’s the prize. Indian neutrality is essential to any future conflict with the United States. Beijing isn’t going to do anything to drive New Delhi into a closer relationship with Washington (and the US Navy).

So set the “China syndrome” fears aside. Move on to the integrity issue: We claim — or used to claim — that we’re serious about combating terrorists and punishing their backers.

Yet, we’ve been abetting the forces of terror by supporting Pakistan unreservedly. Islamabad merrily sponsors terror attacks on India, knowing that America will step in and convince New Delhi not to retaliate.

Apart from the myriad Pak-backed terror strikes in Kashmir, we’ve seen gruesome attacks in New Delhi and, most recently, in Mumbai. Pakistan’s intelligence services did everything but put up billboards announcing that they were behind the terrorists.

India prepared to strike back. But we stepped in every time.

As long as Pakistan’s obsessed India-haters know there won’t be any penalties for terrorism, they’ll keep at it. The formula isn’t hard to figure out.

Suppose we just left Pakistan, even withdrawing our embassy personnel? Without us to protect them when they go rogue, would Pakistan’s murky intel thugs still launch terror strikes on India?

Pakistan would have to behave responsibly at last. Or face nuclear-armed India. And Pakistan’s leaders know full well that a nuclear exchange would leave their country a wasteland. India would dust itself off and move on.

Of course, there’s also the issue of the Pentagon’s bewildering incompetence in placing 50,000 of our troops at the end of a 1,500-mile supply line through Pakistan, rendering our forces virtual hostages of Islamabad.

The answer’s another dose of common sense: Instead of increasing our troop numbers in Afghanistan, cut them. Instead of embracing the hopeless task of building a modern nation where no nation of any kind has ever existed, concentrate exclusively on killing al Qaeda terrorists and the hard-line Taliban elements who help them.

Instead of pretending the Kabul government has any validity, arm the factions with which we share common interests. We’re really not obliged to cut massive welfare checks for our enemies.

Our sole mission in Afghanistan should be killing terrorists. To that end, we need a smaller, lethal, unfettered force, not more agricultural experts and con-game contractors.

Bottom line: Let India deal with Pakistan. If the Chinese want to engage, just smile. Focus on killing our enemies, not buying them ice cream. And get serious about strategy. How is it that the leaders of the most powerful state in history think like small-time operators?

Briefing Washington audiences, I warn them that, when the boss tells them to think outside the box, he really means, “Come back with new reasons why I was right all along.”

It’s time for some genuine outside-the-box thinking. Because the Pakistani box looks increasingly like a coffin.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Residents Flee as Pakistan’s Swat Truce Collapses

MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) — Hundreds of people fled from the main town in Pakistan’s Swat valley on Tuesday after a government official urged residents in some neighborhoods to seek safety as fresh fighting with Taliban militants could erupt.

A February peace pact aimed at ending Taliban violence in the Swat valley northwest of the capital has all but collapsed as the government comes under U.S. pressure to get tough with the militants rather than appease them.

President Asif Ali Zardari, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s widower, is due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington on Wednesday for talks on the growing militant threat in the region.

The top government official in Swat, Khushal Khan Khattak, said militants had infiltrated five districts of Mingora, the main town in Swat, and begun attacking security forces and government installations.

He said security forces could soon attack the militants and

urged people to get out of harm’s way. But he later said the fear of fighting had passed and people could stay home, while the army said it was in control of the town.

That did not reassure the people cramming into and on top of buses to get out of Mingora, 130 km (80 miles) from Islamabad.

“I’m taking my family to Peshawar because if there’s any fighting, no one can protect us,” said Mohammad Karim, as he searched for a bus heading out of the valley to Peshawar, the main city in the northwest.

Some residents estimated thousands were fleeing…

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: Jonathan Kay on the Legacy of Neelan Tiruchelvam: the Tamil Tigers Have Reaped What They’ve Sown

The conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers has deep, tangled roots. But to a rough order of magnitude, the moral stakes can be reduced to a single act of terrorist savagery that took place on July 29, 1999 — the day Neelan Tiruchelvam was blown out the side of his Nissan sedan by a female suicide bomber riding a moped.

Tiruchelvam was a Sri Lankan Tamil, but not the kind that makes excuses for terrorism, or for the nihilistic death cult led by Tigers chief Velupillai Pirapaharan. Instead, he sought to bring justice and self-determination for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority through negotiation and constitutional reform. In Sri Lanka, he was an elected parliamentarian and the founder of two major think tanks. In the United States, he taught at Harvard University, enlightening Western students about human-rights abuses committed in Sri Lanka — by the nation’s military and the Tigers alike.

He was a moderate, in other words — the Tamils’ answer to Yitzhak Rabin or Nelson Mandela. And that’s why he was assassinated: The Tigers despise any Tamil who does not share their commitment to war and terrorism. Tiger propaganda — including the terrorist group’s own “poet laureate” — spent years vilifying Tiruchelvam as a traitor prior to his assassination. Muzhakkam, a Tiger-controlled newspaper here in Canada joined in the campaign.

The act serves as a grim metaphor for the war itself. Much as many Tamil-Canadians claim that the Sri Lankan government is engineering a “genocide,” the greatest threat to the country’s Tamils has been their professed protectors. The Tigers are the ones who have assassinated moderate Tamils, erected a murderous mini-dictatorship in the northern part of the island, abducted Tamil children to serve as terrorists and soldiers, and stolen tsunami-relief money to fund military operations. Now that the Tigers are cornered in northeastern Sri Lanka, the Tigers are holding tens of thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields — shooting them in the back as they seek to flee.

Tiruchelvam’s sacrifice is remembered in the highest places — including right here in Canada. In fact, it helps explain why Michael Ignatieff has decisively reversed the Liberal party’s traditionally soft stand on Tiger terror.

In the late 1980s, Tiruchelvam and Ignatieff were Harvard colleagues, preaching human rights from the same hymn book. When Tiruchelvam was blown up, Ignatieff traveled to Sri Lanka to deliver a lecture in the man’s honour. A year later, he described the experience in a speech at the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression awards dinner in Toronto.

Neelan Tiruchelvam, Ignatieff declared, was “a man whose memory I revere.” But that wasn’t the prevailing view among many of the noisiest members of the Canadian Tamil community: “When the word got out that I was going to give a lecture in Colombo in his honour, I began to get very extraordinary bits of Tamil literature, mailed to me with a Canadian postmark. And the sum and substance of these newsletters was basically to say that Neelan, my good friend, got what he deserved. This was a man who’d spent his entire life seeking peace and reconciliation on that bloody and tragic island. And it shocked me deeply to discover that the people who wished and rejoiced in his death were fellow citizens of [Canada] … Don’t think it doesn’t put a chill down your spine when you get mysterious little missives like that.”

A decade later, with Igantieff leading the Liberal Party, those hatemongers are now reaping what they’ve sown. And so are the Tamil Tigers themselves, whose last-ditch positions are now set to be overrun by Sri Lanka’s military. Ten years after the group killed Neelan Tiruchelvam, an opportunity to implement his vision of peaceful reconciliation may finally be at hand.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: US Double Standards on India, Lanka

The United States State Department’s annual reports on terrorism in India and Sri Lanka go to say, though not in so many words, that Sri Lanka is doing too much to counter terrorism while India is doing too little. Strongly criticizing the Sri Lankan government’s offensive against the LTTE, the report says that Sri Lankan troops have killed more than 7,000 people in its operation and maintains that troops have resorted to an “any means necessary” tactics to fight the war against the LTTE. One wonders how the US arrived at this figure.

The report also goes to censure the Sri Lankan government for maintaining ties with the TMVP.

This report, one may say, reminds of a placard carried by a protestor in front of the British High Commission here on Wednesday that read “We did to the LTTE what you could not do to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Envious?” It was certainly a message written with a sense of pride reminding the international community that Sri Lanka is a success story in the war against terrorism while many others including the US have miserably failed.

One may recall that the 2005 State Department report on Sri Lanka gloated over the fact that “the LTTE has not targeted US citizens or assets, limiting attacks to Sri Lankan security forces, political figures, civilians, and businesses”. The message conveyed was that the US was willing to soft peddle Sri Lanka’s terrorism issue since the LTTE was only posing a threat to Sri Lankans and not to any US citizen. Over the years one could see a degree of sympathy for the LTTE in most of the State Department reports despite the group being proscribed in the US.

However the US adopts a diametrically opposed approach towards the terrorist problem in India. After all the Indian terror groups are led by Muslims whom the US thinks are part of a larger terrorist web which has the US as a common target, hence the trouble taken by the State Department to pin point the loopholes in the Indian counterterrorism mechanism, in its latest report.

It is with the greatest disappointment the State Department observes that, “Although clearly committed to combating violent extremism, the Indian government’s counterterrorism efforts remained hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems.”

One wonders whether the US remembers how many times it attacked consecutive Sri Lankan governments over the implementation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). There are strong chances of US endorsing such a move by India if the latter resorts to stringent legal provisions to counter terrorism on Indian soil. After all India is fighting against militant Muslims and that’s what the US war against terrorism is all about.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: What Needs to be Done

There is a humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka’s North, involving tens of thousands of Tamil civilians uprooted from their homes or held hostage in an embattled sliver of coastal land that barely comprises seven square km. There is an existential crisis for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which once upon a time was one of the world’s most resourceful and deadly separatist politico-military organisations.

Much of the current political rhetoric in Tamil Nadu in the secessionist cause of ‘Tamil Eelam’ can be dismissed as hot air generated by competitive election campaigning gone over the top. India’s foreign policy has consistently ruled out any truck with the ‘Eelam’ cause. Instead, it advocates a political solution based on devolution of power along federal lines to the Sri Lankan Tamils in their areas of historical habitation. The idea of a separate Tamil state in the northeast of the island was always a pipe dream. But today the project seems as alive as an Egyptian mummy.

It is true that there is considerable international pressure on the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to order a cessation of hostilities — against an organisation that has been banned or designated as terrorist by more than 30 countries, including India, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Some European governments, especially Britain’s Labour regime, have resorted to a muscular form of diplomacy. Their focus right now is on the demand that Colombo give aid agencies and international observers access to the No Fire Zone.

Good sense seems to have finally prevailed among the big powers who have decided not to stand in the way of Sri Lanka getting a $1.9 billion standby line of credit from the International Monetary Fund to help weather the impact of the global financial crisis and to look after the basic needs of the internally displaced. The Sri Lankan government, which announced on April 27 that it had instructed the security forces not to use heavy calibre guns, combat aircraft, and aerial weapons, has rejected the calls for a ceasefire, with President Rajapaksa declaring he “did not need lectures from western representatives.” Never mind the double standards of those who have shown scant respect and concern for civilian lives and welfare in the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The immediate practical need is for effective humanitarian pressure on the LTTE to release an unknown number of civilians it holds as a human shield in a hopeless last-ditch stand. The related demand, made by the United Nations Security Council and all sensible people, is that the LTTE must lay down arms and surrender. The modalities should not be difficult to work out considering that the alternatives are elimination of the remaining LTTE cadres or amnesty and rehabilitation, which President Rajapaksa has promised for most of them, barring of course Velupillai Prabakaran and other hard-core leaders of the terrorist organisation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Far East

Crisis of Vocations in the Philippines

The bishops invite young people to consecrated life, and ask parents to give their children full freedom of choice. Many families ask their children to find a job to guarantee them economic support in their old age. In the capital, there is one priest for every 20,000 faithful.

Manila (AsiaNews) — The Philippines, the Asian country with the largest number of Catholics, is facing a vocational crisis. The bishops’ conference is issuing an appeal to the young people, asking them to enter the seminary and dedicate themselves to consecrated life, and calling on parents to leave their children “full freedom of choice.”

Broderick Pabillo, auxiliary bishop of Manila and president of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, stresses that the time has come for young people to decide what university they will attend, and invites them to consider the choice of “serving God.”

“They should think carefully,” Bishop Pabillo says, “about their decision, and follow the will of God” without allowing themselves to be influenced “by the kind of work that they would like to do after the university.” A document from the bishops’ conference indicates that at least 25,000 priests are needed to serve the 68 million faithful spread throughout the country. According to the bishop, every priest should serve 2,000 parishioners. In Manila alone, the ratio is one priest to every 20,000 faithful.

The auxiliary bishop of Minogue also invites parents to leave their children free to decide; many, in fact, set up obstacles because they are afraid that they will not be able to take care of them in their old age. “I don’t think this is a correct way of thinking,” the bishop says. “A child should live his own life, follow his own vocation. Parents must not use their children for personal gain.” Finally, he launches an appeal for young people to visit parishes and seminaries in order to get more information about consecrated life.

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

N. Korean Defector’s Outcry

An Asian woman in her 50s pulled up her skirt to show her thighs on a chair at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Thursday. This shocked people attending the news conference. Bang Mi-sun defected from North Korea in a desperate bid to feed her starving children in 2002 after her husband starved to death. She was an actress at Gwangsan Propaganda Troupe, but showed dreadful signs of torture left on her legs, which otherwise would have been beautiful. She said she was arrested by Chinese police and repatriated to the North. “I can hardly walk now because I ran 100 rounds in the soccer stadium at the detention camp, and was beaten so badly,” she said.

When Bang told of the horrific human rights abuses North Korean female defectors suffer in North Korea and China, many at the news conference burst into tears. She was sold to a Chinese human trafficker and was forced to marry several times. She was repatriated to the North, where she suffered horrendous treatment, but managed to make her way to South Korea in 2004. “If I had a chance to meet U.S. President Barack Obama, I will urge him to put an end to the suffering of female North Koreans who are traded like animals. The world must know what is happening in China and North Korea,” she said, urging the international community to help stop the madness.

Many North Korean female defectors are often traded like slaves by human traffickers and forced to become sexual slaves. Many of them are repatriated to the North and die from torture. As a member of the United Nations, China is obliged to follow an international convention on refugees. Beijing, however, is turning a deaf ear to international calls on giving North Korean escapees refugee status and stopping their repatriation. South Korea must also reflect on how strongly it urges China to change its policy of repatriating defectors to the North.

Numerous female North Korean women have crossed the border due to starvation, only to fall victim to human traffickers. North Korea is primarily responsible for this tragedy. Pro-North Korea liberals in the South must also feel responsibility for not criticizing the North’s human rights. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate hearing Thursday, “North Korea is digging its own grave, and Washington has no plan to offer economic aid.” The Kim Jong Il government seeks to maintain its “dollar-raising scheme” through the threat of nuclear weapons and missiles. If this continues, however, the North, not to mention its long-suffering people, will collapse.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

S. Korea: the Damage of Illegal Street Protests

Militant protesters who led illegal and violent demonstrations against the resumption of U.S. beef imports last year have taken to the streets once again. Leftist groups led by a “candlelight” civic coalition launched April 18 staged illegal protests in many parts of Seoul Saturday after holding an unauthorized assembly to celebrate the first anniversary of last year’s demonstrations. The day before, masked protesters who participated in the Labor Day assembly occupied the streets and detained a police officer while throwing broken pieces of concrete pavement blocks at police.

The lead protesters showed their intention to reproduce last year’s demonstrations that caused a state of lawlessness for more than three months from May. Slogans demanding the resignation of President Lee Myung-bak and condemning his administration for being a dictatorship were frequently heard at the protest sites.

The civic coalition’s founding declaration said, “We will exercise the right to free resistance as guaranteed by the Constitution against the dictatorship of the incumbent administration in the spirit of candlelight vigils. We declare May 2 the day of candlelight action and the day of judgment for the Lee Myung-bak administration.” The organizing committee of the Korean Alliance that led Labor Day protests demanded a stop to unilateral restructuring and layoffs under the pretext of addressing economic crisis, suspend efforts to ratify the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, withdraw Korea’s plans to join the Proliferation Security Initiative, and implement the declarations from the 2000 and 2007 inter-Korean summits. These claims show what militant leftist groups ultimately have in mind. They have no clear sense of reality in making the first demand since the intensity of Korea’s restructuring in the aftermath of the global economic crisis is markedly lower than that of its rivals.

The “spirit of candlelight vigil” promoted by these groups is an attempt to overturn an administration democratically elected by the people. The groups also did not hesitate to stir up the public with distorted and exaggerated information. In a country where police, a symbol of law enforcement, are frequently assaulted by illegal street protesters who defy the principles of representative democracy and rule of law, leftist groups have no rationale for condemning the incumbent administration for dictatorship. They also direct blame for inter-Korean military tension towards the South Korean government while North Korea’s military threat grows by the day. Against this backdrop, one easily grows wary of these groups’ intentions.

The protesters also cry out for better welfare and economy in words, but their violent and illegal actions have much more devastating effects on the people and the economy. The Seoul city government estimated direct damage worth 375 million won (300,000 U.S. dollars) caused by illegal protesters who sabotaged the Hi Seoul Festival Saturday. The figure does not include indirect damage such as leaving a bad impression on foreign visitors.

Protesters frequently resorted to violence in masks to leave no photographic evidence. Therefore, the National Assembly should approve a bill to ban mask-wearing at protest sites as soon as possible. Instead of making the same mistake as last year, the government should respond to illegal protests according to laws and principles. The vicious cycle of violent protests can only be broken after the Korean government and society take decisive measures against groups that challenge the rule of law.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: China a ‘Peaceful Force’ in Beijing’s Response to Defence Paper

CHINA has called for Australia and other countries to have a more objective approach to its rising military power, in its first official response to the Rudd Government’s defence white paper.

“China is a peaceful force that forms no threat to any other countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhong Xu said in answer to questions from The Australian. “(We hope) neighbour countries will view China’s military build-up objectively, without bias.”

Public response to the white paper in China has been subdued as Australian diplomats work behind the scenes in an attempt to quell any disquiet over the new document, which calls for a major Australian naval build-up to counter the rise of China.

The Chinese navy has almost doubled the number of secret long-distance patrols conducted by its submarines in the past year, reflecting its growing assertiveness in the region.

Australia’s spy agencies noted the jump in Chinese submarine activity at the same time as military chiefs were penning the new defence white paper, released last week, which called for a doubling of the Royal Australian Navy’s future submarine fleet.

In Washington yesterday, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said the US would need to work more closely with Pacific allies such as Australia to respond to Beijing’s increasing military capabilities.

He said the US and Australia would have to do more to build trust with China but he warned that Beijing needed to be more transparent about its big increases in defence spending to ensure there were no “miscalculations” in the Asia-Pacific.

Admiral Michael Mullen told a defence conference in Washington that China’s build-up of sea and military air power appeared to be aimed at counterbalancing US power in the Pacific.

“They are developing capabilities that are very maritime focused, maritime and air focused, and in many ways, very much focused on us,” he said.

His comments are in line with the Pentagon’s strategic assessments of Beijing’s growing military might and echo the Rudd Government’s defence white paper released at the weekend which focused on the rise of China.

Mr Ma declined to say how China’s leaders had reacted to the white paper or whether the new defence strategy would have any bearing in free trade talks.

Trade Minister Simon Crean begins his second visit in a month to China today. Mr Crean will visit the southern province of Yunnan, which has strong trade links with Australia, as well as Shanghai.

Australia’s navy will continue to be dwarfed by those of China, India and Japan even if the Government achieves its white-paper plans to substantially boost naval firepower.

The white paper foreshadows the largest naval build-up since World War II with the acquisition of three air warfare destroyers, eight new powerful frigates, 12 new submarines, new naval helicopters and 20 beefed-up patrol craft by 2030.

But the navies of China and India are expanding at a much faster rate, and Australia is likely to struggle to maintain its relative strategic weight in the region.

China’s naval chief, Admiral Wu Shengli, said last month his navy would “move faster in researching and building new-generation weapons to boost the ability to fight regional sea wars”.

China is upgrading and expanding its fleet of 74 combat ships as well as acquiring new amphibious boats that can transport a battalion group of troops.

It is also upgrading its 60-boat submarine fleet, which includes at least two nuclear missile launching vessels, and is believed to be planning an aircraft carrier.

US naval intelligence recently reported a declassified assessment of Chinese submarine activity that found the number of long-distance Chinese submarine patrols rose to 12 last year compared with seven in 2007.

This compares with two patrols in 2006 and none in 2005, showing China’s naval ambitions are rapidly expanding, although its submarine activity is still much less than the US, which has in excess of 100 patrols a year.

In November 2007, US military chiefs were caught by surprise when a Chinese submarine surfaced near the supercarrier USS Kitty Hawk in the middle of a US naval exercise.

China in March unveiled its official military budget for this year of $US70.24 billion, the latest in nearly two decades of double-digit rises in declared defence spending. Undeclared spending is believed to be substantially higher.

Despite Beijing’s attempts to develop a blue-water navy that can project military power far from China’s shores, Australia believes will be several decades before it could threaten US dominance in the Pacific.

India is the other Asian power building up long-range strategic naval capabilities in the region.

New Delhi plans to increase the size of its navy by more than 20 per cent by 2017 with plans to include modern aircraft carriers to replace its single, 50-year-old carrier the INS Viraat.

However, Australia’s nearest large neighbour, Indonesia, has not joined the rush to expand its naval reach.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Kevin Rudd Faces Biggest Boatpeople Spike Since Pacific Solution

AUSTRALIA is facing the biggest spike in unauthorised boat arrivals since John Howard implemented the Pacific Solution, with the Australian navy intercepting another boatload of asylum seekers northwest of Broome.

As immigration officials on Christmas Island last night prepared to process the 50 arrivals, believed to be Afghans and Iraqis, the issue opened a split within the Liberal Party, with prominent backbencher Bronwyn Bishop accusing Malcolm Turnbull of “going soft” on border security.

Yesterday’s interception occurred 370 nautical miles northwest of Broome.

The boat, the 11th detected this year, was picked up by the navy patrol boat HMAS Maryborough at about 8.30am AEST after it was spotted by a Customs Dash 8 aircraft.

The boat was taking on water.

It is the 18th boat to be detained since the Rudd Government announced a softening of detention policies last September.

All told, the boats have carried a total of 676 people over the same period, according to Immigration Department figures.

Of those, 497 people have been detained this calendar year.

And in a trend that will have the Rudd Government worried, the frequency of interceptions appears to have increased, with eight boats detected in the past month.

Yesterday, senior government sources warned that the boats would continue to come.

“It will be at least as busy or busier than it has been,” the source said, referring to the number of boats likely to be intercepted in the weeks and months ahead. The source cited favourable conditions at sea, an abundance of boats and the brimming global pool of refugees displaced by violence in the Middle East as reasons for the surge.

If the current pace of interceptions were to continue, the number of arrivals for this year would rival the 1212 intercepted in 2001-02, the year the Howard government introduced the Pacific Solution of offshore processing centres.

In the years after the Pacific Solution, the flow of boats slowed to a trickle, a fact the Howard government attributed to the tough message the policy sent to people-smugglers.

However, Immigration Minister Chris Evans has said the reason for the decline was increased co-operation with Indonesia.

High as the numbers are, refugee groups have been at pains to point out they are not close to rivalling the tens of thousands of unauthorised arrivals who enter into Europe annually. Nor are the numbers approaching the 4175 boat arrivals detected in Australian waters in 1999-2000, the peak of the most recent surge in boat arrivals.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, the Opposition Leader said yesterday’s arrival made it clear Labor’s border protection policies had failed.

“There cannot be any serious argument about that now,” Mr Turnbull said. “It has failed to stop the dreadful business of people-smuggling.”

But he was forced to fend off criticism over his own handling of the issue, after Ms Bishop was quoted in a local Sydney newspaper, The Manly Daily, saying the Opposition Leader had “gone soft” on the issue.

Mr Turnbull rejected the claim.

As the number of arrivals continued to grow, there were signs the influx was testing the resources of the navy and of the detention facilities on Christmas Island. Eighteen children and five women are thought to be among the 186 passengers aboard HMAS Tobruk, the warship carrying asylum seekers from three interceptions since April 25.

Eight of the children range in age from five to 14, and the rest have told authorities they are 17.

Immigration officials on Christmas Island are due to meet this morning to discuss how the Immigration Detention Centre and family compound will accommodate the new arrivals.

Already, dormitories with bunk beds have been set up at the detention centre where 192 single males currently stay in single rooms and twin-shares.

Yesterday, there were 266 men, women and children in detention on Christmas Island, with 41 in a family compound of transportable huts designed for construction workers who built the centre.

Also last night, four male asylum seekers who were found dumped last month on a remote island in the Torres Strait were due to arrive at Christmas Island under guard on a commercial flight from Perth.

The men were spotted by a surveillance flight on Deliverance Island, 30 nautical miles from Papua New Guinea.

They were taken to a detention centre on Horn Island for health and security checks.

Yesterday’s arrival came a day after The Australian revealed that at least a dozen of the boat people to arrive as part of the present wave were return visitors.

At least four of those who have arrived since October had been granted temporary protection visas for Australia — and had since left — and at least five had been detained on Nauru. About 138 of those that have arrived by boat have been resettled in Australia after their claims were approved.

But yesterday, the Immigration Department was unable to say how many of those people, if any, had been refused entry on previous occasions.

A spokesman for the department said calculating an answer would involve too onerous a drain on resources.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

New Zealand: Gang Member Extradited to Australia

A motorcycle gang member allegedly involved in gang violence in Australia has been extradited from New Zealand.

Rebels member Peter Douglas Rauhina, 38, was allowed to visit New Zealand to attend his mother’s funeral late last year, despite facing serious violence charges in Queensland.

Instead of returning across the Tasman, he spent the last five months in custody, after being arrested in New Plymouth last November following a domestic assault, The Dominion Post reported.

Charges of injuring with intent and disorderly behaviour relating to that incident were withdrawn in January, and on April 17 Rauhina was extradited to Australia by consent.

Judge Michael Radford suppressed the order for 10 days because of concern for Rauhina’s safety.

In Australia, Rauhina faces a range of charges, among them grievous bodily harm, going armed to cause fear, affray, perjury and assault while in company.

Most of the charges related to an incident near Caboolture, north of Brisbane, in 2007 in which Rebels members allegedly attacked members of the Bandidos gang with baseball bats and lengths of timber. Three gang members ended up in hospital.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Al Qaeda Exporting Jihad With a Hip-Hop Vibe

LONDON (CNN) — The latest video from Somalia’s al Qaeda-backed Al-Shabaab wing is as slickly produced as a reality TV show but with a startling message — complete with a hip-hop jihad vibe.

“Mortar by mortar, shell by shell, only going to stop when I send them to hell,” the unidentified voice raps on the video, which runs at least 18 minutes.

The video also shows a man reported to be Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, dubbed “The American” by al Qaeda. He apparently is now in Somalia training and counseling Somalis from North America and Europe. He speaks in American English.

“Away from your family, away from our friends, away from ice, candy bars, all those things is because we’re waiting to meet the enemy,” says the man believed to be al-Amriki.

Intelligence experts say the video was probably made in recent weeks and comes on the heels of an audio message in March purportedly from Osama bin Laden. In that recording, the al Qaeda leader calls on his “Muslim brothers in Mujahid Somalia” to overthrow President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed for cooperating with the West.

Al-Shabaab is the militant Islamic wing in Somalia. It means “Youth” in Arabic.

“We’re seeing perhaps their most sophisticated attempt so far to really reach an audience of potential recruits in America, and that’s one of the things that made that video very significant,” said Ben Venzke of the IntelCenter, a Washington-based research group that tracks al Qaeda’s development and messages.

“They’re casting it in a way that’s going to speak to the youth of today,” Venzke said. “Most of the time, what we’re seeing in their videos directly parallels what the groups are doing operationally, what they are targeting, where they’re recruiting.”

Sheik Ahmed Matan knows that firsthand. A respected member of Britain’s Somali community, Matan said he knows of hundreds of young Somali men who have returned to Somalia for terrorist training.

“A lot of young people from here, from America, from Canada, from everywhere from Europe — they went there,” he said..

He added that these men are capable of being sent back home to conduct terrorist operations, even suicide bombings.

“It can be, they can train anytime and send them here, anytime,” Matan said.

Somalis from North America and Europe are beginning to come to terms with the problem of recruitment, he said. The United States and British governments say Somalia is an emerging terror hot spot, which could pose a threat beyond its borders.

Matan said he often challenges “recruiters” at mosques and elsewhere in Britain, demanding that they stop brainwashing younger Somalis about Islam. He said the government should play a greater role in monitoring what is said and done at these mosques — but, he concedes, doing so has proved highly controversial in Britain and throughout Europe.

There is some evidence that al Qaeda is successfully preying on some of those with Western backgrounds. One of them was a business student from London who suddenly left for Somalia. He surfaced about 18 months ago on a martyrdom video, just before blowing himself up in southern Somalia, killing at least 20 people, officials say.

U.S. Defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said months ago that one of their worst nightmares would be al Qaeda operating freely in Somalia. Now that nightmare continues, with Somalis in North America and Europe admitting that al Qaeda’s reach is spreading.

Venzke said Al-Shabaab has put out more videos than ever before in the past year.

“If that’s what they’re doing publicly, we can only assume how their operations have developed,” he said.

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

Doh! Pirates Captured After Attacking the Wrong Ship

From a distance the large ship on the horizon looked like the perfect target, ripe for a successful spot of piracy.

But as the Somali pirates sped toward the vessel sailing near the Seychelles, they were horrified to see two boats and a helicopter set off from their target and launch their own counter-attack.

They had failed to spot, in the dazzling sun, that the ‘merchant ship’ they thought they were intercepting was, in fact, a French naval ship bristling with cannons, radar technology and armed commandos.

When the three pirate boats were spotted heading toward them the frigate Nivose, one of the ships patrolling the region as part of the European Union anti-piracy mission Atalanta, headed into the sun to camouflage its true identity before turning to confront its attackers.

When the boats were close enough, Lieutenant Commander Jean-Marc le Quilliec sent his commandos out on outboards, with a helicopter to provide air support.

The helicopter fired two warning shots to stop the three boats from fleeing and within minutes the 11 pirates had surrendered.

Two of the attack boats were small skiffs which the pirates used as attack vessels and the third was a nine metre (30 foot) mother ship, used to transport supplies such as petrol, water and food.

Only one pirate was left on board the mother ship which had nothing on board except fuel and potates, said Lt Commander le Quilliec.

“He apparently thought the pirates had hijacked us,” he said.

The commandos found two Kalashnikov assault rifles on one of the skiffs, ammunition, a rocket-launcher and five grenades.

The 11 captured pirates, some of them very young, were ordered to sit on the deck with their hands on their heads as French forces searched them.

“The guys we catch are getting younger and younger,” said one navy soldier. “Look at this one, he can’t be 17.”

A French navy spokesman confirmed the capture of 11 pirates.

“The pirates are currently on the Nivose,” he said.

“For the moment we don’t have any indication of what the European Union forces want to do with these pirates.”

The world’s naval powers are dispatching an ever-growing fleet of warships in response to a scourge which is threatening to disrupt one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes.

In a bid to avoid the patrols, some pirate groups have ventured further out into the Indian Ocean.

Several incidents have been reported recently in the Seychelles, a small Indian Ocean nation with a thriving tourist trade, which is a base for foreign fishing fleets.

On Sunday anoather three pirates were apprehended in Seychelles waters.

“The three men identified themselves as Somali. They were travelling in a six-metre skiff with several barrels of fuel and water onboard,’’ said a Seychelles government spokesman.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

German Elite Troop Abandons Plan to Free Pirate Hostages

In a massive secret operation, Berlin sent members of its elite GSG-9 police force to Somalia to free hostages and a German freighter captured by pirates there, but the commandos were called off before the rescue effort could begin. The scuppered operation reveals deficits in Germany’s security forces.

The situation room at the German Defense Ministry, on the 5th floor of Berlin’s Bendler Block building complex, was built as a place where secret, life-and-death decisions are made. The room is so secure that German Chancellor Angela Merkel once complained that she couldn’t even send a text message from it.

Last Wednesday, at approximately 7 p.m., the government’s key state secretaries were sitting around the birch conference tables in the situation room, where they had met almost daily for the past three weeks to address a crisis brewing off the coast of Somalia. The officials were there to manage one of the biggest secret operations in postwar German history. Elite members of the GSG-9 police force were on the verge of boarding a German freighter, the Hansa Stavanger, which had been kidnapped by Somali pirates….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

NATO Warship Holds, Frees 19 Pirates After Foiling Attack

A Portuguese frigate captured 19 Somali pirates after foiling an attack on an oil tanker but released them all, North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials said yesterday. Commander Chris Davis, from the control center for the NATO mission protecting merchant ships off Somalia, said the frigate Corte Real launched a helicopter Friday after being informed of an attack on the tanker, the Bahamas-flagged Kition.

The helicopter pursued the pirates back to their mother ship, a fishing boat which was later boarded and weapons including grenade-launchers and explosives were seized, Davis said.

However a Portuguese officer with the NATO force in the Gulf of Aden, Santos Ferreira, told TSF radio that the 19 pirates captured had been released “after contact was made with Somali national authorities.”

Somali pirates said yesterday they had captured two ships over the past few hours, including a Ukrainian vessel that was headed to Iran.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Ottawa’s Piracy Policy Flouts Law, Experts Say

Government claims of a lack of jurisdiction called ‘ludicrous’ and ‘quite wrong’

WASHINGTON — Canada’s catch-and-release approach to countering piracy off Somalia is at odds with other Western navies and flouts Ottawa’s obligations under international law, according to maritime and international law experts.

“Its ludicrous for the Harper government to claim that it can’t arrest and prosecute pirates,” said Michael Byers, who holds the Canadian Research Chair in International Law and Politics at the University of British Columbia. “Canada has a legal obligation under the United Nations and international law to bring pirates to justice.”

Pirates seized by French, German, Spanish and other NATO warships have been clapped in irons — or at least detained — and delivered to Kenya, where they are put on trial as part of a broad international effort to punish piracy using a mix of old national and new international law.

The issue has been highlighted by an incident last month in which the HMCS Winnipeg captured a boatload of pirates off Somalia but subsequently released them. While it is not clear how many such incidents have occurred, the release has raised a number of questions with legal experts.

“It’s nuts to let them go,” said William Tetley, a professor of maritime law at McGill University who is regarded as one of Canada’s foremost experts in the field.

Mr. Tetley, a former president of the Canadian Maritime Law Association and author of numerous textbooks on maritime law, dismissed government claims of lack of jurisdiction as “quite wrong,” adding the Canadians have been “caught with their pants down; they don’t have any guts and neither does the Prime Minister.”

While Canada is turning loose the pirates it captures, albeit after taking away their guns, other countries are taking a tougher line. In some instances — notably the capture by the U.S. navy of a pirate after Special Forces snipers killed his three companions holding a U.S. captain hostage on a lifeboat — Western countries have charged pirates back in domestic courts.

Earlier this week, tiny Seychelles chased down pirates with a coast guard aircraft and then vowed to put them on trial after a Spanish warship captured them in the wake of a failed attack on a cruise ship.

“Catch and release only encourages pirates to grow bigger and bolder,” said Mr. Byers, adding that prosecuting teenage pirates “isn’t going to solve the problem” either. Like most experts, he said the international community must deal with the heart of the problem, which is the failed and anarchic state of Somalia, but that releasing pirates only makes things worse.

Canada’s unwillingness to prosecute pirates seems especially odd given that only last summer it co-sponsored UN Security Resolution 1816, which “calls upon all states with relevant jurisdiction under international law and national legislation, to co-operate … in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia …” Piracy remains on Canada’s Criminal Code, with a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Canada is also a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which makes piracy an international crime, formalizing maritime law that dates back centuries.

Canada is also a signatory to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, which calls for the prosecution of anyone who “seizes or exercises control over ships by force or threat of force or any other form of intimidation.”

Usually Canadian governments are strident in the claims that UN Security Council resolutions are binding, and Ottawa takes considerable pride in its claim that it is among the most dutiful of nations in its support of UN and international obligations.

But despite its co-sponsorship of Security Council Resolution 1816, which was specifically written to authorize international action against piracy off Somalia’s lawless coast, Canadian officials now claim that resolution doesn’t require Canada to bring pirate suspects to justice.

“The wording of paragraph 11 of UNSCR 1816 on ‘investigation and prosecution’ is not cast so as to create a legally binding decision pursuant to Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a written reply that took nearly a week to get departmental and political clearances before being released. Foreign Affairs declined to provide the names of the government lawyers who crafted the reply.

“Canada is fulfilling the expectations of this paragraph. We are participating in international counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia and we are discussing with our UN partners and NATO allies the very complex issues surrounding jurisdiction, investigation and prosecution of suspected pirates,” it added.

Marc Isaacs, a maritime law specialist and Adjunct Professor of Admiralty Law at the University of Toronto Law School, said Canada has ample jurisdiction if it wanted to prosecute pirates. “There’s not a lot of body of law about piracy,” he acknowledged, but added that it’s “clear under the Canadian Criminal Code that piracy is an offence in or outside of Canada.”

“I cannot give you a cogent reason why the pirates [seized by HMCS Winnipeg] would be released,” Mr. Isaacs said.

While Canada is releasing pirates and discussing the situation with partners, other countries are acting.

France has put pirates on trial in Paris. Russian warships seized 29 pirates this week. The German frigate Rheinland-Pfalz delivered seven captured pirates for trial in Mombasa 10 days ago. A Spanish warship landed another groups of captured pirates. More than 70 pirates captured by NATO warships have now been turned over to Kenyan authorities for trial.

Only the Dutch navy is following Canada’s example of “catch and release.” The Obama administration ignored Canada’s release of pirates but when the Dutch did the same thing a week later, State Secretary Hilary Clinton said it “was the wrong signal,” adding “there is a need to co-ordinate better the reactions of all of the nations and organizations involved in policing the coastline off of Somalia.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian navy declined to say how many times pirates have been captured, however briefly, since Canadian warships were first deployed on anti-piracy patrols off the Somali coast last year. One senior officer said last week that he believed the capture last month of a boatload of pirates after a seven-hour chase by HMCS Winnipeg was the first, but ordered a review of navy logs to determine whether other pirates has been apprehended as opposed to just chased off.

“We’re still working on an answer,” a Canadian Forces spokesman said Tuesday.

Some navies, notably the British and American, are taking an even tougher line. British commandos, working with the Russian navy, killed pirates that seized a Danish ship last fall. French forces have killed several pirates in operations to retake hijacked vessels.

Foreign Affairs insisted Canada was respecting international law.

“If it becomes necessary to detain individuals, they would be treated humanely, with dignity and in accordance with international law,” it said in its written explanation of Canada’s policy.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

S. Korean Destroyer Saves N. Korean Ship From Somali Pirates

A South Korean naval unit has rescued a North Korean vessel from being hijacked by suspected pirates in Somali waters, according to a statement issued by S.Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff on May 4, 2009. A South Korean warship, Munmu the Great, was operating in the Gulf of Aden as part of a U.S.-led multinational anti-piracy campaign when it received a call for help from the North Korean vessel around 5:40 a.m. (Korean time) on May 4 along the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor.

It dispatched immediately its Linx helicopter to the scene and the pirate ship gave up chasing the North Korean ship and sped away shortly after snipers aboard the helicopter prepared to fire warning shots at it.,

North Korean ship later sent a thank you message to the South Korean ship, it was learned.

Relations between the two Koreas have badly frayed since a conservative government in Seoul took power last year.

Approximately 500 South Korean ships ply the route each year, according to the JCS, which estimates that 150 of them are vulnerable to pirate attacks because of their low speed.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after their 1950-53 Korean War ended without a formal peace treaty….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Swede Held in Togo on Coup Suspicions

A 67-year-old man from Örebro in central Sweden is in prison in Togo in western Africa suspected of having helped plan a coup in his former homeland.

Previously, Seidou Issifou was a high-ranking officer in Togo’s army, but fell into disfavour and was jailed.

Issifou and his family later fled Togo. They have been living in Sweden since the early 1990s and are Swedish citizens.

His daughter, 35-year-old Rissa Seidou, tells the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper that her father was arrested during a recent visit to Togo.

On April 12th, a firefight erupted in the capital city of Lomé, after which president Faure Gnassingbé declared that an attempted coup had been thwarted.

Issifou is being held together with a group of officers, charged for having planed to seize power in Togo.

His daughter is convinced the charges against Issifou are false.

“I’ll bet my live that he wasn’t involved in a coup,” she told SvD.

“He’s retired and wants to spend time with his family and take it easy, not get involved with things like this. He absolutely doesn’t want to run a country.”

Sweden’s foreign ministry confirmed for SvD that a Swedish citizen has been arrested in Togo suspected for assisting in a coup.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Zimbabwe: Ending Sanctions? Slowly Does it

JAPAN and Portugal are leading the push to lift at least some of the so-called sanctions against Zimbabwe, now that the MDC has a say in government.

Late last month, a meeting of like-minded partners — made up of the USA and European Union (EU) countries plus Canada, Australia and New Zealand — went so far as to “commend the reform efforts undertaken by the transitional government”, and both Sadc and the AU are pushing to end Zimbabwe’s isolation. The question then is: how should it be done?

The package of sanctions took a long time to come. In the 1980s when Robert Mugabe’s troops were committing the infamous Gukurahundi genocide in Matabeleland, there was no move to punish him; instead he was awarded honorary degrees at American and British universities and, not long after, the Queen gave him a knighthood. Without a whimper from the world community, Mugabe was able to nationalise the press as early as 1981, and proceeded to create a one-party state in all but name.

Human rights were already in a bad way by the time his land grab started in 1999, and the stolen elections of 2000 and 2002 that began the move to sanctions were not much different from earlier polls. Given this long history of oppression, it would be rash to engage with Mugabe until we are sure that the man and his willing band of killers and co-accused have stepped aside to the point where they cannot take back power once money flows to Harare.

For more than 40 years from 1963, South Africa lived under increasing global isolation because of its policy of apartheid. But in 1990, when FW de Klerk released Nelson Mandela and unbanned the ANC, the Australians came up with a system to bring Pretoria out of the cold. In Canberra, foreign minister Gareth Evans proposed a gradual lifting of what were real sanctions, a slow removal layer by layer until the world could be sure of what he called “irreversible change” in South Africa.

The Evans plan was perfect and won endorsement from Washington, the Commonwealth and the ANC. First, the people-to-people sanctions that banned South African Airways from a host of destinations were scrapped and, one by one, the other measures fell away, until finally an arms embargo dating back to 1963 was lifted after the 1994 elections that brought Mandela to power. At last, a democratic South Africa was able to trade, borrow and send its sporting teams around the world. Zimbabwe needs a similar approach, with gradual reengagement.

Sanctions against South Africa were tough, though not as harsh as those imposed on Rhodesia in 1966 by the United Nations after Prime Minister Ian Smith declared independence from Britain without allowing a vote by the black majority. By contrast, what President Mugabe refers to as “sanctions” hardly fit the bill. Under the current ban, the president, his ministers and advisors and their families cannot travel to most Western countries. Their bank accounts are frozen and trade is not allowed with companies under control of Zanu PF and its leading members.

It is also difficult for a government steered by Mugabe to buy weapons or borrow money. However, there are no sanctions applied by South Africa which is Zimbabwe’s biggest trade partner. Likewise, most of the larger economies including China, India, Malaysia, Brazil and the oil-rich Middle East are open to Harare, but in reality they won’t lend or extend credit to a regime that — having trashed itself — has nothing to left to trade.

The new finance minister, Tendai Biti, has asked the world to help him bring Zimbabwe back to life, but what he really needs is charity: an injection of aid that will resurrect the transport system, power supply and public service. The lopsided deal that has given some power to the MDC and put Biti in charge of treasury is a far cry from “irreversible change”. Under the constitution, President Mugabe still has the power to call a fresh general election any time he likes. And at Zanu PF meetings around the country, party hacks have been telling their followers to prepare for such a vote.

Think back to last year’s presidential poll, the farce of June 27 when Morgan Tsvangirai was forced to pull out because the level of violence was so high that the MDC could not hold public meetings without its members being attacked and even killed by army, police and the state militia.

Mugabe still controls the police, army, judiciary, TV, radio and all daily newspapers. He has three decades of expertise when it comes to violence and stolen votes and there is every reason to believe his party would like to take back parliament where the MDC now has a majority.

What Zanu PF doesn’t have is the money to run an election on its own terms. But with financial resurrection, the old guard could seize control, and they know from past experience that Sadc, the AU and even the UN would do little or nothing to stop them. This is why President Barack Obama was right in February to extend the US sanctions, and why the world must not move too fast.

Much better a cautious approach that would put money into programmes under direct control of the MDC; demand the privatisation of state media; create space for public debate; fund a rapid retrenchment to trim the armed forces; support programmes that reduce Zanu PF’s hold on power; spread voter education; and work towards a free and fair election.

Crucially, there is no need to remove the personal bans against more than 200 of Mugabe’s closest allies so that, once again, they can shop in New York or quaff champagne in France. If they want to help rebuild the country, let them do it in Zimbabwe. The measures must stay until these people are no longer in a position to harm the nation and its people.

So what about rewards for good behaviour? It would be easy to divide the targeted people into different categories, with the worst offenders on one chart, lesser culprits on the second, and families of that second list on a third. Those in the last group might be allowed a week-long visa to visit one or two countries at a time.

The not-so-baddies could be granted entry if they convince their host that they need to visit London, Perth, Miami etc, to perform a task vital to the new government. We might also ask them to get a supporting letter from Prime Minister Tsvangirai.

That would leave the first list with people like Mugabe, his military chiefs and those who are linked with crimes against humanity like gukurahundi, political murder, abduction and, of course, torture. When a new government really is in charge, when Mugabe and those who have destroyed Zimbabwe do not even have one finger on the levers of power, only then should all the measures be dropped and Zimbabwe can retake its place in world. A rapid move based on what is so far little more than cosmetic change could just bring more suffering. Slowly, slowly, freedom will come. Let’s not kill it in delivery.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


UK: Each Illegal Immigrant Costs US £1m, Says Study as Government Faces Calls for Amnesty

An amnesty allowing illegal immigrants to stay in Britain would cost taxpayers £1million for each newcomer, a shocking new report revealed today.

The massive sum reflects the costs of handouts and other state services provided over the lifetime of the average immigrant.

The figure would also apply to many of those who have already been granted asylum in Britain, according to campaign group Migrationwatch which commissioned the study.

Their revelation came as thousands of churchgoers, trade unionists and charity workers today prepared to rally in London in support of an ‘earned amnesty’ for 450,000 foreigners.

The coalition argues that providing permanent residency for those long-term illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions — roughly half the total — would bring in more than £1billion of tax a year.

But Migrationwatch warned that such an amnesty would overburden the public purse during a recession and only tempt more migrants into the country.

‘Our calculations show the numbers are truly enormous, adding an unacceptable — and entirely unnecessary — burden to the nation’s balance sheet,’ said the group’s chairman Sir Andrew Green.

‘It is clear that not only is rewarding illegal behaviour wrong in principle but the experience of Spain and Italy shows conclusively that it encourages even more illegal immigration in anticipation of future amnesties.

‘This is a ridiculous proposal which is bound to increase illegal immigration rather than reduce it. It is also a shocking waste of public money at a time when we can least afford it.’

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Next on Senate Agenda? ‘Pedophile Protection Act’

‘Hate crimes’ law definitions would protect 547 sex ‘philias’

The leader of a pro-family organization says families across the nation need to contact their U.S. senators now to try to derail a legislative plan that already has passed the U.S. House and is being awaited by President Obama — after a Democrat confirmed that it would protect “all 547 forms of sexual deviancy or ‘paraphilias’ listed by the American Psychiatric Association.”

WND columnist Janet Porter, who also heads the Christian ministry, today cited S. 909, dubbed the “Pedophile Protection Act” as an extreme danger to America.


Congressman Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, then explained what that means, Porter wrote.

“There are only 242 crimes where there is actually some — truly — an assault, and we just rejected an amendment to including pedophilia from being a part of this protected class. Do you realize what that means?”

“If a mother hears that their child has been raped and she slaps the assailant with her purse, she is now gone after as a hate criminal because this is a protected class. There are other protected classes in here. I mean simple exhibitionism. I have female friends who have told me over the years that some guy flashed them, and their immediate reaction was to hit them with their purse. Well now, he’s committed a misdemeanor, she has committed a federal hate crime because the exhibitionism is protected under sexual orientation.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

6 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/5/2009

  1. In a lot of discussions among conservatives there is often a tension between what are called social conservative views (opposition to abortion and sexual deviancy) and fiscal conservative views (opposition to huge debts and confiscatory taxes) but in my opinion these supposedly mutally repulsive stances are in fact intimately connected.

    The looseness in social mores that are a permanent feature of contempory Western societies are invariably accompanied by a tendency to throw millions upon millions of dollars (or pounds) to the wind. Nowadays we’re mostly borrowing money to pay exotic non-white immigrants to ruin our cultures.

    In the long run I predict that China will go to war with the US over non-payment of debt. There’s no such thing as debtors’ prisons for nations but consequences, of one kind or another, are inescapable.

  2. Re the piracy: where’s Jefferson when you need him? Certainly not in the White House. He must have turned over in his grave when his copy of the Koran (presumably research into what he was dealing with) was used to swear in a Muslim American congresskritter.

  3. Turkey – one tribe wiping out another. Complete wipeout.

    Yet another reason why Turkey must be admitted to the EU – it will civilise Turkey.

    Ofcourse there is constant persecution of Christians in Turkey, but for the progressive socialists that rule the EU, this is very much a plus.

    Plus points all round.

  4. Al Qaeda Exporting Jihad With a Hip-Hop Vibe.

    “Mortar by mortar, shell by shell, only going to stop when I send them to hell,” the unidentified voice raps on the video, which runs at least 18 minutes.

    The video also shows a man reported to be Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, dubbed “The American” by al Qaeda. He apparently is now in Somalia training and counseling Somalis from North America and Europe. He speaks in American English.

    Does anyone else think that it’s long past tea for Abu Mansoor al-Amriki to take all expenses paid government funded dirt nap?

    “Away from your family, away from our friends, away from ice, candy bars, all those things is because we’re waiting to meet the enemy,” says the man believed to be al-Amriki.

    Paging “Weird Al” Yankovic to the red courtesy phone! I can see it now:

    Porter after porter, with pork ribs done well, it’ll take just a minute to nuke you to Hell.

    We’ll roast your family and flash fry your friends, eat frozen candy bars and make sure Islam ends.

    Works for me. If these turkeys want to play rough, we really ought to oblige them.

  5. Did you also know that terrorism affects women more than any other demographic

    group? Please help us to stop terrorism by filling out a short survey at:

    I would really value your opinion and the opinion of your readers. The long-term goal of this project is to facilitate a more diplomatic American foreign policy in the years ahead.
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